3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker. took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received from the Colonial Office a reply to his communication regarding the reorganization scheme, which was circulated as a Commonwealth paper about November last?
– Nothing beyond what may be fairly described as a formal acknowledgment.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer, without’ notice, a question’, a copy of which I forwarded to him by post on Saturday.
– I have not received it.
– It was accompanied by a personal note, and should have reached the honorable gentleman by the first post this morning. The questions that I intend to ask were published in this morning’s issue of the Argus, so that the honorable gentleman has doubtless noticed them. The questions are as follow -
– I have not received notice of the questions asked by the right honorable gentleman, and had he not intimated that he forwarded them to me by post, I should have suggested that notice be given. I saw in this morning’s issue of the Argus a list of questions which it was said the right honorable member intended to put to me this afternoon, and I have just had time to prepare a reply. Time did not permit of the figures I am about to quote being checked, and some of them may be slightly inaccurate, but’, subject to that statement, the . answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Of that amount £290,855 have been returned to New South Wales, £180,584 to Victoria, and £66,577 to Western Australia. Telegrams have been sent to Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania, to ascertain the amounts paid in those States, but as replies have not’ yet been received I can only approximate what they are. . It. is for that reason that I say the total amount’ returned for the month of May was about £700,000.
– That is near enough.
– As to question No. 2, the answer is-
The amount represents the balance on 30th May of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Threefourths of net Customs and Excise revenue, £583,000. Paid to States out of the Commonwealth’s one-fourth,£117,000.
Coming to question No. 3, I have to state that the Commonwealth fourth will not be sufficient to meet the actual expenditure for June, not including moneys to be trans-, ferred to trust fund under the Surplus Revenue Bill. That is to say, even if the Surplus Revenue Bill does not pass, the Commonwealth cannot pay three-fourths’ for June. The intention is to hold the whole balance for June, so that there may be transferred to trust funds the following sums : - £250,000 for naval defence, andfor old-age pensions £222,000. Total, £472,000. During the eleven months ended 31st May, the States have received about £992,000 more than three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue. As threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue for June will be about £731,000, the result for the whole year will be that the States will have received £261,000 more than the three-fourths to which they are entitled.
– That statement is not covered bv mv question.
– I think that it is. As appertaining to the question, I wish to say that the Commonwealth expenditure for June is estimated at £1,078, 000.
– How is that made up ?
– Order. The honorable membercannot ask several questions at once.
– But this, sir, is not . an answer to my question.
– I am unable to follow the question which the honorable member put, since I have not received a copy of it.
– Shall’ I give you a copy, sir ?
– It would be of no use to me, because I should not know what answers ought to be given. I simply ask the right honorable member to observe the Standing Orders. He- has asked a question, and the Treasurer is replying to it. If the right honorable member desires any further information, he may put a further question.
– I am giving the information because, without it, the answer to the questions would be absolutely incomplete. The total revenue for the last month is £802,000. During the last two months there has been such a falling off in revenue that the increase over that of 1907, in the corresponding month, is only about £13,000 per month. The right honorable member for Swan can make a calculation, and see how much that is below my estimate.
– The Treasurer is, I think, now debating the question.
– Well, I shall confine myself to the figures. The revenue for the last month is only £802,000, but I have estimated the total receipts in June at£1,000,000, because there is a sum of £160,000 held by the Government in a trust fund. That sum of £160,000 will, I think, be paid over ; and, but for that, the revenue would not stand as well as I have indicated. It will be seen that, even if the Surplus Revenue Bill be passed, we shall have but £222,000 to put aside for old-age pensions.
– The Treasurer has told us that the expenditure for the current month amounts to £1,078,000, and I should like to know from him whether there is any particularly large item which swells the amount beyond the ordinary average. I do not ask for particulars, but merely desire to ascertain whether there is any particular item which causes the average to be exceeded.
– There is no special item except the £250,000 for Naval Defence, but I may explain that the last month of the financial year is always a heavy month, owing to the winding-up of accounts, and’ the making . of payments which have been running on during the year. It always has been customary, in the last month, to adjust the overpayments that have been made to the States during the previous eleven months, but the £1,078,000 does not contain any special amount other than that which I have stated.I asked the Acting Secretary to the Treasury to be sure to give me the amounts in the ordinary way; and the result is the information I have afforded the House.
– I am reluctant to interpose again ; and I am sure that both myself and honorable members are much obliged to the Treasurer for the information he has given. However, I did not gather - although I have an idea what the Treasurer intended - that the reply he gave was really one to my question. Do I understand the Treasurer’s reply to mean that he does intend to deduct from the due threefourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue, sums in excess of the three-fourths paid to the States in the previous eleven months, either wholly or in some proportion? Do I understand that the Treasurer does not intend to return to the States any revenue at all from Customs and Excise for the month of June?
– If the Surplus Revenue Bill passes there will be no return ; but, in any case, there can be only a small one, because we have to re-adjust the whole . year’s accounts. All the figures I have given now I had intended to give later on during the discussion on the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to an article which appeared in the Sydney Evening News of last Saturday, headed -
” POLITICAL BURGLARY.”
Sir William Lyne’s Cool Idea.
Stopping Payment to New South Wales.
What may Happen on Monday.
Mr. Wade threatens High Court Action.
In that article there are some very strongly worded utterances, by way of criticism, on what is described as the illegal act of the Commonwealth Treasurer in stopping certain payments due to the New South Wales Treasury. In the article Mr. Wade is reported to have said-
Words cannot express the indignation everybody must feel at his (Sir William Lyne’s) high-handed attempt to deprive the States of their money without sanction at law-
– Will the honorable member allow me? The honorable member must remember that the only justification for reading statements such as he is reading, is to make more plain the question which is being put. So far as I can forecast the honorable member’s question, I think that, in this case, it is not necessary to read any further.
– Then I desire to ask the Treasurer if his attention has been called to the criticism on the part of the New South Wales Treasurer, and if he can inform us whether that criticism relates to the three-fourths Customs and Excise, to which the State is entitled under the Braddon section, or whether it relates to the one-fourth that falls to the lot of the Commonwealth; and, further, whether any moneys have been “ held up “ ?
– I thought I had made that point abundantly clear just now when replying to the question of the right honorable member for Swan. As to the charge of “ burglary,” I can afford to let it pass as a piece of political hysteria, of which it is not worth while to take notice. Instead of the Commonwealth or the Treasurer committing “burglary,” I may say that all the States have received three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue for May, in addition to £117,000 cut of the Commonwealth one-fourth - that is, they have received monevs which the Commonwealth was entitled to spend. All the moneys due have been paid to New South Wales,. Victoria, and, indeed, also in the cases of the other States; but, as to the amounts in connexion with the latter, we have no knowledge until we. hear by telegram. However, all the moneys to which the States are entitled have been paid, and all the money which the Commonwealth Treasurer had on Saturday morning is gone. We are without, any money today, except what comes in hour by hour. Under the circumstances, Ithink. that the Commonwealth has adopted a fatherly attitude towards the States, and has given them a great deal to help them along.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether the States Treasurers were given any previous warning of the intention of the Government to pay them less than three-fourths of the net Customs revenue for the month of June,, and whether they were informed that an attempt would be made to induce Parliament to empower the Treasurer to withhold the whole of the three-fourths ?
– The Treasurers of the States knew perfectly well what was intended to be done under the Surplus Revenue Bill. The Prime Minister answered questions relating to it which they put to him at the recent Premiers’ Conference. I was present and heard him, and it was impossible for them to be mistaken as to what was intended. I am merely following the usual custom of adjusting the totals each year, with a view to seeing that we have sufficient money with which to cover payments due in connexion with the month of June, the States receiving the balance. The object of the Secretary to the Treasury in transmitting the telegram which he did was not to withhold the whole of the three-fourths of the Customs Revenue from the States, though previous Treasurers at the end of the financial year have withheld amounts to meet payments which had to be made after the end of June. The honorable member for Swan,, himself, has done that to a limited extent. He has done more than that - he has held large sums of money in London. The honorable member for South Sydney and Sir George Turner also did the same thing as the Secretary of the Treasury thought he was justified in doing on Saturday.
– I have never sent a telegram of that sort.
– But the honorable member did the same thing without the States Treasurers’ knowledge.
– It . was done departmental ly.
– So was this.
– Does the Treasurer say that the telegrams forwarded to the Under-Treasurers were sent departmentally ?
– And without the Treasurer’s knowledge?
– Yes. I should not have referred to this phase of the matter if previous Treasurers had not done exactly the same thing. They adopted this course for the purpose of enabling them to meet payments falling due immediately before the close of the financial year. Technically, it is a breach of the law.
– Then the action of the Treasurer has been greatly exaggerated on this occasion ?
– The amount involved is larger upon this occasion.
– Yes. Instructions were issued to the. Federal officials in the various States not to pay over any amounts to the States Treasurers until’ it had been ascertained exactly how much money was required by the Commonwealth.
– Other Treasurers did not have any ulterior object in view, as had the Treasurer.
– I do not know why the honorable member should say that I had an ulterior object in view. What was done was done in perfect good faith. Immediately that I heard of the despatch of the telegram by the Secretary to the Treasury I knew that technically we were not entitled to withhold from the States the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue. After the end of each month we are called upon t’o pay it over.
– Then why did the Treasurer withhold it? -
– We did not withhold it. We paid it on Saturday: The outcry was raised just a little prematurely.
– The telegram to the Federal officials in the various States was rather premature.
– The honorable member for Swan, the honorable member for. South Sydney, and Sir George Turner are all culprits, in that they have- adopted a similar course, and I am only blameable equally with them, if blameable at all.
– I do not think that the Treasurer has yet entirely grasped the difficulty that presents itself. His last statement had reference to the actual expenditure incurred during the month of June. .
– To be incurred.
– The last statement of the Treasurer had reference to the expenditure to be incurred during the current month, and to the adjustments to be made. So far his reply. was quite intelligible, and his action is in accordance with established practice. He has stated that further than making the necessary adjustments, and thereby increasing the actual expenditure during the current month, he proposes - if the Surplus Revenue Bill be carried - to deprive the States-
– Do not say that. He merely proposes to keep for. the Commonwealth that which belongs to it.
– I am quite prepared to adopt any language that the hon.orable member may suggest.
– Then say, “ retain for the Commonwealth.”
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether it is intended to retain for the Commonwealth moneys in excess of the expenditure for the month of June, irrespective of whether those moneys are required to meet payments relating to that month alone, or to re adjustments. . If so, how does he reconcile that proceeding with the express terms of section 89 of the Constitution, which provides that “the Commonwealth shall pay to each State month by month the balance (if any) in favour of the State “ ?
– Perhaps the honorable member has put his question in such a form that I may answer it in a way that I do not desire. The section of the Constitution to which he has’ referred is that requiring the payment of balances to the States at the end of each month.
– “ Month by month.”
– I wish the honorable member to be clear as to one point.. Does he think that if we find we have not money enough to adjust accounts we should leave certain accounts unpaid?
– I expressly said that the honorable gentleman was. right as to that.
– All that I am proposing to do now is to adjust accounts, and to see that the States do not get over and above what is their due.
– The honorable member has not understood my question. I have admitted all that. .
– I understand the honorable member perfectly. This is the last month of the financial year, and the month in which the adjustments take place, and when the expenditure is larger than in any other month. In this month, it has always been the custom to adjust the accounts for the whole year. That is what has been done in the past’; but if the probable June expenditure comes to a large amount and the Commonwealth has not sufficient to adjust the accounts for the whole of the year, it has been the practice in this second last month of the financial year to reduce the amounts returned to theStates.
– The honorable gentleman has not answered the question I asked.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean to say that the arrears amount to £1,000,000?
– There is an expenditure for the current month of £1,078,000, including the ,£250,000 for defence.
– That is not an amount in arrear.
– If honorable members do not desire that a fund should be provided for the payment of old-age pensions; let them ‘say so. There is £222,000, which will be untouched; that would go back to the States if we do not pass the Surplus Revenue Bill, but if that Bill is passed, there will be a first charge on that money for the payment of old-age pensions.
– I desire to point, out that the last few questions, and certain 1.r the last reply by the Treasurer, involve apractical discussion in the form of questions and answers of a matter which is covered by the Surplus Revenue Bill, and, therefore, what is taking place is, to a- large extent, an anticipation of what would be legitimate debate upon that Bill. That I am precluded, by the Standing Orders, from allowing. I therefore desire to say that further questions must distinctly avoid reference to any matter which would open up a discussion proper to the Surplus Revenue Bill, or I cannot permit them to be put, or if put, to be answered.
– I think, sir, that the question I am about to ask will not contravene your ruling. Did I understand the Treasurer, in stating that it was estimated that £222,000 .would be left, to say that no provision whatever had been made in connexion with that amount to meet the cost of properties transferred from the States to the Commonwealth?
– The amounts have not yet been fixed, and that matter has not yet been finally considered.
– In justice to Hie Prime Minister, and for my own satisfaction, I wish to direct attention to the honorable gentleman’s statement on the motion for the adjournment on Friday afternoon last, referring to the telegram which I quoted from the Premier of Western Australia, and the instructions given to the Treasurers of the States. He said -
The matter involved was so simple and clear that it was unfortunate that it should have been distorted in such a fashion. The telegram related to the month of May or to any later month. That was the first thing. In the next place he thought most honorable members must be aware that the question was raised at the recent Premiers’ Conference, and that he. (Mr. Deakin) then stated that the Bill proposed to affect any sums after that date but not any money that had previously been paid.
The honorable member for Flinders then interjected that the Bill affected moneys. paid before, and the Prime Minister replied again and said, “ It does not.” I wish to ask the honorable gentleman how he can reconcile that statement, which was satisfactory to the House, with the statement made by the Treasurer to-day? My reason for asking the question is that if the Prime Minister knew that what the Treasurer stated was the meaning it might have been expected that he would make his remarks in a clear and definite way, so that we could all understand what he meant. But I think that we all went away home on Friday with a different idea in our minds from that which the honorable gentleman intended.
– I quite admit that the right honorable member for Swan is entitled to ask the question which he has put to me, because, I notice, on reading the report to which he has referred - which, in itself, is not correct - that my references in such a brief fashion to two distinct matters, have led to some confusion. I made reference in the first place to the fact that it was a pity that the meaning of the telegram from the Premier of Western Australia had been distorted, because the telegram, as I heard it read, and as I had read a copy of it before, clearly stated that it had reference only to the amount paid and to be paid in May and in the month following - that is, to last month and this month. I then proceeded to refer to a totally different question, which has been, and I find now was, taken to refer to the same matter. I was not continuing to refer to the same subject. I quoted a statement made by myself in response to questions at the recent Premiers’ Conference. The Premiers had inquired whether, under the proposed Surplus Revenue Bill, we intended to require them to pay back to the Commonwealth all that they had received over and above the threefourths to which they were entitled under the Constitution j and I had answered them distinctly that no such visionary attempt as that was in my mind. I said that when the Surplus Revenue Bill came on for discussion it would be found that the surpluses with which it proposed to deal were those which had not then been paid to the’ States.
– Did the Premiers of the States understand the honorable gentleman’s remark to refer to their three-fourths ?
– The question which they put to me was perfectly clear, and they accepted my answer without another word, evidently as quite satisfactory.
– The same as we did on Friday.
– But, as the right honorable member will see, that second answer of mine related to a different question, which had little or no bearing upon the matter, to which I referred in the first part of my answer, namely, that relating to the telegram from the Premier of Western Australia. His telegram, related only, as I have said, to the months of May and June ; but the other part of my answer related to back moneys paid to the States months, before. This, fortunately or unfortunately, was recalled to my mind at the time when I was asked a question with regard to the Surplus Revenue Bill. Some of the confusion is no doubt owing to the concise way in which - the proceedings of the House being about to close - I alluded to two different questions.
– We all misunderstood the honorable gentleman, and put the opposite meaning to what he intended.
– I am sorry.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer, without notice, what is the total amount of money paid to New South Wales since Federation, apart from the threefourths to which she was entitled?
– I cannot state accurately from memory what the amount is, but I think it is at least £2,500,000. As far as I can recollect the amount is more, but it is at least £2,500,000.
– Arising out of the question of the honorable member for Bass, and the answer of the Treasurer, I should like to ask the honorable gentleman whether, in making a computation of the amount of money paid to New South Wales since Federation, ‘he has taken into account any of the very large sum that ought to be credited to that State in the matter of interest and payment for the transferred, properties?
– It would be quite impossible to do what the honorable member for Flinders suggests, because we do not yet know what the properties are worth- We do not know whether we have to pay interest on them, and, if so, ‘what amount we shall have to pay.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General- whether he can give the House any information regarding the probable amount of the costs incurred by the Commonwealth in connexion with the cases decided by the High Court relating to the liability .of the New South Wales Government to pay Customs duty upon steel rails, and to the seizure by the ex-Premier of that’ State, Mr. Carruthers, of wire netting from the Customs authorities?
– I am not in a, position to give the honorable member the exact amount of the costs to which he refers.. In each case the judgment of the High Court was in favour of the Commonwealth, with costs.
– Has the payment of the costs been enforced?
– I have.no instructions to the contrary. We are entitled to judgment in each case, and I presume that it will be enforced.
– Following on my question of a few days ago, when I asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the statement of Mr. Hoskins, proprietor of the Lithgow Iron-works, that, “ although the furnaces are turning out pig-iron equal to the best produced” any where, yet, in the absence of either bonus or duty, it can not be sold in competition with the imported article, but has to be stacked on the ground,” and the Prime Minister’s reply “ that the Manufactures Encouragement Bill was on the business-paper, and would be proceeded with as soon as possible,” I wish to ask the honorable gentleman now whether, seeing that this House has dealt with every other industry by means of the Tariff, and that the iron industry is one of great importance, employing a large number of men, he will introduce and pass the measure this session, or, failing that, whether the Treasurer will take advantage of the power to impose, by proclamation, the duties prescribed in Division VIa. of the Tariff schedule.
– The Bill to which the . honorable member refers is on the businesspaper, and all we need is a unanimous House to pass it immediately.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether, since the date on which I last referred to the matter of the land transactions of officials in Papua, and Mr. Drummond’s removal from his position, any fresh developments have taken place which seem to indicate the desirability of a further inquiry into the whole of the circumstances connected with Mr. Drummond’s case?
– I have only to gather, as well as I can, from the honorable mem- ber’s question, what he is referring to-, and to say that I can think of nothing alluded to in later correspondence which throws any light directly on that subject. I have had notice of other charges, but nothing. that . throws more light on the particular matter to which, I assume, the honorable member refers.
Proposed New State
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has seen in the columns of newspaper reports that in Western Australia an agitation is being got up for the erection of the north-west portion into a new State, and that the ambassador appointed to look after the matter is the gentleman who has been referred to as. the “ Uncrowned King of the West” ?
– I must refer the honorable member to the monarch referred to.
Reports on Ministerial Defence Scheme.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he will lay upon the table reports on the Government’s military scheme by Brigade and Regimental Commanders, and by higher officers, if any such reports are in existence ?
– I presume the honorable member refers to officers of the Commonwealth Forces. A large number of statements, criticisms, and suggestions have been sent in. What action the Government will take with regard thereto I am not prepared at present to say. I shall inform the honorable member later, and certainly before the Bill to give effect to the Government scheme is brought on for consideration.
– I desire to know from the Postmaster-General whether the Department has abandoned the issue of the supplementary lists of telephone subscribers hitherto published and distributed?
– In the place of the interim records or lists, it is proposed to advertise in the daily newspapers, as being less expensive.
– I think the newspaper advertising, will be much more expensive.
Mr.Mahon.-What subscribers will take the trouble to hang up a newspaper cutting ?
– The advertising in the newspapers will be cheaper - it is bound to . cost less than the printing and delivery of the supplementary lists.
– How can it be more convenient for subscribers to have merely the cuttings out of a newspaper in place of the supplementary lists hitherto issued?
– Representations on the point were made to me to-day, and in view of these the matter will receive further, consideration.
– As the PostmasterGeneral has told us that it will be more convenient and cheaper to publish the supplementary lists in the newspapers, is it his intention to publish also the full lists in the newspapers?
– Not without mature consideration.
– The whole . thing is absolute humbug !
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether his Department has ceased to issue supplementary lists to telephone subscribers except per medium of the newspapers ?
– The publishing of the lists in the newspapers was a step taken upon advice with a view to conveniencing subscribers, and until the publication of the telephone directory it will be cheaper to issue supplementary lists in that form. But the question of whether ultimately supplementary lists shall not be published as hitherto, has not yet been decided.
– I desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that his Department inserted an advertisement of two columns in the Melbourne Age a fortnight ago containing a supplementary list of subscribers to the telephone service; whether that same advertisement was repeated in the Argus a week afterwards with the addition of another column ; and was again repeated to the length of four columns in the Herald last Saturday ? I also desire to know whether that method of publishing additional lists of subscribers is to go on week after week ? If so, would it not be better to run a newspaper of our own ?
– If that system were to be continued, I think it very likely that it would be better to do what the honorable member suggests.
– I wish, with reference to the advertising in the metropolitan papers of supplementary lists of telephone subscribers, to ask the Postmaster-General whether he proposes to advertise these lists in the newspapers published in all the capitals, and in the provincial towns of Australia, and whether he intends to continue the practice in order to give information to subscribers to the telephones ?
– The lists will certainly be published in all the newspapers published in the capitals. I do not intend to continue the practice.
– In view of the statement of the Postmaster-General, to the effect that it is found to be cheaper and more convenient to publish supplementary lists of telephone subscribers as advertisements in the public press, will the honorable gentleman inform the House why he intends to discontinue the practice, and revert to the old system ? If the honorable gentleman decides to continue, the present practice, will he fake into consideration the advisableness of publishing these advertisements in Labour newspapers throughout Australia, as well as in the newspapers at present selected?.
– The practice referred to is a temporary arrangement adopted to get over a difficulty. It was never intended to be any more than a temporary arrangement.
– It is a most objectionable arrangement.
– I desire . to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether he has yet received any information with reference to a return authorized by this House on 17th March, in relation to indented labour in Papua?
– I regret to say that communication with Papua is so slow that I have not yet received the information.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that three-quarters of an hour has already been occupied to-day with questions without notice, he will take into consideration at an early date the desirableness of amending the Standing Orders so as to compel honorable members to give notice of their questions?
– I think that next session we shall probably be able to suggest some more salutary and business-like process.
.- I beg to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The announced intention of the Treasurer to deprive the States of portion or all of their share of the Customs and Excise revenue for the month of June.
– That question is dealt with in the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– Probably the right honorable member for Swan, did not hear what I said a few minutes ago in reference to questions bearing upon the same subject as is covered by the motion that he desires to move. I ruled then, as I must rule now, that the debate which must take place upon the Surplus Revenue Bill must not be anticipated. As I understood the motion read out by the right honorable member, it had reference to the announcement of the Treasurer, in reference to what he proposed to do in view of the passing of the Surplus Revenue Bill. Therefore, the matter is linked so closely with the Surplus Revenue Bill, that I could not allow the right honorable member to submit his motion.
– May I be heard, sir?
– The right honorable member may ask a question.
– I submit for your consideration, sir, that the Surplus Revenue Bill contains an authority to do certain things ; but that it has nothing to do with actions by the Government in regard to the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States before that measure becomes law.
– Nothing has been done.
– The Bill relates to something which it is proposed to do, but which cannot be done unless the Bill becomes law. I say that to anticipate action upon a Bill that has not been passed,, and which is only being discussed, is improper. I submit that the action of the Treasurer is in anticipation of the passing, of a new Act of Parliament which is only being now discussed in the form of a Bill ; and, therefore, that I should be perfectly in order in calling attention to the action of, and to the statement of, the Treasurer that he is going to do something now which he has no legal authority to do.
– No; not until the Bill is passed.
– But the Treasurer has anticipated what is going to be done. However, I have no desire to do other than conform to your ruling, sir, in this and every other matter in relation to the forms of this House ; and, therefore, having put my view before you, I submit to your decision.
– I can conceive of a form in which the motion of the right honorable member might be framed so as not to bring it within my ruling. But the motion which I heard the right honorable gentleman read, and of which I have now obtained a copy from him, is such that I am bound to rule that debate upon it cannot take place at this time. I rule so on. account of a remark which I believe I correctly understood the Treasurer to make, to the effect that his contemplated action depended entirely on the passage by Parliament of the Surplus Revenue Bill. That so links the questions together that I am reluctantly obliged to take the course I have stated.
Debate resumed from 29th May (vide page 1 1 734) on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Joseph Cook 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 - “ the consideration of this Bill . be postponed until the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States can be dealt with as a whole.”
.- As I understand the Bill, the object of the Government is to secure for Commonwealth purposes that unexpended portion of the one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue which at present goes to the States under section 87 of the Constitution. The question is whether .it is constitutional for the Government to do so. Seeing that such authorities as the honorable member for Flinders and the Attorney-General have declared that the . course proposed is constitutional, I am not . prepared to say outright that it is not. But . I think it is open to very grave doubt, and there will be no settlement of the question until it goes to the High Court. The Government in this Bill aim at bringing the balance that usually goes to the States under what is meant by “ expenditure “ in section 89 of the Constitution. It is doubtful whether they can rightly do so. Section 81 of the Constitution requires all moneys raised to be put to a Consolidated Revenue Fund - to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution.
The word “ liabilities “ seems to require the payment to the States monthly of the money that they have been in the habit of receiving. If that is so, how is the Treasurer going to estimate month by month how much he is to place to his surplus revenue fund, because section 83 of the Constitution, says that “ no money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth, except under appropriation made by law”? Is. there to be a special, appropriation of this money month by month ? If there is, that will be a very cumbrous and awkward procedure, and it will be extremely hard foc the Treasurer to estimate what amount he should ask Parliament to appropriate. Seeing that the Government have to pay this money back to the States monthly, “the word “ liabilities “ insertion 8 1 seems to create a special appropriation - an appropriation which is fixed and permanent, and not one that requires to be annually dealt with under the Estimates, as the bulk of our appropriation is. Therefore, the Government must show that the mere fact of- taking this money, and putting it into a fund, is equivalent’ to expenditure for Commonwealth purposes. If they cannot do that, they fail in their object. The Constitution should, it seems to me, be broadly construed in this way : That the money should be taken, and appropriated yearly, and such money as is not spent during the course of the year should lapse, and go to the States. That certainly was the intention of the framers of the Constitution. The debates that took place. at the various meetings of the Convention prior to the inauguration- of Federation show that the framers of the Constitution had in view nothing that is contemplated by this particular Bill, which, in effect, says that if the Treasurer of the day likes to appropriate so much money to the Surplus Revenue Fund, that appropriation is to be expenditure. That appears to be rather straining the meaning of the word “ expenditure,” because the money is not spent; and may not be spent for years.
Such a proposal is altogether contrary to the intention of the Convention. It is altogether different from the appropriation sanctioned by the Audit Act. Under that Act trust funds can be established, but themoney is taken for special and usually specific purposes, and not just taken generally, and kept until some particular business arises for which the Treasurer may use it. I therefore submit that it is open to the greatest doubt whether the Treasurer has power to make an appropria-tion in this way, to hold the money as long as he chooses, and to re-appropriate it if necessary at some future date for no purpose that’ was definitely stated when the money was actually taken and put into the fund. Such a proceeding is altogether contrary to the purpose of the trust funds created under the Audit Act’. If the Treasurer could do. this, it would be open to him to take any large sum’ he liked, and simply to say that he wanted it to be placed in the trust fund to be formed under this Bill. He could thus cut down the allowance that goes to the States every time, even’ though when he took the money he had in view no particular object upon which he proposed to spend it’. That seems to be altogether contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and should be opposed. Another question is the use of the word “ annually “ in section 87 of the Constitution. That’ section requires that - of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise, not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
I take it that the word “ annually “ means that the Commonwealth shall not have power to expend more than one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue in any one year. The Commonwealth may spend it day by day, or by monthly appropriations, or in any way it likes, but in any year the Commonwealth will not have power to expend more than its one-fourth of the net revenue of that year.
– I have applied my legal mind to the question, and have arrived at” a different conclusion.
– I am sorry for the honorable member. As showing what was in the minds of the framers of the Con,stitution, let- me. quote from page 827 of the Annotated Constitution, by Quick and Garran, the following passage -
The net customs and excise revenue raised in the six federating colonies’ for the year 1899 was ^7,402,333. It may be taken for granted - without any guarantee- -7that the federal tariff will be framed .to bring in not less than this amount. Of this the Commonwealth would be able under this section to spend, for federal purposes, one-fourth, or £1,850,000; an amount which exceeds the most lavish estimates of what will be required.
That passage shows that it was not anticipated that the Commonwealth would spend the whole of the one-fourth unless it was reasonably needed for Federal expenditure during the currency of the particular year. What was strongly in the minds of the framers of the Constitution was that the Commonwealth should raise enough revenue to meet the wants and necessities of the States, and not to raise more than was necessary for that, and to carry on the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member mean that there was a distinct injunction to this Parliament that it must raise its revenue by Customs and Excise duties ?
– No. I am only arguing now as to what was the intention of the framers of the Constitution, and trying to draw the conclusion that it does not give the power which the Government is claiming under this Bill - that is, to place in a trust fund the unexpended balance of the one-fourth, to be used at an indefinite period, though no special, purpose is assigned at the time of appropriation. There is another feature - to my mind an objectionable feature - which is not apparent on the face of the Bill. I draw the conclusion that its operation is intended to be retrospective from the peculiar proceedings.-which have been taking place during the last few days with respect to the return to the States of the unexpended revenue for the month of May. It seems to me that the Government intended to take that money, and apply it as money owing to them for balances which have been returned during the last ten months to the States. That is, I think, altogether out of reason, and a monstrous proceeding. It is not to be wondered at that the feeling in the States on this subject is particularly acute. From anything which the Treasurer said when he introduced the Bill, could any one think that it would operate retrospectively? Whether the Constitution confers the power or not is not the only point to be considered here. The Bill will have a most important effect, especially indirectly, as I hope to show presently.
Whether it is constitutional or not the objections to its enactment on other grounds are so many and so weighty that I feel that it should be opposed with all’ our might. One objection is that a Bill like this, which is introduced at a time when the States and the Commonwealth ought to be acting harmoniously, with a view to settling the very important question of their finances, such as the taking over of the State debts, is likely to create undue friction, to instil into the minds of the State Governments a feeling of great distrust and want of confidence in the Federal Parliament, and, altogether, to do more harm than it can possibly do good. The Bill deals with such a limited sum that it cannot achieve any useful purpose, much less achieve any of its real objects. In my opinion, it has been introduced at a most inopportune time, and on that ground alone, I think that it would be a wise course to reject it. That is only one objection to it. Another point that I wish to take is revealed, when one glances at the history of the measure. It was on the 31st March last that it was introduced by the Treasurer. It is remarkable that in ever so many places in his .speech, he said that the money was required for Commonwealth purposes, such as new works in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, harbor defence, and all that sort of thing. He did not, in any way, hint that it was wanted to pay old-age pensions. On the 20th May, when he spoke on the Additional Estimates, he stated that unless the Bill were .passed, he did not know how he was going to pay old-age pensions. On the date I mentioned, he said -
It is only by retaining the surplus of ^427,064 that we can carry into effect an oldage, pensions policy at the present time.
How is it “that, in his speech on the 31st March last, he never expressed, any intention of applying this particular money to the payment of old-age pensions, and that about six weeks later, he discovered that it was the only way in which to pay them? I think that the solution of that is to be found in the fact that a few days after the Bill was introduced, and the debate on its second reading adjourned, the Labour Party held a caucus, at which they passed a resolution declaring this to be the fund out of which old-age pensions should be paid.
– Is that the only reason why the honorable’ member is opposing them ?
– Certainly not ; I am not opposing old-age pensions.
– Where does the honorable member suggest that we are’ to get the money from?
– I am not dealing with the question of old-age pensions at the present moment. I shall.be quite prepared to answer questions in relation to it when we are dealing with it. If the Treasurer has been correctly reported by the press, he thinks it feasible to pay old-age pensions under the Bill.
– So it is ; but we must keep back money in order to do it.
– I shall show that it is impossible. This change of front on the part of the honorable gentleman is not creditable to him, nor is it creditable to the Labour Party .to hold out to the people the promise of old-age pensions from this source. The people are being told that oldage pensions will be paid out of a fund in which there is no money to meet them. In the first place, we know that a sum of £1,500,000 per annum will be necessary to provide a Commonwealth system of oldage pensions, and that it is estimated that at least £2,000,000 will be necessary to put the Post and Telegraph Department into proper working order. This Bill is not likely to operate after 1910, and even if, until then, £500,000 per annum be paid under it into a trust fund, we shall not have sufficient to provide for the increased expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department, to say nothing of the cost of old-age pensions or naval defence. The Labour Party must be aware of this. Why should they be so eager to pass this Bill ? Is it that they require to have something special to put before the Labour Conference, which is to meet shortly at Brisbane? If it is, I am sure that the members of that Conference will quickly recognise the hollowness of their claims. It seems to me that if an Old-age Pensions Bill be passed, and there is no money in this surplus fund to pay the pensions, Parliament will have to provide the money, and, in this way, this Bill would have the result of assisting the Labour Party towards the goal of direct taxation.
– Will the honorable member help us to provide for old-age pensions by direct taxation?
– Certainly not. I am opposed to direct taxation.
– Is the honorable member in favour of old-age pensions ?
– I am, but not under such a scheme as will probably be proposed by honorable members opposite. 1 have a better scheme than they have the pluck to put before the House.
– Where would the honorable member obtain the necessary money?
– Out of the. generalrevenue.
– And yet the honorable member says that the Government cannot finance the scheme in that way.
– The surplus revenue will not be sufficient for that purpose. It is mere hypocrisy to tell the people that they will be paid old-age pensions out of a fund which cannot possibly be sufficient to provide for them. The cry of “ old-age pensions “ has been to the Labour Party as good a cry as “the Tariff” has been to the Government. It is assumed that this Bill is not likely to operate after 1910, when the Commonwealth will have an opportunity to adjust its finances. If the Government desire to adopt a statesmanlike attitude, they will allow this matter to stand over until that year, when the whole of our financial relations with the States- may be re-adjusted. I am sure that the adoption of that course would be favoured by the people generally, and would ultimately prove to have been in their best interests. I think that we ought to agree to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parramatta, and determine that this Bill shall stand aside until the financial dilations of the Commonwealth and the States can be dealt with as a whole. The necessity for it is in no wise apparent, and we ought not to pass legislation merely for. the fun of the thing. I would remind the House that the Commonwealth expenditure is steadily increasing. Last year we expended £4,987,30.1, and it is estimated that the expenditure this year will amount to £6,115,374. Until we are able to deal at the one operation with our financial relations, with the States as a whole, we ought not to appropriate more in any one year than we actually require to expend during that year. It is far better to do that than to make inroads upon moneys that, until at least 1910, should be returned to the States. I hope that the good sense of the House will prevail, and that the amendment will be agreed to.
.- There has been an attempt on the part of some honorable members opposite, following the hint thrown out by the Age, to distort the attitude taken up by honorable members of the Opposition who oppose this Bill, and to make it appear that they are in reality opposing old-age pensions.
– Hear, hear.
– I want to take this early opportunity to repudiate that insinuation. It is an aspersion upon the Opposition of which the leader of the Labour Party appears to approve, although he knows, and has more than once acknowledged, that there are members on this side just as eager as he is for the adoption of a’ Commonwealth scheme. The question qf old-age pensions is not a party one. It is one upon which honorable members belonging’ to all sections of the House are In agreement, and, therefore, any attempt to make political capital out of this ‘ question by misrepresenting the attitude of “honorable members is not going to be allowed to pass without being challenged ; and I take this early opportunity of calling attention to the grossly unfair imputations levelled at members on this side by those who well know there is no shadow of foundation for them.
– How would the honorable member provide for old-age pensions?
– I am not at liberty to discuss that question on this Bill. The Bill itself does not propose anything in the nature of old-age pensions, and if the honorable member supports it in the belief that it does he will be mistaken. There is not a word in the Bill which relates to old-age pensions, and we have only a mere unauthoritative suggestion that any portion of the funds to be appropriated and paid into a trust account under it will be available for old-age pensions or will be appropriated for that purpose. The mere appropriation of revenue for the purpose of paying it into a trust fund will not enable even this Parliament to- pay out that money for any specific purpose without the passing of a special Act defining that purpose. Without attempting to pose as a legal authority, I doubt whether we have the power to make these appropriations unless they are to be devoted to some specified purpose. I do not think that we can say, “ We intend to keep all the surplus revenue, that is, the unexpended revenue, and to pay it into a trust account, to be drawn on later for some purpose not specified.” Some honorable members take the view that it is necessary only to say that the money is to be applied to “ Commonwealth purposes,” to enable it to be placed to a trust account; I think it necessary to specify those purposes, and to appropriate amounts for them, though the expenditure may not take place during the year in which the appropriation is made. Then a Bill of this kind would be useful to prevent the “vote lapsing, as it would otherwise do under the Constitution. If that view be correct, the Bill will be abortive, because it will be necessary to bring down an Oldage Pensions Bill, and to appropriate the money necessary to give effect to it, before we can place to ‘a trust account money intended to be used later on for the payment of old-age pensions. Something of that kind must have been in the mind of the Prime Minister when he gave notice of his intention to ask leave to introduce an Old-age Pensions Bill to-morrow. Weare putting the cart before the horse in proposing to take money before saying what we are going to. use it for. Lay members, as well as members who have had a legal training, must do their best to understand the Constitution, and my reading of it is that Bills for specific appropriations must be passed before any part of the onefourth of the Customs and Excise revenue which it is within the power of the Commonwealth to spend, can be spent, unexpended balances having to be paid month by month to the States. Section 83 of the Constitution Act provides, that “ no money shall be drawn from the Commonwealth except under appropriation made bv law.” So it seems to me that we have no power to pay moneys into a trust account until a legal appropriation of such moneys has been made. Sections 87 and 94 seem to intend that no balance shall remain at the end of any month, moneys unexpended having to be paid to the States in addition to the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled. That has been recognised by the practice hitherto adopted. I admit that in the very near future we shall be face to face with national responsibilities involving large expenditure, and that it is necessary to make suitable provision for these undertakings. “But, since the inception of Federation, this Parliament, and the various Governments which have administered the Commonwealth Depart ments, have been aware that, sooner or later, additional expenditure would be necessary, and no attempt has yet been made to lay aside funds for these national schemes. The Audit Act provides for the creation of trust funds to which may be placed money appropriated for specific purposes. But whether it covers the powers now sought under this Bill or not is a point upon which there is some divergence ‘of opinion in legal minds. If that provision was made to meet exigences of the kind which we are discussing, no- Government has taken advantage of it. No attempt has been made to provide for increased defence expenditure, old-age pensions, the payment of interest on transferred properties, or the meeting of other liabilities by the establishment of a reserve, fund under the Audit Act. What has been done is that, after the administrative needs of the Commonwealth and other authorized ‘ expenditure has been met, the unexpended balance has been paid to the States, whose administrators have come to look upon this as almost a permanent arrangement. This being so, the States Treasurers should be given due notice of any proposed alteration of the procedure. They might have been told that, after the expiration of a certain period, a different financial . arrangement must be determined on, because of the large expenditure which the Commonwealth will be called upon to make in regard to projects of a national character. They ought not to be suddenly deprived of revenue which they have been accustomed to receive. In some of the States the money paid by the Commonwealth has created large surpluses. In New South Wales the surplus last year was so large that the State Treasurer introduced legislation for the remission of taxation. Some of the stamp duties have been remitted, together with a certain proportion of income taxation, and the land tax has been transferred to the control of the municipalities and shires. ‘ The State Governments have thus voluntarily deprived themselves of certain sources of revenue, in view of the surpluses which they have been able to accumulate. Now, however, it is proposed, without any proper notice, to make a change. No doubt the change would have to be made at some time or other, but the Treasury and the Government were aware of that fact years ago; and, so far as I have been able to find out, no hint was given, until quite recently, that the States Treasurers might look forward to an alteration in their financial relations with the Commonwealth. The Treasurer’s action can result only in accentuating the friction which has arisen, mainly because of the actions of the present Government; and methods which, in the beginning, were regarded with a certain amount of amused toleration, assumed more serious aspects, and this last act has brought matters to an acute stage. There is no reason why the Commonwealth should not work amicably with the States ; and; where interests appear likely to conflict, there should be some friendly conference and an amicable understanding arrived at. We have to remember that, sooner or later, provision must be made for defence, old-age pensions, the transferred properties, Federal Capital, lights, beacons,’ and buoys, the Northern Territory, transcontinental railways to the West and to Port Darwin, a High. Commissioner, and Commonwealth offices in London. From a rough estimate, I ‘gather that for these purposes there will be required at least £20,000,000, but, so far, we have been asked to make provision for merely a naval expenditure under adefence policy, which, up to the present, has only been hinted at, and, later, for a scheme of oldage pensions, which it is not proposed to bring into existence for the next fourteen months. According to the VicePresident of the Executive Council, there was paid to the States, in 1906-7, a sum of £7,844,840, while this year’s balance represents an increase of £1, 354, 986. The three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue returnable to the States will be £8,722,762, and the balance in excess of the three-fourths will be £427,067. This afternoon, however, the Treasurer, in reply to the right honorable member for Swan, said that the balance in excess will be £472,000 - so that there is a discrepancy somewhere - and out of this balance, it is proposed, not under this but under other Bills not yet even introduced, to appropriate £250,000 for defence’,’ and’ £222,000 for old-age pensions. How does the Treasurer propose to get the necessary money, in view of his statement this afternoon that, after the payments to the States, the Treasury was on Saturday last left empty? Old-age pensions alone will require 500,000, and £222, 000 is less than a sixth of the amount required, while no account is taken of the interest on transferred properties, which will amount to, at least, £350,000 andprobably more. I cannot see how the Treasurer can raise this money unless he proposes to take the whole of the revenue for June from the States. That revenue is estimated at something like £900,000, while the expenditure is estimated at £1,078,000; so that, clearly, the Treasurer intends to make this Bill retrospective, and deprive the States of the whole of the surplus over and above the three-fourths.
– That is the practical result.
– I regard it as a most outrageous proposal.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true.
– But I am simply stating what the Treasurer apparently intends to do. How else can he get a surplus of£47 2,000 in June?
– I understand the Treasurer to say the contrary.
– If that be so, how is the Treasurer going to get the money ? Admittedly there is no surplus at the present time, because, up to Saturday last, the whole of the revenue had been expended. His estimated revenue for June is only £000,000, and his estimated expenditure £1,078,000, so that on his June estimates he shows a deficit of £178,000, instead of a surplus of £472,000. Butof course his estimated expenditure is fictitious as regards nearly half the amount. It puzzles me to know where the Treasurer proposes to get the surplus, unless it is his intention to deprive the States of the whole of the surplus revenue, to which they are entitled under the Constitution. I am sorry the Treasurer is not present, because I should have liked some information on the point. I had intended asking the question in the earlier part of the day, but, under your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I regarded myself as precluded from doing so.
– Such a question would have been more appropriate then than now.
– I did not ask the question then, simply because I thought I was prevented by your ruling, sir ; and I had no desire to appear to wish to go behind that decision. However, I shall not go into further details, although the honorable member for Wide Baydid so to a considerable extent in relation both to defence and old-age pensions. I did think at the time of raising a point of order, and asking whether the honorable member was entitled to traverse those proposals when addressing himself to such a question as that now before us j but, as no notice was taken by you, sir, 1 thought that probably he was entitled to deal ‘with these matters, and that similar latitude would be extended to other honorable members.
– I would point out to the honorable member that what is allowable is a reference to the provisions of, and probable results that would flow from the enactment of, the Surplus Revenue Bill. The question, of whether that measure, if carried, will permit of the in- .auguration of a scheme of Federal old-age pensions, or of the setting apart of funds for defence purposes, is well within the scope of this debate, and, therefore, I permitted the honorable member for Wide Bay to proceed. But the point to which the honorable member was addressing himself when I interposed did not relate to the Surplus Revenue Bill. It was practically a portion of the financial discussion. The honorable member was proceeding to debate how much the surplus revenue - if any - would amount to, and how it would be divisible. That question has no connexion whatever with the Bill under consideration.
– My reason for referring to these matters was that under this Bill it is proposed to deal with something which does not exist. I referred to the divisibility of the. surplus, because the Treasurer himself had done so as his reason for introducing this measure to retain it, and what was permissible for the Treasurer to do in debate, should be equally permissible for other members who have ‘ equal right with him in this House. I desire to. show that there will be no surplus available at the end of the financial year, unless the Treasurer proposes to make the Bill retrospective, and to take ‘back from the States the moneys which have been paid to them in excess of the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to which they are constitutionally entitled. That would be a most extraordinary course for him to take, and, no doubt, its constitutionality would be contested by the States in the High Court. But, assuming that he will have a surplus of ,£472,000, I contend that he will not be able’ to use it for the purposes which he has indicated. Assuming that the value of the transferred properties is, approximately, £10,000,000, the amount which would be payable to the States by way of interest at 3 J per cent., would be about £350,000, and this sum would have to be paid out of the £472,000 to which I have alluded. I utterly fail to see where the Treasurer will get the money with which to provide for old-age pensions and for naval defence if this obligation is to be met. From the figures I have quoted, it is obvious that, after the Commonwealth has paid interest upon the value of the transferred properties, the balance available will be so small as to be scarcely worth consideration. Indeed, when considered in relation to oldage pensions, it would be ludicrous. It would be interesting to know how the Treasurer proposes to deal with this money. Is he empowered under the trust provisions of the Audit Act to appropriate any moneys without first obtaining parliamentary authority as to the destination of such moneys? I think not. And that is why he wants the present Bill. I can understand that these trust moneys may have to be paid into the Treasury to meet expenditure on account of special appropriation.
– They are specially scheduled as departmental.
– Has the Treasurer power, without the authority of Parliament, to pay any surplus into a trust account? The third paragraph of the memorandum attached to the Bill reads -
The difficulties were comparatively small in the early stages of the Commonwealth, before the establishment of large national undertakings, and the bookkeeping clauses were never intended to last beyond these preliminary stages. They were made absolute for five years after the imposition of uniform duties, but were terminable after that period at the will of Parliament. Those five years have now elapsed, and Parliament has power to put an end to the operation of sections 89 to 93 by legislation under section 94.
Now, section 94 of the Constitution reads-
After five years from- the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
Section 87 says -
During a period of ten years, after the establishment of the Commonwealth -and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
I understand that the Treasurer relies upon the words “ applied annually,” to give him authority under this Bill to take back from the State’s money which has already been paid to them at the end of each month.
– It is merely a matter of adjustment. In June of each year, when we know how ouraccounts stand, the necesary adjustments are made as they are in the preparation of an ordinary balance-sheet.
– Let us suppose that an adjustment of the accounts reveals that the Commonwealth has sustained a loss. Can the Treasurer - out of the three-fourths of the net revenue from Customs and Excise received during the month of June - deduct an amount equal to the excess which he thinks has been paid to the States?
– It is not a matter of thinking.
– If that be so, I do not know how the States will stand.
– If we had not the money with which to pay our accounts, what should we do? Our creditors cannot get blood out of a stone.
– The Constitution “provides that three-fourths of the net revenue from Customs and Excise must be returned to the States.
– We have to provide for that, and that- only.
– Section 87 of the Constitution declares that not more than one-fourth of the net revenue from Customs and Excise shall be applied annually by theCommonwealth towards its ‘expenditure.
– We do not propose to keep more than one-fourth of that revenue.
– The Treasurer proposes to take the whole of that one- fourth.
– No. We. shall leave the States with a balance of£261,000 in excess of the three-fourths to which they are constitutionally entitled.
– I understood that the Treasurer did not propose to return them anything in excess of their three- fourths.
– Not for the month of June. Of course, I cannot do what I desire, unless this Bill becomes law.
– It is very questionable whether it is constitutional, and it is certainlv a very harsh proposal.
– I can only act upon the opinions of legal men.
– But legal men differ upon this question. When members of the legal profession are unable to give an authoritative pronouncement upon the constitutionality of this Bill, honorable members must exercise their own- judgment. If the Treasurer attempts to do what he contemplates doing, he will very probably raise some serious issues between the States and the Commonwealth. He will probably involve the Commonwealth in litigation with the “States, which may lead to all kinds of unforeseen consequences.
– The New South Wales Government did not consider the expenditure to which.it would subject the Commonwealth in connexion with the seizure of wire netting, and its refusal to pay- Customs duty upon steel rails imported for States purposes.
– But I would point out that those actions resulted from an illadvised persistence in creating unnecessary friction between the States and the Commonwealth.
– The friction was created by the States, and the High Court has declared that they were wrong, and that the Commonwealth was right.
– Assuming that the States are wrong upon the present occasion, surely it is wise for us to endeavour to work amicably with them, rather than to accentuate differences ?
– : The Commonwealth ought to knuckle down to them upon every occasion ?
– It is not a question of knuckling down, but one of sensible men meeting sensible men with “a desire to adjust matters of difference between them by friendly arrangement and the exercise of ordinary forbearance. To my. mind, there ‘ is no immediate hurry for the passing of this Bill.
– Does the honorable member wish to postpone the payment of Federal old-age pensions ?
– No. The Treasurer knows that will not be the effect since he has. no intention of paying old-age pensions either this year or next year. But I wouldpoint out to the Treasurer that in- any case there is no money’ available for, that purpose at the present time.
– Then there should beno money returned to the States.
– Even if the Treasurer takes out of the Customs and Excise revenue for June the £472,000, which he proposes to take
– The amount which it is proposed to appropriate in connexion with old-age pensions is £222,000.
– And there is an additional sum of £250,000, which the Government desire to set aside for naval defence purposes, thus making a total of £472,000. If the Treasurer- takes this amount out of the Customs and Excise revenue for the current month, it will be utterly inadequate to provide for the payment of old-age pensions. According to the last Estimates, we shall require for this purpose over £1,500,000.
– The last estimate of the sum available for the time we have between now and when we begin to pay old-age pensions is £1,800,000.
– When is. it proposed to begin to- pay old-age pensions?
– Next July twelve months.
– That only shows how hollow is the pretence that honorable members, in criticising- this Bill, are opposed to the payment of old-age pensions. As a matter of fact,’ there is not a word in this Bill about old-age pensions, and it is not proposed to pay them until next July twelve months.
– But the honorable member knows, in common with every one else, that the power is asked to put this money in trust, and to vote money for the pay ment, of old-age pensions.
– The Treasurer’s original proposal made no mention at all of old-age pensions. It referred only to the amount of £250,000 to be devoted to naval defence purposes, which by the way this Parliament has not’ yet approved, and the scheme concerning which has not yet been submitted’ to Parliament.
– It is ready to be submitted. ‘
– It seems to me that the Government in this matter are putting the cart before the horse. The Treasurer’s proposal is that we should set aside alleged surplus revenue without having first decided what it is to be appropriated for. In order that honorable members might be given a proper opportunity to give a vote on the payment of old-age pensions, the Government should have introduced an Old-age Pensions - Bill-
– It was laid on the table to-day.
– The honorable gentleman is not quite correct. It is true, however, that the Prime Minister gave notice to-day of his intention to moye to-morrow for leave to introduce an Old-age Pensions Bill. We have only a verbal assurancethat provision is to be made for the payment of old-age pensions by this indirect method. While I have a great personal regard for the Treasurer - and, indeed. I might say some personal affection for the honorable gentleman-
– This is very sudden. The honorable member should break such newsmore gently.
– I think that the Treasurer is aware that I have no personal feelings against him.
– Then the honorable member must have disguised his’ feelings up tilt now.
– I do not think that the Treasurer has much reason t’o complain of me on the score of personal animosity, but I must say that I think politically the honorable gentleman sometimes has recourse to “ ways that are dark and tricks that are vain,” that are supposed to be the peculiar attributes of “ the heathen Chinee.” I am afraid that in dealing with this matter the honorable gentleman is giving an exhibition of some of these dark and devious ways.
– The Treasurer is on the right track.
– It seems to- me that the purpose is right, but that the method proposed to give effect to if is wrong. The proper course for the Government to have pursued would have been to bring down in a straightforward way a .Bill authorizing the payment of old-age pensions, and another to cover the requirements in connexion with naval defence. The necessary appropriation might then have been authorized by Parliament, and if. the Treasurer were advised that he had not power to pay certain money into a trust account for these purposes under the trust provisions of the Audit Act - though I think the honorable gentleman has that power under the Act - he might then’ have introduced this Surplus Revenue Bill, in order t’o cover the payment of amounts into trust accounts for the specific purposes for which the money had been appropriated by Parliament, and in order to prevent the automatic lapsing of the unexpended votes. The Treasurer has not adopted that course, but a course which in my opinion is not’ a wise one. There is no mention in this Bill of any purpose to which any of these trust funds are to be applied. The Bill is a general measure dealing with funds which may be paid into trust account without mentioning specifically the purposes for which the various amounts are to be appropriated. Sub-clause 3 of clause 4 provides that - ‘
The Commonwealth shall in each month ascertain the balance of revenue over” expenditure, and shall pay that balance to the State as surplus revenue.
I do not quite understand what is meant by the words “ balance of revenue over expenditure.” Such a balance may not necessarily be a surplus. For instance, we may vote £1,000,000 to cover the estimate of the cost of some specific work. At the end of a month, the proportion of the vote which ordinarily would have been expended, might not have been expended, as the result of some hitch in the proceedings, or from some cause or another. Apparently, under the sub-clause to which I have referred, the amount unexpended will be treated as a balance of revenue over expenditure, when, as a matter of fact, it will not be anything of the kind, but an actual liability unpaid owing to an accidental reduction in the anticipated expenditure for the month. Under paragraph d of sub-clause 4 of clause 4, it is provided . that -
For the purposes of this section - (rj) All payments to Trust Accounts established under the Audit Acts io.or-6 of- moneys appropriated by law for the purposes of the Commonwealth shall be deemed to be expenditure.
It seems to me that that provision is in conflict with the provision in sub-clause 3. of the same clause, regarding a balance of revenue over expenditure as surplus revenue payable to the States. However, these are matters with which we can deal more fully when we get into Committee. Clause 5 of the Bill provides that -
Where any Trust Account has been established under the Audit Act igor-6, and moneys have been appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of the Trust Account, or for any purpose . for which the Trust Account is established, the Treasurer may in any year (subject to section S7 of the Constitution) pay to the credit of the Trust Account out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, such moneys as the Governor-General thinks necessary foi the purposes of the Appropriation.
Whether he can do so constitutionally or not, I do not pretend to- say ; but from this clause it seems to me that the Treasurer is going to seek authority from Parliament to pay into a trust account moneys which have not actually been appropriated. Under such a scheme, it is hard to say where our financial troubles will begin or end. It seems to me that the money should first be voted by Parliament before it can be appropriated to any purpose. After it has been voted and appropriated, even though it should not actually be expended, it would be permissible, under the provisions of the Surplus Revenue Bill, to place it to the credit of a trust account for expenditure at a future time; but only for the specific purpose for which it was originally voted and appropriated. Perhaps what I. have stated as the proper course “to be followed is in keeping with the intention of the Bill, although it is not made clear ; but we can thresh all these matters out more fully in Committee, if the Bill reaches that stage, when we may arrive at some better understanding of the effect of its provisions than it is possible to do from an ordinary perusal of the measure. I think that it would be wise, however, for the Treasurer to postpone the further consideration of this matter, in accordance with the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Parramatta. There is no need to proceed with it hurriedly. After al’ legitimate claims for the month of June have been met, we shall have no surplus with which to deal. I think that we ought to- consider the requirements of the States, and let the States Treasurers have the benefit of three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue as before, and also their proportion of- the unexpended balance after the ordinary Commonwealth requirements” have been provided for out. of the remaining one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue. There is no . need, in my opinion, to load up the anticipated expenditure for the month of June .by including in it the - amounts of £250,000 for naval defence and £222,000 for old-age pensions when that money is not intended to be expended and cannot be expended within - the month. In the circumstances, I think it is a very unfair thing to take advantage of a measure of this kind to saddle the month of June with this extraordinary expenditure. As a matter . of fact, the estimated revenue for the month is only £900,000, and by including the amounts referred to, aggregating £472,000, the Treasurer is enabled to make an increased estimate of expenditure for the month to the amount of £1,078,000. As the £472,000 is not intended to be spent during the month of June, it should not be debited , to that month. The Treasurer knows probably better than any member of the House that that money will not be spent in June, and that as a matter-of fact it will represent an actual surplus of revenue over expenditure by the Commonwealth which in the ordinary course should be handed over to the States. If it is not a surplus made up in the way I have suggested, by taking from the States part of the three-fourths of the ordinary revenue from Customs and Excise for the month of June and retaining certain sums for the Commonwealth for alleged over-payments in connexion with monthly balances - a course of procedure which” the Treasurer now describes as a simple financial adjustment - I cannot see how the Treasurer can get a surplus at all, as- the figures show none for June. I think that the present is an inopportune time for the introduction of this measure. We should wait until the States and the Commonwealth have come to some understanding concerning their financial relations. I understand that some arrangement is in progress to that end, and that something of the kind will be brought about in the near future. I think that, merely to avoid a delay df a couple of months in dealing with this matter, it is not well that we should embarrass the States and cripple their finances without warning, by leaving them in a position wholly unanticipated, either at the .beginning, or even towards the close of the financial year. They will reach the end of their financial year on the 30th June, and in my opinion it is grossly unfair, by means of a Bill of this kind, to bring about a sudden contraction of the revenue which hitherto has been -handed over to them, when in the case of some of them, at all events, the adoption of such a course will leave them in a very embarrassed position. I do not think that that :s the wish of this Parliament, and. in view of the fact that no money is going to be paid, or is provided on account of old-age pensions for the current vear, nor for at least thirteen months after the present date, there can be no plea of urgency in regard to this proposal. Consequently, the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta to defer the consideration of the Bill until some understanding has been arrived at by the States Treasurers in regard to their financial relations with the Commonwealth is one that ought to commend itself to the good sense of the House.
– I quite agree with the general principles of this Bill. It seems to me that it is absolutely necessary for us to take some step to equip the Commonwealth Treasury with more funds than it has at present under, its command for national purposes. But, at. the same’ time, I must confess that I am disposed to indorse some of the remarks of the honorable member for Lang in regard to concentrating the re-adjustment of our finances into the final month of the financial year. I shall proceed to defend the Bill on its general principles, because I think it neither unconsitutional nor unfair to the States. It appears to me that those who framed the Constitution were, if anything, more concerned than we are to safeguard the interests of the several States. They came together as the representatives of the States, and were naturally imbued with ordinary business instincts iri endeavouring to secure for each State the best possible deal. We can only assume that they did secure for the States as against the Commonwealth the best possible consideration. The fact that to-day even lawyers differ as to whether the proposals now made by the Government are constitutional, goes to show that we cannot be far away from the wording of the Constitution, to say nothing of its spirit, in adopting such legislation. In any case, the constitutionality of the measure is a matter for determination by the High Court. This House need not concern itself to any. great extent with that phase of the question, seeing that the High Court is the final arbiter in matters of the kind. As to the fairness of the Bill, I do not think that we have to deal with a question which requires the exercise of that intuitive sense of right and wrong which we all possess. The fairness of the policy of the Bill is obvious on the face of it. We, as a Commonwealth Parliament, are instructed to carry out certain large undertakings. To do that, it is obviously necessary that we should have the means wherewith to give effect to the national will. The Constitution provides that we shall have “one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue to carry out Commonwealth works. There must, however, be a flaw in the wording of the Constitution as it stands, since it lays it down that if we do not spend the one-fourth, we must return the balance to the States. In other words, the Constitution provides that we can have the use of this money so long as we spend it at once. That savours, to my mind, of something in the nature of the plot of Brewster’s Millions. It means : “ You can have this money so long as VOl spend it, but you cannot have it unless you spend the whole amount.” That is quite a paradox. Some provision will, either now ox at a later date, have to be made, which will obviate this compulsory expenditure of the quarter of the Customs and Excise revenue retainable by the Commonwealth.
– The section in question only remains operative until 1910.
– No matter whether the section operates, until 1910 or for a longer period, the fact remains that there are certain important undertakings involving expenditure upon which it would be, apparently, foolish for the Commonwealth to start without having more money at its disposal. To commence such undertakingsrequiring a large sum of money, on such a footing as the Commonwealth- is now on, would be. equivalent to starting to build a house, which was to cost £1,000, when you had only a couple of hundred pounds to spend. We require to be equipped with the necessary capital before we undertake the larger schemes that lie ahead of us. Therefore, a provision to enable the Commonwealth to accumulate funds is imperative ; and, as I understand the position, the only way to do that is to pass a Bill which, if not exactly identical with that before us, will at least be similar to it in its main aspects. There is- a feature of this measure of which I do not quite approve, and with which I will deal directly. “ It seems to me that, in view of the Constitution making it illegal for us to do what it is obviously necessary, for us to do until we comply with section 93 of the Constitution - which lays it down that certain things shall be done “ until the Parliament otherwise provides ‘ ‘ - this Bill is necessary for the purpose of “ otherwise providing.” In other words, it is intended to make possible the accumulation of funds in order that we may be in a .position to spend the. money which will undoubtedly have to be spent if we are to justify our -existence as a Commonwealth Parliament. So far, so good. I deprecate the attitude of many of the States in regard to our undertakings in this direction. It appears to me that the State administrators to whom I refer have not risen to the level of a national sentiment. They are more concerned about their own status and the conservation of their own dignity than they are for the accomplishment of that national policy but for which we should never have had Federation at all, and to which we must look for the justification of Federation.- I should like to point out that we, as well as the representatives of the States, are beholden to just the same public opinion. Therefore, if we fail to interpret that public opinion aright we shall have to pay for it. But by all the canons of logic it seems to me that we were sent here to conduct the affairs of the Commonwealth on certain lines, which have been indicated. I have referred to the larger questions that are awaiting settlement. I may instance an old-age pensions system, the defence system, and the formation of the nucleus of an Australian navy. If we are ever to undertake those large measures of policy, it is clear that we must’ provide ways and means. Some such Bill- as this, therefore, becomes a necessity. But; as I have indicated, I am opposed to certain features of it. Although section 87 of the Constitution provides that not more than one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue shall be applied to Commonwealth purposes .” annually,” it seems to me that the Government should not take advantage of this “ annual “ provision by now passing a Bill which will entitle them to recover - in one payment - all that they returned to the States over their threefourths during the year - under section 93 of the Constitution - because it was not spent at the end of each month. It does not seem fair, under the proposed change, to adjust the whole of the finances for the past year in the one month of June. The Treasurer states that the amount in excess of the three-fourths that has been paid to the States totals £992,000. The proposal of this Bill is to deduct that amount from the sum returnable in the current month.
– Not the whole of it.
– If the Treasurer will state how much he proposes to deduct, and whether he will distribute that reduction over a number of months, it would alter the complexion of affairs. But it is rather unfair to the States at the eleventh hour - or, to be literally correct, in the eleventh month - to say that we have paid them considerably over their three-fourths for the year, and will’ now adjust’ the year’s excess by deducting from the payment for the month of June, all, or the greater portion, of the- excess which has been paid. To do so would be to make a material difference to the States, in view of the fact that they have not had sufficient intimation of the intention of the Commonwealth Government.
– They have had an intimation for a long time; and we must say good-bye to old-age pensions if we cannot do that.
– I do not intend to say good-bye to old-age pensions.
– I am trying to strain a point, as far as I can, to get money enough to pay old-age pensions next year, whilst doing no injury to the States. They will get their full due.
– I am quite with the Trea-. surer on the main principles . of his proposal, although it appears that few of the Treasurers of the States are in agreement with him. When we analyze all that has been stated in regard to this matter, it appears to be rather ambiguous and indefinite as to whether the Bill is to be retrospective or not. Technically speaking, it is not retrospective, and the Government have stood upon that technicality. But, for all practical purposes, it is retrospective, because the States have had the excess revenue paid to them.
– No, it is not retrospective. What we are doing now has been done in previous years. I am sending over to the Treasury now to get particulars as to what was done last June.
– If the Treasurer indicates that each year’s financing has entailed a similar adjustment that is to say, if anything over the three-fourths has been paid during the current year, it was squared up in the twelfth month - the Treasurer should have had his nest egg, and we do not require this Bill. If it has been the custom to recover in the last month of the year from the amounts due to the States the excess over the three-fourths paid to the States during the year - then there is no necessity-
– The honorable member misunderstands me. What is done is this : The money is paid over each month, but in the eleventh month it is found that we have paid a great deal too much, and that we have only a- little or perhaps none to pay over in June. Then there is a re-adjustment for the whole year. That has always taken place.
– Has there been a readjustment every year in June - a kind of refund by the States?
– There has been a re-adjustment every year in June.
Mr.CARR. - If that is so, it materially alters the complexion of the case, but from my point of view it makes the position a little less understandable. I am for the
Bill, I wantto see this nucleus formed, and I realize that without the money we cannot accomplish the work that we have been elected to do; but I wish to see that nucleus established in a legitimate, fair, open, and above-board way - a way that we can all subscribe to without hesitation. So far as I can see, in view of the fact that this has been a flourishing’ year, that funds have been high all round, and that the States, not expecting this termination of their revelling in wealth, have anticipated the income each month, and have spent it, we should consider them a little in regard to setting apart now our full quarter for the year. I- have no objection to the Government’ taking the full quarter for the past year. If they have paid some of it away, and want to recover it, they might temper that recovery somewhat to the States by distributing it over a certain’ number’ of months. I merely make- that as a suggestion. I regret that the Treasurer endeavoured to affect my attitude by indicating the loss of old-age pensions if this Bill were not’ carried. The Government are not so resourceless as that statement would imply. My only objection to the Bill is that it appears to be hitting the States too hard in one particular month. Surely some compromise could be effected to remove that objection, which is only a slight one in any case.
.- In the absence of any other speaker, I desire to move-
That the debate be now adjourned.
– We must go on.
– The Government have made a promise not to take the division on the second reading to-day. That is a solemn compact . entered into between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition.
– Let the honorable member go on with his speech.
– I am not ready to speak.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The question is hot open to discussion.
.- It; was not my intention to speak on this Bill, but I am willing to keep the debate going. The eighth clause of the explanatory memorandum states that -
The Bill makes no radical alteration in the method of crediting revenue and debiting expenditure.
Yet the Treasurer apparently stopped the whole of the amount due to the States for May and this month. That was a drastic course to take, and the reason given by the Treasurer was that he anticipated that the Bill would be passed. Even if the Bill is passed the question still remains whether it is constitutional. The Treasurer was a little previous in his action in stopping the money due to the States. Section 105 of the Constitution clearly dennes the purpose to which surplus revenue is to be applied. It does noi: say that it is revenue received from doubtful sources. I was wondering whether this Parliament had not already passed a Bill to deal with people who acknowledge that they have received secret rebates. Yet we find the Commonwealth Government acknowledging in this merorandum that they have been receiving rebates from steamship companies. If any private individual had made such an admission half the legal talent of Australia would have been put oh to hunt him. Tn any case, all surplus revenue up to this date has belonged to the States, and so any rebates that the ‘ Commonwealth received must have belonged to the States. Yet the Government say that one of the objects of this Bill is to annex those rebates. The rebates iti this case must have been secret, because the Government acknowledge that they do not know to whom they’ belong. They have been returning some of them to the States on a population basis, but the very fact of receiving them appears to me to be wrong, especially for a Government who make laws forbidding other people to receive them. Section 105 of the Constitution clearly enacts that if the surplus re- venue is not returned to the States it shall be applied to only one object - to pay interest on the States’ debt’s. How can we take this money by Act of Parliament? The Constitution appear? to ha.ve been specially framed to protect the States from such Bills as this. The honorable member for North Sydney was quite right on Friday in asking - “ If it is constitutional to use the money, why is the Bill required?” Section 87 of the Constitution clearly ‘states that during ten years not more than . onefourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth. The Constitution provides that any unexpended balance is to be paid to the States every month. We have to square up every month, just as if we employed a man at £1,000 a year and en- gaged to pay him his” salary monthly. For ten years the arrangement of paying the unexpended balance to the States must continue. Section 105 provides that the surplus revenue may be applied in respect of the debts taken over - and thereafter the interest payable in respect of the debts shall be deducted and retained from the. portions of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth payable to the several States.
– The whole of it can be taken.
– Under that section the Commonwealth can take the whole of it to pay interest on the States’ debts, but it is not provided that the Commonwealth can apply it to any other purposes. It says that it can be taken to pay the interest due on the debts of the States; but, as provided in section 51, everything we do is done “ subject to the Constitution.” That phrase seems to be the key-note of the Constitution. And no Act will legalize anything which is contrary to the Constitution. Paragraph 7 of the covering memorandum says -
This Bill does not, of course, affect the operation of- section 87.
What a strange statement !
– It could not affect the section.
– But see what the Government are doing.
– They are trying to drive a coach-and-four through it.
– The other day the Treasurer sent a telegram to Federal officers, telling them to stop the payment of all moneys due to the States. After he had stopped the payment of the money, he went back on his tracks, and paid it. That is not a. proper position for him to be in. A man should be sure of his ground before he says to another man, “I will not pay you.” That course was taken by the Treasurer in anticipation of this little Bill, which we were assured meant nothing, lt is worded so cunningly as to probably suggest nothing until an act, .such as the Treasurer performed on Friday last, gives one an inkling as to what it does mean. It is generally acknowledged, I think, that the Commonwealth is under an obligation to return to the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue. At the end of paragraph 4 of this covering, memorandum, we find these words -
Under section 94, the special appropriation by the Constitution ceases, and in its place there is a requirement that the Federal Parliament should appropriate to the States all surplus revenue, i.e.,
I ask the attention of honorable members to the concluding words - all revenue which it does not require for Commonwealth purposes.
Section 94 of the Constitution provides that the money must be returned to the States, but under this Bill the Government propose to annex it. We have heard from the honorable member for Wide Bay that the reason why it is essential to pass the Bill is to provide for the establishment of a system of old-age pensions.’ I claim that this is not the proper way to achieve that object. My idea, as I told the House last year, is that a contribution should be collected weekly from every employer, and that it should be paid in part by the employer, and in part by the employe”. In that way we would raise a large fund from a source from which, at present, we get no money.
– That is the German system.
– It is neither the Danish nor the German system. The former is, I think, a very fine system. In Denmark, it is recognised that a man who has probably spent most of his life in gaol, should be specially treated when he attains the age which will entitle him to receive an old-age pension. A burglar, . for instance, is not treated so well as is a man who had led an honest life. A man who has lived a proper life, is provided with a little cottage, or home, and receives good treatment, while a man who has not led a straight life is provided for, though not in so comfortable a manner as the other. In my opinion, it is quite a simple matter to deal with this question of old-age pensions. In Australia we have from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 persons who are earning wages. If we were to collect from the former number the small amount of 3d. per week, and supplement it with a like payment from all employers, about £2,000,000 per annum would be collected. The weekly contribution would be so small that it could not hurt any one. There are many men who think nothing of slinging away a shilling or. eighteen-pence or two shillings or more on drink. If that money were properly applied to a fund such as I have suggested there would be more money available for old-age pensions than would be required, and much good would be done to humanity. In Western Australia there is a Workmen’s Compen sation Act, and its operation has shown to a considerable extent how we could institute a system of oldage pensions without passing this Bill. What I suggest is that an old-age pensions fund should be established and the money collected in the same manner as money is now collected in Western Australia for the workmen’s compensation fund, and not by means of this Bill. I fail to see why a fund should not be created here as in Germany, Denmark, and other countries, and why all persons should not contribute thereto. One great merit it possesses is that the recipients - many of whom, perhaps, would have known better circumstances during parts of their lives - would receive the pension, not as a charity but as a right. They would realize as they contributed to the fund that by-and-by they would not receive the pension as a charity. On reference to paragraph xxiii. of section 51 it will be seen that we cannot deal legislatively with old-age pensions without also dealing with invalid pensions. The phrase in which the legislative power is couched is “ Invalid and old-age pensions.” Any person who is incapacitated from work, no matter at what age, is just as much entitled to be looked after by the State as is any person who works until he attains the age of 60 or 70 years. I claim that the very use of the word “ invalid “ in the legislative power means that whenever we provide for old-age we must also provide for invalids. That has never been mentioned here to my knowledge.
– It does not compel us to do so.
– If the honorable gentleman is going to read the provision in that way he will probably contend that under paragraph xv. of section 51- “ Weights and measures ‘”’ - we can deal with weights without dealing with measures.
– We could.
– Yes ; but it would be very ridiculous. Paragraph xxm. of the section means that we are to deal in one measure with invalid and old-age pensions. It would be a cruel thing to say that any person who was incapacitated from work at 50 years of age should not receive from the Government the assistance which, if he could struggle on for ten or twenty years, he would be entitled to get. Why should not a man or a women who has been incapacitated from work at an age -earlier than that which would be fixed for the receipt of a pension be entitled to receive a benefit from this fund equally with any, person who had retained his capacity to a later age? The contributions to this fund could be collected very easily through the . medium of the Postal Department. All wages sheets, whether they covered one employe’ or twenty, should be stamped with a stamp. The value of the stamp could be determined by regulation, and, of course, it could be obtained at any post office. If the wages sheets were not stamped, then let the punishment fit the crime; let the punishment be such that persons would be only too glad to stamp the sheets. In a very short time the stamping of the sheets would become as easy a matter as the stamping of a letter. The money would be collected in a way which would not injure any person, and in a very brief period people would become quite accustomed to making the contribution. Practically it would be selfcol leering through the agency of the Postal Department, and the sale of a few extra stamps at a post office would make no difference to its working expenses. Take a place such as Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia, where big industries are run and the bone’ and sinew of Australia are employed. At Kalgoorlie - there are employed at the’ mines thousands of men, and the time for such men to provide for their old age is when they are in their prime. I believe that the mining companies whose shares .are largely held in England and other places would be only too pleased to contribute to the fund if the men also contributed. In that way a fund would be created while men could spare a very few pence per week for the purpose. No one knows what . is the actual sum to be appropriated under this Bill. It seems to me to be wholly, unnecessary. The honorable member for Wide Bay has informed us, as I have said, that it is designed chiefly to provide for old-age pensions ; but I do not think that a pension fund should be provided in such a way. The system I have outlined is preferable. I advocate it more especially for the reason that, even when a workman receives compensation for injuries, the State is not relieved of the burden of supporting him should he be permanently invalided or incapacitated. We are given power to pass laws relating to “ invalid and old-age- pensions.” The word “invalid” is used in the Constitution, and we must not forget that as soon as a man who has been permanently invalided has expended the amount received by him bv way of compensation, he becomes a charge upon the State.
– Why not have a Commonwealth insurance fund?
– That is what I am advocating - the establishment of what should be known as an Australian Provident Fund rather than an old-age pension fund. We should all be proud to contribute to such a , fund.
– What’s in a name ?
– If the honorable member were twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, and were drawing a pension because he was unable to work, he would not like to be known as an old-age pensioner.
– He would be a pensioner without the old-age.
– That is why I think the fund should be known as the Australian Provident Fund.
– Why should a 1 stigma attach to the drawing of an old-age pension ?
Mr. HEDGES. If we had an. Australian Provident Fund no stigma would attach to the receiving of an allowance from itv Many men who, perhaps, have worked hard, but have been unfortunate, are entitled to old-age pensions, and they would have no hesitation in drawing an allowance from a fund towards which they had contributed. The adoption of the system I have advocated would insure contributions to the fund by every man in work. A man could not be expected to contribute to it while unemployed, because he might’ have no means ; but if he ‘were in work he and his employer would necessarily do so. If the fund so raised were not sufficient to meet the demands upon it, the balance would have to be made good out of the general revenue. I fail to see why every one who is earning a living should not contribute to such a fund. I doubt whether this Bill is constitutional, and certainly fail to understand why the Government are not content to exercise some’ of the. constitutional powers which they undoubtedly possess. For instance, we are empowered bv the Constitution to take over the control of lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys.
– The honorable member advocates our taking, over every service that will increase our expenditure and relieve the States.
– I certainly advocate the transfer of the control of lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys to the Commonwealth. Then, again, we ought to be paying interest on the transferred properties.’ Section 85 of the Constitution provides that -
The Commonwealth shall compensate the State for the value of any property passing to the Commonwealth under this section. . . .
Why should we not assume our obligations in that regard? We ought to be paying interest on the cost of post-offices, telegraph lines, Customs-houses, and many other works and buildings taken over from the States, and constructed by them, in many cases, out of loan moneys. Even if we paid to the States interest on the cost of transferred -buildings constructed Out of loan moneys, we should not do all that is required. When I first went to Western Australia, the right honorable member for Swan was at the head of the Government, and he expended on certain works hundreds of thousands of pounds out of revenue.
– He also borrowed a great deal.
– Only for the construction of reproductive works. In those days, Western Australia had a very large revenue, and she should be receiving from the Commonwealth to-day interest upon transferred properties constructed, not only out of loan moneys, but with revenue.- ‘ If the Commonwealth had assumed control of lighthouses, lightships, and beacons and buoys, as well as other services which we are undoubtedly empowered to take over, and were also paying interest on the transferred properties, we should have no surplus revenue. Some of the States are expending large sums on lighthouses, and if the Government ‘had asked us to provide for the taking over of such services, I am sure we should not have refused to grant the neces-sary supplies. The money to be dealt with under this Bill could well be expended on improving the lighting of our coast which, for thousands of miles, is practically unlighted. The northern part of the Australian coast is very poorly surveyed, and a great deal needs to be done in that direction. We are told that under this. Bill, an appropriation is to be made for coastal and harbor defences.; and if submarines are to be employed in the defence of Australia, elaborate coastal surveys will be necessary. .Such vessels, if intended for use in Hobson’s Bay and other ports, ought to be fitted, like traction engines, with broad wheels, so that they might run along the sea-bed. They would be safer there than when only a few feet under water, for . I doubt very much whether our harbors are surveyed below. the depth required to provide a clear way for ordinary trading vessels. Only last year, in one of the channels near Queenscliff, a discovery was made of a wreck, no record of which could be found ; and it seems to me that further coastal surveys will be necessary before submarines can be safely utilized in our defence. That belief is strengthened when I recall to mind the accidents that have occurred to submarines in the more fully explored waters of France and England. The cost of “making such surveys would be more than the cost of the submarines to be constructed.
– Accidents sometimes happen to ships sailing on the surface.
– That is so; but I prefer to be on the surface. The time of Parliament is being occupied in the discussion of this Bill, while many of the powers given to us by the Constitution remain unused.
– Can we do - anything without money ?
– Before expenditure is entered upon, it is necessary, first, to make up one’s mind as to what is wanted, and then to obtain an estimate of what it will cost. But we are asked to appropriate an unknown amount for an unknown purpose. More information should be put before us in connexion with the Bill. At present, it would seem that if the people’s money has to be spent, it can be better spent under States Administration that under that of the Commonwealth. Has there ever been in a State Department such a hopeless muddle ‘ as, according to the Cabinet Committee’s report, and the speech of the Prime Minister, has been brought about by the Postal administration of the Commonwealth? If other Commonwealth Departments are not better managed than the Department of the Postmaster-General has been, we had better improve our administration before entering upon additional responsibilities. Any fool can spend money ; but what is needed is wise expenditure. The introduction of the Surplus Revenue Bill at this stage is inopportune. The relations between the Commonwealth and the States were already strained ; when the members of the recent Premiers’ Conference left Melbourne, they were by no means satisfied.
– Does the honorable member think that anything would satisfy them?
– If the honorable gentleman were a State Premier .he, no doubt, would be never satisfied.
– I believe that the honorable member wishes for the expenditure of our surplus revenue in the new State which is to be formed in the West.
– The Bill has been demanded by the members, not of the Opposition corner, but of the Labour corner. We hold that old-age pensions should be provided for the people; but we contend that the proper means are not being employed.
– Old-age pensions cannot be provided for under the Bill.
– In my opinion, some other scheme must be evolved. The adoption of some such arrangement as I have, on former occasions, suggested, would provide a fund for the payment of old-age pensions without interfering with our present financial arrangements with the States. We should do what we can to conciliate the States. But the introduction of the Bill will make the breach wider, and it will require much more tact than the Treasurer possesses to bring the two parties, together again. The telegrams which have been recently sent to the States Treasurers have done considerable harm.
– They have done good. The States expect to live on us per- petually, although we have to starve our Departments.
– According to official statistics, there are about 1,600,000 workers in Australia, and a contribution of a few pence per head would result in the collection of a large sum of money. The enforcement of such a contribution would provide a fund for the payment of old-age pensions without sapping the self-reliance of the community. I do not believe in taking away from people the sense of responsibility. Every worker should feel that it devolves upon him to make the best provision for the future. Great harm would be done if our people began to think, “ What does it matter what I do, or how I spend my money. My old age will be provided_ for by the Government.” We should have’ an invalid and old-age pensions system - to use the words of the Constitution - but it should be on proper lines. In this matter, we might well take example from what Denmark and Germany have done.
– In my opinion, this Bill will irritate the States, and cause endless trouble; and I trust that the Government may be able to devise some better means of providing old-age pensions, which ought to be independent of uncertain sources of revenue.
– Is there a surplus?
– It is an unknown quantity.
– If it is, why object to a Surplus Revenue Bill?
– Because I regard this Bill as a very erratic means of going to work to establish old-age pensions ; we ought to have an independent fund.
– Is the honorable mem. ber in favour of a land tax?
– I am in favour of what I advocated earlier, namely, that all should contribute to an old-age pensions fund. This Bill has really been sprung upon us because of the pressure brought to bear on the Government - and very rightly, perhaps - t.o establish old-age pensions ; and I desire it to be clearly understood that I am not against any scheme “to that end. I may point out that, when the question was introduced by the honorable member for Wide Bay, I was found voting with him, and, further, that, when the Budget- was under discussion, I spoke in favour of such a scheme, and suggested a means by which the necessary money could be procured. Although I believe in old-age pensions, I do not believe in this Surplus Revenue Bill as a means to that end.
.- To some extent I have been in doubt respecting this Bill, on account ‘of the various arguments advanced against its constitutionality. So far as I understand the Constitution, the Commonwealth. Parliament, under section 81, has the ordinary general power of appropriating money, while, under section 87, it is allowed to apply only one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue to its expenditure. A system of bookkeeping was introduced for a period of seven years, and, thereafter, Parliament, under section 94 of the Constitution, is at liberty to arrange its own method for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue. There seems .to be a doubt as to the meaning of section 87, and the whole question seems to hang on the interpretation of the words “ applied towards “ - whether they mean the appropriation of the money, or the actual using of the money.
– “Applied” may mean only partially used.
– That is the question - whether the word “ applied “ shall be accepted in the narrow sense of “ used ‘ ‘ or “ spent,” or have the broader meaning of “ appropriated.” I have been looking up the dictionary, as I notice some great constitutional lawyers are in the habit of doing on such points ; and I fail to see that there is any great’ difference between “ applied “ and “appropriated.” In the present exigencies of the Commonwealth Parliament I prefer to accept the broader interpretation, and I feel satisfied .that the Bill, under the circumstances, is constitutional. We all, of course, unanimously approve of the principle of old-age pensions, and, in my opinion, we should aim, not only at giving as full a measure of old-age pensions as we possibly can, but at divorcing such pensions altogether from charity. If. we constitutionally have the right to apply onefourth of the Customs and Excise revenue towards the expenditure of the Commonwealth, then it is the duty of the Commonwealth to make use of its power in the case of it requiring money for ordinary expenditure. While we afl feel desirous to conserve the interests of the States, we must not forget that we, as the Commonwealth Parliament, have large and important duties to perform ; and one of the duties is to inaugurate a system of old-age pensions. There are other important duties, which the Commonwealth must undertake iri the immediate future ; and we must not forget that the functions of the Commonwealth Parliament are expanding and becoming more important every day.
– So the Constitution intended.
– Certainly ; and on the other hand, the functions of the States can scarcely be regarded as expanding to a greater extent than are those of the Commonwealth. In the multiplicity of the financial schemes put forward, it is somewhat difficult, except for Ministers, to arrive at any accuracy; but, after all, the figures, as indicating the position of the Commonwealth, are merely approximations, and we are able to give only a very tentative idea of what the actual revenue and expenditure are likely to be. Assuming that the Commonwealth Customs revenue remains at about £12,000,000 - although it is possible there may be a shrinkage - I see no reason why, with an increasing population,” such as we may expect from a series of good seasons, and with the inauguration of large public works, such as will be involved in the taking over of the Northern Territory, and the locking of the great rivers, we should not look’ forward with great hopefulness. We may also open . up large avenues of employment, by building a navy, in addition to which our ironworks have to be developed. There are various other undertakings upon which we shall have to embark, and which will provide a large measure of employment. I hope, too, that an arrangement will be arrived at between this Parliament and the various States which will permit of a large number of settlers being brought’ from the Old Country, and placed upon the land. If these hopes are realized - and we possess a magnificent country, an abundance of good land, plenty of water, and a climate unsurpassed in the world - we ought to have in the near future an increasing population and an expanding revenue which will provide us with the means necessary to carry out important public works of urgency. Assuming that our revenue remains at about £12,000,000 per annum, and that a sum of £6,500,000 - 01”. £500>000 in excess of the amount provided under the Treasurer’s scheme - is returned to the States, and that we expend £1,500,000 under an old-age pensions scheme, ‘ we shall then have expended £8,000,000, which will leave us with a balance of £4,000,000 to be spent upon ordinary public works.
– And upon defence.
– I shall deal with that aspect of the question later. I merely wish to point out. that assuming we have £4,000,000 left after paying old-age pensions, and returning to the States a fixed sum of £6,500,000 annually, we shall, after deducting our present expenditure based upon the Estimates for the current year, have a balance of £1,703,000. As against that, we have to face a prospective expenditure of about £250,000 per annum upon the Northern Territory, of £50,000 upon immigration, of £450,000 by way of interest and sinking fund in connexion with transferred properties ; of £500,000 upon additional defence, and of £30,000 upon the High Commissioner,’ or a total additional annual expenditure of £1,280,000.
– Then there are the Commonwealth offices in London.
– And the Federal Capital.’
– That would leave us with about £500,000 with which to meet contingencies. It will thus be seen that if we took over the whole of the indebtedness of the States, viz., £240,000,000 odd, we should have a deficiency of something like £2,000,000 per annum, which represents the balance over the £6,000,006, which it would be necessary for the States t’o contribute annually during the first few years after the transfer. I do not see how we can possibly carry on unless we devise some new method of paying for new buildings and of covering extra defence expenditure. At the present time we are spending over £1,000,000 annually in works and buildings, and I fail to see how we can continue to provide that amount out’ of revenue. We shall have to find some other means of providing it. Most nations have had to construct their defence works and build their navies out of borrowed money. I do not say that we should aim at a complete system of borrowing for defence purposes, but I certainly think that a large portion of the expenditure in that connexion will have to be raised by that means. We cannot starve the necessary developmental works of this country simply because we wish to erect buildings and construct public works out of revenue.
– We ought not to borrow except for reproductive public works.
– There is no reason why Australia, which produces more per head than does any other country in the world, should shirk the obligation of main- taining a defence force which will protect our own shores, and also contribute to the strength of the Imperial Navy, Of course, we are as yet a young nation. We have experienced no wars calculated ‘to inspire an intense patriotism, such as America experienced. Under the strength and benignant protection of Great Britain we have had a very easy time. We possess a magnificent heritage in the shape of a huge and fertile territory, which enjoys a splendid climate. This heritage has been bestowed upon us bv Great Britain, which has also protected us. As yet we have really done nothing to show that we, as descendants of the grand old British stock, are prepared to share in the tremendous cost of defence, which is now such a heavy burden on th British taxpayer. The time must neces sarily come when we ought to bear the cost of defending ourselves, and portion of the cost of defending the Empire. The sooner we recognise that responsibility, the sooner we shall prove ourselves worthy of the stock from which we came. Under the circumstances, I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill.
– I intend to support this Bill, and I think there is some need for a change in the practice which has hitherto obtained under the Constitution. Section 87 provides that the Commonwealth shall return to the States three-fourths of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise, and shall retain one-fourth for the purposes of its own expenditure. Sub-section 3 of section 89 enacts that the Commonwealth shall return to each State, month by month, the balance, if any, in favour of that State, and sub-section 2 of section 93 declares -
Subject to the last sub-section the Commonwealth shall credit revenue, debit expenditure* and pay balances to the several States as prescribed for the period preceding the imposition of uniform duties of Customs.
These sections lay down -the procedure which has been adopted up to the present time. In my opinion, section 94 empowers this Parliament to vary that procedure when it seems fit to do so. It reads -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs the Parliament may decide on such basis as it deems fair for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
That provision empowers the Government to move in the direction that is now proposed, provided that it recognises that there is sufficient reason for- so doing. I, think that this House would be unwise if it continued for a much longer period the practice which has hitherto obtained under the Constitution. The question of how the surplus is to be distributed does not arise in connexion with this Bill. That canbe considered when Bills appropriating it are before honorable members. It may be used to meet innumerable charges. For instance, very few will deny that there is urgent need for a more effective defencesystem than that which at present obtains in respect of both inland and naval defence. More particularly is there need lor the proper equipment of our Military Forces. We occupy a very unfortunate position, in that whilst we may have men trained to the highest degree of perfection, if we were suddenly faced with any serious trouble, our equipment is so limited that we should be able to make but a very feeble and ineffective resistance. Australian defence cannot be said to be ‘on a proper footing until we can obtain this equipment within our own borders. We want* to establish a small-arms and a cordite factory. At the present time we have to depend upon the Motherland, for our equipment and ammunition, and in times of stress and danger that source of supply might be cut off. If so, we should occupy a very unenviable position indeed. There are other matters involving expenditure which call for attention at the hands of the . Commonwealth Parliament, and for which funds must be provided at an early date. One is the establishment of a Commonwealth system, of old-age pensions. However honorable members may differ politically, they appear to be fairly agreed that a Commonwealth system of’ old-age pensions is desirable, and that its establishment is a matter which this Parliament should take in hand. If there are any differences of opinion in this House on the matter, they relate to the means to be adopted for. providing the necessary funds.
– Does the honorable member not think that we should make provision for the fund before we attempt to give effect to the policy?
– I take it that ©ne of the objects of this Bill is to enable the Government to make the necessary provision to give effect to the policy.
– It will provide for only £220,000, which is not one-fifth of the total amount required for old-age pensions
– The amount referred to is worth considering in connexion with the proposals which we have in hand. One of the weaknesses of the existing system is that, should the Federal Government undertake to carry out’ the establishment of a small-arms factory or any’ work involving the expenditure of a” considerable sum of money, any unexpended balance of the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue for a particular month under the control of the Commonwealth authorities must be handed back to the States. As a result, no provision can be made from month to month to cover more than the actual amount expended in the carrying out of the Commonwealth work. I take it that this Surplus Revenue Bill is intended, nol to take from the States any portion of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Constitution, but to conserve for the use of the Commonwealth the full one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, which is allotted to it under the Constitution. I do not think that any injustice to the States is proposed by the provisions of this Bill, provided that the States authorities are informed, within reasonable time,’ that they can no longer rely upon the return of any amount .in excess of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Constitution.
– Does the honorable member approve. of the peremptory telegrams sent by the Treasurer on this question ? ‘
– I think that the Treasurer was quite right in giving timely warning to the States Treasurers of what was about to be done.
– Two days before it was done ?
– Did the telegrams differ in any way from telegrams sent previously?
– I understand that the telegrams referred to did not represent the first intimation given by the Treasurer to the States.
– Similar telegrams have been sent every year.
– I understand that the intentions of the Government in this particular matter were made known to the States authorities some considerable time ago.
– Does the honorable member believe that the Government have any constitutional power to withhold from the States the payment of balances of revenue at the end of the month?
– I think that, under section 94, the Commonwealth Government have the power proposed, but I am not a constitutional lawyer, and do not propose to debate the constitutional aspect of the question. What is more, honorable members in this House are not in a position to determine what is meant by the provisions of the Constitution. This House has not been appointed an interpreter of the Constitution.
– Does the honorable member think that we should rush into any kind of legislation, regardless altogether of the Constitution?
– I do not. Honorable members should exercise commonsense, and1 it’ would be most unwise for them to take any legislative step which they believed would trench upon the rights of the States under the Constitution. It is the duty of the High Court, and not of this House, to interpret the Constitution. If any person, or the authorities of any State, consider themselves aggrieved by the action of the Commonwealth Parliament in this matter, the High’ Court can be appealed to. We have, on the High Court Bench, the best legal and constitutional talent to be found in the Commonwealth ; and the Justices of the High Court are removed from the arena of party politics. They are charged with the duty of interpreting the Constitution in the interests of Commonwealth and States alike. But, if we had to hold our hands in the passing of legislation, because of some doubt as to our constitutional rights, where should we have been with respect to big questions which have recently been decided on appeal to the tribunal I have referred to? Recently, in my own State, in connexion with deductions made on allowances accruing to public servants of the Commonwealth, the State authorities objected to the allowances proposed, and an appeal was made to the High Court to discover the constitutional rights of the parties on the question involved. There was another appeal in connexion with the seizure by the New South Wales Premier of certain wire netting.
– The honorable member is referring to action taken outside Parliament, whilst I speak of legislation within Parliament.
– This Parliament took certain action empowering the Commonwealth Treasurer to levy duties on wire netting imported by the States Governments. The State Government of New South Wales considered that they had a claim against the Commonwealth, on the ground that this Parliament had exceeded its rights in imposing the taxation complained of. Certain members of this House were prepared to support the action taken bv the State Government of New South Wales in the matter, and to make excuses for, and justify the course pursued by the State Premier. If, when that matter was before this House, we had held our hands, because of some doubt as to whether we had the right under the Constitution to impose the taxation referred to, where should we have been to-day ? We must take some risk in connexion with these ‘ matters. Whilst I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that we have no right to run contrary to what is obviously the law, it seems to me that, in the particular matter now under consideration, we are entitled, under section 94 of the Constitution, to deal in the way proposed with surplus Commonwealth revenue. We are at liberty under the .Constitution to propose other means, and a different basis from that laid down in the Constitution, for the disposal qf these monthly surpluses. I believe that the provision in this regard to be found in the Constitution was intended by the framers of the Constitution to be only a temporary provision to meet the extraordinary conditions which it was anticipated would arise at the initiation of Fe-. deration, and during the time Parliament was engaged in ‘ providing the machinery necessary for the imposition of a Tariff. It was intended that during that time surplus Commonwealth revenue should be allocated to the States in accordance with the temporary arrangement provided, by what is known as the bookkeeping system. That system has so far been followed, but we are now in a position, if we think fit, to provide other means of disposing of surplus revenue, and I do not think that the proposal submitted by the Government in this Bill is beyond the power of this Parliament under the Constitution.
– Not of the means of disposing of surpluses, but other means of getting surpluses.
– Section 94 provides that -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties” of Customs, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
If I thought that this Bill went beyond our powers under that section, and trenched in any way upon the rights of the States, I should not be found supporting it. After careful consideration of the matter, I do not think that this measure is beyond the power of this Parliament to pass, and I see great reason why some change should be made which will conserve to the Commonwealth the whole of the one-fourth of Customs and Excise taxation to which it is entitled under the Constitution.
– We should have made the change twelve months ago, when we had . some money.
– The honorable member for Dalley considers that the change should have been made earlier. I do not altogether agree with him in that. There may have been, and no doubt there were, reasons why it should be made earlier. But I remind the honorable member that when this House met after the general election it had a mandate to pass fiscal legislation. Until the other day we were working upon that matter.
– We had this very Surplus Revenue Bill before us three months ago, and then it was’ dropped.
– We had not an opportunity of dealing with it. We could not deal with two measures at once. The whole attention of .the House has been centered upon the Tariff. As soon as that has been disposed of, we have taken up this question of dealing with the surplus revenue.
– We are putting in the plug after the water has run out of the bath.
– The honorable member may regard the matter in that light, but I remind him that if the Commonwealth has lost money by being slow in dealing with the subject, that loss has been the gain of the States ; and the Staterighters at least have no cause of complaint on that score.
– The States Treasurers may not have cause for complaint, but it is different with the people of the States.
– The States Treasurers have done very well out of Commonwealth legislation. The Treasurer of my own State has benefited enormously. The States Treasurers have not been called on to undertake the odium of imposing taxation whilst they have had the benefit of the money raised.
– In New South Wales the Government has actually taken off local taxation.
– I am reminded that New South Wales gets a very large share of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise, . and has been able to remit a considerable amount of local taxation. But the trouble is that whilst Customs and Excise duties bear heavily, upon the working people, the taxation remitted by the New South Wales Government has conferred benefits upon the more well-to-do portion of the community.
– - For instance, the State Government has remitted stamp duties’ and income tax.
– And other concessions have also been made, which have afforded no compensation to the working people who have had to contribute through Customs and Excise towards the increased revenue that “the State Government of New. South Wales has received. I have before me a table compiled in the very excellent publication issued by the honorable member for Darwin, showing the amount of revenue derived from the different States from the three-fourths Customs and Excise taxation returned to them. I am not now dealing with the principles laid down in this memorandum by the honorable member for Darwin, but am simply using his statistics, because they happen to be handy ; though I . may remark that they are indentical with the statistics supplied by the Treasurer in connexion with his financial statements from time to time, and are therefore .officially correct. In one of these tables the honorable member for Darwin shows the surplus revenue paid to the several States since the inauguration of Federation. A sum of £48,919,706 has been paid over by the Commonwealth, of which sum £17,307,905 was paid to New South Wales, or an average of £2,662,754 per annum. That sum represents the total amount returned to the State. I find that for the same period, the total three-fourths collected in all the States amounted to £43,191,357, or an average 0^6,664,824 per annum. The taxpayers of my own State paid, as their share of the three-fourths Customs and Excise revenue, a sum of £14,945,732, or an average for the whole period of £2,299,345/ Under the old system that obtained in New South Wales prior to Federation, that State approximated nearer to the policy of free-trade than did perhaps any other self-governing State in the Empire, and certainly more nearly than did any other State in Australia. The total annual revenue of New South Wales from Customs and Excise did not amount to more than ,£1,500,000 during . the period prior to Federation ‘ in which the free-trade policy obtained. These figures shows that during the Federation period New South Wales has -practically doubled her taxation under this heading. She has received during that period between £8,000,000 and £10,000,000 over and above what she would have received from these sources had she not entered into Federation. I will undertake to say. judging from’ my knowledge - and I was seven years in the politics of my State before I came to the Federal Parliament - that no State Treasurer would have dared to impose upon the people of New South Wales taxation equivalent to that which has. been imposed upon that State by the Commonwealth authorities. The State authorities have not only been relieved from the odium - and it is a very considerable odium - of the imposition, of taxation in a State which is largely dominated by free-trade sentiments, but the State Treasurer has had the benefit and pleasure of . spending the large revenue placed in his hands by the Commonwealth. According to some” criticisms in the State Parliament that revenue has been far from wisely spent.
– Does that touch the case that we are discussing?
– I think it does. I am trying to show that some of the States which are crying out most loudly about the action of the Commonwealth Treasurer in deducting from them a small sum of money under this proposal, have not so much ground for complaint.
– They are basing their case upon the Constitution.
– There is a constitutional authority to which they can appeal. We are subject to that authority as well as they. We are not able to give a final interpretation of the constitutional powers which we possess. We simply endeavour to exercise our authority under the Constitution. If we out-step our bounds that constitutional authority will just as readily tell us so as it will tell the States Governments when they are in the wrong. I do not suppose that the right honorable member for Swan would, in a matter of doubt, say that this House- must not legislate because some one stated on the floor of the House that he questioned our constitutional right so to legislate.
– Could the honorable member think of a. worse body to decide whether proposed legislation was constitutional or not than this House?’
– This House has no power to decide such a question. The final authority rests elsewhere. ‘ My point is that the States have not only received their three-fourths as provided for under the Braddon section, but most of them have received in addition to that their share of the unexpended balance of the remaining one-fourth.
– To which they are legally entitled.
– Under the old conditions they were entitled to it.
– What is the use of talking about what they were entitled to get?
– The section which I have quoted shows that the unexpended balance was to be refunded to them month by month.
– Is there not a set-off on account of the transferred properties for which we have not paid the States?
– there may be a set-off in that direction, and no doubt if action is taken by the States it will have the effect of hastening the settlement of that question. I am quite sure the* Commonwealth does not desire to ignore its obligations with respect to the transferred properties.
– It ignores them in this very Bill.
– It will be to the best interests of all concerned to arrive at an understanding with regard to those transferred properties, and to know what we have to provide to meet the obligations which have accrued.
– Should we not settle one “debt before we enter upon another?
– I understand that the reason why the matter has not been settled does not lie so much at the door of the Commonwealth authorities as with the States. Therefore, the Stateshave no legitimate ground for objecting with respect to the non-determination of our obligations regarding .those debts. But the great, point is that the States have received all that they were entitled to get under the Braddon section, plus a considerable portion of the one-fourth that the Commonwealth was entitled to’ use for Commonwealth purposes under the same section. I find from another table in the paper published by the honorable member for Darwin, that during the period of Commonwealth authority a refund of £5>728,349 has been made to the States, representing a portion of the one-fourth revenue derived from ‘Customs and Excise which the Commonwealth was entitled to hold; and that the average payments amount to £881,284 per annum. So that the States have received from the three-fourths a sum of ,£43,191,357, and have also received a good share of the onefourth. Turning to my own State, I find that during that period New South Wales has received £2,362,163 over and above the three-fourths to which she was entitled. In other words, she Has been receiving on an average £363,409 per annum more than she was entitled to receive under the terms of the Constitution. Some States have not been so favorably situated in the distribution of the. surplus as have others, and none so f favorably as New South Wales. In at least two of the years during this period the payment to Queensland has fallen below her threefourths, but for the total period she has received £61,59.9 of the one-fourth that rightly belonged to the Commonwealth, while Tasmania’s receipts from this source have been £58,795. The payment of surplus revenue to none of the other States approaches the large sum received by New South Wales, but I notice that the very strongest objection to the use by the Commonwealth Government of any of this money comes not from the States that have received the least benefits, but principally from those that have received the most, and most of all from the ‘ particular State that has gained the greatest advantage under this section pf the Constitution. Ever since the Commonwealth was inaugurated, the effort of the Federal Government appears to have been to meet the States as handsomely as possible with respect to these payments, and, instead of asserting their rights, the Federal authorities have given way when pressed on many point’s. The result has been that instead of the States being placated, and viewing this matter in a more reasonable light, some of them have apparently come to regard the. Commonwealth as a taxing machine which exists purely for their benefit. They consider that, the Commonwealth should not arm itself with any administrative powers, and that its expenditure should be as limited as possible, while the amount of income derived by it from taxation and returned to the States should be the maximum. Consequently, the Commonwealth Governments have been placed in a most unfair position. Their members have had to bear the odium of imposing taxation, and have been subjected ±0 severe criticism at the hands of States Treasurers and States Governments generally, while at the same .time those Treasurers and other States authorities have been pressing the Federal authority to provide for and return to them the maximum amount of revenue that they could raise. This has introduced a most vicious principle into the relationship of the Commonwealth to the States, and the sooner a better understanding is arrived at the better it will be for all concerned. I was one of those who took part in the campaign in my own State in connexion with the acceptance of the Constitution. In the Bill originally submitted,, provision was made- that the Braddon section, which secured to the States three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue, should be a , permanent feature of the Constitution, or endure until such time as it could be altered by an amendment of the Constitution, which is not easy to accomplish. I, with others, regarded that as laying down an unsound principle in the relationship of the States and the Commonwealth. I placed that view before the electors, arid asked for the rejection of the first Bill. As a result of that campaign, the Constitution was re-cast, and the Braddon section, which was described in New South Wales as the “ Braddon blot “ now operates only for a period of ten years from the inauguration of the Commonwealth, after which it is open to the Commonwealth. Parliament to decide how the revenue shall be disposed of. Of course, we have not reached that stage yet. The Braddon section still remains- a principle of the Constitution, and it . is not proposed in this Bill to touch in any way the three-fourths returnable to the States. The Bill deals exclusively with the one-fourth that the Constitution allocates to the Commonwealth Treasurer for Commonwealth purposes.
– Did not. the Treasurer indicate this afternoon that he was going to trench ‘on the three-fourths -during the month df June?
– That was only with regard to the adjustment for the financial year.
– I did not hear that statement made, but we cannot deal with that phase of the question until the Braddon section expires. When it does, I hope that the members of this; Parliament at that time will be wise enough to devise some scheme that will place the Commonwealth and States or* a better footing, so that the States will not be in the position into which they have drifted, anr! which they seem to regard as their legitimate right, of making the Commonwealth a mere taxing machine for the;r own particular benefit, and to suit their own particular purposes, enabling them to remit direct taxation, and escape the penalties that must come to every Treasurer and every Parliament that imposes taxation. At the same time, if there were any Federal surplus, I should not tolerate anything in the nature of extravagance. It is the one taxpayer that has to find the money, and he, as a rule, has not too ‘deep a pocket. Taxation often means encroaching very seriously on his margin of living. It . is the duty of this Parliament, as well as of the States Parliaments, to see that taxation for revenue purposes is not too heavy, and that the money drawn from the taxpayer is expended in the best interests of Australia as a whole.
– That is no reason why we should be punished for being economical.
– No. There is a wise economy, and an unwise economy. The latter is the kind that dries up the functions of government by unreasonable savings, such as the present Treasurer was disposed to make in the case of postal expenditure within the last twelve months. However, as a celebrated writer would say, “ That is. another story,” and the telling of it will keep for another occasion. It is the same taxpayer that will suffer by unreasonable expenditure, or benefit by reasonable expenditure. We have to appeal to that taxpayer for our justification, hot only for imposing taxation, but for spending the money so obtained. What I am pleading for is a reasonable arrangement, whereby the authority that’ has. to impose the taxation shall have the right, as far as possible, to direct its expenditure, and the authority that expends it shall be under the obligation of justifying that expenditure by goingto the taxpayer, and asking for the money to meet it. Whilst that is so, however, I recognise that as things are there must be a considerable surplus over and above what may be determined as the legitimate requirements of the Federal Government’, and that that surplus should be distributed amongst the States on a fair and equitable basis.
– There would not be a surplus at all if we had all our services in full working order.
– That may be so. Whilst our expenditure should be reasonable, and the Commonwealth should have full control of the allotment of its revenues, it should not be tied up by the provisions which at present obtain in the
Braddon section. However, there is the undoubted fact that the States Treasurerswho have benefited the least by Federal taxation - even those who have suffered by it - have not been the severe and unreasoning critics of Federal management that some of the other Treasurers who havebenefited most, notably those of New South Wales, have been. Not only have the latter received largely increase? amounts in their three-fourths share, but they have been paid a considerable sum over and abovewhat they were entitled to under the Braddon section.
– And they have remitted local taxation as a consequence.
– My objection to that is that, whilst the Customs, taxation presses upon every man in the community, and most severely upon the poorest, because everything they eat and wear is taxed by that means, the remission, of taxation by the States has benefited only the wealthiest section of the community, and the poorer sections have received noadequate compensation. As a great proportion of the revenue derived by the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and Excise comes out of the pockets of the poor toilers, they are entitled in return to special consideration in its expenditure. For that reason, I. should like to see as much of the money as possible allocated towards the provision of old-age pensions. There are in the Commonwealth large numbers of men and women who have done the hard pioneering work to make the counr try habitable, and who, like most pioneers, have received most inadequate rewards. A large section of the community have been- . unable, through no fault of their own, to make provision for the- time when they cannot support themselves. How could they be expected to do so under the conditions of a wage . systemwhich regards £2 a week as a handsome remuneration for a labouring man?’ He is expected to provide a home, to pay a high rent, and to dress, feed, and educatehis children. When he has met all thosecalls, he is not left with much to make provision for old age. And after he has done the work of his life, and is overtaken by old age, the only relief that is afforded’ to him in anv of the States is that he is housed in an asylum under conditions which certainly, in verv many respects, are not a credit to our civilization. We want to improve that state of affairs, and I am glad to know that some States, notably Victoria and New South Wales, have moved in that direction. While Victoria made a promise of doing something very substantial and handsome, I regret to say, from the information I have received here, that its oldage pension has been largely degraded to a pauper’s dole, and is not what it ought to be, and what those who advocate a system of this character think that it should be. New South Wales instituted a system of old-age pensions. I am glad to say that I had the privilege of being in its Legislative Assembly at the time when the Bill was introduced, and was one of those who helped to place that humanitarian legislation on the statute-book. I well remember that when practically everybody had become favorable to the principle, a great number of honorable members saw so many difficulties in the way of ils accomplishment - that is in the matter of finance and all that kind of thing- - that at one time the outlook seemed to be almost hopeless ; but at last the measure was enacted. . It is one of those humanitarian pieces of legislation of which my State can well afford to be proud. True it is, that a little time ago, there, was thought to be a need for retrenchment, and one of the first things to be retrenched was the old-age pensions system. A number of men and women were suddenly confronted with a number of technical questions, and if they could not answer them to the letter, their names were removed from the list. In that way, a great number of unfortunate persons who were good citizens lost their pensions. At one time, a Bill was submitted for the. purpose of altering the basis of that legislation, and making it more difficult to get a pension; but, fortunately, it was not passed. I am glad to say that the humanitarian feeling in my State has now found expression in another direction, and that recently a measure has been passed to provide for invalids, who were not provided for under the Old-age Pensions Act. In New South Wales we have a provision for aged people, a provision for invalids, and a kind of insurance provision for miners, who meet with death or injury’ from accidents while prosecuting their avocation. I am pleased to know that with respect to this humanitarian legislation my State takes the lead in the Commonwealth.
– What percentage of people receive pensions?
– The percentage is pretty fair; certainly, it ‘is very much larger than the percentage in Victoria.
– It is more than twice as large.
– They wipe out as many as they can here.
– In New South Wales, the administration of the law is watched so closely that very few, if any, undeserving persons get a benefit thereunder. I know - and it is impossible that it should be otherwise - that there are numbers of persons whose cases are not met by the law, but who are just as deserving as those who derive a benefit therefrom. It requires a residence of twenty-five years in the State. There have come under my notice cases where native-born New South Welshmen, in reduced circumstances, who, ‘ as miners had travelled over the length and breadth of Australia in pursuit of their avocation, were debarred from getting a pension because they could not show a con1tinuous residence of twenty -fi ve years in the State. A similar provision, I understand, also obtains in Victoria. That is one great reason why a Commonwealth measure is absolutely necessary to meet Australian conditions. All .that the applicants will be asked will be whether they have lived the specified time in the Commonwealth. We shall not ask whether they have lived in New South Wales, or Western Australia, or Victoria, or Queensland. We shall cease to know the State boundaries, which at present play an important part in the administration of State legislation. That is one of the great reasons why the whole community- -even in New South Wales and Victoria as well as the other States - aire desirous of seeing a system of Federal oldage pensions established. According to Mr. Knibbs’ excellent compilation, it is estimated that on the basis of the New South Wales pension we shall be required to provide for about 168,000 or 170,000 persons, and that the sum necessary to meet their cases and the cost of administering the fund will range from £1,500,000 to £1,600,000 per annum. I, for one, feel so ‘strongly that the system is a good and ‘ desirable one that I want to see it made a part of the policy of the Commonwealth as speedily as possible, and for that reason I am prepared, to assist the Government in testing whether this Parliament can now appropriate for the purpose a certain sum out of the one-fourth share of the Customs and Excise revenue to which the Commonwealth is entitled under the Constitution. I know that if. it is not constitutional to appropriate the money for that purpose there are other purposes - notably, in providing for efficient defence - in which it could be used, and used in the best interests of the Commonwealth. I wish to impress upon the House- that, inasmuch as Customs and Excise duties fall so very heavily upon the”” toiling masses, they are entitled to receive some benefit, and I know of no way in which a benefit can be better bestowed than by means of an old-age pension. The Government have nothing to thank me for with respect to their legislation. So far as I possibly could I endeavoured to reduce the taxation on a very large number of Tariff items, but it has been levied, and I appeal to the Government to consider the advisableness of allocating .the revenue in the direction which I have indicated. I noticed that, in a recent interview with the Sydney newspapers, the honorable member for East Sydney indicated that the opposition to the present Tariff was not nearly so effective as the opposition to the preceding Tariff. He said that the reason was that, on a previous occasion,, there was a solid, compact body against the imposition of high duties on the general taxpayer; but that, in the present House, at least onehalf of the men who sat on the Opposition side were strong protectionists, and that a portion of the other half were moderate protectionists. The free-trade section which dealt with the Tariff in this session was a very small and ineffective body. The only persons who are responsible for that state of things, however, are the leaders of the Opposition. They decided to stand down from the position which they occupied in a previous Parliament.
– Order ! Does the honorable member think that this has anything to do with the Bill ?
– Yes, sir. I want to- show that, inasmuch as’ the Opposition stood down from the position which they had previously taken up, and, to a certain extent, assisted the Government’ in imposing .duties, and inasmuch as the taxation comes out of the pockets of the working people, the Opposition should be prepared to come forward and ‘assist the Government to pass a humanitarian measure, which will enable them to confer some benefit upon a large section of the commu nity which has to pay this taxation, and which does not derive any benefit from the remission of State direct taxation. On that occasion the right honorable member for East Sydney described the Opposition as a “broken-backed Opposition.” So far as the Tariff is concerned, it was a brokenbacked Opposition, and I think that it will remain so for a long time, unless its tactics are altered. I trust, however; that, whilst it may be truthfully described as a brokenbacked Opposition on the fiscal question-, it is not so on the question of old-age pensions, and that when a reasonable measure is submitted, even though it should come from the Government side, it will receive fair consideration at their hands. .If it only receives the same amount of consideration at their hands as the late Tariff did, I am quite satisfied that it will be enacted in a very short time.
– The honorable member might say “ some members of the Opposition,” not all of them. He has spoken as if the Opposition had acted unanimously in one direction, which they have not done.
– I . do not want to read the extract in’ which the leader of the Opposition sets out the position ; but I may mention the honorable member . for . East Sydney had1 stated that of the thirty-one members of the Opposition fifteen were staunch protectionists, that only twelve could be describee?’ as free-traders, and that he had described the Opposition, on the Tariff, as a “broken-backed Opposition.” I also said that it was solely responsible for that state of things, . because, if he had sopleased, it could have been as solid as it was in the first Parliament. I hope that it is not broken-backed on the question of passing humanitarian’ legislation such as providing pensions for the aged and the invalid.
– It never has shown itself so.
– I do not agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Fremantle that the fund for those purposes should be raised by meansof a weekly contribution from persons. That plan has been tried in other countries,, but it has not proved to be very satisfactory. We have -in our community many who would like’ to avail themselves of a sound system of Government assurance. Having carefully considered the matter, I arrived at the conclusion that the only way in which I could make provision for my wifeand family in the event of my being cut off was by means of assurance ; but I had to take out a policy with a private company. I have no guarantee that we may not have in Australia a repetition of. the crisis which took place in the United States of America two or three years ago, when the insurance companies were shaken to their very foundations. The establishment of a Commonwealth assurance system, with the Government behind it, would enable men who desired to make provision for their families to contribute to a fund for that purpose, with the certain knowledge that their efforts would not be fruitless. In conclusion, I have only to say that I think this Bill is called for. Itwas the intention of the framers of the Constitution that its financial provisions should be merely a stop gap. They were designed in the first place only to cover the- period prior to the imposition of Customs and Excise taxation by the Commonwealth, but it was determined eventually that they should bridge over the period covered by the bookkeeping section. That period has expired, and it is now open to this Parliament to legislate ‘ in a way that will be fair to the finances of the Commonwealth and the States. I do not think that this is an unreasonable proposal, and I shall therefore support it. As for its constitutional aspect, I have to confess that I am not a constitutional authority. It is well known, however, that this House is not the interpreter of the Constitution. Another authority has that obligation cast upon it, and if any State considers that the Commonwealth Parliament has exceeded its constitutional powers, it may obtain the decision of that tribunal. If this Parliament exceeds its rights, it must bow to that authority just as the States or any private individual must do. That being so, so long as any legislation proposed by the Government appears to be reasonably within the constitutional powers of this Parliament, I do- not think that the States can complain of injustice, or that they are being deprived of any right.
– It was not my intention to speak to this motion, but the debate has been somewhat protracted, and I think it necessary to offer a few observations on the Bill, if only to make my position clear to my constituents. I leave the constitutional aspect of this question to those who have had a legal training, feeling sure that the Government satisfied themselves before introducing this measure that it was . within the constitutional powers of the Parliament to pass. That is sufficient for me. I desire the inauguration of a Federal system of old-age pensions, and think that- we have a splendid opportunity to secure it by voting our surplus revenue to a fund for such a purpose. No candidate for parliamentary honours would dare to announce his opposition to an old-age pensions scheme, but we find many who profess to favour it offering objections whenever an opportunity presents itself to secure the consummation of their wishes. The right honorable member for Swan has told us that we’ are prepared to support this Bill - apart altogether from the question of its desirableness^ - on the sole ground that it would lead to the passing of a beneficent measure. There are times when even honorable members who do not ‘belong to the Labour Party favour the passing of beneficent legislation, and we look to them to help us when the opportunity offers to secure the inauguration of a Federal’ system of oldage pensions. It is singular that in connexion with almost every Bill providing for an appropriation we hear, some honorable members complain that we are proposing: to take away money from the States. As a member of the Federal Parliament, I consider that I am just as much a representative of the States as I am of the Commonwealth. I care not what method is adopted to provide for old-age pensions so long as we are not called upon to pay twice for them. One would imagine from the observations of some honorable members that the_ people of the States are not Commonwealth electors.
– There is no objection to the principle; we simply question the method proposed to be employed.
– The honorable member, like many other members of the Opposition, always has an objection to a scheme, proposed by the Government to secure what we all desire.
– A wrong scheme.
– I believe that no scheme brought forward by the present Government, or a Labour Administration, would please the Opposition. The Opposition are always ready to offer objections to Government proposals.
– The objections, so far as this Opposition is concerned, are alwavs. reasonable.
– It is for the House to determine that question. While it is the duty of the Opposition to see that proposed legislation is likely to be beneficial to the people, I doubt whether a carping opposition is essential to good government. I do not think that the practice of raising objections to every Government proposal, merely because it is a Government proposal, is conducive to sound legislation. I hope that we shall have, without delay, a Federal system of old-age pensions.’ New South Wales has a fairly good system, and although it is not what it ought to be, it is certainly better than that in operation in Victoria. My desire as a Victorian is that the system in force here shall give way to a better one. We have to remember that we represent not one State, but the people of the whole Commonwealth. We have been told, and told truly, that a chain- is only as strong as its weakest link, and just as the States have had to unite to secure an adequate system of defence, so we must have a Federal system of old-age pensions if the wants of the people are to be satisfied. But if the people of some of the States are worse off than those of the others, the interests of the whole Commonwealth are affected. Although we inhabit a continent, there is no such thing as provincialism in Australia. In Great Britain one countryman hardly understands the dialect of another living but a short distance away, but from Tasmania to Queensland and right across to Western Australia, there is only one language spoken. This is because our people are so largely migratory. Many of them have lived in more than one State, and there is always a considerable movement of population from State to State. Therefore, the authorities of the States should give the Commonwealth every assistance to the consummation of the grandly benevolent idea embodied in the Constitution of providing old-age pensions for the whole of Australia. It may be that the Governments of Queensland and Tasmania do not see their way to provide pensions for the people of their States. They may say, “ We should like to pay old-age pensions, but we cannot yet find the money.”
– Western Australia has not said that.
– I have not mentioned the State of which the honorable member is, I understand, the uncrowned king. I noticed him in conversation with the Treasurer a few minutes ago, and I hope that he is now convinced that he ought to support the Bill, which he has referred to as unconstitutional.
– It is unconstitutional, and its introduction was a breach of faith.
– The right honorable gentleman is entitled to express his own opinions ; but will he dare to talk of constitutionality to those in his electorate who are going to bed hungry for lack of an oldage pensions system ?
– Many suffer because they go to bed having eaten too- much.
– At any rate, some of us can show something for what we eat. The honorable member for Fremantle desires the establishment of an old-age pensions scheme to which the people will contribute so much per week, as they do in Germany and other countries.
– Constant employment is necessary for the success of such a scheme.
– I understand that in Germany 3d. per week is contributed. But are these contributions necessary to prevent old-age pensions from being considered charitable assistance? Do we ask our Judges to contribute so much a week towards their . pensions, or do we talk of charity being given to them because they receive pensions for which they have not paid? Decidedly not. Their pensions are given for services rendered to the State.
– The honorable member would give pensions to persons who may have rendered no service to the State - persons who may have been in gaol all their lives.
– Fortunately, in the present state of civilization, such persons are proportionately not numerous.
– Public servants, when in receipt of a pension, do not consider that they are receiving a charitable allowance.
– No. Does not the honorable member for Fremantle think that every old man and old woman who has helped to build up the Commonwealth deserves a pension?
– I advocate treating our old people well.
– But, while allowing to the Judges pensions of £1,500 a year, to which they do not contribute, the honorable member would levy contributions on the poor to pay for their pensions.
– Pensions were given to public servants because they were thought to be underpaid.
– The reason for giving pensions to public servants has been that they occupy positions which deprive them of the opportunity of making fortunes or a competence for their retiring years, such as those in business enjoy. But is the great body of the people any better off in that respect than the public servants?
– The honorable member for Fremantle merely suggested that the recipients of pensions should show themselves provident.
– I have been interested in friendly societies for twenty-four or twenty-five years, and know that, notwithstanding that the members of those societies obtain direct and almost immediate benefits for their contributions, they often become unfinancial because they are out of work, or have suffered misfortune, or have to move from one place to another. Similarly, working people will find it impossible to keep up contributions to an old-age pensions fund. Besides, if every one is to be compelled to contribute to such a fund, Parliament might as well appropriate the necessary money, and raise it by taxation. The honorable member for Wimmera, like others, harped on the fact that people should make -provision for a rainy day. But in the early nineties, many persons who thought that they had done so, and were living under happy sheltered conditions, suddenly found their savings swept away, and their independence gone, because inflated values had suddenly collapsed. .What occurred in that financial crisis may occur again. Whatever provision one may have made for his old age, he cannot be sure that it will suffice. It has been suggested that the Commonwealth should provide pensions, not only for- the indigent aged, but also for helpless invalids. In Australia, many callings, such as mining, expose the workers to great hardship, so that men are virtually used up while still young. We shall, however, do a great deal if at the present time we’ can provide a Commonwealth old-age pensions system by means- of this Bill. I ask those who wish for the establishment of such a system not to look for holes in the measure, by the enlarging of which they can ruin it ; not to insist on its unconstitutionality, but to assist us in achieving our ends by constitutional means.
– Would it not be well to make sure of our ground first?
– We cannot do that. All we can do is to pass legislation, and allow its constitutionality to be subsequently tested by States rights people and antifederalists, who may be hard-hearted enough to raise the question.
– We cannot get the opinion of the High Court beforehand.
– No. The intention of the framers of the Constitution was that the Commonwealth should establish an oldage pensions system, and they knew that for that money would be necessary. At present, three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue has to go to the States, leaving one-fourth for Commonwealth purposes. Of course, it- was anticipated that at first the Commonwealth would have surpluses. It was well known .that as time went on many services would have to be taken over by the Commonwealth, and that they could not be administered without money. I have no doubt that the people of Australia - not the petty individuals known as the States Premiers and Cabinets, who evidently desire to oppose everything proposed by the Federal Parliament - will uphold the proposal to provide oldage pensions out of the surplus revenue.
.- Judging from results, the idea of holding sittings on “off days “ does not seem to be a success.
– Then why does the honorable member continue the debate ?
– The day is yet young, and we are supposed to do a ‘ certain amount of work when we are compelled to sit. The Federal Convention inserted section 87 in’ the Constitution with a foresight that does not appear to be shared by the statesmen of to-day. It was probably in the minds of those who suggested and supported that section that, in the future, there might be such a Commonwealth Treasurer in power as we have to-day, and that it was absolutely necessary to have some safeguards. I regard the Bill as both unnecessary and unwise. It is unwise because it can operate only for a period of one year, seeing that in 19 10 section 87 ceases to be of any value, and that we then, so to speak, come into possession of the whole of the revenue from Customs and Excise, pending some arrangement with the States in regard to surpluses’ and unexpended balances. Tt is the sort of measure that I do not think the Prime Minister would have sanctioned in the early days of Federation. At the Convention the intention was, I believe, that all unexpended balances should be returned to the States at the earliest possible moment ; and, therefore, it seems to me the greatest folly on the part of the Government or any party to attempt to bring about old-age pensions by such means as are proposed. Such telegrams as those sent out by the Treasurer can simply have the effect of stirring up strife and widening the breach between the Commonwealth and the States. It may be, however, that members of the Labour Party would prefer to see the breach widened, and, instead of Federation, a unification - that they would prefer to see the powers of the Commonwealth increased, and those of the States decreased.
– This House cannot of itself either increase, or diminish the powers of either Commonwealth or States.
– But, at the same time, I think the desire of members of the Labour Party are in the direction I have indicated, although the idea of the Federal Convention was that Commonwealth and States each had their own work, and that Federation, and not unification, was desired. It is dangerous and unfortunate that this policy should have been adopted suddenly. When the Premiers, after the late Conference, left Melbourne, they had no idea that they would, on the 28th May, be informed by telegram that the surplus was not to be paid over.
Mr.Mathews. - Does the honorable member think there is any chance of placating the States Premiers?
– They do not wish to be placated, but desire warfare.
– I disagree with the honorable members who have interjected.
– The honorable member disagrees with everything that is right.
– I take great pleasure in disagreeing with the Treasurer, because he is always attempting something that is, what I call, out of the strict path of political rectitude.
– That is a nice thing to say !
– What I mean is that the Treasurer is a bit of a plunger. Years ago in New South Wales the honorable gentleman introduced ah old-age pensions scheme.
– And carried it.
-But whom did the honorable gentleman leave to foot the bill? It was only Federation that enabled those who followed the honorable gentleman in office in New South Wales to foot the bill with the large surpluses placed at their disposal.
– New South Wales could have footed the bill without any trouble.
– No doubt, but only by means of increased ‘ taxation within the State. But, as a fact, the means were provided by the indirect taxation of the Commonwealth.
– The taxpayers of New South Wales have footed the bill all the. time.
– That is so; but the odium of imposing the taxation was placed on the Commonwealth Parliament. When the present Treasurer, as’ a New South Wales Minister, introduced old-age pensions, he, with his reckless financing, made no provision for the means whereby to pay them.
– I did.
– If it had not been for the incidence of Federation, the bill would not have been footed, or possibly something might have happened similar to what happened in Victoria. In this State, after the system had been inaugurated by Sir GeorgeTurner, the bill had to be footed by Sir Alexander Peacock, and he footed it so badly that one year there was a deficit of £900,000. Both in New South Wales and Victoria, in consequence of a system of . old-age pensions having been introduced without’ proper supervision, the bill had to be footed by somebody else. I thoroughly agree that it is desirable to establish a Federal old-age pensions system. Under the systems operative in New South Wales and Victoria, a great many deserving persons are left out in the cold. There is -no doubt that it is our duty at the earliest possible moment to give effect’ to a Federal scheme.
– Why does not the honorable member agree with it?
– I agree with it thoroughly, but I do not agree with the Treasurer’s method of footing the bill.
– Does, the honorable member desire a land tax to be enacted ?
– No. I showed that by my vote recently as did this House. At the recent Conference of Premiers in Melbourne, the Premiers stated that when a satisfactory arrangement had been arrived at in regard to the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth, they would be willing to surrender the necessary revenue to enable a Federal old-age pensions system to be inaugurated.
– They said that they were prepared to surrender the money which they were paying in old-age pensions if we would agree to everything else that they proposed.
– They wanted to arrive at a satisfactory financial arrangement between the States and the Commonwealth, and they stated that they would then be prepared to surrender the necessary revenue to enable old-age pensions to be paid by the Commonwealth. They thus made the greatest advance ‘ that has yet been made between the States and the Commonwealth upon this question.
– They made an offer upon an impossible basis.
– The Treasurer, instead of endeavouring to close the breach, is attempting to widen it by taking away from them that which they have been allowed as Of right since the inception of the Federation.
– That has been the mistake.
– It depends entirely upon whether this Bill is constitutional. Section 94 of the Constitution provides-
After five j;ears from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
In a measure, the surplus revenue, which has hitherto been returned to the States, has been regarded by the States as interest upon the value- of the transferred properties. That question has not been taken into consideration by this Parliament.
– Neither has it been allowed by the States Governments.
– The States Governments have had to pay interest upon the borrowed money, out of which a great many of these properties were constructed.
– Exactly, arid we have never attempted to foot that bill. Subsection 3 of section 85 of the Constitution reads -
The Commonwealth shall compensate the State for the value of any property passing to the Commonwealth under this section; if no agree ment can be made as to the mode of compensation, it shall be determined under law to be made by the Parliament. “ The Parliament “ means, the Commonwealth Parliament. But this Parliament has never attempted to settle that question. The method of compensating the States for the value of the transferred properties, the taking over of the States debts, of providing an efficient’ naval and military defence, and of inaugurating a system of old-age pensions-
– The .honorable member does not put old-age pensions last?
– I put it first. But I say that we must provide the means with which to pay those pensions honestly. I do not think that the method proposed to be adopted under this Bill is either honest or fair t’o the States. Up to the present time they have been receiving surplus revenue from” the Commonwealth, and they should continue to do so until the Commonwealth has no surplus to pay over.
– Even wim this Bill, will they not receive as much as they had a right to anticipate at the beginning of the financial year?
– The honorable member’s interjection- is so long that at this hour of the evening I am not able to grasp it. Of our full one-fourth of the net revenue from Customs and Excise there will soon be nothing left over and above our actual expenditure. In 1910 - unless a different arrangement be made in the interim^- this Parliament will acquire full control over the Customs and Excise revenue. ‘ If we then adopt the reckless policy foreshadowed by the Treasurer, it will not be long before there’ will be no surplus revenue to hand over to the States. We shall have mopped up the lot.
– Mr. Bent was very willing to come to a satisfactory arrangement, according to his remarks on Saturday evening.
– He did not say what the honorable member for Corangamite is saying.
– I am here to speak on general principles concerning the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States.
– Is the honorable member in favour of Mr. Bent?
– I am in favour of no man in particular..
– The honorable member is not in favour of the Commonwealth.
– I am as much in favour of the Commonwealth as is the Treasurer. But I wish to see the Commonwealth treat the States fairly. When that is done both the States and the Commonwealth will be stronger, and Australia will prosper.
– Australia is prospering now more than ever she did.
– That is in no way due to the Treasurer.
– Yes, it is due to my Tariff.
– I noticed in “Ananias “ to-day, or, I think, it was in the Argus, and I beg pardon of the Argus for comparing it with “ Ananias,” the statement that Mr. Bent had done this, that, and the other thing, and finally, that certain results were due to Providence, and that Mr. Bent had forgotten Providence. I think that the Treasurer is making a somewhat similar mistake, and that, attributing the prosperity of Australia to his Tariff, he is forgetting Providence, and the good seasons, which fortunately have been experienced in the greater part of the Commonwealth. In answering to-day a question put to him. by the honorable member for Swan, the Treasurer said that he intended to charge against the June balances £250,000 for naval defence, and £2 22”, 000 for the purpose of providing a trust fund for the payment of old-age pensions.
– That is to make a commencement with the fund.
– To show the futility of the provision proposed for old-age pensions, I mav say that in the excellent report presented by the Royal Commission that inquired into the establishment of a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions, it was stated that the amount required annually for the purpose would be £1,506,000. It will be admitted that £222,000 is a very small amount when compared with what we are given to understand will be required to finance a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions. The proposal to set aside £250,000 for naval defence, is one which should not be agreed to by this House until it has been given an opportunity to say whether it will approve of the Government’s scheme of naval defence. We have never so far considered any scheme, and we have, therefore, no right to appropriate the amount referred to, nor has the Trea surer any right to say that’ that amount should be taken from the June surplus revenue.
– The Treasurer proposes to charge this money to June expenditure.
Sir- John Forrest. - To charge, and not spend it?
– Quite so.
– Does the honorable member think that this Bill is constitutional ?
– I can answer only one interjection at a time, and I select that made by the honorable member for Wimmera. I am such a babe in my knowledge of constitutional questions that I propose to leave the settlement of that which may be involved in this Bill to the honorable member for Wimmera, who has made a lifelong study of such questions. I have a great deal more to say on the question of old-age pensions, in which I have been taking a great interest.
– Is the honorable member in favour of or opposed to them?
– I “ have already said that I am in favour of them.
– Is that why the honorable member is opposing this Bill to give effect to them?’
– The honorable member for Kennedy cannot assert that this is a Bill to find the money for old-age pensions. It is a Bill in which the Treasurer is trying to crimp moneys, which ought, in the ordinary course, to be paid over to the States. The honorable member must be well aware that the Treasurer has stated that he intends to keep back £250,000 for naval defence from the June balances. Does the honorable member approve of that? The Treasurer also intends to withhold £222,000 as a trust fund for old-age pensions.
– It is a pity we could not begin to do what is now proposed when we first had surpluses over and above the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue allotted to the Commonwealth.
– If we could have done so at the time referred to, we can do so now.
-Without a Surplus Revenue Bill, the honorable member for Swan as Treasurer reserved £182.000 last 3’ear, which should have been paid over to the States.
– The £472,000 which the Treasurer is now proposing to filch from the States-
– How can the honorable member say that it is beingfilched if the money is properly and constitutionally appropriated ?
– That is a point I am leaving the honorable member for Wimmera to decide. The States Treasurers have been led to expect that they would continue to receive the monthly balances of surplus Commonwealth revenue as they have received them since Federation was established.
– They were warned some time ago that they would not continue to receive them.
– The warning they received was a telegram sent on the 28th of May, to say that they would get no money on the 29th.
– They received a warning long before that.
– That was their warning, and it was altogether too sudden. The Treasurer was applying the guillotine, and it was a very improper thing to do. In my opinion, the proposal to withhold , £472,000 of the June balances is altogether wrong, and no precedent for it can be found in the management of the finances of the States or of the Old Country. As the Treasurer knows quite well, it has always been the custom to pay unexpended balances into the Consolidated Revenue.
– It was not the. course followed last year.
– Who was Treasurer then?
– The right honorable member for Swan.
– It has always been admitted to be a proper system of finance to pay unexpended balances into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– That has always been done.
– The Treasurer states that the right honorable gentleman did not do thatlast year, and that as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, he kept back £182,000 which should have been paid over to the States.
– The right honorable gentleman kept £182,000 in London.
– What I did was to pay debts with it.
– That is what we desire to do with the money we propose to retain.
– No. The Government have no debts to meet.
– If the right honorable member for Swan retained the £182,000 n order to pay debts, he was well within his rights.
– The. amount referred to was anexpended on the 30th of June; that is the point.
– In this case, the Trea surer does not propose to pay debts with the money he intends to retain. We know that not one penny piece of the £250,000 Droposed to be retained for naval expenditure, or of the £222,000 to be reserved for aid-age pensions, will be spent in June. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than if we could afford to expend the whole amount of , £1,500,000 for the payment of old-age pensions from the 1st June. In view of the fact that it is not possible for this money to be spent in June, I believe that this Bill is unwise, and that it will create further friction between the States and the Commonwealth. I am opposed to it as being unwise, unnecessary, and undesirable, and as proposing the commencement of a system of finance which may lead us into very considerable difficulties in the future. I warn the Treasurer and the House that the condition of our finances and the reckless manner in which we are proceeding with regard to them, will sooner or later lead us into very great danger if not into actual trouble.
– Does the honorable member profess to be a States-rights man ?
– I certainly believe in seeing that the rights of the States are protected. I was sent here to look after the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, and have always endeavoured to do so.
– The honorable member believes, then, that fighting for the States is good for the people as a whole ?
– Yes, because we are all one people.
– Where does Federation come in then?
– True Federation is achieved when we have an equitable arrangement between the States and the Federal Government. Although when I first entered this Parliament I was called a quack I have long ago forgiven the honorable member who used that term, and I appeal to the House as to whether I have not always taken a broad view of questions which have been brought before us for consideration. I have fought, not for my own State alone, but for all the States ; and not for a section of the people, but for all the people. I am doing the same now, but I say that it is our bounden duty to deal honestly and -fairly with- the States as well as with the people of Australia, as a whole.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 28th May, vide page 11675) :
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the further consideration of clause 3.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 3- (1.) No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for publishing any document under the authority of the Senate or of the ‘ House of Representatives. (2.) The defendant, in any action or prose- cution commenced in respect of the publication of any document published by ‘the defendant or by his servant under- the authority either of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, may bring before the Court in which the action or prosecution is pending or before any judge thereof, first giving twenty-four hours’ notice of his intentionso to do to the plaintiff or prosecutor, a certificate under the hand of the President or Clerk of the Senate or of the Speaker or Clerk of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, stating that the document in respect whereof the action or prosecution is commenced was published by the defendant or by his servant under the authority of the Senate, or of the House of Representatives, together with an affidavit verifying the tertificate, and the Court or Judge shall thereupon immediately stay the action or prosecution and may order the plaintiff or prosecutor to pay the defendant his costs of defence.
– When this Bill was formerly under consideration in Committee, the honorable member for Corio raised the question- that clause 3 ought to be so amended as to protect a member publishing a document which he had received from the Government Printer. Generally speaking, the Bill protects the Government Printer in respect of the publication of a document which has been laid upon the table of either House of the Legislature; and clause 4 protects those who publish in good faith for the 1 information of the public, copies of, or extracts from, parliamentary papers. The honorable member for Corio considered ; that provision should be made so that a member of Parliament, for instance, who I receives a copy of a report issued by the i Government Printer, under authority of either House, and who is asked by a con- ] stituent for a copy, shall be protected in supplying it. A somewhat similar provision is contained in the English Act. I promised to have clause 3 amended so as to effect the honorable member’s desire. I have circulated amendments which are intended to effect that object. The first . amendment would make subsection 1 of clause 3 read that no action shall lie against a person “ for ‘ ‘ publishing any document published under the authority “ of the Senate or House of Representatives. An amendment to that effect will extend the protection afforded by “the clause to any person who publishes documents which have been previously published under the authority of the Houses of the Legislature. I move -
That after the word “ document,” line 3, the word “ published “ be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the words “by the defendant or by his servant,” lines 7 and 8 and 19 and 20, be left out.
Bill reported with further amendments; reports adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to pass through its remaining stages.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 26th Sep tember, 1907 (vide page 3899), of motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- I have looked through the Bill, and so far as I can see it is simply a machinery measure with little that is objectionable in it, but the Attorney-General might explain its general purpose.
.- The Bill was recommended by a Select Committee of the Senate, who presented the draft in its present form. It has been’ passed by the Senate. The present difficulty is that there is no method prescribed by any Statute of our own for summoning witnesses, enforcing their obedience, or punishing those who have been guilty of disobedience. The Committee that has already reported to this House has recommended the passage of a Bill of this description. The Bill has been several times before the Senate, and was finally recommended by a: Select Committee of that Chamber iri this form.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Any witness who, being apprehended by virtue of a warrant of apprehension issued under this Act, escapes from custody, shall be guilty of an indictable offence. Penalty : Two years’ imprisonment.
.- The penalty is too severe, because it is natural for any one arrested to seize any chance of escape that offers. Twelve months would be ample. I move -
That the words “two% years” be left out, and the words “ one year’s “ inserted in lieu thereof.
. - We have not had time to examine the Bill carefully, but from the little attention I have given to it it appears to be the most drastic piece of legislation that we have ever had before us. I do not know why a person escaping from custody should get two years’ imprisonment. Where is the necessity for such severe’ punishment? It shocks me to think that a person refusing to answer a question may get two years’ imprisonment. I suppose these offenders are to be tried by a jury, and that this Bill is not like that other Bill to be submitted to us in a day or two, under which a Judge without a jury can send a man to gaol for several’ years.
– Yes’; this is an indictable offence.
– There ought to be an alternative punishment of fine.
– The penalty named is the maximum.
.- The maximum penalty might be made six months’ imprisonment. Why should there not be an alternative pf a fine? I admit that it is’ a serious offence to try to escape when arrested on warrant. Some of the penalties provided in the Bill are too severe.
– The maximum penalty is five years under clause 15.
– I’ would not dispute that in the case of a man who gave false evidence on oath.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Whoever assaults, resists. molests, or ob,structs any person in the execution of a warrant of apprehension issued under this Act shall be guilty of an indictable offence. Penalty : Two years’ imprisonment.
Amendment (by Mr. Wilson) proposed -
That the words “ two years “ be left out and the words “ one year’s “ inserted m lieu thereof.
– I must enter my protest against a penalty even of a year’s imprisonment for assault. It might be a nominal assault.
– It is an aggravated assault - resisting a warrant.
– It may be no assault at all.
– I will explain what it means.
– It will all depend upon the character of the assault. It may be an assault doing grievous bodily harm, or it may be a nominal assault, and yet, in the latter case, it is proposed to make a criminal of a man.
– It is not our Bill, but ths Sen city’s.
– But we shall be responsible for its passing, too.
– It was drafted by a Committee, after hearing evidence.
– I should like to hear who were on the Committee.
– The late President of the Senate was one of its members.
– I cannot understand this desire to make criminals of persons. I am surprised at the attitude of my friends in the Labour corner. But for this thin Committee, we should have a lot of protests from them.
– This is a maximum penalty.
– I think that the penalty is too high, unless it is a case of doing grievous bodily harm.
.- The honorable member for Swan seems to think, that in this matter the members of the Labour Party are not doing their duty.
– Yes, I do.
– The honorable member wants to know who sat on the Committee which drew up the Bill.
– It must have been drafted by an autocrat or a despot.
– The honorable member also said that it. would all depend upon the character of the man who was assaulted.
– No ; I said that it would all depend upon the character of the assault.
– I agree that the penalty should be reduced from two years’ to one year’s imprisonment. If any person tries to prevent justice from being meted out or contumaciously refuses to give evidence, or to allow a person to give evidence, a year’s imprisonment is not too much. I am not one of those who believe in very high penalties; but we must make this penalty high enough to meet a case of the most factious or contumacious resistance of the law. I trust that there will be no need for the infliction of any high penalties; but we should take the power to compel what is called cheerful obedience to the law.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 - (1.) If any witness, upon whom a summons under this Act has been served, fails without reasonable excuse, proof whereof shall lie upon him,’ to appear or to continue in attendance in obedience to the summons, he shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty : Two years’ imprisonment. (2.) The fact that a witnessMias been apprehended, and brought before either House or a Committee shall not relieve him from liability under this, section.
.- In view of the reduction of the penalty for the graver offence of assaulting, resisting, molesting, or obstructing any Derson inthe execution of a warrant of apprehension. I think that we cannot very well retain the penaltieswhich are provided in some of the remaining clauses. I more -
That the words “ two years “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ one year’s.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 -
Whoever, by act or omission, dissuades or prevents any witness from obeying a summons under this Act, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty : Two years’ imprisonment.
– I want the Attorney-General to explain the meaning of the word “omission” in this clause. Will it be an omission if a man does not mention a matter? Will any person who by omission dissuades a witness from obeying a summons, commit an offence under this clause?
– That is so.
– It seems to me that it is a foolish provision. If I keep my own counsel, and do not say anything to any person, I do not see why I should get two years’ imprisonment. Does the Attorney -General think that it is, a reasonable provision to enact?
– This is probably one of the most important clauses in the Bill. Persons who have power over others may, or may not, use that power of dissuasion or prevention in some way.
– They may say nothing, for instance?
– It may be a negative act of omission.
– It must be a wilful act of omission.
– What sort of act would it be?
– The clause is worded exactly as it was recommended by the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate.
– Yes; but surely the honorable gentleman knows what it means ?
– Possibly it refers to the omission of an employer to allow an employe’ to appear as a witness.
– What about “ dissuading “ ?
– It refers to the case of a person who by act dissuades, or by omission prevents a person from obeying a summons.
– Would it not be better to say “ prevents him from attending?”
– A man can prevent a person from obeying a summons by act or omission to give him authority to be absent from his service.
– Why not make it plain ?
– It is plain.
– It says, whoever dissuades or prevents.
– That is by act or omission. A man prevents a person from obeying a summons, by act or omission to give him permission.
– It does not say that.
– That is the meaning of the provision.
– Let us have it made plain.
– It is quite clear.
– It is a very necessary clause.
– I consider that the Attorney-General has made “ confusion worse confounded.” I do not think ho has cleared the matter up very much. I draw his attention to clause 16, which reads -
Whoever uses, causes, inflicts, or procures any violence, punishment, damage, loss, or .disadvantage to any person for or on account of his having appeared as a witness before either House or before a Committee, or for or on account of any evidence lawfully given by him before either House or before a Committee, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty : Two years’ imprisonment.
There are two distinct offences. I think that our object would be served by omitting the words “by act or omission,” so that it would read “ Whoever dissuades or prevents any witness,” and so forth. The clause, if amended in that way, would really be wider than it is. I move -
That the words “ by act or omission “ be left out.
– I do not understand this provision. Would the words “ by act dissuades “ apply to a man who advised another not to comply with a summons to attend as a witness ?
– Should that be made a criminal offence?
– Would it not be aiding and abetting an offence? A man who advises another to steal advises him to do something wrong.
– But larceny is a more serious offence. If a man failed to appear in answer to such a charge a warrant could be issued.
– A man might dissuade another so charged from appearing before the Court’.
– I am surprised at the Attorney-General proposing such a provision. I think that the penalty is ridiculously severe, but I presume that the Attorney-General will be prepared to agree to the amendment reducing the penalty from two to one year’s imprisonment ?
– Then I shall vote against the clause.
– I hope that the amendment will be rejected. It seems to me that we are hardly qualified to make a definite pronouncement detract-‘ ing from a proposal formulated by a dulyqualified’ legal practitioner. So far as my logic guides me, it seems to me to be necessary to do something more than provide against any one taking an active part in preventing the Court from arriving at the truth. If we omitted the words proposed to be-left out, we should merely have a provision against some active effort to prevent the attendance of a. witness. The offence then punishable under the clause would be some definite action taken to avert the course of justice. The word “ omission “ is necessary to cover passive resistance.
– What is the meaning of “ omission “ ?
– There might -be omission to give consent, or a man summoned to appear might fail to do so, and give no reason for his absence. That would be an act of omission, just as would be the failure of a- man to- deliver a notice or a message calling upon a certain, individual to appear as a witness. This is clearly a necessary provision, and I hope that it will be agreed to.
.- -I hope that the Attorney-General will not be influenced by amateur draftsmen who. wish to amend this very important clause. There are occasions when an employe’ has an engagement to do important work, and would forfeit something very considerable by attending the Court.’ In such circumstances, he must have the protection of a clause like this, which would compel his employer to give him the necessary permission to appear before the Court. This is a question of draftsmanship rather than of legislation. A man might be so placed that, without the protection of a provision of this kind, he would suffer serious loss. I hope that the clause will be agreed to.
.- I would suggest to the Attorney-General that it would be well to agree to the amendment, and to substitute the words “ Whoever directly or indirectly wilfully dissuades or prevents any witness from obeying a summons, under this Act,” and so forth, shall be liable to a penalty. Under the clause as it. stands a mere act of inadvertence might involve a person in a penalty.
– No. In every prosecution for a criminal . offence mens rea - a guilty mind - must be shown. A mere inadvertence would not be an ofFence.
– If that is the rule, there can be no harm in making it clear in the clause that a mere act of inadvertence will not involve the person concerned in a penalty, although that act of inadvertence may lead to a witness failing to attend before the Court. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral, if he will not agree to leave out these words, will qualify them in such a way as to make the meaning of the clause clear.
– I hope that the amendment will not be pressed, because the words proposed to be omitted are a vital part of the clause.
– Why. not use words which can be understood?
– The clause has been most carefully drafted. Sir ‘Richard Baker, a distinguished constitutionalist and an eminent lawyer, was Chairman of the Committee which presented the Bill. However, as the hour is late, I shall not proceed further now. ‘
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I ask honorable members to lend their assistance in the disposal of the Surplus Revenue Bill to-morrow, as the Senate meets on Wednesday to deal with the measure, its members coming, long distances for- that purpose. Moreover, to bring the session to a close at an early date, the utmost expedition must be observed, and that can be obtained only by individual sacrifice.
– When does the Prime Minister intend that the session shall close ?
– I hope this week; but ifwe cannot finish then, propose to sit on Saturday and Monday next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 June 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080601_reps_3_46/>.