3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister yet taken steps to have printed the lectures on military science’ recently delivered to the students of the University of Sydney by Colonel Foster?
– I have asked my honorable colleague, the Minister of Defence, to authorize the printing of the two lectures summarizing the conclusions.
– It having come to my knowledge that the agriculturists in Italy work, not eight, but six hours a day, I ask the PrimeMinister if hewill, through the Italian Consul, obtain exact information on the subject, and make it available to the House.
– I shall be glad to do so.
Mr. EWING laid upon the table the following paper : -
Defence Acts -
Military Forces - Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) -
No. go amended - Statutory Rules 1908, No. log.’
No. 87A - Statutory Rules1908, No.110.
The Clerk laid upon the table
Spirits - Excise Collected and Capital Invested, &c. - Return to an order of the House dated 24th September, 1908.
Debate resumed from 22nd October (vide page1471), on motion by Sir William
That the item, “The President,£1,100,” be agreed to.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay, in his lengthy speech last evening, covered a great deal of ground, and, for the most part, gave the impression that he earnestly and conscientiously desires to do all in his power to bring about an improvement in the conditions of the people. But the conclusion to which those who heard him were forced was that he had received but little assistance from the Government, and was not satisfied with their actions. Nevertheless, he is determined to follow them to the end. The Ministers are not prepared to follow, him. He commenced by declaring himself a Socialist, and said that the full results of labour should go. to the worker. No Socialist could go further, since that is the objective of Socialism.
– Hear, hear.
– Most persons are Socialists because they are progressive.
– The honorable member admits that Socialism is progressive?
– Then why does he fight it ?
– Because he is not progressive.
– To march along a safe road is to progress, and so, too, is to jump over a precipice.
– Karl Marx, Morris, Bax, and other socialistic writers say that Socialism will some day be triumphant. . It will be triumphant if it attains its objective. But many who are Socialists oppose that objective, which is the abolition of private property.
– Absolute nonsense.
– In support of my statement I refer the honorable member to the speeches of the honorable member for South Sydney, the ex-leader of the Labour Party.’
– There is nothing in my speeches to justify it.
– The honorable member made many pronouncements in regard to Socialism before he really understood what it was. He declared himself to be a Socialist, and, when cornered, on. oneoccasion, said thathe was a Socialist of theFabian school.
– I was never anything: else*
– That is the school from which Socialism started.
– To what school does thehonorable member belong?
– To a political kindergarten.
– I ask honorable ‘ members not to interject so frequently.
– The difference between honorable members who call themselves Socialists and me is that I am a progressivist, prepared, to* mend: and improve wherever I. can. As a matter of fact, although there is an objective upon their platform, honorable members of the Labour Party deny it. They are really moving backward, whereas my movement is forward. I take all in the way of improvements that I can get. The honorable member for South Sydney says that he does not believe that the full results of labour should go to the workers!
– I did not say anything of the sort. The honorable member’s talent for misrepresentation, is well developed.
– The honorable member said that he belonged to the Fabian school, from which’ all Socialists have sprung. A Socialist immigrant from England, who lectured in Australia for sixteenmonths for £6 a week, as the paid representative: of the Labour Party, said that -
Socialism is the common holding of the means of production and exchange, and the holding of them for the equal benefit of all.
That gentleman has been repeating the same statements for years since his engagement terminated without pay, and will represent the Barrier in- Parliament after next election. That is the teaching of Mr. Tom Mann, who was brought out here to educate the workers in Socialism. The honorable member for South Sydney, in 1904, in delivering at Ballarat a lecture on Socialism, and the objective of his party, said -
Socialism means that the State or municipality or some representative body of the collective force of the community should assume control of the means of production and exchange.
– That is not my speech. It is only a quotation from it-
– I have quoted the words actually used by the honorable member.- I quoted them once before in his presence, and he took no exception to them.
– I do not take any exception to it now, but the honorable member lias not quoted all I said.
– I intend to quote a little more of what the honorable member said. What I have quoted is identical with what was said by Mr. Tom Mann, the paid representative of the Labour Party, by Karl ‘Marx, by Bax, and by the Fabians in their essays.
– What has this to do with the question before . the Committee ?
– I am replying to the speech made by the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– I did not ‘discuss that aspect of the question at all.
– The honorable member referred to some local instances with, which I intend to deal lateron. The honorable member for South Sydney in his Ballarat speech, ‘from which I have quoted, further said - and undertake the direction of all industry, and the distribution of the wealth which industry produces.
That is the teaching of the Labour Party, and it is the Fabian teaching. The honor - able member went on to say -
It was said that Socialism would mean the loss of individual liberty, and that men and women would be subject to the collective voice in the ordering of their lives. Well, he was free to admit that it would -mean a loss of some liberties which the people had enjoyed. The members of the Labour Party were put down as a rampant variety of Socialists, but, as a matter of fact, their position in Australia was practically the same as that of the Labom- Party in England.
I am glad that honorable members of the Labour Party do not deny that that is their creed. I have very great respect for the man who stands by what he professes to believe. It is, I think, Mr. Chairman, very much to your credit that you never deny that you are a ‘Socialist. The honorable member for South Sydney further said -
They had “their objective in political action, and in putting forward the socialistic ideal as the one to be aimed at, because it was a good and a moral ideal, and’ aimed for the happiness of the people so far as it aimed at all.
What is this socialistic ideal? It is Socialism triumphant; all the sources of production, distribution and exchange established in the hands of the people. They are to control all manufactures, and the people are to be controlled through an organization established by themselves. That is the policy of honorable members of the Labour Party, and I ask whether they have been fighting for that policy?
– Not half hard enough.
– They have not been fighting for it. The honorable member for Wide Bay has repeatedly said outside that people are now talking about extreme Socialism, and that is what he takes exception to.
Mr.Hall. - That is the only form of Socialism that the leader of the Opposition objects to.
– It is not necessary for me to quote what my leader has said. I know that . the right honorable gentleman made some very cogent remarks on this subject, which honorable members of the Labour Party might very well take to heart, because they are . getting away from their objective. If they followed the policy laid down by the leader of the Opposition, they would secure progressive legislation.
– We shall be prepared to follow the right honorable gentleman’s Toowoomba speech.
– I again appeal to honorable members to discontinue their interjections. If they will persist in interjecting, I must take some other course.
– I say that the honorable member for Wide Bay objects to the members of the Party with which he is associated being charged with extreme Socialism. I have heard the honorable member for Cook say that he cannot understand honorable members on this side being in favour of the State running railways, and the post and telegraph services, or of nationalization of the iron industry. But the Fabians understand that. They . have said that they can have nothing to do with those who think as we do, because they must . go on to their objective. They have said that people should beware of us because we may lead them away from the socialistic objective. They say that although Socialism involves State control, State control does not imply Socialism, at least, in any modern interpretation of the term.
– Does the honorable member subscribe to that doctrine?
– Yes, certainly. I should be glad to have the State undertake anything which cannot be undertaken by private enterprise, but, as soon as private persons are sufficiently enterprising to undertake the same work, “I prefer that they should do it rather than the State. That is what the Fabian objects to, and, to be consistent, honorable members of the Labour Party should also object to it. Whilst we might be in favour of nationalizing a certain industry, it is not to be said that we are, therefore, going to the Labour objective. We are not in favour of the abolition of all private ownership in land or property of any kind.
– Would the honorable . member advocate the abolition of the State ownership of railways when it could be shown that they could be carried on by private* enterprise ?
– We have a great ‘country to develop, and since the State owns the land it ought, as a natural corollary;5 to own the railways as a means of opening up its territory. When our lands have been thoroughly developed, perhaps some day in the far distant future, there may be a proposal to abolish the State ownership of railways, but there is no likelihoodof its being made at the present time.
– We wish to conclude this debate to-day.
– The honorable member neednot think that he is going to get out of the wood so easily.
– I am not in it yet.
– The Labour Party are supporting a Government which is doing absolutely nothing to carry them towards their objective.
– Would the Opposition give us anything more if they were in office?
– We should give the Labour Party everything that we thought desirable. The Liberal Party throughout history has supported every reform that is reasonably attainable and desirable, but after they have fought the battle Conservatives like the honorable member for Hume have stepped in and carried off -the laurels. The Liberals won the battle of the Reform Bill in England, and the Conservatives then stepped in and carried off the laurels. We fought the battle in New South Wales for one man one vote, and for the extension of the franchise to women, at a time when the honorable member for Hume and the . Premier of that State, Sir John See, were opposed to it. When they found that we had won the battle, however, and had only to take up our reward, they stepped in and carried off the laurels. The Treasurer today is wearing a little locket given him by the ladies of Sydney for having carried off the victory for the cause. I had fought behind my leader for the extension of the franchise to women even before I entered Parliament.
– When the present Treasurer was violently opposed to the reform.
– I was never opposed to it.
– The honorable member had always opposed it, and yet he had the audacity to accept that locket. His Government introduced in the Parliament of New South Wales a Bill to provide for the extension of the franchise to women, and they did so only because they saw that the reform was inevitable. Their attitude was much like that of Disraeli, who, when he found that the battle for electoral reform had been won by the Liberals, stepped in and carried off the laurels. Our party has been fighting the fight for progress all along the line. We were returned again and again to support a Federal system of old-age pensions, and we won it for the people. The Treasurer, however, is trying to impose upon the credulity of the Labour Party. Does he not know that it was the present leader of the Opposition who, when. Premier of New South Wales, appointed a Commissioner to visit Europe and report on the systems of oldage pensions in operation there, with the result that we had compiled the only reliable, as it is also the most complete, report on the subject that is available to-day ? The right honorable member for East Sydney made the question a live one throughout Australia. Victoria took up the reform in a half-hearted way, and has half starved the people who are dependent upon old-age pensions. We carried the fight into the arena of Federal politics, and won it.
– The honorable member may say that, but no one will believe it.
– The honorable member cannot deny my statement. Oldage pensions were suggested in the days of Tom’ Payne, and it is idle to say that the party to which I belong are not progressivists, when we can support a scheme advocated by such a revolutionary. We won the battle of Federal old-age pensions, and now the leader of the Labour Party is patting himself on the back for having secured the introduction of the system: As a matter of fact, he did not. He did what our leader could not accomplish, simply because he had been deprived of his birthright. He was deprived of the honour of carrying the scheme for which he fought so long. There is no decoration for our leader, but the historian will see that he receives the honour that is his due. What, have the Labour Party secured from the present Government ? They are Socialists, and what have they obtained from the Government in the way of socialistic legislation? They have secured, for instance, the union label legislation. Has it been of any service to the worker? Have the workers been assisted by it? No. Then the Government introduced the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Bill, which, they told the Labour Party, was also designed to benefit the workers. We know, however, that the workers have not been benefited by it. The Government are laughing up their sleeves at the party. Although, under that Act, Mr. Justice Higgins declared that 8s. 4d. per day was the wage that should be paid an engineer, the Government have advertised for an engineer at 6s. a day. The Ministry are positively independent of the Labour Party, and are treating the members of .it as mere babes and sucklings. It is a mere shell that they have cast at them.
– Do not rub it in too much.
– I appeal to the honorable member to say whether I have not stated what is absolutely correct. He gave up free-trade for the promise of progressive domestic legislation and social reform. Has he not been robbed and deceived? The Government’ induced him to forsake that which was very dear to him, promising him something better in the way of domestic reform for the worker. But they have not carried out their promise. They have also humbugged those who call themselves protectionists. They made the protectionist duties, as they call them, so high that no goods would be imported, and employment would be given to their supporters, presumably. Then the Treasurer came down and told the Labour Party that the duties make no difference in the revenue, as the goods will still come in. How can local labour be employed in manufacturing if goods are still to come in, and the revenue is to be maintained?
– Because we are making the people so much wealthier than they were.
– Is it not stupid? We are to import goods and raise a large revenue and to manufacture the same goods to take the place of imports. We cannot raise revenue if local manufacturers supply our requirements. The Labour Party are being humbugged, and they know it. The Treasurer says, “Although I said that there would be a deficiency of ,£600,000 a year, still there will not be a deficiency, as the goods will come in all the same.” But then he adds, to the Labour Party, “You shall have the new protection, and that will increase the wages of the working man out of the high protectionist duties collected. How is he going to accomplish that? Let it be remembered that the goods are to cost no more than they now do, but are really going to be made cheaper. The working man is to get more goods for his wages, but the Treasurer says in the next breath that the manufacturers will get the advantage of protection by being able to obtain higher prices for their goods.
– There will be a larger output.
– What a fallacy ! Will a population of 4,000,000 persons consume more goods because the Customs duties are made high than they did previously ? My honorable friends seem to dress just as well as they did previously. Their boots wear no longer. In what is the consumption of goods to be increased ? Are we exporting to the foreigner ? Humbug ! Is it not stupid to suggest that they can increase the wages of the working man by taking out of the manufacturer something that he gets from protection which is not effective? Where does the manufacturer get the money from if things are made cheaper? Is he not presumably to get it from those who consume his goods? The consumers will have to give the additional profit for the manufacturer, if he is to be able to give higher wages to his men. My honorable friends will see that a man is, as I said the other evening, to live upon his tail. He is to find the money with which to increase his own wages. But there is just one grain of truth in the whole thing. The miner, who gets the result of his labour in the gold that he wins, cannot increase his wages. The navvy, and a thousand and one other men, cannot increase their wages, but they will have to provide the increase of wages for the artisans in the factories which are to be established if higher wages -are to be paid out of protectionist duties. My honorable friends must see that if wages are increased it will be done at the expense of the labouring man who receives the lowest rate of pay, and who, when he does get something like a high wage, or what may be thought a high wage in his class - 8s. a day - wears out all his fibre in earning it. It wears him out at 45 or 50 years of age, and in many cases sooner. These are the men who will have to find the money if it is to be found. But let my honorable friends remember that there is only a grain of truth in the promise held out to them.
– If we closed up all the industries and put the employes in the mines, what would the wages of miners be?
– It would be determined by the price of gold or minerals. If we put men into mines, they get what they earn.
– No matter what industry a man is engaged in, what he wins is his wages.
– He does not always get what he wins.
– There is nothing mysterious about it.
– Is it the price of gold which determines the wages of tributers?
– No. When the honorable member talks about the tributers he talks about fattening the middleman. That is what the Labour Party want to do. It is the middle-man whom they are looking after - the man who fattens at the expense of the poor. They should bring the man down to the bedrock, and make him produce,, but no, they prefer to fatten him. They call upon the poor miner to pay a tribute to him. The poor miner has to give more than one-half of his wages to somebody for the right of winning his living.
– It is the other side which is in favour of the tributing system.
– My honorable friends have to remember, further, that by the new protection, and the old protection too, they have made living so expensive that they will throw many mines out of work, because it has been made so hard for them to obtain the necessary machinery. I want to know whether the restricted proposals which they have been supporting will lead to the attainment of their ideal. Such a policy is the very opposite to a Socialist policy: There is a very great deal that is attractive in the policy of a Socialist, but when he sees that he has made a failure with a State concern he will not undo it. He says, “ Let us go on until we get to the ideal stage, and when we are triumphant everything will be glorious. It will be the triumph depicted by the Fabians.”
– It will be heaven.
– It will really be bringing heaven upon earth. It is the millennium which my honorable friends are seeking. The honorable member for Wide Bay says that he and the party which he leads favour a land tax. The ex-leader of the Labour Party, the honorable member for South Sydney,- was also in favour of a land tax. He led the party in favour of a land tax, but now I find that there is a difference of opinion between those two honorable gentlemen as to the purpose for which it should be levied. The honorable member for Wide Bay favours a land’ tax for the purpose of raising revenue. That is legitimate and honest. He wants to raise revenue for administering Acts of Parliament which have been passed . for the benefit of the masses. There is something statesmanlike in the honorable gentleman in coming forward and saying, “ If we decide that£1, 500,000 is to be spent in the administration of a certain Act, our duty is to raise the money,” and he proposes that it shall be raised by means of a tax on the lands of Australia. The ex-leader of the Labour Party was in favour of a land tax, but for quite a different purpose. In 1906 he made a statement on the subject. He said -
I cannot at all agree with Mr. Deakin’s statement that a progressive land tax is necessarily bound up with the problems of debts and the general financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. The proposal for a progressive land tax on unimproved values is not put forward with a view of raising revenue, and cannot yield any large amount if it succeeds in its intention. If it were put forward as a revenueproducing instrument, I admit it would then be a question for consideration in conjunction with debts and the general financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth, but in the shape in which our party is advocating it, it is not connected with these questions, and remains for decision on the other, and, perhaps, more important issue of finding land for prospective settlers.
The policy of the Labour Party is consequently to secure the imposition of a progressive land tax for the purpose of promoting land settlement. The honorable member for South Sydney has frequently argued that if people were successfully settled upon the land, a land tax would, not produce much, revenue. He thinks that such a tax would promote settlement, but would not- produce revenue. Manifestly, there is a conflict of opinion between the present leader of the Labour Party and the ex-leader of that party. Last session, when the honorable member for South Sydney filled the position of Labour leader, he declared that he was anxious to see people settled upon the land. But he did not realize the effect of the policy which he advocated. The members of the Labour Party are Socialists, but, as’ . amatter of fact, they would keep the people from getting at the source of all wealth, which is the land. The honorable member for South Sydney recognises that the inevitable effect of a land tax would be the bursting up of large estates, so that land would be available to all. Personally, 1 am in favour of providing land for all, but I am not in favour of providing it in the stupid way that my honorable friend suggested. There are men who have spoken upon the land problem, and who have made it perfectly clear that the course advocated by the honorable member for South Sydney would be the easiest way of supporting the capitalist.
– That is why all the capitalists oppose it !
– As a rule, the capitalist has not studied the question very deeply. Otherwise he would know that the effect of the honorable member’s proposal would be the very opposite of what he desires, it would break down of its own weight of injustice. The honorable member for Wide Bay can see much further. He is a Scotchman. He does a little thinking. He recognises that the cry about bursting up large estates, and putting workmen upon the land is so much humbug. He realizes that unless a uniform land tax be imposed, estates will never be burst up. Consequently, he says, “ I will go for a straight-out land tax, and raise revenue by that means as fong as it is possible to do so. When it is no longer possible, it will be because large estates are being cut up.” He advocates the introduction of a machine that will do its own work. That is the difference between the man who is all blather and bluster and the man who does a little thinking. The honorable member for Wide Bay favours the imposition of a land tax for the purpose of raising revenue. But how much revenue would such a tax produce? Of course, it is possible for honorable members opposite to defeat the very purpose which they have in view by levying too high a land tax. If a sufficiently high tax were imposed, I am satisfied that not a single member who supports the objective of Socialism would be returned to this House, and the Act would be repealed. Honorable members cannot make proposals here without doing a little thinking. The Labour Party have declined to declare that the financial proposals of the Government are unsatisfactory. Consequently, it may fairly be assumed that they intend to support the Ministry in their muddling process of governing this country. Why ? Simply because they have personal antipathies. If they were willing to sink their personal prejudices, and to pay regard only to the welfare of the Commonwealth, they would adhere to their policy.
– Does the honorable member think that we are likely to get effect given to our policy by a Government which is composed of members from the Opposition side of the House?
– Have I not shown the honorable member that we would concede anything that is of a progressive character? Has he not read history? Is he not aware that the liberal is a progressive man. What is the meaning of the term” conservative. ‘ ‘ It means that the individual so designated will conserve what he has. If we make things easier for the masses, it necessarily follows that they will secure more of the good things of this world than they have previously secured. But, as the land will not produce more wealth, it necessarily follows that somebody would obtain less of those good things, and that somebody would be the capitalist. It is only when we push the capitalist along - as I pointed out in the case of Lord Beaconsfield - that he says, “ Well, I shall be content with the honour.”
– Does the honorable member think that the present Government are conservative ?
– Yes, they give the honorable member nothing. The protectionists of England were the Conservatives. Disraeli was a protectionist.
– He was a revenue tariff - ist.
– I think the honorable member is correct in a way, because Disraeli’s policy was not so much in the direction of free-trade as the single tax policy would be.
The single tax policy means absolute freetrade, and therefore anything less than that may be called a revenue tariff policy, because it must produce revenue. Still, it is only idle to talk in that way, because nobody in our days advocates the single tax. The man who first put it forward was the man who brought the Labour Party into existence. I mean Henry George. At one of the Trafalgar Day demonstrations in England Henry George was arrested, and on inquiry as to who he was, it was discovered that he had written a book ; that book began to be read, and it was the reading of it that brought the land question to the front. It was the land question that bi ought the labour movement into existence ii*. England. And so it was from Henry George that labour members got their existence as a party. Henry George was a free-trader, and every Socialist worthy of the name is a free-trader; though, it must be said that Henry George was averse to Socialism. The leader of the Labour Party is a free-trader, the honorable member for Coolgardie is a free-trader, and so is the honorable member for Kalgoorlie..
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon ; I thought he was intelligent enough to be a free-trader. At any rate the honorable member for Perth is a free-trader. All those honorable members, who are prominent members of the Labour Party, got into Parliament because they are free-traders. It is nonsense to talk about revenue tariffism. You must either have one tax, upon land only, or you must have revenue from your Tariff. You cannot have high protection and high wages too. You cannot have goods made out of the country and coming through the Customs, and manufacture the same goods in the country. Those are a few elementary truths that the members of the Labour Party have never thought of. They are living in a fool’s paradise, or else they are deceiving the people. They are supporting the present Government, who have given them absolutely nothing, and whose policy is conservative. That Government will give the Labour Party nothing. They took the support of the party for protection, because the gentlemen who lead the Government are Victorians who have lived under a high protective system, and would sacrifice their political existence if they did not stick to it. They would throw the Labour Party over to-morrow if they asked them to be free-traders such as the forerunners of the
Labour Party were, and the Fabians were, and as Socialists must be if they believe in Socialism. The Labour Party gave the Government high, protection’, and in fact everything that the Government wanted, while the Government in return have thrown them a few things that it is impossible to carry into effect. Why did not the Government introduce old-age pensions sooner? They believed in old-age pensions, but they said they could not find the money. We made it possible for them to find the money, and they have taken the honour for the reform. It is much to the credit of the leader of the Labour Party that he keeps thumping away at that question. He says : “ find the money.”
– He has only begun to thump in the last month or two.
– It is to his credit that he has begun to thump. But why has he not’ been thumping for three years ? He might have begun the knocking in 1905. It is only by continuous knocking that you get the door opened.
– Does the honorable member say that I have not consistently advocated it?
– The honorable member has done so, but he has got no credit for it.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie asks if I charge him with supporting his leader in doing nothing. I dc. The honorable member has neglected his duty. The party have a fighting platform to which they are pledged, but they are free, if they wish, to vote against the Government. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie was free to vote against the present Government, but he did not do it. He was free to embarrass the Government upon the question of old-age pensions, which is vital to the workers of Australia, but he did not do it. He slept, because he did not know anything about it. He did not move in the; matter, because he was a mere infant in political experience. The honorable member for Wide Bay did not move in the matter because he had not thought of it. If he had, I believe he would have done so, but it must be said for him that he followed the honorable member for South Sydney, who was formerly the honorable member for Bland, a gentleman whom the Government were able to twist around their fingers, and who got a reputation for being “bland.” The Government led him by the nose, and are still doing so. Whenever they are in trouble they go to him, so that he may do the twisting amongst the members of the Labour Party, and he does the twisting for the Government. The Government will have a revenue, when it is all analyzed and rendered down, and when they cease to mystify the Labour Party with figures and computations, of , £6,500,000. The members of the Labour Party expect to do wonders as soon as the Braddon clause is abolished. But the Government propose to allow the States £6,000,000 per annum. They are paying the States at present a little over £8,000,000, so that we can assume that there will be a difference of £2,000,000 available for all services when the Braddon clause ceases to operate. Out of that amount must come the payment for old-age pensions. The pensions must be paid yearly as soon as the Act comes into operation. So that £2,000,000 from Customs and Excise will be required for the old-age pensions. That will be just squared by the £2,000,000 which the Commonwealth will get when the Braddon section expires. That is all that the Commonwealth will have, in addition to what it now gets. To pay oldage pensions, as the leader of the Labour Party wishes them to be paid, will absorb anything up to £2,000,000 per annum. What has the Commonwealth to do out of the £6,500,000? We have the Western Australian railway, which will cost probably £5,000,000; the Northern Territory will probably involve an expenditure of £3,000,000; . £10,000,000 will have to be paid for the transferred properties. Those three undertakings involve £18,000,000, upon which sum the Commonwealth will have to find interest, which, at 3 per cent., will amount to £540,000 a year. Then there is the iron bounty for five years, absorbing £50,000; agricultural bounties will absorb £20,000 at least; and the advertising of Australia in England cannot be done efficiently for less than £50,000.
– Does the honorable member think that that amount is sufficient?
– It would suit my argument to estimate the amount at a larger figure. But if the Government are in earnest about an immigration policy, they cannot carry it out for less than £50,000. Penny postage, which is part of their policy, willinvolve at the beginning a loss of £300,000. The defence scheme will cost an additional £250,000. These items make up an expenditure of £1,310,000. That is monev which we must have to carry on with. How is it proposed to raise so large an amount? Is it supposed that£1, 300,000 can be derived from a land tax? The policy of the honorable member for South Sydney is, he tells us, to put people upon the land. That policy cannot be promoted if people who go upon the land are to be heavily taxed. I ask the leader of the Labour Party, as a man of affairs, and one whom I believe to be conscientious in his desire to do justice to the people whom he represents, whether it is a fair thing to make proposals such as the Government are making, without adequate provision for financing them? As to old-age pensions, the honorable member has told the Committee that the expenditure in that direction will be nearer to £1,500,000 than to the estimate of the Government, £1,250,000, if the work is to be done well. In New Zealand, where the pension system is not on so broad a basis as ours, inasmuch as they have not the invalid pension, the cost amounts to something like 7s. per head of the population. So that the Government must borrow to carry out their own proposals. Is there to be a borrowing scheme? The Labour Party professes to be opposed to borrowing.
– We were the party that determined the policy of the Commonwealth in that respect, and we are” proud of it.
– But would the honorable member support the Government in proposals for borrowing?
– When have the Government proposed to borrow?
– I suppose that the honorable gentleman knows that two and two make four. If these schemes are to be carried out, the Government must go into the money market. They may try to hoodwink the public, but the result is inevitable. The Government are reckless in their proposals, and are imposing upon the credulity of their supporters. Here is the Labour Party, whose objective is Socialism triumphant. But they are being led into the byways of discredited politics, and are supporting a Government in which they do not believe, and which has deceived them from beginning to end. By permitting themselves to be so led, they are deceiving their supporters and the country. Is it that they have an antipathy to those honorable members on this side of the House who are progressivists, and who would assist them?
– It makes one smile to hear the honorable member calling himself and his friends progressivists.
– I am addressing the Committee not personally, but as a representative of the people. The honorable member smiles at the suggestion that I am progressivist ; but I defy him to point to a single progressive proposal by the Labour Party, or any other party, that I have not supported. In this connexion, my leader has never said a word to me ; we are free to support progressive legislation. Indeed, if I were to become retrogressive, I think I should hear my leader say, “ You are not far enough advanced for this party.”
– Does the leader of the honorable member always consult him ?
– Iknow what is going on. The representatives of the people here are being deceived by the Government ; and the longer the Government are kept in power the worse the position will become. There must be a change, but I do not say that the leaders ought to be selected from our side. Let the leaders be chosen from honorable members opposite, but, at any rate, let us have some sincerity in our legislation. We put the Labour Party into power on a previous occasion, and then made them do our bidding. We made the Labour Government do what we wanted done ; and, if the Labour Party come into power again, they will be supported, if they are progressive in their policy. Acts of Parliament on the statutebook must be honoured ; and it is the duty of the Government to see that ways and means are provided. To such a course there is only one. alternative, and that is to repeal the Acts under which the expenditure is incurred. We have to face the inevitable unless a change takes place.
– Of course, but in the meantime what about Micawber?
– In the meantime, financing must be done, or the Government will find themselves at the end of their tether ; the people will rise -in a body against the monstrous and extravagant proposals of the Government. It is no credit to the Labour Party that yesterday, when they had an opportunity of expressing an opinion, they should have been whipped into line and kept silent at the bidding of the Government. It may be well for the Government, in order . to obtain a new lease of life, that honorable members should be kept silent; but I think the circumstance must discredit the Labour Party throughout the Commonwealth.
.- It is not my intention, in discussing the Estimates, to enter into an elaborate discussion of the merits of Socialism as opposed . to individualism.
Mr.Tudor. - Does the honorable member not think that the Treasurer should be present ?
– I certainly think the Treasurer should be present when we are discussing a question involving the Estimates for the year, and the administration of his Department.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House.
– That is about the lowest-down thing the honorable member could do !
– I call your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the words of the. honorary Minister. I understand him to say - I cannot repeat the word - that my calling attention to the House was about the lowest, something, thing I could do.
– No. I did not. [Quorum formed.]
– When interrupted I was saying that, in a discussion on the Estitimates, I did not propose to enter into the merits of Socialism as opposed to individualism. However, for the benefit of the honorable ‘ member for Robertson and others, I desire to say that the members of the Labour Party subscribe to Socialism, as opposed to individualism. I understand that the honorable member for Robertson was, a little time ago, an extreme anti-Socialist, but that he, having been taken to task by certain journalists and people in New South Wales, is now, so far as I can gather from his words, opposed only to “ extreme “ Socialism.
– I am opposed to the socialistic objective.
– If so, does the honorable member subscribe to this doctrine of individualism ?
A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents on whom he has a just demand, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim or right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At Nature’s mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orders.
– Who said that?
– The passage which I have read was written by Malthus, and is reprinted in one of Anton Menger’s lectures on individualism. The Labour Party is absolutely opposed to the possibility of such, conditions, which, it cannot be disputed, show the results of individualism pushed to an extreme.
– Does not the honorable member know that the doctrines of Malthus are now regarded as fallacious?
– The existence of the Socialist party is a reply to those doctrines.
– Human beings would eat one another before dying of starvation. The honorable member, having given an exaggerated description of the possibilities of individualism, should deal similarly with Socialism.
– Exaggerations of the socialistic position have been put before the House time and again. Individualism, pushed to an extreme, would allow human bein.gs to eat each other, and Socialism is an answer to the doctrines whose final results are so accurately described in all their hideousness in the passage which I have read.
– Socialists believe in the share and share alike principle.
– I am not now discussing the Socialist’s creed; but that statement does not cover it I have merely put before the House a passage which illustrates the possibilities of the individualistic theory. The Socialists desire that all shall share in the good things of the world, and that even those whose parents are not rich may have equal opportunities with others to advance themselves.
– We believe in that, too.
– Then why does the honorable member belong to the antiSocialist party? Why is he a member of the individualistic party?
– The terms are used only in a political sense.
– Are we to understand that the anti-Socialists have accepted that name only as a political title, to enable them to oppose the Socialists, they having no programme of their own to submit?
– No. It is the Labour Party who are Socialists only in a political sense.
– I am a. Socialist in the sense of accepting the teachings of recognised authorities. The creed of those recognised socialistic authorities is that the strong shall be prevented from using their strength to the injury of the weak.
– That is our view, too.
– If honorable members opposite will admit that they are Socialists they will be welcomed into the fold.
– The members of the Labour Party are traitors to the cause of Socialism.
– That seems tobe a wholly irrelevant and offensive remark, to which I shall not reply. If it gives the honorable member satisfaction to hold that view, I have no objection ; he is welcome to it. I am glad that we have now an opportunity to discuss the financial proposals of the Government without being embarrassed by other considerations, as we were earlier in the week. The Treasurer tells tas that we have arrived at a time when a new state of things in finance must inevitably come about. That admission necessitates an investigation of the reasons which prompted it.
– Are not expressions of that kind generally used in connexion with the winding up of companies?
– Such expressions are not unknown when business concerns get into tight places, and the warnings which have been frequently uttered in this House regarding the financial position amply justify the statement.
Colonel Foxton. - Still the Labour Partyhas affirmed that it is satisfied with the financial proposals of the Government. .
– There are times when a politician has to accept something with which he is not satisfied, merely because the alternative is something which would be still more unsatisfactory. The Treasurer is a financial Blondin, balancing on a tight rope to the end of which he will never be able to walk. There is so little margin between his revenue and his expenditure that the position cannot be regarded as satisfactory, and this, notwithstanding the fact that last year he received £1,136,407 more than he anticipated from the Customs and Excise Tariffs. Many of us have pointed out in the past that the talcing over of unprofitable services before the time when we shall have the right to insist on a readjustment of the financial position is likely to embarrass our finances.
Mr.Fairbairn. - To what does the honorable member refer?
– To the taking over of Departments like those of Statistics, Meteorology, and Quarantine, and to the passing of the Agricultural Bounties Act. There were other obligations which were more pressing. The Treasurer tells us that he does not expect to be much overdrawn in 1910. That is an extraordinary admission. Apparently he confidently anticipates that there will be a deficit at the end of that year. Such financing would be condemned by any private authority.
– Does not the honorable member think that the motion of noconfidence was justified ?
– I do not say that the right honorable member for East Sydney was not justified in drawing attention to the condition of our finances. No one would object to his doing what he believed to be necessary to call attention to a glaring public danger. But although I am criticising the financial proposals of the Treasurer as I think fit, I was not prepared to accept the motion of the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– We can understand now why the honorable member did not speak to it.
– The honorable member may form what conclusions he pleases on that subject. I have said all that I intend to say in regard to the matter, and shall do what I think right in the interests of the country, in dealing with the financial proposals of the Treasurer.
– If the form of the motion of no-confidence did not please the honorable member, why did he not make a suggestion in regard to it?
– The honorable member for Parramatta is only further encouraging me to depart from the consideration of a rather interesting feature of the Treasurer’s statement of the financial position. The motion to which he refers having been disposed of, a post mortem upon it would be, I think, of very little advantage. A Treasurer who calmly says that he anticipates that the national account will not be much overdrawn in 1910 cannot claim very high rank as a financier. I believe that it is the duty of a Treasurer to make provision to meet all the expenditure likely to be incurred in carrying out the undertakings of his Government. When the Treasurer of the Commonwealth says that he expects that our account will not be much overdrawn in 1910, I submit that he is bound to say how he proposes to meet the deficit which he anticipates will accrue. I cannot compel the honorable gentleman to make any statement on the subject. He anticipates that he will get £430,000 odd less revenue this year than he got last year, and, in view of the numerous obligations proposed to be undertaken by the Government, we are justified in asking what they intend to do when called upon to face the deficit anticipated by the Treasurer.
– The Treasurer has said that he will impose a land tax.
– The honorable gentleman did not make a definite statement to that effect. I should have been glad if he had committed himself to the imposition of a land tax. What he said was that he would sooner face the imposition of a land tax than some other contingency. I have no wish to do the honorable gentleman any injustice, and I must say that I do not think he committed himself to the imposition of a land tax to meet a deficit in Federal revenue. But, whilst we have reached the present unfortunate position in connexion with our finances, it must not be forgotten that the Departments have, apparently, not been receiving fairtreatment. I do not quote the right honorable member for East Sydney on this point, but the Treasurer himself, who said -
We must not starve Commonwealth services any longer.
– And I never have starved them. The honorable member should be sufficiently manly to be fair. He knows that I have given them more than they have ever had before.
– I do not think that the honorable gentleman is justified in accusing me of being unfair to him.
– The honorable member is unfair when he charges me with starving the Departments.
– I have quoted the honorable gentleman’s own words. Perhaps it is better that I should read from the official report of his speech rather than from my notes. Honorable members will find these words on the sixth page of the pamphlet edition of the honorable gentleman’s Budget speech, at the top of the first column - i should be very glad to help the States; in fact, we have shown our earnestness all through in that direction, but we must not starve Commonwealth services any longer.
– Hear, hear !
– Then the honorable gentleman tells me that he has never starved them, and I wish to know how he reconciles the two statements.
– I did not say that I have starved them. There, again, the honorable member is unfair. I have given them more than any other Treasurer has given them.
– Is the honorable gentleman going to blame his colleagues for starving the Departments?
– I am not. They have not done so.
– Then will the honorable gentleman say who starved the Commonwealth services ?
– They were starved not by my colleagues or myself, but by gentlemen previously in office.
– Then the honorable gentleman is resorting to the subterfuge of blaming previous Treasurers for the starving of the Commonwealth services. I am sorry that my remarks should have led the Treasurer to adopt what I think is, for him, a new attitude. I have always believed that in the past the honorable gentleman has been prepared to share the responsibilities of the Cabinet, and has never shrinked from accepting full responsibility for his own administration. I have previously directed the attention of honorable members to the conduct of the PostmasterGeneral in publishing in the columns of the newspapers statements intended to lead people to believe that he was the real Simon Pure, who was prepared to do every tiling that the public required in connexion with the post and telegraph services; but that the Treasurer would not give him. the money he required. I have denounced the Postmaster-General for that, but this morning apparently the Treasurer is prepared to follow the same course and to blame previous Treasurers for having starved the Commonwealth services.
– All ex-Treasurers are blamed.
– It is of very little use for the honorable gentleman to blame others, because the present Government - which has been in office almost continuously for eight years - must accept the responsibility, whether they like it or not. ‘ How does the . honorable gentleman account for the fact that according to one official who is responsible for departmental Estimates, and who is now giving evidence before the Royal Commission, the Government have cut down the Estimates of this year to the extent of about £210,000? The Treasurer cannot say that someone else is to blame for that. Though I make these statements, I have not joined ‘in a wholesale condemnation of the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. I have expressed the opinion that in some respects the Department is doing fairly well. But the Treasurer cannot deny his responsibility, if, as we are told, Commonwealth services are being starved as a result of reductions upon the Estimates submitted for this year.
– The amount proposed for this year is £97,000 more than the amount voted last year.
– It is nearly £300,000 more.
– Will the honorable gentleman say how much less it is than the amount that was asked for?
– The honorable member had better go to the evidence which is being given before the Postal Commission.
– I took some interest in having that evidence made available to the public at a time when the Treasurer was not so anxious that I should look to a Postal Commission for information. The Treasurer charges me with treating him unfairly, but he is extending no special consideration to me, when, instead of answering a simple question, he tells me to go to the Postal Commission for information. I have considered the evidence given before that Commission, and, according to a departmental expert, about ,£3,000,000 is required to put the Post and Telegraph De,partment into a position to properly serve the public. The Treasurer’s reply to the request for that money is to cut down the Estimates to the extent of £210,000 this year.
– I never said anything of the kind. I said that I had increased the Estimates by nearly £300,000.
– The honorable gentleman cut down the draft Estimates.
– Is the Minister going to deny–
– I am not going to deny anything more. I have twice denied what the honorable member has said.
– I object to the honorable gentleman putting words into my mouth which I did not use. I say that in this year’s Estimates the Government have cut down the requests of the authorities of the Departments to the extent of £210,000, notwithstanding the fact that an increase in expenditure is proposed. It must not be forgotten that the volume of business transacted by the Departments has largely increased, that there has been an increase in the population of the Commonwealth, and in the number of services now under Federal control. Surely the Treasurer does not expect that Federal Departments can be administered for nothing ? Itis not a correct attitude for the Minister to take up, when saying that Commonwealth services must not be starved any longer, to add that thev have never been starved at all by himself.
– Nor have they.
– The honorable gentleman is really blaming his own colleagues, because with two small breaks we have had a continuous Government since the establishment of Federation. It appears to me that the Prime Minister in his speech the other night failed to appreciate the actual financial position which we have reached. I propose to deal with that later on ; but I wish now to say that I do not think there is anything in this year’s Estimates on which the Postmaster-General can specially congratulate himself. The right honorable member for East Sydney referred to the honorable gentleman at the head of a great national Department as the most stupendous joke of the century. I do not’ regard the honorable gentleman’s administration of the Department as a joke at . all. I am disposed to think that in view of the trouble which has arisen in connexion with his Department, his colleagues are inclined to view the honorable gentleman as the most stupendous disaster of the Administration.
– It is only fair to say that the Department was in a muddle when the present Postmaster-General took office.
– It is fair to say that, but the honorable member for Franklin will not deny that the Department is still in a muddle, and that the present Administration are to blame for the muddle.
– Is not the honorable member responsible for the present Government ?
– Unfortunately, every time I rise in this House to criticise proposals submitted by the Government, I am asked to say whether 1 am not responsible for the Government. Let me say again that, like others, there are occasions on which I am forced to choose the lesser of two evils. That does not in this . instance embarrass me in the expression of a definite opinion on the Government’s proposals.
– The honorable member does not wish to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
– Quite so. Evidence given before the Royal Commission shows, that the Post and Telegraph Department to-day is not in a much better position, than it was when the Commonwealth was. established, and the Treasurer must admit that the public are not served by it as they ought to be. The Cabinet Committee, which was appointed to report on the working of the Department, has pointed out some of its defects, and it does not appear that it has received the financial consideration which is its due. According to the right honorable member for East Sydney, the revenue of the Department for the last seven years was £15,837,000, and its expenditure £16,184,000, so that the sum actually expended upon it, over and above its revenue during the period, was only £311,000. One might have reasonably expected a larger expenditure on a Department that so ‘ closely touches the people. Provision should have been made for a large outlay upon it to permit of the extension of its services in outlying districts, and to. enable it to give greater facilities to even the more populated parts of the Commonwealth. The Government profess a desire to encourage settlement, and we all must recognise the important part which the Department could and should play inthe development of such a policy. Our necessities in this regard demand that for some time hence the expenditure of the Department shall be in excess of its revenue. That must be the position if we are to give reasonable facilities of communication to those residing in the more remote parts of Australia. The Treasurer, instead of taking upon himself the responsibility of cutting down the draft Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department, returns them to the Department in order that they may be reduced. Its Estimates for the present year have been reduced in that way, and it has not received reasonable treatment. It is estimated that the revenue of the Department this year will be within £24,000 of its expenditure. If that estimate is correct, we are sailing close to the wind, and many services might well be granted without those concerned being called upon to give the guarantees, uponwhich, the Department insists in . some., though not in all cases.
– The estimated difference between the revenue and expenditure of the Department for this year is £116,000.
– The honorable member must arrive at that total by a different process than that of deducting the expenditure from the revenue.
– The honorable member has missed a number of items.
– If I have, they do not appear in the tabulated statement presented by the Treasurer.
– They are to be found in another statement.
– Then the Estimates presented in tabular form by the Treasurer are incorrect.
– They are correct.
– The Treasurer says that they are correct, and the PostmasterGeneral says that they are not.
– I say that the difference between the anticipated revenue and our expenditure is £116,000.
– I think that the honorable gentleman means to say that that is the difference if we do not take into account interest in respect of buildings. The honorable member will find that there is a debit of £24,000 if we take into consideration interest that would be paid on buildings to be transferred and used.
– I accept the honorable able gentleman’s statement; but he will, admit that £24,000 is the difference between the estimated revenue and expenditure, as shown in the table to which I have referred. If the actual difference is £116,000, then the Department is moving in a direction that should lead to an extension of its present services. As to the transferred buildings, I should like to ask whether the Treasurer meant by his interjection to suggest that the States had been receiving, apart altogether from their proportion of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue, a sum in respect of interest on transferred buildings.
– They have not.
– It is about time that we had a settlement of that question.
– We cannot have a settlement until the valuation is completed.
– It is remarkable that although eight years have elapsed since; the Department was taken over by the Commonwealth the valuation is” still incomplete.
– They had a valuation three years ago.
– That is not correct.
– I am not concerned with the disagreements of my honorable friends, but I certainly favour the Commonwealth carrying out its obligations under the Constitution. The valuation of the transferred properties ought to have been completed before now, and I hope that it will be disposed of at the earliest possible moment. I do not propose at this stage to deal with the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic requirements of my own constituency ; but when we are dealing with the Estimates in detail, I shall bring them under the notice of the Committee. I want again to say to the Government that, having regard to the financial needs of the Post and Telegraph Department, and the demands that are being made upon the Treasury in respect of defence, they have no justification for placarding the House with a proposal for penny postage. They cannot reasonably believe that in the circumstances it will obtain the support of a majority of honorable members.
– Why should they propose such a. change when more revenue is already needed for the Department?
– The Government themselves anticipate; a deficit at the end of the financial year 1909-10, and they are making no vigorous effort to provide against it. Even during the present financial year, and the next, a heavy strain is likely to be put upon our finances to meet pressing necessities, and that being so. I think thatthe Government are wanting in dignity and self-respect in putting forward as a political placard a proposal to further deplete the revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department. It seems to me to be neither more nor less than a political advertisement. Another point that I wish to make is that the Treasurer in his Budget statement made only a passing reference to the loss incurred in connexion with the Pacific Cable. It would seem that the deficit during the last financial year was £62,000, and that the Commonwealth’s proportion of that loss is about £20,000. Whilst the operations of the Pacific Cable Board are being conducted at a loss, the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company is doing very well in competition with it. I should hope that it goes without saying that the Commonwealth Government uses the Pacific Cable whenever it has occasion to communicate with the Old Country.
– The Standard cable service, which we are subsidizing, is conducted through Reuter.
– I should hope that the Commonwealth Government would not think of sending a message abroad, save by the Pacific Cable. We ought to have more information on the subject, and I hope that the Treasurer, when replying to this debate, will explain the reasons leading up to this large deficit.
– At the same time we ought to recollect that although we have made a loss, so far as the actual working of the cable is concerned, Australia has gained considerably by the cutting down of the old rates.
– That point is certainly worthy of consideration. But I think that the honorable member will agree that the Treasurer should have made more than a passing reference to this loss.
– Most decidedly.
– I also notice that in his speech the Treasurer made no reference to a sum of £20,000, in which the House took some interest a little while ago. That ls a matter which might well have been mentioned.
– The case is well in hand.
– My honorable friend seems to take a very self-satisfied view about the loss of that sum to this country.
– Nothing is being left undone to recover the money.
– If the Government do not recover the. money the man who was responsible for the faulty condition of the bond, or the Ministers themselves, should be dealt with. The responsibility for the Toss of that money to the people of Australia should be thrown upon the shoulders of some person.
– It will be cheaper to lose the money than to go to law.
– I now come to that most important question of old-age pensions. I think that the Treasurer’s financial arrangements on this point are eminently unsatisfactory. If, after that statement, I am asked why I did not vote for the motion of no-confidence the other night, the reply which I have given twice stands good.
– But the honorable member could not vote for it.
– I think that my honorable friend will give me the credit of being able to vote as I desire on a question of that description. Now that the matter has been mentioned, I might as well refer to the extraordinary opinions which he can form at various times. I find that he voted for the motion of the leader of the Opposition on account of the unsatisfactory condition of the finances. He voted against some members of his party, but with others. But w’hen an amendment was moved at a later stage in favour of more effective provision being made for old-age pensions he voted against it.
– With the honorable member.
– I thought that I would be safe in voting with the Labour Party.
– Was the honorable member sorry that he did not vote with the Labour Party in the previous division, or was he desirous of getting back to his party? Are we to understand that, although he was prepared to vote for a motion which was designed to displace the Government, he had no sympathy with an amendment worded to make better provision for oldage pensions. If he was in sympathy with the payment of old-age pensions he is open to the suspicion that he was not. He was not in the same position as the members of the Labour Party. They voted against the proposal of the honorable member for Lang because they thought that, if carried, it would not improve the prospect as regards the payment of old-age pensions, and would be the means of displacing the Government. We had a particular object in view in voting as we did. Our desire was not to displace the Government, but the honorable member for Flinders voted first to displace them and then he voted against a proposition that the provision for old-age pensions was unsatisfactory. I suppose that we can only conclude from his action that he likes to vote in as many ways as possible in the House, feeling that if he voted against the Government in one division he ought to vote with them on’ another occasion. Really, his action is open to that interpretation. I intend to express my opinion, irrespective of the view which may be taken by the Ministerial or any other party. When the honorable member for Flinders suggests that I voted in a certain way because I could not do anything else, I reply that he voted affirmatively and negatively on practically the same question. The provision which is made in the Budget for oldage pensions is eminently unsatisfactory.
– Although the honorable member voted that it was satisfactory the other night.
– I voted against a motion which my honorable friend will admit was designed to embarrass the Administration.
– But it stated word for word what the honorable member is now saving.
– Will my honorable friend say that the motion of the leader of the Opposition was not intended to embarrass the Administration ?
– It was because I did not want to embarrass the Administration that I voted against the motion.
– Its main object was not to embarrass the Government.
– My honorable friend is sufficiently acquainted with parliamentary tactics to thoroughly understand the position.
– The honorable member asked me a question, which I answered by saying that the motion was not primarily intended to embarrass the Government.
– I disagree with my honorable friend, and say that it was moved for no other purpose.
– We had just voted on that matter.
– Did not the Opposition, when they found that they were in a minority, use the second string to their bow with the object of trying to get additional votes ?
– We thought that the Labour Party might vote with us, as they believe in the payment of old-age pensions.
– My honorable friends on the other side tried to lead us into voting no-confidence in the Government by means of a plausible amendment which we refused to accept.
– I am glad to see that there is one stock whip in the Labour Party, and that it is being used.
– I am uttering these remarks to-day with absolutely no feeling, and of course with the tender consideration that I have for the future existence of this Government. I want to point out the views which my honorable friends have entertained concerning the relative importance of. certain proposals. Last year they voted to set aside £191,000 for old-age pensions, .and £250,000 for naval defence, or, as the honorable member for Darwin would say, they voted less than .£200,000 for the alleviation of the sufferings of humanity, and £250,000 towards its destruction. I do not suggest that the defence of Australia is not an urgent question, but in view of the fact that they expended only £8,000 of that vote, I ask the Government whether it was urgent last year ? If they knew last year that they could not expend the money, why did they hypothecate £250,000 for a particular purpose, and thus keep it out of a fund where it could have been usefully employed?
– lt was passed by the House.
– At the instance of the Government. They must have realized at that time that, if they had been guided by the relative importance of the two proposals, they could have arranged for old-age pensions to be paid some months earlier. Before the date was prescribed in the Bill I was hoping that the Government, which professes great solicitude for the interests of the .people, would bring down a proposal to pay the pensions at least some months before the close of this financial year. I admit that I had not any strong justification for entertaining that hope, because I cannot forget the attitude of the Government in regard to the question. The circumstances under which they introduced their scheme are still green in my memory.
– They bad to be forced to bring it down.
– The honorable member can put it in that way if he pleases. But I will admit that the Government had a considerable inducement to make up their mind in that direction. Apparently they were unconcerned about making the provision, which should have been made two years ago - at the expiration of the bookkeeping section of the Constitution - as we pointed out very frequently from this corner. According to the financial statement of the Treasurer, the old-age pensions are not likely to be paid one day before the date fixed in the Act of Parliament, and, apparently, very doubtful provision is to be made for that purpose.
– The honorable member knows that that statement was only made on the understanding that the States would come to an arrangement in regard to the money which they are now paying to old-age pensioners. It can be paid months earlier if the States will come to an arrangement, but they will not.
– Does my honorable friend accuse me of having believed that the States would enter into an agreement to hand over the money?
– No. I said that if the States would adopt that course we would commence to pay the old-age pensions at an earlier date.
– The interjection of my honorable friend recalls a statement which the Prime Minister made to me five weeks before the Old-age Pensions Bill was passed. On the floor of this House he said that unless the States agreed to the setting aside of moneys for the ‘Old-age Pensions Act, so far as his Government was concerned, the payment of the money must wait until 1910.
– I did not say that.
– No; but the ‘Prime Minister did, and he did not adopt the right attitude towards me when I proved from ilansard that he did.
– I never heard that.
– The Prime Minister was not prepared to accept the responsibilityof the utterance which he had made to the members of this House. If the Treasurer is going to take up the attitude that only by an arrangement with the States can the old-age pensions be paid earlier than 30th June, 1909, it will not be with my approval. If he is prepared to alleviate the position of the unfortunate people of this country, particularly in States which do not give old-age pensions, he will find that the resources of this country are sufficient to enable old-age pensions to be paid some months earlier. He shakes his head, and from that act I conclude that the Government are disinclined to pay them earlier, unless they can come to an arrangement with the States.
– I have never said anything more than I said just now - that if the States cared to hand over to the Commonwealth the money, the old-age pensions would be paid as from the 1st January next, but that they will not agree to do so.
– What does that mean? It means that the old-age pensions will not be paid until 30th June, 1909. Does my honorable friend think that his financial arrangements will permit the money to be paid before that date?
– I do not think so, unless the States come to an agreement with us. At the next Conference they may agree to hand over the money, but if they do not we cannot pay the pensions before the date fixed.
– I hold that the resources of the Commonwealth justify the Government in accepting the responsibility of paving the pensions some months earlier. The Treasurer refuses to admit the possibility of a deficit at the end of this year under his proposals.
– There is no possibility of a deficit this year under any conditions.
– If the sums which are proposed to be appropriated for certain funds are cut down, I agree with the honorable member.
– They are not to be cut down. No one is proposing to do so.
– If the Tarif is to prove as effective as it was claimed it would prove - if it is to achieve the object for which it was enacted-
– In the form in which it was introduced it was a protective Tariff, but during its progress through Parliament it was made a revenue Tariff.
– We have evidence which is opposed to the contention of my honorable friend. If all the funds for which provision is made upon these Estimates are to be appropriated and expended during the current financial year, we shall find ourselves confronted with a very grave difficulty.
– All those amounts will be appropriated, and there will still be a considerable surplus at the end of the year.
– Then are we to understand that the Treasurer has deliberately under-estimated the revenue for the current financialyear?
– No, but at the present time the amount of revenue collected is a long way in excess of my anticipations.
– In any case it is merely a question of time when we shall be confronted with a deficit - that is if we are to carry out all the undertakings that we have in view. In declaring that the sum of £1,225,000 will foe sufficient to provide for the payment of old-age and invalid pensions, I contend that the Treasurer has grossly under-estimated our obligations in that connexion.
– By half - a - million sterling.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is talking of something of which he has no knowledge.
Mr.FRAZER. - At any rate that charge does not lie against me, because I was a member of a Commission which was- appointed to inquire into the desirableness or otherwise of establishing a Federal system of old-age pensions. Upon the figures presented to that body. I say that if we are going to treat the recipients of pensions as liberally as they are treated by the Government of New South Wales, we shall require to spend annually the sum of not less than £1,500,000 without providing for the payment of invalid pensions.
– Ask the Treasurer to give details of his estimate.
– The Treasurer is not in the humour to provide me with details, but even if he were, he would not be permitted to enter into an elaborate explanation at this stage. I wish to warn the Government that if they have consented to provision being inserted in the Old-age Pensions Act for the payment of invalid pensions in the absence of any intention to meet such claims, they are doing a grievous- wrong to a most unfortunate section of the community. In my judgment the invalid who has been suddenly stricken down - perhaps at the beginning of life - by some unfortunate accident, is infinitely more deserving of our consideration than are the aged poor themselves. If the Ministry do not intend that the money to meet these claims shall be forthcoming, there are stormy times for them ahead.
– Not from the honorable member’s party.
– I do not think, that the honorable member really believes his own statement.
– I am certain that the honorable member did not speak upon the no-confidence motion which was submitted the other day.
– The members of the Labour Party did not speak upon that motion, which was foredoomed to failure, because they were anxious to conserve the time of this House.
– If every honorable member had. voted upon that motion in accordance with his convictions there would have been a majority in favour of it.
– The right honorable member is welcome to any consolation which he can derive from having secured a “moral” victory. That is the sort of victory which is usually claimed by defeated candidates at elections. Personally. I am of opinion that a reasonable estimate of our obligations under the Old-Age Pensions
Act is £1,700,000 or £1,800,000 per annum. In proposing, during the. current financial year, to make an appropriation of only £400,000 out of a doubtful surplus towards the trust fund established in this connexion, and also to set aside £500,000 next year from a still more doubtful surplus, the Government are proposing to give effect to a financial scheme which cannot be regarded as other than eminently unsatisfactory.
– Why .did not the honorable member affirm that view by his vote the other day?
– I have no desire to- hold a post mortem. I have endeavoured to show that I realize that there are financial rocks ahead if the present system of administration is continued.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have endeavoured to point out that the financial programme of the Government tends in the direction of an ever-increasing expenditure during the next year or two, and an almost certain deficit at the end of the financial year 1909-10. Seeing that. that is so, and recognising that there are some financial obligations which ought to be undertaken earlier than, the latest date at present contemplated, the Government should have devised some means of avoiding that deficit. The Treasurer himself anticipates a shortage, because, in his own words, he thinks that the accounts “ should not be much overdrawn in 1910.” Rut any Government working on a true financial basis ought to make sure that their accounts are not overdrawn at all, and that the Commonwealth is not faced with the necessity of proclaiming to the world the fact that it has not been able to square its finances. It is not a good advertisement of a country to have reached the deficit stage, nor is. it. a position which there is any necessity for Australia., with its vast resources, to face. But the Government ‘have not foreshadowed any financial proposals to meet the emergency, and we can only conclude that they are prepared to go along until they are face to face with it, and trust to some chance of getting out. presenting itself. That does not appear to be the proper course to take, and the programme of the Labour Party in regard to finance is infinitely preferable to the people of Australia. In the first place, we propose a land tax, with the dual object of bursting up large estates, and raising some revenue-
In the next place, we favour the nationalizetion of monopolies. The Tobacco Combine are now putting into their coffers at least £500,000 that could be made available for the Commonwealth exchequer. The desirableness of nationalizing that monopoly has been pointed out in this House, and has been indorsed by a majority in another place. Another source from which the Labour Party would get revenue for the Commonwealth if they were strong enough to carry out their programme would be the sugar monopoly. The control of the refining and distribution of sugar in Australia is at present in the hands of an absolute monopoly. The ramifications of that company extend to every portion of the Commonwealth. They have been able, by means of their monoply, and with the assistance of the protective Tariff against the importation of sugar, to exact from the people of Australia a very much greater sum than they previously did. There is still another channel, judging by the extensive profits that have been divided among the shareholders, and the large bonus additions that are undoubtedly paid, from which the Labour Party would not hesitate to derive revenue to meet the necessities of the Commonwealth. I am prepared, however, to admit that both of the latter propositions may take a little time to carry out. Not only does the Treasurer fail to offer any means of meeting the deficit, which he is pleased to consider will not be very large, but the Prime Minister himself is no more definite in regard to the financial position. His speech the other night, in reply to the motion of the right honorable member for East Sydney, was an essay on the benefits of protection, coupled with an historical account of transactions between himself and the right honorable gentleman as leaders of different parties at a particularly interesting time. He went on to tell us how many factories had been brought into existence as the result of the Tariff, how many hands were employed, and how much horse-power was used - all very interesting, but hardly an answer tq a criticism of the financial policy of the Government. After asserting that the protective Tariff had brought about all those great results in Australian industry, the Prime Minister, in the next breath told us that it had been a magnificent revenue producer. But if the Tariff is effective in the first direction, those who believe in protection hold that it should not be effective as a revenue producer. Yet the
Prime Minister’s defence consisted of a long statement as to the efficacy of protection, and also as to the amount of revenue derived from the passing of his Tariff, as compared with’ the Tariff which the leader of the Opposition would probably introduce.
– That is because the Tariff is too low.
– The honorable member will not dare to assert that the Prime Minister’s speech the other night indicated that he was sorry in any way that so much revenue was being derived from the Tariff. Rather, the honorable gentleman appeared to take considerable credit to himself for the fact that the Tariff’ had realised so much revenue for the Commonwealth, and saved the Government the necessity of looking in other directions. We might have anticipated from the Prime Minister a more definite declaration of the Government’s financial policy. He must know that a course of action which leads to a certain deficit in eighteen or twenty months’ time cannot commend itself to any man who thinks seriously upon financial questions. He delivered also an address on the Defence Bill, which involves some form of compulsory service, but, as the Bill is before the House, I shall reserve to myself the right to speak upon- it later. I think I am justified in saying now that the Prime Minister has always adopted the attitude that questions ought to be submitted in some form to the electors before they are legislated upon. I do not think that has been done in the case of the Defence Bill and its compulsory service provisions. The question of sugar, which particularly relates to the State of Queensland, deserves immediate attention. The time is rapidly approaching when we shall have to review the condition of affairs in regard to that industry. Not only does the method now adopted impose a considerable strain on the Federal finances, but the consumer is prejudiced by the tactics of the monopoly which controls the refining and distribution throughout Australia. That combine have adopted such a selling price that it can just undersell the man who pays a duty of £6 per ton to import sugar. They have so fixed the price that they obtain the benefit of nearly the whole amount of the duty, and are exacting from the sugar users of Australia an altogether unjustifiable amount. No one complains - certainly I do not - of the effort made by the first Commonwealth Parliament at a critical time to secure and establish the
White Australian ideal. But the method adopted, although it may have been the only legal one possible at the time, was clumsy in the extreme. Its effect has been to considerably deplete Federal revenue, and, combined with the existence of the monopoly, to make undue exactions from the taxpayers. I believe the time is right at hand when we must review the conditions in relation to the industry. But we have no statement from the Government of what they intend. They do not say how far they agree with the existing conditions, but I suppose we can take it that, as they make no reference to the question, except to mention the achievement, they are in favour of their continuance. I should like to hear an expression of opinion from the Treasurer in regard to that question. I do not feel inclined to be exceptionally complimentary to the Government on its administration of the public Departments. The Post and Telegraph Department, during the time that the present Postmaster-General . has been in charge, has been conspicuous for the number of charges levelled against it.
– And none of them proved.
– Is the honorable member prepared to say that the allegations as to the lack of postal and telephonic facilities, and the troubles that are occasioned by the present management of the Department, have not been proved against the PostmasterGeneral ? Why, they have been proved against him by his own Cabinet Committee.
– Things have been no worse during his administration that a.t any other time.
– They have been much worse.
– My experience has been that they have been much better.
– The honorable member will be able to rise and defend his Minister. The Government are to be congratulated on having such an enthusiastic supporter in all circumstances as is the honorable member for “Bass. As to the Defence Department, the statement made by the honorable member for Corio a little while ago was one that trie Minister of Defence cannot allow to go unanswered. Certain of his allegations ought either to be proved or refuted, and until that is done we cannot say that the Minister has done his duty. On the Estimates of last year money was provided for a small arms and cordite factory. A period of over fourteen months has elapsed. The other day I asked the Minister of Defence whether he was going to send men to England to gain experience in the manufacture of small arms, and he replied that the Government intended to consider the proposal. In the Budget statement of last year it” was said that the factory was to be established. Now the Government are merely considering the project of sending men to get experience. The prospect of having the work commenced does not therefore seem to be particularly rosy. I think that there is an urgent necessity for the establishment of such a factory. It ought to be built immediately. But the Government do not seem to be particularly keen for achievement in this direction. As to the Department of External Affairs it is strange that in spite of the Contract Immigrants Act a number of foreigners are being imported to Western Australia, who go straight off the boat to work on particular undertakings, just as though a contract had been made with them before they left their own country. It is notorious that Italians and Austrians land at Fremantle, and proceed straight to these particular works, where they continue for a time, and ultimately find their way into the mines. The officers responsible for the administration of the Contract Immigrants Act ought to keep a sharp look-out. If that were ‘done, I believe that it would not be difficult to discover that contracts have been made with these men before leaving their countries. If my belief is well founded the matter is one as to which the Government should take early action. The employment of Asiatics in the pearling in- “dustry also requires attention. It is a fact that the number of Japanese in the industry is increasing. The Prime Minister should see that the law is not disobeyed. The only objection that I have to lodge against the Department of Home Affairs is that when money is provided by Parliament for doing works they are not carried out. The money voted is not spent. An effort ought to be made to see that the appropriations of Parliament do not lapse, as has been the case in the past. I have a serious objection to make to the administration of the Treasurer regarding silver coinage. He has long been the apostle of the doctrine of finding work for Australian workmen, and for keeping! money in the country. The Government professed to have made up their mind on the question of silver coinage years ago. But so far nothing has been done.
-i got a letter from the Prime Minister stating that the silver coining was to be done in England.
– Then what becomes of the pretensions of the Government as to their policy of having work done in the country? It cannot be said that the Australian mints are not capable of doing the work.
– The Western Australian mint does twice the quantity of work done by any other mint in Australia.
– The gold output of Western Australia is, roughly, half the total gold output of Australia. The Premier of that State undertook to provide extra machinery for silver coinage purposes if more machinery was requisite. We have been losing about £50,000 per annum for eight years in this direction. I base that estimate upon the fact that the Treasurer stated that we should make £50,000 per annum if we coined our own silver. That is a considerable amount to present to the Imperial authorities. Surely if an effort were made in the direction of doing in the country all the silver coining that is necessary it would be in accordance with the professed policy of the Government to have Australian work done by Australian workmen. Some time ago the Treasurer was asked if he was prepared to introduce a Banking Bill. I regard that as an urgent question. The Treasurer said that the Government had not yet made up their mind as to the form which the measure would take, but that he thought that the Bill would provide, for a Commonwealth note issue. I am aware that some members of the Opposition will not be in accord with my views on the subject, but I regard the introduction of an Australian Banking Bill as urgent. The prominence given to the question by the honorable member for Darwin has been of considerable use to the House, and he has furnished a valuable amount of information bearing upon future possibilities. I should like to see a measure dealing with the subject included in . the programme of the Government.
– The honorable member should show the Treasurer that he has the numbers, and the thing will be done.
– I do not know that the Treasurer is, this afternoon, in a condition of mind predisposing him to consider the subject. Will he say when we may reasonably expect his proposal regarding the note issue to be introduced?
– Not yet, I think.
– The right honor- . able member for Swan knows more about the matter than he likes to say.
– Is it possible to elicit a statement from the Treasurer ?
– I am not going to say anything offhand. I shall reply upon the debate.
– Then I may take it that the Treasurer will allude to the subject in his speech in reply. It has been stated that another Conference of State Premiers is projected. I should be sorry to see the Commonwealth Treasurer again going to the State Premiers with the suggestion that they should yield in reference to their financial relations wilh the Commonwealth. I believe that we have the means within our own power of carrying out our own will. We have held out the olive bough to the State Treasurers for about six years.
– We have not; we have broken faith with them.
– I do not think so.
– The honorable member has not read what took place.
– The right honorable member is entitled to complain that the Government did not indorse his views, but he cannot say that this Parliament has broken faith with the Premiers.
– Not the Parliament - the Government.
– The Government must defend themselves, but there has been no misunderstanding so far as this Parliament is concerned.
– Certainly not.
– I have a strong objection to any proposals being submitted to the States Premiers in the direction of hypothecating a certain amount of Commonwealth revenue. I am against making any more overtures to the States on financial questions. I think that the line we should adopt is to use our power of taking control of the States debts. That question is in need of consideration because considerable obligations will be falling due shortly. Debts which vary on the lines of being equal to the amount of £1,000,000 this year, £10,000,000 the next year, £2,000,000 in the following year, and in one year to the amount of £31,000,000 are coming due. The people of Australia nave to meet their obligations for the redemption of loans.
– We should have taken action years ago.
– I quite agree with my honorable friend. We should have the advantage of greater security and better terms, and should be able to distribute the liability over a number of years.
– Well, the honorable member’s party have the numbers over there.
– Unfortunately, up to the present time, the honorable member’s remark is not correct. I am now offering, quite apart from party issues, a dispassionate view of the financial position of Australia. The Government may think that I am somewhat severe, but I can assure them that no severity or unkindness is intended. I am endeavouring to examine the position of the finances, without any thought other than for the future welfare of the people whom we represent. When the time comes for adopting another attitude, I shall not be found disguising or hiding my opinions in any way. The States debts ought to be taken over by the Commonwealth.
– The States are willing to meet us half wav.
– What does the honorable member mean ?
– The States are willing to “ give and take,” and discuss the question.
– The honorable member must admit that, for six or seven years, the representatives of the Commonwealth have been endeavouring to meet the States, and that the latter have come to no agreement. The time has now arrived when, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth will be free to act at it chooses, no agreement will be necessary ; the Commonwealth will soon have full control, and it may not be necessary to confer with the States in the settlement of the question.
– We have never’ offered the States financial justice.
– The honorable member is, of course, entitled to his opinion ; and I must say that I read his scheme closely, and with the utmost ‘interest ; but I disagree with the honorable member in that his proposals are too liberal to the States.
– I say that there was an. agreement made with the States.
– The first obligation of the Commonwealth Parliament is to keep the Commonwealth solvent.
– How can we hope for that with such a Treasurer?
– I am prepared to admit that, although according to the Budget we may be able to meet our present liabilities, we have to approach next year with mournful anticipations. In my opinion, the- transference of the debts should accompany a settlement of the financial relations, and then we should have the power in one central authority, on the lines suggested, first, I think, by the honorable member for South Sydney.
– It was all arranged, to the extent of taking over the debts to the amount of £202,000,000, but the Government threw over the arrangement.
– I am not in favour of our taking over debts to the amount of £202,000,000, and still leaving the States indebted to the extent of £48,000,000, with power to increase the indebtedness.
– Then the Constitution will have to be amended.
– I am not opposed to amending the Constitution ; and I point out that the right honorable member himself had a proposal on the notice-paper involving such a change. The control of the public debts, which involve an expenditure of over £8,000,000 per annum in interest, is of more importance than whether we shall hold the elections in December or July.
– My proposal is only a form.
– But it involves an alteration in the Constitution.
– A technical alteration. The honorable member desires to prevent the States borrowing.
– As a natural consequence, the central authority must have some control over future obligations.
– Let the honorable member advocate that the next time he appears on the hustings.
– I advocated it the last time I was on the hustings.
– I never heard anything about it.
– Perhaps the honorable member would have known more of the matter, if there had not been so much “ sup-Press” in Western Australia. Asa matter of fact, I think it is a proposal that I advocated on an interesting occasion at Bunbury.
– The speech could not have been reported.
– I do not doubt that. We, as a Labour Party, have been, extremely unfortunate in regard to decisions given by the High Court on industrial measures passed by this Parliament. Our first arbitration measure was declared in part to be ultra vires, and then we have an adverse decision in regard to the new protection, which is an urgent necessity, in order to secure decent wages.
– There cannot be uniform conditions all over Australia.
– No one understands that better thandoes the right honorable gentleman.
– But is that not what the honorable member is advocating?
– No, for the simple reason that the Creator has placed an eternal bar against uniform conditions. Are the conditions equal in Victoria and Western Australia?
– We, in Western Australia, wish the Victorians to come up to our standard.
– Then the best thing to do is to leave it to this Parliament, and not to the Victorian Parliament, to settle what wages are to be paid. Indeed, it is in the highest interests of Western Australia that the Federal Parliament should have control in this matter.
-Would the honorable member apply his proposal to the farming industry ?
– We are talking about an industry assisted by the Tariff - the industry of the manufacture of agricultural machinery.
– Why should agricultural machinery not be made in Western Australia ?
– Why not? But the fact is, that the sweater may have full swing in Victoria, while in Western Australia, the trade unions have been strong enough to obtain decent wages.
– I do not think that is generous on the part of the honorable member; the manufacturers in Western Australia have a desire to do right.
– What is the difference between a desire to do right, and being strong enough to demand good wages. However, I will put it that the trade unions in Western Australia have been successful in obtaining decent wages, with the consequence that manufacturers there are placed at a disadvantage as compared with the sweaters in Victoria.
– But there are Wages Boards in Victoria.
– Only in parts. The individual who is responsible for the present position is one who benefits from the sweating. I was not enthusiastic about his pledges, when he was hanging about the House, and cringing for higher protection; and he has amply justified the view that the law should be such as to secure some advantage to those whom he employs. I think the Government ought to express some opinion as to their attitude in connexion with the trade union label. We sat for a week in order to pass a measure in this connexion, but our legislation has been rejected by” the High Court. In order to get over’ the difficulty, an amendment of the Constitution has been suggested, and, I think, the Government ought to let us know whether or not they intend to proceed with the matter.
– The Prime Minister is considering the matter with the Chairman of the Chamber of Manufactures.
– I do not know whether that is so or not, but the Prime Minister will have to consider the matter, because it is one on which the workers of Australia place some importance, and a considerable sum of money was spent in Sydney in order to test the point.
– The Government have seen the error of their ways.’
– I do not know “that they have, but when they see the judgment of the High Court, they will, probably, find means to meet the necessity which is felt by the trade unionists of Australia.
– Fancy spending a whole week fighting, and getting nothing after all !
– Honorable members opposite seem to be jocular at the idea that the trade unionists have been defeated.
– No, but the representatives of the trade unionists have been fooled by the Government they are supporting.
– It is well we should thoroughly understand the position, and I can assure honorable members that, in relation to the union label, I shall do my best to see that Parliament gives, security to the workmen as well as to the manufacturer and producer.
– The union label is a good boycotting machine.
– The right honorable member has been in closer association than myself with those who sometimes, unfortunately, resort to boycotting methods.
– I have nothing to do with boycotting.
– I do not accuse the honorable member personally of boycotting; but there are employers in Australia who have deliberately resorted to the method. What we do demand is that the union label should be used, not as an instrument of boycott, but in such a way that it may be known that the goods to which it is affixed have not been produced at the expense of the life blood of the makers. We wish to establish a union label so that the goods of the sweater may be distinguished from the non-sweater. Does the right honorable member for Swan say that there are no sweaters in Australia, that the conditions of factory life are what they should be, that men, women, and children are not being employed at wages less than they should receive?
– None of us have sympathy with that state of things.
– Then why not do what we can to distinguish the goods of the sweater from the goods of the man who pays decent wages?
– No one would object to the union label if provision could be made to prevent persons from using it to establish a boycott.
– The right honorable member imagines a danger which there is no ground for fearing. In some trades in Western Australia a union label is already in use. Those who buy the goods to which it is affixed know that the men and women employed in making them receive fair wages!. and work under proper conditions. But there are large factories, where the bench system is in vogue, in which women and girls are paid next to nothing.
– What are the Wages Boards doing?
– The Wages Boards are not general throughout Australia, and their results are not all that could be desired.
– The establishment of Wages Boards is the best thing yet devised for the worker.
– I do not know that the honorable member is an authority on the point. I have endeavoured to fearlessly express my opinions on the present financial position, and I hope that the House will pass such legislation - particularly the measure to which I have just referred - as will benefit the workers and the community generally.
.- After hearing the speech of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, one cannot help coming to the conclusion that it would have been better had his views been expressed earlier in the week. It would have been fairer had he, and the party to which he belongs, instead of entering into a conspiracy of silence, let us know what their real opinions are respecting the financial proposals of the Government. The leader of the Opposition gave an opportunity for the discussion of the financial situation of which they might have availed themselves. But, apparently, they are governed by some dark influence known only by its effects in this Chamber. No greater condemnation of a Budget has ever been hurled at a Ministry than that delivered by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I shall not follow all the windings of his speech, although I agreed with many of his conclusions; I wish to condense my remarks within the short period remaining of this sitting. I have no desire to denounce those on the Treasury bench who were once my colleagues and are still my friends; but I cannot allow my personal feelings to make me forget my duty to the Commonwealth. In representing my constituents I must express without reservation my opinion upon their proposals, about which I differ from them on many important points. The honorable member for Wide Bay last evening occupied a considerable portion of the time of the House in delivering what I may characterize - not offensively - a platform speech. It was a good exposition of Socialism, but utterly valueless as a contribution to the discussion of the present political situation.
– What about the speech of the honorable member for Robertson ?
– The honorable member for Robertson very properly replied to the statements of the honorable member for Wide Bay, but I am not responsible for the utterances of either honorable member. To my mind, the great question before us is one of finance. Nothing is more important to our constituents than the annual statement of accounts known as the Budget. The shareholders of banks and other public companies take the greatest interest in the half-yearly reports and balance-sheets of their directors, and, similarly,, the yearly delivery of: the Budget, is of the greatest concern to the 4,000,000 people who inhabit Australia. I am a little sorry that the Treasurer did not on this occasion follow the practice adopted, by States Treasurers, and observed, by the right honorable member for Swan when, he occupied the. same position, of indicating, to the House and the people the condition of the various institutions of the Commonwealth. As the honorable gentleman failed tol do so, I might, be permitted to say that,, from the various financial statements of States Treasurers recently published,, and. from his. own Budget, it is- apparent that the Commonwealth as a whole may be said to be enjoying a continued condition of. prosperity. Whether we review our pastoral, agricultural, or trading conditions, it is certain that we are in the midst of a period of material prosperity ; and if we may regard, present conditions as an indication of the future, we are entitled to hope that the prosperity of to-day will continue for another year at least. I have said that the financial proposals of the- Government are of more importance to1 the community as a whole than, are the half-yearly balancesheets of our banking and public, companies to the shareholders of those institutions. In my political experience I” have found that there is no business which comes before Parliament which is looked forward to by honorable members with so much interest as the yearly financial statement of the Treasurer. Trie records of Parliament will show that financial statements are responsible for more votes of want of confidence in an Administration than are any other proposals submitted to Parliament. In the circumstances, it surely devolves upon honorable members in Opposition, who a<re supposed to be the watchdogs of the community, to closely investigate the financial proposals of the Government. So’ it devolved upon, our leader on a recent occasion to take action, intimating to the community at large our objections to the financial proposals of the Government.
– The right honorable gentleman would have been wanting in .his duty if he had not done so.
– I think the right honorable gentleman would have been wanting in his duty if, at a time when expressions of dissent from the proposals of the Government have been heard- from every side of the House, he,, as a recognised, leader of the people, had remained silent, and had not indicated features of the Governmentproposals that deserve our condemnation. The right honorable gentleman gave us thebenefit of his conclusions,’ and it. was clearthat they were such as had been voiced previously from three’ sides in this House.
– The vote on the. motion of’ the right honorable member- for East Sydney did not show that.
– The members of the party with whom the honorable member for Maranoa, is associated! had. on two pr.e>vious occasions fired their shots across the bows .of the Government. On one occasion.’ they submitted what was practically a voteof want of confidence in. the- Government ire connexion with the management of the- Post and Telegraph Department. Again, honorable members will recollect that we had, a demand from the Labour Party that before the Manufactures Encouragement Bill was proceeded with a statement of ways and means should be submitted bv She Treasurer. It is a proper amd businesstike, proposal that we should consider ways and means before we commit ourselves: toany serious expenditure. Then from the Opposition corner the honorable member for Flinders had on, two occasions fired his shots. On the first, occasion he insisted” that before we dealt with the dispositionof our land defences we should know what we are going to spend on our first line of defence, the. navy.
– That was all blank cartridge, as the honorable member must know.
– If the honorable member for Maranoa will kindly make a mental note of his objections to any statement I make, I shall, in accordance withthe custom followed on the platform, be very glad to answer them at the close of my speech.
– But surely the honorable gentleman is not electioneering now ?
– I have said that the honorable member for Flinders proposed that before we dealt with the land forces, we should consider what our policy was to be in the matter of naval defence. On the next occasion on which the honorable member challenged the Government I felt inclined to rise and emphasize the point he made, because he said so nearly what I felt it was necessary to bring under the notice of the people. He reminded us that we should be very watchful about our expenditure, and before taking action should’ know what we would have to commit ourselves to. On this occasion the honorable member for Flinders in his attack made use of ammunition supplied him by the Treasurer. The Treasurer had said that his officers advised that, although at the time the revenue from Customs and Excise was buoyant, he must look forward to a. reduction amounting to £1,000,000 a year during the next two years from that source of revenue production.
– That is wrong.
– I remember the honorable gentleman’s words distinctly ; and the honorable member for Flinders founded his attack upon what the Treasurer had said.
– It does not follow that the honorable member for Flinders was correct.
– I cited the particular passage from Hansard.
– The honorable member for Flinders was correct in basing his remarks on figures supplied by the Treasurer. I do not wish to commit the Treasurer personally to that estimate, because he told us that it was his officers, who had advised him that the Customs and Excise revenue for the year would be reduced by £1,000,000.
– The revenue is already £40,000 more than the estimate to which the honorable gentleman refers.
– In the following year there was to be a reduction again of £1,000,000. I remember the Treasurer’s exact, words, and the honorable member for Flinders took them up, and based his attack upon them.
– The honorable member dropped them again.
– No; he had no occasion to do so. The example he gave has been circulated by the press throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, and can be altered only by the actual facts which this year and the next are likely to bring out. Following the example given by the honorable member for Flinders, I say that a reduction of £1,000,000 in the revenue year by year would reduce the Treasurer to this position : He would have a Customs revenue of £10,000,000, of which he proposes to pay £6,000,000 to the States, leaving £4,000,000, out of which ‘he would have to provide for the cost of administering the various Departments of the Commonwealth, with the result that only a little over £800.000 would be available to meet the enormous expenditure to which we are committed. The honorable member for Flinders tells me that I am right.
– He must have had a nightmare that night.
– They were not my figures. Must a man have a nightmare after listening to the Treasurer?
– There was no nightmare. I follow the debates on the financial question more closely than any other discussion in the House, and am perfectly satisfied that the examples furnished, by the Treasurer were properly set before the House by the honorable member for Flinders. In him we had the second influence in this House expressing condemnation of the financial administration of the Government, whilst we have had from the leader of the Opposition a distinct complaint that the Budget proposals are absolutely unsatisfactory. I have never heard a more straightforward charge than was made by the right honorable gentleman with respect to the Government’s financial proposals. He chose a direct method of asking the House to deal with them.’ But the Treasurer himself has supplied us with another reason in support of our contention that his financial proposals are unsatisfactory. Let me quote his own words, so that honorable members may see that his financial proposals have been condemned, not only by members of the Labour Party, members of the independent corner party, and members of the direct Opposition, but by himself. The possibility of the Treasurer’s own proposals being realized so that the purpose of this Parliament with respect to invalid and old-age pensions may be carried out on 1st July next are so doubtful that the honorable gentleman himself has told us within the last few days that “ funds to pay oldage pensions should be found even if “ - mark the subjunctive - “ resort must be had to a land tax.” The Government programme before us makes no mention of a land tax, and a land tax could not be brought into operation by 1st July, 1909. That being so, why should the Treasurer have used the subjunctive? He must know very well that there is extreme, doubt with respect to our being able to provide for old-age pensions on the date named.
– They will be paid all right.
– I have ventured to make statements with respect to finance—
– Tasmania had tremendous deficits when the honorable member was Treasurer of that State.
– He is a better man than the Treasurer will ever be.
– The Treasurer displays extreme ignorance of what happened when I was Treasurer of Tasmania.
– Something worse than ignorance ; he is offensive.
– That was the position when the honorable member’s Government was in power.
– All my colleagues from Tasmania know that whilst I was a Minister of the Crown in Tasmania I never set forward proposals in respect to finance that were not more than realized. The honorable member has absolutely misrepresented my experience of the last forty years. If there is one fact that stands out. more prominently than another in connexion with my political career in Tasmania, it is that my statements in respect of finance - and I almost hesitate to speak thus of myself - were always absolutely correct. I have made optimistic financial statements on succeeding men who had adopted a pessimistic tone, and my prognostications have proved to be correct. Let me enliven this dry debate with a reminiscence. In the year 1873 I told the then Treasurer that unless he was prepared to make substantial provision for his deficiency I should submit a motion- couched somewhat in the words of the motion put before the House on Tuesday last by the leader of the Opposition - that the financial proposals of the Government are unsatisfactory. The Treasurer of the day was a keen classical scholar, and when speaking was always so anxious to use words that conveyed his exact meaning that he sometimes halted in his speech, saying, “ I - I - I.” This peculiarity has some relation to the close of my narrative. I made my financial proposals, and instead of a deficiency found a fine surplus. The honorable gentleman whom I succeeded, in discussing the matter on the following evening, said very jocularly -
Little Jack Horner sat in the corner,
Eating his Christmas pie.
He put in His thumb and pulled out a plum,
And said, “ What . 1 good boy am I - I - I.”
– Who was the little Jack Horner?
– I was, because I had found a plum in the Christmas pie. It was 1 o’clock next morning when I had to respond. In the meantime, I had come across a friend who was also a classical scholar, and parodied Little Jack Horner. The parody was associated with the question of plural and singular, and I was able to say to my classical friend whose position I had taken - .
Little Jack Horner, of Latin no scorner,
In the second declension did spy
That of nouns there are some, which ending in um,
Do not make their plural in I - I - I.
I was reminded of that incident by the Treasurer, who told me that I was always wrong, so far as finance was concerned.
– I did not say that the honorable member was always wrong.
– That was not only drawing a bow at a venture, but it was saying what was incorrect. If my honorable friend had kept himself at all in touch with Tasmanian financial proposals, he would have known that the reverse was the fact.
– I know that the honorable member was always in trouble.
– I was never in trouble; but I. am in trouble now with the honorable member. And here let me remark is another shot across the bow. Last session the honorable gentleman placed before the House financial proposals with his new Tariff. Despising revenue, he told us that the Tariff was designed for the purpose of protection, but at the end of the first month of its operation, the leader of the Opposition called attention to the fact that it had produced an extra revenue of £300,000. I went to my private box and brought back papers to show the Treasurer that his Tariff would mean an increase of over £2,500,000 in the revenue for the year. In nine months it had produced an additional revenue of £2,000,000, although my honorable friend estimated the increase at £900,000.
– No. It did not produce an extra revenue of £2,000,000.
– It did. I shall not weary the Committee by introducing the actual figures. What is happening now ? We have had further experience of the Tariff, and it has produced additional revenue to the extent of £3,000,000 since it was introduced. There is an instance of the inaccuracy to which I have referred. The honorable member for Flinders introduced the matter, merely to indicate to how small an extent the Tariff will contribute to the very large expenditure which are looming in the future, and to which the Ministry is committed. The Treasurer’s balance was £850,000, which I say, supporting the honorable member for Flinders, was a fair assumption if the figures supplied at that time orally by the Treasurer were correct.
– If the honorable member will look at page 2 of my statement he will find that I estimated the revenue at about £10,509,000, and received
£1 1, 600, 000.
– The interjection is irrelevant. I was bearing in mind the actual words which were used by the honorable gentleman, and which were the basis of the statements made by the honorable member for Flinders. My recollection is so clear that I am prepared to swear to it.
– It is so clear that the honorable member is a million out in his figures.
– This is too bad on the part of the Minister. He does not talk to members of the Labour Party as he talks to the honorable member.
– I ask the Treasurer and the leader of the Opposition to assist me in maintaining order.’
– I am sorry that the Treasurer should think for a moment that I am misrepresenting his words. I am borne out in the facts by the honorable member for Flinders, who based his attack on the finances on two previous occasions
– And he was wrong each time.
– The honorable member was not wrong. Having arrived at the conclusion, on the Treasurer’s statement made across the Chamber, that there would be a surplus of £850,000, he pointed out that there were accruing liabilities in connexion with old-age pensions, defence, transferred properties, transcontinental railway, Federal Capital, Northern Territory, immigration, and many other things. I have been somewhat delayed in my opening remarks, because I wanted to speak of reckless or extravagant expenditure. In dealing with these matters, I ha.ve no desire to irritate the Treasurer or his colleagues. Therefore, whether the expenditure is “called reckless or extravagant is a matter of no very great moment. I desire to call attention to the fact that we are drifting into a very serious difficulty, and one which is bound to land us in a position of grave responsibility which nothing but a heavy land tax will cover.
– And a very heavy one, too.
– I am confirmed in my opinion bv the statement of the Treasurer, who only a day or two ago declared that the funds with which to pay’ old-age pensions will be found even if he has to resort to a land tax.
– I did not say anything of the kind
– I am very sorry if the Treasurer has been misrepresented in the press. I copied the statement from one of the newspapers.
– I did not make that statement.
– Then I call upon the press to apologize to the honorable gentleman. But I ask honorable members whether we have not already reached the utmost limit to which we can go in taxing our imports? If that be so, what other means of raising revenue is open to us except land taxation? If the Treasurer affirms that we have not yet reached the limit of Customs and Excise taxation I shall feel called upon to show that,’ no matter what duties we may levy upon imports, we shall not be able to absolutely exclude the manufactures of the Old Country, Canada, and Germany. But I cannot disguise the fact that we are drifting into a very dangerous position. The Budget papers disclose a possibility of conserving revenue - a possibility which has been neglected. Ministers neglected the opportunity presented to them, on the expiration of the bookkeeping period, of submitting to Parliament some equitable proposal for dealing with the Customs and Excise revenue. I wish also to say a few words in respect of our “surplus revenue.” Honorable members will doubtless recollect that when that term was first used by the Treasurer it was used in connexion with the financial difficulties which he experienced at the end of each month. Under the Constitution he was obliged to return to the States, not merely their three-fourths- share of the net Customs and Excise revenue, but also the surplus monthly balances. Thus it came about that <it the end of each month he was absolutely without funds. Time after time the Treasurer called attention to this fact, and suggested that it would soon be necessary for him to submit to Parliament a Surplus Revenue Bill. This condition of affairs continued until a difficulty arose with honorable members sitting in the Labour Corner.
– What about?
– I do not recollect at the moment.
– The trouble originated in the necessity for making provision for the pavment of old-age pensions.
– Directly after a difficulty had been created in regard to the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department, the demands of the Labour Party for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of that Department were significantly hushed, and the next thing we learned was that the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth was to be utilized in defraying the cost of an old-age pensions scheme, and of the new defence scheme. Originally we were told that it would be necessary to pass the Surplus Revenue Bill for the purpose of providing the Treasurer with funds at the end of each month.
– Not at all.
– I knew that the Treasurer would sav that. Nevertheless, that is what he told us. After the trouble with the Labour corner, in respect of the appointment of the Postal Commission, the Surplus Revenue Bill was submitted to Parliament, and under its provisions £200,000 was paid to a trust fund established in connexion with a Federal scheme of old-age pensions, and £250,000 into a trust fund out of which it is intended to defray the cost of the new defence scheme. I have already said that the Government may fairly be accused of reckless or extravagant expenditure. Of course, some honorable members may think that the expenditure to which we are committed is both necessary and wise, but I represent a community which regards it as unnecessary and unwise. We have recently had a Commonwealth trawler constructed at very great expense.
– It is a very fine vessel, too.
– The honorable member is proud of it because it was constructed in his constituency.
– It was constructed outside of my constituency, but by persons who reside in my electorate.
– I have consistently . opposed the construction of a trawler, because I am aware that round the coast of Australia hundreds of tons of fish have annually to be used for manure. Why ? Our labour conditions are such that the hundreds of tons of pilchards which are annually converted into manure cannot be profitably canned here. In addition, a. large surplus supply of fish finds its way into the market and is destroyed - in other words, it does not pass into general consumption. I wish also to call attention to the fact that the Commonwealth has been mulcted in an expenditure of £2,500, consequent upon the negligence or incapacity of officials in our Electoral branch of the Home Affairs Department. That is the amount which we have had to pay on account of three candidates, owing to the negligence of our own officers. It is not a very serious item, but the charge which it embodies against the capacity of our electoral officials is a serious one. I come now to the proposed appointment of a High Commissioner, whose Department will involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £35,000 a year.
– That proposal is only in the air.
– I would remind honorable members that Lord Strathcona, who so very ably represents Canada in the Old Country, really has . somework to perform in connexion with his office of High Commissioner, and that Mr Pember Reeves, who until a few days ago occupied a similar position for the New Zealand Government, in addition to supervising the financial operations of the Dominion, was required to attend to matters connected with immigration. He was thus able to find plentv of work. As far as South Australia is concerned, as they inscribe their own stock, and manage their own debt as a bank would, there is plenty of work to do. But I ask honorable members to consider, with regard to the whole of Australia, what a High Commissioner is to do for an expenditure of about £35,000 a year. I arrive at that sum by taking the interest upon the cost of the building, the ground rent which would have to be paid, the salaries of the High Commissioner and his officers, and the sinking fund which would be necessary to redeem the cost of the building in, say, 99 or 100 years. Those tilings could not be done for less than. £35,000 a year. Whether we appointed some noble lord in London, or one of us prosaic members of this Parliament, what would he have to do in return for that expenditure? I had two years’ experience in London in connexion with the Agency-Generalship of Tasmania, and I constantly met the representatives of other States. Sir Julian Salomons represented New South Wales for a time. Here let me say that Mr. Coghlan is a most able representative of New South Wales, and he, above all others, should, on every occasion on which the interests and purposes of the Commonwealthwere discussed, be able to enlighten the people fluently and direct their thoughts into proper channels. But until the Commonwealth takes over the management of the States’ debts, can any one tell me what would be the important duties of a High Commissioner? No State Agent-General has as yet undertaken to be a commercial agent, except Mr. Taverner, for Victoria, who is doing exceedingly well. As to the diplomatic services which would be expected of a High Commissioner, I am reminded that I have asked the Government to supply information as to the number and nature of communications between themselves and the Imperial Government. When those documents, which have not yet been produced, are laid upon the table, honorable members will see how futile is a proposition to spend anything like £35,000 to establish a High Commissionership. The time is inopportune. It has to come, but it need not come, nor need we expend so large a sum, until we take over the debts, and until we have diplomatic intercourse between the Commonwealth and the Imperial Government, which may call for his services. Then, if we want to do anything in the shape of advertising, it will not be through the High Commissioner, but by some other agency. We talk of spending £20,000 a year in advertising, but that would not pay for a pretty picture of Australia to be placed on the walls of every railway platform in Great Britain. It would not pay for Pears’ soap advertisements. What are we to advertise? Is it our wool, gold, copper, or tin ? Is it to find new markets for our apples ? Those markets were made thirty years ago by the Shoobridges of Tasmania. Is it to advertise Queensland honey, Western Australian ‘ pearlshell, or South Australian wheat? What will the Government advertise? Nothing. We cannot advertise Australia as a resort for immigrants until we can make some arrangement with the various States for placing those immigrants upon the land. Our own people want to get on to the land, and we are making provision for them by resuming various estates. I do not think there is an estate in Australia that has not a number of reserves already waiting for applicants. At any rate, that is so in Tasmania. To spend money upon immigrants at present, or until we have made proper arrangements as to land with the State Governments, is an absurdity. Notwithstanding the serious financial difficulties into which we are drifting, the Government propose to lose £170,000 per annum on penny postage.
– Between £200,000 and £300,000.
– The £170,000 is for three-quarters of a year. Let us say that the proposal is to lose £200,000 of revenue in the first year, at a time when we are practically in extremis! We shall not get through this year without some serious responsibilities looming before us. The financial proposals of the Government show that the revenue and expenditure just about meet.
– No, I have not shown that.
– That is what the Budget statement shows, at any rate. I notice that while the Customs . and Excise revenue was £11,645,000 in the last financial year, the Treasurer estimates to receive from that source this year only £11,040,000, or £606,000 less, but there is an increase of £354,000 in the expenditure.
– We have no increase in the returns to the States.
– The honorable member disregards that altogether; but his figures show most distinctly that the revenue absolutely balances the expenditure. There is a proposal to spend £650 on historical records. I am speaking of these things as extravagant and unnecessary proposals. The leader of the Opposition knows what little value has been received in the past from expenditure upon historical records. So far as Tasmania is concerned, I associated myself for years with New South Wales in paying to Mr. Bonwick, an old colonist now deceased, a sum of money to search the records, but that was paid to him more because he was an old Australian litterateur. I have been to the Record Office, in Chancerylane, London. The musty-fusty documents stored in that place relating to New South Wales since 1788, and to Tasmania since 1803, have been explored. Probably the less we know about the history of those early times the better. Yet we paid this gentleman, until he died, sums of money for searching the records. Thinking that it might be desirable to give the people of Tasmania some information about the early days of the country, I asked the late Mr. Backhouse Walker to edit the records, and a volume was issued by him. Yet after 120 years we are now asked to pay £650 more for obtaining historical records. I think it is a farce. If the money were intended to help some literary individual it would be another matter, but, so far as records are concerned, I wonder whether any member of this Parliament has read any of them. I have, and I found very little in them that was worthy of consideration. Then, again, why do the Government ask us to vote £1,000 for the representation of the press at the Chamber of Commerce Congress? Surely the press can look after its own business. There is no occasion for this outside expenditure ; nor is there any necessity to spend £1,000 upon the Imperial Institute. The Imperial Institute is a magnificent institution, of which I am glad to be a life member ; and when I go to London I am always happy to read a paper there, or do anything to further its ‘purpose; but it is unnecessary for the Commonwealth to incur expenditure of the kind. If we were overflowing with wealth, it would be a different matter. Again, money is to be spent upon a new map of Australia. Of what benefit will that be? We have maps enough already. Why should we spend £1,500 for this purpose ?
– Does the honorable member know of any map of Australia that is correct?
– I should not like to commit myself in that direction, but I assume that the maps issued under the authority of the States Governments are correct. Again, I do not know the necessity for a grant of money for the storage and seasoning of timber. The vote for that purpose is £3,000.
– The honorable member evidently does not know what serious injury has been done to Tasmania within the last twelve months.
– We can season our own timber, and if the people send it away in an unseasoned condition, the risk is theirs. During the past eight years we in Tasmania have greatly improved our timber industry. We have sent shiploads of timber away. But the unfortunate thing is, that whoever goes into the timber trade seems to forget that for every hundred pounds worth of timber exported there is £90 of expenditure in handling. That is the serious handicap under which the trade has to suffer. The expense of handling, both in Tasmania and Western Australia, is too costly. But for all that, the timber trade is increasing, largely. I have said that we are drifting towards serious taxation and borrowing ; but as we have now reached the usual time for adjourning, I should prefer to continue my observations on that part of the subject next week.
– How long does the honorable member propose to continue?
– I think that I shall conclude in an hour.
– If the honorable member intends to speak at length, I cannot object to progress being reported.
Warning Light, Sydney GeneralPost Office.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the House tlo now . adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the attention of the House a matter in which I have been interesting myself for several years past, and as to which I received to-day a letter of a somewhat startling character. I have been asking for the installation of a warning, light at the Post Office, Sydney, in the interests of those who use Port Jackson, either for pleasure or business. The application has been refused on many occasions. To-day I received the following’ letter -
Melbourne, October 22, 1908.
With reference to your letter of the 5th ultimo, further respecting your desire that a warning light (red) be placed in the tower of the General Post Office, Sydney, to indicate the approach of southerlies, I have the honour, by direction of the Postmaster-General, to inform you it appears that, in consequence of the referenceof this matter to the Department of Home Affairs for the consideration of the Government Meteorologist (as intimated in the answer given to the questions asked bv you in Parliament on the 5th. September, 1907), steps were taken by that Department to arrange for the erection of a warning light in the tower of the General Post Office for the purpose mentioned, and that the work was completed in July last. The Department of Home Affairs, however, did not advise this office of the action taken, and the information has only now come to the knowledge of this office on obtaining the papers in connexion with the further inquiry on the subject made in your letter above referred to.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Robt. T. Scott,
Secretary, per P.H.
The Hon. W. H. Wilks, M.P.,
Parliament House, Melbourne.
The public interest in this question lies in the fact that until I communicated with the Department in October, the postal authorities were totally unaware that the work had been completed.
– Although they occupied the building.
– Quite so; and the facts shew how matters are dealt with in some of the Departments. This is no reflection on the Postmaster-General ; and I am. pleased that after years of refusal all obstacles have been removed, and I hope that, now the Postmaster-General is acquainted with the facts, he will give orders to have the matter immediately righted.
– The honorable member for Dalley has pressed this matter very persistently ; but he is wrong in stating that there has been any neglect.
– The neglect is not in the honorable gentleman’s Department, but in the Department of Home Affairs.
– I may point out that the navigation authorities, even after the warning light had been put in order, protested against it being used. The light was used as. part of the decorations during the recent visit of the American Fleet, and it was found not to have the effect expected.
– It was thought that it might be confusing to navigators.
-I myself drew the attention of the Department to that fact.
– However, all objections have been withdrawn, and instructions have been given that the light shall be shown whenever a “southerly buster” approaches Sydney Harbor.
– I hope to have the assistance of honorable members in closing this part of the debate as early as possible next- week, in order that we may deal with the New Works and Buildings Estimates without delay, and dispose of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill before proceeding with the Defence Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 October 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081023_reps_3_47/>.