3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MAUGER laid upon the table the following papers : -
Public Service Act -
Postmaster-General’s Department -
Deputy Postmaster-General of VictoriaSeasons for non-approval by GovernorGeneral, of Public Service Commissioner’s recommendation of Mr. J. A. Springhall and for requiring a further recommendation.
Rutt, P. T. - Promotion to position of Postmaster, Launceston - Papers re.
DISTURBANCE AT PARLIAMENT HOUSE.
Mr. CROUCH. - I wish to know from the Attorney-General if he proposes to take steps to punish the display of mob violence within the precincts of the House yesterday?
Mr. GROOM.- I ask the honorable and learned member to give notice of the question.
Mr. CROUCH. - It would be useless to do so under present circumstances. I call your attention to the matter, Mr. Speaker. No doubt you are aware that yesterday a number of men invaded this building, wrenching open the doors, and making it impossible for honorable members to come in or go out. Some one should certainly take notice of the affair, and prevent similar occurrences in the future. There appears to have been great weakness on the part of the police in charge. They allowed men to harangue the mob in the vestibule, and afterwards insisted on the doors being locked, so that members could not go out or come in. The Victorian Unlawful Processions and Assemblies Act makes it an offence for any mob to gather, or any procession or deputation to come; within half-a-mile of this building. If the Attorney-General is not disposed to act, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to protect our privileges.
Mr. SPEAKER. - So far as the very regrettable incidents of yesterday are concerned, it would have been very unwise to assume that persons presenting themselves for admission to the galleries were bent on wrongdoing, nor did it seem strange that on such an occasion as yesterday more persons than usual should seek admittance. The right thing was done by the attendants iri not being panic-stricken when the disturbance commenced, and the proper course was followed in at once applying for police protection, which, in due time, was afforded, the trouble then ending. I regret that the disturbance occurred ; but steps have been taken which, I think, will prevent its recurrence. The Act to which the honorable and learned member has referred applies to these buildings only, I think, when the Victorian Parliament is sitting here. As the Victorian Parliament is not now sitting here, the Act has at present no application.
Debate resumed from 20th October (vide page 1353), on motion by Mr. Reid -
That the, financial proposal’s of the Government are unsatisfactory to this House. »
– Having heard the speech of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and the reply of the Prime Minister, honorable members generally are now in a position to express their opinions upon the situation. While those with whom I sit will always be ready to launch an indictment against the Government, when we have a good cause, even should there be little chance of success, personally, viewing the matter practically, I think a Ministry ought not as a rule to be challenged unless there is a fair chance of displacing it. But when an Opposition proposes to challenge the Government,’ those by whose help it expects to succeed might well be made acquainted with what is intended. When one needs assistance, he generally makes his intentions known to those whom he would like to help him. However, I shall not oppose the motion on the ground that such action was riot taken in regard to it. The right honorable member for East Sydney regards the financial proposals of the Government as unsatisfactory. Of course, the aim of such motions as this is to express want of confidence in the Administration, and it is immaterial whether they are confined to a special subject or are general in their terms. But as many honorable members are bound by pledges of one kind and another, the wider the indictment the greater its chance of success. There would be no difficulty in regard to the finances were it not for the extraordinary charges which are to be imposed upon, the revenue. To provide for old-age pensions will require great economy and considerable care and attention. There may be a difference of opinion as to whether it was wise to provide the money out of revenue prior to the end of 1910. My opinion is that it should not have been done. It is too large a strain upon the revenue while we are restricted to the onefourth share. And the same may be said in regard to other large expenditure. But the difficulty that may confront the Government is in regard to obtaining ,£1,500,000 out of general revenue for the payment of old-age pensions, not for this, but for next year. I think, however, that the difficulty will not arise, as we are having a very good season. It is quite possible that the Treasurer’s estimate will be not only realized, but exceeded; and, therefore, for the first year - 1909-10 - it seems to me that those pensions will be provided for. After that, of course, only a very short time will elapse before more latitude will be allowed to the Federal Government, and by that means the money will be provided. Of course the Government are providing money in advance.- Last year a sum of nearly ,£200,000 was provided; and. this year a sum of £400,000 will be provided ; so that if the estimated revenue is exceeded, there will probably be considerably more money available for thatpurpose. I, however, do not wish it to be in any way understood that I approve of the manner in which the Government have obtained this money. I shall have something to say about that directly. I understand that the High Court has decided that the action of the Government is within the Constitution, but that does not affect me one bit. I did not expect that the Surplus Revenue Act would be found to be within the Constitution, and the decision is rather a puzzler to me. That, however, is by the way. My objection is to a clear, honorable understanding having been broken by the Government. By that means this money is being obtained, for a very good purpose, I admit; but that does not justify the thing to my mind. Whether it is required for a good purpose or for a bad purpose, unless the money is honorably available, it ought not to be appropriated in that way. It is opposed to the understanding.
– There was no understanding.
– The honorable member was not at the Federal Convention j I was, and therefore ought to know something about the matter.
– There was another understanding which has not been carried out by the honorable member.
– Will the honorable member keep quiet, and reply byandby ?
– I do not think that on that side honorable members have any right to complain.
– The difficulty I find in attacking the financial administration of the Government is that most of the proposed expenditure referred to by the right honorable the leader of the Opposition, which has made their position difficult, if it is difficult at all, has been approved by the House. Take, for instance, the scheme of old-age pensions.
– But should it not be provided for?
– We have approved of that expenditure. We ought not to have approved of it if we did not see a fair prospect of the money being obtained. We appropriated ^750,000 from any balance there might be. We also approved of an expenditure of ,£250,000 for defence and for the payment of bounties. I am in favour of taking over the Northern Territory, the construction of the westward and northward railways, immigration, and all those measures of a great and progressive character which have been mentioned here from time to time by the present Government. Therefore 1 find myself in a difficulty. Having voted for those works - there was no necessity for me to assist the Government to put them in hand if I had not thought that it was right - I consider that I am bound to help to find the money.
– Is this helping to find it ? The Government do not propose to find it.
– Again, I think that the financial arrangements of the Government are not unsatisfactory for the present year, whatever they may be if we look two or three years ahead. Therefore, however anxious I may be to have a tilt at the Government, I must npt commit myself to language that I cannot justify. I am not going, because I sit .on the cross benches, and am opposed to the Government
– But is the right honorable member really opposed to them?
– They lived longer than the right honorable member anticipated, did they not?
– Perhaps the honorable member will listen to me, and say what he .’has to say afterwards. I often said when I was a Minister - and I do not intend to go back on what I said then - that I do not believe in a man changing his opinions on shifting his seat. I have often said, and I now say, that up to the present time I do not know of any material extravagance on the part of the Government. On the other hand, I think that from the very “beginning the Government have tried their best to be economical. I have not seen anything in the present Estimates to which I particularly object, but from the days of Sir George Turner up to the time I left office - and I suppose that it is the same now - there was no extravagance. There was an honest- and real endeavour up to the .time I left office to arrange, to return as much as possible to the States. I am not at all sorry that that was the case. It must be remembered that the Federation was established in a time of difficulty. It was a time of -droughts, and in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania, the Treasurer was at his wits’ end to know where to get money. The State Treasurers had been used - to the whole revenue from Customs and Excise) and even the subtraction of the Federal one-fourth share from that revenue was a matter of serious embarrassment to them. We were of opinion, in those days at any rate - and we were certainly not so well off then as we are now - that everything we could do to make the burden lighter for the States should be done. That was the opinion, not only of the Government, but I think of every member in the House. We tried to return to the States large sums out of our own share, and what is more - as you, sir, know - the opinion of the Convention was that the Commonwealth would not spend its one-fourth share for many years, and that a considerable portion of it would always be returnable to the States. Therefore, in the words of the motion, I cannot honestly say that the finances are unsatisfactory.
– And the right honorable member will vote against it?
– I cannot say that there is extravagance or real waste in the Administration, because! I do not know of it.
– There is no waste.
– My regard for my honorable friend the Treasurer does not go so far as to prevent me from attacking him if I could see a really good ground for doing so. There is another thing about the Government which is not to their credit, and I am sure that they will forgive me if I tell what I think is the truth. We have not yet arrived at the spending stage of their proposals; we have only got to the talking stage. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence can give us long speeches, but as for doing anything, that is for the future. The Minister of Defence tells us that two or three years hence something will be done in regard to his new defence proposals, but nothing is to be done immediately. In fact, most of these proposals - the old-age pensions system, the defence scheme, the taking over of the Northern Territory, the Western and Northern Railways, and other proposals which I have mentioned - have only got to the. talking stage. The active and paying stages have not yet been reached.
– We shall have to pay the old-age pensions, anyway.
– We have got to the committal stage.
– During the past few months an attempt has been made to create a sensation regarding the condition of affairs which obtains in the Postal Department. The honorable member for
Gwydir almost bounded into fame by his attack upon the administration of this Department. I do not suppose that he knew much about the matter, apart from the conditions which prevail in his own constituency, or perhaps in a portion of his own State.
– The right honorable member voted with him.
– I shall, I hope, be always able to assign a good reason for my actions. An attempt has been made to create something in the nature of a scare regarding the alleged unsatisfactory condition of the Postal Department. Personally, I have never joined in that cry. From my own knowledge I am not able to say that, in my own State, the Department is in a very unsatisfactory position. Its condition is improving, though, of course, there is plenty of room for still more improvement. But I have no knowledge that things now are worse than they were prior to Federation.
– The condition of the Department has always been bad.
– I am not going to join in the hue and cry which has been raised against the Department unless I have facts to go upon. As the Postal Department is the only large Department that the Commonwealth has to administer I naturally receive a good many requests from’ my constituents upon matters connected with it, and my only complaint is that the Postmaster-General takes a very long time to reply to those requests. In this connexion I would suggest that a great deal might be accomplished by using the telegraph to communicate with distant centres. The Postmaster-General might also appoint a number of inspectors, whose duty it would be to travel about the continent and to report upon matters connected with the Department, so that the Deputy Postmasters-General might not remain under the impression that there is nobody supervising their work. I have looked closely into the Estimates of the year for this Department, butI cannot find any good grounds for attacking them. I have compared the Postal revenue upon the inauguration of Federation with the present revenue, and I have also contrasted the expenditure incurred when Federation was accomplished with the expenditure which is being incurred now.
– I must again ask honorable members to discontinue holding conversations in a loud tone during the speech of the right honorable member. A few moments ago, no less than ten or twelve such conversations were proceeding in the chamber. If honorable members must converse I ask them to do so less audibly.
– In 1902 the Postal revenue totalled £2,373,000, whereas the receipts for the current financial year are estimated at £3,483,000, an increase of £1,110,000. This is a very gratifying increase when we recollect that since the establishment of the Commonwealth the telegraphicrates have been lowered. It has been stated that those rates are now the cheapest in the world. At present one can send a telegram from Melbourne to Port Darwin, or to Derby, in Western Australia, for one shilling. That, it must be admitted, is an extremely low rate. This increase in the revenue, I repeat, has been obtained despite the low telegraphic rates charged. I believe that similar satisfactory results would probably follow the introduction of penny postage. The expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department for 190 1-2 was £2,467,000, including £37,149 for new works and buildings, and the expenditure during the current year is estimated at £3,599,000, which includes a sum of £552,959 for new works and buildings. In other words, the Departmental expenditure has increased during the past eight years by £1,132,000, showing that not a single penny of its revenue has been spent upon purposes other than its own. Whilst the revenue has increased by £1,110,000 the expenditure has increased by £1,132,000 - an increase of 46 per cent. That seems to me to be an immense advance in the expenditure of the Department.
– What about the receipts ?
– I have already stated that the receipts have increased during the past eight years by £1,100,000, an increase also of 46 per cent. It has been said that the Department is not spending a sufficient sum of money to enable it to provide new services. But as I have already pointed out, it is annually expending £1,132,000 more’ than it did in 1901-2 - an increase of 46 per cent. The estimated revenue for the current financial year is £3)483,000, and the estimated expenditure is ,£3,047,000, the Department thus showing a profit of £436,000. But during that period it is proposed to also expend £552,959 upon new works and buildings, or three times as much as was expended under that heading three years ago. It seems to me that an expenditure of £500,000 upon new works and buildings in connexion with this Department is a very large item. I have taken the trouble to ascertain the amounts expended under this heading for some years past, and the figures are as follow : - i9P5”6» £i46,575; i9°6-7j, £205.737 i 1907-8, £426,289. During the current year, as I have already pointed out, it is proposed to spend £552,959. In the light of these figures, it does not appear to me that the Department has exhibited any backwardness in spending money, as during last year, and this, nearly a million, will have been expended on new works and buildings.
– But what about the services which are required ?
– There is no doubt that the more people get, the more they want. I know that my constituents want a great deal. They are getting a good deal now, but not so much as they want, or as much as is required. So long as the system of paying for newworks and buildings out of revenue is continued it is not reasonable to expect that all necessary works can be at once provided.
– Does the right honorable member approve of that system?
– I have my own idea upon that , subject, and . I shall mention it. We must do as much as we can out of revenue, birt these works and buildings might be provided for in another way. There is no doubt that we have very great financial obligations ahead - obligations which the Government will have to face, and which they must meet as best they can. For instance, there is an expenditure of £1,500,000 required for the construction of vessels in connexion with our naval defence, in addition to an outlay of £351,000 per annum for their upkeep and maintenance. Then an immense sum will have to be provided to defray the cost of the National Guard, which it is proposed to establish. I hope that the scheme of the Government in that regard will not be agreed to in its present form. Then we have obligations to meet in connexion with the transfer of the Northern Territory and the construction of transcontinental railways, east and west, and north and south. J do not think that the expenditure required for all these undertakings can be provided out of revenue if we are to return to the States anything like the amount which they have been annually receiving. I am not called upon to find a way, but I have no doubt that the plan adopted elsewhere of raising sums for special purposes on short-dated exchequer or Treasury bills, and paying them off gradually by means of sinking funds, has occurred to the Government. By that means, if you want to do the work at once, you can get sufficient money to do it, .and spread the repayment from revenue over a small number of years. It is not an uncommon plan, and is followed in every country where a large expenditure is necessary.. That, however, is by the way. I have always, both in public and private, been of a hopeful nature, and I suppose that is why, I have no fear, personally, as to the financial stability of this country, with its unlimited powers of taxation. When difficulties arise, one must be prepared for them, and I have no doubt that my honorable friend, the Treasurer, will be prepared when he makes his next Budget statement, so that he may have sufficient money to provide for the necessary services. This is done every year at Home. When more money is wanted, another penny or twopence is put on to the income tax, or some other easy means of raising revenue is adopted. That has to be done when Treasurers get short of money, owing to some extraordinary expenditure. I do not intend to say anything more about tlie Post and Telegraph Department, and perhaps “not much more about the finances, but, although I am not in accord with the wording of The motion moved by the right honorable memben: for East Sydney, it must not be supposed that I have not, like other honorable members, plenty of grievances. I do not carry them about, or air them every day, but I have grievances against the present Government - very serious ones, too - for actions on their part which I thoroughly disapprove of, and I shall refer to one or two or them. The retort might bel made, “ If you have a serious grievance against the Government, why do you not take some action to show it, by moving that you have no confidence in the Government, or by taking some other drastic course?” But I do not move too quickly, nor do I like to be associated with failure. I have been accustomed when I strike a blow to strike it effectively. In the Scriptures we find the question : who goeth to war without counting the cost thereof? As a Scotsman, I believe in counting the cost before I go to war. If I am certain to be defeated, I want something to compensate me for the defeat, such as the knowledge that my motion will do a great deal of good in some other way. I should not mind moving in regard to my grievances at once,, if I thought I could get a majority of thisHouse to support me, but I do not think I should, and, therefore, under existing conditions, I am not going to move.
– There is no harm in trying.
– One thing’ I do not like any more than other honorable members do is being coerced. I think that is the opinion of a good many of the members who sit alongside me. However, I thank the right honorable member for East Sydney for his generous announcement that this motion is his own, that he does not want any one to vote for it against his will, that we are not in any way bound, as he did not consult us, and’ thai therefore we should be actuated only by what we think is right and best for the country. My grievances are all the outcome of the position of the Government in> this House. That is the only thing I have against the Government j otherwise, I am just as friendly with them politically as ever I was.
– Leave the Labour Party alone for once.
– I cannot, but I shall say nothing that the honorable member can resent. My grievances are all the outcome of the position of the Government in being subservient to the Ministerial corner party. The principal grievance is the Government’s breach of faith with the States in regard to the Braddon clause. They were practically directed to commit that breach of faith, and had to do it. They had to consider which was their chief duty to. the country- to comply withthe request of the Labour Party, or to relinquish the affairs of office. I have nodoubt they came .to the conclusion that it was better for the country that they should hold on to office.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney said nothing so severe as that.
– My next grievance against the Government is their breach of faith with’ the States in regard to the financial arrangements, under .the Constitution. tTo show that the Prime Minister never had any idea that he could pass the Surplus Revenue Bill constitutionally, or that any unspent balance of the Commonwealth’s one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue was not as a matter of course returnable to the States, I shall quote what he said on 4th September, 1906, as recorded on page 3865 of Hansard, when he introduced a Bill to bring into force earlier than the end of 19 10 a portion of the financial arrangements approved by the Government, and submitted to the House in my Budget speech. That Bill made provision for a referendum, in order that power might be given to the Commonwealth Parliament to raise money for special purposes. I think its purpose was specially stated to be the payment of old-age pensions. The money was to be ear-marked for that purpose, and three-quarters of it was not to be returnable to the States. The Bill was lost in the Senate, after having easily passed this House. Although I was a member of the Government at the time, I may say now that I was never in favour of introducing it, because I .thought it interfered with the Constitution, and was a breach of faith. Still, if the Parliament and the people of Australia had agreed to it, there would no longer have been any cause of complaint on that ground.
– Is that a disclosure of a Cabinet secret?
– Not at all. If it were a secret I should not disclose it. On the day I have named, the Prime Minister was asked what the attitude of the Government would be towards old-age pensions if the electors refused to agree to the proposal in the Bill. He replied -
If the electors refuse to give us that power at the next elections, it will not be possible to propose in the next Parliament-
That meant in this Parliament, for the honorable member was speaking just before the last elections - a scheme for the payment of old-age pensions without having resort to taxation of a direct character.
If the Prime Minister had thought that he could lay his hands upon the unspent portion of the one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue which the Commonwealth had the power to- spend, would he have in troduced that Bill, seeing that in that very year we returned to the States no less than £806,000 out of our one-fourth? Why could he not have asked the House to pass a Surplus Revenue Bill then, instead of proposing a referendum? A few months afterwards, by the 30th June, 1907, we had paid to the States £806,000 out of our one-fourth for that financial year. If the honorable member had thought that he could do what he afterwards did under great pressure - and which I very much regret he ever did - would he have agreed to what then happened? On the face of it, after being Attorney-General and Prime Minister for years, he did not know that he had the power to retain the surplus revenue. It was an afterthought with the Government, on their, looking more closely into the technicalities of the financial provisions of the Constitution. The Prime Minister and the present Treasurer knew the Constitution, and what took place at the Convention, and what they did afterwards never entered into their minds then. I assure honorable members that the thought never crossed my mind that it was possible to do what was afterwards done, and what the High Court has now held to be within the exact reading of the law of the Constitution. I do not care whether it is within the strict letter of the law or not. It is contrary to the plain words used by the leader of the Convention, and by many other members, as recorded in the proceedings.
– The High Court has decided that the Act is within the spirit, as well as in conformity with the letter of the Constitution.
– I do not care about that. The Act is a breach of faith, after” what was plainly stated at the Convention. I think that the Prime Minister may give credit to the honorable member for Flinders for putting into his mind the idea embodied in the Act. If any kudos is to be derived from the measure I ‘willingly give it to my honorable friend ; certainly I do not wish to be associated in the slightest degree with what I consider a grave breach of good faith. The next grievance that I have against the Government relates to the financial arrangements .between the Commonwealth and the States. I consider that this matter has been dilly-dallied about long enough. It .ought to be settled. At one time the Government seemed to be approaching a conclusion.
While I was Treasurer, and shortly after I had delivered the Budget speech and the financial proposals of the Government in. relation to the States to Parliament, on 31st July, 1906, there was a meeting of the Premiers of the States in Melbourne. I attended with the Prime Minister, and he asked the premiers to accept the scheme proposed by the Government. They did accept a great deal of it at once. Then there was an adjournment to Brisbane. The adjourned meeting took place several months afterwards - in May, 1907, I think. The Prime Minister was then in England. I went to Brisbane as his locum tenens, and submitted exactly the same definite proposals on behalf of the Government, and tried to secure the approval of the Conference for them. The Attorney-General and the Vice-President of the Executive Council were at Brisbane at the same time, and they can vouch for my statement, that we did our utmost’ to secure a settlement. We succeeded in arriving at an agreement on many points. The Conference was not unanimous, but there was a majority which agreed to the financial proposals of the Government in relation to the States, word for word. In regard to our proposition relative to the taking over of the State debts, the Conference agreed to postpone its consideration, and the matter was postponed accordingly. As to the really important matter, however, namely, the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States, there was a distinct agreement in accordance with the views of the Government. The Commonwealth can, under the Constitution, take over£202,000,000 without any authority from the States. But, nevertheless, the Government were desirous that the States should be in accord, and that we should obtain their consent. The Prime Minister knows very well thatI went to the Brisbane Conference with full power from him to get our proposals ratified. I have never yet heard of any reason why, within a week after I resigned the Treasurership, the Prime Minister should have repudiated what was agreed to at Brisbane, should have sacrificed me, who acted as his representative, and should have thrown to the winds the proposals of his own Government, and which he himself had advocated at the Melbourne Conference. As far as I know there was no reason why he should have done so. A year had passed after the schemewas laid before Parliament before
I left office, and not a word was said by the Prime Minister while I was in office, either in writing or verbally, as to any change of front on the part of the Government. But I had not been a week out of office when the whole scheme was repudiated.
– The present Treasurer said that it was no good.
– I believe the action was taken because of the opposition of the Labour Party. Of course the Labour Party have a right to their opinion ; and the only reason that I can think of as to why the proposals then made by the Government and approved at Brisbane were not adhered to, was that they did not meet with the support of the Labour Party. I believe that they would have had the support of this House if they had been definitely submitted to honorable members, but they would not have received the support of honorable members in the Ministerial corner-
– To the best of my belief, I never consulted any member of the Labour Party on the subject.
– The Prime Minister, in my opinion, must have known the views of the Labour Party. If he did not, why did he throw over the scheme? I would ask the honorable gentleman whether he thinks that when a colleague, acting as his locum tenens, goes to an important Conference of Premiers of States, and does his bestto carry out his wishes, as I did in Brisbane, he should have allowed me to leave the Government, and should not have told me that he saw any reason whatever for changing the opinion he and the Government had held in regard to them atter. A week had not elapsed after I left the Ministry before the whole scheme was repudiated.
– Did the Prime Minister approve of the scheme submitted at Brisbane?
– It is the same old game !
– The scheme was submitted as the policy of the Government, and it was advocated by the Prime Minister himself at the Melbourne Conference several months before the Brisbane Conference.
– He is worse than that aboriginal that he spoke about last night.
– It is quite true that the question of taking over the States debts was postponed by the Premiers.
That was no reason for throwing over the whole of what had been agreed to.
– I thought the right honorable member was going to deal with the postponed matter, which, as he knows, was, with me, the first consideration.
– Then why did the Prime Minister not tell me so? I have no desire to weary honorable members; but this is an important public matter, and I desire to show what I said when I attended the Premiers’ Conference at Brisbane, at the wish and with the consent of the Prime Minister. I said to the assembled Premiers on my first attendance -
I hope that the result of your deliberations, assisted as far as they can be by myself and my colleague on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, will be satisfactory, and that there will be a settlement of this subject, which has engaged so much attention, and which has been discussed at four Conferences now - a fact which shows the great importance that is attached to a solution of the financial problems affecting - as they do very much - the Commonwealth and the States. It is gratifying to know that the proposals put forward by the Commonwealth Government met with such a large amount of support from the Melbourne Conference.
That was the Conference at which .the Prime Minister himself was present. At the end, having succeeded in carrying the whole of the Government proposals intact, I said -
First of all, I should desire to express my satisfaction at the decision you have arrived at with regard to the annual return of the Customs and Excise revenue to the States. It has now been arranged in a way” that meets with the ^approval of the Commonwealth Government.
– But the right honorable member had not carried the most important part of his proposals - the States debts part.
– The two questions are separate, as the honorable mem.ber will admit.
– They were not considered separate by the Government.
– I said distinctly to the Conference that the two questions would have to go together.
– Hear, hear !
– But the Pre.miers did not refuse to approve of the public debts proposals - they only postponed their consideration.
– Yes, sine die!
– On the 31st July, 1906, the Budget was introduced in this House ; and for a whole year not a word was said on the subject. There was the Melbourne Conference, then the Brisbane Conference, and afterwards, until my resignation on the 30th July, 1907, not a word was said to me as to any change of front on the part of the Government. It would not have mattered if this had been only a personal matter - I am not speaking for myself - but I feel that the States may think that they were fooled at the Melbourne and Brisbane Conferences, and by me. I told them on behalf of the Commonwealth Government that the matter had been arranged in a way that met with the full approval of the Government; and it was now quite open to the representatives of the States to say: “ You told us> that you had authority to settle the matter. When we agree to all you ask the agreement is thrown aside! “ The Prime Minister would have been quite right had he said to me : “ You have settled one part, but unless the other part is agreed to, I cannot have anything to do with the matter “ ; but, without saying anything to me, or to the States, he simply cast the agreement aside and repudiated it.
– Did the Prime Minister always take up the position that the two matters’ must go together?
– Always ; but that was no reason why he should discard what had been agreed to after so much difficulty, until there was a clear understanding that the States would not have anything to do with the proposals as to the transfer of the debts. I believe there was a majority of the Premiers in favour of the State Debts proposals of the Government, but fox some reason or other finality was not arrived at ; the question was postponed.
– How does all this affect the motion moved by the right honorable member for East Sydnev ?
– The Prime Minister yesterday made a very interesting speech to which I listened with close attention ; and in the course of it he referred to the state of parties in the” House. The honorable gentleman, I think, made out as good a case for himself as it was possible to do. He spoke of my retiring from the Government, and getting into a place where the conditions were worse, or, at any rate, no better, than those of the position I had left. He further described the right honorable member for East Sydney as attacking me with a club. I can only say. that, whatever may be- the result to me, or any one else, of my resignation from the Government, I am quite certain - and rio one, I think, will be able to deny this - that the resignation does not bring any discredit on me.
– I did not insinuate any discredit.
– I do not think that the Prime Minister did, and for that I thank him ; but I desire to justify myself, and, following his example; refer to the state of parties. From the beginning of the election campaign in November, 1906, up to the time of my resignation, there is no doubt there was political warfare going on between myself and honorable members who sit on the Ministerial cross benches.
– We never said a word to the right honorable member.
– No doubt we had a severe contest at the election, but that, I hope, does not make us any worse friends. I can only say that I burnt my boats, and intended to do so, because. I had made up my mind that I could not accept the pledge, and that the caucus was no place for me - that there could be no real assimilation of the party with which I was associated with the members of the Labour Party.
– It took the right honorable member a long time to arrive at that conclusion !
– That is not so. I purposely “ burnt my boats,” because I felt that there was no room for me in the Labour Party or the caucus; and I regret very much that the Prime Minister, who had the same opportunities as myself, and was attacked in the same way, did not follow my example. Such a course would have been much better for the Prime Minister; and I can say for myself that I would much rather be shoulder to shoulder with the honorable gentleman out of office than be in the regrettable position in which he, as he says, from force of circumstances, now finds himself, At any rate, the Prime Minister knows that, if he had followed my advice after the elections, although he might not now have been Prime Minister, though I believe he would have been, he and I would have been working together on the same side of the House. It may be asked why it is that honorable members sitting in the Opposition corner - I think I may say the majority of them- are not acting with the Government.
Mr.Deakin.-Hear, hear !
– There is only one reason, and that is the unhealthy alliance in which the Prime Minister is involved, and in which honorable members of the Opposition corner would be involved if they sat with the Government.
– What is the disease?
– The disease is that the Ministerial Party and the Labour Party have no political regard for one another. The two parties are only making use of one another. They are there to make use of each other. The Labour Party would vote against the Government to-morrow if it suited them.
– What use didthe right honorable gentleman make of the Labour Party when he was a member of the Government ?
– It must be remembered that I occupied a very different position from that occupied by the members of the present Government, because, when I was a member of the Government, we had’ an agreement with the Labour Party, which they were bound to observe.
– What agreement?
– The honorable member having been in Parliament at the time, must be aware that the agreement appeared in the press when we took office.
– The Labour Party passed a resolution.
– They agreed that they would supportthe “ Ballarat programme “ of the Government.
– I have not seenthat agreement.
– The honorable member will find that there was such an agreement signed by the leader of his party. The Labour Party were bound to support the Government in a certain programme while I was a member of the Government, from the time the honorable member for East Sydney went out of office up to the last general election. No such agreement now exists between the Labour Party and the Government, and I therefore say that the Government, whilst I was a member of it, did not occupy quite so humiliating a position as it does to-day. I repeat that the members of the Government and the Labour Party have no political regard for one another, and they frequently say very uncomplimentary things of each other. Although the Prime Minister is to-day basking in the sunshine of the favour of the Labour Party, he has said harder things of them than I ever said. I do not intend to quote many of his references to them, but I shall refer to one or two. He said that the Labour Party was “ a machine.” He said, also, that they had “ no loyalty, no conscience, and no judgment.”
– Did he say all that? Will the right honorable gentleman now tell us what he said himself?
– I have called the attention of two or three honorable members to the fact that their interruptions are almost unceasing. They are not taking any notice of what I have said, and I ask those honorable members who are now interjecting in a very loud tone to abate their interruptions.
– I wish to show that there is nothing that is politically real that could bind the honorable members of the Labour Party and the members of the Government together. There is really much more sympathy and political regard for members of the Ministerial side of the House amongst honorable members with whom I am associated.
– Hear, hear. Why does not the right honorable gentleman go over to the other side, and support the Government like a man ?
– I have said that it is because I do not believe in the Government being’ under the domination of the Labour Party. There is one thing which has been puzzling me for a very long time, and that is why the Prime Minister continues the present unhealthy state of affairs. I should have thought that with all his qualifications and his highmindedness, the honorable gentleman would have preferred to go to the other end of the world and hide himself away rather than submit to the badgering, torturing, and insult to which he is subjected almost daily from some members of the party that is supposed to support him.
– Which party ?
– The Labour Party. A whisper from our corner is sufficient to raise the ire of the Treasurer. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie may say the hardest and harshest things he pleases, and the Treasurer will not protest, because he , knows that he is holding office at the will of the party to which the honorable member belongs, and must not offend him; whilst .he thinks that the more he offends honorable members with whom I am associated the better for himself.
– I feel crushed.
– The only reason I can give why the Prime Minister continues the present unhealthy and humiliating state of affairs is that he is under the impression that he has been sent by heaven to carry on the Government of Australia ; that he has a duty to perform which he must perform under all conditions, whether agreeable to him or not ; that he must fulfil his destiny, and must sacrifice himself on the altar of duty. I do not think that the people of Australia desire that the honorable gentleman should sacrifice himself in this way. We desire to see him presiding over those who esteem him, and- are desirous of assisting him heart and soul, and not helped by a party only anxious to make use of him. I do not take the same view of all the members of the Government. We judge men by their actions.
– The right honorable gentleman does not think that they are all heaven-sent ?
– I do not think that some of them wish to sacrifice themselves in the least degree. Surely the Prime Minister has’ had enough of this subserviency? The honorable gentleman must have had a really, good dose of it by this time. It is all very well for the honorable member for Wide Bay to be friendly and courteous to the Prime Minister, but, at the same time, the honorable member holds the sword over the Ministerial head all the time. He and his caucus can destroy the Prime Minister at any time they please, unless we come to the rescue.
– Will the right honorable gentleman and his friends come to the rescue?
– We shall certainly not permit the Labour Party to doas they like.
– Where are the right honorable gentleman’s numbers? How many are there in his party?
– We have a good many. After the very long experience he has had, I should have thought that the Prime Minister would not be willing to continue to be leader of a Government only in name. It would not suit me. If I were at the head of a party I should want to- be . de facto leader. «
– Would the right honorable member accept the. Prime Ministership if the Labour Party would’ support- him?
– No, I do not want any alliance with the Labour Party. Having regard to his high office, his great ability, and his qualifications, which I admire, I regret that the Prime Minister has been for months, and is now, practically a follower and not the leader of the Government. I am puzzled to understand how he can endure such a position, and can only say, as I have told him on many occasions, that if the present state of affairs is to continue for an indefinite period the public will either become accustomed to it and forget the position that he and his direct supporters occupy, or they must be discredited. There can be no doubt that their position at the present time is as humiliating, and as unsatisfactory as it could possibly be. It is clear from our experience in this House that so long as the two parties of fifteen and twentyseven members respectively continue in alliance, they will hold the balance of power - that is, until a general election takes place. We can only hope that the people will then endeavour to put an end to a state of affairs that is eminently unsatisfactory. I do not know that this would have been the proper occasion to submit such a motion, but had theright honorable member for East Sydney submitted one to the effect that the position of the Ministry was opposed to the system of responsible government, I am sure that he would have secured for it more support than he is likely to obtain for that now before us.
– But surely that question is involved in the Budget?
– I do not like the limited terms of the motion.
– Even had I done so the right honorable member would have found a way round.
– I do not think it would have been possible to do so. I have no faith in the condition of affairs existing in this House, and the Prime Minister himself suggested yesterday that he had very little faith in it either. He appeared, at all events, to regret it deeply. Whilst power and responsibility are divided we cannot expect good government, or hope for the satisfactory transaction of parliamentary business. I certainly think that a party of which the Prime Minister has deliberately said, “ It has no loyalty, no conscience, and no judgment,,” is not the party that should be directing the Government from the cross benches. If it is to have the power and authority which it at present wields, that power and authority should be exercised from the Treasury benches, with full Ministerial authority. I move, as an amendment to the motion submitted by the right honorable member for East Sydney -
That all the words after “Government” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “be considered in Committee on the Budget.”
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the amendment is in order, or would have any effect since the passing of it would merely be a direction to the Committee of Supply to do that which it has already been constituted to do?
– The motion is “ That the financial proposals of the Government are unsatisfactory to this House,” and the omission of the words proposed to be left out would avoid the declaration that the Government’s financial proposals are unsatisfactory to the House. In the second’ place, if the words proposed to be inserted, by way of amendment were so inserted, the House would be free to proceed at: once to the consideration of Government business, Order of the Day, No.1. The amendment is certainly in order, and the effect of its adoption would be that we should proceed to the discussion of the Budget in Committee of Supply.
.- No good purpose will be served by the amendment submitted by the right honorable member for Swan. I can understand the position taken by the leader of the Opposition in submitting a motion giving expression to the dissatisfaction which the House has frequently expressed with the financial administration of the Government, because it not only concentrates public attention on the finances, but expresses definite disapproval of them. But I can scarcely see that the public are helped, or likely to be edified, by an amendment that amounts, practically, to nothing. The procedure of the House, even if the amendment be not agreed to, will be precisely that which the right honorable member affirms by his amendment. His proposition shirks the responsibility that lies on any Opposition, as a matter of common decency, to act strongly, when it has for a long time criticised severely. An Opposition would occupy a rather pitiable position if it consented to be mere critics, and never to endeavour to rise to an expression of strong condemnation of a position which meets with the disapproval, not only of its own members, but, I would say, of a fairly large majority of the House. I cannot, for one moment, believe that the leader of the Opposition has tabled this as an ordinary noconfidence motion. Judging by the terms of the motion and the speech delivered by the right honorable member, I think that his desire in .submitting it was to stimulate public attention to the administration of the finances. The financial position is a complex and abstruse subject. Unlike some speeches from the Government benches, it does not appeal to the imagination, and one has to attract public attention to one of the most important matters that concern the Government of the Commonwealth. I do not know that Governments go out of office on questions of “‘Supply. I believe that in the House of Commons in the last twenty-six years, there has been only one case where, following disapproval of the Budget proposals of the Government, the Ministry resigned. Honorable members may remember that their action in doing so was questioned as being opposed to constitutional precedent.
– But only one item was disapproved of.
– The whole question was raised. The House had disapproved in terms of the financial policy of the Government, and the opinion given by members was that the Ministry should not have resigned. The position of a Ministry in relation to finance differs from its position in regard to ordinary matters of legislation. Finance is exclusively the province of the House, a fact suggested by the usual procedure as to going into Committee of Supply, when every member, having direct responsibility, is entitled to air his grievances by speaking. I remember a case in South Australia in which the Estimates were cut down by three honorable members to the extent of £117,000. Strong disapproval of the Ministry was expressed by these adverse votes, but,- although the Budget had to be- absolutely recast, Ministers did not resign. This being so, I think. I am entitled to say that the object which will be served by the ‘ discussion of this motion is to concentrate public attention upon finance. It does not indicate, as is generally indicated by a no-confidence motion, a desire to secure the ‘resignation of the Government.
– The honorable member does not think that it carries that with it?
– I do not.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Government must resign if the motion is carried?
– That does not necessarily follow. As I have pointed out, about twenty-five years ago the resignation of a Government was questioned as being not according to constitutional practice.
– On that occasion there was merely a reduction of a vote in Committee, not a resolution of no confidence.
– The reduction of one item covered a challenge of the whole financial policy of the Government. I do not think there ever was a time when the functions of the Opposition in criticising and checking should be discharged with greater care than at present. As we are nearing the end of the first decade of Federation, we must reconsider our position.
– There never was a time in which criticism was more urgently needed.
– There is a manifest tendency to extend by implication the province of the Parliament, and to encroach by .’legislation upon the domain of the States. This is a time of very great importance, when problems and possibilities not altogether within our power to compass, and of a most complex nature, .are continually cropping up. But although it may not be pleasant to remain year after vear in the cold shades of Opposition, it is the duty of the members of the party to set out and thus advance the opinions of the minority, and to check theabera tions of those in power. To some extent the Opposition has been effectively doing this. There were two crises in connexion with one Act, two Governments resigning on what were considered fundamental provisions of the Arbitration Bill. The Opposition was described as conservative for objecting to a provision in respect of which the Act was declared beyond our powers, and to the futility of the Bill itself as a solvent of most disputes for which’ it has since proved ineffective, because advantage has not been taken of it. The Opposition was regarded as obstructive in connexion with the trade union label provision of another Bill, but its criticism of the measure has been justified by the judgment of the High Court. Mr. Batchelor. - No.
– The High Court has supported the criticism that we .had not power to pass that measure.
– That was only part of the criticism.
– I am not now speaking of the criticism on matters of policy.
– The policy of the Bill was opposed.
– Some of those who criticised the constitutionality of the measure admitted that they would like to see the union label recognised.
– Did the High Court justify the refusal of .the House to allow the recommittal of a clause for further consideration? It was on that point that one Government went out.
– The Government did not go out on the union label question. The stand taken by the Opposition in connexion with these measures has been justified by the declaration of the law by the High Court. The same remark applies to the new protection policy,, which gave rise to a good deal of acrimonious discussion.
– The same objection was taken to the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– The Opposition has endeavoured in all cases to criticise financial proposals fairly. The opinion that the Surplus Revenue Bill is constitutional was expressed by members of both branches of the Opposition. The honorable member for Flinders said that it was constitutional, and I added what weight my legal opinion, mav have in favour of its constitutionality, which has been this day declared. I could go further back to show that the criticism of the Opposition has been dictated by a sense of public duty, and not by party desires. The Treasurer, in his speech, suggested a method of getting over the transferred properties difficulty which was formulated in 1901 ; that is, to ascertain the liability of the Commonwealth to the States, and, having discovered that the minimum liability is so much, to have a pooling up to that amount, accounting for differences afterwards. The Treasurer has amplified his statement of the’ Ministerial policy in the Budget speech. It was the policy of 1901-2 to account for differences, and to pool up to the lowest amount of the indebtedness of the Commonwealth in respect to transferred properties. Some of the members of the Opposition sup ported the Government in that matter, when by not doing so they might have embarrassed it. I strongly; supported the conditions proposed by the Government. The criticism of finance by the Opposition has been dictated by, not party necessities, but the desire to further proper financial administration, so far as that may be possible. The Government had then an opportunity, of which it did not avail itself, to pay off about two-thirds of the Commonwealth liability in respect to the transferred properties. The Budget papers show that for the seven years and a half ended on the 30th June fast, the surplus paid to the States over and above the three-fourths was ,£6,058,962. That amount might have been applied pro tank in the liquidation of what the Commonwealth owes in respect to transferred properties. No wrong would have been done to the States by so applying it. That it should have been done was indicated by the criticism by the Opposition of the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act. The Government had the right to initiate legislation on the subject, but did not do so. What was proposed could have been done constitutionally, because we have absolute power of expenditure over our surplus .revenue. Would it have been unfair to the States to do it? In the majority of cases they did not require the surplus revalue, and the small States would not have been affected. For instance, at the end of the present financial year, Queensland, instead of having had a surplus balance over the whole period handed back to it in excess of the three-fourths, would have received £56,511 less than the three-fourths. She was one of the States most in nee3 of a large revenue, but the principle would not have affected her. Then, although Tasmania had a surplus of ,£105,000 in excess of the three-fourths, that was insignificant, compared with the effect of the protectionist Tariff upon her finances. The Tariff of 1 90 1-2 had, at the end of the first year, completely dislocated her finances, leaving the State with a deficiency of ,£163,000 compared with its receipts from Customs and Excise in 1900. South Australia by the end of the period would have received a. “ surplus of ,£594,000, but had that surplus been applied in partial liquidation of the Commonwealth liability in respect to the transferred properties, which should have been done had our financing been enlightened, she would not have suffered, because during the greater part of that period her finances had been particularly sound, the surplus being due greatly to adventitious revenue - receipts from Customs and Excise far in excess of those of 1900. For instance, in 1902-3, the sugar revenue of South Australia was about £96,000, whereas in 1900 it was only £54,000. Therefore, had the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth been devoted to liquidating its liabilities, the smaller States would not have been affected. Queensland would not have been injured, because she had no surplus, and Tasmania would have been but lightly hit, having regard to the comparative effect of the Tariff, while South Australia, having a large surplus produced by exceptional returns, owing to the peculiar conditions of the Tariff, and the sugar adjustments, would have no reason to complain. Western Australia was the most clamorous of the States for special financial provision before the Constitution was accepted by the people, but it has received a total surplus, in addition to the three-fourths, of £1,134,000. Even leaving out of account the special Tariff, it had a surplus of about £700,000. The finances presented to us last week show that the special treatment accorded to Western Australia was not required to keep its position as sound as it was before Federation.
– Who could have foreseen that?
– Some of the members of the Convention thought that the anxiety ot the representatives of Western Australia was scarcely justified. At the same time they did not quite foresee it, the revenue being based on a most extraordinary return from the Customs. At the present time it is about ,£5 per head, while before Federation it was about £6 8s. 6d. The fear was that there might be a slump in the returns, and that the revenue would suffer. But if, as enlightened financiers, with the educational effect of departmental knowledge, we had applied this sound principle of finance, we should now, without having substantially injured any of the States, have reduced our liability respecting the transferred properties by about two-thirds. We heard from the Prime Minister last night an admirable speech for his purpose, which it served by setting aside the issues raised by the motion. It was full of the most helpful badinage, its eloquence was never over-strained’, its ornamental dis tractions were well introduced, and, in the case of his followers at least, it succeeded like the speech of Belial in “ making the worse appear the better reason.” In it there was an implied denunciation of the policy of borrowing. The honorable and learned gentleman, however, was a member of the Ministry which in 190X-2, endeavoured to force through the House a Bill - some supporters made no less than two speeches in its favour - which would have initiated for the Commonwealth that vicious policy. Where was the point of his criticism of the leader of the Opposition, who only suggested that we might apply - and I do not follow him in this regard - the principle of short loans for public works?
– Reproductive works.
– It was not a declaration in favour of borrowing, as we understood it before, as against our present principle of not borrowing, to which I intend to adhere, so far as I can possibly do so, and I hope to be able to do so always. Where was the justification of the Prime Minister’s criticism in face of the fact that his Ministry absolutely recommended, in print, the very policy which he condemned when it came from the lips of the leader of the Opposition in the way I stated ?
– Three months ago.
– A sudden conversion.
– It is very easy for a man to cloud the judgment with an ornate sentence, and with a declaration of principle that the facts do not support, because very often he trades on lack of knowledge and assumes things. Turning to paragraph 89 of the report of the recent Cabinet Committee dealing with finance, we find the very principle of borrowing recommended by the Ministry whose Prime Minister now condemns it when it is suggested, not advocated, by the leader of the Opposition. Let me now refer to a comparative criticism of the efficacy of two Tariffs by the Prime Minister. He endeavoured to denounce the attitude of the Opposition in 1901-2, as critics of a very severe Tariff - one which, through their effective criticism, was made moderate from the protectionist point of view, and, I believe, acceptable to the majority of non-political protectionists throughout Australia. He endeavoured to put in a very invidious light the implied policy of the Opposition, as apparent in their criticism of the Tariff, by saying that, were they in power, they would have substituted the revenue Tariff of New South Wales to meet the conditions of a practically free-trade State like Western Australia, whose duties ran to a maximum of 10 per cent., and averaged, I believe, less ; the conditions of Tasmania, which based its returns on a very wide range of ‘articles, about 91 per cent, of the total importation ; and the conditions of moderate protection in South Australia. Any Treasurer who went into office with those complex conditions of varying Tariffs and differing necessities, and applied right off the Tariff of New South Wales, would have been a political lunatic. But let us see what was the effect of this splendid financial provision that the Tariff made for the Ministry. Referring again to a loan policy, do honorable members think that that Ministry, of which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were members, is to be commended for financial administration that wished, not only to recur to the vicious principle of borrowing, but also to borrow under the conditions which the figures disclose as regards the finances of the States? Putting all the States together, in 1902-3 the Government proposed to raise a loan of ,£571,000 for carrying out part of the public works, ( I think that about ,£196,000 more was “really required for public works, but the proposal of Sir George Turner, of which he appeared to be half ashamed - and his real feelings; I believe, were against the Bill which the Ministry had forced upon him - was to borrow ,£571,000. What was the position of the States at the time? When those proposals were made, there was a net surplus, for all the States, of £778,000, and the Government proposed to borrow £571,000. When, two years after Federation, the States had a surplus of nearly £800,000 as compared with 1900, it was not a case of borrowing unless one had the inspiration of vicious precedent so much on the brain that he must, by reflex political action, always act wrongly. But let us take the position of the individual States. New South Wales wanted £223,500 for works in the Post and Telegraph Department. The expenditure was to be extended over two or three years, as was the case with most of the States. The Government, so remarkable for its financial ability, asked that New South Wales should be debited at the Federal Treasury with loan money to that amount, although it was to get -back that year, according to the Estimates of the moment, which were more than realized in the event, £1,260,000 in excess of the figures for 1900. Victoria, whose conditions seem to have dictated the policy of the Bill,’ was suffering under the Tariff, which the Prime Minister began to extol. I suppose its constitution was somewhat impaired by a similar dose of protection previously. Medical science tells us that when a person has taken too much of a particular liquor he is not so easily affected by the application of more. We find that Victoria - one of the units of the Federation, whose necessities seem to have suggested the policy of the whole, reminding one of the extravagant methods of the Chinaman immortalized by Lamb, .who burnt a house to roast a pig - with a proposed loan expenditure of ^£125,000 had, under the operation of this perfect Tariff, a deficiency of ,£399,000 as against the figures for 1900.
– That was the reason for proposing the loan.
– No doubt it was. It shows the unsoundness of the Government’s finance when they wanted to borrow £250,000 for New South Wales which had a surplus of practically ,£1,300,000, as against the figures of 1900. I could go through all the figures for the States and show how stupid the policy of borrowing was, and how irregular in its effects upon the States was the Tariff for which some of the present members of the Ministry were largely responsible. If we take a few tests of what good financing is, the Ministry ‘ would scarcely stand. They ought to be fairly accurate in their Estimates. It is of no use to say that we must always be under the mark in order to satisfy the States. Surely there is such a thing as accuracy in the Estimates of the Commonwealth. Surely, we are under an obligation to see that our Estimate of private Commonwealth revenue - revenue which we need not hand over to the States - is correct. Tha Treasurer is at least under the same obligation as a State Treasurer to see that his forecast is approximately correct. But the Treasurer or the Prime Minister says, “ No. We must err in our primary duty. We may be as wrong as we like as regards our private Commonwealth income, so long as by doing so we are sure to make a mistake, however great it may be, on the right side in favour of the States.” I never heard of such a principle, of finance before as that we must upset every Commonwealth calculation, everything which relates to our direct financial responsibilities, in order that we may not put out the Treasurer of a State, not in his hopes of good returns, but in the Estimates which he submits to his Parliament. Instead of the bigger and more important body which represents all Australia being placed on its true plane, and in the position, if any must be placed there, of first importance, it is subordinated to the necessities of one or two units of the Federation. A careful Treasurer, when he has a surplus, should not at once run up his expenditure in order to exceed it. Tested by that statement, we cannot support the administration of this Government. In 1906-7 the increases of revenue, according to the Estimates, were £913,000. I deal with the Estimates because the prevision of what is required is the test of finance. Every one ls wise after the event, -but tha test of the ability of any Treasurer is not only the economy of his policy, but the soundness of his Estimates. With an increased revenue of £913,000, the Treasurer, instead of being economical and keeping within that amount, immediately increased the expenditure by ^£980,000. If honorable members will look through the figures they will find that between 1905 and the present year the Customs revenue increased between £s, 000,000 and £3,000,000. . While the revenue depended upon, in the opinion of the then Treasurer, temporary items of increase, two-thirds of the increase in the expenditure was to be constant. If that is sound financing, 1 do not know where bad financing comes in. Let us deal with the Post and Telegraph Department. A good Minister should be economical, but he should not be parsimonious. That miserable policy which refuses to keep a Department up to the point of efficiency to secure the. success of a particular Budget, is not economy in a true sense, but a selfish form of securing, or maintaining, if lie has one, the reputation of a particular Minister. I do not wish to weary honorable members by going through the report of the Cabinet Committee. It has already been well analyzed by the leader of the Opposition, but if honorable members turn to page 3 they will find this paragraph -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, and other officers state that three-fourths of the trouble in his State is due to want of funds to provide staff - , which the Prime Minister told us yesterday was not necessary, because economies of machinery have reduced .the necessity for a staff - and facilities asked for, and the other fourth comprehends the grievances usually existing in any large body of employes.
As regards the staff, I could point to other paragraphs in the report; in fact I may do so later; but if honorable members will look at paragraph 49 they will get some light on the Cabinet’s dealing with this Department. It states in effect that, while there was an abnormal increase during the previous year - 1906-7 - in the business, the necessities of the . Department were ignored. Although there was this abnormal increase in business during the previous year, still the amount asked for by the Department to enable it to keep pace with the necessities of that volume of business was denied. If honorable members will look at one of the appendices of this report they will find that while in 1901-2 the proportion of increase in revenue was 1.3 per cent., the proportion of increase in expenditure was 4.9 per cent. But in 1906-7 the proportion of increase in revenue was 10.9 per cent., whereas the proportion of increase in expenditure was only 6.50 per cent. Thus there has been a larger proportion of increase in revenue than there has been of increase in expenditure. That in itself is an indication that the position of the Department is a fairly sound one. In paragraph 52 of the report of the Committee, reference is made to the fact that an application had been made for a grant of £304,435 for special works which were urgently required, and that it had been refused. Does the statement in paragraph 54 of the same report agree with the explanation of the Prime Minister, who declared that the staff has been diminished because the machinery employed has increased in efficiency, and is able to supplement the work which has hitherto been done by employes ? If the honorable gentleman’s assertion be correct, how comes it that the Cabinet Committee declared that the. PostmasterGeneral asked for an increase of 1,357 hands in 1907-8, and received only 544 hands? How comes it that the total number requisitioned for was reviewed by the Central Office, and reduced to the lowest possible working margin by 237, and that the Treasurer made a further reduction of 307 ? These facts evidence the effect of centralization. The estimate of the Department was reduced by a body ignorant of its needs, and the revised estimate was still further reduced by another body, which sought to gain kudos by reason of the meagreness of its votes, and which knew still less than the Central about the needs of the local office? Is this a class of financing which deserves the “ let off” which the right honorable member for Swan wishes to give the Ministry under the terms of his amendment? The report of the Cabinet Committee states that £547,000 was asked for to enable new works to be carried put during the current financial year. That amount, it declares, does not represent the total sum required by the Department for its efficiency. But when the Department applied for the lowest amount required to enable the office to become efficient, namely, £547,000, only ^337,000 was granted. The report states -
It was therefore impossible to commence many of the works required to meet the public demands or improve the existing services.
If there is one thing for which I do commend Ministers it is their candour. They admit that they were wrong. Yet, when this House is asked to express disapproval of a system of financing which the Government themselves, through some of their own members, have condemned, the right honorable member for Swan requests us to suspend judgment. His amendment merely means, “ At present we do not know whether the Ministry have done well or ill. Let us go into Committee and find out.” That is about the significance of his proposal. What has happened in the case of South Australia? I select that State because it is the one of which I know most. In 1907-8 the Postal Department in that State asked for ,£72,851, as representing its absolute necessities. The Department of Home Affairs apparently supported this demand. In passing, I may say that the Department of Home Affairs is largely responsible for the delay which occurs in pushing on with public works, and for the consequent failure to apply appropriations made by Parliament during a particular year to the necessities of that year. The circumlocution which characterizes the offices, one deputing to another, is so great that money appropriated by Parliament during a particular year is not expended within that year. Paper No. 201 of the Department of Home Affairs refers to the meagre grant of ,£441,000 for the necessities of all the States, only £35,000 of which, I may mention, was allocated to South Australia for the construction of works, which it considered should “be commenced as early aspossible after the beginning of the financial’ year. In other words, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of South Australia, and presumably the Postmaster-General, asked’ for ,£72,000 to meet the urgent departmental necessities of that State in connexion with works which had tobe commenced at once, whereupon theTreasurer cut down the grant to .£35,000. Now, what is the position- of the SouthAustralian Post and Telegraph Department? It more than pays. The financing, which goes on in connexion with that State is probably typical of the financing of tlieDepartment in other States. The receipts of the Post and Telegraph Department in South Australia during 1907-8 were- £337,982, and the expenditure .£262,858, thus leaving a surplus of .£75,124, or morethan ,£3,000 in excess of the amount asked for to enable all necessary works to be undertaken during that year. In other words,, if the whole of the demands of the Department in South Australia had been met, theoffice would still have had a surplus of” nearly ,£4,000. Where, then, was thejustification for cutting down the grant to> £35,000? There is another matter in connexion with this brilliant financing to whichattention has been directed. The AuditorGeneral’s report for 1904 states that on- 28th October, 1901, the Attorney-General’ of the day advised that expenditure which immediately increased revenue should becharged against the States “ as maintenance and continuance.” However, thethen Treasurer, the right honorable member for Swan, disapproved of that recommendation. Apparently there was a split in the Cabinet. These brilliant financiers could’ not agree among themselves, and the . present system was introduced by, I think. Sir George Turner. Under the system theexpenditure for new works is debited per capita to the States. How does it operate ?’ I ask honorable members to recollect thatthai: system is opposed to the opinion expressed by the Attorney-General of theMinistry which introduced it as to our constitutional rights. From the Budgetpapers I learn that the result of that system was that two States were required topay more money for new works than th*1 works constructed within their borders cost. Between 1904-5 and the present financial’ year, New South Wales has paid ,£177,473 more for works and buildings than is represented by the total cost of the works and buildings constructed in that State. In other words, she has been paying for expenditure, say, in Western Australia and some other States.
– Western Australia has been contributing to the financial prosperity of other States.
– I did not mention Western Australia for the purpose of making an invidious distinction. I said “ Western Australia and some of the other States.” In the same way, South Australia has had to pay £14,182 more for works and buildings than the total cost of the works constructed within that State j whereas Western Australia has contributed £126,413 less than the cost of the works undertaken there. I ask the House if that is sound financing? Is it wise to act in opposition to the opinion of the responsible legal adviser of the Government, the AttorneyGeneral? If it is, is it sound economy that results in such discrepancies of treatment, such inequalities of apportionment of liabilities for these works ? The Post and Telegraph Department, on the whole, as shown by the Budget figures, is in a fairly sound position. I do not say that the accounts are on a proper basis yet.. I think that the honorable member for Flinders referred to- that matter once or twice with a good deal of acumen and suggestiveness.
– The accounts cannot be on a proper basis until we know the value of the transferred properties.
– That does not touch my argument. If we waited until some Ministers knew the value of the transferred pro.perties, we. might wait until Doomsday, but the responsibility for not knowing their value rests with Ministers or Parliament. In 1901 and 1902 we passed a Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act, in which we provided for a method of assessment and payment, and no effort seems to have been made since, or, at all events, if made, persisted in, to get the States to accept that principle. The House did its duty then by sanctioning a method which the Ministry have not applied in concert with the States, and only the Ministry have the power of initiation.
– It will be applied within :a few months.
– It is time that it was.
– The honorable member does not know what a big job it is.
– I know it very well. I heard the same thing in 1901, when the Bill was under discussion. We were told the difficulties of valuation and of giving estimates, and so on, yet at the time there was, I think, a Committee sitting in Melbourne framing valuations, which are still unapplied nine years afterwards.
– To show how impossible it was to settle the matter quickly, there is a difference of over £1,000,000 in the valuations then and now.
– There must be something rotten in the State of Denmark if responsible Ministers cannot get valuations which are imperatively necessary made within ten years of the date on which they should have been settled. The Department, although it is financially fairly sound, might be placed upon a basis that no one could impugn or attack, were the administration a little better than it is. Last year, deducting from the expenditure ‘ the £426,000 odd debited to works, there would be an actual surplus of £379,000, and even debiting the cost of works, there was a deficiency of only £46,000. But in order, I suppose to popularize the Administration, or, perhaps, to conciliate some of the Ministerial supporters - and I dare say some of us - the rates have been reduced. I am not talking about the very wise policy of making the postal or telegraphic rates in some cases lower, for as a South Australian representative at the Convention in 1898, I said that South Australia would have to submit to a cutting down of rates, as it would never be tolerated under Federation that a State like that should by its exceptional rates for telegrams receive in one year, as it did in 1896 or 1897, the sum of £89,000 from that source, as against £91,000 collected in Victoria, with its much greater population. The thing was inequitable, and it seemed to me that we, as South Australians, through our geographical position, were to some extent imposing surcharges upon communications between the other States as well as with ourselves. But what the Ministry did - and this is what I was referring to - was for some reason or other to allow the Department to cut down its charges for telephones. I believe the original charge was’ £10 for one wire; under the present rate it is £5 for two wires. This, compared with the American and German charges, and the charges under some other systems which are very efficient, is ridiculously low.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ two wires “ ?
– ‘ There are two wires conected with the telephone, instead of one. I am speaking from inquiries made in the Department.
– The two wires complete the metallic circuit.
– However, my point is that there is a greater expense now to the Department in connexion with the telephone service than there was previously. Where the service has been increased in efficiency through an increased expenditure, and where it costs more to work it, the Government have actually reduced the charge to half what it was before. The result is that we are losing now about 30s. on every telephone throughout the Commonwealth, and there are about 60,000 or 70,000 of them.
– We are losing, undoubtedly ; but I do not think so much as that.
– I am speaking only of what has been told to me by experts. Of course, I know that the experts do not agree with Ministers. They would not be experts if they did. For instance, the Postmaster- General told me recently, in answer to a question, that the delay in undergrounding the wires in the city of Adelaide was not likely to interfere with the electrical connexions for the tramways. His experts say the contrary.
– My experts gave me that information.
– Then the experts must, like some politicians, speak with double voice, and one ofl their voices told me the contrary to what the Minister said. I asked again afterwards, and was told that it was so - that unless these works, for which the necessary moneys had not been supplied, are carried out with expedition within the next month or two, the efficiency of the. system in Adelaide will be considerably hampered. The electrification of the trams must go on, and involve a considerable interference with the work of the Depart-‘ ment, or they must stop. It is not sound financing to be generous before you are just. It is not good policy to reduce charges to an extent involving a probable loss of £70,000 in order to benefit, not the struggling pioneers, not the men that have built up the prosperity which is expressed in an export of £70.000,000 or £80,000,000 worth ot our primary products, but to benefit men that some call parasitical - I do not - the city dwellers, men that are fairly well off, with all the accommodations of modern life, the benefits of intercourse, and enjoyment of theatres-
– The reductions are’ all round.
– The struggling men in the country are asked to sign guarantees for every connexion, and, in many cases, they absolutely supply the greater part of the capital. They even supply the poles to carry the wires. In the district that I represent, in accordance with undertakings given by Ministers, poles have, for six months, been waiting delivery for little connexions. These are in the country, where life is hard, where intercourse is scanty and infrequent, and where men face conditions inseparable from the development of a young country. But in the city, for your commercial men,, whose balance-sheets show that they are above all possibility of want, and! whose houses reflect the ease with which they live, the cost of telephone communication has been reduced from ,£10 to £5, with a greater service. It is that which the leader of the Opposition wants this House and the country to. realize through .a direct vote, summing up in express terms the feelings of the House. It would be a poor Opposition that could sit down here year after year, and session after session*, and snivel and criticise, point out’ and suggest, but never express their feelings by a vote. I do not want iolabour this matter, nor to go into thosequestions of higher finance with which weshall have to deal when the relations of theStates and the Commonwealth come before us for consideration in connexion with some particular Bill.
– The honorable member is ona good wicket over the telephone business.
– I hope I shall not bebowled out. As a rule I should not be, because it is sometimes a lawyer’s duty todefend the “wicked.” How are we getting into this mess? Apart from the matterswhich I have mentioned, I acknowledgesome individual responsibility. I am infavour of old-age pensions, but I certainly ought not to have been in favour of granting funds required for that and otherpurposes without knowing how the waysand means were to be found. I regret, for the sake of the dignity of Parliament, and that reputation for deliberateness which ought to attach to our conduct- as members, that, however beneficent and salutary that measure may have been, it did not receive, in the light of our finances, more ample consideration. It was scarcely discussed upon the second reading, and it passed through Committee with a few casual observations on the part of one or two honorable members. Why is it that we are in this position now, (because funds were required for that as well as for other purposes? Why is it that the Cabinet offer to the States the meagre sum of £6,000,000, after paying them an average of nearly one and three-quarter million more for the last six or seven years ? It will be found that the difference between the average returned to the States annually in that period - £7,650,000 - and the £6,000,000 offered, is £1,650,000, or about the then estimate of the cost of old-age pensions. I acknowledge, as much as does any member of the Labour Party, the rights of the poor. The conditions of modern life are not what they were before. We are awakening to a quicker sense of the injustice of the conditions that produce these inequalities of merit and rewards. But if we wish to meet them, let us meet them as those who are entitled to the pensions would wish us to do - by an annual provision, a direct recognition of the responsibilities of the wealthier classes and of the people at large, and not by the miserable financing of setting aside in a pocket a few surpluses of this year and that year, in order to have, through the savings of three or four years, which deny accommodation to the interests of some great public Department, something towards the necessities of one.
– How would the honorable member do it?
– I have not tried for office, and am not in office now. It is the province of Ministers to initiate a clear policy. It is the province of the Opposition to criticise and check. He would be the veriest tyro of a politician who, on challenging a Ministry, would rush in and reveal his policy instead of criticising the delinquencies of the Ministry - the purpose that inspired his motion.
– Is it not better to get the money in that way than not to get it at all?
– I do not wish that the custom of reticence should always be fol lowed. It is said, by one of the greatest dramatists who ever spoke, that -
What custom wills, in all things we should: do ‘t;
The dust on antique time would lie unswept, And mountainous error be too highly heap’( For truth to overpeer.
But at the same time, as politicians rather than as apostles of new movements, or as exponents of theories of government on the platform, we must follow the usualline, which is that the Opposition attacks and criticises the policy of the Ministry; and what the Opposition would themselvesdo can only be gathered from the leanings of the men who constitute the following out of which a new Ministry would be formed. You -do not know who would be the new Ministers. How could the leader of an Opposition put a policy together before knowing who his colleagueswere to be? Policy is a matter of compromise, and before you can define the limits of compromise you must know the men who are to be associated with you.
– Our party knows its policy all the time.
– Because that policy is> stereotyped and cannot be changed. My point is this - that it is bad financing to put aside into a stocking, like an old woman in a cabin, the savings of three or four years, in order to have something towards the necessities of one. That is a curious way of financing a permanent liability, which we assume the obligation to pay old-age pensions will be. Of course,, it may be that when the obligation has to be met the “ Braddon blot “ section will have expired, and that we can take the money from the States. How the States will receive such a proposition, however, remains to be seen.
– Was there any other wayof doing what was desired except the way that we adopted?
– Really, I am not Treasurer.
– That is not fair.
– At the same time, the Ministry have never given the slightest hope or light as to what their policy will be when the Act is actually enforced, and the principle of it is put into operation on the 1st July, 1909. They tell us. what they will do in the first year, but they do not tell us out of what fund they will pay the money. It ought to be paid, I believe, out of the general revenue, but through what alteration of our present financial system they will have to make the necessary provision they have not informed us. They have tried all sorts of things. They have tried to meet the necessities of some of the poor by “grinding the faces” of many of them. Ministers talk about increasing the Customs duties. But that is a particular line of taxation which falls upon the masses, which presses upon the greatest part of the population, which taxes a man with an income of only ,£100 per annum, if he have so much as a regular income, to 12 or 15 per cent, of his income, and leaves decimals to express the incidence of the same system upon the man with £20,000 per annum.
– Can the honorable member suggest a better system?
– I am not a Minister. I have spoken on the subject, however, where my responsibility really rests ; that is, upon the platform in South Australia.
– Will the honorable member show some possible alternative?
– Knowing the snail’s pace at which the apprehension of some individuals seizes upon a proposition, I am not going to allow my true position in relation to this subject to be misapprehended just now. Coming to the future - which is one test of the administration of the Government - I do say that there is justification for the criticism of the honorable member for Flinders last night, which, in effect, amounted to this : that by disregard of the evident necessities of the next two or three years, Ministers are practically reckless in their financing. Are they to be driven to economy? We have heard a lot about the wonderful savings to be effected from the consolidation and gradual conversion of the national debts of the States. Well, now, Mr. Speaker, all that I can say is that if you look to the report of Mr. Coghlan, dated 22nd June, 1906, you will observe that he criticises these conversion schemes and their alleged associated economies, and gives an instance of the futility of the expectations based upon them : that, were the debts maturing between 1907 and 19 1 1 inclusive to be converted, as expected by some rash financiers, at 3 per cent, at par, there might be a saving of .£273,000 per annum ; but, as a matter of fact, that saving would only be effected when the bonds, instead of being! at par at 3 per cent., were at £86 or £&1- To show the nonsense talked of the better security to be offered by the
Commonwealth, compare France and Germany. Compare in that case a Federal State with a unitary State, and you will find a ‘ difference on an average of about 10 per cent, in the reputation of their stock in favour of France. Compare Canada and Australia. You find Canadian 3 per cent, bonds at about .£97. But let Canada try to float a 3 per cent, loan on the market, and it will not go off at anything over £94 ; the reason being that the total 3 per cent, indebtedness does not amount to more than about ,£10,000,000, while there is a sinking fund of nearly ,£4,000,000 largely used in buying up the stock and keeping up the market. But take our own local conditions. In 1899 New South Wales floated a loan over par at 3. per cent. That was a unitary State. Could the Federal Government do that under Federation on behalf of New South Wales? Look at the report of Mr. Coghlan; look at the advice given to Sir George: Turner four years ago, as explained by him in this House ; and look to the quotations of prices in the Times of the present day, and you will see whether it is possible or not.
– If the bonds did not fall due there would not be conversion.
– .-There is no conversion possible unless the debts are falling due. There has never been in history, I believe, a case of a large loan being converted at lower interest before it became due, without the payment of a premium to the bondholders. It is true that some of the bonds had twelve months to run in the case of the Goschen conversion. In that case there were two classes of stock. I believe that about, onethird was redeemable at once, and twothirds in twelve months. The success of the conversion turned upon the fact of Mr. Goschen risking the market. He wanted a certain reduction of interest, and he said to the bondholders, “ If you do not take it I will pay you off,” and his cleverness or audacity in financing; depended upon this - that he took the risk of having the cash, available in case the bondholders did not agree to the terms that he offered. He succeeded.
– Otherwise he would have had to raise the money to pay the bondholders.
– I can speak as the draftsman of the South Australian Conversion Bill of 1896, when I had to look into the subject very closely; and I could not find that from 1749 - when the first big English loan on which conversion operations took place was floated - down to the present time there had been a single instance in which a conversion was made at a profit before the loan fell due. To pass from that subject to the question of population, it is possible, of course, that our revenue might increase through an increase of the number of people in the country. I am reminded of the declaration with which the Vicar of Wakefield opens, where it is said “ My father always thought that an honest man who married and brought up a large family did more essential service than he who continued single all his life and simply talked population.” According to statistics the annual increase shows a percentage of 1.72 per cent, per annum. That is our present rate of increase, and if maintained it would in twenty years give us a population of less than. 6,000,000. According to that reckoning, we cannot look to an automatic increase in the Customs receipts which is not accompanied by an increase of taxation per head, and by a reduction in the productivity per head. It may be said that we can import immigrants. At the present moment three of the States are doing so by means of assisted passages - New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia. Western Australia had spent up to the middle of this year about £790,000 under the Agricultural Settlement Act in assisted passages, and in subsequently settling immigrants upon the land by making advances to them from £5 to .£500. Surely if three States are doing this, we are not likely to do better unless we follow the example of Canada and place a large sum upon the Estimates for the .purpose, which we cannot afford to do. Canada spends £250,000 a year out of the national purse in subsidizing immigration, and in addition to that large sums are spent by the Canadian-Pacific Railway Company, with the result that within the last three or four years a greater area has been thrown open to settlement in Canada than the whole of the area devoted to agriculture or intense culture in Australia. That is the reason why within the last five or six years there has been a large increase in immigration to Canada. If we wish to pursue that policy we must be prepared to pay for it. Are we, for instance, likely to gain largely in population unless we assist immigration? I find from Imperial statistics that while in the period from 1884 to 1904 the total emigration of British subjects and foreigners from British ports increased from 303,000 to 453,000, the proportion of that number directed to New Zealand and Australia actually diminished from 46,000 to 14,000. The tendency is against us without assistance, or even with the assistance of three States. If we wish to change the flow of immigration we must pay for the advantage as Canada does. And such a policy as that necessitates economy ‘in our finances. I have now really exceeded the’ limits of the trespass I proposed to make upon the House with the hurried collection of notes that I wasable to make for the purpose of a contribution to this debate. As a private member I feel that I have a responsibility, although the advice that I may give may beof little worth so far as Ministers are concerned. One may often look to another nation for help and guidance in such problems as confront us. We may deriveadvantage from considering the financing of the States of America. Asthe result of, I think, Commissions inJapan on .the working of financial systemsin Europe, and in America, there hasrecently been introduced in Japan a mode of financing that we might well copy. I find in the London Times summary of the last financial statement in Japan, a few principles laid down which I thought it would be well for Ministers to adhere to;; and they are as follow -
First, the defrayal of all outlays from ordinary revenue; secondly, the extension of the six years’ programme of armaments and execution of public undertakings to eleven years; thirdly, the abstention from all loans during that period ; fourthly, the increase of the yearly redemption of the national debts to a minimum of ,£5,000,000; fifthly, the exclusion from the programme of all future surpluses from ordinary revenue, although such surpluses will certainly accrue - and so on. If the principles enunciated in the last Budget of Japan be followed - of living as largely as possible on revenue, of meeting demands as they arise,, and not of, as Ministers seemed to indicate in a recent report, returning to the principle of borrowing that we refused to establish in 1901 - it will not be necessary “on some other occasion, when the House does express dissatisfaction with the condition of the finances, for the leader of the Opposition to gather those principles into a motion such as that in respect of which he now asks us to record our opinions.
.- I must preface the few remarks . I have to make with a testimony of my keen appreciation, of the very able address to which we have just listened. We can always expect from the honorable member for Angas a speech brimful of research, and that he will approach his subject with originality of thought and honesty of purpose, which are a credit to the House of which he is a member. I think no exception could be taken to the tone of the speech of the leader of the Opposition, or, so far as cleverness is concerned, to the speech of the leader of the Government. But I find myself in a somewhat difficult position, because, in considering this motion, I have not the advantage of the opinions of honorable members of the Labour Party, who, while they control the fate of the Government, and must consequently take responsibility for the finances, yet have not the courage to stand up in their places and express the views of the people who -sent them here. Members of the Labour Party have to speak either- in favour of the Government or against it, or they have to “ run cunning,” and, as usual, they have decided on the latter course. Realizing that they have to support the Government, whatever they may feel - whatever they may have said some weeks ago about the finances - they are going to “ run cunning,” because they are afraid to open their mouths. Whilst thus speaking of the members of the Labour Party, I desire to give my sincere testimony to the straightforward attitude assumed this afternoon by the honorable member for Swan ! I realize that the right honorable gentleman took a course of fearless courage which deserves the appreciation of all honorable members, whether they be on the Treasury bench or in the direct Opposition. I feel, however, that the course of conduct which appears to him so easy to follow, is one of considerable difficulty to the six honorable members who, I understand, are going to follow him - they “ are seven,” and I think they cannot be any older. The right honorable gentleman was a member of a Government - this same Government - who vouched for the Union Label and the New Protection. To both policies I find the Prime Minister pledged; and he is bound to bring them into force or sacrifice any title he may have to honest politics.
– So is the leader of the Opposition pledged to New Protection.
– I appeal to the honorable member for Fawkner, whether or not he believes in the New Protection and the Union Label.
– Yet the honorable member is going to follow the right honorable member for Swan in support of the present Government. Those who think with him must find their position much more difficult than the right honorable member finds his.
– Does the honorable member for Wentworth follow his leader on the New Protection question?
– I find that members of the Labour Party, while anxious to refrain from speech, are desirous of interjecting questions on every possible occasion. If those honorable members have the pluck to rise in their places, and put their questions, I shall be delighted to answer them. I felt that the right honorable member for Swan, in passing strictures on the Labour Party - strictures which seem to be bitterly resented - must not be taken too seriously by them. I admire the right honorable gentleman, and like to see him succeeding in the strictures which he passes on parties in this House, but I cannot help feeling that what he said this afternoon about my friends and opponents in the Labour Party was a mere, tittle to what he said some years ago on the public platform, immediately before coming into office and again doing the bidding of those members ! His present action is a mere circumstance to what he was attempting to do when left in the position of temporary leader of the Government, in the absence of the Prime Minister in England ; but I find that after the return of the latter, the right honorable member returned to the position of complete subserviency to the Labour Party. Therefore, I do not altogether feel that honorable members in the Labour corner ought to place the right honorable member for Swan quite outside the pale because of the language he used this afternoon.
– The right honorable member is mellowing with age !
– I will not say that; but I feel that the right honorable member took a truly courageous course this afternoon, and on that I am complimenting him ! I am only saying that representatives like the honorable member for Fawkner, the honorable member for Balaclava, and also like myself - because, I suppose, the invitation to go behind the Government extends to all - would be very foolish, indeed, to accept that invitation, seeing that the Government are pledged to those projects to which the right honorable member for Swan was once pledged, but has since opposed, and may even yet advocate again ! Now, this afternoon I have seen a face which has brought home to me a criticism, passed by the owner of that face, on politicians generally in Australia; and I give that criticism for what it is worth, especially in view of the speech of the right honorable member for Swan. The gentleman whom I have in my mind said that politicians in Australia reminded him largely of those mercenary soldiers who disfigured the history of mediaeval Italy. Of course, it will be understood that I am not using the word “ mercenary “ in its narrowest and meanest sense. In mediaeval Italy bands of German mercenaries were hired to fight the battle of contending tyrannies and alleged democracies, paid to do work in which they had no other interest. Those mercenary gentlemen - those Condottieri - would often meet, fully equipped for war, on the field of battle, but instead of entering the lists, they would sit down with those they had been sent to fight, and divide the war chest, in revelry and amusement. That was the “ office “ of mediaeval Italy. I cannot help feeling that there is a good deal of that element in the politics of this House to-day ; and I am not sparing any section. I find on the other side the Condottieri of the Political Labour Unions –those gentlemen sent here as delegates of those who control the labour organizations, and with a set policy of their own - joining in an alliance with others whom they fought at the recent elections, and with whom they have nothing in common. There is thus a sort of unholy alliance which, when either party gets into difficulties, keeps the other party silent.
– Where is the war chest ?
– We have raised our war chest in the; life of this Parliament; and yet the honorable member asks me where the money is. There is no bond of sympathy between the two parties other than that one likes power without responsibility, while the other likes office without power.
– Is there no war chest over there?
– Is that the trouble? Apparently, in the words of the right honorable member for Swan, the main thing is to get the numbers, and then the war chest is in possession !
– Are the recent approaches to the Opposition corner with a view to dividing the war chest?
– The approaches made to the Oposition corner - and I hope they arenot yet closed by anything that, has occurred - were to bring together all honorable members who hold the present Government in disrepute and dislike, and who do not approve of an alliance between one of the parties sworn to oppose Socialism, and a party sworn to uphold Socialism. There is a desire to bring together those who would avert the financial ruin we find staring us in the face simply from the want of ordinary financial precaution on the part of the Government and their masters in the corner. We have not considered personal questions in any shape or form. We have asked the House, in consonance with our public duty, to say whether it believes - and every member must take responsibility for his action - that the finances of the Government ought to te in a sound state. We simply put trie position to the House, and we had hoped that honorable members would say “ yes “ or “ no.” It appears, however, that there are six honorable members - and also the Government, if they cared to shelter themselves behind a subterfuge - who are not prepared to say either “ ves “ or “no.”
– They say’” Yes-No.” .
– They are not prepared to say that the finances are in a sound state, or-
– Why does the honorable member reduce the number of those supporting me? He previously said there were seven >
– When the right honorable gentleman left the Government he did so without one supporter, and I congratulate him upon the fact that, he now has seven.
– If the honorable member continues for much longer the honorable member for Swan will have more than seven supporters.
– I am anxious only that those who are professedly in opposition to the Government shall be truly opposed to them, and shall not always- be “hedging.” I take it that we owe something more to our constituents than to be merely making arrangements to suit our personal convenience.
– Why should we fal) out. ?
– We- the direct Opposition - are not falling out.
– The honorable member’s remarks are leading up to a falling out.
– I should say that it is more likely to lead to a falling out that action should be taken by an amendment of our motion which cannot be considered as otherwise than hostile to the action taken by the direct Opposition. The amendment moved by the right honorable member for Swan this afternoon must be considered distinctly hostile to the direct Opposition, though we are all on the same side of the House. When the honorable member for Flinders proposed his amendment of the Defence Bill, did honorable members of the direct Opposition say, “ We cannot follow the honorable member in this. We believe such action to be injudicious, as likely to affect us personally” ? Honorable members know that they said nothing of the kind.
– We are not all supporting the amendment moved by the hon- orable member for Flinders.
– Then I must say that some of the more immediate neighbours of the honorable member for Flinders in this House are less alive to the value of his amendment than are honorable members of the direct Opposition.
– That is, in the honorable member’s opinion.
– - The honorable member for Fremantle will have a unique opportunity of being referred to and spoken of in his own constituency after this motion is dealt with as “ Our member ‘ hedges ‘.” I wish the honorable member would tab?. either one view or the other of the present situation.
– There is only one sensible view to take of it.
– That is why the honorable member can take neither ! The finan- -cial proposals of the Government are satisfactory to this House or they are not, and I challenge the honorable member for Fremantle to say whether he thinks they sue satisfactory.
– The honorable member h not the House.
– If the honorable member refuses to answer a simple and straightforward question we must presume it is because he “ hedges.” If he believes that the financial proposals of the Government are not satisfactory he can only propose to vote for the, amendment moved by the right honorable member for Swan, because he thinks that will be most convenient for him personally. I would remind the honorable member that we are here to do our plain duty to the country. Honorable members of the direct Opposition believe that the financial proposals of the Government are unsatisfactory, and are men enough to support the motion to that effect which has been submitted by their leader. Why cannot all who think the same do the same ? I should like to refer to a statement made in the course of the debate by the Prime Minister. Honorable members will recollect that the honorable gentleman complained most bitterly of the way in which he was “ trapped “ into voting against the Watson Administration a few years ago. He complained that on that occasion honorable members on this side were too artful for his poor innocent self, but we have Hansard to refer to, and honorable members will find that on the 12th August, 1904, in the last speech which he made before the division took place, the honorable gentleman referred to the Attorney-General, now Mr. Justice Higgins, as- “one of the ‘members of the Government whom I respect.” Apparently there were but few of the members of the Government who had his respect. He went on to say -
I regret to find the Federal Parliament, its Ministry, and this debate lowered by a tissue of accusations, half of them malevolent and the other half false.
This is how the honorable gentleman was “ trapped “ into voting against the Watson Administration ! He said further -
It happens sometimes to all of us that as we pass along the streets of the city we meet men engaged filling drays with dirt and garbage, and unless one is discreet some of that dust and refuse may drift upon him.
– They might ask the honorable and learned member to get in.
– I have not yet taken my seat beside the honorable member.
He now has done so ; the honorable member for Kennedy is back at his old work again, and the honorable gentleman apparently is prepared to take anything he gets.
– It is marvellous.
– It is marvellous, and there is only one thing more marvellous, and that is, as the right honorable member for East Sydney said yesterday, that the Postmaster-General should be where he is to-day ! We know that there are. two things for which the Prime Minister is famous. The first is that he never owns to a fault.
It is the other fellow who is always in the wrong.
– That is not a bad rule to follow, either.
– It is not ! Last night we heard the Prime Minister denouncing the honorable member for Flinders and the right honorable member for East Sydney for having misrepresented him, and apparently wilfully, in connexion with the curious mistake which he made in adding up a simple column of figures, a mistaKe which, like all the honorable gentleman makes, was very much to the advantage of his own argument. He said that .those honorable members were wrong and must be wrong. Nothing they could say could make him own that he was not right. I am reminded by the circumstance of an episode conected with the recent visit of the American Fleet, which also affords an illustration of the Prime Minister’s inability to confess himself in the wrong. When Admiral Sperry landed in Sydney there was no one to meet him but the municipal councillors of the city. Seeing the gentleman standing alone, some of them moved forward and entered into conversation with him. A few minutes later the Prime Minister appeared rushing down the steps with his watch open in his hand, and he said, “ Admiral, you are three minutes early. “ “ No, Mr. Deakin,” said the Admiral “ you are three minutes late.”
– It would be funny if it were true.
– It is true.
– It is absolutely untrue.
– The statement I have made can be substantiated by any of the Sydney municipal councillors who were on the platform’ at the time.
– I was there also.
– I suppose the honorable gentleman ran down the steps before the Prime Minister.
– I did not.
– Then the honorable gentleman must have ran down the steps after the Prime Minister, and though he was not present before the Prime Minister arrived he claims to know that the ‘Prime Minister was not late. So much for the evidence of the Prime Minister’s personal following!
– Whose watch was right ?
– I am prepared to back the Admiral’s watch.
– I should be inclined to believe that the Admiral’s watch was right. We had another instance of the same failing on the part of the Prime Minister in the course of this debate when he referred to the way in which the right honorable member for East Sydney had gone out of office, and the “great wrong” that had been done to himself by a course of action which placed him in his present position. I agree that the honorable gentleman’s present position does not reflect any credit upon him, but that he should accuse the right honorable member for East Sydney of doing him a wrong by committing what he calls “political suicide” passes my comprehension. Fortunately, on this point we are able to turn to the matured judgment of the press supporting the party that in this case was neutral. The press, supporting the right honorable member for East Sydney or the Prime Minister, might be expected to take on such an occasion a biased party view, but I am able to refer honorable members to the view taken on the occasion by the Labour press of Australia.
– What newspaper does the honorable member propose to quotefrom?
– I quote first from the Brisbane Worker. From a leading article in that newspaper I take the following -
Laugh and jeer as we may at G. H. Reid, what can we wish him worse than the partnership of Alfred Deakin? He built his little house upon the faith of Deakin.; had he read his Encyclopedia Britannica more closely hemight have been forewarned by the parable of the house built upon sand. Deakin is all sand - sand without grit, quicksand. Woe betide thepolitical wayfarer who ventures his feet ‘ that way ! There is no foothold in Deakin. He is true to nobody, not even to himself.
The same newspaper said again -
The workers’ delight at the downfall of Reid is only equalled by its contempt for the bloke . that d’id it.
Appropriately enough, the champion Judas of Australia represents a Bally rat.
The following remarks appearing in the Brisbane Worker on that occasion are singularly appropriate of the present situation -
Double-dealer Deakin is still “ explaining.” History, repeats itself with the difference - Judas did all his explaining at the end of a rope.
I do not make these quotations because I think they are altogether fair criticism of the Prime Minister. I recognise that the honorable gentleman has- been wickedly treated. He always is ! The Worker referred to the fact that the Prime Minister was still explaining. The honorable gentleman is at the same business yet. He is now engaged in explaining the little difference as to figures to which the honorable member for Flinders referred the other night.
– What is the honorable member doing?
– Throwing mud.
– I wish that the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who, on other occasions is not backward in denouncing the Government, would only get up and say a quarter of what I am saying now. The honorable member was sitting in his place behind his leader last night, and I ask him to say whether he did not notice the honorable member for Wide Bay preparing copious notes with a view to taking part in this debate?
– I do not know anything about it.
– The honorable member must have been blind. I certainly noticed the honorable member for Wide Bay taking copious notes, and the presumption is that at that time the honorable gentleman believed that there was something which he might do well to put before the House on behalf of his party to the people of Australia. Where is the honorable member for Wide Bay now ? Why can he not rise and explain his party’s position ? I have quoted so far only from the Brisbane Worker. I do not wish to quote much more on the same subject, but in order that honorable members should not run away with the idea that there is only one Labour newspaper in Australia holding such views, I shall make the following quotation from the Adelaide Herald -
Mr. Deakin has betrayed in politics more friends, parties, and coalitions than any other three men in Australia. … At all times, supported by a powerful daily paper, and obedient to its every whim, he was able to betray with impunity where others would have bee’n crushed. . . . Mr. Deakin may last this Parliament. It might be well to keep him there. After next election, Mr. Watson - another honorable member has since succeeded Mr. Watson as leader of the Labour Party- will again take the reins, and there will be no mistake about his majority.
– When was that statement published ?
– Immediately after the episode to which the Prime Minister referred so pitiably last night, when he declared that he had been betrayed into office ! I am showing that the Labour press throughout the Commonwealth hold the view that the Prime Minister on that occasion was not the betrayed, but the betrayer.
– We are not under the domination of the press.
– The honorable member’s union in New South Wales - the Australian Workers’ Union - keeps its own press going by means of its political subscriptions.
– There is nothing wrong with that. I pay my whack.
– It is a splendid arrangement.
– Does the honorable member think that that matter has anything to do with the question before the Chair?
– I admit, sir, that it has very little to do with it, and am grateful to honorable members for giving me the opportunity to get it in. The whole financial position of the Government is reminiscent of a celebrated work carried out in Victoria by the Prime Minister. 1 refer to the great water schemes of many years ago, that were intended to .come into immediate operation in the neighbourhood of the Goulburn River. Honorable members may remember that the Prime Minister, when in the State Parliament, laid an excellent system of canals through a large section of Victorian territory, and only forgot to provide the water to fill those canals.
– That was a trifle.
– A mere trifle.
– Some one must have trapped him.
– No doubt. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman ‘is still explaining that oversight, but for many years the water trusts that were called into existence among the farmers to reap the advantages of these wonderful canals were saddled with the cost of the up-keep of dry channels. That action on the part of the Prime Minister is on all-fours with the present attitude of the Government in dealing with the finances of the Commonwealth. They propose a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions, an expensive system of defence, and a multitude “of other schemes, that are attractive toys for the political shop window, but they do not provide any money to meet the demands thus made upon the Treasury. It is the old, old story of the dry channels of the Goulburn River districts. It is the old, old story of getting the advertisement and not being prepared to pay the cost.
Honorable members who are making light of this motion, and of their own objections of a short time ago, may well ask themselves how they are going to meet the cost of old - age pensions when the new system comes into operation, lt has been proved beyond doubt, in the course of this debate, that the Government cannot meet their liabilities in that regard. We can lay it to the cost of the party that has always sought to obtain an advertisement on this question if, when the time comes, the aged workers of Australia are left without what they were confidently led to expect. The Government has been absolutely untrue to its trust in respect of an important branch of our defences. The first duty of the Government is undoubtedly to see to the security of Australia from oversea aggression. Since all parties are agreed on the urgency of defence we did expect that the Budget would reflect the intention of the Government to see to the protection of our coastal cities against sudden raids. Honorable members will remember the cost incurred in sending to England the most expert officer we had, and the time occupied by the Imperial Defence Committee in con.sidering this question of Australian defence, and I ask them what justification the Government now have for ignoring the recommendations of that Committee with regard to the re-arming of our forts. The recommendations of the Committee in this regard have already been accepted by the Government, and indorsed by all sections of the House. The cost of re-arming our forts’ with new 6-inch guns must be very great, but the Prime Minister could at first no more than palter with this question by voting some £50,000 a year for the purpose.
– The honorable member is now blaming the Government for not proposing a larger expenditure, although a few moments ago he said they were unable to find money for various other proposals.
– Ii am afraid that my honorable friend is merely desirous of offering captious criticism to my speech. I told the honorable member a few moments ago, that if he wished for anything more than an advertisement in respect of old-age pensions it was his duty to see that the money required to meet them two years hence was available. But honorable members of the Labour Party will not rise in their places to discuss this question. It is the same old story. When the leader of the Labour Party moved his pious resolution in favour of old-age pensions, the honorable member for Newcastle said, in effect, that it would be impracticable in the last days of that short session to bring in such a system.
– I said that it was impracticable to provide the money at that time.
– That is not what the honorable member said.
– Be fair.
– I am not permitted, under the Standing Orders, to make more than a passing reference to the matter, but I have a very keen recollection of what the honorable member said. If he can show that I have done him a wrong, I shall be the first to withdraw. I think, however, that my memory is clear on the point. The question of coastal armament waits for no man. The Imperial Defence Committee has advised that new 6-inch guns should be provided, and its recommendation has been indorsed in principle by the Government and by other sections of the House. The new guns would be required, on the immediate outbreak of war, in the event of raids being made upon our coasts. Raids on the part of ships capable of landing only a few men, can be made at almost any stage of a war; the invasion of a territory can’ come only at the conclusion of a war, when command of the sea has been lost. These guns are to make our coastal cities safe from raid. The Government should have made provision in their Estimates for the purchase of these guns without delay. The whole reason for the Imperial Defence Committee’s recommendation lay in the fact that guns in forts must be uniform in the matter of ammunition and in other respects, so that there may be economy in the manning of them. The honorable member for Maranoa will be the first to realize that fact. But what do we find for this year? Not even the £50,000 once promised, but only a paltry sum of £10,000 on the Estimates to meet “ lights and guns “ ! It is ridiculous to regard that as a serious effort to re-arm our forts. Only a few years ago the Ministry admitted that these changes must be effected ; but nothing has yet been done. It is the responsibility of every honorable member, whatever party he belongs to, to see that these changes are made, and not to take advantage of any paltry subterfuge to evade his individual duty in this House. If he will not vote to have these matters put right at the present juncture, he will have no opportunity to do so when the Estimates are under consideration, because a private member cannot move to increase taxation. Honorable members must take advantage of some such opportunity as this to see that the country’s security is not overlooked by a Government which solely regards its own comfort on the Treasury benches. ‘ The Ministry remind me of nothing so much as a Government of gamblers. Suspended on the political tightrope - supported at one end by a party that does not believe in them, but on which they depend in this House, and at the other end by a newspaper that circulates within their own few constituencies - the Ministerial Party is in the position of a gambler at the gaming tables, who stays there, as long as he can, almost despairing of bettering his position, but pledging all that he has, and sacrificing even honour, on the chance of better luck coming to him, at the gift of Fortune, some time hence, he knows not when.
– I have only a few words to offer in explanation of the attitude that I take with respect to the motion and the amendment before the Chair, and I regret that I cannot see. my way clear in connexion with that amendment to maintain the solidarity of the Opposition corner party. I do not intend to refer in detail to all the matters touched on during this debate, but I feel that two points are deserving of special mention. The first is that made by the leader of the Opposition in- regard to the balance-sheet presented to us. If I know anything about the balance-sheets of commercial life, that now before us should be described as a faked one. Promises and statements made in this House by members of the Government, with the authority of the Prime Minister, have been deliberately ignored, in order that there may be presented a balance-sheet that will not frighten the people. The honorable member for Flinders pointed to the moral, and in my opinion adorned the tale, when, in concluding his speech, he showed beyond a doubt that within the next twelve months - before we can face our constituents - the national balance-sheet, instead of being square, will disclose a serious deficit. Instead of the deficiency being, as the honorable member suggested, .£1,500,000, I think that it will be double that sum. The members of the Labour Party, who have stood behind the Government, .will be brought face to face with the people, who, they will find, are not only Federal electors, but also State electors, and therefore interested in knowing how this deficiency is to be made good when the Braddon section has ceased tchave effect. There is at present a combination on the Ministerial side strong enough to defeat this or any other motion of the kind ; but what will happen to the Governments of the States if we ignore all our constitutional obligations, and seize themoney which should swell their revenues? Must not taxation be imposed to make up the deficiency, and will not those who areresponsible for the Commonwealth extravagance be called to account therefor? I ask them, then, would it not be wiser tocall a halt now, when they have the opportunity? The Commonwealth expenditureis now about ,£6,500,000, though my Wangaratta accountant would probably discover it to be nearer ,£7,000,000 a year. Without going into details,- I wish to call’ attention to the manner in which the expenditure of the Commonwealth has increased since Federation. At the time of the transfer of the Departments to the Commonwealth, the States obligations inregard to them were about £2,900,000, and’ Sir George Turner - perhaps the ablest and” most conscientious Treasurer we have had - Estimated that for many years to come the extra cost of Commonwealth administration would not be more than ,£300,000 or £^350,000. As a matter of fact, theincrease has been enormous, so that we are now spending, not £2,900,000, .but almost £7,000,000 a year, and, in my opinion, the honorable member for Flinders has understated the position. The proposals of the Government have been put forward” under coercion. Ministers, with their knowledge of the position, would not havedared to propose a Commonwealth Oldage Pensions Act had it not been for the pressure of the Labour Party. They and” their supporters know that it must create a huge deficiency, and that the distribution of Commonwealth pensions must cost a mint of money. The cost of, distributionin Victoria is now something like £1,800,. and in New South Wales about ,£24,000; It has been suggested that the Commonwealth could provide for the distribution1 of pensions through the post offices, but aDepartment which cannot safely carry a letter from an inland town to Melbourne will not be able to distribute pensions, except at an enormous cost. It is proposed to take over the control of portsmd harbors, ‘and I venture to say that the cost of administering that Department willy two years hence, be four times as much as the States have been paying.
– What power have we to take over the control of ports and harbors?
– I should have said, the control of quarantine, which is practically the same thing.
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
I am afraid, however, that the actions of some honorable members will not smell sweet in the nostrils of the people. While sorry to separate myself from my friends on the Opposition corner benches, I would point out that almost In every speech made from this part of the House have the financial proposals of the Government been condemned.
– We have had blank cartridge fired from both corners.
– Prior to the elections I tried to estimate the Commonwealth expenditure, and obtained official figures to verify my calculations. I am very sorry that our expenditure has increased to such huge proportions. But what can be expected, when Ministers are half their time away in other States, leaving the permanent heads of the Departments to attend to the business of the Commonwealth? It is proposed to increase the number of our public servants, and if we continue as we are going at present, the Public Service will be swollen to such an extent as to make it almost as important a factor in elections as the Labour Party is in practicalpolitics. However, it is my duty to speak my mind on this subject, and to vote as my electors would have me vote. I was opposed by a Deakinite, though Ministers did not dare to declare his fitness anywhere but in a remote corner of the electorate, so that I had not time to deal with them; and I also had to fight a Labour candidate. Therefore, in voting against the Government in condemnation of its financial proposals, I shall be acting in accordance with my platform promises.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney, before giving notice of this motion, might well have consulted some of those with whom he was in negotiation with a view to bringing about the amalgamation of the Opposition.
– Would that have altered their opinions regarding the financial administration of the Government?
– It would have altered my opinion of the right honorable gentleman. He seems to me to have tried to jump the position, and to have made an attempt to lassoo the protectionist members of the corner party.
– There are protectionist members of the direct Opposition.
– Men who are better protectionists than is the honorable member.
– That is a matter of opinion. The right honorable gentleman complains that the Government is not going to spend enough money, and that to carry out its schemes it must borrow money. My complaint is that it is spending too much money, and by proposals for bounties, and in other ways, is pledging the country to a greater expenditure than we shall be able to meet, so that within two or three years we shall be in financial difficulties. The honorable member for Flinders last night stated the liabilities of the Commonwealth very clearly, and, in my opinion, in no way exaggerated the position. Indeed, I think that, to be on the right side, he understated it. Honorable members, as well as the Government, are responsible for many of the measures which have been passed, but I think that, instead of carrying this motion, we should, as suggested by the right honorable member for Swan, oppose as they come before us the Government proposals which we consider unwise.
– That will make it safe for the Government.
– The motion will not affect the position of the Government. As a rule motions of no-confidence are not moved unless there is a fair chance of carrying them.
– Does the honorable member think that questions of principle are never at stake?
– No honorable member supposes that this motion will be carried. The financial proposals of the Government could have been criticised equally well during the discussion of the Budget. Therefore, I shall vote for the amendment, which deals with the matter better than does the motion.
– Then it is a case of “ As you were.”
– In any event, we shall be just as we were. I think that each Department, and especially the Post and Telegraph Department, should produce an annual balance-sheet.
– Hear, hear.
– Each year we should know what allowance has been made for wear and tear and repairs, and what is the capital value of stock and buildings. I trust that that information will be produced before the Estimates are considered. At present we do not know how we stand. Since Federation, something like 500,000 has gone into buildings and property, and thus has been converted into capital. As the Post and Telegraph Department derives a revenue of something like ,£3,300,000 from a population of something like 4,000,000, it ought to be carrying on a paying business, and I shall be surprised if its operations do not show a fair margin of profit. However, as honorable members wish to conclude the debate, I shall not occupy more time.
.- I have listened to the discussion with varied feelings. Last night the Prime Minister appealed to the right honorable member for Swan, saying that he disliked the position into which parties had drifted. The appeal was almost pathetic, and today we have seen its result. If the right honorable, member were to criticise the financial proposals of the Government too severely, he would, in great measure, condemn his own actions.
– Not more than the right honorable member for East Sydney would do. He also was Treasurer.
– I was never a member of this Ministry. I had not the nose-bag on.
– The right honorable member was Treasurer nearly as long as I was.
– I was never Commonwealth Treasurer.
– The right honorable member for Swan was Treasurer in the present Administration for some considerable time, and he is largely responsible for a great many of the financial difficulties into which the Commonwealth has gradually drifted. He must take his full share of the responsibility. I can well remember that some years ago I had the temerity to criticise some of his Budget proposals. His feeling then was as it always is - that whatever he’ says is and must be right, and therefore his proposals on that occasion were right. If that is the case, the Go vernment’s proposals must be right now, and if he voted against the Government on a direct motion of no-confidence, he would be really criticising his own actions. He went on to say that he sympathized with the Government on a great .many planks of their platform, and almost indicated that he might just as well have been sitting behind or with them, but for the fact that they are supported by honorable members sitting below the gangway. He made that out to be the sole cause why he left the Government. I should like to put a question to the right honorable gentleman and others who sit in this corner as independent members, and not as members of a corner party, as it has been described very often by the newspapers, and sometimes by honorable members. This is not a party like other parties in the House. This is a corner of independent members, who have-
– The honorable member has both the intelligence and the physique.
– The honorable member said it.
– I want to deal with, the position of those honorable members in this corner who say that their sympathies are with the Government, except for the fact that they are supported and kept in office by honorable members below the gangway. Are they in sympathy with the Government on their system of compulsory training ? Are they in full sympathy with the Government on the question of new protection, and the necessary alteration of the .Constitution ?
– The honorable member is wrong. I am speaking of the corner on this side of the chamber.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. Why did he not speak intelligently, as he did in his own electorate ?
– It is very difficult sometimes to speak in such a way as to reach some intellects. If I am deficient, I hopethat honorable members will pity my deficiency. I am trying to make myself asclear as possible.
– Does the honorable member think that we shall get a vote before dinner ?
– The question of whena vote shall be taken is a matter of nomoment. We have to discuss the position in all its aspects. It is a position of great seriousness to all honorable members, and every one has the right to express his opinion, as I intend to do, without fear, favour, or affection. Every honorable member sitting in this corner has criticised from time to time, both here and outside, the financial proposals of the Government, and condemned them. They have ali pointed out that the state of our finances is parlous, that it is gradually becoming worse, that the financial drift is such that we are likely to rapidly run on to the rocks. They have urged that more consideration should be given to the finances, and that each Department should be administered with greater care.
– The leader of the Opposition said that we are not spending enough.
– No, I did not.
– I am not bound by what the leader of the Opposition said in that regard. I am merely expressing my own opinion.
– The honorable member is speaking like a man.
– We have to face the position carefully and earnestly. From day to day we see newspaper accounts of the investigation by the Postal Commission, and from every line of the evidence we learn that there is a great necessity for more careful administration of the services conducted by that huge Department. All through the evidence taken by the Cabinet Committee and the Royal Commission it is shown that a great many reforms in that important Department are needed. It might be a good thing to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the working of the other Departments, because, if honorable members will glance at the figures they will find that the expense of each Department has steadily increased. The taxation of the people has increased by many millions, and the expenditure by millions. The question which each honorable member has to consider is : Are my constituents receiving value for the money which they pay in taxation and which is now being expended? In my opinion the taxpayers have not been getting the value which they should have received. The administration of the Departments by this Government under existing conditions is not what it should be. Honorable members sitting in this corner are not acting in accordance with their election pledges when they support the Government, even on this important occasion. They are not acting in accordance with their platform pledges when they agree that the financial administration of the Government is satisfactory.
– We do not say that it is satisfactory.
– Then let the honorable member record a straight-out vote that he considers that it is unsatisfactory, and do not let him resort to a side track. There is only one way of acting now. I do not believe in side-tracking or in subterfuge.
– On this occasion there is only one issue, and that is - Are the finances satisfactory or unsatisfactory ?
– That is the whole question.
– And the honorable member for Swan says that they are.
– It is a question of opportunity.
– It is not a question of opportunity. At no time should any politician here talk of opportunity or opportunism.
An Honorable Member. - Then it is a question of lunacy.
– We came here to do our duty. It is not a question of lunacy, but a question of straightforwardness, when an attempt is made to side-track an important motion of this kind. The honorable member for Balaclava has just said that, in his opinion, the leader of the Opposition moved the motion in order to capture honorable members sitting in this corner.
– No, no.
– What does it matter what are the relations between honorable members sitting here and the leader of the Opposition? So long as the motion was justifiable, and justified, I should support it whether it was moved by a private member or by the leader of the Labour Party. I should not mind who the mover was.
– Why did not the honorable member bring it forward?
– The leader of the Oppositon got his blow in first.
– The honorable member would have had the Opposition with him if he had submitted the motion.
– It is not a question of the Opposition, but a question of the opinions of honorable members. Now what do the members of the Labour Party think? They have often stated here that the financial arrangements of this Government are not satisfactory. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has made that statement, and other honorable members have expressed a similar opinion. Honorable members will belie their own words and beliefs if after saying and believing that the financial arrangements of the Government are not satisfactory they vote that they are satisfactory. They will have to reconcile their action to themselves and their con- sciences. It is not a question of the personnel of the Government. The present position may remain so far as the outside interests of some honorable members are concerned. It is better for them that the Government and the Labour Party should be allowed enough rope to hang themselves with politically in the constituencies. Honorable members sitting below the gangway know, at any rate, I know, that in part of my electorate their present action in regard to the Government is very unpopular amongst their own people. The support which they are giving to the Government is not relished by people outside.
– They would sooner have us supporting the honorable member, I suppose ?
– The position is not by any means unsatisfactory to me.
– Then why complain?
– I only know from their own press that the people outside are clamouring that the Labour Party’s support of the Government should be withdrawn.
– Which of our supporters told the honorable member that ?
– The honorable member has only to read the press to find out that what I say is true. He is merely trying to cover up his own feelings by irrelevant interjections.
– We are not worrying.
– No; at the present moment the honorable member has no need to worry.
– But eighteen months hence he will be worrying.
– As soon as the trouble is over he will begin to worry the ‘ Government.
– To which party does the honorable member for Corangamite belong ? 1
– I am an independent member.
Colonel Foxton. - He is not muzzled by a caucus vote.
– I am sorry to have to remind the House that for nearly a minute just now the honorable member was absolutely unable to proceed, and that for some minutes before that he proceeded with great difficulty. Not only have interjections been addressed to him, but there have been what is far worse - remarks thrown across the chamber from member to member in loud tones. Interruptions of every kind must cease, and the honorable member must be heard.
– I am afraid, sir, that there have been occasions when I have been an offender in that regard. Still I recognise that it is essential to decorous debate that a certain degree of silence should be preserved so that a speaker may not have to raise his voice unduly. I wish to review the position. It should be a matter of no moment to any honorable member who moved this motion. If he believes that the financial administration of the Government is unsatisfactory he should vote for the motion straight out. I firmly believe that the right honorable member for Swan was so long Emperor of the West that he feels that no want-of -confidence motion can be successful which is not moved by himself, and which has not the effect of committing to his keeping the future destiny of the Commonwealth.
– I never moved an adverse motion to a Government in the Parliament of my own State.
– Because the right honorable member was always on top, and took very good care to keep his nose in the trough. He grew so accustomed to occupying the premier position in the Western Australian Parliament that he, naturally desires to occupy a similar position in this Parliament. Personally, I hope that it will be a very long time before the destiny of the Commonwealth is committed to the hands of a gentleman who wishes to mould it by the adoption of subterfuges. I hope that questions like that involved in the motion submitted by the leader of the Opposition will always be considered upon straight-out honest lines. The whole administration of the Government for years past has been defective, and, both in season and out of season, I have not hesitated to say so. When the Government have done right, I have supported them, but when they have done wrong, and failed to administer their Departments upon strict business principles, I have opposed them, and will continue to do so. I intend to vote against the Ministry.
– That settles it.
– It does not settle it. No honorable member, no matter in what part of the chamber he may sit, can regard the present situation as a satisfactory one. It is not a question of the attitude of honorable members of the Opposition corner, but of the attitude of members generally. Many honorable members - even some of those sitting behind the Ministry - feel, I am sure, that the financial proposals of the Government are not satisfactory. Entertaining that feeling, I hold that the only course open to them is to vote in accordance with their honest convictions, as I intend to do.
– Upon an occasion of this sort, I think that honorable members are called upon to explain how they intend to vote, and especially independent members of the Opposition corner, who recognise no leader. I am quite certain that much as honorable members of this corner may respect the leader of the Opposition as an individual and a man, they do not intend by their votes to tie themselves either to him or his motion except so far as they are impelled to do so by the merits of his proposal. I make that statement in my own interests as well as in those of honorable members who will vote as I intend to do. The present is a particularly opportune time for the submission of a motion of this kind. Ever since Federation was accomplished there has been a financial drift. We have been told that the Government are just able to make the ledger balance. Yet we find them endeavouring to commit us to an enormous expenditure by means of a defence scheme, the establishment of old-age pensions, and numerous other projects. They are not acting as business men would act. To my mind our legislation consists largely of what I may term “ dream “ legislation. It is legislation for a future generation. We are quite able and willing to bear our own burdens, but we do not wish to bear, not only the burdens of the next generation, but those of generations still more remote. As a nation the Commonwealth is like a babe in swaddling clothes, and the Government practically propose to deprive it of those clothes and to attire it in the clothing of adults. Last night the honorable member for Flinders showed us That the Government are attempting to commit us to an expediture of £8,000,000, notwithstanding that our estimated revenue is only ,£6,500,000. Honorable members who are supporting a Liberal- Protectionist Government will not vote to make this country insolvent or to compel the im- position of fresh taxation to enable developmental works to be carried out.
– Does the honorable member say that too much money is being expended ?
– I say that it was bad finance for this Government and for previous Governments to return to the States the annual balances out of the Commonwealth’s one-fourth share of the net Customs and Excise revenue. I make that statement as one who is anxious that the States shall receive as much money as possible in order that they may develop their resources. Had the Government been good managers they would have ear-marked those portions of the public revenue for Commonwealth purposes.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 -p.m.
– With the exception of old-age pensions, which Parliament has already agreed to provide, and which I support, and the proper equipment of the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services, I am against all the financial proposals of the Government until they can assure the House and the people that the finances are to be placed on a proper basis. I have had many complaints about the postal and telephonic services especially, and during the week before last I heard a number of honorable members complain about the inefficient state of those services throughout the Commonwealth. I quite agreed with the action of the honorable member for Nepean in moving the adjournment of the House on that occasion, because I recognised that there must have been very bad administration in the telephone branch of the Post and Telegraph Department. This Government, as well as previous Governments, who have returned to the States the unexpended portion of the Commonwealth revenue which they were entitled to retain, should have had sufficient business ability and knowledge to provide, as a commercial man would have done, not alone a sinking fund, but an improvement or extension account, by means of which that great Department, which produces an annual revenue of over £3,000,000 sterling, could have been placed on an efficient basis for the benefit of the people who support it - the taxpayers. Almost every honorable member has complaints to make about inefficient services. The Government, in the Estimates which they have submitted, provide only a little over ,£300,000 for services which their own experts assure us require at least £2,000,000 to place them on an efficient basis. Any business or commercial man who works on those lines is heading for the Insolvency Court. Any Government which pursues that course must either be working for increased taxation or preparing the way for a proposal to borrow money to put the Department in proper order. That state of affairs is deplorable. This and succeeding Governments must learn to live within their income. They should not legislate so far ahead. They should legislate for the present as well as for the immediate future, and should not look so far ahead until they have devoted their energies and administrative faculties to attracting population to Australia. We can never become a great or progressive people until we have more population. What has been done by the Government to fulfil the promise made before we agreed to federate that a High Commissioner would be appointed? The Government have made no proposals towards that end, or, if they have any plans, they have kept them to themselves. They have not recognised that it is their bounden duty to appoint ai High Commissioner to represent the commercial and industrial welfare of Australia in London, and to try to attract population, as Canada has done, and is still doing. They have not moved on commercial lines or been dominated by a commercial spirit in order to advantage the industrial progress of the Commonwealth. They may have been seized ‘ with the greatest and most noble ideals for future legislation, but much of that has been dictated by their allies in the Labour corner. I have nothing to say against the Labour Party, for if I were sitting in that corner I should do exactly what they are doing. But as regards their support of the Government, I remember that when it was proposed to restore the Iron Bounty Bill to the business-paper they insisted upon the Treasurer submitting his Estimates before they would agree to even consider that measure. At last they dragged from the Treasurer by force a promise that the Estimates would be submitted before the Bill was further proceeded with. That proved that the Labour corner were not satisfied with the financial position of the Commonwealth or with the financial proposals of the Government. But now we can almost be certain, from the cock-a-hoop speech of the Prime Minister last evening, that he has been assured of the vote of the party against the motion now before the Chair. He must have had that assurance more or less, because that party, who spoke disparagingly of the Government proposals in connexion with the iron bounty until they knew what Estimates were to be submitted, now sit there silently and take no part in this debate. If the Labour corner had moved, this motion they would have had my most hearty support and assistance. I am satisfied that a great majority of the honorable members who sit in this comer - and I believe the bulk, if not all, of the direct Opposition - would have voted for it, because I am convinced that the whole of the people of the Commonwealth are dissatisfied with the present financial drift, and recognise that the Government have failed to become seized pf the importance of legislating within their means. The Government have not yet submitted a proposal that has been acceptable to the States. Although fj shadowy mention has been made of the matter in the Budget speech, nothing tangible has been suggested. There should be no friction between the States and the Commonwealth. The States, as joint partners in this great concern, have a right to know what their position is to be at the end of 1910. We are drifting the whole time, and’ if we allow that drift to continue until the ten-year period expires the States will be practically at the mercy of any Government that may . then be in power. That is not just to the partners in this great Federation. The States have to be considered as well as the Commonwealth, although I fully recognise that the Commonwealth has great duties to perform and must make provision for the future. But the Government must in all sincerity regard, not alone its own responsibilities, but also the rights of those who created the Federation, and put them in their present position on the Treasury bench.
– And not to the detriment of the States.
– That is taken for granted. The right honorable member for Swan at his conference with the State Premiers in Queensland suggested that some provision’ should be made to allow the States to participate to some extent in the increased revenue that must necessarily follow increased population in the future, in order that they may be able to develop their internal resources for the benefit, not only of themselves as States, but of the Commonwealth generally. Those considerations have been wholly overlooked, and the Government ‘have not submitted any scheme that we can approve qf. They tell us that they intend to submit a scheme, which they hope will meet with approval. But they must consider the States as joint partners in this great concern, and their financial proposals must be submitted on business lines in order to enable the States to agree to them. We should avoid all friction, and endeavour to work hand in hand for the development of our great resources, and the general benefit of Australia. As an Australian who believes in his own country, I am confident that there is no country in the world to compare with ours. We have been over-legislated for, in many instances, and it is proposed to still further over-legislate in our interests, and it is inopportune for the Government to lay before us proposals for such extreme expenditure as is outlined in the Budget speech, until we understand better our financial position, not only in relation to the States, but also as affecting ourselves. The Government have, in all sincerity - for I give them credit for being actuated by the highest ideals as to what is best for the development of Australia - indicated their intention of submitting measures which will involve an expenditure of over £8,000,000 annually. But, seeing that they have a revenue of only £6,100,000, they are drifting, financially, I will not say to their own ruin as a Government, but certainly to the detriment of Australia generally. The Government should submit a scheme on sound solid commercial lines, of which we can approve. They should cut their coat according to their cloth, and they should not Submit proposals that they are not in a position to carry out. As- they have not the necessary funds, they have not the means to give effect to their policy. They have suggested an enormous expenditure on naval and military defence. I stated the other day my opinion, as a country representative, that the Prime Minister and Treasurer misrepresented Australian public feeling when they told the people of Great Britain that our people were adverse to continuing the naval subsidy of ,£200,000 per annum. I am confident that if it were found necessary to double, treble, or even quadruple that sum, the people of Australia would vote for it almost to a man in many electorates. We, as primary pro ducers and residents of the country, recognise that if our commerce were stopped when Great Britain was at war with a foreign nation, our produce would be of no value to us. We should have to sell it at a loss, sacrificing it at less than we could produce it for. That would be to the detriment of Australia and our industrial growth. The proposal to discontinue the subsidy should never have been submitted. Like many people engaged in commerce, I, as a primary producer, recognise that without the British market, which regulates Australian prices, according to the inevitable law of supply and demand, we should be in a very poor position. We must have the protection of the British Navy to insure, not only our profits, but even our industrial progress. I. hope the Prime Minister and Treasurer will consider this matter fully,- and recognise that they were wrong in suggesting that Australia desired to withdraw from the Naval Agreement. The proposals for building our own fleet are, at this time, inopportune, and the’ whole of the energies of the Government should be ‘directed, through the appointment of a High Commissioner, to attracting population to Australia. I know that my honorable friends in the Labour comer disagree with me. We saw an instance which, more or less, illustrates their views yesterday, when, some of the unemployed forced their way into the vestibule, and clamoured that they could not get work. But I know, of my own knowledge, that men are very difficult to obtain at present all through the agricultural districts of Australia.
– How are you going to get the land ?
– The honorable member’s question is absurd. He knows as well as I do that there is any quantity, of land available for honest intelligent men who are willing to work. There is no necessity for the Government to consider, at this stage, the question of where we are to get the land. The States, and the people who own the land, are at all time willing to dispose of it at fair prices, so that industrious men may build their own homes, and have their own freeholds.
– That is not the experience of those who are seeking land.
– Perhaps I have had more experience in reference to land than the honorable member has had. I know of many men who own land in the Western District of Victoria, who have been the means of settling hundreds of people, and have given them twenty-two years in which to pay for their holdings, at less than 5 per cent, interest. There are other landowners who are prepared to do the same.
– At what price per acre?
– That is another absurd question to ask. If the honorable member wants land, or knows of people who do, I can assure him that, if they cannot get land in New South Wales or Victoria, they can obtain any quantity in Western Australia, at the rate - for third class land - of from 3s. od. per acre, and can pay for it in twenty or forty years. I can say, as a man accustomed to farming, and knowing what I am talking about, that there is in Western Australia, available for settlers, as good land as -is to be obtained in Victoria for £5 or £6 per acre, whilst the rainfall is equal to that in the neighbourhood_of Warracknabeal. There is in Western Australia room for many millions more people than we have in the Commonwealth to-day. I say that because I know the country well, and do not wish to have the land maligned, or the States Governments maglined. It is within my own knowledge that both in this State and in New South Wales the Governments’ are eager to do all they possibly can to settle people and to supply them with good land on long terms.
– One has to go a long way from home to learn news !
– The honorable member may have to travel a long way from home to learn news, but I can give him that information, at any rate. No provision has been made in the proposals of the Government in connexion with the debts of the States. We were told when we federated that that problem would be solved, and in my opinion a satisfactory scheme could have been arranged if the Federal Ministry had set to work and had acted in unison with the States Governments. I believe that we could have saved half-a-million pounds sterling per annum if the rate of interest charged on the debts had been reduced by only one-half per cent. I have heard some of my honorable friends in the Ministerial corner interject, and we have been led to believe from the newspaper this evening, that some of the members who sit In theOpposition corner intend to vote for the motion of want of confidence, whilst others, intend to vote against it. I believe that statement to be correct. I intend to vote for the motion, and I desire to say that if it had been submitted from the Labour corner I should also have voted for it, and? should have ‘spoken just as strongly in its favour as I am now doing. I can assurethe House that that is my honest feeling. We are drifting financially, and unless a strong Government is placed’ in office, which will recognise its responsibilities, we shall continue -to drift until we are pulled up with a round turn,, and find that we have not sufficient money for our requirements, or that we have to impose land taxation or increased Customs; duties. With a limited population such as we have in Australia to-day - a population which, as the Treasurer knows as well as* any of us, has been practically stagnant since Federation- - increased taxation is. totally unjustifiable. Since Federation our population has increased by only about 40,000 people over and above our natural increase. We were supposed to have in Australia about 4,250,000 people when we federated, and we now have about 4,500,000. No substantial progress isshown from those figures. Surely it istime that the Government recognised their responsibility, and that the House recognised what is due to the country.
– Where did the honorable member get his statistics from?
– I have obtained them from the Government Statist’s statement and other sources. The Treasurer cannot refute them. He knows that they, are correct: He can compare the census prior to Federation with the population statistics at the. present time.
– The Treasurer is such a friend of the honorable member !
– He is a friend of mine. We are all friends here, and’ I hope that we shall always be personal friends. But we have to keep in mind our duty to the people of Australia, whosetrustees we are. I am here, not only to represent the views of the electors who returned me, but to do what I consider to? be right in the interests of the whole Commonwealth. That is the position I intend to take up at all times. I shall vote for the motion of want of confidence, because, in common with- many .honorable members, including those who sit in the Ministerial corner, I am dissatisfied with the financial position, and with the financial policy, not only of this Government, but of previous Governments. In view of the seriousness of the situation it is my duty to the people of Australia to cast a vote regardless of party. As far as I am concerned, there is no personal feeling. I consider that the leader of the Opposition would have failed in his duty, and would not have been worthy of the position he occupies, had he not tabled a motion to meet the situation. Taking the Treasurer’s own statement I find that we are drifting, and that, as he has suggested himself, there is a probability of our revenue decreasing to something like £10,000,000 sterling.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I heard the Treasurer say that the effect of the higher duties would be to keep out goods and so diminish the revenue from Customs and Excise.
– I never said anything of the kind in my Budget speech.
– But the honorable gentleman did in his previous Budget speech. It is evident, therefore, that if the financial drift is not stopped, we shall either ‘finish up the financial year with a deficiency, or have to impose increased taxation. In a country like ours I do not think that we require increased taxation or should permit it to be imposed. We should learn to live within our income. We ought not to go in for experimental but for practical legislation, which will be for the benefit of this and the coming generation. We should be satisfied to do our best for our own and the generation that is to follow us, and not attempt to look too far ahead. There is no need to dwell upon the subject at greater length. I had prepared a quantity of figures, but to a large extent what I had intended to say has been anticipated by other honorable members. I shall vote for the motion proposed by the leader of the Opposition, although, ever since I can remember taking an interest in political questions, I have been a believer in protection, though not in prohibitive duties.
.- I listened attentively yesterday to the speech delivered by the leader of the Opposition, and to the reply of the Prime Minister.
I have also read very carefully the Budget figures presented by the Treasurer. Whilst I do not wholly agree with the financial statement made on behalf of the Government - especially that portion referring to the Post and Telegraph Department - I do not consider that I should be justified in voting for the motion proposed by the leader of the Opposition. To do so would be to condemn the financial proposals of the Government in toto: I shall reserve to myself the right to criticise various details of the Ministerial policy when they come before us in Committee. I shall’ then express my opinion as I think it ought to be expressed.
– Does the honorable member think that the Government proposals are unsatisfactory ?
– In one direction particularly I think that the Government should have provided more money than they have done.
– Then their proposals are unsatisfactory.
– In that particular; but because I do not agree with them in one respect, there is no justification for my voting to condemn the whole financial policy. Under the circumstances, I shall reserve my right to criticise the financial policy of the Government in detail in Committee; and in the meantime I intend to vote for the amendment of the right honorable member for Swan.
.- Like the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for Corangamite, I was returned to this Parliament as an independent member, to sit on the cross benches; and I promised my constituents that I would * give any Government that might be in power a fair- trial and fair consideration of their measures, whether it was a Deakinite Government, a Reidite Government, or a Labour Government. As far as possible, I have endeavoured steadily to pursue that purpose. Since I have been sitting on this side of the House I have on several occasions voted against measures proposed by the present Government, and sometimes I have voted for them. In the present situation I feel that I have as much right to exercise my independent judgment, and to vote as I think proper, as has the honorable member for Corangamite or the honorable member for Grampians. In doing so I merely exercise the privilege which they have claimed. I see no reason for strong feeling, about the matter. We have differed before, and may differ again; but I hope that our differences will not in any way disturb the relationships that exist between us. I reserve my right to vote as I think fit hereafter. The time may come when I may feel bound to vote against proposals submitted by the Government. I .do not wish to foreshadow what may happen in that direction, but it is highly probable, judging from what has been said, that I may have to do what I have suggested. Upon this occasion, however, I do not feel that a sufficiently strong case has been made out to justify me in recording a vote in favour of the motion.
– Does the honorable member regard the financial proposals of the Government as satisfactory?
– It may be that some of the proposals of the Government are not completely satisfactory, but supposing that out of one hundred propositions ninety-five are satisfactory and the remainder unsatisfactory, should a member of this House be expected for that reason to vote for a motion of censure? I believe that, in common with most other honorable members, I have voted for or supported most of the proposals of the Government which are detailed in their present policy. At any rate) I have voted for some of the principal proposals. I have, for instance, supported a vote for the purposes of old-age pensions. I have also voted in favour of naval construction and coastal defence.
– Does the honorable member think that the provision for old-age pensions is adequate?
– It may be that the provision made by the Government for that purpose is not adequate. That is one <;£ the weakest features in their proposals. The Treasurer himself admitted that it is possible that there may be a deficiency next year; or, in other words, a shortage of money to carry out the whole scheme. But there is no certainty in that respect; it all depends upon the revenue that will come in. The Treasurer has made a reduction of ,£600,000 in his Estimates of revenue to be received this year, as compared with the revenue received last year. That seems to be a very large reduction. However, there may be an inflation of revenue in consequence of the abundant harvest promised, and, if that be so, there will be no deficiency. But we are hardly justi fied in condemning a Budget proposal which rests on Estimates that may or may not be completely realized. There are very few items in the Budget to which I can seriously take exception; I may be called upon to vote for nearly the whole, and, therefore, I complain of efforts made to almost force us to vote for a general condemnatory motion.
– I thought the complaint wasthat 1 did not go near the honorable members in the corner. It cannot be said that I used any pressure.
– I am not complaining; but in the course of the debate we are certainly being lectured because some of us cannot see our way clear to acquiesce in the motion. That is hardly fair, and I do not propose to yield to the pressure, but to exercise the discretion which my constituents have vested in me, and vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Swan. For years there has been a very unfair attempt made by hostile critics of Federation to exaggerate Federal expenditure, and a great deal of misapprehension and misrepresentation exists on the whole question. My esteemed friend, the honorable member for Indi, dwelt with great force on the increase in the expenditure; but I point out that - and I have gone through the Budget papers, and am supported in my calculations - the total expenditure caused by Federation, and covering such institutions as the GovernorGeneral, the Federal Parliament, and exclusive Departments, amounts to about ^500,000 per annum. It is true that that is in excess of the estimate of .£300,000. made at the Adelaide Convention.
– The expenditure is a great deal more - nearly .£1,000,000.
– No; the total expenditure consequent on Federation does not exceed ,£500,000 per annum ; and that is after a lapse of eight years. A great deal of the Federal expenditure which appears on our Estimates is, as a matter of fact, not newexpenditure caused by or consequent on Federation, but is made up of expenditure taken over from the States, and of which the States have been relieved. I have before me the various headings of expenditure of which the States have been relieved ; and, in order to place them on record, I propose to draw attention to some of the leading figures. The total expenditure of which the States have been relieved is the large sum of ,£5,455>98i-
– The honorable member is wrong.
– No; these figures are taken from the Budget Papers now before the House. The amount is made up as follows : - Customs Department, £289,122; Defence Department, £933,260; Postmaster-General’s Department,£3,013,321; Quarantine, £8,750 ; Customs, new works, . £21,554.; Defence, new works, £133,880; PostmasterGeneral, new works, £552,959 ; Quarantine, new works, £200.
– The honorable member is taking the figures of to-day.
– Yes ; I am taking this year’s Estimates.
– The honorable member should take the figures of eight years ago.
– Then we have new works for sundry Departments, £5,948 ; Patents, £15,764; Trades Marks, , £3,843 ; Papua, £20,000; Meteorology, £19,550; Census and Statistics, , £12,744; Tasmanian Mail Service, £6,000 ; Pacific Island Mail Service,£3,600 ; Tasmanian Cable Guarantee, £4,667 ; and Old-age Pensions, £410,000. When we investigate the “grossly-inflated” and “monstrous” Federal expenditure to which the critics of Federation direct attention, we find that it consists for the most part of expenditure of which the States have been relieved. The only new Federal expenditure which can be really and truly charged to the Federal Government is the £500,000 I have already mentioned. I should now like to invite the attention of honorable members, who are charging the Federation with calamitous and ruinous expenditure, to figures which I have taken out of the Estimates, showing the savings out of Federal revenue. I find that, since the establishment of the Federal Parliament and Government in 1 901, the total amount spent out of revenue on public works and public buildings is the large one of £3,311,263. That is made up as follows : - Post Office and Telephones and Telegraphs, £1,894,046; Defence Department Works, £1,330,630; Customs Department, £39,133; Offices of the Commonwealth in London, £5,000; Building at Government House, £501 ; Government Printing Plant, £35,752 ; Quarantine Station, £200; sundry Departments, £6,000. All this is what may be described as capital expenditure, which formerly used to be paid by the States Governments out of loan money.
– In some of the States.
– In most of the States this expenditure was met out of loan money, whereas it is met by the Federal Government out of revenue. The Budget papers also show that, in addition to what we may call permanent investments, the Federal Government have paid to the States over £6,000,000 in excess of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which the States are legally entitled under the Constitution. I, therefore, fail, in view of the figures I have quoted, to see any ground for the charge of Federal extravagance and waste.
– We have not levelled that charge against the Government in this debate.
– It has been said that the expenditure is increasing by leaps and bounds; and I admit that there has been an enormous Federal expansion. We have taken over from the States a large number of Departments and services which there was no absolute urgency to take over. However, those Departments and services have been taken over, owing to the pressure brought to bear on the Government, particularly by honorable members of this House, and amongst the services are quarantine, patents, census and statistics, meteorology, and others I need not enumerate, I think it is unfair to blame any particular Government for Federal development and expansion.
– The Government have not been blamed.
– The Government have been blamed for the gradual extension of the Federal expenditure.
– Not in this debate.
– The Government have been blamed for the expansion of the Federal expenditure - for the fact that there is no surplus, and that there is expected to be a shortage.
– There is no surplus, and there never can be !
– It is only right we should recollect that, under the present Federal system-, at any rate during the operation of the Braddon section, it is impossible for any Treasurer to start the year with a balance, seeing that, according to the Constitution, the whole of the unexpended money must be returned each year to the States. In reference to finance, the only point of difference between myself and the present Government has been with reference to the Surplus Revenue
Bill. Rightly or wrongly, I felt constrained to vote against that Bill, because I thought that, in the first place, it involved a violation of the Constitution, and, in the second place, a breach of faith with the States. I was under the impression that it was our duty, legally and morally, to return to the States all moneys unexpended from year to year - that we could not, so to speak, save up surplus revenue. I find now, from the decision of the High Court, that I was wrong, and I bow respectfully to that decision. That is the only point of difference on financial matters that I have had with this or any past Government, either Labour, Reid, Deakin, or Barton.
– That decision does not destroy the moral obligation.
– The right honorable member has laid stress on that view, but I am prepared to acquiesce in the law as determined by the highest Court in the country.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with the Treasurer’s estimate for old-age pensions?
– I have already said that the Treasurer has admitted there may possibly be a shortage, which will have to be financed; but there is no absolute certainty that there will be either a shortage, small or great, or a surplus.
– Should the Treasurer not provide for that?
– How could he? The Treasurer has evidently appropriated all the revenue available; and I do not see how he could provide for a contingency which may not arise. The expected deficiency may not occur, and surely the honorable member would not suggest that the Treasurer should provide new taxation, merely in anticipation of a possible deficiency next year?
– The Treasurer will be short of £750,000.
– I am not certain as to that, but, if he is, Ministerial responsibility will have to be shouldered. In any case, if there is a shortage, it will not be this year, but next year, when it will have to be met.
– Hear, hear. It is not this vear.
– Like the honorable member for Angas, I think that the finances should not always be. dealt with from a party, stand-point. We ought to have a free hand to discuss such .questions ;.’ we should not necessarily be forced to votefor a want of confidence motion merely because we may .differ in certain, detailsfrom the financial scheme or statement of the Government. If any new taxation were to be imposed, it might involve questions of the most vital importance, and we should be compelled to take a strong and resolute attitude; but I donot see why, because there are some pointson which we differ as to the ‘ Estimates, we should be called upon to vote for this general condemnation of all the financial proposals of the Government. Like the honorable member for Angas, I reserve the right, when in Committee on the Budget,, to discuss their proposals with a free hand. I do not say that I am altogether satisfied’ with the defence proposals of the Government ; but these are not necessarily part of the financial proposals. They are dealt with in a separate and independent Bill, and, on that Bill, mav be analyzed and discussed. I do not wish the Government to understand that I shall follow them ontheir defence scheme, because, in referenceto it, I differ from them altogether. But, as I said before, the defence proposals arenot necessarily part of the financial proposals. They involve questions of legislation of a vital and important character.
– But the money for defencehas to be found out of revenue.
– No doubt onthese Estimates certain expenditure is provided for under the heading of defence, and I ami doubtful whether, taking thescheme as outlined by the Government, itcan possibly be kept within that limit.
– If that be so, will therenot be a deficit?
– I am not certain;, it all depends upon whether the members of the proposed National Guard are to bepaid.
– There will be nopayment on that account this year.
– No. I do not think that we should be called upon tocondemn the Government before we know how the scheme of defence will finally be settled by Parliament, and what approximately will be the financial obligations which the settlement arrived at will involve. I claim a free hand in dealing with thequestion of defence. But I am not at all satisfied that a strong case in condemnation of the Government has been made out,, and .1 therefore intend to vote for the- amendment moved by the right honorable member for Swan.
/ - I desire to say a word or two on the amendment. I do not propose to enter into the merits of the question, with which I dealt very shortly, but as fully as I feel - disposed to do, in the remarks which I made last night. I regret to find myself unable to see eye to eye with the right honorable member for Swan, and those who are supporting the amendment he has moved. As the honorable member for Bendigo has said, that is not a matter which should affect our personal relations,- as it is merely a difference of judgment as to the best way in which to deal with the particular question before us. I would say to honorable members who have not had as lengthy an experience of public matters as either the right honor able member for Swan or myself, that my experience, during the whole of my Parliamentary career, has been that when a definite issue of public importance, such as that now before us, is submitted, no good has ever come of trying to walk round it. I have known occasions on which honorable members have felt embarrassed because a motion has been proposed by a particular member, or from a particular quarter, and I have known occasions on which members of certain sections have walked out of the House.
– The Prime Minister walked -out once.
– I have known -other occasions on which amendments have been made with a view, as I say, to avoid the giving of a direct answer “ yes “ or “no” to simple questions of this kind, and I have never known any good to come from anything of the kind. I believe that our duty is to face the issue, and to say in distinct terms “ yes “ or “ no “ to a question such as that which is now before us.
What is the issue? It is as plain as possible: Are the financial proposals of the Government satisfactory to this House, or are they not? I venture to submit, with all respect for the mover of the amendment :’and honorable members who are prepared to support it, that* no amendment can possibly be framed or suggested which would relieve us from the necessity of saying “yes” or “no” to that plain question. I do not care from what quarter the issue is submitted. Every member of the House, -whether the leader of a party, or a private member, has the right to ask for a pronouncement of the judgment of the House on any issue of the kind he chooses to submit. If any honorable member does submit such an issue, I venture to say that there is one duty only before honorable members, and that is to determine in their own minds, in view of their public duty and their convictions, what is the proper answer, “yes” or “no,” to be given to the question put. I, personally, feel that after the criticism which I have repeatedly brought to bear upon the present financial position of the Commonwealth, I should be doing nothing short of stultifying myself if I were to give any other answer but “No” to the question submitted in the motion moved by the right honorable member for East Sydney. The financial proposals of the Government are not satisfactory. The “honorable and learned member for Bendigo has referred to ai number of criticisms of past Commonwealth expenditure and financial proposals which I did not hear made in the course of this debate. They may have been made at some time, but I did not hear them made, and they were certainly not made by the right honorable member fpr East Sydney, who moved the motion of want ‘of confidence, and are widely apart from the character of the attack I ventured to. make on the present financial position of the Government. The view which I have always put - and it is a view which concerns honorable members on the other side as much as it does honorable members on this side - is that we are faced at this particular time with a series of proposals submitted by the Government, most of which, in some form or another, deserve, and will, at some time, require the most serious consideration, and probably the approbation of a majority of honorable members.
– Al? entailing expenditure.
– All entailing expenditure, not merely during this or next year, but deliberate commitments of the Parliament of Australia for all future time to enormous increases in the annual expenditure. That this is so is shown by the figures which the Treasurer has admitted.
– I have the figures here, and I find that the honorable member was all wrong in what he said last night.
– The Treasurer always finds that I am wrong. Perhaps he will be able to show how I am wrong when he speaks in this debate.
– I am not going to follow the honorable member.
– I do not claim to be the first to makethesecriticisms, nor shall I be the last, I venture to say. But, dealing with my own position, it is many months since I placed my view of the finances before the House. I did so again last night. There is one fact which I hold to be incontrovertible. The proposals which the Government ask the House to sanction, and some of which have been sanctioned, include the establishment of old-age pensions, and the defence scheme.
– The honorable member is supposed to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– If I wander from the point, I have no doubt that Mr. Speaker will pull me up. What I say is that these various schemes which are already before us, and which we are now asked to sanction and to pledge ourselves to, commit the Commonwealth to vast additional expenditure.
– To which proposals does the honorable member refer?
– I mentioned them fully last night, and I do not propose to go over them again.
– The honorable member voted for some of them. He voted for old-age pensions.
– Most of them have not yet come before us to be voted upon ; but I would say that, even though some of us may have voted for certain of these measures, that does not in the slightest degree weaken the criticism against the Government for not enabling the House to vote upon them with a full sense of their real responsibility. Are we to reject a financial measure brought before the House because the Government have not done their duty in giving full information?
– If the honorable member assists the Government in respect of a measure, he should not blame the Government if it is passed.
– In connexion with old-age pensions, a certain definite scheme was proposed. I may say that I have done as much as any private member in the direction of insisting upon a full statement of the intentions of the Government as to the way in which they propose to finance their proposals. More I could not do. What I say now is that the particular commitments into which we are now asked to enter will, in view of the estimates of revenue, land us ina deficit of at least £1,500,000, and probably a great deal more, at the end of the present financial year. When the Government ask honorable members to commit themselves to such vast expenditure and do not indicate any future policy by which the expenditure is to be met, if I were to vote substantially to say that the financial proposals of the Government are satisfactory, I should not only stultify myself, but should go against the expressed opinions of every member on either side of the House who has hitherto made the same complaint as I have made.
– I feel that I should not be doing myself justice if I did not say a few words in this debate, as I intend to support the amendment.
– The amendment which is not an amendment.
– I cannot view with any degree of satisfaction the unfortunate difference which has been shown to exist between honorable members who usually sit in this corner. It is, no doubt, due to their sense of individual independence and the fact that they have no direct association’ with any other distinctive party in the House. They have each their individual’ liberty to vote and act as in their conscience they think best. I cannot share the views given expression to by the mover of the amendment in stating his entire approval of the financial position as set out by the Treasurer. I shall regard myself as absolutely free to criticise all the Government financial ‘proposals during the discussion of the Budget, which I take to be the proper time for such a criticism. Whilst I do not take the hysterical view of some honorable members that the proposals of the Government are such as to lead the Commonwealth into financial disaster and ruin, I believe that many of them are not based upon sound principles of finance. Some of my honorable friends may feel concerned as to why I am compelled to support the amendment, and, briefly, my reasons are these : In the first place, it is common knowledge that some of us were anxious to make an effort with the object, which even the Prime Minister has indicated as one desirable of attainment, of uniting honorable members who are now divided into three parties. In the course of our negotiations to bring about that combination, we were met by the motion submitted by the leader of the Opposition. The motion was submitted without any warning, and with the full knowledge that there was a distinct division amongst honorable members with regard to its desirableness, and that there was no prospect of its success.
– That is the point; 20s. in the pound.
– I repeat that it was known that there was not the slightest prospect of its being carried It is utterly idle to believe that any better opportunity for criticising the Budget is offered to honorable members by the submission of such a motion. When our corner considered the matter yesterday, I did not commit myself to any declaration in favour of the Government’s proposals.
– But the honorable member is doing so.
– I am not. I shall be as free after this motion has been dealt with to oppose any of the proposals of the Government as I have ever been. I am entirely in agreement with the honorable member for Flinders in the criticism that he has offered, but I think that he is disposed sometimes to take too serious a view of the situation, and to foresee difficulties that are in reality unsubstantial. I find on referring to the report of my speech on last year’s Budget statement, that I took up the same position that I do now. I reserved to myself the right to oppose the financial proposals of the Government, and I expressed regret that the estimated surplus was only £103,000. That estimate has been absolutely upset by the greatresources of the Commonwealth, and the consuming powers of the people.
– The honorable member refers to the enormous increase in revenue.
– Quite so. I think that we shall find that experience repeated when we are called upon to consider the Budget next year.
– But that surplus is a flea-bite compared with the liabilities of this Government.
– I have considered the liabilities of the Government, and shall deal with that phase of the question at the proper time. I do not think that this is a fitting opportunity to discuss it. I am sure that the leader of the Opposition will appreciate the position I take up when I say that I consider that his proposal is inopportune, and that it has stultified negotiations that were in progress to bring about harmonious relations, and something like systematic cohesion, between honorable members on this side of the House. I view with deep regret the circumstance that we are divided. Honorable members in the Opposition corner, however, are ab solutely independent. Each acts as he thinks right, and is influenced only by a desire to do what is best in the public interests, regardless of personal considerations. I should infinitely prefer to see my honorable friends of the Labour Party occupying the Treasury bench than continue the present unsatisfactory condition of affairs, because we should then know where we were. My objection to the Government is that they are absolutely dependent upon, and have to submit to the dictation of, the Labour Party. In that fact lies my whole dissatisfaction with the present position. I certainly hold no brief for the Government, and unquestionably the action that I propose to take to-night will leave me absolutely free to indicate the direction in which I dissent from the attitude of the Treasurer as the Minister in charge of the financial proposals that have been submitted to us.
Question - That the words “ are unsatisfactory to this House,” proposed to be left out (Sir John Forrest’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words “ be considered in Committee on the Budget,” proposed to be inserted, be so inserted - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 53
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the following words be added - “ ought to make better provision for the payment of oldage pensions.”
If my amendment be carried, the motion will read -
That the financial proposals of the Government ought to make better provision for the payment of old-age pensions.
I hope to obtain the support of the Labour Party for my amendment, because that is the party which always tries to arrogate to itself the position of being the special guardian of the old-age pensioners. We all know that the question of old-age pensions, like the question of a White Australia, is one on which there is no division of opinion in the House, and is not the special property of any party. Therefore, it must be a cause of extreme regret to honorable members on every side of the chamber that, in a matter wherein all parties are. in entire accord, the Treasurer has not met the wishes of the House by making proper provision for the payment of old-age pensions.
– The Act is on the statute-book, and the money will have to be paid when the time arrives.
– The pensions cannot be paid unless the money is available.
– Any Government in office will have to pay them.
– It will be impossible to pay the pensions if the money is not available for the purpose.
– The Government will have to find the money.
– Outside the authority of Parliament, the Treasurer has no means of acquiring funds for paying old-age pensions any more than he has for making other payments, and the Labour Party ought to assist us in demanding that reasonable provision shall be made in the Estimates to meet the cost. What is the position in regard to the Oldage Pensions Fund? On the 30th June last, there was standing to the credit of the Treasury, £191,354. The payments for July, August, and September of this year - namely, two sums of £50,000 and one sum of £40,000 - amounted to £140,000, making a total credit of £331,354 to date. That is all the money we have in hand towards the payment of old-age pensions in two years’ time. We are told by the Treasurer, in his Budget speech, that on the Estimates for this year a provision of £410,810 is made, which sum is inclusive of the £140,000 paid in to date.
– Order! I quite recognise that honorable members do not realize exactly the loudness of their conversations. But I can assure them that frequently I hear from the chair details of conversations proceeding at the far end of the chamber. That is a clear indication that they are proceeding in far too loud a tone. I must ask honorable members to abate the disturbance.
– If we add the provision of £410,810 on this year’s Estimates to the amount which was to the credit of the fund on the 30th June last, namely, £’91.354, we get a total of £602,164. Then the Treasurer has estimated that in the year 1909-10, when the payments will have to be made, there will probably be £500,000 added to that sum. That will make an available total of only £1,102,000. towards the payment of old-age pensions at that time. That, however, does not include an amount which has lo be paid for invalid pensions. I am sure that there is no honorable member who desires to see invalids excluded from the benefits of the pension scheme. That will leave us £198,000 short of the amount which will have to be paid on the Treasurer’s own ridiculously low estimate.
– That is, if the revenue keeps up at its present rate.
– Exactly. If the protectionist policy of the Government is to be operative in its effects - there is every indication that the revenue, from one quarter at any rate - the Customs - will decrease. But, allowing that the revenue will continue to come in at the same rate as it does now, it will leave us £198,000 short of the amount which it will be necessary to pay out. Here is (he problem which our friends in the Labour corner will have to face. How do they propose to make up the deficiency ? If the Treasurer is in earnest, and if the House is in earnest, in the desire to pay old-age pensions, and they are to be paid out of revenue, it is quite clear that his financial statement is very unsatisfactory in that regard. He anticipates that the total amount available will be £1,102,000, and he estimates that the amount to be paid will be £[,300,000. That sum does not include an amount which ought to be included for the payment of invalid pensions. Yet, later on, he says he does not anticipate that the total expenditure, including the money for invalid pensions, will exceed £1,225,000. If the larger amount which he estimated would be necessary, namely, £1,300,000, excluded invalid pensions, I do not understand how he is going to pay invalid pensions out of the smaller sum which he subsequently said would cover the entire cost, namely, £1,225,000. Here he gives us two irreconcilable estimates of the required amounts. But even if we accept the lower estimate as a correct one, there will still be a shortage of £123,000. I wish also to direct attention to the fact that when the Treasurer ,was announcing these figures to the House, the leader of the Labour Party interjected “ Quite inadequate. The amount is ridiculous.” If the members of the Labour Party really believe that the sum provided in this connexion is “ inadequate “ and “ ridiculous,” I may fairly claim their support to my amendment, which merely puts into practical form the expression which fell from the leader of that party.
– But we believe that when the time comes any Government which may be in power will find the necessary money with which to pay old-age pensions.
– Hear, hear. I. have given my word that I will find it.
– It would be interesting to learn how the Treasurer proposes to get the necessary funds, since he has made no provision upon the Estimates for the payment of these pensions. The fact that the Treasurer has not given any indication as to how he will provide this money is in itself sufficient justification for my amendment. But the Treasurer’s estimate - as everybody knows- -is far below the mark.
– Must not twelve months elapse before the old-age pensions scheme can come into operation?
– I am speaking of the year in which it will become operative.
– Cannot provision be made for the payment of those pensions in the next Budget?
– The Treasurer estimates that next year only £500,009 will be added to the amount which has already been paid into the trust fund established for the payment of these pensions. That will make the total amount set aside for this particular purpose ‘ only ,£1,102,000 - a shortage of many thousands of pounds. If we accept the higher estimate, there will thus be a shortage of j£i 98,000, whilst if we accept the lower estimate there will be a shortage of £123,000. Perhaps he is deliberately starving the Old-age Pensions Fund in order to get a plausible excuse for assisting the Labour Party in its aims to increase the burdens of taxation. It is interesting to observe the fallacious basis upon which that lower estimate is founded. The Treasurer has pointed out that the States Treasurers estimate that the amounts payable by the different States in respect of old-age pensions during the current financial year will be as follow : - New South Wales £590,000, Victoria ,£260,000, and Queensland £140,000. A total of ,£990,000 will be contributed by these three States during the present year. Vet the Treasurer estimates that two years hence, -when we may reasonably expect out obligations in respect of old-age and invalid pensions to have substantially increased, the amount required by these three States will not exceed ,£900,000. The Treasurer also stated that on the lower basis of calculation the sum required to pay oldage pensions in the three other States would be £325,000, or a grand total of only £1,225,000. But if any honorable member will take the trouble to peruse the Treasurer’s Budget speech he will see that this year in New South Wales alone there is a large increase in the amount payable for old-age pensions, as compared with the sum expended under that heading last year. The expenditure of that State upon old-age pensions this year is estimated at £590,000, whilst the expenditure for last year was .£515,526, an increase of £77,444. But the Treasurer has Based his calculation, not upon the estimated expenditure under this heading for the current financial year, but upon the smaller amount which was expended by New South Wales in 1907-8.
– Mr. Wade estimates that on the basis of the pensions paid in New South Wales a sum of £2,000,000 annually will be required to give effect to the Commonwealth scheme.
– Yes. I am very glad that the honorable member has made that interjection, because I think that Mr. Wade’s estimate is very much nearer the mark than is the Treasurer’s. That being so, we shall probably have a shortage of over £750,000. This is a very serious position, especially when we reflect that we are committed to expenditure in other directions for which the Treasurer will have to make provision.
– Will the honorable member explain why next year is not the proper time to make provision for any deficiency ?
– The Treasurer has already made provision this year for a sum of £410,810, and he estimates that whoever happens to be Treasurer next year can expect to receive an addition of only ‘,£500,000. His own words were -
Adding the amount of ^410,810 provided this year to that of ,£191,354 standing to the credit of the old-age pension fund on 30th June last, the total credit to the fund will be at the end of the year at least ^602,164.
He was speaking then of the end of this financial year. Anticipating the ‘ point which the honorable member for Wimmera has raised, he goes on -
Whoever may then be Treasurer, would probably be able to set apart -
He is not even sure, but says “ probably “- at least ^500,000 for this purpose in 1909-10.
Taking the Treasurer’s own figures, as given in the report of his Budget speech, his Estimates, so far as they relate to oldage pensions, stand self-condemned. Nc provision is made, even on his low estimate, for meeting expenditure which he anticipates will be necessary. The Royal Commission on old-age pensions estimated that the amount required would be at least £1,500,000, and unless my recollection plays me false, the Treasurer himself, on a previous occasion, estimated that the amount necessary to be paid would be ,£1,800,000. That was a good deal nearer the mark than his present estimate of ,£1,225,000. But the estimate made by the Premier of New South Wales is generally regarded by honorable members on all sides of the House as nearer the amount which will be actually required, although even he is perhaps rather understating it. I have shown the amounts which the Treasurer himself has allowed, and shown that the Treasurer himself knows full well that thev are inadequate. I wish, also, to call special attention to the fact that the leader of the Labour Party has characterized them as inadequate and ridiculous. When the Treasurer was making his Budget speech he said -
In July ^50,000 was transferred, in August ^50,000. and in September - a heavy month foi payments - ^40,000.
He was then referring to the way in which he was paying money to the trust fund month by month, instead of transferring « sum at the end of the year. The leader of the Labour Party then interjected -
Quite inadequate ; the amount is ridiculous.
– If the Government do not find the money to carry the Act out we shall be prepared to shift them,. quick and lively. Make no mistake about that.
– And yet the honorable member and his party will take no action when the old-age pensions are already shown to be in jeopardy by the Treasurer himself. We are considering at present a course of action that has arisen out of the Treasurer’s Budget speech, in which the honorable gentleman is supposed to forecast what he proposes to provide in the Estimates, and to explain the financial policy of the Government. Amongst the subjects which the honorable gentleman dealt with is that of old-age pensions, and it is fair and reasonable to ask that when a Budget speech is delivered and Estimates are prepared, proper steps should be taken, as far as practicable, to ascertain within a reasonably near estimate, the actual amount that will be required for various services, and to make suitable provision for the necessary payments.
– Does the honorable member say that there will not be enough money provided to take us up to the next Budget?
– Something more than this Budget is involved. The whole question of the amount to be paid must be considered. The. Treasurer himself referred to it in the Budget.
– Up to when?
– Up to 1910. I have already quoted the Treasurer’s words to the effect that whoever may then be Treasurer, after the end of this financial year, would probably be able to set apart some £500,000 for the purpose in 1909-10.
– This Budget does not take us up to 19 10.
-Anticipating the amount which the Treasurer might reasonably expect to allocate next year, it was the duty of the Treasurer to provide such an amount this year that the two sums added together would be sufficient to give the estimated sum necessary to be paid away nextyear. That has not been done.
– There is ample provision to take us up to the next Budget.
– There is not. The honorable member knows that full well, and his leader has said so. If there is ample provision, the honorable member’s leader is absolutely wrong, because the reference which the honorable member for Wide Bay made was not to the provision that was to be made later on, but to what had been done up to the present. When the leader of the Labour Party interjected, the Treasurer was not dealing with the future, but was referring to the provision that had been made up to the end of September of this year. That interjection had no relation to any provision to be made in the next Budget, but referred to what has been provided up to the present date. The leader of the Labour Party, speaking presumably for his party, and for the honorable member for Cook as well; said that the provision made is “ quite inadequate,” and that the amount “ is ridiculous.”
– The honorable member reads the statement upside down.
– There is Hansard, to disprove the honorable member’s statement. If the leader of the Labour Party was sincere in making that interjection, and if he really believed that the amount provided by the Treasurer was inadequate, he must have had an idea in his mind that when the time came for the payment of the oldage pensions the wherewithal would not be there. As his remark was evidently acquiesced in by the members of his party, it is fair to assume that he echoed the opinion of all the honorable members sitting in the corner with him.
– The Treasurer admitted that he cannot meet his reduced estimate.
– Yes, he admits that ; and the members of the Labour Party, aware of the position, ought to make up their minds as to what they intend to do about this amendment. They waxed very indignant when the iron bonus and a sum of only £12,000 was in question. The financial position must first be made clear before they would even let the Bill be restored. But now, when there is likely to be a shortage of £750,000 for old-age pensions, they are quite unconcerned about it. At any rate, I think it is fair to give them an opportunity of showinghow they stand. I have therefore moved the amendment to test the sincerity of the Labour Party in regard to old-age pensions.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Johnson’s amendment) be soadded - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I shall now have an opportunity of replying to the speech of the Prime Minister which was delivered last night. Generally it is the good fortune of the Prime Minister to be able to speak when I have no opportunity of replying; but it is not so on this occasion. I desire to begin by showing what reckless statements the Prime Minister will make, imputing duplicity to his political opponents. The Prime Minister said last night, in order to excite the affectionate sympathy of the gentlemen below the gangway, that he was “ trapped “ into voting for the motion which displaced the Watson Administration, and that this occurred at a time when he did not know that the Watson Government would make the question vital. Now, that statement is absolutely without foundation. The Prime Minister did know that the question was regarded as vital by the Government, and, in the speech he made before he gave his vote, he referred to it as such.
– Of course.
– The Prime Minister makes these imputations of deliberate attempts to deceive and hoodwink him, and, when I expose the utter falsity of the imputations, he says “ Of course.”
– Order ! I must ask the right honorable member to withdraw the word “ falsity.”
– Then I shall say “ inaccuracy,” and express my sorrow for using the other word.
– As a point of orderI should like to know whether the right honorable member for East Sydney has a right of reply on the motion as it has been left by the divisions already taken? Do I understand that there can be a reply on a mutilated motion like this?
– There has been a twodays’ debate, and on that debate the right honorable member for East Sydney has the right of reply.
– It is a misfortune that honorable members so persistently endeavour to deprive other honorable members of their undoubted rights, especially when one is replying to an attack which has been made on him. I should think that the ordinary instincts of manhood would suggest a different course under the circumstances. I desire to show from Hansard how utterly inaccurate the PrimeMinister’s statements are in reference to the occasion to which he referred. The then Prime Minister, the honorable member for South Sydney, said on the motion thenbefore the House -
I now say distinctly that I am not prepared to remain in office and take the responsibility “for a measure which, according to my conception, would not be effective, especially if that provision, which I contend would be absolutely unworkable, be agreed to.
That was on the motion submitted by the then Prime Minister, that the House should go into Committee to take out of clause 48 of the Bill something which had been put in. The present Treasurer, who was formerly Minister of Trade and Customs, in the course of the debate, and just before the vote was taken, said -
I think they - the Watson Administration - are entitled to fair play before they are displaced from office.
– They did not get fair play !
– I am not dealing with that question now; at any rate, the present Prime Minister did not give that Government fair play. May I suggest that the obliquity of political vision, which is sometimes displayed, ought not, in all fairness, to blind honorable members to the fact that I was not the only one who voted against the Government on that occasion. The honorable member for Darwin then said -
As a party, we are game to die to-night.
The then Attorney-General, who is now Mr. Justice Higgins, said -
We came into office without seeking it, and we shall go out without having disgraced ourselves. We came into office without cadging, and we shall go out without cringing.
The present Prime Minister was in the House when that speech was delivered, because he interjected. Now I come to the words of the poor, innocent, trapped verdant politician - the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman spoke before he gave his vote, and after the statements I have quoted were made ; and- is it not within the recollection of every member of the House that, for days prior, it was known that the fate of the Government would depend upon the vote recorded. Days before the then Prime Minister had stated in the public press that he proposed to ask the House to go into Committee, and that if the House refused to remove the provision in the Bill to which he objected, he would make it a vital question. It was known all over “the metropolis, and all over Australia that a fight for the life of the Ministry was going on that night j and the present Prime Minister said then -
We are not responsible for the fact that the Government choose to make it a vital question.
That is the gentleman who accused me last night, in the face of the House and the country, of entrapping him into a vote which he thought would not displace the Ministry, into a vote which he thought the then Government would not take as vital. Here is that extraordinarily reckless Prime Minister-
– Oh !
– Common manliness ought to show the Prime Minister that it is not right to accuse others of entrapping him when his own words show the precise position of affairs. Surely the malignity of political differences does not go so far as that. “ We are not responsible “ - who were “We?” My affectionate political wife, Mr. Deakin, and myself.
– I never was a wife of the right honorable member.
– The Prime Minister is a political mormon. Even the ancient aborigine, to whom he referred, has no predeliction for that promiscuous political intercourse which the Prime Minister enjoys.
– Do not be rude 1 Mr. REID. - I am referring to the Prime Minister, and hope that the Treasurer will kindly allow me to reply to an attack.
– Do not be too rude !
– The Treasurer must not interfere in this matter. The Prime Minister, on that very occasion when he was sealing the doom of the Labour Ministry, said -
One may help the Labour Party for one month, two months, three months, or four months, but the moment one stops or makes a single independent step he is treated as a bitter enemy. That is the treatment which follows alliances with ^political machines.
What has been his alliance for the past three years but one with what he then described as a political machine? . Even a black fellow would not marry a machine. The Prime Minister on that occasion also said - i do not wish to fight machine with machine, but to fight machine politics” with the full freedom and independence of a representative of the people.
The Prime Minister must allow me to point out that whilst the Labour Party were supporting him from 1901 to 1904 there was a wealth of delightful amiability and affection displayed by him in his intercourse with the members of that party. But did not honorable members in this House Wit- ness an extraordinary spectacle when bis Government went out of office and the members of the Watson Administration took their seats on the Treasury bench? They had not occupied them more than a few moments before the honorable member for Ballarat and all his friends were crowding the Opposition benches. Do not honorable members recollect that in the face of this House and the country, when I advanced to the chair which I had occupied for years fighting the battles of the Opposition, I had to scuffle with the present Prime Minister as to who should take possession of the seat at the table?
– The Prime Minister got in first.
– This honorable gentleman, this retiring patriot had never had any need of any political intercourse with me during the years the Labour Party were out of office, but they had not been in office for three weeks before he was in public conference with me for the express purpose of forming a union which would” displace the Labour Administration. The Prime Minister said in this debate that there was nothing in common between himself and honorable members on this side ; but at that time we agreed upon a basis of public policy. We found it possible to form a basis of union which was committed to writing.
– I think it is fair to the Prime Minister to say that at that time he would not agree to take office himself.
– I think that my right honorable friend, the member for Swan, might be quiet for a little ; he has had his innings. In confirmation of what the right honorable gentleman said to-day of the evils arising out of the present position of political parties, may I point out what was the statement with which, in writing, the Prime Minister prefaced the basis of the agreement with me ? It was in these terms : Referring to the Watson Administration, the honorable gentleman wrote -
The party now in office, quite apart from any question relating to its programme, maintains a control of its minority by its majority and an antagonism to all who do not submit to its organization and decisions which seems to make it hopeless to approach its members upon any terms of equality even under the present exceptional conditions.
It was impossible to approach the Labour Party on any terms of equality while the honorable gentleman was out of office, but whilst he is in office, the Prime Minister is prepared on terms of inequality to serve as the gentleman’s gentleman of the Labour corner. We know that there are great noblemen who have distinguished gentlemen to serve them, and these gentlemen again have other gentlemen to wait upon them. My honorable friends, the members of the Labour Party, are under the Labour Leagues of Australia. They serve them - May I be allowed a little freedom of speech ?
Mr. Watson. - The right honorable gentleman was interjecting freely last night himself.
– But why do not honorable members of the Labour Party stand up here and speak like men? We have seen those honorable members sitting in their seats like a row of chained dogs, and not a word from them.
– Order ! The right . honorable member must know that it is utterly disorderly to describe honorable members as a row of chained dogs.
– I said like a row of chained dogs. I did not say that they were chained dogs.
– If the right honorable member had not his back turned to the Chair while he spoke. I should have heard more clearly what he said.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. I shall give you a broadside. You will understand, sir, that when we turn our backs to the Chair, it is out of no discourtesy to you.
– I quite understand that. The right honorable member tells me that I was mistaken in attributing to him the statement that members of the Labour Party were like a row of chained dogs.
– I did say that.
– If the right honorable member said that, I ask him to withdraw the statement. I understood him to say that he had not said that, and I explained that the reason for my misunderstanding was that while he was speaking he was not looking towards the Chair.
– I want to say–
– The honorable member will withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it. I want tosay that my honorable friends of the Labour Party have a perfect right to make up their minds to speak or not to speak; but when they have made a compact not to> speak they should not break that compact by perpetually speaking without rising.
Mr. Watson. - Last night the honorable gentleman was interjecting all the time that others were speaking.
– But now I am speaking: and that is more than my honorable friend is game to do.
– I have said quite enough.
– I wish to point out that the opinions of the Labour Party with reference to the Government are of such a mixed description that the leader of the party could not get up and express his confidence in the Government.
– He expressed it by his vote.
– The leader of the Labour ‘ Party always speaks with perfect frankness and candour, but if he had dared to get up and praise the Government, and express his confidence in them, and his expectation pf working with them, he knows- that there are members in his party who would have been bound to rise in their places to say that they had no confidence in the Government, that they did not intend to work with them, and that they were in sympathy with the Labour Leagues of Australia, who are determined to exterminate every Government supporter and every member of the Government.
– They will exterminate the right honorable gentleman.
– Except that valuable and useful political servant, the Treasurer. Honorable members have, no doubt, often witnessed exhibitions’ of the wonderful sagacity displayed by a sheep-dog in running sheep into hurdles. The Treasurer is the political sheep-dog of the Labour Party. That is the position of the Treasurer. The honorable gentleman is infinitely more useful to the Labour Party where he is than he would be amongst themselves. Do honorable members believe that at this moment the great Labour Leagues in Australia are prepared to express confidence in the Government, and back up votes of confidence in them? Do they not know that there is not one member of the Labour Party who dare stand upon a platform at the next election and advocate before the electors of Australia the claims to election of any one of the members of the Government?
– We shall say that they are better than the right honorable gentleman.
– I am not inviting the support of honorable members of the Labour Party. I do think that the Prime Minister might be more careful before he makes these statements, which imply a certain amount of dishonorable conduct on my part, and a certain amount of unexpected simplicity on his. The honorable gentleman says that he has nothing in common with honorable gentlemen sitting onthis side. He was, on the occasion to which I have referred, ready to have everything in common with honorable members sitting on this side. He was prepared to join me, but after he had done so, he exposed me to the burden of the fight, and left me deserted to carry on the battle alone.
– Oh !
– May I suggest to the honorable member whose feelings are not of the most refined description that he might at least have the fairness to allow me to reply to the charges that have been made against me. I look upon these as matters for the historian, and not for present-day politics. Honorable members will do me the justice of saying that whether I have any feeling that the Prime Minister has treated me badly or not, I have not allowed it to rankle in my conduct of public business. I have not obtruded it perpetually before the House. I was careful during my opening address to keep perfectly clear of any imputations of a personal or party character. But when, in spite of my desire to allow the unprofitable past tobe buried, the Prime Minister resurrects these utterly inaccurate charges which are ludicrously and ridiculously untrue -
– Order !
– Inaccurate - I am bound to point out from the records of this House how false those charges are. When my honorable friend, the honorable member for Kooyong, rose to-night and expressed his desire to see these three parties formed into one, did he know that he was inviting the Prime Minister to perform another act of political treachery? Did he know that, with his lofty ideals of political virtue, he was inviting him, having thrown over the Labour Party first, and having thrown me over next, to be guilty, for a third time, of such undesirable conduct. No ! The Prime Minister has chosen his part; he has jumped into the contemptible position that he occupies to-day. He talks of suicidal mania on my part in resigning office. I can quite understand his theory of insanity in connexion with any man’s voluntary retirement from such a position. But I would suggest to him that whatever a man’s faults may be, however imperfect he may be, it is always well to be sensitive of one’s dignity and responsibility in the high offices of the State. Honorable members know that the Prime Minister left me to fight the battle alone under difficult circumstances, and that it was impossible for me to go on after the address that he delivered at Ballarat. It was not a case of suicide when the honorable member submitted his amendment; it was more like a case of assassination.
– A case of attempted assassination by the right honorable member.
– Oh ! poor dreamer - poor political dreamer; what kind of politician are we dealing with who talks in that way ? The condemnation of the honorable member lies in the fact that up to forty-eight hours before he delivered, at Ballarat, the speech- which sealed the fate of our Government, he was on terms of the closest and most confidential intercourse with me. A gentleman came all the way from Queensland to attend his meeting to hear what he said. The honorable member does not deny it. He got his orders to go there, and after the meeting a telegram went from this labour gentleman, “ It is all right.” Within forty-eight hours before the delivery of that speech the present Prime &inister a and I were in the closest and most confidential intercourse.
– The right honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself.
– The honorable member is right; the honorable gentleman ought to be ashamed of himself. I respect an opponent who is fighting me all the time, but the man who on one day indulges in the closest confidences of political association, and politically accuses me on the next is a man whom I confess 1 cannot regard with feelings of very great admiration. I did not wish to bring up these matters again. They are matters of ancient history. We have nothing to do with them and I wished to pass them aside. But I felt that it was my duty, in view of the imputation that was cast on me, to give the House this full and frank explanation. Mv labour friends have known, at all events, that I am one of their opponents. % think that it is more satisfactory to them to have such an opponent than to depend on one who lives upon them for one year, sacrifices them the next, lives on them the year afterwards, and is going to sacrifice them again during the next. My honorable friend gets up before these honorable members who have supported him and looks forward to a time when the three remaining parties will be made one against them. It is a thousand times better to have a majority of Labour members - honest, straight men on the Labour side - in this House, than to have the Labour Party dependent upon men who are living on them, who do not belong to them, and who will betray them as they did before. It is an unhappy circumstance that my honorable friends df the Labour Party have to use such political tools-
– Order !
– Instruments. It is an unhappy fact. I would infinitely prefer to see the Labour flag triumphant over Australia than to see this rotten state of things in which they have to- fight in ambush and to make use of political mercenaries. Anything is better than that. My honorable friends in the Opposition corner will have no harsh word, from me. Each member of that party is absolutely free to act from his own sense of duty. They owe me no tie. of any sort, and I think they will see that I chose a wise course in not approaching them. I was reproached this afternoon with attempting to try to draw them into my net. What would have been said had I approached them to endeavour to induce them to support me? While I am in this position I cannot divest myself of my responsibility. I took this course from a deliberate belief that whatever the decision to-night might be it was my duty to warn this House and the country of the position into which our Commonwealth finances are drifting. The point was entirely missed when some of my honorable friends in the Opposition corner said, “Oh, we assisted to pass these appropriations. The honorable member for East Sydney and others have supported these votes.” The essential condition of Commonwealth finance is that, when a service which in itself is a good one, is legalized, the Government shall invite Parliament to make due provision for its honorable discharge.
– The Government has done so.
– The point of my attack upon the Ministry is not that it has passed an Old-age Pensions Act. A better thing was’ never done. The point is that Parliament, relying upon the Administration, has, in the name of Australia, incurred liabilities which cannot be honoured.
– They will be honoured.
– Of course they will be honoured, but they cannot be honoured on the proposals of this Administration. I know that Australia is strong and rich enough to pay for a thousand acts of improvidence or imprudence. But, as trustees of the public, we should be very careful, before committing the country to liabilities, to see that ample funds are provided before the obligations fall due. Some honorable members say that old-age pensions will not be payable for a year. But do they not remember that the annual cost will be something like £2,000,000?
– Nothing of the kind.
– I do not trust the Treasurer’s estimate; I speak on the faith of higher authorities - the report of the Commonwealth Royal Commission, and the experience of New South Wales. The Treasurer of that State, where an old-age pensions system has been in existence for years, should know something about the cast of administering such a fund. He tells us - I do not entirely adopt his figures, because they may be a little too high - that the obligation which we have incurred amounts to between £2,000,000 and £2,250,000 a year. I am willing to believe that the cost will not be more than £1,700,000 or £1,800,000.
– It will be a great deal below either amount.
– There is a way of administering the fund which will make the cost lower; that is, by starving it. But one of my duties as leader of the Opposition is to point out that if there is one fund which should be liberally administered, it is this. We ought not to starve the Old-age Pensions Fund as the Post and Telegraph Department is being starved. We can continue to starve our great national services year by year - as the Cabinet by its minute has admitted that we are starving the Post and Telegraph Department - but we cannot treat the aged and invalid pensioners of Australia in that way.
– We shall have a land tax rather than do that.
– I would go for it in a minute, if I could not get the money in any other way.
– The Treasurer says that he would go for a land tax.
– Rather than not have enough money to pay old-age pensions.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman make that statement in a proper official way ? Why does he make it in a whisper, to a member of the Labour Party ? Such a statement should have been made, not privately, to soothe the susceptibilities of the honorable member for Barrier, but publicly, in the financial statement. Probably if the honorable member reminds the Treasurer, of the interjection a year hence, he will swear, if he does not suit him, that he- never made it.
– That is not fair.
– I think it is too strong.
– I ask the right honorable member to withdraw his remark.
– I admit that the remark, was too strong, and express to the Treasurer my regret that I used it. The wordswere uttered heedlessly, and I wish towithdraw them. I should say that the honorable gentleman has a marvellous memory for the things he forgets. A financial policy especially when burdens upon the people are in question, should be put forwardwith due deliberation, not in the light of a sudden deficiency or emergency, but with, a sagacious forecasting of future liability.
– Does not the right honorable member see-
– I hope that my honorablefriends in the Labour corner will recover the liberty of their feet; that the chain will be shaken off, so .that they may beable to stand up like men, and talk likemembers of Parliament.
– It is about time that some one stopped wasting time.
– I think that Mr. Speakerwill have to name the honorable member.
– The right honorablemember knows that the money for old-age pensions will have to be paid, whatever party may be in office. What is the use. of trying to evade that fact ?
– I ask the honorable member to be quiet. I shall have to call uponMr. Speaker to protect me.
– The right honorablemember was addressing himself very, pointedly to certain other honorable members; but the honorable member for SouthSydney has interjected more than was in. order, and his interjections having, amounted to interruption, I ask him not to carry them any further.
Mr. Watson. - I admit at once that I” should not have offended by interjecting-, so frequently; but in extenuation I plead–
– Is the honorablemember in order?
– If he goes furtherthan I think he should, I shall stop him.
– In extenuation, I plead1 that last evening the right honorable member himself made a number of interjections.
– The honorable member is; perfectly right. I am bringing under thenotice of the people the remarkable factthat, not only are the deliberations of theLabour Party - which decide the fate of itspolicy and that of the Commonwealth - conducted in private, but we have now reached a still more striking state of affairs- in the Parliamentary institutions of Australia. A matter is brought forward, whether rightly or not, which is one of gravity-
– Purely a wasting of time.
– May I suggest to the honorable member that I have my responsibilities, and one of them I am faithfully discharging in expressing my views on public affairs before this House and the country. That is a duty which my honorable friend has not discharged. May I suggest that this Parliament is sinking in the scale of representative institutions when a little party fights out its troubles in the vaults, and, having gagged the minority in the caucus, gags itself here. All the members of the Labour Party are at present gagged. There is not one of those honorable members, from the leader to the newest recruit, who has had - well, I will not say the courage, because he has been under orders.
– The honorable member seems to be rather disappointed about it.
– May I suggest to honorable members that when they do things which I think wrong, I am entitled to criticise them. I am criticising this conspiracy of silence. I am pointing out - with a certain amount of physical suffering - that when the Minister representing the Treasury got up to ask of his masters the humble favour that he might restore to the notice-paper a Bill - a very slight trifle - which we are now told will involve an appropriation of only £12,000 during the present financial year, my honorable friends stood sternly, firmly, and squarely to their parliamentary duties. By the way, they then accused the Prime Minister of some breach of faith. What a horrible imputation ! But my honorable friends got up and said “ We “ - and they can use the editorial “we” with effect - u 1 must have a financial statement before we authorize this expenditure of ,£12,000.” And the Treasurer consented, with that delightful blend of arrogance and humility, with that delightful blend of firmness and limpidity, to which we are accustomed. Sometimes, Mr. Speaker, when he defies us across the table, we feel a thrill of physical fear. I am sure that my honorable friend, the member for Wentworth, will understand what I mean. But when some young member, even the newest member, from below the gangway rises and demands a Ministerial statement, he can get any number of them. The Minister had to solemnly promise that before he proceeded with that vitally important Bill, after it was restored to life - not a trifle like old-age pensions or the Northern Territory, or things of that sort, but a Bill to appropriate £12,000 - the House, and his masters particularly, should have a financial statement. And now, when that financial statement shows that he is not proposing to provide enough money to pay old-age pensions in the first year of their operation, a new development occurs - a conspiracy of silence. The waves that rose so high over the iron works of Lithgow were stilled’ in some mysterious manner over this trifling matter of old-age pensions. Has some satisfactory assurance been addressed to the Labour Party?
– Surely the Budget is not yet disposed of?
– Any Government, even if it were one formed by the right honorable member, would have to find the money. It will have to be paid.
– Is it not a loose way of conducting the public finance to issue a promissory note for a couple of million pounds a year, and say, “ The assurance we have is that somebody will have to meet it when it falls due.”
– The obligation to pay exists, and must be met.
– May I suggest that the honorable member for Wide Bay has taken on this contract? I really should not be interrupted by my honorable friend. The leader of the Labour Party is listening to me with care and attention.
– Yes, I wanted to correct an historical error; but the honorable member would not have the correction earlier.
– I would allow my honorable friend to correct anything.
– Never mind about historical errors ; go on.
– My honorable and learned friend, the unofficial Minister for War, reminds me of another remarkable instance of the wonderful influence; even of a nonmilitary man, over the military counsels of the Government of a great people. He, with praiseworthy enthusiasm, has been demanding for years the universal training of all adult able-bodied males of the country, limited to youths of eighteen years of age. He hammered that into the Government a few months ago. The Minister of Defence implored us not to think that he had committed the Government to a scheme of compulsory training, but now we have a grand scheme of compulsory training proposed on these Estimates.
– Be accurate.
– I have several quotations from my honorable friend which I did not want to use. But may I mention one, since he interrupts me -
For a downright double-barrelled copper, bottomed bevelled-edged egotist, give me a Socialist.
When the Prime Minister asks, “ What have we protectionists in common with the free-traders?” I answer, in the language of the Minister of Defence -
We are asked -
That was when the honorable gentleman was one of my loyal warriors, and, whatever our political differences are, I may be allowed to say that I cherish a very high personal respect for him. I never knew a better navigator,
– The honorable member is hopeless.
We are asked why the free-traders and the protectionists have come together to-day ?
That was when I had the happiness of the affectionate intercourse to which I have referred -
Why ? Because they -
That is, the free-traders and my honorable friends opposite -
Because they are free men, because they believe that to put shackles upon intelligence would be disastrous to the country -
The shackles are not so unprofitable now.
– All right.
– Shackles, not shekels - and inimical to our civilization, and reduce our Commonwealth to a great Sahara of imbecility and sand.
My honorable friends of the Labour Party are the Sahara of imbecility and sand -
We intend to stand together -
That was a day or two before we fell at Ballarat. Speaking for the gentlemen with whom he is standing together firmly now - it is astonishing how firmly a man can stand when he is allowed to remain on the Treasury bench - he said -
We inten’d to stand together to resist a policy which would bring calamity to our homes and ruin to our civilization.
He can stand the calamity to our homes and the ruin to our, civilization now that, amongst the ruined pedestals of our former glories, the Minister of Defence and Colonel Legge can find a firm, footing. Now I want to show what a close bond of intellectual sympathy existed between my honorable friend, the Prime Minister, and myself in those days. Eight days before the Prime Minister came into this House and slaughtered the Labour Government, J.r as leader of the Opposition, was within my rights in challenging them.
– We could never get the right honorable member to challenge us. I tried to bring him up to the scratch several times.
– May I suggest to my honorable friend that after the House has inserted a provision in a Bill, if the Ministry ask it to recommit a particular clause in order that they may eliminate it, the House has a perfect right to refuse to recommit the clause.
– The same step has never been taken in regard to any other Government.
– I am not discussing the merits of the question. The Labour Government is dead, and I am dead in a Ministerial sense, but the Prime Minister is alive. Eight days before the time when the present Prime Minister scalped his former political bride, he was the ally of members of the Opposition with whom now he has nothing in common because we are in opposition. But when both he and I were companions in political misfortune, our affection was implicit and undoubted. Our confidence in each other was absolute. But the honorable gentleman on the 2nd August went up to the glorious city of Ballarat, which is undoubtedly one of the grand cities of Australia, determined to establish a National League. What was the frightful danger to Australia which confronted the all-patriotic and unselfish Prime Minister who shrinks from publicity, and whose health is not always as robust as he would like it to be? This is the attitude which he took up in submitting the motion in favour of the establishment of that League. He said -
We stand to-day as Liberals -
That is, he and I stood as Liberals, because we had signed an agreement which had been published in the press.
We stand to-day as Liberals who recognise that those who seek to rush you over a precipice are the most fatal enemies to the true cause of Liberal progress.
Who were the men who were then rushing Australia over a precipice ? It was not his allies and friends who were humbly supporting him. It was the members of the Labour Party. No political twisting of words to suit different occasions can alter the fact that the men ‘whom the Prime Minister then accused of rushing Australia over a precipice were those upon whom he is politically living to-day. If that remark were true, then his consenting to lead the advance guard of such a party is deplorable, and if it were not true he did a gross injustice to a great political party in Australia.
– It was a case of mistaken identity.
– I am afraid that that defence which might suit the political darkness of the Labour vaults is scarcely, applicable, because the Prime Minister had then been intimately associated with the gentlemen to whom he was referring. If it were a case of mistaken identity, either the Prime Minister had successfully concealed himself, or the Labour Party had successfully concealed themselves. But the Prime Minister went further, and described the exact way in which the liberties of Australia were to be destroyed. He said -
By a simple series of morsels the Labour Party threatens the independence of the whole community.
There is no case of mistaken identity there. The honorable gentleman said “ The Labour Party,” and the new Labour Party has not yet arisen. The I. W. W’s., I think they call themselves. The Prime Minister is now in the service of the very party which he denounced as threatening the independence of the community, and is doling out the morsels one by one to feed the appetite of that party. Further, my honorable friends opposite, who sometimes resent the slightest observation from me, allow these public vituperations of themselves, their policy, and their objects, to pass with complacency. I do not wish for a moment 4o say that in the course of their public duties the .members of the Labour Party have not to make a choice between two evils. In fairness to them, I have to admit that they have. It is absolutely impossible for them to take any course - which their own strong sense of what is right does not compel them to take - which would have the effect of strengthening the position of honorable members who sit upon this side of the House. I admit that they are to a certain extent bound to their fate of having to support a Prime Minister who has publicly represented them to Australia as the enemies of the country.
– We are between the devil and the deep sea.
– That may be; but the Prime Minister is the devil, and I am the deep sea. I am very thankful to honorable members for the attention which they have given to me. They will, in fairness to me, recollect that in submitting this motion, I used no word of provocation. I studiously avoided doing so. It is not often that I have an opportunity to reply to the statements of the Prime Minister, and I think that honorable members will forgive me if on this occasion I have taken advantage of that opportunity. I desire to point out that our obligations in respect of old-age pensions will amount to j£i, 800,000 annually, and that the naval and military scheme of the Government will involve an increased expenditure of £600,000 per annum. There is no doubt about the accuracy of these figures. The old system of defence cost £1,000,000, and the new system is estimated to cost £1,600,000 or j£i, 700,000. Then we know that ,a large expenditure is necessary in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department. I do not wish to unkindly criticise my honorable friends opposite, who occupy a position of great difficulty in regard to a motion of this kind, but I wish to point out that I could not fail to bring these matters before the ‘ House and the country, because it was my unmistakable duty to do so. But whatever the fate of this motion may be, it cannot wipe out the liabilities of the Commonwealth. It leaves those difficulties just as they were, it leaves our obligations just as they were, and it leaves the danger of confusion just as it was. We want to see the Commonwealth stand well in public estimation. We want to be able, as against any calumnies of States, State Premiers, or State politicians, to stand upon a broad Federal platform and convince the people of Australia that our management of these Departments has been sound; that when we knew of deficiencies in the Post and Telegraph Department we hastened to remedy them, and that when we knew of abuses, when we knew that the vast volume of business which is crowding into that Department under the wonderful development of industry and settlement throughout Australia was being delayed and blocked and prevented, we did something to perform our duties. Surely one of the chief duties of this Commonwealth is to have an efficient system of postal administration and an efficient system, on whatever lines, of military and naval defence. Those are our two great duties, and I trust that honorable members, when they are free from the trammels of this motion, will seriously address themselves, with the power that they can exercise, to the pressing needs of the great Post and Telegraph Department, not needs centred in an office in Sydney or Melbourne, Adelaide, or Perth, but needswhich are felt throughout the length and breadth of the whole commercial, industrial, and social system of the Commonwealth. What have our experts told us year after year? That our appliances are becoming more and’ more rotten and obsolete ; that vast volumes of new business have to be grappled with by antiquated methods ; that the Department has been rapidly going backwards in efficiency ; that every year we neglect the task of reconstruction is making things worse, and that already at least £2,000,000 is wanted - a sum which cannot be spent in a day. The task of reconstruction, if begun at once, must take years before it can be completed. Yet here we have the Treasurer telling us - I admit with commendable frankness, not hiding it in any way - that the Cabinet had to reduce the Post Office estimates this year by £312,000.
– They got £300,000 odd more than they ever got before.
– As the total amount of the draft estimates for works was certainly not more than £600,000, and £300,000 was cut off, leaving only £300,000 on the Estimates, they could not have got anything the year before, according to the Treasurer. Yet as a matter of fact the year before they got for new works between £400,000 and £500,000.
– I quite admit that the right honorable member does not understand.
– I am only going by what Mr. Hesketh and other experts say. Mr. Hesketh told the Royal Commission, even allowing for the £300,000 which is asked for this year, that the sum of £1,900,000 is required to put that Department in a state of efficiency. This House stands before the people of Australia in this position : that it allows the Government to cut down the estimates of this starved
Department, and does not demand from the Government an immediate restoration of the efficiency of (he Department. I did not raise questions of policy ; I was asked to do so, but declined. There are only three ways open - increase your rates, impose new taxation, or have some provision for works of reproductive utility which will repay the total cost in a series of years. You must do one of those things. Something must be done. Honorable members admit that talking and interrupting, here will not put the Department right.
Labour Members. - Hear, hear.
– Might I suggest to my honorable friends that that was not the reason for their conspiracy of silence? There was some deep selfish political reason for that. Might I also suggest tohonorable members that it is time for some one to say openly in Parliament that the Department is notoriously starved and’ rotten? It is time, if Ministers will not do it, that some one should. I wish, by the attitude I have taken, to leave my honorable friends opposite with no excuse of this kind. If trouble comes, if these warnings prove to be sound, my honorable friends opposite may naturally say, whenI dilate upon them before the people of this country, “ Well, Mr. Reid, you are the leader of the Opposition ; you were in Parliament ; you knew of these things. Why did you not draw attention to them?’ If you had only- brought them under our notice, if you had only challenged the position of the Government, you would have found us behind you to a man.” There can be no talk of that sort. My honorablefriends will have to admit, when the inevitable crash comes, that I performed ray duty; at the proper time, and that I am not responsible for any of the consequences.
– Honorable memberswill see that the words of the motion as they stand are as follow - “ That the financial proposals of the Government.” As those words have no meaning. I imagine that the House will not desire me to put the question.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to say a word’ or two. The right honorable gentleman opposite has thought fit to use or abuse hisprivilege to-night-
– I do not object, sir, to apersonal explanation, but the Prime Minister has no right to make a speech.
– The Prime Minister has asked permission to make a personal explanation.
– The right honorable member has seen fit to make, when closing a debate, when he knew that I could have no immediate reply, a series of charges, which I shall answer off-hand, without dealing with those whose object it is, if possible, to interrupt and confuse speakers.
– I must ask the Prime Minister, with every desire that he should have the fullest opportunity of explanation, that his remarks should be a personal explanation, limited to a correction of anything that I have said. Surely that is fair.
– The Prime Minister has risen to make a personal explanation. It is my duty to see that he does not exceed that, and I think I shall perform that duty. If I fail to perform it, it will be time enough then for any honorable member to call attention to the fact.
– In the first instance, the right honorable member put into my mouth charges which I have not yet made, and which I do not propose now to make. When incidentally referring - for it was no part of my argument - to the occasion on which a critical vote was taken on the Arbitration Bill in 1904, I expressed, as I had previously expressed, regret for the circumstances under which the Government, headed by the honorable member for South Sydney left office, and alluded to the fact that I had come to the conclusion that I had been trapped on that vote. I in no way connected the right honorable member personally with that trapping.
– Then T misunderstood the honorable member, certainly.
– The right honorable member has heard me in this House on that subject so often that even his memory ought to have enabled him to recall the facts. How could be overlook them when quoting from the very speech in which I named the member who first spoke to me in the matter, giving dates and details? Yet he carefully omitted those quotations, giving only those which served his purpose.
– Does the honorable member say that he did not accuse me of trapping him?
– Not in 1904. I have no knowledge that the right honorable member had any connexion with it, and certainly hope that he had not. That charge, which was of his own manufacture, having been disposed of, the right honorable member went on to make from the speech which I have mentioned another fragmentary quotation in order to show that when that vote was taken I knew its meaning and its purport. Does any one suppose that any human being could take part in a vote of want of confidence without knowing it? That is putting a folly into my mouth, in order to repudiate it ? In the very speech from which he was quoting I pointed out the time - given by another honorable member without communication with me - when it was first suggested to me that the amendment in question should be adopted in the Bill. The whole of the circumstances are detailed there: They show when it was first suggested, when it was debated, and how it was shaped. That is to be found on page 4232 of Hansard, and the following pages, volume xxi. They show that at the time I agreed to support that amendment I had no idea whatever that the amendment was to be made a motion of want pf confidence. The allegation attributed to me is preposterous. When the motion was dealt with, ten days after, of course it had become a motion of want of confidence, and as such I discussed it. That, Mr. Speaker, was the second charge levelled against me tonight. There were a’ series of others for which no documentary evidence was offered, and for which no documentary evidence can be found, in reference to the past relations between the right honorable member and myself. These can be easily discarded. I intend now to answer only one statement made in that respect. The right honorable member spoke of our relations iri 1904-5 as “intimate.” They were never then nor at any time even politically intimate. I had no more relations with the right honorable member politically than were absolutely called for by the necessities of the time.
– What about the signed agreement ?
– Probably that agreement has not been read by the honorable member.
– Yes, it has.
– If so, he will notice that it amounted to a declaration of policy for a particular time, which, in my judgment, was absolutely departed from and treacherously broken by the right honorable member. I hope that the right honorable member does not even intend to suggest by his attitude that he is surprised to hear that statement. He does not hear it for the first or second time.
– I am absolutely surprised that thePrime Minister should make such a statement.
– The right honorable member heard of his treachery in this House from me when I sat in the corner. He heard it afterwards when I sat on these benches, after the formation of this Government. We had a correspondence which covers a dozen pages of close print in connexion ‘ with these very charges of mine ; all of which can be obtained. Every one knows that the relations between us became strained, and were at length broken. What the right honorable member hopes to gain by referring to that past period now, I do not know, for I am perfectly certain of this - that there are many in this House still who passed through that critical time who saw all that was to be seen and heard all that was said. I am perfectly willing to be judged by them, or to bere- judged before any tribunal connected with this House to which the challenge is submitted.
– The honorable gentleman must confine himself to a personal explanation.
– I am content, because, both byspeech in this House and elsewhere, and by communication through the press, exchanged with the right honorable member, I have put the facts on record once and for all. I do not desire to put the case again unless properly challenged to do so. The rest of the charges which the right honorablemember makes against me I am content to leave, except in one particular. The quotations that he made, both from Hansard and from the speech at Ballarat, and even the quotation made by the right honorable member for Swan - which has evidently been supplied to him to-night-
– Oh, no; it was printed in the Patriot, edited by the Honorary Minister, the honorable member for Bourke.
– They might, at least, have given the rest of the quotation printed in the same column, in which I drew a distinction between the Labour members in the House and what I spoke of as the political machine. I said -
One could make such an alliance with men like the Prime Minister.
I was, of course, alluding to the then Prime Minister, the honorable member for South Sydney.
It is not his men in the House I fear, but the machine.
The machine outside the House.
Most members are properly governed by a sense of loyalty bred by alliance and action together - you can appeal to their conscience and judgment.
I was saying that of my fellow members. Those words were omitted in the passage quoted by the right honorable member in this House. Then comes the next sentence which he put in -
But when you come to the machine you are dealing with something which has no loyalty, no conscience, and no judgment.
The machine apart from the members of this House. Let me read the whole passage without comment again, so that there may be no mistake about it -
– It is perfectly true that I was prepared to ally myself with the Labour Party, and it is also true that I often suggested an honorable alliance. At those times, however, I always said, “ Make your machine such that all those men who stand by you shall be treated as equal in every respect to member’s who subscribe to the labour pledge; divide your programme, separate the prophetic and impossible from the practical and useful, and then we can enter into a useful alliance with you.” One could make such an alliance with men like the Prime Minister. It is not his men in the House I fear, but the machine.Most members are properly governed by a sense of loyalty bred by alliance and action together - you can appeal to their conscience and judgment. But when you come to the machine, you are dealing with something which has no loyalty, no conscience, and no judgment.
– What about the machine which the honorable and learned member recently inaugurated ?
– On the occasion of the inauguration to which the Prime Minister refers, I said from the platform that if the proposal of the organization was to create such a machine as I had been criticising I should be against it, as much as against that of the Labour Party. I do not wish to fight machine with machine, but to fight machine politics with the full freedom and independence of a representative of the people.
Honorable members to-night were given two scraps - the last few words relating to the machine separated from the context, conveying in each case an utterly false impression; and that is the kind of honesty we have displayed by members opposite.
.May I, Mr. Speaker, be allowed to add a few words?
– The right honorable member may make a personal explanation, but, of course, he must not debate the question.
– Certainly not. I am obliged to you, sir, for reminding me before I commence . I wish to draw the Prime Minister’s attention to one passage which I read, and to ask him one question. At Ballarat he said -
By a simple series of morsels the Labour Party threatens the independence of the whole community.
Did he mean the machine then?
– That is not a personal explanation.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In submitting this motion, let me say that. I shall have pleasure in dealing with any extracts from my Ballarat speech, or any other speech, on any appropriate occasion.
.- With singular eloquence, and I am sure, sincerity, the Prime Minister proceeded to show that whatever he might think of the Labour Party outside the House-
– Do I understand that the honorable member is about to continue the debate of a few moments ago?
– I was proposing to accept the invitation, which, I am sure, was extended in good faith by the Prime ‘Minister, to answer, on the motion for adjournment, any quotations we might bring before him in reference to the period named. If the Prime Minister extended that invitation with the knowledge that, under the Standing Orders, it could not be accepted, I am satisfied not to go further beyond saying what I have to say from the point of view of a personal explanation. I am afraid that,if I take at their face value all the words the Prime Minister has recently
– The honorable member surely knows by this time what is permitted and what is not permitted by way of personal explanation, and that, undercover of such explanation, questions cannot be asked or a debate continued.
– I shall take it that the Prime Minister extended an invitation which he knew the Standing Orders would not permit us to accept, and, consequently,
I, with the same theatrical effect as he displayed, throw the Hansard containing his speech on the table.
– I did not invite honorable members to deal with the matter on the motion for adjournment, but on an appropriate occasion.
Question resolved in affirmative.
House adjourned at11. 14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081021_reps_3_47/>.