3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence if the statement in today’s newspapers that the Home authorities have decided to give to the Naval Forces medals similar to those given to the Military Forces is correct?
– The honorable member asked a question on the subject a week or two ago-
– Is the Government going to answer questions with a vote of want of confidence hanging over it?
– Certainly. A communication has been received from the Home authorities which, after the’ ordinary formalities have been gone through, will have the result desired by the honorable member and others.
– I wish to know if the Treasurer has received from the honorable member for Darwin a statement dealing with the debts of the States and other financial questions affecting the relations of the Commonwealth and the States? If so, will he lay it on the table, and have it printed?
– I understood that I was to receive such a paper’ from the honorable member. I do not know whether this is it that I hold in my hand: Mr. King O’malley. - That is it.
– Then I shall take in regard to it the course which has been taken in regard to other documents of the kind, and lay it on the table.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE. laid on the table the following paper -
A scheme for adjusting the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, by the honorable member for Darwin.
Ordered to be printed.
– As it is probable that the Treasurers of the States may find it necessary to make financial statements to their various Parliaments when this Parlia ment is in recess-,’ will the Treasurer, on the House going into Committee of Supply, to consider his Additional Estimates for. the expenditure of -^571,000, make a short financial statement, showing the effect, upon the surplus distributable among the States, of that expenditure, and of the excess revenue of ^1,000,000, which it is estimated will be received during the current year from Customs and Excise duties?
– I do not bind myself to make such a statement on the Additional Estimates, but I intend to make it as soon as 1 can. The honorable member,, as an ex-Treasurer, knows that an accurate statement cannot be made when there ave. several months of a year to go; but at the instance of the Premier of Tasmania I have furnished him with the information he asked for on the subject, and will make a. statement affording similar information to the Treasurers of all the States.
– I have received the following telegram -
Owing to Magnet Company having contract of mail, and then refusing to deliver but twice weekly, 400 residents inconvenienced. Please take steps. Can recommend carrier daily delivery.
I ask the Postmaster-General if he will enforce the contract which requires the company to carry the mails, even when there is a strike, and if he will take other means to see that the residents of the mining camp of Magnet obtain their mails at least once a day ?
– I shall take every step to bring that about.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Infantile Mortality - International Congress of the Society for the Protection of Child Life (Brussels, September, 1907) - Report and notes. &c., by J. W. Dunbar Hooper, M.D., Melbourne.
Ordered to be printed.
Census and Statistics Act - Statistics of the Commonwealth - Finance - Bulletin No.1. - Summary of Australian Financial Statistics, 1901 ta 1907. Trade, Shipping, Oversea Migration, and Finance. - Bulletin No. 13. - January,1908.
Defence Acts - Military Forces - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Nos. 6a, 10, 57, &c.Statutory Rules 1908, No. 41. Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Nos. 12a,15a, 92, &c. - Statutory Rules 1908, No. 42-
The Clerk laid upon the table
Defence Forces - Officers’ Quarters. - Return to an Order of the House, dated 24th March, 190S.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– There is no record in the Department of any such estimates.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Does the following statement accurately represent the financial results to the Treasury of-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice-
Whether he will instruct the Cabinet Committee recently appointed to inquire into the working of the Postal Department, to inquire into the feasibility of granting to country towns, where a continuous telephone service is not warranted, an extended service of, say, 16 hours per day, from 6 a.m. to10 p.m., in such towns as return sufficient revenue to warrant such facilities being granted?
– The Secretary to the Cabinet Committee will be instructed to bring forward the matter in question for consideration by the Committee.
Western District Coast
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Yes. In 1904 the Militia Garrison Artillery at Warrnambool and Port Fairy was converted into a Field Battery. The battery was armed with four 40-pounder R.B.L. guns pending the arrival of carriages for the 4.7-in. Q.F. guns with which it was proposed to equip the battery. These carriages are now available, and the battery will shortly be equipped with comparatively up-to-date 4.7-in. Q.F. guns. These guns will be available not only for service with the Field. Force, but also for garrison defence. It is considered that 4.7-in. Q.F. guns compare very favorably with any fixed defences which could, at present; be provided at these places.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply. Upon which Mr. Webster had moved- by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words,. “ a Royal Commission be appointed to inquire into and report upon the Postal, Telegraph, and Telephone systems of the Commonwealth, and the working thereof.”
Order of the Day read(vide page 10461).
– I move -
That the consideration of Order of the Day No. 1 be postponed until the Bills referred to in Orders of the Day Nos. 4 and 5 (Customs Tariff Bill and Excise Tariff Bill) Have become law.
If honorable members refer to the noticepaper, they will find that those two Bills are the Customs Tariff Bill and the Excise Tariff Bill.
– Is the Seat of Government Bill no longer urgent ?
– The honorable member did his best to prove that it was not urgent the other night.
– Nothing of the sort.
– That is an absolutely inaccurate statement, and the honorable and learned member knows it.
- Mr. Speaker, I know that no truer statement was ever made in this House.
– And I know that no. statement less true was ever made in the House.
– Oh, let the honorable member take his gruel.
– “ Let the galled jade wince. ‘ ‘
– It is only “ the crackling of thorns under a pot.”
– All the thorns are- on that side.
– Let us hear the tale of woe.
– There have been thorns which I have no reason to regret, and others for which I have no responsibility.
– No bathos !
– I obey the implied direction of your look, Mr. Speaker, and I hope to introduce this motton in such a manner as shall avoid irrelevance and direct the attention of the House to the question immediately in hand. No honorable member of this Parliament, and no citizen of Australia, will dispute the statement that the first task incumbent upon this House after the last general election was to deal with the Tariff proposals of the Government, at all events, it would be impossible for this Government to subordinate that question at this time, and under present circumstances, to any other, no matter how important that other issue might be. We owe it to the commercial community, to industrial Australia, and to our constituents, that no matter what transpires in this House, there shall be no interregnum, so far as> we can prevent it, between the return of the Senate’s suggestions in regard to the Tariff, and their final disposition by agreement between the Houses.
– The honorable member did not think that ora Thursday night.
– Never mind what he thought .
– I thought that on Thursday, night - and think so still. On Thursday night, the suggestions made by the Senate in regard to the Tariff had not been placed in my colleague’s hands from his officers, and have only been under his consideration since that time. The Cabinet had not seen them. Consequently at that moment it would have been impossible to proceed with their consideration, as we now propose to proceed, at the earliest possible day. There has been no postponement. . If honorable members will look at the number - several hundreds - of suggestions which have been made, and recognise what their complete classification and consideration means, I. think that they will agree with me that remarkable expedition is being displayed in dealing with them, if we are prepared to take them in hand, as we propose, next week. Speaking for this House as a whole,’ we have, 1 believe, an immediate duty in that regard, which has claims prior to any other claims that can . be urged upon us - not that this comprises by any means the whole programme of this Parliament or of this Government, nor that it is the only obligation, for there are many, more.
– Old-age pensions.
– One of the obligations is to deal with the motion ‘ of the honorable member for Gwydir, which we are now considering.’ But I submit . with confidence to him as well as to the House that. having in view the present position of the Tariff proposals, our instant duty is to dispose, of the Tariff before we take the Postal or any other question in hand.
– Suspend the execution until we have made our wills.
– Of course, one foresees that upon the return of the decisions. of this House to another place an interval will occur. It is not proposed that it shall be lost, but to proceed as far as possible with some necessaryquestions awaiting solution, among which may be mentioned the Additional Estimates.
– The Seat of Government Bill ?
– I had not even excluded that, although the conduct of honorable gentlemen opposite has given me a full opportunity of doing so if I so desired.
– That is absolutely inaccurate. It ‘is a mean suggestion ; it is beneath contempt.
– On the contrary, I wish to show by contrast where the real willingness to dealwith it exists. At all events, we made no effort to talk it out, and whenthe debate was likely to be blocked we offered to carry out the agreement to decide it on the particular day fixed.
– And a supporter of the honorable member spoiled it.
– We would thus have dealt with the motion of the honorable member for Gwydir next. day.
– That is too thin. .
– That is the position at which we would have arrived but for the action taken by honorable members opposite.
– I supported the Prime Minister’s amendment, and he then withdrew it.
– I have not willingly introduced this controversial topic, but have endeavoured to confine myself, so far as these challenges will permit, to the immediate matter in hand,’ and that is to ask the House - with a confident expectation of approval from all parts of it- to deal with the Tariff on this day week, and dispose of it as rapidly as possible.
– This day week?
– To meet again this day week for the purpose of disposing of the Tariff.
– This day week?
– Not one moment longerdo we consent to ask than is barely necessary to be prepared with our proposals.
– Why so long ? Go on’ with the Seat of Government Bill next Tuesday.
– Easter Tuesday? One of the honorable members who refused to discuss the Seat of Government Bill last week-
– That is untrue.
– Two honorable members have declared that the statement just made by the Prime Minister was not true. I ask them to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it.
– In deference to parliamentary procedure, sir, I do.
- Mr. Speaker, parliamentary usage requiresme to accept the withdrawal, but I have no desire to. What I have to submit to the House is that we, by meeting next week and disposing of the Tariff as soon as possible, will then place ourselves in our proper relation to our constitutents on that question.
– Does the honorable member think that he will get a quorum next Wednesday ?
– With what is really a motion of censure pending, is it wise to touch any other business than the Tariff?
– First of all, I do not consider that the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir is strictly a motion of censure.
– The honorable gentleman has made it one.
– Exactly. We were urged by its mover to regard it as a perfectly friendly motion. The action taken was not that honorable member’s’ fault, nor was it the fault of any other honorable member, it was simply in the discharge of what the Government believed to be its duty. But that is a matter with which I shall take an opportunity of dealing when the question comes before us again. It is only from motives of our own, and in accordance with our own policy, that we feel obliged to treat it as hostile. But that is of our own choice. There is nothing in the motion itself which necessarily conveys a reflection on this Government. The Government do not recognise that the condition of the Postal Department which calls for special treatment or- for inquiry has been brought about by any legislative or administrative action of their own or of this Parliament. But those questions will be dealt with in their proper place. Consequently, although there has been no change in the attitude of the Government in that regard, I see no constitutional obstacle to the House proceeding with business. But I shall endeavour to meet, as far as possible, the wishes of the House as to the particular business to be proceeded with. For instance, I take it that the Additional Estimates are not likely to arouse what may be strictly considered party feeling.
– There will be a lot of discussion upon them.
– But that discussion will not be of a party character.
– Oh, yes.
– The honorable member is a person, and not a party. With him it may be a strong personal question, but it will not be a party question. Then the question of the Federal Capital. Site is not, in the ordinary sense of the term-^or indeed in any sense - a party one. It is one upon which there is a strong personal feeling, and in respect of which there are national obligations.
– It ought to be, a national question.
– It should be dealt with as such. Consequently I suggest its inclusion in the list of matters to be considered. I also suggest - in regard to a measure which meets with the unanimous approbation of the House - the consideration of the Surplus Revenue Bill. Upon that measure practical unanimity exists. But dealing with business in advance, it is probable - or, at least, we may hope - that when the Senate has the Tariff returned to it, the justice and wisdom of any amendments made by this House, will be so luminously’ apparent that we shall have it returned without any further requests, and thus shall not be required to occupy time in reconsidering it. -At all events our object now is to deal with the Tariff and with no other question, except for the purpose of utilizing any necessary intervals of parliamentary time, for which we shall not be responsible. So far as is possible we are anxious to deal with the Tariff ‘and with nothing but the Tariff. But we wish to put to some good use any intervals which may occur.
– Whilst waiting for the return of that measure from the other Chamber ?
– Exactly. We intend that so soon as the Customs Tariff Bill and the -Excise Tariff Bill become law - upon the day after, or upon the earliest day after that which the honorable member for Gwydir may suggest - he shall have an opportunity of taking up his present motion at the stage which it. has now reached. The day after the Tariff has been disposed of, or upon the earliest day after that he may suggest- -
– Will the Prime Minister “ square “ them all in the meantime ?
– To do that I should require, as the very first consideration, to ob-, tain the services of the honorable member who interjects. As an expert in “ squaring “ nobody surpasses him.
– The Prime Minister has done well during the past few days without his aid.
– So far as I can observe we have not “ squared “ the circle, and to discover how that feat is to be ‘accomplished in this House will involve very intricate calculations.
– How did the honorable gentleman “ square “ himself?
– I stand “four square to all the .winds that blow “ in this House, and upon no question is that more simply demonstrated than it is upon this proposal that the House shall fulfil its duty to the country by disposing of the fiscal question before it considers or disposes of any other great question of a controversial character.
– But the winds have ceased to blow.
– Whether they have ceased to blow or whether they rise again, nothing can alter the necessity of the present situation, which is to dispose of the fiscal question. In public, honorable members opposite have been praying for that for a long time past, and honorable members in the Opposition corner have apparently desired nothing else. There can be no question as to what this side of the House wishes in the matter. Consequently, I believe that we may expect an absolutely unanimous vote in favour of f ul>filling the duty of Parliament in the present situation. I have, therefore, great pleasure in moving the motion.
.- I think that we may all congratulate the Prime Minister upon his apparent recovery from that, acute fit of political indigestion from which he was suffering on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday last. I had not the pleasure of being an inhabitant of- Melbourne during the past three or four days, but I have sufficient information to know that the members of the Government have passed through a very trying time. So have my honorable friends below the’ gangway. 1
– - Who told the right honorable member that?
– Do not worry about us.
– I merely wish to say that in all matters affecting the position of the Government and their self-respect in holding office and continuing to transact public business with what is admittedly a vote of censure hanging over their heads, they themselves must be the judges. There are occasions when a Prime Minister and the members of a Government may have to take a course which is not a very dignified one, and which is, perhaps, not a very agreeable one.
– We are ready to accept a challenge now - at this very moment.
– I think that that invitation to a challenge has all the attributes attaching, to the confidence trick. The Prime Minister has made his -position secure foi the time being, and now, being sure of his numbers, he challenges me to throw down the gage of battle.
– I have challenged the right honorable member at any and every time.
– I wish to say that the crisis which did seem to have arisen - it seems now that there is no crisis - was not brought about by any member upon this side of the House. The honorable member for Gwydir is in a position to know - and every honorable member who voted with him oh Thursday night, knows - that in no way whatever did he or any other, member of the party to which he belongs inform me of his intention to take the step ‘which he did-. He took that step entirely without any intimation to me, and from first to last I have not exchanged a single word upon the subject either with the honorable member himself or with any other honorable member of his party .who voted with us on that occasion. When, therefore, the Prime Minister accused me of political cajolery in influencing members of the Labour Party he gave me credit for more than I deserve. Asa matter of fact, I made no such endeavour, and I think that the reflection conveyed by his accusation is not upon me, but is upon those honorable members who are suspected, of being likely to be influenced by any advances which I might make..
Because we stand as open and declared antagonists in politics; fortunately, in no other way - at least, I trust so. But in politicswe stand as open and declared antagonists ; and those honorable members would not ‘ be likely to expect me to ask them to deviate from any course which they thought to be right. So that the fact remains that the difficulty that arose on Thursday night was in no way created by honorable members on this side of the House.
– It was unfair of the Prime Minister to say that it was.
– ButI should like to say that I accept the statement made by the Prime Minister - that he knew nothing of the intention of the honorable member for Gwydir ta move his resolution on grievance day.
– I never said so.
– I thought the honorable gentleman said, on Thursday night, that he had moved his motion in ignoranceof the fact that Thursday was grievance day at all.
– I made an arrangement for Wednesday and Thursday, and therefore moved my amendment to postpone all grievance-day motions.
– The half-past 5 arrangement, the honorable gentleman refers to.
– I am not talking about that arrangement.
– No; the righthonorable member does not want to talk about that !
– I will come to that in a moment. What I want to say now is that I understood the Prime Minister to state that when he rose to move the adjournment of the grievance-day order, he was not aware of the intention of the honorable member for Gwydir to move an amendment on that Order of the Day.
– Then may I take it that the honorable gentleman did know ?
– I knew that it was very probable.
– Now we have this dignified Prime Minister in his true light ! Knowing that it was very probable that ‘the honorable member for Gwydir would exercise the only opportunity he had during the month of securing the opinion of the House on the question of the appointment of a Royal Commission, the Prime Minister jumped up to escape from his proposition; not because of the Capital Site question - not because he was anxious to see the Capital Site determined in New South
Wales - he has allowed that question to slide for six years. But, when he knows that the honorable member for Gwydir is going to move an amendment, which he had previously been informed wouldbe pressed to a division, and as to which he had been previously informed that the numbers were against him-
– I had not. There were several other motions pending, also.
– Oh, were there? I do not wonder that the honorable gentleman got a bit “jumpy”? There is,it appears, a network of other motions of censure for the Ministry to get entangled in.
– I believe that . the right honorable member was aware of one or two of them.
– That is altogether wrong. I should be delighted to hear of them. I should always be glad to be informed when honorable members in the corner intend to submit any little motion, of censure against the Ministry. But, as a matter of fact, I had not been confided in to that extent.
-It was reported that the right honorable member had promised to support one motion.
– If I could know what that was, I should be delighted to reply to the honorable member’s statement. What motion did I promise to support? I assure the honorable member for Laanecoorie that I should like to know what the subject qf tine motion, was. But, so far as I know, no member of this House suggested to me any action against this Government in any shape or form.
– None of the motions were adverse.
– Will the honorable gentleman say what he means? How can I offer an explanation inregard to a matter that is not plainly stated? Will he mention the matter to which he refers?
– We were told that the honorable member for Riverina was going to move an amendment on grievance day, which the right honorable member for East Sydney was likely to support.
– What? A motion of censure from the honorable member for Riverina?
– No censure, but a motion.
– The honorable member for Riverina asked me if I would support the appointment of a Select Committee in reference to some matter that he had ventilated in this House, and I told him at once that I would. Surely there is no motion of censure in that?
– No one talks of a motion of censure.
– I took the view that I have always expressed in this House. I do not care who the man is - when the PostmasterGeneral has to act judicially, and when a charge is levelled against a man to which he has no opportunity of replying, I will, under those circumstances, vote for the appointment of a Select Committee at the instance of any member of this House.
– I did not tell the right honorable member I was going to move on that particular day.
– No; the honorable member gave me no idea as to when he was going to move. I concluded that he was going to take action on grievance day. But I hadno idea of any move against the Government in that connexion.
– Not against the Government ; it was not intended against the Government.
– That is the trouble which we have had in this situation. It was open for the Government to take that motion and get it postponed , or treated asthey liked. But what I wish to say is this : It the honorable member for Gwydir wants to be secure of a chance of proceeding with his motion this session - and the Government I understand have promised that he will have a proper opportunity of proceeding with it during this session -
– Immediately after the Tariff is disposed of.
– Immediately after the Tariff is dealt with. If that be so, I do not want to disturb that position at all. I am satisfied so long as the honorable member will have that opportunity. But I must say that I think that the Prime Minister -I am sure it was not done designedly - forgot the ordinary courtesies that were due to me in relation to this matter. When an arrangement had been made between two leaders in accordance with which the head of a Government proposed to take a certain course of action, I think it was. due to me that the Prime Minister should have told me what he was. go ing to move and why hie was going to move it. The honorable gentleman gave me no hint.
– That is one of the chief reasons why I withdrew my amendment on Thursday, when the right honorable member took exception to it.
– I think that it is far better in our relations when an arrangement has been made and anything is likely to upset it, that the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition should consult about the matter.
– I did not know that there would . be any difference of opinion. But the right honorable member objected, and I withdrew my amendment.
– There might fairly be a difference of opinion. The honorable member for Gwydir took advantage of the only chance he had.
– That is the view which I think he took, and I think most of us took the same view.
– It was not my view.
– There was every desire to close the session very shortly, and the only other chance which the honorable member had would be in a month’s time.
– He could have moved next day.
– We consulted Mr. Speaker and got a decision. How could the honorable member have brought the question forward ?
– On the Additional Estimates.
– That is unworthy of the Prime Minister. How could the honorable member for Gwydir move for the appointment of a Royal Commission on an item in the Additional Estimates ?
– He could move for the reduction of a vote for the Post and Telegraph Department, by way of signifying what he desired.
– There is a proper way of dealing with a proposition of this sort. Only trouble could arise out of an indirect method. The only method which the honorable member had of bringing forward his propositionin a distinct way was by following the course which he adopted. Private business has been abandoned for the rest of this session. No private member can bring any thing before the Houseunless in theway which the honorable member for Gwydir adqpted. I did not desire to see the honorable member deprived of his fair and legitimate opportunity of proposing a thing which I heartily approved of. I did not want him to be deprived of that opportunity by what seemed to be sharp practice -because the effect of it was sharp practice. The effect of the amendment of the Prime Minister for adjourning grievance day would have been to deprive the honorable member of his opportunity for a month. Would that have been dealing with the honorable member fairly? What I desired to do was this : An amendment was actually drafted to carry out the undertaking of the Prime Minister. We were going to propose an amendment in place of his, the effect of which would have been that we should have gone on with the Capital Site question, and the Government would also have given the honorable member for Gwydir an opportunity of proceeding with his motion immediately that question was disposed of. That amendment was written out at thetable, but before I had an opportunity of suggesting it, the Prime Minister rose, and asked leave to withdraw his amendment. I rose to suggest ‘the course that I had resolved upon, but Mr. Speaker very properly informed me that there could be no debate on the question of withdrawal. I had no opportunity, therefore, of endeavouring to solve the question in a manner that would have been just to the Government, just to the Capital Site question, and fair to the honorable member far Gwydir. I had to accept the request of thePrime Minister that he have leave to withdraw his motion. But to me it will be wonderful if it turns out that honorable members knowing on Thursday that the honorable member for Gwvdir was going to take the action that he. did - and I am told that it was well known in the corridors during the day that he intended to do so-
– Many of the members of the Labour Party were not aware of his intention.
– The fact that my notice of motion had disappeared from the businesspaper was sufficient to indicate what I intended to do.
– It is remarkable that the Government did not notice that it had been removed.
– I knew that the notice of motion had been dropped from the noticepaper, and recognised what that might mean.
– Did the honorable member know what the honorable member for Gwydir was about?
– I have said so.
– Then it is a novel action on the part of a Prime Minister - to attempt to jockey off the business-paper a motion which he regarded as one of censure
– There was ‘no jockeying.
– The honorable gentleman had no right to do that and to attribute his action to a desire to meet the wishes of the advocates of the early settlement ot the Capital Site question. As a matter of fact, he was really studying the lift and existence of his own Ministry.
– At all events that is my view.
– At that time I thought that the amendment proposed to be moved by the honorable member for Gwydir would be defeated by a large majority.
– There seems to have been a sudden development since then.
– Absolute unanimity on the other side.
– Does the honorable member say that we were not within our rights in exercising our honest opinion in regard to the appointment of a Royal Commission?
– But was it the exercise of an honest opinion?
– I believe that on the merits of the question there are few honorable members on the Government side of the House who would riot vote straight for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Do I understand that honorable members of the Labour Party are opposed to a Royal Commission being appointed?
– Several of them are.
– But a great number of them are not. This is one of the inconveniences of our present position-
– We are divided; but the Caucus party opposite - the Opposition - are solid.
– I do not think that the solidarity party ought to complain if occasionally the Opposition has a spasm of solidarity. Honorable members who year after year stand together as solid as adamant might occasionally allow honorable members below the gangway and the Opposition to vote together. That does not occur very often.
– Look at the objective they had.
– And the luxury of it.
– It was rather an enjoyment; and I frankly admit that I was never more surprised in my life.
– It must have been the result of the caucus meetings that honorable members opposite have been holding lately.
– I have held none.
– The Opposition have.
– Might I suggest that these temporary vicissitudes are very likely to occur in a House in which the Ministerial support is in itself so slight.Ministers, in the ranks of their supporters, have not one representative of Queensland, Western Australia, or South Australia. They have only two representatives of New South Wales-
– Does not the AttorneyGeneral represent Queensland?
– In the ranks of their supporters the Ministry have only two representatives of New South Wales and one representative of Tasmania. If five or six members of the Labour Party at any time asserted their independent convictions on a matter of considerable importance on which they felt strongly they would certainly cause a crisis. The position of the Government is. such that a crisis would occur at any time that five or six honorable members of the Labour Party differed from them on an important matter such as is that relating to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the administration of a Department of the Public Service. The Opposition are not to blame. I do not think they are ashamed of the vote they gave. I do not think that we have reached a position in which any honorable’ member is a bit ashamed of the vote he gave. The crisis has been caused by six or seven members of the Labour Party exercising their honest convictions on an important matter without regard to the interests of the Government. We are not responsible for that. It is rather too bad to expect us to go to the assistance of the Government, although’ it would be very convenient for them if we always did so. They have had our votes more than once to save them when the Labour Party have been against them, and they expect us when six or seven honorable members of that party break away, to rush to their assistance and patch up their position. I do not think an Opposition can fairly be expected to perform that service for the Government unless there is involved a matter of principle on which they are in agreement with the Ministry. Unfortunately on the occasion under review we were absolutely opposed to the Government. We felt that a Royal Commission should be appointed, and the only course open to us was to vote for the honorable member for Gwydir’s proposition. I can only say that if the honorable member for Gwydir accepts the compromise proposed by. the Prime Minister I accept it with him. I raise no point upon it, feeling sure that he will carry his proposal to a straight out issue when the proper time comes. As to the Tariff, could any one have a greater interest in getting it out of the way than the Opposition have? The Opposition is absolutely powerless so long as the fiscal question remains unsettled ; consequently, the Prime Minister, so far as party interests are concerned, has taken a course which is just as advantageous to the Opposition as it is to the Government.
– It is advantageous to all parties - let the situation be resolved.
– It is advantageous to all parties. I urged at the last general election that we should allow the fiscal question to remain undisturbed - that the Tariffshould remain as it was-but a large majority of the electors decided that the fiscal question should be re.-opened. To complete it and put it aside now that it has been re-opened is an interest common to all parties in this Parliament, and it will be well for the Commonwealth when that has been done. That being so, the actual result of this arrangement will not be harmful - it will probably be beneficial so long as the matter respecting which we have been so much in earnest is not pushed aside. I hope now that this storm is over we shall be able to go to our respective homes and enjoy a very pleasant Easter.
– By way of personal explanation I wish to say, Mr. Speaker, that from remarks which have been made it might be inferred that I, as a Ministerial supporter, had approached the leader of the Opposition with a view to inducing him to support me in a motion antagonistic to the Government.
– The honorable member did not do so.
– I did not approach the question in that form.
– The honorable member obtained in open debate the support of the leader of the Opposition.
– I obtained his support in common with that of a number of honorable members in all parts of the House. I made it knownthat I intended to avail myself of the earliest opportunity to press upon the House a motion of which I had given notice, and I asked the leader of the Opposition, as an individual, what his views were on the subject. I was aware at the time that even if my motion were brought on and carried on a division the Government would not regard it as a vote of censure.
– Did the Prime Minister say so?
– No; but the Prime Minister himself a few days before the occasion in question had endeavoured to secure for me an opportunity to submit the motion to the House. I was therefore quite right in doing what I did to secure an opportunity to carry it. I can assure the Prime Minister that, when speaking to the leader of the Opposition, I was careful not to indicate when I intended to submit the motion, and I repeat that it was with the knowledge that the Government would not regard the carrying of the motion as a vote of censure upon them, that I took action. Having done that, I sought support for it in every part of the House, and the support of the right honorable member for East Sydney as well as that of other honorable members. I have spoken now merely with the desire to remove what seemed to me to be an impression that I was doing something that was unfaithful to my party.
– Not at all.
.- I felt sure that the course which the Prime Minister has proposed to-day would meet with almost unanimous support in the country, but I was not so sure that it would be received with such unanimity in this House. I am glad that the honorable gentleman’s declaration that the Government’ intend to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff until it becomes law has been received with so much favour in every quarter of the Hoube.
-It was inescapable.
– If they are prepared to stand it we are.
– The position brought about is, in my opinion, a very promisingone.
– Does the honorable member for Gwydir agree with it ? .
-I have to say as regards the position of the honorable member for Gwydir that the course proposed by the Prime Minister involves -merely . the postponement of the matter in which the honorable member is interested until the Tariff is out of the way.
– I accept that.
– Does the honorable member for. Gwydir, therefore,agree to the proposal ?
– When it is convenient to do so I am always very glad to answer interjections, but I venture to say that the main object for which the House assembled to-day . has been accomplished, and it would be of no use to. debate other questions. I presume that honorable members wish to catch the Inter-State trains that they may enjoy a week’s holidav in their homes. We have every assurance that the important question dealt with in the motion of the honorable member for Gwydir will be fully discussed, and that an ample opportunity will be given the House to arrive at some conclusion upon it. The question to which it must give place is one which concerns the country rather than members of Parliament, and every one will be exceedingly glad that the Prime Minister has undertaken to complete its consideration at the earliest possible moment. I wish to suggest to the honorable gentleman that it is doubtful whether any other business should be permitted to intervene between the settlement of the Tariff and the resumption of the debate on the motion of the honorable member, for Gwydir. I congratulate the House upon the. wav in which the Prime Minister’s motion has been received.
.- I have no apologies to offer for anything that may have happened since the last meeting of the House. I set outto deal with the matter covered bymy motion in no. party spirit, andwithout any desire to make it a party question. The re-adjustment of the wrongs that are known to exist in the Post and Telegraph Department should, in my opinion, be a matter absolutely above all party interests.
– Why did not the honorable member support my motion ?
– I wish the honorable member for Robertson would say something relevant or intelligible when he speaks. So far as I am concerned,. I have felt it to be my duty to endeavour to secure the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into matters which I think can only be properly investigated by such a body. It is not a matter of very much consequence to me by. what means the appointment of such a Commission is secured. That is proved by what I said on Thursday evening, and by the fact that I stepped across to the other side of the House when the question of the adjournment of the debate came to a vote, because I thought that by doing so I was adopting the best means to bring about the result I desired. On that occasion, it appeared to me evident that the Ministry were not prepared to give definite time for bringing my motion to an issue, and that is- why I voted as I did. At present, however, I have an assurance that the House will be given an opportunity to record a vote on my motion, and, consequently, I feel assuredthat I shall be able in the near future to secure the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Then the Government are going to give the honorable member his Royal Commission ?
– As I now feel satisfied that that will very probably be the result, I have no longer any desire to deal with the matter in the spirit which actuated me on Thursday evening.
– Then the honorable member has been assured that he will get this Royal Commission ?
-I am assured that the honorable member for Corangamite will not get on to this side of the House. That may be a disappointment to the honorable member, but Ihave no desire to help him over here. I can honestly say that, having had an opportunity to review the position since Thursday evening, I have found that to have pressed my motion to a vote on Thursday might not have resulted in the attainment of the object for which I moved it. I prefer to take no chances in the matter, and to accept a proposal which will lead to the attainment of the object I have in view - a thorough investigation of and report upon the Department in which I have interested myself.I repeat that I have no apologies to offer for taking the course I did. It is not my mission to put Governments out of office, or to serve the Opposition. It is rather my mission to serve the people, and that is what I have tried to do in the most effective and disinterested way possible under existing conditions.
– I do not intend to detain the House for more than a few minutes, and I certainly should not have spoken this afternoon but for the extraordinary- statement of the Prime Minister with regard to the action of honorable members on this side in relation to the question of the Federal Capital Site. The honorably gentleman has been pleased to make some statements, which, if theyhad been made outside, I should dismiss with a very short word of three letters-
– The honorable member cannot spell” true” in three letters ?
– Which the rules of the House prevent me from using to describe those statements in this Chamber. I, therefore, content myself by saying that in repeating whathe had already said when interviewed by representatives ofthe press, the Prime Minister has, this afternoon, made some statementswhich are absolutely incorrect, and for which there is not a tittle of justification. What happened on Thursday afternoon? Honorable members are aware that the honorable member for Gwydir was anxious to discuss the question of an inquiry into the condition of the Post and Telegraph Department, but the moment the House met the Prime Minister, with an acrobatic swiftness which has never been equalled here, jumped in ahead of the honorable member with an amendment declaring that the consideration of that question should be postponed until the following day, knowing, when hedid so, that the question could not be discussed on the morrow.
– I knew that it could ; and I know that now.
– And knowing as we now know that he took the course he did- in order to prevent the honorable member for Gwydir going on with his motion at all-
– Or any other honorable member with his motion. There were three.
– What was the first thing that happened ? I took a point of order that the question could not be debated on the morrow, and asked you, Mr. Speaker, for your ruling. You, sir, told the House very plainly that the carrying of the Prime Minister’s amendment meant the shelving of the question for three weeks. Before the amendment was withdrawn, I objected to it, and for the reason that I was drafting at the table an amendment providing that thehonorable member for Gwydir’s motion in relation to the condition of the Post and Telegraph Department should come on for discussion on the day after the decision of the House had been taken onthe Federal Capital Site question. It was only when the Prime Minister, watching me drafting theamendment,and watching me hand it to my chief-
-Watching the honorable member? I had not the slightest idea what the honorable member was doing.
– The honorable gentleman bounded to his feet the moment my amendment was handed back to me by the leader of the Opposition.
– The Prime Minister knew nothing about it.
– I venture to say that honorable members who imagine that the Prime Minister has been acting with the utmost simplicity and straightforwardness in this matter know nothing about the real facts of the case. Point by point we are getting out of the honorable gentleman the information that he knew of this motion long before, and did his best to circumvent it. Will the Prime Minister say that he did not know of the matter two days before?
– I shall say nothing more to the honorable member, but I shall say something of him presently.
– Will the Prime Minister say that he was not warnedtwo days before that the matter would be serious ?
– Hear, hear; and then he made the arrangement.
– I challenge the Prime Minister to deny the statement. These are the facts of the situation, and for the Prime Minister to say that we were trying to block the Federal Capital question -
– Hear, hear!
– It is idle for the Prime Minister to say that we were trying to block the Federal Capital question, when we were seeking by every means in our power to provide that it should take precedence of the motion of the honorable member for Gwydir. I think it right to make this explanation as to what actually took place on Thursday last. We did not object to the Prime Minister’s amendmentwe took no exception to it. What we did want to provide, however, was that the matter should not be postponed for three weeks, and we endeavoured to secure that the Federal Capital question should not also be shelved. These two desires were in no way inconsistent. The Prime Minister, of all others, was the honorable member who, after declaring that the Capital. Site question should be decided at an early date, did his best to postpone it for at least three weeks. On him, therefore, is the responsibility for any delay that has taken place in regard to the settlement of that question. I do not mind, telling the Prime Minister something else about the Federal Capital question, if it will do him any good. I do not mind saying that, so far as I am concerned, a delay of a day or two will not hurt. That I wish the Prime Minister to understand, and I hope he is satisfied now.
– This looks promising for Dalgety !
– So far as I am able to see, things do look a little promising for Dalgety just now.
-Time fights on our side !
– I believe time is fighting a little on the side of the honorable member just now, and doubtless that is. why he looks so pleasant. My answer to all the jibes of the Prime Minister is that we do not object to the postponement of the Federal Capital question for one or two days. This has been a mock political crisis - a sham affair - all through. It has been pathetic to read in the newspapers of the desire of the Prime Minister to resign office, and of his, only at the last moment, consenting to remain in office. These reports may or may not be correct ; the Prime Minister has not said one. word on the matter. But we have seen the Prime Minister in this kind of mood before. His attitude to-day is, “I do not wish to remain a minute in office, but for heaven’s sake do what you can to keep me here ! “ That is the explanation of what has gone on during the last week-end. Where is the Government Whip? That gentleman never had such a busy time in his life as he has had in squaring matters outside; and -the result of it all is that the Prime Minister has consented to retain office, in order to put the Tariff through. There may be some danger to the Tariff in consequence of a possible change in the Ministry, but, personally, I confess I do not see what that danger is, having regard to the position of the Tariff in this House. The Government, however, seem to scent some danger, and even the scenting of danger was a sufficient appeal to the Prime Minister to take the steps he has taken during the last week-end to ultimately persuade my honorable friends in the corner to take the action they propose to-day. I should like to know where we now stand. We are told that the motion of the honorable member for Gwydir is to be postponed until the Tariff is out of the way. But what is meant by the “ Tariff “ ? Do the Government mean by the “ Tariff “ the schedule of requests thatis now before the House? Are my friends of the Labour Party going to assist the Government to put this Tariff on the statute-book at the earliest possible moment,’ and then trust to luck as to the complemental part of the “ new protection “ in which they- are so interested? Does dealing with the Tariff mean dealing also with the “new protection,” or are the members of the Labour Party going to deliberately assist the Government to pass the Tariff at the earliest possible moment, and then, it may be, aid in putting the Government out of office before the “new protection” proposals are dealt with? If that be so, I can only congratulate them on their attitude.
– The honorable member is in favour of the ‘ ‘ new protection ‘ ! ?
– The honorable member ought to be under no misapprehension as to my attitude on. that question. It is for the honorable member to bear his own responsibility ; I have no right, and I do not propose, to quibble at any vote he may give. But it does seem to me that, after the specific declaration of the Prime Minister that the new and the old protection are indissolubly bound, so far as he is concerned, we have a right to have it made clear whether the postponement of the motion of the honorable member for Gwydir is to be until the complete protection proposals have been dealt with, or only until the old protection proposals have been placed on the statute-book ? That is a question on which I should expect to hear something from .my honorable friends in the Labour corner. I dare say they have made up their minds, and I only throw this hint out, because I shall be glad to hear what the complete proposals of the Government amount to. As I said before, this “ crisis “ has, in my judgment, been a sham from beginning to end. The threatened resignation was a sham - there never was a resignation, threatened or intended. This is simply a repetition of tactics on the »part of the Prime Minister with which we are by this time well acquainted, and they, . therefore, cause us no surprise. I say now,, as I have said during the whole qf the last week-end, that there will be no resignation, and that no resignation was ever intended by the Prime Minister.
– I have never heard the honorable member for Parramatta speak without something of bitternesss. It is not,’ perhaps, altogether what the honorable member says, but “ it’s the narsty way ‘e ses it.” Of course, the old fable of the fox and the grapes will naturally recur to : honorable members. There was one word I was sorry to hear from the honorable member for Parramatta, and that had reference to his charge of an absence of straightforwardness. When the honorable member was a leader of the Labour Party, I know that we wished we could transfer him from- New South Wales to Victoria, but, after my experience of him in this House, I am glad that we did not catch him.
– There is hope of his conversion yet !
– There may be, but the honorable member for Parramatta has certainly astonished some of his friends, and, I dare say, some of his enemies. We may, however, compliment the honorable member on his unswerving opposition to the Government. I really believe that . if the Government were composed of angels from heaven, the honorable member for Parramatta would be able to find some grounds for complaint. I hope that some day the honorable member will be freed from the duty of filling the disagreeable post of acting leader of the Opposition, by the House deciding to elect its own Ministers. In that event there will be no Opposition in the present sense, when the “ outs “ are always trying to displace the “ ins.” I am sorry that the right honorable member for East Sydney is not in the chamber. He made a statement that was not fair to the Government, to the effect, that there were no. South Australian or. Western Australian members sitting behind them. Mav I ask him how many members from Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia are sitting behind him?
– There are all those in the Opposition corner, but they are a long waybehind him.
– The honorable member’s opinion of that corner nearly coincides with my own, and I do not think they would welcome it. The right honorable member for East Sydney did not mention the fact that New South Wales, by its population, can claim twenty-seven votes in this House as against Victoria’s twentytwo. The difference is five votes and the direct Opposition ‘ has exactly’ five votes more than the straight-out Ministerial party. There is nothing for the right honorable member to boast of in that. The honorable member for Parramatta will admit -that in the direct Opposition there are members who are moreinunison with the Labour Party than with the Opposition Corner Party. Out of the twenty-seven New South Wales members, there are only about twelve behind the leader of the Opposition, while he has not even one Victorian supporter. I hope the proposal of the Prime Minister will be agreed to as quickly as possible. By no act of mine in this House would I willingly have thrown the Tariff into the turmoil of a political crisis. I know that in one firm alone, over 200 more employes have been taken on, while 800 havehad their salaries increased. That was due to the difference of 3d. agreed to by this House in the Excise duty on hand-made and machine-made cigarettes. If we went back to the conditions of the old Tariff, which was most incomplete, 200 employes at least would lose their places, and the other 800 would have their wages reduced. For that reason alone, I would take no step to prevent the Tariff from finally passing. I am, after eighteen years’ experience in Parliament, against Royal Commissions. If the House wants to remove the abominations that may exist not only in the Post and Telegraph Department, but in other branches of the Public Service, let us be honest, pass an eight-hours Bill, provide that every, hour of overtime shall be paid for, and compel officers to send in their claims every week. If that were done, there would be no need for a Royal Commission. Later on, when that question comes before the House, I shall put my arguments forward. I will content myself now with saying that I hope the day will come when there will be no Opposition to be led by the honorable member for Parramatta, and when, no honorable member will consider it his duty to strike at the Government at every opportunity, no matter what happens. That is not democratic, or in accordance with Australian sentiment, and the sooner it is ended, the better.
– I should not have said a wordto-day, but for the outrageous statements of the Prime Minister.
– Are the honorable member’s statements never outrageous?
– I deeply regretted to hear from the Prime Minister’s statement that Order of the Day No. 2 - Seat of Government Bill - would be postponed. I think heassumed more than he was justified in doing, when he . assumed that his amendment, moved on Thursday last, in connexion with grievance day, was going to be defeated. I came to the House specially to deal with the Federal Capital Site question, putting aside several important, business engagements to’ be present. Before I came to the House I made inquiries in the proper quarter as to the course I should have to take to bring forward on grievance day my motion to place the Post and Telegraph Department, in Commission - a determination which would revolutionize that part of the Public Service. I might have prepared to rise just as the honorable member for Gwydir rose, to put forward my motion, had I wished to postpone the consideration of the Capital Site question.
– It is too thin.
– That is not so. I want the Prime Minister to understand that the House may not have been against him on that day, when he thought it was. I was prepared to bring on my motion, but had no intention of pressing it then, because I understood that the Prime Minister wished to bring on the Federal Capital Site question. The honorable gentleman did not take a vote, and so he does not know that ‘ this side would have voted against him, but he withdrew his motion. He must not’ be piqued,” therefore, because he had a wrong impression, and so postponed the consideration of the Capital Site.
– Every member of the Opposition spoke against the Prime Minister’s amendment.
– That is not so; a great deal of impromptu talking was done, but, if honorable members had had an opportunity for reflection for an hour or so, many of those speeches would not have been made. What I am concerned about is that the Prime Minister is now going to penalize New South Wales because of what appears to be a crisis. If I am a judge of what is going on, there is no course open to the Prime Minister except to resign on a certain day - that is, When Orders of the Day Nos. 4 and 5 have been disposed of. I hope, however, that the Prime Minister will not take that course, but will go on with the Capital Site question. If he is prepared to condone and overlook the humiliation that certain honorable members have sought to impose upon him, he can safely do so. I will support him to the fullest of my power, if he will bring on the Seat of Government Bill after the consideration of the Tariff has been disposed of.
– I proposed to do it before, if possible.
– That is generous of the honorable gentleman. He has promised, before taking Orders of the Day Nos. 4 and 5-
– Before they are finally disposed of.
– That is satisfactory to me, and I will promise the honorable gentleman my support if he will bring on Order of the Day No. 2, the Seat of Government Bill.
.- My remarks will be brief, and, I hope, to the point. I wish to say, on behalf of my constituents, that I regret exceedingly, in common with the honorable member for Robertson, that the question of the Capital Site has been postponed. I must congratulate the Prime Minister on having been able so successfully to save his face on the present occasion, but I warn him that the people of New South Wales, at any rate, are getting tired of these proceedings.
– I should think so.
– Recently, when within the bounds of my electorate, I was repeatedly asked, “When are we going to have justice at the hands of your Parliament? When are you going to settle the question of the Capital Site?” I believe that much of the irritation felt throughout the land to-day is due to the fact that that question has not been settled.
– When is New South Wales going to accept our decision? That is the trouble. We decided it.
– That is a point which I am not prepared to debate just now. What I have risen to say is that the sooner the Capital Site question is settled to the satisfaction of the majority, the better it will be.
– It has been settled by Parliament.
– No one knows better than does the honorable member that it has not been settled, and the postponement of its settlement is causing irritation, and - in New South Wales - dissatisfaction with Federation. Until, in process of time, we get rid of the legacy left us by the old political hands of the States Parliaments, we shall have no satisfaction in Federation. I urge the Prime Minister, if he wishes to do justice, to bring forward the
Capital Site question at the earliest possible moment. I, for one, will help him all I can to do so, though I confess that I should be in a dilemma had I to choose between the bringing forward of the Capital -Site question and the sweeping of this Government ouf of office. Had I that choice, I should probably vote for the latter alternative.
.- I wish, without taking up much time, to protest against the unfairness of the Prime Minister in attempting to saddle the members of the Opposition with responsibility for the situation created by members of the Ministerial Labour corner.
– What does it matter ?
– It matters to the extent that, by a misstatement of fact, the Prime Minister seeks to saddle the Opposition with delaying the Federal Capital question.
– The attempt would have been all right had it been successful.
– No one knows better than does the Prime Minister that his statement of the occurrence is not correct, and that the whole responsibility rests with a member who sits on one of the Ministerial cross benches, and belongs to the party which is popularly believed to control the Government. If a situation unpleasant to Ministers has arisen, the responsibility rests, not with the Opposition, but with that section of Ministerial supporters. Personally, I was desirous of getting on with the Federal Capital question, and rose several times to speak, but was unsuccessful in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker. 1 hope that the question will be revived at as early a date as possible. I wish also to protest against the proposed postponement of business now. Notwithstanding the declaration of the Prime Minister as to the urgency of dealing with the Tariff, it is proposed that we shall not enter upon our work for another week. Some honorable members have been obliged to travel 600 miles to get here this afternoon, and we have to-night to return another 600 miles without having, done anything. We have met, but there is no business to be transacted. The least the Government might do, before calling the House together, is to find business for it to proceed with. Honorable members who have to travel long distances to attend here have a legitimate grievance when, on getting here, they are told that it is proposed to adjourn for a week before proceeding to business. These proceedings are in the last degree Gilbertian, and those who read the accounts of them must be impressed with the absolute insincerity of the Government which is responsible for them.
Mr.DEAKIN (Ballarat - Minister of External Affairs) [3.55]. - There is little to reply to, except the insinuation of the deputy leader of the Opposition that my course in withdrawing my amendment for the postponement of the consideration of grievances on Thursday last was taken because of my knowledge of his intention to propose another amendment. No hint, suggestion, or conception of such action on his part, or on that of any other honorable member, was in my mind when I withdrew my amendment. I wished to ask ten or fifteen minutes earlier for leave to withdraw it ; but, on mentioning the matter to my colleagues, they said, “Wait until we are certain that the House really wishes you to withdraw.” What decided me in asking leave to withdraw my amendment was not a doubt as to what the House wished, but the objection that notice had not been givenof my amendment. I admit that notice was not given, and that objection having been raised, felt bound to recognise it, and did so in the only way in my power, by asking leave to withdraw the amendment.
– The Prime Minister will recollect that I objected to its withdrawal.
– Yes. The honorable member objects to everything.
– That’ is as true as everything else the honorable and learned gentleman says.
– On Friday I proposed an arrangement -which was telegraphed all over the Commonwealth - that the Federal Capital Site question should be dealt with on Tuesday and Wednesday; but while on my feet, it was pointed out to me that Tuesday’s sitting would probably be occupied with the discussion of the Estimates, and therefore, without referring to the notice-paper, I made the arrangement for Wednesday and Thursday.
– The honorable and learned member did that because of a question which I asked.
– Yes. Had I examined the notice-paper, I should have seen that Thursday was grievance day. Later, when 1 discovered that fact, I saw that, if
I allowed the formal motion for going into Committee of Supply, under which grievances are debated, to be proposed in the ordinary way, I should be challenged with having broken the compact with the Opposition. It had been telegraphed all over the Commonwealth that members would be invited on Thursday to vote on the Federal Site question, and no other, and I felt sure that, when it was found that they were being asked to deal with any or every grievance, I should be charged with having deliberately brought about the postponement of the Federal Capital Site question. My mistake was, that directlyI found out that Thursday was grievance day., I did not point out the position to the House, and give noticeof my intentionto move to postpone the consideration of the Order of the Day for going into Committee of Supply. My action in moving the postponement of all grievances was impelled by the necessity for1 fulfilling our pledge; because I thought that my inaction would be distorted into an attempt to defeat the wishes of those to whom I had promised that we should deal with the Capital Site question. Those remarks dispose of the statements of the deputy leader of the Opposition, who has since said himself that there was strong reason for not dealing with the Capital Site question on Thursday, and that he had a motive for not wishing that the question should come on on the day fixed.
– He did not say that, or anvthing like it.
– How the Prime Minister can make such a statement is beyond my comprehension.
– I appeal to every manin the House to say whether my statements are not in accordance with what occurred.
– There is not a tittle of truth in them.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I do so; and say that the statements of the Prime Minister are not in exact accordance with the truth.
– I will be judged by those who heard what was said afew moments ago. The Minister of Trade and Customs replied by interjection to the statement of the honorable member. A colloquy took place between them, during which the honorable member stated that the prospects of Dalgety that night were too good. My colleague picked up the remark, and rejoined that he thought that that was so, and that time was helping him. The honorable member for Parramatta did not agree with that statement, although he implied most distinctly that on Thursday last the prospects of the site which he is most anxious for were not so favorable as he wished them to be.
– I said no such thing.
– All I wish for is the record of Hansard, about which there can be no mistake. I appeal to it, and by it I stand.
– Will the Prime Minister take the official record to which he appeals, and show that I offered the slightest objection to the consideration of the Capital Site question on Thursday night? Let him prove, if he can, by a reference to Hansard, the scandalous statement which he has made.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the words “scandalous statement.”
– I do so; but in fairness I ask the Prime Minister totake Hansard, and show that there is a tittle of justification for his remarks.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that I am speaking of the record at present being transcribed from the shorthand notes of the reporters who took down what the honorable member said. If those words, as they stand in the report, do not bear out what I say, I shall make the most absolute withdrawal and apology ever made in this Chamber. But every man on this side will have to do the same thing. I appeal to every member here. Honorable members know that the honorable member said that he had motives for not wishing for a decision on Thursday.
– I never said such a thing.
– Is it possible to call for the production of the Hansardreport ? If it can be obtained, I shall be very glad to have it read. Has any honorable member a doubt as to the accuracy of what I am saying ?
– I will tell the honorable member what I said.
– I heard distinctly what was said.
– I did not introduce this question, and did not propose to deal with it ; but I was compelled to do so because of interjections, made chiefly by the honorable member for Parramatta. His action obliged me to make known the facts regarding the occurrences of Thursday night.
– The Prime Ministei is reported to have said -
It was with unfeigned amazement that I discovered -
– If the honorable member desires to make a personal explanation, it will be open to him to do so presently.
– If the honorable member will mark the passage which he wishes to read, I am prepared to read it for him.
– From what is the honorable member about to read?
– This is a newspaper report of a statement made by me in the course of an interview. I am reported to have said -
Under these circumstances, it was with unfeigned amazement that I discovered the very Oppositionists who had deliberately sanctioned the setting apart of Thursday for determining the Federal Capital Site insisting that our agreement be broken.
I said that.
– I ask the honorable member to prove that statement from the’ official record.
– I prove it by these facts : When I discovered that Thursday was grievance day; I took the only step in my power to keep the promise T had made to the House, that the vote on the Seat of Government Bill should be taken then, by moving the postponement of the consideration of grievances. I was aware that probably several honorable members intended to move amendments to the formal motion for going into Committee of Supply. I had not the honorable member for Gwydir particularly in my mind, though I had heard that he and the honorable member for Riverina and another honorable member, whose name I cannot at this moment recall, each intended to move an amendment. No one was certain that any of these amendments would be moved ; but every one knew that there were likely to be three or four amendments to the motion to go into Committee. I interposed with my amendment for the postponement df the consideration of the Order of the Day - not to interfere with the action of honorable members, but to keep faith with the House in regard to the Federal Capital Site. The instant I did so the leader and the deputy leader of the Opposition took objection to that course, urged every reason against it, and appealed to the House to insist on the discussion of grievances. They did not- say “ instead of the discussion of the Federal Capital Site “ ; but the consideration of the Order of the Day involved the postponement ot the debate on the Seat of Government Bill. I warned them distinctly by interjection that by their action they were putting off that decision, and in spite of my warning they objected, as I have said.’ The honorable member for Parramatta has stated that the reasons which actuated him and others in the matter-
– The honorable and learned member for Parkes was one.
– Several honorable members took up the position which I have described. That is the statement which I make in the presence of honorable members who were here, and heard what was said, both then and this afternoon. Its accuracy cannot be challenged. I did not introduce the subject, and am sorry that it has been introduced.
– Will the Prime Minister, to be fair, read this passage from the Hansard report?
– It is an interjection by the honorable member -
These questions have waited so long that they might well wait another day until the Capital Site question has been disposed of.
– He said something besides that.
– Yes. I find it recorded on one page of the record that he twice rose to points of order, objecting to the amendment which I moved, while a third point of order is recorded on the same page.
– Read what I said.
– The honorable member took points of order upon the Standing Orders, and asked, “ Can we proceed with the formal motion to-morrow ? “ So I found him throughout, even going so far, as he has just admitted, as to object to me getting leave to withdraw the amendment or to go on with it.
– I rose to object to the honorable member withdrawing a proposition which would prevent the moving of our amendment.
– What would have been the result if his leader and himself had moved the amendment which they say they had prepared? Simply a debate on that amendment which would have shut out the Capital Site question just as decisively as anything else. Had they submitted an amendment of that character - to put aside the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir in order to allow the Capital Site question to come on that evening - its consideration would have occupied the greater part, if not the whole of that sitting. Would a number of men who were so strongly moved as they afterwards stated in regard to the necessity for. a postal inquiry that they would allow nothing to intervene - would they ‘have stood aside lo allow even the Capital Site question to intervene ? If the pledge to me had no binding effect on those who made it to me, why should it have a binding effect on those who did not make it, and therefore had not the same obligation? Therefore the statement as to the amendment is a mere cloud to cover their escape from the fact that their action put aside the consideration of the Capital Site, that their amendment would have done the same thing; and this too after an agreement had been arrived at all round the Chamber for its consideration on that day. I regret, sir, that I have been, obliged bv these constant interruptions to reply on this matter, but ven- ture to say that there is nothing that honorable members on this side have to conceal. Certainly I shall be only the better pleased the more attention the honorable members opposite call to their conduct on the occasion referred to.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, sir.
– I had better say to the honorable member forthwith- that, as the Prime Minister has replied, no reference to the debate can be made, but if he desires to make a personal explanation he is at liberty to do so.
– I do not propose to debate the question,, but merely to state the’ facts so far as I know them. I went and saw the Prime Minister on the evening of Wednesday last with- the honorable member for Parramatta. We both .arranged with the honorable and learned gentleman, in the ordinary parliamentary way, to take the vote on the Seat of Government Bill on Thursday afternoon at half-past 5 o’clock, or so soon afterwards as reasonable discussion would permit. At that time I had not the slightest knowledge of any business which was to intervene on “ grievance “ day.
– And I have never said that the honorable member had.
– What I wish to be distinctly understood is that I thought that the arrangement was that the consideration of trie Seat of Government Bill was to go on from Wednesday into Thursday, with no other business intervening. On Thursday morning I heard that other business was to intervene, and that there would be no opportunity to get to the Seat of Government Bill. The next day I was told by the honorable member for Boothbythat several days before he had warned the Prime Minister that the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir was to be moved, and that the numbers were against the Government.
– I also rise to make a personal explanation. What the Prime Minister has said is correct so fax as it goes. I have not risen for the purpose of disputing what he said, except so far as he has tried to read into the report of Thursday’s proceedings something which I think does me an injustice. An agreement was made, and I do not take any exception to anything which he said in that regard. But I do take exception to his statement that we insisted upon breaking the agreement. Here is Hansard, and the honororable member will not find oneword in the report of what took place on Thursday to show that Ihad any other desire than to facilitate the consideration of the Seat of Government Bill, as my interjection to the honorable member for Gwydir clearly proves.
– Has it been altered or checked ?
– Not that I know of.
– Not the first report?
– Not thatI know of. I did not see it until to-day. I distinctly disavow having done anything on Thursday to interfere in. any way with the consideration of the Seat of Government Bill. The record here speaks for itself, and will show that I did my best throughout that debate to try to preserve the. consideration of the two questions.
– Did the honorable member object to the withdrawal of the amendment which would have permitted the question of the Capital Site to come on?
– Certainly not.
– Not the amendment of the Prime Minister?
– I have already explained that I was busy drafting ari amendment to provide that the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir should be taken immediately after the question of the Capital Site had been decided, and that it was only the Prime Minister’s swiftness which prevented me frommoving it. That is my explanation.
– I also desire to make a personal explanation. Some days ago the honorable member for Boothby informed me that he was in favour of a proposal for appointing a Royal Commission in regard to the Post and . Telegraph Department. He said that the question was coming on again. There was no reference made at that time, and certainly I have not the least recollection of the honorable member referring to its being set down for, or coming up, on any particular day. In fact, at that time, I believe it was on the noticepaper,and could not be brought forward on “grievance” day. The honorable member also told me, if my memory serves me aright, that he thought that a majority of his party were in favour of the appointment of a Royal Commission. He may have meant a majority of the House, but, if so, he did not convey his meaning to me. I took him to mean that a majority of his party were in favour of the proposal. I understood him to be referring to his own party.
– He never came near me, anyway.
– I understood the honorable member to be referring not to a canvass, but to an estimate.
– Pure quibble.
– I have a personal explanation to make.
– I am very anxious that it should be a personal explanation, and not a mere continuance, under cover of a personal explanation, of the debate which has been closed. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to a personal explanation.
– I will, sir. I was in the chamber when the Prime Minister moved his amendment, and, in my hearing, the honorable member forParramatta said that he objected to its withdrawal.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to take this opportunity of stating a point of order, because it bears so directly on what the honorable member for Melbourne has just said. The Prime Minister rose to ask leave to withdraw his amendment, and while he was standing, the honorable member for Parramatta called “ I object,” but that was not a call of which I could take any notice, because it was made while he was seated, and also at an improper time.I at once rose, and asked “Is it the pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister have leave to withdraw his amendment,” and there was no objection. Had there been a single objection to that request - from the honorable member for Parramatta, or from any one else - I should have had to take notice of it, and the amendment could not have been withdrawn.
– I ran clear up this matter, sir, if you will allow me to make’ an explanation.
– What does the honorable member desire to explain?
– That I am being misunderstood.
– If the honorable member considers that he has beenmisunderstood, he can make an explanation.
– I do indeed, sir.
– It is an extraordinary attitude for the honorable member to adopt.
– The honorable member for Melbourne is quite right. I did object to the Prime Minister withdrawing his amendment. But what was it? It was one to provide an opportunity for the consideration of the Capital Site question before the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir. I did object to the with-‘ drawal of that.
– Why did not the honorable member say so before? .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the House a very regrettable fact, and that is that in Victoria criminals are being made indirectly out of the old-age pensions system. AnythingI could say to persuade honorable members to push on with the question of establishing a Federal system I would gladly say. In Victoria, married sons, with families dependent upon them, are being sent to prison simply because they have not complied with an order made by a Court to contribute so much towards an old-age pension. The sooner that this question is taken up by this Parliament, the sooner will that regrettable state of things be removed. Sir George Turner,- to his honour, instructed that no one should be sent to prison on account of his poverty, but I am sorry to say that it is now being done in Victoria under cover of a failure by a son to contribute to the provision of an old-age pension for his parents.
– There is no doubt that’ the case is as stated by the honorable member, and his suggestion is worthy of every consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 April 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080415_reps_3_45/>.