3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer if there is any truth in the report that he and the honorary Minister contemplate making a trip to England shortly. If so, I should like to be informed what they are going to do when they get there.
– I thought that no honorable member would take the rumour seriously. As I like to be short and decisive, my reply is that there is no truth in it.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper: -
High Court - Judgment in the Appeal from the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the case of the Jumbunna Coal Mine and another and the Victorian Coal Miners’ Association.
Motion (by Mr. ‘Deakin) agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given on account of ill health to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a reprint from the Lithgow Mercury, of 14th October, headed, “ Iron and Steel Production in Lithgow. Statement by the Government Testing Engineer”? The article commences -
The following statement regarding the manufacture of pig iron, wrought iron, and steel, at Lithgow, New South Wales, has been supplied by Mr. W. F. Burrow, C.E., Testing Engineer to the New South Wales Government.
Will the honorable and learned gentleman have the report authenticated and laid on the table, as it seems to contain information which would be of value to honorable members ?
– I believe that I have a copy of the report. It shall be looked into, with a view to complying with the honorable member’s request, if the paper appears to deserve re-publication.
– The Prime Minister promised last week to ascertain whether the Arbitration Act protects the unionist miners of Jumbunna and Outtrim. Has he done so, and is he aware that the companies are now compelling unionists to send to them their union tickets, and. to forward their resignations to the secretary of the union?
– I have taken steps to give effect to the promise, but have not yet received a report. When one arrives I shall inform the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to support Mr. Henniker Heaton’s proposal for a rate of id. per word for cable messages between Australia and the Old World?
– For some time past we have been endeavouring to arrange, through the Pacific Board, for such a reduction in charges as would cheapen the Australian rate.
– What about the Atlantic service ?
– -That appears to have excluded competition, our main hope being in the Pacific service. The negotiations are still proceeding. The representatives of the Commonwealth .are using every endeavour to induce the other members of the Board to take the steps necessary to obtain a reduction. But. our Utmost hope has not gone as far as a rate of ad. per word.
– Can the Government get a rate of is. per word?
– We should regard a rate of is. a word as a substantial advantage. It is at that we have been aiming for the last two or three years.
– Has the Treasurer seen the statement in to-day’s Age in regard to Federal old-age pensions? If so, I wish to know if he supplied the representative of the newspaper with the information there set out, and whether the statements there appearing are a correct expression of his views? Does he agree with this statement -
Indeed, it is likely that the Federal Treasurer will find in tlie power of bringing applicants before a magistrate, the one sufficient check upon the pauperizing tendencies of a section of the Federal Parliament.
If the Minister agrees with that, I wish to know what section of the Parliament is referred to.
– The information published in the Age was not supplied by me, and I was as much surprised as the honorable member could have been to read it this morning. I am not responsible for a word therein contained, and intend to say something in regard to old-age pensions this afternoon.
– Has the Treasurer considered the advisability of acting on .the report of the Select Committee, subsequently adopted by the House, in favour of a system of decimal coinage ? I do not wish the Minister to answer now if he is not prepared to do so. Possibly he may deal with, the subject in his reply to the debate on the Budget. If so I shall be satisfied.
– I do intend to say a few words with reference to the subject in my speech this afternoon.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer, without notice, whether his attention has been called to a statement published in the Brisbane Courier of 30th September, reporting utterances alleged to have been made bv the honorable member for Moreton with reference to the relations between States and the Commonwealth ? If so, will the honorable gentleman state whether the allegations are correct? The paragraph is rather long, and I will hand it to the Treasurer.
Honorable Members. - Read it.
– The paragraph reads -
In the course of conversation yesterday, Mr. Hugh Sinclair, M.H.R., touched on the question of State rights. “The relations of the States to Federal finance require the most serious consideration,” he remarked. “ The protection of the Braddon clause will expire in 1910, and, judging from the Estimates now before the Federal Parliament, large encroachments will be made on the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue hitherto returned to the States. In fact, we have no guarantee that for the next three years the whole of the threefourths will be returned. The recent High Court decision on the Surplus Revenue Bill permits the Federal Treasurer to take retrospective action.
– I could not allow the honorable member to read the whole of the article from which he is quoting.
– What I have stated con.veys a good idea of it.
– The paragraph, to which the honorable member has referred was brought under my notice this morning. The statement that he hasquoted, namely, that -
The protection of the Braddon clause will expire in 1910 - is of course true. But the statement proceeds -
Judging from the Estimates now before the Federal Parliament, large encroachments will be made on the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue hitherto returned to the States; in fact, we have no guarantee that for the next.’ two years the whole of the three-fourths willi be returned.
I cannot understand any member of Parliament making such a. statement as that.. It is not correct. I said in my Budget speech, and I think that I have stated at other times, that until 1910 the Constitution will be carried out, and the threefourths Customs and Excise revenue returned to the States.
– It must be.
– Queensland says that shehas not received her three-fourths.
– The States in. the aggregate have received three-fourths of the total. Further down in the paragraph there is another statement which seems to be misleading.” It says -
The Commerce Act is administered by theStates.
The Act is not administered by the States. It is administered by the Department of Trade and Customs. Some States officers, may act for us, but, as a matter of fact, the Act is administered by our own Department.
– Last Friday the Prime Minister made an interjection, during the speech of the honorable member for Mernda, in which he said that an opportunity would be given later on for considering fully the question of the taking, over of the States debts by the Commonwealth. I wish to ask the honorablegentleman whether that opportunity will beafforded this session, and also whether he purposes to proceed by Bill or by resolution ?
– If time had permitted” this session, the whole scheme in relation to Federal finance and the financial relations between the Commonwealth and1 States would have been submitted to Parliament. I am, however, unable to pro- mise that the matter will be dealt with this session, if the session is to close by Christmas. But even before that time there will probably be another opportunity for an expression of opinion.
– Is it proposed to proceed by Bill or resolution?
– By resolution.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer, without notice, whether arrangements are in progress with the Treasurers of the States with a view to some understanding being arrived at as to what is to be done after the year 1910, with regard to the amount of revenue to be retained by the Commonwealth? Will any revenue be returned to the States after that date?
– If I gather the purpose of the honorable member’s question aright, he desires to know Whether negotiations are proceeding between the Federal and States Governments as to what is going to happen after1910? I do not think so, except that I understand that the Premiers of States intend to meet shortly to attempt to deal with the financial question. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and I will meet the Premiers in conference if circumstances seem to demand that we should.
– Has the Treasurer anything in his mind ?
– I shall keep it there.
Distribution of Rifles and Morris Tubes in Victoria. - Military Board.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member is -
The duties of the members of the Military Board, as approved by the Minister on 31st July, 1908, are as follow -
Chief of Intelligence.
Preparation and Revision of Defence Schemes.
Supervision of work of Intelligence Corps.
Issue of Maps in time of War.
Advice on Raising and Disbanding Units and Corps.
Training for War -
War Training and Examinations of Officers.
Head-Quarters Library. + Forms the basis of Peace Organization. § Forms the basis of Peace Establishments. (a) Syllabuses of Examinations.
Setting Papers and Marking Answers.
System of sending Officers Abroad for
Distribution of units.
Raising and recruiting Military Forces.
Maintenance of Establishment of officers and soldiers - casualties.
Services of soldiers, promotions, exchanges, transfers, and discharges.
Military Law and Police.
Interior Economy, cooking, bands.
Administrative arrangements in connexion with the schools and courses of instruction, and entrance and promotion examinations.
Education and examination of soldiers.
Appointment, promotion, retirement, posting, exchange, and transfer of officers.
Military Forces List.
Administration of A. and I. Staff.
Administration of Military Clerks.
Miscellaneous personal questions.
Medical Services, sanitation.
Administration of -
- Based on War Establishments, + Based on War Organization.
Chief of Ordnance.
Transactions with the Department of Home Affairs in connexion with -
Murder of Settlers
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
These questions relate to crimes outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, which may have to be dealt with as acts of war. Natives accused of crimes are tried in the Courts of Fiji.
– Before Government business is called on, it may be as well to inform the House that the protracted litigation - or rather the preliminary proceedings to what promised to be protracted litigation - at the instance of the Commonwealth Government against the late tenderers for the European mail contract, have been brought to a conclusion.
It will be remembered that the amount of the bond was . £25,000. That was the sum sued for. Under the circumstances the Government have accepted a sum of £17,500, and the payment of all our costs.
Debate resumed from 30th October(vide page 1822) on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That the item, “The President,£1,100,” be agreed to.
– When progress was reported on Friday afternoon, I had commenced my reply to some of the statements which had been made during the debate in regard to the Budget and the policy of the Government.I had proceeded as far as to quote figures relating to Commonwealth investments in London, and in Australia, showing the satisfactory results. I had shown that we had lost no time, but had invested long before Parliament met a very large sum of money, which amounts now to between £500,000 and £600,000, at a fair rate of interest. So that all the money that wasavailable in trust funds has been invested, and has not been allowed to lie idle.
– Does the Bank of England guarantee the investments?
– I am now referring to money invested in Australia. I have already stated the arrangements made with the Bank of England.
– Does the Bank of England guarantee the investments upon which it charges commission?
– Yes. I stated the position clearly in my Budget speech. With regard to the criticism of the Budget by the leader of the Opposition, one feature of his speech which struck me very forcibly whilst he was speaking was his statement that there was no surplus. The right honorable member was evidently calculating that the Commonwealth finances are kept according to the same method as is adopted in regard to the States finances. But he overlooked the fact that under our present conditions the Federal Treasurer can have no surplus under any circumstances. If there is more money than is required for purposes for which appropriations have been made, that money, which would otherwise be a surplus, must go into the trust funds either for old-age pensions or for defence purposes.
– I think . the Treasurer misunderstood the leader of the Opposition.
– I took theright honorable member’s statement downin writing, and my secretary also made a note of it.
– The point of the leader of the Opposition was that if the Treasurer expended anything beyond his expectations he would have a deficiency.
– He did not say that. What the honorable member states may have been in the mind of the leader of the Opposition, but that was not what he said. Any money that is available must go either to the trust funds for the two purposes to which I have referred, or it must be paid back to the States. What I have said in connexion with the matter is that under the Constitution the Federal Treasurer has to see that the States obtain their three-fourths until 1910, or until some other arrangement is made. I hold - and I am going to take this course - that until 1910, considering the necessities of the Commonwealth, the States must not look forward to receiving anything more than their three-fourths. If that position had been taken up some time ago, it would have been very much better than waiting until now to adopt such a policy.
– That is the policy that should have been adoptedyearsago.
– I question very much whether we could have done it effectively years ago, except by actually spending the money on works, and. in a variety of other ways. We could nothaveadopted this line of policy until the termination of the five years period.
– That periodwas over two years ago.
– It expired last year - some time in October. A great deal of obloquy was hurled at me because I took the course I did last June. Unfortunately, I could not last June deal with any revenue received before that month, even if we could have saved or used for the Commonwealth £333,000 more than we . obtained in June last. I was unable to take the action that I took before introducing the Surplus Revenue Bill. It is gratifying to me now to know that the action which we took has been ratified by the High Court unanimously, with costs in favour of the Commonwealth. That question may, therefore, be regarded as settled. I have been asked by some honorable members why I have not provided for all the money that will be required during the next two or three years, and how I am going to provide for it.
– The question is how the Treasurer is going to provide for the demands that he knows will be made upon him.
– The Treasurer does not expect to be in office two or three rears hence, surely.
– Certainly, I do.
– The Treasurer is very sanguine.
– It is better to be fairly sanguine. I do not like to be pessimistic. It seems to me to be -unfair to expect the Treasurer to provide for a period unduly beyond tha year for which he is financing.
– Certainly it is fair if the proposals are actually before Parliament, as they are in this case.
– What for?
– For various things. I gave a list in my speech. I mentioned the defence scheme and other projects.
– What money will be required for the defence scheme beyond this year it is impossible for me at the present stage to say. It would be of no use for me to give an approximation of the money required to be spent. I cannot make a calculation until I can take absolutely and definitely into consideration the requirements after the law on the question has been passed. Only eight months of the present financial year have to run. What I believe the honorable member had in his mind, however, was the expenditure that may be involved in future on the transcontinental railway, the Northern Territory, and other undertakings.
Mr. Dugald Thomson. Expenditure for those purposes will have to be incurred further on.
– Still, I have been asked to say what I am going to do with’ regard to them. I am not prepared at this stage to say how money will be provided for undertakings lying so far ahead. I am prepared, however, to meet all the expenditure that is required this year. I have gone further than that, although it was not necessary for me as Treasurer to go further at present. I have stated that I will provide the money for old-age pensions for 1910, . and that will be done.
– What about increased postal services ? . .
– I can only say with regard to that matter that the Posts and Telegraph Department is. obtaining, more money than it ever had before.
– It wants more.
– Does it? I am not sure that that Department doeswant more. I think it requires a great deal of economical management. It is not because there is a rush that every oneis to have at once everything he asks for. The state of things at the present momentis that there has been an undue rush.
– It is an evidence of the prosperity of the country.
– I know what I am talking about. I have had a considerable amount of experience, not only as Treasurer of the largest State in Australia, but also as Minister of Works inthat State. I know what claims are put in, and am fully aware of how necessary it is for the Treasurer to know what the money is wanted for. If a number of Departments, and if many people in thecountry were to get all that they wanted’ at once, I do not know how much expenditure would be involved each year.
– There is no stinting, as far as the capitals are concerned?
– I have had tobe very cautious in seeing that an undueamount of money was not expended. As to the capitals, the honorable member must not forget that the largest proportion, of our population is centred in them.
– What would the Department do without the country correspondence ?
– The country cannot expect everything. The country districts have a right to a great deal of consideration!, but it is not possible to. give them all they require at once. I think that I have gone to extremes in giving, the Postal Department this year about” £300,000 more than it has ever had before.
– Does the honorablegentleman regard that as a very substantia] increase, where the total expenditureamounts to over £3,000,000?
– I think it is. Honorable members should not forget that if interest on buildings is taken into ac- count, the revenue of the Department is considerably less than the expenditure. It is unreasonable for honorable members to expect that we shall be able to meet all the demands made at once. The position is a difficult one.
– The revenue of the Department is commensurate with the proposed expenditure.
– No. I noticed a statement in .the press this morning to the effect that during the past few years, if interest on buildings be taken into account, the revenue of the Department has been from £400,000 to £500,000 short of what was- required to meet expenditure.
– The reason is that, especially in country districts, the telephone service has come greatly into favour during the last two or three years.
– It is true that the telephone service has come greatly into favour. The Department is rushed with demands for telephone facilities, and the charges are too low.
– Hear, hear ! Why do not the Government increase them ?
– That is another matter, the decision of which does not rest with me. We must meet the demand for expansion in the Department, but it must be carefully done. It would not be wise to propose a largely increased expenditure upon a Department that is not paving expenses under existing circumstances, and that makes low charges for services rendered. I personally believe that the charges are extremely low, and that no harm would be done bv increasing them to such an extent as to cover expenses.
– With the object of reducing business again?
– No. There is no doubt that the demand for expenditure in this Department has been such as no Treasurer could meet in the circumstances, I am asked to find a lot of money, from the expenditure of which there would be no return.
– Country telephone offices are paying the Department handsomely.
– The Department is not paying at all in the true sense, if all its obligations were met.
– The Auditor- General has suggested that the expenditure has advanced by over £500,000 during Federation.
– A number of country telephone services are paying 50 per cent, on the actual cost.
– Most of the new services asked for at the present time would not pay. I hope honorable members will permit me to continue what I wish to say.
– We are trying to help the honorable gentleman.
– The honorable member would help me into my political grave if he could. It is unreasonable to ask any Treasurer to finance for years ahead, especially in the case of a young Federation such as ours. It might be much more easily done in the case of a State whose- business has been carried on for forty, fifty, or sixty years. Honorable members should not forget that during the existence of the Federation, the financial fluctuations have been very great, and no person could accurately foretell what might happen as regards the finances within the next few years. In the circumstances, it would be very unwise for any Treasurer to estimate expenditure required some years hence, and I am not going to attempt to do it.
– But Ministers have submitted political schemes which will require increased expenditure; we have no surplus, and, in the circumstances, it is the honorable gentleman’s business to say where the money to give effect to those schemes is to come from.
– The honorable gentleman knows that we have a surplus.
– Not this vear.
– We are placing a lot of money in trust funds even this year.
– That is not a surplus.
– If it were not for the fact that* we are placing a lot of money in trust funds, we should this yea) have an immense surplus.
– But that money must be spent.
– There is nc question about that, and it has been appropriated also. The statement was made just now in connexion .with the allegation of the leader of the Opposition that there was no provision for a surplus. This is what the right honorable gentleman said -
There is no provision even on paper for a surplus of one penny to meet the possibilities of finance.
That is what I have referred to, and under no conditions can there be a surplus in the sense referred to.
– Oh, yes, there can.
– Under no conditions can there be a surplus of one farthing. There never has been a surplus in Federal finance.
– Then how is it that we have had any surplus revenue?
– What has been called surplus revenue has had to be returned to the States.
– But the honorable gentleman could have drawn upon it before it was handed back to the States.
– We could have drawn on it fox the purposes for which it was appropriated, but for no other purpose.
– The honorable gentleman could have drawn on it before he set it aside to be returned to the States.
– I am afraid that honorable members do not know much about Federal finance. All their arguments and statements have been based upon the experience of State, and not of Federal finance. That was the case with the speech of the honorable member for North Sydney.
– No; the honorable gentleman misunderstood it.
– The honorable member for Flinders has also criticised the Budget, but the honorable Member has never on any occasion suggested an alternative for what has been proposed by the Government, now, or in the past. The honorable member can attempt to tear down but he is always very careful never to attempt to build up.
– That is the business of the Government, not of the honorable member for Flinders.
– It was at the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders that’ the Treasurer introduced his Surplus Revenue Bill.
– I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon. It was not at the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders at all. That measure originated long before the honorable member for Flinders said a word on the subject. The Bill was prepared, and in type, before the honorable member for Flinders dealt with the matter.
– And the honorable member voted against the Bill.
– The honorable member for North Sydney is mistaken in saying that the Surplus Revenue Bill was based on the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders. -It was nothing of the kind.
– Nothing was done in the matter until long after the honorable member for Flinders had spoken on the subject.
– The honorable member for Flinders said the other night -
The compensation to the States for the value of property transferred should this year be paid out of the Commonwealth’s one-fourth.
– That was not the honorable member’s statement. The honorable member spoke on the subject for some time.
– I have the quotation here.
– The honorable member for Flinders referred to the interest on the transferred property.
– Yes; the suggestion was that the compensation due on transferred properties should be paid this year out of the Commonwealth’s one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue. How could it be paid until we know what the amount is? Is it not farcical for any honorable member in his senses to make such a statement?
– Whose fault is it that we do not know the amount?
– I suppose it is due to the fact that it has not been possible in the time available for mere human beings to complete so immense a task.
– The honorable gentleman has had control of the matter for seven years, and has done nothing.
– The honorable member is as correct in that statement as in most others that he makes, and that is to say that he is absolutely incorrect. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Flinders was in earnest in his suggestion that the Commonwealth should at once hand over £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 to the States to expend. I should also like to know whether the honorable member is aware that the transferred properties “which he suggests ought now to be paid for were largely constructed by the States out of borrowed money.
– Why not take over the liabilities as well as the assets?
– We shall do what we wish to do. Evidently the honor- able member, from his statement and actions, wishes to impoverish the Commonwealth - that has been the game of the Opposition right through. There are several other matters in the speeches of honorable members to which I had intended to refer, but I do not think that it is necessary for me to do so. The deputy leader of the Opposition referred at length to the financial question; but, after having heard him, and having read the Hansard report, I cannot see that he touches in any way the proposals of the Government, which are simplicity itself. The honorable member for Parramatta tried to make us believe that the Government proposed to pay £4,101,000 as a sinking fund, in order to meet the whole of the indebtedness of the States - which, I think, amounts to £247,000,000 - in thirty-five years.
– The Treasurer is hopeless, because I said the very opposite - that the Commonwealth has no such intention.
– The honorable member for North Sydney took me to task the other night because I said the Federal Government had no such intention.
– And a similar view was taken by the leader and deputy leader of the Opposition. The words I used were -
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.
– They never proposed such a thing.
– But the deputy leader, and the leader of the Opposition both say that is what I proposed.
– I went on to say that neither had there been any proposal by the Commonwealth to pay off all the debt.
– Nor by the States.
– We propose to take over the debts, and ask the States to pay £2,890,000 for file first five years, and afterwards a gradually reduced amount which disappears at the end of thirtyfive years. The Commonwealth takes over the whole of the debts, and the responsibility for the interest; and it is for the Commonwealth to decide how, and under what conditions, and in what length of time, it will pay the £247,000,000. It has never been proposed that the Commonwealth should pay off the indebtedness at any particular time; but it will take sixty or seventy years, and require £i>°74>556 to be paid each year, if paid off in seventy years.
– That has not been provided for.
– Quite so; I am merely pointing out what will be required each year ; and I take it that probably something of the kind will be proposed.
– Surely the calculation is wrong?
– It is a calculation by the Treasury. It must not be forgotten that a sinking fund at a small percentage will pay off a large indebtedness very easily over such a long period of time. I remember that in New South Wales I was instrumental in passing the Water Supply to Country Towns Act; and a sinking fund of one-half per cent, was sufficient to pay off the whole in 100 years.
– I should think so; with 3/8ths per cent., it ought not to take more than seventy-five years at compound interest.
– It is absolutely ridiculous to think of paying off £247,000,000 at the rate and in the time named.
– The percentage necessary for a sinking fund is found to be amazingly small when extended over a long period; and the whole result is owing to the compound interest. As to old-age pensions, I was asked to-day whether I had given any information to the press, and I replied that I was as much astonished as any one to see what had appeared, and that where the news had been obtained I did not know. But I do say that, so far as my investigation goes, there seems to be an extraordinary state of affairs in New South Wales. I do not say that Victoria is paying as much as ought to be paid in this connexion; but the difference between the payments in the two States is, in many respects, so marked that I cannot help thinking that there is a great mistake somewhere.
– There may be a difference in the Acts.
– There is some difference, but not much. What I desire to find out is, if Parliament - which is the reflex of the people - is anxious to provide old-age pensions - what the pensions are to be ; and I have in my mind, especially, invalid pensions. I am informed that in New South Wales the departmental arrangements are rather peculiar, in that the Central Board has no power over the District Board. There are one or two District Boards in every police district, and each Board has full power to decide who shall have pensions, and what the amount shall be up to the limit prescribed by the Act; and the Central Board, or the Minister, has no power to alter any decision of a District Board. The usual course is for an applicant to obtain a doctor’s certificate, which he presents to the District Board, that he has premonitory symptoms of some disease; and, although at the time he may not be incapacitated from working, he is granted a pension, and goes on with his occupation. It is anticipated that this year something like £690,000 will be expended upon old-age pensions in New South Wales, as against an expenditure of about £590,000 last year.
– Does the honorable; member say that there are at the present time in New South Wales persons drawing invalid pensions, and yet working?
– I am told that there are. I am simply giving honorable members reports made to me by officers I have interviewed. I questioned one officer very closely as to why such a system was allowed, and was told that a person having, say, a tendency to consumption, could obtain a certificate to that effect, and on presenting it to a District Board might obtain a pension. The pension could not be denied him if the District Board considered that he ought to receive it. I am informed that there are many cases of the kind. I wish to disabuse the minds of honorable members of any idea that I should be disposed to deal illiberally with decrepit or aged persons who ought to receive pensions. I think I may take to myself some little credit for having initiated the old-age pensions system in New South Wales, and I hope that I am not so hard hearted as not to be prepared to deal more liberally with deserving persons than some would do. In the interests of the public, however, the system must be cautiously and carefully guarded, more especially when we find that 40 per cent. of the 46,000 people over sixty-five years of age in New South Wales are receiving old-age pensions, whereas only 16 per cent. of some 66,000 persons over sixty-five years of age in Victoria are drawing them.
– The honorable member would not quote what is being done under the Victorian Act as an example that we should follow?
– I am simply giving the figures. The Victorian Act may be too stringent. I cannot express a definite opinion on the point as I have yet to make further inquiries ; but the difference between the number of persons over sixty-five years of age drawing oldage pensions in Victoria and in New South Wales is certainly remarkable. New South Wales is, I think, just as healthy as is Victoria.
– But Victoria is more prosperous.
– The difference is due to the fact that in Victoria the relatives of a pensioner have in many cases to contribute to his pension.
– I am endea vouring to get at the root of the matter, but do not wish honorable members to imagine for one moment that I would refuse a pension to any one who was deserving of it. My desire is to protect the public against any abuse of the system. If the provisions of the New South Wales Act were applicable all over Australia every bread-winner in the Commonwealth would have to contribute . £2 10s. per annum towards the cost of the system. It seems to me impossible that the cost of the Commonwealth system could be so great if the Act were properly administered. I have given much thought to the subject, and having made many calculations of the probable cost, have come to the conclusion that, with proper management, the expenditure is not likely to exceed that for which I have made provision on the Estimates. According to some calculations that have been made, it will be considerably less. Assuming that the cost of the Victorian system is only one-half of what it should be, and that the cost of that in New South Wales is one-half in excess of what it ought to be, the expenditure on the Commonwealth system, taking it all through, will be less than that for which I have provided. I am giving the question my earnest attention, and can only say that if more money is required to finance the system more will be provided.
– Why does the honorable member emphasize the point that every bread-winner would have to pay £2 10s. oer annum towards the cost of the system f that in force in New South Wales were applied to the Commonwealth?
– I am going in the basis of a calculation that has been made.
– Should not the revenues from the land provide for the aged and infirm?
– I know what the honorable member has in mind. I have always been in favour of a progressive land tax.
– Then why use the other argument ?
– I am called upon to do so, because the money must be paid wherever it is to come from. I do not say at present how it should be provided. The Prime Minister has said more than once that he cannot introduce progressive land tax legislation during the life of this Parliament. But whilst I cannot speak for the Ministry, I may say at once that if I were at liberty to propose such a tax at the present time I should be justified in doing so, since I have said before that I would if the opportunity offered. The fact remains that on a population basis, allowing four to a family, the head of every family would have to pay , £2 10s. per annum towards the cost of a Commonwealth old-age pensions system based on the lines of that in force in New South Wales.
– There are about 1,684,000 bread-winners in Australia.
– The Treasury officials have made a calculation, showing that the cost of such a system would be a little over £2,000,000, and that would mean that every bread-winner would have to pay the amount I have stated. The cost must largely depend upon how the system is administered, and it is difficult to say what it will be. If we require more than I have estimated, however, the money will be found in some way or other. I am personally prepared to go to the extent of proposing that the necessary funds be provided by means of direct taxation, and if they cannot be obtained in any other way, I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will submit sucha proposal to the electors at the next general election.
– What does the honorable member estimate would be the cost of providing old-age pensions for those who are not receiving them in any State?
– It is estimated that the proportion is not more than 5 per cent. of the total population, though I cannot answer positively. I wish now to refer briefly to the question of silver coinage, concerning which much has been said during this debate. I have alreadystated that it is probable that an arrangement will be made with the Imperial Government to undertake, for the present, the work for the Commonwealth. The arrangement proposed is a very good one, and would result in our making a profit of something like £56,000 per annum.
– Why should we not dc the work ourselves?
– I am not sure that we shall not do so, but at present we have not in Australia a Mint that could undertake the work.
– The Perth Mint has made an offer to do it.
– But it would be necessary, first of all, to instal new machinery.
– An offer has been made on behalf of the Perth Mint to provide the necessary machinery without cost to the Commonwealth.
– No Mint in Australia could undertake the work without installing new machinery, costing from £6,000 to £10,000.
– The cost in the case of the Perth Mint would be £5,000.
– The Perth Mint has made an offer, but I think that if the work is to be done here it should be undertaken by the Commonwealth. It should not be undertaken by any State.
– Why not take over a Mint ?
– I learned today - and I have wired for information on the subject- that the Imperial Government contemplate erecting a new Mint in Sydney. I have wired to ascertain the position. I think that if that course is going to be taken the Mint should be built with a view to providing every facility for the coining of silver, and should belong to the Commonwealth. I am holding my hand until I am in a position to see whether it will be wise to take over all the Mints, including the Mint to be built in Sydney as a Mint for the coinage of our own silver.
– All the Mints?
– Yes. If we can make an arrangement with the Imperial Government that all the minting shall be done under the Commonwealth, and not by themselves, we can take over all the Mints, and the new one could be built in such a way as to afford every facility for the coinage of silver.
– I suppose that the honorable gentleman knows that the Commonwealth would lose money on the gold coinage?
– Yes. I do not know what the percentage of loss is, but it is not very much. The report which I hold in my hand, and which was ordered to be printed on the 15th December, 1904, is altogether against the minting of silver here. It is only because it seems to me that it will be a good thing to do if we possibly can do it, that I am holding my hand for a few days, until I find out what can be done.
– What I meant was that the Commonwealth will not derive the profit which the honorable gentleman pointed out if it does the gold coinage too.
– That is quite true, and I have asked for information in order to judge whether the loss would be great. I have also been written to with regard to decimal coinage, and as to why the Commonwealth cannot follow the example of Canada. There are two reasons why it cannot be done here. It is essential to Canada to have the same sort of coinage as obtains in the United States, but in Australia that is not necessary. It seems to me that we had better pause until we can make some arrangement, or until the Imperial Government desire to do the same thing. The coinage which we use is Imperial coinage, and we do not know what trouble might be created if we were to proceed without knowing exactly what the result was likely to be, unless the Imperial Government did likewise, or led the way for us.
– We have discussed that question here.
– I know that it has been discussed many times. I am stating what appeals to me as a good reason for not rushing into the matter at once.
– The British Government has prepared the way for us bv adopting the florin.
– Yes. It is one thing for an irresponsible person to talk ; but it is another thing for a responsible person to accept a grave respon sibility. I do not know what may be done if I remain in the Treasury until next year. But at the present time I think that it might be premature to take up the question in the sense in which some honorable members desire. In his speech, the honorable member for North Sydney discussed what would happen if the balance of the Customs and Excise revenue were distributed per capita. He quoted one table which it was rather troublesome to follow, but honorable members will find that the figures are set out on page 89 of the Budget Papers. Take, for instance, the actual distribution in 1907-8. New South Wales received £3,566,371, but if the balance had been distributed per capita, she would have received only £3,311,903, making a difference of £254,468.
– I said that it would make a difference of £[300,000.
– The honorable member said that he was prepared to advocate this policy on any platform in New’ South Wales. I have no doubt that he would be courageous enough to take that step, but I do not think that at the present moment the Government of that State would agree to the proposal. I am not considering now whether it would be right or not. But I may tell the honoraole member that when I raised this very question at the Convention in South’ Australia I was met with the objection that some States were on a different basis from others, and that some would lose while others would gain. I said then that if it resulted in a little difference, and it was desired to have a proper Federation, that difference ought not to be thought of.
– Some difference will always exist.
– I believe that by-and-by it will get so small that there will not be very much trouble.
– But it will always exist.
– Last year Victoria received from the Commonwealth £2,449,243; but if the balance had been distributed per capita she would have received £2,634,623, or an addition of £185,380.
– May I ask the Minister if that is the distribution per capita as regards both expenditure and revenue ?
– It would have been the distribution per capita.
– But I propose that the expenditure shall also be charged per capita.
– Yes ; but. that is quite a different proposal. Last year Queensland received from the Commonwealth £1,003,527, but if the balance had been distributed per capita, she would have received £1,143,623, or an addition of £[140,096. South Australia received £792,686 ; but if the balance had been distributed per capita, she would have received £828,886, or an addition of £36,200. Western Australia received £[753,510, but if the balance had been distributed per capita she would have received £552,139, or suffered a loss of £201,371. It is very evident that if that method of distribution were adopted, some arrangement would have to be made as regards Western Australia, because, in my opinion, it would not be possible for her to carry out her obligations if she had to suffer a loss of £20.1,000 odd.
– I proposed that.
– I admit that the honorable member did. Tasmania received £294,259, but if the balance had been distributed per capita she would have received £388,422, or an increase of £94,163. I do not propose to read the next table on that page of the Budget papers, because it is an estimate of the distribution during the current year. But the same thing will apply. It is very difficult to get the States to agree to a per capita method, of distribution. I am sure that Tasmania suffers a loss, though the exact amount cannot be ascertained by the accountants. For that State imported goods are bought in Victoria and New South Wales, though chiefly in Victoria; but Tasmania is not credited with the importations. On one occasion Tasmania estimated the loss to her revenue at £40,000 a year. But so far as I can estimate her loss is about £20,000 a year. I approached the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria to see whether they would agree to that money being credited to Tasmania, but they would not listen to my proposal. When they will not listen to a sum of £20,000 a year being credited to a smaller State, which requires revenue perhaps more than do the larger States, is it likely that they would agree, unless they were compelled, to the balance of our revenue being distributed per capita and to one or two of the States thereby losing money ?
– The Treasurer knows that they will not listen to his proposals
– It does not say much for their so-called statesmanship if they are prepared to allow personal animosities to interfere unjustly and unduly with the making of an arrangement fair to the States.
– That is part of the whole arrangement.
– But I do not think that is the reason underlying their action. As far as Victoria is concerned, I know that its Premier entertains no animosity to the Commonwealth. I approached Sir Thomas Bent upon this matter, and he was more favorable to our proposal than was Mr. Wade. But when they met in Conference, they would not agree” to it. I have referred to this matter because I wished to explain to the honorable member for North Sydney, and to others who entertain similar ideas, that it-is a very difficult question to deal with. I now desire to say a word or two in answer to the criticism which has been levelled against the increases which it is proposed to grant to public servants. It has been said that it is intended to grant increases to the higher-paid officers of the Service, whilst ignoring the claims of those in the lower grades.
– The Treasurer will hear more about that later on.
– The honorable member forgets that upon this year’s Estimates the sum of £26,963 is provided for increases to officers in the lower grades of the Service, besides a large sum of about £20,000 for what are known as statutory, increases. Surely that is a fair sum. Last year these officers were granted increases to the extent of about £40,000. The Commonwealth Public Service is a better paid service than any other that I know of. Increases in respect of long service increments in the fifth class, amounting to about £11,000, are included in the beforementioned amounts for this year. Though individual cases of hardship may exist, I maintain that the lower-paid officers of the service have not been forgotten, but have been considered very largely. The annual rates of increments provided in the professional, clerical, and general divisions for the calendar years 1906 and 1907 are £37,711 and £34,062 respectively. In addition, an amount of ,£14,442 was granted as minimum wage for 1906, and £11,692 for 1907. Passing away from this matter, I desire to say that I have taken the trouble to procure a copy of a legal opinion which was given to the Premier of Tasmania some time ago concerning the validity of the Surplus Revenue Act, which was questioned by the States. I intend to lay that opinion upon the table of the House, ‘and I wish to have it embodied in Hansard, because it shows the extremes to which some Governments will go in order to fight the Commonwealth. This opinion was prepared, I believe, at the instance of the Premier of Tasmania by the Crown Law officers on the 25th April last. I shall not trouble honorable members by read.ing it, but I should like to have it embodied in Hansard, because it declares that the action taken by the Treasurer of the Commonwealth was absolutely constitutional, and because it advises the Government of Tasmania that it would not be wise to proceed to litigation in respect of the validity of the Surplus Revenue Act. It reads -
Section Sg of the Constitution only continued in force until the imposition of the uniform duties of Customs, but while it was in force it was incumbent upon the Commonwealth to pay to each State, month by month, the balance of revenue in favour of the State.
Section 93 is also of a temporary character. Under its provisions the Commonwealth was bound, during the first five years after the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, and thereafter until Parliament made other provision, to credit revenue, debit expenditure, and pay balances to the several States, in the same way as in the period previously referred to.
Under section 94 the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payments to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth. This section (lid not come into operation until the period of five years from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs had elapsed ; but this period has now lapsed, and section 94 has, therefore, become operative. The Surplus Revenue Bill is a proposed exercise of the power conferred upon Parliament by section 94. Shortly, the effect of it is to do away with the necessity that now exists under section 93 of paying over month by month to the States the balances of revenue Which have not been actually expended by the Commonwealth, and to enable the Commonwealth to withdraw from the consolidated revenue, and pay to trust account, moneys which have been appropriated by the Parliament to any special purpose.
I think it is within the competency of Parliament to pass this Bill, and, in my opinion, the Bill’ is not in conflict with any provision in the Constitution. The general power to appropriate moneys out of the consolidated revenue fund is contained in section Si, and it seems to me plain that moneys appropriated bv law are no longer surplus revenue of the Commonwealth. Section 87, while it remains in force, protects the States to this extent, thats the Commonwealth cannot appropriate more than one- fourth of its net revenue from Customs and Excise annually towards its expenditure.
That opinion was given months before theaction in the High Court was commenced, by the States. Yet, in spite of that opinion, which was only laid before theTasmanian Parliament on Tuesday last, the Treasurer of that State entered intothe fight which was initiated by the Treasurer of New South Wales against the Commonwealth. That circumstance points to a. vicious determination to create trouble and: to fight the Commonwealth at all hazards. The same sort of conduct has. recently been manifested in connexion with the report of the Auditor-General of New South Wales. If the statements made by the press are trustworthy, that officer hasexperienced a rather bad time. I maintainthat it is about time that litigation instituted by the States against the Commonwealth was prompted by common sense and) not by viciousness. My desire is that thisParliament should act within the limits of the Constitution - that it should not knowingly exceed its functions. But nothing should prevent the Commonwealth from< pursuing the even tenor of its way, and. faithfully discharging its duty bv safeguarding its own interests, whilst at thesame time conserving the interests of theStates, as far as it possibly can. But it must be remembered that whilst Commonwealth finances are drooping we cannot give up everything to the States. I trust that we shall have no more legal actionsinstituted against the Commonwealth, seeing that the last two or three have ended* so disastrously to the States. It is not wise for the States to be constantly fighting the Commonwealth, especially when werecollect that - irrespective of whether theexpenditure incurred in litigation be takenfrom the pockets of State or Federal electors - it has to be contributed by the sametaxpayer. We should endeavour to work in harmony with the States as much as possible, and it will be the consistent objectof this Government to do so.
– - Some statements havebeen made by the Treasurer which, I think, call for a reply. They are so different from what I conceive to be the facts of thecase that I have determined to answer them briefly. For instance, the Treasurer stated’ that the leader of the Opposition, when/ he accused him of not having any surplus to draw upon in case of financial necessity, seemed to be ignorant of the fact that under the Constitution the Treasurer can have no surplus. I need scarcely say that the right honorable member for East Sydney is perfectly aware of the provisions of the Constitution and that his speech does not indicate that ignorance which the Treasurer sought to make it imply. The leader of the Opposition saud -
Tlie Treasurer, with the assistance of his officers, says, “We shall have £6,514,000 to spend this vear,” and he proposes, on these Estimates, to spend every penny of it. There is no provision, even on paper, for a surplus of one penny to meet the vicissitudes of finance which are not unfamiliar to Australian Parliaments.
That is a perfectly accurate criticism, and it is not usual for Treasurers - when they expect to have a certain amount of revenue - to provide for the spending of every penny of it. The Treasurer, however, has provided for the spending of every penny and he has no surplus revenue out of which to meet any unexpected expenditure. He intends to return to the States only their actual three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue. He has no reserve fund to meet emergencies, and yet he proposes to spend every penny of his revenue. The leader of the Opposition was perfectly justified in pointing out that fact, and the Treasurer was absolutely wrong in declaring that the statement of the right honorable member for East Sydney exhibited ignorance of the fact that the Commonwealth could not retain a surplus. The Treasurer also affirmed that although he had looked through Hansard he was absolutely unable to understand what I was driving at. I will not enter into a discussion of whether that result was owing to a lack of clearness on my part or to a lack of clearness on the part of the Treasurer’s understanding. I merely wish to point out that his declaration that the States by adopting his proposal to take over the whole of their existing debts would effect an annual saving of £4,000,000. in addition to the interest, shows that he does not at all appreciate the position. The Treasurer arrives at that sum of £4,000,000 by assuming that if the States paid 3 per cent, to a sinking fund so as to wipe off their debt in thirty years they would be better off to the extent of £4,000,000 by handing their debt over to the Commonwealth.and not having to provide that sinking fund. But does he as sume that the Commonwealth pays 3 per cent, to a sinking fund ? No, the Commonwealth, according to him, is to pay nothing, specific. He might as well say that if the States established a sinking fund that would wipe out the debt in ten years they would save £20,000,000 or £25,000,000- per annum by handing the debt over to the Commonwealth. The thing is absurd. Neither the Treasurer nor the States ever proposed to have a 3 per cent, sinking fund” or to wipe out the debt in thirty years.
– It would be utterly impossible.
– Of course,, and nobody proposes to do it. When the Commonwealth takes over the debt from the States the taxpayer does not escape it. It will still be on his shoulders. It will’ be simply .transferred to the Commonwealth. Yet the Treasurer says that whenthe Commonwealth takes the debt over hewill by his scheme save the States £4,000,000 a year - the sum. which would have obliterated the debt in thirty years.
– I take it that the Treasurer addressed that argument only to those who try to differentiate between’ State and Federal people.
– Is it not absurd for the Treasurer to say that he saves the States what they never proposed to expend?
– It is, looking at it in that way
– If it is right for the Treasurer ‘to calculate in that way, he might as well say that he could save the States the annual payment that it would cost them to pay off the debt in ten years. The States have never proposed, nor could they accomplish, such arc obliteration of the debt. We have never proposed, nor can we accomplish it; yet the Minister takes it into calculation and says that it is a saving to the States. In that instance, at any rate, however complex or not understandable my remarks may have Been, I think the Treasurer has shown that he does not understand the comparison which he himself made. He has not said a word - I do not know whether it was an accidental or an intentional omission on his part - about the unequal relief of State debts. I spoke to him privately about the matter some weeks ago, and intimated that I intended to bring it up in the House, as I did not wish to take him by surprise. If he pools the debt as he proposes in his scheme, and distributes it over the population of the Commonwealth at £58 per head, he will relieve some States of the payment of £78 or £79 a headland relieve Victoria of only £”43 a head. One of the peculiarities of that transaction is that some of the States have borrowed for municipal and water and sewerage purposes through their Governments, whereas the borrowings of Victoria, for instance, for those objects have been conducted through certain Boards or municipalities. The extraordinary result, under the Treasurer’s scheme, is that Victoria will be relieved to the extent of only £43 per head, whilst still retaining her liability of £12 or £13 per head for debts incurred by municipalities, water trusts, harbor trusts, and sewerage Boards, while other States will be relieved of £78 or £79 per head, including borrowings similar to those which Victoria has conducted through those local governing bodies. There is no particular need for me to protect the finances of Victoria. Certainly New South Wales will lose a little, although not very much, because her debt is £55 per head, and the average, if all the State debts were pooled, would be .£58 per head. Still, I always try to look at these things from the stand-point of what is fair under a proper system of accounts. I do not consider such a proposal either fair or proper, and I cannot conceive that it will be accepted. After giving the Treasurer that intimation some weeks ago, I raised the question when I spoke. If there was any. proposal on the part of the Government to meet the difficulty, I wanted to hear it, but the Treasurer has not alluded to it, and is silent either accidentally or intentionally. It is an important and serious matter, which the House will have to consider, and the Treasurer, in his reply, should have dealt with it. He referred to the inequality that would be caused by adopting the per capita system, but that would be very slight in comparison with the revenues dealt with. Yet the Treasurer says he fears that the States will not accept it, while, at the same time, he proposes a gigantic inequality to the extent of .£35 or £36 per head of population. He jumps at that with the greatest readiness, and expects the States to accept it, but the comparatively trifling inequality of £200,000 or £300,000 per year on revenues of £3,000,000, is to his mind too alarming to touch, although one of the definite purposes of Federation was that the bookkeeping system, which was adopted only for an emergency, should not be continued, and that we should get into the per capita allotment, not merely of revenue, but also of expenditure, as soon as possible. I do not understand how any Minister can propose to face the financial situation so unequally as he does by the pooling of the debts, and yet fear to face that other comparatively minor inequality - fear, in fact, to reach the destiny which it was intended we should reach by Federation - fear to adopt one of the leading principles of Federation, which was to get away from separate accounts, and the separate bearing of burdens, to unite our accounts, except as to debts, and to bear together certain national burdens better than we could do singly. That was one object of Federation, yet the Government’s financial proposals disclose no real intention of dealing with that important aspect of the Federal finances. Any Treasurer is worthy of censure who would fear objection by some States which happen to gain a little by the present system. I am not speaking of Western Australia. We must treat her . specially, because she returns so much larger an amount of revenue per head than does any other State. We must give that State an allowance, which will decrease on a sliding scale until it ultimately disappears. But the difference in the case of the other States is comparatively slight. This year one or two of them may benefit, but ten years hence others may be benefiting. The present abominable system of bookkeeping is worse than the old system of Customs entry, and, while we continue it, we disregard the intentions of the people who voted for the Union, and can come to no complete financial arrangement with the States. In regard to decimal coinage, the old answer is repeated : That we must wait until Great Britain adopts it. There might be reason for that answer were it proposed to alter our system of measures. Difficulties would be created if Australia adopted the metric system of measurements ; but Great Britain is beginning to find that, if she is to hold her own in the markets of the world, she must be prepared to adopt the system of measures used by France and other countries, and some of her engineering manufacturers are now prepared to supply orders in accordance with either the metric or the British standard. There will be no difficulty, however, in adopting a decimal system of weights here. As to the inconvenience which the adoption of a decimal system of coinage would create, it will not decrease by delay, nor will it be made greater if Great Britain does not alter her standard. Although Committees and Commissions in the Old Country ‘have reported almost unanimously in favour of a decimal system of coinage for Great Britain, and the florin was adopted as a step towards the decimalization of the British coinage, the reform has been delayed, partly because of the conservatism of thought there, partly from fear of prejudice, many of her people not being as well educated as ours, and partly because of the greatness of her trade. We have no such reason for hesitating. Those who were not members of the first Parliament may not be aware that a Select Committee of this House went very carefully into this matter, and approved of the decimal system of coinage. It was estimated by some that the adoption of such a system would save at least two years in the education of children, and I think that it is within the mark to say that it would save one year. Furthermore, it would make calculation very much easier, and simplify the keeping of accounts. The coinage proposed would have followed as closely as possible the present British currency, and, on a former occasion, I offered, while on my feet, to calculate without the aid of pencil and paper, the transposition to the proposed decimal coinage of any sum that might be named in the present currency. In the proposed currency, the sovereign, the halfsovereign, the florin, the shilling, and the sixpence would be retained.
– And the half-crown?
– The halfcrown could be used as a matter of convenience, but would not be part of the system. The florin would be the unit, ten florins making j£i, and five a halfsovereign, while the shilling would be the half florin, and the sixpence the quarter-florin. If threepenny pieces and pennies were retained, there would be an alteration in value, the number of pennies in £1 being increased from 240 to 250, which would give an advantage of 4 per cent, to those who buy penny articles. Those who sell such articles - the newspaper proprietors for example - could make up the loss by reducing the quantity sold for the price, or in some other way. Are we for ever to follow what we know to be the worse of two systems? It is our duty not to stand still in this matter. Ministers will go out of their way to push forward proposals in re gard to which our constitutional right of legislation is doubtful, but pay not the least attention to the substantial advantages which may be gained in directions like these by the exercise of powers which undoubtedly have been conferred upon us. As it is now proposed to make arrangements for the coinage of silver by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, we have a favorable opportunity to change the system of coinage.
– Would the honorable member propose changing the system of coinage without proposing the adoption of the metric system of measurement?
– I think that we should coin our own silver, or have it coined for us by Great Britain. The Prime Minister is aware that, when that is done, a distinguishing mark must be placed on Commonwealth coins to enable our liability for the replacement of wear and tear to be ascertained. There is, therefore, an opportunity to adopt the decimal system, which has been recommended by Committees and Commissions in Great Britain, supported by some of the ablest men in the Empire. The Mother Country has hesitated to adopt the decimal system only because of the difficulty there would be in moving an older and larger population than this, the ramifications of her commerce, and the immense volume of her transactions. As we grow older the difficulties will increase.
– They would be great now if we adopted a coinage different from that of the Mother Country.
– There would be no difficulty. Transactions between the two countries are conducted on paper, and at ‘the present time similar calculations have to be made in all dealings between the United States, Canada,, or the Continent of Europe.
– Business men insist that there will be difficulties.
– Not if the sovereign is retained.
– In any case, the transposition could be done very rapidly, and would take but little time, even where the value of a whole shipment was concerned. It would not have to be made in regard to the coins which pass from hand to hand. Besides, nearly all the existing coins would be retained. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce has reported in favour of the proposed system.
– So also has the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce.
– And the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce. The business men who are represented in those bodies know what they are doing, and, as I have shown, the poor would not suffer toy the proposed change. One of the South American Republics has since the report of the Committee of this House, adopted the system recommended by it, taking the sovereign as its standard. It would be unwise to do away with the sovereign, because it passes unchallenged throughout the world. The unit of operation under our system would be the florin, and the standard of value the sovereign. This matter should receive more consideration from the Ministry and the Parliament. The Treasurer is very bold in proposing changes that are supported by the Labour corner, and I know that the members who sit in that part of the House as a body supported this proposal when it was last under discussion.
– For my own part I agree with it.
– I do not see how the Treasurer could be against the proposal. Now that we are about to deal with our coinage, I think there is every reason for adopting the decimal system. Canada has adopted it. I know that there are special reasons in that case, due to the proximity of Canada to the United States. But still the Dominion is a dependency of the Empire, just as is the Commonwealth, and there is not the slightest difficulty in carrying on business between Canada and Great Britain. There are two reforms which we ought to adopt independently of action on the part of Great Britain. One is the decimalization of the coinage, and the other the decimalization of weights.
– And of measures.
– Personally I am quite prepared for that change to be made also.
– It is quite as easy to decimalize measures as weights and coinage. I have lived in a country where weights are decimalized.
– The only difficulty I see is in regard to patterns and gauges being made to British standards. It is more difficult to effect an alteration in that case on account of the standardization of parts of machinery. But I am not saying that it is so difficult that it should not be done, because, while we might decimalize our measures as a matter of national policy, private individuals could always take British measurements or adopt British standards if they wished to do so in respect to pulleys, wheels, templates, and so on. At any rate, that is the only respect in which there is any real difficulty. We have to some extent decimalized weights already. The people who handle grain use the cental a great deal. We have adopted it in our Tariff. I feel very strongly on this decimalization question.
– I am not quite sure of what will be done, but I feel very strongly about the matter myself.
– I wish the Government would reconsider the question. They would have Parliament with them. There is no doubt about that. Even those institutions which are called conservative, namely, the Chambers of Commerce, would be in favour of the change. Many of our teachers and professors who are interested in education would be with the Government. In fact, all classes of the community who have given attention to the subject would be favorable. What is proposed is not a serious alteration. We could still have our sixpences and shillings tearing the same relation to the sovereign as they do now. The relation of the threepenny piece would be altered ; but the penny would only be affected to the extent of 4 per cent. I wish to allude to one other matter to which reference was made by the Treasurer, in his Budget speech, namely, the desirableness of separating the post and telegraph accounts so that we may ascertain the results in respect of each branch.
– We are doing that now.
– The PostmasterGeneral knows that I submitted a motion in regard to the matter some time ago. The House adopted my proposition.
– Immediately the motion was carried I set to work and we are now framing our accounts upon a new basis.
– I know that the Minister has actively pursued the matter himself. Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of the adoption of the improved system. It is quite possible to show the results for each branch with sufficient accuracy. I do not say that they can be shown to the fraction of a penny.
– It is possible to give a good idea.
– We shall know what we are doing, and where the leakages and losses are. As regards those causes of action between the States and the Common wealth, to which the Treasurer has alluded, I quite agree with what he has said to the effect that there ought to be consideration on both sides. It will be remembered that any want of consideration has not been all on one side. The Commonwealth has always been ready to risk whether any interference with what had previously “been considered State matters would be justified bv the Court. Time after time we have pointed out that a certain course was probably unconstitutional ; but that had no effect on the Government.
– We should not have passed the Surplus Revenue Bill had we listened to such objections.
– If the Attorney-General will look up the debates, he will find that I expressed the belief that that measure was constitutional. Mr. Groom. - But a constitutional objection has been raised to almost every proposal of the Government.
– Not at all ; whenever I have thought the Government were right, I have said so, and so in the case of the Surplus Revenue Act did the honorable member for Flinders.
– The honorable member for Parkes, the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and several others, have taken the contrary attitude.
– No doubt there is difference of opinion; but where Ministers have been believed to be acting constitutionally, honorable members have shown no reluctance to support them.
– A minority.
– It was because there was a majority behind the Government that the latter were prepared to take any risks. I should be reflecting on the constitutional knowledge of the Government were I to say that they never had any anticipation of their being proved to be wrong; but, right or wrong, they have on several occasions proceeded with measures. My contention is that the States had reason to resist the legislation of the Commonwealth, and, in a majority of cases, the States have been successful in the Court.
– That is not correct.
– On the larger constitutional questions which have been decided by the Court, I think, speaking from recollection, that the Commonwealth has been shown to be wrong in the majority of cases.
– I do not think that is so.
– I do not say that it absolutely is so, because that would necessitate looking up the matter. However, I agree with the Treasurer that there ought tq be consideration on both sides, because it is absurd to have the Commonwealth and the States rushing at each other’s throats on the slightest provocation. On the financial question, where agreement does not seem very near, the Treasurer ought to go further than he proposes - this would not injure the States, but assist them rather - and adopt the per ca-bita system in regard to both expenditure and revenue. He ought not to continue the bookkeeping system when we are supposed to be making a financial settlement, and such a suggestion as I have made would be in the interests, not only of the Commonwealth and State Legislatures, but of the people generally.
– I desire to make a few remarks with reference principally to the financial position of Western Australia. The honorable member for Mernda stated the other day that Western Australia, in her share of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, was receiving more than enough to pay the interest on the State debt. That may be so, but we should remember that Western Australia is probably carrying out more public works, in the shape of railways, and so forth, than any other State of the Union. At the same time, this Parliament, in its wisdom, has heavily taxed steel rails, so that what we are supposed to be receiving from the revenue is really and truly only part of what the State has borrowed. There can be no doubt that, considering the hundreds of miles of railway now being laid down, Western Australia is contributing a large amount in duty on the rails; and, while the Commonwealth declares that it is wrong to borrow, it does not mind taking the money which has been borrowed by Western Australia.
– What I am saying is absolutely true - the Commonwealth takes from the States money which they have borrowed, and returns it to them in the shape of revenue; and a case in point is afforded in steel rails, on which there is a duty of 10 to 15 per cent. That may be good finance from the point of view of the Commonwealth, but is certainly not good finance from the point of view of Western Australia. Such States as Queensland and Western Australia, in order to open up their large areas, must borrow money ; and it is all very well for the Commonwealth
– Western Australia has been treated better than any of the States.
– I shall in due time show the treatment of Western Australia. The States must borrow money in order to develop their resources; and the trouble is that the Commonwealth is not going ahead at the same rate as are the outside States. It should not be necessary for the representatives of those outside States to complain on this score; the Federal Government should set an example.
– Do not lecture us !
– I shall show what is being done, and how. The PostmasterGeneral, I believe, has done his best; but it was expected that the Federal Government would keep pace, especially in the Post and Telegraph Department, with the necessary development of the various States. The men in the back-blocks require the produce of the older States, and that is why Victoria and New South Wales are so prosperous to-day; these pioneers should have every convenience and facility extended to them.’ The people of Western Australia are paying 5s. a head more to the postal revenue than the” average contribution -per capita in the other States. The averages in the Commonwealth YearBook are not calculated in the correct way. Mr. Knibbs, in making up his averages, includes Western Australia; but, if the figures are rightly considered, it will be seen that the people of “Western Australia pay 4s. 11½d. per head more to the post and telegraph revenue than do the people of the other States. If we look at page 643 of the Commonwealth Year-Book, we see that the revenue received from Western Australia under this head is £4 12s. nd. per head, whereas the average of the Commonwealth is given by Mr. Knibbs at £3 2s. per head. That latter average is not correct, unless Western Australia is included. It would be right for Mr. Knibbs to strike that average if he had not added a foot-note to the effect that Western Australia was paying nearly 50 per cent, more than the average for the Commonwealth.
As a matter of fact, Western Australia is Paying j£i 12s. 8£d. per head more than the other States ; and this is a good deal higher than 50 per cent. There is no doubt that when the people of Western Australia voted for Federation, they did so on the ground that taxation throughout the Commonwealth would be equalized. The people of the western State expected to gain ; but, instead, they find themselves to be the highest, taxed people in Australia. Doubtless, the fact that our population consists of 153,652 males, as compared with 108,094 females, accounts for our larger contribution to the Federal revenue.
– And the percentage of children and old people is lower in Western Australia than elsewhere.
– Exactly. While the people of Western Australia are contributing so much more per capita than any of the other States to the revenue, it is, at the same time, opening up an area practically the same as that of the Northern Territory. If it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to take over the Northern Territory, then, surely, neither Western Australia nor Queensland ought to be called upon to contribute to the cost, seeing that both of these States are now developing similar country at considerable loss to themselves. The railway which we are asked to take over is laid with iron rails only up to Oodnadatta, and the route of the projected extension is over the highest part of Australia, with, perhaps, the exception of Mount Kosciusko.
– Is it higher than Bartle Frere ?
– One of the latest maps published under the patronage, I believe, of Lady Northcote, gives the altitude of different parts of Australia, and honorable members will find that a straight line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek would pass through the highest part of the Commonwealth.
– In the MacDonnell Ranges, I suppose.
– Yes. In my opinion it would be grossly unfair to expect Queensland and Western Australia to contribute to the upkeep, and development of the Northern Territory, when those States have still so much development work of their own to do. The honorable member for North Sydney referred to the decimal system of coinage. I should like to say a few words on the subject, as I lived for a considerable time in a country where the decimal system of coinage and the metric system of weights and measures were established. I thought that it would be very awkward for one accustomed to the British system to become acquainted with the decimal and metric systems, but I found that it was possible within a week or two to understand them, and on my return to England I found it much more difficult to use again the British system. I am satisfied that if we adopted decimal coinage, and the metric system, we should save nearly half of the time at present devoted to teaching the British system of coinage and weights and measures in our schools.
– And more time would be available for other subjects.
– A great advantage of the decimal and metric systems is that .1 knowledge of their application in one esse is applicable to all. Under the English system we have 12 inches to 1 foot, 36 inches to 1 yard, so many links to a chain, and so on.
– Our system of weights is far more perplexing.
– .That is so, but if one has a knowledge of the decimal system he can readily understand the metric system, and those who have been accustomed to the decimal and metric systems find it difficult to follow the British system. I believe we should do one of the best things ever done for Australia if we established the decimal system, and 1 should be prepared to support its establishment, no matter what the expense might be. In dealing with the same question the Treasurer mentioned that a new Mint was likely to be established at Sydney. If so, I think something must be wrong with the New South Wales Government. If we are to establish a now Mint for our coinage in Australia, it should be established as near as possible to the Federal Capital. This phase of the subject was suggested to me by the honorable member for Perth. In Western Australia we have the most uptodate Mint in the Commonwealth, and one of the best in .the world. The Premier of that State offered to put in the necessary machinery for the coinage of all the silver required for Australia. This, it is estimated, would cost about £5,000, and he offered to equip the Western Australian Mint with that machinery without any cost to the Commonwealth. As its Mint is not fully employed, it would have suited the State Government to do that. Let me say that the work done at the Perth Mint has been so good that, I understand, some inquiries were made from England, with a view to find out how it could turn out such excellent work. I believe it is due to the fact thai it is equipped with the most modern machinery. When the Perth Mint can turn out such work, I should like to know why we should continue to have our silver coined in England. During the discussion of the Tariff, thi support of local industries and the employment of our own labour were strongly advocated, and surely it is not too much to ask that we should make use of mints already established in the Commonwealth that are not at present fully employed in preference to having our coinage done in England? I think that some Federal action should be taken to permit people engaged in different professions and trades to carry them on in any State. I do not know whether we have’ the power to take such action, and I should like the advice of the Attorney-General on the subject.
– It is a State power at present. The honorable member refers to the question of reciprocity in the case of doctors, mining engineers, and so on.
– I shall mention one case to indicate the difficulty to which I refer. I was informed this year that some locomotives were being sent from Western Australia to Queensland, and a correspondent wrote to me to ask whether men who had been employed in driving those locomotives in Western Australia could get employment in the same work on the Chillagoe line in the Etheridge district in North Queensland, to which the locomotives were being sent. I found that a man might hold a Government certificate, and be the driver of a locomotive in Western Australia, and yet would not be allowed to drive that locomotive in Queensland. I think that is a disgraceful state of affairs.
– Until he passed the Queensland standard?
– I was informed that he would be expected to start cleaning and firing, and go through the whole business again in Queensland, although he might have been driving a locomotive in Western Australia for ten or twenty years.
– The honorable member contends that there should be Inter-State reciprocity in such cases ?
– I believe that if a man has once learned to drive an engine, he should be able to drive it over the border between two States. There might be some difficulty if the work on which the men were to be employed was Government work, but in the case to which I have referred, the locomotives were to be used in the construction of a private railway line, and I claim that qualified men holding Government certificates as engine-drivers in Western Australia should have been entitled to drive engines in Queensland. The matter is one which requires some consideration. I propose now to submit some figures to show which of the States has gained by Federation, and to what extent. I find that in 1901 New South Wales had a deficit of -£12,749. That was the position when the State entered the Federation. Let us see what the position has become since then. In 1903, the deficit had increased by £171,166, to a total of £183,915. In 1905, New South Wales had a surplus of £141,843. In 1905-6 her revenue was £12,283,082, and her expenditure £11,386,864, a surplus of revenue over expenditure for that year of £896,218, so that her position had improved from a deficit in 1901 of £12,749, to a surplus in 1905-6 of nearly £t, 000,000.
– That shows that New South Wales has been too heavily taxed under Federation.
– In 1906-7, the revenue of New South Wales was £13,392,435, and the expenditure £11,881,746, showing a surplus of £1,510,689. This shows an improvement in the position of the State from a deficit in 1901 to a surplus of over £1,500,000 in 1906-7. ‘ In 1901-2, the revenue of New South Wales was £11,007,356, and in 1906-7 the revenue had increased to £13,392,435.
– That shows that the State was too heavily taxed if it shows anything at all.
– These figures indicate an increase of revenue since the establishment of Federation between 1901 and 1907 of no less than £2,385,079. Dealing with the expenditure in the same way, I find that in 1906-7 the expenditure of New South Wales was £11,881,746, whilst the expenditure in 1901-2 was ,£11,020,105. So that honorable members will see that the expenditure increased only to the extent of £861,641, whilst the revenue increased to thi.- extent of £2,385,079.
– Has the honorable member allowed for borrowed money in his estimates of expenditure?
– I am giving the position as published to the world by the State Government. I say that the figures disclose a wonderful gain for anY one State, and show that New South Wales has done well out of Federation.
– In being taxed to the extent of £2,000,000 more than is necessary?
– I now take the figures for Victoria, and possibly the honorable member for Nepean will remain quiet while I give those figures. In 1901-2 Victoria had a deficit of £401,040, and in 1905-6 a surplus of £526,984, so that her total gain in the five years was £928,024. In 1905- 6 her revenue was £7,811,475, and her expenditure £7,261,475, or £550,000 less. In 1906-7 her revenue was £8,345,535, and her expenditure £7,679,143, or £666,392 less. But while her revenue had increased from £8,345,534 over that of 1901-2, which was £6,997,792, an increase of £1,347,742, her expenditure in 1906-7 was £7,679,143, while in 1901-2 it was only £7,398>832, or £281,311 less. Her revenue, therefore, increased much more than her expenditure. Queensland in 1901-2 had a deficit of £431, 94°, while in 1905-6 she had a surplus of £13, 995, a total gain of £445,935- 1° i9°5-6 her revenue was £3,853,523, and her expenditure £3,725.712, or £127,811 less. In 1906- 7 her revenue had increased to £4,703,912, and her expenditure to £3»9II>797» or £396, “5 Jess. But while her revenue increased in 1906-7 to £4,307,912, as compared with that of 1901-2, which was £3,535,062, an increase of £772,850, her expenditure in 1906-7 was only £3,9I:I>797> or .£55>204 less than in 1901-2, when it was £3,967,001. These figures are very creditable to those concerned in the administration of the affairs of that State. Tasmania in 1901-2 had a deficit of £44,3°7, and in 1903-4 a deficit of £116,021, but in 1905-6 she had a surplus of £12,496, making a total gain of £128,517. Her revenue in 1905-6 was .£900,657, and her expenditure £853,147, or £47,510 lessIn 1906-7 her revenue was £970,848, and her expenditure £9i3,76s> or £57,086 less. But while her revenue increased from £826,163 in 1901-2, to £970,848 in 1906-7, an increase of £44,685, her expenditure in that period increased only by £43,320, that . is, from £870,442 in 1901-2, to £913,762 in 1906-7. Deduct- ing the increase of expenditure from the increase of revenue, only the small sum of -£1,365 remains, a very small gain. South Australia in 1901-2 commenced with a deficit of £346,146, but in j.905-6 she had reduced it to £69,672, a gain of £276,474. Her expenditure, in j 905-6 was £3,005,499 and her revenue £2,864,209, leaving a deficit of £141,290. In 1906-7 her expenditure was £3,396,499, and her revenue £3»352,705. a deficit of £143,794. Whereas Queensland decreased her expenditure in the period to which I am referring, that of South Australia was increased. In 1906-7 the expenditure of South Australia was £3,396,499, as against £2,823,578 in 1901-2, an increase of £572, g2r. The increase in her revenue in that time was £775,274, namely, from £2,477, 431 in i901-2> to £3,252>7°5 in J 906-7. Western Australia was the only State which had a surplus at the time of Federation, and I am sorry that the Treasurer is not here to listen to these figures, as I wish to impress upon him the need, in coming to a financial arrangement with the States, for treating them leniently and liberally. The prosperity of New South Wales and Victoria is due to the production of the backblocks of Queensland and Western Australia. In 1901-2 Western Australia had a surplus of £198,023, and in 1905-6 a deficit of £129,884, a loss of £327,907. In 1905-6 her expenditure was £3>623>3I8, and her revenue £3,558>939, a deficit of £73,379- In 1906-7 her expenditure was £3,490,182. and the revenue was £3,401,354, showing a deficit of £88,828, for the year, or a total deficit of £490,114 from 1901 to 1906-7, although per capita the people of the State are paying the highest amount per head, not only to the Commonwealth revenue generally but also to the postal revenue. In 1906-7 the expenditure was £3,490,182, And in 1901-2 it was £3,151,427, showing an increase of £338,755. In 1906-7 the revenue was £3,401,354, and in 1901-2 it was £3,354,1.23, showing an increase of only £47,231. From 190:1-2 to 1902-3 the revenue of that State increased, but from 1902-3 to 1906-7 it decreased by .about £230,000. Even if we take the period from 1901 to 1905 the total gain - that is, the improvement in their position-^ to the other States was £2,091,959, while during that term the loss to Western Australia, which up to that time had been more 4han prosperous, was £327,907. If dur ing that time we had not had a special tariff, goodness knows where we would have been.
– The State would have lost millions.
– Yes. Although the increase of revenue to the States since 1901 has been very large indeed, the total increase from 1901-2 to 1906-7 was £5,472,856, while the increase in the expenditure was £2,041,744. That shows a gain of £3,431,112 in the increased revenue, as compared with the increased expenditure, but, unfortunately, the gain is not distributed evenly, and that is what I complain of. The present method is forcing the trade into the big cities. Sydney is the chief gainer, and Melbourne comes second.
– The honorable member wants to share and share alike.
– Yes. The people entered the Union because they thought that the taxation would be made, more even, and that persons would be treated alike throughout Australia. Instead of that, however, we find that the taxation is creeping up in a monstrous manner, and that in some States it is double what it is in others. Why? Because the gains have not been evenly distributed. In 1906-7 New South Wales had a surplus of £1,510,689, Victoria a surplus of £666,392, Queensland a surplus of £396,115, South Australia a deficit of £143,794, Tasmania a surplus of £57,086, and Western Australia a deficit of £88,828, showing clearly that the question of adjusting the State finances will require very careful consideration. If such States as Queensland and Western Australia are to be harassed as they are being something must be done. If the prosperity of Australia is to drift into the big cities, that process in the end must impoverish the country. It is only by opening up the back blocks that the prosperity’ will be distributed. The towns will look after themselves. If the country is prosperous, the towns must also be so. If we can insure prosperity to the country Western Australia as compared with Melbourne or Sydney will be the back blocks. The remote districts have not been, and are not being, considered. In looking over the Estimates I find that very little provision is made for Western Australia. There are several matters which I brought before the Minister here; but practically nothing has been done.
– Western Australia gets her share of the vote for public works.
– It gets practically nothing. Just outside Perth there is a place which, no doubt, the honorable member has never heard of, as it is not so large as Port Melbourne, and which is called Victoria Park.
– I have heard of that rising suburb.
– In 1901, the State Government handed over to the Commonwealth in that very progressive place a block of land for building a Post Office, but so far nothing has been done. Not only the postal business, but also the electoral business, is now being carried on in a little wooden room measuring 10 feet by 10 feet. Since Federation Victoria Park has gone so much ahead that now it is traversed by an electric tramway, and not only the town but the surrounding district which is served by the tramway is lighted by electricity. At the instance of the Mayor and Councillors and a committee which was formed there, I took the trouble to bring the matter before the Postmaster-General, and submitted to him photographs showing the main streets in the municipality, but nothing has been done, nor has anything been promised. When the Commonwealth is collecting 5s. per capita more in Western Australia than in the other States, surely it should give to the people of Victoria Park reasonable postal facilities ! At Cottesloe we find that just the same thing is taking place. The first complaints I heard there emanated from the Government employes, who are working in a little place which probably would be condemned by any sanitary inspector. The Department promised that the matter would be attended to. I suppose that the population of the place has increased tenfold since the Post Office was erected.
– The honorable member is treated no worse than I am. I cannot get a Post Office.
– It is all very well for honorable members in the other corner to say that the Commonwealth must not borrow. Adjoining Cottesloe we have a place called Buckland Hill. I do not know whether the Department has lost the run of the place, but when I represented its requirements a little while ago the authorities said that something would be done, and I believe that it is going to be done. I found that the only facility given there was a public telephone in the shop of a chemist, who said that while it was in use his customers would not buy the articleswhich they required, lest their orders should be overheard. He wished that the telephone was removed, as it took away custom instead of bringing it. Buckland Hill has about 20 miles of made road, a revenue of £3,000 a year from rates, and a population of 3,000 persons. It was left without even a contract Post Office until a little while ago, when, the Department promised me that one would be established. I only want to bring out these matters to show that the Department is not going ahead with the times. If it is necessary, money must be obtained to provide for these services. This policy of trying to do .without! money and without development is ridiculous. We must anticipate the amounts required by the telephone, telegraph and postal services.
– Where shall we get the money ?
– If the country was populated by such persons as the honorable member we would not know where to get the money, but I believe that I could raise, in some way, enough money to provide such services as I have indicated. Although it has been laid down that the Commonweath must not borrow, still there should be no harm in anticipating our requirements. It might be much cheaper to spend £1,000,000 straight off, and anticipate our revenue for a year or two than to continue muddling on, doing a bit of repairing here, and a bit there, and really throwing away the money. It is virtually the same as a farmer starting to mend old fences instead of erecting new ones. If he mended the old ones he would not have any fence at the end of five years. But if he obtained money and erected new fences at once he would bet better off at the end of the time named. The Commonwealth must have money in order to go ahead. That is much the cheaper plan. No doubt we should now have been in a very poor position if the Customs duties had not been raised. I understand now why the Treasurer was anxious to see such high rates imposed. If the increased revenue had not been provided by the Tariff he would have been placed in a very awkward position. ‘ Even if the old Tariff had been continued there would not have been a very nice position for the Commonwealth to face. On the Estimates a certain sum is set down for naval defence. Our safety, I contend, lies in the fact that
Australia is a British possession. If tomorrow we possessed a navy half as powerful as that of Great Britain, we should not be in any safer position than we are to-day, unless we had the Mother Country behind us. If we possessed a navy as large as that of America we should be practically helpless if we were not sheltered under the wing of Great Britain.
– Is America helpless, then?
– I have thought the matter out for myself, and I leave the honorable member to do the same. I ask him not to forget that Australia is ai British possession. It is idle for us to mount a fence and cry, “ See how big I am.” We must recollect that any little power could knock us off a fence. We must either be upon firm ground, or have our backs against something substantial, before we can say, “ See how big I am.” When I hear honorable members talk about the Commonwealth building a navy of its own, I feel tired. They are merely inviting humiliation. I have very rarely heard cif a quiet, unassuming citizen being interfered with, but I have observed that directly a man exclaims, “ Oh, I can fight,” there ii always another man prepared and able to give him what he is looking for. I favour a continuance of our present naval contribution to Great Britain. I think that that contribution is small enough. In addition, I am in favour of doing everything that we can to strengthen our forts, and to assist in our naval defence. So long as I am a member of this House, I will not be a party to’ giving any affront to Great Britain. It is an affront for us to say to the Imperial authorities, ‘ ‘ We are practically going to look after our own defence.” Surely the British Admiralty knows best what is most necessary for the defence of Australia ! I do not think it is right for us to say to the Admiralty authorities, “ We propose to do this, that, and the other.” It would be much better for us if we said to them, “ We should like to do something to help you. What do you advise?” As Australians, we have no knowledge of naval requirements. But we must recollect that we are dealing with a nation which has been accustomed to naval warfare from the time when wooden fighting ships were in vogue until the present, when it is turning out Dreadnoughts. Without any loss of dignity we might consult the British Admiralty in respect of our naval defence, and be advised by them.
– What do they advise?
– That is what I wish to know. Personally, I think that we should have training ships stationed at each port. Then any of our boys who happened to become rowdy could be sent aboard, and taught discipline in addition to something useful. In after years these lads would be very thankful that the opportunity was afforded them of becoming good citizens. The best men in the British Navy have gravitated from training ships, and in Australia there is certainly a class of boys running about our towns who would make better citizens if they were cleaned, disciplined, and taught something useful. If they are permitted to run wild they will find their way into our gaols. Regarding military defence, I think that the Government propose to start at the wrong end. I believe that the key to the whole position is the compulsory training of our boys whilst they are at our schools and colleges. If we adopted the principle of compulsory training in their case, in a very little time we should have an army which would be quite capable of defending Australia. Whilst they are at school they are at an impressionable age when it is most easy to inculcate lessons of discipline - lessons which once learned they will never forget.
– Up to what age would the honorable member insist upon compulsory training ?
– Up till the period when they leave school. During their school days they should be taught to properly handle a’ rifle. Scarcely a day passes that we do not read of accidents caused by the negligent handling of pea rifles, guns, &c. If our boys were taught to properly handle a rifle, we should not hear of so many of these unfortunate occurrences. Instructors should be deputed to attend our schools for the purpose of drilling the boys.
– They do that now.
– They may do it in some places.
– The honorable member would cease training the boys when they reached twelve years of age?
– I would do nothing of the kind. Boys do not leave school at that age. It would not be any hardship if we compelled them to undergo a course of drill until they were eighteen years of age.
– Then the honorable member favours compulsory training up to eighteen years of age ?
– Yes. Coming tothe new protection, I say that the matter is one which requires a lot of thinking about. As far as I can learn, the system of Wages Boards established in Victoria is the best that can be adopted to insure fair treatment being accorded to employes, because, under it each industrial dispute is dealt with by a body of experts. That system is preferable to the settlement of disputes by an Arbitration Court such as obtains in Western Australia, where it is composed of a representative of the employers, a representative of the employes, and a Supreme Court Judge who acts as referee.
– As a rule, theJudge represents the employers.
– He represents the Crown. The system adopted in Western Australia is unsatisfactory, because it is not possible for any two men representing the employers and employes to be familiar with all the ramifications of every trade and business.
– But they decide upon the evidence submitted to them.
– I do not think representatives of employers and employes are competent to decide these questions on evidence. How can they be expected to deal with disputes relating to the clothing industry, the boot industry, the saddlery industry, and the mining industry ? It is impossible for them to possess the requisite expert knowledge. The intricacies of some trade disputes are such that it is puzzling even to read the evidence. I consider that the determinations by Wages Boards partake more of the character of mutual agreements between persons who have expert knowledge of the particular industries in which the disputes arise. Most of the troubles which we have experienced in the Commonwealth have been due to decisions arrived at by persons who do not possess that knowledge. The working of our Arbitration Courts has not been satisfactory chiefly because we cannot find any means of compelling the employes to abide by their awards.
– Would that trouble be cured if each dispute were dealt with by a Wages Board ?
– I have never heard of a decision by a Wages Board being repudiated. Indeed, such a state of affairs is practically impossible. But if the employes in any industry refused to abide by an award made by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, what would happen? We should either have to yield to them or. enforce the award, and the latter course would; be impossible.
– The honorable member believes in voluntary as opposed to compulsory arbitration ?
– I believe in industrial disputes being settled by Wages Boards.
– How would the honorable member enforce the new protection by means of voluntary agreements?
– It is merely a matter of constituting certain boards to deal with certain industries. The determinations of these bodies would, I think, generally be in favour of the workmen. Of course, it is conceivable that a Judge of the Arbitration Court might suddenly be called upon to leave a temperate climate like that of Victoria to hear a dispute in the interior where similar climatic conditions obtain. But he might happen to strike a very hot day, and his decision might be influenced by the consideration that such days were the rule, and not the exception in that particular locality. On the other hand, his visit to a. tropical region might be made on a cool day and he might be induced to think that men working there experienced no more discomfort than is experienced elsewhere. With regard to the proposal that the Commonwealth should control the scale of wages by means of a Judge, we could only deal with industries which were protected by Customs duties. That would often put us in a peculiar position. Take, for instance, a firm like Foy and Gibson’s, whosell all kinds of things, and also manufacture. Some of their employes would be under the States Wages Boards, and someunder the Federal Arbitration Court; yet those people would be working side by side.
– In the case of a protected industry, the Federal authority, and not the State Board, would be dominant.
– Under the proposed system, unless there was a Customs duty on the articles that those employes were engaged in manufacturing, the Federal authority could not touch them.
– Does the honorable member know of any manufactured article that has not some protection?
– I am certain that there are large numbers of them, if one had timeto look them up. The honorable member cannot expect me to name them on the spur of the moment. I am sure that the complication which I have pointed out would arise. The Wages Boards, as constituted in Victoria, should be allowed to deal with the whole question of wages and conditions of labour. I desire to say a few words on the question of land settlement. If the Federal Government did the very opposite to what they are doing, some good would result for Australia. Federal legislation has the tendency to draw the people to the towns, whereas the State Legislatures are trying to scatter them over the Commonwealth by building railways and opening up the country so that they may go out back and build up new towns. The tendency of Federal legislation is to centralize the people. If we intend to try to make Australia a manufacturing country, the effect must be to bring the people into the cities.
– Does the honorable member object, to protection?
– I do not, but I believe that we cannot overproduce such commodities as wool, wheat, copper, gold, and silver, which Australia can produce and sell in the markets of the world; but that we can overproduce for our own requirements. If we lay down a scale of wages such as we know that Australians get - and no other part of the world pays such high wages - we shall not be able to sell our manufactures in the markets of the world if we produce more than we can consume ourselves. What are we to do then? We shall have a lot of men here whom it will be cruelty to have to ask afterwards to go on the land. If, instead of that policy, we induce people to go on to the land, we shall have men that can defend Australia, used to handling the rifle, the hoe, and the plough - men of physique that .can face any enemy. If, however, we bring them up to factory work and other town occupations, while they will have all the pluck of the Britisher, they will not have the strength and the stamina to go out and rough it. The Prime Minister said at Castlemaine a few weeks ago that the policy of the Federal Government was to help the producer, and to induce the people to settle on the land.
– That is a free translation of a summary of a fairly lengthy speech.
– I am afraid the Prime Minister was not sincere when he made that speech.
– The ‘actions of the Federal Government have been in exactly the opposite direction. They proposed duties on steel rails and wire netting, and did their best to carry them. I fought against them, but the duty on steel rails, at any rate, was carried. If I wished to put an effectual stop to the settlement of the people on the land, and” the opening up of new country, I should ‘ prohibit the importation of a single steel rail into Australia, and if the country were infested with rabbits I should prohibit the use of wire netting. Yet that is the tendency of Federal legislation. We have 15,000 miles of rails laid in the Commonwealth, but if we had them in proportion to the length laid in ViC.toria, we should have 100.000 miles throughout Australia. We can do nothing to develop the riches of the continent without railways. We can bring nothing to the coast without them. If a man in the interior found enough gold to live on for the rest of his life, he could not carry it any distance without a railway. Nothing but railways will open up or benefit Australia, and to tax steel rails is a cruel thing to the country. It will hamper the development of the States, and prevent men who have, perhaps, little money, but the right sort of pluck, from succeeding. If we wish to open up Australia, and make it prosperous, we must afford every facility for the building of railways, and for preventing vermin from over-running the land. There is on the business-paper the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, generally known as the Iron Bonus Bill, the consideration of which in this House came to a dead stop on the item for the payment of a bonus on the manufacture of wire netting. After we had prevented the Government from imposing a duty on wire netting, they sought to insert a provision for paying a. bonus equal to £2 8s. per ton on netting made from imported wire, and twisted in an imported machine. We had evidence that it cost only about 12s. for the man who watched the mp.chine do the work. Yet the Government propose a large bonus in a Bill which they pretend is introduced for the encouragement of Australian industry. I told the Attorney-General that if the Government wished to get that Bill through the House they had better wipe out that proposal. If the Prime Minister was sincere in his statement at Castlemaine that he wished to help the producers, the Government are going a very curious way about it, because the taxation of steel rails’, and other such articles, will never help them. If by our new protection proposals we increase the cost of the production of anything that we have to sell in the markets of the world, we shall only harass our own producers. That cannot be in the interests of Australia, but must in the end tell against us. It might do all right for town people to win an election on, but it will never do for country members to tell their constituents that they intend to tax steel rails or wire netting. We want 100,000 miles of railways in Australia within the next twenty years.
– And we want the Government to make the rails.
– I should like to see steel rails made here, but until that is done we dare not stop the opening up of the country.
– The Government could make them as cheaply as they are imported.
– That is a matter that I have not gone into. I trust that when the next Budget is placed before the House Western Australia will receive more consideration than is at present being shown to her. I hope the figures that I have placed before the Committee to-day will prove that that State is entitled to that consideration. Melbourne and Sydney are acting more as distributing centres than they were before Federation, and as they are so prosperous, they and the members representing them in this Parliament should show a certain amount of consideration for the States that are using all the material that is being made in the larger towns, and so helping to keep those towns going.
.- I wish first to refer to a question asked by the honorable member for Gippsland this afternoon, with reference to an interview that a representative of the Brisbane Courier had with me while I was in Queensland last week. Why the honorable member was put up to ask the question, I am at a loss to understand, but I must feel rather flattered at having my name brought so prominently before the public by the honorable member and the Treasurer. There is not one word in that interview that I wish to retract. The honorable member for Gippsland was prevented by Mr. Speaker from reading it through when putting his question, but I shall read it, and enlarge a little on it. I am reported to have said that -
The relations of the States to Federal finance require the most serious consideration. The protection of the Braddon clause will expire .in 1910, and, judging from the Estimates now before the Federal Parliament, a large encroachment will be made on the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue hitherto returned to the States.
The Treasurer’s own financial proposals lead us to this conclusion.
– The Treasurer has never said that.
– I am speaking of what may happen after 1910.
– The interview does not show that.
– The Treasurer proposes, after 1910, to return to the States a fixed sum of about £6,000,000 per annum. I find, on referring to the Estimates, that the anticipated return to the States this year is £8,063,000, so that the honorable gentleman has evidently in mind a big reduction in the amount to be returned to them after 1910. The interview continues -
In fact, we have no guarantee that for the next two years the whole of the three-fourths will be returned. The recent High Court decision on the Surplus Revenue Bill permits the Treasurer to take retrospective action.
– That is not so.
– Honorable members are well aware that up to May last the Treasurer returned, month by month, the surplus revenue to the States, but that in June last he recouped himself, to a. very large extent, in respect of the surplus revenue that he had so paid away during the financial year by withholding from the States all the revenue of that month.
– That was owing to adjustments.
– The same thing has been done in June of each year.
– That is not so. The honorable member is referring to a different matter.
– In June last the Treasurer for the first time withheld the whole of the revenue for the month.
– But his action was not retrospective.
– It was to all intents and purposes, inasmuch as up to the 31st May he had returned the surplus revenue to, the States in respect of each month. With the passing of the Surplus Revenue Bill, he adjusted as far as he could such payments in respect of the financial year 1907-8 by retaining the whole of the revenue for June.
– Does the honorable member object to moneys being set aside to provide for old-age pensions?
– That has nothing to do with the matter. The AttorneyGeneral is using a most dishonest argument and he ought to know it. Let us have straightforwardness.
– I am dealing, not with the question of old-age pensions, but with an interview which has already been the subject of a question in this House to-day. Later on I shall explain my attitude with regard to old-age pensions. My contention is that if it was proper for the Treasurer to go back over a period of twelve months in adjusting accounts as between the Commonwealth and the States, it would be just as proper for him to say that during the last six or seven years he has paid to the States surplus revenue amounting to something like £8,000,000 to which they were not entitled, and that in order to meet his financial obligations, he intends to go back over that period-
– He has not said that he will do anything of the kind.
– Coming events cast their shadows before. The Treasurer has said that he will find the money, no matter how it has to be raised.
– For old-age pensions ?
Mx. SINCLAIR.- And to meet other expenditure. The interview continues -
The estimated income and expenditure is balanced to £1, and the Treasurer’s estimate for old-age pensions is about £750,000 below the estimate of many expert authorities.
When this statement was being read at an earlier stage in to-day’s proceedings, the Treasurer interjected that it would be a foolish assertion for any honorable memher to make. On the basis of the estimated cost of old-age pensions in England - which works out at 13s. 46. per head - a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions would cost £2,787,000 per annum. Taking the actual expenditure of New South Wales on old-age pensions, which “is 8s. per head of her population, we should require £1,800,000 per annum to meet the cost of a Commonwealth system of invalid and old-age pensions, provided that we adopted, the rates prevailing in that State. The cost of the Commonwealth scheme, however, will in certain circumstances be far greater.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– In the previous part of my speech I was dealing with .an interview with me published in a very influential journal, the Brisbane Courier, which I am pleased to note the honorable member for Gippsland reads. The Attorney-General asked me why I considered that the Federal old-age pensions would cost more per head of the population than does the system in vogue in New South Wales. I estimate that the increased cost per head will be about 10 per cent. Many persons will be claimants for pensions under the Federal Act who are debarred under the State schemes, as they have not been residing in the State for a sufficient period to entitle them to State pensions. I am not sure whether there is an invalid pensions scheme in New South Wales, but I understand that there is. Basing recalculation on the actual cost of old-age pensions in New South Wales, the cost of the Federal scheme will be £1,980,000 per annum.
– Quite that.
– I am prepared to believe that my estimate is rather on the low side. Not that ,1 object to old-age pensions. If I did not believe in them I would vote against them just as readily as I would vote against any other proposal brought forward. Indeed, I have been prepared to go a little further than the Federal Government have gone. I was prepared to go to the length of providing old-age pensions to ‘all persons attaining the age of sixty-five years, so that they might claim pensions as a right, and not because they were poor. I believe that we should do as much as possible to remove the pauper element from the Federal scheme. We should make our old people feel that when the sun is setting in the west they have a right to claim pensions, not because of their poverty, but because of their age and inability to provide for themselves. The interview with me proceeded -
The Federal Government show an aggressiveness which in a good cause would be worthy of emulation. Their new protection proposal is part of the price they pay for Labour domination masquerading as support. I decline to believe that if this is referred to the people they will agree to give the Federal Parliament more power than they now have. Quite a number of measures already placed on the Statute-book by the Federal Government are administered by State Departments for which services no payment is made.
That is one of the statements to which the Treasurer took exception. He stated that the Commerce Act was being administered by the Department of Trade and Customs. But the, principal administrators of the Commerce Act are State experts who give their services in many instances gratis. The Commonwealth has the advantage of all this machinery, for which nothing is paid to the States. I know that that is so in Queensland, at any rate, as far as outward products are concerned.
The Commerce Act is administered by a State Department ; the Quarantine Act will have to be administered also, and the New Protection and Old-age Pensions. The State will be the working team for the Federal boss shortly. Then will come the cry for the abolition of the State Parliaments. 1 do not wish to retract anything from those statements.
– The honorable member knows’ that under the Constitution old-age pensions and quarantine are Federal powers.
– I do not deny that the Federal Government have power to do these things. Many things may be lawful, but may not be expedient.
– It might be said of all our powers that they are lawful, but not expedient. Surely quarantine is a Federal matter?
– I think that the AttorneyGeneral will admit that any change in a system of government must be more or less irritating for a time, and quite a number of the changes made in consequence of Federation have caused irritation.
– Surely that is no reason why the F’ederal Parliament should not exercise its powers?
– It is, to my mind, a reason why the Federal Parliament should proceed very much more slowly than it has done in the past.
– That settles it !
– It “settles it” as far as I am concerned, and I have one vote in this House. While I represent the important division of Moreton I shall endeavour to carry out the wishes of my constituents, and it was not in accordance with their wishes that many of the measures introduced by the present Government became law.
– The honorable member was in favour of the protective policy, I think.
– I shall deal with that matter later on. I do not desire to anticipate the references that I shall make to protection and free-trade. I think that the Government are under - shall I say ? - an eternal debt of gratitude to the Opposition for having saved them from their friends recently. When the Supply Bill was introduced on the 14th of last month, the allies of the Government in the Labour corner, judging from their attitude, considered that the Government were introducing some scheme of Rob Roy finance ; and the speeches that emanated from the corner at a late hour of the night so frightened the Treasurer that he made a personal canvass of the corner to plead with honorable members to allow the Bill to pass.
– I do not know why he did not come to me.
– Perhaps the honorable member was not in his place at the time. The financial proposals of the Government appear to me to have been prepared in accordance with
The good old rule, the simple plan,,
That they should take who have the power-, And they should keep who can.
The financial proposals of the Government invited a challenge which the Opposition had a perfect right to. take up. The constituencies generally were also entitled to make their voices heard-. If we are to pile up burdens as is being done, it is fair that the people should make their voices heard. If they are content, I, for one,” have no right to object, but while I am here to represent the interests of those who returned me, I must do what I conceive to be my duty.
– To what particular burden is the honorable member referring?
– The particular burden with which I find fault is an item of something over £6,000,000 of expenditure by the Federal Government, which is certainly far in excess of anything which was anticipated by the most ardent supportersof Federation.
– What about the sugar bounty ?
– I reply to that interjection that the sugar producers of Queensland and New South Wales never asked’ for the bounty.
Colonel Foxton. - And they pay it themselves.
– They pay it themselves ; the whole cost of the sugar bounty has been placed upon the States of Queensland and New South Wales.
– What nonsense !
– I know that the honorable member for Wide Bay wishes to ms-ke little of this assertion, but the fact remains that the amount is credited to the States in which the revenue is collected. I was sorry to hear from the Prime Minister, in his speech on the Address-in-Reply, a suggestion which to my mind meant nothing less than unification. There are various ways of bringing about unification. The cry for it may come from within or from without Parliament. But if we continue to increase the cost of government, the States Parliaments will have to impose such heavy burdens upon the people that there will be a cry for the abolition of the States Parliaments; and that, in my opinion, would be a very serious matter indeed. The Prime Minister suggested a. complete severance of Commonwealth and State finance. That idea suggests two distinct Governments. In fact, it almost suggests two distinct peoples. Sometimes in this House we speak as if we represented a separate people altogether from those who constitute the States. My ideas with regard to the Federal Parliament may be rather crude, but, in my view, the Commonwealth as a financial entity should have no existence at all. It should neither lose nor gain, but should be a conduit through which revenue should flow to the States. Attempts are being made repeatedly by this Parliament to covertly filch from the States revenue which rightly belongs to them. I do not see that any good purpose could be served by the Commonwealth taking over the States debts ; and, if I had my way, I would prevent such a step. I can see great difficulties in the way of any consolidation. The States indebtedness, up to the 30th June, 1907, was as follows: - New South Wales, ^£87,607,832 ; Victoria, £53>i°4,989 > Queensland, £4.1,764,467.; South Australia, £3°,52f>,7T8 ; Western Australia, £19,222,638 ; Tasmania, £9,922,083- -a total of £240,149,727. I do not know whether it is proposed that the Commonwealth Government should take over these debts in globo, or on what terms. But 1 must say that I tlo not see any benefit to be derived from such a scheme. I decline to believe that the Commonwealth can borrow money more cheaply than can the States. In Queensland we have resources and assets second to none in the world. In that State 96 per cent, of the land is still unalienated; we have vast undeveloped resources, and the railways belong to the people. Under the circumstances, as 1 have already indi cated, I fail to see .that the Commonwealth can offer any better security than that which can be presented by the Queensland State Government. The indebtedness of the various States per capita is as follows : - South Australia, £78 17s. 8d., with an annual interest of £2 18s. 10d. ; Queensland, £77 os. 2d., with an annual interest of £2 17s. id. ; Western Australia, £72 14s. 10d., with an annual interest of £2 ros. id. ; Tasmania, £56 2s. 6d., with an annual interest of £2 is. 3d. ; New South Wales, £55 3s. nd., with an annual interest of £1 19s. 3d. ; and Victoria, £42 18s. 8d., with an annual interest of £1 10s. 9d. The average national debt per capita is £57 15s. id., with an average annual interest of £2 rs. 7d. Under these circumstances, it appears to me that any arrangement to take over the debts on a per capita basis would lie extremely difficult; and the problem would become more difficult with the increase of population. There is one consideration which might influence me to vote for a transfer of the debts to the Commonwealth, and that is that the Government have the control of the principal and readiest means of taxation through the Customs and Excise.
– Has the honorable member the per capita value of the reproductive works in the States?
– I have a note of that, but I do not see how it bears on my present argument. Seeing that the Commonwealth has the readiest means of taxation, it might be wise to throw on the Commonwealth some further responsibility by transferring the debts. This is only what might be .regarded as “ any port in a storm;” but I see no reason for “the storm.” It was never the intention of those who brought about Federation that the States and the Commonwealth should work so inharmoniously as they have done hitherto. Amongst the items in the Budget, I see provision for the cost of the visit of the American Fleet. Every one must. I am sure, congratulate the Prime Minister on the brilliant success of that visit, and must admit the great amount of good which resulted to Australia. The visit warmed our hearts with fellow feeling towards our cousins across the Pacific ; but I think that, in this connexion, one or two minor matters have been overlooked. Some of the poor sailors who came here, full of the hope of returning to their homes, lost their lives in Australia. I am sure our hearts must go out to the friends of those unfortunate men ; and I think it would be fitting if steps were taken to place some memorial over their graves. The visit of the American Fleet must have been a great advertisement to Australia throughout the world; and, at this point, I should like to read a few extracts from certain Chinese newspapers, as showing some results in this direction. The Pekin and Tientsin Times publishes a most remarkable account of happenings alleged to have occurred when the American Fleet reached Sydney last August. The story, which is reprinted in one of our own newspapers, probably eclipses all stories printed in any journal of any past event. It is introduced in this way -
Under the heading of “ The American Fleet al Sydney ; An enthusiastic and striking reception ; Thousands of Australian eagles greet the Fleet,” the newspaper named, in its issue of 28th August, says -
– What has this to do with the Budget?
– The Government spent £31,000 on the visit of the American Fleet, and I desire to show how well spent was the money. The newspaper extract proceeds -
The reception to the American Fleet was of the most striking and enthusiastic nature. The Sydney Heads were so packed with people that they looked like an immense ant hill.
When Admiral Sperry, on the Flagship Nebraska, entered the harbor, he was saluted by a roar of guns from the secret foundations. Immediately the people let free thousands of native eagles.
The booming of the guns drove the birds seawards, covering the remainder of the Fleet, which was hailed with uproarious cheers from the seamen of the Yankee Fleet.
Sydney was beautifully illuminated at night. The cost of the electric decorations alone is estimated at ten thousand pounds sterling.
The vast colleries at Newcastle were laid
Up, as the men demanded a holiday. They had to make the journey to Sydney by sea as the trains were not able to handle the enormous traffic. Al! the main lines of the railway service were dislocated. Nine excursion “trains were run each day and night from Brisbane and Southern Queensland. The day was cool but tine. A warm sun shone, and the scene was one of such real and moving enthusiasm as has never before been witnessed in Sydney.
Fifteen excursion steamers packed with passengers left Sydney Harbor as soon as the notification of the sighting of the American Fleet was given. They met the men-of-war two miles outside Sydney Heads. Two thousand citizens attended the banquet.
Tt was strikingly demonstrated that the entire population of Australia regard the arrival of the Fleet as the presage of a future distinct understanding with the United States of America, respecting the yellow peril to the white races in Australia.
A special Sydney cable to the China Gazelle of August 19 says : - “ The American Fleet is sighted off Port jackson. There is considerable jealousy between the State capitals as to which shall be accorded the palm for exuberance of welcome. The Lord Mayor of Sydney declares that Admiral Sperry, officers and men, must endure ‘ a sirocco of a time.’ Excursion trains are being run from all parts, and the seaport is absolutely packed with sightseers and holidaymakers. Mounted police patrols are everywhere in evidence. The Government has declared a two days’ holiday. “ A deputation of clergymen waited upon the Premier, asking for the closing of all hotel bars during the stay of the Fleet. Mr. Wade replied that ‘ battles were won on beef and beer,’ and refused the’ request. “An extra 100 members of the mounted police have arrived from the country districts. Naval and military men of the local regulars are to be confined to barracks during the visit. “ The intensity of excitement and enthusiasm of the people exceeds that evinced at the departure of the volunteer troops for the Boer war. “ It being impossible to house the enormous throng of country visitors, the Government have thrown open the Centennial Park, two miles from Sydney, for camping, and the big reserve presents every appearance of a mining camp in the early days. “ The efforts of an agency, notoriously proJapanese, to minimise this epoch-making tour, by meagre or distorted accounts, are ridiculed, as every newspaper of world-wide repute is specially represented. “ A large section of the public of New Zealand insists that an Anglo-American alliance should be established, to protect the interests of the whites on the Pacific against the yellow races.”
The Premier of New Zealand, in replying to the objections raised against the entertainment of the American Fleet, at a Liberal Labour demonstration, made a spirited defence of the Government’s action. He said that from a monetary point of view, the expenditure would amount to only / Nd. per head of the population ; while, through general expenditure, increased railway revenue, &c, the Dominion would benefit to the extent of nd. per head. The day would come when there would be a fight, probably in the Pacific, as to whether the whites or the Eastern races were to govern Australia, New Zealand, and some of the Pacific Islands. When that fight occurred, the Old1 “World would have the assistance of the American warships. The present Government would do what was necessary on this unique occasion, and would do it properly.”
That should be interesting as well as instructive to the Treasurer.
– Does the honorable member propose now to read the report of the arrival of the American Fleet in Melbourne.
– Is there anything about butter in it?
– I have not the report of the arrival of the Fleet in Melbourne. The honorable member for Bourke has just made the most senseless interjection I have ever heard in this, or in any other, House.
– What was that?
– The honorable member asked whether there was anything about butter in it. In the first place, the Com mittee must have been well aware that there was nothing about butter in it. If the honorable member intended, by his interjection, to make an innuendo insulting to myself, I can assure him that I can stand any amount of that kind of thing. The butter industry has helped to make the Commonwealth what it is to-day. When, as a lad, I decided to shape my course in the direction of the development of that industry, I think I made a very wise choice indeed. If I can do anything here to help the industry, I shall not be ashamed to do so. The honorable member for Bourke might just as well understand that such innuendoes have no effect upon me at all. Earlier this afternoon the Attorney-General made some reference to the fact that the Moreton electorate. and, in fact, Queensland as a whole, arc in favour of protection.
– There is no doubt about that.
– There is not the slightest doubt about it. I wish to say that I have no sympathy with the continued appeals from the Opposition, or a section of honorable members in Opposition, for free-trade. My fixed policy, and the fixed policy of Australia, is a protective policy.
– For Queensland industries.
– No; for Australian industries.
– The honorable member is not going to be allowed to escape in that way.
– I do not know that I should have referred to the matter, had not the question been raised by previous speakers, in order to put their case before the country. Whilst I believe in protection, and have voted for it-
– The honorable member did not.
– I never gave a freetrade vote in this House.
– The honorable member is one of a number who did more to destroy protection than did any other members of the House.
– That is only the Minister’s view.
– The honorable member may take it from me that he will not be allowed to wear that cloak.
– While I believe in protection, I say fearlessly that I do not think that either free- trade or protection is a cure for many of the ills against which we have to contend.
– The honorable member should join the Labour Party. That is their contention.
– In my opinion the members of the Labour Party have very little reason to feel proud of their attitude on the fiscal question. There is one thing which every honorable member should respect, and that is a pledge given to the people. If I change my political views I shall do so when before the people, that they may have an opportunity to say what they think about it.
– Does the honorable member know of any Labour members who have not adhered to their pledges?
– I know that the members of the Labour Party came into this House pledged to a Tariff referendum and to sink the fiscal issue during the life of this Parliament, and that they broke away from that pledge immediately they got here.
– They had an absolutelyfree hand on the Tariff.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay, when speaking on the Budget, referred to the deplorable condition of affairs in 1894 in a country which he did not name, but which I assumed to be Great Britain. He referred to the fact that there was a great deal of starvation reported, and that there was a large number of unemployed. I certainly do not deny the statement, but I suggest that possibly the condition of affairs to which the honorable member referred was attributable to causes other than those to which he attributed it. The United States of America, for instance, is a very highly protected country, and yet during the last few weeks the news has been cabled from that country that the result of the Presidential election there depends on the votes of the unemployed, who are said to number 1,500,000. When in free-trade as well as in protectionist countries there are large numbers of unemployed, it is clear that the existence of so much want in those countries must be due to other than fiscal reasons.
– Does the honorable member not think that land monopoly may have something to do with it?
– Possibly it has.
– Has the honorable member a remedy to suggest?
– I have a remedy, but I shall not refer to it at the present time.
– The honorable member is reckoning that his constituents are against him.
– I am not afraid of the results of any action that I have taken in this House since I have been a member of it. If my constituents have any complaint to make against me they will make it at the ballot-box.
– They will put the honorable member out next time.
– The Treasurer is afraid to meet the honorable member in the Moreton electorate.
– I should be quite prepared to give the honorable gentleman the opportunity.
– I am not a fool ; but I could beat ‘the honorable member badly.
– It did not occur to me that the Treasurer was a fool in that respect, but the challenge is given, and if he chooses to take it up we can right the matter out in the Moreton division at any time he pleases. A great deal has been made out of the White Australia policy,
And I wish to say that I very strongly resented some of the Prime Minister’s remarks concerning the Opposition.
– To what remarks does the honorable member refer?
– Those in which the Prime Minister suggested that the Opposition is composed of so many remnants of other parties, and amongst them the “ black- labour party.” I wish to say that so far as I am personally concerned, no one can accuse me of ever having taken any interest in the employment of coloured people, or of ever having voted for the retention of black labour. The Prime Minister might have had the decency to indicate the individuals to whom he referred as the remnant of the black labour party. I object to such insulting innuendoes, and so far as I am personally concerned I hurl the Prime Minister’s accusation back in his face with as much warmth as the honorable gentleman exhibited when he made it. With respect to the Post and Telegraph Department, I do not think that the Government has made adequate provision for the increased postal facilities demanded, or for the necessary extension of telephonic and telegraphic communication. I notice that the Queensland estimates have been reduced from £458,386 to ,£452,939The Estimates provide for an increased expenditure of only £1,758 in respect of postal requirements in Queensland. The development of such States as Queensland and Western Australia depends very largely upon the extension of postal facilities. Those who have to travel long distances to reach their markets should at least have an adequate postal service. I find that a sum of only £3,500 has been provided in respect of telephones and telegraph instruments for the State of which I am a representative, although last- year £6,409 was expended under that heading. The proposed vote is not much more than half of that passed last year, although quite a number of exchanges and telegraphic and telephonic works have been hung up for want of funds. Numerous applications that have been made for exchanges and private telephones cannot be granted owing to want of funds, yet provision for expenditure under this heading has been practically cut down by half. At page 287 of the Estimates for additions, new works and buildings, honorable members will find an item of £2,000 towards the cost of postoffices at Allora, Chinchilla, Gin Gin, Ilfracombe, Mount Garnet, Nambour, Oakey, and Southport. A site for the proposed post-office at Southport was purchased last year, and we were promised that provision would be made on this year’s Estimates for the erection of a post-office for that important town. We find, however, that the sum of only £2,000 is proposed to be voted towards the erection of postal buildings in all the towns I have mentioned. That amount will be just about sufficient to cover the cost of plans and specifications, and unless the Treasurer comes to the rescue, we cannot hope to see a start made with the erection of these post-offices for another twelve months. I think that the Government might benefit by a little advice regarding the working of telephone exchanges. In many country towns the revenue from the exchanges does not war- rant what is termed a continuous service, for which the Department insists upon’ a return of at least£150 per annum. But whilst in many country towns such a service is not required, . it is necessary to have an extension of office hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to, say, 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. If the present red-tape routine, under which there must be either an eight hours or a twenty-four hours service per day were departed from, such an extension could be provided at a great saving to the Department. It is ridiculous to say that no intermediate service can be provided. As to the question of defence, I think that Australia is prepared to pay for a reasonable scheme, but I am not one of those who fear an attack from some oversea power, more particularly whilst we are under the protection of the British flag. If the Government, instead of spending large sums, as they propose to do, upon the establishment of an Australian Navy, were to extend the coastal railways, so that in time of war or threatened danger troops might be readily moved from one point to another, they would do far more to develop the country, and also to protect it, than they could hope to accomplish by spending millions upon the construction of battle-ships. It is well that we should be careful lest we place upon the people of Australia a burden in respect of defence that will prove rather too heavy to bear. Referring to Great Britain’s “ expenditure or. the Army and Navy, a certain writer states that -
During the last fourteen years the cost of governing England has increased£51,500,000. In 1893-4 the Army and Navy cost£33.327,000, in 1907-8 it was£57,000,000, next year’s vote is estimated at£60,000,000. In fourteen years the Army and Navy (including South African war) have cost£972,866,478. Here is enough money to satisfy all the hunger of the poor, furnish all the comforts needed by the sick, house, feed and clothe all the neglected children of the world.
There is a danger that we in Australia will also place upon the people a burden that they are unable to bear.
. -I should not have intervened in this debate Taut for certain statements’ made by the Treasurer, in reference to postal matters, which I think should not pass without some comment. From the statement made this afternoon by the honorable gentleman, that the Postmaster-General was endeavouring to obtain votes for works that would not pay, it might be inferred that provision had been made for all necessary works. The whole Committee will be with the Treasurer in keeping a watchful eye over the expenditure of the Department. If a service will not return interest upon its outlay, it ought not, in the present state of the finances of the Commonwealth, to be considered. But the gravamen of the charge made against the Department is that services which would not only return interest upon outlay, but would pay for themselves within a very few years, are either not considered, or. if they are, are not granted, because the Treasurer says that he cannot provide for them. What we desire the Treasurer to do is to take care that the great Departments of the Commonwealth are properly administered, and if he cannot provide money for necessary works from one source, it is for him to tell us how it may be obtained. The imputation made by him this afternoon that extensions of services are refused only because they would not pay is, in many cases, absolutely contrary to fact. Every honorable member has complained again and again that works that would return a handsome interest upon their cost’ are either not considered by the Treasurer, or, if they are considered and passed by the Department, are laid aside by the honorable gentleman in his usual arbitrary and dictatorial manner. Our desire is that the Post and Telegraph Department shall be made satisfactory to the people who use it. We are constantly met with complaints from all parts of the Commonwealth as to its improper administration. Only this afternoon I received from a constituent a complaint that under the regulations of the Department a telephone line has to be paid for from the moment that the connexion with the exchange is made, regardless of whether or not the subscriber is informed of the connexion, or of whether or not he has had an opportunity to use it. If one of the officers of the Department reports that on such and such a day he did such and such a work, and made the line fit for use, the subscriber must pay for it from that date. I contend that a subscriber should not be asked to pay for a telephone which the Department says he shall not use, though it may be connected with the exchange, until he has been informed that it is ready to accept payment in respect of the first year’s service. In regard not only to matters of this kind, but to almost every other kind of service, the administration of the Department is absolutely unsound and rotten. The Treasurer practically admits that, according to Mr. Hesketh’s figures, instead of hundreds of thousands of pounds, some millions will be wanted to put the Department in a proper condition. But he comes down with a muddling policy. He says, “ I know that £1.00,000 will not meet anything like the demands upon the Department ; but we shall put that sum on the Estimates “ and so he would shelve the question until next year or the year after. If it is acknowledged, as I believe it is, that the amount I mentioned is wanted for the Department, he ought to find it. If it cannot be found in any other way, and the works would be remunerative, I see no objection to our borrowing the money in order to put the Department on a sound basis. If we could borrow £2,000,000 on a short dated loan and repay the money by instalments with a sinking fund of a couple of hundred thousand pounds a year, which is less than the Treasurer proposes to spend - if we could do that, and put the Department in thorough working order, I think that the Commonwealth would be better served, and the public would be very much better served too. In this House we are apt sometimes to make a fetish of a nonborrowing policy. I hold as strongly as any one that the Commonwealth should not borrow except under special circumstances, and should not spend borrowed money except on remunerative works. But when it is shown that a work would yield a return of not5, but 10 or 15 or 20 per cent., as some of these lines would, it is a shortsighted and suicidal policy not to find the money for the work.
– Has the honorable member any evidence that they would pay 20 per cent. on the capital cost?
– Yes. For instance in the case of the new trunk line to Katoomba, we offered a guarantee of 10 per cent., but the Department said that they did not want the guarantee, because the two lines - the existing line and the new line - would cost £3,800, while the revenue would be about £750 a year. There are other lines which would pay equally as much on the outlay, and which the Department admit would pay, but they simply declare that the necessary money is not available at the present time.
– There is a number of approved lines which, owing to want of money, the Department is not able to carry out.
– Yes. There are scoresof lines which the Postmaster-General has recommended, and which his officers have assured him would pay handsomely. But the Treasurer says that he cannot find the money. That is not satisfactory - at any rate to me. The money ought to be found. If a business concern had been run in the same way as the Department is, it would have been brought to a state of bankruptcy long ago. The Treasurer complained that he ought not to be asked to outline his expenditure for years ahead. He said that all he had to do was to bring down hisfinancial proposals for one year, and so long as he could see his way clear to the end of that year, he was doing all that was necessary. In ordinary circumstances that would be so, but when the Governmentoutlines a large expenditure in the near future, it rests with the honorable gentleman to show us where the money is to come from. I am as much in sympathy with the movement to institute a system of oldagepensions as is any man in the House, and I believe that it could be administered tetter by the Commonwealth, and with more fairness to the people interested, than it could be by the individual States. But even on his own showing the Treasurer will not have enough money when he begins to pay the old-age pensions, and he does not know where the shortage is to come from. To my mind, the better plan for the honorable gentleman would have teen to try to arrange with the States that the money might be taken out of their three-fourths share of the net Customs and Excise revenue.
– The honorable member knows that that attempt was made.
– The Governmentof New South Wales was approached, and son far as I know, consented to that being done.
– All the States were approached.
– That course ought to have been taken, instead of adopting the slipshod policy of saying, We shall have available so much money, which we will pay to the applicants, and when the timecomes we will look round to see where more money can be raised.” While the finances remain in their present position I intend to look very seriously at the proposals of the Government with reference to the Northern Territory. I think that under a reasonable contract it ought to betaken over and administered by the Commonwealth. But the contract which hasbeen put before us is too one-sided. It is. unfair not merely to individual States, hut to the Commonwealth as a whole. If South Australia is relieved of an annual loss on the Northern Territory, it ought to think itself very lucky and not lay down onerous conditions necessitating the expenditure of millions of money in order that it may get rid of a white elephant. I hope that the House will not ratify the agreement which has been drawn up and signed by the Prime Minister. The Treasurer interjected that the telephone services are too cheap. Ever since I have been here, honorable members on this side have been urging the Postmaster-General to try to establish a separate account for that branch of his Department. I think that we ought to be able to see at a glance the cost, the revenue and the profit or the loss, as the case may be; but at the present time we cannot. It is all very well for the Treasurer to say that if we raise the rates we shall derive a larger revenue. 1 doubt if we would, because the use of the telephone would be curtailed. The Treasurer might get out of a temporary difficulty by cancelling a number of applications which have been made for connexions. But what we want is some means by which we can ascertain at a glance whether the telephones are paying or not. If we are losing money, the rates ought to be raised. But if we are making a large profit, our course is not to raise the rates, but to find money for erecting new lines. I said just now that, if necessary, I would approve of a temporary loan with a sinking fund.
– Would the honorable member borrow the money in order to give cheaper .rates to people ?
– No. I would borrow the money for carrying out reproductive works. If the telephone services are yielding a profit, surely that is all we want to accomplish. We ought not to increase the rates in order to obtain a larger profit. If I can be shown where a return of 15 or 20 per cent, can be obtained by the expenditure of money, it will always have my approval. If I have not the ready cash, I shall try to borrow money at 5 per cent., where it is shown that I can make 15 per cent. That is only a business proposition.
– If we did borrow the money, could we trust the Government to spend it properly. They do not spend their income properly.
– That is another matter.
– How can the Government spend any money until the Works Estimates have been passed? Every speech on the Budget is delaying their consideration.
– The other day I asked the Postmaster-General some questions with reference to the promotion of the junior fitters in the telegraph workshops. These men are in the general division. They are appointed at the minimum salary of £110 a year, and until they pass a stiff examination, no matter how long they may have been serving, they cannot get an increase of £4 in order to reach the £114 limit. In answer to my questions, the PostmasterGeneral said that certain qualifications were necessary and certain examinations had to be passed. He said, for instance, that lathe work and turning were necessary. I remind the honorable gentleman that in Sydney not a particle of lathe work and turning is done in the telephone workshop. It is all done in the machine shop of the telegraph branch. The men I refer to are called juniors, although they have been engaged for five or six or seven 5’ears in doing the same work as the senior fitters. If they ‘have proved by the quality of their work that they are fit for promotion entitling them to receive an increase of salary, it ought to be granted without their being required to pass technical examinations.
– The honorable gentleman ought to address the Public Service Commissioner.
– The Public Service costs 51 per cent, of the revenue now.
– That does not alter the fact that if these men are entitled to aa increase, and are capable of doing the extra work, their application should be granted without their being required to pass severe technical examinations.
– We have said that the judge of that is the. Commissioner, not I or the Parliament.
– The Commissioner is not here to speak for himself.
– That does not prevent us from putting our opinions before the public and the Commissioner.
– This is not the way to proceed ; it is only wasting time.
– I take exception to that statement. I am sure that the Commissioner will pay every attention to any representations made here on these matters. The Postmaster-General also told me that in the Sydney workshop there are ample tools with which these men might practice. But I find that the telephone workshop there is provided with nothing but an old grindstone and a worn-out lathe which was discarded five vears ago as being out of date.
– I am. afraid that we shall not have time to deal with the Manufactures Encouragement Bill this session.
– The honorable gentleman has been throwing that at this side quite long enough - nearly two years, I think, and if the Government were really in earnest about the proposed iron bounty, we should have had it long ago. If he wants to hear me on that subject, I can talk for two hours from some papers that I have here.
– I would rather hear the honorable member on that than on the Budget.
– This is perhaps even more interesting to the honorable member than a discussion on the iron bounty, proposal would be. The. men on whose behalf I am speaking ought to be considered. The examination which they have been asked to pass is quite out of proportion to an increase °f sCa per year in their salaries. Some of these men are doing very satisfactory work. Take, for instance, the installation of a telephone exchange at Mossvale about twelve months ago. The whole of that work was done, not by a junior fitter, but by a probationer. Although he proved in that case to the satisfaction of the Department what he is capable of doing, he is still only graded as a junior fitter at a salary of ^no a year. Yet, before he can obtain an increase of £4, he is required to pass this absurd examination. Then, again, the officer in Sydney who has charge of the lines which are operated on the condenser principle, is still classified as a junior fitter, and cannot advance beyond j£no a year. I think that in our Public Service there ought to be some grade other than that of the general and clerical divisions. There should be a technical grade, in which officers of this description might be included, and in which they would be able to obtain special treatment The Treasurer’s interjection as to black labour is too puerile to call for any reply from me. He is in the habit of making statements without any foundation - statements which he knows to be incorrect. Apparently he makes them either for the purpose of raising a laugh, or for the sake of interjecting. Honorable members upon this side of the Chamber are quite as much in earnest upon the black labour question as are honorable members opposite.
– Are they in favour of, or against, black labour?
– They are in favour of the employment of white labour. Nobody desires to see repeated here the troubles which have been experienced in the United States and South Africa. We ought to thank our stars every day that we have not experienced those troubles. I shall be no party to introducing into the Commonwealth a problem of such serious importance as the black-labour problem has proved to be elsewhere. One effective way of preventing that is by filling with white men the great empty spaces which we say black men shall not occupy. But the Government have submitted no proposal with that end in view. Last year they simply played with the question, by placing upon the Estimates a vote for the encouragement of immigration. But, in these Estimates, they have made no provision whatever for the carrying out of an immigration policy. They are simply holding their hand at the dictation of the members of the Labour Party. I am entirely in favour of coining our own silver, and I think that when we undertake that work, we ought also to adopt the decimal system of coinage. The fact that Great Britain has not done so is not a sufficient reason why we should not do so. The difficulties that would attend such a change in the Mother Country are immense. There the conservative feeling amongst all classes of the community is very great, so that it would be extremely difficult to make the change. I am satisfied that we shall never have such a convenient time as the present to make this very desirable alteration in our system of coinage. The adoption of the recommendations of the Committee which investigated this question would not necessitate any very drastic departure. The fact that they recommend the florin as the unit, and retain the sovereign and the halfsovereign, does away with many of the difficulties which would otherwise be raised in connexion with exchange between the Old Country and the Commonwealth. I recognise that the reduction in the value of the penny, which would be necessitated by the adoption of that principle - a reduction of 4 per cent. - is a serious consideration. But, after all. that is a, matter which might easily be adjusted. For instance, articles which are now sold at a penny might be reduced in quantity. In any case, it is better that this loss should be incurred than that the value of the penny should be increased, because, if its value were increased, the loss would undoubtedly fall upon the poorer classes of the community, whereas, under the system recommended by the Decimal Coinage Committee, it would fall principally upon the merchants. The newspapers, of course, would lose 4 per cent, by continuing to sell their papers for a penny.
– They might provide one page less of reading matter.
– The loss might be met in that way. But probably the newspapers would be content to lose the 4 per cent, whilst continuing to provide the same sized journal for a penny. These difficulties are not at all insuperable, and I doubt whether we shall ever again have such a favorable opportunity to introduce the decimal system of coinage as we shall have when we commence to coin our own silver. For that reason, I again urge upon the Government the desirableness of seeing whether they cannot arrange that when we commence minting our own silver we shall also adopt the decimal principle of currency. A good deal of talk has been indulged in concerning the situation of the Mint. Now, if there is any building which ought to be located in the Federal Capital it is the Federal Mint. In spite of the very grave inconvenience that would be caused, I hold that we should also extend the decimal system to weights, and particularly to measures. I think that we ought to do this, even if we make the change applicable at a future date. We could thus give the general public ample notice of our intentions. For instance, we might declare that the decimal system of weights and measures should come into operation ten years after the adoption of the decimal system of currency. The public would then be afforded an opportunity of getting their scales and weights adjusted to the proper standard. The sooner we do this, the better will it be for the country.
– The trades people argue that the introduction of the decimal system of weights and measures will impose an extra tax upon them by the re-adjustments it will involve.
– But that objection would be removed if we were to give them ten years’ notice of our intentions. I recognise that a good deal of hardship would be inflicted by arbitrarily changing by Act of Parliament the whole standard of our weights and measures. But I contend that the benefits that would flow from that change would far outweigh its disadvantages. I am sorry that I cannot see eye to eye with the honorable member for Fremantle in respect of the figures which he quoted this afternoon. The fact that by means of additional taxation additional revenue has been raised in the States is not, to my mind, an evidence of their increased prosperity. Everybody admits that we are enjoying an increased measure of prosperity, and we are all thankful for it. But the honorable member argued that because less revenues had been collected in Western Australia, as the result of the operation of lower duties, that State had suffered by Federation, whilst because New South Wales had received a larger revenue as the result of higher taxation, that State had benefited. I do not think that those arguments will hold water for a moment. The honorable member’s premises were wrong, and therefore his conclusions must be wrong. Additional taxation does not indicate increased prosperity r nor does a reduction of taxation imply diminished resources.
.- In the Budget, we were promised a declaration of the policy of the Post and Telegraph .Department in regard to country services. The PostmasterGeneral has repeatedly told us that the policy of the Ministry is to extend those services. But my experience during the past three or four years has taught me that the Department is curtailing, rather than extending, country mail services. You, sir, will remember one instance of this to which 1 directed your attention. I refer to a case in which a mail service in the country has been absolutely discontinued, notwithstanding that it had been running for thirty-five years.
– Where was that?
– It was on one of the maintravelling stock routes from South Australia to the northern portion of Queensland. 1 allude to the service from Mooraberrie to Bedourie, and from Sandringham to the South Australian border.
– What is the reason advanced for abolishing that service?
– The reason given is that it did not pay. 1 maintain that the settlers along this route have as much right to receive their letters once a fortnight as the residents of Melbourne have to receive their letters three and four times a day.
– The Treasurer will not give the Postmaster-General the necessary money to enable these services to be maintained.
– I do not know whether that is so. The Postmaster-General has declared times .out of number that the policy of the Government is to extend and not curtail country mail services. Yet, if a particular service does not return a certain percentage upon its outlay, the settlers along the route which it traverses have to make up the deficiency. This Government have penny postage on their programme.
– -Cannot the honorable member give the Treasurer a turn?
– What is the good of giving the Treasurer a turn when one can get nothing out of him?
– We have all been told that certain services were recommended, but that the officials could not say whether they would be provided until they saw whether the Committee would vote the money. We had the chance to vote the money.
– That is perfectly true. Since Federation we have not had one new service in the western portions of Queensland.
– You had so much before.
– It is strange that the State Government found’ it necessary to carry on these mail services for the distant portions of the State, yet directly the Federation is formed increased facilities are given to the towns and’ the country mail services are cut down. If there is any more cutting down I shall cut into the Government at every opportunity.
– What is the good . of that unless the honorable member votes against them?
– How does the honorable member know what I will do? I shall do whatever I consider right, and shall not be guided by anything that the corner “ push” may say.
– That is only your ignorance.
– I am much obliged to the honorable member for his remark. The honorable member for ‘Corangamite had the effrontery to say on the hustings what the honorable member for Indi has said, but he was not game to repeat it in the House. Who were the men, out of these seventy-five members who, I suppose, are as fully acquainted with the electoral law as any seventy-five men in the country, who gave an intelligent” vote? According to that honorable member, it was the members of the corner “ push,” who have all the intelligence of the House.
– I voted intelligently.
– I do not know that the honorable member did. I heard somebody telling him how to vote, and then he did not know how to do it. So far as intelligence is concerned’, it is not all possessed by that corner. The honorable member shows as much crass ignorance on some subjects, particularly Socialism, as anybody else does.
– Now the honorable member touches a tender point.
– It is not my tender point. I am not afraid to stand up in this chamber and say that I believe in Socialism. My fixed idea is that Socialism and nothing else will cure the social cancer, and it is my fixed determination to carry it through. As the Postmaster-General is now present, I should like to repeat part of the arguments that I have used, particularly as the . honorable member for Corio suggested that country mail services were being cut down on account of the Treasurer not giving the PostmasterGeneral sufficient funds. I want a statement made in the House;, so that it may be printed in Hansard, as to the policy that the Government intend to pursue with regard to country mail services, particularly those that have been in vogue for so many years.
– Lyne. - The honorable member said twenty-five years.
– I say emphatically twenty-five years, and over.
– It is not the Treasurer who is stopping it.
– Who else is it? The honorable member will not give the Department the money. Whenever I go to the Deputy Postmaster-General in Bris-‘ bane, the first thing he says is, “ We have not the money.” Nothing can be done in this world without money, so it is of no use for the Treasurer to say it is not his fault.
– I did not say it was not my fault. I said that it was not because the Department could not get the money.
– If the Government can afford to give penny postage for the big towns they can afford to give £25 or £30 a year for a fortnightly service for people who are living in the bush. They have as much right to get their letters as have the more favoured people, living in the towns. I have letters in my possession, which I am saving up for the PostmasterGeneral when the Estimates are before us, written by the Department in answer to selectors who have taken up new country in Queensland, and who asked for a once-a-week horse service - and some services of that kind will not cost £30 a year. The departmental answer is that there are no funds to provide those services. Something should be done with regard to these outback mails. Nobody knows better than yourself, Mr. Chairman, the way in which country services are being curtailed. If a mail is being run for £50 a year, and the revenue received from it is only £35 a year, does the Postmaster-General think it fair to ask the people living on that route to submit to the whole of the service being stopped because of that deficiency of £15 or £20?
– They tried that with me once, and I paid the deficiency myself. That is what the honorable member ought to do.
– Does the honorable member think that I will do philanthropic deeds of that sort for my. constituents in order to keep my seat, as he has apparently had to do to keep his? I would leave Parliament to-morrow rather than do it, and my constituents do not ask me to do it. One particular service that had been running for twenty years, from Morven to the Upper Warrego, was cut off altogether.
– They had no right to do it, and there was no necessity to do it.
– They did it, so that it is of no use for the Treasurer to say that they had no right to do it. The service ended on the 31st December last year, or the 1st January this year. Tenders were called for a new service in October of last year, and closed at the end of October. No tender was sufficiently low for the Department to accept. No notification was given to the people living on the route that the service would not be run after the 1st January, but an inspector went along and told them that unless they made some arrangement themselves to carry on the service after 31st December, he had an idea that it would be discontinued, and discontinued it was. On the 1st January the last mail ran out there from Morven to Babbiloora, I think it was, on the Upper Warrego, and the mailman told the people that it was the last time he was coming out. I was up there some time in February, and they asked me if I could do anything.
– That would be done on the inspector’s report.
– I am not dealing with inspectors or deputies, but with the PostmasterGeneral, and the Deakin Government. If the Government intend to make people pay extra for their services, by all means let them say so. We shall ‘then know where we are, and I will do my level best to whip them off the Treasury bench at the first opportunity. There will be no scrim-shanking about it, either. If they intend to differentiate between town and country districts they will deserve all they get.
– There has been no change whatever made in regard to country mails.
– I was never in the Parliament of Queensland, but the Chairman was, and I ask him if he remembers the State Government ever asking the people living on a route to subsidize the mail service?
– Or asking the member to pay?
– Or asking the member to pay, in order to keep his seat?
– That is a very unfair and improper insinuation. I can keep my seat in spite of anything.
– The honorable member will not keep his seat on the Treasury bench long if all the country members in this House put their heads together to put him off it. The time is not far distant, if it has not come already, when country members from all the States will have to put their heads together. I do not know what the Treasurer is saying.
– 1 was saying something ; ,the honorable member is saying nothing.
– I feel abashed at the honorable member’s astounding cheek. I should not have spoken, but that I wanted the Postmaster-General to lay down in Hansard what the policy of the Department is to be, so that when I am confronted with the statements about no money being available, and about making the people pay for the different services out of their own pockets I shall know what to do. The Government want to introduce penny postage for the people in the towns. It is of no use for the Postmaster-General to shake his head. It is on the Government programme, although the only two people who really want it - for their own glorification - are the Minister of Trade and Customs and the right honorable member for Swan, who would like to be able to say, “ I introduced penny postage into Australia.” I do not think the Government will carry penny postage all the same. So far as I am concerned they will not. I believe in it, but not in crippling other parts of the Commonwealth for the sake of the towns. Two Chambers of Commerce, one in Western Australia, and one in Queensland, have announced that they do not want penny postage. They know very well that it means taxation from other sources, as the deficit will have to be made up.
– Let us have the postage 2d. all over the Commonwealth.
– I have to pay 2d. for every letter I write, and so have those who write to me from Queensland. I want a statement of the policy of the Government in respect of the country mails.
– I promise to make a statement when the estimates of my Department come on.
– It is of no use for the Treasurer to tell the Postmaster-General in an aside not to say anything. If he sits at the table and bullocks things through, the Postmaster- General is not going to escape in that way. If he tries it he will sit here for a day or two. I am not speaking on this matter for fun. The way the officials of the Department are dealing with the country mail services is a very serious grievance in my constituency. Although the population of the State, particularly in the more settled portions, is increasing by leaps and bounds, new mail services are refused.
– We are keeping pace with the requirements.
– The Government is not keeping pace with the requirements of any of the States. When Winton, which is now in the Chairman’s electorate, was in the Maranoa division, it was promised that a telephone exchange should be opened there ; but although two general elections have since been held, the work has not been carried out, and now no provision is made for it on the Estimates, because of want of funds. For weeks past the Op position has been twitting the Government with not having made sufficient provision for the establishment of an old-age pensions fund, and to-day an article is published in the Age - I do not know whether it was inspired by the Treasurer - in which he admits that there will not be enough money.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
– The information has come either from the honorable gentleman or from some officer of his Department.
– I do not think so.. It certainly did not come from me.
– It has come from some one who knows all about the matter, having evidently gone into the subject very carefully. I wish now to deal with the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, and am therefore sorry that the Minister at the head of it is not here. But the Treasurer will do as well, because he is the Minister who is responsible for the Tariff. A Sydney firm has written to me, saying that until recently it paid duty on metal bedsteads as manufacturesof metal.
– What firm is that?
– Messrs. W. W. Campbell and Company, of Clarence-street.
– An importing firm.
– That does not matter. Is not an importer entitled to justice as much as a manufacturer, and vice versa ?
– I do not wish to be unjust.
– This firm tendered for, and obtained, certain contracts for the supply of bedsteads to public institutions, on the assumption that the Customs Department would continue to levy duty on imported metal bedsteads as manufactures of metal ; but, a few weeks ago, it received the intimation that thenceforth such importations would be dutiable as furniture. That was the result of the careful considerationof the matter by the Minister and the officers of his Department. If a bedstead made wholly of iron, steel, or brass is not a manufacture of metal, what is it?
– I am not administering the Customs Department.
– It is useless for the Treasurer to try to shelter himself behind that plea. He ran the Tariff through thisHouse, the Minister of Trade and Customs having almost as little to do with it as I had. Once or twice, when he took charge during the Treasurer’s absence, and let a few items pass, the latter was in a terrible fume, because he had dared to act in a matter concerning the Department of which he had charge.
– That is not correct.
– As I sat on the bench here, I heard the Treasurer upbraid the Minister of Trade and Customs for having let a couple of items pass in his absence.
– The honorable member should not make statements which are not correct.
– They are correct. I can believe my own ears. The honorable gentleman wishes to shield himself.
– I never shield myself.
– What is the honorable gentleman doing now? He is repudiating his actions in connexion with the Tariff.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable member is receiving support from another honorable member who ought not to interject.
– I do not build my speeches upon interjections; I am stating facts. I have seen the officers of the Customs Department about this matter, and not having had satisfaction from them, desire to get it here. I want honorable members to make clear what was meant when the Tariff was passed. It was expressly declared that bedsteads made of wood, or partly of wood, should be dutiable as furniture; but how can it be said that bedsteads, made wholly of metal, are not manufactures of metal? Importers could, if they wished, evade the departmental decision by importing the posts of such bedsteads in one shipment, the rails in another, and other parts in a third ; but the Department should not give occasion for such action. It should deal fairly and squarely with the public. But because this firm has acted in a straightforward and honest way, and because, as the Treasurer interjected, it is an importing firm-
– I did not say that.
– Why should it not get the same justice as a manufacturing firm?
– Hear, hear.
– Whether a man is an importer or a manufacturer, he should be fairly treated by the Customs Department.
– Does the more recent decision make metal bedsteads dutiable at a higher rate than was formerly charged ?
– It has increased the duty by 5 per cent.
– I am not responsible for that.
– I am not accusing the Treasurer.
– It is a departmental arrangement. I know nothing about it.
– There is no Minister of Trade and Customs in this chamber for me to talk to. For the first few months after the Tariff was passed, these bedsteads came in as manufactures of metal, and paid duty at 25 per cent There is a difference of 5 per cent. between manufactures of metal and furniture. In the meantime the firm to which I have referred put in certain tenders. They tendered, of course, having in view the Tariff Guide under which they had been working, ex peering that the duty they would have to pay would be 25 per cent. Now, however, they find that the 5 per cent., which was to be their profit, is absorbed by the extra duty paid to the Customs, and consequently they have to do their work for nothing. Is that fair and square dealing?
– It looks as though the Customs officers are making the law, instead of Parliament doing so.
– That is what it amounts to. I have had an interview with the Deputy Comptroller of Customs, and asked him why he did not act upon the evident intention of Parliament. He replied, “ We have to take the Tariff as we find it.” I” feel confident that if Parliament had thought that the Government did not know what a bedstead was, and could not say whether it should be classified as furniture or as a manufacture of metals, we should have decided the question for them. My point in a nutshell is this : After the Tariff was passed, and was in working order, the Customs Department decided that metal bedsteads should be treated as manufactures of metal. Up till three or four weeks ago that ruling held. Then the Department revised it, and now charge duty upon these goods as furniture, with the object of squeezing another 5 per cent. out of the importers. Are the officers to arrange the Customs Tariff of this country on protectionist lines as they think proper, or is Parliament to decide what duties shall operate? I have interviewed the Acting Minister of Trade and Customs, who occupies a seat in the Senate. I argued the question out with him. He told me that he could not say that bedsteads were not articles of furniture; I asked him whether he could say that a metal bedstead was not a manufacture of metal ; and if not, what was it? He said, “It is furniture.” Will the Treasurer look into the matter with the officers of the Department and obtain their reasons for what they have done? With regard to the remainder of the Estimates, it strikes me as being something like Gilbertian comic opera for the Treasurer to say with one breath that Estimates will have to be cut down, and works and buildings throughout the Commonwealth delayed, whilst with another breath, and with his tongue in his cheek, he agrees to give officers who are already in possession of salaries of £800 per annum, increases of £100. Of course the honorable gentleman may have an explanation, but it will have to be a very good one to satisfy me that he is justified in cutting down services to starvation point-
– I say - undoubtedly, yes. There are many projected works in my electorate which the inhabitants require, but which they cannot get done because there are no funds. If the Treasurer can explain to my satisfaction this apparent contradiction in his attitude, I shall be the first to acknowledge that I am wrong. But I cannot see how he can reconcile the two sets of acts.
– With regard to the matter to which the honorable member was referring a few moments ago, I notice that furniture under the Tariff comes under the heading, “ Wood, Wicker, and Cane.”
– Yes; in division X. of the Tariff there is an item, No, 299, “ Furniture, n.e.i., including any article of wood, or partly of wood, wholly or partly made up or finished and used in any building or premises, including Hospitals; also Show Figures of all kinds.” The Customs Department have actually brought metal bedsteads under the item relating to wood, wicker, and cane. How they can so stretch the Tariff so as to do that is beyond my conception. I shall not say any more until I have heard the Treasurer on this particular point. Not only myself, but a number of other honorable members, have had communications pointing out the injustice, but the only reply we can get from the Department is, “ Pay up and look pleasant.”
– I desire to say just a few words in reply to the honorable member for Maranoa. I am not the Minister of Trade and Customs, and I never heard of this case until to-night. If there has been any irregularity, it will be investigated ; that I can promise on behalf of the Prime Minister, whom I am representing to-night. Had I the administration of the Department, I should be quite prepared to take any responsibility; but, as I have already said, I never heard of the case until to-night, and I shall make proper representations to the Prime Minister. “
– Just a word in personal explanation. I should not have brought this matter before the Committee if every other means to obtain satisfaction had not been exhausted. I gather that the Department has dealt with the matter finally^ and it now rests with the Government to say what is to be done.
.- To use the language of the honorable member for Maranoa, I should not bring the matter, to which I desire to call attention, before the Committee on’ the present occasion, if satisfaction could be obtained in any other way from the Government. I must confess that I feel this to be, to a certain extent, a personal affair. I allude to the duty which, I understand, is charged on medicated plaster. When this item was before Parliament, during the consideration of the Tariff, the Treasurer gave me what he calls one of his “ binding “ promises that these plasters should be free. The Treasurer has apparently two kinds of promises - one, made under certain conditions not necessarily binding, and another, made under conditions which he calls binding, and which he is prepared to carry out.
– Let us hear what this is about !
– For weeks past I have approached the Treasurer personally on the matter.
– What? I have not spoken to the honorable member for weeks !
– F.or weeks past, I repeat, I have approached the Treasurer on this matter, in the form of questions without notice, and also in the form of a question with notice, to the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs. Yet the Treasurer has the audacity to say that he never heard of the matter before !
– I am not representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the honorable member knows that.
– At the present moment the Treasurer is representing the Government.
– But I was not when the honorable member asked the question. Why not be fair?
– I claim I am fairly within my rights.
– More lies !
– I must ask the Treasurer to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw the words.
– I claim I am fairly within my rights in asking the Treasurer, who was in charge of the Tariff Bill; if he is prepared to carry out the promise he made to me. I quoted the Hansard report on a previous occasion, but 1 mav say that I urged that medicated plasters should be placed on the free list. The Hansard report is as follows : -
– I think that plasters should be placed on the free list. Of course we all know thai there are varieties of plasters. I hold in my hand a book, a copy of which has been forwarded to every honorable member. It shows how important the matter must be if the agents of Messrs. Johnston and Johnston, manufacturing chemists, will incur that expense.
– I will agree to the omission of the word.
– I move-
That tthe word “ Plasters “ be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
– I want to move that plasters be made free.
– So they will be.
Surely that is plain enough? Yet I am receiving letters from various firms in Sydney to the effect that duty is being charged on such plasters. To-night the Treasurer has said that not he, but the departmental regulations are responsible. But are the Government not responsible for the departmental regulations? T shall not be content until I have a satisfactory reply from the Minister of Trade and Customs, or the Minister representing that honorable gentleman. If some satisfactory arrangement is not come to the matter in all probability will not end here, but some further steps will be taken to decide, once and for all, whether the Government are entitled to charge a duty which it is evident, from the extracts I have quoted, this House desired should not be charged.
.- At this stage of the debate I shall make my remarks as brief as possible. In the first place, I should like to call the attention of the Committee to the statement of the Treasurer, when concluding his Budget speech - a statement which I cannot see he can justify - to the effect that we should soon emerge into what could not fail to prove an “ easier time for the Treasurer of the Commonwealth.” I do not know how the Treasurer could express such a sentiment, when, with a revenue of £15^000,000, he is just able to balance accounts. In the immediate future there are numerous new works and undertakings to provide for, and, according to his own showing, we cannot look for more revenue within the next few years. Yet we have him saying that in a short time the Treasurer will be in a much superior position to that he occupies to-day.
– The Treasurer means 1910.
– If the Treasurer does his duty, I do not see that he will have any more revenue after 1910, or, at any rate, not very much more, than he has at the present time. In my opinion, the Treasurer, within the next few years, will find himself in very serious financial difficulties. The revenue for last year amounted to £15,018,489, and the estimate of revenue for the current year is £14,577,271. I do not think that we can look for very much more than that ; but we shall certainly need’ very much more if we are to carry out the programme which the Government has laid’ before Parliament. Federal expenditure isincreasing at rather an alarming rate. In- 1901-2 it amounted to £3,733,000. Last year it had risen to £6,158,000, and theestimate for the present year ;s even higher, £6,513,000. If Federal expenditure is tocontinue to increase in that way, whilst our revenue is not likely to be materially increased, how can the Treasurer justify his statement that future Treasurers of the Commonwealth will be in a much happier position than that which he occupies today? Three- fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue for the current year, which will amount to over £11,000,000, must be returned to the States, and I estimate that the Treasurer will have left about £6,514,000 with which to meet Federal expenditure - which he estimates at £6,513,000. This leaves but a very small surplus from the total revenue of £14,577,271. In connexion with some items of expenditure, I think the Treasurer has grossly under-estimated the amount that will be required. In other cases the expenditure proposed in the honorable gentleman’s Budget statement must be greatly exceeded if it is to be of any use for the purposes for which the Government intend to employ the money. Then there are matters which are not included in the Government programme to-day, but which they will shortly be bound to make some attempt to provide for, and these also would increase the expenditure. In the circumstances it seems to me that the Commonwealth is getting into really serious financial difficulties. I have no doubt at all that at the next Federal elections the electors will require to know how candidates stand in relation to financial questions, and quite rightly too. Dealing with what I believe to be the Treasurer’s under-estimates of expenditure, I direct attention first to his estimate of the expenditure required for the payment of the old-age pensions. He says that he will be able to meet this expenditure with £1,200,000.
– No, £1,225,000.
– I am prepared to give the honorable gentleman the benefit of the odd -£25,000 ; but I say that that estimate will not satisfy any one who knows anything about the matter. The honorable gentleman will require at least £400,000 more than his estimate to pay Commonwealth old-age pensions. Then in the matter of defence, the honorable gentleman has estimated the expenditure at £1,102,000. Although that amount might be sufficient to cover the expenditure for this year, if the new scheme which the Government have promulgated is to be put in force, the Prime Minister himself estimated that for the first year it will involve an expenditure of £1,714,000. That means an increase on the Treasurer’s estimate of about £600,000. We know that it is probable that even the Prime Minister’s estimate will be found to be very much under the mark, because even though the compulsory system proposed is enacted, it is probable that a demand will be made for some payment to the men for working time put in at drill and training. The Prime Minister has made no allowance for that in his estimate, and it is therefore very likely that that estimate will be exceeded.
– By about how much?
– That will depend on the rate of pay decided on.
– What is the honorable member’s estimate, on’ the basis of 8s. per day ?
– I have not made the calculation, but I should say that at least £180,000 more will be required. It seems to me that the Treasurer has fixed his estimate of the amount required for the payment of old-age pensions at the figure he has suggested simply because the honorable gentleman can see no chance of obtaining any more money for the purpose before he will be called upon to pay the pensions. I understand that he has placed to the credit of a trust fund for the purpose something like £191,000 out of surplus revenue.
– That was only up to June of last year. The amount is really between £300,000 and £400,000.
– Of course, there will be something from this year’s revenue. On the Estimates the honorable gentleman has another £410,000, and he says that before next July he will probably be able to obtain another £500,000.
– The House has voted £750,000.
– I am showing that the Treasurer appears io have given this estimate, merely because he does not at present see where he will get any more money. I believe that the honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that he will require more, but does not at present see where he is to get it, and has put down an estimate which he thinks he can meet.
– What does the honorable gentleman estimate as the amount which will be required?
– -Between £1,500,000 and £2,000,000.
– -Is the honorable member going on the basis of the Victorian or New South Wales payments for this purpose?
– My estimate is based upon a consideration of what is likely to be required under the Commonwealth scheme, which is certainly much more liberal than the existing Victorian scheme.
– It would need to be.
– If that be so, it is clear that more money will be required for old-age pensions, for defence, and to give effect to matters not at present on the Government programme, but which are in contemplation, such as increased naval expenditure, the iron bonus, the transcontinental railway-
– The acquisition of the Northern Territory.
– The Northern Territory is mentioned, and reference is made to transferred properties. No doubt a year or so hence the expenditure of the Commonwealth will be at least ^£8, 000, 000, whereas, according to the Treasurer’s own showing, he will have only £6,000,000 odd to meet the expenditure. Nevertheless, he predicts for future Treasurers a happy time. I wish to know what justification he had for the concluding remarks in his Budget statement. There are one or two omissions from the Budget. For instance, I can find in it no reference to any proposal on the part of the Government to do away with the obnoxious bookkeeping system. It is about time that an end was put to such an unfederal system, and that a per capita distribution was introduced. Such a change could be made if the Government were in earnest. A feasible scheme could be devised whereby such consideration might be extended to “Western Australia as would enable her to carry on satisfactorily. As it is, the smaller States are feeling the pinch of the bookkeeping system. Whilst they have to contribute on a per capita basis towards the expenditure of the Commonwealth, they receive no return in the shape of a. per capita distribution of the revenue. I hope that if the Treasurer remains in office he will bring down a statesmanlike scheme for the abolition’ of the bookkeeping system as speedily as possible. Then, again, I find in the Budget no indication of any intention on the part of the Government to deal with the very important subject of States debts. The question is a most comprehensive one, and should certainly be settled before 1910. It is about time that we were apprised of the intentions of the Government in this regard.
– There are some proposals for a modification of the Harper scheme.
– I am not aware that such a scheme has been seriously put before the House by the Government.
– Thomson. - It was put before the Conference of States Premiers.
– We are told that the Government are opposed to borrowing, and intend to provide for expenditure out of revenue. That principle, it seems to me, may be carried too far. At the beginning of Federation it was estimated that an expenditure of £750,000 would be sufficient to bring the services of the Post and Telegraph Department up to date.
– I thank the honorable member for his correction. Nothing was done in that direction, and, according to the latest expert estimate, an expenditure of £2,300,000 will now be necessary to bring the Department up to date.
– The Chairman of the Postal Commission may know better, but I am not aware that he is an expert in these matters.
– If the honorable member had read the opinion of the experts, he would not have made the statement that he did.
– I have seen in print more than once the statement that Mr. Hesketh estimates that an expenditure of £2,300,000 will be necessary.
– £2,100,000 will be necessary to place the telephone and telegraph services in proper working order.
– Since that estimate relates only to the telephone and telegraph services, the position is still worse. I do not know where the Treasurer expects to obtain the revenue that will be necessary to meet the additional expenditure which the programme outlined by the Government for this session will involve ; but I sincerely hope that it is not intended to adopt the Labour Party’s proposal for a Federal land tax. To do so would be, to my mind, to commit a serious breach of the spirit of the Constitution.
– The Prime Minister said, at the last general election, that he was opposed to that proposal.
– I am aware that he said something to that effect, but it appears to me that the Prime Minister, like the remaining members of the Ministry, is weakening very much in his opposition to a Federal land tax, ‘and that, although he may stall off such legislation during this Parliament, he is not sound in respect to the imposition of such a tax thereafter. There ought to be other ways of financing a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions.
– What does the honorable v member suggest?
– It is not for me to suggest what action the Government should take. It is for Ministers themselves to devise ways and means. I have no doubt that if the Opposition were to take possession of the Treasury bench, they would be prepared to bring down a satisfactory scheme for financing the system.
– It seems to be the general desire of the Committee that we should follow the usual practice of adjourning at a reasonably early hour on Tuesday nights, and I, therefore, hope that the Treasurer will consent to progress being reported.
– I hope that the honorable member will not press his request. It is for the Committee to sa.y whether the conduct of business is to be taken out of the hands of the Government ; but there is evidently a desire on the part of the Opposition to delay the closing of the debate.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– The honorable member’s speech to-day was quite enough for me.
– The honorable member was at it for two days.
– The question of the adjustment of parties in the House has figured rather conspicuously in this debate. I think that, in view of its constitution, the present adjustment is as good as could be achieved. It suited the leader of the Opposition a short while ago to shake up the box and cast the dice, because, undoubtedly, his position could be bettered. But I fail to see how the position of the Labour Party could be bettered. It was not to our interest to have the dice shaken up. While the present Administration is not all that is desired - and I do not believe that any Administration ever is - still, in the circumstances, I believe that it is as good a one as we can obtain. I am convinced that we cannot have government by declamation, and it is only reasonable for us to give to the Ministry that support which it is in our power to give. It will have my support, if it carries out its present promises. I presume that even our party would have been brought to a deadlock if it had carried legislation to the same extent as the present Government has done. I venture to say that in the House there is no other party which would have gone so far in the direction we desire. The point at which . I diverge is on the question. of a land tax. / I certainly would make a bold effort to impose one. I fail to see how the finances are to be adjusted without resorting to some form of direct taxation, and a land tax appeals to me as being the most equitable form. We have difficulties, of course, to face, but to deal with them now is useless. The imputation of motives which seems to be the general practice here is also useless. I do not intend to impute any motives. I am. prepared to give all honorable members credit for being sincere in the expression of their views, although I confess that at timesit is very hard to think that they are. I, at least, am sincere in my actions, and in whatever support I give to the Government. The Opposition has seen fit to dwell largely upon the socialistic aspect of legislation, and’ has succeeded, I am sorry to say, in drawing fire from our party. So far as I understand and support Socialism, it is simply a question, of what we can do to save society by collectivism from the depredations of individuals. With us it is simply a question of proving that the depredations exist, and that undue advantage is being taken of certain; privileges. If we furnish that proof, we are justified in asking for the collective control of such concerns. In regard to the financesthe Treasurer has shown that last vear we had an income of £15,000,000, and returned to the States nearly £9,000,000,. leaving a balance of only £6.000,000. It is obvious that that position cannot be improved until 1910, when the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue will pass to the Commonwealth. Until then we shall be, I take it, in a worse position than we were in last year. So far as the- new Tariff is protective, it will cease to be revenue raising, and therefore our position cannot be bettered until 1910. And even then it seems to me we shall not be justified in appropriating the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue. While the Constitution remains as it is, and the States retain their present powers, we have to provide to some extent for their financing. We should do something to assist them. The mere fact that it has been stipulated that we shall do this for ten years is, to my mind, an instructionthat it must be done until other provision is made. What that- will be I am not prepared to say. In any case, the States will have more or less claim upon us, and it must be discharged. That will mean that we shall not be entitled to appropriate the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue unless we provide an alternative scheme which wilt materially assist the States. Otherwise their position will be chaotic.
– I ask the Treasurer either to agree to progress being reported or to calf for a quorum. [Quorum formed.] Our finan- cial position cannot materially improve until 1910, and even then we shall have no unchallengable right to the whole of the. Customs and Excise revenue. In the meantime, there are many important undertakings awaiting our attention - undertakings the wisdom of deferring which until 19 no I doubt. By ignoring these matters now we shall be merely postponing the evil day, because 1910 will not necessarily bring about either our own financial salvation or that of the States. Provision will undoubtedly have to be made for an increased revenue. Clearly the Commonwealth cannot carry out its great undertakings in the absence of such a revenue. It seems tome that we shall be compelled at a very early date - -and the sooner the better - to resort to direct taxation. The only alternative open to us is that of borrowing, to which I am strongly opposed.
– To what form of direct taxation shall we have to resort?
– To a land tax, most emphatically. Of course I quite understand the attitude of the Opposition, but I am one of those who realize the economic justice of a land tax. To me it is clear that every penny of public expenditure is immediately proportionately reflected in land values. That is an economic truth which cannot be disputed. Seeing that every individual in the community contributes to land values, it follows that those values are a legitimate subject for substantial taxation.
– Would the honorable member permit of any exemption?
– No. Land “ values” do not admit of exemptions. In view of the defence proposals of the Government, of the necessity of taking over the Northern Territory which involves the maintenance of the principle of a White Australia, and of laying the foundations of the permanent Seat of Government, we cannot afford to defer dealing with our financial position until 1910. Consequently the Government should immediately take upon itself the responsibility of imposing direct taxation.
– But the honorable member’s party claims that if a land tax produced revenue it would fail in its object.
– If the members of the Labour Party make that claim they do not know what they are talking about. I have no misgiving as to the results that would flow from the imposition of a land tax. It would simultaneously be productive of re venue, encourage population, and lead to the subdivision of large estates.
– There is evidently a confusion of ideas upon the subject on the part of honorable members of the Labour corner.
– The misapprehension appears to exist that members of the Labour Party are unanimous upon every subject. As a matter of fact, they are unanimous only upon a certain platform which is in black and white. But there is much less dissension amongst them than there is amongst members of the Opposition corner.
– We are free men.
– Honorable members in that corner are divided against themselves. According to the statement of the Treasurer, during each of the two years immediately preceding Federation New South Wales had to borrow £113,000 odd for the purpose of carrying on the affairs of its Post and Telegraph Department. In the three years prior to Federation the whole of the States borrowed £578,316 in this connexion. That the Post and Telegraph Department has since been conducted without the aid of borrowed money is a credit to the Commonwealth. In spite of the reflections which have been cast upon this institution, I doubt very much whether any administration of it could have been more successful. That it requires review I quite believe. It is now being subjected to that review, and I hope that the result will be a considerable improvement. It stands to reason that a huge Department like the Post Office should periodically require a thorough overhaul. It is the biggest business in Australia, and possesses more ramifications than any other owing to the vast area which it covers. Defence is a national question, and will involve a larger expenditure than will any other matter at present under review. If we are going to maintain our standard as a nation we must expend considerable sums in establishing a military as well as a naval force. The sooner we do that the better. With the question of defence I bracket that of immigration. It appears to me that the Government are too indifferent to this question. Too much licence is being permitted the States regarding the manner in which immigration is being conducted. The other day I saw a poster from England printed in flaming red letters, calling for 4,000 farm hands from England for New South Wales, and giving the impression that there was such a shortage of labour in New South Wales that we had to go to the Old Country for it. While no one admits more freely than I do the need for more people, as immigration is our one great hope of retaining this country for ourselves, particularly as a white man’s country, yet to import penniless workers under present conditions is a shame and a disgrace. It will tend only to accentuate the conditions of poverty which already exist, and of which we have evidence all round lis, particularly in the cities. The fact that we have them in the cities is the result of the bad administration of the country. The Government and this House are largely responsible for the congestion which now exists in the cities, and for the slums and squalid areas to be found already in this young country. We have done nothing to get the people out on to the wider arable areas, where the fresh winds blow, and where they might develop, as people should, under an open sky, and with every opportunity of growing up with some stamina, instead of being herded together as they now are in the towns. To bring out 4,000 farm labourers will only be to accentuate the trouble. Many of them will be required only temporarily, if required at all, and then only at a very low wage, which will force men who have been in the habit of going to the country for work to remain in the cities. They will only suffer themselves, and aggravate the present social sore.
– This Government is not responsible for that advertisement.
– The Government are responsible in this way, that they, are allowing too much licence to the States in regard to immigration, the right to control which is vested entirely in us. We have permitted the States so much licence that they are going beyond the bounds of discretion in seeking to bring out impecunious workmen to compete with our own workers, and add to the already large) number of unemployed. A few may be absorbed, but at such a ridiculous wage that it is not worth mentioning. I know from my own experience that a number of these raw hands are engaged up country at 2s. 6d. a week, and so are keeping out of employment men who have been in the habit of earning from 10s. to £1 a week. I know that any other Government, except our own, which, of course, would not be allowed much time on the Treasury bench to accomplish anything practical, would probably not do as much as the present one has done. Yet I am not satisfied with what it is doing, particularly in regard to immigration. This is a vital question, and involved as it is with thequestion of defence, it becomes involved also with the question of raising freshrevenue. The land tax that we propose would not only compel the use of the land, but would make room for immigrants who would come here without any special advertisements, so Jong -as they knew that there was land available. Thereis no necessity to boom a place if people- know that when they go there with a littlemoney they can get “hold of country which will make them independent almost immediately. There is any quantity of country in Australia capable of making millions independent if we only compel its use. I am averse to the scheme of the State buying land. We should force the land into use by land taxation, which is fair and just, because we then only tax values which the people themselveshave created, while, by forcing the hand’ of the monopolist in opening up the country, we make room for the people that we , so badly need for our own defence. Otherwise, we and our children, and our children’s children, will remain practically at the mercy of any stronger power which may be able to break or weaken the might of Great Britain. I wish to touch on the question of the cable service. A loss of some £20,000 has been incurred in the last year on the Pacific Cable. Here,, again, the Government have been weakkneed. It would have been possible for them to take a firm stand with regard1 to the cable business. By some arrangement which it is very hard to get to the bottom of, and which, in justice to theGovernment, it should be stated was entered into by the States prior to Federation, our sphere of action is limited tothe Pacific, and we are bound not toenter into any effective competition with the cable companies that now control the world’s communications. Although the Pacific Cable Company is subsidized, we are not in a position to get any advantage out of the subsidy, because we do not cut the rates. We do not do the work at prices that would pay, but keep prices up in order that it may not hurt the large combines which control the Atlantic cables, and the world’s communicationsgenerally. There are thirteen cables across the Atlantic, eleven of which are lying idle, in order that the business of those controlling the cables may be conserved. They do not want cut rates to increase the business, because they make handsome dividends out of the present rates. Unless some co-operative movement is established with regard to the cable service, which will cover the Atlantic as well as the Pacific connexions, we cannot hope for a cheapened cable service, which would be a boon to the Empire. Means of communication and transit, particularly within the Empire, should be made as cheap as possible. When one considers that it is quite possible to send a whole book-full of news across the Atlantic or the Pacific for about a shilling’s worth of chemicals, one wonders why we are taxed to the present extent for our over-sea communications. Nothing could facilitate Empire unity or settlement in this country, provided that we had a land tax that would compel the opening up of the country for settlers, quicker than would cheapened cable communication. The penny a word cable system is well within the range of possibility, and would have a material effect in cementing the Empire and developing Australia, because it would promote the transmission of that reliable information from Australia to the old world which would result in a considerable influx of desirable immigrants, as well as foster trade. The cable company is composed of excellent men in manycases, just as the shareholders in the Suez Canal are honorable men, whose right to levy toll on the Empire’s commerce is legalized, and, therefore, beyond reproach on that ground, although the moral effect on the Empire is absolutely disastrous. The relationship of the cable companies to the Empire is on the same footing as the relationship of the Suez Canal Company to the Empire. The cable charges are an embargo on the communications of the Empire, just as the Suez Canal dues are an embargo on the trade of the Empire. These honorable and excellent men, who are allowed to sit upon the Empire’s chest, should be given notice to quit. It only requires a Government strong enough, with sufficient moral courage and statesmanlike foresight to see the importance of these movements, to undertake the task and carry it out. I believe the public of Australia would rally round them to a man in cheapening the cable service with a view to fostering the spread of Empire intelligence and facilitating the Empire’s business, and particularly in promoting immigration to Australia. They would rally round any Government that imposed a land tax which would pave the way for the reception of immigrants, and would provide the sinews of war for the heavy tasks we have before us, such as the establishment of a Commonwealth oldage pensions fund, the taking over of the Northern Territory, defence, and the creation of the nucleus of a navy. The people would also heartily support the Government in any action taken with a view to lifting the embargo on traffic passing through the Suez Canal.
.-I wish to know from the Minister if he will consent to the reporting of progress, seeing that the hour is late.
– No. We must get to the items to-night.
– Once we pass the item now before the Committee, the general debate will be at an end, and we shall be confined strictly to the discussion of the particular item before the Chair. I therefore move -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report progress.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I decline to make a speech at this late hour, although I wish to point out that I am the first Government supporter who has risen to speak on the Budget, and that the Treasurer has shown so little consideration for the time of the Committee that he has made no fewer than four speeches. It is unfortunate that I am not to be allowed to criticise the Budget. I think that if the House had had a chance to divide upon the Budget, and the financial proposals of the Government, without the added responsibility of supporting the motion of the right honorable member for East Sydney as one of want of confidence, there would have been a majority on the other side. I do not consider that the financial proposals are at all satisfactory. I think that they are very unsatisfactory, and I repeat that had not the motion of the right honorable member for East Sydney carried with it the responsibility of expressing a want of confidence, I should have been satisfied to support it. I object to this Budget altogether. I think that it is an extravagant and an outrageous Budget. There are three points of objection to it. It was bacl, first, because it was read ; secondly, because it was read badly j and, thirdly, because it was not worth reading. It is just as well to examine the Budget, and see what it means.
– This is from a loyal supporter !
– I am net going to be a “ loyal supporter” of extravagance, and, it seems to me, of threatened deficits ; because either it means that, or it means increased taxation at the end of twelve months, or a loan, unless the Government are prepared to abandon a large part of their financial proposals. I put the responsibility upon the Treasurer.
– Why did the honorable member vote against the motion of censure if he holds these views?
– Because it would have involved a change of Government. Except for that, I believe that the whole House would have denounced these financial proposals.
– Does the honorable member for Illawarra object to the honorable member for Corio criticising the Government ?
– I do at this stage.
– I had no desire to vote for a general motion of censure. 1 did not want the Prime Minister, and some of his colleagues, to be removed from office. I think that the Prime Minister is the only leader whom this House would accept, and that it would be impossible to form a
Government that would be at all stable from any other party or combination of parties in the House. Consequently, I think that the Government should continue in office. I wish to deal with one or two items in the Budget. Is there any doubt in the mind of any honorable member that it is an extravagant Budget, and that the expenditure has risen enormously ? When the items are dealt with in detail, I shall vote for large decreases where I think that extravagant advances have been made by the Treasurer. It is just as well that we should recognise at once the alternatives that we have to face. It appears to me that the Treasurer is deliberately working either for a land tax or for a loan. I do not desire to see either alternative realized. 1 will vote for decreases in every direction, if I can get other honorable members to vote with me. I will vote to restore many items on these Estimates to the same figure as that at which they stood last year.
– If I were Treasurer I would tell the honorable member what I thought of him.
– I can control myself a little better than that.
– The honorable member for Illawarra had better not loose the Treasurer’s tongue.
– He might say things that he would afterwards be sorry for.
– No, I should not be sorry for whatever I said.
– No Minister with a proper sense of his position would submit to this sort of business.
– In the first place, I find that the Treasurer starts with making increases of £100 each to “the heads of Departments. If honorable members will look at the Estimates for 1902, as submitted to this House, they will find that we started very moderately, and that permanent heads were paid salaries of £600. Shortly afterwards the amount rose to £650. Now, nearly every one of the permanent heads receives £800, and it is proposed to increase the amount to £000. These increases have gone up by £50 and £100 ; and, of course, if the permanent head of a Department secures an increase in his salary we cannot expect that subordinates will be satisfied unless they receive increases also.
– We wonder what increases will be proposed next year.
– Because there are three transferred Departments, the permanent heads of which received large salaries, the permanent heads of the other Departments desire to be paid equally large amounts. The three transferred Departments are those of Trade and Customs, Post and Telegraph, and Defence. The other Departments, the permanent heads of which are now to have their salaries increased, are those of the Attorney-General, Home Affairs, External Affairs, and the Treasury. They will all creep up if they can to some maximum ; I do not know what it will be. I do not intend to refer to the permanent heads individually; they are all men of great ability. There is an important principle at stake, especially in view of the fact that we are trying to save money for the purposes of old-age pensions and that public works are being delayed throughout the country for lack of funds. There is another point to which I draw attention in connexion with the financial proposals of the Treasurer. It seems to me to be a most serious one. The Treasurer, in order to laud his own administration, stated that although the exTreasurer, the right honorable member for Swan, had cut down estimates, he, the present Treasurer, took it as a matter for which he was entitled to honour, appreciation, and credit, that he had increased expenditure by hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Post and Telegraph Department alone. Every one of us knows, however, what a strong Treasurer is wanted for. He is expected to cut down estimates and to see that economy is exercised. It is his business to see that departmental demands instead of being supported, are decreased. He is there to sit on the Treasury chest and to defend the interests of the taxpayers as far as he can. But what do we find with this Treasurer? We actually find him taking credit to himself in this Budget speech for having increased expenditure. I regret that I have not all my papers available. I thought that I should have had fair play after listening to four speeches from the Treasurer, and should, at least have had a reasonable opportunity of expressing my own views. But I have to proceed without the notes which I have made. The Treasurer, as I have said, takes credit to himself for having increased estimates by hundreds of thousands of pounds, and attacks his old colleague, the ex-Treasurer, because he cut down estimates. I think, however, that the attitude taken up by the right honorable member for Swan was the proper one for a Treasurer to assume. I regretted to hear the Committee generally cheering the Treasurer’s statement. It seemed to me to be a very unsatisfactory state of things indeed.
– I think that the cheers came from the honorable member’s side of the chamber.
– If the honorable member who interjects absolves himself from approval of the Treasurer’s attitude, and says that he shares my view, I am glad to have him with me; though it seemed to me that the cheers came from all round the chamber. It is true that there have been demands for increased expenditure from the Post and Telegraph Department. But. we want a strong Treasurer who will resist such demands, and will take the proper responsibility for doing so. It is only by having such a Treasurer in charge of the finances that economical government can be satisfactorily carried on. I have marked down a few of the items on account of which expenditure will have to be met within the near future. There are defence, old-age pensions, bounties, lighthouses, immigration - involving £20,000 per annum - a new naval scheme, iron bounties, transcontinental railways, the Northern Territory, the Federal Capital, and the Agricultural Bureau. It is estimated that the Northern Territory will involve an expenditure of £3,000.000, although we may not have to pay it all at once, and the Agricultural Bureau cannot be established without large expenditure. I saw the present situation coming. I saw that the Commonwealth was undoubtedly drifting towards a. tight financial position, to meet which we should have to increase taxation or borrow.
– We told the country that a year ago.
– Indeed ! Did the honorable member say so ?
– Absolutely we in this corner said so a year ago.
– If the honorable member for Indi had been a member of this Parliament three years ago he would have known that I said it then. He entered this House six years after Federation, and evidently does not know what he is talking about regarding the history of this Parliament. On the 27th Mav of this year a motion was carried, at my instance, directing the Treasurer to lay on the table 3 paper or return showing the expenditure for the coming year under the new proposals of the Government, but that paper is not yet forthcoming. I was stopped in the street by one of the clerks of the Treasury Department, and asked to inform him what the motion exactly covered, and then somebody came down from the Treasury to my office and asked for further particulars. I replied as far as my memory served me ; but up to the present, as I have said, no return has come to hand. The facts show either that this Budget was prepared in ignorance or neglect of our actual requirements, or that the Treasurer has decided to suppress certain financial information which this Parliament ought to have.
– That is a very serious charge, which, if proved, shows that the Government ought not to sit there.
– The honorable member ought to consider who makes the charge.
– The honorable member for Corio is a supporter of the Government.
– The honorable member for Corio is speaking of a motion which was carried by the House.
– I am surprised at the honorable member for Wide Bay taking any notice of the charge !
– The motion is recorded in Hansard, and the charge is too important to be left.
– If made by any one else, yes.
– That does not matter; at any rate, the facts are as I have stated. So far as I can gather, immigration, which means advertising the Commonwealth, is estimated to cost £20,000 ; defence is to cost an extra £635,000; old-age pensions £1,100, 000, or, according to the Treasurer’s amended estimate, £1,225,000, and if, on the New South Wales basis, about £2,100,000; lighthouses will cost about £40,000; bounties about £110,000; the Australian Navy, £250,000, and a similar sum next year; the iron bonus, £110,000, or, according to the reduced estimate, £30,000 ; the Northern Territory, £3,300,000 ; and a transcontinental railway, anything from £7,000,000 to £10,000,000. Then we have the Federal Capital, to cost we know not what ; and an Agricultural Bureau at not less than £20,000 ayear. The motion
I moved on the 27th May was as follows : -
That a return be laid on the table of the House showing -
The expenditure by the Commonwealth on services and departments previously paid for by the States, showing the main details.
The estimated expenditure on Federal Old-age Pensions.
The estimated expenditure on services already approved by the Commonwealth Parliament or Government, including new Defence Scheme, payments under Bounties Bill, Immigration, and Northern Territory.
– Was the motion carried?
– Yes, on 27th May, 1908, which, as honorable members will see, was only in the last session of Parliament. If at that time the Treasury Department did not know what these items were they certainly should have known what they would be when they made up the Budget speech with which we are now dealing. It is absurd for the Treasurer to submit a financial statement, which is the balancesheet of the Commonwealth on which we have to work, without knowing what the expenditure. Is going to be.
– Then does the honorable member believe that the financial proposals of the Government are satisfactory?
– I have already told the honorable member that I do not think they are.
– Is the honorable member going to move in that direction?
– I wish to say that honorable members might bring about a better condition of things without the aid either of a loan or a land tax. Let me say here that I object strongly to the Treasurer continually advocating the imposition of a land tax. I was returned to this House as a follower of the Prime Minister, who at the last Federal elections stated distinctly that he did not favour a Federal land tax. I was asked at many election meetings if I believed in such a tax. I told the electors that I did not, and I do not see any present necessity for it.
– What is the Prime Minister’s opinion on the subject now?
– Only the other night the Prime Minister stated that he did not approve of a Federal land tax.
– To be imposed during this Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman did not bind himself as to the future. I say that twice since December, 1906, the date of the last Federal elections, the
Treasurer has publicly advocated the imposition of a Federal land tax. That is either very unfair to me and to the other supporters of the Government, or it is disloyal to the honorable gentleman’s colleagues and to the Prime Minister.
– Why not censure the Treasurer for it.
– I do not object to censuring the Treasurer, but I am not going to censure the Government.
-The honorable member fixes only blank cartridge. He will not fight.
– I will not fight the present Government. I believe that the present Prime Minister is the only man who can lead this House.
– He is the only man who will submit to be driven.
– I must answer the interjection of the honorable member for Indi. I believe that no one realizes the extent of the Prime Minister’s self abnegation and self sacrifice in continuing in this Parliament at all. I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable gentleman continues to hold the position of leader of the Government simply because he recognises that the King’s Government must be carried on in the Commonwealth. I believe that no other combination of parties in this House which honorable members could suggest could expect to constitute a stable Government.
– What stability have we now ?
– We have the fact that the present Administration cannot be removed, and that the Government of the Commonwealth is being carried on, and has been carried on, since December, 1906. So long as the Prime Minister continues to lead the present Government and is able to secure a majority of twenty-two on a motion of no confidence the Government will continue to be carried on, and I shall continue to support the Prime Minister, as the only possible Prime Minister in the circumstances, and because I agree with his political platform. When the honorable gentleman makes a statement of policy at an election he adheres to that policy until when before the people again he considers it desirable to announce a departure from it.
– And yet he submits to such a castigation as his Government is receiving from the honorable member and other honorable members to-night.
– After this little interlude, in which the voice of the chorus is by no means as charming as that of the soloist, and on which account I ask the chorus to cease for a minute or two, I may go back to the matter with which I started. I think it was a very great mistake that the Treasurer should so frequently speak, and that the Prime Minister should permit the honorable gentleman to so frequently speak in favour of a Federal land tax. If I were the leader of a Government I would lead it.
– Hear, hear. That is what we have not seen in this Parliament for a long time.
– If my Treasurer or other colleagues went around the country advocating a course inconsistent with my policy-
– Off should go their heads.
– No, but they should be removed from their Departments, or comply with the policy I had announced to the people.
– But what about the Labour Party. Have they not a say in the matter?
– The biggest quarrel we have with the Prime Minister is that he does not adopt the course suggested by the honorable member.
– I do not now propose to enter into a discussion of the merits or demerits of a land tax, whether imposed by the Commonwealth or by a State Government, but I wish to raise the question of the necessity for a Federal land tax. I wish honorable members to understandthat our present financial difficulties can be only temporary. In 1910 we shall have control, not only of onefourth, but of the whole of the revenue from Customs and Excise.
– The Government dare not take advantage of that.
– Those who desire the imposition of a land tax will then have to show that the Commonwealth Parliament will not be in a position to give effect to what it desires without becoming a taxing body, and so making itself distasteful to the whole of the people in order merely to supplement the revenues of the States. That is a position which we should not be asked to face. I dc npt know whether the Treasurer is saying to himself, “1 am here now; God help the man who comes after me.”
– No. the honorable gentleman thinks that Providence will help him.
– I do not know whether the’ Treasurer is taking up that attitude. If so, it is certainly very unfortunate. The honorable gentleman may be saying that he is able to bring about such a position of affairs as will render the imposition of a land tax a necessity in 1909. If so, that is unfair to me and to other supporters of the Prime Minister. I am reminded by the situation of a story told me by the honorable member for Bourke, who will excuse my mention of his name, in view of the aptness of the story. The honorable gentleman told me of a friend of his who was a member of a lodge. This man’s father had been sick for a very long time, and was drawing sick pay from the lodge funds. There were some signs that he was getting well again, and he overheard the wife say to the son, “ We shall have a real good holiday at Mount Macedon if father is only lucky enough to be sick for a little longer.” The application of the story is this, that it would appear that the Treasurer is thinking that if the Commonwealth will only be sick for a little longer he will have a glorious opportunity for the imposition of a land tax. Such a consequence may follow from the course he is pursuing. I should not object to a land tax if it were absolutely necessary to enable us to pay our debts. I should, of course, favour any taxation rather than that the Commonwealth should not meet its obligations. Our public debts must be paid, and we would be face to face with the necessity of imposing a land tax or of floating a loan. I wish to avoid resort being had to either of those expedients by so reducing the Estimates that we may have something like reasonable economy. I certainly wish to put a stop to the extravagant increases in salaries for which the Treasurer has provided.
– If the Ministry said that they would resign if an item were reduced, what attitude would the honorable member take up?
– If the Government threatened to resign, I should vote for the Estimates being passed as they stood, considering that that would be the less of two evils.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee.
– After the honorablemember has emptied the House.
– I agree to progress being, reported.
– Surely it is my right to call attention to the state of the Committee.
– After the honorable member has spirited away honorable members of his own party. I saw him doing it. [Quorum formed.]
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to say that if we have a recurrence of what has happened to-night, I shall not remain in the Government. I intend to reply to the vicious personal attack made upon me by an honorable member, whom I shall make sorry for what he has said.
– Order ! It is not in order to refer in the House to matters that h:.ve occurred in Committee.
– Then I . shall refer to the matter in Committee. I do not think that it is fair that I should be attacked as I have been to-night. I hope that the debate on the Budget will be closed early to-morrow. I am not going to allow it to be dragged on in the way in which an attempt has been made to protract it. 1 do not care whether the attempt is made by a Government supporter or by any other honorable member. The time has come when the Government must either retire from office, or see that public business is carried on. I do not care personally what happens.
– The Government are surely under an obligation to see that a quorum is here to carry on public business?
– When the Opposition walk out, what are we to do?
– Where are the Government’s own supporters?
– When I have an opportunity to refer to the matter in Committee, I shall mention more than one honorable member in connexion with what has happened to-night. I sincerely hope that this debate will close early to-morrow. If it does not, it will be for the Prime Minister to take his own course of action, as I shall certainly take mine. If Government business is to be carried on, we cannot allow proceedings to be delayed in the way that they have been by the Opposition to-night.
– The honorable member is again referring to something that has taken place in Committee.
– I feel very strongly with respect to what has taken place this afternoon, and also this evening, and do not intend to stand it any longer. My desire is that we shall proceed as speedily as possible with the consideration of the New Works and Buildings Estimates, but the object of the Opposition has been mainly to delay their consideration. I desire as strongly as possible to emphasize the fact that I wish the item on which the debare on the Budget has taken place to be dealt with speedily so that the New Works and Buildings Estimates, for which honorable members are clamouring, may be dealt with without delay.
– The Treasurer himself has spoken four times to-day.
– The honorable member should hold his tongue. I shall make him do so before I have done.
– I ask the honorable member not to address an honorable member in that way.
– The honorable member for Corio has been offending all the evening, and if 1 cannot reply to him now, I shall do so later on.
– It is a personal quarrel.
– It is; and the whole thing is going to come out. If the business of the country is to be delayed because of a personal quarrel, what are we to expect ? I hope that we shall proceed with the consideration of the Estimates without delay.
– The Treasurer has made statements regarding the Opposition for which he has no justification. So far from the Opposition desiring to carry the debate on the Budget over to-night, several honorable members on this side who intended to Speak, have left the House on my indicating that we were willing that it should terminate to-night. And the case later was that it was not speakers from this side who were delaying the passing of the item, but speakers - who, of course, had a perfect right to speak - on the Minister’s own side.
– All on that side went out at the suggestion of the honorable member for Illawarra to leave us without a quorum.
– Is it our business to keep a. quorum?
– It is not the business of the Opposition to count out the Committee.
– I have already pointed out to the Treasurer that in the House he must not discuss business which has taken place in Committee, and I ask the honorable member to observe that rule.
– If I have offended in that regard, sir, I was simply replying to what the Minister had said. The expectation that when honorable members on the other side desired to speak the Opposition should keep a quorum for the Ministry, when they will not adjourn at a reasonable hour, is a most extraordinary one. The statement of the Treasurer reflects improperly upon the Opposition as regards their responsibility for prolonging the debate over to-night. He has offended by causing delay, if any one has offended, quite as much as, if not more than, any other member of the House during the last two sitting days.
– I presume that every member of the House has the right to speak, if he desires to discuss any question fairly and temperately. I also presume that the Chairman’ in Committee, and you, sir, in the House, can stop any honorable member if he does not do so. I object to any attempt being made to prevent me from speaking because I am a Government supporter.
– A nice Government supporter !
– I have an absolute right to speak, and I wanted to discuss a matter of very great importance, namely, the transfer of the State debts. It is known to most honorable members that it has been customary for the House at halfpast 10 o’clock, especially on Tuesday nights, to adjourn. For a good many days I had been awaiting an opportunity to speak on the Budget. I have given a good deal of attention to the question of the State debts.
– I think that three times I stopped the Treasurer when be was referring to the proceedings in Com- mittee, and once I stopped the honorable member for North Sydney. I ask the honorable member for Corio not to refer in the House to what has taken place in Committee.
– Yes, sir, but the Treasurer was allowed-
– He was stopped three times.
– The Treasurer said either too much or too little. He should not have been allowed to say anything, because what he did say was in reference to matters which must be replied to.
– The honorable member is quite right. The Treasurer did transgress three times, and I called his attention to that fact three times; but, seeing that I have not the power of knowing what an honorable member is going to say, it was hardly possible for me to stop him before he had said it.
– I do not want you, sir, to know what I am going to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.43 P-m-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 November 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081103_reps_3_48/>.