3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister been able to arrange with the Orient Company for an accelerated service during the period of the interim contract?
– The matter has been mentioned to the representatives of the company, and I understand that they have made a suggestion which, if adopted, will lead to regularity in the service, and the avoidance of delays such as occasionally have taken place in the past. The matter is still open.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if he will instruct the Comptrollerr
General to call upon every manufacturer of agricultural implements to furnish a list of those in his employ, giving their addresses, and the wages paid to them from the beginning of the year, and to forward similar lists every month.
– We are seeking to obtain all the’ information we can, and I shall be glad to furnish any that the honorable member desires.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs lay on the table copies of all notices issued in connexion with the harvester Excise?
– Certainly I shall be glad to afford every information.
Report (No: 12) presented by Sir John.
Quick, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
– Has the Minister of Tradeand Customs seen the statement in to-day’s Age, to the effect that an investigation of the methods pursued in some of the other capitals would reveal leakages paralleling those discovered in Adelaide? Has the honorable gentleman knowledge of such’ leakages, and; if so, can he inform the House of what has been done in regard to the matter?
– I have seen the paragraph referred to, but have no knowledge of leakages, though I am making inquiries to ascertain if there is anything behind the statement. If leakages are taking place, we wish to discover the fact.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs given consideration to the advisability of appointing an InspectorGeneral in the Customs Department, to go . from place to place, making investigations into the working of the Department ? The matter has been considered by previous Ministers, and, in my opinion, such an appointment is essential to enable the Department to be worked in accordance with a common plan, and for the protection of the public interest and the revenue.
– The providing of a better system of inspection is now engaging my attention. It seems to me that we shall be able to do something in the public interest by providing for inspection, but whether an Inspector-General or several Inspectors will be appointed has not yet been decided.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to carry through this House, before the adjournment of the Senate for the Christmas vacation, a Bill dealing with the importation of patent medicines?
– As the Senate desires to adjourn at the latest to-morrow, I do not think there will be an opportunity for considering such a matter in both Houses before Christmas.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the House Is to regard as a Cabinet decision the declaration of the Treasurer of an intention to recommit the item removing the previously proposed duty on the importation of fodder.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
-I understood that the honorable member had declared his intention to recommit that item.
– The Treasurer said that he would consider the matter.
Mr.BRUCE SMITH. - Will due notice be given of any proposed recommittal ; and will the decision to recommit, if made, be limited to items in regard to which the Government was in a minority, or will it apply also to items in regard to which they were in a majority ?
– I see no necessity for reconsidering items in regard to which the Government had a majority. The Cabinet will confine its consideration to items in regard to which the Government were in a minority.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs, before coming to a definite conclusion, give the House an opportunity to discuss the proposed alteration of the size of bags used for wheat and other produce?
– The question has’ been decided.
– Who has decided it?
– On what authority?
– After hearing representations from both sides, I came to the conclusion that we ought not to ask men to carry heavier weights than 200 lbs., and the bags to be used in future are to be such as will not contain more than 200 lbs. of grain.
– Do the instructions that have been issued deal with the size of the bags, or with their weight-carrying capacity ?
– Detailed instructions have not been issued, because we have not yet decided how the matter can best be regulated; but it is intended that bags which hold more than 200 lbs. of grain shall not be used.
– Has this matter been dealt with by an Order in Council, or on the mere ipse dixit of the Minister? By what authority has the decision been come to?
– The Customs Act gives us power to prohibit the importation of bags above a certain size, and we propose to exercise that power. We have also the power, if we like to use it, to prohibit the exportation of grain in bags of more than a certain size. It is not proposed to make the change immediately.
– Is the power referred to contained in the Customs Act or in the Commerce Act?
– The Customs Act. We are giving ample notice of the intended change, because as. there are bags under order, although our course must be certain, the change must be also gradual. The States have the power to deal with the question in a more drastic way than we have. We have consulted them, and find that they are in entire accord with us as to the weight of bags. The State of Victoria intends to legislate to prevent the use of bags that will hold more than. 200 lbs.
– Will the Minister of Defence inform the House what progress, if any, has been made towards the establishment of a small-arms and ammunition factory? Has he yet chosen a site, or given any consideration to the matter since the money for erecting the factory was voted by Parliament?
– I have given a great deal of consideration to the matter ; but there are many difficult questions to be decided before a site can be selected.
– There is a very good site in New South Wales.
– Yes. Australia is so large that there are many good sites in each of the States. But it is essential to start on right lines.
– Why did the Government’ ask for money for the erection of a factory if it was not intended to go on with the project ?
– It was necessary that Parliament should give its assent to the proposal to make Australia self-contained in the matter of small arms and ammunition before doing anything at all. As the question is very important, it has been found necessary to obtain the best expert advice, and experts in regard to rifle manufacture are not obtainable at a moment’s notice.
– Experts are not needed to pick a site.
– It is well to be cautious. There is much involved in the question of site. .
– Has not the Minister received several reports from officers of his Department, and, in particular, from BrigadierGeneral Gordon, recommending the adoption of a site at Lithgow ?
– I have received reports on the subject, and Brigadier-General Gordon has recommended the selection of a site at Lithgow.
– I should like the Minister to give as decided an answer to my question as was given by the Minister of Trade and Customs to the question of the honorable member for Echuca regarding the size of produce bags. Are the Government in favour of constructing a small-arms and ammunition factory, and, if so, when do they intend to go on with the work?
– The Government are in favour of the project, and the utmost expedition is being observed. I am as strongly convinced of the need for establishing this factory - and I speak for the Government on the matter - as is the most enthusiastic member of the House. There will be no unnecessary delay.
– Following up the question asked by the honorable member for Maranoa, I would point out that when the Works and Buildings Estimates were under consideration we were assured that the proposed vote was intended for the purchase of machinery and not for the erection of buildings. That being so, I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether any machinery for the small arms and ammunition factory has been ordered?
– No machinery has been ordered. Estimates of the cost have been prepared, but a final decision has notyet been arrived at.
– I desire to know whether the Treasurer has received any report from the supervising officer in regard to the experiments carried out by Dr. Danysz; and, if so, what action the Government propose to take?
– I have had a verbal communication from Dr. Tidswell, and expected to receive his report yesterday. When I was leaving Sydney he sent me an intimation that the report would be sent to me on the following day. I expect to receive it this afternoon.
ExciseTariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act - Collection of Excise.
.- I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The injustice of enforcing the payment of Excise where manufacturers have paid what were considered fair and reasonable wages.”
Several honorable members interjecting,, Mr. SPEAKER.- I hope that it will not be necessary to take any step thus early in the sitting to deter honorable members from making remarks across the chamber. Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the honorable member have leave to proceed?
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– What sweaters ! I shall not forget this.
– A few moments ago I called attention to the irregularity of remarks made across the chamber. I am sorry to have to mention the honorable member for Maranoa, as one who has almost immediately transgressed my ruling. I shall not ask the leader of the House to take any steps in connexion with the honorable member’s conduct, but, having regard to the responsibility vested in me, I must take action if it be necessary for me to again draw attention to disregard of my repeated request.
– I propose to bring before the House one of a number of similar cases that have arisen in Victoria under the decision recently given by Mr. Justice Higgins in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The manufacturer in question does not object to have his name mentioned, and I have verified the facts relating to his case. I hope to satisfy honorable members that, in many instances, a very great injustice will be done if, as has just been indicated by the Government, Excise be collected under’ the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. The name of the manufacturer to whom I refer is
– The Ironmoulders’ Board deals only with the wages of ironworkers?
– Each of the employes to whom I have referred would be working under a Wages Board decision.
-I do not think so.
– I have not verified the facts in that regard, but I shall put a bonafide statement before honorable members, leaving them to correct any error that I make. A painter and woodworker employed by Mr. Barger at a wage of 48s. per week, which is in accordance with the decision of the Wages Board, is entitled, under Mr. Justice Higgins’ award, to 60s. per week, whilst a driller, who has been twenty-one years in the service of Mr. Barger, received 36s., and is now entitled to 45s. An improver who has been for one year in the works, and was receiving £1 per week, is not allowed to be employed under the award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, while a helper employed by Mr. Barger for two years, and receiving a weekly wage of 25s., has to be paid 45s. per week.
– Are these men able, as the result of the extravagant wage that they have been receiving, to play bridge at night ?
– I am discussing a question not of extravagant wages, but of hardship. I presume that the rates of wages paid by Mr.Barger were fixed by the Wages Boards as being fair and reasonable. I should like to see every man in the community receiving £1 , 000 a year, and possessing his own motor-car ; but that is a matter with which I have nothing to do at this moment. I am simply endeavouring to point . out the serious hardship under which manufacturers will labour as the result of Mr. Justice Higgins’ award. Although they have been paying the wages fixed by the Wages Boards in Victoria, they are to be penalized for doing what they believed to be right.
– Does the honorable member contend that the award made by Mr. Justice Higgins is far too liberal?
– I am not raising thatquestion. My contention is that manufacturers who have been paying the wages fixed by the Wages Boards as fair and reasonable, will be subjected to hardship if they are called upon to enter into a bond under which they may be liable, at any moment, to pay a large sum of money.
– The wages mentioned as having been paid were only fair and reasonable before the manufacturer in question obtained the protection of higher duties.
– Any manufacturer who, since January last, has not paid wages in accordance with the scale fixed recently by Mr. Justice Higgins will be penalized. He will have to enter into a bond under which he will be liable to pay a large sum of money–
– Or pav the arrears represented by the difference between the wages paid by him and the scale fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins.
– This man cannot pay those arrears. The increases in his case represent a total of £13 5s. per week.. He has not the money to make good the difference, and he cannot find the necessary bond. But I have not yet exhausted the list of his employes. A blacksmith’s improver, who was paid 30s. per week, under the award made by Mr. Justice Higgins cannot now be employed. He was in Mr. Barger’s service for eighteen months. A furnaceman, who has been working for’ him for eighteen months, and received 48s. per week, has now to be paid 54s. per week, whilst a moulder, who has been in Mr. Barger’s service for fourteen months, has been receiving 60s. per week - the rate fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins. Another blacksmith, who has been seven’ years in Mr. Barger’s service, and was receiving 45s. per week, has now to be paid 60s. per week. The wages of the few boys employed by Mr. Barger were, if anything, a trifle higher than the rate fixed under the award of Mr. Justice Higgins. The employes of this manufacturer have presented to him the following petition -
We the undersigned employes of W. G. Barger, Soho Foundry, 231 Franklin-street, Melbourne, desire to inform you that we have very seriously considered our position in reference to the decision arrived at by the Excise Court in refusing our employer exemption, and the decision of the Customs to collect Excise as from 1st January, 1907. This will very probably throw us out of employment, and our wives any families will suffer through no fault of our own, and, we believe, through no fault of our employer for whom we have worked for a number of years, during which time we have had-no dispute, or disagreement, whatever, either in reference to hours of labour or wages. We are, and always have been, perfectly satisfied with the conditions under which we have worked, and we are quite content to continue under the same circumstances, and we earnestly hope and pray that an amicable settlement will be shortly arrived at.
The petition is signed by twelve men who desire to earn their daily bread by the manufacturer being permitted to continue his avocation. If the. Government persist in the course which they are now following this manufacturer will be required to find a . bond for ^1,000 or else to pay the Excise. He informs me that he cannot provide the necessary bond.. I’ need hardly remind honorable members that ^1,000 is a very large sum when one has not got it. So is a ^5 note. This particular manufacturer does not occupy a singular position. There are hundreds of similar cases scattered over Victoria. But it is not merely in this State that manufacturers are liable for the payment of the Excise. Honorable members must know that when Mr. Justice O’Connor was_ President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court a number of exemptions were granted. In New South Wales and South Australia the wages fixed in the exemptions granted by him were as follow-
– I am informed that the statement which the honorable member is now about to read is inaccurate. I have the correct figures here.
– Perhaps the Prime Minister will supply the accurate figures later on. In New South Wales the wages fixed for blacksmiths range from 45s. “to 54s. per week, and in South Australia from 48s. to 54s. per week, whilst the rate fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins is 60s. per week. For carpenters and woodworkers the wages fixed in New South Wales were 48s., and in South Australia they ranged from 45s. to 54s., whilst Mr. Justice Higgins fixed the rate at 60s.
– The figures quoted by the honorable member in respect of South Australia seem wrong. The wages fixed for carpenters there range from 54s. to 60s. per week, and for woodworkers from 45s- to 54s.
– In the case of painters the rate fixed in New South Wales was 48s., and in South Australia it ranged from 45s. to 54s., whilst the rate fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins was 60s.
– In South Australia the rate ranges from 48s. to 60s.
– The wages of drillers in New South Wales were fixed at 30s. per week, and in South Australia at 45s. per week. The rate fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins was 45s. per week.
– There has been no decision in regard to drillers in New South Wales.
– i have given the rate fixed under the exemption granted byMr. Justice O’Connor. The honorable member will find the whole of this information in Parliamentary Paper No. 27.
– I know that there has been no arbitration award as low as that in New South Wales.
– For benchmen and fitters other than turners the rate fixed in New South Wales was 36s. per week; that in South Australia was 45s. per week, and that bv Mr. Justice Higgins was 54s. per week. ‘ In New South Wales the wages for moulders was fixed at from 35s. to 48s. per week, in South Australia at from 48s. to 54s. per week, and the rate fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins was 60s. per week.
– The rate fixed in South Australia ranges from 54s. to 57 s. per week.
– For apprentices in all branches the wage fixed in New South Wales ranges from 7 s. 6d. to 30s. per week, and in South Australia from 7s. 6d. to -22s. 6d. per week, whilst, the rate fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins ranges from 8 s. to 36s. per week. The point I wish to make is that at present the manufacturers in these States are working under the exemptions which have been granted, :and I think it will probably be found that from the day upon which Mr. Justice Higgins gave his finding the schedule which he fixed will apply .to the whole ‘of Australia, so that every manufacturer will be liable to pay this heavy Excise on his output during the period that has since elapsed. Every manufacturer since the .decision was given must either pay the ‘scheduled rate of wages or he will be .liable to the Excise. The case which I have quoted is typical of hundreds in which manufacturers have been asked to do what it is not possible for them to do - that is, give effect to the idea which was for the moment in the mind of Mr. Justice Higgins. A year hence he may fix entirely different rates. We know that every variation in the price of food must exercise a corresponding effect upon the surroundings of industry. I repeat that we are asking citizens to do what it is impossible for them to do. I trust that the Prime Minister, who has a kind heart, will look into this matter, because it is one which affects enterprise and industry all over Australia. If we persist in the course which is at present being followed, our action must recoil upon the working classes.
– As in the absence of my colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, it fell’1 to me to look into this question, and as the honorable member for Fawkner was considerate enough to place in mv hands the papers from which he has been quoting, I have been able to acquaint myself in some degree with the circumstances surrounding this case. Mr. Barger waited on the Assistant Comptroller of Customs to satisfy him that he is a man whose word can be accepted, that he is an honest and upright manufacturer carrying on a .business which is largely the result of his own skill, and that so far as his representations relate to his own business, they are correct. So far from regretting that lie should have placed himself in communication with the .honorable member for Fawkner, and then with the Customs Department, I hope that every manufacturer who is so circumstanced, or who feels himself in any sense .aggrieved on account of the legislation that .has been enacted in this regard, will place himself in communication with the Department .in the shortest possible lime. Our object is to obtain the facts, to compare, and scrutinize them., to endeavour to adjust the findings which have been made and to provide, as far as possible, on grounds of principle, for any findings which may hereafter ;be made in connexion with this particular industry., and with other industries which will be brought under the scope of the larger Bill that we shall probably see when the. House resumes work after the recess. The first point to be noted is that the title “agricultural implements” is a wide one. It covers a very great number, of tools of trade and applies to manufacturers employing different classes of machinery and workmen of different grades of skill. The particular case mentioned - that of Mr. Barger - -as he states it, is .that of a man who practically employs no steam.; electric or other machinery. The work which he performs is all done by his employes .by hand. The machines which he makes are practically of a simple character, and some of them are largely the result of his own skill and experience. They include orchardists’ cultivators, disc ploughs and harrows of various kinds. His point really is that the rates fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins for different classes of tradesmen, after an inquiry into the cases of manufacturers of agricultural implements and machinery, carrying on operations’ upon a large scale, were based upon the work of men who, though known by the same name, are doing work of a far more difficult and skilled character than “that which is being performed in his small factory.
– Very frequently the most skilled work is done without the aid of machinery.
– Quite true. But the machines manufactured by Mr. Barger require to be only rough finished. Anybody who has seen the finished machinery turned out by high-class agricultural implement makers, knows that harvesters are relatively ornamental pieces of furniture, and possess a very high degree of finish. On the other hand, anybody who looks at the class of machinery which is being turned out by this particular manufacturer, and by certain other manufacturers throughout Australia, will recognise that it is of an extremely simple character. That fact is evidenced by the differences in the prices charged for it. These, instead of ranging from ^70 to £go :per machine, appear to range from j£6 to 10s., and in the case of the higher class articles from _£i6 to £i& cash. The case, very fairly put by the honorable member for Fawkner, is that these machines require only a rough class of workmanship, and that, in reality, Mr. Barger has been paying the equivalent of the wages lately fixed, even though he may not have been paying the same standard. He claims that if the President of the Arbitration Court had seen the class of work done by Mr. Barger, he would have fixed the wage which .he is already paying, and that inasmuch’ as Mr. Justice Higgins saw only men who were doing a higher class of work, the rates scheduled by him ought not to apply to him.
An Honorable Member. - What are the names of the machines which he produces?
– An orchardists cultivator, a “ King of Discs,” three or four primers for working rough swamp fallow land, a Premier disc for potato growers and a three-furrowed disc plough. Whatwe propose to do is to satisfy- ourselves of the accuracy of this manufacturer’s statement. He is entitled to be heard. We do not wish to close any man’s mouth or to turn a. deaf ear to the case which any man can make out. This manufacturer has made out what seems tobe a fair. case. The facts relating to it only reached us to-day, so that we have not yet had an opportunity of examining the statements made or of comparing the work with the class qf work which Mr. Justice Higgins saw when he fixed the rates which have been quoted. If there be anything substantial in Mr. Barger’s case, we shall not hesitate to ask the House to take the necessary steps to enable it to be considered. No manufacturer of the class to which Mr. Barger belongs has put his evidence before the Arbitration Court. . .Consequently he is now putting it before us in order that we may discover whether there has been any hardship inflicted. I go further into a still more delicate and difficult question, which will require to be taken into consideration. In my opinion this extremely complex and great problem is not to be dealt with unless we are prepared to face all details, and all issues, and to recognise the difficulties that are before us. That is the first requisite in order that we may endeavour to perform our duty to the public as a whole, and to individual manufacturers. I admit that I, am’ speaking on imperfect information, but, so far as I can judge at present, this appears to be less a question of rates of wages than of the measure of protection to be granted to this class ot agricultural machinery. The only protection the makers of these machines enjoy is 25 per cent.
– That duty is passed1 on to the farmers.
– Not necessarily. So far as I have been able to gather between mid-day and the present moment, this duty of 25 per cent, is paid by two classes of machines which it is admitted are not so substantially and faithfully made as are the local machines, but which are so close an approximation that they are sold under the same name and for the same kind of work. While the price of the imported orchardist’s machine is the price of this local article is .£7 ros. The superior quality of the local article is so far demonstrated that up to the present the- manu’facturers have been able to maintain their business, though they charge 30s. more- for a machine of the same name and alleged to do the same kind of work.
– The imported article cannot be so good a tool.
– That is the point. The King of Discs, the imported machine, realizes from to £16, while the price of the locally-made machine is ,£18 - that is the cash price in each case. It has taken the local manufacturers all they can do to keep their market, when they have had to compete with what is nominally the same machine, and yet ask an increased price.
– How is this relevant ?
– But the point is also . raised, in connexion with the claim, that the rates of wages require to be paid from the beginning of the year up to the time of the finding of the Judge, unless the manufacturers are prepared to pay the Excise. That is quite a relevant question at the present stage ; in fact, I am inclined to think that it is the chief question for us to-day. We have yet to test these conditions thoroughly, but the manufacturers point out that the increased rates of wages, if paid - this is their calculation and not ours - will add about 18s. 9d. to the price of the machine at £y 10s., and £2 5s. to the price of the machine at j£i8. What the local manufacturers sayis that they have been just able to hold the market at the old prices of £j ros. and ,£18, and that it is very doubtful whether they will be able to hold it if the prices have to be increased.
– They will pass the increased price on to the farmers.
– We have as yet had no experience of philanthropic importers declining to pass on increased charges to the farmers or any one else, and, therefore, the remark of the honorable member, though obviously correct, applies just as much to importers as to local manufacturers. But it does not become a question of “ passing on “ if the price is what this House and the country considers to be fair and reasonable; it is not then a matter of “passing on,” but of making a fair and reasonable charge. Those who pay the increased charge appear to obtain a better and stronger machine than the imported machine, though, of course, if we add to the discrepancy between the prices we may make the position of our manufacturers exceedingly difficult. I am now trying to put the case of the manufacturer as he states it, which may .prove, as I have said, to be an exaggeration.
– We have not yet to determine whether the price is fair and reasonable ?
– No; but that is a question which will arise under the Act, and which we shall require to take into consideration.
– We shall become a Wages Board.
– There may’ be an authority or tribunal charged with the duty of fixing wages having relation to some other body that will check the prices which the public pay, in order that those prices may be fair and reasonable. Not unti1 we have both of these checks shall “we be able to apply provisions of this sort with perfect confidence and in justice to all classes concerned. That is the aim - and it is a great and high aim.
– What wages does this manufacturer say he has paid ?
– The wages have already been read out, and they appear to have ranged from 30s. for apprentices up to 48s.
– Wages are fixed by the Wages Boards.
– Yes; but there is no Wages Board applying to this trade. There is a Wages Board decision as applying to mould-board making, which is in a sense, part of the trade.
– These men get 9s. a day as a minimum - blacksmiths’ work.
– That applies only to some, and that is why I say we require time to check the statement which has been made.
– The whole question turns on what the manufacturer has paid.
– We have already had the list placed before us. Honorable members have to consider that what is called blacksmith’s work, for want of a better name, may possibly cover very different classes of work and very different classes of skill. Whether it does so in this instance is a question of fact, which can be tested. It will he our business to see it demonstrated. We have not yet reached the stage of inquiring into the allegations made, but in the few hours at our disposal we, so far from shirking the inquiry, have encouraged it. We have put ourselves in touch with the manufacturer, who appears to be a straightforward man, though whether he has knowledge equal to his rivals in business I do not know. We shall make ourselves acquainted with all the cases and see what ground there is for complaint. If there ‘be any ground, Ave shall ask the House to apply the necessary remedy by a new Act.
– Why did not this manufacturer apply to the Court along with the others?
– I am not able to answer that question. I am now told that the manufacturer sent in an application, but did not proceed with evidence.
– He said that the JudgE waived his application on one side, and that he never had an opportunity of bringing evidence.
– I am told that the last assertion is not correct, and that the manufacturer offered no evidence at all. . As I have said, this is only the first of the applications which we have invited from agricultural implement makers who consider themselves aggrieved. Before this question is finally dealt with, we shall lay before the House the statements now being made by apparently trustworthy people, and show the checks to which those statements have been submitted. If it be discovered that there is any hardship in connexion with the amount of protection, the rates of wages, or the classification of labour, it will receive every consideration. There must be full consideration in order that justice may be done to all concerned.
– It is intended to. enforce the guarantee in the meantime?
– The guarantee is necessary in order that advantage may not be taken of us by unscrupulous persons. There is no desire to be burdensome, or to unduly interfere with anybody. I venture to say that, in any case where we have reason to believe an absolutely trustworthy person would suffer serious disability by having to provide outside security we shall, if possible, meet him fairly, until this House is satisfied, it may be two or three months hence, that justice is being done. I do not disguise the fact that this is a most important change in the industrial conditions of this country. If it does not mean an important change, the legislation is not what it professes to be. We cannot make changes in industrial conditions without some cases of hardship and disability, particularly at the commencement. But in undertaking this task, we feel that we are called upon fo do so, in order to diffuse civilized conditions and satisfy the sentiments and opinions which we believe the bulk of the people of the country hold. At the same time, we must consider every just claim, so that there may be no injustice to those who are called upon to temporarily suffer from the onward movement now initiated with one object only, namely, to do justice to employers as well as to employed.
.- I hope that the proposed Bill will be introduced as soon as is consistent with the despatch of public business. It seems that we are in a most unfortunate position at the present time. The Government are receiving individual applications for concessions, and yet Ministers have absolutely no power to suspend the operation of the Act under which the duties are levied. The duties are levied as from the 1st January, 1907 ; and the Government are now asked not to collect the duties,although, as a matter of fact, where certificates have not been obtained the duty becomes payable at once. There is no authority except a sort of implied Ministerial discretion not to collect the duty, and it is incumbent on the Government to introduce a Bill at the earliest possible moment to deal with the matter. The award of Mr. Justice Higgins laid down what he considered to be, and what, perhaps, on the whole, is., a fair standard .of wage. The learned Justice did not adopt - in fact, he discarded - the industrial awards of the States, and I do not for one moment say that he was not right in doing so. Under the .Excise Act .the only standard he had beyond the exercise of his own judgment was the standard fixed by the awards and industrial agreements under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, and he was probably right in saying that he would not be guided by the awards of the States Courts. Of course, there is another way of looking at the question. As a matter of fact, we know that the fixing of rates of wages lies with the States, and that we are only using whatever powers incidental to taxation we have under the Constitution to try to arrogate to ourselves, to some extent, those industrial .powers of the States. Whether we shall succeed in doing so or not has yet to be determined ; and I am very doubtful as to the result. I do not think there is a member of this House who would not say that we are trying to do something that we have no express power to do in connexion with the standard wages in any particular State. On two different occasions there was a motion tabled on this question - and, ‘I think, one was passed - to the effect that control of industrial legislation should be directly given to the Commonwealth.
– It was passed on the motion of Mr. Higgins.
– I think it was in 1901 that a motion was passed suggesting that the States should be asked to consent to the delegation of their powers in industrial matters. In answer to that, some of’ the States refused, while others did not reply ; and we are now endeavouring, by the exercise of what is assumed to be a technical power, to attain the same end which was then in view. Many men who hold certificates from the Arbitration Courts of the States, or who are under industrial agreements which are legal under the States’ laws, find that under the decision of Mr. Justice Higgins they are not entitled to a Commonwealth certificate. In my opinion that is most harsh. I do not say whether the rate of wages fixed under the States awards are proper rates. That is a matter I know nothing about. But inasmuch as some of the States have adopted particular methods of testing the adequacy of the remuneration, and certain manufacturers are paying fair wages in accordance with these tests, it ‘ is exceedingly hard that they should nevertheless be required to pay Excise duty under the judgment of the Commonwealth Court declaring that their wages are not fair. It is doubly hard, because in the Arbitration Act we have declared that the’ award of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration may be of local application only. It is provided by section 48 of that Act that the Court in making its award shall have regard to the local circumstances within the limits of area, and that subject to all conditions and exceptions, the common rule so declared shall be binding upon the persons engaged in the industry. There are exceptions in regard to the general applicability of the common rule, so that, while one rate of wages may be prescribed for one locality, higher rates may be required in other parts of the Commonwealth. We recognise in the Arbitration Act local distinctions, and have to some extent incorporated the provisions of the measure with those of the Excise Act. But, notwithstanding that a State award may prescribe a rate of wages to be fair, the manufacturer paying that rate may not be given a certificate of exemption under the Excise Act. That is most unfair to manufacturers, and, in saying so, I do not assume that the rates of wages fixed by the State industrial authorities are fair, or that they are unfair. That is a question of fact into which I do not wish to enter now. But, inasmuch as the States have sanctioned the payment of certain rates, it is unfortunate that, under the Commonwealth legislation, Mr. Justice Higgins has been practically forced to say that he cannot recognise them as the standard upon which to grant exemption.
– Did not Mr. Justice Higgins hold that the State rates of wages were minimum rates, whereas he was bound to declare what were fair and reasonable?
– I am pointing out what an unfortunate thing it is that the legisla.tion of the States and that of the Commonwealth have created varying standards. We have established one standard under the Australian Industries Preservation Act, another under the Excise Tariff Spirits Act, and a third -under the Excise Tariff Agricultural Machinery Act. These are to some extent contradictory, and it is most unfortunate, and unfair to manufacturers, that we should not, in a matter purely within the province of the States, accept awards given under State Acts.
– Would the honorable member, have within the Commonwealth openly conflicting standards divided by the imaginary lines dividing State from State?
– I am not dealing with that point. Rightly or wrongly, the citizens of certain States have been led to assume that the standards of wages prescribed by their industrial authorities are fair ; but, although manufacturers have recognised and adopted those rates, the Commonwealth refuses to recognise those standards.
– The position put by the Prime Minister is one that must be met.
– Perhaps so; but we should not do injustice to men who have given effect to what the Government of their State has said is right. We should not, by introducing in a measure of doubtful validity a new standard, penalize those who have obeyed the laws of the States in regard to wages. In common justice, those who have conformed with the rulings of the State authorities as to what are fair and reasonable wages should be exempted from the payment of Excise up to the fixing of the Commonwealth standard.
– What other Commonwealth authority is there than this Parliament ?
– That is not the point. I have said, time after time, that I am not supporting the State standards; but when a State authority has declared that certain rates are fair, and. a manufacturer has accepted its award, it is grossly unjust to penalize him under a Commonwealth Act.
– What standard have manufacturers other than the industrial awards of the State authorities?
– None at all, until the Commonwealth Court gives its decision in regard to an application in each State. I hope that the Prime Minister when framing his Bill will consider the point which I have raised. In cases where a State law in regard to wages and conditions of labour has been obeyed, we should abate the Ex-‘ cise tax up to the time of the decision of Mr. Justice Higgins.
.- All the speakers on the motion have agreed that the object of Parliament in passing the Excise Tariff Agricultural Machinery Bill was to require the payment of fair and reasonable wages in protected industries. Parliament provided for the infliction of a penalty in cases where fair wages were notpaid to the workmen employed by manufacturers whose industries were protected. The honorable member for Angas has referred to the method provided for the infliction of the penalty as circumlocutory. All must agree that our powers in regard to industrial legislation are limited. Many of us desire that they should not be. But the existence of this limitation is not a reason why we should not exercise, in the interests of equity and justice, what powers we possess. The Prime Minister, in dealing with the case raised by the honorable member for Fawkner, was good enough to say that the Government would investigate every set of circumstances brought before them, and that they would deal with cases as leniently as possible, after all the surrounding conditions had been taken into consideration. I ask honorable members what more is desired? Even if we admit that Mr. Barger has been injured, it is not therefore to be assumed that the law itself is bad; this may be merely one hard case where a large number are affected. Lawyers say that hard cases make bad laws, and probably this is the only instance which can be brought forward of a hard case under the Act which we are discussing. I am not displeased that it has been brought forward, because it is well that every grievance should be ventilated. But the House should declare clearly and distinctly that high duties were imposed for the protection of certain industries so that, not merely the manufacturers, but the employes as well might benefit.
– The manufacturers now wish to get out of their part of the bargain.
– I wish well to every manufacturer in Australia. I desire to see the development of manufacturing. But I shall do nothing that would prevent the payment of fair andreasonable wages to employes in protected industries. The honorable member for Angas argues that manufacturers who are paying rates of wages fixed in accordance with State laws should be exempted from the Excise provi sions; but he would not say that the. rates of wages fixed in accordance with the decisions of State industrial authorities are fair and reasonable.
– They may be too high, and they may be too low.
– The only fair and reasonable rates that we are aware of are those laid down in the decision of Mr. Justice Higgins, and if they are not paid, the penalties provided for in the Act must be enforced.
– Why was not a schedule of wages inserted in the Act?
– I regard Parliament as absolutely incompetent to fix a schedule of wages. That duty must be delegated to a Court, or to a Board of Trade. Mr. Justice Higgins, after hearing evidence in accordance with equity and good faith, was better able than Parliament would be to determine what are fair and reasonable wages.
– The rates fixed by him are below the minimum rates in force in New South Wales in some trades.
– Will any one say that the rates which he has fixed are too high? Certainly not. Then what complaint can be made? The trouble seems to be that the workmen are getting a fair share of the benefits of the Act.
– No one complains of that.
– I do not say that there are not hard cases. But Parliament cannot frame laws to deal with such cases. When it was discovered by a large number of persons that the method we have provided to prevent workmen from being robbed of their share of the benefits of protection would be effective, there was an outcry against the new protection, although, when we were agreeing to high duties, and it was thought that it would be impossible to levy the Excise, encomiums were passed upon our wisdom. I am as firmly of opinion now, as I was when the measure was being discussed, that we have adopted the proper method, and I shall not, because there have been one or two hard cases, take any action which would prevent the payment to employes of the rates of wages which have been fixed as reasonable and fair by one of the most competent Judges in the country.
.- The last Parliament passed the Excise Tariff Agricultural Machinery Act so that the workers might get some of the advantages of pro- tection, but, although the Act has been in force for eleven months, they have got nothing. The adjournment of the House has been moved to discuss an alleged hard case. In my opinion, the Prime Minister should, before the Christmas vacation, introduce and pass a Bill which will give him all the powers necessary for the proper administration of this measure. He says that he has not now the power to suspend, and other necessary powers. The alleged hard case which has been brought before us concerns a small manufacturer, who, in my opinion, is in an exceptionally good position. He has no large amount of capital invested in plant, whereas the manufacturer who is in a big way has to make interest on an immense outlay on machinery and plant. Mr. Barger’s workers provide him with both capital and labour. Then, too, it must be remembered that craftsmanship is not so necessary in the machinist, as in the hand-worker. It appears to me that it is Mr. Barger’s employes who are suffering hardship, since they have been paid low, and even sweated, wages, for the labour which they have given. Machinists are not compelled to possess the skill which Mr. Barger’s employes must have. For instance, a pattern maker in the iron trade commands among the highest wages prevailing in the industrial community, for the reasonthat machinery cannot be devised to carry out the work that he is called upon to perform. The honorable member for Fawkner has said that the employes of Mr. Barger are well paid. Surely any one who knows anything about the trade will not be prepared to say that 7s. 6d. per day is a good wage for a blacksmith. I think that this manufacturer, ‘instead of being subjected to hardship, has been allowed great privileges. I could understand Mr. McKay bringing his case before the House - although I am not prepared to support it - since he has invested in plant thousands of pounds, upon which interest has to be paid whether it is used or not. But Mr. Barger is in a very different position, and I think that his claim is a flimsy one.
– And yet his workers back him up.
– Of course they do. Would not any worker take up the same position if he were threatened with want of employment? As a matter of fact, the scale of wages fixed by Mr. Justice Hig- gins is below the union rate in New South Wales. These manufacturers have had eleven months within which to comply with the provisions of the Act, and effect should be given to our decision that Excise should be collected if a fair and reasonable wage were not paid. If the Prime Minister were familiar with the work of a blacksmith, he would probably admit that for the must part it is more intricate than is that associated with the construction of an engine which is built to a standard, and merely involves the employment of machinery under the direction of skilled workers. A blacksmith, in many branches of the iron trade, must be a man of artistic temperament. In making the ironwork used in the construction of a yacht, for instance, he has to exercise the greatest possible care, and must have an absolute knowledge of the iron that he is working. He ought certainly to receive the pay of a skilled worker, rather than the small wage of 7s. 6d. per day. Many manufacturers apparently desire to employ journeymen and pay them the wages of improvers. I am absolutely in accord with the view expressed by the Prime Minister that a new state of affairs has been brought into existence, and I fail to see that we should refuse to deal with a case because it is a complex one.
– This does not seem to be a complex case.
– It is not. So far as the manufacturer is concerned, no hardship is involved.
– The hardship is suffered by the workers.
– Exactly. I should rather hold a brief for Mr. McKay in a matter of this kind than for a man who, like Mr. Barger, employs no plant or machinery.
– Mr. McKay does not need any help.
– As a rule the manufacturers do not, but probably if we were manufacturers we should squeal just as loudly as many of them are doing to-day. We do not allow the importers to circumvent the Customs Act, and I fail to see why manufacturers should be allowed to disobey the provisions of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. The honorable member for Fawkner has suggested that the Excise duty will be passed on to the farmer. We free-traders have always urged that every duty that is imposed is passed on to the consumer; but, as a rule, protectionists are not disposed to agree with that contention.. I am for what is called new protection, and desire to see full effect given to the new policy. About three weeks ago I requested the Prime Minister to lay upon the table of the House a memorandum as to the new protection proposals of the Government, and he promised that he would do so. That promise was repeated later on, but has not yet been fulfilled. I trust that before the House rises for the Christmas vacation, the honorable gentleman will submit to us the desired information. If he is wedded to the new protection, let him at once say so; if he is not, then let him saythat he has had enough of it, that he thinks it too complicated to be effectively carried out, and that he intends to throw it up. I for one am wedded to it, and intend to follow it up, and give it a trial.
– Leave it to the States.
– We leave too much to the States. We have the power to impose taxation, and we should frame the machinery necessary to give effect to our taxation proposals. We have imposed duties to assist the manufacturer the worker, and the consumer generally. The manufacturers are reaping the benefit of those duties, and we desire that some portion of that benefit shall be shared by the employes. I voted for the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Bill, and if there is anything shameful in connexion with it, it is the failure of the Government to collect the Excise during the last eleven months. If I were a member of the Labour Party. I should move a vote of censure and object to the House adjourning for the Christmas vacation until the new protection Bill had been submitted. It is all very well to say that we need a holiday, but we should not take one until we have done that which is expected of us. According to thePrime Minister, the question raised is a very important one, and he is going to consider it ; but he has no power to make concessions. Why should he be empowered to make concessions under this Act ? No suchpower is given him in connexion with other measures, and, so far as the case immediately before us is concerned, I fail to see that the manufacturer can claim thathe labours under any hardship. He has not been paying fair and reasonable rates of wages. . Therefore, there is no hardship involved in the collection of the Excise. The workers in this case provide the employer with both capital and labour, since no machinery is employed by Mr. Barger, and artisans should certainly be more highly paid than are machinists. The honorable member for Fawkner has failed to make out a strong case on behalf of this employer; he has apparently been carried away by the measurement of the manufacturer’s financial resources. It is true, as has been said, that it is difficult for a man to find a £5 note when he has not got one; but the public for some time, with great difficulty, have been finding many thousands of pounds to enable our manufacturers to secure enhanced prices for their products. This manufacturer knew of the existence of the Act, and he should have provided for the payment ofincreased wages. The question that we have to consider is not whether he is able to pay£1 or £200,000, but whether the Act is to be evaded. If it is unworkable or unjust, then it should be repealed. I, for one, intend to support it, and desire that it shall be enforced. I repeat that before we go into the Christmas recess the Prime Minister should obtain the decision of the House in regard to the new protection proposals of the Government.
.- In submitting this case to the House, the honorable member for Fawkner said that the Iron Moulders Wages Board had determined that blacksmiths should receive 45s. per week. I have beforeme the three decisions of that Board - the determinations in regard to the wages of ironmoulders, the light ironmoulders, and engineering or heavy ironmoulders. I find in them no reference to the wages of blacksmiths. Mr. Barger has either deliberately misled the honorable member for Fawkner or the honorable member in his anxiety to bring this case before the House, has fallen into an error. This manufacturer carries on business in the electorate of Melbourne, but, in all probability, his case has been submitted by the honorable member for Fawkner as the President of the Employers’ Federation.
– Is there any reason why that charge should be made?
– Why did not Mr. Barger go to his own representative?
– He was not bound to do so.
– Certainly not; but if Mr. Barger did not desire to bring the matter before the representative of his. own electorate, why did he invoke the assistance of the President of the Employers’ Federation ?
– It is a free country.
– If some one in the honorable member’s electorate were to pass him over, and seek the assistance of another honorable member, we know very well what he would say.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Fawkner obtained his facts from Mr. Walpole.
– I should not be surprised if he did. I should like to compare Mr. Walpole’s handwriting with the petition that has been read. We all know that petitions are hawked round factories, and have to be signed by the employes. Mr. Justice O’Connor, in one of the first decisions that he gave in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, laid down the rule that the employesshould not be compelled to come forward. When a petition is hawked round a factory the employes know thatthey must either sign it or go out.
– We have experienced these things.
– I never worked in a factory where I was asked against my will to sign a petition. Rather than yield to such a request, I dare say that I should have preferred to leave my employment. But, after all, a man has to consider, not merely himself, but his wife and family. Some of these workers may have signed the petition without reading it.
– Mr. Barger employs an equal number of boys and men.
– According to some of the papers referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner, he employs four “ unbound apprentices.” I do not know what unbound apprentices are. The term “ apprentice” is usually applied to a lad who is bound to learn a trade. He does not say a word in reference to the proportion of boys to men who may be employed in the light iron-moulding trade. As a matter of fact -
Only one improver is allowed to every two journeymen or fraction thereof employed in the process, trade, or business of an ironmoulder, receiving not less than 8s. per day employed on work other than pipe moulding or on work incidental thereto. Where pipe moulding is carried on either alone or in conjunction with other work, one improver, or one additional improver, as the case may be, is allowed to every twelve journeymen, or fraction thereof, exclusively employed on pipe moulding work receiving not less than 8s. per day.
Mr. Barger’s “ top notcher “ receives only 45s. per week. I have looked carefully through the awards made by the Wages Boards in that trade in Victoria, and I cannot find any determination so far as blacksmiths are concerned. As a matter of fact, the term “ blacksmith “ is not mentioned in the determinations in respect to the iron-moulding trade. The wages in that trade range from 63s. to 48s. per week of forty-eight hours; in the light iron-moulding, from 54s. to 38s. per week; and in the engineering or heavy iron-moulding, from 60s. to 38s. per week. Mr. Barger has evidently reversed the figures, in that he pays his best employe only 45s. per week instead of 54s.
– Has any wage been fixed for wrought iron workers?
– No. In the woodworkers trade, blacksmiths receive 54s. per week of forty-eight hours, and strikers 42s. per week. In the brick-making trade, there are smiths who receive1s. per hour, and strikers who are paid9d. per hour. In the oven-making trade, a smith receives 45s. per week of forty-eight hours, but the - honorable member for Corio has just informed me that under a recent determination the Brick Trade Board has increased the wages of blacksmiths in that trade.
– A blacksmith in the brick-making trade would be a man who sharpens tools or does some very ordinary work.
– Exactly. I wish particularly to place upon record the fact that in the iron-moulding trade the term “ blacksmith “ is not used.
– There are one or two points which I would like to impress upon the House and the Prime Minister. The Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act says -
Duties of Excise shall on and from the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seven, be imposed on the dutiable goods specified in the schedule at the rates specified in the said schedule.
Provided that this Act shall not apply to goods manufactured by any person in anypart of the Commonwealth under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which -
are declared by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament to be fair and reasonable ; or
are in accordance with an industrial award under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 ; or
are in accordance with the terms of an industrial agreement filed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904; or
are, on an application made for the pur pose to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, declared to be fair and reasonable by him or by a Judge of a Supreme Court of a State or any person or persons who compose a State industrial authority to whom he may refer the matter.
There are thus four methods of determining what is a fair and reasonable wage. As the honorable member for Wide Bay has pointed out, this House is obviously less fit to determine what is a fair and reasonable wage than is any other tribunal. Whilst he was speaking an honorable member interjected, “Why not refer the matter to the Arbitration Court?” I would point out that Mr. Barger’s case cannot be referred to that Court unless it involves a dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State. Now, the trouble of which he complains is confined to Victorian industries. Consequently, His case cannot come before that Court. Under paragraph (d) of the Act which I have quoted, it can only come, in the ordinary way, before the special Court which has been created for the purpose of determining what is a fair and reasonable wage in the industry. Therefore, the only fair and reasonable wage must be that which has been laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins. There is absolutely no other means of determining the question. There is no way of evading the payment of the wage which the Court has declared to be fair and reasonable. Of course, I am aware that every application must stand by itself. The Act does not provide that the dictum of the President of the Arbitration Court shall rule the whole industry. It says that it shall determine each particular application. The honorable member for Corio has stated that Mr. Barger made an application to the Arbitration Court to be exempt from thepaymen t of Excise, but did not support his application by evidence. That was his, business.
– I think that he withdrew his application.
– He informs me that he was not allowed to bring evidence.
– He went before this tribunal, and withdrew his application. It was open to him to support it by evidence. He did not do so. Why ? Because he saw that the case would have gone against him. I maintain that it is not competent for the Government to consider the application of this man for a remission of the
Excise specified in the Act. The measure in question does not endow them with discretionary power to say whether or not that Excise shall be payable. On the contrary, it affirms that there is only one condition under which it shall not be payable, namely, that the employer shall pay a fair and reasonable wage. I am sure that this Parliament will not take it upon itself to say what is a fair and reasonable wage unless it adopts the schedule which has been laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins. We may do that. But for us to consider upon its merits the question of whether a light ironmoulder should be paid 9s. per day, or 9s. 6d. per day, or whether a heavy moulder shall receive 10s. per day is manifestly impossible. Therefore the application of Mr. Barger must fail. When the Prime Minister says that he will consider his application, I reply that it is not competent for him to do so. Here is the Act, and it must be obeyed. It allows the Government no discretionary powers as do some Acts. The wages paid by Mr. Barger are manifestly insufficient. The Prime Minister has said that he will consider the application of this manufacturer because no decision has been given by Mr. Justice Higgins in his case. I deny that statement. Mr. Barger was one of the applicants for exemption from the payment of the Excise, and the withdrawal of his application prior to the judgment, does not remove him from the influence of that judgment. Otherwise a man might escape from anything. I admit that to make a stripper-harvester is a very different thing from the manufacture of a disc or stump-jump plough. At the same time, there is in the decision of Mr. Justice Higgins the bed-rock upon which all the superstructure of skilled industry is erected, namely, the amount which the unskilled labourer is to receive. The unskilled labourer ought to receive a certain amount. Mr. Justice Higgins has declared that he must get such a wage as will keep himself and his family in reasonable comfort, and will enable him to savea little for a rainy day. Prima facie proof of whether wages are reasonable or not, is to be found in answer to the question - What does the employer pay the unskilled labourer? If the unskilled labourer is not paid 7s. a day, the employer is not paying fair and reasonable wages, according to the finding of Mr. Justice Higgins. In addition, he held that there shall be paid to each artisan a wage equiva- lent to the skill required in each particular occupation; and there is no other tribunal to decide what is a fair and reasonable wage. The question as to what is a fair and reasonable wage has now been decided.
– Nine months after the passing of the Act.
– No manufacturer can be blind to the customs of his trade. Does any one contend that, in the State of Victoria, it is reasonable to pay a blacksmith 45s. a week? In New South Wales the wage of a blacksmith has never been lower than 9s. or 10s. a day, according to the character of the work. The honorable member for Yarra, quoting from the schedule of awards, showed that smiths engaged in stove and oven work, the least skilled branch of the craft, receive 8s. a day. Although a manufacturer may not have known what award Mr. Justice Higgins was going to make, he must have known what wages his neighbours were paying, and what the work was worth.
– The manufacturer in question said (hat the Wages Board fixed the wages he was paying.
– What Board? He never said anything of the kind.
– The honorable member for Yarra said so.
– There are three or four honorable members carrying on conversations across the floor. I have several times during the last three or four days called attention to this breach of the Standing Orders, and I should very much regret it if I were called upon to take the action which, under the circumstances, might be justified. It would be most unpleasant for me ‘to call attention individually to honorable members, but it will be my duty to do so if the conversations do not cease.
– The honorable member for Yarra pointed out that there was no Wages Board determination, as affecting the iron trade, except in the instances which he mentioned. The manufacturer, to whom particular attention has been called, never did pay a fair and reasonable wage. Does the honorable member for Fawkner say that 6s. a day is a fair and reasonable wage?
– No, I do not say so.
– By common consent, as well as by the recent decision of a competent Court, 7s. a day is regarded as a fair and reasonable wage for unskilled labour in this country. That is an opinion which is not recent, but has been held for some years. It cannot be said, therefore, that this manufacturer is justified in claiming an exemption under any circumstances. I declare, in the most emphatic” way, that it does not lie in the power of the Government, under any circumstances, to grant an exemption.
.- As one who has taken some interest in this question, and who was privileged, a few days ago, to introduce a large and influential deputation to the Minister of Trade and Customs on the question, I should like to say a word or two. The question before us is not what is a fair and reasonable wage; that is a matter which we shall have an opportunity to fully discuss later on. This Excise Act came into operation on the 1st of January of this year1, and, under its provisions, manufacturers are called upon to pay certain duties if they fail to give their employes fair and reasonable wages. The only equitable method of administration would have been to fix the scale of wages when the Act became law, or as soon as possible to have appointed tribunals for the purpose of fixing the standard. During the nine months which have elapsed since the passing of the Act, we have had the extraordinary position of eight or ten different standards of wages set up in Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales; and that is most unsatisfactory, if not altogether unconstitutional. I think the case for- the manufacturers was very well put by the honorable member for Fawkner, and the reply of the Prime Minister was certainly humanitarian. Whether it is in the power of the Government to withhold the Excise is a question which no doubt the Government will consider and* determine. I do not desire now to discuss whether or not the wages fixed are fair and reasonable; the finding of Mr. Justice Higgins may be perfectly reasonable, according to the standard he individually set up for himself. But we must not lose sight of the fact that, during the nine months which elapsed between the passing of the Act and the finding of the Court, the manufacturers could not possibly have known what standard was likely to be adopted. This is not a question of policy as between the old. and the new protection. but a question of justice. A claim is made by the Labour Party that the. manufacturer should pay the whole of ‘the arrears of Excise. That would be equally unjust. I do not propose to discuss the legal aspect of the question. If the Act is an unjust one, it - is within the power of the Government to introduce an amending measure. By this means a manifest injustice would be removed, inasmuch as manufacturers would not be taxed for failing to carry out a regulation in regard to wages of which they could know nothing. We must credit manufacturers with being fair-minded men, not differing much from the community generally. They have been paying what they considered to be the current rate of wages, and I may say that they have been by no means lax in regard to their observance of the law. They have made repeated applications to the Department in regard to their obligations under the Act, and the reply they received was always that the President of the Arbitration Court would fix the rates of wages in due course. They were clearly led to believe that, until the standard wage was fixed, they would not be called upon to pay Excise ; and I desire to emphasize the manifest injustice of making this law retrospective. From the reply of the Prime Minister1 I should judge that he recognises a strong case has been made out for consideration, and that due regard will be had to every case, and the whole of the evidence placed before the House at the proper time. There is still a certain element of injustice in compelling manufacturers to enter into a bond that they will pay the Excise if it. be found on examination that the wages they pay are not in accordance with the standard which the Government evidently intend to fix later on. Another point is that if the manufacturers had known that from the1st January they were expected to pay a higher rate of wages, they would have been able to charge their customers accordingly ; and it is only reasonable that they should have had the opportunity to arrange their business in accordance with the new conditions. The question now is not whether the wages paid are fair or unfair.
– Does the honorable member think that the wages are fair in this particular instance?
– That is not a matter on which I feel I am called to express an opinion on the present occasion. I believe that the manufacturers in this industry are sufficiently honest to treat their employes as fairly as are those engaged in any other branch of industry. I hope (he Government will introduce legislation to remove the injustice of collecting Excise retrospectively.
– If any member of the community suffers an injustice it is the duty of honorable members to submit it here so that a remedy may be applied. I am not sorry that the honorable member for Fawkner has placed this case before us, because he has shown that there are workers in Victoria experiencing injustice at the hands of. their employers. We should not have heard anything of these cases if the honorable member for Fawkner had not submitted this motion for adjournment. The honorable member has shown us that skilled craftsmen in Victoria are being paid less per week than are labourers in South Australia. In the latter State labourers in the building trade are paid 8s. a day, and in other industries7s. 6d. ; and yet the honorable member complains that the manufacturers in Victoria have to compete against those in South Australia. I am glad to say that, under Mr. Justice Higgins’ award, blacksmiths in South Australia are to be paid 9s. per day.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order.
– I move-
That thisBill be now read a second time.
This is a measure which should meet with the general approval of honorable members. On the12th December last, an election was held in South Australia to choose three senators to fill vacancies created by statutory retirements, and, on the 8th January following, the result of the poll was declared, and the writ returned. The candidates declared to be elected were Sir Josiah Symon, Mr. W. Russell, and Mr. Vardon. Mr. Crosby, the defeated candidate highest on the poll after the gentlemen named, obtained only thirtyfour votes fewer than were cast for Mr. Vardon. He shortly afterwards died, and then Mr. Blundell, the next highest candidate, presented a petition against Mr. Vardon’s return. The petition was heard by the Court of Disputed Returns, which held that Mr. Vardon’s election was absolutely void. Previous to that judgment Mr. Vardon was sworn in, took his seat in the Senate, and acted as a senator. The Court admitted and rejected certain ballot papers on the recount, and found that while Mr. Vardon was still in a majority, yet a number of ballot papers, if admissible, would have given Mr. Crosby a majority, but were rendered invalid by the default of a returning officer in not initialling the papers. The question then arose, how should the vacancy be filled - by a second popular election, or, in pursuance of section 15 of the Constitution, by an election by the two Houses of the South Australian Parliament, sitting together. A copy of the order of the Court of Disputed Returns was sent to the President of the Senate, who thereupon, in accordance with section 21 of the Constitution, notified the Governor of South Australia of the vacancy. The latter consulted his constitutional advisers, who obtained a legal opinion from Messrs. Glynn, Dashwood, and Murray.
– And from the honorable member?
– No. The counsel I have named advised that the vacancy should be filled by a choice under section 15 of the Constitution. But prior to this, the Department of Home Affairs, which is intrusted with the conduct- of Commonwealth elections, desired the advice of the ‘Crown law officers as to whether a new election should be held, or the ‘choice made, in accordance with section 15. The Parliament of South Australia elected Major O’Loghlin, who subsequently took his seat, and is now sitting as a senator. It was sought to challenge Major O’Loghlin’s right to the seat by proceedings in the High Court, which was asked to issue a prerogative writ of mandamus, directing the Governor of South Australia to issue a writ for the election of a senator. The High Court, on hearing the application, was of opinion that it had no authority to make such an order, and that the main question in dispute was irregularly ‘before it. It would therefore give no decision upon that question, and Mr. Justice Barton, in pronouncing judgment, said -
We refrain from expressing any opinion upon the other important and difficult question which the applicant desires to have decided. , It seems to be clear that the question whether there is or is not now a vacancy in the representation of South Australia in the Senate is one of the questions to be decided by the Senate under section 47, “ unless the Parliament otherwise provides.” Parliament can, no doubt, confer authority to decide such a question upon this .Court, whether as a Court of Disputed Returns or otherwise. But until the question is regularly raised for decision we reserve our opinion upon it.
A petition was then presented to the Senate on behalf of Mr. Vardon, praying that. Major O’Loghlin’s election bv the Houses of the State Parliament should be declared null and void.
– Was not Mr. Vardon a candidate for election by the Parliament of South Australia?
- Major O’Loghlin and Mr. Vardon were the two candidates. The petition was referred by the Senate to itsCommittee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications, which presented a report ii> favour of the petitioner, and, on the motion that the report be adopted, an amendment was carried affirming that the matter should be referred to the High Court.
– In regard to what question ?
– In regard to all the questions raised by the petition. Thereupon> the Government introduced a Bill in the Senate to give effect to the expressed will of that body. It is admitted that a very difficult question of law has been raised,, upon which conflicting opinions have been given, so that the matter is one for a legal tribunal rather than for a legislative body to settle. The Senate passed the Bill referring the petition to the High Court.
– Is not the Bill retrospective ?
– The position is this r Major O’Loghlin’s right to sit was challenged by a petition to the Senate which the Senate had power to deal with. But it ‘also had power to .refer it to some other authority. Section 47 of the Constitution provides that -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives, or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament, and any question of a disputed election to either House shall be determined by the House in which the question arises.
Mr. Justice Barton, referring to this matter in his judgment, said -
It seems to be clear that the question whether there is or is not now a vacancy in the representation of South Australia in the Senate is one of the questions to be decided by the Senate under section 47, “ unless the Parliament otherwise provides.”
Parliament is now being asked to “otherwise provide.”
– For the past.
– The Bill deals with a petition which has not yet been dealt with.
– The reading of the Constitution adopted by the High Court did not seem a fair one.
– Would not the same argument apply to the Excise cases?
– I do not think so. That is an entirely different matter. The petition presented to the Senate admittedly raises a very difficult question of law, upon which it is highly desirable to obtain a final decision from an impartial tribunal like the High Court.
– No .decision has been come to in regard to the petition ?
– No. The Bill seeks to carry out the wish of the Senate, to- refer the matter to the High Court, and provides also for future cases. When it is passed this petition- will, without any order of the Court, be transferred to it for decision. The Clerk of the Parliaments will immediately transmit the petition to the Principal Registrar of the High Court, and thereupon the jurisdiction of the Senate to deal with the matter will cease absolutely. The Court of Disputed Returns, in dealing with the petition, must consist of at least three Justices, and if any question of procedure arises the’ Court will _ give directions. The Court, on the hearing of the petition, will have certain powers - set out under the Electoral Act, . such as that of calling witnesses, demanding the production of documents, and doing other things necessary for the proper hearing of the case- The decision of the Court will be sent to the Clerk ot the Parliaments. If it be against Senator Major O.’Loghlin, the President will comply with sectioiV’21 of the Constitution which deals with a vacancy in the Senate; but if it be not, the senator will be declared to have been duly elected, and will retain his seat. The second part of the Bill deals .with . future cases. Under the Electoral Act any person who” disputes the validity of an election may present a petition to the High Court ; but the Court can deal only with popular elections ; it has no jurisdiction In respect to elections by the Houses of a State Parliament under section 15. What is now proposed is to give it jurisdiction in regard to not only popular elections, but also elections by a State Parliament, on the presentation of a petition to the Court of Disputed Returns.
– Will this lessen the cost ?
– It provides a much more satisfactory way ot dealing with disputed elections than that which now exists. So far as this case is concerned, it might have been a great saving of cost.
– Is there any special urgency in regard to this Bill ?
– There is. We should lose no time in constituting a tribunal to deal with a petition that, remains undecided, and to determine the undeclared rights of litigants.
– If this Bill be passed fo-day without amendment will the High . Court have an opportunity to deal with the petition before the Christmas vacation?
– I think so; the petition will be at once sent oh to the High CourtUnder clause 206aa the House in which the question arises is given power to refer to the High Court questions of law with respect to qualifications of senators or members, as the case may be, and vacancies. Questions of law such as whether a man holds an office of profit or is insolvent may be referred to the High Court for decision. Such questions are often both intricate and difficult. In Queensland some”time ago the Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether a certain position was or was not an office of profit under the Crown, and the case was a very important and difficult one. Under division 2 it is provided that if the House in’ which the . question arises is of opinion that a case is a proper one for the determination of the High Court it may, by. resolution, refer it to that tribunal for. decision. The remaining clause in the Bill provides, the machinerynecessary to give effect to that principle. I trust that the House will deal expeditiously with the Bill. The desire of the Government is to confer upon the High’ Court the power to. deal with questions which .it is. eminently fitted to determine,, so that finality may be achieved.
– When will the Bill come into operation ?
– As soon as it receives the Royal Assent.
.- I intend to support the Bill.
– Ask that the debate be adjourned.
– I see no necessity to ask for an adjournment of the debate. The Bill has been fully considered by another place. It is the outcome of prolonged deliberation on the part, first of all, of a special Committee, and, secondly, by the Senate itself. I take it- that it is intended primarily to deal with the particular case which is now in dispute. This House should not interfere with any legislation passed by the Senate to control its own affairs and to determine matters concerning that Chamber unless there is special reason for doing so.
– The Senate interfered with legislation in reference to this House.
– I am not disputing our right to interfere in any way we please with legislation passed by another place, but unless there are special reasons to the contrary we ought to assume that this work has been well done by, and is in the best interests of, the Senate.
– I think that we ought to have a day to consider the lucid explanation of the provisions of the Bill which has just been given by the Attorney-General.
– I know what the honorable member has in mind, but the greater the despatch in dealing with this matter the greater will be the chances of the early settlement of ,the question at issue. If I were in the position of the gentleman who is particularly concerned, I should desire a decision to be arrived at without delay. I should not like to have a dispute as to my election hanging over my head, and it is primarily in the interests of the individual whose seat is challenged that this matter should be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. .
– With all reasonable despatch ; but is it necessary to set ‘ aside the Standing Orders in order that we may deal with it ?
– Is not-the honorable member aware .that the Government are anxious to pass the Bill through all .its stages to-day for the reason that the members of another place propose to rise either to-day or to-morrow for the Christmas holidays? I .shall support the- Bill, believing that it will enable substantial justice to be done in a case of extreme ‘difficulty, involving, such a. balance of legal opinion that the High Court alone can determine it.
– I hope that the Bill will be passed without much delay. It is very creditable to the party which had the power to determine this matter in the Senate that it recognised that there was some anxiety, more particularly in South Australia, as to the validity of the choice made, and determined that the only body that could give an authoritative pronouncement upon so difficult a question should be empowered to do so The power to determine the issue may have existed in the Senate, and it is therefore all the more creditable to honorable senators, who might have exercised a choice in one direction, that they agreed to the resolution, embodied in this Bill, that the matter should be left to the determination of the High Court. In taking up this attitude they are really acting consistently with what ought to have been done when the first Electoral Bill was under consideration. I am satisfied that it was by an oversight rather than by deliberate intent that the Court of Disputed Returns was not vested with power to decide all questions of vacancies within the meaning of section 15 as well as some of the other matters that are now placed by this Bill within its competence. There was no reason why the old practice- ‘the practice which prevailed 50 or 100 years ago, and has been gradually dying out in the States - of deciding all questions relating to vacancies or elections in the House in which they occur should have continued. Parliament decided, however, that it should not be continued ; that the Court of Disputed Returns should dealwith them. As the result, however, of what I think was a mere mistake in drafting, we did not arm the High Court with power to determine abstract questions of law which it is specially competent to decide, although we gave it power to deal with- mere questions of fact.’ The Senate, having acted from the highest sense of public duty, it is incumbent upon us, if we cannot find any objection* of substance to the drafting of the Bill, -to pass it without delay.
– If some honorable senators had had their -way they would have settled the question upon party lines.
– I am merely putting a supposititious case. I can well imagine that one party in another place could have settled the matter in a particular way, but it refused to deal with it from party motives. Following the excellent lead set us by the House in which this question has arisen, it behoves us, provided that the drafting is ample, to recognise with expedition the good taste which it has displayed. I have carefully read the Bill on two occasions, and think that it accomplishes what is intended. It will refer the existing petition, as well as, on a resolution, all similar petitions, to the High Court for determination. It might be capable of improvement so far as cases that may hereafter arise are concerned, but not in regard to the particular case with which it deals.
– Is the honorable member in favour of retrospective legislation ?
– No ; and I do not think that this is retrospective legislation. If the honorable member examines the Judiciary Act, he will find that under section 39 the High Court was made competent to decide appeals from judgments which had been given, even before -that Act was passed, and which at the time were pending, and practically on their way to the Privy Council. I could give other instances, not of retrospective legislation, but of where we brought within the existing Act pending matters that had not been decided. If the question to which this Bill relates had been decided, then legislation under which we tried, by virtue of our powers to upset the effect of the judgment, would be retrospective’. But the dispute to which this Bill relates has not been decided. The power of decision has been . oven up by the Senate, which says that it will seek the advice, and be guided by, the determination of the High Court. That being so, this Bill is not in the ordinary sense retrospective, because it does not disturb a single existing right, unless it be the right of the petitioner or the respondent to have a question determined by the Senate. If we passed a Bill to affect a decision of the Senate such legislation would clearly be retrospective. But in this case the Senate has made no determination, and the only right with which we interfere is the so-called right of the petitioner to have his case determined by the Senate - a body which, in my opinion, ought not to determine it. The Senate itself does not wish to exercise such a power, but seeks the advice of the High Court concerning a very contentious matter. We tried in the Convention to give the power’ to submit abstract questions to the High Court, but we did not succeed, and this is the nearest approach that we have to the enjoyment of an expeditious and cheap method of determining such questions.- I might further say that in my opinion we shall also thoroughly satisfy the electors of South Australia by referring this case to the determination of the High Court. That is a consideration which ought to weigh with honorable members. It should not be paramount, but it is one of the elements that should be considered. The Senate, in surrendering its own power, has asked that the petition may be allowed to go to the. High Court. We are requested to co-operate with another place, and I believe the State of South Australia will be satisfied with the decision of the High Court, whatever its effect may be. In the circumstances, as a precedent is to be established, I think that the High Court is the best tribunal to deal with this question. I shall therefore do -all that I can to assist the Government in passing the Bill through Committee. As I have said, I have carefully looked through the Bill twice, and, so far as I can see, it accomplishes, at all events, the object of submitting this question in particular to the High Court, in order that its determination may be ‘ obtained, whilst it also brings cognate questions within the purview of the Court. I do not wish to be hypercritical, but an ultra-analytical mind could discover in the Bill one or two imperfections of drafting which do not relate to the particular matters with which we are now dealing.
– It is intended to introduce a Consolidating Electoral Bill.
– Yes. They are matters for the future, and could be dealt with in a Consolidating Electoral Bill. In the circumstances, I hope that the House will, with the consideration that it usually gives to matters of urgency, pass this Bill.
-59J– Undoubtedly this Bill had its origin in the result of a senatorial election for South Australia, and . it is satisfactory to know that at least in this Chamber it will be debated quite apart from party feeling. I do not agree with the construction which the Attorney-General and the honorable member for Angas have placed upon what the High Court has said in reference to this question. Of course, I recognise that, being a matter of law, it may be presumption on my part to differ from them. But the Court stated -
We refrain from expressing any opinion upon the other important and difficult question which the applicant desires to have decided. Tt seems to be clear that the question whether there is or is not now a -vacancy in the representation of South Australia in the Senate is one of the questions to lie decided bv the Senate under section 47, “ Unless the Parliament otherwise provided.” Parliament ca-n, no doubt, confer authority ‘ to decide such a question upon this
Court whether as a Court of Disputed Returns or otherwise, but until the question is regularly raised for decision we reserve our opinion upon it.
I hold that if the High Court had the power to decide this question, it would have said so in definite terms. Why did that tribunal say -
Parliament can no doubt confer authority to decide a question upon this Court - if it already possessed that power
– It did not possess it.
– I think that the Senate might very well have decided this matter for itself, and that subsequently we might have passed a. Bill declaring that all similar disputes should in future be referred for decision tothe High Court. I am in entire accord with the policy embodied in the measure, but I do not agree that the particular question involved in it ought to have been referred to the High Court. At the same time, I desire to do everything possible to expedite the passage of the measure. I regret that a considerable amount of unnecessary feeling was imported into the discussion of the Bill in another place - a circumstance which does not reflect credit upon this Parliament. An attempt has been made to belittle the representative from South Australia who now occupies a seat in the other Chamber, upon the ground that he holds a position that is tainted. That is outrageous language to use in respect to any person who has been duly appointed by the lawful authorities so far as we know them. The question which is responsible for the introduction of this Bill might, in my judgment, have very well been left in abeyance, and an arrangement arrived at that all future cases of a similar character should be referred to the High Court. I feel sure that whatever case is referred to that tribunal will receive every consideration and the best justice that it is possible to obtain in the Commonwealth.
– To my mind, this is a panic Bill. The Attorney-General expressed a certain opinion upon the strength of which the South Australian Parliament elected a representative of that State to sit in the other Chamber. The gentleman in question has held his office, just as did exSenator Reid, who was elected by the Victorian Parliament to a seat in the other branch of the Legislature. But simply because the opponents of progress and of the people have commenced an agitation against the election of Senator O’Loghlin, a Bill has been submitted to refer the question of the validity of his election to the High Court. I desire to know whether the Government will supply that senator with an attorney to fight his case before that tribunal. I should not object to this Bill if its application were limited to future disputed elections. But I know that the expense to which Senator O’Loghlin will be subjected in fighting his case before the High Court will be extremely heavy - far too heavy to be borne by an individual. The honorable member for Riverina, the honorable member for Melbourne, and the honorable member for Echuca have had a bitter experience of how the costs in such cases pile up. I feel disposed to move that the Bill be read this day six months, but I shall not do so. I recognise that the Government have the numbers necessary to carry the Bill, and, consequently, I shall not prolong discussion upon it.
.- I recognise that special circumstances have arisen in another place, and that complicated law points have rendered it necessary to obtain a definite decision upon thequestion involved in this Bill. Had the measure been made applicable only to disputed Senate elections, I should have offered no opposition to it.But I find that it goes a great deal further than that.It declares that all future cases of disputed elections shall be referred to the Court of Disputed Returns, which is the High Court.
– The amendment in section 5 applies only to the Senate.
-One portion of the Bill proposes to amend the principal Act. by adding at the end thereof the following heading and sections -
Qualifications and Vacancies. 206AA. Any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament may be referred by resolution to the Court of Disputed Returns by the House in which the question arises, and the Court of Disputed Returns shall thereupon have jurisdiction to hear and determine the question.
– That refers to any question regarding the qualification of a member which may arise during his tenure.
– It goes further than that. It proposes to repeal a certain portion of the principal Act by declaring that in future all questions respecting the qualifications of members of both Houses of the Parliament shall be referred to the High Court. If the Bill applied only to elections for the Senate, I should be content to allow it to pass without a word of criticism. But I have had some experience of disputed elections–
– The honorable member has had a sad experience.
– Yes. In the light of that experience, I introduced a Bill regarding disputed elections for this House. But the measure which is now under consideration is applicable to both branches of the Legislature. It refers to a special case which has arisen through no fault of the particular senator concerned. Yet the Bill practically proposes to ruin him. Of course, I recognise that our Electoral Act provides that disputed elections shall be dealt with by the High Court without regard to legal technicalities, and according to the principles of equity and good conscience. But what was my experience, and that of the honorable members for Echuca and Melbourne, in this connexion? We know perfectly well that the members of that tribunal cannot divest themselves of their legal training. This House should pause before permitting that portion of the Bill to pass which will impose shackles upon it. I am strongly of opinion that if the measure be agreed to in its present form, it will provide that all cases respecting the qualifications of members of this Parliament shall be referred to the High Court. All matters in regard to the qualification of members of Parliament, whether of the House of Representatives or of the Senate, can be, and should be, decided by a tribunal appointed by Parliament itself. I do not intend at this stage to offer any lengthy remarks.
– This may cost the parties concerned£300 or £400.
– If a party gets off by the payment of£300 or £400 he will be a very fortunate man. This Bill ‘ought not to be allowed to pass, until the Government are pledged to pay the whole of the legal expenses in cases where litigation has arisen through no fault of the candidates themselves. The fault in the case now under discussion lay entirely with the officers of the Department.
– Did not the Treasurer say that he would give consideration to the point just raised by the honorable member? At any rate, that is the principle which has been acted on in the past - when the fault has been with the officers of the- Department, a sum has been placed on the Estimates to meet expenses.
– Quite so; but what was the sum placed on the Estimates in my case? It was £100, although £1,000 would not have paid the whole of the expenses. What I contend is that the Government should accept responsibility for the default of their servants. I desire that we should go further than a mere promise that consideration will be given to the matter. We ought to insert in the Bill a provision that the House shall determine when the legal expenses, under such circumstances, shall be paid out of the. Consolidated Revenue. I am prepared to allow the second reading to pass, but in Committee I shall move an amendment in the direction I have indicated. If that amendment be not carried, then I shall use every effort to prevent the measure being read a third time.
– There seems no desire on the part of honorable members to criticise this Bill, and it is not my intention to delay its passage. But I enter a protest against the Government bringing in a Bill to deal with a cage which has caused enormous expense to the parties concerned, and which the Senate, as the final Court of Appeal, ought to have decided.
– Surely under the Constitution, the Senate may decide its own action ?
– If the Senate chooses to say that it will do nothing, we cannot help it. I am sorry that this case applies to South Australia, because I have always contended that I would never support retrospective legislation further than to remove an injustice to certain individuals, and in this case no injustice has been done.
Mr.McWilliams. - Has no injustice been done to the people of South Australia ?
– No. We have it on the highest legal authority, including Mr. Murray, K.C., the Crown Solicitor of South Australia, “ and the honorable member for Angas, that so far, everything is in accordance with the Constitution ; and all that this Bill does is to ask Senator O’Loghlin and Mr. Vardon to go into Court and prove, at great expense, that everything is in order. If there were any evidence before me that Senator.
O’Loghlin had not been properly elected, or that any injustice had been done to Mr. Vardon, I should have been willing to vote for the ‘Bill, even though it were retrospective. But there is no proof whatever of any injustice; and no matter how many hundreds or thousands of pounds may be spent in litigation, the conclusion may be that already arrived at. I had a good deal to do with this election in South Australia. I recounted the whole of the votes in the district of Hindmarsh, where the biggest blunder occurred; and I have information which satisfies me that if the whole of the. votes, including those supposed to have been burnt, had been examined, there would not have been the slightest doubt whatever of Mr. Crosby’s return. I have it on the information of those who acted as scrutineers that if all the votes which were wrongfully rejected had- been accepted, and all those wrongfully accepted had been rejected, Mr. Crosby would have been a long way ahead of Mr. Vardon. A remarkable thing is that when the Judge examined the votes’ and found that Mr. Vardon had two more than Mr. Crosby, he -declared Mr. Vardon elected. But when, on another count, he found that Mr. Crosby had two more votes than had Mr. Vardon, he did not find that Mr. Crosby was elected, but simply declared the election void, so far as Mr. Crosby was concerned.^ There has been a long series of blunders, which have been the cause of a great deal of expense. Senator O’Loghlin and Mr. Vardon have been kept in a perpetual state of worry month after month, although the question ought to have been settled by the Senate long ago.
– Was ;not the difficulty caused by the death of Mr. Crosby?
– The petition was presented irrespective of Mr. Crosby’s death.
– But Mr. Crosby would have been declared elected.
– In that case a vacancy would have occurred in the ordinary way. As a matter of fact, we are going to put Senator O’Loghlin, Mr. Vardon, and others, to great expense in order to prove that the law has been observed..
– What was the finding of the Senate Committee?
– The Senate Committee arrived at a most remarkable conclusion, namely, that they were not com- petent to decide such a simple matter, although the Senate, by its legislation, constitutes the Court which will have to try the matter. I must say that in this matter there has been the greatest partizanship shown, and, it must be admitted, more on one side than the other.
– The Senate Committee was unanimous.
– That is not so, as the addendum to the report shows. I can understand that the Committee was unanimous beyond the two honorable senators who signed the addendum. That is why I say we ought to leave the matter as it is, and not cause proceedings which may ruin the parties not only in pocket but in health. As a matter of’ fact, I know that the health of Senator O’Loghlin has been seriously affected already; and it is acknowledged that the health of the honorable member for Riverina- was seriously affected by his electoral troubles.
– And what about the honorable member for Echuca?
– I have sympathy for all honorable members under such circumstances. I am glad that the honorable member for Riverina has suggested an amendment in the direction indicated. My opinion is that the following words itv clause 2 ought to be omitted - which is now in or pending before the Senate, 01 in respect of which the Senate has resolved that the question involved is proper to be referred to the High Court.
If these words are not eliminated, surely we ought, in all fairness, to support the suggestion of the honorable member for Riverina, and say that, for the future,’ the whole of the cost shall be borne by the Government, when the fault lies, not with the parties, but with the officers of the Department.
– Has anything been done in this connexion ?
– Although a considerable time has elapsed, I know that the unfortunate widow ‘ and children of the late Mr. Crosby have not received a single farthing towards the expense to which he was put. I do not know whether the honorable member for Echuca has received any consideration.
– I have not received anything.
– I think it is shocking, when so little can be done under the present law, that that little should not be done promptly. Of course, if an honorable member does something that he ought not to do, then he ought to bear the punishment whatever it may be. But if, when a person seeks to represent the electors, difficulties arise, through no fault of his, the whole of the expense ought to be paid by the Government. That is a view which I am sure would be indorsed by the electors. There have been quite “ a number of cases, unfortunately, and up to now the members concerned have been so circumstanced as to be able to preserve their solvency ; but in the future there may be complications which may mean ruin to an honorable member and his family. In Committee I shall do what I can to prevent the Bill from being retrospective.
.- Having been through the mill myself, I should know a little about this matter, and therefore I wish to say a word or two in regard to it. I was originally a strong believer in a Court of Disputed Returns, presided over by a Justice of the High Court ; but after my own case, I became a convert to the contrary view.
– Every one who has been through the Court does the same.
-I regret that, while the measure has been introduced to deal with a specific case, it is to apply also to future cases. I am sorry that it was not proposed to revert to procedure similar to that of the Parliaments of the States, by setting up a Committee of Elections and Qualifications, from which I think we could get better results than from the Court, while the parties to litigation would be put to less expense. The expense of proceedings before the Court is one of the salient features of this matter. Why should a man who has been as careful as possible to observe the law be called upon, owing to the fault of a Government official invalidating an election, to fight for his rights in the law Courts, and to put his hand in his pocket to meet heavy expenses in upholding his claims? It has been stated in the press and elsewhere that, in. the case in which I was concerned, there was to be a reimbursement of expenses ; but we have not been reimbursed, and, so far as I know, the Government do not intend to reimburse us. I am not just now asking to be. reimbursed. I am merely stating the fact. In my opinion, when a Government, through the neglect or mistakes of its servants,puts an individual to expense, the country, and not the sufferer, should pay the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
– I move -
That the words “ which is now in or pending before the Senate, or in respect of which the Senate has resolved that the question involved is proper to be referred to the High Court “ be left out.
If the amendment be agreed to, the clause will cease to. operate retrospectively, and for the reason which I have stated, I think that in the case to which reference has been made we should be content to leave thingsas they stand. If this case be gone into again, it will mean enormous expense and worry to all concerned, while there is. no certainty that any change will be made,
– I cannot accept the amendment because the Bill was introduced to meet the desire of the Senate that the petition affecting this particular case shall be referred to the Court of Disputed Returns. No injustice will be done by the provision which the honorable member wishes to omit, because both parties will be treated fairly. What is desired is to obtain a final interpretation of the Constitution on a question of much importance.
– I am willing to withdraw my amendment if the Attorney-General will give me the assurance that he will support the proposal of the honorable member for Riverina that in this and every other case in which, through the fault of the Electoral Department, candidates are put to expense in litigation, they will be reimbursed.
– An amount could be put on the Estimates.
– Yes ; but a recognition of the principle might be embodied in the Bill.
– Does the honorable member suggest reimbursement up to the sum of £100? There must be some limit to the amount which may be demanded.
– I leave that to the honorable member for Riverina.
– What the honorable member should do is to ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider the matter.
.- The honorable member cannot expect me to make a bargain of this kind with him; but there is justice underlying his proposal. ‘ The liability of the State has already been recognised, candidates who have suffered by the action of Government officials having had their expenses returned. As the honorable member says, it is exceedingly hard that, because of some mistake or omission by an electoral officer, the candidates concerned in an election which has miscarried should have to bear the cost’ of a fruitless electoral campaign, and of any subsequent litigation. But all I can undertake to do is to make representations on the subject to the Treasurer, who, I think, has already promised to take these cases into consideration.
– I think the difficulty has been that no one has applied.
– Yes; that has been stated. No application has been submitted showing the expenses or costs incurred by candidates. The proper time to deal with the matter is during the consideration of the Estimates. In the meantime I ask the Treasurer to consider the matter.
– In other cases Parliament has granted £100.
– That is for election expenses ; but there may be legal expenses in addition.
– That amount was fixed because of the provision of the electoral law which prohibits a candidate from spending more than£100 on an election.
.-Ihope that the honorable member for Hindmarsh will accept the promise of the Attorney - General. If money is to be paid in connexion with void elections, it should be paid to all affected.
– In the case of Chanter and Blackwood each candidate received the same amount.
– Yes; but we are inclined to develop this principle too much. We have made our payments for electoral blunders retrospective. When the first payment was proposed, I criticised the policy of giving money to persons who had taken action without expecting to be repaid their expenses. To establish a rule for the future is a different matter. If we deal with this matter on the Estimates, we can then settle what is the proper amount to be paid. I have already said that I do not consider this legislation to be retrospective. At one time the English Parliament had the right to summon the Judges to advise it on matters of this sort. May says - page 198 -
The Judges, as assistants of the Lords, held a more important place in Parliament, in ancient times than that which is now assigned to them, having hada voice of suffrage, as well as a voice of advice. They were also occasionally made joint committees with the Lords of Parliament - a practice which continued until the latter end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Their attendance was formerly enforced on all occasions, but they are now summoned by a special order, when their advice is required.
– The honorable member would have some trouble in persuading Senator O’Loghlin that it is not retrospective.
- Senator O’Loghlin and the party to which he belongs are to be commended for the readiness with which they have accepted this course.
– We have done so because we absolutely trust the High Court.
– The action of the party is the more commendable in that it is in the majority. I think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has made a very good suggestion.
– With all due deference and respect to the Attorney-General, I say that when you ask Ministers for money they invariably reply, “We will consider it. We will put the matter before the Cabinet. We will have a consultation.” Before the consultation is held, the party concerned is dead. All Governments represent absolutism. Ministers get on the Treasury benches, and, having a good thing, determine to stick to it.I have no ill-feeling towards the brethren ; but I wish to talk candidly to them. Senator O’Loghlin has been duly elected, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, as interpreted by the best lawyers.
– Who are the best lawyers ?
– What better lawyers can be found than the AttorneyGeneral and the honorable member for Angas, one of the leaders of the South Australian Bar, and the man who pulled me out of trouble once? If the AttorneyGeneral will say that the Government will recognise its liability for the default of its officers and pay out, I shall be satisfied.
– The honorable member knows that that is a matter for the Treasurer.
– The Treasurer pays out, and the Attorney-General shows him how to pav out. This case will have to go to the High Court, and lawyers will have to be retained. I deeply regret that I did not adopt the law as a profession. When a man goes to a lawyer for advice, he will not wink at him for less than 25 guineas; the next wink costs him 50 guineas, and the third 75 guineas. Before this case has been disposed of, it will have cost the parties to it over .£500 each. If the Attorney-General will say off-hand, “ We are prepared to find the necessaryfunds, and settle the costs incurred bv the honorable member for Echuca, and others who, through no fault of their own, have been put to the expense of defending a petition against their return,” I shall be satisfied. I want justice. The Labour Party is a socialistic party, and when a man hits one of them he hits the lot. T have been so often in the Courts that I have become frightened of law costs. In this case the Senator was elected in accordance with the law. ‘ Mr. Justice Barton held that the late Mr. Crosby was at the head of the poll, but, as the result of an agitation on the part of the conservative strikers against the rights of the people, an honorable senator is to be put to the expense of defending proceedings in the High Court. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will say that the Government are prepared to reimburse him.
– 1 know that the Attorney-General objects to the incorporation in the Bill of anything in the nature of an appropriation. I think, however, that this Parliament should be able to determine whether or not successful candidates, who, through no fault of their own, are compelled to defend proceedings taken against them in the Court of Disputed Returns, should be reimbursed the whole of their legal expenses. Where the fault has been due solely to an electoral officer or officers. I fail to see why a candidate should be punished. I do not pretend to be familiar with the facts relating to the election of Senator O’Loghlin, or to know what was the position of the late Mr. Crosby.
– The proceedings before the Court practically ruined him and his family.
– I have it on the authority of a representative of South Australia, whose word would readily be accepted by the Committee, that the proceedings before the Court, which occupied only four or five days, involved Mr. Vardon in an expenditure of over ^800. That is one case in which a man who had done no wrong was subjected to heavy law costs. If the Committee decides that disputes of the kind under consideration should be for all time referred to the Court of Disputed Returns, I shall bow to the will of the majority, but I certainly hold a different view. If such a decision be arrived at, however, I trust that we shall decide that candidates, who, through no fault of their own, become involved in these costly proceedings, shall have the whole of their expenses paid out of the Consolidated Revenue. What objection could the AttorneyGeneral have to a clause providing that in all cases arising under the Act, and referred to the Court of Disputed Returns, where the reference has been caused by the default of an electoral officer or officers in the performance of their duty, the Crown shall pay out of the Consolidated Revenue the whole of the legal and other costs to which the parties to the suit have been subjected? That would not be an express appropriation. It would empower the Parliament in each case to determine what costs had been incurred and to make a suitable appropriation. I fail to see what objection could be taken to the insertion of such a provision. I do not intend to refer to my own experiences in this connexion ; the honorable member for Echuca has told us that he went to the Court of Disputed Returns feeling confident that it was the proper tribunal to deal with disputed, returns, and that he left it firmly convinced that it was not. That I am sure is the conclusion that has been arrived <-.at by every one who has had occasion to go to the Court. It was not the fault of the honorable member that he was subjected to heavy law costs, and I fail to see why any man who has made no default should be penalized. To test the feeling of the Committee I shall move that a new clause be inserted in the terms I have indicated.
– It would not cover the whole ground. It would be betterto leave the matter to be dealt with in the general Bill.
– There should be no difficulty in inserting such a provision in this Bill and afterwards embodying it in the consolidating Bill which is to be introduced. I have no personal interest in the matter because if my return is again challenged I shall not defend the petition.
– That is a direct invitation to an opponent.
– I do not care. Why should a man be called upon to go to a tribunal before which he cannot appear unless he has money? I hope that the Committee will emphatically declare that in this case and all similar cases the Crown should recognise its liability for the default of its officers.
.-I am rather inclined to the view expressed by the honorable member for Angas, that the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Riverina can be more fittingly dealt with when the consolidating Electoral Bill is submitted to us. I shall then heartily support such an amendment as has been indicated.
-We shall have to make the provision retrospective.
– I admit that. I am concerned not so much with what has happened as with what is likely to happen in the immediate future.. The whole of this trouble has arisen through the laches of the electoral officers. That being so, if this Bill becomes law. what do the Government intend to do? The question of the validity or otherwise of Senator O’Loghlin’s selection by the South Australian Parliament will be referred to the Court of Disputed Returns - but who will pay the costs? Is that senator to be saddled with the whole of the expense of defending his case, or will the Government carry the baby?
.- I shall always vote against any case of this kind being referred for decision to the High Court. I had one little experience before that tribunal, and, although it only extended over three afternoons, it cost me , £200. I had a clear case, and I was in possession of declarations bearing upon it which stood a foot high. My counsel stated that nothing under heaven could prevent the seat being awarded to me, but he added that to achieve that result would cost . £1,500. He asked me if I was willing to incur that expenditure. I made a sporting offer, which was accepted by my opponent, and with the result of the second election honorable members art acquainted. Those who have had the experience of the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns know very well that the expense of bringing a case before that tribunal is exceedingly heavy. In the Commonwealth Elec toral Bill of 1905 an amendment was proposed at my instance, which reads - 202A. No party to the petition shall, except by consent of all parties, or by leave of the Court, be represented by counsel or solicitor.
This House unanimously decided that the words “or by leave of the Court “ should be omitted. The Bill was forwarded to the Senate, where those words were reinserted. The measure was subsequently returned to this House, and during the closing days of the session, when the brains of honorable members were not too clear, was passed in its present form. Had I realized at the time that those words had been re-inserted, I shouldcertainly have insisted upon a division. As showing how idle it is to imagine that we can limit the expenses of parties to election disputes before the High Court, I would point out that the Electoral Act provides - 202B. The Court may award costs against an unsuccessful party to the petition provided that the amount of costs to be paid by any party shall in no case exceed the sum of £100.
Under such circumstances from where should I have obtained the £1,500 to which I have alluded. I do not impugn the honour- of any Justice of the High Court, but I would a hundred limes rather trust a Committee of . this House to determine disputed elections than I would those legal divinities who wear horsehair wigs for the purposes of adornment. I shall vote for the amendment.
– I should have been very much better pleased if this Bill had been made applicable only to the special case which is at present exercising the minds of the people of this country.’ It is obvious that clause 2 is intended to apply only to the cases of senators who are elected by both Houses of the Parliament of the State in which’ a vacancy has occurred by reason of death, or by reason of- similar circumstances to those which have transpired in South Australia. I think it is very problematical whether a similar case to the present one will ever again arise.
– Then it is not worth while legislating for.
– We are in a difficulty, and we must get out of it; Under the Electoral Act it is clear that an appeal to the Court of Disputed Returns must be made by the person aggrieved. But under this Bill the appeal must be made by the Commonwealth Parliament. Clause , 2 reads -
Any petition disputing the validity of any choice by the Houses of Parliament of a State of a person to hold the place of a senator under section fifteen of the Constitution or involving any question respecting the qualification of a senator or respecting a vacancy in the Senate, which is now in or pending before the Senate, or in respect of which the Senate has resolved that the question involved is proper to be referred to the High Court, is by virtue of this Act and without any “order of the Court of Disputed Returns removed into the Court of Disputed Returns.
– That provision is governed by the word “ petition.” What the honorable member is referring to applies only to petitions pending in the case of the Senate.
– Then the Bill applies, only to a specific case. If honorable members will refer to clause 206AA they will see that practically the same powers are taken under that pro.vision.
– The honorable .member will be able to raise that point when the provision to which he refers is under discussion.
– I shall do so.
– I wish to put a case to the Attorney-General. Let us suppose a suit, the parties to which have been subjected to a very severe financial strain by reason of a petition having been lodged with the Court of Disputed Returns. Let us further assume that the proceedings have been the result of negligence on the part of a Government officer. If one of the parties chose to institute an action against the electoral officer for the purpose of recovering the costs in which lie had been mulcted, would not the Government satisfy the judgment obtained against that officer? If so, surely it is equally just that they should defray the costs of a man who lias been guilty of no offence whatever.
– The Government admit that where their officers have been guilty of negligence as the result of which an election has been vitiated and candidates put to unnecessary expense, it is only fair that the’ latter should be to some extent reimbursed. In the present case, if the papers and accounts are presented to the Government for examination as to the fairness of the claim, they will be submitted to the Treasurer, who will make a specific recommendation to the House. In other cases, too, if it- appears that an election has been vitiated as the result of misconduct on the part of an officer and through no fault of the parties immediately concerned, a similar course will be followed. But we must be very careful how we proceed in this connexion, otherwise we shall be practically inviting persons, to dispute the validity of elections, irrespective of whether or not their claims are just.
– I am quite prepared to accept the assurance of the Attorney-General. We want to insure that in the future a good deal more shall be done than has been done in the past for those persons who, through no fault of their own, have been absolutely ruined. ‘There would be no difficulty in getting part of the expenses from the Government.
– Why not the whole?
– Whatever is reasonable, not allowing excessive costs, will be submitted to the House and supported by the Government.
– In the case of Mr. Crosby, the claim is one which, I think, will be allowed by the Government. Mr. Crosby’s family were not left in affluent circumstances ; and, for the sake of the widow and children, I urge that the amount due to them should be handed over as early as possible. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I understood the Attorney-General to refer only to members, but a man might cease to be a member, and then he would be called upon to bear all the loss.
– I referred to the papers in the cases. Any party under the circumstances just referred to would be entitled to consideration. In fact, in the case of the. Riverina electorate, the Government recognised that both petitioner and respondent were entitled to consideration.
– We are at present only laying down a loose principle, on a statement by the Treasurer, that the Government will pay any reasonable claim. We should know, however, what will be regarded as a reasonable claim, and the number of persons who will be recognised as involved. There ought to be some kind
Of limitation, because, if the Government Are going to back all petitioners-
– The difficulty must have been caused through the default of -a Commonwealth officer.
– That, however, does <not limit the number of petitioners. It would be an easy matter to allege that the fault lay with the Government officers, and any candidate could, on that ground, petition and brief a lawyer, who would nave to be paid. That might be regarded as a legal claim, and cause great expense ; and such abuse would destroy the application of a good principle. I understand that this Bill deals only with one case, in which the parties are to be reimbursed their reasonable expenses.
– I have stated that the Bill applies to this case.
– To this case only?
– In this case the Government made a promise, and undoubtedly it is one in which the difficulty arose owing to a mistake of a Commonwealth officer.
– That should be made “Clear.
– It has been proved in the Courts, beyond all doubt, that the fault was that of an officer.
– The Court itself has :said so, and I only desire to know whether the promise of the Government is limited to this particular case?
– Why should it be limited to this particular case?
– I take it that this Bill deals with one particular case, and -as the Attorney-General is, I presume, -drafting another Electoral Bill, we can deal with the general question when that is under consideration, better than on the present occasion. This Bill is being waited for in another place, and we have no time now to consider the important point raised by the honorable member for Bendigo. The honorable member for Riverina is to be congratulated on having obtained what he desired.
– There was another case which the promise of the Government was intended to cover, namely, the case of Palmer v. Kennedy.
– But that case is not covered by this Bill.
– I think the question of the honorable member for Riverina was asked in connexion with both cases.
– My recollection is that the case of Palmer v. Kennedy was dealt with on a previous occasion, and that a promise was then made. We are not in a position now to discuss the general question, and, therefore, I think . this Bill ought to be permitted to pass.
– I acknowledge that the Government have made a fair offer. But we live in a British country, which is governed by precedent, and we ought to be very careful in legislation of this nature. In years gone by I have paid much to lawyers in connexion with cases of the kind; and, in my opinion, now is the accepted time to do something to relieve the parties concerned from such unjustifiable expenditure. The honorable member for Angas says that this is not an opportune time for the proposal of the honorable member for Riverina; but there never was a reform yet which’ was not described as inopportune. If it is right that we should make the provision desired, it is right to do it to-day, and not to-morrow, or six months hence. This is a matter which ought not to be left to the Government - 1 speak with all due deference to the present Administration - and while we have Ministers who are sympathetic, let us express our desires within the four corners of the Bill. I ask the honorable member for Riverina to formally submit his proposal.
– I shall do so later.
.- 1 regard this as one of the most important Bills which we shall have submitted to us this session. It is true that the measure applies to’ a member of another place, but it is also true that we are now laying down conditions which will apply to cases arising hereafter ; and we ought to pay regard to the warning of the honorable member for Darwin as to creating a dangerous precedent. Honorable members concerned in any dispute ot the kind should be given every opportunity, under the conditions provided, to obtain a decision by the highest legal tribunal; and I am in sympathy with those who are of opinion that such questions ought to 6e settled by the High Court instead of by the Elections and Qualifications Committee. No matter how honestly we may endeavour to do justice, it must be admitted that in parliamentary institutions party politics exercise a certain influence; and no obstacle should be thrown in the way of those who desire to have matters of the kind decided by our High Court. The question has been raised as to who shall be financially responsible in election petitions.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I am entirely’ opposed to legislation which will tend to encourage speculative actions on the part of defeated candidates. If we determine to recoup the expenditure of candidates in certain cases, we must hedge round the provision with ample safeguards against abuse.
– I have stated that cases will ‘not be dealt with until accounts have been ‘ submitted, when such recommendations, will be made to Parliament as may appear fair and reasonable under the circumstances.
– I am sure that Ministers will carefully scrutinize all accounts submitted.
– Sometimes a man may take other proceedings in the High Court on his own motion.
– Then the arrangement would not apply.
– We must guard against speculative actions, entered into upon the belief .that, at the worst, the Government will defray the expenses.
– On no account should such actions be tolerated.
– Quite so. Cases have arisen in connexion with elections to this House in which, unmistakably, the incompetence, or insufficient knowledge, of the electoral officers, has put candidates to quite unnecessary expense. In such cases the Government are morally,- if not legally, bound to repay to candidates their expenses, within a reasonable limit. Personally, I am not prepared to say that the introduction of this Bill has been justified. Beyond reasonable doubt, the man who should have been third on the list of senators chosen by South Australia because of the votes polled for him was the candidate who died subsequently to the election. Whether the Government are under an obligation to his executors is foreign to this discussion; but we must face the position which has resulted from his death. Owing to mistakes in the counting of ballot-papers, another gentleman, who subsequently took his seat as fi senator, was declared to be duly elected.
– There were irregularities in connexion with the ballot-papers, which were the fault of an official.
– The Attorney-General in making that admission must accept a certain amount of responsibility. The election was subsequently upset, and theAttorneyGeneral advised that a casual vacancy had been created. Having done so, it appears to me-strange that he should be now asking Parliament to pass a Bill to refer the matter to another tribunal.
– It was the duty of the Attorney-General to advise the Department of Home Affairs in connexion with the matter ; but he could “only give advice ; he could not settle the point. The State authorities, whose duty it was to make provision for the filling of a casual vacancy, also took advice.
– The advice tendered to the State authorities agreed with that tendered to the Department by the AttorneyGeneral.
– Quite so.
– I presume that the advice of the Attorney-General was transmitted to the State authorities through the right channels.
– The opinion of the Attorney-General was sent to the Department of Home Affairs, and I think that a copy of it was forwarded to South Australia.
– The South Australian authorities accepted the view of the AttorneyGeneral.
– I understand they acted upon the independent advice of their counsel.
– The opinions of those three counsel agreed with that of the AttorneyGeneral, and it seems to me, therefore, a strange thing that the Government should now ask Parliament to refer the matter to the High Court, to ascertain whether four legal gentlemen were right. Iri my opinion we should riot take that course. The South Australian authorities, accepting the opinion that a casual vacancy had been created, proceeded to fill it in the manner provided for by the Constitution, and the gentleman whose election was . declared void became again a candidate. In the choice marie by the Parliament of South Australia he was defeated, and the gentleman who now sits was elected. Thereupon the matter went to the High Court, and that body declared that the question at issue must be settled by the Senate. The Senate, however, after having gone through certain formalities, wishes to referthe matter back to the High Court, which, in my opinion, should not be done. I think that the ends of justice will be met by leaving things as they are.
– What did the Senate say?
– The Senate would not. adopt the opinion of its Committee of Elections and Qualifications, and I think that they were wise in assuming that position because, no matter how we try to get rid of party influence in parliamentary institutions, it is sure to have its effect.
– I do not think so.
– The Committee in question is composed of five members belonging to one partyand two who belong to another.
– Then it is not properly constituted. All parties should be equally represented in Committees.
– I presume that the members of the Committee were chosen because they were considered best qualified to arrive at a right decision under any given set of circumstances. Whether properly constituted or not, the Committee was legally constituted in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Senate. But five members supported the petitioner, who belonged to their party, and the two remaining members supported the senator whose return has been petitioned against, who is of their party.
– What was the Committee’s rider?
– It was in the direction indicated by the Bill. But the recommendation of the majority was that the vacancy was not a casual vacancy, and that the matter should be settled by the people of South Australia.
-i suppose they thought that they had not the right to go further in the matter.
– I do not know how much further they could go.
– What about the High Court?
– The majority of the members of the Elections and Qualifications Committee did not desire the petition to go to the High Court. Their wish was that the seat should be declared vacant by the Senate. The facts do not appear to justify the passing of such a Bill as this at the present time. I recognise that some honorable members may suggest that I take this view because the senator whose seat is challenged is a member of the party to which I belong. I make them a present of that argument. Mr. Vardon appealed to theHigh Court and, failing to obtain a decision in his favour, did not hesitate to allow his name to be submitted to the Parliament of South Australia as a candidate for the casual vacancy.
– Could he have gained the seat without submitting his name to the South Australian Parliament?
– Had he stood by his constitutional rights and refrained from submitting his name to the Parliament of South Australia his position would have been much stronger than it is to-day.
– Have not certain papers relating to the election since been found ?
– Yes, but they do not affect the judgment of the Court. There has been no desire on the part of those whose position might have been affected by the ballot-papers that were discovered to have them counted.
– It was legally impossible to do that.
– Quite so. The decision of the Court was given prior to the discovery of the papers. Honorable members surely will not contend that the position of the petitioner in the case to which this Bill immediately relates is likely to be improved by the counting of the ballot-papers that were recently discovered. Although this may be an estimable Bill so far as its general provisions are concerned–
– And probably useful in future cases.
– And probably useful in future cases, the present circumstances, in my judgment, do not warrant its being rushed through the House.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
-That the demands of justice, so far as the petitioner is concerned, have been met. Having contested the vacancy, and having submitted his name to the South Australian Parliament as a candidate for election, thereby recognising the contention that a casual vacancy had been created, I do not think that he is entitled to ask this Parliament to proceed further with his case.
– I think it would be better in dealing with this Bill to try to forget the men immediately concerned.
– This Bill is designed to meet an individual case and to deal with a set of circumstances that are not likely to again arise.
– At whose suggestion was it introduced ?
– At the suggestion of a minority of the Elections and Qualifications Committee of another place who realized that it was absolutely impossible to secure from that Committee a decision that was likely to give satisfaction.
– It was introduced purely and simply on the suggestion of Senators de Largie and. Turley.
– The honorable member appears to be peculiarly anxious on this occasion to accept the suggestion of members of the Labour Party in another place. I think I could name two of my colleagues who would be prepared ‘to make a suggestion to which he would not desire to give legislative effect. This afternoon, the honorable member for Fawkner moved the adjournment, of the House to point out the hardship which, in his opinion, was inflicted on certain manufacturers by reason of retrospective legislation; but he, and other honorable members have raised no objection to this Bill being retrospective. The fact that it is so does not weigh with me. If an injustice has been done, whether in connexion with a member of another place or under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act, we should be prepared to make an effort .to remedy it; but I hold that this Bill ought not to be passed with the haste that the Government desire. If it be passed as proposed, it will probably give rise hereafter to considerable trouble 3n determining casual vacancies in another place. I am prepared to give honorable members an opportunity to have a petition dealt with by the High Court; but when a man takes advantage of other tribunals’ open to him in an effort to obtain a favorable decision, I fail to see why, to please him, we should pass a Bill, the effect of which may be more far-reaching than we at present anticipate.
– I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has overlooked the point that this is not an issue between Mr. Vardon and Senator O’Loghlin. If it were; it would have been absurd to introduce this Bill. We axe really seeking to obtain from the only tribunal that can give it with any assurance of finality, some light regarding the meaning of one of the most important provisions of the Constitution. . If we do not send on this matter to the High Court, what shall we have to guide us in the future? We shall have a decision of the Senate as to whether or not a particular person is entitled to a seat in that House, and five years hence, on a similar set of facts, we might have a different decision. There would be no precedent to guide us. We are passing this Bill in order that an important provision of the Constitution may be interpreted by the High Court, and a precedent obtained which will guide the public. The public cannot be guided by any decision of the Senate in a matter of this sort.
– But we should not penalize an innocent man in order to obtain such a decision.
– That is another matter. I rose simply to point out that if the one course be adopted, we shall obtain a precedent that will be obligatory and binding, while, if the other be followed, we shall not.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Part XVI. of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following heading and sections -
Division 2. - Qualifications and Vacancies. 206 aa. Any question respecting the qualification of a Senator or of a Member of the House of Representatives or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament may be referred by resolution tor the Court of Disputed Returns
.- I hope that this clause will be negatived, since it would be an interference with the rights and privileges of the House of Representatives. We are capable of looking after our own affairs.
– I move -
That the word “ may,” line 8, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ shall.”
Apparently, the Senate does, not consider itself capable of deciding a matter of this kind. That being so, if we believe that the High Court is the only tribunal that can settle such questions, we ought to make this provision mandatory. The whole purpose of the Bill is that matters of the kind dealt with in this clause shall be referred to the High Court, and, therefore, we ought not to resort to half measures.
– I scarcely think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh appreciates the position. As a matter of fact, this provision will really give effect to his intention. I would point out to him that during a member’s term a vacancy may be created as the result of death or of resignation, or by reason of various disqualifications, such as his acceptance of an office of profit under the Crown, being adjudicated bankrupt, being convicted of certain offences, or being pecuniarily interested in some service that he may render to the Commonwealth. In some of these cases the House would declare the seat vacant, and the election would take place as prescribed by law. The object of this clause is not to refer matters of simple proof to the High Court. But it would refer questions which involved points of law to that tribunal. In Queensland some time ago a question arose as to whether a member of Parliament who had been appointed to a seat upon a Rabbit Board, to which certain fees were attached, had not accepted an office of profit under the Crown. The case went before the Court, and the Judge declared that the nature of the office was such as to constitute it one of profit under the Crown.
– But where is the necessity to apply this provision to disputed elections for the House of Representatives ?
– A question as to whether a vacancy has occurred may arise at any time, and the clause merely provides that the House “ may “ refer it to the High Court.I think that the honorable member need have no apprehension as to this House being deprived of its privileges, because the provision is purely permissive. We have often felt the need of a clause such as. has been suggested by the honorable member for Angas. In Canada, Parliament can refer questions for decision to the High Court. We cannot do so. But in this Bill we take unto ourselves power to do the very thing that for a long time we have wanted to do.
– The Attorney-General has omitted to touch upon one aspect of this question. He forgot to state that in connexion with disputed elections for this House we might very easily secure a one-sided political tribunal - such a tribunal as investigated the petition in reference to the validity of Senator O’Loghlin’s election. As a result, a great injustice might be done to a member who had been elected to this House, but whose position was doubtful. All parties are liable to exhibit bias, and I have therefore proposed that we should refer all these cases to the High Court. Of course, if a member were adjudicated insolvent no question could be raised as to his position, and the vacancy would be filled in the ordinary manner prescribed by the Constitution. But under the clause as it stands, if any doubt existed as to the position which an honorable member occupied, the House would havethe right to decide it. I say that if we are to trust the High Court in these matters at all, we should trust it altogether. I hope that the Committee will carry the amendment, and thus place these election disputes beyond the influence of party bias.
– Some Constitutions provide for a vacancy in either branch of the Legislature being declared by resolution. If, for example, a vacancy occurred in South Australia by reason of a member of the State Parliament accepting an office of profit under the Crown, the fact would be notified by means of a resolution of the House. Such a case ought not to be referred to the High Court ; but there are cases involving questions of law which should be so referred. About thirty years ago Sir Bryan O’Loghlen accepted a seat in England, and the point was raised as to whether he had accepted an office of profit under the Crown, independent of his position as a member of the House of Commons. That question, of course, involved points of law. Such a case ought to be referred for decision to the Court of Disputed Returns. But if we eliminate the provision under consideration, we shall not make provision for future petitions of a similar character to that which has led up to the introduction of this Bill. It would be well for the Attorney-General to make it compulsory that such petitions shall be referred to the High Court. Then I would call his attention to the words, “ the House in which the question arises.”
– Those are the words of the Constitution.
– I would point out that the members of one House may very well be interested in the qualification of a member of another branch of the Legislature. In this connexion we have only to recollect that in case of a joint sitting of both Houses a majority would determine any question which came before it.
.- The difficulties which have been pointed out by the Attorney-General and the honorable member for Angas have to be met. Events may transpire - such as those to which” reference has been made by the Attorney - General - which would not justify the House in referring a particular case to the High Court. But cases may arise in which petitions are presented against the return of an honorable member, and under this clause it would then be within the power of a majority to prevent their reference to the High Court.
– Petitions against the election of members tothis Parliament by the States Parliaments must be decided by the Court of Disputed Returns.
-I can imagine a position which even the preceding provision would not meet. If there were a petition against a member of the House of Representatives, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the House, by a majority - and he might be a strong party man - deciding that the case shall not go to the High Court. In a case, outside the possible one pointed out by the Attorney-General, there ought to be some provision directing that the petitions shall go to the High Court ; and the Attorney-General ought not to find any difficulty in drafting a clause to meet the circumstances referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
Clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Chanter) proposed -
That the following new clause be added : - “ That in all cases arising under this Act being referred to the Court of Disputed Returns, where the reference has been caused by the default of an electoral officer or officers in the proper performance of their duties, the Crown shall pay out of the Consolidated Revenue the whole of the legal and other costs to which the parties to the suit or reference have been subjected.”
– Has the honorable member a message for that proposed new clause? It means an appropriation.
– This clause only affirms a principle.
– I ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, whether this proposed new clause is in order. This is really an appropriation clause, as the words clearly show.
– I regard the proposed new clause as involving an appropriation of money, and, therefore, it must be preceded by a message from the Crown.
– Can we not have the ruling of the Speaker? Will it be necessary to disagree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman, in order to have a ruling from the Speaker ?
– The Committee is quite competent to decide its own procedure. If the honorable member disagrees with my ruling he must move accordingly.
– I merely desireto point out that the Government have power to bring down a message from the Crown at any moment, always, of course, providing the Government are favorable to the proposal.
– I have already decided the point of order as to the admissibility of the amendment of the honorable member for Riverina. If the honorable member proposes to raise another point of order he is at liberty to do so; but he must not discuss the point of order raised on the amendment which the honorable member for Riverina submitted.
– I wish to say that the difficulty might be got over if the Government so desire. The rules of this House, unlike the rules of other Parliaments, do not provide that the message must be presented along with the Bill ; the Government may introduce a message at any moment. I have no desire to dispute the ruling of the Chairman, but I think it undesirable that the Attorney-General should raise a point of order when he knows that he can at any moment bring the proposed new clause within the scope of the measure. However, if the Government are against the amendment, I presume that nothing can be done.
– Have we gone beyond the stage when the desired object can be attained in another way?
– The only course now open would be to recommit the Bill.
– I have promised to meet the case put forward by the honorable member for Riverina.
– I understand that the question of the title is before the Committee; and I think that, in this connexion, some alteration is necessary. While I am satisfied with the assurance of the Attorney-General that something will be done to safeguard future litigants, there is no provision to that effect in the Bill, the title of which does not really indicate its scope. The Bill, as it stands, without any further provision, will mulct in heavy costs honorable members who may suffer through the neglect or default of Government officials. For example, an honorable member connected with the case dealt with by this Bill, had to pay £15 as fees to witnesses, amongst whom was the officer who was afterwards found guilty of neglect.
– I point out that the course the honorable member is pursuing would be in order on the second reading or on the second clause of the Bill, but I think he is going a little beyond the subject of the title.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment : report agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) (proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as to allow the Bill to pass through its remaining stage this day.
– I object.
– If the AttorneyGeneral were asking for leave, then, of course, one objection would be fatal. But the honorablegentleman is moving that the Standing Orders be suspended, and that is a question which a majority of the House may decide.
Question put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives approves the Agreement made and entered into the 15th day of November, 1907, between His Majesty’s Postmaster-General in and for the Commonwealth of Australia of the first part, Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited of the second part, and the Law Guarantee and Trust Society Limited of the third part for. the carriage of mails and services to be performed as therein provided, a copy of which Agreement has been laid upon the Table of the House.
This contract has met with such universal support and acclamation in another place, in the press and in this House, and its conditions have been so clearly set out in the speech of the Prime Minister, that there is no need for me to go over the ground again. I therefore content myself at this stage with moving the motion.
.- I move -
That all the words after the word “ Representatives “ be omitted from the motion with a view to the insertion in place thereof of the words - “ is of opinion that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, the Government should purchase and control a fleet of mail steamers capable of maintaining a fortnightly mail service between Australia and Great Britain.”
It is with more than ordinary pleasure that I find that once more I have the opportunity to move in this direction. I took similar action twelve months ago, but I move again in the matter now with more pleasure, because I consider the circumstances more advantageous and auspicious. Although my ideas were scoffed at twelve months ago, there are honorable members who will vote for my proposal now who did not see their way to do so then,_ and public opinion is becoming increasingly favorable to the establishment of a Stateowned fleet of mail steamers. When the Commission of which I had the honour to be chairman reported in favour of the scheme which I wish to see adopted, many of the newspapers ridiculed the idea, and the Melbourne Age, which has a great deal of influence in Victoria and in other parts of Australia referred to the scheme as “an advertisement without doubt; but only of a country’s lunacy.” Yet in a leading article of the 16th of the present month, that journal says, “ With; out doubt there is a Great deal to be said iti favour of a Commonwealth mail service ; there is also much to be said against it.” Public opinion has progressed, seeing that a newspaper which, twelve months ago, referred to a proposal for the establishment of a Commonwealth fleet as lunacy, to-day says that there is a great deal to be said for it.
– It only shows that the newspaper has fallen a victim to lunacy.
– As far back as 1905, when the Postmaster-General of the day moved for the ratification of a contract for three years with the Orient Steam Navigation Company, I suggested that it would be a good thing if the Government, instead of calling for tenders for a further service at the end of the term, would set about providing mail steamers of their own. Had the Postmaster-General accepted my advice, it would have been better lor the country and all concerned. I then said -
Reviewing the whole situation, it appears to me that there is very little likelihood of any private shipping company offering better terms than those upon which the Orient Steam Navigation Company are willing to carry oon the service.
– It is to be honed that we shall find out what is going to happen long before two years have elapsed.
– I hope so. But the sooner the Government realize the pposition they are in the better it will be.
The Postmaster-General would not accept my statement that the Orient Steam Navigation Company practically had a monopoly, and that no other company was prepared to seriously compete with it, so that the Government was not likely in the future to get other tenders which they could consider. But that is the position to-day, when we are again considering a proposed contract with that company. Had the suggestion I made in 1905 been adopted, we should, when the present contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company expires, be in a position to establish a fortnightly mail service with England, with our own boats, while the butter freight, instead of being £4 13s. 6d. a ton, would be only £3 10s. a ton. Under the proposed contract, not only shall we be paying^ a larger subsidy than we have ever paid before, but the cost of sending butter to England will be £4 13s. 6d. a ton, whereas, during the last two years, it has . been only £3 10s., or £1 3s. 6d. less.
– That is one of the socalled concessions.
– Yes. . A little over twelve months ago the Government accepted the notorious tender of Sir Tames Laing and Company. No proposed contract was ever ratified by any House with more eulogy and encomiums than that received. Ministerialists outvied each other in congratulating the Government upon the benefits which they were conferring upon the country by bringing about the contract. The honorable member for Laanecoorie bestowed fulsome praise upon Ministers - particularly upon the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Defence - for the great work they had done in securing so splendid a service.
– I was quite honest in the matter.
– The honorable member thought that the country had at last been saved. Those of us who had the pleasure of hearing him, will remember with what eloquence and imagination the Prime Minister pictured the benefits which were to flow from the acceptance of that contract. We were almost persuaded that at last some great philanthropist had come forward, and, regardless of expense, was about to render a great service to the people of Australia. The contract was ratified, but. for some mysterious reason, its terms have never been fulfilled. The PostmasterGeneral, in moving the motion before the Chair, should have told us why those terms have not been fulfilled. The Prime Minister, last Friday, when explaining the proposed contract, said that the last contract had not been completed “ under circumstances into which it is not now necessary to enter.” But we have a right to know why it was not carried out, especially in view of the statements made by the late Postmaster-General and the Prime Minister, when, some time ago, there seemed to be doubt as to whether its terms would be observed. The late Postmaster- General then said -
One thing could be relied upon, that no ring or combination will be allowed to impede progress in the new mail service, or adversely affect Australian interests, or dominate the position.
He went on to say -
That there is. bitterness one can judge by Sir Thomas Sutherland’s impolitic and unjustifiably aggressive speech against Australia at the meeting in London some little time ago.’ It can be taken for granted that we will see that the rights and interests of the Australian people are not prejudiced by any ring or combination, however powerful.
The Prime Minister, when interviewed, said -
As long as the game is played legitimately it is not a matter with which we can interfere, but if private enterprise stands across the path of public interest for its own selfish gain the people of this country will be very speedily asked whether they do not feel called upon to take a hand in their own protection.
Fiord these interviews it would seem that both the Prime Minister and the ex- PostmasterGeneral had an idea that a shipping ring or combine in England was preventing Sir James Laing and Company from obtaining the capital necessary to enable them to complete their contract. Either the Prime Minister and his colleagues were indulging in mere heroics, or they had some justification for their utterances. We have a right to know whether the failure of Sir James Laing and Company to carry out their contract was due to the action of a combine in England, or whether the remarks of the Ministers, to which I have referred, were wholly unjustified. If there was some reason for them, it seems to me that action ought to be taken by the Government, whilst, on She other hand, if there was not, an apology is due bv the Prime Minister.- If a ring . in England prevented the fulfilment of the contract, we have a right to* ask whether the Orient Steam Navigation Company was a member of it. It seems reasonable to assume that if such a ring existed that company would be a member of it, since it is interested in the Australian service. If a combine did attempt to prevent any other company from entering the Australian service, what action was taken by the Government to counteract its influence? The Prime Minister said that in such a contingency the Government would be prepared to do something to protect the people. But what did they do? So far as I can see, thev did no more than call for fresh tenders. It does not require a Ministry of much strength of character or force of will to undertake such a task. A child - even a Mauger - could call for fresh tenders. The Government have accepted the tender of the Orient “Steam Navigation Company, but if that company was associated with, any shipping combine which endeavoured to prevent Sir James Laing and Company from fulfilling their contract, I should like to ask whether we should be justified in doing so? On the other hand, if there was no foundation for the suggestion that a combine was at work, we ought to have from the Government a complete explanation as to the reasons why Sir James Laing and Company’s contract was not carried out. I have submitted an amendment in favour of the Commonwealth owning a fleet capable of providing this oversea mail service, and I shall endeavour now to confine my attention to that phase of the question. When the Shipping Service Commission presented its report some time ago, it was keenly, assailed by the press of Australia, its financial proposals more particularly being made the subject of much criticism. In this House a very able speech on the report was made by the honorable member for North Sydney. I think that I am voicing the opinion of the House generally when I say that, however much we may disagree with the politics of that honorable member, we recognise in him a fair, honorable and able opponent. He was not present when I dealt with this question on a prior occasion, but, in speaking in this House subsequently, he stated that he had carefully read the report of my utterances. In so doing, he undoubtedly paid me a compliment, and in a -very able and trenchant speech he replied to my arguments. On the occasion in question I dealt with some of the figures which had been quoted by various Australian newspapers in opposition to the report of the Commission. I do not intend to occupy the time of the House by again traversing the same ground, but I think that I shall be justified in dealing briefly with some of the arguments then raised by the honorable member for North Sydney, more particularly in regard to the financial proposals of the Commission. The honorable member said that in our report we Had under-estimated the ‘probable expenditure on a Commonwealth line of steamers, and had inflated the probable income. We reported that, in our opinion, eight steamers would be sufficient to provide an efficient service, and that they could be constructed at a cost of £375,000, or a total expenditure of ,£3,000,000. The honorable member for North Sydney, as well as others, severely criticised that estimate. Some honorable members even’ went so far as to say that we should have allowed for the construction of nine or ten steamers - why they did not say fifteen I do not know - and it was suggested that the cost of the vessels outlined by us would be £500,000 each. Subsequently, Sir James Laing and Company stated that they intended to build eight steamers at a cost of £380,000 each, whilst the Orient Steam Navigation Company also propose to carry on the new service with eight steamers, and estimate that the five new vessels to be constructed will not cost more than £2,000,000. It will thus be seen that our estimate did not differ materially from the actual figures that have since been mentioned by well-known shipping companies as to the number and cost of such vessels. As I have sa’id, we fixed the cost at £375,000 each.
– I think that that estimate did not include furnishings.
– The honorable member thought that we should have allowed £400,000 for each vessel furnished ready for sea. He also considered that we had underestimated the probable expenditure. We es timated that it would be necessary to borrow £3,000,000 to construct these vessels, the interest on which at 3 per cent, would amount to £90,000 per annum. The honorable member urged that an expenditure of £3,000,000 would be insufficient, and he also questioned the correctness of our estimate that £760,000 would cover the cost of the round trips. I admit that he was justified in taking up that stand, since he had before him a letter written by Mr. Kenneth Anderson, who stated that whilst the members of the Commission had based their estimate of £760,000 upon certain evidence that he had given, he did not know when he gave it, that the vessels which we had in mind would be so large as we. subsequently suggested, or that they were to be run as quickly as we proposed. Having regard to the class of vessels, and the speed at which we proposed they should , run, he thought that we should add £10,000 to our estimated cost of each return trip. The honorable member for North Sydney said that he would assume that an additional £5,000 would be sufficient, and he pointed out that even that addition would be a considerable advance on our estimate. We allowed. 5 per cent, for insurance, and 5 per cent, for depreciation. The honorable member considered that that was a fair estimate, but he urged that we should have allowed more than £3,000,000 in respect of the cost of construction. We also estimated that the managerial expenses would amount to £57,000 per annum. The honorable member was prepared to admit that that might be sufficient, but he contended that our estimate of the total cost of running the service - £1,207,000 per annum - was insufficient. I wish to make it clear that at this stage the honorable member was not discussing the- question of whether or not private enterprise could conduct such a service more economically than could the State; he was simply dealing with the question of whether or not any one could run a service such as we had suggested below the. cost estimated by us. His argument was that it could not be run at an annual cost of £1,207,000. The honorable member for North Sydney thought that we had considerably overestimated the probable income. His lowest estimate of the cost of Tunning mail steamers such as we had indicated - and which would be necessary whether the service were conducted by a private company or by the Commonwealth Government, was £1,440,000 a year. Our calculations were based on an estimated income of £1,300,000, so that, according to the honorable member’s figures, we should be £140,000 to the bad every year. On the expenditure side, the honorable member thought that nothing could be saved, and he urged that our estimated income was greatly inflated, and that if any one attempted to run such- a service he would incur considerable loss. If that be so, what chance, has a private company of making this service pay? That question was put to the honorable member whilst he was speaking. In reply, he stated that he had nothing whatever te? do with that phase of the question - that he was dealing with the expenditure of Commonwealth money, and that a private concern had to deal with its own money in its own way. But whilst to some extent that may be true, still there is also another side even to that contention; for if it be a fact that during the last thirty years the Orient Steam Navigation Company have been unable to make this service pay - if it be true that year after’ year they have sustained a loss, it seems to me that they will experience great difficulty in raising the necessary money for the construction of the new vessels proposed. Will they put their own money into a concern which for twenty years has been a losing one? Will they induce their friends to invest their capital in such an enterprise? Will they go to the general public and borrow it? The company are not philanthropists. They do not run their vessels to Australia merely for the purpose of benefiting us. I venture to think that in the past they have made that service pay. I believe that they are ‘ honorable men, and in all the debates which have taken place upon this subject I have nol uttered one word against them that I desire to withdraw. But if they appeal to the general public for the ,£2,000,000 necessary to construct the new vessels proposed, they must do so upon the ground that in the past they have made the service pay, and” that in the future they honestly think that they can make it pay. I hold- and this is the sum and substance of the position which I take up - that if the Orient Steam Navigation Company can make the service pay, the Commonwealth can do likewise. Of course, I know that there are a number of honorable members who argue that a private company might be able to run a concern profitably when the State could not do so. But I claim that the weight ot evidence is in favour of Government institutions. T am prepared to admit that Governments have conducted undertakings which have proved ghastly failures. But so has private enterprise. The latter has experienced failures and successes just as have Governments. But, taking it all in all, the weight of evidence is in favour of the Government carrying on these large services. Take our railways as an illustration. When the Shipping Service Commission was pursuing its inquiries, evidence was tendered to it by all the Railways Commissioners of the States, except those of New South Wales, who were represented by Mr. Harper. Mr. Tait, the Chief Commissioner of Victoria, when asked how State-owned ^railways compared with privatelyowned railways, said -
My experience, having been engaged on what might be called a privately-owned railway for over twenty years, and for the last three year: on a State-owned railway, is that the public receive fully as good, if not better accommodation and service, having regard to circumstances, from a State-owned railway as they would receive from a privately-owned railway in similar circumstances. I should like to adil that my experience here leads me to think that there is np need of competition in the Australian States, al least to . keep the railway management and the railway staff of State-owned railways up to the mark, for we have the critic with us always, and in every part of the country.
Then Mr. Oliver, who was formerly a Railway Commissioner in New South Wales, but who was called upon to resign some time ago under circumstances that he probably felt were rather unjust to him, and who might therefore be expected to entertain a grievance against State-owned railways, is now in England, and has recently declared that the charges made on the privately-owned railways of Great Britain are much higher than those levied on the State-owned lines of Australia. That is not merely an expression of opinion on his part - it is a fact. A little while ago, I read in the Adelaide Advertiser the report of an interview with Mr. Delprat, the general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. That gentleman, I may inform honorable members, is not a Socialist. I have frequently travelled in the train with him between Melbourne and Adelaide, and between Adelaide and Broken Hill. We have had many discussions, and the nature of his remarks lias led me to conclude that he is not a Socialist. He is the largest employer of labour in Australia. He has recently returned from a trip round the world, and. in the course of an interview which he gave to a representative of the Adelaide Advertiser, he said -
While in America I could not help noticing that, with the exception of the main lines, the railway system is not satisfactory. On the main lines you can get an excellent service - if you pay for it - but on the other lines, as a- general rule, the ballasting is insufficient, rails are badly laid, and travelling is inconveniently slow. Australian railways compare favorably with the much-advertised American.
I venture to say that that is very fair testimony, coming from one who is not engaged in any socialistic enterprise. It speaks well for our Government railways, which are being conducted in a community with a population of only 4,000,000, as compared with the privately-owned railways of America, where there is a population of 80,000,000 or 90,000,000. Then some time ago a cablegram was published in the Australian press, stating that Mr. Bell, a labour member in the House of Commons, had been addressing a large gathering of railway employes in Great Britain, and had spoken against the nationalization of the railways of that country. I am indebted to the Age of last Saturday for the following extract from “ Our London letter,” in reference to his speech -
When the idea of nationalizing the British railways was under discussion at the annual congress of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, Mr. R. Bell, M.P., told the men not to forget that if the Government acquired control of the lines “ many thousands “ of the employes would have to be dismissed. Economies in administration and the stoppage of the keen competition now carried on between several of the leading companies would inevitably result in a reduction of labour.
Here was a labour member inviting a number of railway employes to object to the nationalization of the lines of Great Britain, because they would be run more economically by the Government than they were being run by private enterprise. In Australia the anti-Socialists declare that Government enterprise is synonymous^ with extravagance. I am indebted to the “same source for a statement by Lord Londonderry upon the same question. Mr. Bell, in speaking as he did, was doubtless thinking of the railway employes, but Lord Londonderry was probably thinking of his dividends when at a dinner of the Railway Guards’ Universal Friendly Society he said -
He doubted very much whether any revolution in railway management would secure greater general prosperity or more employment to the company’s employes.
I venture to say that that is rather good testimony in favour of State-owned concerns. In the Sydney Morning Herald some time ago I saw an account of the experience of a baker residing at Kurri Kurri, in New South Wales, who ordered 8 tons 15 cwt. of flour from a miller in Newtown.
– The whole story was contradicted.
– The baker had to get this flour carried over . a Government line for a distance of 120 miles. This service cost him £1 8s. 3d. For the carriage of the same commodity over nine and a half miles of a privatelyowned railway he had to pay £1 12s. 9d: ; or, in other words, he was charged a heavier freight for 9J miles on a privatelyowned line than he was for 120 miles on a Government line.
– Why not be fair, and say that that statement was contradicted ?
– I did not see any contradiction; but if the honorable member assures me that the statement was contradicted, I am prepared to accept his statement. However, in view of the other evidence which I have placed before honorable members, I care very little whether that particular instance be true or not. Honorable members, of course, are aware that when telegraphs were first instituted in England they were in the hands of private persons. When this mode of communication was first commercially used, all the Governments of Europe, from France to Turkey and Russia, took over the services ; however much they might differ politically, the nations of Europe, with the exception of England, were agreed on this point. For a number of years deputation after deputation waited on the Government of England and urged that telegraphs ought to be made a State monopoly. Those deputations were not composed of Socialists filled with a desire to interfere with the sanctity of the marriage tie, nor of anarchists thirsting for somebody’s Blood, but of hard-headed business men. The views expressed by those deputations were to the effect that, owing to the telegraph lines being in the hands of private companies, the business men of England were handicapped as compared with the business men on the Continent of Europe. A Royal Commission or a Select Committee was appointed in England to investigate the matter, and we may be . sure that there were no Labour members appointed, seeing that there were very few, if any, Labour members in the British Parliament at that time. The investigations all went to prove up to the hilt that the English people were charged exorbitant rates as compared with those charged on the Continent; and the outcome was that Mr. Gladstone moved in the British Parliament that the telegraph service should be made a national institution. At the present moment in America and Canada the telegraphs are in the hands of private people; but although America and Canada are countries of great and mighty distances, it is a fact that in England - where, I suppose, a letter posted will reach its destination anywhere within twenty-four hours - the telegraph service is used, person for person, much more frequently than it is across the Atlantic. Australia, too, is a country of great and splendid distances; and here, where the telegraphs are in the hands of the Government, they are used, person for person, much more frequently than in either America or in England. All this shows the advantage of placing services of this kind under Government control. Here I may cite’ what may appear a small argument in favour of State enterprise. Not long ago the commercial travellers of Australia, to whom this country owes a great deal, met in conference in Adelaide; and it was moved, amongst other proposals, that there should be dining cars provided on the railways. The delegates from New Zealand, when that motion was under discussion, stated that when the dining cars in that country were conducted by private enterprise, the results were far from satisfactory, but that after they were taken in hand by the Government there was left no ground of complaint. Another instance may be found in Tasmania. Some time ago, when the Royal Commission, which inquired into the shipping question, was taking evidence there, it was ascertained that private enterprise took charge of the export of fruit shipped from Hobart. Private persons drew out the bills of lading, looked after the shipments and so forth; and for this a charge of 3d. per case was made. In South Australia, on the other hand, the State Government do exactly the same work at a charge of 1½d, a case; and this means, on an annual export of 750,000 cases, a difference of ,£4,000 or £5,000. A number of persons came before that Royal Commission, and expressed the opinion emphatically that no Government could conduct commercial concerns so well as they could be conducted by private enterprise, and amongst those who expressed that opinion was a Mr. Holdenson. This gentleman, in answer to questions, stated that cool stores were conducted in Melbourne by both private enterprise and by the Government ; and when he was asked to which he .sent his stuff, he replied that he sent it to the stores under the control of the Government. When, on this, he was asked why he ‘did not use the private stores, which, according to his evidence were conducted so much more advantageously, he replied that he was quite satisfied with the management of the Government stores. All these facts, in my opinion, go to show the great advantage which Government control has over private enterprise. A further instance can be found in the case ot the Suez Canal. I understand that the Prime Minister has written to Lord Elgin asking whether it is not possible to have a reduction made in the Canal dues, and that the reply received is that a reduction is practically impossible. It is pointed out that, although the dividends from the Suez Canal are very large in comparison with the initial outlay, a large number of the shares are held by private individuals, who had to pay considerably more than their original value, and, consequently, are now receiving only a fair percentage on their investment. I find that the British Government own 177,000 shares in the Suez Canal, and that 400,000 other shares are in other hands. The British Government receive 28 per cent, on their investment, and that is not a bad thing for England; but, although such a large shareholder, England is not in a position to lower the Canal dues, because of the fact that 400,000 shares are in other hands. The Melbourne Age, to which I am indebted for an argument in favour of my contention, asks why a Government should exact even »io per cent, when consols are only at 2J per cent. The Age is a powerful newspaper, which does not profess to be socialistic; and yet the leading article to which I have referred, gives one good reason why enterprises of this kind should be conducted by the State, rather than by private enterprise. The same article in the Age proceeds -
The canal directors will no doubt plead that more than half the shares belong to private people, who have bought them at appreciated values, and that to cut down the dividends to a moderate amount would be unjust to those who bought in at high prices. But that is a plea which will justify every monopolistic extortion.
I confess I am very pleased to see opinions of this kind expressed in a newspaper like the Melbourne Age, because in Australia there are private enterprises which earn considerably more than 28 per cent, on the original outlay. For instance, there is a little railway from Cockburn to Broken Hill, which, I think, pays 50 per cent, on the capital inested. What I have quoted I think proves that the weight of evidence is in favour of Government control. I know there are those who say that Governments have made mistakes in the past in connexion with commercial undertakings, t do not contend, for one moment, that every Government undertaking has been a success; Government officials are only human, and are swayed by human considerations and weaknesses.. But the people who conduct private enterprises have also made blunders. I undertake to say that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, of which the honorable member for Kooyong is a director, has, since its inception, wasted an amount of money which would have driven any other company into hopeless bankruptcy, tens of thousands of pounds having been thrown away at Block 14, the British and other Barrier mines. It is also said that if private companies make mistakes only the private companies suffer, whereas if a Government makes a mistake the suffering is shared by the whole community. But if private persons, who run public services for us, make mistakes, we have to pay for them. I think we might just as well make mistakes for ourselves. There are those who say’ that the Government cannot satisfactorily run mail boats because there is not a monopoly of the traffic between here and England - that while we have complete control over land carriage, we have none over water carriage, and, therefore, have to enter into competition with the world. I venture to say, however, that immediately a mail company is subsidized, it is removed from ordinary competition. The speed of the vessels and the regularity of the sailings are such that they cater for a special trade; and, as a matter of fact, a large number of shipping companies of England have objected tt» any companies being subsidized, because they say that the subsidized companies unfairly compete with them. I regret that I cannot give a reference to a letter which I read in the Times some time ago, pointing out that the effect of the competition of a subsidized company has been to utterly ruin the trade of one of the English seaports, because the subsidized company was able to take all the trade from that seaport to the one they were subsidized to call at. Subsidized mail companies are above ordinary competition. The competition which a Commonwealth mail line would have to meet would be the competition of other mail companies - the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the Norddeutscher Lloyd Steam
Navigation Company, and the Messageries Maritimes Steam Navigation Company. If it came to a warfare- of freights, perhaps the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company would side with the French and German against the Commonwealth line. Then the music would begin, because there are quite a number of persons in England, and even in the House of Commons, who are not particularly well disposed to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, and when it was known that it was siding with foreign boats against an Australian line something would be’ said when the next contract was brought forward. Of so much value are subsidies to mail companies, that there is not a company whose vessels leave England to go to places east of Suez which pays dividends equivalent to the subsidy which it receives. The dividends of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company amount to about £250,000 a year, and its subsidies last year, or the >ear before, came to £330,000, though they have since been reduced. The Government should bear in mind the fact that the British Government is reducing the subsidies of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company by £30,000 a year, while we are proposing to increase our subsidy to the Orient Steam Navigation Company by £40,000 or £50,000. The Government proposes that under the new contract a subsidy of £170,000 per annum be paid in order to obtain extra speed for the conveyance of between twenty and forty tons of letters.
– The mail matter carried by each of the steamers is nearly 200 tons.
– Yes ; but while we are idiotic enough to subsidize vessels to the extent of £170,000 per annum to carry letters, we would not subsidize them to carry newspapers. We merely take advantage of the quick service for the carriage of letters to expedite the carriage of newspapers and other mail matter. I do not object to paying for a good rate of speed for the conveyance of letters, though the result of the Government proposal is that shippers of butter will pay £1 3s.. 6d. more per ton for its conveyance to England than they have been paying during the last two years. The Government would have a ‘better opportunity to make a mail service pay than any private company possesses. In the first place, we should be entitled to credit the service with the amount of the proposed subsidy.
– In other words, the Government would subsidize itself. How much better off should I be if I said, “ I hereby subsidize myself to the extent of £1,000”?
– A Commonwealth line would also have the first call on State importations.
– Does the honorable member mean that it should have a monopoly ?
– No; the first call under certain circumstances. Queensland gives the first call to the Orient Steam Navigation Company, and, as honorable members may know from information which has been laid upon the table by the Prime Minister, New Zealand, under certain circumstances gives the first call, in regard to her importations, to a certain’ line. Similarly, Germany gives the first call to the subsidized German lines. Sir Thomas Sutherland, when giving evidence before a Royal Commission in Great Britain, said that whenever the German Government wishes to send troops or cargo to the East or elsewhere, it gives the work to German boats, whereas the British Government invariably calls for tenders. In other words, the German Government gives the German boats the first call. The British Government, rightly or wrongly, believes in free-trade, and is .therefore consistent in calling for tenders for shipping services. But we in Australia are supposed to be protectionists. We are continually being told that we are, and we have a protectionist Government in power, so that, to be consistent, we should have to give first call on Australian importations to the Com- monwealth line of steamers. Australian sentiment would count for something in obtaining traffic for the Commonwealth line. It would be useless for manufacturers to ask Parliament to vote for duties for the protection of their industry, and to call upon the people to buy their productions, if they did not use the Commonwealth boats when they had an opportunity to do so. Furthermore, the passages of public servants travelling to England - and of late quite a number of Federal and State officials have made this journey - might be taken on the Commonwealth steamers. That, in course of time, would constitute a fair item of traffic.
– No doubt, by using all the resources of the Government, a Commonwealth line could be made to pay ; but at whose and at what expense?
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that a Commonwealth line could be made to pay ; because there are some who argue that it could not. Every postmaster; in Australia could be made a canvasser for the Commonwealth steamers, which could be advertised in every post-office. I would advocate, in connexion with the line, the establishment of through bills of lading, so that an article handed to a postmaster, or given in charge of a railway official, could be taken straight on board a Commonwealth steamer and despatched to England. That this would be very advantageous to the community is shown by evidence given before a Select Committee of the House of Commons. It was said that through bills of lading are issued in Germany, greatly to the advantage of the German manufacturer ; that that cannot be done in England, because the railways there are privately owned. When that was pointed out to one of the witnesses before the Committee, he said that he considered the advantages of the arrangement so great that, if the fact that the English railways are privately owned, were the only thing that stood in ‘the way of its adoption, he would be prepared to advocate their nationalization. Another advantage of having an Australian line would be that the importers and others doing business with ir, would have the right to criticise the manner in which the vessels were being run. At the present time, Australians who use the oversea boats cannot publicly criticise the methods of those who control them. On one occasion, when I was travelling with Mr. Gibb, a member of the late Parliament, a gentleman in the car asked to be permitted to take part in our conversation, and, in the course of his remarks, he told us of the manner in which those who do business with the slapping companies - and especially ‘ with the oversea shipping companies - are treated. When the Shipping Commission was appointed, I asked him if he would give evidence before it; but he begged me not to call him, and referred me to some one else, whose name I cannot mention, although he is well known to business men in this House, being the head of a large concern which has branches all over Australia. He said, “ Mr. Thomas, I should be glad to give you any evidence ; but we business men are in the grasp of an octopus, and cannot say what we would like to say- in regard to the shipping companies.” Some time ago, speaking on this subject on a motion for adjournment, I referred to the fact that the Commission, when in Queensland, had great difficulty in obtaining evidence, and the honorable member for Moreton then said that it was because people were not free to come before us. To my mind that was a rather serious statement. We are told that Britons never shall be slaves, and it is surprising jio learn that business men in Australia dared not give evidence before the Commission lest they might be boycotted. Another advantage which I think would be derived from a Government line of steamers is that the officers, engineers, and crews, within a short time would by the very force and pressure of circumstances become Australian citizens. I do not suggest that, at the outset, we should insist on none but Australians being employed, but I am satisfied that pressure of circumstances would cause the officers and crews to become Australian citizens. Their head office would be in Australia - the fleet would be managed from Australia - and within a short time the 1,200 or 1,500 men engaged on these vessels would be residents of Australia, and the money earned by them would, to a large extent, be spent in this country. That, I think, is an argument that ought to appeal to a protectionist Government. If we paid a subsidy of £17.0,000 a year to. a steam-ship company, we might reasonably expect it to employ a number of Australians as officers and engineers. I venture to say that very few of the officers of the Orient Steam Navigation Company are Australian residents. In the contract before us the freights of butter and fruit have been fixed. I gather that, not from the explanation given by the Postmaster-General, who hardly extended to the House that courtesy which it was entitled to expect from him-
– The fullest explanation was made by the Prime Minister.
– The Prime Minister, in his explanation, was good enough to tell us that the Government had fixed the freights for the carriage of fruit and butter on this line of mail steamers. To the principle of fixing freights I have no objection, although I am rather surprised that this action has been taken by the Government, since - although it may be described as paternalism, common-sense, State aid to private enterprise, or individualism - it is undoubtedly a step towards State Socialism But why should the contract be limited in this respect to the carriage of butter and fruit ?
– Because those are the two subjects of contention.
– In other words, those engaged in an industry who do not raise an outcry cannot expect justice. That is a peculiar position to take up. The duty of the Government is to guard the interests of Australia.
– I always understood the reason to be that butter and fruit are of a peculiarly perishable character.
– And they constitute the principal cargoes carried by these steamers.
– I fail to see why the Government should have stopped at the’ fixing of freights on butter and fruit. Do we not send a great deal of lead to England?
– Is that a perishable commodity ?
– No; but there are nearly as many men employed in the lead industry as there are in the butter and fruit industries df Australia, and the wages paid to them are nearly as great as those paid to the men engaged in producing butter. It is manifestly unfair to fix the freights on certain products when -there is a possibility of the freights on others being increased to make good any possible loss arising under such an arrangement. The honorable member for Grey has, I am glad to say, given notice of his intention to move that the freights on frozen mutton and lambs be also fixed, and I repeat that I do not object to the principle of fixing freights, since I regard it as a step in the direction of Socialism. When the Prime Minister was dealing with this contract, he said that the Australian flag was to fly from the stern of each of these mail steamers, and the announcement was loudly cheered. I like the idea of a fleet of steamers from Australia carrying the Australian flag into English waters ; but I would ask honorable members whether the flying of our flag on these vessels will be anything more than a hollow mockery. As a matter of fact the capital to provide for the new fleet of steamers will be raised in London. It may come, not only from England, but from France, Germany, and other countries. A company does not care from what nation capital comes, so long as it is able to secure it. The capital is to be raised outside Australia, the head office of the company is outside the Commonwealth, and the new steamers will not be built here. There is nothing so cosmopolitan as commercialism, or capitalism. They know no country, or nationality, neither bond nor free, neither Jew nor Gentile. In the matter of dividends capitalism will exploit friend and foe with equal readiness. Capitalism is prepared to build boats and big guns, and sell them to any nation, knowing full well that they may be used against the country of origin. Here in Australia when men, whether the cause was a just or an unjust one, left these shores to fight in South Africa in defence of what they thought was their country’s honour, capital was prepared to rob them of a certain proportion of every lb. of jam that was sent to them. It was ready to send to South Africa a number of broken down cab horses for the use of our troops, in order, I’ suppose, that the men might more easily ride to their death.
– That was not all due to capitalism.
– At all events commercialism is prepared to send men to battle in rotten boots, and armed with faulty swords and bayonets.
– Everything that the honorable member has mentioned was subject to Government inspection.
– And commercialism broke through that inspection.
– The honorable member is pointing to the failure of Government control.
– The Chambers of Commerce would be prepared to crucify a Christ for thirty pieces of silver, and so I say that no importance is to be attached ( to the fact that the Australian flag will be “flown by the vessels of the fleet. Capitalists are prepared, if the subsidy be large enough, to fly the British flag,’ the Australian flag, or that of any other nation. I should like to see the Australian flag flown by a fleet of mail steamers running between Australia and England, and to know that the vessels of that fleet “were absolutely Australian. I do not think, however, that we are yet in a position to build the class of vessels that we require. America, great as she is, is not able to construct the fast liners of the Atlantic as well as they can be built in England or Ireland.
– She can.
– At all events she goes to Belfast for her liners. Even Germany to-day cannot build vessels equal to those constructed in Belfast, and has placed with Belfast firms orders for some of her largest ships.
– German vessels held the record across the Atlantic for fifteen years, and were only beaten a couple of months ago.
– Whilst I do not think that we can at present build the class of vessels that we require for this service, I think that we should be perfectly justified in purchasing them out of revenue. .
– Borrowing the money from the people !
– We need not borrow the money. The Treasurer, who I suppose knows all about the matter since he spent a few weeks in England, has told us that the people there live from hand to ‘mouth. And yet England, poor as he would have us believe she is, is able to build, out of revenue warships which yield ‘no return. I fail to see why we should not be able to provide out of revenue for the cost of a Commonwealth line of mail steamers. If we had a State-owned line of mail steamers, manned by Australian sailors, we might, with conscious pride, point to the Australian flag flown by them. The great objection to a State-owned service is not that it would not pay, or that it would not be a good thing for the people of Australia. The reason why State-owned vessels are opposed is because the question is asked “What then? What next”? Some time ago I was travelling in the train with a friend, when a proposal to nationalize a big industry was under the consideration of Parliament. My friend said, “ You will never be able to nationalize it. If it stood alone you would be able to do so. But every man who has a little industry will rally to the support of the combine, because he will say, ‘ If you nationalize this industry to-day you may nationalize that in- which I am engaged to-morrow.’ “ When the proposal to nationalize the tobacco industry came before the Perth Chamber- of Commerce, Mr. Butler, of the firm of Messrs. Sargood, Butler and Nicol, was reported to have said, “ What? Nationalize the industry? Never. If Parliament nationalizes the tobacco industry to-day it may nationalize our warehouses to-morrow.” When the Shipping Service Commission was’ ‘ taking ‘ evidence, in
Sydney, Mr.. Fooley a forwarding agent, who was advocating better facilities for the shipment of butter to England, opposed the through bill of lading of which I spoke just now, because, he said, “ What would happen to us? Its adoption would do away with the forwarding agents.” That, I venture to say, is the real reason why some persons object to this proposal. The Labour Party are in favour of nationalizing the mail service to the Old Country, because it desires to do away, as far as possible, with the middleman. Some time ago I was reading some remarks by Mr. Henniker Heaton, which struck me rather forcibly. He said -
I hold that the nation has an inalienable right to enjoy untaxed the benefits of discoveries affecting public interests on’ a grand scale. Let us honour and amply reward inventive genius; let us keep out the hated middleman. Pure air, water and food, cheap and unimpeded locomotion, the cheap and rapid transmission of communications; these objects belong primarily to the State, and no question of middleman’s profits should be suffered to obscure the public rights involved…….
Nothing is too sacred for the maw of the monopolist. He has at various times engulphed water, gas, railways, telephones, and cables; in another country he has seized upon wheat and sugar, and put even the pews of fashionable churches up to auction,, and we may be sure that hard-headed men of business have done their best to hire for themselves the genius of Jenner, Pasteur, and Koch, just as they have done their best to exploit the genius of Edison.
That is. what the Labour Party desire to do. We Wish to dispense with the middleman as far as possible, and to bring the producers and consumers closer together. We do not desire - as the right honorable member for Swan stated at St. Arnaud the other night - to make all share and share alike. When the right honorable member uttered that statement he uttered a calumny. We are not the only persons who advocate a State-owned line of steamers. In this connexion I have already read a letter which I received from the late Mr. Seddon, who stated that he was in favour of doing something upon the same lines. In a newspaper report of 4th March, 1905,- I observe that _ a meeting of London merchants and shippers concerned in’ the Australian trade has agreed with the suggestion which was made by the member for North-East Bethnal Green in favour of a State-owned line of mail steamers as a means of promoting the unity of the Empire. I believe that, if we had such a line of vessels, by which we could send our produce to England at a cheaper rate than we can now, and if we could charge cheaper passenger fares, we should accomplish more for the unity of the Empire than could be accomplished by means of preferential trade. From the Natal Hansard, I learn that a member of Parliament there submitted a proposal in favour of a Stateowned line of steamers between Natal and London. He said that no less a distinguished, person than the late Right Honorable Harry Escombe, a member of the Privy Council, had declared that there was only one remedy for the existing state of affairs, so far as South Africa was concerned, and that .was the establishment of a line of steamers of their own. I am sorry that I should have been obliged to occupy the attention of the House for so long. In conclusion, I move the amendment, because I believe that if we have a Commonwealth line of mail steamers running to England we shall be able to do the work that we want to perform cheaper, better, and more expeditiously than it can be done at present. We shall be able to train the crews and officers upon our own boats - and these will be able to render us good service in time of war, if ever that occasion should arise. By adopting my _proposal we should develop this great idea amongst the people of Australia : that it is not necessary for the members of the Government of a Commonwealth that hopes in the near future to take its position side by side with the great nations of the world to wait cap in hand upon the door-mat of the office of any company, however influential or powerful it may be, but that we shall be able, as the result of our own energy and ability, to render to ourselves those great services which are necessary to make us a powerful and a mighty nation.
– I rise for the purpose of asking the Government to consent to an adjournment of the debate.
– It is too early yet.
– I do not think’ that the Prime Minister should say that, in view of the fact that we have already had two late nights this week. This morning it was 2 o’clock before we were able to get away, and we have to meet again tomorrow morning. Under all the circumstances, I do not think that the debate upon this motion will be shortened one whit by proceeding further to-night.
– I admit the great importance of the question under consideration and the great strain that has been imposed upon honorable members by recent sittings. I am very anxious to meet the wishes of the House, and will therefore venture to suggest a method by which this can be done. The Senate will meet to-morrow for the last time prior to its adjournment over Christmas. The Bounties Bill has been returned to us from the other Chamber with amendments. . There are three short proposals to be dealt with. I will therefore concur in the suggestion of the honorable member for Parramatta, and I will ask honorable members to grant the Government a few minutes in order that we may get rid of this measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– Several of the alterations which have been made in this Bill by the Senate are of a more or less verbal character. The substantial amendments are those contained in the schedule to which the Senate has agreed, with several modifications. In the first place, it has omitted three items, namely, mohair, tobacco, and copra. : It has also made modifications in the item relating to combed wool or tops. I propose to ask the Committee to re-insert the items of copra and tobacco, and to agree to the Senate’s amendment in regard to combed wool or tops, with a slight modification. The second schedule, and the appropriation clause, will have to be altered in order to carry out the amendments which have been made. Seeing that the amount of the appropriation in claude a will depend on the decision of the Committee in regard to the schedule, I move -
That amendments 1 and 2 be postponed until after the consideration of the amendments in the schedule.
.- I am not opposed to the motion immediately before the Committee, but I am strongly of opinion that we should not be called upon to deal with the Bill at this particular time. The order in which business is presented to us is perplexing. It is proposed to distribute the money of the country; without any regard to the reckoning, which we must face sooner or later in connexion with Commonwealth finances. All the information we had in regard to the proposed bounties was contained in a report bv a number of gentlemen called experts, who met in Melbourne at the invitation of the Minister of Trade and Customs. It was shown that some of those gentlemen could not by any stretch of imagination be considered experts, but their recommendations extended oyer a big schedule, in regard to which the Minister in charge of the Bill could give u_s no. reasonable information. When this Bill was sent to another place, I venture to say that not 5 per cent, of the members of this House expected to see it back again prior to the Christmas adjournment. We came here to-day to consider the mail contract proposals, and although it is considered too late to proceed with the matter to-night, it is not too late, apparently, to consider the expenditure under the Bounties Bill. I think it would be only reasonable to adjourn now, considering that we were here late last night, and also the night before. I believe that a number of honorable members agree that it would be well to adjourn the consideration of this Bill until we know exactly the full effect of the Tariff, and what our financial position will be next year. Rather than pass these tiddling items in the schedule of the Bill, I would prefer to see the whole sum devoted to an industry like the iron industry, in regard to which there is some reasonable prospect of success.
– Or the cotton industry.
– Yes; the cotton industry is one of the few on the list which has a chance of being successfully established. In regard to several of the other items to which we could not give proper attention, owing to the conditions under which the Hill was considered, there is no justification for asking us to rush them through so that another place may pass the measure into law before a long adjournment. It appears to me that this schedule is worthy of special consideration at our hands. We have arrived at an extraordinary state of affairs, when there appears to be no Opposition at all. The leader of the Opposition is away, and the deputy leader seems to have altogether abrogated his position, leaving the Government, to “ run the show “ as they like.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is perfectly correct - I am perfectly tired of talking and listening to talk, and I move -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the word ‘‘postponed” the. words : - “until the consideration of the Tariff has been completed by both Houses.”
– I hope the honorable member for Parramatta will withdraw his amendment, and allow us to deal with the schedule, which has already been most carefully considered. The amendments of the Senate have been circulated for many days.
– The Minister in charge of the Bill knew nothing about the items when he presented them to us.
– The honorable member is not correct - he probably did not follow the debates with his usual care and earnestness, or he would not make that statement.
– There was nothing before honorable members except the report of the Committee of Experts ; the Minister himself knew nothing of the matter.
– We are not all omniscient, like the honorable member. If he had followed the debate, he would have found that honorable members showed a great grasp of the details. Several days were spent over the consideration of the items, and every honorable member was thoroughly aware of the nature of the prosposals, and ought now to be ready to give an intelligent vote on each. Further, I am not sure that the amendment is relevant to the question before the Chair, which is that of the postponement of certain items.
.- This Bill has received the consideration of this House and another place, and I think that now it would be only fair to allow it to pass into law. There are no principles involved in the amendments of the Senate; and although honorable members mav express their opposition to the whole bounty proposals, I think that, under the circumstances, the Bill might be allowed to go through.
.- I oppose the amendment of the honorable membur for Parramatta; but, at the same time, 1 do not approve of this Bill .being laid before us at the present time. In future, if we do not adhere more closely to the notice-paper, 1 hope we shall have no notice-paper .at all. It is true that these amendments were sent from the Senate some days ago, but we were then engaged in considering the Tariff, and I have not had time to look through them.
– I do not see why honorable members should express surprise at being asked to consider the amendments of the Senate now. It has been the common practice ever since this Parliament came into existence to take into consideration, at any convenient time, the amendments of another place on a Bill already debated at great length. Honorable members cannot say that this matter did not receive full consideration a little time ago. There were then long debates in Committee, and an evident anxiety to thresh the subject out in every aspect ; and surely honorable members ought now to be in a position to say whether the amendments of the Senate are justified or not, without insisting on a long notice as to the precise time at which they are to be considered. If anything is to come out of the measure, the sooner it is placed on the statute-book the sooner will our citizens be able to take advantage of it.
– I am afraid that nothing but expenditure will come out of it.
– Rightly or wrongly’, we have indorsed the principle of the measure, and have now to consider only questions of detail.
– If we, on this side, attempt to criticise a Government . proposal, we are bullied, accused of wasting public time, and called obstructionists, while if we are silent, we are told that- we are shirking our responsibilities ; so that it is difficult to know what to do to please honorable members. I intend to withdraw my motion, because, since moving it, I have seen cause to repent my action. I remember that, at the instance of the leader of the Labour Party, it was provided that a bounty should be given for the production of tobacco leaf for the manufacture of cigars of a high grade of quality.
– That was done after the additional £200 a year was given.
– Yes. Matters then assumed a different aspect. It is a pet project with the members of the Labour Party to provide leaf for cigars of a highgrade quality, and I am sure that the bountywill give an abundance of work, and provide food for many empty stomachs, while honorable members will find their reward in seeing the bloated capitalists of Australia smoking high-grade cigars which the public money, at the instance of the Socialists, has been expended in providing’. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
– I object.
– Can it be put?
– I rule the amendment out of order.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in clauses 3 and 7 agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “ Mohair . , . 10 years … 10 per cent. on market value . . . £2,000.”
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- It has been claimed for the measure that it will develop primary industries for the benefit of the country, to the great advantage of those connected with them. When the schedule was under discussion, the honorable member for Boothby pointed out that there are, in the northern part of South Australia, and elsewhere - in Western Australia and Queensland, for instance - arid regions in which Angora goats will flourish, although sheep do not do well there, and that it is impossible to use the country profitably for the raising of cattle and horses. .
– Will there be a market for the mohair when it is produced?
– One of the disadvantages which result from springing matters on the House without notice is that honorable members have no opportunity to look up information with a view to combating objections to their proposals; but the . facts are as I have stated, and surely no persons in the community should receive greater consideration than those who are trying to use to advantage parts of the Commonwealth which are but little favoured by nature.
– In any case, the matter is not very pressing, because no one is keeping goats out there now.
– To my mind, the proposal to give a bounty for the production of mohair is more worthy of support than some of the others in the schedule, and I should like the Government to move to disagree with the Senate’s amendment, although I recognise that, at the present juncture, they can do the most outrageous things without hindrance.
– We made a hard fight in the Senate for this bounty, but were defeated, and having sounded that House since, we find that we could not carry the proposal. That is’ why it is not pressed.
– As the Prime Minister has given me that assurance, I feel that it would be useless to persist in my opposition to the motion.
– I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, as any one who knows anything of this industry must do. While one can buy sheepskin rugs in the Melbourne market for from 12s. 6d. to 13s. 6d.. Angora goat-skin rugs cost from £3 to £5 each. I priced some the other day, and was asked £3 10s. and £4. 10s. for them. Surely the breeding of Angoras should be encouraged.
– Is a bounty necessary to encourage it when the goat-skins are worth £4 10s. each ?
– Probably those in the back-blocks are not aware that they could get such prices for goat-skins. They do not possess drawing-rooms, and therefore do not realize that these skins may be valuable elsewhere. It is the duty of those who know their value to inform others, and to take every means to encourage an industry which might put our waste lands to profitable use.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “ Copra . . . 15 years … 15 per cent. on market value, £5,000.”
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the amendment be disagreed to.
– I consider the proposal unjustifiable to give a bounty for the production of copra. It is proposed to expend the sum of £5,000 per annum for a period of fifteen years, but such expenditure is absolutely unnecessary. At the present time it pays admirably to grow copra where there is suitable land and a suitable climate, because the article now commands about £20 a ton, although at one time it used to fetch as little as £6 or £7. Under suitable conditions people will plant cocoanut trees and gather their yield, because the present prices of copra make the enterprise very remunerative. But where the conditions are not suitable, it will not pay them to enter into the industry, and money spent in encouraging it will be merely thrown away. I shall call for a division against the motion.
Question - That the Senate’s amendment omitting the item “ copra “ be disagreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - “ Coffee, Raw … 8 years …1d. per lb. . . . £1,500.” After “ Raw “ insert “ as prescribed.”
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “Tobacco leaf for the manufacture of cigars, high grade, of a quality to be prescribed, 5 years . . . 2d. per lb. . . . £4,000.”
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the amendment be disagreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - “ Fruits - Dates … 15 years …1d. per lb. . . . £1,000.” After “Dates” insert “(dried).”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment will bring the item into harmony with the line “Fruits, dried.”
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - “ Combed wool or tops, exported, 2 years, commencing from 1st July, 1908,11/2d. per lb., and thereafter 3 years,1d. per lb. - £10,000.” Leave out “ 2 years, commencing from 1st July,1908,11/2d. per lb., and thereafter 3 years,1d. per lb.” Insert “ 3 years, commencing from 1st January, 1909,11/2d. per lb. ; 1 year, commencing from 1st January, 1912, 1d. per lb. ; 1 year, commencing from 1st January, 1913,1/2d.perlb.”
.- I move -
That the amendment be agreed to, with the modification that the figure “1/2d.,” line 10, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “1d.”
As passed by this House, the schedule provided that the bounty in respect to this item should, for the two years commencing from 1st July, 1908, be at the rate of11/2d. per lb., and thereafter for three years at the rate of1d. per lb. It was pointed out in another place that the item as it stood hardly allowed sufficient time for obtaining the necessary plant, and an amendment was agreed to extending by six months the time within which the bounty should come into operation. A sliding scale was then inserted, but inquiry has satisfied us that the proposal of another place that the bounty payable during the year 1913 should be at the rate of only1/2d. per lb. is unsatisfactory. We think that the rate should be1d. per lb., and therefore propose that the amendment be agreed to with that modification.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - Second Schedule, leave cut amounts in second column ; insert -
– I move -
That the amendment leaving out amounts in the second column be agreed to, with a view to insert in lieu of the amounts inserted by the Senate the following -
This new scale allows for the insertion of the items of tobacco leaf and copra, and for the omission of the amount voted in respect of the bounty on mohair, making the total appropriation , £397,000.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of Four hundred and twelve thousand five hundred pounds. . . .
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “Four”; insert “Three.”
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “ twelve “ ; insert “twenty-three.”
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the Senate’s amendment leaving out the word “ twelve “ be agreed to, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ ninety-seven,” and that the words “ five hundred “ be left out.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That Sir William Lyne, Mr. Austin Chapman, and the mover be appointed a Committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to amendments Nos. 7 and 9.
Report of the Committee read by the Clerk, as follows -
Reasons of theHouse of Representatives for Disagreeing to certain Amendments of the Senate.
As to Amendment No. 7 -
As to Amendment No. 9 -
asked the. Postmaster General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Colonial Office as the channel of communication by the Governor-General with the English Government does not tend to subordinate His Excellency’s position from that of the King’s representative to that of a departmental functionary, and does not the Commonwealth thereby lose the constitutional status reserved for it by sections 2 and 6i of the Constitution?
– In answer to the honorable gentleman’s questions, I beg to state that a reply to the despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, laid upon the table of the House last week, has been forwarded to Lord Elgin. As stated in answer to the honorable member’s question on 24th October last, this reply will be tabled when it has reached its destination. Until these despatches, and any further correspondence which may arise out of them have been submitted to Parliament, it would be undesirable to criticise the suggestions made by the honorable member or to seek other means of communication with His Majesty’s Ministers for the United Kingdom.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. Further inquiry was made in Sydney on the return of the s.s.Moana to that port, but the endeavour to elicit further information was unsuccessful.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
House adjourned at 11. 17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 November 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071121_reps_3_41/>.