3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he will prepare a statement showing the adjustment of revenue between the Commonwealth and the States in the month of June of each year since the establishment of Federation.
– I think that it would be better for the honorable member to move for a return giving the information for which he asks, but I do not object to furnishing it.
– I think that such a return has already been laid on the table.
– A return showing the adjustment of revenue from June last has been prepared, but I do not know whether a statement supplying all the information for which the honorable member asks hasyet been compiled.
– Yesterday, in reply to a question put by me, the Treasurer said -
If the Surplus Revenue Bill passes there will be no return to the States for June ; but in any case there can be only a small one, because we have to re-adjust the whole question.
I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether it is not a fact that if the Surplus Revenue Bill were not passed this month a further sum of £472,000 would be returned to the States, consisting of £222,000, which it isproposed, under the Bill, to set aside for- old-age pensions, and £250,000 to be set aside underthe same Bill for defence purposes? I should like to know whether the , Treasurer considers that , £472,000 is a small amount?
– I do not know whether the honorable member has quoted the exact words that I used.
– I took them from a proof copy of the Hansard report of my questionand the answer given to it by the honorable gentleman.
– I saw the proof this morning, and found that it was not quite accurate in one or two particulars.
– Is the statement that I have attributed to the honorable member incorrect?
– I did not use the exact words quoted by the honorable member. I spoke of adjusting not “ the whole question,” but the balances. I intend to submit a Bill providing for an appropriation of ,£250,000 for defence purposes. I am not quite certain whether or not that amount would be returned to the States if the Surplus Revenue Bill were not passed, but I do not think that it would. I am inclined to believe that the Bill which I intend to submit will deal with it in such a. way as to prevent its return. The right honorable member has put what was intended, no doubt, to be a catchy question.
– Not at all.
– The sum of £222,000, which it is estimated will be available for old-age pensions under the Surplus Revenue Bill, would certainly be returned to the States if that Bill were not passed. I hope and anticipate, however, that it will be passed, so that we shall have the two amounts available foi the purposes mentioned. When I said yesterday that the amount to be returned in any case would not be large, I had in mind the sum of £222,000 proposed to be devoted to old-age pensions, and not the total of .£472,000. As I have said, the sum of £’250,000 for defence purposes will be dealt with ‘under a separate Bill, which I. hope will in itself be sufficient’ to fix it for defence purposes.
– I should like to know from the Treasurer what is the total sum which has been paid over to the States, in excess of the three-fourths of. the Customs and Excise- revenue, since the establishment of the Commonwealth up to the 30th of last month?
– I should like the honorable member to give notice of his question, because, although I have some idea of the reply, it is necessary to be quite accurate in naming the amount. I shall obtain the information for the honorable member to-morrow. .
– Is it over £6,000,000?
– I think it is, . but I desire to be quite accurate.
– In view of the answers the .Treasurer gave just now to the honorable member for Swan, and others, I desire to know whether he does not consider it advisable, in the event of the Surplus Revenue Bill becoming law, to devote the whole of the £472,000 to old-age pensions, instead of allocating £250,000 for defence - for which we at present have no Bill - and £222,000 to the former purpose? p
– I can only doas the law allows.
– This is good !
– Do not mind the laughter of the Opposition - it is all right !
– Honorable members can laugh as much as they please, so far as I am concerned, because they only laugh vacantly. However, if the £250,000 is voted for the certain purpose of defence, how can it be regarded as a surplus available for old-age pensions?
– Will the Treasurer,’ when making a statement as to the revenue to be returned to the States over and above the three-fourths, indicate approximately, for the sake of accuracy, what amount of that payment would be represented by interest on the transferred properties, if those properties had been valued? I understand that the values are now practically settled; and, therefore, I desire to know what proportion of the socalled surplus would be due to the Statesas interest on transferred properties.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken if . he thinks I know what the amount is, because I do not know anything about the value. I have never had an opportunity of considering the question of values, and the Government have not - dealt with it ; therefore, it is quite impossible, at the present stage, to say what problematical interest - because it is problematical - is due to the States. I say that the surplus is to be dealt with by this Chamber,
– I desire to know from the Treasurer whether the notices recently sent out to the sub-Treasurers is a new departure, or whether similar notices have previously been issued?
– The practice h not a new one. The same thing has been done every Tune when the balances have been adjusted, at any rate during the past three or four years. The balances are paid to the States at the end of each month according to law, until the termination of the financial year, when an adjustment is made upon the basis of the returns for that year. I know that Sir George Turner sent out a similar notice in the form of a telegram, the honorable member for South Sydney, did the same thing when he was Treasurer, and I think that the .right honorable member for Swan also did it.
– Not at the end of the year.
– Yes, at the end of the year. I can speak positively of the action of Sir George Turner and the honorable member for South Sydney in this connexion, and I am pretty certain that the right honorable member for Swan did the same thing. It was a departmental matter, that is to say, it was done by the Department.
– Was any outcry ever raised about the practice before?
– No. I quoted the telegram transmitted by Sir George “ Turner the other evening, and only last June the sum of ^108,000 was’ deducted from the revenue of that month to adjust the balance which had been paid to the States in excess of the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to which they are constitutionally entitled.
– I desire to clear up the haze which seems to hover over the figures submitted by the Treasurer. In introducing the Additional Estimates, the honorable gentleman said -
Xt is estimated that this year the three-fourths returnable to the States this year will amount to £5,77a,y62, and that there will be a balance of £427,064, which must also be paid to them unless the Surplus Revenue Bill is passed, in which case we can appropriate the money to our own purposes.
I desire to ask the Treasurer whether - if the’ Surplus Revenue Bill be passed, and this money is appropriated to our own purposes - the States will not be compelled to pay interest on the transferred properties out of their three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue-?
– The honorable member has asked me a question which it is difficult to answer. Probably the States will have to pay interest upon the transferred properties, but the Commonwealth has offered to take over the whole of their debts, and to pay interest upon them - to shoulder the whole burden. . When they cry. out so much about this little bit of interest, I ask why they do not hand over all their debts to us?
– I am sorry to have to ask the Treasurer a further question with regard to the interest payable on the transferred properties. The honorable gentleman’s last answer to a question put to him on the matter was so unsatisfactory that I must ask him whether he does not recognise a very great difference between the payment of interest on State debts, for which we may take over responsibility at our option, and the payment of interest on the valuation of .transferred properties, which is a debt due to the States, and must be paid from the onefourth of Customs and Excise revenue which belongs to the Commonwealth, and not out of the three-fourths which belongs to the States ? Does the honorable gentleman not’ recognise also that that being so, a fair statement of the surplus handed over to the States is the amount handed over above the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue less the interest that would be payable on the transferred properties? As I understand the matter, the valuation of the transferred properties is in the hands of the Home Affairs Department, and has practically been decided. Cannot’ the honorable gentleman, in the circumstances, give a rough approximation as to the amount of interest which should have been paid in respect of those properties during the years that have passed since their transfer ?
– I think it is hardly fair to expect a Minister to reply offhand to a long question containing so many commas, as that which the honorable gentleman has just asked. I think I should be justified in asking him to give notice of such a question. However, I will say that at the present moment I have no idea of what the valuation of the transferred -properties amounts to. I should also say that during the years past, in which the question of the payment of interest upon them has been referred to, the States have been receiving from the Commonwealth an immense sum of money in excess of the threefourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Constitution. I was asked a question on the subject to-day, and I believe that the amount thus paid to the States in excess is something like ,£”6,000,000, or mors. Surely there should be some consideration given to that aspect of the question.
– A”t the present moment I can give the honorable member no further information, but I shaM see what I can gather on the subject when I get the balances before me.
– Following up the question asked by the honorable member for North Sydney, I wish to ask the Treasurer without notice, whether, apart from the transfer of States debts generally, it is not a fair proposition that the Commonwealth should take over sufficient of the debts of the States to cover the value of the transferred properties used by the Commonwealth ?
– In the first place, I think that it is very dangerous to answer these questions without notice. A Conference has been held at which these matters have been discussed, and in answering a question of the kind impromptu, it is possible that, believing the information I was giving to be correct, I might say something which would not be accurate. In the circumstances I think that the honorable member had better ask me his question quietly, and by notice.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether any intimation has been made to him by any of the States Premiers suggesting a further Conference of the Premiers with representatives of the Commonwealth Government, in order to make a further endeavour to settle these vexed questions at an early date? I have seen a reference to something of the kind in the press, and that is my reason for putting the question.
– The last Conference closed with a general understanding that the consideration of the matters referred to would require to be resumed about the commencement of the next calendar year.
– In 1909?
– Yes. The right honorable gentleman will remember that the Premier of Queensland, whose presence is considered essential, is not expected to return to the Commonwealth much before that date, and, besides, the States Parliaments expect to be in session in the meantime. I might take advantage of this allusion to the Conference to answer finally and exactly a question which the right honorable member for Swan put last Friday? By courtesy of the Secretary to the late Premiers’ Conference, I have obtained a copy of the actual reply I made to the question put to me with reference to the Surplus Revenue Bill by the Premier of Tasmania.
– Did I ask a question about that ?
– Yes. The right honorable member, last night, called attention to the second part of my reply to a previous question he had put. In my reply to the right honorable gentleman, last night, I alluded to this statement.
– My question referred to something which the honorable gentleman had said the evening before.
– Yes. This statement will make that quite clear. I quote from the official report of proceedings just at the close of the Conference. Mr. Evans said -
Before we disband we would like to know whether it is the intention of the Federal Government, if the Surplus Revenue Bill is passed into law, to bring it into operation from the beginning of the present financial year?
– It will come into operation at the earliest date we can arrange.
Mr. Evans. But suppose the measure is passed within the next few weeks, would it deal with this year’s revenue ?
– Yes, it would operate this year.
Mr. Evans. That is a proposal against which we should enter a respectful protest. The Treasurer of Tasmania has made his estimate of revenue and expenditure on the understanding that Tasmania will be treated as hitherto.
– I am perfectly safe insaying that not one of you reckoned on receiving as much revenue as you have received this year.
Mr. Evans. All the States reckoned on a large increase.
Mr. Wade. It would mean that if the Bill becomes law at the end of June next, you would call on the various States to make a restitution.
– No. it would affect whatever has not been handed over. The process of asking for anything backwould be unnecessary, if not unproductive.
Mr. Evans. Then you were in error in replying to my question; for you said it would be retrospective.
– No; I thought you spoke of the financial year as something closed.
That shows the particular statement I made in reply to the question asked.
– The States Premiers went away with another impression.
– Poor things !
– They could not. I said, “ It would affect whatever has not been handed over.” There was no room for any mistake.
– They did not think so.
– The Prime Minister will allow me. These constant comments on both questions and answers by the right honorable member for Swan are most disconcerting. If every honorable member pursued a similar course our business would come to an absolute standstill. I ask the right honorable member for Swan to set a better example to honorable members generally.
– I should like to make a personal explanation. I wish to say that what I intended to state - irregularly it seems - was that the Prime Minister allowed the Premiers of the States to go away with the impression that the Surplus Revenue Bill was not to interfere with the three-fourths that was to be paid to the States between then and the end of the year.
– I do not mean to say for a moment that the Prime Minister intended to convey that impression. I am quite sure that he did not. He would not be capable of doing such a thing. But that impression was conveyed to the Premiers ; and in the same way I and other honorable members went away from the House on Friday afternoon under the same impression. When I came to look closely into the Prime Minister’s words, of course, I saw that they were capable of two meanings.
– They generally are.
– That is the reason why I complained of the ambiguity of the Prime Minister’s remarks. He knows that I would not’ charge him with doing such a thing deliberately ; but still his words were capable of two constructions ; and in both instances constructions were placed upon them that he did not intend.
– I do not see that the words used by me at the Conference of the Premiers are capable of any misconstruction. The only misconstruction possible in regard to the remarks I made in reply to the right’ honorable member for Swan, on Friday afternoon, arose because I spoke, first of certain things done in this House, and then referred to the Premiers’ Conference. The right honorable member for Swan might have understood me when speaking of the Premiers’ Conference to be still referring to statements in this House, though even then the point itself was plain.
– In reference to the” Prime Minister’s answer to the right honorable member for Swan, I desire to ask him whether the following Hansard report of his statement, made yesterday, is correct. I will read the passage to which I refer.
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 three-fourths to which they were entitled under the Constitution ; 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 yet been paid to the States.
Is that correct?
– I can best answer the right honorable member by reading again a passage from the report of the Premiers’ Conference, in which my views on that subject are reported.
Mr. Wade. It would mean that if the Bill becomes law at the end of June next, you would call on the various States to make a restitution.
That is the paying back to the States to which I alluded.
– No. It would affect whatever has not been handed over/ The process of asking for anything back would be unnecessary, if not unproductive.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether at the end of June the money withheld during June will, not be handed over to the States? What I mean is, that at the end of June the financial year will have closed, and the accounts will have been concluded; and, therefore, that the answer of the Prime Minister, to which reference has been made, bears the construction put upon it by the Premiers that there was no-
– The right honorable member is debating the question.
– I merely wish to ask a question, and to show that the statement of the Prime Minister was not understood by the Premiers to mean that there would be no return for this month at all, seeing that the year’s accounts would be closed at the end of June.
– I am sorry that I have to again read a sentence or two from the report of the Premiers’ Conference.
Mr. Evans. But suppose the measure is passed within the next few weeks, would it deal with this year’s revenue?
– Yes. It would operate this year.
– That is not the reply given to Mr. Wade immediately afterwards.
– Following up a question which I asked a little while ago, I desire to ask the Prime Minister - assuming that the Surplus Revenue Bill were passed at once, and that’ ?70,000 were the amount returnable to Western Australia, in June - how much would actually be handed back?
– I do not feel able to make a calculation off hand.
– Roughly, I mean.
– I should like to recall to the attention of the Prime Minister the question which I asked him, and which he hasnot yet answered.
– I think I have.
– May I ask the Prime Minister, again - referring not to any statement at the Premiers’ Conference; but to his remarks in this House yesterday afternoon - whether the remarks reported in the Hansard proof are correct. That is what I ask.
– I said that they were correct.
– The remarks to which I direct attention are -
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 vet been paid to the States.
Is that correct ?
– Yes ; whatever has not been handed over may be retained by us.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he is correctly reported in the press as having expressed great dissatisfaction with the Tariff as passed by the House, and as having stated that he proposes to re-open the Tariff question.
– He should have said so, even if he did not.
– Further, is the honorable gentleman correctly reported as having expressed the determination to go on pressing forward the fiscal question until a truly Protectionist Tariff is passed? Does he propose to take independent action, if his party will not support him, at the next general election, to try to secure popular support for his high Tariff views ?
– I am absolutely dissatisfied with a large number of items as passed, as a consequence of the attitude of certain honorable members who were returned as Protectionists, and I do intend to try to have those items rectified. There is no doubt as to what my intention in that regard is.
– Is the honorable member expressing the view of the Government ?
– I am not going to answer that question; but I certainly know what my own intention is. I am going to bring up to the bull-ring some of those honorable members who secured their return under false pretences.
-I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he shares the dissatisfaction of the Treasurer with the Tariff which has just been passed, and whether he proposes to join the honorable gentleman in raising the Tariff issue at the next general election ?
– In that matter the governing consideration must be the needs and industries of Australia. When these demand an alteration of the Tariff we shall be prepared to undertake it.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the position of the Australian iron industry as revealed by an interview with Mr. Hoskins, published in yesterday’s issue of the Argus, which shows that£90,000 has been expended on a blast furnace at the Lithgow works, that the present output of pig iron is about 800 tons, per week, most of which, for want of a market, is being stacked, and that about 1,500 hands are employed–
– Is the honorable member stating facts or asking a question ?
– I am stating facts. I should not be likely, sir, to base my question on anything save facts.
– I would remind the honorable member that the Standing Orders expressly prohibit, in the putting of a question, any statement of facts which is unnecessary to explain that question.
– I merely wished to explain that it is desirable, in view of the position of the industry, that something should be done to assist it, and to ask the Treasurer whether the Government are prepared to grant that assistance by way of a bounty or a protective duty?
– I think that it was understood that the Manufactures Encouragement Bill was so closely allied with the Tariff that the two, measures would practically be dealt with simultaneously. I have made that statement on more than one occasion; but whether it is possible to deal with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill this session I cannot at present say. I shall certainly make inquiries, and if I can obtain the support of honorable members for a proposal to deal with it this session, I shall do so.
– In view of the statement of the Treasurer, in reply to a question put by the honorable member for Macquarie, that as the Tariff was out of the way he would, if possible, before the close of. the session,bring forward the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, will the Prime Minister see that an opportunity is given for the consideration of that measure before the session terminates?
– If I find that there is a reasonable prospect of passing it in the time at our disposal, I shall be most happy to do so.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the head of the New South Wales Government has slated that there is no necessity for Federal interference in the matter of the Lithgow ironworks, because of the action that has been taken by that State?
– I do not remember the exact terms of the statement of the Premier of New South Wales, but this House will judge for itself what it conceives to be its duty irrespective of any outside opinions.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer, in the absence of the Prime Minister, if he has observed in the press a statement that, in Victoria, there is differential treatment in regard to pilotage rates and exemptions and also in regard to the hour’s of departure from the port. What I desire to know is whether steamers which are registered in Victoria have certain privileges as to rates of pilotage and exemptions, and as to the hours of departure, not granted to vessels registered in other States. Does the Minister recognise that, if there is such differentiation it is an infringement of the equality of trade guaranteed by the Constitution? If Commonwealth legislation which could deal with such matters is not ready to be introduced, will the Treasurer ascertain whether the State Government will suspend the operation of these unequal regulationsin the meantime? Perhaps the Minister of Trade and Customs may know something of the subject, but I wished to address my question to the Prime Minister, as head ofthe Government.
– The Prime Minister is out of the chamber for a few moments, but I may say that I think this is a matter with which the Customs Department deals, to an extent, in conjunction with the State Minister. I had noticed the newspaper announcement referred to; and if the position disclosed is correct, it seems to me very anomalous. This is a question which would very properly come within the cognisance of an Inter-State Commission.
– Cannot the matter be dealt with in a Bill ?
– I believe it can be dealt with, and, without giving any positive answer, I can promise to bring the matter under the notice of the head of the Government.
– Will the Minister endeavour to induce the State Government to suspend these regulations?
– I shall inform the Prime Minister of the question which has been asked, and no doubt he will attend to the matter.
– I desire to ask the. Prime Minister whether he can give the. House any indication as to when the session is likely to close?
– I think that we may confidently expect that it will close early next week, and, if we put our shoulders to the wheel, it may possibly close this week.
– Will the Prime Minister ask the House to meet in the mornings, and to sit a little later than usual, in order to expedite the close of the session?
– I shall be happy to consult the convenience of honorable members, and to take advantage of any of the hours which they can add.
– In view of the. fact that the Naval Defence Bill is likely to provokea good deal of discussion, and that it has not yet been introduced, will the Treasurer consider the advisableness of withholding that measure, so that the money which would be appropriated under it may be transferred to the old-age pensions fund ?
– That is a matter for the Prime Minister to determine. If he does not wish to proceed with the Naval Defence Bill, I am under his direction. But, as far as I am concerned, I intend to proceed with that measure. If, however, it is not passed, the£250,000 which it is proposed to appropriate under it will be devoted to an old-age pensions fund. But that is not the intention of the Government.
Tasmanian Mail Service - Post Offices : Classification - Letter Clearances by Motor.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General what attention he has given to the complaints of residents of Southern Tasmania concerning the way in which the mail service is being conducted at the present time. I may add that under the existing system, letters leaving Melbourne on Saturday are not delivered in Hobart until the following Tuesday morning, and I would direct the Minister’s attention to a very simple remedy which might be applied with the concurrence of the Tasmanian railway authorities, namely, the placing upon the line of a motor car which would run the mails down to Hobart and so secure their delivery on Monday morning. Residents would then be able to reply to their letters the next day ?
– I have given the matter attention, and as my honorable friend knows from his experience as PostmasterGeneral, the conditions obtaining at the present time are not in any way different from those which obtain in other seasons, save that the railway authorities have changed their time-table.
– They have not.
– My authority is the honorable member for Bass.
– They can change their time-table.
– The present contract for the carriage of mails is exactly the same as that which has obtained in other seasons. It provides for a service with fewer boats during the winter months, and unless the contractors agree to a change it is impossible for us to effect it. I am making representations with a view to improving the service, and if I can get the letters delivered as the honorable member desires Ishall certainly do so.
– I should like to know from the Postmaster-General why, in the classification scheme, the Port Pirie office is placed in a higher grade than that of Mount Gambier, seeingthat the business at the latter is much the greater ?
– I shall direct the attention of the Public Service Commissioner to the question, because the classification is entirely in his hands.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the breakdown in the system of collecting mail matter by means of motors in Adelaide; and whether he knows that letters are now being collected by the mail vans ? I also desire to know whether the PostmasterGeneral still maintains that these motor experiments have been a fair success ?
– I am aware of what the honorable member states, and am still of the opinion- that the motor service will be far the better when we have taken steps to train our own men. We shall then have a service which will give satisfaction both to the Department and to the public.
Wounded Soldiers - Cadets - Small Arms Factory - Crimea and Indian Mutiny Veterans - Administration of Department in Western Australia.
– Will the Minister of Defence be good enough to place on the table any correspondence there may be in relation to the treatment by the Commonwealth of wounded soldiers returned from South Africa? I also desire to know whether the honorable member thinks that sufficient consideration, or, indeed any consideration, is being shown to those who have been incapacitated from performing hard manual labour by reason of injuries received when serving their country in the war?
– There has been a large number of demands and requests for consideration from time to time, extending over the last half dozen years ; and any information I have the right honorable member for Swan, and other honorable members, are quite entitled to share. With regard to any special consideration, the question is full of difficulty; but everything is being done that can be done by the Department.
– Has anything been, done?
– We have done all within our power. The right honorable member for Swan was himself Minister of Defence when these men returned; but I shall not go into that phase of the question.
– That is the usual argument that is advanced by Ministers when I ask a question. Why does not the Minister answer as to what he himself has done?
– We shall consider any case that is submitted; and I shall lay the whole matter before the Prime Minister.
– Oh, do something !
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether it is a fact that the cadets in camp at Parramatta, last week, were deprived of both milk and butter, and whether it is a fact that, on Empire Day, they were compelled to salute the flag by firing off Chinese crackers because the usual ammunition was not in stock?
-I am not aware of either of the occurrences referred to. I do know, however, that every grievance in connexion with the cadets appears to be exaggerated. If honorable members remember that there are quite 200,000 boys in Australia of cadet age, they will realize the enormous task involved in inaugurating and extending the system ; and I think that the Government might be aided and assisted rather than criticised. However, I shall make inquiries, as I always do when any reports of the kind appear in the newspapers. I may add that, in, perhaps, eight cases out of ten, I find that these reports are newspaper business, and in the other two cases, matters are put right to the utmost of departmental power at once.
– I wish to ask. the Minister of Defence what steps have been taken towards the establishment of a smallarms factory at Lithgow, other than the purchase of the necessary land? Is the building to be immediately proceeded with, and has the machinery been ordered?
– A day or two ago Parliament approved the action of the Government in the purchase of a site at Lithgow for the establishment of the small-arms factory. All the plans and specifications are now in hand, and a forward step will be made within a week or two.
– Several months ago the Prime Minister, in replying to a question which I put to him, promised to obtain information as to the number of veterans who were connected with the Crimean war and Indian Mutiny, and with other wars, who are inmates of the various benevolent asylums throughout the Commonwealth. I have waited a long time, but the information has not been forthcoming. Does not the Prime Minister think that too long a period has been allowed to elapse without action having been taken in the direction indicated ? I also desire to know why provision has not been made to minister to the comfort of these veterans in their declining years?
– I at once asked my colleague, the Minister of Defence, to look into the matter.
– In accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister, inquiries were at once set in motion.
– And the Government has kept the results to themselves.
– It was felt that there should be uniformity of action, and that not merely those who could be readily found, but all veterans who might be entitled to it, should receive consideration in the way suggested.
– I referred, in my question, to only those in Benevolent Asylums.
– Quite so. The names of those in such asylums were readily ascertained.
– We were not given the information.
– We have had that information for some considerable time.
– And have bottled it up.
– The matter was allowed to rest temporarily for the reason that the Government felt that it was necessary to go a little further than was proposed by the right honorable gentleman. The Department has had a considerable amount of trouble in locating all the veterans.
– And some may be lanquishing in the meantime.
– The Government desired to carry out the promise given to the right honorable member for Swan, but considered that it was better to deal with the matter comprehensively. Only a day or two ago, I endeavoured to deal with it finally, and discovered that I was not yet quite able to supply the Prime Minister with particulars so that he might inform the right honorable member for Swan of the intentions of the Government in regard to the matter.
– I should like to ask the Minister of Defence whether, seeing that he has in his possession the papers that have been asked for in reference to the military veterans, he will place those papers upon the table to-morrow ? If he has them, surely they may be placed upon the table. I wish to know the number of veterans who are in such circumstances that they have been compelled to become inmates of the Benevolent Asylums in Australia.
– I shall be happy to give the right honorable member all the infor- mation he desires without laying the papers on the table of the House.
– I merely want to know the number of the veterans in the Benevolent Asylums of Australia:
– I will endeavour to five the right honorable member the information to-morrow. He will understand that the veterans were in Australia when there were other Ministers of Defence in office, but this Government was the first one which has taken any action with regard to their recognition. The right honorable member might give me time to finish what I have taken in hand. If it had been suggested previously the matter might have been now completed.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he has read in the press of to-day a report with respect to a certain dispute in Western Australia, in which it is stated that the State Commandant, Colonel Le Mesurier, refused to allow a certain officer to place his views of the matter before the Military Board. I want to know whether it is’ not the right of every officer, and particularly of commanding officers, to appeal from the District Commandant to the Military. Board. I wish further to know if the Minister has heard that there is constant friction between Colonel Le Mesurier and the local rifle clubs, and whether, in the circumstances, inquiries will be made into the present administration and command of the Military Forces in Western Australia?
– I haveno knowledge of the matter to which the honorable member has referred beyond that obtained from the reports appearing in the press this morning. The papers in reference to the matter will be forwarded to the Department, and will then be dealt with.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the desirableness of closing the session as early as possible, he will insist upon notice being given of all questions asked by honorable members during the present week?
-I hope that questions will be curtailed as much as possible ; but, on the whole - although there is a certain amount of repetition - they do facilitate an understanding of some of the problems that are before us, and in that respect ought to enable us to curtail debate.
Royal Australian Artillery, Victoria : Increases - Senior Cadets : Clothing and Equipment. - Instructional Staff Commissions : Examination
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. Authority has already been given for the payment of increases provided for in the current year’s Estimates, and instructions have been issued that if payment has not already been made it shall be made without further delay.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.With regard to clothing - the initial cost of clothing is greater than the allowance permitted. Thus an initial personal expenditure does fall upon those joining. It should, however, be remembered that the clothing supplied should be serviceable for a longer period than one year. Arms and accoutrements are furnished by the Government.
asked theMinister of Defence, upon notice -
In the coming examination for the Instructional Staff Commissions, will he consider the advisability, as this is a qualifying and not a competitive examination, of accepting matriculation at an Australian University as a sufficient educational standard?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes. The Department will almost certainly regard the suggestion as satisfactory.
Delivery of Parcels Post Matter by Contractors - Goroke-Minimay Telephone - Sydney-Melbourne Telephone Line.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Acting Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has furnished the following information : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Queensland, for the line to be used as a tele- graph line simultaneously with its use as a telephone circuit. If intermediate stations were connected this would not be possible. The line is of more value as it is now being used than if intermediate telephone stations were connected.
Charges for Bran
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As the New South Wales Local Government Act of1906, under which the municipalities and shires in that State are now working, provides that all lands, with certain exemptions, whether the property of His Majesty or not, shall be ratable -
Will he waive the section in the Constitution which exempts the Commonwealth from payment ofsuch rates?
Will he follow the example of the Imperial Government in England where the Chancellor of the Exchequer annually forwards voluntarily a cheque to each of the respective corporate bodies for an amount equal to the amount of rates that would be payable if the Crown were liable?
– There are many points in connexion with this matter which will require a good deal of consideration before a reply can be given, including an interpretation of section 114 of the Constitution. Any action in one State will probably have to be extended to other States. It raises the question of municipal assessments. The Commonwealth pays for services rendered, such as water supply, sewerage, sanitary arrangements, &c.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Customs Tariff 1908.
This Bill is a technical measure, and does not interfere with the internal working of the Tariff. Its only object is to cover the preference given to Great Britain and to South Africa.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move; -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Excise Tariff 1908.
There is one item in the Excise Tariff Bill as to which a mistake has been made. If is a small matter, but an amending Bill has to be introduced to avoid trouble.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the acceptance of Norfolk Island as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, and for the government thereof.
, - I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will take into serious consideration the question of the fiscal relations of the Commonwealth with its territories, and whether he does hot think it a serious anomaly to treat thoseterritoreis in fiscal matters as though they were foreign countries.
– A measure dealing with that subject is partly prepared, and would have been introduced before we rose if time had permitted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an
Act relating to the Public Service Commissioner and Inspectors.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from1st June (vide page 1 1 780) 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 following 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.”
.- This afternoon I find myself in the position of being prepared to speak in support of a Government measure. During the last few days I have been surprised at the great amount of attention which has been given to the opinions expressed by some of the States Premiers regarding this Bill. I do not know that the attitude of some honorable members here does not amount almost to a consideration of the States interest instead of the Commonwealth interest. I recognise, of course, that the States possess certain powers. But I also recognise that in this House a minority are making it particularly apparent that they are prepared to give the States more than was intended to be given to them by the words of the Constitution. I find myself in entire disagreement with the view of the honorable member for Swan concerning this Bill.
– The honorable member does not belong to any State.
– I am very glad to be able to say that in this House I have given to the Commonwealth the first consideration, and done an injury to no particular State. It does appear to me that the attitude of the right honorable gentleman is entirely inconsistent. In the Federal Convention he said : “I am going to stand up for a States House,” and was a great pleader for the rights of the States as represented in a Senate. I can understand a man holding that particular view, and believing in the State getting every consideration that is granted to it in the Constitution. But when a Senate’s request for the amendment of Tariff items was submitted here a second time recently, he wanted to take away from that Chamber the very powers which he now believes that it ought to have.
– I said that the other day.
– I am pointing out that it is an entirely inconsistent attitude on the part of the right honorable gentleman. There he tried to limit the power ofthe States House.
– But the Constitution Bill was altered.
– Suppose that the Senate should reject an important provision of this Bill, or send down a suggestion that it should be deleted. What would the right honorable gentleman do in that case?
– The Senate would then be acting within its powers.
– According to the right honorable gentleman, the Senate would be acting within its powers in requesting an alteration of this Bill, but it was not acting within its powers the other day when it suggested additions in regard to another Bill.
– That Has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, but I think it is a reasonable thing for me to point out the apparent inconsistencies of an honorable member who has debated this Bill. From my point of view the attitude of the right honorable member for Swan is entirely inconsistent, and I do not see how, after he endeavoured to clip the wings of the States House in one case, he can claim to have any special consideration for them. I am not here for thepurpose of tying up the Commonwealth in order to assist some necessitous State Treasurers, who have been consistently and continuously denouncing the Commonwealth. In my opinion, this is a desirable measure, and the objectwhich it has in view is one of the most laudable.
– What does the honorable member consider is the object of the Bill ?
– The Bill will provide the nucleus of a fund for the payment of old-age pensions, and for other purposes. It will be the means of raising the money, and, of course, a Bill to. authorize the payment of it will follow.
– The Treasurer never mentioned that when he introduced the Bill.
– I was surprised that the Treasurer did not mention it. But I do not think that my honorable friend, innocent as he may appear to be, imagines that there is any other object in view.
– I do not.
– It appears to me that honorable members who are adopting a hostile attitude to the Bill are liable to be charged with an indifference towards the question of old-age pensions. I do not dispute the right of any honorable member to disagree with the proposed method of raising the money, but I point out that in opposing this measure honorable members leave themselves open to a charge of callousness regarding the creation of a fund in the interests of a desirable section of the community.
– Does the honorable member think that we can pay old-age pensions out of this money ?
– Ido not think that, even by the end of this year, from this fund alone sufficient will be achieved. I am very sorry that that should be the case,; but having regard to the composition of the House at the present time, I believe that this will be a means of getting a system of old-age pensions established very much earlier than would otherwise be the case. It is a pity that the Bill was not introduced on the 10th October, 1906, at the expiration of the bookkeeping section of the Constitution.
– We were before our constituents then.
– No, but certainly we were proceeding in that direction. I believe that had we gone to our constituents then with a Surplus Revenue Act and an Old-age Pensions Act, there would have been less grumbling amongst a deserving class throughoutAustralia than there was. Although one might reserve to himself an opinion as to whether this is the most desirable means to adopt to raise money for this desirable object, still I think that the position of those who are really entitled to pensions justifies its adoption. It appears to me that the telegram which was recently sent by or at the instance of the Treasurer to the collectors throughout the States, was a most injudicious one, and I should not be surprised to hear that he is not of the same frame of mind now. It gave to a number of persons who were looking for a cue an opportunity to denounce the Commonwealth, and possibly it has raised a considerable amount of illfeeling towards this Parliament without having achieved any good results. In connexion with this measure I want to see everything done squarely. According to my reading of the Constitution there is not the slightest doubt that its framers contemplated a position when the payment of certain liabilities incurred by the Commonwealth would be necessary. I do not think it is possible to imagine that they did not contemplate that we might have to provide for the payment of bounties in different directions. As a matter of fact, that provision had tobe made more quickly than was anticipated by some persons. We have incurred the statutory liability of between £200,000 and£250,000, which is payable over a period of fifteen years. The Commonwealth would be in a most unsatisfactory position if it could not in fat years make provision for liabilities likely to have to be faced in lean years.
– Cannot that be done under the Audit Act ?
– I doubt it. The honorable member said last night that it would be unconstitutional to do it under this Bill, and yet he suggests that it can be done under the Audit Act.
– If the trust funds already established are constitutional, the Bill is unnecessary, while, if they are not, the Bill will not make them constitutional.
– A trust fund can be established without the Bill.
– In my opinion, the establishment of trust funds is constitutional. I do not pose as a constitutional authority, but, on the question now before the Chair, as I read the Constitution, its framers had in mind, when they drew up section 87, a state of affairs such as that which we have now reached. The right honorable member for Swan says that that section means that the Commonwealth can take of its one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue only so much as it actually spends within the year.
– I said a little more than that.
– The right honorable gentleman made two long speeches, asked a string of questions, and yesterday tried to move the adjournment of the House in regard to the subject, so that naturally he must have said a good deal more. I believe that if the Bill becomes law, and its constitutionality is tested by injudicious State Treasurers, the High Court will say that we were within our powers in passing it. It may occur to some that it will be impossible for a State possessing no surplus to Contribute under the Bill, and it may therefore be thought that the States which have surpluseswill be called upon to pay the contributions of those which have not. That, however, is not what will happen. All new expenditure will be debited to the States per capita, absolute justice being done to all. We should hail with satisfaction the introduction of a measure to provide money to. meet a great national necessity. It is proposed to insert in the Old-age Pensions Bill a provision bringing it into effect not later than a certain date; but providing for the payment of pensions earlier under agreement with the State Treasurers.
– Almost right away.
– Yes. Still,I do not suppose that such an agreement will be come to; and in that case Parliament will have thrown on it the obligation to find the necessary money not later than July, 1909. I support the measure as a means to achieving a great end- the establishment of a Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme.
.- In dealing with this measure, it should be remembered that one of the chief problems of the Convention was how to distribute among the States, after the first five years of union, the surplus revenue. The matter was debated in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne, and eventually it was decided not to anticipate, by requiring a fixed appropriation, results which could not then be estimated, and to leave the matter to the good sense of the Parliament after five years’ experience of a uniform Tariff.I need hardly remind those who were members of the Convention of these facts; unhappily, there are not now many members of the Convention here. My proposed solution of the financial difficulty was to provide for the taking over by the Commonwealth of the whole of the debtsof the States immediately on Federation. Those who are interested in the matter will find, by referring to page 1540 of volume II. of the official report of the Melbourne session, that I proposed that the debts of the States should be pooled, after conversion, to give their true relations of value. As the various stocks are of different duration and bear different rates of interest, they are not on the same level in the market, and to express their true relative values it would be necessary to convert them into terms of a common stock. To some ex- tent, the proposals of the Government now fall into line with mine, though the conversion I speak of is not provided for. The States, on going into Federal partnership, could have pooled their debts, those having an excess over the average being responsible for the amount of the excess, and those having less than the average being credited with the difference. At the time of the union, the debts of the States amounted to about £150,000,000, and the differences to be accounted for to not more than about £16,000,000. Thus the result would have been to wipe out at all events the responsibility to the States to an amount represented by the interest on their average indebtedness. Assuming that the average were £52 per head of the population, by taking over the debts at that stage, we should have wiped out interest equal to an indebtedness represented by that average. South Australia would have owed the Commonwealth £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, as her indebtedness at that time was over £70 per head of her population. On the other hand, Victoria, whose indebtedness was equal to only about , £42 per head of her [population, would have been credited in the books of the Commonwealth with a difference which would have been somewhere about £5,000,000 or£6, 000,000. Unfortunately, my proposal was rejected on the ground that the Federation, within a few years of its establishment, would have acquired such a reputation in the financial world as to bring about an enormous appreciation in Commonwealth stock, and that it would be unwise to do away with the chance of obtaininga large premium for the addition, or the substitution, of the security of the Commonwealth to or for that of the States. That anticipation has been falsified by experience. Sir George Turner, when Treasurer, in 1903, presented a report in which he stated that the best information he could obtain from the Old Country was that a Commonwealth security would not lead to a saving in the matter of interest. We were furnished with the same information by Mr. Coghlan, Agent-General for New South Wales, in a report written on behalf of himself and the Agents-General of the other States about twoor three years ago: In the circumstances, nothing has been done. That was only one of the attempts made to absorb portion of the revenue, the whole of which will be at our disposal in 1910, but it was not for one moment assumed that it would dispose of the whole question. At page 1540 of the official record of the Debates at the Melbourne sittings of the Convention, I am reported as having said -
The honorable member (Mr. McMillan) urged a few days ago that by taking over the debts :tt the start you. did not settle the financial difficulty. I do not think that any one who proposes that the Commonwealth shall take over these debts suggests that this is a method of solving the difficulty connected with the apportionment of the surplus.
That was an independent problem which this Parliament had to face if the Convention did not settle it.
You cannot possibly, by taking over an equal amount of annual liability, determine the share that the several States “will get of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth. What you can do is tq get over one difficulty. You can at all events absorb the whole of the surplus, by the transfer of the liability for a portion of the interest, In justice to the States we ought to remember that all these problems regarding the transfer of the debts- and the taking over of the railways had relation to the disposal of the surplus amongst the States, or the return of the Customs revenue to the States after we had taken our share, at the end of the five years’ period. It was not for one moment thought that by handing over to the Commonwealth the collection - “collection” is the word used in the Constitution - of the Customs revenue, then estimated at £6,000,000, but which is now nearby equal to £11,000,000 per annum, we should entitle the Commonwealth, at the end of a few years, to spend the whole of that sura. I mention this in connexion with the fact that within two years that problem will have to be faced by us. So much for the consideration due to the anxiety of the States, which has been stirred up, perhaps, by the declaration of the Treasurer last week, as regards the disposal of the balance for June. On the other hand, I would remind the States that the Commonwealth has taken over, and very properly taken over, large responsibilities. In 1902, for instance, we refused to follow the example of the. States in the. matter of borrowing. A Bill providing for a loan of .£571,000 then introduced by Sir George Turner was rejected, if I remember rightly, by a majority of two to one. I happened to be the only representative of South Australia who voted against that Bill, and it was said that when I ‘ returned to that State I should be scarified for .my action. I think, however, that approval has rather followed the minority vote given on that occasion on behalf of South Australia. We refused to borrow, and since then we have been providing out of revenue large sums for various works for which the States would have made provision by borrowing. I cannot recall the exact figures, but am sure that we annually set . apart out of revenue something like £900,000 or ,£1,000,000 for works and buildings, to provide for which the States would have borrowed. Matters of this sort must be taken into consideration by the States in connexion with the financial question. Then, again, the States are not doing all that was expected of them when the Constitution was passed. What have they done, may I ask, as regards the abolition of differential railway rates? In that respect, the Germans have shown us an~ example. The German Constitution contained a direction that there should be some uniformity of control and abolition of the differential rates on railways as between State and State within a very short period after its adoption in 1870. That principle was declared in sections 42 and 45 of that Constitution, and it has been observed. We have a similar implication in the Commonwealth Constitution, but it has not been respected by the States. I shall say no more regarding the extent to which we ought to consider the reasonable remonstrances of the States iri anticipation of a too large encroachment upon the surplus, . of which we shall have complete disposal in 1910. Coming to the Bill itself, I think that the principle is sound. It would be most unfortunate if, at the end of each month, no matter how overflowing the Treasury, we were compelled to unload upon the States. In such circumstances, what would be the position if we were entering upon a large undertaking, or were threatened with a war, and needed an anticipatory vote? We could not read common sense into a Constitution providing that at the end of each month we had no power to impound, moneys as against the necessities of one or two succeeding months. It would be out of accord with all common-sense- views on finance to say that we should strike an absolute balance at the end of each month, and, however meagre might be the funds of the Commonwealth Treasury, have no power to allot any portion of the surplus revenue towards meeting the demands of the subsequent months of that year or of a succeeding year. While I consider, that the principle of the Bill is sound, I do not ‘think its introduction, in view of what the Treasurer has stated, is particularly opportune. The honorable member said that he intended to introduce this Bill now in- order to impound moneys that have not yet been appropriated by this House, and to impound them in relation to policies that have not even been discussed. Although I am in favour of the principle of old-age pensions, I do not think that it is consistent with our duty to actually authorize the disposal of moneys for old-age pensions before a Bill affirming the principle has been passed by this House, or the method of giving effect to it determined. It is on that ground that I think that the introduction of the Bill, in view of the Government’s declared policy, is inopportune. If the Ministry can assure us that they require it for some legitimate purpose of Parliament - that they require it- to meet some appropriation that has been made, we ought to pass it ; but they do nothing of the sort. I think that, the only consistent reading of the Constitution, so far as the question of appropriation is concerned, is that we have power, within the limits of our annual expenditure, to deduct moneys that have been appropriated although not actually spent.
– Where no contract has been entered into?-
– I am dealing, not with contracts, but with appropriations. The history of the financial sections of the Constitution would be authoritative in a Court of justice, but I do not want to delay the House, at this stage of the session, by going into their development. I would point out, however, that the words in section 87 - “ shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure” - were not in the clause as it passed the Adelaide sitting of the Convention. As it left that sitting of the Convention, clause 91 declared that the yearly expenditure of the Commonwealth, for the purpose of the. services and the exercise of the powers transferred by the States to the Commonwealth, should not exceed the sum of ,£1,250,000. Honorable members will at once notice the difference. It was declared, at the Adelaide sittings, that the yearly expenditure was not to exceed a certain sum, but here we fall into line with the terminology of the Imperial Acts, and the Acts of the States, by providing that not more than a certain amount shall be applied annually towards the expenditure. In my opinion, that covers, at all events, appropriations. I picked up at random in the Library an Imperial Appropriation Act, the wording of the title to which was almost identical with the wording of clause 87 of the Federal Constitution -
An Act to apply certain sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the years ending on the thirty-first day of March one thousand nine hundred and two, one ‘thousand nine hundred and three, one thousand nine hundred and four.
That is an appropriation. It is an Act to “ apply “ - the wording of our Constitution - an Act to appropriate certain moneys. The wording of section 94 alone gives rise to a doubt as to our power to pass this Bill. It 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.
Surely the word “monthly” used’ there does not destroy the power given by a preceding section -at the end of five years to alter the whole of the provisions dealing with the apportionment of the revenue, and the method of estimating the States’ share of the expenditure. Section 93 provides what the system is to be for the first five years, and it. is then declared that that system is to be observed only until the Parliament otherwise provides. Those words, “ until the Parliament otherwise provides,” have been interpreted by the High Court as meaning really that the provisions to which they relate are to remain in force until that period, when we can alter them.
– Follow that up with the wording of section 94.
– To a large extent section 94 is superfluous, and might be struck out.
– Oh !
– The matter is open to two opinions, but I wish to develop’ the argument as it appeals to me.
– Section 94 is to. remain in ‘operation for all time.
– My contention is that, even if section 94 were struck out, we could alter the’ financial’ arrangements provided for in the three preceding sections. Section 93 provides that they are to be enforced only “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.” Those words apply to various sections of the Constitution. Section 93 provides that after the first five years the arrangement shall be as Parliament may determine; and my argu-ment is that section 94 might be struck out altogether as superfluous, and that, at theend of the five years, we may make .any provision we think fit for the apportionment of the surplus. But section 94 was, I suppose, inserted for greater caution, though I do not think it alters the power conferred by section 93. Its introduction may raise a doubt on the point, because Courts of Justice will not regard any section as superfluous if they can give a meaning to it. Inasmuch, therefore, as we find that, without section 94, we could have the establishment of any new financial basis we wish, we have to ask what was the intention of the Federal Convention in inserting that section. It may be said that it was to impose some limitation on the discretion of Parliament under the preceding clauses, and this makes our power somewhat doubtful. I think, however, it would be straining the rules of construction rather too far, to say that section 94 would prevent our altering anything under section 93.
– But the section goes on to provide for monthly payments.
– Surely it cannot be held that the words as to monthly payments tie the hands of Parliament, and oblige the Commonwealth, at the end of each month, in defiance of all the experience elsewhere, to pay over to the States all balances unexpended ? I do not regard that as a common-sense reading of the Constitution.
– The section means something, I suppose!
– All I am endeavouring to show is that the section raises a doubt.
– Then “ surplus “ means nothing?
– What is the pertinence of that question? I did not read the speech of the right honorable member for Swan.
– I did not refer to section 94.
– At all events, I say that we have power to absorb the surplus; and I do not think that section 94, by the use of the words as to monthly payments, clearly takes away the power that would exist without the section.
– Having the power, where is the need for this Bill?
– I am dealing with the power to pass the Bill.
– But having the power, where is the need for the Bill ?
– The power does not exist in the Bill, but is exercised by the Bill.
– But we have trust funds already.
– I am not dealing with the question of trust funds, which under the Audit Act of 1906 are provided to deal with appropriations that otherwise would lapse. The existence of these trust funds only bears out my contention that our power is the power to appropriate. If we make an appropriation before the end of June, then under the trust funds provisions the appropriation does not lapse as it would have done under the earlier Act of 1 90 1. But we are now dealing with altogether a different question. This Bill does not deal with trust funds, but alters protanto the provisions of the financial sections ending with section 93. My argument is that, in any alteration, our hands are not tied by section 94 - that is, we are not obliged to make such an arrangement that we must hand over the unexpended balances at the end of each month. At all events, while admitting a doubt as to the constitutionality, I think the principle of the Bill is sound, but that the measure is dangerous, inasmuch as we have never discussed the two principal objects, which involve the absorption of £450,000 of revenue. Indeed, the Bill in relation to one of the objects has been introduced only to-day ; and we should not pass a measure, the clear object of which is to anticipate the passing of other measures to impound revenue. I have seen statements in the newspapers in regard to the Treasurer’s policy of cancelling the surpluses that have hitherto been paid to the States.
– That has been done every year, in June.
– I do not know to what extent the judgment in the case of the Tasmanian Government against the Commonwealth affects the Treasurer’s power. That was an action to recover from Victoria £12,000, which, under section 89 of the Constitution, had been appropriated ; and the Court declared that the appropriation was absolute; that if, for instance, a surplus had been appropriated under section 89 to a particular State, it could never again be touched. That judgment is reported in the first volume of the Commonwealth Law Reports and contains the following from the Chief Justice -
That section, if there is no more in the Constitution, gave the State of Victoria an absolute vested right to receive the money now in question, and to keep it.
Mr. Justice Barton, later on, expressed a similar view. I do not know that’ that case throws much light on the position taken up by the Treasurer ; because, if he had paid the States the three-fourths, considering that the limitation on the Federal expenditure is annual, there may be nothing to. prevent him, if he chooses to be so exceptional in his view of what is due to the States, impounding whatever revenue may be necessary to recoup himself.
– Hear, hear; that is what has been done.
– I think that may be done under the Constitution; and I am merely showing that there are doubts in view of the words of the judgment of the High Court in the Tasmanian case.. I do not intend! to. support this Bill, because it is introduced for purposes which have not yet been sanctioned by Parliament. Had the appropriations been made, this Bill would have been useful ; and if it could be shown that the Bill is necessary as a matterof urgency, we might, of course, consider the position. That, however, has not been shown by anything in the speech of the Treasurer in introducing the measure.
.- A Bill for the appropriation of surplus revenue is of the greatest importance and interest to the financially weaker States ; and hence. I was very glad to listen to the speech of the right honorable member for Swan.
– Is it much less important to the stronger States, having in view what it is proposed to do with the money ?
– My intention is to illustrate the effect of the general financial legislation of the Commonwealth on the weaker States; and for that reason I am thankful for the speech of the right honorable member for Swan, who, recalled the duty which we owe, not only to the Commonwealth, but to the States which we represent. Regarding the Commonwealth as the parent, and the various States as the children, we ought, as far as possible, to work for the welfare of the States, for in that is involved the welfare of the Commonwealth. Let me make my meaning clearer by suggesting that the Commonwealth is desirous of inflating its own importance.
– I think that that charge might, with more propriety, be laid against the States.
– We hope, as representatives of the States, to prevent the
Commonwealth from inflating its own importance, though we have not succeeded so far.
– Then the honorable member does not support the Commonwealth? A nice sort of position to take up !
– The Commonwealth financial legislation has laid upon the States responsibilities which heretofore did not exist ; so much so, that, in the State which I have the honour to represent, the result is that 88 per cent, of the voters pay 4.25 per cent, of the direct taxes, while 12 per cent, of the voters pay 95.75 per cent.
– That is outside the Customs taxation?
– No; I am speaking of all the taxation.
– The Commonwealth is not responsible for State legislation.
– I am afraid the Treasurer is not listening. I am urging that the representatives of the States should bear in mind the important bearing which the fiscal legislation of the Commonwealth has on the finances of the various States; and, therefore, I thank the right honorable member for Swan for reminding us of our duty to the financially weaker members of the Commonwealth. I differ from the views expressed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. We are here, not only to assist the Commonwealth, but also to protect the interest of the States; and, as I have pointed out, the financial legislation of this Parliament is leading the weaker States–
– What has the honorablemember to say about the New South Wales Government remitting State taxation, while insisting on more money being returned by the Commonwealth?
– I do not understand the point raised by the Treasurer.
– The New South Wales Government are repealing taxation, because they get so much money from the Commonwealth.
– I do not desire to be drawn from the thread of my remarks, but I shall reply to the Treasurer by reminding him that, in consequence of Commonwealth fiscal legislation, the people of New South Wales have had their taxation, through Customs and Excise, increased from 25s. per head to £3per head.
– And the Treasurer calls that a gift!
– I am not surprised that the leader of the Opposition should allude sarcastically to this change as a gift. But, as a matter of fact, this increase represents a gift from the people of New South Wales to the Commonwealth; and I learn that they suffer very grievously in consequence. The honorable member for Wide Bay, in a dissertation to which I was very pleased to listen, was very enthusiastic in regard to old-age pensions. Although I did not remind the honorable member of it while he was addressing the House, it is a fact that for years the various States Parliaments have annually voted various sums, by way of compassionate and other allowances, to assist our aged poor. Under an old-age pensions scheme, we shall probably dry up, to a large extent, all those well springs of charity which, happily, have always existed in the human heart. What has been done in Victoria and New South Wales will shortly be accomplished in the four remaining States. Both New South Wales and Victoria have accepted the responsibility of paying old-age pensions, and they have never regretted it. As a representative of Tasmania, I believe that I shall be giving effect to the wishes of my constituents by supporting an Old-age Pensions Bill when it comes before us, provided that it draws a great distinction between the thriftless and thrifty, between the vagabonds of the earth - like the sundowner, who lives under a tree, and levies mail on every household that he passes - and deserving persons.
– The honorable member would give the pension to the wealthier classes, I suppose?
– Surely, that is a very ridiculous interjection. I presume that an Old-age Pensions Bill will provide that a pension can be claimed by almost every old person in the community. But, on the other hand, it is sure to discriminate between individuals. Here I would remind honorable members of the Labour corner - and I wish that the honorable member for Wide Bay had been present to hear my statement - that under a Bill which was introduced two years ago, a Federal scheme of old-age pensions would have been in existence at the present time but for the action of Labour members in another place. That measure contained a provision which specially earmarked certain Customs revenue for the payment of old-age pensions. It passed this House by a large majority, but, owing to the action of members of the Labour Party elsewhere, it was rejected, because they would not sanction the payment of pensions out of Customs revenue.
– But that Bill provided for a special form of Customs revenue.
– It specially earmarked certain revenue for the purpose of paying old-age pensions. Now, however, when the surplus revenue, which the States desire shall be returned to them, is increasing, members of the Labour Party hail with gratification the intention of this measure to permit of old-age pensions being paid out of Customs revenue. When the Treasurer first introduced this Bill, we heard nothing about the payment of old-age pensions. We were told that the measure was necessary to give him control of the balances returnable to the States at the end of each month, in order to prevent the Treasury from being depleted, and so that he might have funds in hand with which to meet payments as they fell due. But, finding that he had a big surplus the idea occurred to him to appropriate that surplus for a purpose which was never contemplated when thisBill was drafted. Only incidentally have we learned that a portion of the money which he expects will be available under this Bill is to be devoted to the payment of old-age pensions. I think, sir, you will have observed, from the trend of my remarks, that I hold that the return of these monthly balances to the States is still very necessary. Certainly, their return is very necessary in the case of Tasmania. When the Treasurer submitted his Budget, he estimated that a sum of £7,777,000 would be returned to the States during thecurrent financial year, and that amount included not only the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, to which they are entitled under the Constitution, but the unexpended balance of our one-fourth of that revenue, which he set down at £113,000. But since then a very great change has taken place in our finances. Up till the end of March last we have realized from Customs and Excise duties - not the £900,000 which the Treasurer anticipated would be the excess upon the revenue collected under the old Tariff - but an excess of £2,000,000. I should like to remind the honorable gentleman that when he made that announcementthe leader of the
Opposition recalled the circumstance that, during the first month in which the new Tariff was operative, the revenue from Customs and Excise exceeded the revenue collected under the old Tariff, during the same period, by more than £300,000. I also told the Treasurer that, in my opinion, the new Tariff, during 1907-8, would yield £2,500,000 or even £3,000,000 more than did the old Tariff. During its passage through the two branches of the Legislature the reductions made in the duties represent a decrease in the revenue of £400,000. At the present moment, therefore, I am disposed to think that the new Tariff will yield a revenue of about £2,500,000 in excess of that derived under the old Tariff. During the first six months of its operation the increased revenue represented an annual increase of £2,000,000. A further excess has been realized during April; May, and June, and it will not be until September next that the full effect for a whole year of the new Tariff will become apparent. I it all probability the Treasurer will find that the revenue for the year will exceed the amount collected under the old Tariff by £2,500,000, notwithstanding the serious reductions which were made in the schedule. I credit Sir George Turner, who is, unfortunately, no longer a member of this House, and the present Treasurer, with every’ desire to place before the country a clear exposition of our finances. But I submit that the statement made by the Treasurer in October last did not disclose the real condition of the finances under the new Tariff. Therefore, we ought not to repose too much trust in the Estimates made by our Treasurers. I say that with all respect. Of course, I recognise the difficulty of making accurate estimates.” I am sure we all regret the absence from this House of Sir George Turner. He was a man whose attention to Treasury matters has never been equalled by any of his successors - a man who was particularly scrupulous in every financial statement that he made, and particularly careful to frame a fair, estimate. He told us that the Tariff of 1902 would probably yield a revenue of about £9,000,000 during the first year of its operation, .but that five years would elapse before a normal year would be reached, and that it would then probably return only £5,000,000.
– But Sir George Turner was naturally pessimistic.
– Then I take it that the present Treasurer is pessimistic.
– He is inclined to be.
– In the first year of the Tariff of 1902 the revenue amounted to £9,500,000. That result was brought about by natural circumstances - by the necessity to import grain and fodder by reason of the drought which then existed. Subsequently, the revenue declined to £8,500,000 during one year and £8,700,000 during another year. But, in the fifth year, it increased to £9,600,000, the result of the general prosperity of the country. In normal years that Tariff yielded about £9,000,000, and showed no sign of falling to £5,000,000, as estimated by Sir George Turner. The present Treasurer estimates that the newTariff will produce a revenue of about £10,000,000. But I would point out to him that during the six months following its introduction, the revenue increased by £1,000,000. He also told us that the, surplus which would be returnable to the States this year would be £7,777,000, inclusive of an amount of £113,000 in excess- of the three-fourths to which the States are constitutionally entitled. But, instead of that amount having been returned to the States, we find that, under the circumstances which existed in October last, the’ sum of £9,100,000 would have been returnable tothem, and that this amount would have included a sum of ,£1,400,000 in excess of their three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue. If there have been paid into the Treasury large sums in excess of the estimated revenue, the States Treasurers will naturally ask what we are going to do with the money. They have very naturally looked for a large surplus at the end of the year. But we shall find that the surplus returnable to the States instead of being; £113,000 will be £222,000, or an addition of £119,000 to the sum estimated. I allude to this because I read in the morning press that, judging by the statement of the Treasurer, there would be no surplusrevenue returnable to the States for the year 1907-8. To the extent I have mentioned that statement is incorrect. I havesatisfied myself by reference to, the Treasurer himself, that there will be a surplus of £222,000 returnable to the States.
– But the Treasurer is not going to return that £222,000.
– Yes, I have it from the Treasurer himself. I am informed that the various States Treasurers will find themselves at the end of this year in possession of three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue collected and payable to them under the Constitution, plus £222,000 of surplus revenue returnable from the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue collected as the Commonwealth’s share.
– I feel sure that the House is being misled in some way. I have made up my own statement of the finances, and I confess that in comparing it with the statements made by the Treasurer, with figures quoted by honorable members in the course of these debates, and with reports in the daily press, I am unable exactly to check the figures. I have referred to the amount of £222,000, because that is the amount which the Treasurer has assured me will be returnable to the States, and because I think the matter of great importance, particularly to the State which I represent, since whilst the State Parliaments are in session the States Treasurers may be able to supply statements from their point of view of their respective financial positions. The difference beween , £7,777,000, which the Treasurer estimated in October last as the amount returnable to the States, and £9,100,000, which really represents the difference this year between expenditure and revenue for the year, should give an amount of , £1,400,000 as the sum returnable to the States. But we find that only £222,000 is to be returned, and we are justified in asking what has become of the other £1,200,000. We have already dealt with Additional Estimates covering votes amounting to £570,000, of which amount £116,000 was departmental, and £460,000 related to public works and included £250,000 for new defence expenditure. I learn that this amount of , £250, 000 for new defence expenditure is regarded by the Treasurer as reducing the surplus which he has estimated at £472,000 to £222,000. But this does not account for the whole expenditure of the Commonwealth. There have been extra expenses which the Treasurer will have to announce in his next Budget. The matter is left in this position - that by some means or other, whether in the form of Supplementary Estimates or Defence Estimates, or by the reservation of £2 2 2, 000 for the purpose of old-age pensions, the large surplus to which I have referred is to be applied or appropriated ; and, as a result, the excess of revenue for the current year of 1907-8 to the amount of , £1,400,000 is not to be returned as surplus revenue to the States, but only the. very meagre sum to which I have already referred. If, with a revenue from Customs and Excise increasing at the rate of over £2,000,000 a year, we have so far applied or appropriated, or intend to apply or appropriate, so vast a portion of the one-fourth under the control of the Commonwealth, that the amount returnable to the States is only £222,000, how is it possible to provide for the payment of oldage pensions under the provisions of this Surplus Revenue Bill? The Bill, as I have already said, was at first proposed for the purpose of enabling the Treasurer to keep balances to his credit at the end of each month. It has now been diverted to the purpose of making early provision for some small payment, and that to a trust fund, to provide for old-age pensions. We might reasonably ask when, in the special circumstances referred to, it is hoped that the proposed trust fund will reach an amount of £1,500,000, the sum which we are informed will be necessary to finance a Commonwealth old-age pensions system ? I ask this question particularly in view of the fact that I am reminded by a statement of the Treasurer that it is estimated that our revenue from Customs and Excise will be reduced, year by year, by , £1,000,000: The honorable gentleman, therefore, anticipates that in two years the revenue derived in this way will be less than that which might be anticipated from present returns by £2,000,000. Further,we are told that, year by year, our expenditure willbe increased by , £1,000,000. Estimating results by these statements of the Treasurer, the difference between our position this year and the position which we shall occupy two years hence will represent a reduction of our means to the extent of £4,000,000. Instead, therefore, of having a surplus of £1,400,000; we shall, at that time, be faced with a deficiency of £2,600,000, unless the revenue productiveness of the Tariff which we have just passed is very greatly increased as a result of the small increase of population which is likely to take place within the next two years, or unless it is found that the Tariff has not encouraged local manufactures, and that our imports are of such a character that it is impossible to shut them out except by a Tariff that would be absolutely prohibitive in its operation. These are points worthy of consideration in dealing with the Surplus Revenue Bill. We have a surplus revenue to deal with this year, but if the Treasurer be right in his estimates, we shall have no surplus next year, and in the following year we shall be faced with a large deficiency. Having had a large experience of the imports of the Commonmonwealth, as I have been associated with shipments from the Old Country to Australia since 1847, a period of sixty years, I havestated in this House, on more than . one occasion, that nothing short of absolute prohibition will prevent very large oversea imports. In January and February last, our textile imports were larger than ever before.
– That is likely to continue.
– I am glad to find that the Postmaster-General supports the view I have taken of the matter. There can be no doubt that, in respect to certain items, the Tariff we have passed is absolutely a revenue Tariff.
– Hear, hear.
– I think that if the Treasurer were present he would find it strange to listen to such an appreciation of the remarks I have made, in view of his own distinct statement that he would not have a revenue Tariff. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to frame any Tariff which will not, in some respects, be a revenue Tariff; because it is impossible forthe 4,000,000 of people we have in Australia to manufacture locally a very large proportion of the articles which we now find it necessary to import.. We cannot shut out imports. Although I appreciate all that is being done to encourage local manufactures and to give employment to our people, I say that, no matter how our Tariff is framed, it will be many years before the revenue derived under it will be reduced to any appreciable extent. I admit that on this point I am at issue with the Treasurer, who says that the revenue under the Tariff will next year be reduced by £1,000,000, and the year following by another £1,000,000.
– It might be reduced in respect of some items, and increased in respect of others.
– That is so; but it must be remembered that capitalists are induced to invest large sums in machinery only if they can be assured of some stability in the fiscal policy of the country, and we know that Governments may change. Although I think that the Tariff we have just passed will remain in operation for some considerable time, I doubt whether there will be an appreciable change in the revenue derived under it, or, on the other hand, in the volume of local production. Although the Treasurer has taken a very pessimistic view of the future in estimating that our expenditure will run up from £6,000,000 to £9,000,000 in the course of a few years, whilst our revenue will fall from £15,000,000 to £13,000,000, I am more hopeful of the future. If, according to the Treasurer’s estimate, we are able to devote £222,000 this year to a trust fund for the payment of old-age pensions, how much can we expect to devote to that purpose next year, even though our revenue should be maintained at the present rate? We have been reminded to-day that the accumulated interest, at 3½ or 4 per cent., due to the various States on transferred properties valued at about £10,000,000, amounts to between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. If some provision is made to meet that interest due to the States, we shall require to provide about £400,000 a year for that purpose alone. Then the Prime Minister has reminded us that we must expect to have to incur a largely increased expenditure in connexion with defence, the development of the Northern Territory, to meet losses on transcontinental railways, and to cover the expenditure which will be due to the taking over of harbors,lights and buoys.
– And quarantine.
– We are already incurring extra expenditure in connexion with quarantine. In the new Bills introduced or referred to to-day, there is expenditure involved quite sufficient to cover any excess of our revenue for the current year from Customs and Excise. Under these circumstances, I object at the present moment to the introduction of this Surplus Revenue Bill. It makes provision in regard to another measure which hasnot yet been passed, and the money on account of which cannot be paid under any circumstances for another year. During my forty or fifty years of political experience, I have not been associated with any Treasurer or any Government that has made financial provision for a measure to come into operation in a subsequent year. It is customary for a Treasurer to bring down
Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the current year. Here, however, we have provision made in regard to a year that has not yet arrived, and to an appropriation which cannot take place within the present financial year. I have not dwelt upon the constitutional aspect of this Bill. I should always speak with bated breath on such a subject. I always consider that constitutional topics are best left to the legal members ofthe House. Certainly, in this instance, the matter will have to bp left to the High Court, which is the only body that can decide the issue. Sections 81, 87, and 94 of our Constitution are affected. Section 81 places the whole of our Customs and Excise revenue in what solicitors call’ hotchpot. It places it all in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Section 87 is known as the Braddon section. It has a peculiar history. I remember its passage through the Convention. I recollect, on many occasions, having had conversations with you, Mr. Speaker, and with Sir George Turner. Great difficulties were felt as to what would be the result. One fact, however, we may recognise, and that is that the section has not been mischievous in its effects. Anything that can be said in regard to it is rather in its favour. We have never yet appropriated, for the purposes of the year’s expenditure, a sum sufficient to consume the whole one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue which the Commonwealth is entitled to use. So that the Braddon section may be said to have worked neither favorably nor unfavorably -to the States. As to the intention of the Convention, I should hesitate to express a definite opinion, because I am reminded that Judges do not recognise the intentions of the framers of an Act of Parliament. They simply read into it what the language implies. B.ut, in passing, I would say, from what I remember of the Convention, that the evident intention of the framers of the Constitution was that the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue should be appropriated bv the Commonwealth only when necessity arose, and that the surplus should foe refunded to the States. You, Mr. Speaker, made a proposal in the Finance Committee of the Convention that 70 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue should be paid by the Commonwealth to the States. ‘ Your proposal made no mention of the number of years for which that scheme should operate. I think I am right in saying that some of the Treasurers of the States at the Convention considered it more satisfactory that there, should be a. limitation as to the number of years. Therefore, a period of ten years was fixed. But the Convention went on to provide, in section 94, that when the time arrived that the Commonwealth, in its wisdom, should think it desirable to make a new distribution, that distribution might be made ; but that it should be made on the principle of the payment each month to the States of the surplus revenue. That is very clear. That leads me to the question whether the surplus anticipated by the Treasurer can be applied or appropriated without the introduction of an Appropriation Bill for the purpose. It is quite new to me to find that an anticipated surplus at the end of this financial1 year can be appropriated and applied in anticipation. The Prime Minister has told us that the £[250,000 for defence works will not be spent, and the Treasurer has informed us that £[220,000 for old-age pensions will not be paid this year. This money will be set aside in a trust fund. Now, the Audit Act of 1906 contains certain trust sections, and the purposes for which they were passed is apparent _ on the face of them. It was found from time to time that certain votes were made by Parliament, and that the money could not be used for precisely those purposes’ for which the appropriation was made. It was, therefore, provided that the Department for which money was appropriated in connexion with one vote might use it for the purposes of another. But we are now faced with quite a new phase, and find that a trust fund is to be applied to quite a novel purpose. It is proposed to set aside- not’ to pay, or apply, or appropriate; indeed appropriation implies the receipt by Parliament of a message from the Governor-General - moneys as to which we have simply the word of Ministers that they will use them for certain purposes. For example, £250,000 is to be set aside for defence purposes, and £[222,000 for old-age pensions. That’ seems to me to be quite a new idea. There, however, I must leave the question. I have stated that, so far as old-age pensions are concerned, I believe that the people of Tasmania anticipated that such a provision would be made. They hoped that it would be made with some judgment, and with some regard to the thrift or thriftlessness of the recipients. I may, however, express the great disappointment of my constituents, after having paid so much as their share of the extra- £1,400,000 of Customs and Excise revenue, at realizing how small a proportion of that excess is represented by the £222,000 to be paid this year to the whole of the States. Their disappointment will be the greater when they remember the figures to which I referred in my opening remarks, that 88 per cent, of the voting power pays only 4.25 of the direct taxes, whilst 12 per cent, of the voting power pays 95.75 per cent, of the same. The people will also be disappointed when they realize in the face of those figures that the money to be spent on old-age pensions means a payment, if by direct taxation, of £1 10s. by every one of those who constitute the voting power of 12 per cent., whilst only 1s. 6d. per head will be paid by those who constitute the voting power of 88 per cent.
.- I shall not detain the House very long at this late stage of the debate, but I wish to make a few remarks before the second reading of the Bill is agreed to. I shall not enter upon the question of the constitutionality of the Bill. There seems to be a fair division of opinion upon that question, and it seems likely that it will lead to another of those interminable law suits between the States and the Commonwealth, which are to be so much deprecated.
– We are always legislating on the border line.
– We are always legislating close to or on the border line. The object of this Bill, we are told, is to enable the Government to pile up money, so that they may at an early date pay oldage pensions. I was one of those members of this House who declared themselves to-be in favour of old-age pensions, and of the Commonwealth undertaking that class of legislation. I was influenced by the fact that we have to look at this matter from an Australian point of view. The man who has lived first in one State and then in another, is very frequently a very valuable citizen of this country. He should not, therefore, be left out in the cold when old-age pensions are being paid. In order that the pensions might be paid on equal terms all over Australia, I was in favour of the work being undertaken by the Federal Parliament. That . principle is, I think, generally conceded by all. But the question, how we can in the best and quickest manner undertake this class of work, is quite another matter. I consider that it ought to be undertaken in connexion with a general consideration of the financial affairs of the States and the Commonwealth. Even if we. adopt this Bill, it inevitably means a law suit and consequent delay ; after which we shall probably have to submit to the people a proposition for an alteration of the Constitution, involving still more delay. Consequently, the people who are to benefit from an old-age pensions scheme, which is the object of the Bill, are likely to remain out in the cold for an indefinite period. I consider that the States have a good deal of right on their side in desiring to know their exact financial position. I wish to point out to the House how this matter will affect Victoria. This State was the first in Australia to adopt an old-age pensions scheme. Then followed New South Wales ; and lately, Queensland has passed an Act for the same purpose. In Victoria, the old-age pensions are fixed at a.. maximum of 10s. per week - £26 per annum. That is all that any citizen of this State, man or woman, is allowed to receive. In New South Wales, recipients of old-age pensions are permitted to enjoy an income of twice that amount - £52 per annum.
– The pension in New South Wales is 10s. a week, or £1 per week for a married couple.
– But the old-age pensioner in New South Wales is not. debarred from the receipt of a pension of 10s. per week if he also enjoys an income of10s. per week from a private source, whilst in Victoria no old-age pensioner is allowed to have a source of income apart from his10s. per week.
– Who says so?
– I take those facts from the official Y ear-Book of the Commonwealth. That state of things has brought about the following result - that in Victoria only 16 per cent, of the people over 65 years of age receive old-age pensions, whereas in New South Wales 40 per cent. of the people above that age are in receipt of pensions.
– That is largely owing to the fact that in Victoria, until quite recently, only £200,000 per annum was permitted to be spent on old-age pensions.
– It has been only a charity dole in Victoria.
– I have heard the honorable member say so before. I do not quite understand what a charity dole is in this connexion. But we may take it that there is a considerable difference between the system in Victoria and that existing in New South Wales. If we adopt the suggestions of the Commonwealth Commission which went into this matter, with the Minister of Trade and Customs at its head - and probably they will be adopted - the present cost to Victoria of old-age pensions will, at any rate, be doubled.
– Victoria can afford if.
– I do not think Victoria can afford it. When old-age pensions were first paid in this State, the maximum amount was10s., but when bad times came it was cut down to 8s.10½d.
– The maximum was made 8s.
– At any rate, it was reduced. From that it appears that the State Parliament, which is representative of the people the same as we are–
– It is not. That is the trouble.
– The Victorian Parliament is elected by a considerable portion of the people.
– The women have not a vote for it.
– They have not, but experience shows that the women’s vote would not alter the representation to any considerable extent. In any case, Victoria has not got the money, although recently, under considerable stress, the maximum pension was again raised.
– And the income tax was reduced.
– - And still the Victorian Treasurer has a large surplus.
– Times have been favorable, but now there is every appearance of bad times ahead. Victoria is suffering from drought more than is any other State in the group, and stock is being shifted in every direction. Is that a good time to jump in and double what the honorable member refers to as a charitable dole? I do not say that it is or is not, but I think the States are perfectly justified in looking most carefully into their finances. That is why I am prepared to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parramatta to postpone the consideration of the Bill until the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States can be dealt with as a whole. That ought to be done.
– Then the honorable member supports the amendment on the ground that we cannot afford to pay old-age pensions?
– Do not let it go out to the world that Victoria cannot afford to pay as much as New South Wales for old-age pensions.
– I do not want to support the amendment on those grounds, but we ought to look into the question I have indicated, and not go recklessly into the undertaking. The Postmaster-General is a man of impulse. Like myself, he would be glad to see everybody paid £100 a year, but the question is, “ Can we afford it?” As the honorable member for Denison pointed out, a great many of the taxpayers are little better off than are the people who are to receive this “ charitable dole.” We are told that the object of the Bill is to provide money for old-age pensions and naval defence.
– I think the object of the Bill is to amend the Constitution.
– I have not felt competent to deal with that point ; it will probably be settled by the High Court. We are told, at any rate, that the object of the Bill is to put money into a trust fund for those two purposes. I altogether agree with the honorable member for Angas, who hit the nail on the head when he stated that if the Bill is constitutional at all, it is constitutional only where this House has appropriated the money. It is all very well for the Treasurer to tell us that the intention underlying the Bill is to set money aside for old-age pensions and naval defence ; but how do we know that that intention will be carried out? The Government may change, all sorts of things might happen to prevent it, and so this House would be actually creating a trust fund for one purpose, while the money might afterwards be applied to some altogether different object. As a business man who has had to make both ends meet and look into points of this kind very seriously, I think that is a very dangerous practice for the House to follow. The House ought to know before it votes any money exactly how that money is going to be spent. That is one reason why I think we ought to go thoroughly into the whole financial position, to see what we can afford before we authorize the Government to accumulate a trust fund. I have no objection to such a fund, except that the money is always better in the pockets of the taxpayers than accumulated in the coffers of the Government. If Labour members are so anxious for old-age pensions, why do they not bring them into force in South Australia? The existing state of. things is a slur on that State, which is entirely in the hands of the Labour Party. There is a Labour Government in power there, and yet it is one of the few States where old-age pensions are not paid. It is significant that Victoria, which is in the hands of what is called a Conservative Government, with Mr. Bent at its head, has passed an old-age pensions scheme, and that New South Wales and Queensland have also done so.
– It was a democratic Government, and not the present Government in New South Wales, that passed it.
– It was not the present Government in Victoria that passed it.
– The present Government in Victoria have actually increased the amount.
– Does the honorable member advance those arguments as a justification for his not voting for a Federal old-age pensions scheme?
– No. I am merely pointing out that it is extraordinary that the only State where old-age pensions are urgently wanted is South Australia, which is in the hands of the Labour Party. That makes me ask myself, “ Can it be that that State is hanging back so as to force the Commonwealth Parliament to launch out on a scheme?” One has to find motives, although one does not like imputing them. There must be some motive behind the delay. The matter is not as simple as it looks on the surface. In Western Australia, the population is nearly all of a working age, and there are only a few hundred people at most who would benefit by old-age pensions ; so that they are not very necessary in that State. Tasmania is the only other State, and the people there are a. small happy family. It is astonishing to find that in South Australia, where oldage pensions ought to have been granted years ago, and where the Labour Party has had a free hand, no provision has been made.
– One of the reasons is that South Australia distinctly understood that a Federal scheme was to be passed.
– That is an extraordinaryidea. Apparently they do not do their duty because they think that the Federal Parliament are going to pass a scheme some day.
– We are going to pass it at once.
– I hope we are.
– Then why is the honorable member objecting to it?
– I object to the Bill because it means putting an old-age pensions scheme off for years. The people with whom the Federal Government ought to agree are the States people, but they continue fighting with. them. The Government might perfectly well have come to an agreement with the States.
– Is it not the other way about? Are the States not always fighting us ?
– I ask honorable members not to interrupt.
– Any old-age pensions provision ought to be a part of the whole scheme for the settlement of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. The Government have no business to ask this House to set aside money for old-age pensions and naval defence under this Bill unless Parliament appropriates the money and sets it apart for those specific purposes. If that were done, such a trust fund would not be a bad thing, but it is most unbusiness-like and unpractical to tell us in a vague way that the money will probably be spent upon those two objects. I shall, therefore, vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– The speeches delivered upon this Bill have taken a great variety of forms. Most of them seem to have treated it as if it were a Bill to legalize old-age pensions. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie made some observations which seemed to suggest that the division upon the Bill would, in fact, be a test of the feelings of members with regard to the propriety and desirableness of passing an Old-age Pensions Bill. I want to make it clear that whatever vote I give upon this measure will have nothing to do with my opinions upon old-age pensions. This Bill is a purely constitutional provision ; and if I were asked to put my view of it into a few words I should say that it was a Bill that was intended solely to alter the Constitution. We all understand clearly that, at all events, for five years after Federation was inaugurated it was intended that the bookkeeping system should be continued, and that whatever moneys were not expended by the Commonwealth out of its 25 per cent, of the net Customs and Excise revenue should be handed back to the States. The Government have thought it necessary to attach to the Bill a memorandum which is, I suppose, intended to take the place of the usual Ministerial explanation of the measure. I am not aware whether the Treasurer was unable to make the purpose of the Bill sufficiently clear in his second-reading speech, but the memorandum is obviously intended to explain to honorable members what the Bill really is, upon the assumption that they will not be able to understand it for themselves. The three sections in the Constitution which seem to deal with this proposal are 89, 93, and 94. I ask honorable members, when considering whether or not they ought to vote for the Bill, to give serious attention to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parramatta, that the passing of the Bill should be postponed until the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States - as to which there is at present some friction - have been placed upon a more satisfactory basis. Whether the Bill is or is not constitutional, its object is to alter the distribution of the 25 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue which the Commonwealth may expend. Section 89 provides that the Commonwealth shall pay to each State, month by month, the balance, if any, in favour of the State. The word “expenditure” is very prominent where the debiting is dealt with. Ministers, in the fourth paragraph of the memorandum attached to the Bill, make an admission -
Section 94 is far more elastic than the temporary sections. Those sections contain a special appropriation to the States of all unexpended revenue; and while they remain in force the Commonwealth is bound to return to the States every penny that is not actually expended.
I agree with that interpretation. Every honorable member must interpret for himself the expression “ expenditure “; most people understand it to mean “ money expended.” A balance having been struck, in reference to the 25 per cent., between the credit and the debit of actual expenditure, the difference is to be returned to the States each month. Section 93 deals with the bookkeeping period. Those who have studied the history of the Constitution, know what a long and laboured discussion took place in the Convention in regard to the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue. It was demonstrated that a per capita distribution would give some of the States an unfair advantage, by enabling them to receive more revenue than would be collected on commodities consumed within their borders. Therefore, it was determined that, notwithstanding its enormous trouble and expense, an accurate account should be kept for five years of the Customs revenue received from each State, so that the distribution might be in accordance with the contributions. Section 94, which Ministers say is more elastic than sections 89 and 93, does not, in my opinion, modify them, except in so far as it gives the Parliament power to alter the basis of the division. It was recognised in the Convention that the bookkeeping system, by reason of its complication and expense, must sooner or later be abandoned, and a per capita distribution adopted. Section 94 therefore 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.
That section, I submit, in no way modifiesthe requirements of section 89 that the Commonwealth must “ expend “ money before it can deduct it from its 25 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue, to the balance of which the States are entitled.
– Would not that make it impossible for the Commonwealth to undertake big national works?
– An Act of Parliament is not variously interpreted according to its effect upon particular interests. The Constitution provides that the Commonwealth may expend as much of its25 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue as the Parliament may think fit, but the balance is to be returned to the States Ministers, no doubt with the best intentions, wish to provide that, instead of the Commonwealth being required to “expend,” it shall only be necessary to “ appropriate “ money. They say, “ We want to create a fund for the payment of old-age pensions “ - a very good intention. A certain place is paved with good intentions ; but they should not be considered a sufficient justification for this
Parliament. We are asked to make “ appropriation “ a synonym for “ expenditure.” The Bill seeks to enable any part of the 25 per cent, to be placed to a trust fund, which may not be used for some years. The week before last, the Prime Minister blandly asked a Committee of Supply to vote a sum of £250,000, which, he admitted, would not be expended during the current financial year. When reminded that only “expenditure” within the financial year could be deducted from the Commonwealth 25 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue, he withdrew the proposal . No matter how much may be said about oldage pensions- and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie had a good deal to say on the subject - or about the effect on Victoria of the Commonwealth old-age pensions system, of which the honorable member for Fawkner spoke, that question has nothing to do with this discussion. We are concerned almost wholly, with the provision in paragraph d, of clause 4, that -
All payments to Trust Accounts, established under the Audit Acts 1901-1906, of moneys appropriated by law for any purpose of the Commonwealth, shall be deemed to be expenditure.
That, as I have said, is an attempt to make “appropriation” a synonym for “ expenditure.”
– Does the honorable and learned member say that the words “applied annually,” as used in section 87, mean “expended annually,” not “appropriated”?
– It does not, I think, touch my present argument. Section 93 determines how 25 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue shall be divided. The Commonwealth isempowered to “ expend “ as much as it likes, but the unexpended balance must be returned to the States. The Commonweath cannot say, “We are unable to spend all this money during the current financial year, but we are going to appropriate part of it for future expenditure, and call that expenditure.’ “ Ministers have admitted that by introducing the Bill. If “ expenditure “ and “appropriation” were synonymous, there would really be no need for the measure ; to make them so involves an alteration of the Constitution.
– Does not the annual division, provided for in section 87, clash with themonthly division in section 94?
– It may; but I do not think that that touches the point which I am discussing. The Constitution cannot be amended by a Bill of this kind. From what I have seen of the action of the Government, it seems to me that, for a long time, they have been at their wits’ end to know how to become the authors of a Bill to provide for old-age pensions. The honorable member for Flinders threw out some suggestions the other night about a trust fund.
– He says that this Bill is constitutional.
– That may be; and I am sure that, if he thinks so, he will agree to differ with me over it. He threw out - as I said - some suggestions about a trust fund, and immediately a member of the Ministry - I do not credit the Treasurer with that acuteness which would enable him to take it up so rapidly - seized upon the idea of creating a trust fund for old-age pensions. This Bill is the outcome, and I think that the honorable member for Flinders, if he is pleased with the offspring, can claim to be its father.
– My suggestions were made in connexion with the Bounties Bill.
– But in a speech which I have here, the honorable member referred generally to the possibility of creating a trust fund; and I quite agree with him that we may have an appropriation for a trust fund, but not out of the 25 per cent, of the Customs revenue. Whether the appropriation of a sum for a trust fund is an “expenditure” by the Commonwealth is a totally different question. If the Federal Convention had meant “appropriation,” itcould have used that word in the section providing for the rightof the Commonwealth. to take from the 25 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue any sums appropriated by the Commonwealth, but it put in “expenditure,” and it anticipated, I suppose, that the Commonwealth would be able to pay its way out of that percentage, without the building up of any trust funds. That seems to me to be the kernel of the whole question. The effect of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parramatta would be to suspend this question until some better and more satisfactory arrangement had been entered into between the States and the Commonwealth. The Bill may be intended as a political placard - I do not know, and I am not going to say that it is - but certainly there is no immediate hurry over it.
– It must be remembered that the revenue is diminishing everyyear.
– The honorable member will see that if some satisfactory arrangement is made between the States and the Commonwealth, there should be no difficulty over the provision ofold-age pensions, whatever our personal views on that question may be. I suppose that I take as circumspect a view of that question as does anybody here, because I believe that whatever provision we make for the purpose ought to be hedged round with a number of precautions, the necessity for which has been demonstrated by the States in actual experience of that legislation. I have always felt, if I may go off the constitutional track for a moment, that when a person claiming an old-age pension is known to have near relatives who are amply competent to keep him from the want against which an old-age pension is supposed to provide at the expense of the State - that is, at the expense of the recipient’s fellow-citizens - those fellowcitizens ought not to be called upon to support him when his own relatives could well do so .
– That is the Victorian system.
– I know of many cases in which people in affluence are allowing their parentsto receive an old-age pension in New South Wales. Whether we vote for or against this measure is no test, and I repudiate it as a test of my feelings towards old-age pensions. I recognise that under the Constitution it is an accepted principle in Federal politics that the Commonwealth shall take over the whole question of old-age pensions. Already three States are paying those pensions, namely, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, and I suppose that they absorb four-fifths of the population of Australia. I do not think that anybody can object on principle to the establishment of an Australian system of old-age pensions as provided in the Constitution. So that this Bill will not be a test of one’s opinions on the desirableness of old-age pensions as part of a legislative policy.
– Let the Government bring in a Bill and provide the money.
– Of course, the Government will have to bring in an Old-age Pensions Bill, and honorable members will then be able to suggest any modifications or precautions with which it is necessary to hedge round the general provision. But I repeat that this measure is an attempt to alter the Constitution, so as to enable the Commonwealth to pay moneys into a variety of funds. Paragraph d of clause 4 puts the whole attempt in a nutshell when it says that-
All payments to trust accounts . . . shall be deemed to be expenditure.
Those few words clearly show what the Bill is intended to do. It raises the whole question, whether under section 93 of the Constitution we can interpret “ expenditure “ as “appropriation.” One reason why I think that we cannot do so is that in a State the Parliament can appropriate money without expending it; therefore, the two things are not co-terminus or synonymous, and it follows, as a matter of course, that they do not mean the same thing. Inasmuch, then, as an appropriation may be made without expending the money, I submit that we should only be attempting to amend the Constitution by substituting the word “ appropriation “ for the word “expenditure.” We are not in a hurry, I repeat, about this measure. It is not as if a scheme of old-age pensions were awaiting its passage ; because, although we pass a Bill, we cannot start such a scheme with the small sum of money which the Government would be able immediately to place at the disposal of the fund. And as the Prime Minister has told us this evening in answer to a question, it is, orwas, contemplated when the Premiers’ Conference dispersed to have another meeting very shortly, when we all hope there will be a more amicable spirit existing. It ought not to be many months before the whole of this question is discussed between the States and the Commonwealth, and some satisfactory arrangement made by which oldage pensions will be provided for.
– The Premiers offered to make such payments.
– Yes, and I understand that the. Prime Minister is in a mood to accept the offer. Therefore, there should be no obstacle in the way.
– They made a strong offer.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie laid great stress upon this so-called difference between the States and the Commonwealth, and seemed to imply that it was the duty of every man in this Parliament to take up the cause of the Commonwealth as against the States. There ought, in my opinion, to be no such “cause.” We exist, as a Parliament, by reason of a partnership deed - the Constitution - and it is our duty here, as the honorable .member for Parramatta once said, not to be constantly legislating on the border line between our constitutional rights and those of the States, but to be always watching that border line, because, although the citizens and the taxpayers of the States are the same as the citizens and taxpayers of the Commonwealth, there are divided interests. We, as custodians of the Commonwealth powers, ought to do our utmost to see that the ‘partnership deed is worked in the most equitable, harmonious way possible between the State interests and the . Commonwealth interests. If there is a tendency on the part of this Parliament to overstep that line on behalf of the Commonwealth, it is the duty of those who can assume a judicial attitude between the two conflicting sets of rights, to urge that the Commonwealth should not become aggressive; just as much is it our duty to resent any aggressive conduct on’ the’ part of the States. The ideal which we should set up, is not that -of attacking the States, but of overlooking the relative positions of the two national entities, to see that there is no overstepping, and little as possible cause for irritation. If we are always going to legislate on the border line, in the spirit in which we have done in the past,, and to say, “ We do not mind the High Court; we will chance^ it,” as I have heard men occupying positions in the Government say here-
– In any case we must chance it, because we cannot decide any constitutional point here.
– No ; but the honorable member will admit that we ought to be very careful about legislating so close to tlie border line that that sort of expression can be used ; especially when we have opportunities of discussing with the Premiers, from time to time, questions which can be settled amicably. He knows very well that the people of the different States take up the cudgels for one State or another.
– We are perfectly safe so long as we do not go over the border line.
– No doubt, but if the honorable member is skating on the edge of a lake, he is very careful not to go very close to the deep water. He keeps off that point because he can, perhaps, do just as well over the shallow water as he could over deep water. Besides, every time that we do something that leads to conflict be tween the States and the Commonwealth, through the High Court, we rouse antagonism on the part of one class or other, whicli it ought to be our duty to obviate. I claim, then, that my vote on this measure has nothing tlo do with my opinion on the question of old-age pensions.
– The honorable member cannot help it.
– My vote on this matter ought not to be in favour of the Commonwealth, if I think that the Bill involves an overstepping of our rights. I submit that, constitutionally, it is one which ought not to be passed, because the same result can be produced without raising any question as to its constitutional propriety, as soon as the Premiers of the States and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth meet in a broad and friendly spirit.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Parkes will allow me to express the gratification which, I think, is shared by every honorable member listening to his very admirable and short speech, marked as it was by the most moderate and temperate language to which we have listened. I should not like, even if it were in order, to enter into a lengthy discussion on the constitutional question which has been so much debated.- I do not know that you, sir, would consider me in order in doing so, seeing that, as I have already spoken to the main question, I can only speak now to the amendment. But, perhaps, with your permission, and that of the’ House - seeing that so much criticism has been directed towards some of the arguments I addressed to honorable members, I may be allowed to occupy a very fewminutes in dealing with one aspect of this important question. I do not claim that a lawyer can speak on this particular question with1 any special authority. It is not a matter which involves any abstruse learning or technical reasoning. It is a question on which any man who has had experience of constitutional matters is quite as much entitled to speak with authority as is any one who has had experience of law. Under our Constitution there are many cases, as the honorable member for Parkes has observed, in which it would be not only imprudent, but not altogether honest, for us to say that our opinions are absolutely fixed until the points at issue have been determined by the tribunal which alone can do so. In fact, when I find so many honorable members, for whose opinion I entertain very great respect, differing from the view I formed on this subject, I am not so arrogant as not to feel certain doubts coming into my mind as to whether, after all, I may not be wrong and they may be right, although there are many honorable’ members who support my view. I should, however, like to place before honorable members one or two considerations which I do not think have yet been fully dwelt upon. In the first place, in considering any document, especially a fundamental document such as our Constitution is, we ought to remember that old rule of construction which has been handed down to us clothed in a Latin form, like so many of those precepts of the Middle Ages, and which has only been preserved, not from the language in which it is clothed, but from its real pith and common sense - Qui haret in liters haret in cortices A literal translation is that he who merely considers the letter of a document goes but skin-deep into its meaning; he who stops at the bark never gets to the heart of the tree. In construing more particularly .a great charter of constitutional powers, we must not confine ourselves to any one word, one expression, one sentence, or one section. We have to look at the whole scheme as embodied in all the sections dealing with the particular matter under consideration. I approach this question from that point of view, and hold that the intention of the framers of the Constitution was to invest this Parlia-ment, not with powers limited in the same way as are those vested in a municipality, but with powers that would make it the sovereign Parliament within its own realm, and the leading parliamentary institution in the Commonwealth. I think it was intended that, as far as possible, it should be free and unfettered in carrying out the important duties which were intrusted to it, so long as the equally sovereign or important rights of the States were preserved to them. I always feel disposed to read the financial provisions of the Constitution in the most liberal, rather than in the most restricted, way. I may be wrong, but that is the spirit in which I always approach their consideration. I find in the sections commencing with section 81, and ending practically with section 94, a complete scheme of financial adjustment between the States and the Commonwealth, which presents certain broad, outstanding features that impress themselves very strongly upon’ my mind. It was intended, first of all, as section 81 provides, to give to the Commonwealth the most complete power to appropriate Commonwealth revenues to Commonwealth purposes. The Commonwealth revenues include the whole of the revenue from Customs and Excise. We start with that. There is no limit to the word “ appropriated.” As used there, it is as wide as it could be. It means the taking o’f the Commonwealth revenues and applying them to any purpose within the realm of Commonwealth functions. Coming to section 87, upon the proper meaning of which, after all, the whole question hinges, we find that, broadly speaking, its object seems to be beyond question. I do not think that honorable members who have ranged themselves on either side of this much-disputed question would argue that the intention was not mainly to secure to the States three-fourths of the revenue from Customs and Excise. The framers of the Constitution contemplated their getting probably more, but it was to secure to them at least three-fourths of that great revenue, the management of which was handed over to the Commonwealth, that section 87 was passed. That was the main object with which they set out. Section 87 provides -
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 duties of excise, not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually bv the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
The whole question turns upon the meaning of the words “ shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.” We are to read them, of course, in the light of the language employed, not only in the section, ,T5ut in all parts of the Constitution relating to I his particular matter. The narrower view - the view put forward so strongly by some of my honorable friends - is that these words mean that the money must be applied bv the Commonwealth only towards its an- nual expenditure. That is to say, the whole operation and effect of the section is limited to what we may call the annual services of the year. That is practically the point at which I find myself totally unable to agree with my honorable friends. If such a contention were adopted, it would, to my mind, limit the whole of the powers of this House in many respects. To assume that this money was to be applied only to annual expenditure, would be to give to the section a meaning which in the first place is not necessary to carry out the intention which the framers of the Constitution had in their mind - the intention to secure to the States at least three-fourths of the Customs revenue - and which would place this Parliament very much in the position of a municipal council, hedged round with all kinds of restrictions.
– Only as applied to the Customs House.
– I shall come to that point presently. I listened with the greatest pleasure and attention to the honorable member’s speech. The view which he and others hold was put by him as well as by any honorable member whom I have heard address himself to this subject. But there is another distinction which has been rather left out of account by most of those who have addressed themselves to this constitutional question. I refer to the broad distinction between Parliamentary appropriation and Executive expenditure. The two, as honorable members know, are absolutely distinct. Parliament does not spend money in the sense of paying out money. The Executive spends money under the authority of Parliament. If we mean by the use of the word “ spending,” to refer to the handing out of sovereigns or cheques for services rendered or for goods received, it certainly cannot be said that Parliament spends money. Parliament authorizes expenditure. It sets apart by appropriation - it applies - its revenues towards expenditure. I have never heard it suggested that “ appropriation “ is limited to appropriation for services of the year, nor can I find any reason to suggest that an application by Parliament towards its expenditure is necessarily limited to an application of its revenues towards the expenditure of the current year. The Constitution does not say that it is. Why should we read into it a limitation further than is actually expressed in the language employed ? Section 87, and this seems to me to lie at the very root of what, if I maysay so, is the fallacy of the argument of a good many of my honorable friends, does not deal with what the Treasurer or the Executive has to do. It is a restriction upon the authority of Parliament. It says that the Commonwealth Parliament is not to take out of the stream of revenue which is allowed to flow through its channels–
Colonel Foxton. - What is the honorable member quoting?
– I am paraphrasing section 87, in order to convey to honorable members what I think is the proper meaning to be given to it. The framers of the Constitution in that section say, in effect to the Commonwealth, “ We give you the vast fund which comes annually from Customs and Excise.”
Colonel Foxton. - The words used are applied “ by the Commonwealth,” not “ by the Parliament.”
– Quite true.
Colonel Foxton. - That may refer to the Executive just as much as to the Parliament.
– Certainly, it may apply to any of the functions of Government, parliamentary or executive. We have, however, to apply those words to one or the other ; we cannot apply them to both. The amount appropriated by Parliament may be different from the amount actually spent during the course of a particular year. If we are to choose between taking this provision as a limitation upon the actual amount spent or paid out, and a limitation upon the authority of the Parliament to appropriate or apply an amount towards its expenditure, I have no hesitation in saying that thelatter meaning is not only at least equally consistent with the express language used, but affords a far more effective and better check for the States than would the other.
– The original object was to secure to the States three-fourths of the Customs revenue.
– The framers of the Constitution said, in effect : “ We invest the Commonwealth with an enormous revenue, and we say to it : ‘ Out of the annual revenue coming in from this great source, you are only to take for appropriation or application towards your expenditure - at whatever time it may be - not more than one-fourth. You may take less, and if you do, you must return to the States the whole of the three-fourths, plus the amount of the one-fourth that you. do not take for yourselves.’ “ That, it seems to me is the object and purpose of section 87. I come now to section 89, to which the honorable member for Parkes referred.
– The word “month “ is used in section 89.
– That is precisely the contrast I am going to draw. I now come to two other sections which, as the honorable member for Parkes has pointed out, must be read together as being part of one definite direction. I refer to sections 89 and 93. Honorable members are familiar with both of them. They may be read together as meaning that until the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, and for five years after, the Commonwealth shall, first of all, credit to each State the revenues actually collected therein by the Commonwealth, and, secondly, debit to each State its actual, expenditure in that State. Having done that, it is to pay over month by month any balance in favour of the State. What is the object of that direction ? It seems to me to be quite clear. I do not wish to refer to the reports of the Convention debates, because once we allow the discussion, to go back to what any member of the Convention said, we might just as well try to construe an Act of Parliament by turning to the speeches delivered upon it as reported in Hansard: Is hot the intention of the framers of the Constitution plain? They were saying to the Commonwealth : “ First of all we give you the whole of this vast revenue - by far the largest proportion of the revenue of the States. We put that into your hands to start with, and we say that we are going ultimately to allow you to adjust absolutely the proportion in which that revenue is to be divided between the States and yourself. But we say that for the first ten years you are not to take more than onefourth of that revenue.” We then come upon a totally different’ kind of provision intended, it seems to me, for a different purpose. The framers of the Constitution in passing section 93, said, in effect, to the Commonwealth : “ For five’ years we are going to make you keep an account showing money coming in and cash paid out month by month. You will have to prepare returns of what Parliament may have expended month by month. You must show what you have expended in Victoria out of the money collected in that State month by month, and what you have collected in Tasmania, and expended in that State, and so forth. But we shall only impose that rigid system of bookkeeping, and of cash payments upon you for five years, because we think it is a discipline to which you should be subjected no longer than is necessary.” After that period, according to my view, the ‘Commonwealth Parliament was to be given absolute freedom without reference to the actual expenditure or cash received, and the right was given to wipe out these two sections, and substitute any mode that might be thought proper for returning the surplus revenue to the States. I do not like to appear absolutely certain on a point as to which there is great difference of opinion amongst those of experience ; but I am giving what seems tome to be a Federal reading of a Federal Constitution. It was then intended, after the rigid cash payment conditions weredone away with, to confer on Parliament the great trust and responsibility of fixing, for all time the amount of revenue it should reserve for its own expenditure, a’nd the amount to be returned, subject only tothe condition that, after the expiration of ten years, there should still be returned at least three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to the States. Reading, the Constitution in that way, I do not intend to spend any more time on this point. I might reiterate my views over and over again ; and I know there are suggestionsto be advanced on both sides. If we enter into a verbal criticism of the sections, I can quite see the possibility of arguments against my view, and I might, occupy considerable time in substantiating what I have advanced. All I venture tosay, however, is that, where there are two possible views regarding the powers under these financial sections, I feel disposed tobelieve that the correct and true view,, which would probably be upheld by theHigh Court in the last resort, is that which imposes only such restrictions onthe great financial .power given to this Parliament, as are deliberately and expressly embodied in the Constitution. If I am wrong, I am wrong in good company; and I know that the opinions of those opposed to me are entitled to quite as much respect as are my own. Turning to the Bill before us, I think that the form of it is such as to invite the criticism which has been bestowed on it by the honorable member for Parkes. Assuming the Government to be right as to our constitutional powers, to introduce a Bill in a form, which, taking the words of the Constitution, says that appropriation is to be deemed to be expenditure, seems to me to be either a very awkward way of expressing the meaning of “ expenditure “ as used in the Bill, or a very futile attempt to express the meaning of “expenditure” within the meaning of the Constitution. I agree with the criticism that the honorable member for Parkes has passed upon this point; but this, however, is a matter for consideration in Committee. Leaving that matter, I desire to say that I entirely concur in the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parramatta; and I ask honorable members to allow me to place before them, in a concise form, some of the facts which honorable members who have preceded me have referred to,with regard to the actual financial position we are called upon to face. In the first place, I must say that this House has looked in vain, ever since I have been a member, to the Government for that light and leading in financial affairs to which we are entitled. There is no responsibility which is so difficult for a popular assembly to deal with as that of the management of the finances ; and the only way in which it is possible to meet that responsibility is by the affording of some definite light and leading by the responsible Ministers of the Crown. I find that we have had no complete or consistent scheme of finance for the immediate future placed before us ; and all that theamendment of the honorable member for Parramatta asks is that, before we commit ourselves to a great financial change under the Constitution - because this Bill abrogates sections 89 and 93, and substitutes other provisions - we are entitledto have something like an outline, at all events, of a financial policy. Up to the present, as I have indicated, the Government have put forward no policy whatever ; and when speaking nearly a year ago, on the same question, I ventured to say that we were like a ship which is being steered in a fog - that no bearings are taken, and that there is nobody to tell us what shoals or reefs we are approaching.
– We have never struck a reefyet !
– What an answer is that to be given by the captain of a ship to a timorous passenger? Here we are, going along, full speed in the fog; and when a passenger asks the captain, “ Do you think it safe?” the reply is, “We have not yet struck a reef ! “
– And we will not strike a reef.
– I am afraid that phenomenally good luck will not always take the place of skilful navigation. The method of steering the financial ship reminds me of nothing so much as the celebrated Kipling poem of “ How we brought the Bolivar out across the Bay.” The attitude of the helpless mariners in the Bolivar seems to be the attitude of the Government at the present time; but it is not really a laughing matter, as I think I shall be able to show in a few sentences. We have had no finan cial scheme presented, though we have had disjointed utterances from various members of the Government; and, seeing that we have nothing in the way of a chart to show the direction in which we are going - no policy whatever, except for to-morrow and the day after - I have thought it my duty, as I have no doubt other honorable members have done, to make such forecasts as we can in regard to what is likely to take place in the future. I propose now to take the figures which have been put forward by the Treasurer, and endeavour to piece them together.
– But the honorable member says that the figures are wrong !
– I do not say I agree with all the figures, but I think it will be rather instructive to the House to know the results that must inevitably follow from accepting the disjointed fragments of policy that have emanated from individual Ministers, in the absence of any policy from the Government as a whole. Of course, it is not the duty of private members, especially those sitting in Opposition, to frame the policy of the Government. First of all, we have a Surplus Revenue Bill introduced with a great flourish of trumpets, and many promises from my friends in the Labour corner of a vast scheme of old-age pensions almost immediately. But when we come to examine the facts, we find that, although we have a Surplus Revenue Bill, we have no surplus revenue.
– Honorable members opposite would be glad if we had no surplus revenue, but we shall have.
– Assuming that the Government are within their constitutional rights in passing this Bill, and that we are going to exert our powers to the limit proposed, we must suppose that the States will press their legitimate constitutional powers to the limit also. Section 85 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall compensate the States to the value of any property passing to the Commonwealth under that section. It is a very simple provision ; but what does it mean? It is not merely a sort of constitutional direction, but a. legal right legally enforceable in a court. “ Property passing “ means, I suppose, property passing at the time the Departments were taken over ; and a good many years have elapsed since then. If I know anything about such subjects, I understand that, if there were a suit insti- tuted to determine what was owing to any particular State under this section, the issue would be a very simple one, namely, the ascertainment of the actual value of the asset - the property taken- over - at the date it was taken over, together with the interest calculated at ordinary rates from then until the present time.
– Any difference has been more than compensated for by the surplus revenue paid over since.
– I am not talking about any general constitutional direction, but about a legal right created and given to the States, which may be enforced against the ‘ Commonwealth under these provisions of the Constitution.
– If that money had been paid, would it not have had to be debited to the States?
– The honorable member has, I think, fallen into an error which I have noticed in more than one of the discussions at Premiers’ Conferences. What the honorable member says is perfectly right up to a certain point. The money has to be debited to the States, but it has to be debited as Commonwealth expenditure ; and, so long as- we have a surplus exceeding the amount of interest to be paid, it does not matter - it is merely a question of adjustment amongst the States. But once that the surplus is, according to the Treasurer’s statement at the beginning of the year, £103,000, as against £400,000 formerly, it is not a mere matter of adjustment. Under the Braddon section, whether the case be that of transferred or “other” expenditure, interest and sinking fund must be provided for in the case of the transferred properties ; and this provision, bv the way, the Treasurer estimates at £[450,000 a. year.
– And not charge that to the States?
– No. The Constitution says that the Commonwealth shall compensate the States for the transferred properties. How can it compensate them if it pays for those properties out of moneys which belong to the States? In declaring that we are not to take more than onefourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue, the Constitution means that we are to return to the States the other threefourths. It does not mean that we are to take out of that three-fourths the money with which to compensate the States for their own properties.
– The other side of - the House is the States side; this is the national side.
– That is the kind of remark which the Treasurer mistakes for argument. Even the figures for this year are a little misleading, and difficult to understand, so that it is quite impossible to ascertain the surplus which may be anticipated. But, according to Hansard, page 1 1 266, the Treasurer sets down a sum of £450,000 for interest and sinking fund in connexion with the transferred properties. If we are to pay that amount, where is the surplus revenue? Has the Treasurer forgotten this consideration, or is he prepared to take up the posi-. tion that we are not going to compensate the States for those properties? Is he going to take up the position that that compensation may be delayed for seven years, or seventeen years, or seventy years, without paying the States any interest at all ? He must take up one of these positions. If he does not, he has no surplus. I think I -shall be able to show that very soon - either next year, or the year after - his surplus revenue will disappear.
– The honorable member will argue that black is white.
– Putting aside the fact that we are being asked to pass a Surplus Revenue Bill, when there is no surplus revenue, I wish to invite the attention of honorable members- and .particularly of the Treasurer - to a little mosaic which I have made out of the different items which have been supplied by himself, by the Prime Minister, and bv other Ministers, with a view to showing the state of the finances which we may anticipate in the immediate future if the policy of the Government - so far as we are capable of judging what it is - be given effect to. I propose to take the end of the year 1 9 10, because that is the time when we must come to some definite adjustment of our financial relations with the States, and to show what we may anticipate will be the position of the finances in that year if the Treasurer’s forecast be correct. In doing so, no doubt I shall cover ground which has already been traversed by other honorable members, but I may be forgiven for putting the position in a precise and succinct way. The Treasurer states what we all know to be a fact, namely, that the Customs and Excise revenue for the current year represents a very large sum, but that it will gradually decrease. So far we have had no intelligible analysis of the figures, andI think that the only way in which we can fairly approach this question is by dealing with the Post Office as an entirely separate concern. I am justified in doing that, because the Prime Minister has intimated that that is the plan which ought to be followed. Let us suppose that the Post Office, which practically pays its own way, continues to pay its own way, and is able to provide out of its own revenue, not perhaps all the money that is necessary for the erection of new buildings, but all that is necessary to establish a sinking fund in connexion with, and to pay interest upon, any money borrowed for the erection of new buildings.
– Does the honorable member include interest upon the transferred properties?
– The Department can pay that, too.
– The PostmasterGeneral’s statement is incorrect. The Department cannot anything like pay its way if the interest upon the transferred properties be included. Upon a previous occasion I showed that if we debited that Department with one-tenth of the average expenditure upon new works - and ten years is a very good allowance to make for the life of such works - it would be just about able to pay its way. But if we debit it with the payment of interest upon the transferred properties, obviously it would not be able to do so. Therefore, I do not include that interest in my estimate.
– The honorable member may do so.
– I dispute that statement.
– I have had the figures checked quite recently.
– I propose, therefore, to adopt the suggestion of the Prime Minister, and to deal with the Post Office upon a separate basis. That Department is not to be treated as a profit-earning machine, but it is to be able, as a whole, to stand upon its own bottom and to provide out of its increasing revenue for the payment of interest and the establishment of a sinking fund in connexion with works necessary for its development.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.45 p.m.
– I am sorry I do not see the Postmaster-General in his place, because I desire before I proceed to discuss some of the more important features of the financial position to deal with an interjection he made when I was dealing with the Post Office figures. However, I shall proceed to state the answer to the point he took up. When I said that the Post Office was just about paying its way, the honorable member for Nepean asked me whether that was taking into account the interest on the transferred Post Office properties. I answered “ No.” The PostmasterGeneral stated that the Department could more than pay its way, after taking into account the interest on the transferred properties. In the absence of the PostmasterGeneral, I should like the Treasurer to give me his attention, and if I am wrong to check the figures I use, although they will be taken from the honorable gentleman’s own Budget statement. Honorable members will see, if my statement is correct, that the Post and Telegraph Department cannot be expected to do more than pay its way, and at present only about pays its way without taking into account interest on transferred Post Office properties.
– In estimating the value of the transferred property referred to, what value does the honorable member place on the land which the States Governments got for nothing, but in respect of which they wish the Commonwealth Government to pay a sum representing the unearned increment of value?
– My calculations are based on the figures placed before the House by the Treasurer himself, which are supposed to contain full information, and on which I am entitled to rely. The position in regard to the Post Office is this : It is the policy of the Government to establish penny postage in the Commonwealth. I say that I am entirely in accord with that policy, and that penny postage should have been established before this. The whole idea in connexion with the transfer to the Commonwealth of such a Department as the Post Office was that it should not lead to an alliance, but to a fusion of the previously existing State services: In view of the fusion which has taken place since the establishment of Federation, it is quite unreasonable that people living in outlying districts should have to pay a higher postage rate on their letters than those living in large centres of population.
– Does the honorable member think that the matter he is now discussing relates to this Bill?
– If you will allow me, sir, I will finish the sentence, and then leave the matter. I say that that would have been just as unreasonable as to have proposed that people living in remote districts of Victoria or New South Wales should have to pay a higher postage rate than those living in the larger cities of those States. As I am reminded that to pursue that Une of argument would perhaps be to enter upon a discussion of Post Office policy, I will only say now that it was part of the Government policy to give effect to penny postage within the Commonwealth. Had that policy been given effect to the estimated revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department for next year would have been £2,073,000. As against that we find, the expenditure this year to be as follows : - The regular departmental ‘expenditure amounts to £[2,865,000; additional works and expenditure, £434,000; and there are Additional Estimates covering votes of £[27,000 and £[63,000, giving a total of £[3,389,000. But, as I said before in dealing with the Post Office Estimates, it is only fair that we should npt encumber one year with the whole cost of additional works to be paid for out of revenue. On that principle I have adopted the PostmasterGeneral’s 1 estimate - an estimate which I suggested myself - which is based on the assumption that the life of new works is about ten, years, and that the expenditure upon them should be spread over that period. That principle has been expressly accepted in the tables submitted by the Postmaster-General himself. Having regard to the adoption of that principle in connexion with expenditure on this Department, and thus reducing the item of £434,000 to £[134,060, the expenditure of the Post Office is shown to be £[3,089,000, or about £10,000 over what might be considered the present revenue. I again express my regret that the Postmaster-General is not present to check these figures.
– Does the honorable member make allowance for the fact that the revenue from the Post Office increases very considerably every year?
– The honorable gentleman will see that I cannot allow for an increase of revenue without estimating also increased expenditure. I assume that the Post Office should not be relied upon as a profit-producing Department.
– It ought not to be.
– That is so. If it could support itself, and also provide year by year a reasonable amount towards necessary extension and development, that is the most that could be expected from it. .
– The honorable member ought not to forget that the Post Office is debited with a number of charges in connexion with trade and commerce, which ought not to be charged to it.
– Does the honorable ‘gentleman say that we are justified in looking to the Post Office for any substantial contribution to the revenue in the future ?
– Yes. If we had penny postage, the revenue of the Department would be sure to go up.
– That statement is on a par with all the vague and somewhat imaginary premises on which the Government proceed. It seems to me that they have eaten, I was going to say of the root which takes the reason prisoner, but I shall put it more mildly, and say that they appear to have taken some narcotic which has . dulled their sensibilities with regard to the terrible responsibilities that lie before them. What an insane thing it is to say that given the establishment of penny postage we shall be justified in looking to the Post Office in the future as a great revenue-producing machine !
– The honorable member is arguing on a wrong assumption. I made no calculations based on the establishment of penny postage at all. ‘
– And no one ever made the statement which the honorable member is attempting to attribute to me now.
– If the Treasurer admits it, I shall be content to proceed on the assumption that the Post Office cannot be looked to for revenue in the future. Then, with the exception of a few fees for patents and such matters, which might be left out of consideration, the only source of revenue left is the Customs and Excise. Without exercising our own judgment, we may, for the moment, place ourselves in the position of the Government, and rely; upon their estimates of future revenue and expenditure. I find that, at page 11 265 of Hansard, the Treasurer is reported as saying that he confidently anticipates that the Customs and
Excise revenue will fall. That is what his officers have told him, and he appears to agree with them. No doubt we all agree that there must be some fall in the revenue, but I am, for the moment, going to take the figures which the honorable gentleman himself uses. As the custodian of the moneys of the people of Australia at the present critical juncture, the honorable gentleman says that we may anticipate a fall in revenue amounting to nearly £2,000,000.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– I should be sorry to do the Minister an injustice.
– I know what I said perfectly well.
– At present the revenue from Customs and Excise amounts to about £12,000,000.
– Not quite. That is the honorable member’s estimate, not mine.
– Never mind my estimate. I am in a position in which I am not called upon to make any estimates.
– But the honorable gentleman has done so.
– I have; but my estimate of a normal revenue of £9,000,000 was based on the Treasurer’s estimate that this year’s revenue would amount to £10,500,000. I propose for the present to keep the Minister to his own estimates. I find, at page 11 265 of Hansard, the following report of what took place -
– But the revenue in succeeding years will not be so high as it is likely to be this year?
– No. It is estimated by the departmental officers that whereas this year the revenue from Customs and Excise will be about£12,000,000, next year it will be about £1,000,000 less, and in thefollowing year less by £1,500,000 at the very least.
– No; I never said that. The fall in the second year might be to the extent of £1,500,000 on a revenue of £12,000,000.
– The Minister is singularly unfortunate in the way which he is reported by the authorized reporters of the House. I. can only read what I find reported in Hansard.
– The £1,500,000 would be the total fall in the revenue over the two years. I did not say that in the two years the decrease would be £2,500,000.
– I did not say £2,500,000, but £2,000,000. Perhaps if the Minister would waituntil I read the next sentence, he will find that I was quite accurate. I will read the passage again to be quite clear -
– No. It is estimated by the departmental officers, that whereas this year the revenue from Customs and Excise will be about£12,000,000, next year it will be about £1,000,000 less, and in the following year less by £1, 500,000 at the very least. My officials inform me that they do not anticipate a revenue of more than£10,000,000 for the year after that unless a great change takes place.
The “ year after that “ is theone to which I have referred, the critical year of 1910. I want to know where we shall stand at the close of that year. Does the Treasurer know ?
– I do not think the honorable member will stand where he is now.
– The honorable gentleman has consulted his departmental officials. They give him information which he repeats to the House, and, so far as he has any opinion whatever on the momentous issues which he is called upon to direct, we must take the statement of his officials as his own. Taking then the total revenue from present sources, we may anticipate that it will amount, at the time referred to, to £10,000,000. We have next to see how much of that we shall be entitled to spend. Again, I am not going to ask honorable members . to form their own conclusions, but to adopt the policy of the Government as announced by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. They have placed before this House a statement with regard to the financial relations of the Commonwealth with the States, in which the basis of the whole scheme they propose is that they shall hand over to the States £6,000,000 a year. I shall assume for the purpose of argument that that is enough for the States, even without any subsequent increases. But in passing, I may be permitted to read to the House a few figures to show what the result would be to the States if the Government proposal were adopted. The result would be that New South Wales would receive £1,167,000 a year less than she receives at present, and Victoria would receive £670,000 a year less than she receives at present. I regard that with comparative equanimity. I think that those large States - considerable as these amounts are - are able to stand the shrinkage. But then we come to Queensland, which will be deprived of an amount of revenue £274,000 a year less than she is now enjoying. South Australia will have to do with an income decreased by £210,000 a year; Western Australia, with an income decreased by £159,000 a year; and little Tasmania, which finds it difficult enough to make ends meet at present, will have to do with £51,000 a year less. Those figures are remarkable.
– According to the honorable member’s showing, both the States and the Commonwealth will be bankrupt.
– I am sorry that the honorable member should introduce such a word as. “ bankrupt” at all.
– It is a wrong word to use.
– We are sent here to do our duty, and we have to look to the Government to devise a policy to keep us out of any condition to which a suggestion of the kind would be applicable. We have not had such a policy presented to us.
– I can never satisfy the honorable member, and do not intend to try.
– I do not think it at all likely that the Treasurer ever will, unless he changes his ways and his whole method of procedure very much.
– The honorable member would say very much the same whatever was proposed from this side of the House.
– I take these constant interjections as the best proof that there is something in. my criticism.I merely quote these figures with regard to the States for the purpose of showing that the very generous scheme of the Government and of the Treasurer, which would return £6,000,000 to the States, is not one that is likely to be received by the States Governments with enthusiasm, at all events. I think I am justified in saying that.
– Would it not cause corresponding benefits?
– That remains to be seen. We all know, Mr. Speaker, that the policy of the Government includes the adoption by this Parliament of a scheme’ of old-age pensions. I quite admit that the effect of that policy would be to relieve New South Wales and Victoria of what they are at present paying on that account. That is another question that we shall have time to deal with when we have the measure before us.
– The honorable member is speaking from a brief.
– Is that remark justifiable?
– Order ! In the first place, I want to ask the Treasurer not to carry on occasional conversations across the chamber in a loud voice. In the next place.I want to ask the honorable member for Flinders whether he thinks that the remarks that he is now proceeding to make - so far as I can gather what he is likely to say - are relevant to the motion before us.
– Or to the amendment, sir?
– The motion is for the second reading of the Surplus Revenue Bill ; upon which the honorable member for Parramatta has moved by way of amendment, to strike out all the words after “ That,” 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–
– Hear, hear; the honorable member for Flinders is dealing with that.
– Order ! If honorable members will kindly obey the wellknown rule which requires absolute silence while the Speaker is addressing the House, I think we may come to some conclusion. This is not a question which honorable members have to decide, but which I have to decide. until the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States can be dealt with as a whole.
I am suggesting to the honorable member for Flinders the proper course of procedure. I have read to him the motion and the amendment. There is full scope for the discussion of the question, whether this Bill should be passed before or after a settlement is arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States as to the finances. It is not, however, within the terms of the motion and the amendment to discuss the whole question of possible modes of settlement, or the basis upon which those modes of settlement may rest. For example, if the honorable member’s line of argument were in order, I could not prevent any honorable member from discussing any one of the three or four schemes which have been suggested for the settlement of the difficulties between the Commonwealth and the States. It will be seen that if those schemes, or any, or all of them, were discussed with such fulness as the honorable member is discussing the question, we should be engaged for weeks upon this debate; and I think it must be quite clear that we should be proceeding beyond the bounds prescribed by the motion and the amendment. The honorable member is perfectly at liberty to discuss whether an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth should be arrived at before this Bill is agreed to, but I do not think that he should discuss the terms upon which an agreement may ultimately be arrived at between those two bodies.
– I shall endeavour, sir, to keep entirely within the ruling which you have laid down. But I should have thought that, on a motion of this sort, it was practically impossible to discuss the advisability of dealing with this change in our Constitution - because it is a change in the Constitution - inasmuch as it means substituting a new provision for sections 89 and 93 of the Constitution, and for all time - without dealing with the matters which I was discussing. I question whether
Such a question should be dealt with until this House has been given some general idea of the policy of the Government with respect to the whole financial relations of the Commonwealth with the States. I do not see, therefore, how we can possibly limit the discussion within the bounds prescribed. However, 1 shall endeavour to obey your ruling. I do not intend to enter into the details of the scheme at all. I merely desire to point out, as part of the general position with which we are faced, that the sum of , £6,000,000 to be returned to the States is an amount which, under no possible scheme, canwe get under. It is the lowest amount. I do not think that any section of this House desires to embarrass the States to such a degree aswould be involved in paying back to them an amount of Customs and Excise revenue less than £6, 000, 000 per annum. Verywell, then, what is the result? The normal revenue whichwe may expect at the period mentionedwill be £10,000,000 per annum - omitting Post Office revenue.
– That depends on the increase of the population.
– Again, I must say that I desire to accept the statement of the Treasurer, and I can only go upon that. If there be an increased population - as we all desire and hope there will be - there will be an increase of the functions of government and of the cost of government. We have to take some basis upon which to rest the argument, and I am taking the position as the Treasurer put it. Taking £6,000,000 out of the £10,000,000 for payment to the States, Ave are left with £4,000,000 as the normal available revenue of the Commonwealth. As against that £4,000,000, I find that the current expenditure of the present year - omitting the Post Office - comes to £3,149,000. It is a very simple question of figures ; avery simple sum. The Treasurer himself set us the elements of it ; and it needs only a little addition and subtraction to arrive at the sum of £3,149,000, which has to come out of the £4,000,000 of Common- wealth revenue anticipated by the Treasurer. That leaves the sum of £851,000 anticipated by the Government at the end of 1 9 10 as the total amount available for all other Commonwealth purposes.Now, what are the claims made upon this £851,000? We are told that a scheme of old-age pensions is going to be brought in. Now, sir, the passing of an old-age pensions scheme has been discussed in connexionwith this Bill. All I am going to say about it at the present stage is this : I have always thought that it would be wiser to leave the administration of oldage pensions to the States. In that I may be wrong. I find that the States Governments themselves have already practically assented to handover the administration of old-age pensions to the Federal Government.
– That is not correct.
– Ifthey get a satisfactory scheme ; that is, they are conditionally willing to do so.
– Ifwe adopt everything else that they propose.
– I find that an overwhelming majority of this House is of opinion that the matter of old-age pensions should be transferred to the Commonwealth.
– But notunder those conditions.
– In the circumstances, I consider it my duty to do whatever I can to aid in carrying out the policywhich the majority of this House desires. That is all that I intend to say upon the question at present. But let us seewhat the result will be if the present policy of the Governmentwith regard to old-age pensions be carried out. We have an anticipated surplus of £851,000. As against that we have a scheme of old-age pensions involving an annual expenditure of, I take it, £1,500,000.
– One estimate is £1,800,000. That is in the morning newspapers.
– About £1,500,000. Mr. W. H. IRVINE. - I should be curious to know what is the authority lot the statement mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley. But I shall adhere to the responsible statements of the Government of this Commonwealth. Therefore, I will take the estimate of £1,500,000. I am not counting anything for administration. In addition to that, we have only to look to the Prime Minister’s speech on defence to see that the lowest amount of additional expenditure that we may expect in 1910 on account of the Defence Department will be £400,000 a year. In addition to that we have what has already been referred to - taking the Treasurer’s own figures - the interest and sinking fund on account of the transferred properties, because we surely cannot ask the States to accept £6,000,000 per annum, and to pay the interest on their transferred properties out of it. We have, therefore, to provide £450,000 for interest and sinking fund on that account. We have also another proposal, agreed to by the Government, for taking over the Northern Territory from South Australia. The Treasurer estimates, on the same page of Hansard to which I have referred before, that that will cause an annual loss of £500,000.
– I did not say an annual loss; I said an annual expenditure.
– An additional expenditure, in respect of which the Treasurer was careful not to anticipate any revenue.
– It is not a loss. The honorable member’s statement is unfair. There may be returns, and, probably, will be important returns.
– I always like to talk by the book. The Treasurer now says he referred to annual expenditure, and not annual loss. I will read what he said.
– Before the honorable member reads the passage, it is wrong ; the Treasurer never said it !
– I am not like the honorable member ; I always stick to what I say.
– This is what the Treasurer has the misfortune to be reported to have said -
Then again the deficiency– the deficiency ! - in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory in 1905-6 was£121,000, and it is estimated that a further expenditure of£25,000 will be required, so that a total of£146,000 is set down in respect of the expenditure of the territory for 1920. Provision is also made for a deficit of£50,000 on the working of the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway ;£210,000 in respect of the deficit in connexion with the Oodnadatta to Pine Creek railway–
– The Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway, has nothing to do with the Northern Territory.
– I do not want to enter into that question now, but the scheme for taking over the Northern Territory involved the consent of South Australia to the construction of the line westward, and I think that is what the Treasury officials referred to. I am not responsible for the logic of the Treasurer’s statement. This is the Treasurer’s statement, given with his authority.
– No, it is not. It was put on thetable against my wish, at the instance of the honorable member. I said at the time that I would not vouch for its correctness.
– That is quite true. The Treasurer did say so. But he said that he had asked his officers to give him an estimate of future expenditure, and this is it.
– I said it was unsafe. I was not anxious to do it, because it was not checked.
– The honorable member is never anxious to give us information.
– I did that at the honorable member’s instigation, and against my own desire, for his convenience.
– Then the Treasurer goes on -
And£93,000 in respectof interest and sinking fund on the cost of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line.
He also mentioned an estimated expenditure of £450,000 in respect of interest and sinking fund on transferred properties. I am not dealing with what will happen, but with what the Government say will happen. They have entered into a contract with the South Australian Government for taking over the Northern Territory. Unless they are going to jettison the whole of that portion of their policy, they must propose to ask this House for authority for that proposed expenditure. Are we not entitled to consider it in connexion with the financial future immediately before us? Surely, as reasonable men, we are entitled to some explanation. If all we are allowed to do is to piece together these little bits of explanation that we get from different Ministers, then I suppose that is the best we can do. The result is that, as against £851,000, which would be the amount available for everything except the ordinary current expenditure of the Departments, we shall have to meet an annual expenditure of £2,850,000, all to be incurred . in the immediate future under the definite policy of the Government. We shall have to meet it with less than £1,000,000.
– And that estimated expenditure does not include the iron bounty.
– It includes no provision for giving bounties for the encouragement of the iron industry, or, in fact, any bounties. It includes no provision for the Western Australian railway, if ever it should be made, or for the Federal Capital. It includes nothing whatever for what, I think, throughout the length and breadth of Australia is recognised now to be one of the main functions of a Federal Government - the encouragement of settlers to come here and help us to people this continent. Without providing for any of those national ends, which we all look for, we find that we shall be landed, according to the definite policy of the Government, within two years from now, in a deficit of £2,000,000 a year.
– And with the termination of the Braddon section. The honorable member does not say anything about that.
– That lets the cat out of .the bag.
– Then the Government are going to rob the States !
– Are we to under- stand that the magnificently generous offer of £6,000,000 a year to the States Treasurers is simply a blind - that it is to be dangled before them until the end of 1910, and that, then, even that is to be taken away from them?
– I have really failed, after the utmost endeavour to understand the honorable member’s line of argument, to see that the matter to which he is referring is within the bounds of the motion now before the House. If the honorable member will, kindly tell me how he means to link it to that motion, I shall be only too pleased to permit him to proceed. But, unless I understand how he proposes to do so, I really cannot allow him to go further.
– I was not entering then into any discussion of the subject. Perhaps, owing to the interjections, you, sir, may not have entirely heard my last remarks. I was not entering in the slightest degree upon the details of any scheme, but I pointed out that, with the scheme outlined bv the Government for the future financial relations of the Commonwealth with the States, we should be landed within two. years in a deficit of £2,000,000, without starting to perform any of the services for which the country is looking, when the Treasurer interjected - “ But we shall be at the end df the Braddon section.”
– Hear, hear.
– Was it not immediately applicable and appropriate to that remark that I should point out that the Treasurer will be no freer when the Braddon section is at an end than he is now, unless he desires to repudiate the proposal that he has put before the States Treasurers ?
– I was not referring merely to the last utterances of the honorable member, but practically to all he has said , since I had to ask his attention a few minutes since. The honorable member should address himself to the reasons why this Bill should not be further considered until after some agreement has been come to between the Commonwealth and the States. If he will do that, he will be completely in order, but the remarks that he has made during the last quarter of an hour are not, in my opinion, germane to the question now before the Chair, unless it is the intention of the honorable member to show that we cannot afford1 to set apart this money in this way. If that is his argument.. I have no more to say, but I did not understand that that was so, and, therefore, I am anxious to know what he is arguing.
– I desire, with your permission, sir, to claim my right, as a member of this House, to show, on a great financial debate, when we are asked to alter the structure of the financial provisions of. the Constitution, that we ought not to do so until the Government lay .some definite financial policy before us. I submit that it would be curtailing the privileges of members of this ‘House enormously if we were not allowed to pursue the course that I have been pursuing so far. Am I to be tongue-tied? Are we to be expected to vote for this Bill, to change the financial machinery, without having any idea _ of what lies before us in the “immediate future?
– I have asked the honorable member whether he intends to show that we cannot afford this new departure.
– All my remarks tended to show that it would be in the highest degree unwise, if not improper, to force the House to accept this alteration in the financial scheme of the Constitution until a definite policy has been placed before it with regard to the financial relations of the Commonwealth with the States, and with regard to what, we may anticipate from those relations.
– On that head, I am sorry to have to rule that the honorable member’s remarks have not been in order ; but would more appropriately be addressed to a Committee on a Budget speech, or some such occasion-. This debate must be confined to two points; first, the desirability or otherwise of passing this Bill, and next, in the alternative, the desirability of delaying its passage until an agreement of some kind, which need not be specified, has been come to between the States and the- Commonwealth.
– I have almost concluded my remarks upon that head, but I really cannot understand what the precise limits of the debate are. Am I not to be allowed to discuss the fact that the Ministry have not put forward any comprehensive or comprehensible policy of finance?
– I will ask the honorable member, when I have replied to his question, to proceed with his speech. I am not prepared to have the matter discussed backwards anc] forwards between the honorable member and myself. It seems to me that the scope of the debate, now- in progress, is this : First, for all those who have not already spoken to the main question, to discuss the advisability of passing, or not passing,1 the Bill. The honorable member has already, on a previous occasion, addressed himself to that question. There remains, therefore, the second question of whether the further consideration of the Bill should be deferred until .after some agreement, the terms of which need not .be specified, has ‘been come to between the
Commonwealth and the States. That question alone is open to the honorable member to debate now.
– I shall try to keep within your ruling, sir. I submit that we ought riot to be asked, without any knowledge of what our actual financial relations with the States are to be, to enter blindfold into a career that may land us in a financial quagmire. Once we have met the States, and come to an agreement with them, we shall . know where we are. Now we do not. The whole burden of my remarks has’ been to show that the light and leading that we might have expected from the Government has been denied to us. We have not got the facts.
– They do not know.
– I am forced to believe that they do not know, because I cannot conceive that they would willingly keep from the House information so material to our coming to a conclusion upon the amendment now before us. If they, do not know, surely that in itself is sufficient reason why this Bill should not be passed until they do know, and until they enable the House to know.” I shall not take up the time of the House much longer. I find myself more or less hampered by not knowing exactly how far I can go. But from what 1 have said, it is obvious that by. this measure, which the honorable member for Parramatta desires should be postponed until we have some definite settlement of the financial position, we are asked to . embark on a stream of which we do not’ know the end. All we know is that we are approaching the rapids. We do not know how near they are. We know that provision will have to be made almost immediately to meet the great additional expenses that are coming upon us, and that there will have to be either some definite scheme of reduction of expenditure -although it is hard to see at present in what directions expenditure can be reduced - or some definite scheme or outline of a scheme for considerable direct taxation, or else we shall have to refuse at the end of 1 9 10, as the Treasurer seemed to forecast a few minutes ago, to give the States or the States Parliaments anything like the amount which we have hitherto given to them. One of .those three courses must be open to us. Before we pass this measure, are we not entitled, as a House, to demand from the Government a more or less definite forecast of their intentions with regard to those matters? We are now at the most critical time in the history of this country. We are at a time when we know that the trouble is before us. We can see it. The Treasurer’s own figures that’ he has given to the House, and the Prime Minister’s own explanations, show us the trouble right in front of us. Are we then to give this enormous power - to make this momentous change in the whole financial policy of the Commonwealth - without having the ordinary leading which every representative House is entitled in such a matter to expect from the Government that conducts its affairs?
– The honorable member said he was going to support this Bill.
– When did I say that ?
– On the 31st March last the honorable member said, “ I shall feel compelled even now to support it.”
– Very we’d, I shall support the principle of the Bill, but I shall certainly not support’ its passage until we have some definite financial arrangement with the States.
– That is a somersault.
– Of course, the honorable gentleman’s quotation is an apt one, and I have no doubt that I said what he quoted; but since that time, all these figures have been placed before the House.
– I do not think so.
– We have had information concerning some of the additional expenditure on defence. We have had a definite promise from the Prime Minister.
– The whole of the figures were lying oh the table- when the honorable member made that statement.
– The honorable member is in error.
– I am not; because they were laid on the table before that time.
– The honorable member is in error, because it had not even been intimated then that the Government proposed, in this session, to introduce an. Old-age Pensions Bill.
– Yes, it .was.
– That’ is the trouble. The honorable member. wants to oppose the institution of old-age pensions?
– The honorable member can say that ; but I have told the House exactly my position.
– In Victoria we have a system of old-age pensions.
– Yes. I have told the House - and I suppose the honorable member for Gwydir, was not present at the moment - that I have always expressed the opinion that it would be a great deal wiser if the Federation did not take over the matter of old-age pensions, and that it would be administered more economically and more efficiently by theStates. But I have also said that, as an overwhelming majority of the members of this House, had been returned by their constituents to carry out that transference, I considered it my duty to aid them in that work, and to do everything I could towards making the scheme efficient. Before ‘ we commit ourselves to any such scheme, we should have .some comprehensive and comprehensible statement of the financial position. What is the outlook? The Government takes no responsibility. We are rapidly approaching a crisis in our finances, and how is the Government leading us? The Treasurer sits at the table and finds himself incapable when asked, on many occasions, to explain the simplest matter relating to the finances.
– That is a very insulting thing to say, and it is not true, either.
– The Prime Minister can explain anything and everything ; he can even explain his own explanations.
– That is more insulting.
– But beyond the vaguest, wildest promises for the future, we are asked to support this Bill blindfold, before any financial statement is made to the House. The honorable member for Gippsland, in citing one portion of my speech, ought at least to have done me the simple justice of citing what I said at the end of it.
– I quoted the very last words of the speech.
– If the honorable member will be kind enough to let me see the passage I will read it. I had argued the constitutional view, and pointed out that if my suggestions were adopted-
– The honorable member anticipated the amendment.
– I said, as reported on, page 9866 of Hansard -
I hold, however, that when we are called upon to exercise our extremely important duties in regard to the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth, and are asked, on the eve of a Conference of Premiers, to delay what is, after all, only a fractional part of the settlement of the financial question - to stay our hand until those representing States interests have had an opportunity to put their views before us - we ought not to regard such a request as unreasonable. It would have been infinitely wiser for the Government to bring in this proposal as part of a general scheme for the settlement of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. I therefore regret that we are forced now to vote upon the Bill. I should very much prefer to see its further consideration postponed by the Government ; but if we are forced to vote upon the actual merits of the Bill, then, thinking, as I do, that it is not only within our constitutional powers, but embodies a prudent and sensible course to adopt, I shall feel compelled even now to support it.
I am quite prepared to make the honorable member a present of that. Some three or four months after earnestly beseeching the Government to bring in financial proposals, and to deal with this question as part of them, and after regretting that they had not done so, I said that I would feel obliged to vote for the Bill if they forced it upon me.
– Six weeks ago.
– Two months ago. I do not feel inclined to vote for the Bill now - and my honorable friend can make the most of it - and I have given my reasons.
– They would not have a Royal Commission three weeks ago, and they have swallowed that in much less time.
– Yes. The honorable member for Parramatta has drawn my attention to a passage in my speech. I am not fond of citing my own speeches.
– I should think not, after that.
– In the same speech, as the honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out to me, I said -
Subject to one important consideration, to which I shall refer in a moment, I think that this is a very reasonable business-like proposition to make, and that it does not impinge upon the rights of the States.
– It is curious, if this power is so clearly conferred by the Constitution, that it has not occurred to any one before to seek to use it.
– I am afraid that sometimes it does not occur to us to do that which we ought to do. Having regard to the view I have expressed, I should not in ordinary circumstances have the slightest difficulty in giving my entire support to this Bill, but I must say that I feel that it is very unfortunate that it should have been brought forward at the present juncture.
If the honorable member for Gippsland has got any comfort out of that little bit of verbal inconsistency, I am willing to make him a present of it. If it had gone to a vote then, I have no doubt that I would have voted for the Bill as I had said that I would ; but now I do not intend to vote for it.
– I never thought that the honorable member would.
– I intend to vote for the amendment. If I have advanced reasons which ought to affect the minds of the honorable member for Gippsland and others, it will not be a very effective reply to those reasons to show that I may have been inconsistent. I have often been inconsistent.
– I should think so.
– And so has the honorable gentleman.
– Oh, never !
– If the Minister has never been inconsistent, that is only because he is never subject to development. When I find that the figures which have been placed before us by the Government, and for which they are responsible, lead to results such as I have indicated tonight, I do not care in the slightest degree what I should have done on any other occasion. I feel that it is my duty on this occasion to support the proposal to postpone the consideration of this Bill until we can obtain some intelligent and comprehensive statement of the financial position from the Government.
.- I listened with the greatest interest to the speech made by the honorable member for Flinders. The first part of it seemed to me to be admirable, but the latter part came upon me as a surprise. I listened to my honorable and learned friend, on the 31st March, when he enunciated the views which he has just read, and I found myself in entire accord with him. In the first part of his speech to-night he dealt with the constitutional question, and I think that he stated the case admirably.
– Yes, from his point of view.
– To my mind, his argument was, and is, unanswerable. It is incomprehensible, at any rate to me, that any one should believe that those who drafted the Constitution meant, when they provided that three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue was to be given to the
States, to tie the hands of this Parliament in the disposal of the balance by limiting its powers of appropriation to the mere mechanical process of passing over the money. It seems to me that the view which, some honorable members entertain is untenable. The right honorable member, for Swan interjected just now, “ That was from his stand-point.” But, in his speech on Friday, the right honorable gentleman informed the House that it was practically impossible to limit it to the expenditure for the year, because we had to pot the money into trust funds now, and practically evade the law in order to pay our just debts.
– I did not say.°that.
– The right honorable gentleman said so distinctly. He admitted that, for services which had been rendered but not paid for, the money was put asidein order to meet the claims.
– I said that, so long as the services had been rendered, it was right.
– That admission and the practice of the Department show clearly that it could not have been the intention of the authors of the Constitution to tie the hands of this Legislature in any such manner. I do not think that one need labour that argument. I consider that the last speaker has placed the matter before the House in a reasonable and fair way, and, to my mind, there is no answer to his position. But when he went on to support his position by. references which it seemed to me would. only be appropriate to a discussion on proposals for the settlement of the ‘financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth, and that were not relevant to the question immediately before us, he tried to make a case to show that we should place ourselves in a position to meet all the obligations which have been foreshadowed before we proceed with this Bill. . In that it seemed to me that he failed. The only question now is whether we shall secure for this Parliament the appropriation and the disposal of the onefourth of the Customs and Excise revenue which the Constitution has placed at its disposal. I ask the honorable gentleman for what reason we should be limited iri our action in . respect of our one-fourth share, and what relation the settlement of that question has to any future obligations which this Parliament may incur?
– It has everything to do with it.
– There is no connexion, it seems to me, between the two questions. In passing this Bill, we avail ourselves of our right under the Constitution to arrange for the appropriation of one-fourth of the net revenue from Customs and Excise duties. That is the sole business before us to-night. I think that the honorable member for Flinders gave away his case when he told us that there would be no revenue available.
– Then why the Bill ?
– In another year there may be revenue available, and, if there is not, the Bill will harm no one. It shows, to my mind, ‘ that my honorable friend’s argument on that point was on an unsound basis. He got away from the question, and dealt with another matter. I do not underrate its importance, and, at the. proper time, when we have all the facts before us, I submit that his opinion and the views which he has partly enunciated to us would be of the greatest value. But they are not now strictly relevant. I interjected in the early part of his speech, when he urged as a reason for not passing the Bill that no provision had been made for the settlement of the transferred properties, “ If that money had been paid would it not have had to be debited to the States?” According to his view, the States would have a claim for something like £450,000 annually. To my interjection be replied that, as it was a Commonwealth liability, it should be paid out of the one. fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue which the Commonwealth has the right to spend. I was intensely surprised by the remark, because the States Premiers, who must be supposed to have looked closely into the Constitution, and to have made themselves thoroughly acquainted with the financial right of .this Parliarment, have taken an opposite view.
– Not at every Conference.
– The right honorable member for Swan has laid down very clear v what I look upon as the correct view in this matter. He interjected just now, when I quoted a remark of the honorable and learned member for Flinders, that the latter was expressing his own view. The latter may now retort that, in the document from which I am about to read, the right honorable member was doing the same. In a memorandum published among the appendices to the report of the Treasurers’ Conference on “ States debts, transferred properties, immigration, &c,” held in Melbourne, in February, 1904, the honorable and learned member wrote -
As the Government has been advised that until the determination of the book-keeping period the interest on the value of the transferred property must be a charge against each State, on the amounts credited to the State, there is no need for any action in regard to payment till the book-keeping period expires; as the amount of interest to be paid by each State would be exactly the same amount as would be charged against each State.
– I said that “ the Government had been advised.” Surely the honorable member will not make me responsible for a legal opinion tendered to the Government?
– I shall not make .the honorable and learned gentleman responsible ‘ for more than his own statements. Two- passages which I am about to quote will show the position which he then occupied. He stated “ four proposals for payment,” and said in regard to the second -
I can see no advantage either to the Commonwealth or the States by this proposal. It. would mean that the Commonwealth would have to pay, at 3^ per cent., ^315,000 a year interest, and have to charge the same amount to the States during the book-keeping period, and afterwards till the loans matured, in proportion to the numbers of their people.
– They would get back less.
– They do not get back less. They get what they are debited with. The right honorable gentleman continued
If a State is to receive a benefit in this transaction, some other State or States must bear the burden. It therefore follows as self-evident that the Commonwealth is really not so vitally interested (except as the guardian of all the States) in the equitable settlement of the matter, or in the equity of the claims made, as the States themselves, for the people of the States have to pay -per- capita the claims made by all the States. The arrangement for valuing the properties should be such as will meet with the approval of the States, and I do not anticipate any difficulty in deciding upon a procedure which will be mutually satisfactory. Notwithstanding that, until the termination of the book-keeping period, the interest paid to and charged against the States is the same amount, and, therefore, in any case only a book entry, it is, I think, very desirable to deal with the liquidation of the compensation as soon as possible.’
– We were returning £[800,000 or £[1,000,000 a year. This would mean returning less.
– I am dealing with the settlement of the claim of the States in connexion with properties transferred to the Commonwealth, arid the view expressed by the right honorable gentleman is that’ which I have . urged, and now hold, namely, that if the transferred properties are paid for, they must be paid for by the States as between themselves, the balance, if any, alone remaining to be dealt with as part of our financial scheme. It seems to me, therefore, that the honorable and learned member for Flinders has not taken what I consider a fair and equitable view of the case. Until we discuss the settlement of the States debts question, we should postpone the consideration of how far we are exceeding our means by the payment’ of old-age pensions, the provision of further defence, or in any other direction. The question of the transferred properties does not enter into the case with which we are now dealing. When we art considering the whole financial position will be the occasion for honorable members to express their opinions on the policy of Ministers as to future expenditure. I anxiously await the statement of their proposals. The amendment, if carried, will mean the indefinite postponement of a question which ought to be settled at once, in the interests of, hot only the ‘Commonwealth, but also the States. We should see that the onefourth of the Customs and Excise revenue which we are entitled to spend is placed wholly at our disposal, so that when we appropriate we shall know that the money, will be within our control until expended. A State Treasurer who has a surplus at the end of a year caro keep the money in the Treasury until revoted next year; but if this Parliament appropriates money for a particular purpose, and it is not’ expended during, the vear in which it is voted, it must be paid into the Treasuries of the States, and pass irrevocably from the Commonwealth revenue fund, and . we must provide for expenditure, out of the revenue of future years. I am surprised that honorable members do not see that this, is not a proposal to take from the States anything to which they are entitled. If we were able to spend within, any one year onef fourth of the revenue from Customs and ‘ Excise, the States would- have no right to complain, and does the right honorable member for Swan contend that they wish to obtain money which we are entitled to spend, but which, because of the awkwardness of the financial arrangements of the Constitution, we cannot now put aside for future expenditure?
– The States have always expected the return of unexpended balances.
– They claim that they are entitled to receive what we cannot expend within the financial year.
– Why have we not done from the first what it is now said that we can do?
– In the early years of Federation we had surpluses, and handed the money back to the States, getting small thanks for our liberality. We have given to the States between £6, 000,000 and £7,000,000 more than they would have been’ entitled to receive had we been able to appropriate the whole of our one- fourth of the revenue from Customs and Excise.
– Why did not the Commonwealth appropriate those surpluses?
– The right . honorable gentleman is now opposing a Bill which gives us power to appropriate.
– I say that that power cannot be given by such a Bill. According to the honorable member’s argument, the appropriation could have taken place.
– No. I have stated that our appropriations become ineffective in regard to money not expended during the financial year in which it is voted.
– Could we from the beginning have appropriated money and put it aside for future use?
– No, and we cannot do so now. The object of the Bill is to alter the position.
– Could we, by a Bill of this kind, have made provision for appropriation and putting aside?
– Of course.
– From the beginning?
– No; since the expiration of the bookkeeping period. That can be done under a power conferred by the Constitution.
– I think that it cannot be done now more than then.
– That we omitted to do what we could have done some years ago is not a reason for not doing it now. The question is merely- Shall the Commonwealth Parliament be enabled to control the one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue which the Constitution allows it to expend? To speak as if the future financial arrangements with the States were concerned, is to go beyond the question. The Bill has nothing to do with future financial arrangements. Until 1910 the Commonwealth is entitled to expend one-fourth of the revenue from Customs and Excise, and it seems idle to object to. Parliament providing for the appropriation of any part of the one-fourth for purposes for which it cannot be applied in the current financial year.
– To be used in future years?
– Perhaps to be used next year.
– Or twenty years hence ?
– At the end of 1910 the financial position must be settled on a different basis. There are only two years during which the measure will be effective. If it is constitutional, and it is also a matter of business necessity to do this, why not pass the Bill instead of waiting for the settlement of a question of infinitely greater importance, the’ general financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth? Why delay doing what is right and proper for the sake of something with which we are not now concerned ?
– The honorable and learned member for Bendigo says that it is not right, legal, and proper.
– There is great difference of opinion on the constitutional question. I am stating my views as a layman. I do not pretend to understand the niceties of the law, and am quite prepared to consider, with every respect, the views of honorable members who differ from me. But believing, as I do, that this Bill is not only constitutional and justifiable, but absolutely necessary, I shall support it. We ought to have the power to appropriate the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, to which, under the Braddon section, the Commonwealth is entitled, without being limited by our ability to expend it within any one year. That is my position. I confess that I listened, with great surprise, to the latter part of the speech delivered by the honorable member for Flinders, because, when he spoke on a previous occasion, I found myself in entire agreement with him. He has since altered his position ; I have not. I am still of the view that, apart from party considerations, honorable members on all sides of the House should unite to uphold the right of this Parliament to expend the Commonwealth’s one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue, when we see our way to do no, and to appropriate it in any manner that we think fit.
.- I do not wish to take up the time of the House with any reiteration of the remarks so ably made by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, and the honorable and learned member for Flinders. I desire to congratulate them upon the able speeches which they have delivered on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, although on one very important point that we have to consider they have taken opposite opinions. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Flinders that the constitutional point involved in the Bill is one upon which there may very well be two opinions. No one could speak confidently as to the interpretation ‘that would be placed by the High Court upon the sections that have been referred to. But one of the remarkable features of this .Bill is the fact that its main object was never dreamt of until a few days ago.- The centre of interest in connexion with the Surplus Revenue Bill is the fact that it may enable us, in advance of the termination of the Braddon section, to give a commencement to the system of old-age pensions. That idea was not in the minds of the Government when the Bill was introduced. When the Treasurer, on the 31st March last - about two months ago - moved that it be read a second time, he named a number of important services for which he wished to provide by means of it. Strange to say, amongst the important services which he enumerated, old-age pensions did not find a place. The Treasurer then told the House that a large number df public. works would have to be provided for; that certain large expenditure in connexion with the defence system of Australia would have to be faced; but from first to last, in his speech, there was not even a suggestion that this Bill was intended to lay the foundation of an Australian system of old-age pensions.
– That was an afterthought.
– It was either an afterthought, or a deception, and I certainly do not accuse the Treasurer of deception. I feel sure that .he would have been delighted to tell the House, when moving the second reading of this Bill, that his main object in introducing it was to give a beginning to a system which meets with almost universal approval. That being so, 1 can only put on his conduct the charitable construction that he had no idea of placing by this Bill a sum to the credit of an oldage pensions system.
– Until after the resolution in favour of old-age pensions was carried on a grievance day.
– Several resolutions were passed, including one which makes the omission, on the part of the Treasurer, all the more extraordinary. Strange to say, on the 17th March - a fortnight before the Treasurer introduced this Bill - the leader of the Labour Party, on grievance day, brought the subject of old-age pensions before the House. The question was fully before the Government. Anything in the shape of an amendment to the ordinary motion, that, the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply on grievance day, gives the Ministry a nervous attack. They could not possibly have forgotten that resolution. The leader of the Labour Party suddenly discovered the urgency of old-age pensions. That discovery came after an exclamation from the deputy leader of the Opposition, who said to the leader of the Labour Party, “ What have you been doing all these years in the way of putting practical pressure upon this Government, which you hold in the hollow of your hand?’’ Shortly after that the question of old-age pensions assumed a practical phase. My honorable friend, the leader of the Labour Party, challenged the Government upon it, by moving an amendment on the Order of the Day for going into Committee of Supply. That is a pointed procedure, ‘ which demands respect even when it is adopted by the honorable member for Gwydir, and, infinitely more so, when adopted by the leader .of the Labour Party. But, although that step was taken in the middle of March, and the second reading of this BilL was moved a. fortnight afterwards, there was not a word from the Treasurer about the intention of the Government to found this great system - in favour of which, I think, every party stands to-day - upon this Bill. That is significant as showing the truth of the remark uttered by the honorable and learned member for Flinders, that this House has no leadership at all in connexion with not only large financial questions, but any public question. The wonder is that with a
Government without any policy or leadership - with a Government which drifts about with every current that sets in from a certain quarter - honorable members on this side of the House do not show a stronger and more united front in dealing with great questions of public concern. It is about time - especially now that the fiscal question has teen removed from the arena of politics - that honorable members who sit on the same side of the House should make up their minds whether they are honestly sitting in opposition to, or in support of, the Government. ‘
– That is the way to talk to them !
– I am very glad to be able to make this acknowledgement after the unfortunate division which made it impossible for us to work together. While the Tariff was under discussion, I frankly recognised from the first that it would be impossible for us to join on fiscal questions. It would have dishonoured many honorable members if they had endeavoured to work for any free-trade party in connexion with the Tariff, and we, of course, could not work with them against our policy. But now that the Tariff has become law,’ I am glad to see, in reference to the shortcomings of Ministers, an attitude which will conduce to a healthier atmosphere in this House.. The atmosphere here has, for a long time, been, utterly demoralized. All sorts of things have been done, and all sorts of things have been left undone, and scarcely the slightest breeze of protest or discontent has been raised. I wish to acknowledge the action which honorable members below the gangway have taken in assuming a fair share of their responsibility to the public of Australia. It is a common responsibility; and I am glad that we are now able to act together on large matters of .public policy. The honorable and learned member for Flinders has, I think, acted up to the highest traditions “of public life. He has made his position pretty clear for a long time past, and he has not allowed his political leanings to interfere with his judgment as to the constitutional aspect of this Bill. On all constitutional matters, we ought to absolutely put aside any suggestion of party feeling, or any influence of our judgment by party associations: and, instead of feeling annoyed at the difference of opinion on this important point, I think that, whether we sit on the Government side, or on the Opposition side, we ought, lawyer or layman, to arrive at an honest opinion entirely free from political considerations, on questions affecting the integrity of the Constitution. That is the line which we must draw between the ordinary controversies of politics and parties, and the attitude which we must always assume with reference to the interpretation of the Constitution. It is a pitiful thing, in the working out of the Constitution, that we should all look to the High Court as the only arena for fighting out the differences which arise between the States and the Commonwealth. I wish to say at once that I do not desire to shut my eyes to aggravating statements which have been made in various, quarters as representing the opinions of the States. I consider that, on both sides, there have been statements and expressions which are greatly to be lamented.
– And actions.
– And no doubt actions. ‘But we should all strive to give no fresh cause of ill-feeling or ill-temper; and I regret to occasionally notice in this House that any remarks, which are made from the Treasury benches, and which seem to reflect on this or that State ‘ Premier, or all the State Premiers, are received with approval and satisfaction. That, I think, is a mistake. If we permit the States Parliaments and the Federal Parliament to be converted into a theatre for uncomplimentary criticism of the men who are intrusted with the political destiny of Australia, we shall do an ill service to the people whom we represent, whichever Parliament we may be in. So that, when I criticise the Government, I wish it to be understood that I,, by no means, take up the position that only this Government is to blame - that there is no blame on the other side. I have a verystrong opinion that the States, as representee! by their Premiers, have taken up a most unhappy and unfortunate .position on the question of old-age pensions, which was clearly handed over by the people of Australia to this Federal .Parliament. In consequence of the partial and divided operation of the present systems, there are a large number of hard cases ; and it would have been easy for the Premiers to agree, that those systems should be federalized and nationalized without any contest over the constitutional question or the sections relating to finance. I deeply regret that the attitude of the Premiers on this subject should be so unfortunate. I thought that the recent Conference agreed that old-age pensions should be handed over to the Commonwealth Parliament.
– I thought that was so .
– But I found that I was in error in regarding the offer made as unconditional ; because, when the Prime Minister very properly corrected me, I discovered that, as a matter of fact, the offer was conditional on the settlement of a number of other different questions. There ought to be no difficulty on the subject of old-age pensions, seeing that within two and a-half years we shall have the freest right to deal with the matter, and it will be our duty to deal with it.
– Much earlier, I hope.
– When the honorable member says “ much earlier, I hope,” he knows that, until a day or two ago, there was never a whisper of this Bill as a means of introducing old-age pensions. The honorable member for Flinders has told us that section 87, in his view, bears an interpretation which is consistent with the principle of this Bill. If that be so, it might be said that we could have applied this contrivance in order to bring about old-age pensions before now.
– I say that if the contention of the honorable member for Flinders is right, we might have applied the contrivance
– The honorable member for Flinders was dealing with the construction of the section ; and I have no doubt that he intended to limit it by the other sections for five years.
– Section 93 must govern the position for the first five years.
– The general terms of section 87 are thus limited, but the general terms by themselves cover such a Bill as this.
– With all respect, I say that we could not have done what is proposed during the last Parliament.
– I do not desire to raise that point.
– It is a very important point, from my point of view.
– It is sufficient for me to say that although this Parliament has been in existence for a year and some months, no one dreamt of making the proposal until now. In moving the second reading of this very Bill, the Treasurer never gave the slightest hint that he was dreaming of oldage pensions.
– I interjected, and the Treasurer nodded his head.
– I may tell the honorable member that, although he may control the Government in other ways, he cannot expect to do so by interjection.
– It “comes off” sometimes !
– That was before the Webster Commission was agreed to; and the honorable member for Gwydir very naturally said that the crisis was now over. May I suggest to my honorable friend that the very basis of all appropriation and application of expenditure, as it has been handed down to us from the House of Commons, is invariably an appropriation for the service of a definite financial year.
– Oh, no !
– But I say “ yes.”
– Surely the appropriation sanctioned under section 81 of the Constitution covers all kinds of appropriations ?
– I am not talking of section 81, but of the practice of all Parliaments ; and I can assure my honorable friend that it is as I have stated.
– The honorable member should not quarrel with his ally.
– I should like the very Honorary Minister to remember that upon this side of the House it is possible for honorable members to differ without personal altercation. My honorable friend has caught the infection of the choleric temper that he has been sitting near so long.
– Surely the general power of appropriation conferred upon this Parliament covers special as well as annual appropriations?
– May I suggest to my honorable friend that there is all the difference in the world between the position of the Federal Parliament and the position of a State Parliament. The States Parliaments, in reference to these appropriations, are absolutely supreme. They do not come under these sections at all. The States Parliaments can appropriate money for any year that they choose. There is no power to prevent them from appropriating it for fifty years hence. There is no language to be construed. If they chose to appropriate a sum for the service of the year 2,000, there is nothing in their Constitution or in the Constitution of the House of Commons, as established by practice,to prevent them from doing so. There is all the difference in the world between such a Constitution which leaves everything to the discretion of Parliament, and a Constitution like our own, which imposes upon this Parliament in its function of appropriating public money, the restriction which is to be found in the expression of sections directly bearing upon these subjects.
– What is the extent of the restriction?
– I wish to have the advantage of expressing my opinion upon section 87 of the Constitution. The honorable member unconsciously used the expression “ annual” in reference to the revenue. This section, however, speaks of the expenditure by the Commonwealth. It says - of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of customs and excise, not more than onefourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
I recognise that the subject is one full of difficulties, and I do not wish for a moment - although my manner may be rather earnest - to insist that my view is correct. With the general proposition of the honorable member for Flinders that the High Court would be disposed to place a very wide interpretation upon words of this sort, I heartily agree. But I read section 87 in conjunction with other sections. Take section 94, for example. The value of that section is that it remains always the law. This Parliament has no power now, nor will it have fifty years hence, to act contrary to that section. That provision is not limited to three years, or live years, or fifty years. As long as it stands in the Constitution, its operation will be perpetual. What does it say ? It introduces the language of section 93 upon a very important point. It says -
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.
How can effect be given to that system of monthly payments in the. absence of a basis of actual revenue and actual expenditure? How can there be a monthly statement of debits and credits, and of monthly balances, except upon the basis of actual figures ? But I do not wish to elaborate the points so well made by the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Parkes. I desire to come to two of those unfortunate blunders which do so much to intensify the heated and unpleasant feeling which prevails between the Commonwealth and the States Governments. I think it is a calamity that the Treasurer should have despatched the telegram which he did to the various States, treating them, I will not say with the utmost contempt, because it was something worse than that. The telegram which he sent upon one of the last days of May all over Australia - “No money this month” - was a monstrous blunder, and it became doubly monstrous because it had to be immediately countermanded. Talk about leadership! The Treasurer in his ejaculation - “ I have not come upon any rocks yet ‘ ‘ - reminds me of the adventurous schoolboy who, with a number of companions, all under twelve years of age, and with a large sail set upon a little boat, bowls merrily over the ocean or the harbor, every moment in peril of his life, saying “ Nothing has happened to me yet.” How. can anything happen to the Treasurer while he clings to the coattails of the Labour Party ? That is his science of navigation, and it is not one that requires a university education or the ability to pass a naval examination. It is the simple instinct of self-preservation, which the Treasurer carries to an extreme that would be touching if it were not somewhat beneath the dignity of high Ministers of State. This monstrous blunder was immediately retracted. But that is not all. The Treasurer came to grief upon that rock. He says that he has never struck a rock; but I say that he struck one within the past seven days, when he sent out that ridiculous order which had to be countermanded. But he is not satisfied with that shipwreck. He has embarked fully upon another. He proposes for the month of June to retain, not merely the unexpended balance of our one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue, but the whole of the three-fourths of that revenue to which the States are entitled.
– He wants to retail four-fourths of it.
– But I am speaking of that portion of it which does not belong to the Commonwealth. He is entitled to retain all that he can expend out of the Commonwealth’s share of one-fourth of that revenue. But he actually proposes to take for the month of June every penny that is due to the States from the Customs House in the shape of the three-fourths to which they are constitutionally entitled, and he puts his position in a statement which ap- peared in the newspapers this morning. The estimated revenue for June is £975,000. We have already given the States an amount, which, if we give them nothing at all for June, will still leave them with £261,000 more than they would have got in the twelve months on the threefourths basis. Now, might I suggest to the Treasurer, who ought to have some legal advice, that this very section, requiring these definite accounts, and the operation of which expires at the end of five years, is in force, andwill be in force until the Royal assent is given to this Bill, because section 93 provides that the bookkeeping provisions of section 89 shall remain in force “ until Parliament otherwise provides.” Parliament cannot get past that “ until,” and it cannot otherwise provide until the Royal assent is given to a definite measure.
– It cannot make it retrospective ?
– No; though the Government may try to do so. The Treasurer looks with boyish complacency upon these constitutional obstacles. What are they to him? I admit that the other point is a difficult one, but this is not. In spite of the Constitution, which might, on this point, be interpreted by a , junior candidate for a legal examination, the Treasurer proposes to make this Bill, which will become law, let us say, on the 10th or 12th June, 1908 - the date is immaterial - retrospective to as far back as the 1st July, 1907. That is to say, he proposes to take all the surpluses paid over for eleven months by refusing, at the end of June, to hand over to the States the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue which the Constitution provides that they shall have for ten years from the establishment of Federation and thereafter “until theParliament otherwise provides.” The honorable gentleman proposes a course which must lead to shipwreck if it is persisted in. I do hope that the Government will not invite humiliating defeats. It is true that they have sometimes been right, and that they won two or three cases before the High Court the other day, but I hope they will not invite humiliating defeat.
– Let the honorable gentleman be fair, and admit that we have won all our cases.
– All that have not been reserved. It is wonderful how the current of accident has gone with my honorable friends. Of course, the cases reserved have been reserved merely because they have’ presented difficulties which have required further consideration. When all the judgments have been delivered, it will be time enough for us to consider this matter.
– The Government did not get a verdict in the Vardon case.
– That was another piece of invaluable law which the Government laid down.
– The honorable member for Angas, Mr. Glynn, was in favour of the view which the Government took of that matter.
-Surely we do not need a formal legal opinion to discover that if the Constitution says that a certain state of things; shall go on “ until the Parliament otherwise provides,” it must go on until Parliament does otherwise provide? It is not necessary to study for the legal profession to come to that conclusion. I am only pointing out that this threat of taking the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue payable to the States for June is an idle and silly threat, which cannot be carried out, and which, if any attempt were made to carry it out, must recoil upon the Commonwealth. Already it is bound to have created a very large degree of irritation. Just let my honorable friends in the Ministry reverse the position . I am not speaking of the more wealthy States. Some of the States have not the same large surpluses as New South Wales and Victoria, but what will become of the finances of those States if, having received monthly payments for eleven months - which they have probably spent - they are told in the last month of the twelve that those eleven payments must be returned?
– If the Government can do that theycan go further, and stop an amount to cover the surpluses paid over during the past seven years.
– I should think that the intellect which conceived the idea contained in this Bill would not be daunted by the suggestion to which the honorable member has referred.
– The statement of the honorable member for Flinders is about as fair as the statements which he generally makes.
– As my honorable friends in the Ministry have lately been indulging in a display of agility in the way of climbing down, I hope that they will climb down again in this matter. It will involve only another climb down, and that is nothing when you are used to it.
– The right honorable gentleman ought to know ; he can speak from experience.
– I do earnestly suggest to the Ministry that they should give up the absurd idea of making this Bill retrospective in the face of the direct language of the Constitution. If they do propose to make it retrospective, they had better be a little more foolish, and put some provision to that effect into the Bill. There is no such provision in it at present. The Ministry, who admit that it is their intention to withhold the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue from the States for the month of June, have not even considered it necessary to insert in this Bill some clause intended to make its operation retrospective.
– Does the right honorable gentleman contend that if we say in the Bill that it shall operate retrospectively it will still be impossible, constitutionally, for the measure to have a retrospective effect?
– Absolutely, because section 93 of the Constitution provides that a certain system shall remain in force “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.” The word” until “ in this case refers to a point of time, and it cannot refer to a point of time before the date at which the Royal assent is given to the measure. I point out that if there is an idea of making this measure retrospective, the least the Government can do is to try to make it so by the insertion of a provision to that effect in the Bill. It will not be made retrospective by these blunderbuss discharges of the Treasurer which reverberate over the whole Australian continent and intensify the prevailing irritation, which I am sure we all desire to diminish rather than to intensify.
– The Treasurer denied in the press this morning, or yesterday, that he was a political burglar !
– I have heard of very worthy people firing off blunderbusses and hitting blood relations, mistaking them for burglars. That is really what the Treasurer is doing, because this sort of conduct in relation to the States must increase the difficulties of the honorable gentleman’s friends, since honorable members who support the Ministry have to take a certain amount of responsibility. There is not a member in this House on whichever side he may sit, who wishes to add to the irritation which prevails. Wherever the blame is to rest, none of us wishes to take any more of it than he can help. I want to point out that whatever the legal argument on the main point may be, on this point the Constitution is clear, and it does not heed learned lawyers to interpret it. To show how absolutely guiltless the Ministry were of any idea of using this Surplus Revenue Bill with reference to old-age pensions, I may refer to a statement which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie made in the course of that inconvenient discussion about the Royal Commission to inquire into the Post Office which we now look back upon with feelings of relief.
– Feelings of regret !
– If honorable members have any hankering for the humiliation which Ministers of the Crown are now receiving, well, all that I can say is that they have a healthy young appetite for dirteating - a diet of which the ex-member for Balaclava complained, and from which he has not yet quite recovered.
– The right honorable member is an authority on that sort of thing.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie on the 9th April, quoted a remark made by him in March, and said - the Prime Minister nods an assent, and I admire the honorable gentleman’s frankness.
So do we all, when we discover it!
He does not appear to be sanguine as to the possibility of doing anything until the expiration of the Braddon provision.
– Quite true. “Quite true”! Now, the second reading of the Bill was moved on the 31st March. On the 21st March, the Prime Minister says that it is “ quite true “ that we must wait until the expiration of the Braddon section before we can deal with old-age pensions. On the 31st March, in moving the second reading of the Bill, the Treasurer talked about public works and defence works, but said not a word aboutthis subject, which would have given the Bill a halo. What is the mysterious undercurrent which has solved all the troubles of the last few days ?
– Yet Ministers talk of inconsistency !
– It was on the 31st March that the honorable member for
Flinders made his speech in favour of the Bill. March was evidently a peculiar month !
– May I suggest to the Minister of Trade and Customs that when the honorable member for Flinders holds a position as Minister, he will be responsible for his acts; and mv’ honorable friend cannot escape from the responsibility of his acts while he is in that position which I am sure he endeavours most honorably to’ fill. Now, may I call the attention of the House to a remark which I brought under the notice of the Prime Minister today, reading from the Hansard, report of his .reply to a question yesterday. I asked him whether .this report was correct - 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 yet been paid to the States.
Now, this declaration of the intention of the Government to take the three-fourths for June means that by taking the .threefourths in June they are taking back all the surplus which they have paid in the previous eleven months. I read it to the Prime Minister to-day, and he shied away from it the first time, but I read it again. You generally do get something from the honorable gentleman if you put a question to him a second or a third time. When I repeated it, and asked : “ Is that correct?” he gave his. assent. Now, let us go on with the report.
– 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.
How could the Premiers accept the Prime Minister’s answer as “quite satisfactory” if he had conveyed to them the intention to take back from them those surpluses which had been paid to them during the previous eleven months? .
– They never understood it in that way. ,
– The Prime Minister is quite right’ in saying that they accepted his statement as “quite satisfactory,” because he said, as he admits now, that the surpluses with which the Bill proposed to deal were those which had not yet been paid to the States.
– The Treasurer has one policy, and the Prime Minister another.
– I merely mention these things to show that this blundering is even more .serious than it appears, because it is a blundering which is absolutely opposed to the plain declaration of intention conveyed by the head of the Government to the States Premiers. There are only one or two other matters to which I wish to refer. I wish at once to acknowledge frankly the most awkward position that’ is involved if the reading of the Constitution adopted by the honorable and learned member for Flinders is the correct one. It is a most awkward state of things, for instance, that the States should get back surpluses during every one of eleven months, and that in the twelfth month the Commonwealth, which has to meet heavy debt’ obligations, can only deduct money to meet those obligations from any small surplus that may happen to be on the books for that month. That is a state of things which I admit is very inconvenient. It is a hardship to the Commonwealth. But that does not affect the constitutional view of the matter, whatever it is. There is another injustice which we must remember. Could there be a more serious injustice to the States than handing them money as surplus revenue to spend during eleven months, and then taking it back again? Could there be anything worse than that? We have some means of protection in our hands by making our payments more uniform and spreading them more evenly over the twelve months. But what must be the position of the Treasurer of a State after he has spent these surpluses month by month? His. position must be a cruel one, even if what is proposed to be done be legal; but if it is not legal, it must be not only cruel, but absolutely contrary to the Constitution. It is thai sort of leadership which would lead any Ministry on to the rocks which was not secured by two anchors. Unfortunately, when these things are done by Ministers representing the Commonwealth, the evil that follows from them cannot be lightly estimated. With reference to the Old-age Pensions Bill, as I said at the beginning, I strongly express my regret that the Premiers of the States have not long ago given us the necessary power to deal with that question. I think it is a calamity that they have not done so. During the short time when I was in office, when’ I had a conference with the States Premiers, I made a most earnest appeal to them to allow us to give this national system a start.’ I think they acted without sufficient wisdom, although it is only fair to say that in 1905 the finances of some of the States were very straitened. Probably that had more to do with the refusal of some of the States than anything else ; but when the Conference met here the other day, they were in a very different position. That strain, except perhaps in the case of one State, had pretty well disappeared, and I still hope that at the Conference which” will meet probably at the beginning of the year, the States Premiers will remove that difficulty out of the road, and agree to this system being brought in. I thoroughly concur in the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta, especially in view of the fact that the Premiers will meet in a very few months. We should do all we can to make the settlement as easy as possible, without sacrificing the rights of the Commonwealth. We certainly are not prepared to do that; but the battle is half won on both sides when there is at least a friendly disposition to begin with. I do hope that at the next meeting of Premiers and Commonwealth Ministers, there will be a desire on both sides to forget all the unfortunate collisions of the past, and, to endeavour to arrive at a settlement of this great question. The financial part of the old-age pensions proposal is very characteristic of the Treasurer. In New South Wales - I do not often refer to that State in connexion with the honorable member - he established a system of old-age pensions without any finances behind it at all. There was not a single penny in the Treasury to back up his scheme when he carried it”; but I must say that I have the greatest sympathy with bold measures when an excellent object is accomplished, and it must be said to the credit of the Treasurer that he traded on the .Customs revenue of the future, and brought an excellent system into force. But on this occasion, it is impossible for us to bring this system into force. That is admitted.
– I do not admit it.
– The Treasurer estimates that the system will cost over £1,500,000. I see figures in the newspapers estimating the amount at £1,800,000. We are told that £472,000 can be dealt with this year ; but £250,000 of that sum is to be applied, not to old-age pensions, but to a part of a defence scheme. Surely we ought to have a defence scheme of a comprehensive character. As outlined by the Prime Minister, it was a matter of life and death that the nation should begin to” bring its young manhood into line; but all that is left now of that defence scheme is one part, and not the most pressing part. Guns were required - field-pieces, to cost £750,000, the expenditure to be spread over fifteen years, but to begin at once - and every young man between eighteen and twenty-one that could be caught by force was to be required to fill up the lines of national defence.
– As the honorable member does not believe in that, he cannot object to the Prime Minister not proceeding with it. .
– May I suggest to the honorable and learned member that it is a singular way of ascertaining the value of the policy of a Minister to test it by the views of those who do not believe in if ? I do not know that any policy would ever go on the statutebook if it were exposed to that Test. The glory of the Prime Minister’s position, if he believes in these things as essential to the national security, if he thinks compulsion the best and only way to range Australian manhood under the colours, should be to press that policy forward. If those are his convictions, it would be well, perhaps, if he were more prompt in the fulfilment of his brilliant perorations, because he may fill the air with perorations, all the year, and they will injure no one but the Hansard reporters. They are the devoted victims of those onslaughts, and I wish to express my utmost gratification that they seem to be able, by means of constant changes and relays, to survive. We must have the beginnings of an Australian Navy some day. I do not think any one can help looking forward to a time when, from the small beginnings of to-day or to-morrow, we may have something like a naval force worthy of the traditions of the race to which we belong, but it is rather taking the wrong course to allow the Military Forces to go right down into absolute demoralization. Would it not be a better work, with the money we have, and with the men we have, to endeavour to throw some life and vitality and permanency into our Australian Military Forces of to-day ?’
– The Government propose to appropriate £250,000 towards Naval Defence.
– Yes. That would” not be a bad amount as a start towards old-age pensions for the next two years. While I am in favour of making a beginning in the establishment of an Australian Navy, the thing first to our hand is to strengthen the defences that we have, especially our present forces. The first effect of the Prime Minister’s policy will be to throw all our existing military organization out of gear. To tell men that they are to be transformed into some other force, is like telling a. man that you are going to pull his house down. It. demoralizes the man who is in the house to know that it is coming down about his ears. Without much expenditure of money, the patriotic element which wears the uniform of Australia to-day, and which has given years of its time to the public, could be encouraged. I should make my first appeal to the voluntary patriotism of the men of Australia, not only of the ages of eighteen, nineteen, twenty, or twenty-one, but of all ages up to any reasonable limit.
– Does the honorable member think that that relates to the question before the Chair?
– I do not. If the amounts that are to be devoted to founding old-age pensions rest on the basis of taking the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue for June, they rest on a very precarious basis. The estimated revenue for June from Customs and Excise is £975,000. Three-fourths of that amounts to a sum of £731,000. If the Treasurer’s calculations are based on getting that sum from the States for June, I am afraid the basis will prove very unsatisfactory. But let us take the Treasurer’s figures. He puts down £222,000 for old-age pensions this year. Next year I do not know how much he proposes to spend. No one knows. But it is very doubtful financing. After this Bill is passed the whole of this problem will still be open. It will not solve anything, but it willadd to the difficulties in coming to a final settlement with the States, and for that reason I quite approve of the proposal that its consideration ought to be postponed, and I do so knowing that it will not delay the actual payment of oldage pensions.
– Why not?
– I do not think that it will in any serious way.
– What hope does the honorable member think there is of getting any pensions paid by the consent of the States Premiers at any time during next year ?
– There is to be a Conference of Commonwealth Ministers with the Premiers of the States at the beginning of next year, that is six months hence, and I hope that the latter will have sufficient sagacity to see that it is their duty to help us to bring in the system.
– There is very good reason to believe that some of the States which have not established old-age pensions will agree to it.
– There will be no harm done in passing this Bill.
– If the position of the Government is a sound one, then they could have paid the surplus revenue - at any rate, after the period of five years had elapsed - to a trust fund without an Act at all, because the Audit Act establishes certain trust funds, and enables the Treasurer to establish as many additional trust funds as he pleases without further authority of Parliament.
– Is that constitutional ?
– If there had been no doubt of the legality of that system of trust funds this Bill would not have been thought of. If trust funds were not legal before, it is not likely that this Bill will make them legal.
– If the Audit Act and this Bill are practically co-extensive in their powers, how can the latter be unconstitutional if the former is constitutional?
– I do not wish to go further than to say that I entertain grave doubt as to whether those provisions of the Audit Act are constitutional. I want to reecho a point which was put by the honorable member for North Sydney to the Attorney-General, who could not, or, at any rate, did not answer him, My honorable friend asked, “If it is constitutional to establish trust funds, why do you need another Act when you already have an Act which enables you to do so? “ The Audit Act has enabled the Treasurer at any time during these years to establish trust funds. If it was constitutional to take that course then, it is constitutional to do so now. This Bill cannot affect the constitutional position.
– What is unconstitutional ?
– If trust funds established under the Audit Act are unconstitutional, the trust funds established under this Bill will be equally unconstitutional, because each Act will be of equal authority. I do not wish to trouble the House on the question ; but Ministers have shown in their public utterances that they themselves, doubt the legality of this course. They have expressed doubts on that point, but so far as I am concerned, I thoroughly concur in the attitude which has been taken up by those honorable members who agree with the amendment.
. –A few moments ago the right honorable member for East Sydney expressed a most absolute opinion - I was almost going to say a dogmatic opinion - as to the unconstitutionality of this proposal. I do not pretend to be able to say whether he was correct or not. But perhaps he might have been influenced in some measure had he heard the honorable member for Flinders argue, I think very ably, in favour of its constitutionality. The honorable member for Angas, though he objected to the Bill on other grounds, also expressed the opinion that it is perfectly constitutional. In addition to that, the AttorneyGeneral - and I think that he defended his opinion very ably the other evening - says that the Bill is within the bounds of the Constitution. So far as the legal aspect is concerned, I, for one, am quite prepared to be guided by the opinions of those honorable and learned gentlemen, though, in deference to the opinions of the honorable and learned members for East Sydney, Bendigo, and Parkes, I do not wish to speak in any dogmatic fashion. I am inclined to think that the constitutionality of this proposal is at least as clear as the constituionality of what every Treasurer has done in regard to items which have been appropriated but not spent.
– It is not the same case, and the honorable member ought to know that.
– It is only a question of degree. From the very first, we have set aside certain sums for specific purposes because we were not able to pay them during the months when they were available.
– The difference between the two cases is that all the moneys put into trust funds were moneys which Parliament had appropriated forthe services of that particular year; but this is not an appropriation for the services of this year.
– In some cases they were more than appropriations for a particular year; they were appropriations in respect of goods which had been ordered but could not be delivered until other years, though the authority to spend the money had been given in the particular year.
– There was another appropriation.
– The honorable gentleman does not know much about it.
– I assume that, at any rate, the first Treasurer, Sir George Turner, took very careful advice before he adopted that course. Others of us followed in his footsteps. The care shown by the right honorable Sir George Turner was demonstrated by his desertion of an equitable practice of debiting expenditure on public works which had been in existence for a considerable time. I protested against that as much opposed to the interests of the State from which I come; but it was done for conscientious reasons, and I instance it now only as evidence of his carefulness. If the course which he took was unconstitutional, many of the acts to which other Treasurers have given assent are also unconstitutional.
– That does not make the Bill constitutional.
– No; but the view has been expressed by a number of the lawyers in the Chamber that it is constitutional.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas said that it is.
– Yes. Of course, it is idle for any of us to dogmatize as to the view which the High Court would take.
– Could not the funds which it is proposed to establish under the Bill be established under the authority already exercised for the establishment of other funds.
– It is better to have legislative than merely administrative authority for their establishment; mainly because of their importance, which has already caused great interest to attach to the step which we are taking. I think it well to arm ourselves with all the powers at our disposal.
– Why was not such a Bill passed years ago?
– There is something in the contention that we have a freer hand now that the bookkeeping period has expired. Had such a measure been passed years ago, we should not now be much nearer the period at which old-age pensions can be paid, because it would have required large accumulated savings to provide for them.
– There would have been the £6,000,000 of surpluses which have been returned to the States.
– I do not think that it was within our power to pass the Bill during the first five years of the union.
– Certainly not within the first two years.
– It could not have been passed until the first Tariff had been enacted. I am content to leave the constitutionality of the matter to the High Court, and to accept the views of the AttorneyGeneral and those who supported him, who, I think, made out a good case. But a point worth adverting to is that, while one member of the Opposition after another has voiced his unswerving allegiance to the cause of old-age pensions, they all raise obstacles in the way of this practical step towards providing for their payment earlier than would otherwise be possible.
– Can one allow his opinions as to the meaning of the Constitution to be affected by considerations of this sort ?
– The honorable and learned members for Flinders and Angas, who declared the Bill to be constitutional, are both opposed to it. While the members of all three parties are nominally in favour of a Commonwealth old-age pensions system–
– And pledged to it–
– Having recently carried a resolution to that effect–
– Yes; while this is so, it seems extraordinary that, when a practical scheme is proposed, which will not trench in the slightest degree on the revenue properly returnable to the States, certain honorable members offer it all the opposition in their power.
– Does the honorable member seriously think that the Bill will enable us to finance a Commonwealth oldage pensions system?
– It will help materially. The leader of the Opposition says that the postponement of the measure, as proposed by the honorable member’s amendment, would not delay for a day the payment of old-age pensions by the Commonwealth. His ground for that statement was his hope that the Premiers of the States will see the wisdom of allowing us to take out of their three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue enough to meet the necessary payments. He had the same hope in 1905.
– The finances of the States were then very straitened.
– Judging by the temper exhibited by the recent Premiers’ Conference, the right honorable gentleman’s hope will again be blasted. The Conference resolved that the Commonwealth should be empowered to pay old-age pensions out of the States’ three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue ; but it attached a condition absolutely impossible of fulfilment by this Parliament.
– I think that that was wrong.
– I do not say that the right honorable gentleman sympathizes with that attitude; but it affords slight foundation for the hope that the State authorities will allow the Commonwealth to use any part of their three-fourths for the payment of old-age pensions. Speaking generally, they have, from first to last, discouraged any such expectation.
– They have never been tried.
– The honorable member must surely have been asleep. They were approached by Sir George Turner, by the right honorable member for East Sydney, and since his time.
– With a specific proposal relating to the payment of old-age pensions ?
– With the proposal that they should forego so much of their threefourths as would provide for the payment of old-age pensions. They refused to do so, and it was only at the recent Conference in Melbourne that they appeared to consent to it, at the same time imposing a condition making their offer impossible of acceptance.I expressed the opinion during the last electoral campaign, and previously, that there is no hope of such ah arrangement, because the Premiers of the States know that if thereby a deficiency were created in their accounts, they would have to make it good by means of new taxation, of which they do not want the odium.
– That does not hold good of Victoria and New South Wales.
– The problem does not concern those States. Their Premiers exhibited contrariness in regard to Commonwealth proposals generally ; but there was much stronger objection on the part of those of other States.
– New South Wales and Victoria are partly concerned, inasmuch as at present a person must reside continuously for twenty-five years in either of them to obtain a pension.
– I am alluding, not to the citizens of the States, but to their Governments, which the problem does not affect as it affects those of the other States. The probabilities are against the States Premiers making any adequate concession in this regard. I wish to bring .under the notice of honorable members a point which I think has been overlooked during this debate. I refer to the fact that, assuming that the States Premiers were in earnest when they agreed to our taking a proportion of their three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue for the payment of old-age pensions, they can have no complaint against this Bill, under which it is proposed to devote to that purpose none of that three-fourths, but only the surplus of the one-fourth to which we are entitled. Surely they can take no exception to the Bill if they were in earnest when they agreed to the proposal made at the Conference in Melbourne.
– They have had their three-fourths as well as the surplus revenue for tEe eleven months of the present financial year.
– I think that, unfortunately, we have unduly cut down expenditure on Federal^ services in several directions in order to provide the large surpluses which the States have been enjoying. We should have gained more credit from the citizens of the Commonwealth had we spent more money in directions where expenditure was absolutely essential, even if the result had been the return of a smaller proportion of surplus revenue to the States. But the point that I am endeavouring at present to make is that ostensibly the States Premiers; are willing that we should subtract from their three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue whatever is necessary to provide for old-age pensions. If they are in earnest in taking up that attitude they cannot object to our devoting the surplus of our one-fourth of that revenue to the same object. Let me deal now with the inquiry made by the honorable member for Parramatta as to whether this Bill will provide sufficient for a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions. I do not think that it will. But, judging by the savings on estimated expenditure which have been made in past years, we may expect to obtain from this source a very considerable contribution towards the establishment of old-age pensions.
– A very large contribution.
– A very large contribution. We propose to accumulate funds for thirteen months or more in advance of the date on which old-age pensions will become payable. I do not know the exact date on which the Government propose to inaugurate the system.
– The pensions will not be payable until July of next year.
– I understand from the Treasurer that it is proposed to pay old-age pensions from July of next year.
– If possible.
– That being so, we shall have an accumulation of thirteen months’ savings before the payments begin.
– According to the Treasurer’s own statement we shall have no surplus at the end of the present financial year. Our one-fourth will have disappeared.
– I am concerned, not so much with the last month of the present financial year as I am with the twelve months of the next.
– But] notwithstanding the boom revenue of this year, we shall spend the whole of our one-fourth. That being so, what are the prospects for next year with a diminishing income?
– I do not take that as the Treasurer’s statement. I understood the Treasurer to say that we had already paid this year to the States surplus revenue to the extent of about £1,000,000.
– The Treasurer has said that that has to be adjusted during the last month, and that at the end of the year there will be a surplus of only ^472,000.
– And he parcels out that amount in the shape of £250,000 for defence purposes, and £222,000 for old-age pensions.
– I am aware that that was the Treasurer’s statement as to the proposed allocation under this Bill of the surplus moneys for the remainder of the current financial year; but I am under the impression that the surplus of our onefourth for the present financial year will be considerably in excess of the £400,000.
– The Treasurer has said that it will not.
– I was under the impression that it would be considerably more. Even if it is not, it seems to me that during the next financial year we shall accumulate a considerable amount.
– The Treasurer anticipates that the revenue next year will decrease.
– And we are spending the whole of our one-fourth this year.
– That may be, but there may be some special items of expenditure which will also decrease next year. . The point I Wish to make is that we have been paying, year by year, to the States considerable sums by way of surplus revenue, and that we ought to make a very strong effort to secure that, if any such sums are available next year, or in respect of the remainder of the present financial year, they shall be made available, for old-age pensions. That is all I claim. If there is not to be- any surplus next year, why are our honorable friends opposite making such a row ?
– What harm is done?
– Why are the State Premiers making such a noise about this Bill ? It does not appear to me that the hostility displayed towards this measure is justified unless there is to be a surplus next year. On their own showing, it would seem that no injury can result to the States from the passing of this measure. I believe, however, that a large balance will remain. In some instances it often happens that we cannot spend the money that we set out to expend in one financial year, and there ought to be a large surplus available.
– If. we take the surplus for this month, the States ‘ will have to pay out of the three-fourths returnable to them this year’s interest on the cost of the transferred properties.
– That does not trouble me in the slightest degree, for the States have done very well so far as that aspect of the question is concerned. They have had paid to them some millions of surplus revenue, as against any claim they may have had in respect of the transferred properties. I am inclined to think that if wise counsels prevail the amount required on account for transferred properties will not be anything like as large as some people imagine. In any case, I do not see that in equity the States have cause to complain, since their citizens under Federation have had as’, full use of the transferred properties as they had in pre-Federation days. I trust that, with a view to an early start being made with the payment of old-age pensions, this measure will be passed. We ought to show our earnestness in this direction by making at least one effort. If it is found that this provision is not sufficient for the payment of old-age pensions, we shall have to devise other means of raising the revenue necessary to achieve that purpose.
– I do not think I am taking a liberty in expressing the view that the speeches delivered during the debate on this Bill, and more particularly those to which’ we have listened this evening, .recall the able deliverances in this House in the early days of the Commonwealth. We have listened to able speeches on the Constitution ; some in support of this measure, and some in opposition to it. As a layman, who has closely followed the debate, I have formed the conclusion that the chief grounds on which objection has been taken to the Bill are that it is unconstitutional, unwise, and unnecessary. I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that some six weeks ago the honorable member for Wide Bay brought under the special notice of the House the necessity for the early establishment of a system of old-age pensions, towards financing which this Bill is to do something. An abstract motion, in opposition to the honorable member for Wide Bay, was introduced, and, on that, the honorable member for Parramatta submitted an amendment.
– The Treasurer did not say that this Bill was for the purpose of old-age pensions; indeed, he has never said so yet.
– I have said so over and -over again.
– I have no desire to be placed in the position of the Honorable member for Flinders, who, on 31st March, decided on a certain course, and now, only a few weeks later, decides on another course. On the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Parramatta, I ventured another, making the proposal more emphatic, inasmuch as I suggested that this session should. not come to an end without Parliament voting a sum of money for the purpose of inaugurating old-age pensions. Thereupon the honorable member for’ Newcastle submitted another amendment, to the effect that steps be taken to the end desired, and that amendment was adopted. The right honorable member for East Sydney castigated the Government for neglecting to make proper financial provision ; and I agree that, before the next general election, in 1910, the country ought to have some financial scheme placed before it, in substitution for the present scheme. I refuse, however, to be drawn into the vortex indicated by the right honorable member for East Sydney, who suggested that honorable members should now come together on this side of the House, and be united in a certain course of action. So far as this Surplus Revenue Bill is concerned, I refuse to repudiate my radical opinions” and instincts, or to abandon the idea that old-age pensions should be provided at the earliest possible moment; and that is one of the reasons why I feel compelled to support this Bill.
– I hope that the honorable member does not regard this Bill as a test of radicalism !
– The right honorable member for East Sydney has made an appeal to honorable members, not only in relation to this Bill, but, as I gather, in relation to some heavier issue that is to come before the public shortly.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that I expect him to “.go back “ on his views?
– Certainly not; I know that the right honorable member will give me the same liberty that he extends to the honorable member for Flinders - that he thoroughly realizes that there can be a difference of opinion without personal altercation or bitterness. As to the constitutional aspect of the question, do honorable members really think that this is the place to settle it? During the several Parliaments since the inauguration of Federation, there have been many discussions as to whether this or that measure was constitutional.
– Does the honorable member think that we should legislate regardless of the Constitution ?
– If it were transparent that a piece of legislation was unconstitutional, we should be fit subjects for a lunatic asylum if we proceeded to pass it. But I find the honorable, and learned member for Flinders, and the honorable and learned member for Angas, both contending that the Bill is constitutional, whilst the honorable and learned member for Bendigo takes an opposite view. As for the Attorney-General, I “ throw him in,” as one favoring the constitutionality’ of the measure, because he is connected with the Government. The right honorable member for Swan declares that the Bill is unconstitutional, while the deputy leader of the Opposition says that it is constitutional, and so forth. First, we have the lawyers, and then the laymen, differing ; and it is impossible for us to settle the question. Is it contended that before we introduce legislation of this character, we must go to the High Court; and ask it to decide the question of its constitnationality? Why, even the right honorable member for East Sydney said he would not dogmatically pronounce one way or the other; and, as a layman, I am compelled to deal with the Bill as it is presented. The next argument that has been advanced is that it is unwise to proceed with the Bill, because it will irritate the States. But what is meant by that ? Will it irritate the people of the States, or only the Treasurers of the States? In my opinion, it will cause no irritation to the people of the States, but it may cause some to the States Treasurers, although during the eleven months of this financial year, close upon £1,000,000 has been paid to the States over and above the three-fourths of the revenue to which they are entitled.
– But that has to be adjusted during the last month of the financial year, and brought down to £472,000.
– This Bill is not retrospective.
– But if this Bill does not pass, that adjustment will have to be made.
– We had better deal with one question at a time. At present, the Bill has not passed ; and the fact remains that the States have received the amount I have mentioned. In New South Wales, by what I may call a criminal process of heavy taxation, the Treasurer has had returned to him overflowing money from the Commonwealth Treasury ; but, at the same time, I point out that this is only a return of the money contributed by the people of New South Wales themselves, who have had imposed on them a heavier Customs Tariff than they ever had before. New South Wales came into the Union the most lightly taxed of the States, but now, on account of her population, she is the most heavily taxed. The State Treasurer has had returned to him his share of the increased revenue, and has enjoyed large surpluses during the last seven years; but have the people of New South Wales benefited at all by this?
If it could be contended that resistance to the passage of this Bill would mean that the moneys would be paid to the taxpayers, there might be some reason in the argument advanced ; but’, as a matter of fact, the opposition to the measure really considers only the convenience of the States Treasurers, who, so far, have not devoted the surplus funds to the relief of the over-burdened citizen. Such is the affluence of the Government of New South Wales, that they have remitted taxation, not to those who have to pay such heavy Customs and Excise duties on all the necessaries of life, but to those who are specially interested in the income tax and the stamp duties. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that the commercial classes of New South Wales are said to be behind the State Treasurer. A French writer, La Rochefoucauld, has well said - “ Virtues are lost in self-interest as rivers are lost in the ocean and so there is no virtue in returning these moneys to the States Treasurers, merely . in order to enable them to show favorable balances. I am one who believes that throughout the whole of the Commonwealth the electors are taxed more than they should be - that more money is taken out of their pockets than is necessary for the purposes of good government. But while the Ministry propose to put the plug in the bath after most of the water has escaped, I hold that they should be castigated for not having introduced this measure eleven months ago. When they found that they were accumulating large surpluses, instead of returning those surpluses to the States, they should have submitted for the approval of Parliament a Bill of this character. Whilst the Commonwealth revolves within its own ambit, it can be respected, but when it neglects to do. that, it will be at the mercy of the States Treasurers. In the days preceding Federation, when the Federal Council existed, the Premiers of the States used to meet - although they possessed no Executive power - and discuss matters of common concern. I am quite sure that when the electors voted in favour of Federal union they did so under the .belief that such matters would be determined by this Parliament. I cannot sit silently in this Chamber, and be told by a daily newspaper that unless I range myself behind the Treasurer of New South Wales, that gentleman will array all his forces against me at the next general election. When I read such statements, I, as a Commonwealth elector, and still more as a Commonwealth representative, refuse to accept his dictation or his guidance. I cannot see that this Parliament has attempted to exercise powers outside those conferred upon it by the Constitution.
– Apart from the constitutional aspect of the question, we are under an obligation to act prudently.
– I shall deal with that aspect of the matter presently. I do not want to excuse my support of this Bill by declaring that it has been introduced for the purpose of enabling a Federal system of old-age pensions to be established. If the principle underlying it be a sound one, the surplus revenue which it proposes to appropriate might with equal justice be used for other purposes. For instance, the .postal service has been starved for want of funds. Why should not some of the surplus revenue be devoted to restoring the efficiency of that service? We have not yet exercised our full powers as a Commonwealth Parliament, and until we do, I fail to see why we should return to the States more than the three-fourths of the net Customs’ and Excise revenue to which they are constitutionally entitled. Nobody will fight stronger than I will to resist encroachment upon that three-fourths.
– The Treasurer proposes to spend the whole of the threefourths to which the States are entitled for the month of June.
– The honorable member is merely falling back upon the bungling statement made by the Treasurer yesterday, to the effect that he intended to hypothecate all the revenue for June.
– The Prime Minister said the same thing to-day.
– The specific purposes to which it is intended to apply the surplus revenue appropriated under this Bill are old-age pensions and defence. The honorable member for Flinders was not exactlyfair when he gave an illustration in connexion with the proposal to return a fixed sum annually to the States. He forgot to say that under such ‘ a scheme the States would be relieved of the payment of interest upon their loans, and that New South Wales and Victoria would be further relieved of the annual payment of £700,000 and £200,000 respectively’ in connexion with old-age pensions. It is true that in New South Wales the old-age pensions scheme was inaugurated at the instance of the present Treasurer, but he was able to obtain the funds for that purpose only because of the healthycondition of the finances as the result of the good administration of the present leader of the Opposition.
– Why, he left the Treasury absolutely bare, like a bone.
– I know all about it, because I happened to be there, and I was also a member of the Committee which recommended, the payment of old-age pensions in New South Wales. As a matter of fact, the Bill authorizing the scheme submitted was only carried with the support of men like the honorable member for Parramatta and myself. Under the svstems of old-age pensions operative in New South Wales and Victoria, recipients are required to have resided continuously in those States for a specified number of years. Under the Commonwealth scheme that restriction will be removed. In other words, the Commonwealth scheme will be a wider and more humane one, and for that reason it should have been enacted earlier. The small States ought to be. jubilant over the introduction of this Bill, because the larger States will provide the money for the payment of old-age pensions within their borders. I do not fear the irritation of the States Treasurers. I have always found that they do not worry themselves about a Federal election. When the present leader of the Opposition and myself were fighting at the last general election, we were not overwhelmed with the assistance of members of the State Parliament. They wanted to see how the cat jumped first, and it was only subsequently that Mr. Carruthers made a most bitter attack upon the leader of the Opposition for having raised the question of antisocialism. It is rather late in the day for a State Treasurer to say that if we do not do certain things he will range his forces against us at the next general electron. I do not see why we should waste time in endeavouring to create bad blood between the States and the Commonwealth. We have been pouring money into the hands of the New South Wales Government for years as a result of the evil work of the Treasurer in extorting an enormous revenue from the people by the imposition of taxation on food supplies, apparel, and other necessaries of life.
– When the honorable member speaks in that way, it is only fair that he should remember that the Government party in the State Parliament of
New South Wales represent the majority of the people of New South Wales at the present time; and the same may be said of the other States.
– Exactly, but we should not forget either that we are members of the people’s House of the Commonwealth Parliament of. Australia.
– The same people returned the members of the States Parliaments.
– I admit that that is so, but I consider that it is a matter of indifference to the elector whether he takes the money he is called upon to pay out of his State pocket or his Commonwealth pocket. He has to meet the bill in some way, and I suppose that all he prays for is economical administration that he may be obliged to take as little as possible out of either pocket, and may obtain as much as possible of the advantages of good government for the money he is called upon to pay. I cannot understand the attempt to consider the elector as two different beings. In my judgment, the people of Australia are beginning to realize that this House represents the electors of the Commonwealth generally, whilst the Senate represents the electors of the States. It is the Senate that is the States’ House, and while the right honorable member for Swan might very well fight this question in the way he is doing in the States’ House, . he should remember that in this Chamber he sits as a representative, not merely of the people of a particular State, but of the whole Commonwealth.
– So far as New South Wales is concerned, the members of the State Parliament have been to the people and secured their approval since we were before them.
– That is so, and I might add that some of the members of the State Parliament, when before the electors, gave their friends in this House a bad time in setting up a certain flag. I have dealt with the matter of old-age pensions, and I now come to the matter of necessary expenditure upon Commonwealth defence. The echoes of the celebrations in this country of Empire Day have scarcely yet left my ears. On that occasion a large section of the people of Australia took advantage of the opportunity afforded to express their loyalty and attachment to the Motherland.
– And the Orangemen did so too.
– I do not know why toe right honorable gentleman should have made that interjection. If he had any ulterior purpose, I should like to know what it was before I proceed further. I am glad to be able to say ‘that the section to which the right honorable gentleman refers is always loyal, and I have no doubt that he is glad to get behind it when it flies the loyal flag.
– I did not insinuate that it is not loyal.
– Then I do not know how the right honorable gentleman’s interjection fitted in with my remarks. I was referring to the celebration in Australia of Empire Day, and I wish to say that the best Empire work that we can do is to love and defend this portion of the Empire committed to our care. We can best do that by providing for harbor and coastal defence. That will not interfere in any way with ths naval policy of Australia. If the public of Australia have any complaint to make in connexion with this question, it probably is that we have been too slow, and that we have allowed annual surpluses amounting to over £6,000,000 to be handed back to the States -when the money might have been used to carry out work for the defence of Australia five years ago. I shall be only too delighted to vote for the Surplus Revenue Bill, in order to secure the ,£250,000 proposed for naval defence expenditure, and the sum which it is proposed shall be retained for the payment of old-age pensions. “ If the work before the Commonwealth Parliament . is to be carried out, it can only be by the adoption of some arrangement’ with the States in the way proposed in this Bill, or by the imposition of direct taxation. We have to decide which flag we shall fly.
– Which is the Government flag?
– I do not care which is the Government flag; I know which is mine.
– Which flag does the honorable member prefer? ‘
– In my hustings speeches I declared against direct taxation upon land for Federal purposes. I made the same declaration in the last- Federal Parliament. But in the matter of defence, I should be only too glad to advocate direct taxation. If we are going to put the whole of the people of Australia under arms, the wealthy classes must pay something towards their own defence, and they can be best made to do so by the imposition of a Federal income tax. In my opinion that would be more effective from a financial stand-point than a land tax. If the honorable member for Indi knew the attitude which I adopted on the election platform, he would know my reason for differentiating in this matter. I have been a radical in the past, and I intend to remain one. I know the difficulties ahead of me. I know very well that the Labour Party fought strongly against me, and will probably do so again in the near future. No man would be more pleased than I to see the right honorable member for East Sydney in a position to give effect to the policy he enunciated in New South Wales. -No one would be more pleased to see the right honorable gentleman leading the radical forces of Australia. I regret very much that the present Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is in a different paddock. Perhaps I should not say that these honorable gentleman are in different paddocks. It’ might be more correct to say that they are in the same, paddock, but are looking over different rails. Each one thinks that he is in another paddock. No one could conceive of the right honorable, member for East Sydney leading any conservative or reactionary force in Australia.
– Does the honorable member think that what he is saying has any relation to the Bill?
– I think it has some relation to the way in which we should make up our minds in regard- to the defence of Australia in connexion with the proposal submitted in this Bill. The honorable member for Parramatta does not question the constitutionality of the measure, but believes that it should not be proceeded with until a proper scheme is submitted to Parliament. But when will a proper scheme be brought before us ? I am going to seize this opportunity to get a little of the water that is left in. the bath. Too much has been allowed to run away to the States, and I intend to put in the plug, and take advantage of this opportunity to get a little of what is left. It may be admitted that the remedy proposed is a cruel one, but I think it necessary to provide the revenue required for works which the’ ‘Commonwealth should undertake. The honorable member for North
Sydney contended that trust funds might be established under the Audit Act, and that therefore this measure was unnecessary. A good deal has been. said as to applying and appropriating money for certain expenditure. I may explain roy reading of the applying of expenditure by suggesting that if, sir, I gave you £1,000 to apply to. your use, and because you were foolish enough not to spend it this year, I asked you to disgorge it next year, I do not think you would consent’ to do so. In my reading of the term by applying .certain moneys, we lock them up irretrievably . for the purposes to which they are applied. I take it that that is the idea of the Constitution, and that it is a proper thing to apply these sums to such purposes as Oldage pensions, the defence of the Commonwealth, and putting the Post Office into proper order. The honorable member for Flinders, in the slight financial sketch which he gave to the House, represented that we should not have the necessary money to carry out what was expected of us. That, however, is the look-out of the Government. Three years ago, I spoke in this House on old-age pensions, and urged the Prime Minister to make an arrangement with New South Wales and Victoria, whereby the responsibility of paying pensions, which has been undertaken by those States, might be transferred to the Commonwealth. The States Premiers, at their last Conference, intimated that they would only make such an arrangement conditionally. They desired to tie up the Commonwealth after 1910. Of course, the States Premiers are keen business people, and wish to make a good bargain. I do not see why the Commonwealth should fie itself hand and foot. If, when the old-age pensions scheme is brought into force, it is not possible to pay the States six-eighths of the revenue, we shall have to’ return to them five-eighths, or whatever other sum may be reasonable. It cannot be expected that this Parliament shall be restricted in the exercise of its sovereign powers. Surely it is not wrong for us to travel within our own ambit, so long as we do not infringe upon the rights of the States. I ask honorable members not to pay attention to the agitation of the States Premiers, but simply to do what is fight to the people of this country. I am prepared to do that, and if other honorable members are foolish enough to allow this Surplus Revenue Bill to be mixed up with the question of the invasion of the three-fourths returnable to the States, they will place themselves in a very sorry position before the. electors. It will be very difficult for the electors to differentiate between their interests’ as State electors and their interests as Federal electors. The States Premiers and members of Parliament will represent to the electors that the Commonwealth is not returning to the States what they ought to have. If. we do” not be careful, we shall be caught in a cleft stick. I do not intend to place myself in that position. Five weeks ago, I desired this House to put on record its opinion that Parliament should not rise before placing on the statute-book an old-age pensions scheme. How, then, can I fight against a measure which is intended to make such a scheme possible? I do not care whether the Labour Party have forced the hands of the Government, or whether Ministers have acted with free consciences. After all, that is not an important point. How can I uphold my position if, having wanted a certain policy carried out, I cavil at the method adopted by the Government for giving effect to it? And, after all, we are not dealing with the affairs of another race. We are dealing with the same people, whether they be Commonwealth or State electors. It is the same people who have to pay all the time. When f hear something said about the transferred properties, and that the Commonwealth has not paid interest on them, I reply that the’ amount returned by the Commonwealth to the States over the three-fourths, has been more than sufficient to pay interest on the value of these properties. In any case, it is well known that the properties were paid for out of loan money, and that the Commonwealth Parliament is desirous of taking over the debts of the States. Of course) I do not blame the States Premiers for trying to make the best possible bargain. Mr. Wade and Mr. Bent are simply endeavouring to make a good arrangement from the point of view of their Governments. But we have to do our duty to the electors of Australia, and I consider that I shall be doing my duty in affording facilities for the carrying out of a policy which I advocated months ago. I am only too glad to. assist the Federal Government in trying to establish a savings fund. It will- offer a premium for economy. Without such a fund, our position is like that of the man in Brewster’s Millions, who was not allowed to enjoy his fortune unless he got rid of it. We have handed millions of money over to the States ; but the States Governments have not taken advantage of the opportunity to remit taxation to the people. . I shall support this measure, and simply regret that the Government did not introduce it twelve months earlier.
– It is not my intention to say much about this Bill. Honorable members have had the benefit of hearing the legal luminaries upon it ; but I do not think that much has been said from the point of view of States rights. I recognise, of course, that within its own sphere, the Federal Government must be paramount, and that this Par: liament .exercises paramount powers. But, at the same time, I ask honorable members to recollect that the Commonwealth did not make the States, but that the States have made the Commonwealth. When honorable members once more face the electors, they will owe some explanation lo them if they have not provided a proper and sufficient financial scheme to take the place of the Braddon section, which expires in 1910. When that provision was inserted at the instance of Sir Edward Braddon, it was never contemplated that at the expiration of ten years the States would not participate in the Customs and Excise revenue.
– Nobody proposes that.
– It is contrary to common sense to imagine it for a moment. The leader of the Opposition pointed out to-night that the Braddon section operates “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.” Surely the Treasurer should have submitteda scheme to this House to deal with the question- before bringing in a Bill to appropriate the surplus revenue. The honorable’ member for Flinders, who recognised that the House had constitutional power to pass this Bill, intended to vote’ for it until he saw the figures. After seeing and analyzing them, he decided to vote against it.
– He had the figures when he made his first statement.
– He made an explanation to-night, which justified his attitude. When he was pointing out that in two years’ time the Commonwealth would be faced with a deficit of £[2,000,000, the Treasurer interjected, “ What about the termination of the Braddon section in 1910?” as much as to say, “The proposal that, I submitted to the Premiers’ Conference was all bluff, and we do not intend to stand by it.” If not, why did he make that interjection ?
– I thought the honorable member had more common-sense.
– I thought the’ Treasurer had more common political honesty than to make such a remark, and the public of Australia thought the same.
– Does the honorable member know that in 1910 the scheme that has been proposed will wipe out the “ Braddon blot” altogether?
– I know that as well as the honorable member does. But when he went before the electors as a representative of his own. State, did he say to them - “ We are going to wipe you off the slate, although you have built up an enormous good-will, and, through your industry, intelligence, ability, and capital, have enabled us to form a Federation?” Did he tell them- - “ We are going to dominate you, and be masters over you, and grind you down to the earth, and take away the whole of your revenue?”
– We are not proposing to do anything of the sort.
-The Government do propose that. That is the position, as clearly as the Treasurer could show it.
– Are we not going to give old-age pensions to the people of the States ?
– The giving of old-age pensions is not the question before the House. I am prepared to support a proper and equitable scheme of old-age pensions, as is nearly every other honorable member on this side, but let us not do it by a subterfuge, or under false pretences, or; as the Treasurer does, by bringing down a. Surplus Revenue Bill, and saying not a word at the time about ear-marking a portion of that money for the purpose.
– He did not intend to.
– He did riot, until he was exposed. He then had to acknowledge it, and then came the interjection with reference to what he was going to do in 1.9 10. Surely this subterfuge is not to be continued for ever. Let us provide openly for old-age pensions. The Treasurer will get proper support from this side of the House for the Old-age Pensions Bill. He need not laugh, for members on this side have never yet spoken against it. I defy the Treasurer to name r. single one who has done so, but we want to provide for old-age pensions honestly, and not to rob the States. The Treasurer told us to-night that he was going to make the Bill retrospective, and that for June, the States would receive no portion of the Customs and Excise revenue whatever.
– I must ask honorable members to cease these conversations. It is almost impossible for the honorable member to proceed without raising his voice in order to be heard over the conversations that are proceeding in other parts of the House.
– The payment of old-age .pensions was never mentioned in connexion with this Bill until the subject was forced upon the Government. The Treasurer knows that he was told what to do. This is a part of the bargain with the Labour corner. They are perfectly justified in making that bargain, and I approve of their action in dealing with a pliable Government and a pliable Treasurer who desire to remain on the Government bench. Yet the Treasurer “sits there with all the effrontery possible, and laughs and smiles when, as the leader of the Opposition said, what he has really done, and is doing, is practically to eat dirt. Any man who values his reputation, at all events as a politician, ought to be manly enough to say what he proposes to do, and to do it off his own bat, instead of waiting to be told what to do. The Treasurer smiles, ‘ as much as to say that he was not told what to do, but he dare not say so, because his masters are there. They have told him what to do, and he knows he has to do it. I look at this Bill from the point of view of one who believed in, and voted for, Federation. But I do not think that the Treasurer, when posing before the people of New South Wales as a delegate in the interests of that State with a view to consummating Federation, told them that any Federal Government or Parliament would propose to treat them as he proposes to treat them now.
– I voted for the Braddon section, anyhow.
– B.ut what has the honorable member said since about the Braddon section? He has. said since that he does not believe in it, and’ would mop up all the revenue at the expiration of
– I said nothing of the sort.
– We know that that is the honorable member’s intention. Before this Bill was introduced, the honorable member ought, as’ Treasurer, to have submitted a financial scheme for the con sideration and acceptance of the States. That would have been only right and honorable.
– Do not ask too much. -
– We do not ask too much, and the States will not ask too much. The ex-leader of the Labour Party, the honorable member for South Sydney, said that there was no possibility of getting the States into line. The States are as nearly in line now as it is possible to get them, if they are treated honestly, but they will -not.be got into line if they are treated dishonestly. The Treasurer heard, or read, that the Premiers of Victoria and Western Australia stated that if he came to them with a fair and equitable scheme they would be prepared to meet him. But the scheme he wants is a scheme drawn all his own way, and not in the interests of the States at all. The Treasurer has told us that, through the operation of the protectionist Tariff which he has been so successful in getting through the House, we shall have a yearly diminishing revenue, which will come down at last to ,£10,000,000. But surely we did not federate to stagnate. He told us distinctly and clearly - and we have heard it quoted from Hansard, whose accuracy he disputed - that the revenue would come down to that figure. -That prediction means that the great Commonwealth of Australia is going to retrogress. That is what the Treasurer means, but I do not think he is responsible for hisactions. He cannot mean it. I admit that he was responsible for very high actions in connexion with the Tariff, and had it all his own way owing to the fact that ‘ he was expected ‘ to introduce that effective system of protection of which we have heard so much, but of which we have seen very little up to the present. I suppose that is to be part of the bargain, but the States will have something to say about that also.
– Do not be angry. .
– I do not want to be angry, but when I hear the Treasurer of the Commonwealth saying that we are going to retrogress after having federated, that our income will diminish, and that trie population will not increase, I am compelled to ask : “ What did we federate for?”
– I did npt say that.
– You ‘have always said so. I have heard you say it night after night.
– I must ask the honorable member to address the Chair. To address honorable members directly is to provoke interjections.
– I come back to the proposal to absorb the surplus revenue. The people of the various States ask, “ What has the Treasurer done ? What has the Government done ? ‘ ‘ They now propose to do certain things in connexion with surplus revenue. When we federated, we were told that among the first things to be done would be the consolidation of the State debts, the appointment of a High Commissioner with a view to attracting population to Australia, and the reduction of the burden of taxation to the people who were already here, instead of increasing it. But what has the Government - not only this, but every other Federal Government - done? Theirs has been a policy of promise, with very little work behind it. That is what it will be in the future unless the Treasurer submits a financial scheme which will lead, and not mislead, us, as’ he attempted to do to-night in dealing with the question of the Premiers’ Conference, when he asked, “What about the year 1910?” He gave the whole show away.
– I have not spoken.
– The honorable member said distinctly that he had made a proposal to the States Premiers. I thought it was only right that some one on this side should make these remarks. While I believe in Federation and its permanency–
– And straight away the honorable member makes excuses.
– I make no excuses, but the honorable gentleman is full of them. I have never yet made an excuse. I have no occasion to justify myself, because my actions always speak for themselves, but I do not think that the honorable member’s will.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When I was speaking a few moments ago about the amount of surplus revenue which under ordinary circumstances would be available to the States, my figures were subjected to criticism. I have since made inquiries of the Treasury officials, and found that, on that occasion, I was correct to this degree, that if this Bill were not passed, and consequently the unexpended balance were returned to the States, the amount which they would be entitled to receive this year would be nearly £750,000. We have already paid to them for the eleven months a surplus of £900,000 odd, from which should be subtracted the amount not paid this month ; but the net position would be that if the accounts were adjusted in the ordinary way this year, the States would receive a sum of nearly £750,000 in excess of their three-fourths share.
.- I had not intended to speak at this late hour ; but I think that it behoves every honorable member to indicate why he is going to vote for an important proposal of this kind. I have been rather amused, as I have often been amused here, at hearing different opinions expressed by the legal constitutional authorities from all sides of the chamber. I always pity a layman here when he looks for legal light and learning to guide him on constitutional questions, because I have never known an occasion when the legal members of the House have not differed very materially in their views, and left the layman more confused than he was at the beginning. It only shows that laymen should beware of the opinions expressed by those who are supposed to understand the law. If I had time, I should like to traverse the arguments adduced by the honorable member for Flinders. He made a most remarkable speech. It was clever in the extreme, and because it was clever it requires some dissection before one can get at what he really meant. . This is the first time that I have seen him in a fighting attitude, and though I rather liked theform which he showed when he put on the gloves, he has some peculiar ways of getting in a blow which are not in accord with the rules which govern that kind of contest. He tried to make out that he has not changed his opinion within the last two months ; but one cannot get away from Hansard, which is so often quoted against the Treasurer, and which has been quoted with such good effect to-night.
– And which he says is always incorrect.
– The right honorable member is always incorrect.
– The honorable member for Flinders cannot get away from this fact, that after he had traversed the constitutional part of the question, and analyzed the whole of that which appertains to this proposal, he concluded his
– Oh, that is not right.
– It is absolutely correct.
– He said he was in favour of the amendment at the time.
– I do not want to quote Hansard against the honorable member. How did the honorable member for Flinders discuss this matter? He began by rambling over the whole range of the Federal financial position, and the necessities of the various States. He referred to the probable position in 1910, as illustrated by figures quoted from the Treasurer’s speech. But whilst he did that, and charged £1,500,000 for old-age pensions, he did not make any deduction in respect of the amount which would have to be met by the States out of their three-fourths share. I do not mean to suggest that he acted wilfully; but he certainly presented his case in a manner which is not in accord with actual facts. On this question of old-age pensions honorable members on the other side want to run with the hare and. to hunt with the hounds. They wish to make themselves right with the Governments of the States, and at the same time desire to convince the people that they are not trying to deceive those who have waited for years for a Commonwealth oldage pensions system under which assistance could be given to those who are now sadly in want of it. I do not think that they will succeed. Those who vote against the Bill, however they may deceive themselves, will not be able to convince the public that they have not voted to make it impossible to provide for the payment of old-age pensions in 1909.
– Old-age pensions are not mentioned in the Bill.
– The measure is unconstitutional.
– I am surprised at the right honorable member for Swan rais
– That is a mean and contemptible argument. Had it not been for me, the power granted to this Parliament, to provide a Commonwealth oldage pensions system would not be in the Constitution.
– I believe that the right honorable members for Swan and East Sydney have honorably aspired to, and, indeed, have been credited with having attained, the position of statesmen ; but in connexion with this measure they have proved themselves States’ men, that is to say, men who are working for the interests of the States and against those of the Commonwealth. They are taking action now which some day they will have reason to repent, and to try to undo. I do not wish to discuss the measure at length, although I have the material for a long speech, if I cared to use it. I do not subscribe to the doctrine that by the Tariff we have placed a burden of£2,000,000 on the backs of the poor, and therefore should provide an old-age pensions scheme by way of compensation. I should be sorry to think that the action of Parliament has been to place any burden on the poor. Such an allegation is wholly unfounded. I differ, too, entirely, from those who say that we shall have no surplus revenue to be placed to the credit of an old-age pensions fund. The honorable member for Parramatta is “cocksure” on the point. He alleges that there will be no surplus at the end of the present financial year when we have paid interest on the transferred properties. We need not argue that matter. The States have done very well in the past, having received from the Commonwealth large sums over and above the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue which the Constitution requires shall be paid to them. It is a pity, as the honorable member for Dalley has said, that we did not earlier take the step which we are now taking, to divert into other channels, in which it could be spent to the greater advantage of the people of the Commonwealth, the, surpluses which have been paid to the States.
– We have had the power to do this only during the last two years.
– Yes ; but it is a pity that it was not exercised earlier. I hope that the Bill will be carried. If, in passing it, Parliament has exceeded its constitutional powers, the High Court will declare it to be invalid. But if we have not done so, we shall have done something to fulfil a promise made to the people, by providing for the payment of Commonwealth old-age pensions. I feel sure that the Bill will pass, and that, if the States authorities take the objection that it is unconstitutional, the High Court will confound them, and those who, in this Chamber, have raised the constitutional objection, in the same way as other persons were recently confounded by a decision of that tribunal.
– I shall not detain the House long, but I feel it to be my duty to put the position of the smaller States. That which I have the honour to represent has been called upon to make greater sacrifices financially than any of the others.
– Its people have benefited more than those of any other State.
– If so, they have nothing to thank the Treasurer for. Its Treasury has lost more than any other by the imposition of uniform duties of Customs. While New South Wales has gained about £1,500,000, Tasmania has lost about 40 per cent, of the revenue which she formerly received from this source. At the present time, largely because of the decrease in the value of minerals, mining there is in a worse condition than it has been in for many years past. In the electoral division of Darwin alone, the closing clown of unremunerative mines has deprived hundreds of men of work. The State Government was about to commence a progressive public works policy, which would give employment to those now out of work - who, I am afraid, before the winter is over, will be numbered by thousands - but the money required for that purpose is now to be taken by the Commonwealth. I, with other Tasmanian representatives, met the Premier of the State at the close of the recent Conference, and I know that he had not it in his mind that the Commonwealth Government intended to make retrospective the penal clauses which it is now proposing. These clauses are being made retrospective, notwithstanding the statement made by the Prime Minister at the Conference that they would not be so. This is a breach of faith.
– That does not appear to have been the language used by the PrimeMinister.
– A statement attributed to the Prime Minister, and admitted by him to be correct, has been quoted again and again in this House, to the effect that this Bill would not be retrospective.
– The Prime Minister today read a statement to the contrary which was made by him at the Conference.
– The statement which the Prime Minister made at the Conference was that the Bill’ would not be retrospective.
-The Prime Minister to-day quoted an extract from the official report of the proceedings.
– The Prime Minister to-day admitted the correctness of a quotation from a speech delivered by him at the Conference, in which hedistinctly said that the Bill would not be retrospective. It will have a serious effect upon Tasmania. That State has experienced considerable difficulty owing . to serious losses suffered as the result of the transfer of the Department of Trade and Customs to the Commonwealth. It has been compelled to increase its direct taxation, and just as it is beginning, so to speak, to get its head above water - just as it is able to carry on much needed public works to assist settlement in the back country, and to give employment to hundreds of men thrown out of work in themining electorates - we have this proposal on the part of the Commonwealth Government to deprive it of the surplus revenue in respect of the present financial year.
– The Treasurer of Tasmania agreed to allow the Commonwealth to deduct from the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue returnable to that State its proportion of the cost of a Federal system of old-age pensions.
– There is a determination on the part of the States which have no old-age pensions system in force to enable the Federation to provide for a national scheme. They are prepared to make an arrangement which will have that effect. I believe that the House is in earnest in the desire that there shall be a complete system of old-age pensions throughout the Commonwealth, and. that being so, we should endeavour to bring in the States which have not yet paid them.
– We will allow them to come in by proclamation at any time.
– I almost wish that the honorable member had charge of this Bill. It has been made clear during the debate that the leader of the Labour Party is the real father of the proposal to make provision for old-age pensions under the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– Every honorable member is bound to do the best that he can.
– My contention is that the proposal to apply a certain sum under this Bill to the payment of old-age pensions was an after-thought on the part of the Government. The Treasurer, in moving that it be read a second time, did not hint at such a proposal, nor did the Prime Minister do so in speaking to the motion.
– The Treasurer must have been keeping the Opposition in the dark. He thought of it.
– I do not think that the honorable member is honestly in favour of this proposal.
– Make no mistake about that.
– I have heard the honorable member declare on more than one occasion in this House that he is opposed to provision being made by Customs taxation for old-age pensions. Is this the scheme that honorable members and others of his party, who think with him, put before the electors at the last general election ?
– We said that we should secure old-age pensions in any way we could.
– Many honorable members of the Labour Party objected to a Bill put before the House two or three years ago, to ear-mark a certain proportion of the Customs revenue for the purposes of an old-age pensions fund. Had that Bill been adopted, they could then have secured the establishment of an old-age pensions system, which they now say they were prepared to get by. any means.
– A number of honorable members, led by the honorable member for Kennedy, made it impossible for the Government to carry that Bill.
– It was carried in this House.
– But defeated in another place by the votes of members of the Labour Party.
– Not necessarily by members of the Labour Party.
– It was defeated by the votes of Labour senators: I wish now to deal with this question from the stand-point of the smaller States. I am in favour of old-age pensions, and when a Bill providing for them is submitted, shall make proposals which, Ihope, will lead to something more being provided than the ordinary pauper allowance granted under the name of old-age pensions by some of the States. It is a mistake to assume that in dealing with this Bill we are dealing really with the question of old-age pensions. As a matter of fact, we have to determine whether the Government should be permitted to carry retrospective legislation, in distinct violation of an agreement, which the Prime Minister enteredinto with the Premiers of the States. This Bill will throw the finances of some of the: smaller States into confusion. Are honorable members prepared to say, that having levied Customs and Excise duties, we have exhausted the whole of the taxing powers of theParliament? I contend that the Government should, first of all, have submitted an Old-age Pensions Bill to the House, and have intimated their determination to stand or fall by it. That Bill, having passed, they should then have come forward with proposals for financing the scheme. That would have been a straightforward course to adopt.
– Would not the honorable member be adopting a straight forward attitude by stating definitely that he is not in favour of old-age pensions?
– Hear, hear ; neither he is.
– It willbe found that, whether this Bill be carried or not, I shall be found voting for old-age pensions when that question comes under consideration. And I can say that there are men in this House who have advocated the cause of old-age pensions in constituencies where such a scheme was not generally favoured ; for this they surely deserve some credit. I repeat, however, that the proposal of old-age pensions came into the minds of Ministers at about the same time the political crisis arose in connexion with the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department.
There was not. a word about grafting oldage pensions on to the Surplus Revenue Bill until after that crisis had arisen; the proposal was an after-thought, introduced by the Ministry at the risk of upsetting the whole of their financial arrangements. I believe that it would be quite feasible for an arrangement to be made between the States and the Commonwealth, so as to enable a complete Federal system of oldage pensions to be inaugurated, but the proposal now is to take away from the States Treasurers what we have already given them as money to which they are entitled, and for the giving over of which the Commonwealth Treasurer has taken credit for great liberality. As a matter of fact, this Bill proposes to take back from the States practically the whole of the surplus revenuewhich we handed over in a fit of so-called generosity. I urge honorable members to consider that there are States which have made very serious efforts to meet their obligations, in view of the serious decline in the Customs revenue after Federation. Fresh taxation has been imposed, retrenchment carried out in every direction, even to the cutting down of the parliamentary establishments ; and yet the surprise embodied in this Bill is sprung upon them. If the Bill be passed, it will prevent the States carrying out works of great public advantage, and prevent them finding employment for many hundreds of men who are waiting for public works to be commenced. This is a matter which should receive the most serious consideration of honorable members, and I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta, leaving it to time to show how I shall vote when an oldage pensions proposition is submitted to the House.
.- I regret the speech of the honorable member for Franklin, because it shows that Tasmania is in a most deplorable financial condition. When the honorable member reads his speech to-morrow in Hansard, he will see that he has made statements which represent that State as bordering on insolvency.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member told us that if we take this surplus revenue, small as it is, from the State of Tasmania, the result will be that many hundreds of men will be thrown out of employment.
– I never said that.
– And, only a few minutes prior, the honorable member said that he was in favour of old-age pensions. I ask whether not exactly the same result which he has pictured would follow if Tasmania had to find old-age pensions for her own citizens? What is the use of the honorable member saying that he is in favour of old-age pensions when only a few minutes later he says that if we take the necessary money, the result will be to ruin the State of Tasmania?
– The honorable member is incorrectly representing me.
– I do not believe for one moment that the taking of this surplus revenue will affect Tasmania in the slightest ; and I believe that if the honorable member for Franklin spoke hisinnermost thought, he would say exactly the same. What I am really astonished at is that in this Chamber there should be found representatives of the people of Australia who, at every opportunity, are prepared to back up the States-rights people as against the Commonwealth. I feel ashamed to be associated with honorable members who so far forget themselves as to be prepared to blacken the Commonwealth on every possible occasion. Such a state of affairs ought not to exist. When we are sent here, we ought to be prepared to give, at all events, a kind word occasionally for the Constitution which brought the Commonwealth into existence. I have not heard a solitary member on the other side say one word during the present discussion in favour of the Commonwealth; and the reason appears to be simply that the present Government hold a different set of political opinions; otherwise, we should have heard nothing at all of the question of States rights. I hope that, at all events, we shall have a kind word to say for Federation, and do what we can to help the Commonwealth along smoothly, instead of throwing every possible obstacle in its way.
– That is not fair !
– I say that that has been done, and not only in this debate, but in others. What troubles honorable members opposite is that the Government are not in accord with their politics.
– Is that fair?
– Yes ; I think it is fair criticism.
– We contend that the Bill is unconstitutional.
– I do not profess to have any knowledge on that point, but when I find men like the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Angas expressing an opinion to the contrary, I must respect that opinion. The honorable member for Flinders said that if there was one section of the Constitution about which there is no doubt it is section 87.
– I do not think he said that.
– Yes, he did.
– He declared that there was no doubt about the constitutionality of this Bill.
– The honorable and learned member for Bendigo said the opposite.
– With all due respect to the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, I should prefer to accept the opinion of the honorable member for Flinders upon a question of this character.
– The honorable and learned member for Bendigo is quite as good a constitutional authority as is the honorable member for Flinders.
– I do not think so!
– The honorable and learned member for Bendigo was also a member of the Federal Convention.
– I do not think that that circumstance gives him any greater standing as a constitutional authority. Although he was a member of the Federal Convention, I would rather accept the opinion of the honorable member for Flinders upon a constitutional matter.
– The opinion of the honorable member for Parkes is that the Bill is unconstitutional.
– But in respect of these matters the honorable member for Parkes frequently allows his politics to warp his judgment.
– He always does.
– The honorable member stated that we have not a good word to say for the Commonwealth, but it now seems that he has not a good word to say for us.
– I am sure that the deputy leader of the Opposition cannot truthfully say that. I am really astounded when I hear honorable members advocating States rights and having no regard for the future of the Commonwealth.
– We have a duty to perform.
– Our duty is to the Commonwealth.
– Our duty is both to the States and the Commonwealth.
– Our first duty is,to the Commonwealth. The Constitution provides a branch of the Legislature specially to safeguard States rights. Honorable members of this House are here to study the interests of the. people of the Commonwealth, and not those of any State.
– The Commonwealth includes all the States.
– What has been the action of the States Governments in the past? What occurred in the case of the seizure of wire netting from the Customs authorities? A more scandalous act was never committed. As a matter of fact, the Premier of New South Wales, upon that occasion, should have been sent to gaol.
– Are these remarks in order ? .
– At the moment that the honorable member rose I was contemplating calling the honorable member for Kennedy to. order.
– I admit that, in referring to the high-handed action of the ex- Premier of New South Wales, which has since been the subject of litigation in the High Court, I was transgressing.
– The validity of this Bill will also be contested.
– And with the same result.
– If it be contested, I think that the States will have to pay the piper, as they did in the cases relating to the seizure of wire netting and to the liability of the New South Wales Government to pay duty upon steel rails. I am very glad that the Government have introduced this measure, and that under it we shall be able to appropriate funds to provide for the payment of old-age pensions. Since the Commonwealth was established, that question has figured largely in every Governor-General’s speech at the opening of Parliament, with the exception of one. The Commonwealth can, undoubtedly, deal with it in a much more efficient manner than can the States, and in a way that will insure justice being metedout to all. I congratulate the Government upon having introducedthis Bill. No doubt, they had an old-age pension scheme up their sleeve when they drafted it.
– Then, why did they not say so?
– I am not responsible for what the Government do.
– I do not think it is right for a Government to keep things up its sleeve. That is not what I call honest dealing.
– If the Treasurer desires to act in that way, I cannot prevent him from doing so.
– The honorable member does not approve of his action?
– Upon this occasion, I do.
– If the Treasurer had declared that he required this Bill to enable old-age pensions to be paid by the Commonwealth, would not that statement have assisted, rather than retarded the passing of this measure?
– No. Unfortunately, there is a number of honorable members who are in favour of the payment of oldage pensions by the Commonwealth with a “ but,” and they would have raised all sorts of constitutional difficulties.
– The honorable member himself had a big “but “ when the Constitution Alteration (Special Duties) Bill was under consideration.
– I opposed that measure most strenuously, and should do so again. I do not believe in specially ear-marking revenue.
– Then, the honorable member must have been opposed to the payment of old-age pensions by the Commonwealth ?
– I was not. No provision was made in the Constitution Alteration (Special Duties) Bill for the payment of old-age pensions.
– But the Prime Minister stated that the sole object of the measure was to enable those pensions tobe paid.
– Anyhow, I opposed the Bill.
– The honorable member was opposed to the payment of old-age pensions by the Commonwealth.
– Then, I have since changed my mind, because I am now in favour of the adoption of that course. Will that satisfy the right honorable member? I congratulate the Government upon having submitted this Bill, and regret that they did not introduce it at a much earlier period.
– I should not have troubled the House at this late hour, but for the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy, whose laudable efforts to trail his coat were so transparent as to seriously discount the value of the few observations which he made. In the first place, he made some reference to the speech of the honorable member for Franklin, to which it is unnecessary for me to reply. I think it was clear to honorable members that the honorable member for Franklin was urging the claims of the people of the State from which he comes, just as honorable members representing other States might have done, to fair treatment, and suggesting that there should not be an unduly accelerated seizure of the funds which in the past the States have been receiving from the Commonwealth. What struck me particularly in the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy was that he seemed to take it for granted that the opposition from this side to the arbitrary action of the Treasurer, and to the curious methods by which he proposes to impound certain funds which ordinarily would be handed over to the States,is due to a general hostility to the Government.
– Is that not true?
– It is not true, and the honorable member ought to be the last person to make such a statement. On the 9th April last the honorable member, referring to the Government, said -
I say that if the Government remain in office in the face of the last vote they will be the most contemptible set of men who ever held office in Australia.
The Government are still in office, in spite of the vote referred to - and the honorable member for Kennedy is their humble supporter ! He is ready now to come to their rescue, and to assist the contemptible set of men, to use the honorable member’s own words, who are still his most honoured leaders !
– I feel flattened out after that.
– I have no wish to flatten the honorable member, but I must say that it comes with a most singular want of grace from the honorable member to accuse honorable members on this side with being actuated by any specialhostility to the Government. They have never described the Government as a contemptible set of men, and having said what they have had to say of the Government they have not afterwards sat up and fed out of their hands. An honorable member who in one week describes the Government as a contemptible set of men, and is content next week to be spoon-fed by them, is not entitled to reflect upon the opposition of honorable members on this side. Every one appears to take it for granted that the object of this Bill is to enable funds to be accumulated for the payment of old-age pensions. I understand that it is proposed that their payment is to begin on the ist of July of next year. The whole of this year’s surpluses are to be withheld from the States under this Bill, and we shall consequently have a large fund established with which to start the payment of old-age pensions for’ the year 1909-10, the one year remaining before the expiry of the Braddon section. The difficulty I see in the matter is that if the whole of the surpluses for’ the two years which have yet to run before the expiry of the Braddon section are accumulated under the provisions of this Bill, and if the Treasurer’s estimates are reliable, we shall have less than will be required to cover the payment of old-age pensions. The sum of £1,800,000 will be required to cover pensions for the year 1909-10. The average annual surplus of the Commonwealth’s own especial revenue over Commonwealth expenditure, returned yearly to the States, has been somewhere about £800,000. If this annual surplus decreases as the Treasurer anticipates, I should like the Minister in charge to explain how the Government propose to make up the extra £200,000 that will be required to cover the payment of old-age pensions for 1909-10. I am in this matter treating this Bill as intended solely to provide money for that purpose.
– It will be all right when the time comes.
– If that is the Ministerial answer, I need say no more ; but the average prudent person, as careful of the affairs of the country as of his own, must realize that as old-age pensions w:lT be only one of the charges upon the fund created under this Bill, and will absorb more than the surpluses accumulated, it would be only common prudence for honorable members before they pass this Bill to know definitely where the Ministry expect to find the money necessary to finance their various schemes.
– If the fund is found to be short, it will have to be made up.
– If I am told that should the fund proposed to be created under this Bill be insufficient to meet the charges made upon it, the Government will resort to other means of taxation, or to increasing the revenue-earning capacity of the Tariff, I have nothing further to say. I should like to ask the Minister in charge’ whether there will be any objection when we get into Committee to postpone the operation of the Bill until some time after the ist of July, so that it shall hot begin to. operate until the next financial year.
– The Government will adhere to the provisions of the Bill.
– I have understood from the Treasurer that there will be no surplus for June, and, if that be so, it is obvious that it would be more business-like to postpone the operation of this Bill until after the end of the present financial year. When we get into Committee, I shall probably move in that direction. I hope that, in connexion with the vote now to be given, honorable members will recognise that the electors of the Commonwealth are the same people as those who are represented in the States Parliaments. If we, by any arbitrary action of ours, curtail the activities so potential for good in the States, direct responsibility for hampering the machinery of the States Governments, perhaps for the throwing of men out of State employment, and for preventing the making of roads and bridges in our own constituencies, will rest with ourselves, and be due to our reckless way of dealing with the country’s finances. I hope that honorable members, recognising that, will not look upon this as a fight between . the Commonwealth and the . States, but will regard themselves as trustees of the Federal Constitution, and think only of what is good for the people of AustraliaIf they regard themselves as trustees of the Constitution, they will seek to do what is good for the people of the States, who are also the electors of the Commonwealth. If they take that view, I am sure they will’ vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta.
Question - That the words proposed tobe left out, stand part of the question (Mr. Joseph Cook’s amendment) - -put. The House divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
This Act shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
– I beg to move -
That the words “a day to be fixed by proclamation “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the1st day of July, 1908.”
If my amendment be agreed to, it will enable the Commonwealth to clear up this year properly under the old system, and to begin our new course in the first month of the next financial year.
– And it will mean giving away £472,000.
– Now we are beginning to get at what the Treasurer is trying to do.
– Whatever we give away, will be in exactly the same case as the millions we have paid to the States during the past seven or eight years. We shall continue to give to them what we have already given, and what we have deemed ourselves under the Constitution obliged to pay to them. Until now, it has always been understood that we had to pay the surplus money to the States.
– We had not; we need not have done so.
– I am glad to find the Treasurer getting on the penitent stool, even at this late hour.
– I was not on the penitent stool. I said that if we had done what we ought tohave done, that would not have happened.
– Then the honorable member is now beginning to do what ought to have been done seven or eight years ago. At any rate, to stop any bother and to clear up the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year, about which the Treasurer knows nothing yet–
– Nothing at all !
– He does not. He told this House, and his colleague told the other Chamber only last week, that at the end of the year there would be a surplus of £400,000. I find now that that is including, as having been spent, £250,000, which is to be allocated for special defence purposes.
– And £222,000 for oldage pensions is also included.
– Surely in twelve months we shall be able to save enough to begin paying old-age pensions when we come to deal with them actively six months hence? If, after the next six months, we cannot finance one year’s oldage pensions, it will be a very poor look out for the Commonwealth. This year ought to end as ordinary years have ended, and we should address ourselves to any special tasks for which we wish to allocate money at the beginning of the next financial year.
– This is not one of those measures to which the provision that it should come into force by proclamation is fairly applicable. It is a very unusual provision that a law which Parliament passes shall depend for its life upon advice given by the Executive to the Governor-General. There are special occasions of complexity, when new machinery is being brought into existence. which require time in order to be sure that when the Act begins the machinery will begin also. But this is not one of those. This is a case which deals merely with entries in the books of the Treasury. Is the object of this unnecessary and objectionable provision to fix a retrospective date? Will the Prime Minister state whethere there is any such intention? Under cover of these words, are the Government seeking power to provide that the Act shall date, say, from the ist July, 1907 ?
– I do not quite follow the first part’ of the honorable member’s remarks, because we have a general power to bring the machinery attached to any measure into operation at once, without waiting .for the precise intention of the Bill to be given full effect to. Consequently, there is no reason of that kind for this provision. Nor is there any insidious intention to make this Bill retrospective. It is drafted in this fashion for the purpose of convenience of administration by declaring the exact moment at which the measure will commence to operate.
– Then it is not to be retrospective ?
– That was not the intention.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5. Where any Trust Account has been established under the Audit Acts 1901-1906, 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 eighty-seven of the. Constitution) pay to the credit of the Trust Account,” out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, such moneys »s the Governor-General thinks necessary for the purposes of the appropriation.
– I move -
That after the word “ established,” line 6, the following words be inserted : - “ (a) Notwithstanding anything in the Audit Acts 1901-1906, the appropriation shall not lapse nor be deemed to have lapsed at the close of the financial year for the service of which it was made; and (i) “
This is only a covering clause, so that, even by implication, there shall be no lapsing of the vote.
– There is a principle which lies at the very base of our financial system, and that is that on the 30th June in each year, every vote for the service of that year shall lapse.
– That is for annual services.
– Yes. I fancy that the clause as it stands practically carries out the object of the amendment. In any case, its effect, whether as it stands or as proposed to be amended, will be to do away with the base of our law as to appropriations ending on the last day of the financial year, and the necessity of revoting them, even when the money has been paid out of trust funds. At present, we have trust accounts, and occasionally in those trust accounts there is money left at the end of the financial year. But afterwards, if any votes in respect of which money is in the trust funds lapse - that is to say, at the end of the year there is money at the credit of a vote and therefore at the credit of the vote in trust account - it is necessary even then, although’ the money is spent in the succeeding year, to take a special vote in that year. The effect of this clause, whether amended or not, will be to alter that very salutary law, and the result will be that we shall have two systems of finance - a system of finance which, on the last day of the financial year, puts an end to all appropriations, and another system which. does not. That will be rather inconvenient.
– The principle of keeping money over is preserved in section 36 of the Audit Act, as amended in 1906.
– That is quite a different thing. That is in a case where services have been rendered during the financial year, and have not been paid for. How different is that from the case in which we are proposing to pay money to a trust fund one year or two years before it is going to be spent or earned? The exception there proves the accuracy of my remarks. There is a provision in the section which closes all appropriations at the end of the financial year-
Provided that any pay earned in any financial year by members of the Militia Forces may be paid after the close of that year and charged to the appropriation made for the service of that year.
That, I admit, does keep the vote open after the expiration of the financial year ; but that is only in respect of services performed and moneys earned during the financial year. Now, the object of this trust account is just the opposite; but I quite admit that it is not easy to suggest any alterations to the Bill at present. I only want to point out to the Committee that this is a deviation from the basic principle of our financial arrangements.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to..
Bill reported with an amendment.
.- I hope that the leader of the Opposition will remember that the Senate will meet to-morrow afternoon at the same hour as we shall ; that it will have no real business unless it receives this Bill; and that it would be a great convenience to that Chamber if we were to complete its consideration to-night.
– If we did, would the Senate be able to take the Bill into consideration to-morrow ?
– Then I shall not raise any objection.
– I am very much obliged to the right honorable gentleman.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the further stages of this Bill be taken without delay?
Bill read a third time.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to thank the leader of the Opposition for having convenienced the transaction of business in both Houses, on an occasion when he might quite fairly have required further debate on the important measure which we have just completed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.48 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080602_reps_3_46/>.