3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer, without notice-
Is he aware that the Statesare great trading corporations?
– I do not think that the States are likely to go to the banks, for an overdraft. The Commonwealth would see them through, should their financial position become serious; but I cannot promise to return, monthly, money which we’ have determined shall be placed to the credit of trust funds for certain purposes.
Penny Postage - Telephone Line Repairers - Examinations - Personnel of Commission of Inquiry - Eastern Extension Telegraph Co. - Country Post Offices : Revenue - Pacific Cable - Post Offices : Katoomba, Lithgow, Urana, Lockhart, Jeril- desie, andberrigan- tasmanian cable - Wireless Telegraph . Stations - Lisbon Conference - Cancelled Mail Contract - Financial Requirements . - Attitude of Treasurer - Sunday Duty.
– In the summary of the finances given by the Treasurer last night, the Post Office revenue is set down at £3,430,000, an increase of £200,000 or £300,000 upon that of this year. Is there to be a corresponding increase in expenditure, and is penny postage provided for? The expenditure during this year was larger by over 11 per cent. than that of last year ; but the increase in revenue was only 5 per cent. Is there to be a similar increase inthe expenditure next year?
– The postal expenditure is included in the total expenditure for the year, which is set down at £6,100,000, the revenue from this Department being the amount the honorable and learned member has stated.
– Is provision made for penny postage? .
– Not so far as I amaware. The cost of penny postage is not calculated for in the preparation ofthe Estimates.
– Will the Government see that examination papers set for candidates for Public Service positions are better designed to test their fitness for the work which they are likely to be called upon to perform? For instance, would a man do the work of a line repairer any the worse if he could not say what the use of the mace is ?
– The Government has nothing to do with these examinations.
– It can secure an alteration if the matter is brought before the House.
– The Public Service Commissioner has full power in this matter ; but it will befor Parliament to say, next session, when an Amending Public Service Bill is introduced, whether his powers shall be restricted. I do not think that Parliament could determine the form of examination papers.
– What steps, if any, will the Postmaster-General take in regard to the telephone line repairers who have been dismissed, and whose case was brought before him yesterday ?
– I informed the honorable member, in reply to the representations of a deputation headed by him, that all I can do is to refer the matter to the Public Service Commissioner. It is only fair to that officer to say that the men who have unfortunately lost their employment at this particular season of the year, which makes their case all the harder, were really temporary employes, having no legal’ claim to continuous work. However, I sympathize with them, and have asked the Public Service Commissioner to see if occupations can be found for them.
– Some of them have been employed for seven years.
-The Government having committed itself to an inquiry into theadministration of the Post and Telegraph Department, I wish to know whether the proposed Royal Commission will be composed wholly of members of Parliament, or of members of Parliament and private business men. The names of the probable Commissioners should be given to the House before the session closes.
– Surely the House has sufficient confidence in the Government to make it unnecessary that the names of the probable Commissioners should be announced before the session closes.
– The honorable member is not to be trusted where something in which he does not believe is concerned.
– I believe in the proposed investigation.
– Yes; since a recent vote.
– I have been in conversation with the Prime Minister by telephone this morning, and hope to have something further to say on the subject later. The Prime Minister has not decided whether the Commission shall consist wholly of members of Parliament or of members and two or three business men. I think that it will consist chiefly of members of the two Houses, with probably one or two private business men as well.’
– As the Treasurer was in charge of the Public Service Bill when it was going through Parliament six or seven years ago, I ask him : Was there not a distinct understanding given by the Minister when this Bill was passed, that no educational test would be made in the case of practical” men, who had given satisfaction to the Department - that although they were employed temporarily at the time of the transfer, they would not be called upon to pass any examination ?
– If I did say what has been indicated by the honorable member for Yarra it would be found in Hansard, but I really cannot tax my memory as to whether any such undertakingwas given. I am informed, however, that the examination in connexion with line repairers and others is very simple, and only directed to ascertain whether they have a fairly good education.
– Following on the question asked by the honorable member for Fawkner, I desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral another. I understand that . in reply to the deputation which waited on him yesterday, the. honorable gentleman made some “fairly strong remarks concerning the injustice which was complained of, and wound up by informing the deputation that it was no responsibility of his?
– I said nothing- about injustice.
– I use the word “injustice” because I do not know what the actual words were, but one of the newspapers reports the Minister as having said that it was the Public Service Commissioner who had “done this thing”; and the context of the remarks show that the PostmasterGeneral strongly disapproves of the action taken.
– I do not approve of it.
– ‘Does the PostmasterGeneral not think it would be better, for the proper administrationof the Public Service as a whole, if he refused to receive deputations on matters in regard to . which he has no power, when remarks that he may utter concerning another high public official may make the work of the latter more difficult and arduous?
– I think I have heard that sort of thing before, by way of inuendo, if not by way of question. I think it is my duty to. receive a deputation from any section of the public,’ or any members of the House on any subject whatever, on which they may desire to approach me. I am also of opinion that I said nothing whatever that could complicate or make more difficult the position of the Public Service Commissioner.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware of any arrangement made by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company by which daily press cables must, as part of the agreement with the company, be transmitted solely over the company’s lines, and, if so, will he make inquiries in the interests of the States which “are financially interested in the Pacific cable, and publish the result of those inquiries for general information ?
– Will the PostmasterGeneral supply a return showing the revenue separately obtained from the post and telegraph offices at Urana, Lockhart, Jerilderie, and Berrigan.?
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether the Government still insist that all telegrams lodged for transmission to Europe, and not marked “ via Eastern,” shall be transmitted by the Pacific cable, and, if so, whether they are prepared to recoup South Australia for the loss which such a practice involves?
– The PostmasterGeneral, who was not a’ member of the Government when the question of the Pacific Cable was discussed, has requested’ me to reply. I well remember the late Mr. Kingston, who was then in the Cabinet, bringing this matter very prominently before the Ministry shortly afterwards. The Government desire, as far as possible, to make the Pacific cable a considerable means, of communication with the Old World.
– And that is to be done atthe expense of South Australia and other States ?
– I know that the practice involves some loss to South Australia, but it does not largely affect Western Australia.
– It cost South Australia £13,000 during the first year of the existence of the Pacific cable arrangement.
– There is no doubt that South Australia has suffered, and that some loss has also been incurred by Western Australia. I shall have a conversation with the Prime Minister regarding the matter, with a view to our determining whether some consideration cannot be extended to South Australia in respect of the loss she has suffered by the trans ference of a large body of work from the Eastern to the Pacific cable. I am sure that the honorable member will acknowledge that in the interests of the. Pacific cable, which is owned by the British Government and the Governments of other parts of the Empire - I think that we suffered in connexion with it last year a loss of£15,000 - it is our duty to utilize it as far as possible.
– I understand that the arrangement referred to does not apply to South Australia and Western Australia.
– I think it does largely, if not wholly, but there is room to consider the question as itaffects the finances of the two States referred to.
– I have another question to put to the Treasurer in regard to the Pacific cable. Will he ask the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet to consider the policy of the Government acquiring on behalf of the Commonwealth all the cable connexions in Australia, and of making them a means of safeguarding the defence of the Commonwealth? Further, will he make himself familiar with the attitude of the British Government and some of the most prominent statesmen of the Empire upon that phase of the question ?
– I shall certainly bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister. From the stand-point of defence I think that the adoption of the proposal would be a step in the right direction, but I am rather surprised that the anti-Socialist party should advocate Socialism.
– Order ! The honorable member must not debate the matter.
– I think that it would be wise to bring this part of our cable service into line with what we are doing in respect to cable communication between Tasmania and the mainland. We are at present arranging to lay two cables between those points.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House what is the present position in regard to the erection of new post offices at Katoomba and Lithgow ? The matter has been under consideration for some time. ‘
– I believe that, plans are being prepared.
-I have not had time to look through the Supply Bill circulated last night, and should like to ask the Treasurer whether provision is made under it, or uponany Estimates, for the laying of new cables between Tasmania and the mainland ?
– The Supply Bill is based on the expenditure in respect of the present financial year. It covers a period of three months, and includes provision for a proportion’, if not the whole, of the cost of the cables the honorable member mentions.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether a vote has not been passed by Parliament to provide for the establishment of wireless telegraph stations on the Australian coast, and, if so, what steps are being taken to establish such stations?’
– There is a sum of £10,000 on the Estimates for such works, and tenders are returnable in August next for the erection of three stations.
– One on the Western Australian coast, one at Port Moresby, and another, if I remember rightly, at Cape York.
– As the PostmasterGeneral has said that the sum of £10,000 voted for the erection of wireless- telegraph stations is to be utilized in erecting three at the points named by him, I wish to know whether any provision has been made for erecting a station on Flinders Island, or whether the calling for tenders for that work is a mere political placard?
– There are no political placards connected with my Department. The erection of wireless telegraph stations on Flinders Island and King Island is included in the tenders weare now inviting.
– Seeing that the Postmaster-General appears to have been travelling all -round the continent in search ofplacesat which to erect wirelesstelegraph stations, I should like to know what are his intentions with regard to the erection of a station at King Island?
– The erectionof stations on Flinders Island and King Island is covered by the tenders which I have ordered to be invited. I have also issued a direction that an estimate of the cost of connecting Flinders Island and the. mainland by cable be prepared.
– I wishto ask the PostmasterGeneral whether any portion of the sum of £10,000 to which he has referred is to be applied towards carrying out a scheme now being formulated by a, private company for establishing wireless telegraph stations in the Pacific? I understand that the Government have been approached, and should like to know whether any portion of the sum of £10,000 is to be diverted towards the purposes of that private company?
– No portion of that sum could be diverted. The proposals submitted to the Government by the company would in themselves involve an expenditure of something like £10,000, plus a further expenditure of £3,000 per annum on the stations. That proposal will have to be considered on its merits quite apart from the other undertakings to which I have referred.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral give the House any information respecting the proceedings now being taken for the recovery of the. amount forfeited by Sir James Laing and Company under the cancelled oversea mail contract ?
– I understand that the legal proceedings are still going on.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister I wish to ask the Post-‘ master-General whether any official information has been received by the Department as to the results of the recent Lisbon Conference, where the question of what words might be used in cable codes was discussed ?
– Instructions were given to the representatives of the Government at that Conference, but no report of the proceedings has yet been received.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he has considered the desirableness of establishing a wireless telegraph station on Rottnest Island, near Fremantle ?
– I had Rottnest Island in mind when I referred to the proposal to erect a station on the Western Australian coast. A station is to be established there.
– As we are about to enter upon a three months’ recess, and it seems to be generally acknowledged that a large part of the confusion prevailing in the Post and Telegraph Department is the result of the refusal of the Treasurer to provide for the extra services required by the Postmaster-General, I desire to ask the Treasurer whether we, may rest assured that during the recess - when Parliament will not be able to criticise the conduct ofMinisters - he will provide whatever funds are necessary for the Post and Telegraph Department ?
– I resent the honorable member’s insinuation. His statement is not correct, and he has made it, apparently, with the object of using it as a political placard. As Treasurer of the Commonwealth, I have always done my duty, and I. intend to do so. “I shall not be dictated to by the Secretary to the Post and Telegraph Department as to whether I ought to find the money that he says I am to find for the Department, or whether I am entitled to exercise my own judgment.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral consider that the constant refusal of the Treasurer to provide for extra services in his Department has in any way’ contributed to the confusion in that Department, which is to form the subject of inquiry ?
– Having in mind the lecture delivered to me by the leader of the Opposition upon a former occasion for having said what I think of my colleague the Treasurer - and I think only well of him - I decline to answer the question.
– There is no confusion.
– On the 29th ultimo the honorable member for Calare asked a series of questions relating to Sunday duty in the Postal Department (vide, Hansard, page 1 1 708). I am now in possession of the information required, which is as follows -
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to the following paragraph appearing in this morning’s Age -
As the Harvester Excise Act of 1906 is repealed by the new legislation of 1908 the consequence of this oversight is that from the moment the Governor-General signs the new Tariff laws the agricultural implement manufacturers are free to charge the f armers such prices as they choose.
Does he intend to bring in a measure to preventthis ?
– I was in conversation with the Prime Minister on the subject this morning, and he asked me to see whether the House would not pass the amending Bill I mentioned yesterday, which is very important.
– The Act is useless. Manufacturers are charging what prices they like under it.
– That is not so -in many places. The Bill which I wished to bring forward last night would prevent manufacturers from charging exorbitant prices, even when they sell on terms.
– I desireto ask the Treasurer whether arrangements have yet been made with regard to the provision of Commonwealth offices in London - whether the offers which were recently submitted have been considered and dismissed, or accepted ?
– No arrangement has yet been made. First, the site on the Strand was offered, and then two other offers were made, and with regard to the latter negotiations are proceeding.These negotiations take considerable time, owing to the great distance the correspondence has to travel.
– I suppose that nothing will be done before next session?
– I do not think so. If the London County Council agree to the terms which we were willing to make at first, then, of course, I take it the Government will have the right to accept, but nothing definite will be done in reference to any new offers without the approval of Parliament.
– Do I understand that the negotiations with the London County Council respecting the siteoriginally offered are quite “off”?
– The matter now rests entirely with’ the London County Council.
– Then the offer is not “off.”
– It is “off”, so far as we are concerned. We made an offer which was not accepted, and if the London County Council desire to make any further communication to us on the matter, they can do so.
Ninth Light Horse Regiment - Military Officers - . Alien’ Servants - Lieut. Chiltern
– When will the- Minister of Defence give his decision in reference to the complaints about centralization in the administration of the Ninth Light Horse Regiment, and in regard to the application for permission to form a new regiment at Bendigo ? The matter has been under his consideration for two months, and a large number of persons are anxiously awaiting the result.
– I admit the importance of the matter, which I have discussed with the honorable and learned member. There are financial and other difficulties to be surmounted ; but I hope to give a decision next week.
– It has been brought to my knowledge that instructions, apparently emanating from the ‘Defence’ Department, have been issued to officers of the military forces requiring each to answer a question as to whether there is in his employment any Japanese person or persons. I, first of all, desire to ask whether that information is true, and, secondly, whether the Minister thinks it part of his duty to institute inquiries into the establishments of officers, and, then, whether, in his opinion, it is necessary for the discipline of the forces that the officers should be required to answer such inquiries ?
– Honorable members are quite aware of the circumstances which led to the issue of the instructions referred to.. They originated in connexion with the employment of aliens by officers, and the access, and so forth, to the forts;, that was alleged consequently to be given to these employes.
– My inquiries have to do with domestic service.
– I aim now showing how this question was first raised. I informed the House, with the full approval of honorable members, that the employment of such persons would, if possible, be promptly stopped.
– What would be stopped ?
– The employment of alien servants by officers.
– As domestic servants.
– On a previous occasion I informed the House that I had made inquiries from all the Commandants, and replies given to me were that no officer- was employing any aliens.’ Some doubt was expressed as to that, and then the instructions referred to were issued by the Department.
– Is it wise to discuss these matters now ?
– The question has been asked. The instructions were issued by the Department in order to ascertain de- finitely whether or not such servants .were employed.
– In the forts, or out of the forts?
– Was the depart- mental inquiry confined to employment in the forts?/
– It was in regard to the employment of aliens by officers - that was the whole question.
– .That covers aliens working in the officers’ own homes?
– I do not desire to enter into that question, but in my opinion,- any officer, paid by the Australian people, might, even in his own home, make efforts to find servants from amongst the people from whom he receives his money.
– Does the ‘ Minister qf Defence not think that the larger question involved is the protection of the military secrets of the. Commonwealth ? If that be the view of the Minister, will he bring into force a regulation debarring an officer, or any one in the Defence Forces, from having in his employ aliens of any kind - white, black, or brown - who ‘ might be likely to have access to secret information?
– There has been, altogether too much publicity in regard to our preparations at the forts. To obtain such information seems to be so simple that everybody knows all about everything. Very soon after I took office, various statements as to the publicity of information relating to the whole of our forts having been made, I had the matter investigated, and found that, unfortunately, there was a good deal too much truth in the alle gation ; and definite instructions have been given, which, if carried out, should have brought such publicity to an end. However, I shall make further inquiries.
– Is the Minister of Defence not also aware that matters of purely administrative moment are, as soon as they are communicated to the staff at headquarters, communicated to officers interested in various parts of the Commonwealth, and that efforts which are being made by honorable members and others in order to better the condition of the Defence Forces, are thereby interfered with and considerably hampered ?
– I do not desire to speak specially, or even incidentally, with regard to the Head-quarters Staff, but it is a fact that almost everything that happens in connexion with the Defence Forces, no matter how trivial it may seem, becomes public immediately.
– It is handed on to members of Parliament, even.
– These are serious allegations - there ought to be a Royal Commission.
– There is no need for a Royal Commission.
– I suppose the Minister would sooner resign than have a Royal Commission.
– Under any circumstances, I shall do my duty to the country; and, therefore, would perhaps remain in office rather than permit the honorable member to become Minister.
– I think that the head of the Defence Department, in answering these questions, is making very grave-
– I think that five questions have been asked of the Minister of Defence since he rose to reply to the honorable member for Laanecoorie. This is subversive of all the principles which ought to govern question time, and I must ask honorable members to refrain from such interruptions.
– In reply to the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I havebeen at times astonished by the definiteness of the information that appears to be obtained in connexion with the working of the Department ; and I am making every effort to find out how the leakage takes place.
This leakage is not confined to one political section, because every section seemsto participate. I have come to the conclusion that a man who would be mean enough to give such information would be mean enough to deny having done so. There the matter at present rests, but if I find any member of the Forces guilty of such conduct as I have indicated, there will be no need for a Royal Commission.
– I s the Minister of Defence aware that, according to Congressman Hobson, no white man can enter a fort or arsenal in Japan unless he is blindfold?
– That statement is,” I have no doubt, correct, and only adds to my sense of obligation to the honorable member for bringing pertinent matters under my notice.
– I do not think the Minister realizes the meaning of my question, which was not confined to forts and quarters. I desire to know whether’ the Minister considers it necessary, for the efficiency and discipline of the Forces, that officers, living with their families in their own homes, should be interrogated as to the class or nationality of the servants they employ. If so, will the Minister go further and issue instructions for questions to be answered as to whether an officer employs a French cook or a German governess? And further I should like to know, in the event of an affirmative answer to these questions, why it is’ thought necessary to make a distinction between the subjects of one friendly power and the subjects of another friendly power?
– I have already informed honorable members as to the origin of the action that has been taken, and further suggested that’ the officers responsible for the defence of this country - officers trusted by the people with its defence - and paid by the taxpayers, might be able to find amongst their own countrymen persons to serve them.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether he will consider the claim of Lieut. Chiltern, of Echuca) to appointment as quartermaster to the Ninth Regiment, Australian Light Horse, he having been recommended by the commanding officer of the left wing ?
– A recommendation in the case of any officer which comes before me will receive attention.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether it is correct, as reported in the Age this morning, that he intends to make a statement to-day with reference to the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the business methods of insurance companies?
– I think that there is, on the notice-paper, a .question touching that matter, to which the AttorneyGeneral will reply. I can only say that I should like to see such a Commission appointed. We are going to deal with the question of insurance, and an inquiry by a Commission before such legislation is dealt with would certainly do no harm.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that more than one-fourth of the time of the Federal Parliament, since its first meeting, has been devoted to the consideration of the Tariff, the Government will, during the coming recess, take into consideration the necessity for vigorous action with respect to the further development of our rural industries by the establishment of an Agricultural Bureau, and by water conservation, land settlement, and immigration schemes, and the like?
– Replying on behalf of the Prime Minister I would inform the honorable member that steps have already been taken towards’ the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture. The necessary Bill has, I think, been drafted. Then, again, we have passed, a Bounties Bill, and a memorandum has been circulated amongst honorable members with respect to our desire to develop our rural industries and to encourage immigration.
Agricultural Implement Manufacture.
.- I desire to move the’ adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz. : “ Violations , of the wages award of Mr. Justice Higgins as regards ‘payment to persons employed in the agricultural implement making industry.”
Five members having risen in their places,
– I have no desire to delay the course of public business, but I think that the position to which my attention was called last evening by a deputation from the Agricultural Implement Makers’ Union is of sufficient importance to warrant me in bringing it under the notice of the House.The deputation informed me that at a meeting of the Union, which had been previously held, the following resolution had been adopted -
That this union protests against the inaction of the authorities in the matter of the new protection policy, and the injustice thereby thrust upon the employes who were induced to favour protection to the employers on the understanding that protection would also be afforded to the workers, and who have also incurred heavy legal expenses in establishing their claim.
They further informed me that the award which they. had secured was not being faithfully observed, and that, though’ specific cases of evasion of its terms have been reported to the Registrar of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, no action has been taken to compel employers to observe the award. They are of opinion that the authorities should at once enforce the award as they are entitled to the wages prescribed in the schedule laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins, whatever the decision of the High CoUrt may be in the cases now pending. They further hold that the award is legal until proved otherwise by such decision.’ When I was apprised of the fact that specific instances of evasions of the award of Mr. Justice Higgins had been reported to the Registrar, I deemed the matter of sufficient importance to request the deputation to supply me with particulars. I came into the city early this morning, and they then furnished me with the information for which I asked - information which proves incontestably that specific instances in which the rates prescribed by Mr. Justice Higgins are not being paid have been reported to the Registrar. That being so, I submit that the Government cannot further evade their responsibility in this matter. Mr. Justice Higgins, in referring to the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act of 1906,. in the first paragraph of his judgment, says -
The Commonwealth Parliament has by this Act imposed certain Excise duties on agricultural implements; but it has provided that the Act shall not apply to goods manufactured in Australia “ under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which are declared by the President of . the Court to be fair and reasonable.” My sole duty is to ascertain whether the conditions of remuneration submitted to me are “ fair and reasonable.” I have not the function of finding out whether the rates of wages have, or have not, in fact been paid since the 1st of January, 1907, when this Act came into force.
That paragraph lays down a definite principle, namely, that the President of the Court was not charged with the duty of ascertaining whether or not the proper rates of wages had been paid since the 1st of January, when the Act became operative. But I am now directing attention to what has occurred since that decision was given. Upon page 2 of the report of the same judgment, Mr. Justice Higgins observes -
The ‘ provision for fair and reasonable remuneration is obviously designed for the benefit of the employes in the industry ; and it must be meant to secure to them something which they cannot get by the ordinary system of individual bargaining with employers. If Parliament meant that the conditions are to be fair and reasonable, where employes will accept and employers will give, in contracts of service, there would have been no need for this provision. The remuneration could safely ‘ be left to the usual, but unequal, contest, the “niggling of the market “ for labour, with the pressure for bread on one side and the pressure for profits on the other. The standard of. “ fair and reasonable “. must therefore be something else, and I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normal needs of the average employe^ regarded as a human being living in a civilized com’munity. ‘
In the schedule . attached to his judgment the learned Judge set .out the wages which should be paid to each employe in the industry. In this connexion, I would remind honorable members that a very handsome measure of protection has been extended to the manufacturers of agricultural implements - Parliament having imposed a duty of £12 per machine upon stripper harvesters, and of j£6 per machine upon strippers.
– According to the evidence tendered to the Tariff Commission, those duties are equivalent to a protection of from 30 to 40 per cent.
– Whatever excuse the Government may have had for hot- taking action in this maher prior to the delivery of the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins, they certainly should have enforced the payment of the wages prescribed in .the schedule to which I have referred since that judgment was given.
– How does the hon- .orable member suggest that they should do that? .
– By collecting the Excise payable upon these machines.
– The Government have sued for the recovery of the Excise, and judgment has been reserved.
– I am not speaking of the case which is now before the High Court. I say that the Government ought to exercise their full powers under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act of 1906.
– The honorable member should see that they do so.
– So should the honorable member.
– When- that Act was passed, our intention was that the Excise should be collected first, so -as to insure the observance of the award. Section 2 of that Act reads -
Duties’ of Excise shall, on and from the first day of January, 1907, be imposed on ‘the dutiable goods specified in the schedule at the rates specified in the said schedule.
– Why has not thatbeen done?
– That is what I am asking. It is my duty to bring this matter prominently before the House and the country. I have been informed that there are many firms in Melbourne which are faithfully observing the terms of the award of Mr. Justice Higgins.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like your ruling, sir, asio whether or not this is an urgent matter of public importance. I submit that the facts of this case have been known to the honorable member for two years at least, He has known, during the whole of that period, that the award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court was being evaded,’ but it is only upon the last day of the session that he discovers that the matter is one of urgency. I submit that there is nothing whatever- in the surroundings of the case to make ,it either emergent or urgent.
– I am only able to gauge the urgency of any matter by the remarks of the honorable member who brings it before the House,, and I gathered from the observations of the honorable member for Wide Bay that he was induced to take the action which he has taken by certain statements which were made to him by a deputation that waited on him last evening.. That fact indicates that, since the information was placed in -his possession, he has not lost any time in bringing it under the notice of the House. In the second place, I would remind the honorablemember for Parramatta that we are now at the close of the .session, and that if the honorable member for Wide Bay delayed. taking action in the matter, he would lose the opportunity of bringing it forward.
– I can assure the honorable member for Parramatta that, until last night, I did not know of specific instances in which the award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court was being evaded.
– “ Prodding “ makes the matter urgent,I suppose?
– Until Mr. Justice Higgins delivered his judgment, there may have been some excuse for inaction on the part of the Government, but since that judgment was delivered, there has been no justification for an evasion of their responsibility. I submit that they must enforce the terms of that award, otherwise they are failing in the discharge of their duty.
– The evidence which was tendered by the employes in the. case to which the honorable member refers stated all the facts which he has brought forward this morning. Everybody is familiar with them.
– I did not know of specific instances in which the terms of that award were being evaded. It is only fair I should say that the deputation informed me that there are quite a number of firms in Melbourne, who are absolutely obeying that award. The real difficulty is that if these firms are permitted to pay less wages than arebeing paid by more reputable firms, they will, eventually, drag the latter down to their own level. I have been told that the award is being violated so far as strikers are concerned, by a certain firm, the name of which, perhaps, I had. better withhold.
– Name it.
– The information supplied to me is that the firm of Mitchell and Company are violating the award, so far as strikers are concerned, and that Messrs. Nicholson and Morrow are violating it in regard to machinists, and other fitters and turners. It is also alleged that a contractor under another firm is paying less wages than he should pay under the award of Mr. Justice Higgins. The Very worst thing that can happen in a matter of this kind is that one or two firms should be specially favoured. All these facts have’ been made known to Mr. Stewart, the Registrar of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. . That being so, the Government, should take action, not only for the purpose of protecting the employes, who instituted the proceedings which’ resulted in that award, but also of protecting the reputable firms who are faithfully observing the terms of that award.
– I rise to say a few words at this early stage of the discussion in the hope of shortening it, as the Government wish to close the session to-day. The Minister of Trade and Customs is’ worse this morning than he was yesterday, and an acute attack of rheumatism makes it impossible for him to attend to answer for his administration ; but he has caused me to be supplied with the following memorandum : -
Every possible effort has been made by the Department to enforce the provisions of the Excise Tariff Act of 1906 (No. 16 of 1906), but difficulties have been met with in the administration which necessitated fresh legislation. This would have been before the House had we the advantage of the High Court decision on several important aspects of the question. The Act came into force on 1stJanuary, 1907, and nothing could properly be done until the Court of Arbitration and Conciliation was able to deal with applications for exemption. The regulations governing the practice of the Court were issued by authority of the President on 27th March, 1907, and the President urged that no action should be taken in regard to enforcing payment of Excise until manufacturers interested had an opportunity of applying to the Court for exemption. A number of applications were dealt with by the President in New South Wales and South Australia in May and June, 1907, and exemptions were granted. The Victorian cases, which constituted the majority, were not heard until November, 1907, and exemption was refused in a number of cases. For that delay the Government cannot possibly be held responsible. But so soon as the applications were refused, we at once issued directions for the collection of Excise and the licensing of all manufacturers who had failed to comply with the conditions of exemption. The manufacturers so affected then associated, with a view of resisting the demands of the Government.
– The demands for back Excise?
– The demands for Excise, licence, and all other demands.
– That view was not presented to the Minister by deputations.
– I am informed that -
There was a uniform reluctance to. afford us any information, and whilst we met with few positive refusals there was an equally effective passive resistance to our requirements. On 10th January, 1908, a writ was issued against H. V. McKay for recovery of the duties on all excisable goods manufactured by him from 1st January,1907. A further writ was issued against W. Barger for manufacturing without a licence, the manufacturer having failed topay the standard rates of wages. These were typical cases on which the liability of all the manufacturers would be determined, and no good purpose would have been served by issuing further writs.
– It would have been a waste of legal expenses.
– Yes. It would have been stupid to issue further writs pending the decision of the High Court.
– Should not the manufacturers be compelled to obey what we believe to be the law ?
– Had the Department taken further action it might be called upon to pay compensation for seizure of goods. The memorandum continues -
We had an alternative of seizing all goods subject to Excise in the hands of the manufacturers who had not complied with the conditions. It was not wise or expedient to take such a course. Upon the decision of the High Court being given in favour of the Government there will be little difficulty in enforcing the law in regard to payment of Excise in every case where a manufacturer has failed to pay the standard rate of wages. As some misapprehension exists on the subject it may be pointed out that we have no power to enforce the payment of the standard rates of wages.
– The manufacturers, in the meantime, enjoy the full advantage of the protective duties.
– I ask the honorable member not to be hysterical. I am as much in favour as he is of compelling manufacturers to pay fair rates of wages.
– It is time that members becamehysterical in this matter.
– We cannot take the High Court by the throat and demand a decision. To continue-
We may only enforce the payment of excise if such standard rates of wages have not been paid. The excise provisions are for the purpose of encouraging the payment of the standard rate of wages, but the Act gives the manufacturer the alternative of paying such wages, or, in default, to pay the excise. It need hardly be said that the Government is entirely in sympathy with the principles of the Act, and that every possible effort has been and shall be made to enforce its equitable and highly necessary provisions. Whilst, however, the steps for its enforcement are before and subject to the decision of the High Court, honorable members will realize that until such decision is made known, it is impossible for us to take any further definite proceedings.
– Why not suspend the duties ?
– That could not be done. Having introduced this law, I have taken great interest in its working, and feel morally bound to see that the wage- earners, as well as the manufacturers, are protected.
– Twelve months ago I gave the Minister specific cases of disobedience of the law.
– The honorable member’s information was worth nothing. I regret that the High Court has not yet given its decision ; we can do nothing until we get it. In dealing with the Tariff, I stated that the Government intends to do everything possible to enforce the new protection, and I am further bound in this matter by my personal utterances. I shall not allow the law to be defeated by what I think a disgraceful combination of employers, and shall go to the furthest lengths to frustrate their attempt to evade the payment of fair wages.
– The Minister has said this about ten times.
– We can do nothing until the judgment of the High Court is pronounced.
– If harvesters were made free, the manufacturers would soon toe the line.
– It would be absurd to make harvesters free and thus injure manufacturers who are paying proper rates of wages.
– Yes. What we must do is to punish those who are not paying fair wages. But we cannot flout the High Court. If the Department did that, it would run its head into a noose. I pledge my word that nothing will be left undone to bring to book those who are not complying with the law. I shall treat them in the. most severe way possible. .
What we have heard from the Treasurer is satisfactory so. far as it goes ; but either the Act is lamentably insufficient in scope, and in the means provided for giving effect to its sections, or the Department has not done its duty. The onus of enforcing the law should not be thrown on the employes ; the Ministry should see that this, like other laws, is obeyed. On the face of it. the Act is sufficient. It enacts that certain duties are not to be imposed, if, and so long as, manufacturers pay fair rates of wages. What such rates are has been set forth in a decision by Mr. Justice Higgins. Some manufacturers are not paying such rates. It is of no use talking about the decision of the High Court, because the Act automatically comes into force immediately a machine is placed on the market, if it hasnot been made under the conditions set forth by Mr. Justice Higgins.
– What is the good of the Government incurring unnecessary costs ?
– In reply, I say that it is no part of the duty ofthe Government to anticipate the defeat of it’s policy by the Judicature. If we are here, under the sword of the Judiciary, and we are never to enforce our legislation unless and until it has been approved after appeal, we are no longer the supreme body in the Commonwealth, and are in danger of degenerating to that position which has so keenly exercised the minds of the wisest in America, where legislation has long been altogether subservient to the Supreme Court, and where the government is said to be government by injunction. Here we have a class of persons, who are everlastingly decrying class legislation, and setting up the “ law-abiding faculty and instinct asbeing essential to civilization, deliberately flouting and disregarding the law - resorting to every trick, artifice, and shift to evade legislation passed for the benefit of the people. The contract which has been entered into is a three-sided one - it is between the Government as representing the people, the manufacturers, and the employes. The employers are receiving all that we, on behalf of the people, declared they should receive, and yet they, in the most contemptible way, decline to pay their employes a reasonable wage. Every effort ought to be strained to bring those people to book, and I think that, under section 6 of the Australian Industries Preservation Act a remedy may be found. Section 4 of that Act provides -
Any person who, either as principal or as agent, makes or enters into any contract, or is or continues to be a member of or engage in any combination, in relation to trade or commerce with other countries or among the States -
Section 6 is as follows -
For the purposes of the last two preceding sections unfair competition means competition which is unfair in the circumstances ; and in the following cases the competition shall be deemed to be unfair unless the contrary is proved : -
If the defendant is a Commercial Trust
If the competition would probably or does in fact result in an inadequate remuneration’ for labour in the Australian industry :
If the competition would probably or does in fact result in creating substantial disorganization in Australian industry or throwing workers out of employment.
It has been laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins what is an adequate remuneration for persons engaged in this industry; and it has been alleged by the honorable member for Wide Bay that certain persons are not paying that wage. It is very clear that competition between the persons who are paying the statutory wage, and those who decline to pay the statutory wage, cannot but be unfair. As suggested by the honorable member for Wide Bay, it ispretty obvious that the employers who are now paying the statutory wage will say, “If other manufacturers can be permitted to have their machines made at a lower wage, why should we pay the higher rate?” Therefore, I contend that such competition is calculated to bring about inadequate remuneration over the whole field of this paiticular industry. Under the circumstances I am of opinion that the offending manufacturers can be proceeded against under the Australian Industries Preservation, Act, quite independently of the fact that the High Court has not yet decided whether the Excise Act is constitutional. This adequate remuneration which is spoken of is not determined by Statute - it must be adequate remuneration, whether determinedby Statute, by arrangement amongst the employers, or by arrangement between the employers and the employes ; and if it is inadequate, and calculated to bring about disorganization and unfair competition, it constitutes an offence. In my opinion the Government ought to set this part of the Act into force at once, because, as I have said, it is quite independent, and will remain independent, of any decision of the High Court on the Excise Act, on which it is in no way contingent. The possibility of good employers reducing their rates to the level of those paid by bad employers must, of course, be considered, but independently of that, the Government have a very clear opportunity for showing the utility of the Act, which was brought in with a great flourish of trumpets, but which apparently stands on a level with the Excise Act as absolutely futile, and in grave danger of becoming farcically futile, thus placing the Parliament of the country in the most humiliating position. The Excise Act was the standard-bearer and the trumpeter of the great forces of the new protection which were to rectify anomalies and injustice ; but the Government come down now and say that they cannot do anything because the red-tapeof the High Court has bound them up. I have pointed out, however, another Act under whichthey could proceed,’ but they decline to try to put it into force ; indeed, so far as I know, such an idea has never dawned upon them.
– Why does the honorable member not make the Government do what he desires?
– I am trying to.
– And we have been trying for months.
– Then put in a Government who will do something.
– I have, pointed out on many occasions that, in a debate of this kind honorable members are strictly limited as to time, and it seems to me, as I am sure it would to honorable members if they remembered the circumstances, grossly unfair to delay an honorable member by means of interjections when he. must resume his seat at the end of a certain period.
– During the last few days legislation of the most supreme importance has been passed within a few hours; and yet the Treasurer told us, a little while ago, that in the case of the stripper harvesters nothing can be done. We only need a Government determined to carry out its policy - nothing is impossible to a Government with a majority behind them. As I say, we have,during this week, sufficient evidence of what can be done by the legislative machine when it makes up its mind ; and, therefore, there is absolutely no reason why effect should not be given to this legislation, which is one of the vital parts of the Government’s policy. If we go into recess, not knowing’ what is to become of this most important corollary of the Government policy, we, who are supporting the Government, will be placed in a most unfortunate and invidious position. To be told now that the Excise Act in its operation, and the whole policy of the new protection, is dependent on the decision of the High
Court, discloses a most unsatisfactory position, and I call on the Treasurer and the Government to put into force section 6 of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which will, at all events, enable us to see if there is any virtue in that legislation.
– There is another alternative - to bring in a Bill to suspend the duties.
– A Bill could be passed in five minutes.
– Yes, I know, and by the free-traders.
– I shall be driven by necessity to name some honorable members if, a few minutes after my calling attention to a standing order, that order is flouted. I should be very sorry, at this period of the session, to name an honorable member, but I may be compelled to do so.
– I interjected in order to facilitate the business.
– The honorable member has interjected two or three times, though I specially asked that interjections should cease.I am sorry that the honorable member has called attention to the fact that he interjected.
– The present position in regard to the policy and intentions of the Government is quite unsatisfactory. First of all, if the Excise Act is useless, it ought to have been amended ; it ought not to have been allowed to be demonstrably futile for a single day. Legislation may be good or bad, but, at any rate, it ought to be capable of being given effect to ; and as the Australian Industries Preservation Act provides a means for dealing with the employers, I call upon the Government to put in force the sections I have read. If these sections are not sufficient, the Act ought to be sent to the legislative lumber room, and we ought to start afresh with legislation capable of dealing with a matter so important.
.- I do not intend to refer to the constitutional question which is now before the High Court, nor to the policy of new protection, which, later on, there will be’ an opportunity to discuss. As one who has had some communication with the manufacturers, having introduced deputations on their behalf to the Minister, I have no hesitation in saying that the administration of the Act has been characterized by the most lamentable ineptitude of which any Government could be guilty. The Act came into operation in January, 1907, and it- was not until May or June of that year that the first Court under it was established. Courts were established first of all in South Australia and New South Wales, and Mr. Justice O’Connor, who presided, fixed the rates of wages payable in the industry in those States, and allowed certain exemptions to certain manufacturers. But it was not until nine or ten months after the passing of the Act that the first Court in Victoria was established, and I have never heard any reasonable explanation of the delay. The result of this delay was that manufacturers who must be regarded as being quite as reputable as any other class in the community, were called upon by the Minister to pay excise for not complying ‘ with conditions of which it was impossible for them to have any knowledge. . Excise was demanded on machinery made during the ten months prior to the first sitting of theCourt in Victoria. . That was manifestly unjust, and reflected seriously on the equity of the administrative power. We now have a complaint made by the leader of the Labour Party respecting the nonenforcement of certain penalties for failure to observe the conditions imposed under Mr. Justice Higgins’ award, in respect of the industry in Victoria. My understanding of the position is that some manufacturers here refused to obey that award, in order that a test case might be brought before the High Court. Had the. Act been properly and efficiently administered, steps would have been taken to have the rates of wages payable in the industry fixed at the earliest possible moment after it came into operation. Had the Act been efficiently administered, the injustice which has been suffered not only by a large number of workers, but by many manufacturers, would not have occurred. The manufacturers were given no opportunity to make arrangements to carry on their industry in accordance with the terms of this Act before the Court in Victoria fixed the rates of wages payable in this State. The administrative bungle which has taken place is due to the ineptitude of the Government now in power, and I enter my protest against the way in which certain people have been dragooned owing to the action of the Minister.
– I congratulate the Government and the Labour Party upon the condition of affairs with which we find ourselves confronted. When the Excise Tariff (Agricultural
Machinery) Bill was before the House, they claimed for it all the industrial virtues that civilization could suggest, and any honorable member who dared to suggest that danger lurked in the Bill, and that there were possibilities ‘ of its not being all that was claimed for it, was vigorously denounced. The Bill was rushed through the House without proper consideration.* No division took place upon it, and there was no opposition from this side of the Chamber, save that a few honorable members pointed out the probable consequences of the passing of such a measure. It has become the custom in this Chamber, when an industrial measure is under consideration, to suggest that an honorable member who dares to raise an objection to any feature of it is an enemy to all that makes for the welfare of the working classes. It is time that a better spirit prevailed in the House if our legislation in this direction is to be efficient and such as will contribute to the uplifting and comfort of the workers of Australia.
– It is admitted that the Act has done good ; it has failed in only a few cases.
– What is the position in’ which we find ourselves to-day. Having allowed the Tariff to slip through their fingers - having failed to take advantage of the only occasion on which they could take effective action - honorable members of the Labour Party, just at the close of a long session, are .now protesting against the action of the Government.
– A very sinister reference.
– I am afraid that the honorable member must take his responsibility for whatever there is of a. sinister character inherent in the fact itself. Why is this action taken to-day ? We have the confession of the leader of the Labour Party that he had ‘ no idea of what was going on outside. -
– That he. did not know of specific cases.
– The leader of the Labour Party has confessed that he did not know before to-day the way in which employers are evading their responsibilities. When I took the point of order that this knowledge had been common property for two years you, Mr. Speaker, had perforce to rule that what took place last night had made the question, an urgent one. We have it, therefore, on the highest authority in the House, that pressure brought from outside has alone made this an urgent matter.
I do not want to appear to be nasty ; but I think that I am entitled to make these observations, considering the abuse that has been heaped upon my head when measures of this class have been before the House. The cause of much of the present trouble is the want of careful consideration of such measures on the part of the House, and the denunciation of honorable members on this side when they dare to criticise them. We have had a lot of legislation rushed through the House, for the most part without any knowledge of its features on the part of those who voted for it. This is not a solitary example. We have had illustration after illustration of the evil results of hasty legislation. And honorable members will never secure the new protection until they are prepared to spend more time in preparing and considering the necessary machinery, and bringing their intelligence to bear upon it as we all ought to do. I say this altogether apart from any question of policy. There is certainly something in the contention of the honorable member for West Sydney .that action ought to be taken in regard to this matter. But when he made that statement the only reply he got from the Treasurer was “ Talk sense.” That is the answer given to the appeal of the Labour Party after they have passed the Tariff on which this question is founded. To-day they are told to “ Talk sense “ ; when the Tariff was before u= they were -told that the millennium was approaching. It is about time that honorable members of the Labour Party who, I am sure, are sincerely interested in legislation of this kind resented such treatment. It is the duty of the Minister administering this Act to see that any manufacturer who is not complying with its conditions, pays the Excise into a trust account, pending the decision of the High Court. That surely could be done.
– How could we do that? It would be necessary to seize the goods of the manufacturer.
– The Minister may do it precisely as he will if the decision of the High Court is favorable. It is pointed out that whilst the High Court is proceeding to investigate the case of some” manufacturers, others are taking advantage of the position. Considering the duties which have been rushed through the House for their benefit, they are taking a mean advantage of the present position, and the Minister ought to stop that kind of thing.
– They have been taking a mean advantage.
– And the honorable member and his colleagues are responsible for permitting them to do so. We are discussing not the policy of this question, but the need for honorable observance of the legislation of this Parliament. Either the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act is a mere political placard, on it is to be observed. It seems to me, however, that it is not intended for use. The same remark will apply to most of the industrial legislation that has been passed by this Parliament. What about our antitrust legislation ? It is a long time since we passed the Australian Industries Preservation Act, yet no action has been taken under it to bring any trusts to book. We have had nothing more from the Ministry than a promise to take action. Most of the industrial legislation that we . have passed has simply been used by the Government to cajole the House into passing high protective duties. Having done that, Ministers have subsequently repudiated their part of the obligation.
– Are all our industrial Acts dead letters?
– Most of them, so far, are mere placards.
– There is no Ministerial life behind them.
– My honorable friends of the Labour Party are supposed to be the . -watch dogs of the working classes. They say that they are, and if we dare to express sympathy with the workers, we” are denounced by them.. Only the other day in another .place a fierce attack was made upon honorable members outside the Labour Party for presuming even to suggest that they were in favour of old-age pensions. The position is the same here. If a member of the Opposition dares to support an industrial measure, he is denounced by the Labour Party as a hypocrite. On the other hand, if he criticises any provision in it he is described as a traitor to labour. It is time a better spirit was shown if trie workers of the. community are to reap full advantage from our industrial statutes. Ministers should be held to their trust in this matter. If manufacturers in this industry are not treating their employes as this House intended,, they ought to be called upon to pay the Excise t-y the Minister to be held in trust pending the decision of the High Court. Either let us enforce this legislation or repeal it. Do not let us have perpetrated in connexion with this .Act the farce that has been witnessed in connexion with other industrial legislation, lt is enough to bring the cause of labour into the utmost contempt when such proceedings are allowed to take .place.
.- I was greatly surprised at the announcement of the Treasurer that he was ‘ suspending the collection of Excise pending the decision of the High Court.
– What would be the use of doing otherwise?
– Then it would appear that if any of the States institute proceedings to test the constitutionality of the Surplus Revenue Bill which we passed the other day the Treasurer, pending the decision of that case, will not retain any of our surplus revenue and no money will be paid into the trust fund for old-age pensions. The two cases are on exactly the same footing, and the Minister is extending an invitation to the States to challenge our legislation. The Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act is the law of the land until the High Court rules otherwise. If manufacturers decline to pay the workers the rates of wages which have been fixed according to law, we are not going to do anything to assist them. Men in this industry are being sweated by their employers. The workers, at their own expense, took proceedings before the High Court, and won. The’ honorable member for Franklin has asserted that the facts, to which the honorable member for Wide Bay has called attention, were known when the members of the Agricultural Implement Employes Union brought their case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. But I would point out to him that the position to-day is a very different one, inasmuch as an award has since been given. That award, I maintain, should be faithfullyobserved. But I do not suggest that we ought to suspend the duties levied upon agricultural implements until the terms of that award have been complied with. It is admitted by the members of the Union that many employers are paying fair wages to their workmen, and I contend that we have no right to penalize them, because of trie action of unscrupulous employers. The Treasurer has stated that the only way in which the Government could enforce the observance of the “award of Mr. Justice Higgins would be by seizing the implements manufactured by the firms who are disregarding it, and, in the event of. such action being taken, those firms might sue the Go- vernment in the High Court, and, perhaps, obtain substantial damages. I hold that, if only one workman is being deprived of his right wage, it is the duty of the Government to take. action. They should compel the observance of the terms of the award of Mr. Justice Higgins. I trust that some action will be taken to insure that the workers shall obtain their fair share of the protection which has been granted to our agricultural implement makers.
.- I am glad that this question has been brought forward, but. I regret that it has been raised in the form of a motion for an adjournment. I am one of those who voted for the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act, not as a mere make-believe dr a placard, but as a law which was intended to be enforced. Indeed, my main objection to a protectionist Tariff has been that it takes from the many for the benefit of the few. That objection, however, will be materially minimized if the workers are granted their fair share of the protection afforded. I am sorry that’ the honorable member for Wide Bay has not attempted to bring the Government to the bull ring in connexion with this matter, just as the honorable member, for Gwydir did upon the question of postal administration a few weeks ago. Apparently, we are now awaiting the tardy decision of the High Court in the cases in which the validity of the new protection legislation, enacted by this House, has-been challenged. In the meantime I submit that the law should be enforced. The analogy drawn by the honorable member for Yarra in reference to the action of the Treasurer in connexion with the Surplus Revenue Bill was a singularly appropriate one. I am ‘ surprised that the Labour Party should allow the existing state of things to continue without taking further action.
– The members of the Opposition are always endeavouring to embarrass the Government.
– The Treasurer knows perfectly well that time and again I haveassisted him to pass measures which he has submitted, not because I have any particular regard for him, but because I believed in those measures. I regret that a straight-out motion has not been submitted, in which’ case I. should have moved anamendment somewhat similar to that which I moved when the honorable member for Wide Bay brought forward his proposal affirming the urgency of the question of old-age pensions.
– I have never heard a more unsatisfactory statement than that given by the Treasurer to-day in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay. He told us that the employers had adopted an attitude of passive resistance to the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. Yet the Government, instead of dealing with them, remain absolutely inactive, I venture to say that if 100 employes in different parts of the Commonwealth had flouted any law upon our statute-book they would have been punished for their transgression long ago. The Treasurer has sought to shelter himself behind the High Court from the responsibility which should attach to the inaction of the Government. But I say that this matter might have been settled by that tribunal more than twelve months ago. ‘ At that time I brought under the notice of the House specific cases in which the award of Mr. Justice Higgins was not being observed by employers. . An inquiry was instituted by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the employer admitted that he. was not complying with the law. . But yet no proceedings have been taken against him. Had he been prosecuted the whole question of the liability of employers under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act would have been settled before the new Tariff was passed. I do not think that it would be wise to suspend the operation of the Customs duties levied upon agricultural implements.
– Why not enforce the law ?
– Exactly. If the “honorable member introduced into the Commonwealth goods, the duty upon which was in dispute, the Minister of Trade and Customs would insist that the highest duty payable in respect of them should be collected until the question at issue had been determined. That is what should have “been done in -the present instance.
– The manufacturers should have been compelled to put up the Excise.
– Exactly. The remarkable feature is that it was only when the Tariff was coming on for consideration that the Government were moved to take any action whatever.
– And it is only when the Tariff is out of the. way that the honorable member’s party has raised this question.
– I felt so strongly upon it some time ago that if members of the Opposition would have assisted me in the action which I contemplated I should have been very glad indeed. I contend that there is nothing to prevent the Government enforcing the law, and if they are not prepared to do that they ought to give place ‘to others who will.
– Though I am opposed to the new protection policy of the Government, I maintain that the provisions of- the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act ought to be enforced. It seems to me that the Treasurer is more in favour of granting protection to the manufacturer than he is of extending it to the worker. Otherwise he would see that effect was given to the Act upon our statute-book. We ought not to suspend the operation of that Act, pending the decision of the High Court. It is the duty of the Executive to give effect to it. If the honorable member for Wide Bay presses his motion to a division I- shall be Found voting with him. Let us bring about a crisis by insisting that the pro: visions of the Statute to which I have alluded shall be enforced. The working classes of this country are being called upon to pay ‘an excessive amount in order to. extend protection to our manufacturers, and yet the Government decline to grant them the benefit of our legislation in regard to the new protection. As an excuse they plead the law’s delay. Evidently they are anticipating that the judgment of the High Court will be against the validity of that legislation. The Labour Party supported the extension of a high measure of protection to manufacturers in order to enable the latter to pay reasonable wages to their workmen. The Government are now going back upon their supporters. By their inaction they have conclusively proved that they are not in favour of the new protection, but that they prefer the old protection, which means protection for manufacturers alone.
. - The Government should recollect that the form of the legislation enacted by this Parliament in regard to the new protection is one of their own selection. Had the scheme suggested by the honorable member for Wide Bay been adopted, there is no doubt whatever that effect could have been , given to it constitutionally. It may have been somewhat cumbersome, but it was certainly a practicable scheme, following as it did exactly upon the lines laid down in connexion with ‘the sugar bounty. The Government, however, chose to bring forward a different scheme, and it is their duty to give effect to it.
Debate interrupted under standing order.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 20th November, 1907, vide page 6279) :
Clause1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall commence on the first day of January One thousand nine hundred andeight.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the word “January” be left out, with a view to insert in. lieu thereof the word “July.”
Clause’, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 (Authority to pay bounties).
.- I have given notice of my intention to move the addition of the following further proviso to the clause -
Provided further that no Bounty shall be authorized to be paid on any goods manufactured or supplied or to be manufactured or supplied under a contract containing a term or condition permitting or providing for the deduction of such Bounty or any part thereof from the price or moneys payable for such goods to the manufacturers.
I take it that the supporters of the Bill desire that any bounty which may be granted shall be paid to manufacturers to assist them in their industry.
– An amendment of clause 7 has been suggested by the secretary to the Attorney-General, with the specific purpose of preventing the possibility of any portion of the bounty being paid to the New South Wales or any other Government.
– If the Minister can satisfy me that his proposal will do what I desire, I shall not move my amendment. I wish to prevent any difficulty in connexion with the contract entered into by the New South Wales Government with the Lithgow ironworks.
– Ienter my protest against this Bill, notwithstanding that the majority has assented to it’s general principles. The objections which I first urged to the granting of bounties for theproduction of iron have become stronger with time. When this proposition was first made our financial position was not so unsatisfactory. We had an overflowing Treasury, and comparatively few calls upon the revenue, whereas at present, apart from the oldage pensions fund, it is doubtful whether our one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue will be more than sufficient to pay for any services necessary for the good government of the Commonwealth. In dealing with this question nearly two years ago I showed what our financial commitments ‘were, and urged the unwisdom of expending £250,000 on bounties when the same amount of encouragement could be given “to the iron industry by theimposition ofprotective duties. Those interested in the production of iron in Australia stated before the Iron Bonus Commission, and have repeated since, that they prefer a duty. That statement has been made by Mr. Sandford, by Mr. Jamieson, who owned the Blythe River mines, and by Mr. Hoskins, the present proprietor of the Lithgow ironworks.
– We cannot impose aduty now.
– A Bill providing for the imposition of a small duty on pig iron would go through the other Chamber much more quickly than this Bill will.
– What does the honorable member mean by a small duty?
– A duty of 10 or 12 per cent.
– What about the engineering industry?
– Such a duty would do no injustice to if. It has been calculated by the Customs Department - and I myself arrived at the same conclusion by an independent investigation - that a duty of121/2per cent. on pig iron would be equivalentto about21/2 per cent. on the finished product.
– Besides, other manufacturers have to pay duties on raw material.
– Yes ; quite a number of them. The engineering trade enjoys higher protection under the present Tariff than it had under the old Tariff.
– Its protection averages only about 15 per cent.
– I think it is more than that. There was a substantial increase in the duties on many kinds of machinery, though I regret that in some other instances the increases were not much. As a member of the IronBonus Commission, I asked representatives of leading engineering firms what it would be worthtothem to be able to get supplies at short notice from local iron-works for any order they might have to fill, and their estimate was that they could afford to pay from 5 to71/2percent. more for their iron to obtain that advantage, because it would obviate the necessity of keeping large stocks. Furthermore, the engineering firms have been benefited by the new Tariff, and should share their advantages with those who are endeavouring to establish the basic industry. I do not suppose that a speech at this stage will have any tangible result. Personally, I think that the production of iron should be a Government monopoly, but I recognise that the majority is against me, and that therefore it is useless to insist further. Australia has a great deal at stake in this matter, and the position of our finances certainly makes it wiser to impose a duty of 121/2 per cent. than to expend £250,000 a year in bounties..
– That is only a small beginning.
-Yes. One never knows where the adoption of a bounty system will lead. I recognise that the Treasurer desires to establish the iron industry, and therefore I point out to him that in this Chamber probably at least as many honorable members would support the imposition of a duty as would support the granting of a bounty.
– I do not think so.
– Quite a number of members of the Opposition have told me that they would support a duty of 121/2per cent.
– Yes; in preference to a bounty.
– Furthermore, such a proposal would have a better chancethan this of passing through the other Chamber. I hope, therefore, that the Treasurer will reconsider the matter. The adoption of my suggestion would give speedier and more effective assistance to the iron industry, and would not embarrass our financial position.
– I point out that this is the fourth time that I have brought forward this measure. On the last occasion, or the one before that, I was assured that if I provided for a duty I would receive the support of the majority ; but when I did so, I got a great check, because I found that there was no hope of carrying a duty.
– The country is against the Treasurer.
– If I go to Dubbo the honorable member will find that he is wrong. I do not think it would be possible to take all the necessary steps and pass a Bill imposing a duty if we are to prorogue to-morrow. I must, however, admit that, personally, I favour a duty; and it was only because.it was not possible to carry out my desire in that direction that I accepted the alternative of a bonus.
– I think it would be possible to have a duty imposed now.
– But, if the Bill were not passed, the industry, during the next three months, would be left to struggle against the attacks of outside trusts, and might be brought to ruin.
– What about the wirenetting industry ?
– In that con nexion, those honorable members who are now crying out for a duty voted against me, with the result that150 men were discharged the other day ; and the statement is made that it is practically impossible to carry on the industry without using inferior material, and, of course, producing an inferior article. I should certainly like to see a bonus given on the. manufacture of wire netting in the absence of any protective duty. There is a provision in the Bill that at any time the iron industry may be taken over by a State, and, whether or not that be called Socialism, it provides a start on a sound footing. I should be rejoiced to see any State lend its support to an industry of the kind. On one occasion, an effort was. made to get one of the States to undertake this enterprise, but that effort was not successful ; andI am sure that the Federal Government would be only too glad to assist any State which purposes to take over the industry under the clause I have provided in the Bill. This iron industry is not only most desirable as a means of developing the wealth of the country, but it is necessary for the manufacture of defence material, all of which we should be able to manufacture here, ‘ instead of purchasing abroad, as we had to do in the time of the South African war. I am not particular as to what means are adopted to inaugurate this industry, so long as it is inaugurated ; and to that end I hope I shall have the. support of honorable members who may not quite approve of the present proposals.
– Where is the money to come from ?
– The cost is £304,000, or £60,800 per annum for five years. I do not know how far it would be wise to reduce the amount or the time limit. However, I shall consider that question when we come to deal with the schedule ; but I think that if the work were once commenced, the time might be reduced to three years, and the amount proportionately. I am sure the establishment of this industry will prove acceptable to the people, both on the ground of sentiment and on the material ground of profit to the community. I have had a conversation with the proprietor of the Lithgow works, and I do not think that he would be opposed to some modification of the kind I have just indicated.
.- The honorable member for South Sydney fears that the financial position of the Commonwealth does not justify the payment of a bounty in the iron industry. I point out, however, that, up to 1922, bounties on cotton, fibres, oil, coffee, and so forth - the production of which is not really so important to the country as that of iron - will involve an expenditure of £339,000. This means that we are prepared to vote £70,000 a year in bounties on tropical productions, while we deny assistance to the same extent to the iron industry. I should think that the honorable member for SouthSydney ought to welcome the proposal, even from his own point of view, . because, if his fears prove to have any foundation, the nearer we shall be to that stage when taxation of a direct character will be necessary.
– I am in favour of direct taxation ; I have nothing to explain in regard to that.
– The honorable member for. South Sydney said he would prefer a protective duty, and I admit that such a duty, in the case of iron, would not fall so heavily upon the user as do duties on other products. ‘ But from a protective point of view, the engineering trade has been most badly treated.
– Whose fault is that ?
– It is not my faults be-‘ cause the honorable member will admit that I did my best to secure a drop out of the bucket of good things for the engineering trade of New South Wales. ‘ Such an attitude may be called parochial, or by any other name ; but the fact remains that honorable members,all through the discussion on the Tariff, voted in favour of the interests of their constituents. As between a duty and a bonus, I think the latter is the least objectionable, because the public know how much they really pay.
– The people in Canada did not know how much they were going to be called upon to pay.
– Even the leader of the Opposition, who is a well-known freetrader, and a Cobden medal man, has time after time advocated the adoption of the bounty system.
– In Canada, the price of iron is higher to-day than when the bonus was started.
– All I know is that there is no bonus for the industry in New South Wales, although the industry is one which, above all things, ought to have assistance. If I were taking the plunge, and becoming a thorough protectionist, it is the iron industry that I should first assist; and there is not a protectionist country in the world which does not give it the closest attention.
– Are those in the iron industry not doing very well now ?
– Personally, I have no knowledge of the matter, but I am told that the industry is not flourishing, as indicated by the fact that the bank foreclosed’ on Mr. Sandford - a circumstance much to be regretted in the case of a man who had shown such pluck for many years. The Lithgow works have, I understand, been sold to Messrs. Hoskins Brothers, who hold a reputation, not only for great enterprise, but for the fair treatment they extend to their men ; and, if they bring their good qualities to bear on the new enterprise, I shall have no fear of the result. I hope that the Bill will pass.
– I agree to a certain extent with the honorable member for South Sydney, who would prefer a duty to a bonus ; but we have to choose to-day, and, if the Bill has to pass, we must agree to the latter. I was a little amused when the honorable member for Dalley put in a plea for New South Wales industries.
– Is there anything amusing in that?
– Yes, in the face of the fact that when honorable members from New South Wales had the chance to give some consideration to industries within their State, they voted against the proposed duties. Surely honorable members opposite are not merely protectionists within a certain area of the country, though I understand that the honorable member for Nepean is very anxious to have a bonus on iron ? ‘ Some of the New South Wales industries do require protection, and I am pleased to note that the Government intend to do something for the wire netting industry.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15p.m.
– I feel that the passing of this Bill will not have the desired effect, and that if we are to choose between the imposition of a protective duty, and the payment of bounties, to encourage the iron industry of Australia, we ought certainly to impose a duty.
– The honorable member is trying to kill the. Bill.
– I am going to show that an expenditure of £50,000 per annum for the next five years, will be totally inadequate to establish the iron industry here. In Canada, which has a population nearly double that of Australia, the application of the bounty system to the industry has been a failure. As far back as 1883, the Dominion Parliament voted a bounty of 6s. 3d. per ton on all pig iron manufactured there. That bounty was continued until 1889, when it was reduced to 4s. 2d. per ton. It was. then found that the industry was dying out under the reduced bounty, and in 1892, the paymentswere accordingly increased to 8s. 4d. per ton. That scale of payment was. continued for some years, and in 1894, during the operation of the Act of 1892, a further Bill was passed, authorizing the Governor in Council to pay not only a bounty of 8s. 2d. on every ton of pig iron produced in Canada, but an additional bounty of 8s. 2d. per -ton on puddled bars made in Canada from Canadian pig iron, made from Canadian ore. Those bounties were applicable till March, 1899, to furnaces in existence in 1894, and from 1899, for five years after the furnaces commenced operations. The Act was repealed in 1897 by an Act which authorized the Governor in Council to pay abounty of 12s. 6d. per ton on steel ingots, manufactured from ingredients not less than 50 per cent. of the weightof which consisted of pig iron, made in Canada. It was found necessary to give a bounty for the manufacture of steel ingots, 50 per cent. of the raw material of which was imported. That course was taken because it was found, as it has been elsewhere,’ that it would be impossible to make a success of the industry if manufacturers were limited to one class of iron. The Act of 1897 also authorized the payment of a bounty of12s…6d per ton on puddled iron bars, made from Canadian pig . iron ; a bonus of 12s. 6d. per ton on pig iron made from Canadian ore, and a bonus of 8s. 4d. per ton on the proportion produced from imported material. An Act of1899 limited the time during which the payments should be made, and provided for ayearly diminishing -rate of bounty. It was found that under that Act the iron industry was practically dying out, and in 1903, it became necessary to introduce another Bill providing for the payment of a. bounty of 25s. per ton on rolled-wire rods; 12s. 6d. per ton on other rolled shapes ; and 12s. 6d. per ton on rolled plates, manufactured in Canada, of which not lessthan 50 per cent. consisted of pig iron, made in Canada. A point to which I wish to draw special attention is that it was found necessary, in order to encourage various manufactures of iron, to grant a bounty on the production of rolled plates, made partly of imported pig iron. That was necessary to secure the variety absolutely essential to various industries. In 1904, the aggregate capacity of the furnaces started in Canada under the bounty system was equal to an annual output of over 1,000,000 tons per annum, but they were turning out only 278,219 tons perannum. In 1904, thebounty paid on the material produced from Canadian ore, was only £25,000, while that paid on manufactures from imported material was £110,000. Those who say that we shall be able, by the payment of bounties amounting to £250,000, to establish the iron industry in Australia, are flying directly in the face of the experience of Canada, where there is a much greater variety of ore available.
– That is not so.
– I believe that we have in Australia ample supplies of iron ore to establish this industry, but the application of the bounty system to the industry in Canada has proved a failure. Between 1895 and1906, there was paid, by way of bounty, £900,000 on the production of pig iron, £23,000 on puddled iron bars, £600,000 on steel bars, and £134,000 on manufactures of steel, or a total of £1,717,000. Those payments were made after the industry had been bountyfed for nearly twenty-five years. Then, again, we have to remember in this connexion that Canada has a population of some 7,000,000, whereas the population of Australia is less than 4,500,000. As the result of the introduction of the sliding scale of payments, the production of iron in Canada fell from 404,000 tons in 1902; to 264,000 tons in 1903, or a decrease of about 40 per cent. In view of these facts, is it not absurd to imagine that we can establish the industry by expending £50,000 per annum for four years?
– Can we not consider the position at the end of that period?
– That is what has happened in Canada. The bounty system there has been extended from time to time in connexion with the industry. The experience of Canada shows that if we desire to establish the industry here by means of a bounty, we shall have to continue the system year’ after year, and from time to time increase the rates. As to the point raised by the. honorable member for South Sydney, I would invite honorable members to examine the evidence given before the Royal Commission by Mr. Keats and Mr. Jamieson, both reliable men.
– And the honorable member is now trying to prevent them from starting the industry in Tasmania.
– I am prepared to take the responsibility of my action. Mr. Jamieson, Mr. Keats, End Mr. Sandford, all appeared before the Commission, and Mr. Keats stated that £250,000 was too insignificant a sum to provide for the establishment of the industry. Both Mr. Keats and Mr. Sandford urged that a duty would be necessary. Indeed, the evidence of all the ironmasters examined was that as soon as the payment of bounties ceased, a duty would be absolutely necessary. If that be the case, would it not be more businesslike to impose aduty upon iron, and thus enable them to understand exactly their position? If men embark upon this industry with the aid of a bounty, and, on the expiration of the period over which that bounty extends, find themselves unable to continue operations in the absence of such assistance, is this House prepared to continue that bounty indefinitely? Let us treat the iron industry’ in exactly the same way as we have treated almost every other industry in the Commonwealth. What has been the experience of Canada in con nexion with the iron bounty? Despite the fact that its Tariff duties range from 25 to 30 per cent., the Government of that Dominion have been paying a bounty upon the production of iron ever since 1883. No later than the year 1905, a special plea was made to that Government, not merely to continue the bounty, but to increase it from $2 to $3 per ton, as otherwise the industry would cease to exist. Upon the last day of the session, why should an attempt be made torush this Bill through the Parliament? I submit that it should have been dealt with a month ago, when honorable members would have been afforded an opportunity of inquiring into the effect which it is likely to have upon the iron industry.
-Surely there is nothing to be gained and everything to be lost by giving insufficient encouragement to this industry. Let us deal fairly with it.
– The honorable member is not dealing fairly with it. He is endeavouring to damage it all that he can. I do not like hypocrisy.
– Because I do not approve of the ill-considered method devised by the Government to fritter away £250,000 of the taxpayers’ money, I am charged with being opposed to theindustry. Such charges, however, will not influence me in the slightest degree. I will do what I conceive to be right. .
– The honorable member is doing that which he knows to be wrong.
– The Treasurer must withdraw that statement.
– Whether’ the Treasurer withdraws it or not is immaterial to me. He gauges everybody by his own standard. What possible interest could I have in opposing this Bill if I thought that its effect would be to successfully establish the iron industry? As a matter of fact, there are very close friends of mine interested in the industry, andI am glad to say that they view my attitude towards the Bill in a very different light from the Treasurer. They credit me with sincerity. I ask : “ Is it right to bring forward this Bill upon the last day of thesession?”
– It has been discussed on four different occasions in this House.
– I believe that, the bounty will be utterly inadequate to establish the iron industry, and I do not doubt that in the near future we shall be called upon to again discuss this question as a result of this measure having been passed without sufficient consideration.
.- The honorable member for Franklin has practically delivered a second-reading speech upon this Bill. I understood that the general principle of the measure had already been affirmed by the House. I quite agree with the honorable member that “we ought not to be called upon in the dying hours of the session to consider such an important question1. But I know that the matter is one of urgency, on account of the critical condition of the ironworks at Lithgow, which require immediate assistance. I would, therefore, suggest to the Treasurer that the whole question should be re-opened next session. The honorable member for Franklin is quite right in his statement that a bounty of £250,000 will prove utterly inadequate to successfully establish the iron industry. If we are going to attack this problem in a practical way, we shall require to authorize an expenditure of not less than £1,000,000. However, I believe that an understanding has been arrived at that this Bill shall be allowed to pass without ‘opposition. That being so, I shall not occupy the time of the Committee any further. I suggest that we should pass the Bill without delay, so as to afford another Chamber an opportunity of dealing with it.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he has had an opportunity . during the luncheon adjournment of considering the amendment which I submitted to him ?
– Yes; and I intend to accept it.
– I am glad of that assurance. It is only right that the expenditure authorized under this Bill shall find itsway into the pockets of those whom it is intended to assist, and not into the coffers of the New South Wales Government. I understand the Treasurer has intimated that he intended to consider the question of whether it would not be wise to reduce the period over which the proposed bounty will extend. I would point out to him that if that period be reduced the whole of the bounty will be pocketed by one firm.
– I do not intend to reduce the period prescribed in the Bill, namely, five years.
– In that case I am perfectly satisfied. I should like, however, to make one or two remarks in reply to the observations of the honorable member for Batman, who taunted the representatives of New South Wales with having voted against the imposition of high protective duties during the recent Tariff debate, whilst supporting the granting of a bounty to the iron industry of that State. Upon every occasion I voted to give effect to a policy of free-trade. But there are some honorable members who profess to be protectionists, but who are merely geographical protectionists - who voted to extend protection to the industries of their own State, but adopted an entirely different attitude where the industries of other States were concerned. Some of those honorable members were prepared to vote in favour of extending protection to the twopenny half-penny mushroom industries on the banks of the Yarra, but, fortunately, their vaunted protectionist principles did not extend beyond the limits of Victoria.
– I am in favour of this Bill, and intend to support’ it. We want to encourage the iron industry, and we are not prepared to place a duty upon pig or other iron, which is the raw material of so many industries. But, whilst I desire to assist those who have exhibited a great deal of enterprise in embarking upon the industry, I do not wish to pass a Bill of this character for their exclusive benefit, and I think the opportunity should be given for others to enter upon the business and secure a portion of the bounty. I noticed that under class 1 of the schedule the bounty is to be operative over a period of only four and a half years. The production of goods coming under class 2 will be encouraged by bounty for only two and a half years, and the production of reapers and binders for only a year. Those provisions seem equivalent to paying bounties to those already engaged in this business with a view to increasing their profits, and I intend, when we get to the schedule, to ask the Treasurer to extend the period during which bounties will be payable.
– I shall meet the right honorable member so far as I can.
– I hope the Treasurer has considered the financial side of this question. Does he propose to place to a trust. fund the money required for the payment of these bounties? We have been appropriating so largely during the past twenty -four hours that I am afraid some of his proposed trust funds accounts will have to go short. Under the Bill we are entering into a contract with manufacturers, the payment of bounties must take precedence of everything else. We have now appropriated £750,000 for old-age pensions, £250,000 for defence, £250,000 for agricultural bounties, and a very large sum for the sugar bounties.
– The honorable member does not regard the sugar bounties as permanent ?
– They have a good many years to run, and will, I think, be increasing every year. We should be informed by the Treasurer how he proposes to get the money to meet all these appropriations. It would almost seem as if he were running amuck, in order to be able to bring forward his pet scheme - not indorsed by the Prime Minister - for adding a Commonwealth land tax to the State municipal land taxation.
Amendment (by Mr. Fuller) agreed to -
That the following proviso be added - . “ Provided further that no Bounty shall be authorized to be paid on any goods manufactured or supplied or to be manufactured or supplied under a contract containing a term or condition permitting or providing for the deduction of the amount of the Bounty or any part thereof from the price or moneys payable for the goods to the manufacturers.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 amended to read as follows, and agreed to -
No bounty shall be authorized to be paid on -
Pig iron, puddled bar iron, or steel, made after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and thirteen ;
Galvanizediron, wire netting, and wire or iron or steel pipes or tubes, made after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and eleven ;
Reapers and binders made after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and ten.
Clause 7 -
No bounty shall be authorized to be paid unless the manufacturer of the goods furnishes proof. …
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the word “paid” the words “to any person other than the manufacturer of the goods nor “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
The Governor-General may make regulations…..
For prescribing the proportion in which bounty shall be payable. . . .
– I take the opportunity to point out that there isno provision made for proper labour conditions. Of late years, in every measure of a special character like this, labour conditions have been provided for; and it would only be in accordance with our settled policy to take that course now.
– I thought labour conditions were provided for.
– Have such conditions been laid down since the passing of the Arbitration Act ?
– Yes; in the case of Sugar Bounty and other Acts.
– I think the men in the iron industry are now working under an award of three years’ currency:
– At any rate, I see no harm in imposing proper conditions. It might, of course, be left to the GovernorGeneral in Council, but it would be much better to provide by Statute that the conditions shall be determined by some independent tribunal; for instance, that the wages must be the wages prescribed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– That goes without saying.
– Indeed, it does not.
– The Commonwealth Arbitration Court only has power in the case of a dispute extending beyond the limits of one State.
– I think that power could easily be found to carry out the suggestion I have made; and it should be set forth that the wages shall not be less than those prescribed in the iron and kindred trades in any part of Australia.
– That would, mean a reduction of wages in many cases.
– We have discovered that our efforts on behalf of the employes are being frustrated by manufacturers and others, who will not conform to the conditions prescribed by one of our most compe-. tent justices.
– The men at Lithgow are working under an arbitration award at present.
– They may, or may not, continue to so work; and we must insure fair and reasonable wages.
– There are Arbitration Courts or Wages Boards in all the States, I think.
– But this industry may not come under a Board.
– At any rate, the prescribing of the labour regulations ought to be removed from political influence.
– Nonsense ! I may say that I am now having a clause drafted in’ order to meet the wishes of honorable members.
– I should much prefer the wages to be prescribed by a’ Judge of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, where all parties could be heard in the open. However, this Bill must go to another place.; and, as time is pressing, perhaps the Minister will agree to have the necessary amendment made there
– - The honorable member, has raised a very proper .point; and, as it will take a few minutes to prepare the clause, I am much obliged for the suggestion he has made to have it proposed in another place.
– May I suggest that the decision of a Court or Board be adopted instead of leaving’ the matter to the Minister ?
– In the case qf the Sugar Bounty Bill, it is_ a matter for the opinion of the Minister; but I shall 1 have thd clause drafted to as nearly as possible meet the wishes which have been expressed. I know that those who are likely to have the management of the ‘works are prepared to submit, to any provision we may make in regard to wages.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that the tribunal to fix wages and conditions ought to be one removed entirely from political or party influence, and what the honorable member has suggested will meet my wishes.
– I should like to see the clause which the Minister is now having prepared. Only today we were told that an Act in existence has been found to be- of no value whatever ; and yet we are now asked to take a. clause, of this kind on trust. We have laid down the principle that protection must be given to employes. as well as to manufacturers; but, so far, the Government have shown no desire to help in carrying out that principle.
– Nonsense ! That is not true.
– It is true; and, further, I submitted ‘to the Treasurer a case which he could have taken before the High Court, and, although the Minister of Trade and Customs said that what I had pointed out was quite correct - namely, that the employer admitted he was not paying a proper wage, and did not intend to - no action was taken. I think the Minister ought to withdraw the words he has just used.
– What I said is correct.
– Mr. Chairman, I call your attention to the fact that the Treasurer has said twice that what the- honorable member for Hindmarsh stated is not true. I desire to know whether that is parliamentary?
– The Treasurer is not in order, and I ask him to withdraw the words.
– I withdraw the words, and say that the statement is incorrect.
– I submit that what I said is correct ; and after what has taken place, I cannot accept the Treasurer’s word on trust in regard to the proposed clause. How can I trust the Treasurer to do the fair thing when he addresses such language to me? I took the trouble, to do the Government’s duty, and see whether the law was being observed; and, although my statements were substantiated by the honorable gentleman’s colleague, I am told that what I say was not correct. I may say that I am not accustomed to language of that sort.
– Neither am I accustomed to such remarks as the honorable member is making in connexion with myself.
– I have corroboration all round as to the truth of what I say ; and, so far as I am concerned, there will be no Manufactures Encouragement Bill unless the workers get a share of the benefit. I agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that it is preferable to refer this matter to an inde- pendent tribunal rather than to the Minister, especially if the Bill is to be administered as has been the Excise (Agricultural Machinery) Act. . The trouble is that, although there are a few Wages Boards in South Australia, there is not one which applies to the iron industry; and it is not unlikely that we may give a bounty to induce the Broken Hill Proprietary to provide furnaces at Port Pirie, in close proximity to the finest iron deposits in Australia. In South Australia we have been trying for years to have Wages Boards created.
– If there’ is no industry there can be no Wages Board.
– I do not see any essential difference between smelting iron and smelting silver. I must admit that the wages at present are satisfactory.
– Then a Board is unnecessary.
– The experience is that it is necessary to have a tribunal to deal with every industry in . the Commonwealth. There are, of course, employers prepared to pay fair wages, but there are others who do quite the opposite; indeed, there is one man in Victoria, who calls himself a reputable employer, and yet he pays married men wages as low as £i per week. I ‘may add, however, that the men employed in the industry to which I am now incidentally referring will very soon be under a Wages Board. In South Australia a Wages Board cannot be created until a resolution has passed both Houses, and those who know the Legislative Council in that State will realize the difficulties in the way.
– It cannot be worse than the Legislative Council of Victoria !
– I think it is a little worse. It should be a simple matter to draft the clause to carry out the- wishes that have been expressed, so that, in the absence of a special tribunal, any tribunal in existence may decide the matter.
– I entirely sympathize with the object of the honorable member for Wide Bay. Apart altogether from the general question of new protection, it seems to me that if we spend public money, as is thoroughly de’sirable, to establish the iron industry, we ought to take some means of securing to .the workmen proper remuneration and conditions of labour.
– In this case, it could only be to secure fair conditions, because the conditions are already very fair.
– The difficultyis that we cannot leave this matter to the Commonwealth authority, because, under the Constitution, its power in industrial matters is confined to disputes which extend beyond the limits of one State. There may be no dispute, or, if so, it probably may not extend for some time into another State. It will not do to leave this power to the Minister. Not only is it extremely undesirable that the political head should control, and have the power from time to time to control, the conditions of a particular business, but there is a constitutional difficulty-
– I shall move the Chairman out of the chair ; I am quite tired of this !
– I am endeavouring to help the Treasurer. Surely we have a right to speak on an important measure of this sort?
– Quite so ; I understand !
– Assuming that the Treasurer desires to have this Bill carried, and effect given to the suggestion of the honorable member for Wide Bay-
– I do.’ But I want the business done in a- reasonable way, and not to have attacks made on me like that made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– The honorable member made an attack upon me.
-. H. IRVINE.- Whatever the differences may be between the Minister and the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I certainly agree with the suggestion made by the latter that we ought to embody in this Bill, before we send it to another place, a clause that will give effect to our desire. Perhaps it would not be constitutional for us to give the Minister the power-
– The power is given under the Sugar Bounties Act.
– I admit that; but I would remind the honorable member that there was recently an extended argument on this subject before the High Court. Without desiring to anticipate the judgment, I would point out that lengthy arguments took place on the question of whether it is constitutional for this Parliament to attach to a bounty conditions with regard to rates of pay, and. hours of labour. That is a doubtful point, and has not yet been decided. Therefore, it would be unwise to attempt by this Bill to give the Minister power to do something which possibly we may not do ourselves. The only form which the suggested clause could properly take is that of providing that there shall be remitted to some State industrial authority the determination of the rates of wages; the hours of labour, and so forth, to prevail in the industry. I recognise that it might be desirable to enable the manufacturers to go on with their operations before such matters can be referred to a State industrial authority. The present conditions may not be unfair, and the Minister should not be prevented from paying bounties even for the period before the questions relating to conditions of labour could be referred to the Court. But either side should have- the opportunity to apply to a State industrial authority, and if the conditions of labour and rates of wages determined by that authority are not observed, the Minister should not be at liberty to pay’ any further bounties. There would be no difficulty in drafting such an amendment.
– I have drafted an amendment of clause 14, empowering the GovernorGeneral to make regulations, which I think will meet the case. I move -
That the following words be added to paragraph i : - “ and conditioning the payment of any bounties by requiring the payment of such wages and other conditions as may be prescribed by any State industrial tribunal.”
– Or Federal tribunal.
– These bounties will expire long before any Federal industrial tribunal will be applicable.
– Still no harm would be done by inserting the words “Commonwealth or” after the-words “prescribed by any.”
– Very well.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “ 1st January!” class 1, be left out; with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ 30th June.”
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) [3.24!- I should like to know why Class 1 is divided into three sections. Is it intended that a manuf acturer shall be entitled to obtain a bonus of 12 s. per ton on pig iron, a further bonus of 12s. on puddled bar, and a third bonus of 12s. per ton for steel made from Australian pig iron?
– A manufacturer may receive a bonus of 12s. per ton on pig iron made from Australian ore, and if he converts that pig iron into puddled bar iron he may receive a further bonus of 12 s. per ton. He cannot obtain more than 24s. per ton in all.
– Is that quiteclear ?
– - As I understand it, a bonus of 12s. Der ton will be granted on pig iron, and if that pig iron is converted into puddled bar iron or steel a further bounty of 12s. will be payable.
– That is so; there can be two payments made.
– But not three.
– A manufacturer could get the three if he were prepared to convert wrought iron into steel, but it does not pay to do that.
Mr.-W. H. IRVINE.- I do not understand the technicalities of the industry, but I understand, that in practice there are only two .processes in respect of which the bounty will be payable. It will be payable first of all on pig iron made from Australian ore, and if that pig iron is converted into puddled bar iron or steel a further bounty of 12s. per ton will be payable.
– Yes. Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
TI1.1t after the words “ Galvanized iron,” cls.ss 2, the words “ made from Australian ore “ be inserted.
.- I move -
That after the words “Wire netting,” the words. “ made from Australian wire on which bonus has been paid “ be inserted.
The object of the Bill is to develop the iron ore industry of Australia, and to bring into general use iron made here. That being so, we do not want to encourage the introduction of wire to be converted into wire netting on which a bounty will be payable.
– I cannot accept that amendment.
.- If the intention is to insert in respect of all these items the same provision, I shall not have much objection to this amendment, but my own feeling is that it would detri-mentally affect, an industry already in existence in New South Wales, to which wehave very properly denied a duty. The honorable member for Franklin has pointed out that we ought not to Pay a bounty on prison-made wire netting. Sir William Lyne. - I quite agree with the honorable member.
– And we ought to be very’ careful in regard to the amendment which the honorable member for Illawarra has proposed.
– - I am astonished at the attitude taken up by some honorable- members who, whilst yoting against the imposition of duties upon articles manufactured within my electorate, intend ‘ also to oppose any encouragement being offered to industries within their own electorates. For instance, I understand that the honorable member for Nepean intends to vote against the. proposal under consideration.
– I do not.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
Amendment, by ‘leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Kelly) proposed-
That after the word “ wire netting,” the words “not being prison made” be inserted.
.- It is refreshing to see the anxiety exhibited by free-trade members to protect the iron industry. I understand that an amendment has been carried which requires that before a bounty shall be payable upon .galvanized iron it must have been made’ from ore produced within the Commonwealth, and that a further proposal has been submitted under which a bounty will be payable in respect of wire-netting - except that produced by prison labour - made from imported wire. I do not object to that. But, of course, the amount provided for the purpose will not go very far.
– I do not think that we ought to vote more at present.
– It will not suffice for one year. However, I am in favour of assisting the industry, and -the amendment will have the effect of keeping the manufacturers of wire-netting “up to the collar.” As a result of the expenditure of this £50,000, I believe that our farmers and pastoralists, will obtain their wirenetting cheaper than they do to-day.
.- I am sorry that this matter did not come on for discussion earlier, so that some honorable members who are supporting this proposal might have been’ afforded an opportunity, of voting for the imposition of a duty .upon the raw material and for the free admission of the finished article. I do not intend to go back on any vote that I have cast in this Hous’e. But I do know that if this industry had been located in Victoria, or in any other State except New South Wales, the Bill would have had no chance of being passed through the House to-day. Every honorable member upon the other side of the chamber has now been a protectionist upon some item - either upon wire netting, puddled bar iron, pig iron, or something else. I fail to see why prisonmade wire netting produced in Australia should be prevented from participating in the proposed bounty, seeing that it would not compete with any established industry.
– It would compete with the industry established in New South Wales.
– If honorable members opposite are going to be geographical protectionists, why should I not stand up for the institution which is manufacturing wire netting in the electorate of Bourke? If it be wrong to protect an industry, why should honorable members who profess themselves free-traders cry out for protection to be extended to an industry when it happens to be situated within their own electorates, and, according to their own reasoning, injure their division? I hope that all wire netting made within the Commonwealth” will be afforded an equal opportunity of earning this bounty.
– Iwish to say just a few words in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra. The Tariff itself is the best answer to his gibe that we are geographical protectionists. If he will compare the industries of New South Wales with those of his own State he will readily find an answer to all that he said. However, I rise chiefly for the purpose of offering my sincere congratulations to the secretary of the Labour Party in this Parliament upon his magnificent attempt this afternoon to sweat down the wages of the wire-workers of Australia by bringing them into competition with bounty fed prison labour.
– Upon the present occasion I find myself in a very unfortunate position. I was a member of the Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into the conditions surrounding the iron industry, and after listening carefully to the evidence adduced by that body, I cast my vote with the minority. I did not intend to alter that vote, but in view of the fact that the gentlemen with whom I have been associated fiscally for so long have seen fit to support this measure, I can only follow in their admirable and honorable footsteps. I cordially echo the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta in denouncing in the most enthusiastic way the attempt of Victoria to compete by means of prison labour with the free labour of the State which I represent. If that sort of thing is to be encouraged, obviously it would be wise for this State to incarcerate as many able-bodied wireworkers as possible with the object of build ing up the industry. Such a state of things ought not to be tolerated for a moment. Since we have to choose between the imposition of a duty and the payment ofa bounty I shall vote in favour of the adoption of the latter course.
– The honorable member for Yarra has made assertions without knowing what he was talking about. He assumed that honorable members upon this side of the chamber intended to vote for this Bill.. They have already recorded their votes against it, and when the division is taken it will be found that many of them will again cast their votes in that direction. So far from being geographical protectionists, members of the direct Opposition - although they recognised that their own State was being sacrificed - have nearly always maintained the principles upon which they were returned to this House.
.- This is a Bill which has been introduced for the purpose of encouraging the production of iron in Australia. Under these circumstances it is only right that that iron should be manufactured from the raw material produced in Australia. I have no objection to urge against the imposition of a duty upon wire-netting. But this House has already decided that a certain duty shall be levied upon that article. The Bill is designed to assist Australian manufactures ; but, as the schedule is drawn up, those who are now making wire netting will be able to mop up the whole of the bounty for the manufacture of wire.
– Would the honorable member agree to a similar amendment in regard to reapers and binders, and iron and steel tubes?
– The honorable member is aiming a blow at Lysaght’s, a firm which is struggling now.
– If it is desired to assist the manufacturers of wire netting, why not do so by a measure in which that object is distinctly set out, instead of under cover of a Bill supposed to be for the encouragement of Australian manufactures?
SirJOHN FORREST (Swan) [3.47]. -We have heard a great deal about encouraging local manufactures to give employment to our people ; but why should we give a bounty for the manufacture of wire netting if the wire from which it is made is to be imported? I cannot understand the Treasurer suggesting that this provision is designed to give a bounty to Messrs. Lysaght. If he wishes to do that, he should embody the proposition in a special Bill.
.- When the Tariff Commission was taking evidence, it was informed that a man working an imported machine received 8s. 6d. for turning out 1,200 yards of wire netting, the labour cost of making the netting being about 12s. .a mile. But the bounty now being offered is equivalent to 48s. If the netting were being woven out of wire made in Australia, I should not mind giving a bounty of £3 a ton to encourage the industry ; but we are asked to do too much for an industry which uses imported wire.
– I regret, very much that there is not now time to finish this Bill. I have just received a message to the effect that senators cannot be kept waiting longer, and that it would be useless to send the Bill to the other Chamber this session.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I cannot understand the action of the Minister in regard to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. It seems to me that, if the Senate will wait for the Supply Bill, it would have waited for that Bill. We are now being “asked to grant supply for the first three months of the next financial year. I hope that this will be the last of such Bills, though, as honorable members are desirous of getting away, I shall forego the remarks which I had intended to make at this juncture concerning the finances of the country, on the understanding that the Bill provides only for- the ordinary services, at rates already authorized.
– There is an amount for laying a cable to Tasmania.
– The honorable gentleman might well have been asked to amplify the statement he made last night. I protest against being hurried in this fashion when dealing with the people’s money. It all comes about because our procedure is out of gear. For twelve months the Government has lived on Supply Bills, Parliament giving up its right to control the expenditure. Have we the assurance of the Minister that this will be the last of such Bills ?
– How can I give that assurance? I dislike Supply Bills, and shall do- my best to avoid their introduction in the future.
– Will the Treasurer undertake to bring down the Estimates for next year directly we meet, as is done in the Imperial Parliament?
– He made a promise somewhat to that effect last night.
– I . said that I would bring them down as early as possible. I hope to have them ready when Parliament meets, and shall submit them at an early date.
– I accept that assurance, expressing my regret that we have to forfeit our right to discuss these proposals for expenditure.
.- I understand that the Bill authorizes payment for a cable to Tasmania. Therefore, if the House passes this Bill now, we shall have no opportunity to discuss that proposal.
– It can be discussed now.
– Then I propose to discuss it; because my reading of the correspondence suggests that the proposed undertaking will be by no means profitable to the Commonwealth.
– Why not cut the proposal out of the Bill if it is controversial ?
– And leave Tasmania without a cable.
– No; Tasmania has a cable now.
– The present contract expires within twelve months, and, unless we accept this tender, we shall be absolutely in the hands of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, with two rotten cables.
– It is nonsense to talk about the cables being rotten.
– They are interrupted now.
– Every cable is liable to frequent interruption, and at some periods of the year more than at others. If the Minister says that this matter must be decided by the House now, I intend to ask honorable members to first consider the information contained in the correspondence.
– What is the item?
– The proposed expenditure does not appear in any particular item, but is. covered up.
– The item appears on the list which has been distributes.
– I take it that the advisableness of the Government owning the cable between Tasmania and the mainland is beyond dispute.
– I can assure the honorable member that the Government have taken every means to inspect the cable, and negotiated in every possible way.
– Nothing of the Kind; on the contrary, the Government absolutely refused to allow their officer to gowhen the company applied to have the electrical expert sent.
– Because the company desired us to pay the expense of viewing the article they had to sell.
– No, they did not. I am sorry to have to go into details ; but the Postmaster-General makes assertions which are by no means borne out by. the correspondence.
– I say that the Government have done everything possible.
– The correspondence of the Government admits that an offer which the company made was declined.
– Yes; because that offer committed the Government to the purchase.
– As a matter of fact, the offer was made without prejudice, as a perusal of the correspondence will show.
– The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company have been trying to cut the throat of the Commonwealth for the last eighteen, years.
– Robbery !
-Yes, it is robbery.
-No, it is not.
– Has the right honorable member for Swan read the correspondence?
– If the PostmasterGeneral, the right honorable member for Swan, and the honorable member for Bass, will refrain from these repeated interjections, they will much more conform to the Standing Orders.
– It is just like the Treasurer to endeavour to cloud the issue I Whether or not the Eastern Extension isa reputable company, or is guilty of all the charges that have been suggested, the fact has nothing to do with the question, which is a purely business one, namely, whether the cable shall be purchased from the company, or whether fresh cables shall be laid down alongside. The Government have chosen the latter course, and I wish honorable members, before they vote the money, to know what was the offer made by the company, in order that they may judge whether good business has been done. As I say, I am not dealing with the reputation of the company.
– It has a good reputation !
– It has a rotten reputation !
– I think that the reputation of the company stands high in Australia.
– It stinks in Australia.
– The reputation of the company is high for integrity and honest dealing. The fact that it has been able to acquire so much business, and to retain its hold against the unfair methods of competition which are attempted by the Pacific Cable Board, shows that it has the confidence of the business men of Australia.
– How did the company get its special rights in Sydney?
– I do not think these slurs should be cast on any Parliament. I had something to do with the original negotiations between the company and the South Australian Government, and the arrangements were mostly made by Sir Charles Todd, on the one hand, and Mr. Warren on the other. Such imputations as are being cast would fall off Sir Charles Todd like water off a duck ; that gentleman was above any unfair or corrupt dealing. Undoubtedly, the result of those negotiations was to make much better terms for the Commonwealth in cablematters, though I admit that it was the competition or the expectation of the competition of the Pacific Cable which put pressure on the company to reduce their rates. But it is not fair to attack the integrity of the company. The Government, having decided that they should own the cable, the next question arose as to what method should be adopted ? Should the cables of the company be bought as a going concern, or should the Government lay down fresh cables alongside? Obviously, the latter course would mean a greatwaste, and would be unjustifiable, unless the company adopted the “ stand and deliver “ attitude, and tried to extract unfair terms.
– And such a course would continue the competition. .
– Quite so; whereas, if the Government bought the cables, the company went right out of the business.
– There is no money provided for the work.
– As I have said, it is evidently hidden away.
– No, it is not ; it is on the list in the schedule, which I hand to the honorable member.
– The Minister reproached me just now for saying that this item was hidden ; but, as a matter of fact, I cannot find it in the schedule he has handed to me, so that, if it is there, it must be hidden.
– I rise to order. The honorable member refuses to take my word; and I must ask that he be compelled to do so according to parliamentary usage.
– It is customary in the House for an honorable member to accept the . assurance of another honorable member, and I ask. the honorable member for Boothby to follow that rule.
– I shall accept the Treasurer’s statement.
– The item is in the schedule of the amounts- which show the details of ‘the Estimates.
– But this document deals with the Estimates of the Department of Home Affairs in connexion with new works and buildings for the financial year 1908-9, and, so far as I can see, does “ not accompany the Bill which is before us. Was this schedule handed round with the Bill?
– I- do not know ; but it is attached to the Bill - it is’ a schedule connected with supply - and it is on the table.
– I understand that we are now dealing with an ordinary Supply Bill containing no provision for new works and .buildings. But from the schedule which has only been accidentally produced, it appears that we are passing, not only an ordinary Supply Bill for the ordinary payments for (he next three months, but an appropriation for new works which have not yet been authorized, and which are sought to be authorized in this indirect, and it seems to me not altogether legitimate, manner. . Is there another Bill to be intro.:duced?
– A small Bill,.- dealing with the payment of election expenses,’ but nothing more.
– Then the Treasurer will have no money for works during the three months?
– Yes, I shall ; I am. asking for £200,000 for the Treasurer’s advance to meet any of the items on the list. The right honorable member has done’ the same thing himself.
– But I submit that this proposed expenditure is not ordinary expenditure, and I protest against this House, under cover of an ordinary Supply Bill, being called upon to authorize any appropriation of the kind. If such procedure be permitted, any kind of works might be sanctioned without our knowing anything about them; and I protest that it is not a proper method of managing the finances.
– The remarks of the honorable member lead me to the conclusion that the item he is discussing is not in the Bill, in which case, I cannot allow a debate upon it. If the item is in the Bill the honorable member may discuss- it ; but if it is not I cannot allow him to proceed. Hav- ing no personal knowledge of the matter, I must ask the Treasurer to inform me whether the item which the honorable member is discussing- is provided for in. this Bill?
– There is’ in this Bill the item of “Treasurer’s Advance,” out of which it is usual to meet any new demand. We could not possibly allow all work to remain stagnant for three months whilst Parliament is in recess. ‘ I have circulated amongst honorable . members a schedule showing the works asked for, chiefly by the Post and Telegraph Department, and some of which, will be commenced during the recess.
– It would be advisable for the honorable member to permit the provision in regard to the Tasmanian cables to stand over until we meet again.
– I cannot see my way to do that. I circulated a list of proposed works with, the object of enabling honorable members to ascertain exactly what I desired to do. ‘ My object was to show that if the item relating to Treasurer’s advance were agreed to it would be confined with the exception, perhaps, of a few pounds to the works set out on the list. I do not think that a great deal will be. required during the next three months, but it would not do to run the risk of allowing . works to remain stagnant. If I did there would be an outcry.
– Why did not the honorable member bring in a Bill for these works ?
– The matter was left in the hands of the Treasury officials, who told me that the course I am adopting was the usual one.
– The proposal in regard to the Tasmanian cables is a radically new departure, for which provision should not be made in a Supply Bill.
– Then we must go on. We cannot go into recess for three monthsand stop all works. I circulated this list amongst honorable members so that they might have an opportunity to criticise my proposals. I am not specially referring now to the laying of cables between Tasmania and the mainland.
– That is the only point in respect of which I asked for information. I gather now that the amount to which the honorable member for Boothby has referred is included in the item on the last page of the Bill-“ Treasurer’s Advance, £200,000.”
– Yes, it is.
– Then the honorable member for Boothby may proceed.
.- I find that the list circulated by the Treasurer provides for new works such as the erection of telephone exchanges, and also for the purchase of sites ; so that this Supply Bill is really taking the shape of Additional Estimates.
– It relates to expenditure for the next financial year. ,
– I thought that I was perfectly justified in saying that in the form in which the Bill was submitted the proposed expenditure on the Tasmanian cables was hidden. I absolve the Treasurer from any attempt to hide it.
– I thought that the honorable member had a copy of the list which I laid on the table last night.
– I had not.I am not going to object to any other item in the Bill, but I think that the House should not be called upon to vote blindly upon a large question like this. . It having been decided that the Commonwealth should own cables between Tasmania and the mainland, the question that had to be determined was whether the cables across the Straits owned by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company should be purchased or new ones laid down.
– The company proposed very hard terms.
– The Government asked the company what they would sell their cables and plant for, and Mr. Warren, after consulting the London Board, submitted an offer.
– £33,000 was the price that he asked.
– That was the final offer. The first offer made by him included buildings and furniture used by operators at George Town as well as the cables, and the price asked was, I think, £70,000. The Government then said they did not require the buildings, and finally Mr. Warren offered to sell the cable and the accessories that the Government required for £33,000. ‘ I wish to draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to the following paragraph in a letter written and addressed to his Department by the company, and included in the file of papers before me -
By direction, I am also to inform you that the company’s cable steamer Patrol is expected to arrive here on Friday, and, after coaling, will proceed to strengthen the No. 1 cable, and that if your Government seriously contemplates purchasing the cables, I am to suggest that your electrical engineer should join the Patrol and witness the operation:
– We asked them to raise the cable, but they refused to do so.
– That was long afterwards. On the very day on which this letter was received by the Department, a reply signed by Mr. Oxenham, Acting Secretary to the Department, was sent to the company, in which the following paragraph appeared -
With regard to the suggestion contained in the second paragraph of your letter that the Chief Electrical Engineer of thisDepartment join the company’s cable steamer Patrol and witness the operation of strengthening No. I of the cables referred to, I am directed to thank you for the offer, and to state that the Postmaster-General does not propose to take advantage of it.
– Becausethere was nothing to be gained. We asked them to lift the cable so that we might inspect it, stating that if they would do so we might proceed to purchase it.
– So far from that being the case, the question of raising the cable and testing it had not been mentioned prior to this correspondence.
– Not up to that time.
– The plain fact is that the company made an offer to the Government which was refused.
– It was of no use. .
– The Department refused the offer of the company to allow one of its officers to board the steamer which was to lift the cable.
– It was not going to lift the cable.
– As a matter of fact the cable was lifted, and I produce specimens of it. The Government rejected a bond fide offer by the company to inspect the cable. There is no doubt about that.
– There is every doubt. The offer was of no use whatever.
– The honorable member would say anything.
– That is unworthy of the honorable member. Surely he does not suppose that I have anything to gain byrecommending this project?
– And I have nothing to gain by declaring that this matter should be inquired into. . I say that the Postmaster-General is doing a bad piece of business, and it is my duty to prevent that. I do not suggest’ that the PostmasterGeneral is guilty of any wrongdoing, but I feel that the prejudice which exists in the Central Office against the Extension Telegraph Company is responsible for the refusal of the Department to close with an advantageous offer.
– I have every reason to believe that the two cables belonging to that company are rotten.
– How can the postmaster-General make that statement, seeing that the Department have never taken the trouble to inspect them? As a matter of fact, the Department refused an opportunity of inspecting them. Further, when the company offered to send it specimens of the cables no notice was taken of its communications.
– The Department offered to inspect the cables at the company’s expense.
– But it did not offer to do that at first.
– I repeat that the company offered to allow the Government to inspect the cables when they were lifted and tested. It is true that at a later stage the Government demanded that the company at its own expense should enable the cables to be lifted in two places and inspected by its engineers. The reply which it received was that the request was a most unusual one, and that the company ought not to be called upon to pay the cost of testing the cables. It further pointed out that the lifting of a cable very frequently injures it, and consequently the Government oughtto pay the cost of the inspection. I submit that the proposal of the Government was a most outrageous one. .
– My engineers inform me that lifting the cable would not have injured it.
– Had the PostmasterGeneral taken advantage of the, offer which was made upon two occasions when the cable was lifted the Department might, with some show of fairness, have taken up the stand which it did. But the correspondence discloses a determined desire on the part of the Government to have nothing whatever todo with the company, and to leave, if possible, its cables idle.
– I had the very opposite desire, and I did everythingto bring negotiations to a successful issue..
– The earnestness of the Postmaster-General is not revealed in the correspondence. Why was not this proposal brought down when the House would have had an opportunity of fully considering it? It has been deferred until the last day of the session in order that it might be got through without discussion.
– That is a very unfair statement to make.
– I can only judge the position by the facts. The Governmentpropose to purchase a new cable for £50,000, and to expend an additional £15,000 upon plant and accessories, making a total of £65,000. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company made a bond fide offer to the Government, which the latter refused - not upon the ground that’ it was unfair - but because the company would not agree to provide for an inspection by lifting the cable in two places at its own expense, notwithstanding that such a proceeding would be likely to injure it.
– That is denied, by experts.
– Let the PostmasterGeneral bring his own commonsense to bear upon the question. Surely it is obvious that the lifting of a cable which lies in forty-eight fathoms of water is likely to strain it. The company took up a perfectly fair position when it held that the Government should inspect the cable at their own expense, seeing that the Department had refused to examine it when the opportunity of doing so was presented.
– That examination would not have been of any value.
– The PostmasterGeneral jumps at conclusions. The correspondence shows that the reason which the Department gave for refusing the offer of the company was that negotiations had not then begun. As a matter of fact, they had been proceeding for some months. Now the Postmaster-General says that the reason the Department refused to inspect the cable was that such an examination would have been of no value.’ Why did not the Department think of that excuse before? No better opportunity for ascertaining the condition of the cable could have been offered than that of accompanying the company’s steamer, which Was en gaged in the task of lifting, cutting, and splicing that cable. ‘ The honorable member for Fremantle reminds me that one of the reasons advanced by the manager of the company for refusing to lift the cable at their own expense was that when once a cable has been bedded it is very much safer than it is for some time after it has been lifted and relaid ; because it has then to find a new bed. That fact must be obvious. I have no desire to prolong this debate, but I ask honorable members to seriously consider whether weought to vote £65.000 for the laying of one cable alone when we can obtain a going concern which, so far as tests have disclosed, is in asatisfactory condition, for £33,000. Is not valuable material being sacrificed for mere prejudice? I am absolutely disinterested, in this matter, but that is the conclusion which I have come to through reading the correspondence. The Government has transacted this business badly. All sorts of objections were raised, and when they were met by the company, further objections were pressed, the desire being shown throughout not to purchase, but to leave the company stranded with its cables. Had the Government purchased the company’s cables, it would have obtained the whole of the Tasmanian business ; but, under present arrangements, it will have to compete with the company.I do not say that the £33,000 asked by the company is or is not a fair price ; that is for experts to determine. It is, however, obvious that the offer was rejected, not because of the amount, but on the ground that the company should bear the expense of lifting the cable to enable it to be examined. This work would not have cost the Government more than £200.
– If the expenditure would have been only trifling, why would not the company undertake it?
– I have stated one of two of the’ reasons why it was not fair to ask it to do so.
– The company demanded £70,000 for its interests.
– That offer included property which the Government said it did not want ; the company did not recede from its offer at £33,000, plus £6,000 for the remainder of its subsidy. If the honorable member offered a turnout, consisting of a buggy and horse, for £50, and afterwards, learning that only the horse would be purchased, asked £20 for it, . he could not be accused of having made an extortionate demand in the first instance. Having placed this information in the possession of honorable members, I ask them to consider it without prejudice, and to act, not as supporters or opponents of the Government, but in the public interest. Ihope that the Government will leave out of. the Bill the item providing for. payment for the cable.
– It has accepted a tender.
– No; but I understand that a tender, £25,000 lower than the departmental estimate, has been submitted.
– By a first-class firm.
– Yes ; a firm which supplies cables to all parts of. the world.
– It seems to me that if there has been any special pleading in this matter, it has been on the part of the honorable member. The company, in its negotiations with the Government, continually wasted . time by informing us, through its local agents, that the Central “Board must be cabled to for authority, and at length it became apparent that, unless we took definite action, we should ultimately find ourselves in its hands, without an opportunity to lay a cable of our own before our contract had terminated. The first test proposed would have been of no value, because of the conditions surrounding it, although it might have committed the Government to the purchase of the cable.
– Why is that not shown in the correspondence?
– It was demonstrated to me. The correspondence does not show all the negotiations. It was pointed out to the company that it, having the cable for sale, was the vendor ; and whoever heard of a vendor requiring an intending purchaser to pay the cost of exhibiting an article which was for sale? The Government naturally declined to bear the expense of testing the cable. These negotiations have cost me a large amount of thought and attention; and I urge the House, in the interests of the. public, tq permit of the tender for the new contract being accepted by passing this. Supply. Bill. My experts assure me that the life of the present cable, at most, will not be more than nine and a-half or ten years, while that of a new cable would be from twenty to twenty-five years.
– All cables may be superseded before that time, by wireless or some other system of telegraphy.
– At present, the price of copper is very low, and if we do not get authority and accept the tender submitted, we . may find ourselves at .the mercy of the market, which in all probability will rise. I ask the House to accept mv assurance that I did everything possible to secure a fair and reasonable offer from the company. I believe that I am acting in the best interests of ‘ the Commonwealth in urging the acceptance of the tender for a new cable. If the item is struck out, honorable members must take the responsibility of a course which may result in forcing us to buy the company’s cables at whatever price they choose to fix, or of laying another cable at a time when the price of copper wire will be much higher than it is now.
– Although the session is in its dying throes, and honorable members are impatient of long speeches, the importance of the Bill justifies a few remarks. We have already passed five- Supply Bills during the current year, and we are now asked to grant Supply for the first three months of the next financial year. Last time, and the time before, I protested as strongly as I could against this course, showing that if resulted in Parliament losing control of finance, and the Treasurer promised that further Supply Bills would not be- introduced. I admit that the session has been a long one; but some excuse is always offered for the introduction of a measure of this kind. When we meet next September, another Supply Bill will be put before us.
– The’ EstimatesinChief will be laid on the table as soon as possible.
– Yes; they will be ready then.
– Experience shows that they will not be ready. The honorable member- for Boothby has pointed out that, while nominally asking only for Supply to cover expenditure on ordinary services, the Government is really asking for authority to spend out of the Treasurer’s Advance for works and buildings.
– It is better that the House should know how the money is to be spent than that the expenditure should take place from the Treasurer’s Advance without it having that information.
– It must be recognised that the- Treasurer’s advance is to meet not ordinary, but extraordinary, expenditure. Apparently, however, the Treasurer likes to have- a little money box of £200,000, into which he can dip, and then afterwards, as he did three weeks ago, come to Par liament for an indemnity. Why, Mr. Speaker, when we passed the Additional Estimates, we had to ratify expenditure made while the right honorable member for * Swan was in office. This I regard as a slovenly way of handling the finances ; and the most serious work of a representative is to see that the finances are properly administered. I am not prepared to say, whether the honorable member for Boothby, is correct in his contentions in regard to the Tasmanian cable: but the speech of the Postmaster-‘General in reply reminded me of- the old Scotch jurist who divided human nature into three classes - prevaricators, infernal prevaricators, and experts ; and I must class the honorable gentleman under the last head.. I know that we are all weary of the long session; and I have no desire to inconvenience honorable members by bringing them back next week to resume the consideration of this Supply Bill ; but for that consideration, I should have felt compelled to resist this measure to the bitter end. All I can do now is to protest against Bills of the kind being introduced in the dying hours of the session. ‘ No member, however clear his perceptive powers, could possibly deal effectively with a Bill introduced in this sudden way,’ but he must accept it in confidence ; and, while I do not think the Government’ would dp anything that was disreputable, items might be passed that we should afterwards regret. However, if the Government will not accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Boothby to postpone one or two of the items, then Ministers must take the responsibility. I admit that that is an easy way of avoiding my own responsibility; but if I spoke for hours, I should not be able to get a vote against the passing of the measure. It is a great wonder to me, however, that the. press have not commented on the unfortunate policy of a Government in living on a series of Supply ‘ Bills; and the position can, I think, be most aptly described in a phrase which was very popular in a comic opera some years ago - “Ain’t it sickening?” Here we are beginning a new year with a three months’ Supply Bill, although the Government have declared themselves against the practice. When I opposed the last Supply Bill, I suggested that we ought to make an effort to complete the business, so as to commence the new year. under a proper system. Before I sit down, I should like to express regret that the Seat of Government Bill has not been disposed of. While I think that Parliament will re-affirm its original decision, I submit, although I opposed that decision, -that it would be in the interests of Australia and of New South Wales to have the matter finally settled.
– I hope honorable members will not unduly protract this discussion. We are bound to admit that the Government are in a somewhat singular difficulty due to no fault of their own, but mainly to the fact that, in another place, where there are thirty-six members, the Government and their supporters now consist of only three - that is when they are in health. In the pitiable circumstances in which the Ministry find themselves, in having considerable difficulty to keep a quorum to consider their financial measures, it is the duty of the House to treat them with as . much consideration as possible. A number of honorable members of the Labour Party iri the past always maintained a quorum in order to ‘ prevent such difficulties’ as the Government are experiencing this afternoon ; and I think they would have shown more gratitude for all the favours the Government, have shown to them, had they “ stood bv “ to-day in order to pass into law the Bill for granting a bonus to the iron industry. However, that ‘measure has passed away, and I shall not refer to it further. Inasmuch, however, as the. Government Party, which in this House only numbers sixteen - in other words, a supporter for each Minister - and only three supporters in the Senate, find themselves in difficulties, which are inherent in a party, the numbers of which cannot themselves constitute a quorum, honorable members generally ought to take pity on their helpless and hopeless position, and allow the Supply Bill to pass at the earliest moment.
– T have no desire to delay the passing of the Supply Bill, but I have one or two matters to which I desire to draw the PostmasterGeneral’s attention. I am getting tired of constantly receiving letters over his name to the effect that certain works will be proceeded with when circumstances permit, . or when funds are available. Such letters are now the rule rather than the exception.
– It will be all right now that, the money is to be voted !
– I am not so sure; and unless I can get some kind of assurance that the Postmaster-General will listen to me, I am prepared to stand here for another hour, and to extend the time if necessary. For months past, certain, districts in my electorate have been crying out for telephone facilities. I refer particularly to Lostock, where the people bitterly feel the absence of telephone ‘ communication ; and yet over and over again the departmental inspectors have declined to recommend the granting of their request. In my opinion, we have far too few inspectors, and those we have, according to my experience, are incapable of satisfactorily performing their duties, although they are highly paid, and ought to be thoroughly efficient’. In the Underbank district, the people have over and over again requested telephonic communication extending only a few miles, and have offered to supply the posts ; but their requests have been refused, and, as- a matter of fact, the departmental estimates of the cost are so great that I do not wonder at the refusal. I do not believe that the inspectors send in very satisfactory reports ; and, therefore, I urge upon the Postmaster- General the necessity of looking a little closer into the matter. The Postmaster-General, with his thirty years’ experience,’ ought to know how to conduct business in a business-like way ; but, as a matter of fact, while there are daily applications for instruments, which do not come to hand, the Department is full of both instruments and wire ready for use. It is only owing to the red-tape system that the wants of the public are left unsupplied, and if something is not done, there will be an outcry which will affect, first, the unfortunate parliamentary representatives, and, secondly, the Parliament itself. I am satisfied that the Minister will, as far as possible, endeavour to right the wrong; and if he does not, there ought to be, and may be, some united effort made to bring him to reason.
.- I regret that this debate has been prolonged, and I shall not detain honorable members more than a few minutes. I do not think that we have been well treated by the Government during the past few days, in view of the great rush of business pressed upon us without any justification. Surely the convenience of a few members, or of all honorable members infact, is as nothing compared with our public duty ? What necessity is there to prorogue to-day ? Surely honorable members could have given a few more days to permit of many important matters being decided after full discussion in the ordinary way ? I have no objection whatever to the Supply Bill now under consideration, although it may, perhaps, be for a period a little longer than is usual. I point out that there is no three months’ Supply Bill for works before us, and, therefore, those works in course of construction will suffer from want of funds on the 30th June, unless the Treasurer comes to the rescue with his Advance. Further, the Treasurer has no provision for any new works that may be required ; indeed, we have not been consulted at all in regard to the Works Estimates. I submit that the Treasurer’s Advance Account is not intended for the purposes to which the Treasurer informs us to-day he proposes to apply it. He certainly has no right to pay out of it a sum of over £40,000 in respect of new cables between Tasmania and the mainland without the specific approval of this House. We have not approved of any vote for such a work, and the PostmasterGeneral informed the House on 29th May last that “ this House will be asked to deal with the matter in some way before any tender is accepted.” The expenditure of moneys out of the Treasurer’s Trust Account on new works that have not been approved by this House is contrary to the Constitution, section 8.3, and to the general practice.
– We are now paying a large sum per annum to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, so that the laying of new cables will be a saving in the long run.
– But the subsidy to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company in respect of its Tasmanian cables will not cease with the laying down of the new ones. It must be paid up to the date fixed for the termination of the contract..
– I am afraid that the new cables will not be laid before then.
– I agree with the honorable member for Bass.
– Even when the Government cables are laid the company will not be prevented from continuing messages over its lines. It seems to me that the negotiations have been characterized by a want of ordinary business methods on the part of the Department. I am not impressed with the statement made by the Postmaster-General. The company invited the Department to send one of its expert officers on board a steamer with a party which was to lift the cable at two points,’ pointing out that theofficer would thus be afforded an opportunity of ascertaining its condition. One would imagine that such a fair and reasonable offer would have been promptly accepted, but, as a matter of fact, it was curtly refused. The Postmaster-General says that no good would have resulted from such an inspection. Business men will not be inclined to agree with that view. Four months after that offer had been declined, the PostmasterGeneral requested the company to raise the cable for inspection. In the meantime the company’s steamer had probably sailed for other parts, and the company’s representatives naturally demurred to incur the expense of engaging another vessel to lift the cable unless it was remunerated by the Government, and without any condition as to purchase if the inspection was satisfactory. The price asked by the company for the purchase of its cables and plant - £33,000 - was not, in my opinion, too high, but, if it was so, that ground would have been a good one on which to go to arbitration. I am inclined to think that it will cost the Government twice as much to lay the new cables, more especially as twelve miles of cables have to be laid underground. The Government should have made an effort to come to terms with the company. The taking over of its cables would have been a more economical arrangement than that now proposed by the Government, and it would have removed a competitor from the field. This company has a world-wide reputation. Its business association with the States extends over thirty years, and one would naturally imagine that in the circumstances the Commonwealth Government would have a friendly feeling towards it. I have never known- the company to fail to carry out properly and well any agreement made by it. When I was Premier of Western Australia it laid the cable from Fremantle to. the Cocos Islands, , and my relations, with it were most satisfactory. One would think that friendly relations would exist between the company and the Government ; but the correspondence throughout suggests an unfriendliness on the part of the Post Office, which is to be regretted. There seems to lie an idea on the part of the Postal Department, as at present administered, that it must pick a quarrel with every one with whom it does business.
– We do not want a company to “ best “ the Government, and that is what this company is trying to do.
– I agree with the honorable member that no company should be allowed to “ best the Government.”
– Why did not this company comply with our request that it should raise the cables for inspection?.
– It offered in the first instance to do so free of charge.
– Later on it would not agree to do that.
– That is no reason why the Government and the representatives of the company should be at arms’ length. Mutual concessions will always remove difficulties, but we find that the Government, .instead of being prepared to negotiate with a view to an amicable arrangement for the purchase of the company’s cables, declared in effect to its representatives, “ We will lay cables of our own and do our best to render your cables between. Tasmania and the mainland’ absolutely valueless to you.” Such an attitude towards a company that has been working with the States for thirty years is to be strongly deprecated. No doubt the directors are keen business men, but that is no reason why we should look upon them with distrust. This company has at present interminable, agreements with four of the States, and may be carrying on business here for hundreds of years to come. It is certainly not to the advantage of those States that we should adopt that high-handed procedure in which the Postmaster-General appears to delight. I do not know whom he thinks he is pleasing by carrying on negotiations in such a manner, but it would seem, by his action, that he thinks he is pleasing somebody. I am sure it is not the desire of the House that he should treat with contempt every one with whom the Department does business. ‘ We expect not only friendly, but generous, treatment to be’ extended to those with whom we have business relations. The purchase of two new cables has not been submitted to this House for approval, as promised by the PostmasterGeneral on 29th May. There is also nc provision- for it on the “ Estimates, and it has never been considered by the House. The Treasurer’s Advance Account is designed to meet extraordinary or unforeseen expenditure in connexion with ‘ ‘ the ordinary annual services of the Government,” and not to provide for new works for which this House should be asked to provide by a specific vote. If the Treasurer insists upon doing an illegal act by advancing this large sum out of his Advance Account without a vote of the House he will have to answer for it. I believe’ that he will think twice before he does so, but I warn him that if he does attempt to provide for this work out of his Advance Account weshall try to bring home to him the fact that he is acting illegally, and that he must accept the responsibility for his action. This is a new work, arid cannot be included in the appropriation for the Treasurer’s Advance Account, which is provided for “ ordinary annual services.” I have no desire to place the Government in a difficulty, but they alone are . responsible for the trouble that has arisen. We have a duty to perform that is far more important than any consideration as to the prorogation to-da.y. I am anxious that Parliament should be prorogued without delay. I am opposed to the Treasurer providing for these cables out of his Advance Account. I do not think it is reasonable, and certainly is not legal. If he has power to do that, he has power to do anything since the Constitution Act forbids his doing that. The work has not been included in any Appropriation Act ; it has not been recommended by the Governor-General, and cannot therefore be legally proceeded with. I regret having to delay the House at this stage, but I have a public duty to perform. I am here, not in’ the interests of the company or of the Government, but in the interests. of the country. To me it matters not whether this cable is purchased, so long as the best possible arrangement is made, in the public interest. I have read the correspondence relating’ to this matter, and I say that the Postmaster-General has not treated the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company with the courtesy to which it was entitled. If all the negotiations are disclosed in that correspondence, I do not think he will find it an easy task to justify his action.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation. . On Wednesday last, it became my duty, in defence of my honour, to deal with the statements made by several gentlemen - reverend and otherwise - who formed a deputation which had waited upon the Prime Minister. Exception has been taken to some of my remarks upon that occasion, and after perusing the Hansard report of my speech, I wish to express my regret that - smarting, as I was, under a sense of injustice - I - allowed my feelings to carry me away. For instance, in replying to Mr. McCutcheon’s statement that the Council of Churches was unanimously bchind the Postmaster-Genera! in the action which had been taken, and that the prohibition had been issued only after the fullest inquiry and consideration, I stated -
Every one knows that that is not correct.
That assertion was intended to apply only to Mr. McCutcheon’s declaration that the prohibition upon the correspondence of Messrs. Freeman and Wallace had been issued after the fullest inquiry and consideration. I find that I also described Mr. McCutcheon as “ a pettifogging solicitor,” and I regret having referred to him in that way. The profession of a solicitor is a good one, but, like every other profession, it contains all sorts - both good and bad. I regret that, whilst smarting under a sense of injustice, I applied that term to Mr. McCutcheon. Another statement in reference to the same gentleman which I wish to unconditionally withdraw, is -
It seems an anomaly for a solicitor who is licensed to lie -
I further said that both Mr. McCutcheon and the Rev. T. B. S. Woodfull had told a deliberate lie. From the information which I have received from’ the Prime Minister and others since, I have no hesitation whatever in saying that I should not have made that statement. I recognise that it is a very strong one to make in respect- of a member of the cloth. I know now that these gentlemen based their statements upon a certain letter which has been read to this House. At the same time, I regret that they were misinformed. In conclusion, I desire to say that, in the action which I took in the case of Messrs. Freeman and Wallace, I had only one object in view - a desire that justice should be done. I was influenced by no personal feeling whatever. I simply held that, as a matter of British justice, an accused person should be found guilty before punishment was inflicted. I wish to express my sincere regret for what may be regarded as. insulting references to two gentlemen who had made accusations which were not’ warranted by facts.
-1 - I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the contract for laying a new cable to Tasmania has been let?
– The contract has been let, pending the approval of Parliament now asked for.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported without amendment.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended so as t.i allow the Bill 10 be passed through its remaining stage this day.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
In doing so, I wish to make a few observations regarding the payment of moneys in connexion with works for which provision has been made in the Treasurer’s AdvanceAccount. I desire it to be clearly understood that the schedule which I have laid upon the table of the House, contains a list of the public works which must be proceeded with in order to keep the Departments going, and also the work of laying the Tasmanian cable. If honorable members do not approve of my paying these moneys, now is the time for them to say so.
In the schedule to which I have alluded, urgent works only are included. The schedule is as follows : -
Statement shewing : -
New proposals in connexion with “Additions, New Works, and Buildings” for the Financial Year, 1908-9, which it is considered should be commenced as early as possible after the beginning of the next Financial Year; .
Total estimated cost of each proposal ;
– The schedule does not appear in the Bill.
– If honorable members intend to prevent necessary works from being proceeded with, let them take action now.
– I only object toone item.
– That item is included in this schedule.
– How is the Treasurer going to pay for that work without an appropriation ?
– After the explanation which I have made, I do not think the House will take me to task for allowing the list of public works enumerated in the schedule to be proceeded with.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not wish to prevent the Treasurer from speaking, or any urgent public works from being proceeded with. But I submit’ that the Treasurer, out of his Advance Account, proposes to pay moneys for’ works which do not properly come within the scope of that advance. Under the Constitution, all moneys in connexion with new buildings, additions and works, must be submitted in a separate Bill, and not in a Bill which includes the ordinary Estimates for the year.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the money with which it is intended to pay for the works included in the schedule which I have laid upon the table, will be voted under this Bill.
– The honorable member for Swan will recognise that the stage which we have now reached is the third reading of the Bill. It is not, therefore, competent, either to recommit the measure, or to reconsider any item contained in it. The only course ‘ open to honorable members is either to accept or reject it upon the motion for its third reading.
. -The Treasurer has placed honorable members in a very awkward position by declaring that we must either agree to the carrying out of the works included in the schedule which he has submitted, or accept responsibility for having stopped the public works of the. country.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the Bill has passed the stage at which it can be amended.
– I know that all I can do now is to protest. It is, however, an insult to representative government for the Treasurer to tell us, “ Now is your chance,” when we can do nothing but protest, and, according to the right honorable member for Swan, are in an unconstitutional position.
.- I do not wish to prevent what the Treasurer desires to do ; but the only excuse for the course being taken is that we are right at the end of the session. I am not approving of the proceeding which, under other circumstances, might lead to the most serious consequences. Besides, as the right honorable member for Swan was good enough to remind me, section 54 of the Constitution Act clearly enacts that an Appropriation Act can cover only expenditure for the ordinary services of the year in which it is passed. As in this case, the expenditure can be covered by the Treasurer’s Advance, and the reasons for it are generally understood, I am content to allow the Bill to go through. The Treasurer has shown himself very astute in the position which he has secured for himself in this instance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of ft message from His Excellency the Go vernor-Generalrecommending anappropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
In Committee :
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purpose of reimbursing expenses incurred by candidatesin connexion with certain elections which have been declared void, and in proceedings in relation thereto.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended as to allow the Report to be considered this day and a Bill to be passed through all its stagesforthwith.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Groom doprepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– We ought to be told what the Bill is. It has not yet been distributed.
– The Bill authorizes the appropriation of £1,315 for the payment of the expenses incurred in connexion with elections declared to be void through the fault of the ElectoralDepartment. The names of the persons concerned, and the amounts proposed to be paid to them, are : - Mr. Vardon, £467 3s.9d. ; Mr. Blundell, £259. is. ; Mr. O’Loghlin, £37 8s.1d. ; Mr. Palmer, £367 11s 2d.; and Mr. Kennedy, £182 18s. 9d. These names and amounts are not in the Bill, because, although I desire parliamentary authority for the payment of the sum I have mentioned, it is my intention to again go through the claims with the Crown Law officers, to see that they are not at all excessive. I propose also to pay £45 to Mrs. Crosbie, whose late husband was a candidate for the Senate, and would havebeen elected had he not died very shortlyafter the poll was taken. This is a matter of pure charity.
– Of pure justice.
– I think Mrs. Crosbie is entitled to something; but I have yet to inquire further into the matter.
.- I do not object to the payment of this money, though I would point out that while the Electoral Act provides that no candidate shall spend more than £100 on an election, it is proposed, according to the Treasurer, to pay a much larger sum to some of the candidates in the elections with which we are dealing.
– They are being reimbursed legal as well as electoral expenses.
– This is not the first occasion when the faulty character of bur electoral machinery has been made manifest, and I hope Parliament” will be afforded an early opportunity to amend the electoral law. It will be a serious thing if every election is to cost the country £1,500 because of the mistakes of electoral officers. Furthermore, as I contended when the measure was before Parliament, it offers . a temptation to speculative lawyers to bring cases against sitting members, not for the benefit of any candidate, but in order to obtain fees. I do not say that any of these candidates should” not be reimbursed, but the Treasurer in cases of this kind should be careful to do nothing which is opposed to the public interest. His action should be directed not by charity but by justice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.’
Clause 2 (Appropriation for reimbursement of expenses incurred in connexion with certain void elections).
.- Did I understand the Treasurer to say that it is his intention to pay part of the sum hereby appropriated to Mrs. Crosbie? I agree that that lady is entitled to something, because had her husband lived he would have been returned to the Senate, and, no doubt, his election expenses have been defrayed out of his estate, to her loss.
– One naturally leans to a person who is in distress, as this lady is by reason of the death of her husband. Had he not borne the cost of an election, she would have been left better off than she is now. I understand that his death was due partly to the exertions made by him when a candidate, and I think that the Government should show consideration to his widow. I wish to be able, either out of the sum now being appropriated, fir. from some other fund, to return to her some part of the expenses incurred by her late husband.
.- I wish for more information in regard to this matter. I understand that Mr. Crosbie died between the holding of the election and the declaration of the poll, and that the election was subsequently declared invalid by ‘the High Court. If “that be so, the case of Mr. Crosbie should be treated in the same way as that of any other candidate, who has been put to expense in an election which is afterwards voided.
– But Mr. Crosbie would have been elected.
– Then he would probably “have been unseated by the High Court.. ‘
– That is doubtful.
– However, I hope that tfe Treasurer will treat Mr. Crosbie’s widow as liberally as possible, especially if she is not in very good circumstances.
– I should like to do sp. I wish honorable members to understand that the case of Mr. Crosbie is not quite on all-fours with the other cases ; and my desire is to reimburse his widow for the expense he was put to in fighting the election.
– A sum of £45 will not do that.
– That is all that is asked for ; and it seems reasonable that we should reimburse the widow her late husband’s expenses.
-.il– It is quite evident that Mrs. Crosbie is too modest to employ a legal gentleman to put in a claim, or, otherwise, I think the amount would have been much larger. I hope that’ the Treasurer will not offer Mrs. Crosbie less than .£100.
.- While I agree with the honorable member for ‘Wide Bay as to the amount which should be given, I regard the vote as an act of grace, because it would be straining the meaning of the word to call it an act of justice. Mr. Crosbie, unfortunately, died before the declaration of the poll but,, supposing he had not died until after he had been returned, and the election had not been questioned, he would have had to pay his own expenses. I know the view I am taking may not meet with general approval, but I think it right to point out that similar cases may arise in the future; and that, therefore, this ought to be regarded, as I say, as an act of grace.
– I do not regard it as such. I do not think that Mr. Crosbie’s death affected in any sense the High Court proceedings.
– Supposing that I died after my return to Parliament in a similar way, nobody would raise a claim on behalf ofmy widow.
– I do not desire to be misunderstood. If the honorable member for Dalley thinks that I regard this vote as an act of grace, he is mistaken. Mr. Crosbie. incurred expenditure during the election, . which was declared void; and, in my opinion, it would have been declared void, even if he had lived. Therefore, I say that we ought to return to Mrs. Crosbie the money which would have been returned toher husband had he lived ; and on that ground I favour a higher sum than that asked for.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, and passedthrough its remaining stages.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment’.
– I regret to have to make a personal explanation. I have never’ willingly made an untruthful statement in this House, though, of course, I havemade mistaken statements, which I have always willingly withdrawn. During the discussion on the Tariff the honorable member for Batman accused me of exhibiting certain shoddy articles to honorable members ; but I (have had those articles examined, and I have ascertained that not one was shoddy. I gave the honorable member every opportunity to withdraw his statement, and offered to prove that I was right, but that offer was not accepted. I now, desire to say that the articles exhibited were not shoddy; and if the honorable member choose to make a statutory declaration to that effect the law will take its’ course.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
Clause 5 (No action for libel for publishing copies, &c, of parliamentary papers).
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out the clause-
– The Senate has agreed to the whole of the Bill with this one exception. The clause, which it is proposed shall be left out, gives special protection to newspapers which publish extracts from parliamentary papers. As to whether the clause omitted is only declaratory of the existing law, I do not desire to express an opinion. The clause was inserted in the Bill because it is partof the English law. However, it is essential that Parliament should publish parliamentary papers) and have protection against action for libel; and therefore I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Land Administration : Mr. Drummond and Mr. Ardlie
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the case of Mr. Drummond -
Council of Papua, and who sat and voted on the Council?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow - 1 to 5. These questions are answered by the papers which have already been laid before Parliament and printed. Further information on the matter is contained in two communications from Mr. Staniforth Smith, which are About to be laid on the table.
– I do not consider that an answer to my definite and simple questions.
– It is the answer placed in my hands.
-The questions were definite and clear.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If he will lay upon the Table of the House all correspondence, reports, and available information relating to the appointment and services of Mr. Drummond, late chief surveyor of the Papua Service, including all regulations and instructions, papers and records relating to the charges against him, together with the recommendations, ifany, made by the Acting Administrator in regard thereto?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question ‘is as follows -
Some of the papers have already been tabled and printed. There will be no objection to placing the whole file on the library table for the information of members.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In connexion with the dismissal of Mr. Drummond from the Papuan Civil Service -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
If the honorable member will examine the papers on this matter already printed and the communications from Mr. Staniforth Smith about to be made public, he will see that they answer his questions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I beg to state that the correspondence which has passed on this subject is very small, and practically consists of one . general letter from the Admiralty, which suggested to the Government a number of specific questions which have been answered. The only reasonwhy the papers have not yet been made public is that the matter is at present quite incomplete, and publication would not add materially to knowledge of the subject.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I might add that the managing director, referred to, has made the suggestion that the Government should appoint a Royal Commission to deal with the whole question of life assurance legislation. A rough draft of a Bill is already in existence, but has been delayed owing to the want of essential particulars and the existence of certain difficulties.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly for Mr. Fuller) agreed to -
That a Return be laid upon the Table showing
How many applications for patents have been received since the establishment of the Commonwealth Patent Office.
How many of these applications have been refused on the grounds of want of novelty.
How many have been refused on other grounds.
How many examiners (junior and senior) are employed in examining applications for patents.
What is the total amount paid in salaries annually to the officers employed in examining work.
– MayI ask the Treasurer a question, without notice, Mr. Speaker ?
– This is not question time.
– As there is no other business to be dealt with at present, perhaps I may be permitted, with the indulgence of the House to put to the Treasurer a question which concerns all of us. I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether he will intimate the date on which the next session will open ? I do not want to bind him absolutely to any date, but should be glad if he would say when, within a few days, the Government hope to meet the House again.
– I replied last night, as far as I could, to a similar question put by the right honorable member. I do not think that it is likely that Parliament will be called together again before, at the earliest, the middle of September. Personally, I intend to ask the Prime Minister to make the date of the opening of the new session near the end of that month.
– That would keep honorable members from the distant States tied up for the month.
– We shall all be here in connexion with the visit of the American fleet. Why should we not meet as soon as possible after the fleet takes its departure?
– If I have my way, we shall not reassemble until near the end of September. I cannot take the responsibility of giving a definite reply to the right honorable member’s question, but perhaps during the adjournment for dinner I shall be able to communicate with the Prime Minister, and be authorized by him to make a statement to the House later on.
Sitting suspended from 6.22 to 8.50 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
MINISTERS laid upon the table-
Statement shewing -
New proposals in connexion with “Additions, New Works, and Buildings” for the Financial Year, 1908-9, which it is considered should be commenced as early as possible after the beginning of the next Financial Year;
Total estimated cost of each proposal ;
Estimated expenditure during the Financial Year, 1908-9.
Ordered to be printed.
Judgment of the High Court in New South Wales v. the Commonwealth (Heffernan’s case).
The Clerk laid upon the table
Freeman and Wallace Medical Institute - Postal Prohibition. - Return to an Order of the Housedated 4th June, 1908.
– In moving -
That the House at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday week,
I desireto say that, since the sitting was suspended, I have communicated with the Prime Minister, who desires me to say that Parliament will be called together about’ the middle of next September, after the departure of the American Fleet. I also wish to thank honorable members, upon behalf of the Government, for the attention which they have bestowed - especially during the past two or three weeks - upon the measures- that have been brought before them, which has enabled us to dispose of so much work during that period. Of course, we cannot get on without occasional “jars,” but I think that we may congratulate ourselves upon the fact that nothing very serious has happened. For the progress we have been enabled to make I thank honorable members. I hope that during the three months’ recess that we are likely to have, the officers of the House, who have been kept here very late at night, and who have had very strenuous work to perform, will enjoy a nice holiday, and I thank them all for the courtesy which they uniformly display to all honorable members. The Governor-General is now absent in the country, and, as it is necessary to secure his signature to all the Bills that have been passed, I have been advised that it will be better to move the adjournment of the House until Tuesday week, instead of until some day next week.
.- There is a glad air about the proceedings this evening, with which I am in hearty accord. But, in order that the joy of the moment may not be marred by any prospect of an early meeting of Parliament, I wish to ask the Treasurer whether the Houses will be prorogued by proclamation prior to the date mentioned in the motion for adjournment?
– So long as we understand what the Government propose, I am quite sure that there will be no objection raised from the crowded Opposition benches.
.- I desire to express my gratification at the legislation which has been enacted this session. It is remarkable from two points of view. We have effected a large measure of Tariff reform, in which the whole commercial community was interested, and we have also enacted social legislation, the like of which has not previously been enacted in Australia. I hope that we shall all return next session invigorated by our holiday, and that we shall then complete some of the work upon which we have entered during the life of the present Parliament. I trust that we shall all spend a pleasant recess, and that, whatever changes may take place, the harmony which has generally characterized our proceedings in this House will be preserved.
.- I feel perfectly certain that those honorable members who are present, and every honorable member who is absent, desire to express their thanks to the officers of Parliament for the work which they have done - to the Hansard staff, the Librarian, and those in attendance upon the Chamber. Every officer has done his duty.
An Honorable Member. - What about Mr. Speaker?
– Mr. Speaker occupies so paramount a position that any praise. from, me for the work whichhe performs would be in the nature of gilding refined gold.
– Do not forget the Chairman of Committees?
– He keeps such an eagle eye upon me that I shall leave the love which I bear him unexpressed. I am sorry that the Prime Minister, owing to the bereavement which he has just suffered, is not present this evening.. But I desire to say that communications have been opened up with him upon one subject which I feel sure will in the near future loom as largely in our political firmament as did the question of old-age pensions.’ Just as I am proud of the work that has been done in that connexion, and while I am delighted that ho dissentient voice was raised when the Old-age Pensions Bill was under discussion, so I hope that, at a future date, we shall have a unanimous House in favour of granting provision for children when their parents have not sufficient means to properly feed and clothe them. Of course, I recognise the difficulties that will be experienced by the Treasurer in sparing more money. But, during the recess, I ask him to take into consideration an Australian institution which I believe is unique in the world. In the Old World there are foundling hospitals in which young children can be left. The death rate in such institutions is enormous; but in the Waitara Home, a little outsideof Sydney, and in a lesser degree in a similar institution near Melbourne, we havethe finest institution of its kind under the British flag- an institution which offers to a mother carrying a child a home for three months prior to its birth, and for six months subsequently, thereby promoting the ties of affection. I want the Treasurer to consider whether there is not some way in which that institution, and any kindred institution, can be assisted. I may add that it takes nocognisance of creed or religion, but is prepared to help any prospective mother who is in difficulty. 1 hope that when we have any money to spare, the Treasurer, out of the kindness of his heart, will look to thesecharities. The Prime Minister is heartily in accord with the object that I have in view. In glowing and eloquent language he has promised to assist this institution in any way that he can. With the knowledge that his chief is so sympathetic, and his own heart beating in sympathy with the little ones, I hope that when he can spare any funds for the purpose he will bear my remarks in mind. I feel certain that if, after the last session of this Parliament, members can go to their constituents, and tell them that, in their wisdom, they have passed legislation for preserving the best immigrant we have- - the Australian baby - they will have nocause to regret it.
– Asa new member, I wish to express my pleasure that, during the session, Parliament has succeeded in passing two such important measures as the Tariff - which, I believe, while not doing everything that we could hope for in the development of ourmanufactures, will largely assist them - and the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, which was agreed to without a dissentient voice. I have been very much impressed with the conscientious manner in which honorable members have fought to secureeffect to their political convictions, and theuniform good feeling and kindliness displayed in their private relations. Political experience is new to me, but what I have seen and heard within the walls of this building has given me a better opinion of human nature. I hope that the greatPar- liament of the Commonwealth may long continue an instrument of beneficent legislation for the welfare of the people of Australia.
– I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne has made a personal explanation affecting myself. As I did not hear it, I have only to say that I shall read the report of his speech, consider his statements, and, at the proper time, if necessary, reply to them.
– And if I have said what was wrong, I shall give the honorable member fair play.
– I do not know how much the honorable member for Melbourne expects to receive for the institution to which he has referred ; but I am heartily in sympathy with its objects, and wish to do all I can to assist it. Still I shall have to consult the Prime Minister, who,the honorable member says, is in accord with him, and shall try to do all that is reasonably possible to meet his wishes. As re gards the great work . of the session - the Tariff - such legislation must, under any circumstances, be a heavy task, necessitating long, tedious, and wearying sittings, requiring harassing personal attention, and’ subjecting honorable members, and their tempers, to a great strain.
– Luckily, the honorable member has a good temper.
– Some persons say that I have not. I threw into the work as much energy as I had, and, I trust that what little unpleasantness arose from time to time will be forgotten. I thank honorable members for their attention, and especially those who stuck to me so gloriously. The Tariff has not satisfied my desires, but the results are better than many protectionists expected to achieve, and we have now a structure which, I hope, will be greatly improved on some future occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 9.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 June 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080605_reps_3_46/>.