3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had issued a writ for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral division of Wakefield, in the place of the Honorable Sir Frederick William Holder, K.C.M.G., deceased, and that the dates appointed in the writ were as follow : - Date of nomination, Saturday, 14th August; date of polling, Saturday, 28th August; andthe date of the return of the writ,on or before 25th September.
Postal Assistants’ Salaries - European Mail Contract - Cole-Bently Reversible Mail Label
– The following telegram appeared in to-day’s Argus -
Severe strictures as to the manner in which postal officials are treated in the matter of re muneration were made by Judge Rogers at the Parramatta Quarter Sessions to-day.
Henry Joseph Selby, formerly employed in the Windsor post-office, pleaded guilty to the conversion of public money, and three charges of forging and altering postal notes. Evidence was called to show that Selby’s mental balance had been affected by hard work and worry.
Judge Rogers said he was sorry for Selby, but could not see his way to apply the provisions of the First Offenders Act in the case. He imposed a sentence of twelve months’ hard labour, and ordered that Selby should have all the medical attention necessary.
Application had been made by thePostal Department . for the payment of ?83 found on Selby. Judge Roger’s said he must make the order, but he had no sympathy with a Department that could pay a servant, after twenty years’ service, ?120 a year, a starvation pittance. He thought the Liberal Commonwealth Government would have allowed the ?83 to be kept for the wife and children of the prisoner. He had heard other cases in which these wretched pittnnces were paid by the Postal Department. He had great contempt for that service. Why did people take such positions? Goodness only knew. Perhaps because they wanted to be married. Any private employer entrusting a servant with big sums, and paying such a salary, would expect to be robbed.
Will the Postmaster-General inquire into these statements, and see whether there is any justification for the same; and also whether the circumstances will justify the Government in giving the suggested relief to the wife and family of this man, who appears to have been hardly used in the matter of remuneration?
– I saw the telegram, and thought the reflection of the learned Judge sufficiently serious to justify me in telegraphing for a statement from the Deputy Postmaster-General at Sydney. From him I have received the following; particulars of the case-
Papers herewith, from which it willbe seen that Selby admitted having stolen from Assistant Morton’s money order and postal note cash boxes the sum of? 14 15s.11d., and that he admitted having appropriated a Savings Bank deposit of ?80, and being short in his cash a sum of ?8 8s.4?d. When taken over by the Commonwealth be was 27 years of age and receiving ?80 per annum, but he has been in receipt of ?126 per annum since 1st December last, and consequently he has had an increase of more than 50 per cent. in his salary since he has been under the control . of the Federal Government. The Public Service Commissioner has pointed out that the amended grading of General Division, providing that postal assistants, letter carrier’s, and others shall attain a maximum of ?138, with two long service increments up to ?150 came into operation on the 1st July, 1908, and that this represented a marked advance on the conditions hitherto obtaining, which new conditions were far better than those prevailing generally in the States prior to the transfer of the Department. He further stated that the mew rates would, in five years’ time, involve an annual increased expenditure of£20,000.
I have been told, too, that Selby’s name was noted for promotion this year, and, but for his criminal act he would now be enjoying an increment under the regulations. Therefore, Iregret the comments of the learned Judge, which wrongly reflect on the administration of an important Department, and are calculated to do a considerable amount of harm. I have also received the following telegram from the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney -
Selby’s total defalcations amount to£342 11s. 5½d. . . His transfer to Cobar as clerical assistant at£140 and £18 district allowance was approved, but did not take place owing to his irregularities with Government moneys coming to light and leading to his prosecution and dismissal. Although not able to submit it as evidence, the Acting Inspector, in the course of his inquiries, ascertained that Selby was the owner of or considerably interested financially in a racing pony, and that his financial difficulties which led to his embezzling Government moneys were undoubtedly due to the outside influence, and not to ordinary -domestic causes or office duties.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to the following paragraph in to-day’s Age? -
The New Mail Contract. - Complaint from Western Australia.
The Perth Chamber of Commerce has decided to call the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that under the new mail contract with the Orient Company coming into operation in February next the mail steamers for the eastern States would leave Fremantle before the mail from the east could be delivered in Perth. The result would be to deprive Western Australia practically of the present bi-weekly InterState mail service.
Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made, with a view to making more suitable arrangements than are at present proposed?
– My attention has been drawn to the complaint recited by the honorable member, and I shall cause the necessary inquiries to be made.On the 20th July, the honorable member for Werriwa asked the following questions -
Will he lay upon the table information showing
When was. the Cole-Bently reversible label adopted ?
How many have been purchased for each State ?
How many are now in use in each State?
What is the cost, to date, for writing additional labels and renewing broken swivels?
Is it considered an economic and speedy method of labelling mail bags?
What is the approximate number of State and Inter-State mail bags despatched daily from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, and Launceston ?
What is the total cost, to date, of the ColeBently system?
The information is now to hand, and is as follows -
– During the discussion on the adjournment motion last night, the Minister for Defence is reported to have said -
I understand that the allegation is that Mr. Tudor’s cross-headings were offensive.
I wish to know whether the Minister is correctly reported, and, if so, from whom did he obtain the information ?
– I am glad the honorable member has asked the question. I did not say anything about the honorable member’s cross-headings, and I regret that that report should have appeared in the papers.
– The honorable member interjected.
– I did; but I believe that what I did interject was to the effect that I understood the allegation to be that offensive cross-headings had been used. I know nothing about the honorable member for Yarra in the matter.
– I remember the honorable member’s words quite well.
– I did not mention the name of the honorable member for Yarra. I should be very sorry to have done so, for I do not think that honorable member would put offensive cross-headings to his speeches. I said T understood that the allegation was that the cross-headings used by somebody - I do not know by whom - were offensive.
– Two or three questions having arisen as to the ‘publication, in pamphlet form, of the Hansard report of honorable members’ speeches, I promised last night, as time did not then permit, to inform the House of the actual position. The whole situation is very simple and can be stated in a few words. On 4th September, 1903, a letter was addressed by the Government Printer to the then Treasurer, Sir George Turner, in these words -
Government Printing Office,
Melbourne, 4th September, 1903.
Some members of the Federal Parliament have had their speeches in Parliament as reported in Hansard subsequently printer] in pamphlet form at their own cost. While these speeches in pamphlet form were not altered from the original in Hansard, they have always been supplied without demur. But I have now in hand two speeches wherein alteration is desired by each member. I communicated by telephone with the Chief Reporter respecting these alterations. He approached Mr. Speaker on the subject, who considered that it was not within the scope of his duties to interpose. Mr. Speaker therefore desired that the matter should’ be submitted for the consideration of the Honorable the Treasurer. Furthermore, he authorized me to state that in his opinion no discrepancies should be allowed as between the speeches as reported in Hansard and as printed! in pamphlet form.
I have therefore the honour to submit thequestion for your consideration. I would ask. that if the discrepancies referred to be permitted, the question will arise as to which is the correct report of such speeches, and so tend to discredit the correctness of the speeches asreported in Hansard.
I have, etc.,
Govt. Printer. The Hon. The Treasurer of the Commonwealth-
That letter was forwarded by the Treasurer to the then Prime Minister, with thisindorsement -
For. the consideration of the Prime Minister. I do not think it right that the G.P. (Government Printer) should print anything except an exact copy of the Hansard.
G.T. (Treasurer). 4/9/03.
That memorandum was indorsed by the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, “ I concur.” This appears to be the only occasion on which the matter has been officially dealt with. Since then, however, questions have arisen respecting the separate publication in pamphlet form of the Hansard report of speeches made by honorable members.
– Was it the printing of a speech by the Treasurer that gave rise to the question?
– I do not remember any speech being mentioned ; but there was a further appeal to the late Speaker, who, I am informed, most emphatically expressed the opinion that it was no part of his office to deal in any way with the publication of anything outside Hansard. He recognised his responsibility in regard to reports published in Hansard, but refused to allow the Principal Parliamentary Reporter or any other officer of the House to express an opinion upon additions, alterations, or amendments, proposed to be made in speeches which had been reprinted from Hansard when published separately. The question was referred to the Treasurer of the day merely because the control of printing comes within his Department. In the same manner, it came before my right honorable colleague, the Treasurer, who, as he said last night, was most anxious to get rid of it. I find that the questions that have since arisen relate chiefly to the insertion of headings and the amplification of statements reported in Hansard. In some of these headings, which take the form of “ Mr. A’s argument refuted,” or “Mr. B’s case destroyed,” reflections are conveyed.
– The Treasurer said that he had made numerous excisions.
– I do not know that he did so. The question having been raised whether these headings ought not to be kept in conformity with parliamentary usage and practice, the problem is how to determine whether they are or are not permissible? On a slip attached to Hansard proofs, the following statement appears- [Memorandum.]
Correction of Proofs.
The attached proofs are issued by direction of Mr. Speaker for the correction of errors in the report.
Honorable members are respectfully requested to note that emendations which alter the sense of words used in debate or introduce new matter are not admissible.
That is our practice. Under that simple rule the correction of the whole of the Hansard proofs has been controlled, and I think there is no reason why some simple rule or rules in. relation to the introduction of headings or any other extraneous matter should not be framed so that every honorable member who desires to republish a speech in pamphlet form, may know the exact ambit of the amendments and alterations he is authorized to make. A significant statement was made yesterday by the honorable member for Kennedy, that if such alterations or amendments came before the law courts, it was probable that the honorable member who had made them would not be able to plead parliamentary privilege.
Mr.Frazer. - Would it not be the same with regard tothe republication of a speech in pamphlet form, even if no alteration of the Hansard report were made?
– Possibly. The point is worthy of consideration. In the circumstances, I am sure that no honorable member desires either to discharge the office of censor, or to have his speeches censored. I suggest as a practical means of dealing with the matter that the Printing Committee of each House - since the question applies to members of both Chambers - be asked to meet and draft two or three simple rules which may be printed - just as is the memorandum circulated with the Hansard proofs - and placed in the hands of every honorable member who desires to republish a speech. While those rules are complied with, there will be neither opportunity nor necessity for appeal to any one.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Comptroller-General of Customs has, in a report, recommended that the regulations prohibiting the importation of opium into the Commonwealth should be considerably relaxed. Do the Government propose to interfere with the regulations ?
– My source of information with regard to the matter is probably the same as that of the honorable member himself. I have seen a statement in the public press to the effect indicated by the honorable member. I have no official warrant for the statement. When it reaches the Minister of Trade and Customs we shall be able to consider it.
– I wish, Mr.Speaker, to ask you a question without notice. For some years a number of young men have been employed as temporary typists in connexion with the Hansard staff. Will you consider their position, and see if you cannot arrange with the Public Service Commissioner to utilize their services during the recess, or to give them permanent appointments, instead of keeping them on the temporary staff year after year?
– I understand that the Public Service Commissioner has nothing to do with the employment of any one in this building. I know that in the past efforts have been successfully made to provide employment during the recess for some of these men. I shall consult with the President of the other branch of the Legislature with a view to see whether something more can not be done.
Ministerial Policy : Statements by Honorary Minister - Lord Kitchener’s Visit to Australia - Reserve, George’s River : Rifle Range - General Hoad’s Aides-de-Camp - Police Examination.
-I wish to know from the Minister of Defence if the remarks attributed to the Honorary Minister, who is now representing the Government at the
Imperial Defence Conference, express the views of the Government in regard to defence. According to Monday’s newspapers, he said -
It was pretty certain that Australia would adopt compulsory training up to the age of eighteen, and perhaps twenty-one, which might afterwards possibly extend to a maturer age. This step, however, would depend on the experience which resulted from the senior cadet system.
Is it to be inferred that the Government intends to provide for the compulsory training of cadets only, and, if not, at what age is compulsory training to cease?
– It is obvious from the cablegram that the Honorary Minister was merely expressing his own opinions. I hope that my honorable friend will wait patiently a little longer for the defence proposals of the Government. When they are brought forward, he will know what theMinisterial policy is in this matter.
– The honorable member for West Sydney has anticipated me. I rose to ask the Prime Minister whether he had learned from the cablegrams published earlier in the week that the Honorary Minister, succumbing to the blandishments of the interviewer, had announced a naval policy, and whether that announcement, showing the holding of a preconceived opinion before he entered the Conference, is not contrary to the published terms of the fusion in which I have taken part ?
– I have reason to know that the reports which have appeared in the newspapers here did not correctly express the views announced by the Honorary Minister.
– Did the Prime Minister see in the press the report of an interview with Colonel Foxton prior to his departure for England, in which he expressed pretty fully his idea of what the military and naval defence policy of the Government was. and did the Prime Minister authorize him to make such a statement?
– The statement to which the honorable member refers was published prior to Colonel Foxton’s departure. That report was considerably modified by Colonel Foxton’s own statement immediately afterwards, in which he added that the information he had given had been in the course of a conversation, and that he did not realize that he was being interviewed for public purposes. He said he was only expressing his personal views.
– With regard to the Prime Minister’s statement that he had reason to know that the report of remarks made by Colonel Foxton in London was not correct, has the Prime Minister any objection to tell the House what that reason is?
– I received a private cablegram from Colonel Foxton relating to business likely to come before the Conference. Either at the commencement or the end of the telegram he used words to this effect: “Notice from Times- “ - I think it was the Times - “ garbled report of some statement of mine appears to have been sent to Australia.’’
– Does the Prime Minister think it wise for a delegate from this country to express in the Old Country, publicly or privately, any views with regard to defence that are not shared by the Government? If not, will the Prime Minister request Colonel Foxton to cease doing so?
– No public man, charged with an important duty, will add to or detract from the views of his Government. At the same time, the honorable member knows that it is absolutely impossible for any representative man to avoid being questioned by newspaper reporters as to his personal opinions. It would be an extreme view to take that under no circumstances was he to express them. I feel sure that when Colonel Foxton’s statements are examined, personal as they may be, they will not be found to be in conflict with the Ministerial policy.
– I am sorry to appear persistent over the matter of Colonel Foxton. My fears are very much allayed by the assurance which the Prime Minister has given us, that his opinions are in accordance with those of the Government. I wish to ask whether the Government have empowered Colonel Foxton to enter the Conference absolutely uncommitted to anv opinion as to how the Empire shall be defended ?
– He goes absolutely free.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has twice had to apologize for statements made by the Honorary Minister, Colonel Foxton, willbe at once announce the policy of the Government, and so prevent that honorable member from further humiliating the Commonwealth and the Ministry by making stupid blunders?
– I have not yet required to apologize, and certainly have not apologized, for any statements made by the Honorary Minister ; but have been asked to explain, and have been able, I think, to point out the misconstructions placed upon his remarks.
– Has the Minister of Defence yet received any information from Lord Kitchener as to the date on which he will arrive in Australia?
– I regret to say that we are not yet in possession of the precise date on which Lord Kitchener will arrive here.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he will have reports furnished by the officers of his Department as to whether there are any areas within the recently acquired military reserve on George’s River suitable for rifle ranges for the convenience, primarily, of residents of the western and Illawarra suburbs of Sydney. The reserve comprises a very large area, and several persons have said that it would be very convenient to have a rifle range there. I think that it would be well if the Minister could see his way to provide such a convenience.
– I shall be very glad to cause inquiries, such as the honorable member suggests, to be made. I recognise the great disability under which riflemen in some of the suburbs labour at the present time ; but what to do to obviate those disabilities, for the moment, I am unable to say. I believe that there is plenty of land in the direction of Sutherland, and will have inquiries made into the whole subject.
– I noticed that recently there has been gazetted to General Hoad a staff of six or seven aides de camp. In view of the fact that aides de camp are allotted only to officers in the field, or on field service, and that General Nicholson, at present Chief of the Imperial General Staff, has none, I ask the Minister of Defence what duties these gentlemen are expected to fulfil ?
– I believe it is a fact that General Hoad has several of these gentlemen attached to his staff. Thev are almost entirely, I believe, citizen soldiers, and they receive no pay or emolument. They were attached to General Hoad when he was in the position of InspectorGeneral, and they have been simply taken over by him in his new capacity.
– Have they any duties now ?
– I understand so; but if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall answer it with more particularity. With regard to a question asked last week by the honorable member for Corio, I have to state that Captain Reynolds has since been able to furnish the following reply : -
I did not tell any of the men who paraded before me that their action in complaining was mean and contemptible, and I did not threaten them with punishment.
Iquestioned them as to any reasons they may have had for not being paraded before me in the manner usual for men who have a grievance, and pointed out to them the regulation bearing on this matter.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House last night; I made some observations with regard to the size of cornsacks, and the Prime Minister was gobd enough to promise to reply to them to-day. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether he is in a position to do so?
– Last evening, I had a recollection of having signed a letter to the States having some relation to this matter; but find upon inquiry to-day that it does not deal with the point to which the honorable member refers. I have, however, called the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the matter, and have asked him to ascertain whether there is any reason why a communication should not be addressed to the Government of each State asking whether they are prepared to agree to a general arrangement such as the honorable member has proposed.
– I understand that the honorable member for Wilmot has asked the Prime Minister to ascertain whether the States will introduce some regulations as to the size of wheat bags, and that the Prime Minister has practically consented to make the inquiry. If that be so, and if the size of bags to be carried on the railways is to be limited, I ask the Prime Minister to ascertain whether every farmer will require to have scales in his paddock to weigh the wheat before he despatches it. Would such an arrangement not be very much more disadvantageous than the fact that there may be a few pounds shortage in the bags under the present conditions?
– I am quite aware that the proposal is associated with a number of practical difficulties, but am quite sure that no proposal universally adopted by the States would impose such a burden as the honorable member mentions.
– It could not be done, because the penalty is for overweight.
– As I understand, the plan is to authorize,all over Australia, the use of bags which shall not take more than 200 lbs.
– There are not onlywheat bags involved.
– That is not the proposition of the honorable member. He wants bags of all sizes.
– His first proposition was that the bags should be made to hold 200 lbs. instead of 185 lbs., and he afterwards suggested that grains, other than wheat, should be similarly provided for, though whether under the same regulation I cannot say. The matter must be the subject of inquiry. It would greatly convenience both sellers and users of bags to have a uniform practice for Australia.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to the monthly report of Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statist, which has come to hand this morning, dealing with shipping, trade and finance, and other matters. I notice that this monthly publication is foolscap size, whereas the permanent volume is in book form and printed at a private establishment. This appears to me to be duplicating work at an enormous cost, because the printing of tabulated figures is the most expensive that there is. I suggest that these figures, in the first instance, should be printed in the ordinary book size, and I ask the Minister to make inquiry with a view, if possible, to effecting economy in this respect.
– I am awarethat our printing bill is a very heavy one, and I shall have inquiry made with a view to economy in the direction indicated.
– In view of the proposed visit of delegates from the Chambers of Commerce of Great Britain and the Oversea Dominions to Australia, will the Prime Minister see that, as far as possible, Co-operative Companies, Farmers and Settlers Associations, with other similar organizations, representing farming and dairying industries, have an opportunity of meeting them, so that they may be informed as to the means of preparation and distribution in oversea markets.
– We are not the hosts of the distinguished gentlemen representing practically all the Chambers of Commerce of the Empire, whom we expect in Australia very shortly. The States Governments are very generously and cordially joining in their reception, and the Commonwealth has, so far, undertaken the expense of entertaining the visiting journalists. The control of the festivities, or engagements, whatever they may be, will not rest either with the Government of the Commonwealth or the States. But I am perfectly sure, from what I know of the spirit in which the great design is being carried out, that there will be every desire that farmers and producers shall be brought into close relation with our visitors. All of them are men of large commercial experience, whose good opinion and business influence will be very valuable to this country. I am sure that the honorable member’s suggestion will be favorably entertained.
– In view of the great importance of the late Press Conference in Great Britain, I desire to know from the Prime Minister whether it will be possible to make reports of its proceedings available to honorable members.
– I understand that the proceedings of the Conference havebeen reported and published. Should honorable members so desire, I anticipate that full reports can be made available. Speeches from most of the leading statesmen of England, and certain discussions amongst the members of the Conference, have been partly cabled here.
- Mr. Speaker, I desire to call your attention to a matter which I have contemplated bringing under the notice of this House during the last eight years. It is rather a delicate question, and I have had a certain amount of diffidence in introducing it, because the gentleman who previously occupied the Chair was, I believe, to some extent responsible for that to which I have always taken exception. In one of the prayers which you, sir, read at the opening of our sitting each day, the word “consultations” appears. To that word I have always taken exception, as used in a prayer, seeing that in Australia, at any rate, it has very unhappy associations. I think that your advent to the Chair, sir, is a proper time to make an alteration ; and I respectfully suggest that the word be deleted with a view to inserting the word “ deliberations.”
– I am not aware who framed the prayer, or under what conditions it was drafted, but I shall make inquiries, and see whether there is any objection to the removal of the word “ consultations,” and whether it is possible to substitute the word suggested.
– I should like to remind the honorable member for Herbert that the word “consultations” is used in a collect or prayer of the Church of England, and has been approved by that body for upwards of one hundred years.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question in regard to a matter to which I directed his attention some time ago. Has the Minister yet made arrangements by which the electoral rolls will be prefaced by the names of the polling booths within each subdivision ?
– That matter was brought under my notice by the honorable member, and it is now receiving consideration in the Electoral branch.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Northern Territory - Transfer to the Commonwealth -
Correspondence (dated 15th October, 1906, to 10thJuly, 1909).
Memorandum prepared under the direction of the Hon. L. E. Groom, Minister for External Affairs, in connexion wilh the Bill for the acceptance of the Territory.
Shearing Wet Sheep- Report of Investigations carried out by a Joint Conference of the Pastoralists’ Associations and the Australian Workers’ Union, 1908-9.
Federal Capital - Proposed Site at YassCanberra - Report by Chief Engineer for Harbors and Water Supply, New South Wales (E. M. de Burgh) re Flow of Cotter River from 1st January to 7th July, 1909.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence - Imperial Oeneral Staff - Correspondence relating to the Proposed Formation of, including Major-General Hoad’s proposals with regard to an Australian Section thereof.
Defence Acts - Provisional Regulations -
Military Cadet Corps -
Regulations Amended -
Nos. 3 and8 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 86.
Military Forces -
Financial and Allowance Regulations
No. 65 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 80.
No. 73 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 81.
No. 78 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 82.
No. 148 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 83.
No. 204 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 84.
No. 233a - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 85.
Naval Forces -
Financial and Allowance Regulations
Nos. 48 and 50a - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 79.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs when the official map of Australia, which has been in contemplation for the past seven or eight years, will be published?
– The matter was considered by State representatives which met in Melbourne, but as there was no agreement as to the projection, the Government Statistician has been requested to bring it before the Geodetic Congress, which he is to attend, with a view to securing the opinion of experts as to the best arrangement to follow.
– Will the Minister confer with his colleague, the Postmaster-General, to see whether the positions of all our telegraph and telephone lines : can be indicated on the proposed map, so that there may be a saving of expenditure when extensions are made. I am informed that the Postmaster-General’s Department is not in possession of a map showing the position of its lines, and that consequently there is duplication, and unnecessary construction.
– I shall consult the Postmaster-General on the matter.
.- In a recent speech, I said that Sir Joseph Carruthers, the ex-Premier of New South Wales, had, in a speech delivered at the Hawkesbury College, suggested to the students that they should look to private owners, and not to the Government, for land upon which to settle. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 15th inst. this statement appears -
On the adjournment of the Legislative Council last night, Sir Joseph Carruthers said he desired to take the opportunity of referring to a statement made in Melbourne the previous day by a representative in the Federal Parliament, Mr. Webster. His excuse for doing so was that the charges referred to himself as Premier of the State; a position he occupied some time ago, and if not contradicted, were calculated, not to do him any harm, but to do harm to the party of which he had been a member for many years, and was still a member, and of which for some lime he was the leader. The statement made by Mr. Webster was as follows : -
He then quoted the report ot my remarks. The newspaper statement goes on - “ As a matter of fact,” Sir Joseph Carruthers continued, “ I have not been to the Hawkesbury College for some years - I think three or four vears. Therefore, so fat as any recent address of mine is concerned, that particular statement is absolutely untrue. The last occasion I visited Hawkesbury College was at the presentation of prizes three or four years ago, and I addressed the lads. My address was fully reported in the Sydney papers, and not one line of it contains anything that would give the slenderest support to a statement of that kind.” Prior to that, he went on; he had in the capacity of Minister for Lands, attended the Hawkesbury College, and had given the boys an address, specially directing his remarks to the question of finding land if they were seekers for it, and pointing out the various methods of selecting to give them an opportunity of settling on the land. The statement made by Mr. Webster was absolutely without any foundation whatever, and was of a character, unfortunately, that was part of the usual stock-in-trade of men of his type.
When I read that denial, I did not think a man who had held such high and responsible positions in public life would have made it without being absolutely sure of its correctness. Feeling that I might have done him an injustice, and that the remarks which I had attributed to him might have been made by his successor, I caused the deletion of his name from the report of my speech, attributing the statement merely to the Premier of the State. But I have now corroboration of my original quotation, and shall read to the House the Daily Telegraph report of Sir Joseph Carruthers’ address. It appeared in the issue of that paper of the 4th April, 1906, and runs as follows -
Mr. Carruthers warmed up considerably when on the question of securing land. “You read in the papers that there is no land available,” he said, “ I tell you, you have only to travel about this State to know that there are millions of acres of land crying out loud for labour to work it.” This, he went on to explain was not Crown land. The Government, he said, could not go on year after year throwing open Crown lands. He advised them not lo let Crown lands be their goal, and said that if he had half-a-dozen boys he would not let one of them go on such land. There were conditions about it which went against the grain.
Sir Joseph Carruthers has said that his remarks were properly reported, and that in no sense could his words be construed as giving the faintest colour to the construction which I have put on them. As a matter of fact, however, he was even more emphatic than I had made him appear to be. He told the boys to look to private owners, and not to the Government, for land, and emphasized the statement bysaying that, if he had half-a-dozen boys of his own, he would not allow one of them to seek land from the Government. I leave it to the House, and to the country, to decide who has made irresponsible statements in Parliament - myself or Sir Joseph Carruthers.
Small Arms Factory - Shortage of Equipment
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’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. The want of equipment has been incidentally referred to on various occasions, but no reports dealing directly with the subject have been received at Head-Quarters. Scales of equipment have been issued to some arms of the service, and others are in course of preparation. When these scales are all issued a return of actual requirements will be compiled and will receive the fullest consideration of the Government.
Case of Mary Smith - Wyalong Payments
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he inquire into the case of Old-age Pensioner Mary Smith, Hay, New South Wales, who is only allotted the small pension of £7 16s. per year, instead of thefull amount providedby law?
– I shall be glad to do so.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– A report has been asked for, and as soon as it is received, a reply will be given.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether the Meteorological Branch of his Department is in a position to forecast weather conditions, and, if so, will he see that such forecasts are made regularly, and made available to the press of Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Meteorological Bureau is in a position to issue daily forecasts of weather conditions, and has done so from the beginning of the year 1908. These are issued from the central office each day as soon after noon as possible, and are telegraphed bv urgent wire to the divisional officer in each of the Australian capitals, wherefrom they are immediately availed to the press and public. They are also wired urgently to many country towns throughout the Commonwealth. The Bureau has not sufficient data to undertake seasonal forecasting at present.
asked the Minister representing the . Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether anything will be done this session in the way of legislation to check the importation of useless or harmful quack remedies and appliances, and whether, at the proposed Premiers’ Conference, some action could not be taken which would bring the Commonwealth and States into line, so that there might be uniformity in legislation on the question of pure food, drugs, and beverages throughout the Commonwealth?
– The answer to the honorable member’s Question is as follows : -
Under the Commerce Act, all such preparations must be marked with indications of their character, and any drugs of a harmful nature must be mentioned. No preparation is permitted to be delivered in regard to which any misleading or extravagant statement is made as to curative properties of the article. As, however, there is nothing to prevent the manufacture and sale of articles complained of in the various States in the absence of local legislation, Commonwealth action is of comparatively little effect. If time permits this matter will be submitted to the consideration of the Premiers.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to, the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. I would refer the honorable member to the report of the Advisory Board in connexion with the Federal Capital site at YassCanberra, which report was printed on the 23rd ultimo; also to the report on the same subject by the Chief Engineer for Harbors and Water Supply, New South Wales, which will be tabled this afternoon, which states that there is ample water supply at Yass-Canberra to meet the requirements of a large settlement.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government during the present session to take the necessary steps to enable an amendment of the Constitution to be submitted to the electors, by referendum at the next general election, empowering the Commonwealth to take over all the debts of the States and not merely those existing at the time of Federation?
– The matter is receiving attention, and a definite reply will be made shortly.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government during the present session to take the necessary steps to amend the electoral laws so as to secure actual representation of majorities?
– A draft scheme is now before the Cabinet.
Colac to Beech Forest Telephone - Telegraphists’ Seniority and Increases
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether anything has been done to restore the Colac to Beech Forest telephone?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The Railway Commissioners having refused to allow public conversations over the line in question, nothing can be done to restore that faculty on the existing line, but inquiries have been made with a view of ascertaining whether the business warrants the erection of a line by this Department at an estimated cost of ^200, plus a rental of £1$ per annum to the Railway Department for the use of their poles.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that certain officers in the Postal Department who passed the necessary examinations in 1905, and gained promotion to the position of telegraphists, Clerical Division, have lost seniority and increase of salary by being made junior to other officers who failed at these examinations but passed subsequent examinations, the former officers in many cases having also a greater length of service in the General Division than the latter?
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information -
Officers transferred into Clerical Division under the regulation in force in 1905 have not benefited by transfer to the same extent as those transferred under the more liberal provisions of the existing regulation. The question of making the amended regulation retrospective is surrounded with difficulties, as the granting of improved seniority to these officers would necessitate a disadvantage in seniority to others affected. The Public Service Commissioner, has had the matter under consideration, and is getting full information with the view of seeing whether any equitable adjustment can be made.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 22nd July (vide page 1550), on motion by Sir William
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should proceed without delay to introduce a Bill for an Act to remove the anomalies existing in the present Customs and Excise Tariff Acts, and to add such other duties as may be deemed necessary.
.-! should like to offer a few remarks upon the main question.
– Why does not the Minister speak? He secured the adjournment of the debate.
– Because I have not had time yet to get the information from the Customs.
– I am informed that the honorable member for Wimmera has already addressed himself to the question. I find from Hansard, page 1545, of this session, that the honorable member expressed a wish to make a personal explanation, whereupon Mr. Speaker said -
I do not want the honorable member to be misled. If he proceeds to speak now he will be considered to have spoken in the debate.
The honorable member then continued his remarks. I have, therefore, to rule that he has already spoken.
.- In a great many ways, I have considerable sympathy with the motion. I am sure all honorable members will agree that many anomalies exist in the Tariff, and that many hardships are thereby caused to manufacturers. We all wish to see those anomalies removed and mistakes rectified as soon as possible, but I do not think a single one of us wishes to re-open the whole scope of the debate on the Tariff, which extended through a long session. I am sure that not a single member of the public wishes us to do that. I have spoken to a great number of manufacturers, and the great majority of them do not wish to re-open the Tariff at all, although a small proportion of them have been badly used. This morning I accompanied the honorable member for Melbourne and one or two others on a deputation to the Minister of Customs regarding a glaring anomaly that now exists in the Tariff as affecting the clothing trade. When dealing with woollen piece-goods in the Tariff, we had a most difficult question to decide. There are two classes of manufacturers in that particular industry - those manufacturing direct from the wool, and those who manufacture mantles and various other women’s and children’s garments from the imported material. It was pointed out to the Minister this morning that that particular class of material is not manufactured in Australia. It is all imported and worked up here. It was also pointed out that there are about 7,000 people employed in that industry, whereas in the direct manufacture of materials from the wool only 1,400 people are employed. The former is therefore at presenta much more important industry. I hope that that will not always be the case, and that the direct manufacture of cloth from wool will assume large proportions in Australia before many years are overj but we must look at the present, and remember that the more important industry of the two is now the manufacture of the imported goods into mantles, dresses, and other classes of women’s and children’s wear. Under the Tariff as it exists at present, those manufacturers have a protection of only 5 per cent. The duty on the imported stuffs is 30 per cent. under the general Tariff, and 25 per cent. under the Tariff for the United Kingdom, while the duties on the finished articles- the imported dresses and mantles - are only 5 per cent. more. They are therefore really working on a 5 per cent. margin ; but their case is actually harder than that, because they are also subject to dumping. What happens in their trade is that at the end of the summer and winter seasons in Europe and Great
Britain, a great lot of stuff is left on the hands of the shops and warehouses in the large centres of population. The fashions change from year to year, and that mass of material, not being suitable for the ensuing season, the owners are prepared to almost give it away. The”, result is that it is dumped here in enormous quantities, and local manufacturers are subjected to the most unfair competition. We could not hope to deal with that difficulty under the Tariff itself ; the competition which arises is of such a character as almost to defy Tariff intervention. It seems to me that it might properly be dealt with under the present law relating to dumping, or in an amending Bill. Undoubtedly, local manufacturers are at present suffering great hardship by reason of this unfair competition; but, while I am certainly in sympathy with the deputation which urged the Minister to-day to deal as soon as possible with these anomalies, I am unable to go as far as the honorable member for Hume suggests. His desire appears to be to take the conduct of this business out of the hands of the Ministry. A reference to Tariff anomalies is made in the Prime Minister’s memorandum, and in that official statement the whole position is dealt with very clearly. Parliament is far too unweildy a body to take in hand such work as that to whichthe motion relates, and I therefore think that it should be dealt with by the Board of Trade, which, we have the assurance of the Government, will shortly be established. Such a body is the proper one to deal with these matters.
– The proposed Board of Trade will be practically another Parliament.
– I think not. It will simply make recommendations to this Parliament on various questions, the final settlement ot which will rest with us. I am sure that the honorable member, who has a wide knowledge of these questions, has been guided largely by the reports of the Royal Commission on the Tariff.
– How could one be guided by them, seeing that the two parties represented on the Commission issued such contradictory reports.
– It goes without saying that they would be contradictory.
– Is that why the honorable member voted so often on both sides when the Tariff was under consideration?
– I voted in only one way, and that was in the right direction. Although I did not always vote with the Government, I obtained a great deal of information from the reports of the Commission. Mere general statements as to the votes given by an honorable member are quite out of place; but, if any honorable member will tell me that I did not vote in accordance with my election pledges in regard to any particular item of the Tariff, I shall have no difficulty in proving that he is in error. I voted consistently on Tariff items, and am glad that most honorable members are ready to admit that I did. I hope that the proposed Board of Trade will prove to be the very body that we need to deal with Tariff anomalies.
– Then we are to postpone the evil day?
– I do not wish to do so. I have the greatest sympathy with those who are suffering at present because of Tariff anomalies, and I hope that the Government will not lose any time in bringing forward their proposals in regard to them. There is no reason, however, for unduly rushing the consideration of the question. By undue haste, we should not do the work as well and as quickly as we should by doing all things reasonably and in order. I hope that the Government will appoint a Board of Trade that will go thoroughly into the whole question. The proper course to pursue would be to bring every anomaly before the Board as soon as it arises.
– Is not the Department of Trade and Customs the best barometer as to Tariff anomalies?
– The departmental barometer, I think, is pointing tofair weather. If the honorable member means to suggest that the officers of the Department are best able to deal with Tariff anomalies, I have only to say that, while their recommendations ought to receive the most careful consideration, since they are specially qualified to report on such matters, the Parliament itself ought not to part with its power to determine them. The reduction of a duty might have an effect not only on the trade of the Commonwealth, but on the national revenue. It is for the Parliament to take the responsibility. of dealing finally with this question ; but it ought to be guided to a large extent by the recommendations of officers of the Department of Trade and Customs, as well as by those of a properly constituted Board of Trade. From that point of view, I sympathize with the motion, but I do not approve of the way in which it is framed. The Minister of Trade and Customs has already stated publicly that he will deal with Tariff anomalies as soon as possible, and the honorable member for Hume ought to be content with that assurance. As soon as a list of anomalies can be properly placed before the Government - preferably even before the establishment of a Board of Trade, if the anomalies are found to be accentuated - they should be dealt with.
– The Board of Trade proposed by the Government is an absolutely impossible machine to settle anything.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that question, since a motion relating to it is already on the notice-paper.
– I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition was endeavouring to draw me off the track. The Minister of Trade and Customs has given us the strongest possible assurance that the whole question of the rectification of Tariff anomalieswill not be lost sight of by the Government, and the people should have from the Ministry an assurance that it will be dealt with as soon as possible. Those who are familiar with the record of the Minister, and who know his strong Protectionist leanings, may rest assured that the anomalies in the Tariff will be considered by the Government without delay. At the same time, I think it would be little short of insanity to propose, as this motion suggests, to open up once more the whole question of the Tariff. It would lead to the whole business of the country being thrown into a state of chaos, and a number of most important questions that await our attention would have to be further postponed. The question of defence alone is worthy of the attention of one session of the Parliament, but if it is possible to devote some little of the time of the present session to the consideration of the glaring anomalies under which manufacturers are suffering, we ought to do so. Manufacturers are like other individuals, and we must recognise that it is idle to tell a manufacturer that the country as a whole is doing well if his particular industry is not returning sufficient to provide bread for himself and his bairns. I trust that the Minister of Trade and Customs will devise some means of bringing these glaring anomalies before the House at an early date; but I am not prepared to go as far as the honorable member for Hume proposes. I move -
That all the words after the word “ House “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the Government declaration that consideration is being given to the adjustment of anomalies in the Tariff; and any Bill on the subject would, as a matter of course, safeguard the interests of the producers and manufacturers of the Commonwealth. Each anomaly will be dealt with according to its character, the general policy of the existing Tariff being maintained,’ is satisfactory.”
– That means that, although the honorable member is in favour of Tariff anomalies being removed without delay, he is not prepared to assist a movement to that end.
– It means a fraud.
– It means that I am in favour of leaving this matter in the hands of the Government, rather than in the hands of the honorable member for Hume.
– The amendment is a fraud !
-The amendment means that I have more confidence in those anomalies being dealt with by the Government than in their being dealt with by, as it were, a side wind.
– The motion asks the Government to deal with the anomalies at once.
– The amendment is a regular fraud 1
– I also ask the Government to deal with the anomalies at once.
– Then why not vote for the motion?
– The anomalies are more likely to be dealt with if the amendment be carried than by the adoption of a quasi hostile motion like that of the honorable member for Hume. I have great sympathy with the desire to have anomalies rectified; and I shall always impress upon the Government the necessity of dealing with them as early as possible. We ought to help those who are at present suffering, manyof them, I know, considerably : although, no doubt, the effect of the Tariff has been to assist a great number of manufactures, which are springing up throughout the Commonwealth. I am very pleased to see the increase in the number of hands employed at what are, I think, very fair wages. We ought not to be asked to support a motion which really takes the control of the business of the House out of the hands of the Government.
– The motion asks the Government to do the business.
– That is all very well ; we know what these motions mean. It will be reported to the country that the Government did not intend to rectify the anomalies, but that they were forced to do so by the honorable member for Hume and two or three others.
– Any honorable member who votes against the motion shows that he is not in favour of rectifying the anomalies within a leasonable time.
– I do not agree with that view. I believe that the Government are in favour of rectifying the anomalies; and it is only a matter of opinion whether the work will be done more quickly by means of a hostile motion, if it be carried, or bythe Government, on the quiet and reasonable representations of their followers.
– If the Government believe in the rectification of anomalies, they can accept the motion without any loss of dignity.
– If the Government will say they will rectify the anomalies, and name a date for their proposals, I shall withdraw the motion.
Mr.FAIRBAIRN.- The Government have already said that they will rectify anomalies, as is shown by the declaration of the Government -
Consideration is. being given to the adjustment of anomalies in the Tariff, and any Bill on the subject will, as a matter of course, safeguard the interests of the producers and manufacturers of the Commonwealth. Each anomaly will be dealt with according to its character, the general policy of the existing Tariff being maintained.
I think that is a sufficiently strong assurance, particularly when the Government are urged by their supporters to give effect to that part of their programme as soon as possible.
– Surely the House has a right to express an opinion?
– So long as it is the opinion of a majority not hostile to the Ministry of the day.
– I wish to make some of those slippery Protectionists stand to their guns!
– I have not seen any “ slippery Protectionists “ on this side, though I haveseen a good many associated with the honorable member; and it is only amongst honorable members opposite that they can possibly be found.
However, we have now got beyond general statements; and I challenge the honorable member to give me a particular instance of my voting incorrectly on any given item. I have the Tariff here, with my votes all marked and analyzed.
– I do not think the honorable member voted straight on any one item !
– I shall show my voting on one or two of the items, as examples.
– Go through them all.
– That would take too long now - the honorable member and I can do that on some wet Sunday afternoon.
– Let the honorable member refer to the machinery section, and see how he voted on the items there !
– I shall take some items haphazard from the start. In regard to tobacco, for instance, the Government’ proposed 3s. 6d. ; sugar, 6s. ; laundry blue, zd. ; and stearine and paraffin wax, id. ; and I voted with the Government on each.
– Go on to the machinery, Division VI.
– In regard to confectionery, item 45, I-
– How did the honorable member vote on item 44?
– Item 44 is mixed or compound waxes, and there was no vote upon it. In regard to item 45, the Government suggested 3fd. and 3d., and I voted for 3d., the recommendation of the Tariff Commission being 2d.
– Then the honorable member voted against the Government ?
– Yes ; but we know very well who was the Government of the day, and who was generally the head boss.
– Who is that?
– The honorable member knows as well as I do. The Minister of the day, when the Tariff was before us, simply took the duties as recommended by the Protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, and raised them from ro per cent, to 15 per cent.
– That is not correct; the honorable member has no right to say that.
– That is exactly what it amounted to.
– I tell the honorable member very quietly that his statement is not correct.
– I know that the Minister of the day was very hurried, as the House was waiting for the Tariff, and he had only some six or seven days in which to prepare it.
– The honorable member is quite wrong; I was at work on the Tariff all the way out from England, and read the reports of the Tariff Commission at each stopping place.
– But after the complete report of the Tariff Commission had been issued, the honorable member for Hume, as Minister, had only about a week in which to prepare it for submission to the House.
– I can assure the honorable member that he is quite wrong.
– However that may be, the Minister, for the Government, certainly increased the Protectionist recommendations by a very considerable amount. During my election campaign I promised that I would support the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, if I thought them reasonable; and as, in many instances, they were reasonable, I did support them; and I have given a very fair sample of the way iri which I voted.
– Let the honorable member refer to his votes on the machinery items, Division VI.
– Under metals and* machinery, there is the item nails; and on that the Government suggested duties of 8s. 3d. and 7s. 6d., but I voted for the duty, which was eventually carried, of 8s.
– Is not nail-making a Melbourne industry?
– I believe it is.
– Will the honorable member refer to a few of the industries in other States?
– On the item printers’ types, the Government suggestion was 25 per cent., and I supported the Government. I voted for a similar duty on screws.’ In regard to the latter item, the original suggestion was 5 per cent, and free, and, therefore, on that item I must have “levelled up” the Minister of Trade and Customs. It would be tedious, and only re-open the whole Tariff debate, if I went seriatim through the items. My contention is that this motion is obviously a “slap in the face” for the Government; andI suggest that, if the honorable member for Hume were to endeavour to aid the Government, instead of moving semi-hostile motions, we should get on with the work very much more quickly.
– I shall put the Government out, or pull them down, as soon as ever I get the chance!
Mr.FAIRBAIRN. - That is exactly what I say ; the honorable member desires to put the Government out of office as soon as possible, and this motion is moved entirely with that object. But none of us “came down with the last shower” - at any rate, the honorable member for Hume didnot accompany me, if I did. I desire to see the anomalies rectified, as soon as possible, but in order that the work may be done by the Government in what I conceive to be the proper manner, I submit the amendment. We know the character of the Government, and remember the promise they have made that these anomalies shall be dealt with as soon as possible, without any re-opening of the whole Tariff question ; and my object is to relieve the hardships of our manufacturers and others in a proper constitutional method - that is, by supporting the Government.
– I rise to speak on the amendment without replying on the general question. As to what has been said by the honorable member for Fawkner, I wish to state that if the Government will fix some date, or approximate date, within a reasonable time, for the consideration of anomalies, with a view to giving further protection to some of our industries which sadly want it, and to putting into operation the new Protection, I shall not take a step further. It is not right to say that I moved the motion, because of my hostility to the Government ; I moved it so that Protection should not be sunk for five years, if I could prevent that. Although I have tried hard, I have not been able to ascertain what arrangement has been made in regard to the sinking of the fiscal question.
– The honorable member for Hume has stated that he would turn the Government out on the first opportunity.
– I would do so, but if the Government will make such a pronouncement as I have referred to, I shall not try to do it on this question. I wish to impress upon the House and the country that I am acting so that the great policy of Protection shall not remain dormant and in abeyance for any time. We have not completed the Tariff, because we have not had an opportunity to do so; but I hold strongly that there should be no unreasonable delay in completing it. The other night, I referred to certain matters apart from anomalies, and I am being pressed by persons all over the country, and outside Australia, to deal with those matters.
– Does the honorable member propose to deal with all the anomalies set forth in the schedule which he read to the House?
– The honorable member is not going to catch me.
– Why did the honorable member read that schedule?
– I stated at the time that I did not agree with all the proposals for the rectification of anomalies therein contained, but that I wished to give others an opportunity to say what anomalies should be dealt with. I distinctly stated that I would not pledge myself to support all the proposals in that schedule. I do not expect the Government to deal with everything at once, just as I should like them to, but 1 have given them some strong reasons for amending the Tariff beyond the rectification of ordinary anomalies, and if they are prepared to do that, and will fix a date in the present session, not too far distant, for dealing with that matter, I shall withdraw my opposition, so far as this question is concerned. I cannot say more than that, and I make the statement in reply to the charge that I am acting in this matter because of my hostility to the Government. I am acting, not in my own interests, but in those of the country, and of its manufacturers. I hope that something will be done. If the Government will not do anything of a proper and serious character, I shall pursue this matter on every occasion until I get it attended to.
– One of the most valuable results of the discussion this afternoon has been that some of the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner have brought back to the physiognomy qf the honorable member for Hume its usual pleasant expression. During the last six weeks I have not seen him smile as he did this afternoon. As I have known him for many years under the most interesting circumstances, it is a great pleasure to me to observe that he has returned to his normal state. Ministers must be very much relieved bv his assurance that he will not endeavour to put them out of office.
– I did not say that. I said that I would not do so on this point.
– The statement must be a source of great relief to Ministers. I was a little surprised that the Prime Minister showed so much indifference to the promise, as to continue to write letters whilst it was being made, instead of noting the conditions on which ‘he future existence of the Government would depend.
– I take no notice of the Prime Minister. I have a supreme and unending contempt for him.
– The honorable member should not be nasty.
– I have a contempt for the honorable member for Bourke, too. If he is not careful I shall pursue him.
– The statement of the honorable member shows that he has not quite recovered his temper. It. is a matter of common knowledge that one of the terms of the Fusion is that the muchvexed question which has divided the House for nine years shall be left at rest for a time by honorable members sitting on this side of the House, except so far as the. rectification of anomalies on some future occasion is concerned. No doubt the Prime Minister, who has the ordering of the Government business, will presently deal with that matter. I have always seen great difficulty in the use of the word “ anomalies.” The Commissioners who inquired into Tariff conditions were instructed to deal with anomalies ; but Parliament put such an interpretation upon the word that it allowed the whole Tariff from A to Z. to be ripped up, and many months were consumed in the operation, the etymological meaning of the word has been entirely put aside by that interpretation. ‘ I confess that, when the word occurred in one of the terms of the Fusion, to mark an exception to the fiscal peace, I expressed grave misgivings that the interpretation which Parliament had put on it would be again insisted on, instead of the etymological signification, which is much more limited. The honorable member for Hume seeks to induce the Government to name a day upon which it will do something which it has already undertaken to do. The honorable member for Fawkner was quite right in saying that this is an attempt to require the Government to fix a date for dealing with a matter which they need time to consider, and that the honorable member for Hume is therefore trying to direct Ministers as to the conduct of business in this House. I strongly suspect that when the occasion arises, the attempt will be made by some honorable members to give the word “anomalies” as wide an interpretation as was given to it when the Tariff was last before us. The honorable member for Hume, another honorable member, and Mr. Justice Isaacs, who then represented Indi, when sitting on the cross benches, took steps in this House which led to the right honorable member for East Sydney, who was then Prime Minister, promising to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into certain Tariff differences, and the’ Honorable member for Hume, when Minister of Trade and Customs, put such an interpretation upon the. word as to introduce a Bill ripping up the whole Tariff from- beginning to end. I naturally assume, therefore, that, when he has a chance, he will put a similar interpretation upon the word again.
– What interpretation does the Prime Minister put on it?
– His supporters will have opinions as to that.
– They have him by the throat.
– Knowing that his party includes a large number of strong Free Traders, he will see that the proper interpretation is placed on the word.
– He has abandoned Protection then?
– Everybody knows that the Prime Minister is a Protectionist, and that a number of us are Free Traders.
– I do not think the Prime Minister is a Protectionist.
– I am not going to discuss academic or psychological questions with the honorable member at the present time. I see a great danger if the task of interpreting the word ‘ 1 anomalies ‘ ‘ is left to the honorable member for Hume. We cannot forget that when he was dealing with the findings of the Commission, he frequently took the recommendations of the
Protectionist side of the Commission, and not of the Commission itself, because the Protectionists found one way, the Free Traders found another, and the Commission did not find at all. The honorable member more than once translated the word “Commission” “as meaning any finding that he could discover within the four corners of the report laid upon the table by the Protectionist section of it. He was not content to talk of the Commission’s reports by referring to. those findings in which the Commission were either unanimous or had compromised, but he frequently, during the debates, referred to and used the findings of the Protectionist members of the Commission as the findings of the Commission itself.
– Hear, hear !
– That fact, and the interpretation which the honorable member put upon the word “ anomalies,” show that the English language is at times equivocal, and that men who are brought up in the same community may often put totally different meanings upon words. I sincerely hope the Government will manage their own business, and not enter into any hasty compact with the honorable member in order to save their political skins, and I trust that when this question does come up we shall be able to induce the honorable member to go to Webster’s dictionary to look up two words - “Commission” and “anomalies” - and then to use them in the sense in which they should be used in a deliberative body. That leads me to another question, which f have been for some time longing for an opportunity to ventilate. It seems to me that when the Tariff was passed by the honorable member for Hume, he very cleverly, and, I suppose, justifiably as a Protectionist, delegated to the Minister of Trade and Customs a power to do- by administrative act that which in some cases ought to be done by legislation. I have seen a number of Executive minutes passed in pursuance of the wishes of the Minister of Trade and Customs which have the effect of completely altering the Tariff.
– I draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the time during which this motion mav be debated is about to expire. If he desires to continue his remarks on a future date. I suggest that he should ask the leave of the House to do so.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable to so amend the Commonwealth Constitution as to confer upon the Federal Parliament power to own and control monopolies.
– The cat is out of the bag now.
– So far as I, and I think every other member of our party, are concerned, we have never put this particular cat in the bag at all. It lias been continuously at large. Every member of our party went to the electors with this, as his objective, and advocated it openly on the platform. It has been moved in the House also. Whatever accusations may be made against the Labour party, that of saying one thing on the platform and advocating another when they get here will not lie against them. T cannot help thinking that if the decision of this matter were left to the calm and unprejudiced judgment of honorable members, apart from party bias or questions of party loyalty, a number of those who sometimes sit on the Ministerial side of the House would vote for the motion. Those honorable members would, I think, be prepared to vote, not for the nationalization of any particular monopoly, but to secure power for this Parliament to nationalize any monopoly which they might in the future consider to be a danger to the community. The motion does not affirm the necessity of nationalizing any monopoly to-day. Honorable members are, I think, prepared to recognise the important industrial changes which are taking place on every hand, and to do whatever is necessary to protect the public against any dangers that may threaten them bv reason of those changes. Efforts have already been made in this Parliament without success to control monopolies. They are being made again now. The Minister of Trade and Customs, last week, introduced a measure to take further powers to attempt to control monopolies and trusts. In doing so, he said -
I admit that if we fail to control these trusts by legislation, prompted from time to time by experience, there will be much strength in the contention that the last effective resort will be nationalization.
Those are the words of a member of the present Ministry - not one who seeks to rush into a policy of nationalization, but one who sees that it may be necessary r.s a last resort to undertake the public ownership of monopolies that cannot be otherwise controlled. The House has from time to time been engaged in the task of attempting to control Australian monopolies. The best efforts of the legal members of the House, and of the gentlemen employed in the Attorney General’s Department, have been given to the subject, and we have passed legislation as strong as the Ministry have cared to ask for. Yet, before a single monopoly has been seriously interfered with, before one wrong at which that legislation was aimed has been righted, we are to be called upon to go through what appears to be the farce of attempting to pass further legislation in the same direction. So far, practically nothing has been done. There was laid upon the table of the House, on 23rd September last vear, a paper which shows what combines and trusts already exist in Australia, and against which of them the AttorneyGeneral’s Department contemplated taking action. The list of the combines which today exist in Australia is given there as follows -
Coal and shipping Combine; Confectionery Combine ; Combination of Victorian Millers raising the price of flour and bran for Home consumption in Victoria ; Manure Combine (“The Victorian Manures Association,” or “Victorian Fertilizer Association “) ; Meat Combine (Sydnev Ment Preserving Co. Ltd.); Brick Combine (N.S.W.); Combination of Victorian Millers selling flour and bran for export or Inter-Slate transfer at prices less than those charged for those commodities when intended for consumption in Victoria ; Colonial Oil Co. (allowance of rebates): Tobacco Combine; Photographic Combine; B.S.A. Company (longland) Cycle parts; Vacuum Oil Co. Propy. Ltd. (agreement with employes); Truck Combine (N.S.W.): United Shoe Machinery Co., Ltd. ; Proprietary Articles Trade Association (Infants’ Foods) ; “ Five Lines “ Shipping Combine (re butter freights) ; Jam Combine in Victoria.
– The honorable member has forgotten the “ fusion “ combine.
– In the light of events, that is not a monopoly.
– It distinctly appears to be, but no Act that this Parliament in its present form can pass will effectively deal with it. The people, who are the masters of those engaged in that combine, must be called upon before long to pass judgment upon them. Twenty years ago, not one of those combines existed in Australia. All these manufactures - from infants’ foods to materials used in their production - are the subject of combines. However much we may desire to have competition in Austra lia, it grows clearer and clearer every day that competition is doomed. We have no reason to expect that anti-trust legislation such as we have passed from time to time is going to be more effective than it has been. Not only have the best brains of Australia been at work in the endeavour to devise a means of checking combines by legislation, but the mightiest intellects of America have been used in the same direction, and with the same result. We have had evidence recently of the extent of the operations of the Standard Oil Trust. . Some time ago a cablegram appeared in the daily newspapers to the effect that that Trust had been fined $5,000,000 for a breach of the anti-trust laws of the United States. A year or more later, after many stiff legal fights had been waged, we received an intimation that the appeal of the Trust had been successful, that the fine had been remitted, and that this huge Combine was still to go on its way rejoicing. May I point out to the House. the extent of the profits made by a successful trust? In the Argus of 23rd September, the following cablegram’ appeared -
In the course of the proceedings in New York to secure the annulment of the Charter of the Standard Oil Trust of New Jersey, the Treasurer of the company was examined. He admitted that their profits since 1882 had amounted to £180,000,000, an average of £7,200,000 a year.
That statement was made during the trial of the Standard Oil Trust for a breach of the anti-trust law, and it would appear from the reports that its treasurer admitted that for years it had been making 200.000 per annum out of the people of America. To-day we find that successful institution devoting its attention, not merely to the sale of oil, but to a hundred and one undertakings that were never contemplated when the Trust was first formed. The operations of the Trust extend to-day to businesses not even remotely connected with oil. It owns factories and railway stock, and, according to a cable message which appeared in the Age the day before yesterday, it is making a still further extension of its enterprises. The cablegram is as follows : - *~
The New York correspondent of the Times announces that, subject to confirmation by the Costa Rica Congress, an agreement has been signed whereby the National City Bank of New York - a Standard Oil Institution - lends the public £3,000,000. In return for the loan the bank assumes control of the finances of Costa Rica.
This huge Trust, unable to find further investments of a satisfactory character in the United States of America, is now in the happy position of being able to take over the control of a Republic, which has an area of 23,000 square miles, and a population of 310,000. A trust which, although yet in its infancy, is making over ^£7,000,000 per annum, and piling up investments in the way I have indicated, is not likely to stop at the control of a Republic like Costa Rica. There is no reason why it should not attempt to increase its money-lending functions, and ultimately to control much larger territories. I venture to think that the institution which assumes control of the finances of a country actually governs it, and that the Parliament of that country loses all power over it. Assuming that we have in Australia the beginning of the same class of combination - assuming that trusts are to grow here as they have grown in America - it is obvious that their development must be attended with danger to the whole community. If we are to have in Australia a number of great millionaires, we may be fortunate enough to have men of the type of Rockefeller and Carnegie competing with each other in the distribution of their millions for benevolent purposes; but, on the other hand, we may have millionaires^ who are not prepared to part with their millions without receiving an equivalent for them. If the Parliament is content to allow the growth of monopolies in Australia, it will do so with its eyes open to the dangers that are likely to accrue from their extension. These vast accumulations of wealth are, without doubt, dangerous to the whole community. Men and companies having at their disposal so much money, as have the Steel Trust and the Standard Oil Trust of America, may devote their attention, not only to the lending of money to Republics, but to the buying up of Parliaments and Courts of Justice. Such a thing is not unknown. I wish to put on record a quotation from a standard writer - a man who is by no means a Socialist - on the powers exercised over Courts and Legislatures by monopolies and trusts. Hobson, on the Evolution of Modem Capitalism, writes at page 221 -
The only exercise of power by a trust or monopoly in its dealings with competing capital which deserves to be placed in a separate category or of infamy, is the use of money to debauch the Legislature into the granting of Protective Tariffs, special charters or concessions,- or other privileges which enable a monopoly company to get the better of their rivals, to secure contracts, to check outside competition, and to tax the consuming public for the benefit of the trust makers’ pocket. Under this head we may also reckon the tampering with the administration of justice which is attributed, apparently not without good reason, to certain of the trusts, the use of the trust’s money to purchase immunity from legal interference, or, in the last resort, to buy a judgment in the Courts.
How far the more or less definite allegations upon this subject are capable of substantiation, it is beyond, our scope to” inquire, but certain disclosures in connexion with the Tweed Ring, the Standard Oil Co., the Anthracite Coal Trust, and other syndicates induce the belief that the more unscrupulous capitalists seek to influence the Courts of Justice as well as the Legislature in pursuance of their business interests. Contributions to party funds for the purpose .and with the result of influencing Tariff and other legislation in their interest are methods of trusts which, though matter of common belief, are difficult of proof. We have, however, the admission of Mr. Havemeyer before a Committee of Congress that the Sugar Trust contributed in Republican States to the fund of the Republican party, in Democratic States to that of the Democratic party, in order to stand well with the dominant political power in each State.
That is what trusts would do when the opportunity offered, with the immense sums of money at their disposal. Npt content with the making of further investments, they are prepared to set about the purchase of Parliaments and Courts of Justice. They extend their functions in every possible direction. Carnegie entered upon the manufacture of steel, and, a trust having been formed, the profits from the business were so great that it proceeded to enter into other business - the building of ships, the construction of railways, and a hundred and one other industries, from the manufacture of tin plates or hoops to the making of the most complex machinery. The same remark applies to English monopolies. Nettlefolds entered upon the manufacture of screws, and proceeded to secure a monopoly of the industry. The firm did not confine themselves to the screw business, but branched out as owners of coal and iron mines, not only in England, but in Spain and other countries, and extended their functions in every direction. We have seen in the last few days evidence that this world-wide development of combines is likely to affect Australia. On the 21st July, the Age published the following -
AMERICAN BEEF TRUST.
Control of World’s Supplies. - Operations in Argentina.
London, 20th July. The New York correspondent of the Daily Telegraph reports that the meat packers of
Chicago recently issued new securities to the amount of £11,300,000 with a view to obtaining control of the world’s market for beef and hides.
Swift and Co., of Chicago, the correspondent adds, is spending £340,000 of its £2,000,000 of new capital in purchasing the works and plant of the La Blanca Company,, in the Argentine. schwarzchild, Sulzberger and Co., however, have failed to secure the Frijorifico Company another Argentine enterprise. [” Despite the recent denials issued by the Chicago meat packers,” the New- York correspondent of a London paper stated on 4th June, “ I learn to-day from an authoritative source that American firms are negotiating to secure the control of the meat trade in the Argentine, whence England draws a large part of her supplies. Inquiries have also been made bv American interests in Australia and New Zealand with the object of controlling- supplies from those countries. The negotiations are being conducted through private agencies in the names of various individuals, but there is only one aggregation of capital in the meat trade here capable of handling so vast an enterprise, and this is the so-called Beef Trust. It is composed of four big Chicago packing films - the Armour, Swift, Morris and Cudahy companies. There is no doubt that the Beef Trust is the real force negotiating, and that its ultimate object is to control the world’s meat supply.”]
If we are prepared to stand quietly by, we have the prospect of ultimately finding that the price given to the Australian cattle and sheep producer is settled, not by the competition of the people of this country, but bv the operations of a trust in America. The price we shall pay, not for our daily bread, but for our daily meat, will be fixed, not by Australian conditions, but at the will of men like Armour, and others in the United States, who control the world’s supply. When we consider the operations of trusts in Australia, we find that they have already gone far along the line taken in America. On a previous occasion, I placed before the House certain facts regarding the shipping combine, and I am satisfied, personally, that, were it not for the fact that the transit by land is nationalized in the form of State railways, we should be relatively as advanced, so far as combinations are concerned, as is America. The one hope we have of salvation from the worst evils of the trust system is that part of our carrying business is done by publicly-owned services.
– Another hope is the Labour party.
– That is so. We may as a party, have done something, but we have not succeeded so well as we desire. Indeed, it is impossible to succeed in checking the growth of monopolies by the methods of the past. Despite the existence of the Labour party, we have today a shipping combine which practically governs the whole- of the business of Australia. Although the cost of carriage by land has, during the last fifteen years, decreased by over 33 per cent., the shipping combine charges as much to-day, and, in some instances, more, for freights and fares than was charged in days gone by. Honorable members from Western Australia have only to be reminded of the existence of the local beef trust to know that its operations have already gone so far as the refusal to supply meat to certain butchers’ shops, and the closing of other shops.
– Beef is as cheap in Western Australia to-day as it is anywhere in Australia.
– If so, I can only say that were it not for the operations of the trust, it would doubtless be a great deal cheaper. If meat is cheap in Western Australia, it is a shame that it is so dear in Victoria and New South Wales. But for the existence of the shipping ring, which deprives us of the advantages of cheap carriage, we, in the eastern States, might doubtless reap some of the advantages which the honorable member for Fremantle tells us are enjoyed by the residents of Western Australia. However that may be, we have within the Commonwealth a very well established sugar monopoly, which really does not know how to hide the huge profit it is making. This company occasionally issues further debentures, or waters its stock, or proposes some other means to give its shareholders advantages which those connected with it would not care to publish in the ordinary course of business. It is not every trust that is so honest as the English Cotton Trust, which, when it makes a profit of 50 per cent., boldly declares a dividend accordingly. Then, again, we have in operation here a Tobacco Trust, the growth of the last ten years. Any one acquainted with the operations of this trust, cannot help regretting the position in which tobacco producers, merchants, and consumers, find themselves to-day. The unfortunate grower, instead of having a dozen firms to buy his produce, has to be content to sell to one, and accept any price. that may be offered. I have known storekeepers to be told at what price they must sell tobacco - to be refused the right to sell their own goods at what price they like. Despite the fact that the machinery used in this industry is better than ever, and that the leaf is more freely produced, and therefore cheaper, the smoker has now to be content with a smaller plug than was sold nine or ten years ago, when there was competition. There has been a steady disposition on the part of the trust to rob everybody with whom it has to deal. The trust lowers the profits of producers and distributers - it refuses the terms of credit that were available when there was competition - and it refuses to give the smoker the same sized plug. In contradistinction to this picture, I ask honorable members to look at those countries in which the tobacco business has been nationalized. In proposing that we should have a publicly-owned tobacco monopoly, we are not on novel lines. The people of Japan, who have so recently been awakened to the latest methods of civilization, already have a tobacco industry, not owned by a local Mr. Dixon, or an American company, but owned by their own nation. In their time of trouble, during the war with Russia, they found it very convenient to be able to pledge the profits of this industry for a loan of ^30,000,000. If ever we have a war in Australia, we shall not be in such a happy position, unless we now, at this early stage in the history of trusts, nationalize the industry. In Austria and France, the tobacco business is nationalwed, and in each country it is found to be a source of revenue, and the only protection that can be afforded to the producer and the consumer from the exorbitant demands and consequent profits which go to make American millionaires. This Parliament cannot prevent the growth of monopolies, and the legislation on which the Government are now engaged will fail as previous legislation has failed. There are too many advantages to be gained by’ combination to justify business men in continuing to compete. We cannot make a man compete when it pays him not to compete. When all the advantages of combination are realized - the power over the producer and easy access to raw material, advantages in dealing with trade marks, special processes, and patents - because a monopoly can dictate its own terms to all with whom it deals - we can quite see that the- trusts and combines will not give up without a struggle. We mav declare as much as we like that trusts and combinations are improper and illegal, but experience in the Old Land, in America, and in Australia, all points in the one direction, and shows that, in the end, keen business men can get behind Acts of Parliament more rapidly than Acts can be passed.
– Lawyers will help them to do that all the time !
– And no doubt the lawyers will see that they are well paid.
– Lawyers in the House generally pass Acts in that form !
– I cannot admit that. Lawyers in the House may do their level best to make Acts as stringent as possible, but lawyers outside, backed up by the business men at the head of the monopolies, will see their way through those Acts. Mr. H. W. Macrosty, in his book, The Trust Movement in British Industry, page 344, says-
No law can suppress the Gentlemen’s Agreement, where there are no rules, no constitution, no contract, but common action is effected verbally and informally, and yet some of the most oppressive combinations have been of that form.
It is not a question of lawyers’ efforts, but of the agreements made by the heads of firms. The term used to express such agreements in Australia is “ honorable understandings,” synonymous with the term “ Gentlemen’s agreements,” as used in England. The efforts of Parliament to regulate and prevent the growth of combines must, in the nature of things, fail, and, therefore, I ask the House to see that power is taken which will enable the Government ultimately to achieve what has never failed, the nationalization of monopolies. There is no instance on record in which a State has given up a monopoly which it has nationalized. I do not suppose that we shall have the triumph of nationalization immediately there is a majority of Labour members in Parliament; but the time will come when the people will insist on the nationalization of monopolies in the public interest. It is net because the Age believes in Socialism that it advocates a publiclyowned gas supply for * Melbourne. When the majority of the people of Australia recognise the evil of combines like the Shipping Combine, as a majority of the people of Melbourne recognise the evil of the privately-owned gas supply for this city, it will demand their nationalization, and we shall be false to our duty if we fail to take steps to bring that about. Therefore, I ask the House to affirm the desirability, now that we are adopting experiments for the controlling of trusts, of arming the Government with power for the nationalization of monopolies, which cannot be controlled in any other way.
Motion (by Mr. Hedges) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That this House, following the practice of the House of Commons, is of opinion, in view of the unequal distribution of Federal properties’ in the various municipalities of Australia, that the Commonwealth should grant yearly to each municipality, as an act of grace, an amount equal to the municipal rates and taxes which it would have to pay were it not exempt from taxation under the Constitution.
The motion deals so straightforwardly with a moral obligation of the Commonwealth that I feel that it will not be necessary for me to say more than a few words to insure its immediate recognition by honorable members. Since the inception of Federation, the Commonwealth has evaded the payment of municipal rates and taxes on its public buildings and properties, on the technical excuse that the Crown cannot be taxed. Now these rates and taxes are merely charges for services rendered, and in refusing to pay them, while utilizing the services, the Commonwealth is guilty of what amounts to confiscation. In obtaining provisions for its troops, houses for its officers, or other supplies to clothe with energy its public service, it purchases from private individuals, and pays full value for what it receives. What is the difference between paying value for goods received from private individuals and paying value for services rendered by public bodies? If favour must be shown - personally, I think that there should be no differentiation - it should be to public bodies, upon the efficiency of whose services the daily comfort of the people depends. Surely, if the Commonwealth can pay for what it buys from private sources, it can pay for what it uses from public bodies. It is not necessary to argue the subject. The motion that I submit has only to be brought before the House for the House immediately to concur in it. This question has never been faced in Australia so far.
– I asked the late Prime Minister a question upon the matter.
– I am talking of Government action. So far as that is concerned, I believe no Government has tackled the question of dealing equitably with the municipalities of Australia in return for the services which they render to the Commonwealth. It has been faced in the Old Country. I believe the Imperial Government has, for some years, teen paying an equivalent of the rates and taxes that would be levied upon Government buildings and properties in England if they were not exempt as Crown property. The Imperial Estimates for the Civil Services for the year ending 31st March, 19 10, contain, on page 60, the following item : “ Rates and contributions in lieu of rates, &c., England,£563,000.” Each section of the United Kingdom is, of course, given separately. Not only is that amount provided, but, in order to secure corporations from the use of their services without payment by persons constitutionally exempted from such taxation, there is actually another item, ‘ ‘ to reimburse corporations for rates on houses occupied by representatives of foreign Powers.” It is recognised as a moral obligation upon the sovereign power of the State to see that the small representative bodies of the people do not suffer by the Crown sheltering itself behind, legal quibbles. Honorable members have a right to ask what this is likely to cost the Commonwealth. If one has a moral obligation, one ought to pay it, whatever it costs, if one admits that it is a moral obligation, but, in order to show that no very great violence will be done to our pockets when we salve our consciences, I tell honorable members that, so far as I can ascertain the figures, we should have to pay on the existing municipal taxation in Australia about ,£20,000 a year.
– It would amount to a great deal more than that.
– I- have a rough estimate from the Statistical Department, which I regret is not now in my immediate possession, but which can be obtained. I believe, taking the rates upon unimproved values to be somewhere between 2d. and 3d., and striking a general average throughout Australia, the Commonwealth’s contribution for the services rendered to it would amount to between £16,000 and £25,000 a year.
– That is correct.
– That is really all that I have said. Of course, it is possible that municipal rates may be increased, but if we made the payment as an act of grace, it would not be possible to increase them more to .the Commonwealth than to private persons.
– In some of the States they are based upon the improved value.
– That was my difficulty in making an estimate.
– The Commonwealth pays some rates.
– It pays for water and sewerage - services which could be cut off if the rates were not paid ! No honorable member would like to see the Commonwealth, as a sovereign power, unpopular in any locality. If there are a number of Federal properties in a municipality, and the Commonwealth, upon the constitutional plea that I have referred to, evades paying anything for the municipal advantages which it enjoys in that district, the municipality will always be glad to get rid of the Commonwealth from its borders. It is most undesirable that that should happen.
– The municipal authorities in my electorate are always asking the Commonwealth to put up magnificent buildings.
– Evidently the municipal authorities in the honorable member’s locality have not been made aware of the fact that, if the Commonwealth acquires properties, and erects those magnificent buildings within their territories, it will expect to use all the advantages which the municipalities confer, and to pay nothing therefor.
– I have never heard a complaint about it.
– Probably the Minister of Home Affairs has. I have received letters in plenty on the subject. The right hon:orable member for East Sydney has in his electorate a constant cause of quarrel between municipality and Commonwealth. In the very heart of Sydney there is a large area set apart for the Victoria Barracks, all the water of which has to be drained off by the municipal authorities. All the officers and men who use the barracks, and the officials of various other Departments who go there, enjoy the municipal advantages there provided, and yet the municipality of Paddington gets not a penny piece from the Commonwealth in return for all its outlay.
– See what they get from the officials.
– The officials would probably get all, or a large proportion, of their supplies from the city of Sydney, and not in the suburb itself. Surely the honorable member recognises that when the Common, wealth enjoys certain rights and privileges, when it is provided with free and welllighted access, and its properties are drained for it, it has a moral obligation to make some payment in return.
– The Commonwealth pays for all that.
– The whole point is that it does not. If the honorable member says it. is right that the Commonwealth, like any private individual, should pay for all the municipal privileges that it enjoys, he must vote for the motion.
– The money will come out of the pockets of the same people.
– That is an old cry, which we have often heard.
– It is absolutely true.
– Let us face our own obligations. The best way to finance the country’s affairs is for every responsible body to pay its own way, even if it has to make its payments to another responsible body. The honorable member says the money all comes out of the people’s pockets, but there are some municipalities which have no Federal buildings, while others have many. Would the honorable member place uponthe same footing a municipality which contains a number of Government officesj and his own constituency, which, I understand from his interjection, contains few public buildings ?
– There are more public buildings in my electorate than in that of the honorable member.
– If that statement is accurate, I appeal to the honorable member, as the representative of his own constituency, to support the motion.
– I shall not support it.
– In spite of the hasty, illconsidered opposition of the honorable member for Maranoa. I have every confidence in the sense of fairness and justice of the House. I believe that if we owe an obligation to any section of the Australian people, it is to those small, struggling selfgoverning bodies, the municipalities of Australia, which touch far more nearly the daily life of the people than does this august body.
– Do the State Governments pay municipal rates?
– The New South Wales Government pay them under the new Local Government Act.
– I do not think any other State Government does.
Mr.KELLY. - I cannot say. I have quoted the precedent of England, and another has been given in regard to New South Wales. I felt, when I rose to move the motion, that it was not necessary to make a speech upon it, and I have not attempted to do so. I have merely stated the plain facts. I have shown that, while we enjoy the use of certain services, we shelter ourselves from the obligation to pay for them behind a mere legal quibble.
– Would the Honorable member withdraw all Government subsidies from municipalities?
– Certainly not. I do not think the Commonwealth subsidizes any municipality.
– It has been the practice of State Governments in the past.
– The State Governments subsidize them, and so does the Imperial
Government. Every sovereign power will, where possible, subsidize their subsidiary, powers, to keep them working. I quoted: from last year’s Estimates of the Imperial Parliament the amount paid, as an act of grace, in lieu of municipal rates and taxes, for the Kingdom of England alone at £563,000. but the actual Government grant to corporations in England amounted to nearly £24,000,000. All sovereign powers make these grants, but the Commonwealth of Australia is not, under itsConstitution, called upon to supplement the revenues of municipalities. That is a matter for the States to attend to, if they are willing. All that we are called upon, and all that I ask the House, to do, is to honour the moral obligation that rests upon us to pay for whatever municipal serviceswe use.
.-I second the motion. The honorable member for Wentworth has put his case very clearly and forcibly. There is, of course, a provision in the Constitution which protects the Commonwealth from taxation upon. Commonwealth property, but its object, I think, was not to evade what the Commonwealth might deem to be a fair contribution to the cost of municipal services, so much as to protect the Commonwealth from extravagant and unreasonable demands. Thefact is that we are not liable to pay, but I do not know that that concludes the matter. There still remains the question whether we derive any benefits from the expenditure of municipal rates. If we do, it is very hard to show why the Commonwealth Government should not bear the same burdens as do private individuals for the same benefits. In the States quite another question arises, upon which the exemption; might fairly be based. The State Governments make liberal grants to municipalitiesfrom the public revenues, and it might fairly be claimed that those grants should be accompanied by an exemption of publicbuildings from municipal rates. The Commonwealth is not in that position, for it in no way subsidizes the municipalities. Notwithstanding that theParliament of New South Wales grants liberal subsidies to the local government scheme, which at last covers nearly the whole of the State, there is a provision in the Local Government Act of that State under which the Government pay the ordinary municipal rates.
– There are a few exemptions.
– There are some, such as the exemption .of unoccupied land; but there is no exemption as to Government buildings. The State not only generously subsidizes the municipalities, but by its own act has become liable for the payment of ordinary municipal rates. The Commonwealth of Australia pays nothing in the way of a subsidy to the municipalities, although it receives from them obvious benefits. We have postal and other buildings scattered all over Australia, and it is a great convenience to those who have to resort to such offices to have the streets leading to them well-kept and properly lighted. These and other services are rendered by the municipalities to the Commonwealth Government and to the people of the Commonwealth. The remark made by the” honorable member for Maranoa was scarcely fair, because, whilst it is possible to conceive of a case in which the inhabitants of a district are anxious to secure a public building, it does not follow that they are prepared to render services free of charge to those who occupy that building. For instance, business people are so eager to extend their operations that, in many cases, they send out travellers all over Australia to solicit orders; but they are not expected to give away their goods.
– Some people expect them to do so.
– At all events, we do not. I know that my honorable friend has always been in sympathy with every fair and reasonable proposal, and it seems to me that since the municipalities receive no subsidies from the Commonwealth, and since they render services to us, and, through us, to large numbers of people, we should be prepared to pay, in respect of Commonwealth buildings, the ordinary municipal rates.
– Do not forget the man who has to find the money.
– I should be sorry to see the Commonwealth unable to pay rates for services rendered.
– It is not unable to pay them.
– I am sure that it is not. I do not know whether the Government are prepared at present Fo arrive at a decision, but I strongly suggest to them that the Commonwealth should set an example in this regard to the rest of the community. The section of the Constitution relating to this question was not intended to disable the Commonwealth from doing what is right in
connexion with municipal bodies and Federal. buildings. It was framed really to protect, the Commonwealth from what might be extravagant and unjust exactions, and I strongly suggest for the consideration of the Cabinet that the municipalities render to the Commonwealth valuable services which might quite properly be recognised; A large area in Paddington, which is in my electorate, is occupied by military barracks, in respect of which no municipal rates are paid by the Commonwealth. But for . the presence of those barracks, that area would be covered by hundreds of buildings returning to the municipality a large revenue in the shape of .rates. .The growth of the municipality has been hindered by the erection of the barracks there, yet the municipal council has had to bear the expense of maintaining the streets which surround that vast enclosure. I would suggest to the Minister of Home Affairs that he should look carefully into this matter, and see whether he cannot recognise these just claims, not on the part of persons struggling “for gain, but by public bodies who derive no benefit or profit from their public-spirited labours. The Government will always be master of the situation, they can regulate the recognition of their obligation; and the Commonwealth, in the performance of its public duties, ought certainly to set the highest standard to the citizens of Australia.
.- It is all very well for the representatives of city constituencies to urge the recognition of a claim of this kind, but I would remind the House that there are many people in Australia who, unfortunately, do not enjoy the advantages and facilities for the transaction of business which residence in our great cities confers. Under this proposal residents of the back-blocks, who in many cases have neither postal buildings nor other public conveniences, would have to contribute to the cost of the undertakings of city municipalities. Those who live in our large cities have the advantage and convenience of post-offices and other public buildings, whereas people in the backblocks are not so favoured. It should be our endeavour, as far as possible, to equalize taxation ; every one should bear a fair proportion of the taxation of the country; but it is altogether unfair to ask those .who live in the back-blocks, and have no public conveniences, to contribute to taxation for the benefit of city municipalities.
I have been connected for many years with the municipal council of Launceston, but have never heard of a complaint on its part in regard to the non-payment of municipal rates on public buildings. If the Commonwealth Government are willing to erect more public buildings in Launceston, the municipal council will not complain in regard to the non-payment of rates in respect of them, for its members will realize that the erection of such buildings will be a convenience to the citizens.
– Every shop that is erected is a convenience to the citizens.
– Quite so; but we have to remember that this is an Australian Par liament, and that we must consider, therefore, the interests of those who live in the back-blocks as well as of those who live in cities and large towns.
– £20,000 would not be much for 4,000,000 people to pay.
– The honorable member strongly objects to interjections when he is speaking, and I should be glad if he would take a dose of his own physic. I shall certainly oppose the motion, notwithstanding that 1 am interested, perhaps as much as is any honorable member, in city property. The adoption of this proposal would be absolutely unfair to residents of rural districts.
.- I am thoroughly in favour of this motion, and thought that it would be a case of “ and so say all of us.” The question is not new to the House, for on 2nd June, 1908, I brought it under the notice of the present Prime Minister in the following question -
As the New South Wales Local Government Act of 1906, under which the municipalities and shires in that State are how working, provides that all lands, with certain exemptions, whether the property of His Majesty or not, shall be rateable -
Will he waive the section in the Constitution which exempts the Commonwealth from payment of such rates?
Will he follow the example of the Imperial Government in England, where the Chancellor of the Exchequer annually forwards voluntarily a cheque to each of the respective corporate bodies for an amount equal to the amount of rates that would be payable if the Crown were liable?
I asked the Prime Minister to consider the desirableness of waiving section 114 of the Constitution, under which the Government is exempt from the payment of municipal rates, and the honorable member for Wentworth, by way of this motion, practically makes the same request to the Ministry. The answer which the Prime Minister gave to my question was as follows -
There are many points in connexion with this matter which will require a good deal of consideration before a reply can be given, including an interpretation of section 114 of the Constitution. Any action in one State will probably have to be extended to other States. It raises the question of municipal assessments. The Commonwealth pays for services rendered, such as water supply, sewerage, sanitary arrangements, &c.
The last sentence in that answer is met by the reply which the right honorable member for East Sydney made to an interjection by the honorable member for Maranoa, namely, that the payment of sewerage and sanitary rates generally is really a payment for actual services rendered.
– Nevertheless, they are rates.
– They are a means of collecting money for distinct services rendered. I wish to reply to the point raised by the honorable member for Bass, that to give effect to this motion would be to compel the people of the back-blocks to pay for conveniences afforded city residents. My retort is that the city people of whom he speaks make it possible for the residents of back-blocks to secure the public conveniences which they do enjoy.
– But for the back country there would be no cities.
– The honorable member for Bass asked why people in the backblocks should be taxed for the benefit of city municipalities. My answer is that people in the back-blocks of Queensland and Western Australia have large postal services that are not payable, and which ought not to be expected to pay their way, but to the cost of which the residents of cities and large towns have to contribute.
– Many people in the backblocks in my constituency have no such facilities.
– I do not make this appeal to the Minister as a mendicant ;I do not ask that the claims of any particular district shall be considered. The honorable member for Wentworth put his case strongly when he said that the obligation is one that ought to be faced; and I agree with him that it should be met. Considerations as to whether the position of a back-blocks man or a back-alley man is involved are quite beside the question. The Government are now sheltering themselves behind the Constitution, but in this regard a splendid example has been set them by the Parliament of New South Wales, which in 1906 passed a Local Government Bill, empowering the municipalities to collect rates in respect of public buildings from the payment of which the State Government was formerly exempt. In New South Wales, the justice of this claim is recognised, because it is realized that the municipalities have to find the money for the roads, and so forth. A Commonwealth elector in a municipality has to pay, perhaps, very heavy rates for the facilities which he enjoys, but which are given to a Commonwealth Department free of charge ; and under the circumstances it seems to me a scandal that the Government should shield themselves behind the Constitution.
– And that very citizen has to find the money to provide the Commonwealth Government building.
– Yes, he is hit both ways. This act of justice is sought, not only for one State, but for every State; and it is admitted that the Prime Minister in 1908 promised to give consideration to this question. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion ; and T trust that, after a delay of fourteen months the reasonable request of the municipalities will be granted.
.- I do not think this claim of the municipalities can be based on any ethical ground; that is to say, there are no definite rights on the part of the municipalities to this money. The Commonwealth stands in a different relationship to the people from that of a private individual, because the Commonwealth is practically the people themselves; and the benefits conferred by the establishment of post-offices and so forth constitute a set-off against any claim they may have against the Commonwealth which is really themselves. There is a distinct difference between the rights of the Commonwealth in this connexion, and the rights that may. be enjoyed by individuals. At the same time, while I realize that there is a set-off to the local people, it will not make any difference to us or them if these rates are paid, because it simply means that we reduce the matter to one of a proper bookkeeping standard. It is proposed that the whole of the people should be taxed to pay to local bodies the rates on the land occupied. We must assume, then, that the whole of the people proportionately contribute to the charges made ; and the matter, therefore, adjusts itself - what the people in the localities receive will be paid by themselves to themselves. It seems to me that all that is involved is the question of reducing the position to writing - of establishing a system in regard to it. As the matter stands now the people pay for the upkeep, and the fact that one little item is not charged to themselves and paid by themselves does not constitute an ethical wrong. But it is an inefficient system of bookkeeping, and, in order that that may be put right, I am prepared to support the motion.
.- To pro-, vide a concrete example, such as the honorable member for Macquarie seems to require, I may point to a little place called Queenscliff, which is in the unfortunate position that quite one-third of its otherwise rateable area is occupied by Commonwealth and other public buildings. Adjoining there is a more wealthy shire containing very few Federal properties; and, whilst the Queenscliff citizen has to pay an equal share with his neighbour to the Commonwealth revenue, he has not only to keep his own property in order, but also that for which no rates can be gathered.
– This non-rateable property keeps the citizens of Queenscliff.
– In what way ?
– Most of them are connected with the Public Departments.
– To a limited extent only. Not only do the buildings actually occupied by the Commonwealth escape rating, but, in many cases, quarters have to be provided, and, for this purpose, buildings which previously were rateable have become exempt on being acquired by the Commonwealth. This, of course, makes the rating fall all lbc more heavily on the other residents nf < Queenscliff. The land on which the barracks are situated was, before 1873, some of the best rateable land in the place, but this, together with lighthouses and quarters, post-offices, and railway buildings, has become clear of rating. Further, the expenditure on the roads is enormously increased by the fact that heavy artillery and ordnance, cut it up very consideraby
– The Commonwealth should make that up. »
– The right honorable member for East Sydney, when Prime Minister, gave a promise that the cost should be made up, and, after three years, I was able to have the money paid, so that in one sense the liability’ is acknowledged.
– Is there not a municipal subsidy from the State?
– There have been two grants for special roadmaking from the Commonwealth, but these by no means meet the extra expenditure which the municipality has to bear. It will be seen that certain small municipalities suffer from the fact of the Commonwealth occupying large areas in their midst, and, as the honorable member for Wentworth has said, in some cases the residents would much prefer that the business of the Commonwealth should be done elsewhere.
– The honorable member is speaking of a disproportionate representation of the Commonwealth in a municipality ?
– In any place where there are large barracks, and so forth, a disproportionate representation of the Commonwealth bears heavily on the municipality; and I support the motion.
– I listened very attentively to the honorable member for Wentworth, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and others, and I appreciate what has been said in regard to the disadvantages which various municipalities suffer through having large military areas in. their midst. This subject has been brought up on different occasions; but I do not think there is any necessity for such strong language as has been used by the honorable member for Wentworth, and- the honorable member for Dalley. The honorable member for Wentworth said that we ought to recognise these smaller bodies, and not shelter ourselves behind a legal quibble. There is no legal quibble. Under section 114 of the Constitution, which was adopted by the people of Australia, these properties are free from taxation - no State has the power to impose taxation on any Commonwealth property. The honorable member for Dalley said it was a scandal for the Government’ to screen themselves behind the Constitution. There is no desire on the part of the Government to do anything of the sort, in the case of any request or demand deemed to be just and fair. This is a very importantquestion ; and I may say that, like other honorable members, I have received a number of letters in regard to it from various municipalities in my constituency. The honorable member for Wentworth has pointed out that in Great Britain, by an act of grace, about £600,000 is paid annually to the various municipalities, in lieu of rating on Government property.
– The amount is more for the United Kingdom ; the figures I gave are for England alone.
– In view of the possibility of this motion being submitted today, I have had a table prepared, showing what payments would have to be made by the Commonwealth if these rates were enforced throughout the various States. I mav explain that in quoting from this table I will adopt the basis suggested by the honorable member for Wentworth, namely, an average rate somewhere between 2d. and 3d. in the £1. The unimproved values of the transferred properties in the various States are as follow: - New South Wales, £825,166; Victoria, £555,710; Queensland, £1348,395; South Australia, £99,592; Western Australia, £130,131 ; and Tasmania, £76,861 ; making a total of£2,035,855. An average rate of 2d. in the £1 on that sum would involve an expenditure of £16,965, and, of 3d. in the £1, of £25,448 per annum. But, as in some of the States the taxation is on the improved basis, it would be necessary to strike a mean. The figures with which I have been supplied regarding the improved value of Commonwealth property are these : For New South Wales, £2,446,927 ; for Victoria, £1,797,399 ; for Queensland, £888,590 ; for South Australia, . £375,022 ; for Western Australia, £425,850; and for Tasmania, £281,001; making a total of £6,214,789, of which fully one-third is accounted for by fortifications and other defence properties. A rate of 2d. in the £1 on that sum would involve us in an annual charge of £20,392 for New South Wales; £14,978 for Victoria ; £7,404 for Queensland; £3,126 for South Australia; £3,548 for Western Australia; £2,342 for Tasmania; or, in all, of £51,790, while on a rate of 3d., the total would be £77,685 per annum. Averaging the unimproved and improved rateable values, the charge on the Commonwealth would be about £50,000 per annum.
Mr.Kelly. - Does the Minister admit the moral obligation?
– Since Federation was brought about, the Commonwealth has always paid for water and sewerage, and other services When these have been actually given and accepted. The Constitution exempts our properties from municipal taxation, and while, of course,we could, as an act of grace, waive the exemption, we must have regard to the financial position. The honorable member estimates that municipal taxation would cost us only £20,000 a year, while the estimate of my officers is that it would cost £50,000 a year. I suggest that an opportunity be given for a thorough investigation of all the circumstances, so that the result may be laid before the Cabinet for its consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Atkinson) adjourned.
– I move -
It is difficult to deal effectively with this subject in the few minutes which yet remain for the transaction of private members’ business. If we have regard to the experience of the past - including a very recent event, which I shall not mention - we must acknowledge that the sooner we get rid of party government the better it will be for Australia.
– What about yesterday’s proceedings ?
– They were an instance of the abuse of the system. The evils which flow from this system may be lessened to some extent, but cannot be got rid of while the system remains. Our Parliament is modelled upon that of the United Kingdom, where, many years ago, there were only two political parties, which, so far as I can learn, were very differently constituted from those of’ modern days. They came together with a view to passing the legislation required by the country, but now party degeneration has become so great that the end in view is, not the welfare of the country,but the providing of positions for followers. At the present time, in this House, we have a combination of the followers of three parties, whose views are absolutely opposed. That combination has been effected at the sacrifice of principle and of the interests of the electors, to secure the defeat of the Labour party. I have always been a loyal party man.
– But the honorable member is beginning to waver now.
– I have never wavered from my political principles since I entered Parliament twenty-four years ago, and resent the interjection. I have sacrificed my interests to my party loyalty, and should be in a different position to-day had I acted differently, and done what the honorable member and others have done. I have nothing to thank any party for. While I have sacrificed my interests to those of my party, no party has ever done anything for me.
– That is not quite fair.
– It is absolutely true. The Treasurer probably knows more about party government than any other honorable member. It is said that at one time he was at the head of the only political party in Western Australia. Many things he did then were to his credit; but I ask him whether he has ever seen such degrading party intrigues as this Househas witnessed lately. I have never before known a party to oust a Ministry unless because it had a different policy to offer to the public. But the late Ministry was defeated by a combination of parties whose individual opinions, principles, and pledges were absolutely at variance.
– Similar combinations have happened in New South Wales.
– Never. Therewere coalitions like those between Sir Henry Parkes and Sir John Robertson, but, at that time, the fiscal question did not divide parties. Never has there been such a coalition since that cause of political division arose.
– In 1897 Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. Wise, a Free Trader and a Protectionist, came together in the Federal interest.
– Therewas no sacrifice of principle in that arrangement. Those two parties were made up of all kinds of people, holding different opinions upon other subjects, including fiscalism, but agreeing that it was in the best interests of Australia to have one Australian Parliament and one Federal party, instead of having six different parties in six different States. There was no sacrifice of principle there. The honorable member has mentioned the names of Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. B. R.Wise, but they were not divided on the question of bringing the six States into line under Federation.
Mr. Mahon. And Mr. Wise is now a Protectionist.
– It is to his credit that he has since changed his mind on the fiscal question. That case furnishes no parallel to the situation with which we are faced at the present moment. The object of parties in the past appears to have been only to get office. It is the right of the people to say who shall hold office. We in this Parliament should be in the same position as any large trading concern, with a large number of shareholders. After each general election, the members of Parliament should be called together and choose from amongst their number those who should constitute the Ministry of the day. That Ministry should carry out the laws made by Parliament, instead of Parliament having to obey the dictates of Ministers, whether or not it wishes to do so. We have in existence a Government, and what does it do? The debate upon a motion asking the Governmentto rectify anomalies in the Tariff has again been adjourned to-day. On that subject we have, in consequence of the party system, a combination of Ministers, some of whom are in strong sympathy with the motion, and are willing to go to a division upon it atonce, while the others are diametrically opposed to it, and will, I believe, do all they can in the Cabinet to keep faith with their principles by preventing effect being given to it.
– Would not exactly the same thing happen with an elective Ministry?
– No. Under the present system, if anything goes wrong in one Department, the fate of the whole Government is sealed. If the Ministry were elected by the House, their duty would be to carry out the will of the House, and tp administer the laws in accordance with the views of a majority of honorable members.
– There would be men of different views in the Ministry.
– This is so important a subject that I shall be glad to be allowed to continue my remarks on a future date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5p.m.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from the Senate transmitting the following resolution -
The Parliament records its high appreciation of the many and- eminent services rendered to the Commonwealth by the late Sir Frederick
Holder, particularly during his tenure of the arduous office of Speaker from its first assembling until his decease on Friday last. Inspired by a lofty conception of the duties of his office, he presided over the House of Representatives with conspicuous ability, firmness, and impartiality. An unsparing devotion to administrative duties was associated with a personal courtesy which endeared him to members and officers of the House. The founding of a National Library has been among the most important of his special interests. All citizens of Australia will concur in tendering their profound sympathy to the bereaved wife and family of a most distinguished Australian, whose loss is deeply felt by the whole community.
Standing Order No. 6 : Duties of the Clerk when Chairman.
.- I desire to raise a question of privilege. I do so as one who took no part, I am glad to say, in the unprecedented and discreditable scenes which occurred in this chamber yesterday. I do not think that the motion with which I propose to conclude should surprise Ministers, because it would be most unpardonable if this House condoned the unconstitutional proceeding that occurred, amounting to an invasion of the privileges of this House, and, in a measure, the surrender’ of the rights of the people who sent us here. We had here yesterday an unprecedented and unparalleled episode. In what I have to say, I wish to speak of the Clerk with all due respect, and not in any personal sense. I regret the unfortunate position in which an officer of this House was entangled through the action of the Ministry. We are all personally proud of the ability of that gentleman, and my reference will bear entirely upon the unfortunate position in which, through no fault or seeking of his, he was yesterday entangled. I wish to bear testimony to his excellent services in the House, and to say what is, perhaps, unnecessary, that I am actuated by no personal feeling in this matter. It would, however, be dangerous to allow the appearance upon the records of the House, to form a precedent to be acted on, perhaps, in this Parliament, if not in others, of the fact that an officer of the House actually assumed the functions and position of a member. The Clerk yesterday informed honorable members that, in giving a vote with the “ Noes “ in the division which resulted in a tie, he was acting under the Standing Orders, and read out standing order No. 6. Here let me say that those Stand ing Orders were never intended to meet such an extraordinary position as the one into which the House fell yesterday. They were evidently framed to meet the position which would have existed had Ministers followed the course usually adopted when a House is obliged to elect its presiding officer. Had that course been followed, there would have been no difficulty about the Standing Orders meeting the case. Standing orders 5 and 6 provide -
The House shall then proceed to elect a Speaker.
Prior to such election, the Clerk shall act as Chairman of the House.
We shall probable witness an endeavour to enlarge the meaning of the word “ Chairman “ in this case, so as to give to the Clerk upon that occasion the position which the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees would be entitled to in a similar case. Although the standing order provides that the Clerk shall act as Chairman no standing order of this House can override the Constitution. Under the Constitution no man is entitled to cast a vote in this House who has not been elected for some constituency by Che people of this country. Section 40 of the Constitution provides -
Questions arising in the House of Representatives shall be determined by a majority of votes other than that of the Speaker. The Speaker shall not vote unless the numbers are equal, and then he shall have a casting vote.
The question now comes in - Who is a voter in the House of Representatives? Clearly only some person who has been elected a member of the House of Representatives according to section 24. of the Constitution, which enacts that-
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth. ‘. . .
That being so, I ask what constituency returned the Clerk to this House as a member? Besides, the Clerk had never been sworn in. I therefore submit that the action of the Clerk in voting upon that occasion yesterday was an invasion of the rights and privileges of the House, and I propose to conclude with a motion, to the effect that the record of the Clerk’s vote, and other records^ shall be removed from the Votes and Proceedings of this Chamber.
– They are not on record, are they?
– They are on record.
– I think not.
– The honorable member ought to make sure before he speaks in that way. I have turned up the records, and find in the Votes and Proceedings of the 28th July the following entry -
And the numbers being equal, the Clerk stated that he would not take the responsibility of stopping the debate, and therefore gave a casting vote with the noes.
– I think he meant his decision.
– The honorable member need not try to explain it away by calling a vote a decision. The Clerk used the word “ vote.” It appears in the official record of the House, and the fact that he used it is also proved by what appeared . in the press, if further proof is necessary, because we all heard it. The Argus of today records the Clerk as saying -
I do not feel that it would be right for me to take the responsibility of putting an end toa debate upon which, apparently, members are not prepared to decide themselves. Therefore, I give my vote with the noes.
– The honorable member did not finish his motion.
– I have not moved it yet. The honorable member ought not to be so precipitate.
– The honorable member commenced to read the motion that he intends to submit.
– I did nothing of the kind. The honorable member for Fremantle said that a certain official record did not exist, and, in reply to his interjection, I proceeded to read the actual record.
– How did the honorable member obtain it ? I have not seen it.
– If the honorable gentleman were a little more industrious he could have seen it. I have no word of censure for the Clerk; I believe that he was placed in this unfortunate position because the Government chose to make an extraordinary departure from the course usually followed -by the House in the election of the Speaker. If this House has been reduced - as it has been within the last twenty -four hours - to the condition of a rabble, the responsibility must rest with the Government.
– With the Opposition.
– The public will judge.
– Perhaps the honorable member would like the newspapers to judge.
– When honorable members opposite, departing from all precedent arid practice, went into’ caucus to select ‘fi candidate-
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that on a motion of privilege the honorable member may notattack other honorable members for any course which they took last evening. The honorable member must confine himself to the subject of his motion, and ought not to make any reflection such as he is. now doing on the conduct of honorable members during the debate of last evening.
– I should like to speak to the point of order.
– I am prepared to give my ruling. The Minister of Defence takes the point of order that the honorable member is now introducing irrevelant matter?
– The honorable member for Coolgardie desires to raise a question of privilege, and incidentally wishes to show how that question has arisen. He is entitled to do that; but is not entitled to deal with matters that are irrelevantto the question now being debated. He mustconfine himself to the question of the breach of privilege, and the causes thereof.
– That, sir, is what I am doing. I am tracing back to its cause the incident of last night which I ask shall be removed from the records. We are entitled to charge the Government and their supporters with the responsibility for the unfortunate and discreditable occurrence of last night. They must have known what would be the result of their action, just as any ordinary man proceeding to take an extraordinary course must, in the nature of things, foresee the difficulties in which it will land him. I think that I am perfectly justified in referring to what led up to the peculiar episode in question, and to the fact that an officer of the House was placed in such an embarrassing position as that in which the Ministry placed the Clerk last night. In appointing an officer of this House who is to hold the scales of justice evenlv between contending parties, a procedure has hitherto been adopted calculated to reduce the friction likely to occur between the several parties in the chamber. I am entitled to hold the Ministerial party responsible for last night’s incident, since thev deliberately refused to adopt a course which would have led to the choice of the House being unanimous, and have prevented anything like the discreditable scenes that transpired. There is no warrant in the Standing Orders for the action taken by the Clerk. Standing order 7 clearly shows that the Clerk of the House, in acting as Chairman, at the election of a Speaker, has not even the right to speak. It reads -
A member, addressing himself to the Clerk (who, standing up, points to him, and then sits down)…..
If it were intended to empower the Clerk when acting as Chairman to give a vote, would he be prohibited by the Standing Orders from even speaking in the House? The only right of vocal utterance given to the Clerk by the Standing Orders is to be found in standing order 10, which limits him entirely to the simple procedure of putting the question” that Mr.- do take the chair of the House as Speaker.” In the circumstances, therefore, it must be recognised that the Standing Orders furnish no justification for the action of the Clerk last evening.
– Standing order10 provides that he shallstate whether the question is resolved in the affirmative or the negative.
– But there is nothing in the Standing Orders to authorize the Clerk to cast a vote. .
– Mr. Speaker simply declares whether a question is agreed to or negatived.
– When the voting is equal, Mr. Speaker gives his casting vote. Now I wish to refer to an unfortunate incident that occurred while the House was in division last night. The Prime Minister is such an old Parliamentarian that he ought to know that it isimproper for an honorable member, while the House is in division, to go from one part of the chamber to another. He must also have known last night that he was committing an even greater impropriety in rising from his place and engaging in conversation with an officer of the House who was required to give a decision.
– I do not think that is relevant.
– The honorable member is getting in a very nice personal attack.
– Order !
– I think that I am justified in referring to what may have influenced the Clerk.
– The honorable member is doing it very adroitly.
– I ask that the honorable member be kept in order.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie should be kept in order.
– I submit that I have a right to refer to an incident which, so far as I know, influenced the Clerk in doing an unconstitutional act.
– Will the honorable member take his seat? I have asked the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument, and I again request him not to do so.
– If I have any rights at all, surely I am justified in expressing the view that it is relevant to the motion to say that the Prime Minister whispered to the Clerk last night when he was about to give a vote. I do not know whether or not he influenced his vote, since I am unable to say what the honorable gentleman said.
– I ask the honorable member to recognise that the fact that he does not know what was said to the Clerk disentitles him to refer at all to the incident. I have already ruled that the honorable member is not in order in referring to an incident that has nothing to do with the question of privilege he has raised, and I ask him not to refer further to it.
– With all respect, sir. I submit that I am entitled to refer to the extraordinary incident which occurred immediately prior to the remarkable action taken by the Clerk. If you rule that I am not, I must dissent from your ruling.
– Does the honorable member desire to move to that effect ?
– If that is your ruling, I shall certainly move that this House dissent from it. I move -
– The honorable member is now breaking the standing order which provides that an honorable member who desires to dissent from a ruling must immediately put that dissent in writing.
– I shall do so.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie moves -
That this House dissent from the ruling of the Speaker,
– May I ask what the ruling was?
– My ruling was that the honorable member was not entitled to relate to the House an occurrence that had nopossible connexion-
– I deny that statement. I say that it was connected with the action out ofwhich this question of privilege arose.
– Order ! The honorble member ought to know that the Standing Orders provide that the Speaker shall not be interrupted. My ruling was. that the honorable member was not entitled to relate to the House an occurrence that had no possible connexion with the question of privilege before the Chair.
– What I may say, sir, will probably indirectly affect the issue to a greater extent than directly. When the division on which there was an equality of votes was taken-
– Is. the honorable member now discussing the motion before the Chair, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling be dissented from ?
– The honorable member will proceed.
– Mr. Speaker cannot rule upon thepoint of order until he has heard me. For the purpose of acquainting myself with the procedure to be adopted,. I did ask the Clerk, during the division, what course would be followed if the votes were equal. He replied that at the moment he did not know, but was consultingthe Standing Orders. I made no suggestion ; I simply asked questions.
– Is this in order, Mr. Speaker ?
– Yes; it relates to the question under discussion.
– The deliberate insinuation was that I had, in some manner, influenced the Clerk. It was impossible to exercise any influence by my questions. The question that I put to the Clerk in several ways was what was the coarse to be followed in the event of the voting being equal. At that time the Clerk was informing himself on the point. He was not certain, but believed there was some method, for which provision was made in the Standing Orders. I was not familiar with the Standing Orders on that point. Consequently, the honorable member’s statement,in connexion with which he has challenged your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is based on an entire misapprehension of the facts. Whether he was or was not entitled to infer what he has suggested, the honorable member must now accept my assurance that there was no foundation for it. That disposes of the whole substance of his objection, and there is now only one course open to him.
– I think that the Prime Minister has done well in explaining what he said to the Clerk.
– I followed the usual custom.
– It is not the usual custom for an honorable member to rise during a division.
– No, that is not usual.
– With all due respect to the Prime Minister, who has had a long experience, I think he committed an error of judgment and in tactics in interviewing the Clerk on the situation at that particular time. If the Clerk could be advised by the Leader of the Government-
– I did not advise him.
– But if the Clerk could be interviewed by one honorable member in such a situation, every other honorable member would have the right to interview him ; and that would lead to chaos and disturbance. I suggest that, after the explanation that has been made, the honorable member for Coolgardie might withdraw his motion to dissent from the ruling of the Speaker.
– I hare no wish to persevere with a motion of this kind, but I am certainly still of the opinion, despite the ruling, that my reference was much more in order than the explanation of the Prime Minister. I could see no relevancy in the Prime Minister’s remarks to the motion to dissent from the ruling of the Speaker.
– Does the honorable member desire to withdraw his motion?
– As I say, I have no wish to persevere with the motion, and I beg leave to withdraw it.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, page 62, dated 28th July, 1909 be amended by the omission of the following entries : -
And the numbers being equal the Clerk stated that he would not take the responsibility of stopping the debate, and therefore gave a casting vote with the Noes -
And a point of order being raised that the Clerk could not vote, the Clerk, as Chairman, ruled that if he had not a casting vote as Chairman, nevertheless the motion for adjournment not having received a majority of votes, had not been agreed to.
Those entries, in my opinion, ought to be expunged, for the reason that, although the incident actually happened, their omission will make no difference to the clearness and coherency of the record.If, however, the entries are allowed to remain, it may happen that on some future occasion they will be referred to as a precedent. The Votes and Proceedings are the official re cord of Parliament, and altogether different from Hansard. If those entries remain, it will be open for a member of this or some other Parliament in the British Dominions to quote it as a precedent for the Clerk casting a vote on an occasion when the two sides are equal. It is not advisable to allow such a precedent as that to. stand on the records; and, therefore, I have done what I consider my duty in placing thematter before honorable members, so that, if they think as I do, they may have the record amended in the way proposed. The motion casts no aspersion on any officer of the House, and will, in a measure, removefrom our official records a part of the proceedings which I regret to sav were not to the credit of this Chamber.
– With the honorable member for Coolgardie, I feel we are in a country where everything is founded on precedent. The decisions of Judges are not based on the conditions of the day, but on the conditions of 200 or 300 years ago. Everybody seems to look back on what somebodydid 2,000 or 3,000 years ago; and I am afraid to let this record stand in our Votes and Proceedings, as it may be the means of crucifying generations still unborn. I have no personal feeling in the matter ; my only fear is that we may bind persons thousands of years from now, whenyou and I, Mr. Speaker, are fluttering around the gilt-lit hills of the New Jerusalem. Noreflection whatever is intended on the Clerk, the only object being to preserve those rights and privileges for which we have battled, and for which we shall have again to battle in the next few months. I quite admit that many of us will not return to this House, but the Clerk will remain ; and I do not desire that our privileges should be usurped by one holding a perpetual office. As I say, the record ought to beremoved, because there is a danger of it forming a precedent in America, Greece, or Africa, centuries from now, when it will be pointed to as something we, a very intellectual people, did. We now refer to the authority of May in order to see what Burke did a hundred years ago. The decisions of Judge Marshall, the Great Chief Justice of the United States, and other American Judges are quoted now ; and the American Constitution, which is antiquated, is always appealed to when it is sought to build up another Constitution. The Speaker wears a wig because some savage did so a hundred years ago; and even Judges wear wigs full of microbes and insects because it was the custom in the centuries past. It is unfortunate that the dead customs of centuries ago should ride on the back of the living present. I beg to second the motion ; and I trust that the Prime Minister, who is himself a progressive man, with hopes for the future, will not oppose it.
– I do not propose to enter into a technical argument, at all events, in the first instance. It seems to me that the question is capable of being disposed of in a much more effective manner than that proposed by the honorable member for Coolgardie. I do not even raise the point whether this is a question of privilege, and make no reference to the honorable member’s remarks upon the circumstances which gave rise to it, though I must remind him that it was due entirely to the unprecedented occurrence of an equality of voting at a time when the Clerk of the House possessed the authority of the Chair. I suggest that the course the honorable member has taken does not fulfil his desire or the desire, still more strongly expressed by the honorable member who seconded the motion, for an effective manner of preventing a recurrence of a similar unfortunate situation. What the honorable member for Coolgardie proposes to do is to strike out part of an official record, which no member present will say is in anv respect incorrect. It is an absolutely faithful record of what happened. The portions which the honorable member seeks to omit are -
And the numbers being equal the Clerk stated that he would not take the responsibility of stopping the debate, and therefore gave a casting vote with the Noes -
And a point of order being raised that the Clerk could not vote, the Clerk, as Chairman, ruled that if he had not a casting vote as Chairman, nevertheless the motion for adjournment not having received a majority of votes, had not been agreed to.
It was on the second ground that the debate proceeded ; consequently, the Clerk had only an intention of casting a vote, so to speak; since, before he could cast it, his right to do so was challenged, and it was passed by.
– That is not correct. .
– I am in the hearing of honorable members who were present. What is the proper method to meet the situation ? Is it not clear that our existing Standing Orders, asthe honorable member himself says, were not drawn with a view to any such emergency, but to meet the ordinary occasions of the election of a Speaker at the commencement of a Parliament? No such situation as this was foreseen or provided for. But the Standing Orders are not unalterable; they are made by ourselves for our own use. They are not to put or keep us in bondage ; and I suggest that the motion should have taken, or might better take, the form of remitting this question to the Standing Orders Committee, with a request that they frame Standing Orders so as in the future to avoid the possibility of any such occurrence.
– That does not meet the case.
– It does, absolutely; it destroys whatever suggestion of precedent there may be in the records. I say no precedent is established.
– Is this not the official record of the House?
– It is.
– Very well.
– But explicit Standing Orders bind the House. On any future occasion it will not be the records, but the Standing Orders which will be appealed to. The Standing Orders should provide, and could easily be made to provide, for any occurrence such as arose last night.
– Does not that precedent stand?
– No, and if it did, what force could it have when contradicted by a standing order ? At the utmost, a vote was claimed by the Clerk under circumstances of great pressure, and the claim, when challenged, was not persisted in.
– The honorable member assumes that the Standing Orders will be amended.
– The House can control its own business. Honorable members recognise that yesterday we were in a position of great disadvantage, and that the amendment of the Standing Orders can prevent a similar occurrence in the future. That is the most rational power to use.
– No standing order could give to any person who is not a member the right to vote in this House.
– And no standing order is necessary to prevent any one who is not a member from voting.
– A standing order could be framed to make the position clear, and that is all we need.
– Is a standing order required to make it clear that one who is not a member cannot vote?
– The claim of the Clerk is based on standing order 6, which directed him to act .as Chairman.’ What. is needed is a definition of his powers when so acting. A standing order embodying such a definition would make an occurrence like that of yesterday impossible in the future, prevent the establishment of any precedent, and enable us to. prescribe exactly what shall be done in the future in circumstances such as I trust never will arise again.
– I admit that standing order 6 declares that the Clerk shall act as Chairman, but it cannot be interpreted to mean that, whilst so acting, he has the rights and privileges of a member elected by a constituency. I am not in agreement with the Prime Minister in the contention that, if the record be allowed to remain, it will have no effect, although I agree with him that it would be well to frame a new standing order. I would have been glad had he. accepted the proposal of the honorable member for Coolgardie for the elimination of the record, which gives an account of procedure absolutely contrary to the Constitution. I have nothing te say against the Clerk. Any man placed as he was would probably have acted similarly. That respected officer will not consider it a reflection upon his ability if the House thinks fit to excise from the records the account of a situation which many of us would like to consign to oblivion. I say deliberately that we shall do well if we omit from our early records any statement which in the future may be used to diminish the privileges of the House. I do not agree with the honorable member for Darwin that we should let the future look after itself. In my opinion, the Clerk was seriously in error in giving a vote as though he were a Chairman possessing representative capacity, and it would, therefore, be advisable to omit the account of the proceedings from the records.
– It is also in Hansard.
– Hansard is a record largely for the convenience of those honorable members who are fond of quoting from it, but not the record of the House.
– The Hansard account need not appear in the bound sessional volumes.
– Without discussing the legal position. I suggest to the Government “tins advisability of agreeing to the elimina tion of the statement to which exception hasbeen taken. I think every honorable mem7 ber is agreeable to that.
– That is striking out a statement of fact.
– Perhaps so; but theClerk, in claiming a vote, claimed a right which he did not possess. The more thecircumstances are examined, the more obvious is it that an error was committed.. The Clerk had to mention the matter iri the record; but it would be wise for the House, which ‘ has control, to resolve to strike out the statement of what occurred.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie proposes to make another record concerning the occurrence.
– It is proposed now to deliberately correct a mistake inadvertently made by the Clerk in the performance of an arduous duty which devolved upon him under the Standing Orders. He had to act on the spur of the moment, and, perhaps, under a feeling of excitement, if it can be thought that our officers ever permit themselves to become excited. The honorable member for Coolgardie has done a service to the House by bringing the matter forward, and I would respectfully suggest that the words complained of should be omitted, and that the Standing Orders Committee be asked to draft a standing order to meet any future contingency of the kind.
.- I think that the course proposed by the Prime Minister is that which we should follow. The Leader of the Labour party failed to take into account the fact that nothing is to be gained by deleting from our record the statement of what actually occurred. He overlooked, too, the Tact that this discussion will be recorded. This will show that, having met with an unexpected difficulty, we got over it by directing the Standing Orders Committee to frame a rule to deal with any similar future contingency.
– The precedent will remain.
– Can the action of the Clerk create a precedent? He made a suggestion, but withdrew it on discovering that , he was in error. If honorable members are so jealous about future references to this incident, the best thing would be to leave the record as its stands, But to make it plain that we do not intend anything of the kind to occur in future, and have, therefore, provided, by a new standing order, for any similar contingency. We ought not to remove from the record a statement of fact within the knowledge of honorable members. The debate will show the opinion of the House, and the Prime Minister has suggested how a similar occurrence may be provided against in the future.
– I disagree with the Prime Minister. In my opinion, it would be absurd to frame a standing order to prevent the Clerk from exercising a power which he cannot possess.
– And which he has not exercised *
– The entry in the Votes and Proceedings shows that he claimed to exercise the right to vote, and will stand as a precedent, unless it be expunged.
– The proposal is to frame a standing order to define the powers of the Clerk.
– In this matter they are limited by the Constitution. No officer of Parliament can exercise the functions of a duly elected representative of the people. This discussion is not a reflection on the Clerk, who acted, in a very trying and difficult position, as, on the. spur of the. moment, seemed right to him. He would be the first to acknowledge that, had he had time to think over the matter, he would have acted differently.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Coolgardie has brought this matter forward, though I express that opinion, not because I think that we shall, bv_ expunging the record to which he has referred, avoid, in the future, an unsatisfactory position such as that which we got into yesterday, but because the proceedings which then occurred point to the necessity for a reference to the Standing Orders Committee in order that there should be vested in some person in the House powers resembling the ordinary powers of a Speaker until the election of a Speaker has been concluded.
– The power should vest in the Deputy Speaker.
– There are other ways of dealing with the matter. The present method is most unsatisfactory. There is very good ground for doubting whether the Clerk did not act within his powers in what he did yesterday. One standing order gives him the powers of Chairman of the House until the Speaker is elected.
– For the purpose of electing the Speaker only.-
– That is entirely a matter of interpretation. Surely one of the powers of a Chairman is to give a casting vote if there is an equality of votes. The standing order might have limited the powers of the Clerk while acting as Chairman, but it does not do so. There is no limit upon his powers. Standing order 6 says - .
Prior to such election the Clerk shall act as Chairman of the House.
Surely that was intended to provide for. some position of difficulty in which some one had to do something.
– There is another provision that he .shall point and not speak.
– That is perfectly true, but it does not affect the words of standing order 6. The fact is that the whole of these proceedings require to be settled upon some more rational footing. If, upon the question that “A” shall take the chair of the House as Speaker, there was a tie, what position should we be in? We could not possibly proceed to elect any one else,, because there would be before the Chaira proposition which had not been with drawn or disposed of.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I am endeavouring not to answer all the views of all the members ofthe Chamber, but to put forward one of my own.
– Which one - Yes or No?
– When , one endeavours to address himself judicially to a subject, he sometimes discovers that there are twosides to a question. A more limited intellect is often unable to perceive even one.
– It is only a Reid thatcan say “Yes” and “No “at the same time.
– There are a great many persons in Australian politics who deservethat epithet more than I do. I strongly support the suggestion of the Prime Minister that we should put the House in a much better position than it is in under present conditions. It would be a perfectly idle proceeding to expunge the record of what occurred yesterday. That course is resorted to only where something discreditable to the House or to some member of the House has appeared upon the records.This is not a case of that sort. The action of the Clerk was intended to be a legitimate exercise of a very trying duty which was cast upon him. As a matter of fact,’ the question resolved itself. The numbers being equal, the debate, as the Clerk said,’ and as the honorable member for Lang pointed out, had to proceed. There was really no casting vote necessary. The House itself had decided that the debate should proceed by the very fact that it did not make up its mind to adjourn it. We might, however, in future have some ridiculous complication, and I hope that if the matter is referred to the Standing Orders Committee a radical change may be made which would enable the House to put some, one of authority in the chair, so that, perhaps, the most important task that the House has to discharge in the course of its life-time may be carried out under the proper rules of parliamentary procedure.
.- I am sure the honorable member for Coolgardie, and every other honorable member, has no feeling of animosity towards the Clerk for his action yesterday. He was placed in b. very trying position. It _ is quite competent, if one reads the Standing Orders strictly, or even fairly, to argue that the Clerk might have gone a great deal further. Standing order 6 provides that the Clerk shall act as Chairman of the House. If we stopped there, it would give him the rights of the Chairman of Committees of the House, which would mean not only a vote, but a voice. The next standing order, however, directs that he shall do certain things. It partially deprives him of a voice, because under it he simply has to point to the honorable member who desires to address him upon the question, and is not permitted to name him. He is only allowed to submit to the House certain questions in certain forms, and so the Standing Orders go on in conflict with one another right through. The honorable member for Coolgardie deserves the thanks of the House for calling attention to the matter. The right honorable member for East Sydney, with his trained mind, must admit that no one but an elected representative of the people has a right, under the Constitution, to speak or vote in this House. We must not get away from that point. It is quite competent at all times for the House to order that any of Its members shall act in a judicial capacity, “because they are the elected representatives of the people. I do not know that the honorable member for Coolgardie will gain very much by deleting from the records what has taken place. What he will gain by Iris action, I hope, will be a direction to the Standing Orders Committee to make it impossible for any such conflict to take place in the future. In all assemblies it happens at times that the voting upon a question is equal, and the chairman has to decide; but yesterday, instead of the decision being given upon a simple motion for the adjournment of the debate, it might have been given upon the motion that Mr. SoandSo be called to the chair of the House. If then the Clerk, exercising his rights under standing order 6, were to give his casting vote, the position would be that the Speaker of the House would be elected by somebody who was not an elected representative of the people.
– That would not hold good under the Constitution.
– It is clearly in conflict with the Constitution, which provides that none but the elected representatives of the people shall have that power. In all other proceedings in the House the Deputy Speaker discharges the functions of the Speaker during the Speaker’s absence. God forbid that any such tragic occurrence as we witnessed recently should take place here again; but we should so frame our Standing Orders that the Chairman of Committees might act in the judicial capacity of Chairman of the House to conduct the election of a Speaker.
– That would have been rather awkward in this case, because the Chairman of Committees was also a candidate.
– The Standing Orders provide also that the House has power to elect any member to the chair. We must retain that power and keep within our constitutional rights.
– At the. meeting of anew Parliament there would be no Chairman of Committees. That would have to be provided for.
– That point was also mentioned by the Prime Minister. Something similar to what took place yesterday may take place at least once in every three years, and we must make provision accordingly. The honorable member for Coolgardie would achieve his object if he could obtain from the Prime Minister a promise to submit the matter to the Standing Orders Committee, in order to have standing orders so framed that whoever presides at an election of any sort in the House shall be a member of the House.
– Then there could be no argument about what happened yesterday’ being taken as a precedent, because the action of the House would show that it did not take it as a precedent.
– Exactly. What I suggest appears to be a reasonable solution of the position, and the honorable member for Coolgardie will have gained his end. He deserves the thanks of the community for calling attention at the earliest possible moment to this breach of the privileges of the House.
.- The honorable member for Riverina has emphasized the necessity of referring the matter to the Standing Orders Committee. A mere intimation by the Prime Minister that this would be done might mean delay ; but now that attention has been directly drawn to it, I take it that there will be a speedyreference to that Committee and immediate action by them, I took a little part in yesterday’s proceedings, but not to cause trouble or turmoil, or to put the Clerk in an invidious position. He placed himself in that position by the line of conduct that he adopted. If he was armed with all those powers, how is it that we had such a corroboree going on hour after hour? He himself was conscious that he was not armed with sufficient powers as Chairman of the meeting to maintain order. If he had been, do honorable members think that what was apparently disorderly conduct would have been allowed to continue? There was a tacit admission all through that he felt himself hampered in his position.
– We were not so very bad yesterday.
– We were not; but to judge by the press reports I was one of the most prominent aiders and abettors at a riot which might have occurred on the Yarra bank. I do not take accusations of that sort to heart; but I wish to take this opportunity of saying that I was not under the impression that I was playing in a football match yesterday afternoon. I was quite conscious of my responsibilities, and the Clerk was very conscious that he had not the power to maintain order. It was not incumbent upon the Clerk to leave the chair at 6.30 last night; he might have left it at s o’clock or at 8, and it was because I considered that he had no power to take the action that he did that I, with others, objected to his statement that he would give a casting vote. The Clerk has no power to act as Chairman, except that conferred by standing order 6, and the only right that he has to speak in the House is that conferred upon him by the standing order which enables him to put a motion.I am glad that attention has been drawn to this matter, and trust that there will not be a recurrence of the incident.
.- I hope that if the Standing Orders Committee is to deal with this question it will not adopt the suggestion made by the right honorable member for East Sydney that the Clerk should be empowered to take certain action. We ought certainly to refuse to empower the Clerk to give a vote affecting the proceedings of the House.
– Would not a standing order conferring such a right on the Clerk be contrary to the Constitution?
– Certainly not. A standing order empowering the Clerk to cast such a vote as he attempted to give last night would certainly affect the proceedings of the House, and I hope that no such practice will obtain. In my opinion, a member of this House is alone entitled to cast a vote - and a casting vote is, of course, equal to a deliberative- vote - affecting its proceedings. There ought to be no difficulty in preventing a recurrence of last night’s incident. Obviously, all that is necessary is to provide that when the House meets to elect a Speaker an honorable member shall be appointed to act as Deputy Speaker. Heaven only knows why provision has not been made for the adoption of that simple and obvious course, lt can be decided upon without the intervention of the Standing Orders .Committee, and it is the only course open to us.
– There is not much difficulty.
– -Certainly not.
– I do not think there is much difficulty in the present procedure.
– I hold that a statement of the action taken by the Clerk ought not to remain on the records as part or the proceedings of the House. The question at issue is not whether that statement is a statement of fact, but whether it is a relevant statement. If it is relevant, then a statement in the records of the House that honorable members appeared in the chamber decently clothed would be equally relevant. The statement made by the Clerk is no more relevant to the proceedings of the House than it would have been had it been uttered by a messenger or by a stranger in the gallery, and, therefore, it ought not to appear on the records. Nothing should appear on the records save that which is relevant to the debates of the House, or for which provision is made in the Standing Orders. We all agree that the Clerk had no right to say that he gave his casting vote with the “ Noes,” and, that being so, the statement that he used such words is entirely irrelevant, and should not appear on the records. It might just as well be argued that a statement by the Clerk that he was tired of sitting in the chair - which he might have been excused for making - and would be glad if the debate were over, should appear on the records, as that the announcement which he made last night should be recorded. It was an irregular proceeding. The right honorable member for East Sydney said that if something objectionable had occurred if should not appear on the records of the House. That, I contend, is not the point at issue. All that we have to consideris whether the Clerk, when he made the statement in. question, was occupying a position that entitled him to make it and to have il recorded.
– It can hardly be claimed that his statement was irrelevant to the business before the House.
– Certainly it was irrelevant. When I speak of the relevancy of the statement, I have in mind, not its relevancy to the matter actually under discussion, but the fact that a statement by any one who has no right to make it is entirely irrelevant. The Standing Orders Committee should be able, in a few minutes, to lay down a course of procedure that may be adopted without difficulty. The honorable member for Coolgardie has certainly acted rightly in urging that the words uttered by the Clerk, in assuming a position that he was not entitled to occupy, were irrelevant to the proceedings of the House, and, should, therefore, not be placed on record.
.- It apnenrs to me that something has. occurred which requires affirmative action by the House. We have on the records of the House the statement -
And the numbers being equal the Clerk stated that he would not take the responsibility of stopping the debate, and therefore gave a casting vote with the Noes-
And a point of order being raised that the Clerk could not vote, the Clerk, as Chairman, ruled that if he had not a casting vote as
Chairman, nevertheless the motion for adjournment not having received a majority of votes, had not been agreed to.
I do not agree with the honorable member for Boothby that that statement is not relevant. It is distinctly relevant, since, when it was uttered by the Clerk, he was occupying the Chair for a definite purpose provided for and authorized by the Standing Orders of this House and the practice of the House of Commons, almost from time immemorial. Being properly there, however, he, in our opinion, overstepped his powers, and what the House ought to do now is to lay down clearly what his powers are. To expunge his remarks from the records wouldbe merely, as it were, to bury one’s head in the sand. The Clerk, acting on the spur of the moment - actingin a most natural way - said, “ I give my casting vote with the’ Noes,’ in orderto enable the debate to continue.” I submit that he had no right to do so. He hadno vote; but he said that he had one, and that statement appears on the records. Unless we deny and repudiate the right claimed by the Clerk, and put on record that repudiation, the mere withdrawal of the statement objected to from the records of the House will not prevent the Clerk taking similar action on some other occasion. We ought to put on record our opinion that the Clerk had no right to cast a vote. It seems to me that we ought not to refer to the Standing Orders Committee the question of what the Clerk ought to do in such circumstances. The House cannot give to any person not a member the right to vote, nor Standing Orders give to any person, save a member of this House, the right to a casting vote. I do not think that even that can be done. Section 24 of the Constitution providesthat the House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and no man can vote in this House until he has been sworn in. That being so, we cannot possibly give the Clerk the right to vote in the House, and the Standing Orders Committee, which derives all its powers from us, cannot go beyond our powers. What the Clerk did last night was wrong, because it was unconstitutional. Section 40 of the Constitution provides -
Questions arising in the House of Representatives shall be determined by a majority of votes, other than that of the Speaker.The Speaker shall not vote unless the numbers are equal, and then he shall have a casting vote.
We were in House, and not in Committee; and the only person who has a casting vote in the House is the Speaker, who can, by that vote, influence legislation,
– Had the Clerk voted for an adjournment, there would have been something wrong, but there is nothing wrong now.
– That does not matter. If the Clerk had a casting vote last night On the question of adjournment, he had a casting vote for the election of the Speaker. We cannot say the Clerk had a right to vote for one, and not for the other. Looking at the probabilities, it is very far from unlikely that in the next Parliament parties may be so equally balanced that we may find ourselves absolutely at a deadlock in the election of a Speaker. Is the Clerk, therefore, to say who shall be Speaker? The very idea isabsurd. The Speaker has a casting vote with which he may make and unmake legislation. The laws of the Commonwealth are to be made by the Parliament. And since the casting vote of the Speaker may influence legislation, the casting vote of the Clerk may elect the Speaker, and so influence legislation. It is perfectly unconstitutional, and, therefore, improper for the Clerk to have a vote. I never heard of the Clerkin the House of Commons having a vote of the kind; but, even if that hag been so, we must remember that the British Parliament is not governed by a written Constitution. Our powers are severely limited, and, under our Constitution, the only person who has a casting vote is the Speaker, and the Standing Orders Committee cannot give any other person a casting vote. The matter ought not to be referred to the Standing Orders Committee, because it is purely a question of the privileges of the House.
– Does the honorable member say that the Standing Orders Committee could not give a member a casting vote?
– I am speaking of the Clerk; but I ask the honorable gentleman to look at section 40, and say whether the Standing Orders Committee could give a member the right to a casting vote.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– The honorable member apparently settles these matters; I am only quoting the Constitution. At any rate, to merely expunge these entries would take us very little forward. Personally, I think the entries ought to remain on the record, because we know that what is recorded occurred. What we have to do is to place on the record another statement that the privileges and powers, or the procedure of the House is such that the Clerk cannot exercise a vote under any circumstances whatever. That would be quite sufficient, and I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral the advisableness of taking steps to have it done. I do not see what we would gain by striking these entries off the records.
– Absolutely nothing.
– What I am concerned about is that we should record that, in our opinion, the Clerk has no right to vote; and the Attorney-General is the proper person to take steps to that end.
.- I am sorry the Prime Minister is not present, because I desireto say a word or two about his suggestion to refer this matter to the Standing Orders Committee. That Committee has been in existence since the Federal Parliament was established, and for the first two years the members of it met regularly almost every week, and devoted an enormous amount of time and work to the compiling and revising of Standing Orders to meet the contingencies which arise in the conduct of the business of the House. But after all this effort, there has not yet been a Government prepared to put the Standing Orders into force. One Government which did propose to do so was defeated. It is a waste of time to refer this question to the Standing Orders Committee, if their recommendations are to be treated as in the past. No doubt something should be donei after what occurred yesterday ; but there should be some assurance that the Government will ask the House to approve of any suggestions or proposals the Standing Orders Committee may make. There are a number of other questions connected with the Standing Orders towhich attention should be given at the earliest possible moment. At present we are working under Standing Orders which were never suited to this Chamber, and which, indeed, are a disgrace to a deliberative assembly such as this. These Standing Orders, though compiled by a gentleman of considerable knowledge, were handed to us without revision, and are not in keeping with conditions which arise from time to time.
– They were intended to be merely temporary.
– Quite so. Those Standing Orders were adopted on the first day the Federal Parliament met, and they have been in use during the whole of the nine years, though many things have occurred to show grave necessity for amendment. The Standing Orders Committee made efforts in the past to remedy many acknowledged defects, and their draft recommendations have been presented from time to time ; but no attempt has been made to bring the Orders up-to-date.
– This would be a good session to bring the subject forward.
– We should be much better employed in considering the Standing Orders than in marking time.
– Is this marking time?
– Speaking seriously, I ask the Government if it is their intention, in the event of the Standing Orders Commitee dealing with this matter -
– I think the Standing Orders Committee should be revised too.
– Perhaps that would be a good thing. I know I should willingly give up any share that I have in the work of the Committee. I hope that the Government will take some steps at the earliest possible moment to have the Standing Oxders submitted to the House, and also to have the question immediately before us settled.
.- It is hardly necessary to offer anything further to prove the inutility and absurdity of referring this question to the Standing Orders Committee. That body has been in existence so long, and has done so little, that no useful result could possibly accrue from submitting the matter to them. In any case, if the Standing Orders Committee wish to recommend to the House the adoption of rules which will remove difficulties of this kind, it is perfectly open to the Committee to do so without any reference from this House; and that is my answer to the Prime Minister’s suggestion. The right honorable member for East Sydney said that the Clerk acted within his powers as Chairman; but I should have liked to hear the honorable member show in what way the Standing Orders can override the Constitution, and give to an official of the House such a prerogative. The right honorable member also said that he objected to the record being expunged, because in the past only discreditable incidents had been so dealt with. That is one of those general statements which the honorable and learned gentleman sometimes makes without having looked into the subject. While such statements may pass before illiterate juries in some of the Courts of New South Wales, he cannot expect them to pass here, where every one of us has access to the same records of parliamentary procedure as he has. The statement that only entries of a discreditable character hare been expunged from the records of the House of Commons is absolutely incorrect. Turning to the 11th edition of May, I find that, on the 17th February, 1769, a record affirming the incapacity of Mr. Wilkes was ordered to be expunged, and was expunged accordingly. Then, coming down to our own times, it was resolved, on the 27th January, 1 89 1, that the resolution of the 22nd June, 1880, debarring Mr. Bradlaugh from taking the oath of affirmation be expunged. There was nothing discreditable in either of those records. That affecting Mr. Bradlaugh simply affirmed that until he had taken the oath he should not exercise the privileges of a member.
– The expulsion of Wilkes was proved to be illegal.
– I am replying to the contention of the right honorable member for East Sydney that the carrying of my motion would imply that what the Clerk did was discreditable. My answer is that statements in no way personally discreditable to those concerned have been expunged from the records of the House of Commons.
– Was not the last resolution referred to passed to do honour to Mr. Bradlaugh?
– I am not a mind reader.
– That was the purpose of it.
– Does the honorable member know what was in the minds of the members of the House of Commons of that day? He will have difficulty in discovering what is in the minds of those sitting about him here at times. The Prime Minister forgot, when he stated that the occurrences of yesterday will be published in Hansard, that that is not an official publication in the sense that the Votes and Proceedings are. He should have told us that the Votes and Proceedings are evidence in the Courts of the country of what takes place in Parliament. He could have discovered that by referring to the last edition of May, where, at page 202, it is stated that -
By Act 8 and 9 of Vic. c. 113, s. 3 . . . it is enacted that all copies of the Journals of either House of Parliament, purporting to be printed by the printers to either House of Parliament, shall be admitted as evidence thereof by all Courts, Justices, and others, without proof being given that such copies were so printed.
The Votes and Proceedings, the record which I propose to amend, are of themselves evidence of our proceedings in the Courts of the country. The precedent established by this Parliament would be binding on the Parliament of a Territory or of a new State. These entries, if not erased from the records, will constitute a precedent. Hansard, we know, is at times very severely sub-edited bv honorable members. The Treasurer. I understand, has official charge of the printing of that publication at the present time. He is aware that it is severely sub-edited, having personal experience of that fact.
– I think, if the truth were known, that it would be found that the honorable member has greater knowledge.
– I occasionally take out a comma, but not a whole passage. The honorable member for East Sydney thinks that the motion does not go far enough, and that we need to put on record a statement to the effect that the Clerk had no right to do what he did last night. In my opinion, the honorable gentleman has not given the matter the careful consideration which he usually bestows on the business of the House. The adoption of my motion will be an admonition to future Parliaments that the action of the Clerk in voting yesterday is repudiated by the House. The Prime Minister, as usual, was very skilful in leading us away from the real point at issue. He said that the motion would not fulfil my intention, and that the record would show that the action of the Clerk’ was not seriously regarded. Although the second entry suggests that the ria,ni nf the Clerk to vote was not seriously regarded bv the House, it is necessary that we should, by altering the record as I suggest, mark our disavowal of it. I mentioned at the beginning that. I have no intention to in any way reflect upon an officer for whom we all have the highest respect. [ should be one of the last to do that. But we shall be neglecting a duty we owe, not merely to ourselves, but to our suc cessors, and to the public, if we do not provide that no unauthorized person shall assume the right to decide in this House questions which the Constitution does not empower any but a member to decide. In reply to the statement of the right honorable member for East Sydney, that the Clerk acted within his powers as Chairman, I wish to say that I have consulted the definitions of that word given by two of the best dictionaries available. Webster defines a chairman as -
The presiding officer of a committee or of a public or private meeting or of any . organized body.
The New English Dictionary, issued by the Oxford press, and edited by James A. H. Murray, defines the word as meaning -
The occupier of a chair of authority, especially the person who is chosen to preside over a meeting to conduct its proceedings, and who occupies the chair or seat provided for this function.
The chair or seat provided for the Chairman or Speaker of this House is not that occupied by the Clerk last night. I do not lay stress on that point; but as a literal fact, the Clerk did not occupy the chair of the Chairman of Committees or of the Speaker. Our Standing Orders, and the sections of the Constitution which I have read, but especially the former, suggest that the Clerk should not utter an unnecessary word. Not merely is he not empowered to give a casting vote, but he may not utter a word, except in the putting of a motion. He has not the privilege which is exercised by the Speaker and the Chairman of calling upon any honorable member to address the House. When any honorable member rose last night, he could merely point to him as the member in possession of the floor, an action which indicated that he had no right to speak in the Assembly. I waive my objection, if the Prime Minister still thinks it will serve any useful purpose to refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee. That could be added to my motion, though I think that the Committee does not require an instruction from the House to take any necessary amendment of the Standing Orders into consideration. I consider that it is absolutely necessary that we should put on record, in some definite and tangible way, the fact that the action of the Clerk last night was unauthorised by the Constitution and by the Standing Orders, and that it is disavowed in the most emphatic way by the members of this Parliament.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Before the vote was taken, and while the Prime Minister was away, I asked the AttorneyGeneral to frame a motion, setting forth the rights and privileges of the House, and to precisely define the functions of the Clerk when acting as Chairman of the House. The Attorney-General said he would speak to the Prime Minister. What I thought the proper thing to do was not to expunge the words from the record, which I thought properly there, but to place upon record the position of the Clerk in respect to the matter so that it might be a guide in future - that position being that in no circumstances could the Clerk exercise a vote, casting or otherwise. It would be well if the Prime Minister as Leader of the House were to. put that formally upon record.
– I propose to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to bring that question also before the Standing Orders Committee, in order that we may be fully advised upon it.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I explained the measure last week, as recorded in Hansard, page 1607. The object is to appropriate the sum of £1,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
– The Treasurer might give some hint of where he is going to get the money.
– The object is to direct that any moneys at the disposal of the Government may be paid into ‘the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Fund, under this appropriation. In the first instance, all the balances of our one-fourth of the Customs and Excise Revenue at the end of each month will not be paid to’ the States, but will be put to the credit of this fund. Otherwise we might have to return to the States money that is required to pay pensions. I am sure no one desires that.
– What balance has the Treasurer in hand now?
– The appropriation proposed is £1,000,000, and that will last for more than the current year. We have already made an appropriation of £750,000, and during the, previous year and last year we paid about £650,000 into the fund, so that there is not much of that appropriation left.
– What inroad will this make uoon the revenue?
– The passing of this Bill will make no inroad upon the revenue. It only means that we shall have” an appropriation which will enable the Government to pay into the fund as opportunity offers.
– How much will be paid into it?
– As much as is necessary to pay into it.
– Cannot the Treasurer give us an idea?
– It is not necessary to do so now. This appropriation will, I think, last for more than this financial year. We expect that at least £850,000 will be paid into the fund during the current year. Even then, there will have been by this Bill an appropriation of £150,000 more than that amount. We ask for the appropriation of a million for the same reason that we asked for £750,000 previously, in order that it may not be necessary to come to the House oftener than is necessary for authority to pay money into the fund. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition thoroughly understands the matter.
.- It is charming to hear the Treasurer speak so cheerfully about the prospect of putting £850,000 of savings of the current financial year into the fund.
– I said nothing about savings. I said we shall have to pay the money into this fund in order to pay old-age pensions.
– If the right honorable member reads what he is reported to have said, he will find that he anticipated putting into the fund £850,000 of the current year’s savings. When another Government was in office, the Prime Minister said we had no savings and no prospect of financing old-age pensions. In fact, he was quite alarmed about the state of affairs, but his Treasurer, who now occupies a position of greater responsibility, undertakes that responsibility cheerfully.
– He may have rearranged the finances.
– The Treasurer says quite the opposite. He proposes to obfain £850,000 out of the savings from month to month.
– I hope so, but I did not say so.
– That is the impression which he gave the House. While. I do not wish to delay the Bill, which ought to go through at once, I do not think it would be out of place for the Treasurer to take us into his confidence. Although he asks us to appropriate £1,000,000 for the purpose, he simply indicates that if he has the money he will put it into the fund.
– The honorable member appropriated £750,000. but he did not say then where he was going to get it from. It took some time to get it. In fact, the honorable member has not got it yet.
– The right honorable member is unfortunate in that interjection, because when he took office he found £680,000 in the fund.
Mr.FISHER. - I am speaking subject to the adjustments at the end of the vear. Even ifthe balances were adjusted down to about £650,000, that amount is a great deal more thanwas estimated when the Budget was submitted last session. There were, therefore, savings in twelve or thirteen months of at least £650,000. I estimated, rightly or wrongly, that there would be a saving of £600,000 during this financial year for the purpose, bringing the total up to about £1,300,000 - a very substantial amount. That, however, is not the question at present before us. Sooner or later the Treasurer will tell us where he is going to obtain the money, and meantime I think it is advisable to pass this appropriation. The financial aspect of the question will be dealt with in connexion with the Budget, and I think that we may well have but the one debate upon it. 1 repeat, however, that responsible Ministers should be very careful in referring to the ability of the Commonwealth to finance an old-age pensions scheme. They should make a clear statement to the people who are most concerned that whatever may be the financial difficulties of the Commonwealth, the old-age pensions for which this Bill provides will be paid to the last penny.
– We have in this case another instance of a Government not being prepared for the liabilities they are undertaking. The Treasurer is asking us to pass a Bill providing for the appropriation of £1,000,000, and yet he is not prepared to tell us how he proposes to provide for that appropriation. I believe that if he were to speak what is in his mind, he would say that he has not the money available. We should have from the honorable gentleman a statement as to where this money is to come from, and whether an arrangement has yet to be made with the States to finance the scheme.
– The Bill provides that the money is to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue.
– Quite so; but three-fourths of our Customs and Excise revenue is returnable to the States, ‘and it is only by making an arrangement with them that we can provide this amount. We should have from the Treasurer a straightforward financial statement before we agree to pass this Bill. The proposals to be made by the Premiers of the States at the Conference which is to beheld within the next few days, will determine the policy of the Government. Are we for ever to be dictated to by the States? If the Government have not at their disposal the fund’s necessary to enable this legislation to be carried out, they are not justified in proposing it. There was time and opportunity to make arrangement. with the States before the Bill was introduced, and to bring down the Budget.
– The honorable member will catch it at the next caucus meeting.
– When I am not freeto speak my mind in this House, my place will be vacant. The Government are sacrificing the confidence of the party sitting behind them. We are responsible to our constituents, and, as one of the representatives of the people, 1 wish to know where this money is to come from. What is the financial policy of the Government? What are the ways and means proposed to provide the necessary funds for the purposes of the Old-age Pensions Bill? If the Government intend to take their financial policy from the Premiers of the States in conference assembled, they should say so. If that is their intention, they will forfeit the confidence of the Parliament. They cannot go on in this way. We are not mere children; we are here to represent the people, and desire to know how this scheme is to be financed. The present system is most unsatisfactory. A thousand and one things may intervene to render it absolutely impossible to devote the sum of £1,000,000 to the purpose for which the Bill provides. The Government are adopting a back-handed method of doing business, and one that is unworthy ot a Ministry having a majority behind them. The majority supporting the Government demands that they shall show that they are capable of administering the affairs of the Commonweal th. We have not. in this instance, an indication of responsible government. The Ministry are apparently taking it for granted that whatever . they propose will be approved by honorable members. Are we not free? Are we riot here to represent the people? As a representative of the people, I wish to know the ways and means by which provision is to be made for this large expenditure, and I ask the Treasurer to make a statement on the subject.
– I am in somewhat of a quandary as to the position of the Treasurer. He is asking us to agree to an appropriation of £1,000,000 to provide for the payment of old-age pensions; but has not explained whether that sum is to be independent of the amount that will be paid, under the Surplus Revenue Act, into the Old-age Pensions Trust Fund. Does he ask the House to vote £1,000,000 out of the revenue of the Commonwealth for the purpose of old-age pensions, in addition to the amount which we shall have in hand after returning to the States the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Constitution? If he is, he is asking that which he is not entitled to ask of us at this stage. The honorable member for Wide Bay estimates that under theSurplus Revenue Act £650,000 will be paid into the Old-age Pensions Trust Fund in respect of the year just closed, in addition to the amount available during the current financial year.
– If that estimate be correct, that amount will be part of the £1,000,000 for which this Bill provides.
– Then I take it that all our surplus revenue will be part and parcel ot the £1,000,000 for which this Bill provides.
– As much as we can spare of it. I do not say that the whole of the surplus revenue will be spent in that way- There are other matters for which provision hasto be made out of the surplus revenue.
– The honorable member for Robertson has put a very pertinent question to the Treasurer. He wishes to know what will be the financial position of the Commonwealth if this Bill be passed ?
– The honorable member does not expect that information to-night?
– The Treasurer should tell us, at all events, whether he is going to cut down the Estimates of the Postal Department, in order to make ends meet.
– The honorable member will have that information in good time.
– We are entitled to have it to-night.
– The honorable member cannot have it to-night. It will be given to the House on 12th August next.
– Then let us adjourn the debate until the 12th August.
– The Treasurer has in his possession the draft departmental estimates for. the current financial year.
– I have not received them, or, at all events, I am only just about receiving them.
– Does the honorable member say that he has not dealt with them ?
– I have not finally dealt with them. i
– Then the honorable gentleman admits that the Estimates are in his possession?
– I believe that I have them.
– Order ! I would point out that it is scarcely usual for a second-reading debate to be carried on by means of a conversation between an honorable member who is addressing the Chair and the Minister in charge of the Bill. In Committee, there are ample opportunities to obtain information in the way in which the honorable member is now endeavouring to obtain it, but, on the motion for the second reading of a Bill the usual procedure is to discuss the principles of the Bill itself. I ask the honorable member to do that.
– With all due deference to your ruling, sir, I “think that one of the most important principles of this Bill is that relating to the question of how it is to be financed. Surely we have a right to demand from the Treasurer an exposition of the finances of the Commonwealth, so that we may know exactly ‘how the various Departments of the Commonwealth will fare if this appropriation be made. I feel that in referring to that allimportant aspect of the question, I am discussing that which ought to be discussed in a second-reading speech.
– The honorable member misunderstands what I have said. I am complaining, not of the matter which the honorable member is introducing, but of the manner in. which he is putting it. I cannot allow, on a second-reading speech, a dialogue between two honorable members.
– I do not think I was engaged in a dialogue.
– The honorable member is entitled to ask the Treasurer as many questions as he pleases, so long as he puts them consecutively, and makes them applicable to the question before the Chair. The Treasurer has a right of reply at the close of the debate, and can then .answer any questions which may have been, addressed to him; that rule should be followed.
– You have struck the nail on the head, Mr. Speaker, in stating that the Treasurer has a right to reply. The honorable gentleman should have given the House, at the outset, the information which I seek, and it would then have been unnecessary to catechise him. He is responsible to the House for the finances of the Commonwealth. I have never known a proposal to be made for an appropriation of ,£1,000,000 without any explanation being offered as to where the money was to come from, or how it was proposed to make good any deficiency that might result from that expenditure. If the Treasurer is prepared to inform us whether, as the result of this appropriation, the estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department are to suffer, I shall say no more. I should like him to give us at least some indication as to whether we may expect from him the information to which we are entitled on this all-important question.
– I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Robertson interject that the debate should be adjourned.
– We should have a financial statement from the Treasurer, and should know whether the services of the Commonwealth are going to be starved.
– I care not what services are starved, as long as the pioneers of Australia are not allowed to starve. Some honorable members are crying out for money for all sorts of schemes of waste and squander. We are asked now to agree to an appropriation to provide oldage pensions for the old war-horses who made Australia what it is to-day, and yet there are honorable members who wish to adjourn the debate. A few nights ago the Treasurer, in reply to a question put by me, told us that this money had to come out of the surplus revenue. The question with us is not where the money is coming from, but whether we ‘are to get it for the old people. Can the Treasurer provide the money? I have pointed out to the House a hundred times how it can be provided ; but, of course, we are told that all the trained financiers and business people of brains are on the other side of the House. Nevertheless, there is in our finances the greatest muddle that I ever knew of. Why should we fight the Treasurer, who is giving us this £1,000,000? Honorable members, especially those on this side, ought to rejoice that he has had the courage to get £1,000,000. I do not care if he steals it, so long as he pays it away in old-age pensions. The time has arrived when this House ought to go into the question of finance; and if the Treasurer, when he makes his Budget statement, does not give us all the required information, and tell us that he intends to introduce a national banking system, there will be thunders of wrath about his ears.
– I am rather astonished at the attitude of the Treasurer, considering that the Government have been in office for two months, and we were told that this was to bea financial session. The honorable member for Darwin congratulated the Treasurer on having got £1,000,000, but a child in arms could have got the money under the circumstances. I certainly think that, considering that this appropriation is subject to the Audit Act, we ought to know something about it, and. how the Treasurer proposes to finance the coming year. We were told very many times by the Prime Minister, and also by the Treasurer, before they took office, that there was going to be a deficit ; but since then the danger has, apparently, passed away. Does the Treasurer propose to raise money under his financial scheme by resorting to direct taxation ? Is the honorable gentleman’s silence to be interpreted into “Yes” or “No,” or neither? Does the honorable gentleman look forward with any degree of reasonable hope to the Premiers’ Conference, as the direction from which we are to expect a solution of the financial difficulties?
– I am not going to answer the honorable member, anyhow.
– I am asking a perfectly pertinent question relevant to the matter under discussion, and I think honorable members have a right to an answer. The Government propose to ask the House to adjourn, in order that Ministers may attend the Premiers’ Conference ; but the Government has never invited the House to express an opinion as to the fit and proper way to settle the financial difficulty.
– The Treasurer will do so when he delivers his Budget statement.
– But this is a convenient and proper occasion for the Government to tell us what they propose to do at the Premiers’ Conference, which, I understand, is specially called to find the solution which the honorable member for Wide Bay, as Prime Minister, was unable to furnish because he could not agree to the demands of the States. The Government, presumably, propose to submit some scheme to which the States will agree, and we ought to know what that scheme is before we are committed to it. I do not say that we ought to know the details, but we ought to know the general principles; and I ask the Treasurer to give this House some idea of the proposals of the Government in this connexion. After all, there are comparatively narrow limits within which a financial settlement can be arrived at. Two facts stand out - one is that the requirements of the States must be met, and the other is that the obligations of the Commonwealth must be met. At present our sole resource is Customs and Excise taxation; and we see clearly enough that revenue from these sources is not likely to increase, at any rateper capita, if at all, while, on the other hand, our obligations ave marching along with giant strides. The States and the Commonwealth, in spite of some denials by honorable members, have, however, a margin for additional taxation. One of these is the taxation of land, and another is the taxation of other forms of wealth, in some shape or other, while a third is such a readjustment of the Customs and Excise taxation as will provide greater revenue. I confess I do not believe that such readjustment is possible. I do not say that we may not readjust the Tariff, but merely that no readjustment will result in appreciably greater revenue. We must, therefore, have recourse to direct taxation, in some shape or form; and the Government should tell us what they propose. The condition of the Post and Telegraph Department is sufficiently urgent and serious to, of itself, demand special attention. The honorable member for Darwin was perfectly right when he said we are muddling along in a way that no private firm would tolerate for a moment; if it did, it would be in the Bankruptcy Court within twelve months. After Defence, our most important Department is that of the Post and Telegraphs ; and it is notoriously staggering along, undermanned and with no up-to-date means of meeting the ever-increasing demand for telephone and postal facilities. The telephone branch is, I shall not say a disgrace
– It is a disgrace !
– In one way it is. though that disgrace does not reflect on the postal authorities, but on this Parliament for not dealing with the matter in a comprehensive and complete fashion. To this end, we must provide ample funds, and yet the Government come down and ask for £1,000,000 for old-age pensions, which are, in themselves, perfectly proper. But, in a fortnight’s time, Ministers propose to go to a Premiers’ Conference to adjust matters; although they do not declare how much they propose to allot to the Post Office next year, or how they propose to finance the country or adjust our financial relations with the States. The Opposition, and honorable members generally, would be doing less than their duty if they did not insist in the strongest possible way on some general statement, at any rate, before the Conference meets, as to the intentions of the Government.
– We asked for a statement several weeks ago.
– And we shall keep on asking, with the assistance of the honorable member. If asking is not sufficient, we shall take some other means which are.
– Keep on asking.
– The honorable member, as a critic, is a very doughty champion, but directly it comes to something outside the arena of words, he melts away in a most unobtrusive fashion, and is either perambulating the block, of which he is so delightful an ornament, or he is on a journey, or, what is still worse, he is on the wrong side. With the honorable member’s help we ought to ask the question in such a way that no Government could afford to decline to answer it. The Government certainly ought to take the House into their confidence and say what proposal they propose to submit to the Conference. They may say that they are going to the Conference to listen; but are we such children as to believe that this Conference, the second within four or five months, has been called merely for the purpose of hearing what the Premiers have to sail ? The Premiers have been called together - no matter whether the Prime Minister suggested the Conference to them, or they to the Prime Minister, or they suggested it to each other for the deliberate purpose of readjusting the relations between the Commonwealth and the States - and it is earnestly to be hoped they will find some sort of solution. The Commonwealth Government must know what they are prepared to accept, and we ought to know what that is. I emphatically protest against them going into Conference, coming back with a settlement, and, by means of their majority, bludgeoning it through the House. I shall not take it upon myself to vote against this appropriation, nor shall I weary the House with any further remarks. I do say that, by every constitutional means at my disposal, I shall endeavour to ascertain from the Ministry what they propose to do at the Conference - how they propose to finance the country during the coming year, and what method of adjusting the financial relations they intend to submit.
– I voted for the invalid and old-age pensions legislation, and, therefore, shall vote for this Appropriation Bill, without inquiring at this juncture how the Government is going to get the necessary money. The hesitancy of the Treasurer is responsible for the debate which we have had. But I take the opportunity to state what my action will be in the future, if it be found that the funds in hand are not sufficient to provide for old-age pensions, and that some new source of revenue must be drawn upon. We are now asked to appropriate £1,000,000 for old-age pensions; but the Treasurer has intimated that about £600,000 is already appropriated under the Surplus Revenue Act.
– Nearly £700,000.
– No doubt, the right honorable gentleman anticipates that money will continue to accumulate. But he did not say how any shortage would be made up. When the representatives of the Government meet the Premiers in conference, they may be able to prove to them that it is their duty to help us to prevent a difficulty of this kind. But apart from any arrangement of that kind, there are other sources of revenue. A future Government may bring in an objectionable Budget, and say to the House, “ If you do not accept our financial proposals, you will have to go without old-age pensions, or consent to the starvation of the public Departments.” Therefore, I say now that, if the revenue at the credit of the Surplus Revenue Fund is not sufficient to pay old-age pensions, the wealthy should be called upon to make good by direct taxation any deficit. I, for my part, shall protest and vote against any proposal to increase the Customs and Excise revenue by taxation on such articles as tea and kerosene.
– That is a fair warning.
– I wish the honorable member would give fairer and more frequent warning than he has given us of late. When on the Opposition cross benches, he showed that the last Deakin Administration was passing Bills without making the necessary financial provision. It is a great compliment to him that an ordinary member like myself understood his warnings, but, in my opinion, if he excels in anything, it is in the discussion of matters of finance. The right honorable member for East Sydney, too, made a most powerful attack on that Government, on the ground that it was passing measure after measure without providing the money for administering them. I do not wish to vote for shams, to be told later on, “ You must support our proposals, or forego old-age pensions.” Such a state of things as I have in my mind may never occur. The Treasurer may always be wallowing in wealth, as, judging by outward’ appearances, he is doing now, though his hesitation seems to show that he is in pretty shallow water. His speech amounted to this, “ Boys, vote for a confidence purse, r hope the thing will turn out all right, but if it does not, we shall do the best we can.” Honorable members must occasionally get up a little bit early, as the honorable member for Robertson has done. If funds are ever wanted for old-age pensions, I shall be in favour of obtaining them by direct taxation. But, as the Treasurer said, on the 12th August we shall know the policy of the Government, and have a clear understanding of the finances of the ‘Commonwealth.
– I do not see how the honorable member for Dalley would be any better off if he were forced to-night to discuss proposals for financing an old-age pension system than if the matter is deferred until some time in the near future. We must consider certain proposals which the Government will make, but it seems to me a matter of indifference when we do so. The attack on the Treasurer to-night is badly timed. A little while ago we were crying out for the initiation of an old-age pensions scheme without paying much attention to ways and means. The Treasurer of the day was told that it was his business to finance such a scheme, that he had enough money to begin with, and that what would be needed later would! be forthcoming. The present Treasurer has promised a full statement of the financial position within a week or two, and honorable members should restrain their impatience until then. I shall be only too glad to see this Bill go through as it is, regarding it as a pledge given by the Government for the proper financing of old-age pensions. That is the primary consideration. In the meantime, I am glad the Government are giving this pledge, and at the proper time I shall be ready to consider their financial proposals to meet it.
– I am glad the Treasurer has found an apologist for his action. I shall vote for the measure, nor do I see that there has been much delay in passing it. Its passage will be only consistent with our action in passing the Bill to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. It is absurd for the. honorable member to object to our protesting against the flippant manner in which the Treasurer placed the Bill before the House. The right honorable gentleman practically told us that he intends to put the scraps of the surplus revenue into the fund. He proposes no alternative, and makes no proposition for raising new funds. This is too serious a matter to be passed over in that flippant way. Some things can be treated lightly, and are, perhaps, easy to finance, such as Dreadnoughts, and that sort of thing; but when it comes to a matter of humanity - an obligation, to the aged poor of Australia - the Treasurer ought to treat us in a more straightforward manner and to submit some reasonable proposition to back up the proposed appropriation of £1,000,000. The fact that the House will soon be called upon to adjourn for a whole week, in order that the Government may discuss finance with the State Premiers, appears to indicate that the Treasurer proposes to hand over the financing of the affairs of the Commonwealth to a Commission composed of the State Premiers. It is degrading the status of the House to make all the Government’s financial proposals contingent upon what the State Premiers will agree to.
– It is, perhaps, unfortunate that the explanation I gave of this Bill was made on the 22 nd inst. I suppose honorable members have not looked at my words since, and so have not kept them in mind. The whole issue is simple. This is a Bill to appropriate £1,000.000 for the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Trust Fund. As honorable members know, a trust fund has been established under the Audit Act for invalid and old-age pensions. The Surplus Revenue Act of 1908 provided that -
All payments to trust accounts, established under the Audit Acts 1901-1906, of moneys appropriated by law for any purpose of the Commonwealth shall be deemed to be expenditure.
As I have told honorable members, the object of the Bill is to appropriate j£i, 000,000, which it is intended shall be paid from time to time out of the consolidated revenue fund to the trust fund which has been established to pay old-age pensions. I also said that up to the end of the last financial year £[650,000 had been paid to the credit of the fund. Now that we are entering upon a new financial year, it is necessary to pay into the fund any balance remaining of our one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue at the end of each month, after the ordinary services of the Commonwealth have been provided for. All the sums that we pay to the extent of the appropriation of £750,000 for old-age pensions last year will go to the trust fund, and on the Estimates, which I hope to submit on the 12th August, there will be provided as large a sum as we think will be necessary for the financial year for the purposes of the fund. As there is £650,000 already in the fund, and £850,000 more is required in order to finance old-age pensions for the current year, then £850,000 will have to be provided upon the Estimates, and will be paid from time to time during the year to the credit of the fund under the authority of the Act which we are passing to-night. It would not do for us to ask for a less appropriation than we shall require. This is a continuing appropriation, but the money has to be provided from time to time, as required, and will be so provided. The way in which it will be found will be stated to honorable members when the Budget is submitted. The money placed to the fund can be used only for the purpose of paying invalid and old-age pensions under the law. Not one penny of it can be used for any other purpose, not even to defray the expenses of administering the Act. There is no difficulty about the matter so far as the House is concerned. The difficulty rests with the Treasurer in providing the money, and in showing the House how he proposes to obtain at least £850,000 for the purpose during the current year. I shall have to do that.
– Could not the honorable member have shown us now how he proposes to do it?
– I shall have to show it when I place the condition of the finances before honorable members in submitting the Budget.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1. -
This Act may be cited as the Old-age Pensions Appropriation Act 1909.
.- Would it not be advisable to alter the short title to read - “ Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Act 1909,” in case this or a subsequent -Government should take steps to pay invalid pensions also? Otherwise the money would not be available to pay invalid pensions. Clause 2 refers specifically to the “ Invalid and Old-age Pensions Fund.” I think it is a necessary amendment in case it should be held that the money put into the trust fund should not be available for the payment of invalid pensions. I therefore move -
That after the word “ the “ the words “ Invalid and “ be inserted.
The present title to the Bill is a misnomer. Indeed, the original Act is wrongly known as an Old-age Pensions Act, since it embraces invalid pensions also.
– The one title covers the one kind of pension.
– I think that the title to this Bill should be what the measure purports to be - one appropriating money for the payment of both invalid and old-age pensions.. I have no desire to embarrass the Government, nor do I think that my amendment is calculated to do so.
– The original Act has the same title as this Bill. There is a great deal of force in what the Leader of the Opposition said, but I do not think it is necessary to make the alteration he has suggested, because the title by no means precludes the payment of invalid pensions. Probably the reason why the draftsman used this title was that the Estimates specially mentioned that the £750,000 was to be paid into a trust fund for the purpose of old-age and invalid pensions. I would prefer that the honorable member should not press his amendment to alter the title, because I am sure that the draftsman must have had a definite intention in his mind. Furthermore, it would be strange to make an appropriation for a purpose that has not yet been proclaimed.
– Could the Government pay invalid pensions under this measure if a proclamation were issued ?
.-I will give an illustration as to how this measure may operate. The title of the original Act signifies that it is one with regard to old-age pensions. I was accused by the Treasurer some time ago of not having invalid pensions in mind, because I spoke simply of old-age pensions, and did not specificallyrefer to invalid pensions. The intention of Parliament, and, I believe, the intention of the Government also, is to do more thanpay old-age pensions. I think we ought to say exactly what we mean, but if the Attorney-General does not think that the amendment ought to be made, I shall not press it.
– Do I understand the Attorney-General to say that the title, as it stands, will cover invalid as well as old-age pensions?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Contract Immigrants - Old-age Pensions Administration.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I should like to call the attention nf the Minister of External Affairs to a telegram published in this morning’s Argus. It reads as follows -
AUCKLAND, Wednesday.- It is stated that a party ofMaoris from Hawkes Bay has left for Sydney, under engagement to shear for a farmer in the Monaro district.
It is generally understood that shearing is contract work. I should like to know whether the Government have any knowledge of these Maoris coming to Australia, and, if so, whether they have the exemptions that are necessary under the Act regulating the introduction of labour to the Commonwealth? I do not expect that the subject has been brought under the notice of the Government officially, but I direct attention to the facts on behalf of the honorable member for Darling, who is specially interested, but who, unfortunately, had to leave the House this afternoon. I also wish to draw the attention of the Treasurer to a matter connected with the administration of old-age pensions in New South Wales. In common with other honorable members, I am in receipt of a number of complaints from old-age pensioners in that State, who inform us that they have been notified of reductions of the amounts they have been accustomed to receive in the State. They desire to know the reason for these reductions. The Herald of to-day contains a letter which relates to one of these cases, and in which it is stated that a pensioner who has been in the State for 59 years, and is 80 years of age, was receiving the sum of 15s. per month, but that under the Commonwealth the pension is reduced to 7s. 6d. per month. It is also stated in the letter that the only property which the old pensioner possesses is a four-roomed weatherboard cottage, that he has no other means of subsistence. The pensioners cannot understand the reasons which have led to this general reduction, as compared with the pensions which were received under the State administration. If the Treasurer can give an authoritative statement, and it can be published, it would probably enable the old people to understand the reasons for the reduction, or, better still, if he can see his way to finance the Commonwealth pensions up to the amount of the State pensions, it would confer upon them a considerable benefit, and if it is possible to do so I hope that it will be done.
– I undertake that both these matters will be looked into. The matter of the old-age pensions had already attracted attention, but the information in respect to the Maoris is quite new.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.57p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090729_reps_3_50/>.