3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In to-day’s Age, in a paragraph relating to the coal-mining trouhle at Jumbunna and Outtrim, it is stated that the companies are, by way of revenge, weeding out unionists, or compelling them to join what is termed a “ scab federation.” The writer says -
It would seem that the companies had adopted this method of retaliation against the union in a spirit of revenge for their defeat in the recent appeal case to the Federal High Court.
I wish, therefore, to know from the Prime Minister if steps can be taken to protect the unionists whose attempt to register was opposed by the companies, the matter being subsequently taken to I he High Court. Will he see whether protection cannot be afforded by the Arbitration Act ?
– I have not read the paragraph, and know its general sense only from what the honorable member has said. The Arbitration Act gives protection against dismissal in certain cases, but I cannot at this moment say whether its provisions apply in the case mentioned. However, the matter will be considered.
– Is it intended to hold the cadet encampments in New South Wales next month, or are they to be abandoned, as alleged in the Sydney newspapers ?
– The encampments will be held, the dates already particularized being adhered to.
– When does the Government propose to introduce the Bill which will be necessary to legalize the referendum in connexion with the “ new protection “ amendment of the Constitution ?
– Two things must be considered in this regard : the state of the business already launched, and the need for giving opportunity for a full consideration of the subject generally. I cannot at present say specifically when the Bill will be introduced.
– Will the Minister consider the advisability of not limiting the possibilities of amendment to certain sections of the Constitution, but make the Bill so general in its terms as to cover other amendments which honorable members may think more likely to attain the end in view ?
– I shall not adopt a procedure to restrict discussion. Perhaps the honorable member will indicate more fully the latitude he desires?
– If the Bill provides only for the amendment of section 51 or section 52, no other amendment can be proposed.
– While it is very desirable that we should discuss the matter without unnecessary limitations, and deal withit after mature consideration, it would not be well to widen, the scope of the Bill so much that any amendment of the Constitution might be introduced in this relation. That would be going to the opposite extreme. Every effort within reason will be made to meet honorable members.
– Has the attention of . the Prime Minister been called to a paragraph in to-day’s Argus, in which the honorable member for Parkes charges him with disloyalty to the Empire. Speaking at Croydon, near Sydney, he is reported to have said -
The older portion of his audience should be interested just now in what the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth was doing to destroy loyalty….. He had already allowed the
Union Jack to be lowered in favour of the .Australian flag.
Has not the Prime Minister, by the actions of his life, proved his loyalty to the Empire more fully than the honorable and learned member for Parkes has done? Has he not shown, not only true loyalty to the Empire, but also true loyalty to Australia?
– I have read the report, which was introduced by _ the statement that the charges were serious ones. To my mind, they were ridiculous. As for th-; loyalty or disloyalty of the speaker to Australia, I do not think that will affect this country.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral allow the papers relating to the telephone from Ballarat to Clarke’s Hill, via Brown’s Hill, to be laid on the table of the library?
– With the greatest pleasure.
– Has the Prime Minister proceeded further in reference to the application of the Australian Industries Preservation Act to the manufacturers who are not now paying the rates of wages pronounced by Mr. Justice Higgins to be fair and equitable for the agricultural implement industry?
– In consequence of the honorable member’s question, as I have already informed him, the question as to our legal power to intervene was first considered, and, having been advised in that regard, the officers of the Customs were instructed to obtain information as to the facts in the case. The officers have not yet reported, but when they have, we shall be in a positionto say what our powers in this particular case are.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he hopes to be able to deal with the question of the Northern Territory this session?
– I have already said that I hope to find an evening to commend this proposal of the Government to the House within the next fortnight.
– In view of the fact that in London the initials “ N,” “ E,” “ S,” “ W,” are accepted as indicating, on letters, the divisions of North, East, South, and West, will the PostmasterGeneral ascertain whether there is any objection in the Department to the adoption of the same practice in this city ? I may mention that a Postmaster- General in the State of Victoria in pre- Federation days objected to the alteration then proposed.
– I see no objection; I shall make inquiries.
Petty Officers and Instructors
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Australians who are in England from the Australian Squadron, for the purpose of passing a course for “ higher ratings,” will have an opportunity, should any of them desire it, of qualifying for petty officers and instructors, so that they may be eligible for promotion to those positions on their return to Australia?
– In reply to the honorable member’s question I have to state that this is a matter under the control of the Admiralty. The Government will obtain the views of the Naval CommanderinChief thereon, and furnish the desired information.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– Some of the information will require to be obtained from the States. 1 gave instructions in this connexion on Friday last, when the question appeared on the business-paper, and I ask the honorable member to take the reply in the form of a return as soon as it comes to hand.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the hon- or able member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
As the Public Service Commissioner reports that, under section 50 of the Public Service Act, an appeal does lie where an officer has been prejudicially affected in regard to his status or salary, who has the power to inform an officer, who appeals on the grounds stated, that no appeal lies, and from what section of the Act, or under what regulation, does he derive his authority to give such reply?
– The Public Service Commissioner reports that there is no permanent Board of Appeal, but under the law Boards can be called into existence to deal with appeals as they arise. In cases where an officer is unaffected in status or salary, but sets forth some other ground of appeal, it is manifest, as advised by the Crown Law Officers, no appeal lies, and in such cases the Public Service Commissioner as the authority empowered to deal with all matters under the Act, so informsthe officer. No officer who has been affected prejudicially in status or salary has been informed that no appeal lies.
Overtime: General Post Office, Sydney
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Yes. The period mentioned is approximate, but the primitive methods and practices which long ago were reasonably effective for the public need are still in vogue.
It is also the intention of the Department to give the lead also in other directions when desirable, and generally to assist the States in their individual efforts to bring improvements about.
Mr. Dannevig’s appointment and the building of the trawler are both steps in the same direction.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Wannon asked the following questions : -
I have now been supplied with the following information : -
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following paper : -
Navigation Bill - Despatch from Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated iSth September, 1908, and cablegram conveying Prime Minister’s reply thereto, dated 28th October,1908.
Debate resumed from 8th October (vide page 952), upon motion by Mr. Poynton -
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the prices charged to farmers for Stripper Harvesters and Drills.
Upon which Mr. Joseph Cook had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ and the wages paid, and other conditions observed in their production.”
.- This question is of great importance to those whom I endeavour to represent, but it is not my intention to take up much time, knowing that we hope to prorogue before Christmas. At the same time, I cannot let the motion pass without presenting certain points of view, which I hope will meet with the approval of the House. First, I must compliment the honorable member for Parramatta on the amendment he has moved, and, as I did by interjection last night, express my admiration of his attitude when he led the Labour Party in New South Wales. I have a suggestion to make, in which I think he will acquiesce, namely, that to the amendment there be added the words, “ and matters pertaining to apprentices and improvers.”
– Is that not embraced in tha words, “ and other condi-tions?”
– The amendment might be so construed, but I should like definite words inserted. When I presided over an inquiry into the grievances of the tramway employes of Melbourne, I found that, by the omission of certain words from the Act, the men employed in driving horses, and attending to the stables, were not guaranteed, and, therefore, were not restricted to sixty hours of labour per week as were the gripmen and conductors. Honorable members know as well as I do how infamous employers have employed apprentices and improvers. They are frequently employed until they become so expert as to demand more wages, and they are then dismissed in order that youths at 2s. 6d. per week may be employed. However, so long as a reference to Hansard will show that the intention of the House is to include apprentices and improvers in the proposed inquiry, I am content. My experience of legal minds leads me to the conclusion that it is just as well to have definite words in the motion. The Coramission to which I have referred was hampered in its work, owing to the fact that three members resigned, so that the work had to be carried on by the remaining members, the whole of whom had to attend in order to make) a quorum. That made our work very difficult. So long as it is clearly understood that the conditions of the employment of apprentices and improvers is to be inquired into by the proposed Select Committee I shall be content.
– Mv object was to provide for an investigation into the whole of the labour conditions of the industry.
– Then I am content. The honorable member for Grey deserves not only the commendation of the House, but the thanks of everyone who has an interest in the welfare of Australia, for having submitted this motion. It will have an important bearing on what is the paramount feature of the policy of the new protection, for which this century will become famous. For the first time in the history of the protectionist movement we have provided for the protection not only of the manufacturer, but of the employe, and also of the public - the purchasers of these machines. It was about the year 1895 that I first urged that we should provide for the protection not only of the manufacturer, but of the worker - that we should fix a minimum wage and limit the hours of employment in every industry, and at the same time have a legalised list of prices for the protection of the general public, the purchasers of our manufactures. I urged that we should not allow our manufacturers to use their powers as trusts have done, and are doing, in the United States of America. That is still my opinion, and it is for that reason that I take a keen interest in this proposal. According to calculations that have been made for me by expert engineers, bv the introduction of new machinery, costing something like .£50,000. we could manufacture in the Government workshops at Newport stripper harvesters, now sold at £71, and sell them, at a profit, for £32 jos.
– Then the manufacturers of these machines needed no protection ?
– I do not intend now to discuss that phase of the question. The point that I wish to make is that in the interests of our citizens generally we should do our utmost to put down monopolies. The honorable member for Wide Bay had’ the acquiescence of the honorable member for Flinders, who occupied a high position in the State, when he asserted that we could manufacture locomotives in the Victorian Government workshops for less than they could be obtained from private firms. In the Government workshops at Newport to-day locomotives are being manufactured, according to sworn evidence, at a cost of £900 less than that at which they can be made at the best iron works in Pennsylvania, and at a cost of ,-£1,100 less than in Great Britain. The position is also the same, so far as the Government workshops of New South Wales are concerned. I wish it to be known throughout the length and breadth of Australia that these machines, which are now sold at £71 by local manufacturers, could be manufactured at the Newport workshops, and sold at a profit of ^32 10s. As to the decision of the High Court in the stripper harvester case, I only desire to say that this Parliament should be the highest court of appeal. We should be above those whom we create;. Just as our constituents can make and unmake us as members of Parliament, so we, as the creators of the High Court, should be above it, and our powers should be! paramount. Time after time, to use the words of Daniel O’Connell, Courts have “ driven a coach and four “ through Acts of the Australian States Parliaments. That has been the experience of the Commonwealth Parliament in at least one case. I hold, however, that our desire to protect the employes in this industry, as well as the manufacturers, should be paramount. We have delegated certain powers to the High Court, and if it is necessary in order to carry out our object, we should appeal to the people to agree to an amendment of the Constitution, so that full effect may be given to the policy of the new protection. The honorable member for Grey represents the far north of South Australia, and I give him my meed of praise for having introduced this motion. I am sure that it has the sympathy of the Government, and that if the proposed Select Committee be appointed we shall obtain information which will cause the Government to introduce a Bill that will give effect to the desire of the people : that the policy of the new protection shall be the undoubted law of the Commonwealth. I do not know whether our Justices garner wisdom by going to the tail of a horse to obtain that with which they decorate their heads, but so long as I have the honour of holding a seat in this House, I shall always be prepared to vote to curtail the powers of the High Court. What is the history of the Court? Take, for example, the position of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Honorable members know full well that the highest compliment ever paid that tribunal was uttered by the greatest Conservative that England has produced. Those who have read Andrew Carnegie’s work on the March of Democracy will recall the reference in it to the fact that the late Lord Salisbury, at one time Prime Min- ister of England, said that he wished that England had the equal of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. I can well understand the reason for such a» desire. He knew that it was a stronger conservative power than is the Privy Council. Such a compliment coming from: a great Conservative should convince us* that we in Australia should make the Commonwealth Parliament the highest Court in the land. As a protectionist right upto the hilt, I warmly support this motion.. I do not think that either protection or free-trade will rid us of poverty, but 1 believe that as the result of protection we shall secure such an educated body of workers that we shall be able to manufacture all that we need without seeking for skilled labour abroad. I hope that the motion will be accepted by the Government, and I am sure that the honorable member for Grey will always view with satisfaction his action in submitting it.
.– TheGovernment might favour us with a statement of their views on this question. I do not know whether the honorary Minister, who is at present in charge of the House, is prepared to make an announcement, but if the Government intend to accept the motion, further advocacy of itsmerits will be superfluous. The Government could, in many such cases, save the time of Parliament considerably by arriving at a decision and giving the House thebenefit of it. If the honorary Minister isprepared to indicate that the Government will accept the motion, I am ready to sit down without entering into the merits of the case. As he does not seem to be prepared to make a definite statement, and I’ have no power to compel him -to do so, I shall not press him further. He can look: wise, and get as much satisfaction out of doing so as he likes. If there is one casein which a charge may be laid against theadministration of the Government, this is it. In 1906 Parliament passed an Acts which gave certain privileges to the manufacturers of discs and stripper-harvesters - throughout the Commonwealth, with certain^ conditions imposed. They were given a protection of £16 per machine in the case of stripper-harvesters, and in return were expected to comply with those conditions. It is obvious that the Government have made no serious attempt to see that thestipulation in regard to the conditions of labour was complied with. Their attitude,. when they could have attempted to use their powers, was entirely unsatisfactory, and now the provisions of the Act in regard to wages and labour conditions have been declared by the High Court to be unconstitutional. But another provision, which has not been declared unconstitutional, and which is of great importance to a considerable percentage of the people, is that fixing the maximum selling price of harvesters. The Customs Tariff Act of 1906 stipulated that after 1st February, 1907, the price of the 5-ft. and under size was to be £70 ; of the 5 ft. 6 in. to 6-ft. size £75; and of the 6-ft. size and over j£8o ; while, on and after 1st February, 1908, the prices were to be £65, £70, and £7 5 respectively, an all-round reduction of £5 per machine. I am glad to see that the PostmasterGeneral has just come in, to give a little attention to a motion which was moved a fortnight ago, and upon which the Government surely cannot plead that they want to hear further debate in order to make up their minds.
– Do they ever make up their minds?
– I have seen them make up their minds in more than one direction on one particular subject, allowing very little time to elapse before they arrived at their altered conclusion. Although those maximum selling prices were fixed to be charged at the railway station nearest the factory, the Government have, up to the present, placed no data before honorable members to show that they have been concerned in the slightest degree to ascertain whether the provisions of the Act were being carried out or not. If any such information has been tabled, it must have been done very quietly, and, so far as I know, it has never been distributed. When an Act has been on the statute-book for eighteen months, imposing upon the Government certain administrative obligations - and it would not have been passed in that form had those obligations not accompanied it - honorable members are justified in looking to the Government for information as to whether its provisions have been enforced. The Government are open to the severest criticism for their action in regard to the wages conditions. There is no reasonable doubt that the farmer has been exploited since the passage of the Act of 1906, and apparently the Government have not taken the slightest interest in ascertaining whether the Act has been obeyed. That is a most serious position for them to occupy. When legislation is passed it should be enforced, and, of course, the Government are responsible for its enforcement. I question the wisdom of extending the scope of the inquiry proposed by the honorable member for Grey in the direction indicated by the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta, and supported by the honorable member for Melbourne. While it is of the utmost importance that the exact state of affairs in the harvester industry should be known to honorable members, and while I do not deny that certain conditions existing in regard to the manufacture of these implements would, if generally known, place their chief maker in Victoria in a very unsatisfactory light before the people, I question whether this is the time to institute such an extensive inquiry as the honorable member for Parramatta suggests. The motion is obviously designed to secure compliance with the provisions of the Customs Tariff Act of 1906, in order that the farmer may get the benefits of the Act during the next and following season. There is not much time at our disposal if we are to release them immediately from the apparent impositions of some manufacturers of agricultural machinery.
– Nothing that we can do will benefit them this harvest.
– It may be possible to get information about the practices of some of the manufacturers which will enable agreements contrary to the Act to be cancelled. Every one knows that farmers let t ‘heir accounts accumulate until the end of the harvest, when they meet them, as far as possible; and a Committee which set to work at once might obtain information which would enable them to free themselves from imposition. If, however, inquiry is made into all the conditions surrounding the manufacture of harvesting machinery, so much time will be occupied that the farmers will not benefit during the present season. The question which we must consider is which of the two courses proposed is the more expedient. To my mind, it would be better to at once put an end to the impositions of manufacturers who are violating the Act, .and for this reason we should agree to the motion as submitted. The farmers of Australia, when the results of the inquiry are made known, will, I think, have reason to thank the honorable member for Grey for bringing the motion forward.
.- I shall support the motion, for several reasons. It is not my intention to rail at the High Court ; but those of us who, to our sorrow, have had experience of law courts, know that Judges often place on Acts interpretations which do not give effect to the intentions of Parliament. In regard to the manufacture of agricultural machinery, we wished to prevent an American firm, which had boasted that it had captured 90 per cent, of the world’s trade, and intended to secure the other 10 per cent., from destroying Australian manufactories. But at the same time we desired that there should not be a monopoly in Australia, and therefore, while protecting our manufacturers, were at pains to provide that they should give their employes fair living wages, and should reduce their prices to the farmers by so much each year, until the reasonable rates fixed in the Act were reached. We intended ‘ that the farmer should buy his machinery more cheaply than he had been able to get it in the past, and that he should patriotically support Australian manufacturers. It has since been said, however, that the manufacturers have not kept faith with us. 1 know that in my own electorate certain firms at once reduced their prices ; but that may not have happened generally throughout the industry.
– The manufacturers who have kept faith with the Parliament should have the fact recognised, and the Committee will bring it to light.
– Yes. I do not think that it would be right to mention names now. I see no reason why the Government should not agree to the appointment of the proposed Committee. The High Court has ruled that the legislation which we have passed is beyond our powers, that is, so far as the fixing of a fair living wage is concerned. But it is our duty to ascertain whether the manufacturers have kept faith with us, and, if the Act has been flouted, to know who have kept faith and who have not done so. This the Committee would find out. Its report would also doubtless assist us in obtaining from the electors the wider grant of power which we desire. The information which its report will make known will probably prompt the electors to give us wide enough powers to pass legislation governing the industry which the High Court will not be able to question. We have learned our lesson, and it is now our duty to throw the fullest light upon the industry, so that the people of Australia may know what replyto make to our demand for power to enforce what is called the New Protection. Personally I take no exception to the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta, because I think that the investigation of the Committee should be as comprehensive as possible. Although the farmer may not benefit at once, he will certainly benefit in the immediate future.
– The report of the Committee will let the farmers know what manufacturers are keeping faith with them.
– But what is the good of Parliament expressing its intentions if the Government will not enforce the measures which are passed?
– For eighteen months we could not get Ministers to do anything.
– I think that Ministers made a mistake in the first instance, but, in the end, the result would have been the same ; the Court would in any case have decided that the Act was unconstitutional. The mistake was in not collecting the duty at first.
– It could have been afterwards refunded to those entitled to refunds.
– Yes ; but all Governments make mistakes. I believe that Ministers honestly desired to applv the principles of the new protection, but they had; greater faith in our manufacturers than experience has justified. However, having learned their lesson, I hope that they will’ fall in with the views ol honorable members, and agree to the appointment of a Select Committee which will investigate the whole subject.
– This subject has received great consideration at my hands, because I represent a large agricultural constituency. The honorable member for Grey is desirous of getting something done, and I am ready to support him.
-The motion can bepassed this afternoon.
– I hope that it will be passed this afternoon without division. The Government should either consent to the appointment of the proposed” Select Committee, or come down with a proposal which will meet the position better. As the result of close investigation! by the Tariff Commission, Parliament was led to pass, as a matter of urgency, art Act protecting the local manufacture of agricultural machinery. The recommendations were that an increased duty should be imposed on imported machines, so as to give a certain degree of preference to manufacturers here. This represented a large addition to the previous duty, but it was justified on the plea that, while restricting outside competition, the duty would lead to increased local, production, and also to fair wages for the workmen, and fair prices to the farmer. The Royal Commission discovered that, for a time, local manufacturers and importers had entered into a combination to raise prices to a figure considerably above that which inquiry showed to be fair. That combination broke down, but the Royal Commission were so impressed with the fact that such a combination was not only possible, but had operated for a considerable time, that they drew special attention to the matter, and urged that such arrangementsshould be declared illegal. In Parliament, it was determined that fair wages should be paid; and the question of what were fair wages was to be remitted to the Arbitration Court. The decision of Mr. Justice Higgins was very able and learned, and constituted a great departure, laying clown, as it did, not only a new, but a more correct basis. The learned Justice formulated a wages list - not a maximum, but a minimum wages list - and, assoon as that had taken place, the manufacturers, who were so deeply interested, determined to question the validity of the judgment. They raised a constitutional point, and the High Court decided in their favour. First of all, the inquiry before Mr. Justice Higgins disclosed the fact that verv low wages were being paid ; indeed, in a number of cases, the conditions could very properly be described as sweating conditions. The presumption is that the desire to benefit from low wages was the real incentive to the appeal on the part of the employers to the High Court. Having secured a decision in their favo’ur, the manufacturers are now able to enjov all those benefits which thev. secured on false pretences ; because, but for the representations made on their behalf to this House, I presume that the generous treatment which was given would not have been extended to the industry. I understand that the Government propose to ask, not only Parliament, but the electors, for further power to deal with questions of the kind. I point out that neither the recommendations of the Commission nor the decision of
Parliament stopped at the wages point. The desire was to secure, as well, fair consideration for the farmers who use these machines, and it was proposed that they should be freed from the conditions which the combination had imposed. What was considered to be a fair selling price was arrived at ; and it was provided that, within a certain specified time, that price should rule. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has told us how the small sizes were to be reduced to £65, the medium size to £70, and the maximum size to £75. But we know, as a matter of fact, that, not only the arrangement as to wages, but also the condition as to prices, has been flouted. I have information - and I should like further information, which can best be obtained by a Select Committee - that a number of firms have practically refused to sell on any other terms except those of deferred payments, holding that the determination of the House refers only to cash payments.
– That was not the intention of Parliament.
– Quite so; the intention was that the prices fixed were to rule as fair selling prices, and that on deferred payments only a proper interest should be allowed. It is for the Government to ascertain whether the facts are as I have stated ; and that can only be clone by means of such an inquirv as that proposed by the honorable member for Grey. The Government may have some better method, such as the appointment of a Royal Commission with more extended powers ; but what we desire is a comprehensive and thorough investigation, which will supply us with the facts to enable us to regulate this industry. I do not think there is much in the objection raised to the motion by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. Any Select Committee appointed . could deal with either the wages question or the selling price question first, in the order of urgency ; but I hold that no inquiry will be satisfactory which does not deal with both issues. I hope that the honorable member for Grey will succeed in carrying his motion without division. The Government, unless they can suggest a better method, should accept the proposal now before us.
.- The honorable member for Grey is to be complimented on the way in which he prepared the case for his motion, and we are especially indebted to him for his research into the history of the evolution of the stripper-harvester. Honorall members will recollect that the agricultural implement industry was the one selected by the Government, and approved by this House, for the institution of what has been called the New Protection. That Protection is designed to afford assistance to, in addition to the manufacturers, those engaged as workers, and also those who, at a later stage, became consumers or purchasers. Two measures were introduced by the Government, and approved by the House, dealing with these matters. The first was the Customs Tariff Act of 1906, to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred this afternoon, and from which he quoted ; and the other was the Excise Tariff Act of the same year, which, in another way, was a step to the same end. The object of the Customs Tariff Act - that is Act No. 14 of 1906 - was to give protection to the manufacturers by means of fixed duties, and a mere reference to the schedule, which sets out those duties, will, I think, be sufficient on the present occasion. The protection to the consumer was to be brought about by means of fixed prices - on the one hand there had to be fixed duties to the manufacturers, and, on the other hand, fixed prices to the consumers.
– If the Minister talks the motion out, we can talk him out !
– I shall not talk the motion out.
– It looks as if the Minister were trying to talk out the motion which is to follow.
– Honorable members in the Labour corner just a moment ago complained that the Government had no views on this question, and now, when an opinion is being offered, they assert that the Government have, some other object in view. That is not correct. My real object is, as briefly as I can, to show what steps the Government took to achieve the New Protection, and, in detailing those steps, to answer some of the objections raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and others, who said that the Government had done nothing, or, at any rate, that there is no evidence of anything having been done. The object of the Act of 1906 was to fix duties and prices, and certain penalties were provided in case of failure to comply with the conditions. The conditions and penalties are set out in sections 3 and 4 of the Act. Section 3 provides -
The duties of Customs specified in the schedule to this Act shall be charged, collected, and paid to the use of the King for the purposes of the Commonwealth on the dutiable goods specified in the said schedule and imported into Australia after the time from which the said duties are imposed or imported into Australia before that time, and not entered for home consumption until after that time.
Then section 4 provides -
If the Governor-General is satisfied that the cash prices at which stripper-harvesters and drills manufactured in Australia are sold exceeds the prices hereunder set out he may by proclamation reduce the rale of duty specified in the schedule in respect of stripper-harvesters, but so that the reduction shall not reduce the rate of duty below one-half the rate of duty imposed by this Act.
In short, the penalty for failure to comply with the provisions of the Act was the reduction of the duty by one-half. For the protection of employes the Excise Tariff Act of 1906 was passed. This Act imposed certain duties of Excise, and provided that an exemption from the payment of those duties might be made in the event of the President of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration declaring that fair and reasonable wages were being paid by the applicant. Section 2, paragraphs c and d, of that Act provides that it shall not apply to goods manufactured in the Commonwealth under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which -
These two Acts were put into operation, and the persons affected by the Excise Tariff Act of 1906 had to take steps to secure the exemption to which the payment of fair and reasonable rates of wages entitled them. We know that a number of them did pay the rates of wages declared to bef fair and reasonable, in one case by Mr. Justice O’Connor, and in another by Mr. Justice Higgins. In several cases which . came before Mr. Justice O’Connor an exemption was granted. These included the Sims case, heard in New South Wales, in which the award was made on 16th February, 1907, and the Bagshaw case heard at Adelaide in April, 1907, and in which an award was made in June, 1907. In addition to these cases in South Australia, 108 other awards were made in similar terms to those of the award in the Bagshaw case. Eventually, Mr. Justice Higgins was called upon to deal with what is known as the McKay case, although Barger’s case was also associated with it. The hearing of that case extended over a very long period, and eventually the Court determined that no exemption should be granted. The Government was then obliged, as the guardian of the rights of those affected, to institute proceedings against Messrs. McKay and Barger for the recovery of penalties. The proceedings came before the High Court, the majority of the members of which decided that the Excise Tariff Act of 1906 was invalid. Unfortunately for the employe’s concerned, that decision rendered of no avail all the work which’ this Parliament had done to secure for them reasonable rates of pay. The Act became inoperative.
– It was inoperative for a long time before that decision was given.
– I shall show that it was not.
– The Act was passed in 1906.
– That is so, but in order to render it operative, manufacturers had to apply for exemptions. Almost immediately after the passing of the Act applications were made for exemption, and they had to be heard and determined. After they had been dealt with - some by Mr. Justice O’Connor, and others by Mr. Justice Higgins - and exemptions had been actually granted, what was really the test case was brought on, as the result of the action instituted by the Commonwealth against Messrs. McKay and Barger for the recovery of penalties, and the Act was declared by a majority of the High Court Bench to be invalid. These facts do not disclose that the Government was either unaware of its duties or lax in its administration of the Act. On the contrary, I think that they show that the Ministry took every possible step to insist upon compliance with the conditions which it imposed. It is because of the decision of the High Court that we have now to deal with the whole Pol icy of the New Protection in an- other form. Let me proceed, however, with the story of what has led up to the present position. The Government took other steps in addition to those to which I have referred. Inquiries were made in all the States as to the sales which had been effected, the prices charged for the machines, and the conditions that were being observed in the industry. I have here a report from the Department of Trade and Customs which shows exactly the result of that investigation. In New South Wales, for instance, it was discovered that since 1st February, 1908 - and that date is mentioned because it was after the 1st February, 1908 that the second reduction in the price of the machines was to take place-
– The first reduction was to take place in 1907.
– That is so, and we have every reason to believe that in the majority of cases that reduction was made. It is true that in some instances it was not, but after the 1st February, 1908, the second reduction for which the Act provided had to be made, and was of such importance that special inquiries were instituted to ascertain whether the provisions of the Act were being carried out. In New South Wales it was discovered that no sales of harvesters or drills had been made since 1st February, 1908. That was the report of the Collector of Customs in New South Wales in a memorandum dated 8th April, 1908. The Collector of Customs in Victoria reported on 23rd April last that since the 1st February, 1908, no sales of harvesters had taken place, and that, according to the makers, drills had been sold for cash prices not exceeding those set out in the schedule to the Customs Tariff Act of 1906. The Collector of Customs in South Australia reported on the 2nd April to this effect -
One maker sold during 1907 harvesters 5 feet and under at ^75 (Act price was £70), and 5 ft. to 6 ft. ,£8o (Act price was £75). His prices, however, included (cash prices) accessories and “ starting expenses.”
Whatever the “starting expenses “ may be.
– They cover cost of sending an expert into the field to start the machine.
– Quite so. At all events this manufacturer 011 account of those expenses added something to the price that had been fixed in the schedule to the Act.
– It has always been the practice to send an expert to the purchaser’s farm to start one of these machines.
– I do not say that the charge is unreasonable.
– My point is that it is not an unexpected item.
– It may not be, but the report discloses that the starting expenses were charged in addition to the price fixed by the Act. Another maker sold harvesters by auction at £30, and drills at £17 Still another maker reported that he had sold none since 1st February, 1908, but stated that during 1907 he had sold, on terms, harvesters, 5 feet, at £72 10s. and£75, as against the schedule price of £70. One other manufacturer had sold since 2nd February, 1908, two drills at £17 15s. and £19 respectively. Another had sold harvesters, 5 feet, at £77 ; the Act price being £65, and harvesters, 6 feet, at £85, the Act price being £75-
These prices were those appearing in the maker’s catalogue, but the sales effected were all on time payment. The evidence showed that the prescribed prices were exceeded only when the implements were sold on terms.
In the other States no harvesters or drills were made. I cite these facts to show that the Government was in no sense lacking in its duty nor endeavouring in any way to shirk its responsibility under the Act. On the contrary, it was taking all the steps within its power to see that the terms and conditions of the Act were observed. Finding that they were not, it would have been prepared to take the necessary action.
– Is the honorable member going to talk out this motion ?
– No, but I intend to state the case for the Government, and before I conclude to intimate what action we propose to take with regard to this motion. The allegation made bv the makers - and we have no evidence of its truth - is that the Customs duties we imposed were inadequate. They also allege that there was a very heavy increase in the cost of their raw material almost immediately after the imposition of the duties, and the fixing of the prices at which their machines should be sold. Honorable members themselves have told the House that manufacturers abroad, and especially the importers, agreed to give such exceedingly long terms to buyers as to render it almost impossible for the local manufacturers to fight against them on anything like fair terms. Local makers assert that, because of these facts, they were induced to take up the position, which they did when proceedings were instituted against them for the recovery of penalties. In short, their case is that owing to the inadequacy of the duties, the increased cost of their raw materials, the keen competition, and the exceedingly long terms which their competitors offered to farmers desiring to purchase these machines, they could not sell at £65, except at a loss, and that it was even doubtful whether they could sell at a profit at , £70. The proposed Committee would be able to ascertain whether those statements are true or not. There is some evidence to support one or two of the manufacturers’ contentions, but by no means sufficient to show that the whole case, as put forward by them, is absolutely trustworthy. We know that some firms have been, and still are, paying the rates of wages declared by Mr. Justice O’Connor to be fair and reasonable, and that some are paying the rates of wages fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins. In some instances manufacturers are charging, in addition to the starting price, extra amounts for particular parts or fixings, by that means increasing the total sum payable by the purchaser. To the extent that those little innovations have taken place the Act is being more or less evaded. We are certain that in one or two instances very long terms, as alleged by local manufacturers, are being given, to the detriment of those who are not so well off from the point of view of capital. We know these things as a matter of current history, although not through sworn evidence. We have a right to ask that they shall come to our knowledge as the result of inquiry upon oath, and, further, that full and complete evidence should be obtained as to the matters about which we are not so well informed. Under these circumstances, the Government are in favour of the proposition to appoint a Select Committee. That Committee will have to inquire how far the allegations of the makers as to inadequate duties, increased cost of raw materials, and long terms in competition, are in accord with the facts. It will also have to discover to what extent these alleged disabilities affect the payment of fair and reasonable wages, as laid down by Mr. Justice O’Connor or Mr. Justice Higgins. If the allegations of the makers are found to be true, the case might still not be affected, unless the disability is so great as actually to prevent them from paying decent wages or working their men reasonable hours.
– Is not this a proper time to apply the gag?
– The honorable member appears to think that for some ulterior motive I am endeavouring to take up time which he or somebody else wants. But on so important a matter as this there is some justification for pointing out the extent to which the Committee ought to go and the necessity for enlarging the scope of its inquiry.
– Are the Government in favour of appointing a Committee?
– I have said so.
– That is all we want.
– It is not all that the Government want. In addition to the question specified in the motion, there will be other matters for the Committee to inquire into, if its work is to be complete and satisfactory. The honorable member for Grey will do well to adopt the suggestions which I am making to assist him and the House in arriving at the real facts concerning the industry, and at what should be done regarding it when the inquiry has been completed. Besides the allegations made by the manufacturers, and the extent to which, if they they affect the payment of fair and reasonable wages, there are two other matters which it will be necessary for the Committee to inquire into. We must discover whether the terms and conditions of payment for harvesters or drills, apart from cash prices, are not a sufficient set-off against the increase in the price of raw material and the other draw tacks of which the makers complain. I make that a subject of inquiry because, under the terms of the original Act, the price was fixed only for a cash sale, and the operations of the Act have been, or appear to have been, defeated to a large extent by selling upon terms. If the conditions of time payment do not prejudicially affect the manufacturers, then they have no cause to complain on that ground as to the rates of wages which they are to be called upon to pay.
– Term sales go up as high as £90 per machine to-day.
– I have heard that stated, but cannot say whether it is true or not. The honorable member will agree that we should know as much about the business as possible. I, for one, should like to know to what extent the industry is really affected by the imposition of duties, or by the increase in the price of raw material and other conditions alleged by the manufacturers to exist. What we require to ascertain is to what extent the wages paid, the class of labour employed, the hours worked, and other conditions observed, have been used to combat trade competitors or to defeat the purposes of the Act. The honorable member for Grey makes provision in his motion for discovering only the prices at which harvesters are sold, but on reading his speech, I am persuaded that he did not mean to stop at that. What he did mean to get at was the other factors to which I have referred, as is proved by the way in which he accepted the suggestion of the honorable member for Parramatta. But even the amendment moved by that honorable member will not be sufficient to discover whether the manufacturers are not employing labour in such a way as to defeat the conditions laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins and Mr. Justice O’Connor. It is asserted, for instance, that in some of the factories skilled men are being displaced by apprentices and improvers - a matter to which the honorable member for Melbourne allude’d to-day. It is also stated that the long terms given provide sometimes for interest upon the capital value of the machine, and sometimes not. Consequently, we require a much more extended inquiry to ascertain the actual conditions surrounding the work and workers in the industry than is represented by the mere discovery of the prices charged to the consumer. The honorable member did not name in his motion the honorable members whom he desired to act upon the Committee ; but since then he has been good enough to supply me with a list. I see no objection to any of those whom he has named. I would suggest that they be included in the motion, and that it be amended to read as follows -
That a Select Committee, consisting of the honorable membrs for Grey, Wannon, Riverina, Wimmera, andIllawarra, be appointed to inquire into and report upon the prices charged to farmers for stripper-harvesters and drills, the terms and conditions of payment, together w’th the wages paid,’ the class of labour employed, the hours worked, and other factors in their production.
The reference to the wages paid, hours worked, and class of labour employed, is necessary, since the price charged might be quite right only because the rates given to labour were absolutely wrong, or because a large number of apprentices or improvers were employed. That would be contrary to the object which the House had in view when the Act was passed, and against the spirit of the motion. The honorable member’s real object is to discover whether the manufacturers in this industry are carrying out the letter and spirit of the law, and, if not, why not, and why in the future they should not be compelled to do so. The honorable member would do well to widen the scope of the inquiry in the way I suggest. If he will accept my amendments, no opposition will be offered to the motion by the Government, but on the contrary we will assist in every possible way to achieve the end which the honorable member has in view.
– There is alreadyan amendment before the Chair. It must be disposed of before another can be moved.
– If I have the assurance of the Minister that the words which he proposes to add to the motion include those which the honorable member for Parramatta has moved to add, I think I may take the responsibility of asking leave to withdraw the amendment.
– They include those weirds, and make the inquiry even wider than the honorable member has asked for.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That after the word “ Committee “ the words “ consisting of the honorable members for Grey, Illawarra, Riverina, Wannon, and Wimmera “ be inserted, and that the words “ the terms and conditions of payment, together with the wages paid, the class of labour employed, the hours worked, and other factors in their production” be added.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended,resolved in the affirmative.
That a Select Committee, consisting of the honorable members for Grey, Illawarra, Riverina, Wannon, and Wimmera be appointed to inquire into and report upon the prices charged to farmers for stripper-harvesters and drills, the terms and conditions of payment, together with the wages paid, the class of labour employed, the hours worked, and other factors in their production.
Motion (by Mr. Chanter)agreed to -
That the Select Committee on Stripper Harvesters and Drills report to the House on or before10th December next, and that they have leave to send for persons, papers, and records, to report the minutes of evidence from time to time, and to move from place to place, and that three be the quorum of the Committee.
Debate resumed from 22nd October (vide page 1431) on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the Contract Immigrants Act should be amended so as to prevent the employment of coloured or Asiatic labour upon or in connexion with ships in Commonwealth ports during the time of industrial disturbance.
.- As only a quarter of an hour remains for the discussion of the Orders of the Dayrelating to private members’ business, I shall not do more than move an amendment which has been suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney. 1 move -
That after the word “ labour “ the words “ at work usually performed by shore workmen “ beinserted.
– Does that mean waterside workers ?
– It covers waterside workers, and includes others. I have already indicated that I have no objection to men being employed on the ships on which they are serving ; but I object to them entering into competition with shore workmen, in employment upon a wharf or a lighter. My contention is that men, landed either on a lighter or tug in a bay, or on a wharf, are immigrants.
.- I do not wish to block the decision of the motion, and shall therefore abbreviate my remarks, so as not to prevent a division from being taken before half-past 4. But honorable members will see that the matters dealt with are very important, and, if there should be a.ny difficulty about coming to a vote this afternoon, nothing should be more easy than to get the Government to promise a convenient occasion for the taking of a vote. All will agree that tne occupation of the wharf labourer and coal lumper is probably the hardest in Australia ; while it is also subject to drawbacks from want of continuity, through the interference of the weather, and for other reasons, which add to the hardships of those who follow this business. Bat it is a serious thing to try to take from the captain of a ship the right to employ his crew, in time of emergency, in discharging cargo or taking on coal, to enable her to leave port. If the performance of such work is in the contract of the crew, it would be an extreme step to prevent them from doing what may be called works of necessity- The honorable and learned member for West Sydney must see that his motion is open to a number of objections, with which I do not wish to deal further than to say that any legislation which would prevent a captain from employing his crew, according to their contract, in unloading or taking on coal, would be inconsistent with international law. We can prevent vessels from entering our ports; but if we allow them to do so, we must not hinder them from getting away again. It is not as though the industrial disturbance which is spoken of is something for which the captain of the ship is responsible. The dispute will be between other parties altogether, but the result would be, if the motion were carried, that his ship would be helpless.
– Why should a ship be better off than a factory in circumstances of the kind?
– As I must compress what I have to say into as few words as possible, I will point out that one of the serious objections to the motion is that it draws a line between coloured and white seamen. If the motion could be put in force to-morrow, the captain of a German or French ship, carrying a cheap white crew, could employ his men in the discharge of cargo and the loading of coal without interference, while the captain of a ship carrying even well paid coloured labour would be helpless. We were right in drawing the colour-line to secure a White Australia, but we should not make personal distinctions where this is not required by circumstances of grave national necessity. The motion would have more to justify it if it applied to all the ships in a port at the time of an industrial dispute.
– I am prepared to accept an amendment to so apply it, if the right “honorable member will move in that direction.
– Regarding it as absolutely unjustifiable, I object to its application to either white or coloured crews. Of course, “if a member of the crew of a ship were taken from the vessel and employed in work outside the terms of his contract, I would be as strongly opposed to the practice as is the honorable member. Coloured men are allowed to come here only on sufferance as sailors, to do the necessary work of their ships ; but we should offend against the first principles of international law, and hamper commerce, if when a dis pute occurred with which the authorities of a vessel had nothing to do, we prevented the captain from employing his crew according to their contract, and thus detained the vessel unwarrantably. I regard, the motion as gravely objectionable on general grounds.
.- I do not desire to talk out the motion, but I have a right to be heard in regard to it, because, while those interested are employed in the constituency represented by the honorable member for West Sydney, they live mostly in my electorate. The right honorable member for East Sydney regards the motion as objectionable; but the honorable member for North Sydney, last week, answered one of his objections when he said that under its articles a crew cannot be employed on any but the work of a ship, such as its navigation.
– A crew’s articles cover more than that.
– It is only in times of industrial disturbance that it would be sought to employ a crew in loading or unloading ; under normal conditions sailors do not do this work. Nor are they desirous of doing it, notwithstanding what the light honorable member said about the poor sailor.
– I did not refer to the poor sailor at all.
– Thursday is said to be a bad day for the introduction of legislative proposals; but the honorable and learned member for; West Sydney has taken a very useful step in bringing forward this motion in the time allotted for private members’ business. He has done what the Government should have done years ago, in drawing attention to” the need for an amendment of the Contract Immigrants Act. The Government questions the constitutionality of this proposal, and the honorable and learned member has asked whether, if we cannot do what he proposes, Ministers will seek an amendment of the Constitution which will give Parliament the power to legislate as he desires. I voted for the Immigration Restriction Act and the Pacific Island Labourers Act to bring about a White Australia ; and to-day the operatives of every factory in the Commonwealth are protected from the competition of coloured labour. The only people who can complain of competition are those engaged in coal lumping, wharf labouring, dock work, and so forth.
These men represent a large section of the working classes of Australia, and I do not see why they should not enjoy the same benefits as do men employed in factories. The leader of the Opposition has expressed the opnion that these men are probably the most hard working and poorly paid of all operatives in the community ; and many examples can be found in Sydney to prove that such is the case. In a large engineering establishment like that of Mort’s, Asiatic members of crews could be employed in the docking and slipping of vessels, and, in the case of any industrial dispute, could defeat the men. I often wonder why the Labour Party have not extended more consideration to the dock labourer, who is not only poorly paid, but, in consequence of the exposure to which he is subjected, and the nature of his work, is incapacitated in a very few years. I could give many illustrations ; but I /imply take the opportunity to put in a plea on behalf of a class of people to whom consideration should be extended. I shall vote for the motion of the honorable member for West Sydnev, and, if it be found unconstitutional, I shall be glad ro assist in obtaining an amendment of the Constitution.
– It is perfectly impossible for me to call attention to the various points which I think ought to be considered if this motion is to be accepted in its present form or amended. It aims at a condition of affairs existing during an industrial disturbance, though most Commonwealth legislation, and a good deal of the States legislation, is to prevent the occurrence of such disturbances. It appears to draw a discrimination between coloured labour and white labour employed on ships, but, even if that be possible, does not define the terms and conditions on which it would be legitimate to draw a line of discrimination. As the time for the discussion of this motion is just expiring, and in order that there may be no obstacle to its passage so far as the Government are concerned, I stand aside from an exposition or amendment, permitting the motion to be put, stipulating that the Government will interpret it in the broadest possible spirit. If it be carried, we will submit, not necessarily this amendment, but any amendment we think legitimate, in view of the many difficulties, to some of which the honorable member has called attention : that is to say, with a view to prevent the improper employment of coloured labour during the time of- actual industrial disturbance.
– Then the Prime Minister is in favour of the motion?
– With that expressqualification.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the restriction of the civil rights of the public servantsof the Commonwealth is undemocratic, inequitable, and harmful. lt is about five years since I submitted at somewhat similar motion, and honorable members will find a report of the debate at page 1506 of volume XIV. of Ilansard. The regulation, which governs the restriction of public servants in this regard, is, in these words -
Officers not to take fart in politics. - Officers; are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way promote political movements. Theyare further forbidden to use for political purposes information gained by them in the course of duty.
The motion I now submit is not quite in? the same terms as that which I advocated, a few years ago. What I then moved -was that the first sentence I have just nowquoted should be deleted ; whereas honorable members will see that the proposal I nbw submit is wider. The motionI first moved received some support, but it had the usual fate of a private member’s proposal - it was adjourned, and theend of the session arrived before any votecould be taken. The following vear, for a brief period, the Ministry was composed’ almost entirely of members from this-, corner, and we prepared a new regulation. Before we had time to put that regulationforth, however, honorable members opposite intervened, and we had no further opportunity to carry out our desire. Since then there has been no Government in> office sufficiently democratic or progressive, or with a sufficient majority or stability behind them, to undertake so important a reform. I should like to draw attention to< thu regulations which govern the political’ freedom of public servants. One regulation is -
Except in the course of official duty, no information concerning public business, or any mattes- of which an officer has knowledge officially, shall he given directly or indirectly by an officer without the express direction or permission of the [permanent head or responsible Minister.
No one objects to such a regulation as that, but the speech of Sir Edmund Barton, who was Prime Minister when the previous motion was submitted, was directed wholly to that regulation, which, he maintained, was necessary. I, myself, expressed the belief that it was a very proper regulation; but Sir Edmund Barton carefully avoided any -reference to that portion of the regulations which I desired to have deleted, and which prevents public servants from in any way promoting a political movement. Another regulation is -
Officers are prohibited .from seeking the in flu ence or interest of any person in order to obtain promotion, removal, or other advantage.
That also is a perfectly proper regulation,, to which no one could object, who desires to see a loyal and efficient public service.
– Would the honorable member like to see that regulation rigidly enforced ?
– My own view is that the regulation is rigidly enforced now.
– But that regulation might prevent public servants seeking assistance in the redress of injustice.
– Of course; but my complaint now particularly is as to that regulation which prevents public servants from exercising the right common to all -other citizens, of promoting political movements - which prevents their exercising the full rights of citizenship. We rather flatter ourselves in this Commonwealth that we make no distinction between man and woman, or any classes of the community in regard to political rights. But that position is not quite true, seeing that we have distinctly imposed a prohibition on public servants, and set them as a class apart with only partial political rights. The only power that a public servant has politically i~ to exercise his vote - public servants cannot endeavour to influence other people politically, nor publicly discuss political -questions ; indeed, they cannot privately promote 7nv particular political movement. Many political movements do not directly affect parties in this House, but, nevertheless, they come within this regulation. For instance, a public servant is “barred from taking any part in promoting temperance legislation, which is very frequent] v. though not always, a political movement : and there are other movements of the same class. I am not asking the House to undo anything it has previously done - I am not asking honorable members to repeal any Act - because this prohibition was never contemplated when the Public Service Act was passed. No suggestion was then made as to giving the Public Service Commissioner any power to interfere with the political rights of public servants. A list of the matters in regard to which the Public Service Commissioner could make regulations was set down in the Act in detail, and in not one is there any suggestion of a power to make the regulation T have quoted. There is not a word in the Act which suggests that public servants shall be prohibited from the exercise of full political powers. Sir Edmund Barton, in the debate of a few years ago, admitted as much. The honorable gentleman said -
The honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, has said that there is no suggestion in the Act that we may have any power to make this regulation. Hut I would point out that the Act gives power to the Executive to frame regulations to carry out its purposes ; and though it contains a catalogue of matters in regard to which particular regulations have been made, and does not specify political action as one of those matters, we must have regard for its whole scope. What is it? It is an Act which is intended to regulate the public service. Why? In order that it may be efficient and loyal.
That kind of reasoning would permit of any regulation that was not expressly prohibited by the Act itself. The general powers of the Commissioner for the good government of the Public Service are expressly laid down in the Public Service Act, and I think that he has gone beyond the provisions of that Act in imposing this prohibition. Unlike many others, it is not an ordinary prohibition affecting the good government of the service ; it is a distinct deprivation of political liberty, which, if thought desirable, should have been imposed, not by the Commissioner, but by the Parliament. The Commissioner, no doubt, had the acquiescence of the Government in making this regulation.
– They must have agreed to it.
– Certainly. Any law which deprives a section of .the community of political liberties enjoyed by the people generally should be made by Parliament itself, and not by a Commissioner. I believe that the Ministry, in agreeing to this regulation’, have distinctly abrogated’ one of the privileges of Parliament. I can well understand how the regulation came to be imposed. It is a relic of those prohibitions that were naturally imposed upon public servants when political patronage prevailed, and when the Public Service was largely the creation, of politicians. But the conditions of the Commonwealth Public Service to-day are altogether different. No member of this Parliament can exercise any influence on behalf of a member of our service. We cannot secure an appointment to, or dismissal from, the service.
– Most men entered the Public Service before Federation as the result of political influence.
– I think that the honorable member is exaggerating the facts.
– I invite the honorable member to scan the list of officers of the Water and Sewerage Board of Sydney.
– That is entirely beside the question. My point is that we have to consider the conditions relating to the Public Service of the Commonwealth to-day, and not those which prevailed in connexion with the Public Service of New South Wales, or of any other State, some years ago. Under the Public Service Act the .Commissioner has entirely within his own control the appointment, promotion, or dismissal of officers. When public servants were appointed or promoted by Ministers, and were under the influence of Ministerial supporters, it might have been necessary to prohibit their taking part in politics. Such a prohibition would be right, too, in the United States of America, where the public servants, from time to time, change places as Administrations change. But the Public Service Commissioner of the Commonwealth occupies the position of a private employer. He engages, dismisses, or promotes the officers of the service at his own discretion. I believe that it is absolutely true that political patronage does not prevail so far as our service is concerned, and that being so, we do not require this limitation of the rights of the members of it. I recognise that it would be a shock to our sense of the fitness of things if, for instance, we heard a lettercarrier discussing with the PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Mauger, on a public platform, the management of his Department.
– The Minister would tell him that he would do everything that he wanted.
– Did not something of the kind take place in Sydney recently, when the Postmaster-General dis cussed with officers of his Department details relating to the management of the telephone service?
– I think that the honorable member is referring to a meeting of public servants, which the PostmasterGeneral attended. That, however, was not a public gathering in the full sense of the term.
– The press representatives were present.
– If they were, tha Postmaster-General would have been well within his rights, having regard to this prohibition, in refusing to discuss with employe’s of the Department, matters concerning its administration. No doubt, a Minister would be thought to be wanting indignity if he discussed with officers of his Department, on a public platform, its management and control. But the latter part of this regulation would prevent such an occurrence. Officers are forbidden rouse, for political purposes, information gained by them in the course of their duty. Then there is the further prohibition, of which I approve, that except in the course of official duty no information concerning public business, or any other matter of which a public servant has knowledge officially, shall be given, except with the permission of the permanent head, or the responsible Minister. That, too, would prevent what some honorable members evidently fear might take place if my proposal were agreed to. We have to trust largely to the common sense of the service.
– The great majority of the members of the Public Service take part privately in political movements.
– They certainly do. But after all, public criticism of a Department, by an officer of that Department, is a very small portion of the political movements in which the service is concerned. Many public servants are anxious to take an active part in politics, and 1 fail to see why, because some idiot, who on general grounds ought to be dismissed for being an idiot, seeks to publicly discuss a question affecting his Department with the responsible Minister, or some member of Parliament, we should preclude all public servants from taking any part whatever in political movements. Most of their political interests are dissociated from the Department in which they are employed, and I think that we are. going a great deal further than is necessary in imposing this general prohibition. Is there any reason why, for instance, a public servant should not be permitted to do his utmost to obviate the imposition of a land tax?
– They do that now.
– Then the Minister or the Commissioner should bring them to look, since this regulation expressly provides that they shall take no active part in politics. Why should regulations be framed which public servants are expressly enjoined to evade? Why should we have regulations, unless it is intended to enforce them? Let us have regulations to prevent that to which we distinctly object, but do not let us take such action as will compel public servants to resort to a subterfuge in. order to carry out their desires. The result of such a regulation as this is that some men resort to underhand practices in order to circumvent it, while others who are honest, and will not indulge in underground engineering, are deprived of the opportunity to offer advice that might be to the advantage of the community. There are many political objects for the promotion of which public servants might work, without impairing the efficiency or good management of the service. Is there any reason why, for instance, public servants should be debarred from dealing publicly with such questions as effective voting, or freetrade and protection? I quite agree that it is reasonable to prohibit them from discussing in public matters concerning their own Departments, but to go beyond that is to inflict on them a hardship, and to do something that is not for the public good. It has been said that this kind of prohibition is enforced everywhere, but as a matter of fact it is not. In the State of South Australia public servants have been given absolute political freedom upon condition only that they shall not divulge to the press or by public discussion information obtained by them in the course of their employment. Otherwise they are as free as is any other citizen of the State, and there is no more loyal or efficient service in Australia. Anybody who has any knowledge of the Public Services of Australia will agree with me in that. This liberty has been granted with one slight break for twelve or fourteen years, and there has never been an instance of its abuse. The slight break I refer to was during the term of office of the reactionary Jenkins Government. That was not the result of any deliberate action on the part of Parliament, but the Order in Council which the previous Government carried lapsed when they went out of office, and the Jenkins Government did not renew it. The Price Government have since made it a direct regulation that officers are not to divulge information gained by them in the course of their dufies.
– The Jenkins Ministry was not half as bad as the Irvine Ministry, that robbed every Victorian public servant of his vote.
– The action of that Government had such deplorable results that its successor repealed the Act. It was an extreme restriction on the liberty of public servants, and the sense of fairness of the whole community rose against it. In this case we have a restriction that was not imposed by this Parliament, but that came into existence because it used to be considered necessary in the old days of political patronage to curtail the liberties of public servants in a way that is no longer called for. This restriction leads to those who are not the best and most honorable in the service resorting to underground means to promote their political interests, and we have proof that its absence works exceedingly well in the only State where it is not in force. There is a more contented State service in South Australia than anywhere else in Australia. The officers there have the utmost liberty of opinion. This is not a party question, because no party more than another is, so far as I know, politically interested in the liberty of public servants. All are equally concerned, and I believe equally desire that the fullest possible political freedom shall be enjoyed by all the citizens of this community. I ask honorable members not to allow the imposition of a clearly unnecessary restriction, which does not prevent the things that are really objectionable, and which can have no other result than to create a feeling of soreness in the minds of public servants, on the ground that they are treated differently from the rest of the community. I do not know whetherthe Government intend to support the motion, but I can scarcely conceive that they would oppose it, as I believe they lay claim to the name of Liberal. Ihope we shall have their support and the support of honorable members on the other side.
– What does the honorable member include in the term “ public servants “ ? Does he intend it to cover military men ?
– I mean the officers under the Public Service Act - all who are brought under the Public Service Commissioner.
– Whether in the military service or not?
– I think that military men are not under the Public Service Commissioner. It might be inadvisable for military servants to discuss military questions in public, just as it would be wrongful and perhaps harmful for post-office officials to publicly discuss the management of the Post and Telegraph Department. We might fairly place a prohibition on that sort of thing. But there is no reason why military men should not take part in the discussion of land taxation, or of Socialism and anti-Socialism, or in fact of any political questions which do not directly concern the Department in which they are engaged. .
– The honorable member clearly imposes upon them the restriction that they are not to discuss departmental matters.
– I am quite prepared to do so.
– Those will be the public questions that they will be most competent to discuss from personal knowledge.
– The only restriction which we have a right to impose upon their public liberty is that they must not do anything that will interfere with the due efficiency of their work or the discipline of the Department which employs them. Obviously, therefore, they must not discuss anything relating to their Departments which may not be settled and of which they may only know a part, nor must they divulge information obtained in the course of their duties. Those are proper and necessary restrictions. But to go beyond that is to go beyond all that is necessary and desirable in the interests of the community and of the public servants themselves.
– Would not the honorable member’s motion read more correctly if he inserted the word “ unnecessary “ before the word “ restriction “?
– When I moved in this matter on the last occasion, I put the motion in this form -
That in the opinion of this House section 41 of the Public Service Regulations should be amended by the deletion of the -first sentence therein.
And that was -
Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way promote political movements.
I left the rest of the regulation standing. As I do not want to tie the House down to a particular wording, I move the motion on this occasion in its present form so that, if the House is in sympathy with my views, the Government can frame a regulation which will prevent inadvisable public discussion, while giving the public servantsfull liberty in all other respects. I have purposely left the motion in this somewhat vague form.
– The honorable member for Boothby has made out a very good case for the motion. His whole argument went to show that what he is fighting for as a right is now enjoyed by civil servants from custom. At present, civil servants take part in political movements, use political influence to secure promotion, obtain it to get their friends into positions, and are iii no way restricted by the regulation under the Public Service Act. It is observed” in the breach. The assertion that no Minister is at liberty to make an appointment makes it necessary to state that Ministers are constantly making promotions in theservice, dragging the matter before the Public Service Commissioner, and practically insisting upon, his making certainappointments, even when he has written minutes in opposition to them.
– Does the honorable member say that Ministers make promotions in the service?
– Practically, it amounts to that. I give sufficient indication of what I am driving at when I . say that the Public Service Commissioner has protested in a memorandum to the Government on the subject’. That memorandumwas quoted in this House.
– The honorable member refers to the appointment of the Assistant Secretary to the Post and Telegraph Department.
– That is a single instance; the honorable member’s statement is too wide.
– I have referred to a known fact. It is also known that a number of persons have been recommended for promotion by the heads of Departments, and that those recommendations have been approved of by Ministers.
Persons are brought from the State services into the Commonwealth service by the influence of Ministers. The present Government are notorious for those practices. The Honorary Minister, who is Chairman of the Postal Commision, has daily brought under his notice evidence that has been submitted Lo other members of the Commission relating to departmental matters that are not supposed to be- made public. That is another violation of the regulation which provides that no officer shall bring before the public confidential departmental matters. Consequently, all that the honorable member for Boothby advocates is now the custom in the service, and it seems to me that it would be very much better to repeal the regulation, and give public servants as much freedom as is now enjoyed by the State servants of South Australia, who are only forbidden to make public information that they obtain in the course of their departmental duties. If the motion were amended by the insertion of the words “ under the Public Service Act” after the word “Commonwealth,” I should be willing to give it my support.
– Why that restriction?
– In the United Kingdom it is thought advisable to keep members of the military and naval services out of the arena when public questions are being discussed, and that practice has been followed in Australia. It is, I consider, based on good reasons, and unless it is proved to me that it should be altered, I shall support its continuance.
.- This question is of larger importance to the community than honorable members may at first sight think. I should not have spoken like this a few years ago. Unfortunately, however, a Victorian Ministry, possessing a majority of thirty-five in a House of ninety-five members, went so far in criminally restraining the freedom of the Public Service as to say that its members were not fit to exercise the ordinary rights of citizenship, and should not vote in the districts in which they lived. The Separate’ Representation Act passed bv the Irvine Ministry was one of the most infamous which have desecrated and soiled the statute-book of any country. The other measure passed by that Ministry - a Coercion Act - was equally infamous, out-Heroding as it did even the most drastic Act of the kind passed for the coercion of the Irish. Notwithstanding that’ I have Irish blood in my veins, I can forgive the English for that Irish Coercion Act, because of the terrible circumstances under which it was passed. That measure was introduced on the very day when the clay of Burke and Cavendish was buried, but it was not so drastic as the Victorian Coercion Act. The Irish Coercion Act provided penalties of three months’ imprisonment, or a fine of .£25 ; the penalties under the Victorian Act were twelve months’ imprisonment, or a fine of /]too. Bail was allowed under the Irish Act, but not under the other, and this notwithstanding the fact that the Victorian Act applied only to public servants, who had asked that their cause might be submitted to arbitration before a Supreme Court Judge. No honorable member will say that a Judge of the Supreme Court would unduly favour the workers against the class from which he had sprung. The other equally infamous Act to which I have alluded assumed that the public servants were not fit to exercise the ordinary rights of citizens, and prevented them from voting in the districts in which they lived. Under it, while a criminal, after he had served his sentence, could vote as he chose, the policeman who arrested him, acting as the instrument of justice, was not considered fit to do so. I shall not weary honorable members by reading the indictment against the Irvine Ministry ; but those who wish to understand the horrible nature of this legislation are referred to the Victorian Hansard reports for the year 1906, volume 113, page 448. On the resignation of the Premier of the day, the Bent Government wished to remove this Act from the statutebook, but the gentleman who was responsible for it sprang into life again for a moment, and opposed that course, and a section of the press supported him. When he was compelled to leave the State Parliament this infamous measure was removed from the statute-book by the unanimous vote of both Houses. I compliment the honorable member for Boothby for his attempt to do justice to his fellow-citizens. I do not think that a public servant should openly criticise the conduct of his Minister ; and there are one or two other restrictions wHich should be enforced. With those exceptions, the members of the service should have the fullest liberty. The honorable member for Robertson spoke of those in the naval and military service being prevented from taking part in politics in Great Britain. But, so far as the franchise is concerned, the United Kingdom is not yet civilized. No man in
England, Scotland, Ireland, or Wales can say that he is entitled to vote as a man. Only property votes there - either directly, when its possession is evidenced by ownership, or indirectly, when evidenced by the payment of rents.
– The peers have not a vote.
– If the House of Lords were wiped out, it would be a good thing.
– This has nothing to do with the question.
– No doubt many members of that body are highly cultivated and gifted persons. No poor man can enter the House of Commons, unless he is assisted by v/thers, and supported afterwards. Here we require the forfeiture of a deposit of £25 should a candidate fail to obtain a certain proportion of votes ; but, in England, candidates must furnish sufficient to pay all the expenses of the election - which sometimes amount to £800, or even £1,000 - without getting a refund. In fact, even where a man has a walk-over he has to pay £25 to get an officer to announce the fact that ho one had the pluck to opposehim. Except for the last five or six of my nineteen years experience in public life, I have had to fight the public “servants as a body, because I have shown that they draw more money in pensions than is drawn by old-age pensioners, and more than is paid in New South Wales with its larger population. In fact, little Victoria pays more in pensions than all the other States put together.
– This has nothing to do with the question.
– I have only to add that, in my opinion, the undertakings which have been entered. into must be honorably fulfilled. I shall at all times vote to secure to every man and woman in the community the full rights of citizenship.
– I shall support the motion, because experience warrants the making of a move in the direction proposed. In the State of New South Wales considerable feeling has arisen in regard to the political action of public servants, largely because of the unequal administration of the State authorities. This was brought prominently under my notice at the time of the last State elections. I was informed that at the previous elections a public servant who was supporting a Government candidate was allowed to act as his committee-man, and to appear with him on the public platform, although he did not address meetings. But when, at the last elections, he sat on the balcony from which an Opposition candidate addressed a meeting, he was told, although he was not a committee-man, that if he did anything of the kind again serious consequences would follow.
– Informed by whom ?
– By the head of his Department, no doubt at the instance of the Minister. That is not an isolated case. Many similar cases could be brought forward. These regulations have caused considerable friction and dissatisfaction. It is generally admitted that it would be improper for aleading public official to criticise, on the public platform, the Government or the immediate political head of his Department, and to use, for that purpose, departmental information.
– Would this motion not allow that?
– No ; the honorable member for Boothby proposes to safeguard against that sort of thing; all he asks is that public servants shall be given the ordinary rights of electors - the right to show, by serving on Committees, and so forth, which political side they favour.
– But a public servant could attack the administration of another Department than his own ?
– I do not think so. I believe that public servants would be satisfied with regulations which debarred them from using information regarding their own or any other Department. At present, public servants who are on the side of the Government of the day, are given ample latitude, but, otherwise, they are restricted and harassed, and deprived of their common rights of citizenship. The honorable member for Boothby does not mean to give that extended freedom which the right honorable member for Swan suggests.
– I am judging by the terms of the motion.
– This is a matter to be controlled by regulations.
– Then why does the honorable member for Boothby not say, in his motion, exactly what he means?
– The motion simply affirms a principle, and is a direction to the Ministry to frame their regulations on the lines indicated.
– But the motion embraces the whole of the regulations.
– The honorable member for Boothby refers to those regulations which more particularly interfere with the exercise of the common rights of citizenship.
– Would it not be the civil right of any ordinary person to criticise any Department or any Minister?
– Of course.
– Then this motion proposes to give public servants that right.
– But the motion does not propose to give public servants the right to use any special information they may have obtained by virtue of their position; and any public officer who was guilty of an offence in this connexion could be dea.lt with under regulation. What public servants ask is that they shall be permitted to take, as other ordinary citizens take, a part in elections, and use the information that is public property. Much dissatisfaction is occasioned by the partial and biased way in which these regulations are administered, more particularly in the States than in the Commonwealth, though it is quite possible for the same partiality to be shown in the case of the national Government. Therefore, I hope the motion will be accepted, so that public servants may be conceded their proper public rights.
– I should like to consult with my colleagues, and, therefore, suggest that the debate be adjourned.
– I think the Honorary Minister is adopting a wise course in the suggestion he has made, but, before the debate is adjourned, I should like to point out that it concerns a matter on which Ministers must seriously consider their position. These regulations are not the regulations of the Public Service Commissioner, but the regulations of Ministers. Of course, the GovernorGeneral, though nominally given the power, has no part in making these regulations. As a matter of fact, by this motion, Ministers are asked to condemn their own regulations, which restrict the civil rights of public servants, as “ undemocratic, inequitable, and harmful.” If the Government have come to the conclusion that their regulations are properly so described, it is undoubtedly their duty to do something more effective than agree to the motion. The duty of the Government, in that case, is to repeal the regulations referred to. Parliament placed the power of making these regulations in the hands of Ministers, and that, of, course, involves the power to rescind them if they are found to be injurious or inequitable.
– The carrying of this motion would be a direction to that effect.
– Undoubtedly ; but it would be more - it would be direction in the nature of a censure 011 the existing regulations, under which the Government have administered the Public Service for some years past. If the regulation in question is not a proper one’ to pass, then, during the whole of the time that the regulations have been in force, a large number of public servants have been unjustly deprived of their rights. That, of course, is a very serious state of affairs. Seeing that the Government have not rescinded the regulations, I take it that they still consider those regulations necessary in the interests of the Public Service. I think that the sympathy of every honorable member will go with the honorable member for Boothby in his motion, which is quite in accordance with the progress at which we strive, day; after day, in removing all restrictions on civil rights. But the honorable member asks us to affirm a proposition ; and I am afraid we cannot adopt the method of the Prime Minister, on a previous motion, of putting what amounts to any construction we like on plain words, and then supporting the motion with a reservation. We ought not to get into an undesirable habit of supporting resolutions to the spirit of which we are opposed. If we are infavour of a motion, it is right and proper to support it ; but, on this occasion, I feel I am not in sympathy with the proposal of the honorable member for Boothby. Tosome extent, I think, it is in the interests of the public servants themselves, as well as in the interests of the public, that some, though I will not say all, of the restrictions which exist should be modified. I do not say for one moment that we may not be able to lessen the number of restrictions, but there is some vagueness in the regulations quoted by the honorable member for Boothby. For instance, the heading to the regulation which is particularly objected to is misleading. The words used are, “Officers not to take part in politics “ ; and we know that any man who has a vote does, by the very act of exercising it, take part in politics. That is a careless way of dealing with a most important matter, though it is only a heading, the wording of the regulation having the operative effect. The regulation itself says -
Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way promote political movements. They are further forbidden to use for political purposes information gained by them in the course of duty.
I think that the honorable member for Boothby has reason to complain of that part of the regulation which forbids public officers to in any way promote political movements.
– That is what the public officers complain of.
– There is a vagueness about that expression which is not fair to public servants. Men who are exposed to censure and punishment ought, at any rate, to have the conditions made as clear as the nature of the case will admit. A man who votes for a. candidate, or who, in the interests of a candidate, discusses public questions with a friend, is promoting a political movement; and I suppose that no one would seek to deprive public servants of the right to do either.
– Under this regulation a public servant has to act secretly.
– He must not do it at all, or if he does it he must not be found out !
– Here we come to one of the difficulties of the matter - the line which must be drawn, if any be drawn, between the civil rights of an ordinary individual and the civil rights of a public servant. In fairness to the draftsman of the regulations, I must say that it is most difficult to be definite and precise in a matter of the kind. I am very glad that, in the administration of these regulations - and this has a great deal to do with the matter - there has never been, so far as I know, any grievance or alleged - act of tyranny in the case of a Commonwealth public servant. If there have been such cases, I have never heard of them.
– Many public officers are afraid to act.
– Any complaint that has been made has been dealt with on its merits.
– That, of course, would be so; and I should hope that any regulations of the sort are administered in a very liberal spirit. I am in favour of granting as much liberty as we can possibly give to the individual members of the Public Service; but I am afraid that lines must be drawn. Every honorable member who has spoken in support of the motion, has himself drawn lines. The first is that no officer should divulge any information that he has gained in the course of his official duty. Every one agrees with that. Then supporters of the motion urge that it would be improper on the part of an officer of, say, the Post and Telegraph Department to go on a public platform, especially at election time, and criticise - and if criticise, condemn - the actions of the head of his Department. I think that there is a general feeling that that would be an undesirable exercise .of a civil right.
– Hear, hear !
– I know of no service that it is more important to keep out of the vortex of party politics than the Commonwealth service. The immense majority of the officers in the employment of the Commonwealth are called upon, under cur electoral laws, to perform a number of duties connected with the conduct of elections.
– Not i per cell[. of them are called upon ito perform such duties.
– I think that the percentage is much higher. I do not wish, however, to dwell on any one feature of this proposal. I wish to look at it broadly, and with every desire that public servants should have the utmost liberty. Such a desire is only natural on my part, since I was in the Public Service for a good many years, and had a very strong bent towards politics. I am afraid that I may have occasionally broken the regulations. But, whilst I have every sympathy with the desire of public servants to have all the rights and liberties which attach to ordinary citizenship, I think we must all agree that in some respects a limitation must be imposed. Let us consider for a moment what is the position in regard to private employment, which is not governed, in so many words, by any regulation, and where the employer has no power, except that of dismissal, to control the actions of his employes. Who would suggest that it would be proper for a man to publicly criticise the management of his employer’s business ? No one would say that that would be proper, and yet it is the civil right of every individual. We all have a right, so long as we do not make slanderous statements, to express our opinions on every conceivable subject. It is the civil right of the ordinary individual, especially in regard to public matters, to review the acts of every public official, of every Minister, of every member of Parliament, and the policy of every Act and regulation. Would any one say, however, that it would be consistent with discipline and good feeling in the service, that some talented member of it should employ his spare evenings in addressing political meetings, especially at election time, in wholesale condemnation of the policy of the Government, or of a Department, or the acts of Ministers, or those of public officials? The fact that my honorable friends select a Department of the Public Service, in respect of which the criticisms and opinions of an officer might be most serviceable to the public, points to the strength of the difficulty. If criticisms of public Departments on the part of public servants are proper, I think that the more radical view is that a crticism by public servants of those Departments in which they are engaged, and of which they have more exact knowledge, would be more valuable to the public than would be their criticism of Departments in which they are not employed, and of which they have no general knowledge. Our civil rights must be pushed to that extent If we wish to give the rights of the ordinary members of the community to public servants. There are certain inevitable drawbacks associated with every occupation and profession. There is no industrial, professional, or clerical employment to which certain disabilities do not attach, and in which peop]e are not limited in the ordinary exercise of their civil rights.
– But we need not impose any unnecessary restrictions.
– That is the point. There is not one honorable member who is infected with the old fear of liberty and the free exercise of civil rights. But even the most advanced liberal views could scarcely be reconciled with the necessary control, efficiency, and harmony of public Departments, if we could conceive of public servants - gentlemen, as we know of high intelligence, many of them of remarkable ability, who might render great service to the public in the political sphere - entering into political campaigns, and arraigning the Departments and conduct of Ministers. The exercise of that actual civil right would reduce the Public Service to a state of confusion. There would be a want of discipline and of harmony.
– The public servants of South Australia have enjoyed that right for ten years, but have never exercised it.
– Then there is no pressing necessity to alter the regulations. If the public servants of South Australia, being free from such a prohibition as this, have not taken the part in politics to which I am referring, that is the strongest possible evidence of their conviction that it is improper to do so. If it is improper, is it not far better that there should be some rule of conduct, some standard prescribed, than that an individual public officer should, by the exercise of his undoubted right, land himself in a difficulty ? For instance, has there occurred in South Australia, where there is no regulation of this kind in force, such a case as an officer going on to a public platform at election time, and condemning the management of his own Department?
– I am sure that there has not. What does that mean? It does not mean that the very intelligent men in the Public Service of the State have not ground for criticism, for there must be, in connexion with the Departments, much that ought to be criticised and remedied. It means that their own sense of the fitness of their position, and of their own duties, satisfies them that they should not exercise this civil right. ,
– It shows that many of the fences that we put up are unnecessary.
– May I suggest that if, in practice, this is not done-
– The point is that Commonwealth servants in South Australia cannot do what State servants there may do. State servants take part in political movements.
– That is news to me; and I should like to know how many years the public servants of South Australia have been free from a regulation of this kind?
– For ten years. There is an Order in Council permitting them to take part in politics.
-In all the other States I think the position is the reverse. New South Wales has recently adopted the Commonwealth regulation.
– It is news to me that there is in South Australia no regulation in force affecting the right of public officers to take part in political movements. The fact that without regulations there has been no abuse is another proof of the remarkably high standard, in every sense, of the people of South Australia, and especially of the members of the Public Service of that State. May I suggest to honorable members that the repeal of this regulation would, in the circumstances, amount -to a direct invitation to the members of the Commonwealth Public Service to engage - short of certain limitations of which my honorable friends are in favour - in political activities? Would it not be thought that, by repealing this regulation, the House expected the Public Service of the Commonwealth to enter more actively into politics than they are now doing? If the repeal of the regulation is not to have that effect, there. is no utility in repealing it. There is no object in repealing the regulation if the position is to remain exactly as at present.
– If there were a regulation providing that public servants were not to go to their offices without washing their hands and faces, would the right honorable member object to its repeal?
– Certainly not.
– The repeal of such a regulation would be on all-fours with the repeal of that now under consideration.
– Let me give what is, perhaps, an extreme illustration, although it is covered by the regulation. The members of our Military Forces are public servants. What would my honorable friends say of a member of our Military Forces who stood, on a party political platform, and denounced as idiotic the naval and military policy of the present Minister of Defence? That would be the exercise of a civil right such as every citizen enjoys, but it will be seen that the exercise of such a right by a member of the forces would result in the whole military service becoming a pandemonium.
– He would be criticising his own Department.
– Then there is a limitation ?
– If it is wrong that a public servant should be allowed to criticise his own Department, of which he does know something, I think that honorable members will see that there is not very much in any other civil right that he possesses in this regard. I object to these regulations because they are in some respects very vague. They provide for more than is really meant. If, for instance, a public servant subscribed to some political campaign fund, if not, in the sense of this regulation, promoting a political movement, he would, at all events, be guilty of a breach of it. But surely no one would question his right to help any cause in that way, just as no one questions his right to help a cause by means of his vote. My honorable friend the member for Boothby speaks of the discussion of the land tax by public servants as if that were the only question involved in politics.
– I named a number of political questions.
– If public servants are to be free in the sense of the honorable member’s motion, it must be intended that they shall have the right to criticise every detail of public policy, and administration is a very large part of public policy. I confess that, whilst I am thoroughly in favour of removing unnecessary restrictions, I do not think that a restriction against political partisanship, in the shape of public agitation, is unnecessary. It is in the interests of the Public Service, in the interests of the public, and, I think, really in the interests of public officers themselves. Although we have our Public Service Act, and the rights of officers are supposed to be safeguarded in a multitude of ways from any wrongful acts, we know that if politics were introduced into the Public Sendee by means of public appearances on political platforms, the reaction of these things in the Department might mean that an officer, although he had all the rights of an ordinary citizen in his political or business career, could be seriously prejudiced., in ways that it is not easy perhaps to define, by the fact that on some burning public question he had made himself obnoxious to persons who had considerable power over his future destinies. It would be very wrong for such an influence to be used, and although we might hope that men were all as they are in South Australia, and that no such thing would be done, my own feeling is that grave results might follow. Take the police force, for instance. We have no police in our service, but I think I may say, without flattery, from my own knowledge of the police forces of Australia, that there is no finer, more upright, or more intelligent body of men in the world. At the same time, it would not be to their advantage to introduce them into the vortex of active politics. Every one, whatever his party, looks to them as the custodians of law, order, and justice ; and, as a matter of fact, their jurisdiction is infinitely more far-reaching and intimate in reference to the civil rights of the people than is the jurisdiction of our courts of law and our Judges. But, considering the nature of their duties in reference to the community, especially at election times, who would say that the members of the police force should be brought into the burning and trying conditions of political agitation? We have in the Commonwealth service the military - a still stronger illustration. My feeling’ is that in giving the public servants the right to vote, and, in fact, all the rights of citizens short of a share in the public fighting of political campaigns, we do all that is fair, proper, and advisable in the interests of the public, in the interests of the discipline of the Departments, in the interests of the harmony of the service, and in the interests of the public servants themselves.
– The observations of the right honorable member for East Sydney show how “illadvised the wording of the motion is. Every one in this House would be glad to give as much liberty to public servants as is possible, and if they were labouring under any disability that could with advantage be removed, I am sure that I should vote for its removal, as I believe nearly every honorable member in the House would. But the honorable member for Boothby has not moved that some restrictions, which are supposed to be irksome, should be removed.
– I named them.
– The honorable member’s remarks will appear in Hansard. but this is the resolution to the exact terms of which we are asked to subscribe. The honorable member moves that -
In the opinion of this House the restriction of civil rights of the public servants of the Commonwealth is undemocratic, inequitable, and harmful.
That means that all the present restrictions of the civil rights of public servants should be swept away. If the honorable member <3id not mean that, he would not have taken three words to express what he might have expressed in one. “ Undemocratic, inequitable, and harmful “ is a great waste of printing and adjectives. The honorable member should have put his motion in the terms which I understand he explained in his speech.
– I did that about five years ago, and the honorable member’s Government opposed it. I put the motion then in the exact terms that I wanted.
– If the honorable member had done so on this occasion it would have removed a great many of the objections to the motion, because we could have judged exactly what he means. The motion is altogether too wide. The right honorable member for East Sydney has exhausted nearly all the arguments that I would use in regard to the matter. While he is willing, and I am willing, to remove any irksome restriction, it would be most undesirable in the interests of the public servants themselves to remove them all. No one in this House would complain sooner than the members of the party to which the honorable member for Boothby belongs. During the time I have been in this House I have heard honorable members in that corner criticise, on the slightest provocation, observations made by members of the Military Forces and others. I am sure that their feeling is that the public servant must not say anything against them, but that so long as he confines himself to criticising those who are politically opposed to them no harm is ‘done. One thing that we require from our public servants is that they shall be impartial and discharge their duties without fear of or favour to any one. What should we think of them if we knew that they were partisans of one party or another? Fancy the Under Secretaries, those who are nearest to Ministers, being engaged in political controversy during election time !
– That is highly improbable.
– If a right is given, we cannot complain of the exercise of it.
– Why did not they do it in South Australia?
– Probably because they are afraid to do it, knowing that they would get into trouble. If we give men a privilege, they have a perfect right to exercise it.
– They have the right in South Australia.
– The fact that they do not exercise it shows that they think they ought not to have it.
– They know that it is not a proper power to exercise.
– They are not fools.
– The honorable member gives his case away. Fancy the honorable member going in as Minister of a Department of which the Under Secretary and all the other officers had criticised on the platform his actions and the actions of the party to which he belonged. Would he think he would receive loyal support and assistance from them ? He might, and probably would, get it, nevertheless, but the wish uppermost in his mind would probably be that he might have some other officers to assist him rather than those who had opposed him.
– I have been in a position where they had absolute power to criticise me if they chose.
– The honorable member is only playing with the question. If he says that he wants to give a right, but that it is not to be exercised, we had better not give it at all.
– Why impose an unnecessary restriction?
– I do not think it is unnecessary. It is in the’ interests of public officers themselves. As the right honorable member for East Sydney said, every one who accepts employment, private or public, has some restrictions placed upon him. There is no reason why there should not be laid down for the members of a large service such as that of the Commonwealth, rules and regulations as a guide to what is expected from them. This sort of thing is not confined to the Commonwealth. Such a regulation finds its place in the service of every British country, and probably in every other country, perhaps to a much greater degree. No one wants to restrict liberty. We wish, rather, to give as much liberty as possible to our civil servants, but we do not want to encourage them to do that which will place them in a wrong position, and militate against their usefulness, and against the interests of the State. Take, for instance, the military. There are numbers of military officers and soldiers in this country, and they have the right to vote. That is not so in the Old Country. Soldiers in large numbers would swamp any constituency where they were quartered, and, therefore, in the Old Country they are not allowed to vote. No one would cry out more than the persons whose interests were affected if we had large bodies of troops stationed in any constituency, and they were allowed to vote, because they would swamp the permanent re sidents of the place. I have heard a good! many complaints in this House about some observation made by an officer of the Military Forces. Even a militia officer has been hauled up by members of the Labour Party for saying something about a political matter. It 0iS very easy to be pleased when all goes well, but those honorable members would be about the first in this House to complain of the exercise, by a civil servant, of the rights which they say ought to be given to him, but which they think he should not exercise. In South Australia, the party to which the honorable member for Boothby belongs has been in power for a long time, and we hear that the members of the civil’ service have not discussed public matters on the platform. The reason, probably, is that if they said anything it would be adverse to the party which is at present in power there, and so they hold their tongues.
– They had the power when there were only two or three Labour members in the South Australian Parliament.
– I suppose they could see that it was a dangerous power to exercise in their own interests, and in the interests of the public. They could not be partisans and be impartial at the same time.
– Does it not show that it is not necessary to have the restriction ?
– I do not think so. A limited restriction has been found necessary all over the world.
– It shows that men can be trusted. If the right honorable member would only trust them he would come to the same conclusion.
– I am willing to trust men quite as much as the honorable member is. This motion is only put up -as a placard. Its mover does not want it to take effect. He says clearly that it will not have any effect, and that officers will not exercise the privilege if it is given to them. It is a very good move to enable honorable members to say to their friends in South Australia, “ We tried to get all those disabilities that your employment in the Public Service puts you under removed.” Every one of us is actuated, more or less, by motives of that sort. I believe that the honorable member in tabling the motion in this bald” form, and with so wide an effect, only meant one thing, and that was to remove all restric- tions ; yet in moving it he said that he would not allow public servants to do this, that, and the other thing. The insincerity of the whole motion is thus made quite apparent. If the honorable member were to amend the motion by specifying any of the existing restrictions that he thinks ought to be removed, and would let us know exactly which ones are irksome to the public servants, no one would be more ready to help him than myself, if, in my judgment, they were irksome. But to remove all restrictions would be contrary to the interests of the public servants, and certainly adverse to the impartial performance of their public duties.
.- The arguments used by tine Conservative gentlemen in this House against granting full civil rights to public servants are most ingenious, and also amusing.
– I have been a better friend to the public servants than the honorable! member will be if he lives for a hundred years.
– The right honorable member states that the present regulation is enforced in every British community. I heard him only the other night object to something because there was no precedent for it. According to him, we must do nothing original in Australia. Unless there was a precedent for it, the right honorable member would not do anything, no matter how good it appeared to be. If he could not find a precedent in the British House of Commons, or somewhere else iri the British Empire, for a proposal, he would regard it as an excellent reason for voting against it. I have noticed him giving that kind of reason on a previous occasion. This shows a most lamentable lack of originality. Apparently he must have some one to wear down the path for him before he will step on to it. ‘ The right honorable gentleman also referred to the position of the military in the United Kingdom, who. he says, are not allowed to vote because of the number in certain constituencies.
– The various regiments are moved about.
– Adopting the reasoning of the right honorable member, the farmers should be deprived of votes because, in certain constituencies, they are so numerous that they can secure the return of a candidate; and the same argument would apply in support of the disfranchisement of other classes.
– I spoke of what obtains in the United Kingdom.
– The right honorable member used the English practice as an argument against removing from the public servants of Australia restrictions adopted in imitation of the example of that crusty, conservative country. He also said that when, some time ago, a public servant criticised the Labour Party, he was taken to task for doing so. There is a difference between taking exception to criticism and denying the right to criticise. The Labour Party would grant to the public servant the right to criticise; but it would insist on exercising the right to reply if criticised.
– - The Labour Party wanted its critics removed from office.
– Not because of the criticism ; but because the public servant in question publicly criticised the administration of the Department in which he was engaged.
– The Minister was asked to put a stop to it.
– We hold that a public servant should not be at liberty to criticise the administration of the Department in which he is engaged; but he should be allowed to express himself on matters of public policy, so long as he does not use against his Ministerial head information gained in the performance of his duties. As a member of the community he should have the right to discuss public questions. A public servant may be the father of a large family, and should he not be allowed to use his experience and intelligence in promoting the welfare of his children ? It is not necessary to put a prohibition upon political discussion by a public servant, beyond saying that a man must not criticise the administration of the Department in which he is engaged.
– The motion goes further than that.
– It is merely an instruction to the Government to frame a less stringent regulation than that now in force. If it were affirmed that public servantsshould not criticise the administration of the Departments in which they are employed, the prohibition to do. so would not be removed.
– Public servants are sometimes taken from one Department to another. Would the honorable member allow a man to criticise the administration of a Department in which he had lately been employed?
– The right honorable member, for lack of argument, falls back on a quibble. He supported the leader of the Opposition, who spoke of the undesirability of giving complete political freedom to the police. They, however, are not under Commonwealth control.
– In this matter what would be good for the Commonwealth public servant would be good for the State public servant.
– The police differ from every other body in the Public Service. The reference to them showed how hard-up for arguments honorable gentlemen are.
– The honorable member would not give the police any rights.
– I would give them more rights than the right honorable member would.
– Those on the Opposition side would not trust any one.
-That is so. If we could read their minds we should probably find that they are afraid that the Public Service, if completely enfranchised, would vote for progressivists in politics.
– The public servants in Western Australia are my friends.
– Then I hope that they will appreciate the right honorable member’s attempt to restrict their liberties.
– What would be thought if a Minister’s confidential clerk obtained a month’s holiday in order to oppose him?
– No one desires such possibilities. The mover of the motion expressly stated that public servants should not have the right to criticise the heads of the Departments in which they are engaged.
– The motion is as wide as possible.
– Why not be content to affirm that the present restrictions are too stringent, and leave out the flowery expressions at the end of the motion?
– If honorable members would vote for a motion giving the public servants the right to take part in political discussions and meetings, but prohibiting them from criticising the heads of their Departments, I am sure that the mover would agree to amend it.
– The honorable member would be the first to object to criticism.
– The leader of the Opposition went the whole hog in objecting to the motion, and the right honorable member for Swan supported him. Now, however, he seems ready to vote for the motion if the wording is altered. I should like to see it amended, in order to put him to the test. Those who opposed the motion have been hair splitting, because they have no solid basis on which to rest their objections to it. According to the leader of the Opposition, if the present regulation were altered, the-public servants would regard it as an intimation by Parliament that it desired them to take part in political discussions. What a ridiculous thing to say. Many public servants would not in any case avaii themselves of the right which we. propose to give them. These men take no interest in politics, busying themselves on the completion of the work of the day in their homes or other matters. Others, however, desire to exercise their political rights freely. The right honorable member for Swan could not refrain from charging the mover of the motion with improper motives.
– He said that the motion was a placard.
– Yes; that the mover wishes to pose before his_ constituents, and is not sincere. According to the right honorable member we all do it. Let him speak for himself. Let it go forth to the public that one who has held high positions is prepared to pose before the electors as ready to do what he has no intention of doing.
– I have never done that.
– I hope that Ministers will show that they are on the side of progress and democracy, and will support the motion, if modified as suggested. If a division is taken, it will separate the sheep from the goats. We shall find on one side those who support freedom and democracy; and, on the other, thosewho would be tyrannical and autocratic.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hume Cook) adjourned.
– I move -
That all cadets shall undergo a thorough medical examination before entering upon a naval or military training.
This is a very important subject, and, as only five minutes remain before the dinner hour, I feel that there is scarcely time to merely open the subject. Under the circumstances, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the system of indenting native labour in Papua, and the methods of leasing and selling Crown lands.
For the same reason as that advanced by the honorable member for Hindmarsh in reference to his motion, I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.4.5 p.m.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 1656) on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That the item, “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
– The debate on the Budget appears to have developed into an attempt, on the part of the Opposition, to show that the Government are in full accord with the platform which the Opposition themselves have created for the Labour Party. The honorable member for Lang enlarged on the heinousness of the programme of the party to which I belong, and suggested that there had been a departure of a peculiar and not altogether of a political character, while the honorable member for Parramatta, with the same object in view, quoted an article in the Sydney Worker, a publication which, I must admit, is an organ of labour, and has one of the largest circulations in Australia. Personally, I cannot say that there was much in that article to condemn, because it is simply the writing of a man who, like myself and others, has the right to his own opinion. If there was anything in the article to be condemned, the responsibility is not on the shoulders of the Labour Party. The writer is simply a correspondent of that paper; and the editor may have, in some sense, accepted the theories advanced; but, in any case, I think that the only object of the article was to point out that the doctrine of Malthus was bad, and that its adoption, in certain countries, has had a’ detrimental effect. In any case, I do not think the publication of that article will in any way injure the Labour Party. On this, as on other occasions, there is an evident desire to make the Labour Party responsible for a policy which they do not advocate. I have no intention to traverse the whole of the terrible charges made against us, because I do not think they are relevant to the question before the Chair. I desire to say, however, that if the Labour Party must have a programme, they are quite able to make one for themselves, and the public, if they object to that programme, will express their opinion at the right time.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the Labour Party make their own programme?
– The Labour Party, as a whole, formulate their own platform.
– Has that platform an “objective,” and, if so, what is it?
– Yes, we have an objective, and it has been stated in this House times without number. I may say that the objectives of the Labour Parties in the different States have been credited to the Federal Labour Party ; but whatever our objective is, I do not think that the people or the electors will take a definition of it from the Opposition, preferring to leave the Labour Party to expound their platform in their own way. The members of the Opposition, although they are deeply concerned about our objective and platform, have no platform or objective of their own. Such as they have may be described as entirely of a negative character. It is difficult for us on this side to offer any criticism, seeing that the Opposition give us no foundation on which to start.
– The honorable member knows that that is not so.
– I am only expressing my own opinion. At the last elections, however, the Opposition gave us nothing but expressions of a negative character.
– Our platform had nine planks, and was circulated throughout Australia.
– If that be so, I never heard of them, and, at any rate, they must have been planks of a negative and destructive character. We hear a great deal about immigration, a land tax, 4 he unemployed, and old-age pensions. AVe are told that we have here a whole continent, capable of supporting hundreds of millions of people, while there is at present only a population of 4,250,000. It sounds very nice when honorable members advocate that immigration is necessary in order to open up the country and create a commerce equal to that of America, and so forth ; but - and in this connexion I am speaking principally of the State of Victoria - we find that those who live in the country do not desire immigrant farmers. At one time a suggestion was made that every alternate block of land opened for selection should be reserved for an imported farmer, and we know what a cry of horror there was. I do not charge the people in the country with selfishness, but I do take exception to their attitude when they object to immigrants for the country, while they are quite willing to admit them to the cities to lower the wages and so forth, in spite of the fact that there is a large body of unemployed and’ others who earn less than a living wage. Whenever an attempt is made to advocate some system of taxation, which would obviate the distress in the cities, we are met with the assertion that, in opening up the country :and placing people on the land, we are confiscating the property of those already there.
– According to this morning’s newspapers, there were 800 applications for eight blocks of land in New South Wales yesterday.
– We have had the -same experience in Victoria.
– Were none of those applicants possessed of land ?
– I am willing to admit that many of them, doubtless, hold land at the present time.
– Those who possess what mav be described as a living area are ineligible.
– That is not the position in Victoria. The point that I wish to make, however, is that when the Labour Party advocate a scheme that will have the effect of breaking up large estates, and cause land to be placed on the market at a fair value, they are told that they wish to confiscate holdings that have been legally acquired. Whilst we admit that the land has been legally ac- - quired-
– That does not apply in all cases.
– It is said that some large areas in the Western District of Victoria were simply taken, and not purchased, but I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that statement. There is no doubt that under the present system of opening up the land with a view, as it is said, to encourage immigration, it is impossible for the average man to obtain a block, and work it. When we suggest the adoption of methods in force in other countries to break up large estates, we are told that we are confiscators. It is said that the land tax, which we suggest as a means of opening up and settling the country, would be onesided in its operation. My reply to that is that if it is effective it will not really be a tax. It is simply designed to break up large estates - it is not to apply to small holdings - and that being so, there can be no objection to it as a tax. : Whilst many public men in Victoria are clamouring for immigration, and urging that we should do our utmost to bring more people to our shores, the fact remains that the departures from this State are in excess of the arrivals. I refer more particularly to the position in Victoria, because, as a representative of this State, I am thoroughly conversant with it. And what is the position to-day? I find that, since “the establishment of Federation, the population of Victoria has increased by 51,882. There have been 106,596 births, but the excess of departures over arrivals has been 54,714.
– How does the honorable member account for that fact?
– I believe that people have been compelled to leave Victoria for the same reason that has induced thousands to leave the Old Country - because the land is held bv the few. People, are being driven out of Victoria.
– The honorable member’s figures show that the protective policy will not keep people here.
– I shall show pre.sent! v that, as the result of protection1, the population of New South Wales has steadily increased. Victoria is subject to the same fiscal conditions as is New South’ Wales, and yet the terrible policy of protection has not injured the Mother State.
– But this exodus from Victoria began before Federation, whereas the population of New South Wales has always been increasing.
– I charge the Victorian Legislature with the responsibility for this drift in our population. “Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to pass legislation of a kind that would counteract the! evil legislation of. the State Parliament. The departures from this State comprise, for the most part, the younger, members of the community. The old men and women have not the vigour to seek fresh fields and pastures new. In Victoria to-day we have 60,000 people eligible for old-age pensions, whereas New South Wales, with a larger population, has only 43,573 persons entitled to receive! them. I am sure that it will be considered exceedingly wicked for a representative of Victoria to put before the Committee these naked figures in condemnation of State legislation; but I do so because I feel that it is possible to enact laws that will stop the drift, and. by creating better conditions, rapidly result in the number of arrivals being in excess of the departures from our shores.
– The honorable member is doing our work for us as well as Ave could do it ourselves.
– My desire is to put a stop to the drift that is going on, but I feel confident that anything that the Opposition might propose would make still worse the present state of affairs. I wish to tell the Treasurer that I think that unless the Commonwealth old-age pensions scheme is to be substantial and real, we had better go on with that now in operation in Victoria.
– What about those States where no old-age pensions scheme is in force ?
– Our experience of the old-age pensions system in operation in Victoria is such that we abhor the very name of it.
– What does the honorable member think an adequate Federal scheme would cost?
– About .£1,800,000.
– Or, in other words, about £700,000 more than tha Treasurer has provided.
– In New South Wales, 40 per cent, of the persons eligible to receive old-age pensions are actually receiving them.
– In New South Wales, 40 per cent, of those over sixtyfive years of age are. receiving old-age’ pensions, whereas only 16 per cent, of thoseover sixty -five years of age in Victoria arein receipt of them.
– On the last occasion, that I took out the figures I found that: the proportion in the case of Victoria was. about 19 per cent. If we are to go on drifting in this -way, we shall soon find) the old people? of Victoria, paying, money to the State to provide for some otherscheme.
– Is the honorable member aware that Victoria is likely to loseanother representative in this House because of the decline in her population ?
– I know that Victoria is likely to go on losing representatives in this House unless we secure betterlegislation than we have had.
– And the honorable member’s party has been supporting the Government all the time.
– I am referring tothe legislation of the State Parliament. I believe that fully 40 per cent, of thoseover sixty-five years of age in Victoria? should receive an old-age pension. I trust that, under the Commonwealth system, we shall do away with the inquisitorial powersexercised under that operating in Victoria. At the present time, applicants for old-age pensions in this State have to appear before clerks of Petty Sessions, and undergoexamination by them. 1 do not suggestthat those officers are hard-hearted or harsh, but I do know that many who go beforethem leave in tears, and get no pension. If the Victorian: system is to be perpetuated’ by the Commonwealth, the Australian section of the Labour Party will regard theGovernment scheme as useless. The Treasurer will have to make provision for thepayment of old-age pensions to at least 40’ per cent, of those over sixty-five years of age in Victoria.
– Even if he does not the honorable member will still vote for him.
– That remains to be seen. The honorable member was not present when I objected to tha Opposition formulating a policy for the Labour Party. May I tell him that I object still more strongly to the Opposition choosing thetime when we should vote for or against any party? The Treasurer assures us that he has received information that 200,000 will be enough to pay the pensions, and I observe that he has brought certain gentlemen to Victoria to prove that his contention is correct.
– There is something wrong when 40 per cent, of the old people in New South Wales receive pensions. We are not a community of paupers.
– If the pensions are to be of any use, fully 40 per cent, of the old people will have to receive them here. Are we to infer from his remark that the Treasurer regards those who receive the pensions as paupers?
– Many of them are pretty close to it; at any rate, they are very poor.
– Then the Treasurer and myself are not in accord as to the principle upon which old-age pensions should be given. One of the chief reasons why we object to the Victorian system is that the pension is given as a charity dole, and every phase of it is so humiliating, that few will accept it if they can help it. We have been saying that the Federal system would remove all those objections. The remark about pauperism comes ill from the Treasurer.
– The Treasurer, regardless of consequences, has to be straight about it. I am not going to see the money scattered about like secondhand wheat.
– The view of honorable members in this corner is that every old man and woman in Australia, who has given the best years of life to building up our civilization, is entitled to an old-age pension. In our Act, we have embodied certain restrictions that I hope will be removed in the near future, when we can find more money. I believe that 100 per cent, of the people over sixty -five years of age should get the pension, but we accepted the Bill as the best we could get at the time. It certainly contained no evidence of charity, or of the so-called pauperism that the Treasurer mentioned just now. Mr. Weir, the representative of the Victorian Treasury Department, who met the Treasurer in conference yesterday, could give that honorable member a great deal of information about the horrible Victorian system. He could tell him of the hundreds of old people, who were really starving, and who came to him as a last resort, after exhausting all other means of securing the pension. He could tell the Treasurer how much larger a percentage it is necessary to pay in Victoria ‘ than are being paid at present. The Victorian Treasury officer has, 1 believe, a soft spot in his heart, but he has to administer the Victorian Act in the way that the State Parliament allows him, and, unfortunately, the Conservative majority in that Parliament insist upon an administration of the State Act by the State Treasury officials which the majority of this House do not approve of. I believe that this Parliament will require the Commonwealth Act to be administered in a very different fashion. I hope the Treasurer will go further into the question, and ear-mark more money than he has done so far for the payment of pensions.
– After the honorable member’s party voting the other night to say that enough money was provided ?
– I think the honorable member really does believe that I voted in that way last week because I thought enough money was provided, but he cannot make me believe it. I hope that the Treasurer, after meeting these gentlemen, and finding out his mistake, will admit it in the House, and make provision for the further sum necessary. I believe that it is possible to raise that money. I wish to point out that there,, is more need now than ever for the application of the new protection. In Victoria, some of the most highly protected industries are paying the smallest, wages for particular kinds of work. In Melbourne, iron-workers’ assistants are doing most arduous work, exposed to the heat of a fire all day, and to the danger, if not of loss of limb, at least of maiming, and loss of eye sight, for the magnificent sum of 6s. 4d. to 6s. od. per day of eight hours. We ought to get some assistance from free-traders in applying the new protection to such industries, for when the Tariff was before; Parliament, many of them admitted that they would support protection all round. If we cannot by means of moral suasion bring the large employers to pav a living wage, we shall have to compel them to do it by means of legislation. I hope that when the Bill for the amendment of the Constitution to give effect to the new protection leaves this House, after the people of Australia have accepted it by plebiscite, it will be strong enough to achieve our purpose. We are told that the Commonwealth Arbitration Act might be brought into opera- tion. We have seen federated unions throughout Australia seeking to come under that Act, and spending their hard-earned money for the purpose. It is never easy to run a union, as the finances are always short, but when they go into the hands of the lawyers, things are worse still.
– The lawyers inthose Courts are principally members of the Labour Party.
– I believe the honorable member would be sorry to see a Labour man undercut his fellows. After spending its money to win its case in the Court, the Union finds that the employers resort to underhand means in order to defeat it in the long run. The following paragraph appeared in this morning’s Age-
THE VICTORIAN COAL MINING TROUBLE.
Considerable uneasiness is being felt at Jum- bunna and Outtrim owing to the “weeding out” of un’onists which has being going on at these collieries during the past few days. It would seem as if the companies had adopted this method of retaliation against the union in a spirit of revenge for their defeat in the recent appeal case to the Federal High Court. There is on each mine a branch of the Coal Employers and Employes’ Federation, which was established subsequent to the late strike. The members of the Coal Miners’ Union have consistently refused to have anything to do with the federation, which includes in its ranks many of the men who accepted employment during the strike four or five years ago, as well as representatives of the mine -owners. At Outtrim the underground deputies have during the past few days interviewed several of the miners, and intimated that if they did not choose to join the federation they could leave the pit. At Jumbunna a somewhat similar policy is being adopted. The Outtrim colliery has been constantly advertising for miners, and many of the new men coming here complain bitterly about the action of the company in endeavouring to force them to join a society about the objects and history of which thev know nothing. These men allege that they were given to understand that they were coming to work in a nonunion pit, only to find on their arrival that the companies had adopted a bitter anti-union policy by endeavouring to compel membership of what the men regard as a “scab “ federation. These men would be quite satisfied if allowed to go on working without pledging themselves to either the Coal Miners’ Union or the federation.
That article shows that, no matter how the workers may try to take advantage of constitutional methods to assert their rights, the employers are always able to get the better of them. 1 do not say that all employers object to unionism, because I know some who say that they would not employ a man who is a non-unionist, because they would consider such a man a poor tradesman. Many employers, however, are opposed to unionism; they wish to prevent the workers from getting higher wages or better conditions. In this case, men who* in the past have been designated free labourers, and spoken of by the employersas better than unionists, are being forced to join the employers and scab workers’ union.
– How are they forced ?
– If they do not jointhey are dismissed ; that is a very effective method of compulsion. It is employers like these who wish to see immigration increased. They would like to have more unemployed here, so that they could compel men to accept whatever pittance was offered! to them.
– Is not this a State matter ?
– No. These men applied to be registered under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, and beat the employers in a law suit. The latter are now retaliating. The men’s union is a branch of the federated coal miners. The Prime Minister said this afternoon that he thinks there is some provision in the law which will prevent employers from acting like this. If there is not, the sooner the Act is amended the better for the people of all the States. We have been told that the Treasurer is hard-fisted in regard to money ; even one of his own colleagues has been twitted with having said that of him. We also hear that it is his duty to keep the purse strings tight. I, like other honorable members, have had occasion to complain because the honorable gentleman is, as the children say, very mingey.
– He denies that the Departments have been starved.
– It appears to be the duty of the Treasurer to refuse all requests for expenditure. The Treasurer who keeps the purse strings tight seems likely to go down to posterity as a man of whom the country should be proud. I do not know if the honorable member for Hume desires to obtain such a reputation. Every member of the House has asked for the expenditure of money to improve the postal, telegraphic, or telephonic services in his electorate; but very little money is spent. These very members, however, or some of them, are constantly denouncing the increase in the expenditure of the Commonwealth, and complaining about the taxation which the people have to pay. That does not seem to me to be right. If, as the officials say,£2,250,000 should be expended on public works, the money should be found. I could take honorable members to post-offices in my electorate where considerable expenditure is necessary, not for the comfort of the postmasters, but to giye necessary facilities for the carrying out of the work of the Department. All that I have been able to obtain, however, is the setting aside of£1,000 for works in connexion with forty offices ; that money, no doubt, will be spent in plans and specifications. Other honorable members seem to be worse off than I am, judging by the noise they make. The Treasurer will have to find some way of getting the money necessary to increase the conveniences offered to the public by the Department of the Postmaster-General. I may be asked where is the money to be obtained? If so, my reply is that that is not my business. The party to which I belong is not responsible for the administration of the Departments. It is for the Treasurer to devise some scheme for obtaining the necessary funds. The Department of the Postmaster-General is practically an industry returning a large revenue. We have been told that the city telephone svytems do not pay. If that is so, the rates should be increased.
– The country services pay. The honorable member’s constituents benefit at the expense of the people in the country.
– If my constituents are getting their telephones too cheaply, they should be called upon to pay more. Money must be got for the improvement of these services. But I would rather that the Post and Telegraph Department were starved, and the defence scheme abandoned, than that no proper provision should he made for the payment of old-age pensions.
– What does the honorable member estimate that this will cost?
– About ^1,800,000. providing for a pension of 10s. per week to all entitled to it. I base my calculation on the Victorian experience.
– On the Victorian basis, the cost would be only£900,000.
– I refer, not to the Victorian rates, but to the Victorian necessities.
– According to the honorable member, protection has driven all the young men away from Victoria, leaving here chiefly old men who need pensions.
– My eulogy of New South Wales ought to have satisfied the honorable member that that State has gone ahead under protection.
– In spite of protection.
– While Victoria in eight years lost by excess of departures over arrivals 54,700 persons, New South Wales gained 46,534. I had five years’ experience in New South Wales, and during the last twenty years have been there frequently. That State had its hard times as the other States had, and, I am glad to say, has got over them. If protection has caused an exodus in Victoria, it has brought prosperity to New South Wales, both being under the same fiscal system.
– New South Wales has continued to increase in population in spite of protection.
– The honorable member may, if he likes, build up a man of straw in order to knock him down.
– We have put the people on the land and not in factories.
– They have been put both on the land and in factories.
– And all under the terrible system of protection ! I have seen stress of circumstances in Sydney under free-trade and protection, and we have had both bad and good times in Victoria under protection.
– And the cause of the depression in both cases was the burst of the land boom.
– Exactly; and New South Wales took some time to shake off the depression. Under both the Dibbs Tariff and the Reid Tariff, there was depression in the mother State. I admit that prior to Federation the population was increasing; but since Federation the traffic of Sydney has become congested ; and there must be about 100,000 more people, who are working in the factories or engaged in distribution.
– That is the result of the removal of the barriers between the States; New South Wales is now manufacturing for the other States.
– The honorable member cannot see that all this prosperity is the result of protection.
– It is the result of Inter-State free-trade.
– I am thoroughly assured of the necessity for protection in Australia ; and when the honorable member is so blind as not to see the advance of New South Wales under the same system that has prevailed in Victoria, it is useless to argue with him. I do hope that the Treasurer, no matter what goes short, will take care that the demand of the people for old-age pensions is complied with.
Mr.DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney) [8.44]. - The speeches we have heard since the close of the censure debate emphasize the peculiar position in this House. We had a motion which stated that the financial proposals of the Government were not satisfactory, and a further motion that sufficient revenue had not been provided for old-age pensions, and both were rejected by large majorities. Since then the very members who voted against those motions, have, by their speeches, declared the accuracy of the view that the motions represented; all their remarks have been a criticism of the Government and their policy, especially from a financial point of view. Honorable members did not, by their votes, express their opinion, when there could be any effect, and yet they express their opinion now when it can have no influence on the standing of the Government. I do not intend to enter into a. full discussion of the Budget from its financial or any other aspect. A good deal has been said with which I am quite in accord, and I have no desire to repeat it. My object is to deal with the denials expressed by members of the Government, not in speeches, but by way of interjection, and also to touch on one or two matters which have not been dealt with up to the present, or have been regarded from a different point of view from that I take. The Treasurer, of course, by way of interjection, has said that he is grossly misunderstood.
– I said that I had been grossly misrepresented.
– I was about to add that; and the Treasurer has never ventured to rise in his place and show how or where he has been misunderstood or misrepresented.
– If the Treasurer did, he would be continually rising.
– There would be no need for the Treasurer to do so, because he has ample opportunity of summarizing misunderstandings and misrepresentations, if they exist, and replying to them. I wish the Treasurer had availed himself of the opportunities presented, because I desire the light and leading which he, as Treasurer, should be able to give the House, when he is misunderstood or misrepresented. The present Budget and financial statement have been prepared under circumstances quite different from those of previous Treasurers. Hitherto the Commonwealth Treasurer has simply had to ask what was required for the expenditure of the Commonwealth ; there has been no anxiety as to any insufficiency, and large surpluses have been handed back to the States. The whole inquiry has been as to the Commonwealth’s needs, and as to how much could be handed back to the States in excess of the three-fourths under the Braddon section. The present Treasurer, however, has first asked himself, “ How much must I hand back to the States?”, and not “ How much can I hand back beyond what I must?” And to find the answer to the question he simply estimates three- fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, and refuses to return any more.
– That ought to have been clone six years ago, and we should now have hadplenty ofmoney.
– The Commonwealth ought to retain all that is necessary for its expenditure; but I do not agree with the honorable member, if he means that we should retain not only what is necessary, but all that we are entitled to retain under the Constitution. We have a right to consider the financial position of the States, some of which were strained in the first years of Federation. I agree that we should retain sufficient for our own needs, and we are supposed to have done so; but we have no right to retain more. The Treasurer having found the amount that he must return to the States, thende cides that he will spend every penny of the balance. Even for the current year, however, that is a makeshift ; the Treasurer is not calculating, indeed, he must be delaying expenditure-
– I am not.
– The Treasurer must be delaying expenditure which will be inevitable if the measures laid before us by the Government are promptly pushed forward. But even if the
Treasurer says that he has sufficient for this year, he will find himself faced with a deficiency next year. It is quite true that, under ordinary circumstances, it is sufficient to deal with the current year; but that is not sufficient when measures are placed before us, which, if not carried out this year, will have to be carried out next year; and the Treasurer ought to show us where he is going to get the necessary revenue from.
– I suppose the honorable member says that I ought to look two or three years ahead?
-I say that the Treasurer ought to look one year ahead.
– I think a Treasurer does well if he confines himself to the current year.
– But the Treasurer has no right to- ask us to pass legislation which means expenditure unless - indeed, he is told so by members in the Government corner - he shows how he anticipates meeting the expenditure. Are we to trust to some extraordinary windfall ? Surely as a responsible Parliament, with a financial reputation to maintain, when we pass measures we ought to have some idea where the necessary revenue is to come from.
– Is it usual for a Parliament to provide for expenditure two years ahead?
– It is usual for a Parliament, when passing a measure which may not come into operation until a year later, to know how the expenditure which it will involve is to be met.
– Is it usual to foreshadow taxation measures two years in advance ?
– It is not necessary to foreshadow taxation measures. The honorable member ought to know that no Parliament would be worthy of the name if it passed a measure involving expenditure without having any indication of where the money was to be found to meet it. When we refer to the Treasurer’s Budget speech, we find that my statement is supported by his own words. He said -
I shall show that so far’ as I can judge, by the end of the financial year after next -
It will thus be seen that he was proposing to consider, although not in a complete or satisfactory way, what might be the position during the next financial year - we shall not have overdrawn to any material extent.
There we have the anticipation of a deficit.
– The honorable member ought to read the next few words.
– I intend to do so. The Treasurer went on to say -
By that time we shall be approaching the close of 1910, when, I hope, we shall have more money.
We can gather from that statement what is the Treasurer’s anticipation, and what also is his object.
– My object has never been cloaked.
– And I think that the Treasurer will be strongly supported by the Parliament.
– We cannot say what this Parliament will or will not support. The honorable gentleman has admitted that he fears a deficit at the end of the next financial year. Six monthslater, the Braddon section may be varied, and then he proposes to absorb sufficient of what has hitherto been State revenue to make good that deficit, and to meet the heavy expenditure entailed by some of the proposed measures of the Government.
– Is not that a proper policy ?
– It is not. A proper policy would be to provide against any deficit, and to take only a fair proportion of the three-fourths returnable to the States when the Braddon section expires.
– We should take enough for our own needs.
– We cao make our own needs anything. The honorable member, judging by his interjection, is one of those who say, in effect, “ Spend, and let the States borrow.”
– They will do that in any circumstances.
– They will have to do so if we compel them.
– They will both spend and borrow.
– They spend and they borrow, but they will have to borrow more and spend less if we withhold from them revenue which they ought reasonably to receive.
– They ought to borrow more and spend less.
– The honorable member was a member of the State Legislature, but did not seem to exercise much influence upon it in that regard. In the next financial year, our deficit, I think, will be considerable, unless the Treasurer finds some unexpected means of producing more revenue. Even if we suppose that the revenue anticipated for this year will be maintained during the next financial year, what will be the position? We have no guarantee, however, that it will be maintained. The tendency of the Tariff must be, I believe, except in time of great prosperity, to reduce the revenue. If it is effective as a protectionist Tariff, it must exclude.
– Does not the honorable member take into consideration the prospect of a record season?
– I see no such prospect.
– There is everv prospect of it.
– The honorable member has his eyes fixed only on Victoria and Riverina. There are other parts of the Commonwealth which, unfortunately, are rather seriously situated, and I can see no prospect of a record season for the Commonwealth. In any event, it is rather undesirable for the Treasurer to seek to be financed by Providence.
– All Treasurers have to depend on Providence.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON. Undoubtedly; but I have never met a Treasurer who anticipated Providence and was prepared to say what would be provided by Providence twelve or eighteen months ahead.
– A Treasurer usually savs what he hopes for.
-But hopes do not influence actualities. Even assuming that the revenue during the next financial year is equal to that which the Treasurer expects to receive during the current year, we must not, forget that he will then have to pay an additional sum of£30,000 in respect of bounties, and that if the new defence scheme is carried - and the Ministry are pressing us to carry it - the estimated defence expenditure of the current year, according to the Prime Minister’s own figures, will be increased by£612,000.
– Is that estimate on the basis of the men being paid for time lost?
– No. If the men are paid for time lost that estimate will have to be increased. Then, again, something must surely be done to improve the condition of the Post and Telegraph Department. Even if we do not do nearly all that the officers of the Department say is absolutely necessary, surely an additional expenditure of£250,000 will have to be provided for. Then we have the cost of the old-age pensions scheme, for which the Treasurer has provided only £1,225,000. That provision is not in accordance with any of the figures we have on the subject. It is not in accord with the estimate which the Treasurer himself put before the House when introducing the Old-age Pensions Bill, and it contradicts the statement which he made, if I remember rightly, that if the Bill as introduced were amended as it was, the cost of oldage pensions would be £1,800,000 per annum.
– I did not make that statement.
– At all events, the Treasurer said when he introduced his Bill, that his scheme would cost £1,500,000. , He knows, however, that the scheme was liberalized during- the passage of the Bill. through Parliament, and that, consequently, his* previous estimate must be increased. But even assuming that the scheme costs only £1,500,000, and allowing nothing for the liberalization of the Bill whilst it was before Parliament, the Treasurer will have to find£275,000 in excess of the amount for which he has provided. Then there is the proposal in regard to penny postage.
– I have made no such proposal.
– But the. Treasurer’s colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, has before the House a Bill providing for penny postage. Surely the Minister ought to announce that that Bill has been abandoned or should provide against the loss of revenue that it will involve.
– I have not provided anything in respect of it.
– The Bill has not been withdrawn. The last words uttered by the Postmaster-General with respect to it were that it was “ going through,” and we should have to provide for a loss of, say, £250,000 in respect of it.
– It is not quite fair to take that into consideration, because I am not providing for it.
– If the Minister says that the Bill is to be abandoned
– I do not say that. Mr. DUGALD THOMSON.- It must either be abandoned or we must make provision for it.
– Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
-A moderate estimate in respect of the loss of revenue which the passing of that Bill will involve is ^250,000. That gives us a total °f £1,417,000 for. which no provision has been made. From that total ,£250,000 must be deducted in respect of the amount already to the credit of a trust fund for defence purposes. That £250,000 will be available to meet the increased expenditure of the proposed new scheme during the first year of its operation, but not afterwards. Deducting that amount from the total, we still have ,£1,167,000 not provided for next year. And even if the Penny Postage Bill is abandoned we shall have an expenditure of nearly j£i, 000,000 for which the Treasurer has made no provision. There are still further proposals for which 0no provision has been made. We are told that we are to have Commonwealth offices in London, and that a High Commissioner is to be appointed. The Government are in treaty for a site for Commonwealth offices, and as we have not borrowed money-
– And are not going to.
– We’ shall have to provide out of revenue for the expenditure that it will involve.
– The honorable member does not know what has happened.
– I only know what the Prime Minister has told us. If the Treasurer will deny the words of the Prime Minister, as he has disclaimed responsibility for the Penny Postage Bill introduced by the Postmaster-General-
– I have not.
– If the Minister wishes to be straightforward he can be j but if he desires to be evasive I shall pay no attention to his remarks. Instead of making continuous interjections across the table he should make a speech on the subject.
– Read my Budget speech.
– I havedone so, and fina, no want of clearness in it. The Treasurer’s own interjections are obscuring it. I would point out that the honorable gentleman has provided for an expenditure of only £8,000 in respect of” quarantine, although a much larger expenditure will be involved.
– Not this vear.
– But I am speaking of the expenditure for the next financial year. We have already passed a. Quarantine Bill, and the quarantine properties of the States will be transferred toils’.
– We shall not want more than ,£8,000 this year in respect of quarantine.
– But in, the following year that amount will beconsiderably increased. A number of- veryexpensive light-houses and light-ships will, also have to be provided when the Commonwealth takes over that Department.
– That will not bethis year.
– I am not speaking of this year. We shall have toprovide them, because the States, knowing that the Department is to be transferred tothe Commonwealth, will not spend the money. They are holding back.
– This is not a Budget for next year.
– I amquoting from the Treasurer’s Budgetspeech where he deals with next year ; and I am showing that he has not made proper provision for that year. These are all measures that the Government promise tocarry out. Some of them are already before us, and surely we have a right to seewhere the provision for them is coming from.
– The Prime Minister said that beacons, buoys, and ocean lights wereto be dealt with this session, if possible.
– We are going to deal with all. these things with no idea of where the revenue is coming; from to meet the expenditure. For theFisheries Department and trawler only a certain amount is provided this year, but the expenditure in the following year will’ be considerably greater. The Prime Minister has been making speeches regardingthe Federal Department of Agriculture.
That is to come, and will add to our expenditure. The expenditure on immigration is to be increased, or at any rate, the Prime Minister says that he is willing to increase it. In addition to all that, although, perhaps not so immediate, is the expenditure On the Federal Capital, the Northern Territory, if we are to acquire and develop it, and the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. The attention of the Treasurer was drawn by the honorable member for Parramatta to a rather extraordinary statement in his speech as to the advantages that were being offered to the States by his proposals for settling the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth. He denied that the honorable member for Parramatta was correct in saying that no such advantage would be given. The Treasurer said -
The State Treasurers have not, however, so far realized the advantages offered them. At present the States are paying annually. Interest, £8,840,000; Expenses, ^50,000; Sinking Fund contributions, £800,000; Old-age Pensions, £990,000, total, ,£10,680,000. To place themselves in the position which the Commonwealth Treasurer offers to place them in - that is, of being relieved of their debts, now totalling ^247,974,624, in thirty-five years - an annual payment to Sinking Fund, accumulating at 3 per cent, interest, would be necessary of ^4,101,000. Deducting the amount now paid to sinking fund by the States, £800,000, ^3,301,000 is left. So that they would pay in all /13,9s 1, 000.
But the States have never proposed, and never attempted to pay off their debts in thirty-five years, so that is an absolutely false comparison; nor does the Commonwealth propose to pav them off in thirtyfive years. The Treasurer has no very definite propositions as to paying them off at nil, because the sinking fund is only mentioned, and neither the amount nor the method of its provision is set out. Yet the Treasurer says that the advantage to be gained by the States Governments By the transference of their debts to the Commonwealth in thirty-five years is nearly ^14,000,000 per annum. ‘
– The States do not intend to pay their debts off; they intend to renew them by other loans.
Mr.DUGALD THOMSON.- I am dealing, not with the intentions of the States, hut with the Treasurer’s statement. Why did not the Treasurer carry the comparison a little further, and say that if the States paid off their debts in ‘ten yeaTS, it would cost them so much per annum for sinking fund, and, therefore, when the debts were transferred to the Commonwealth, the States would get an advantage of that amount? The whole thing is absurd. The Commonwealth has no intention of paying off the debts so as to obliterate them in thirty-five years. The only reference to the sinking fund in the report issued of the Treasurer’s proposals is as follows : -
The Commonwealth sinking fund will be recruited by annual votes from Parliament.
No amount and no rate is mentioned. He simply says “ annual votes “ -
I think it might be well if an appropriation were made of all Federal surpluses, although I have not embodied this in the scheme now presented to Parliament.
How much shall we get out of Commonwealth surpluses? How much this yeal or next year? If this is the source of the sinking fund, I am afraid it will take more than thirty-five years, or even 135 years,, to pay off the debt.
– Unless we can borrow cheaper by conversion.
– It is provided that if an advantage is gained or a saving made by borrowing cheaper, that shall go to the sinking fund; but that amount is absolutely problematical at present. Then the Treasurer says -
By means of the above, I think we may reasonably expect that the whole of the present debt will be finally paid off, certainly within, the next sixty or eighty years.
– I do not think so.
– The thing to my mind is impossible; but that is thestatement made by the Treasurer, without any figures to support it.
– If we could convert at half per cent, less, and pay that to a sinking fund, we could do it.
– The honorable member will agree that that is not probable, except with a few loans that bear high rates of interest. A great many of the loans by the States have been borrowed at fairly low rates, and I do not think we could effect a saving of a half per cent, right through.
– But there is no hurry for fifty years, or so.
– But the Treasurer is taking credit for an amount of £14,000,000 per year, by. which, he says, the States will be benefited through thendebts being paid off in thirty-five years. They will not be paid off. The taxpayer will still be responsible for them, and have to find the interest on them. They will simply be transferred.
– But the State Treasurers will not have to pay them off.
– Of course not, but they never proposed to pay them off in thirty-five years.
– Nor could thev do it.
– Yet the Treasurer in that comparison treats the States as paying off their debts in thirtyfive years, and says that they get an advantage of £14,000,000 a year in that period by transferring them to the Commonwealth. The debts will still be there, and the taxpayers will only have to find the interest through the Commonwealth instead of through the States. The Treasurer said also -
The States are to give an undertaking to pay the Council the interest payable by the Commonwealth; also a payment for sinking fund at½ per cent.
In that memorandum the honorable gentleman did not propose a per cent, or more sinking fund as being required to pay the debts off in thirty-five years. It would take over 100 years to repay them at½ per cent. The principal portion of the Treasurer’s proposal is an adaptation of the honorable member for Mernda’s scheme. That honorable member deserves credit for the efforts he made to settle the financial question, but there is one proposal in the Treasurer’s scheme, as I read it, which seems rather extraordinary. I should like to know from the Treasurer if I am correct in my reading of it. The starting point is that £6,000,000 of the liability for interest on the loans shall be transferred to the Commonwealth. For five years the States are to continue to pay interest on the rest of the debts. After that period there will be a gradual annual reduction of the interest that the States pay ; and at the end of thirty-five years, if I understand the scheme aright, the liability of the States for both principal and interest will cease. If that is so, and if the States are not to be liable afterwards for interest or principal in proportion to their borrowings, does that not mean that the Treasurer proposes, practically, to forgive their debts to certain States which have borrowed to a high rate per head, and to let that forgiveness be carried by the other States ?
– I intend to speak in reply ; I will answer the honorable member then.
– I should like information on that point, because the burden of debt per head varies greatly in each State. There is nothing to show that what I have stated is not proposed by the Treasurer. If there! is any intention to the contrary, I should be glad to know of it. On the face of it, the Treasurer’s scheme means that while the electors of the Commonwealth, as a whole, will be responsible, as they were before, for the whole of the debt, there will be a great change in the responsibilities of the electors of individual States. South Australia, instead of being liable for £79 would become liable for only £58 per head; as would also Victoria, which is now liable for only £43 per head.
– What has the liability per head to do with the question ?
– I am showing that the States have borrowed and are liable for different amounts per head of population.
– It is the whole debt that is dealt with.
– Yes ; but that debt is transferred, not extinguished. The Treasurer’s proposal may have a meaning which he has not made clear, but, as it stands, there is to be no paying off of its undivided debt by a State. Yet the State authorities are to be free of responsibility for their debts after thirty-five years. Thus the State of South Australia will be freed of responsibility for a debt of £[79 per head of their population, those of Victoria for a debt of only £43, those of Tasmania for a debt of £[56, and those of New South Wales for a debt of £[55 per head. The Treasurer proposes that the Commonwealth shall take over the debts of the States to an amount on which the interest comes to £[6,000,000, or be responsible for the payment of that amount of interest. That would leave £[2,800,000 of interest to be found by the States. They are to pay that interest for five years, and then their responsibility is to be gradually reduced until, at the end of thirty-five vears, it has been wholly transferred tn the Commonwealth. Of course, the taxpayers of Australia will still have to find the money necessary to meet interest or to repay principal.
– But responsibility for the public debt of Australia will have been transferred from the Treasurers of the States to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
– And some States will benefit more than others by the arrangement.
– Yes. As I have shown, the State of South Australia will be relieved of responsibility for a debt amounting to £79 a head, while the State of Victoria will be relieved of responsibility for a debt of only £43 a head. On the debts of the States being pooled, the citizens of each State would be responsible for the sum of ^58 per head.
– That is not the original proposal.
– I am dealing, not with the honorable member’s proposal, but with that of the Treasurer, as I read it, and which I think is not constitutional. The honorable gentleman admits that at the end of thirty-five years the States will not be responsible for either interest or principal in regard to loans totalling £247,000,000.
– The Commonwealth will have assumed responsibility for that debt, and freed the authorities of the States.
– It must be remembered that the populations of the States are constantly altering, and the honorable member cannot say what the relative populations will be thirty-five years hence.
– No. Still, we are dealing, not with, the debt which may accumulate in the future, but with the existing debt, and are justified, therefore, in dealing with it in the light of the present distribution of population. It may be that thirty-five years hence one State may have increased and another reduced its indebtedness per head. In any case, discrepancies will exist as they do now, and the relief from debts will be unequal. I doubt the constitutionality of the Treasurer’s proposal. Even if it is constitutional, it is unjust.
– It was not well thought out.
– To my mind, responsibility for interest should remain with the States which have incurred the debts. If the future debts are also to be pooled, we shall have a very curious state of affairs. Each State will say, “ Let us borrow as much as we can, because the liability will be pooled, and we shall have the advantage of the money borrowed, without ‘being wholly responsible for its repayment.” Of course, the
Treasurer’s proposal does not affect future debts. We are not told how they are to be dealt with. To my mind, the public debts of the States being incurred for State purposes, they cannot be dealt with on a per capita basis, as though they had been incurred for Commonwealth purposes.
– If the authorities of the States were relieved of their present responsibility, there would be a rush to borrow more money.
– Yes. In any settlement each State should always be responsible for interest on the money borrowed. The Commonwealth should debit each State with the interest on its indebtedness.
– That is what section 105 of the Constitution requires.
– The honorable member regarded the Surplus Revenue Act as unconstitutional.
– It should have been considered so. It was a breach of faith with the States.
– At any rate, I did not regard that Act as unconstitutional. Although the Treasurer has adopted a per capita basis for the settlement of the existing debts question, he has not yet proposed to sanction a per capita distribution, and to abandon the bookkeeping system.
– Ls the honorable member in favour of that?
– I am.
– I have some figures showing how it would affect New South Wales which would startle the honorable member.
– I also have figures showing what the effect of the change would probably be. Its present effect ought not to make us forget that it was one of the great purposes of Federation. Besides, its effect will vary from year to year, sometimes one State benefiting, and then another. Generally speaKing, the smaller States will benefit most. One of the purposes of Federation was that, by a combination of forces, the smaller States should be placed in a better financial position. Would the Treasurer adhere to the bookkeeping system for all time?
Sir William Lyne. Certainly not.
– Then there is no better time than the present for getting rid of it. Its abolition would make the financial adjustment easier, whereas, if it remains, there will be more difficulty. I do not hold with those who make excessive claims on behalf of the States. We should make a fair division of the Customs and Excise revenue between the States and the Commonwealth. If the States are not getting sufficient for their requirements, and if we divide with arithmetical accuracy, we ought, for a time, to bear a larger burden, until gradually, by the growth of population, we reach the proportion which is considered proper. We ought not for all time to retain the whole of the increase in revenue due to increase in population ; the States, too, should benefit by that increase.
– I wish the States and the Commonwealth would take that view.
– There was a claim put forward some little time ago, by some of the newspapers and politicians in the States, based on figures published by Mr. Johnston, the Government Statistician of Tasmania. I do not say that the claim was made by Mr. Johnston ; but his figures showed that of the total expenditure of the Commonwealth, 86 per cent. was by the States, and only 14 per cent. by the Commonwealth. On these figures, the newspapers and politicians to which I refer, claimed that they represented the proportion in which the States and the Commonwealth ought to share the Customs and Excise revenue. If that were the net expenditure, there might be something in the claim ; but, as it happens, it is the gross expenditure, and no credit is given for the revenue from the assets and services left with the States or handed over to the Commonwealth. What an absurdity it would be if we had to provide taxation in that proportion, when the position is altered very considerably, if credit is given for the revenues I have mentioned.
– The assets arethe railways, for instance.
Mr.DUGALD THOMSON.- Yes ; and the Post Office, water and sewerage, and other services and assets.
– The honorable member is disregarding the foundation, which is the separation of the finances of the States from those of the Common-‘ wealth.
– The Treasurer cannot have heard what I said, or he would see that I am really arguing in his favour. I am merely quoting figures which have been put forward on behalf of the States, and with which I do not agree. It is easy enough for the Treasurer to “ separate,” when he has a hold of the “thick end of the stick ‘ ‘; but I think that Parliament is inclined to do justice to the States.
– No one is seeking to do an injustice.
– I think the Treasurer is, if he attaches all the revenue in the future, no matter to what heights it may reach. The total expenditure for Australia per head is 16s., and of this, taking the year 1906-7, the Commonwealth spends £1 4s. 2d., and the States£711s.10d., or a proportion of 14 per cent. to 86 per cent. But if we make allowance for the transfer of old-age pensions to the Commonwealth, the expenditure of the Commonwealth will be £111s. 5d. per head - that is if the pensions cost £1,500,000, though I think they will cost considerably more - and that of the States £7 8s. 6d. per head. From this expenditure, we must deduct the revenue from assets and services held by the States and the Commonwealth. That revenue per head in the Commonwealth is 15s. 5d. per head, almost entirely from the Post Office, while in the States the revenue is £5 6s.1d. per head. This leaves the net expenditure in the Commonwealth at 1 6s. per head, and the net expenditure in the States at £2 2s. 5d. per head, or 27 per cent. by the Commonwealth, as compared with 73 per cent. by the States. Of the £2 2s. 5d. net expenditure by the States, £21s. 7d. is interest on debts ; and I may explain that, for the purposes of the figures, I am taking the year 1906-7, as a normal year, free from any Tariff disturbance. If the States were relieved of all that liability for interest on the debts in such a year, they could meet the whole expenditure by a taxation to the extent of10d. per head. Of course, the Commonwealth is not able to take over the whole responsibility of the interest on the debts of the States; and the States, like the Commonwealth, will have fresh expenditure in developing their own resources in the future. But, if we were to so distribute the interest on the debts that there would be an equal surplus left for the States and the Commonwealth - and there were surpluses in 1906-7 - it would mean that the Com- monwealth would have to take over £1 7s. per head of interest on debt, representing less than £6, 000,000. I am not one who says that, even if our arithmetical proportion of the interest of the debt is only £1 7s. per head, representing under £6,000,000-
– The honorable member does not propose to take over the whole of the debts?
– I am not putting forward a financial scheme, but merely dealing with some figures on which certain claims have been made. I am not stating that the arithmetical proportion should be adhered to, because that would place some of the States in an awkward financial position, and we ought to do as much as we reasonably can for the States, considering, at the same time, our own requirements. I started out by saying that the abandonment of the bookkeeping principle, and a distribution per capita, would assist in the adjustment. I have added that in any scheme, I should be in favour of the Commonwealth Government giving even more than its arithmetical proportion, to the extent of sustaining the financial equilibrium of the weaker States. And then I should let the contribution remain until we arrived at the correct arithmetical proportion, through increase of population. After that I should not refuse the States claim to some share - I do not say the same share - of the enlarging revenue due to increased population, seeing that theStates have forced on them expenditure owing to that increased population. Whenwe take over the greatest source of revenue - the Customs and Excise - we ought also to take some responsibility for the greatest expenditure, namely, the interest on the new debts, largely caused by increase of population. But if there were a special allowance for Western Australia - and I believe there ought, and must be-
– But Western Australia will lose considerably less than the other States.
– Western Australia loses much more per head, seeing that she contributes so much moreto the Customs and Excise revenue.
– That contribution will diminish as years go on.
– It is diminishing, and must diminish, and the allowance should be an annually decreasing one. If we allow for a certain amount to sinking fund - which, during the Western Australianperiod, must be small - even so small as a1/4 per cent. on all the debts, which, during the period of allowance to Western Australia, might be reduced by that allowance, there would be a distribution in the first year of, say , £6,416,000. If we also allow for the transfer to the Commonwealth of old-age pensions, I will roughly outline the result to each State on the financial basis of 1906-7, with a per capita distribution.
– The honorable member means at the end of the) operation of the Braddon section.
– I mean at the end of the bookkeeping period. In 1906-7 New South Wales had a surplus that was equal to 19s. 9d. per head of her population ; but allowing for the 6s. 6d. per head that she paid for old-age pensions, her surplus when relieved of these would be£1 6s. 3d. Victoria had a surplus of 10s.10d. per head of her population; and allowing that she paid 3s.1d. per head in respect of her old-age pensions system, that would give her a surplus of 13s.11d. per head when freed from old-age pensions. Queensland, which did not pay old-age pensions in that year, had a surplus of 14s.10d. per head ; South Australia a deficit of 7s. 6d. per head ; Western Australia a deficit of ‘ 6s.9d. per head; and Tasmania a surplus of 6s. 4d. per head. If we adopted a per capita system and paid to or for the States only the amount I have stated, we should have for New South Wales a net reduction of 3s.11d. per head - a reduction of 10s. 5d. less a saving of 6s. 6d. per head on oldage pensions - bringing her surplus from 19s. 9d. to 15s.10d. per head; a reduction of 6s. 5d. in the case of Victoria, bringing her surplus of 10s.10d. per head to 7s. 6d. per head ; a reduction of 6s.10d. per head in the case of Queensland, bringing her surplus to 8s. 9d. per head; a reduction of 4s. 5d. in the case of South Australia, increasing her previous deficit of 7s. 6d. per head to11s.11d. per head ; a reduction of 3s. 8d. in the case of Western Australia, increasing her deficit from 6s. 9d. to 10s. 5d. ; and an addition of1d. per head in the case of Tasmania, increasing her surplus from 6s. 4d. per head to 6s. 5d. per head. We should thus have a per capita distribution combined with a considerable reduction in the return to the States. New South Wales would have a reduction of 3s. nd. per head in her surplus; and Victoria a reduction of 3s. 4d. per head. Those are not big reductions for such large States. They would have that reduction after allowing for their being relieved of the cost of their old-age pension systems. Queensland would have a reduction of 6s. id. per head, and she would save her present expenditure on old-age pensions, which for the Commonwealth we reckon at 7s. 3d. per head of the total population. South Australia would have her deficit increased by 4s. 5d. per head, but she would obtain in return a system of old-age pensions estimated at 7s. 3d. per head. Western Australia would have a reduction of 3s. 8d. per head, and would obtain old-age pensions, whilst Tasmania would receive practically the same as she did in 1906-7, and would also obtain in addition a system of old-age pensions. I have only given the results, not the working1, but I think that in these circumstances all the States would be able to meet the financial situation.
– That is one way of covering it up ; but it does not do away with the result brought out by the Budget - the fact that our State loses ,£400,000.
– Under these proposals, the amount, roughly speaking, would be about ,£300,000. When we cease the bookkeeping system, some States must lose, and we shall never have a better opportunity of making this change than we have at present.
– Tasmania would gain ;£i 23,000.
– Not under my proposal.
– Our minus - that of New South Wales - has nearly doubled during the last three years.
– My proposal will affect New South Wales, roughly speaking, to the extent of ,£300,000 at present; but it would not always affect her in that way, nor would it affect any of the other States proportionately for all time.
– New South Wales has been affected for many years.
– But we have not had a per capita system in operation.
– Will the honorable member guarantee that New South Wales will agree to it?
– I undertake, as a representative of that State, to support such a scheme. I have seen in the
New South Wales press the statement that it is time the bookkeeping period was ended, and that although that State would lose some of her revenue under a new system, it is desirable to end that now in operation.
– I think that it should be ended at once, but I am not quite sure that New South Wales, as well as Western Australia, ought not tq have some arrangement.
– What did the Government say when they were asked to pay £20,000 to Tasmania?
– They may have had special reasons for the action they took.
– It was to put an end to the bookkeeping arrangement as far as possible.
– That was only a partial arrangement. Is the book keeping system to last for all time?
– No; I wish to end it as soon as possible.
– Then surely the Commonwealth and the States must face the situation. We shall never have a better opportunity to make the change than we shall have when we are adjusting all the finances.
– If Western Australia is left out, our minus is ,£418,000.
– We could not choose a more opportune time to make this change than when some of the States have very big surpluses. A time may come when New South Wales, Victoria, and other States, which may be affected by the altered system, may have deficits. There is no better time than the present. Generally speaking the financial position of the States is as good today as it has ever been. I do not see why we should persist with an antiquated system which makes the passing of goods from State to State more difficult than it was before Federation. Our desire was by means of Federation to secure the free passage of goods from State to State, and to do away with border Customs Houses. Yet we have imposed on those who wish to send goods from State to State a task, the partial performance of which entails enormous difficulty, and which cannot be effectively carried out.
– In many cases people refrain from sending goods from one State to another because of the barriers in the way.
– It is most difficult to trace the materials used in everything that is sent from one State to another, and all the different rates of duty applying to them. Yet we propose to continue this system.
– It is not proposed to continue it after the expiration of the Draddon section.
– We have no proposal in regard to a per capita distribution. All that we have is the extraordinary proposition -
Six million pounds in all to be allotted to the various States. Whether this amount is divided on the basis of Customs and Excise revenue or on a population or other basis is immaterial to the Commonwealth.
– The root of the trouble is left untouched.
– That is so.
– It was specially left to the States themselves to arrange a division.
– It is for us to say what is a fair method to adopt.
– If the honorable member were to try to do that he would find himself “up a tree.”
– I have made such a statement before the Sydney Chamber of Commerce.
– It does not rule Australia.
– Certainly not; but the honorable member says that he is frightened of New South Wales.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable gentleman said so at this table.
– I asked what the effect would be on New South Wales.
– My statement is that what I say here I am prepared to say to anv meeting in New South Wales.
– I do not doubt that.
– And any meeting in New South Wales will receive the statement favorably when the facts are put before it. If the abandonment of this bookkeeping system, which is altogether alien to the Federation, though it was probably necessary at first-
– What we proposed was to do away with the bookkeeping svstem.
-I can deal only with the Minister’s proposals as they appear in the Budget statement, and the only reference to this matter which I can find in that statement is this allusion to the£6,000,000.
– I was not at that stage dealing with the matter in detail.
– I cannot tell what is in the Minister’s mind. I must deal with the statement he has placed before the House. I shall be only too glad if he has in mind the intention to do away with the system referred to. I would now point out that the Minister’s statements regarding the expenditure involved in the pavment of oldage and invalid pensions are such that I cannot reconcile them with any authorities, even with his own. The Royal Commission estimated that it would require £1,500,000 to pay Commonwealth old-age pensions, exclusive of invalid pensions. On the basis of the expenditure in New South Wales the amount required would be more than £1,500,000.
– Make it £10,000,000 at once. The way they are going on it will amount to a good many millions.
– I am speaking of figures brought forward by the Treasurer himself. When I quote his own estimate, he objects and says, “ Make it
– Because the honorable gentleman is making a haphazard statement.
– I am repeating the Treasurer’s own statement.
– It is not my statement.
– I say that the honorable gentleman, at this table, said that the expenditure involved would amount to£1,500,000. He said that when he introduced the Invalid and 01d-s.ge Pensions Bill. Was that a haphazard statement?
– I said that probably it would amount to that sum, but I never said that it would amount to £1,800,000 or to £2,000,000.
– Honorable members are aware that this House extended and liberalized the provisions of the
Bill in several directions, after the Minister had calculated that under its provisions as introduced the amount required would be ;£i, 500,000.
– I did not confine myself to that amount.
– The honorable gentleman’s estimate of the expenditure involved under the provisions of the Bill as introduced was £1,500,000. Those provisions were subsequently liberalized by the action of the House, and a greater expenditure was necessarily involved. Yet when I say that it will amount to £1,500,000, or probably more, the Treasurer says that I might just as well say it will amount to £10,000,000. The Minister says that the Act can be administered in New South Wales for ,£150,000 less than the amount required under the provisions of the New South Wales Act. How is that possible when the Commonwealth Act makes provision for a payment of ,£52 a year to married couples, instead of £39, as under the New South Wales Act? The Commonwealth Act also makes provision for the payment of old-age pensions to all of the statutory age who have resided for twentyfive years in any part of Australia, and not only, as in the State Acts, to those who have resided for twenty-five years in a particular State. That must involve added expenditure under the Commonwealth law. The Treasurer lias said that he has received certain estimates from the States Treasurers as to next year’s expenditure. The estimate for Victoria is £260,000, for Queensland ,£140.000, and for New South Wales £590,000. The honorable gentleman adds these together, with allowances for other States, deducts £90,000 for savings, and then says that he has arrived at what the Act is going to cost.
– Have we had any estimate of what the invalid pensions will amount to?
– No, only so far as they may be included in the general estimate. I wish to point out that the estimates of ,£260,000 for Victoria, and of £140. 000 for Queensland, are not based on the provisions of the Commonwealth Act. There is no provision in the Victorian Act for the payment of invalid pensions. I say that the Treasurer has condemned his first estimate, all other estimates, and the experience of New South
Wales, the only State in which an Act something like the Commonwealth Act, though not quite so liberal, has been in operation. As regards the Post and Telegraph Department, I shall only say a word or two. In dealing with this Department the Treasurer has been trying to hide . behind previous Treasurers. It is a most extraordinary course for the honorable gentleman to adopt, that he should endeavour to protect himself by their alleged misfeasance. I shall show that previous Treasurers are not responsible for the existing state of affairs. I shall do so from the Treasurer’s own figures. He has supplied a. table which shows the amount struck off the Postal Estimates by different Treasurers. The good or bad taste of that table I shall leave to the opinion of honorable members. I say that when a Treasurer takes office, it is no part’ of his business to shelter himself behind the action of previous Treasurers, and especially those who have been colleagues of his own in the same Ministry. To show how little justification the honorable gentleman has had for his attempt in this detection, I shall quote the deductions made by Treasurers from t 904-5 onwards. In 1904-5 the reduction by the Treasurer amounted to only ,£25.000. Whenever the present Ministry are in a difficulty, they try to shelter themselves behind the Reid Administration of eleven months. The £25,000 was the reduction made by the Treasurer of the Reid-McLean Ministry, and it was the smallest ever made in the history of the Commonwealth. The reduction made next year was .£53,000. The reduction made in 1906-7 was only £28,000. I say that these amounts show no serious cutting down by any of the Treasurers in those years. Sir John Forrest’ was, I think, Treasurer in the last year I have quoted. Would any one contend that’ a reduction of ,£25,000, or .£53,000 on a total estimate of expenditure of from £2,500.000 to £3,000,000 can be described as a “ lopping off? “ Even .with! the most careful preparation of Estimates totalling so large an expenditure there must be some items which ought to be disallowed. As a matter of fact, such reductions as I have referred to represent no pruning in a total estimate of such dimensions. The Treasurer, therefore, cannot shelter himself behind the cutting down of the Estimates bv previous Treasurers.
– We ought not to be called upon to discuss such pruning in this House.
– No; 1 say that it is highly improper. Such a table as that to which I have referred ought never to have appeared in the Budget statement. If any one has been to blame in the matter, it must have been the respective Postmasters-General, in failing to submit sufficient estimates for their Department. But when we come to the present Treasurer’s own Estimates, we find a cutting down of £235,000 in 1907-8 and of £312,000 in the estimated expenditure for 1908-9. Now, where has the cutting down occurred ?
– The honorable gentleman knows that he is making an incorrect statement.
– I am quoting the Treasurer’s figures. The honorable gentleman is either absolutely ignorant of his own figures, or is particularly regardless of facts. He says in the Budget speech that in the original Draft Estimates which were £3,624,000 in 1908-9, the sum of£312,000 was cut off by himself. Let honorable members refer to the Budget speech for confirmation of my statement. It is of no use to play with this postal business. Either the officers of the Department were incompetent when they said there must be an expenditure of over £[2,000,000 to place the Department in a proper workable condition, and enable it to do its duty to the public, or what they stated was correct.
– The money that was voted was not all spent.
– A Department cannot spend in a year all the money that is voted. But the departmental officers stated that a certain extra amount was required. Ministers must face the situation that either the amount asked for was not required, or they should find the money. What is to be done? Either the Government must increase rates, or they must borrow on short-dated Treasury bills, or they must find some other means of raising ‘ revenue. It would be ridiculous to impose taxation to make good a deficiency in a trading Department.
– There has been enough borrowing by the States, without the Commonwealth commencing.
– I am not advocating that method. The responsibility rests with the Treasurer.
– The honorable member forgets that he is a political Micawber.
– The Treasurer has an enormous trust in Providence, I must admit. But nothing is proposed. The Commonwealth is placed before Australia in this -.idiculous position - that Ministers admit that the Post and Telegraph Department has been starved, and yet nothing is done to put it into proper working order. Nothing is proposed. We are simply drifting. At one time a Minister - even a Ministry - could not live under such conditions. Now a. Ministry seems to be able to live under any conditions. I shall not, at this stage, enter into the defence question. I shall have another opportunity. But I was surprised- at the Prime Minister contradicting the inferences made by the honorable member for Flinders as regards the error in the estimates of the Prime Minister himself. Everything said by the honorable member on that subject, as far as I heard him, was quite correct, as I shall, have an opportunity of showing when the defence proposals of the Government are again discussed. Meanwhile, I point out that here is another instance of the extraordinary financial management of this Government. The Prime Minister evidently just took his brief on the defence question, and did not examine into the figures, which, when checked, showed that he was absolutely in error. Perhaps he is not to be greatly blamed for that. The Defence Department is not his. But fancy the Minister of the Department, or the officer responsible for the errors, who is supposel to be acquainted with all the details, not either checking the arithmetic or recognising from his knowledge of the details without checking that there was an error of , £400,000 in the calculation. This was an extraordinaryway of handling figures. If any private accountant put forward figures when it was known that they were required to be absolutely correct, and made a mistake of over £400,000 in £1,500,000, I know what would happen.
– That is not the most serious part of the matter. The serious point was the deduction that the increased expenditure would only come to £100,000, which was never corrected after the mistake was found out.
– As the honorable member says, that inference was drawn after the discovery of the error. But, apart from that altogether, we are asked to provide enormous sums of money by Ministers and officers who know so little about the subject they have been handling in all its details that they could not, in the first instance, discover Such a gigantic error. There is only one other subject to which I wish to allude. The Treasurer has told us that he is making arrangements with the Imperial Government to coin silver on behalf of the Commonwealth. In that case there must be a distinction between the Australian coins and those of Great Britain. Apparently, the intention is to make the coins quite different in design. But if we are going to retain the British or mixed duo-decimal system, I hold that our coins ought to be as nearly like the British coins as possible, with a mark upon them to enable us to know the authority responsible for replacing them. The coins should be allowed to pass freely between Australia and Great Britain. But what consideration are Ministers giving to the recommendation of a Select Committee that sat in the early days of Jederation, and which advocated the adoption of a decimal System of coinage? Not only did the Committee sit and report, but the House approved of its recommendations. Surely the time to consider that report is when we are entering into a new arrangement regarding coinage, and must make some distinction in the coins that we issue. The difference in the system advocated by that Committee would not be very serious. The sovereign was to be retained, and so on through the half sovereign, down to the two-shilling piece, and even the sixpence. There was to be an alteration in the value of the threepenny piece and the penny was to be reduced in value by only 4 per cent. That was as little alteration as could possibly be made. We ought to give serious consideration to a reform of that sort. It would be infinitely easier for commercial and other operations. It would save a great deal of time in education in our schools, and when we followed it up by the decimalization of weights and measures, or, at any rate, of weights, as we easily could, we should then have simplified our business transactions, helped towards successful competition with the rest of the world, and established a system that would not only be more easily understood by the people than our present one, but could be in calculation changed from the present British system of money and weights to our own with the greatest ease. As the Treasurer has left the chamber, I should like the honorary Minister to ask him to state his intentions in this matter when he replies. The report of a ‘Committee of this House, indorsed and accepted by both Chambers ought not to be passed by with silence and contempt. The adoption of its recommendations should be moved, or a’ statement made showing why the Minister could not adopt them. The Prime Minister stated the other day in his flowery language that the policy of the Government was the development of Australia, above all to assist an inflow of population, and by that population, together with that already here, to defend our shores against any foe that the world could bring. That is a splendid sentiment. It has been preached and lived on for some time, but there is no evidence of any move to carry it into effect. There seems to be no relevancy between Ministerial words and acts. Assistance to immigration has been painted as a necessity. The Prime Minister stated that, he would go to an expenditure even of ^200,000. If he did so, and by that means reduced the passage money to Australia to £5 per head, he could bring 30,000 people a year here if they were available.
– If we had our own ships we could bring them out for nothing.
– The honorable member for Barrier would bring them out for nothing, and even then make a big profit; but, of course, he is not individually responsible for the policy or the statements of the Government. His party, however, are responsible for continuing the Government in power. The Prime Minister has spoken of his willingness to find £200,000 for purposes of immigration, and has asked for the assistance of the States. He could, if he chose, expend that money in a way which would be of the greatest assistance to the States, and to which they would take no exception, by providing passages at low rates.
– The majority of those who support him will not allow him to do it.
– There lies the insincerity of the whole proposal. While the Prime Minister preaches this policy, he knows that he has a party associated with him many of whose members have expressed their opposition to it. While he preaches it to the public, no real attempt is made in this Parliament to carry it into effect. No effort is made to carry out the promises, or materialize those glowing pictures. The Prime Minister is also preaching defence. He is raising the expectations of the people and trying to secure their assent to his scheme. He wishes to imitate to some extent the military systems of Europe, yet his Treasurer makes not the slightest provision during either this or the following year for the money which the Prime Minister says will be necessary. All these things are not improving the reputation of this Parliament. What we mean to do we ought earnestly to strive to do. If there is a lack of the desire or energy or opportunity to do what we propose to do, the proposal should be withdrawn, or the Ministry ought to know where their duty lies. I am sorry that I has’e detained the Committee so long. As usual, we exceed our time because of interjections. Certainly, the Treasurer’s interjections did not help me at all, and I do not know whether they assisted the Committee. I only hope that Parliament will give more serious attention to these financial matters than it has yet clone, and that we may not, in either this or the following year, have that reflection on our financing that we have never yet had to endure - a Commonwealth deficit.
.- I wish to say a few words in reply to some of the statements of the honorable member for North Sydney ; but, in view of the lateness of the hour, it would be reasonable to adjourn until to-morrow morning.
– Several honorable members wish to speak.
– It is unfair to drag the debate on so long.
– The Treasurer is escaping very well.
– Surely, he does not talk of closing the debate? This is tyranny.
– I am prepared to remain here until 2 or 3 o’clock to-morrow morning.
– The discussion will end to-morrow, in any case.
– If I get an assurance to that effect, I shall be willing to adjourn ; but week after week passes without our getting to the Estimates.
– There should beno difficulty about closing the debate to-mor row, so far as members on this side are concerned ; but I cannot speak for the members of other parties. We understood that the honorable member for Mernda was to follow the honorable member for North Sydney.
– Iwishto speak on the Budget, but not at this hour of the night. It is worse than Turkish despotism to talk of closing now the discussion upon all the ramifications of the public finances.
– It is not fair to keep the debate going. Speeches have been made merely to do that.
– There is such a thing as being too long in power. I have a motion in my pocket. The Treasurer, instead of being thankful for his long tenure of office, is turning on his friends.
– I ask my friends to assist me in getting to the Estimates.
– There are questions of policy to be discussed first. The honorable member for Mernda and the honorable member for Fxemantle both wish to speak.
– No doubt the honorable member for Fremantle would be very entertaining; but I do not wish to hear him.
– Let the honorable member for Mernda have an opportunity of speaking to-morrow, and arrange for the debate to end on Tuesday.
– Let it go on until half-past 11.
– 1 have not got my papers with me. I am asking for an adjournment for the honorable member for Mernda. I shall not occupy more than three hours.
– Then I cannot consent to an adjournment now.
– I will not speak more than two hours if the Treasurer will grant an adjournment now. In some of the State Parliaments this discussion lasts for two months.
– That may happen in Tasmania, but not anywhere else.
– It happens in New South Wales. In the first session of this Parliament the debate took six weeks. The Treasurer has said nothing about establishing a national postal banking system. That is one of the subjects on which I wish to speak. We are all tired now; but to-morrow we shall be fresh.
.- In order to afford the Treasurer an opportunity of backing down with that grace which always characterizes him, I shall condense a. speech, which might otherwise, if elemental considerations of matter and time were not regarded, have lasted hours, into about three minutes.
– The honorable member has already spoken.
– Only upon the noconfidence motion submitted by the leader of the Opposition ; but speaking seriously, I did not mean to speak again. If the Treasurer had received his deserts upon that occasion, there would have been no need to debate this question now. Since 1901 I «have been pressing upon the Government the desirableness of asking the States to come to some agreement concerning the imposition of railway rates which are opposed to the provisions of the Constitution. In 1902 the Treasurer, with that plausibility which somewhat deceived me - I was then a young Federal member - declared that he regarded the matter as one of great importance, and he would see what could be done in connexion with . it. Up to the present time, however, nothing has been done by the Ministry. In 1904 a meeting of the Railways Commissioners of the different States, and of the General Managers of the State railways, was held in Melbourne, at which an arrangement was arrived at under which really preferential rates, such as the rates which then existed between Dimboola and Serviceton, were to be abolished, and most differentia,! rates were to be raised to the ordinary rates, so long as such action did not interfere with the volume of traffic under the competitive system. In other words, practically nothing was done in the way of modifying these rates. At the last Premiers’ Conference attention was again called to the existence of preferential rates which are opposed to the provisions of the Constitution. Time after time Queensland has dissented from the resolutions affirmed by the Premiers of the other States in this connexion. For instance, she refused to be a party to a resolution which was passed in 1904, and under which she would have been obliged to disclose the rates which are charged upon her railways and the rebates which are granted. At the present time, I believe that to squatters and others who live a certain distance from the lines - about 350 miles, I think - Queensland allows a rebate of 30 per cent. The result is that the traffic which would otherwise find its way to South Australia is diverted into Queensland.
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– I am not mistaken. I am basing my remarks upon the evidence of a minute which was furnished to the Treasurer by the Railways Commissioner of South Australia. I ask the Treasurer to give effect to the good intentions which he expressed in 1 901-2, with a view to seeing whether an agreement cannot be arrived at which will obviate the necessity for the creation of an Inter-State Commission. Before resuming my seat, I should like to mention just one other matter. Last May a Commission sat in South Africa for the purpose of inquiring into the preferential rates charged there, and incidentally into the question of the sugar duties levied. Upon the recommendation of that body, I believe that a proposal is now being made in South Africa to impose duties which will be differential in their operation against the importation of Australian sugar. That proposal is based upon a series of misapprehensions as regards alleged dumping of Australian sugar in South Africa. I understand that no such dumping is now taking place. It has been affirmed that Australian sugar is being sold in South Africa for £2 per ton less than it can be purchased for in the Commonwealth. I believe that that is not a fact. A new scale of duties also differentiates against the importation into South Africa of Australian sugar upon the ground that it is bounty fed. These duties will encourage the importation of Mauritius sugar. The matter is an -important one, and, therefore, has not received the consideration of the Government. I ask the Treasurer to explain if any efforts have been made to get rid of the misapprehensions which exist in South Africa, and if the Government will speedily make up their minds to take some action in this connexion?
– Will the honorable member suggest a way in which we can deal with differential railway rates without the appointment of an Inter-State Commission?
– In 1895 the statement was made - and it was repeated several times during the sittings of the Adelaide Convention - that the Railways Commissioners of the States might come to some arrangement, which would render the appointment of that body unnecessary. So far, however, the Commonwealth Government have done nothing to force their hands.
– How can they take action similar to that of an Inter-State Commission ?
– Of course, I know that eventually we can exercise the power of compulsion. But an energetic Ministry would undoubtedly bring the force of persuasion to bear upon the States Treasurers, or upon the Railways Commissioners of the States, with a view to securing the abolition of most of these rates. In conclusion, I ask the Treasurer to yield to the consensus of opinion on the part of honorable members who recognise that his Budget should be discussed when their minds are fresh, and not at this late hour of the evening.
.- I join with other honorable members in requesting an adjournment of the debate.
– I am reluctant to report progress, seeing that this discussion has already continued for a considerable time. We must recollect that the debate which took place upon the no-confidence motion submitted by the leader of the Opposition was practically a debate upon the Budget.
– The present discussion is. about the shortest that we have ever had upon the Budget.
– It has already continued for about a fortnight. The Departments’ are waiting to proceed with the public works, and if I agree to an early adjournment of the debate each evening, we shall never reach the Works Estimates. Ministers will then be blamed for not having proceeded with the consideration of those Estimates. I have already stated that I do not desire to introduce Supply Bill after Supply Bill based upon the Estimates of last year. I want those measures to be based upon the Estimates for the current financial year. But, before we deal with the Estimates-in-Chief, I intend to submit the Works Estimates.
– The Treasurer might have introduced them before now.
– I might .have done a lot of things, but I think that hon orable members should be satisfied to do them in the way that the Government propose. I cannot bring forward the Works Estimates until this debate has closed. I ask honorable members to help the Government to close it with . a view to passing those Estimates at once, and dealing with the other Estimates as soon as -possible, so that we shall not be compelled again to ask for a Supply Bill based on the appropriations for last year. Last night the Prime Minister announced that after this debate was closed the order of business would be the consideration of the Works Estimates, and the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. The financial relations with the States is a matter which honorable members can, of course, debate at this stage if they like, but a concrete proposal must be submitted - I cannot say exactly when - before anything can be’ done.
– It calls for a lot of discussion before it is dealt with.
– Yes; but I do not want the matter discussed now.
– There is a concrete proposal before us now.
– Then the Treasurer’s scheme is not a concrete proposal ?
– In my Budget speech I referred casually to the matter; but I had no desire to create a long discussion on a very important question which should be dealt with separately. I admit that every honorable member has the right to discuss it now if he likes.
– Especially when it is raised in the Budget speech.
– I did not go into any details as I should have done had I desired to evoke an exhaustive discussion now.
– But the honorable gentleman referred to the details given previously.
– I know that I made a passing reference to them. If honorable members do not wish to proceed with the consideration of the Works Estimates I ask them not to cast the responsibility for any delay upon me or the Government. Some honorable members opposite are prone to air all sorts of things, although they know very well that their ideas cannot be carried out.
– We have given the honorable member a splendid opportunity to destroy our criticism.
– What my honorable “friend wants to do is to destroy rae.
– I have no such intention.
– I hope that honorable members will not drag the discussion of this matter out unduly at the present stage, because every question surrounding every item on the Estimates can be dealt with by-and-by.
– Honorable members on the other side’ have assisted to prolong the debate.
– The honorable member occupied a long time, and two nights were occupied by only three or four honorable members.
– The honorable the Treasurer has wasted a quarter-of-an-hour how.
Sr WILLIAM LYNE. - The time will not have been wasted if I have succeeded in driving anything into the honorable member’s head. I ask honorable members to assist the Government to close this debate to-morrow, so that on Tuesday we can proceed with the consideration of the Works Estimates.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That this House do now adjourn.
– I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the alterations to these’ premises are being carried out by the Commonwealth or the State ot Victoria. I also desire to know whether it is the intention of the Government to have printed and circulated the despatch relative to the Navigation .Bill, which was tabled to-day ?
– That will be done.
– In reference to the question of the honorable member about the alterations to this building, I have no official information, but I believe that the work is being carried out by the State Government under an arrangement by which the Commonwealth will pay interest at a certain rate on the total expenditure for a certain time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at n.a p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 October 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081029_reps_3_48/>.