3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– An article, written by some person connected with this House, has just been published by the South Australian Advertiser. In it my name occurs frequently, and most of the references to me are absolutely incorrect. I shall not refer to these passages in detail, but I refuse to allow misstatements to go uncontradicted. Whatever is written about me, the truth will, ultimately be known. The article is headed,,. “ A Great Speaker,” and begins in this way -
It was at the time when every one was wondering what was going to happen after Lord Hopetoun had sent for the Premier of the senior State, Sir William Lyne, to form the first Federal Ministry that two men were waiting on the North Melbourne platform for the express to arrive from Adelaide. These two were Mr. Deakin and Sir George Turner, then Premier of Victoria.
I believe that, so far, it is correct. Subsequently it is stated that certain things were said to the late Sir Frederick Holder, and that the gentlemen . who met him tried to dissuade him from promising to join me in the formation of the first Commonwealth Ministry. The statement as to the communication from Sir Frederick Holder to myself is not correct. It is absolutely untrue that he declined to join me. Although, when it was found that he could not be stopped at the North Melbourne railway station, Sir George Turner was sent after him to get him to promise not to join me,’ he agreed to join me, and we had a discussion in which we tried to arrange matters regarding the Tariff. He then came back from Sydney, to see two gentlemen in Victoria on my behalf, to get them to join with us. As he arrived on a holiday, they were out of town. I have little doubt that otherwise the Ministry, would have been formed. I do not wish to enter into small details, and did not intend for some time to come to publish the early history of (Federation, though I got the consent of the Marquis of Linlithgow, before he left Australia, to do so when a suitable occasion presented itself. I am forced to do so. by this article, which, it is said, was written by a very close friend of the Prime Minister. I shall not mention the name until I am positive that my information is correct.
– I think that one can pretty well guess who wrote the article.
– I think so. A ‘ garbled statement, much to my disadvantage, has been published, and therefore I think the time has come for me to give the history of what occurred. That history will bring into prominence names which their owners would, I think, like to see left out, and other information which must ‘ sooner or later come to light. I regret very much that Mr. David Syme is not now living, because he took my part; but there is a gentleman in Melbourne now through whom everything was done, and others, including a Judge on the Bench in South Australia, who will be able to testify that my statement regarding the transactions of the time is correct.
– Why not write a book on. the subject?
– I do not wish the matter to be treated lightly. It is a serious one.
– Personal explanations should always be treated seriously. An honorable member who thinks that he has been misrepresented is entitled to have his explanation’ heard sympathetically. Thereare limits beyond which a member -making a personal explanation may not go, and I am sure that the honorable member for Hume recognises that. I ask honorable members to permit him to . make his statement in his own way.
– I shall not weary the House with a long statement now, but shall content myself with giving reasons why I think the time has arrived when I should put myself right with the public in this matter. My actions have been misrepresented, I fear with the object of making political capital. I had intended to give the early history of Federation, but I did not wish to do so until the events were a little more distant. There are those alive to-day who will be able to prove my statement. I telegraphed to Sir Langdon Bonython on Wednesday night or yesterday morning, asking who the writer of the article was, but, following the usual practice of newspaper proprietors, he declined to give me the information.
– It would be interesting to know who prompted the article.
– I have a good idea. Sir Langdon telegraphed that he could not furnish the name, and added -
Knowing Holder’s version, can say article incorrect in parts. Did not see article prior to publication.
The publication of this article must draw from me the full history of what occurred in connexion with the formation of the first Federal Ministry. I shall give the names of those concerned, and shall stand by what I publish. I repeat, most emphatically, that Sir Frederick Holder agreed to join me, and that he did so after a consultation between us as to the Tariff.
– Was that confidential ?
– Am I to shut my lips when an article like this is published ? Am I to be blackguarded without reply? I do not think that what occurred was confidential. I mention the matter because Sir Frederick Holder was a known Free Trader, and I a known Protectionist. The Tariff was the only thing that we really argued about. We came to the conclusion that we could harmonize our views with regard to it, and when that decision was arrived at, the difficulty was over, and be agreed to join me, and came to Melbourne with a message to two’ gentlemen in Victoria.
– My name having been associated with this matter by the honorable member for Hume, I may say that I have no knowledge of the article, of what prompted its reference, or of anything connected with it.
– I accept that assurance.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to say when he will propose an adjournment to enable Ministers to be present at the Premiers’ Conference? I ask the question because, if there is to be an adjournment, members from distant States would like to know beforehand, so that they may use the time. I am of opinion that there should not be an adjournment, but shall do everything possible to facilitate an early decision on the question.
– I have undertaken to mention the matter to the House next week, and shall consult the honorable member as to a convenient occasion Probably the middle of the week will be a suitable time.
– In a paragraph from Perth, appearing in this morning’s newspapers, it is stated that a petition has been presented to the local Parliament by the honorable member for Broome, protesting against a Japanese doctor being permitted to practise there. Has any application been made to the Department of External Affairs for permission for such a person to land there?
-The incident was brought under my notice only immediately before the meeting of the House, so that I have not yet had time to obtain any information. If the honorable member will give notice of his question for. Tuesday next, I shall be glad to reply to it then.
– I desire to ask a question in reference to the remarks of Colonel Foxton as cabled out in the message appearing in the press on Monday morning last. To-day there is an account in the press of further remarks by this delegate or representative of the Government; and it is obvious from the- remarks of the Minister of Defence that Colonel Foxton was merely expressing his own views.I should like to know now from the Minister whether, as a delegate from the Government, Colonel Foxton was expressing the views of the Government or his own. If he was expressing his own views, and not those of the Government, has Colonel Foxton been generally instructed or specifically instructed in regard to the views of the Government? What I desire to know is whether Colonel Foxton, speaking as the representative of the Government - and he cannot speak in any other capacity - has been authorized to take up a particular attitude or uphold a particular policy, and, if so, what that particular policy is.
– I wish to say, in reply, that Colonel Foxton is absolutely free to act as he thinks best at the Conference. That, I think, was made clear by the Prime Minister last night.
– I did not quite catch the reply of the Minister of Defence as to Colonel Foxton’s function. Has Colonel Foxton been sent to England with carte blanche permission to agree on behalf of the Commonwealth to anything it may be his whim to agree to? I am not asking the question in any antagonistic spirit ; but I do think the Government should retain the power to control Colonel Foxton before he decides anything.
– The notions that are being developed regarding this delegation to the Defence Conference are extraordinary.
– It is an extraordinary position the Government are taking up.
– Honorable members have been told over and over again that Colonel Foxton has gone to a secret consultative Conference, and he is perfectly free there to discuss whatever may be brought forward. I have nothing more to say.
– The Minister has not answered my question.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as reported in the newspapers, that Colonel Foxton is not to bind this Government at the Conference, but that, from time to time, he will cable to the Prime Minister and receive instructions by cable, through a special code, as to the action he may take.
– Once more may I remind honorable members that this is solely a consultative Conference; and it is solely consultative so far as Colonel Foxton is concerned. So far as he thinks necessary, Colonel Foxton will communicate with us by cable, and we shall exchange views; and I shall, perhaps, receive in advance some information deemed to be of special value, information which will afterwards be available in more detail when he returns.
– As this is to be a secret Conference, and no one will know what takes place there, is it not reasonable to suppose that the whole of the military authorities, both of the Old Country and elsewhere, will take the views expressed publicly by Colonel Foxton as the views of the Government ? If they are not, ought the views of Colonel Foxton not to be suppressed?
– I do not know whether the honorable member is serious in requiring an answer.
– Certainly; we shall not know what Colonel Foxton says at the Conference.
– May I suggest to the honorable member that, before now, cable messages have been known to be wrong, though I am not assuming that anything is wrong in the present instance. I desire to say generally that the Government will take full responsibility at the proper time for its actions.
– Will the Minister of Defence inform this House whether Colonel Foxton has authority to bind this House by anything he may do at the Conference? Or is Colonel Foxton instructed not to do anything which is likely to prejudice the judgment of the House in the matter ?
– I shall require notice of any more questions on this subject.
– At the risk of being thought importunate, I must ask the Minister of Defence whether he really cannot say whether this House will have an opportunity to deal with the question of defence before anything definite has been decided on. This, I think, is only a fair question. I do not desire to make any threat, but I think the House is entitled to the information and if we cannot get it by asking these questions, we shall have to take some other course.
– Do I understand the honorable member to suggest that before anything whatever is done in the elaboration of the defence policy, this House should first be consulted?
– Yes, as to what the defence policy is to be.
– I can only say that the Government will, of course, be bound by the House ultimately as to what the defence policy shall be, but the Government must, in the first instance, as the honorable member is quite aware, decide upon their policy-
– Will the Government submit the policy to the House before they decide ?
– No, certainly not.
– Does the Minister of Defence intend to accept the suggestion of General Hoad, in his memorandum in connexion with the Imperial General Staff, that the chief of the Commonwealth section of the Staff shall be the chief military adviser of the Commonwealth ?
– I desire to say generally, without committing myself to the answer at this particular moment, that the suggestions of General Hoad are what they are - suggestions. I have not quite decided what the relation of General Hoad to the Military Board is to be, but my own idea, at the moment, is to make the greatest possible use of the Board in all matters pertaining to the military forces.
– In engaging men for the small arms factory, will the Minister of Defence exhaust the supply of suitable persons in the Public Service before taking others from outside?
– The Department will make an endeavour to select the most suitable men from anywhere.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question in relation to the electoral rolls. On inquiry at .a. non-official post-office in New South Wales, I was surprised to find that the postmaster had not a copy of the Federal electoral roll, nor did he know anything about it. Will the Minister give instructions to his officers to see that every postoffice is supplied with one of the rolls, and that the police officers, who collect the names, shall be similarly supplied?
– I shall have full inquiries made, and I shall be glad if the honorable member will forward the names of the official and the office where the rolls are wanted. It is understood that rolls are supplied at all such places.
– We have been informed by the Minister of Home Affairs that it is intended to collect names and form the new electoral rolls in Victoria in September, and I desire to know whether he thinks that the time allowed for their preparation, printing, and circulation is sufficient, having regard to the date of the next elections? What is the length of ‘time usually taken up by this particular work ?
– I have been informed bv the Electoral Department that the time allowed is sufficient.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether the New South Wales Government have taken any steps to cede to the Commonwealth the territory required for the Federal Capital, and whether he can give us any information as to how matters have progressed in this connexion ?
– I had an opportunity to see the Premier of New South Wales when in Sydney last Saturday morning. The honorable gentleman is considering the whole legal position in regard to the next step to be taken by the New South Wales Government ; and .1 expect by Monday or Tuesday next to be in receipt of an answer from him as to what has now to be done with a view to a surrender of the territory to the Commonwealth Government.
– Is the Minister of External Affairs aware of the allegation that a number of Papuans are being brought to work at Thursday Island, ostensibly in pearl fishing, but really to be engaged in other occupations? Will the Minister make inquiries to see whether the allegation is founded on fact?
– I am not aware of the allegation, but I shall make the inquiriessuggested.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper : -
Stripper Harvesters and Drills - Report from the Royal Commission on, together with Proceedings, Minutes of Evidence, and Appendices.
Ordered to be printed.
– - I desire to move the adjournment of the House, to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “The attempt of the banking corporations to destroy the Commonwealth revenue by charging exchange on postal notes and post-office orders.” 1 *Five honorable members having risen in their -places,
– The The combination of private banking institutions has announced that from the 1st August next they intend to charge id. on each postal note or money order banked, and I claim that, if this is permitted, it will seriously decrease Commonwealth revenue. I desire to review the great powers with which the people of the Commonwealth have endowed the banking corporations. In 1908 the banks of issue of Australia made a net profit of over £2,400,000 on a paid up capital of £18,000,000, or 13^ per cent. A financial man looking into those figures will see that the gross profits could not have been less than between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. Those profits were made, not in the process of developing Australian industries or creating wealth, but in the process of enabling the producers and traders of the Commonwealth to exchange their property and products. The producers have had to pay to foreign banking corporations between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 sterling for the right to exchange their own property and products, after furnishing the capital to those institutions. - In other words, gauging the gross profits, based on the net profits, the banks made £1 5s. per head of the whole population, and £2 13s. per breadwinner. Every man, woman, child, and infant in its cradle gave them a profit of 25s. per head for the right of exchanging his or her own property and products. The people of the Commonwealth furnish the banks with £46,526,971 of deposits not bearing interest, which the banks have the use of daily. Every man who has had a training in a bank knows that in the great cities that amount is paid over the counter_ fifty or a hundred times, but it is all back in the banks, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon for balancing, to be loaned out again next day. The deposits bearing interest amount to £71,218,463, so that those corporations have the joy of having £n7>745>434 of the people’s money which they can utilize to make profits on their shares, yet they are not satisfied, but want to drag the last penny out of the producers and traders of the Commonwealth.
– I have several times asked for order, and honorable members for a moment appear to comply with my request, but then they completely forget it. I hope I shall not be compelled to take other steps, but I can assure honorable members that I shall do so very soon if disorder does not cease.
– Nob Nobody will listen to finance in this House, so I often wonder what is the good of bothering about it.
– How much gold do the banks hold against those deposits?
– The The whole of the gold of ‘Australia is only ,£24,000,000. There are deposits of £117,000,000 in the banks, and only £24,000,000 of gold. Therefore £93,000,000 must be balanced by paper against paper.
– There is good security against most of it.
– Who Who said there was not? I am simply showing what benefits the people are conferring upon these corporations, which, nevertheless, want to destroy the little currency that the poor working man has as a medium of exchange. The highwaymen of olden days could not have done a worse thing. I am sorry to think that I was trained in institutions which would be guilty of trying to destroy the people’s currency. Every time a man knows that he has to pay this charge he will write : - “Don’t send me a postal note, send a cheque, it is easier to negotiate.” I have had many letters lately to that effect. Every cheque that one gives on any bank in Australia will be exchanged between the banks. In Melbourne the banks will exchange each others’ cheques. You can draw a cheque on one bank, and some one else may draw one on another bank, but there is no money taken out of either bank ; they simply liquidate obligations, like the great clearing house of, London, by offsetting indebtedness. I hope honorable members will understand that there is never any money used in proper banking. It is only the poor man that uses money. No rich man ever carries money. The whole of the exchanging is done by offsetting indebtedness, and that is what is called international or local exchange. To talk about money is good enough for outside people who do not understand the question. Many years ago the Rt. Hon. William Lidderdale, a governor of the Bank of England, told a gentleman, in my presence, that you could operate a bank without any gold if you used some other bank as a bank of exchange. The Commonwealth could operate a banking corporation without gold if it asked the Bank of New South Wales or the Commercial Bank to act as a bank of exchange for it, .letting that bank keep the gold. There is no need for honorable members to try to tell me about the business. I was reared as a child in it. I ask honorable members to study the question before they tackle it. I confess that I do not like moving the adjournment of the House, because I do not wish to take up time; but let me put another question. The banks pay taxes on about ,£4,000,000 of their note issue, but they issue £8,000,000. £4,000,000 of notes are in circulation, on which they pay -2 per cent., amounting to about ,-£80,000 a year. My object is to show the tremendous privileges that we bestow upon the banking corporations. Another £4,000,000 of their notes lie in their branch banks as reserves, which they can utilize whenever they want to. Those reserve notes are the capital of the branch banks, and enable the institutions to take the whole of the gold away from their branches and operate in the big cities with it. I wanted to see if Australian “banking was run in the same way as American banking, and I find that there is no difference in the basis. While the banks do not make a large profit on the circulation of their notes on which they pay the States 2 per cent., yet they make an immense profit on the notes which are not circulated.
– Does the honorable member think the Commonwealth should work upon the gold reserves of the banks ?
– N - No; I do not want to touch their gold reserves. Let me manage a Commonwealth bank for two years, and I will give the Commonwealth a gold reserve of its own without charge. I do not want’ any more money, so honorable members need not bother themselves about that. I am simply pointing out that the people of Australia are to-day living in a fool’s paradise so far as finance is concerned’. They are running into debt year after year, and making no provision to repay. Australia in that sense is a “ ne’erdowell,” and it worries me. Every man to whom I speak says, “Oh, the public works, if they were sold, would pay the whole debt.” What nonsense that is ! I shall have something to say about it on the Budget. The number of postal notes paid during 1908 was as follows : - New South Wales, 2,700,000; Victoria, 2,091,119; Queensland, 500,000 ; South Australia, 421,783; Western Australia, 349,877; and
Tasmania, 454,410, or a total of 6,517,189 postal notes cashed for the whole Commonwealth.
– What was their value?
– I d I did not bother to ascertain the value, because the banks propose to charge id. per note. If they took the value as the basis I should not mind so much. With regard to money orders, New South Wales cashed last year 630,000 ; Victoria, 318,365 ; Queensland, 165,000 ; South Australia, 81,115; West Australia, 136,595; and Tasmania, 66,537, or a total of 1,397,612 money orders cashed for the whole Commonwealth. Adding the two together gives a total of 7,914,801 postal notes and money orders. A charge of id. on each of these means that the banks are grabbing £32,978 from the people of Australia - from the poor. That is to come out of the pockets of people away in the backblocks. The small note will pay as much as the big one. The poor man if he owes money and has a postal note, pays it with that. note. He never goes to cash it himself. The poor man would not be poor if he were trained in finance. Not being trained, he goes to another man who is trained,, and gives him a profit for looking after his affairs. No man ever made money by working ; men make money only by learning how to gather the profits of the work of others. As the honorable member for Maranoa pointed out on Wednesday, the banks are now issuing to customers postal notes that have been used for the purpose for which they were originally issued by the Department. Many of these are being sent to Tattersalls. They are being used over and over again, but the Postal and Telegraph Department receives nothing in respect of them, save the fee charged on them when they were first issued. Is it right that such a practice should be allowed to continue at a time when the Treasurer does not know where to look for money for defence purposes, the payment of old-age pensions, and various other matters necessary to a progressive community? Although we have £24,000,000 of gold in the Commonwealth, the gold actually in circulation is only about £5,000.000. The banks are allowed to have the use of enormous gold reserves on which they do not pay a penny. It is true that as soon as they put their notes in circulation, they have to pay a duty upon them, but bank notes, after all. only represent gold reserves. In this age of progress very little money is required for trading purposes. The great medium of exchange is not money, but fructifying indebtedness, or reinforced credits. Banks issue their credits in exchange for the credits of producers and traders, and these become transferable media of exchange, until they are finally redeemed by cancellation. We have a banking aristocracy which is a world unto itself. The people who are able to regulate the movements of the money volume - who are able to regulate the operation of the credit volume - have the power to raise or lower prices whenever it suits twenty or thirty of them to do so. They can by their operations affect the value of every property in’ the Commonwealth, and it is amazing to me that an intelligent House like this is not prepared to seriously discuss these financial questions. It will be little short of an act of Divine Providence that will cause the House to discuss the financial question free from political partisanship and sectional bigotry. It is impossible to. accurately estimate the total loss of revenue resulting from the system to which I object. But if we were to introduce tomorrow a system that would make the Standard Oil Company pay a tax amounting to £32,000 per annum - and the revenue of that Trust is nearly three times as great as is that of the Commonwealth - Mr. Rockefeller would hurry to New York, and devise a scheme bv which that loss would be transferred from the Trust to the Commonwealth. The banking corporations are the prototype of Mr. Rockefeller, and if they are going to tax the people to the extent of £32,978 per annum, by this charge on postal notes, the Commonwealth will have to bear the loss in the shape of a depreciated revenue.
– It is such actions as these that will force on a national bank.
– I h I hail this act on the part of the banks as the great hammer of heaven falling on the heads of the boodleiers. Why should we not offer Mr. French, of the Bank of New South Wales, or Mr. Everest, of the Commercial Bank, or the manager of some other banking institution, a big salary to take control of a national bank, in order that the Commonwealth may successfully carry on such an institution, and derive large profits from it? Just as the railways of the States are departmental concerns, so I would make a national bank a department of the Commonwealth. Since my fellow countryman, Mr. Tait, has assumed control of the Victorian railways, they have been paying.
– Bosh !
– I a I am not going to quarrel with any one in regard to these questions. I repeat that Mr. Tait is an able railway man, and that we must be prepared to pay for trained technical brain power. Last week the honorable member for Balaclava pointed out that the banks made £250,000 per annum by charging, their customers 10s. a year for keeping their current accounts. That is another item which the people of Australia had not to pay until a few years ago. That charge is made, although the banks have the use of their customers’ credit balances, and these institutions are now going to virtually filch from the people £32,000 per annum in respect of this impost on postal notes. That must be added to the £250,000 per annum- they secure by means of a charge of 10s. per annum on current accounts.
– £80,000 per annum is the amount derived by only one bank. The total in respect of all the banking institutions is £250,000.
– If If we add to that amount the £33,000 which they are now making by means of this charge of one penny on every postal note paid in, we find that they are deriving from the producers of Australia, £283,000 per annum, for which they give absolutely no service.
– And that amount must be taken from about 500,000 persons.
– I t I think that the number is less. I do not think that there are 500,000 producers in Australia. I trust that the Government will take steps to make postal notes a legal tender. if they do, they will immortalize themselves. Only such an action as that will make them live in history; they have done nothing yet to cause posterity to remember them. They should take steps to make postal notes a legal tender, and so teach the great corporations - these wolves - that they can no longer fleece the lambs of Australia.
– I have one or two suggestions to offer the Government, with a view to a settlement of this difficulty. This tax affects not so much the large traders as those who are in a small way of business. There are many tradespeople carrying on business in a small way, who receive three, four, or five postal notes every day, and a tax of1d. per note, when the face value of that note is only 2s. fid. is a fairly heavy one. When speaking yesterday to a couple of bankers, I inquired why this charge was insisted upon. They replied that some of the large trading firms and companies pay into their banks as many as two hundred or three hundred notes per day. The receiving teller has to check each of these notes before he can pass the pay-in slip, and whilst he is doing so a large number of customers are kept waiting at the counter, and are seriously inconvenienced. I was informed by these gentlemen that in many cases there was a post-office between the trading company’s warehouse and the bank with which they did business, but that their officers passed the post-office and paid the notes into the banks. The desire of the banking institutions is to induce traders to collect the amount of the notes received by them at the’ local post-offices, and one suggestion I would make is that there is no reason why a trader should not be able to hand in his two hundred or three hundred postal notes per day to the nearest post-office, and receive in return a cheque for the full amount, which he could then pay into his banking account. If that cannot be done, the Postmaster-General might arrange for these notes to be cleared by an officer of the Department at the clearing house. Then he could pay in the balance at the end. of the day, or at the end of the week. Another arrangement, which I am sure would be acceptable to the bank, would be one under which five or six postal notes would be received free of charge - because it is not much trouble to a bank clerk to have to add up four or five amounts - the man who paid in 200 or 300, keeping other customers waiting, having to pay for the inconvenience he caused. If a man pays in £200 in notes, nothing is charged for collection, because the notes are legal tender, and the tellers do not have to enter them separately. Postal notes, however, are for various sums, and have to be entered separately. If the PostmasterGeneral would enter into negotiations with the banks, a settlement could be arrived at, and the banks would be prevented from . making the large profits spoken of bv the honorable member for Darwin. Those with whom I discussed the matter yesterday told me that they do not wish to make a profit, but that they wish to prevent a loss If an arrangement is not made with the banks, persons will begin to draw cheques for1s., 2s., and other small amounts. Hitherto the practice has been not to draw cheques for sums of less than £1. If cheques are substituted for postal notes, the State will gain in stamp duty, and the Commonwealth will lose.
– There is no stamp dutv in New South Wales.
– No, but there is a stamp duty in some of the other States. Unless an arrangement is come to with the banks the Commonwealth will lose both directly and indirectly. I am satisfied, from my conversation of yesterday, that the bank authorities are willing to meet the Government, and if the PostmasterGeneral . will take the matter in hand, he can quickly settle it to the satisfaction of the public and the banks, and without loss -to the Government. The man who pays in 200 or 300 postal notes inconveniences the bank and his fellowcustomers. Our desire should be to protect the Commonwealth revenue and small tradespeople. The man who presents only, five or six postal notes should not be penalized because of the inconvenience caused by the big shopkeeper who pays in a large number. I feel strongly that money should not be taken out of the pockets of those who can least afford to lose it.
– The honorable member for Darwin put his case so clearly and forcibly that I have not much more to say, except to express my thanks to him for having brought the matter under the notice of the Government. It is a serious thing that the banks should be able, not only to place a tax on paper of value issued by the Commonwealth, but to curtail the use of that form of currency, which will be the effect of their action.
– P - Private corporations are taxing the Commonwealth.
– The powers of the Commonwealth should not be interfered with in any way, and the fact that they are being interfered with is a sufficient justification for action by the Government. The honorable member estimates that if the. postal notes issued next year equal in value those issued last year, the. banks will gain£32,000 by the new arrangement. Of course, an exact estimate cannot be made. A postal note might pass through one bank after another, paying1d. each time. It might happen that a note worth 5s. would go through a dozen banks, and thus have to pay the enormous tax of 1s. I do not think that many notes will be taxed as often as a dozen times, but some notes would be taxed several times. The Government should not allow either a corporation or an individual to interfere with its privileges. If the circulation of the postal notes be curtailed, as it will be by the charging of a penny for collection, we shall lose revenue. That is so important a consideration that the discussion of the matter could not wait. I am sorry that some of the remarks of the honorable member for Darwin were received with a certain amount of levity.
– He gave the House some humorous illustrations.
– We all enjoy his humour. It would be an unhappy thing for us if we did not. But some of his serious remarks were received with levity. This is one of the most important questions with which the House can deal. Only those who, like the honorable member for Darwin, have studied matters of finance, know how far-reaching in its influence the action of the banks will be, though, of course, no estimate can be verv accurate. I was delighted to hear of the large increase in the issue of postal notes, but if the practice which has been objected to is allowed to continue next year, there will be a falling off,- and we cannot afford to lose a penny of revenue. I object to any interference with the currency of the Commonwealth. There is no probability of the House, as at present constituted, establishing a bank on the lines proposed by the honorable member for Darwin, but whatever may be the views of honorable members regarding a national banking system, it is their duty to safeguard the currency.
.- I hope that the Government will give the most earnest consideration to the suggestions of the honorable member for Balaclava. The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh were slightly, though, of course, unintentionally, misleading. The action of the banks is to be regarded, not as the taxation of postal notes, but as the levying of a charge- for the trouble of doing what the holders could easily do for themselves. In the aggregate, the work of entering up the amounts of hundreds of postal notes is considerable.
– A - Any boy could do it in two seconds.
– At the present time, on busy mornings, persons sometimes have to wait for nearly half-an-hour before the bank tellers can attend to’ them, and the passing of postal notes through bank accounts makes the work more arduous. The post-offices are the proper places for cashing postal notes. If these are to be madelegal tender they should be issued only for certain values.
– What official would sign them all, if they were made legal tender?
– The making of postal notes legal tender would create many difficulties.
– Why should a bank receive, without charge, the notes of other banks, and charge on postal notes?
– Bank notes have not to be entered up separately. Postal notes are for small and various amounts.
– I - I have issued cheques for 5s.
– It is not usual for cheques to be issued for sums smaller than
– In country districts chequesare issued for very small . amounts.
– As there is a time limit on speeches on the formal motion for the adjournment of the House, I ask honorable members not to interfere with the speaker by interjecting.
-I hope that the Government will not approach this question as if it affected the poorest classes. They cash their postal notes at the post-offices. Those who pay postal notes through banking accounts are the large universal providers; tea houses, &c. The small tradespeople in the suburbs go to the post-offices. The complaint against the banks is being made, not on behalf of the poorer sections, but on behalf of the rich trading corporations, and the matter may be discussed without ad captandum appeals for humanity, and in the light pf reason. If it is so approached, the Government will have no difficulty in arriving at a fair settlement.
.- Honorable members are now able to appreciate all the more the efforts of the honorable member for Balaclava when thev are contrasted with the effort of honorable members who sit on the same side of the House. The honorable member seems to be filled with a desire to assist in the solution of some of those greatfinancial Questions which in the end lie atthe bed-rock of practically every political question. Those sitting around him, however, when a question arises which affects the vested interests of the large banking corporations, are ‘ever ready to explain away the inroads which those corporations unrighteously make on the wealth of the community. One would expect in a debate of this” kind to hear those who have been connected with financial concerns for many years, and who must know something of banking usages. We have the chairman of the Employers’ Federation here, and he is associated with large moneyed interests in the country. Why is he not taking the floor on a question of the kind, and helping to assert the rights of the common people as against the great banking institutions? Then there is the honorable member for Parkes, than whom no one is better qualified! to inform us, associated as he has been for many years with all sorts of boards of control in financial concerns. Yet we never hear these gentlemen speak on the subject they are most qualified to deal with. The Treasurer has asserted his knowledge of finance ; and it would not be overstating the case, I think, if I said that he regards himself as a financial expert. Yet we never hear that honorable gentleman taking part in a debate which may be of assistance to the people. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence amongst honorable members opposite’the moment a question is raised affecting great financial institutions.
– They dare not speak ; they have not had permission.
– I do not know whether the interests of those honorable members are so interwoven with the interests of financial institutions that they dare not assert themselves here in their representative capacity. They ought, however, to remember that they do not come to this House as the representatives of their own interests or the institutions with which they are connected, but as representatives of the people who are affected by such actions as that contemplated by the banks. In the Melbourne Age of the 8th of this month, the following appeared -
The report noted the success achieved by the deputation from the Employers’ Federation to the Postmaster-General, protesting against the extreme telephone charges imposed by the Labour Government, and which resulted in the appointment of two expert accountants to go into the financial side of the question, while, for the present, subscribers remain under the old terms and conditions.
That shows that the Employers’ Federation, with, the moneyed interests behind it, is exerting pressure on the present Government. In the same report we are told that the Postmaster-General, after listening to the representations made to him regarding the very matter under consideration by the secretary of the Associated Banks, and representatives of other institutions - said the explanation given showed the subject in a new light altogether. He did not, in view of the representations now made, intend to take any further action, unless the Chamber of Commerce or some other traders’ association made further complaint.
Is it not a ridiculous attitude for a Minister to take up, that he should, when asked to conserve the rights of the people, take his instruction from the secretary of the. Associated Banks and from the Employers’ Federation? I had no desire to take part in this debate ; but I think we are indebted to the honorable member for Darwin for bringing the subject up. That honorable member is one of the few who make an earnest attempt to deal with financial questions which affect the people. I do not pretend! to have any great qualification to speak on the subject, but, as a young man who is endeavouring to learn something about these great problems which I know vitally affect the people, I feel, as I say, that I am deeply indebted to the honorable member for Darwin for placing such proposals before us from time to time with the view to conserving the interests of the rank and file, as against those of the great financial institutions - the money bags of Australia. Notwithstanding the fact that, on a capitalized value of about £18,000,000, the banks hadi a profit of £2,400,000 last year, they are not satisfied, but desire now to impose a tax on the postal notes and post-office orders of the poorer classes, to the amount of nea.rly £33,000 per annum. It is said that this tax will not affect the poorer, people ; but, as a fact, anything which depreciates the currency of the poorer people must affect them.
– It has a tendency to put currencv out of use.
– Certainly. The Commonwealth Government have introduced postal notes and postal orders for the purpose of conveniencing the people, and the banks deliberately propose to do something which will check the action of the Government. The Commonwealth Government are entitled to take the attitude of the banks as a direct challenge on account of the efforts which are made to assist the poorer people in finding a suitable medium of exchange between town and country. Those who have banking accounts have a medium of exchange in cheques, on which the banks lay no embargo ; and I guarantee that there are as many cheques changed in this city without charge, as there are postal notes and postal orders charged for.
– T - There are fifty cheques to one postal note or postal order.
– But even supposing there were the same number, the injustice is great. Inside the banking ring no charge is made on certain cheques which are banked ; but the moment Commonwealth postal notes and post-office orders are concerned, a general tax is imposed, although it has been said that the Commonwealth confer -many privileges on banks by act or by non-interference.
– The banks have overstepped the mark this time.
– Do the banks propose to include post-office orders which are pavable to certain persons?
– Yes; anyhow, post-office orders become transferable the moment they are signed and have attached to them the name of the sender.
– Is it a common practice to deal with post-office orders in that way ?
– Very common indeed ; I have banked many thousands.
– Then the honorable member has had great experience.
– I have had some experience in connexion -with my own business, and with a large industrial union, the members of which very often send their contributions in postal notes and postoffice orders. These I banked on behalf of the association ; and thus I have gained, as I say, a little experience. I was a customer of one of the private banks when it was determined to charge an annual fee of 10s. on each account. That charge I regard as an outrage.
– It was the very best thing ever done.
– According to “the returns the banks have 500,000 accounts, and, although all of them may not be very much in credit, they practically supply the floating capital on which the banks operate their business. If a customer obtains an overdraft, it is not an actual one, but merely a credit ; he is informed that he may draw up to £500, and instead of that money being lent by the bank, the current accounts of other traders are simply being used.
– F - Fictitious capital !
– The banks have the benefit of all these current accounts, out of which they make huge profits, and still they make a charge of 10s., simply and solely because they have a monopoly - because there are no other means open tothe traders of the community. If we had a Commonwealth bank, there would be no talk of a charge of the kind. The banks, having obtained this £250,000 per annum from the small traders for keeping their accounts, now go a step further and make a charge on postal notes and postoffice orders, with the effect of placing another £33,000 in their already overfilled coffers. If we sit down and permit this, what will be the next step? The banks have it within their power to extend credits and limit credits, and by that means to tighten or loosen the money market which in turn largely influences the prices of property, lands, and commodities, and thereby increase or decrease the purchasing power of wages. We hear a lot said about arbitration and other industrial Courts raising the value of commodities, and we are told that, on account of the Tariff, £1 will buy only as much now as 16s. would ten years ago; but, from my study of the question, the expansion and contraction of credit has much more to do with decreasing the purchasing value of money than has the action of the Courts. There is a district in New South Wales which was brought under my particular notice, where a couple of years ago there was a boom in business, and land values were high. The banks, however, called in their overdrafts, and compelled those who had land to pay up, with the result that there was a drop in values, and the district is now one of the worst in New South Wales. This, I say, was owing to the action of the banks in limiting credit. The time at my disposal has expired. I can only hope the Government will take action to safeguard postal notes and orders against taxation by ‘the great banks of Australia.
.- There has not been a more useful discussion than this during the session, and the effects of it will be far-reaching. I desire to compliment the honorable member for Darwin, who, under cover of the motion, has presented to the House, in a sort of axiomatic manner, a knowledge of banking science, for which, probably, many members did not give him credit. I take the liberty of saying to members of the Labour party that, judging from certain scholastic training I had in my earlier life, the honorable member is absolutely sound in the ideas he has expressed this morning; and honorable members on this side, who have practical experience, cannot dispute his contentions, more particularly those in relation to banking corporations. We have also to thank the honorable member for Balaclava, who admitted the weakness of the banks’ position, and suggested how it should be altered. His suggestions were those of a shrewd business man. He realizes that the banking people have bitten off more than they can chew ; and, speaking from his experience, he has advised them to back down under cover as quickly as possible. But the matter has gone a little too far for us to allow them to take cover under the honorable member’s wise advice and suggestions. Personally, I thank him for his keenness and shrewdness. His speech was an acknowledgment that the banks have, gone beyond their functions, and apparently he has pointed out to them the dangerous path that they are now treading. This debate has drawn attention to a neglected power of the Commonwealth under the Constitution - the power to pass banking legislation for the whole of Australia. The banking corporations, by their greed and avarice, in trying to get a poundage on. postal notes, have really awakened this Parliament to the necessity for introducing banking legislation, and so exercising a power which has lain dormant too long. Some honorable members say that the honorable member for Darwin puts the subject in a humorous manner; but it is one of that honorable member’s characteristics to illuminate his addresses by a certain amount of personality. Certain other honorable members are so intensely respectable and dignified that I believe they would play the Dead March, and palm it off as a wedding march. Thev try to pass through the . world as knowledgeable men by clothing themselves with a serious air, and a mien of ultra-respectability, to conceal their lack of knowledge.
– The honorable member is very severe.
– I did not think the honorable member for Parkes was so sensitive. He is one of the striking examples of whom I am thinking, but I thought his epidermis was more like that of a rhinoceros than the tender covering which it now seems to be.
– I do not see what the peculiarities or distinguishing characteristics of honorable members have to do with the question before the Chair.
– Then, sir, it is your crowning disgrace that you do not possess a sense of humour. If the honqrable member for Darwin wrapped himself up in the air of a bank official, walked slowlv to the table, joined the digits of each hand, and took a quarter of an hour over each argument, he would probably pass for a serious and well-advised man like the honorable member for Parkes. The question before us is the invasion by the banks of the functions of the Commonwealth Parliament. To show the importance of it. I would draw attention to the general use of postal notes in the daily life of the Commonwealth. In 1 901 there were issued in the . whole Commonwealth 3,516,908 postal notes of a value of £1,293,039. In 1907, the most recent year for which complete returns are available, 6,077,237 postal notes were issued, of a value of £2,271,155. There was, therefore, in six years an increase both in volume and value of nearly too per cent. In New South Wales, to show what a ready medium of exchange they have been made by the people, the total number of postal notes issued in 1906 was 2,161,069odd, of a value of about £808,759. By T907 the number had grown to 2,436,085 of a value of £887,105. These figures show to what extent the interests of a large section of the public are involved. The notes are a public convenience. The honorable member for Wentworth pleaded that the banking authorities had a lot of trouble with regard to the matter, and that it involved a great deal of clerical work. He forgot to point out that the banking institutions are presented with the use of ; a number of facilities at the cost of the Commonwealth, without anv charge for them. Take the circulation of cheques as an instance. If the Commonwealth wished to begin reprisals upon the banks, a ready means to hand would be to treat all cheques going through the post as registered letters. If the banking officials are going to fightthe Commonwealth for the sake of £[33,000, and lessen the value of a public convenience, they will be met with reprisals like that which the honorable member for Darwin said that skilled financiers in the Old World resorted to. If the PostmasterGeneral desires to regain any ground in this matter, I make the suggestion to him to treat cheques passing through the post as registered letters. The Post Office is becoming a larger and larger concern, and it is performing banking business in the interests of the general public. The growth in the number of postal notes is an evidence that that work is valued, and taken advantage of by the community. The honorable member for Wentworth, when he argues that :we are only fighting on behalf of people in a large way of business, does not go far enough, because the class of people who use postal notes is mainly the industrial class, and by far the larger proportion of the notes are for amounts of £1 and under. In many parts of Australia they are not even conveyed to a bank, but are passed from hand to hand like bank notes as an ordinary medium of exchange. The difficulty in the way of making them an actual medium of exchange is that certain clerical work with regard to signing them would have to be got over ; but that could be done. The bank officials, who are generally well advised! and shrewd, have overstepped the mark on this occasion. I am not surprised that the bank managers, who simply work on routine lines, knowing their banking science and insolvency laws, but not knowing the world beyond, should have recommended this step ; but I am surprised that the bank directors, who are men of the world, did not see that they were arousing the dormant power of the Commonwealth to establish a national bank. This discussion has done a lot of good. When banking legislation is brought before the House, the banks will undoubtedly ask for many conveniences and facilities, and. out. of the mouths of those who have been silent today, there will proceed many respectable and heavy speeches in the interests of the banking corporations. No attempt will be made in those addresses to depart from stereotyped phrases. They will be uttered slowly,’ and will sound well. Commonplace generalities will take the place of originality, and because they are spoken slowly, an opportunity will be given to the reporters to record them, and to the House to accept the instructions which they will be intended to convey. But one happy feature of this debate is the evidence that the Labour party, or any other advanced party, will now give more attention to the immediate necessity of introducing banking legislation. I believe the shrewd suggestion of the honorable member for Balaclava will be acted upon to-morrow morning by the - banking authorities. He has simply said : “ Get cover as quickly as you can, boys; the lions are roused. You have gone too far ; it is not worth the risk; stronger measures will follow.” I am surprised that the Postmaster-General has. not already made a suggestion similar to that of the honorable member for Balaclava. When legislation is introduced honorable members will be found to be much more versed in the higher branches of banking science than other people think. Because a man betrays his individuality and makes his points in a characteristic manner, it does not follow that he is illinformed on these questions. I admit that the banks have a perfect right under the present system of private enterprise to do the best they can for themselves. I do not blame them, but I do blame the authority which allows them to impose a fresh tax upon one of the conveniences of the people, when they have already a large number of facilities given to them free. Let them demand their pound of flesh if they like. They have a perfect right, as a business concern, to make a charge to meet expenses for clerical labour. I do not ask them to be charity-mongers or philanthropic institutions ; but I do say, as a representative of the public, that the Commonwealth must wake up, and, in turn, make its proper charges upon the banks for the free facilities which it now gives them. It will be a fair go, and the question will not stop here. I do not suppose it can be done during the life pf this Parliament, but I hope that whatever Government is in power in the next Parliament will be forced to bring in banking legislation, and that the outcome will be the utilization of our postal service to form the nucleus of a national bank.
.- It seems most peculiar that when any proposition! emanates from any honorable member on our side of the Chamber, so little notice should be taken of it upon the Ministerial side. So far no Minister has taken any interest in the debate. I look upon this as one of the most serious problems that the Postmaster-General has to face. I suppose, as there are no chambers of commerce, or chambers of manufactures, or banking institutions on this side to wait upon the
Treasurer or Postmaster-General, no notice is taken of what we say - simply because the masses, and not the classes, are affected.
– That is right. Always attribute motives.
– Candidly, what interest has been taken in this debate by any Minister in the chamber? I am not imputing motives, but stating facts. Nine-tenths of my constituents use the postal note service. Hardly a mail comes from Queensland in which I am not asked to induce the PostmasterGeneral to afford facilities for getting postal notes. To people living in the bush a postal note is practically currency. No one can bear me out more strongly than can the honorable member for Darling Downs, because the same thing happens in his district. The Postal Department in Queensland) gives, every possible facility to people to get postal notes, and the Deputy Postmaster-General in that State has, since he went there, opened more offices for the sale of postal notes than have existed before. He is increasing the facilities for that purpose every year, and postal notes are practically becoming the currency in Western Queensland. People in far back portions of that State find it easier to obtain goods from Brisbane and to send postal notes in payment for them than to obtain their supplies from the nearest town ; it is easier to forward postal notes through the post-office to Brisbane business houses. They, now find that on every postal note which they use for the payment of services rendered, or goods supplied, they are to be penalized by the banks to the extent of1d. This question is of great interest to the people generally; and particularly to those who reside in the back places of Australia. If there is one section of the community to whom my heart goes out more than to any other, it is that section which resides in the back-blocks of the different States, for I have lived in such places, and know the disadvantages under which they labour. If it is possible for the Postmaster-General to make their lot a little easier than it is, I hope that he will do so, and I am sure that any such attempt on his part will receive ithe cordial assistance of his colleagues. It is imperatively necessary that action should be taken at once. Notice has already been issued by the banks that the charge is to be levied as from1st proximo, and I ask the Treasurer, in the absence of the Postmaster-General, to take this matter in hand without further delay. If the banks are not prepared to accede to our request, I am satisfied that the Government will be able, within twenty-four hours of its introduction, to pass a Bill that will give effect to our desire.
.- As a one-time bank clerk of seven years’ experience, I wish very briefly to put the views of the bank clerks in regard to this question. Their contention is that there is more trouble involved in entering up a postoffice order than there is in entering an ordinary cheque. I dare say that the average amount of the cheques that are drawn by customers of banking institutions in Victoria is considerably over £5, whereas the average in respect of postal notes is probably 5s., or even less. A great deal of work is involved in dealing with these small notes.
– The bank clerk has to put in his six or seven hours a day. What does it matter to him what he has to do during that time?
– Heaven forgive the honorable member for’ his want of knowledge on the subject.
– All that I say is that the bank clerk has to work for a certain number of hours, irrespective of what he has to do.
– A Factories Act might well be applied to the bank clerks of Australia, and I speak with more knowledge -of this phase of the subject than is possessed by the average bank director. There is another point to which I desire to draw the attention of the Treasurer, and that is that by means of the charge of 10s. per annum on current accounts, the banks are slowly eating up the unclaimed balances which belong really to the people of the Commonwealth. The Colonial Bank, to its credit be it said, was the one institution to stand out against the proposal to make the charge, but the honorable member for Darwin - than whom no honorable member has a higher knowledge of banking practices - will bear out my statement that it is impossible for one bank to stand out against all the others.
– - Hear, hear. It would be crucified if it did.
– The banks have now done away with the exchangeformerly charged upon notes passing from one State to another, so that the ordinary bank note is now fair currency throughout the Commonwealth.
– Except in the case of Queensland, where we have Treasury notes.
– At all events, the charge I have mentioned has been abolished.
– How long since?
– Since the speech made at Gympie bv the ex-Treasurer.
– If the banks insist upon making this charge of1d. per postal note, it will be open to us to retaliate by levying a charge of 6d. on every bank note paid into a Commonwealth office. I do not suggest that that course should be followed - indeed, I hope that it will not - but it could be adopted if the banks refused to listen to what is, after all, a commonsense request. There are one or two other matters that I should like to touch upon, but as the time at which the debate must close is almost at hand, and as the Treasurer wishes to reply, I shall refrain from making anv further observations.
– Reference has been made to this question on several occasions during the present session, and I understand that the Postmaster-General has promised to give it his attention. I have no doubt that he is doing so.
– He has said that he does not intend to alter his opinion.
– We do not know what that opinion is. The matter, at all events, is in his hands, and I do not know how far his inquiries have gone. I shall, communicate with him on his return from Sydney.
– Cannot the Treasurer do something ?
– I shall be very glad to assist the Postmaster-General in dealing with this matter. In view of the debate which has taken place we shall be able to enter into communication with the banks with a knowledge of the desire of many honorable members, and I hope that some reasonable and practical conclusion will be arrived at.
– Will the Treasurer take action as soon as possible?
– I shall certainly bring the matter under the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster- General, and I hope that we shall be able to take action very soon.
– We have already had from the PostmasterGeneral the emphatic statement that, having had an interview -with the Secretary to the Associated Banks, he did not intend to take any further action unless the Chamber of Commerce or some other trading institution requested him to do so.
– I was not aware of that statement.
– Perhaps it is as well that I should read the report of the remarks made by the Postmaster- General. According to the Age of 8th instant, the honorable gentleman, after listening to the Secretary to the Associated Banks, said -
The explanation given showed the subject in a new light altogether. He did not, in view of the representations now made, intend to take any further action, unless the Chamber of Commerce or some other traders’ association made further complaint. ‘
In these circumstances it is idle for the Treasurer to say that the PostmasterGeneral is doing this, that, or the other thing. It appears to me that, having regard to the action of the Government in relation to the telephone charges and other matters, they are bound hand and foot, and dare not move without the express permission of the Chambers of Commerce or the Chamber of Manufactures. It is idle for the Treasurer to attempt to deceive the House.
– I do not suggest that the Treasurer intentionally tried to deceive the House, but he certainly tried to screen the Postmaster-General.
– I had -not seen the statement which the honorable member has just read.
– If the honorable member will promise to look into the matter-
– He has.
– If the Treasurer has definitely stated on behalf of the Government that steps will be taken to bring about the desired change I have nothing further to say.
.- I wish to draw attention once more to the fact that whenever a financial question of great importance to Australia is brought before the House little notice of it is taken by Ministers and their supporters, who display the utmost indifference to views expressed by honorable members on this side of the House. When the honorable member for Darwin was introducing this question I could scarcely hear what he was saying, because certain Ministers and some of their supporters were conversing in a way that was not respectful to you, Mr. Speaker, or to the honorable member who was addressing the Chair. The question that has been raised by the honorable member for Darwin is of great importance to those who live in country districts. For some time in Tasmania this charge on postal notes has been in force, and the unionism of the banks has gone beyond that which is reasonable. Year after year they have gone on piling up new charges, and it would appear that with them it is a case of unionism run mad.
– - I thank honorable members for the attention that they have given to the question that I have submitted for their consideration. The ‘ speeches made by the honorable member for Balaclava - who is an able financier - the honorable member for Dalley, and others, show that they have devoted much study to this problem, and I hope that action will be taken by the Government without delay, Already I have had letters from people with . whom I had business dealings, Saying, “ In future send us one of your own cheques instead of a postal note, because we have now to pay one penny on every postal note that we pay into our banking account.” This means that, even in the case of a cheque for 5s., I have to add sixpence exchange. Representatives of country districts should consider for a moment how this charge by the banks will affect them. The storekeeper pays the postal notes that he has received from his customers into his banking account, and in this way the banks are collecting a very large revenue. The revenue of the Commonwealth will also suffer, because, owing to the introduction of this system, people will naturally demand to be paid by cheque instead of postal notes. The banks did away with the Inter-State exchange on banknotes as the result of the policy speech delivered at Gympie by the late Treasurer, who said that he proposed to provide for a Commonwealth note issue. I regret that the honorable gentleman did not at once bring down a financial scheme in accordance with that which I proposed, and which was adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference. My scheme provided for a national system of banking, including a Commonwealth note issue,’ gold reserves, and the redemption of the note issue in both gold and in consols, at the will of the ComptrollerGeneral of the currency. I made up my mind that we should have such a scheme that half-a-dozen banks would not be able to corner the Government as the Government of the United States was cornered after the resumption of specie payment in 1879. The Government of the United States had then to hire a corporation of banks to float gold bonds. I remember the incident well, for some of my own people were in the deal. It seems that every one desires to get at the Government. I know that the Treasurer- will do that which he promises to do. I have every confidence in him. He has been an explorer, and we know what an explorer can do when he enters the financial world. I deeply regret that the Postmaster-General has declared that, having listened to the views of the Secretary to the Associated Banks, he did not intend to take further action. Why should the Chamber of Commerce have_ more influence with the Minister than a private individual?
Debate interrupted under Standing Order.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members are invited to give their attention to “a very important question, which seriously affects the welfare of the Commonwealth, and is part of a still greater problem lying before Australia. One has only to turn to the map, and see how unpeopled our northern lands are, to realize the obligation upon us. We have to hold and maintain this country as a part of the British Empire, and to so develop its resources that it shall become an important part of the Empire, peopled by a white race, preserving the highest standards of the civilization of which we are so proud. To-day we have to consider, not the development of the whole of the northern part of Australia, including vast and fertile areas in Queensland and Western Australia, but only the development of what is known as the Northern Territory of South Australia. That Territory is important by reason of its area alone. It contains 523,620 square miles, or 335,116,800 acres, so that it is nearly onesixth of the total area, of the Continent, and equals in size France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy put together.
It possesses a coastline of 1,300 miles, off which lie large islands. It is watered by magnificent navigable rivers, such as the Victoria, the Daly, the Adelaide, the Alligator, the Liverpool, the Goyder, the Roper, and the McArthur. Although much of its land may. not equal the best in other parts of Australia, it possesses rich, fertile coastal districts, suitable for agriculture, and, inland, large pastoral areas and extensive and valuable mineral deposits. Yet its population last year was only 2,973 persons, of whom 1,081 were Europeans, and 1,892 men of other races, exclusive of the aboriginal population, whose conditions are dealt with in the memorandum circulated. This population has been decreasing year by year,’ and one of the questions we have to face is how to get it to increase. Hitherto the Territory has been governed by South Australia, but that State is finding the burden more than it can bear. We are obliged to consider the position of the Territory from the point of view of defence also. How does the Territory lie in its geographical relations with the rest of Australia and the countries of the East? A few figures, giving distances by sea routes, will help honorable members to realize the facts. The distance from Port Darwin to Thursday Island is 730 miles; to Fremantle, 2,092 miles; to Brisbane, 2,160 miles; to Sydney, 2,634 miles; to Melbourne, 3,210 miles by the east coast route, and 3,952 miles by the west coast route ; and to Adelaide, 3,453 miles by the west coast route and 3,709 miles by the east coast route. From Port Darwin to Amboina. in the Dutch East Indies, is 580 miles; to Sandakan, in Borneo, 1,440 miles; to Batavia, in Java, 1,705 miles; to Manila, in the Philippines, 1,872 miles; to Singapore, 1,902 miles; to Hong Kong, 2,350 miles; and to Colombo, 3,253 miles. Thus Port Darwin is nearer to Hong Kong than it is to Sydney. Representatives of Western Australia have complained that thai State, is as difficult of access from the eastern States as is New Zealand ; all communication having to be carried on by sea. Port Darwin is similarly situated. We have there large and valuable areas of country, which are much more easily reached from other part’s of the world than from the populous centres of the Commonwealth. For the sake of defence alone, it is important that our communications with it should be improved. On this matter, the opinion of Major J. Bevan Edwards, C.B., at one time commanding the troops in China and Hong Kong, is of value, though it was written twenty years ago. He says -
No general defence of Australia can be undertaken unless its distant parts are connected with the more populous Colonies in the south-east of the Continent. If an enemy was established in either Western Australia or at Port Darwin, you would be powerless to act against him. Their isolation is, therefore, a menace to the rest of Australia. . . . The interests of the whole Continent, therefore, demand that the railways to connect Port Darwin and Western Australia with the other Colonies should be made as soon as possible.
A former Governor of South Australia, Sir George Le Hunte, has also spoken of the harbor at Palmerston in these words -
The harbor is a very fine one - deep, well sheltered, and capable of being easily defended. Its position with regard to the Eastern Archipelago and the great Asiatic trading centres ought to make it a very important commercial port in the future, while from its strategic position it might prove a very valuable base in the event of developments which may, and in the course of time, are nearly certain to, take place amongst the Powers in the East. There is, in my opinion, every reason why Australia should appreciate and safeguard one of its most important, positions. It will be a most dangerous thing to neglect or undervalue it.
That opinion was expressed in 1905.
– Is Sir George Le Hunte an expert on defence?
– In his administrative capacity, he has had to consider important problems from the Imperial, as well as from the Australian, point of view, and those who know his character will be aware that his opinion is worthy of careful consideration.
– Does the Minister think it wise to ask the House to be influenced on questions of this kind by the views of representatives of the Crown?
– I have quoted from a public document which has. been laid on the table. Sir George Le Hunte is no longer Governor of South Australia. The opinion does not relate to a constitutional’ matter, and was not arrived at in connexion with the relations between him and his advisers.
– It is the opinion of a layman.
– It is, nevertheless, worthconsidering.
– Does any one dispute its value?
– In addition, I might offer the opinion expressed by Lord Northcote after he had retired from his position of Governor-General, when he uttered a warning in respect to the northern parts of Australia. He stated what is obviously a fact, namely, that it would be quite possible for analien force “to seize Port Darwin and! to march southward at its leisure.” That is a possibility we have to contemplate; and if all means of communication were cut off from the southern centres, we should have a very serious problem before us.
– If that is correct, ought we not to connect the centres of population with the Northern Territory by the most direct route?
– That is another question. We have in the north a rich, fertile country, practically isolated; and no matter what means of communication may be determined in the future, that Territory, as it is to-day, especially in relation to other nations, is a menace to the Commonwealth. Honorable members will realize that there is only one means by which we can hold the Territory, and that is by having there a settled population - not a population settled merely on the coast, but, if we are to retain the Territory permanently as a portion of the Commonwealth and of the Empire, there must be a large population settled on the interior lands also. The remark of President Roosevelt, in reference to Australia, is, I think, as applicable to-day as when he made it. He said -
Beware of Keeping your north empty ; and remember that an unmanned nation invites disaster.
The position of the Northern Territory is exactly that described by President Roosevelt ; we are in possession of this Territory, and, at the present time, it is unmanned. The problem which Australia has to face, whether the Commonwealth takes over the Territory or not, is how we can alter the present state of affairs. At present we have possession of the Territory ; that is, we can say that we have actual possession, and that it is occupied from the point of view of international law. But when we observe the growth of population in other countries, and see there the overcrowding and desire to occupy fresh territories, a desire proceeding from laws of nature which we must recognise - it becomes increasingly pressing on us as a people to remember that, if we are to justify our title, the only way we can do that is by effective occupation. Effective occupation does not mean merely placing a Customs official at a port and flying the flag; to my mind, it means permanent occupation by a people who are applying their energies and industry to developing the resources of the country, not only in their own interests, but in the interests of the community as a whole. These are the problems which lie before us. South Australia, for a period of forty-six years, has had the responsibility of this Territory; and I think that that State is entitled to a meed of praise for having kept the British flag flying over that great portion of the Commonwealth. If South Australia had failed to recognise her Imperial obligations - if she had so neglected her duty as to leave this, as it were, a no-man’s land - the problem might have been even more serious. But for the benefit of Australia as a whole, as it ultimately proved - though probably selfish considerations may have actuated some of her citizens - South Australia has resolutely faced the position all these years, and tried to do her best-
– Does the Minister say that South Australia has kept the enemy out of the country ?
– I say that South Australia has retained possession of the Territory.
– Because nobody else wanted it.
– I do not think that is the case. When South Australia took possession of the Territory, the population of the State was only 140,000. I might say that before South Australia took the Territory, a. large portion of it really belonged to the State of New South Wales.
– And so did Queensland.
– Quite so, but Queensland was constituted a separate colony in 1859. At that time, the Queensland border did not extend so far west as it does today; it was in 1862, by an Order in Council, that the Queensland borders were extended on the west up to the present border of the Northern Territory. The question of dealing with the Northern Territory was discussed at the time. About 1863 there was considerable stir in South Australia by reports that were presented by the great explorer, McDougall Stuart, who had traversed the continent, and made reports as to the richness of the land which he had seen. Mr. A. C. Gregory, another explorer, had also been across the Territory; and he, and all acquainted with the facts, spoke highly of this portion of the continent. Some correspondence between the Colonial Office and the Governments of Queensland and South Australia took place in regard to the disposition of the Northern Territory; and the request of Queensland was not that it should be attached to that State - it was felt that Queensland had enough territory to developbut that it shoul’d be annexed by South Australia. The South Australian Government asked for the annexation, and in the year 1863 the annexation was made.
– After England had failed to settle the Territory.
– England had never seriously attempted to settle the Territory.
– There are remnants of English settlement there to-day.
– There was no serious attempt at colonization, or to govern the Territory in an administrative way. By letters patent on the 6th July, 1863, the Northern Territory was annexed to the province of South Australia. That was in pursuance of two Acts of Parliament; one, passed in 1842 for the government of New South Wales and Van Diemeri’s Land, giving authority to erect into a new colony any territories within New South Wales, and the other, passed in 1861, dealing with the Legislature of Queensland, and containing a clause, . enabling the Imperial Government, by letters patent, to annex to any colony in the continent of Australia any territory which, in pursuance of the previous Act, might have been created a separate colony.
– There is no constitutional difficulty raised, is there?
– Any such difficulty has been only suggested. The substance of the letters patent has accordingly been set out in the memorandum I have circulated. As I say, this Territory was annexed to South Australia by letters patent.
– At the request of South Australia.
– Yes, and also with the acquiescence of Queensland. The letters patent, while they contained a clause enabling the annexation of the territory to South Australia, also gave power, at any time, to revoke the annexation. In 1882, the South Australian Government sought to have that power of revocation withdrawn, and to have the
Northern Territory permanently annexed’. That request was refused by the Imperial authorities, but, as we know, under the Constitution Act, the Northern Territory was incorporated as part of the province of South Australia. Therefore, South Australia has power to deal with the Territory - to surrender or dispose of it, just in the same way as New South Wales, Victoria, or Queensland may deal with any portion of its territory. It is in pursuance of that power, which is undoubtedly possessed under the Constitution, that we are asked to-day to accept from South Australia the transfer of the Northern Territory.
– How does the Minister account for the paucity of population, when there are such fine rivers and lands ?
– All I can do is to refer the honorable member to the report of a South Australian Royal ‘Commission of 1895, a portion of the report of which appears in the memorand!um, showing the causes suggested for the failure. No doubt mistakes have been made in the government of the Northern Territory ; but has any State governed the whole of its territory without error? South Australia, according to the best of the financial ability of those in power, attempted to deal with a serious problem. I ask honorable members to remember that had South Australia been completely successful in its dealings with the Northern Territory, and succeeded in settling it with a population of, say, 500,000, the Territory would to-day have been a separate State. What, then, has South Australia done in the past? In her attempts to settle -the Territory, she landed herself in heavy financial obligation. To-day the State has a population of 398,093, but for the whole of the period of forty-six years a small population took upon themselves a great burden of taxation, until now, I believe, South Australia is the second most heavily-taxed State in the Union.
– Had South Australia any alternative?
– There was the alternative of abandoning the Territory, but South Australia has acted according to British tradition, and borne a great burden rather than sacrifice the Territory. The State has tackled the problem seriously. Her initial attempts to make land sales ended in failure and disaster. Land was sold which had not been surveyed, and the consequent delay in granting titles for five or six years involved the State in considerable loss,, and set back its progress. Undoubtedly, there was a mistake there; and, pet haps, the State, in the course of her history, has made other mistakes.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I was putting the questmen - “What has South Australia done on behalf of the Territory?” She has made attempts at land legislation, of which some of the earlier ones certainly landed her in disaster. She also undertook large, public works, one of which in particular was not only a boon to South Australia, but a distinct national advantage. I refer to her action in undertaking solely out of her own financial resources the construction of the overland telegraph line. That work has been of infinite value to all the States. It gave them their first communication by cable with the great markets of the world. It was a distinct business advantage to Australia, although South Australia undertook the enterprise on her own account. The construction of the line had to be made through a large and practically unexplored territory. The responsibility had to be undertaken of bringing all the material through that area, and to take upon herself the risk of the line not paying. That work alone ought to stand for all time to the credit of Sir Charles Todd, who completed it when others had partially, if not wholly, failed. It cost South Australia no less than £603,959. Three-fifths of the line runs through the Northern Territory. In addition, South Australia constructed the Palmerston to Pine Creek railway, and made harbor works and jetties in connexion with it, which cost her a capital expenditure of £1,184,612. A series of attempts were made to settle the country by making costly surveys, in order to get a proper conception of its pastoral resources. Exploring parties were equipped and sent out prospecting parties. Money was expended in sinking wells, and in various other ways attempts were made to induce settlement in the North. These works landed the State in continual expenditure, which left a series of accumulated deficits year after year, until to-day she bears upon her shoulders the burden of a total expenditure in connexion with the Territory of £3,327,983. It will therefore be seen that by her efforts, supplemented by the establishment of experimental stations to indicate the line upon which agricultural development should take place, and by doing her best to encourage pastoral settlement, South Australia has made some serious attempts to solve this great problem.
– Is not that an argument why we should not take the Territory?
– No. The argument why we should take it is that as South Australia has hitherto been bearing what is really a national obligation, the time has come for transferring to the whole community of Australia a burden too great for the small population of the State. From a national stand-point the question of the settlement of the North must be faced. The Commonwealth as a whole must realize its position. I have already referred to the necessity for taking the Territory from the defence stand-point. The defence authorities of the Commonwealth concur in the opinion expressed by Major-General Edwards, and affirm that no defence of Australia would be complete unless Port Darwin is defended. South Australia has undoubtedly made mistakes, and it is quite possible that something more than has been done might have been done. But the question whether South Australia has done her duty or not is apart altogether from the national question which now has to be faced. The question is not what South Australia has not done, but what the Commonwealth of Australia is going to do. When Federation was accomplished, the late Sir Frederick Holder, who was then Premier of South Australia, wrote on 18th April, 190.1, to Sir Edmund Barton, then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, offering to transfer the Territory to the Commonwealth. He did this, not under the authority of Parliament, but in his capacity as head of the Executive, realizing that whatever was done would be subject to parliamentary ratification or rejection. In making the offer, he said : -
I may mention that, had South Australia been willing to have given carle blanche to capitalists to introduce coloured labour into the Territory a sum of money estimated at about ^10,000,000 would have been forthcoming to establish a chartered company to take over the Territory, with its assets and liabilities to South Australia, and to carry out the construction of the remaining portion of the overland railway. This offer was declined by the South Australian Government in its own interest and in the interests of Australia.
The Commonwealth Parliament discussed the matter, and in September, 1902, this
House, on the motion of the late Mr. Solomon, passed the following resolution : -
That in the opinion of this House it is advisable that the complete control and jurisdiction over the Northern Territory of South Australia be acquired by the Commonwealth upon just terms.
Therefore, this House has already by resolution affirmed the desirability of acquiring the Territory. South Australia passed, in 1902, a Trans-continental Railway Act, authorizing the construction of the line upon land grant terms, and the previous offer was withdrawn. When that Act was passed, certain offers were made, with which I need not deal. Subsequently the late Mr. Price became Premier of the State. He submitted to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth certain resolutions passed bv his Parliament on December 7th, 1905, authorizing the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth on the following conditions : -
Negotiations took place, the details of which I need not mention, and ultimately it was agreed between the Premier of South Australia and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth that the Territory should be surrendered to the Commonwealth upon the terms of the agreement which are the schedule to the Bill that is now before the House. I shall go through those terms briefly and explain them. In the first place, the Territory and all the State propertv and assets in the Territory, are to be transferred to the Commonwealth. - In return, the Commonwealth undertakes to be responsible for the indebtedness of the State in respect of the Territory, ‘as from the date of acceptance, by annually reimbursing the State interest on the loans, and by paying annually into a sinking fund the amount which the State is at present liable to pay into a sinking fund, and also redeeming or paying the loans as they fall due. The Commonwealth undertakes to pay the deficit account which now exists on the Territory. It also covenants to cause a railway to be constructed from Port Darwin southward to the northern boundary of South Australia proper. It agrees to acquire the railway running from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and to construct a railway line northwards from some point on that line to connect with the other portion of what is described as the transcontinental railway,It agrees to pay the State the indebtedness on the Oodnadatta to Port Augusta line by becoming responsible for the interest and for the loans. The State, on its part, covenants tq give the Commonwealth all the necessary powers to construct those lines, and to give consent to the construction of the railway from Port Augusta through the South Australian territory towards the Kalgoorlie Perth extension. These, generally speaking, were the terms of the agreement. If honorable members will bear with me, I shall now go through the agreement in a little detail. In the first place the State has undertaken to transfer and surrender to the Commonwealth the Northern Territory. What does that Territory mean to us as a Commonwealth? From the point of view of its natural wealth, let us take the last returns - those for the year 1907. Its imports in that year were valued at £78,996, and its exports at £345,721. The leading exports were gold, wolfram, copper, tin ore, silver, pearl shell, cattle, horses, hides and tallow. Up to date the total mineral wealth won from the Territory amounts to £2,565,578. It has increasing stock returns. To-day its wealth in that direction amounts to about 400,000 cattle, 20,000 horses, and 44,232 sheep. I mention those figures simply to give honorable members some idea of the latent resources of this great portion of the continent. I do not wish to go in detail into the opinions which have been expressed about the Territory. In the memorandum which has been circulated, honorable members will find the views of men who have been long resident in the Territory, and have had considerable experience of it. Those will give them some idea of its agricultural, pastoral, and mineral resources, but I feel in duty bound to submit to the House a few opinions of practical men. The Honorable J. Langdon Parsons, who for a long time administered the Territory, and also resided in it, says -
These Northern Territory lands have been by some much over-praised, by others much under depreciated. In such a vast expanse of Australian country there are stony wastes, rolling sandhills, spinifex .thickets, waterless regions, rocky and sterile ranges. But there are also wide undulating downs, broad wellgrassed plains, rich alluvial flats, and on the north coast large navigable rivers.
Captain Barclay, F.R.G.S., who has resided in the north for many years, divides the Territory into three districts, namely, coastal, northern, and southern, and writes -
Fully one-third of the Northern Territory is first-class pastoral country, admirably suited for sheep. Northward from the Jervois range a great tableland stretches for hundreds of miles. The southern limit is 2,500 feet above the sea; thence it gradually falls until it meets the coastal ranges bordering the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Indian Ocean. Owing to the elevation above the sea, the climate is perfect, and there seems no reason why agriculture should not flourish, the rainfall gradually increasing over vast plains of rich soil, from about 10 inches in the MacDonnell Range to 45 inches at Pine Creek and 62 inches at Port Darwin.
Then again Mr. Winnecke, another explorer, reported -
My experience of the Northern Territory extends over 35 years. I have been astounded at the frequent mention of desert country. My experience is that some of the finest pastoral country in the world is to be found in Central Australia. Water, principally artesian, is more abundant than supposed. . . .
Another, who has had great experience in the north, Mr. Giles, says -
From the northern base of the MacDonnell Range to the west range (Hann) is a distance of 70 miles, the whole of which is magnificently grassed, although timbered thickly in places by mulga (acacia). At 25 miles from the MacDonnell Range are rolling downs thickly grassed and equal in richness of soil to any in South Australia, being inundated plains of rich black and red soils, fit for the growth of wheat. This excellent country extends east and west for considerable distances, also to the north-east and north-west.
Mr. John Costello, of Lake Nash, in giving evidence before the Royal Commission, said -
There is a large area of country from Newcastle Waters and the head of the Roper to the Queensland border at Cammoweal. This magnificent belt of country known as the tableland may be said to be the cream of the pastoral land of the Territory. I have the fullest and greatest faith in the future of squatting in it. I have travelled over most sheep raising country in Queensland, and I can safely say that in no part of that Colony have I seen country better adapted for wool growing than this splendid tableland. A permanent supply of water can be obtained in this country at a depth varying from 150 to 250 feet.
– It is said -that it will carry 5,000,000 sheep.
- Mr. Lindsay, the explorer; who has been over the Territory, makes a higher estimate of the sheepcarrying capacity of the country than that mentioned by the honorable member. He personally informed me that it would carry at least 10,000,000 sheep, whilst the more sanguine estimate is that it will carry many more.
– My estimate is based on the opinion expressed by men who have travelled over the country again and again.
– It would appear that that estimate is a somewhat conservative one. The enormous tableland, shown on the map is in itself almost a province.
– It runs into Queensland.
– It extends beyond the border, and the Cloncurry railway line could be extended into it. As to the prospects of the Territory as a horse and cattleraising country, Mr. E. S. Flint, of Alice Springs, says -
Cattle and horses thrive well, especially the latter, which in dry seasons are able to travel farther from water to feed.
He was speaking then, not of the tableland to which the honorable member for Kennedy has referred, but that part of the Territory, which is often referred’ to as desert country -
I am of opinion that Central Australia will be the chief horse-producing district of Australia. Its contiguity to the tropics renders horses more hardy, and better able to cope with the heat and other drawbacks attaching to a tropical country than animals bred further south.
Professor Spencer, who, in 1901, visited the Territory said -
I saw wide areas of magnificent stock country which only requires water to make’ it habitable. And the needful water can be obtained partly by artesian boring and partly by conservation.
Mr. H. Percy, a Queensland stock owner, gave evidence that
I have seen nearly all the best coast country in Queensland, and I can safely say I have seen none that I like so well. I was surprised to find it so good, as, previous to my visit here, I had heard the Northern Territory so often run down that I looked upon it as a foregone conclusion that I should see inferior country ; but it is nothing of the kind, and it is destined sooner or later to be made use of for agriculture and to carry a large population.
– To what part of the Territory was he referring?
– I am quoting from the general evidence given by him in respect to the Northern Territory. Mr. David Lindsay, than whom no one has a better knowledge of the Territory, and’ who those who have met him will admit, may be relied upon to give a judgment based on experience in summing up the whole position in regard to the Territory, says -
Thus we have a country capable of supporting hundreds of thousands of cattle and horses and millions of sheep; extensive agricultural areas which will produce sugar, ‘rice, coffee, cotton, and nearly all other tropical and sub-tropical products necessary for our use ; and the wonderful mineral wealth of gold, silver, tin, and copper, all combined, will make the somewhat despised Northern Territory of vast importance, and place it in the front rank of the Australian States.
By glancing at’ the map which I have caused to be exhibited in the Chamber, honorable members will obtain an idea of the extent of the area, concerning which these opinions have been expressed by practical men. The areas at present occupied under lease are coloured pink on the map, and perhaps at this stage it may be well to give honorable members some figures as to the actual occupation. The total’ area of the Northern Territory is 335.1.16,800 acres, and of that only 473,809 acres - coloured green on the map - have been alienated in fee-simple. There are 99,740,068 acres held under pastoral and other leases, whilst under annual leases and permits, 16,563,840 acres are occupied. We have thus a total occupation, under leasehold or permits, of 116,777,717 acres, leaving a balance of 218,339,083 acres still untouched. Honorable members will find in the memorandum I have circulated a complete list of the lands held under lease. The leases extend over periods ranging up to fortytwo years; but a portion of the time of some of them has already expired. In dealing with the problem of the occupation and settlement of the Northern Territory, the question that will confront us in regard to the large areas, totalling 99,740.068 acres, held under the long leases, is a serious one.
– Forty years is not long.
– Relatively, it is not.
– The terms vary from twenty-five years to forty years.
– According to the time that the leases have been in existence.
– And those leases apply to the best land in the Territory.
– So far as I can gather from the evidence, they relate to some of the best land in the Territory. The area coloured pink on the right-hand side of the map, represents the tableland, and the area on the left; coloured pink, is the Victoria River country. Some of the best lands in the Territory are to be found in the Victoria River district.
– It is the best for some purposes, but not for all.
– The Victoria River country comprises good agricultural ‘and pastoral land. As honorable members are aware, the coastal fringe contains agricultural country. Men of considerable experience say that the large tablelands in the centre will also be found suitable for wheat-growing, and there we have a rainfall of from 20 inches upwards.
– It is doubtful whether all the conditions under the long leases have been complied’ with.
– That is so; some of the leases have already been determined. When the Northern Territory is taken over by the Commonwealth, it will be open to the Government, if they desire to acquire some of the better lands now held under lease, to exercise their power of resumption with compensation. In the last annual report presented Ky the Government Resident, there appears a list of cattle-stations, showing the cattle at present on the various holdings.
– There is nothing to prove that the number of cattle said to be on the holdings are actually there.
– At page 4 of the report, which is an official one, there appears a list of stations having 500 cattle or over, and it shows that on three of them, namely, Victoria Downs, Wave Hill and Ord River, there were 151,000 cattle at the end of 1908.
– Oh !
– The honorable member may have better information than the Government Resident has, but I remind him that this is an official return.
– Showing that there is about one beast to the square mile on the occupied territory.
– The stock-carrying capacity of the country occupied is much greater than that. As regards part of the Victoria River country, the most recent official reports give 15 to 20 head of cattle per square mile as the stock-carrying capacity. As regards the possibilities of agriculture, the Government Resident points out that this year settlers are beginning to go in for mixed farming, a change which he looks upon as most promising. The officer in charge of the botanical station considers the Territory suited for such productions as maize, tobacco, rice, palms, fibre plants, arrowroot, spices, sugar, rubber, and tropical fruits. His experiments with upland rice have been so satisfactory that he is confident that the crop will be as valuable to the Northern Territory as the wheat crop is now to South Australia. Sisal hemp has also been grown successfully, and is beginning to be planted for commercial purposes. He looks for a great future from it. With regard to the mineral resources of the Territory, let me read the opinions of experts, who speak very highly of its possibilities. The Rev. J. Tenison Woods says -
I confidently assert that the Northern Territory is exceptionally rich in minerals, only a small part of which has been made known to the public. I do not believe that the same quantity of minerals, veins of gold, silver,’ tin, copper and lead, will be found in any equal area in Australia. In fact, I doubt’ if in many provinces will be found any country so singularly and exceptionally favoured as Arnheim’s Land is, in respect to mineral riches.
In the opinion of Mr. Brown, the Government Geologist, one of the most competent and careful men we have in Australia - the present gold mining field is capable of much further development. They are only working on the surface now. There is a good deal of country for prospecting in the neighbourhood of the existing gold-fields. . . A good proportion of the best mining country is still open.
Professor Tate says -
The development of the mineral resources of the Northern Territory is but in its infancy, and I believe that rich stanniferous lodes will yet be found. Rich auriferous lodes abound over a large tract of country. It is my honest conviction the gold reefs can be worked profitably and to a considerable depth.
Mr. Parkes, the Inspector of Mines, declares
I have no hesitation in saying that the Northern Territory is phenomenally rich in minerals, but more especially in gold and tin.
Judge Herbert says -
I am convinced from what I have seen, that no part of Australia can show tin lodes to the same number and extent as the Northern Territory, though in particular instances, such as Mr Bischoff, they may be richer. . . The Northern Territory may be emphatically pronounced to be a tin country.
On Monday last the South Australian Government received a telegram from Mr. Brown, the Government Geologist, reporting a very important discovery of gold in the Northern Territory, at a place about 400 miles south of the Vic-; toria River, and at no great distance from the border of Western Australia. In regard to this, Mr. Brown telegraphed -
I am of opinion that this gold discovery is an important one, and that the rich stone found on the surface and in the lodes will continue in depth, and can be followed down by proper prospecting. The rock formation of the district examined bv Mr. Murray and myself, and noted above, is typical auriferous country. Altogether the prospects are sufficiently good to warrant every arrangement By the Government in well sinking, as the want of water is the greatest drawback to development and prospecting generally.
There is a report from the Minister of the Northern Territory, in which the same mine is also referred to. I do not say that the land of the Northern Territory is uniformly of first class quality, and that droughts do not periodically occur there, as elsewhere in Australia. But those who. consider the matter impartially, will be forced to the conclusion that we have there, unoccupied and uncultivated, some of the finest land in Australia. In the southern part, artesian water is to be obtained, and elsewhere sub-artesian water, while there are larger rivers, so that water conservation, on a large scale will be possible. But it will mean the expenditure of capital, . and require the presence of population to make it profitable. The Northern Territory is certainly not a, desert, but has not our experience been that, that country which is despised to-day is sought after to-morrow? Had Victoria refused to make railways into the Mallee districts, she would to-day be much less prosperous than she is. We are every year acquiring a better knowledge of our natural conditions and a better understanding of the laws of production. This knowledge will be increased by the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Agriculture, and we believe that much of the land which is now de,spised will ultimately become very productive. But, judging the Northern Territory in the light of our knowledge of to-day, we can say that it is capable of carrying a population greater than that of the Commonwealth at the present time. As to its climatic conditions, a special report from the Commonwealth Meteorologist is embodied in the Government memorandum. He says -
It will be noticed by reference to the figures, that while temperatures are hotter in Australia during the summer months, yet the annual range is considerably in excess of that of more equatorial latitude, and, consequently, from this. point of view, is more endurable for the permanent white settlement,’ year in and year out, than is either Cevlon or the Malay Peninsula. The humidity and wet bulb results give also a like verdict. Tropical heat, when associated with high relative humidity, is muggy and oppressive, has an enervating effect, physical and mental action is considerably reduced or becomes even impossible ; these conditions undoubtedly exist in the northern parts of the Territory for nearly six months of the year. The winter months in this area, however, enjoy a climate which should render mental and physical effort distinctly possible, if not enjoyable, by reason of the dryness and comparatively cool nights. Notwithstanding the high temperature, the general dryness of the interior should cause the expenditure of energy to be possible all the year round, and the climate should not have a “deteriorating effect upon a white population. This fact lias been demonstrated in Western Queensland, South Australia, the northern parts of Victoria, and the western districts of N-ew South Wales, where temperature records in excess of those experienced in Central Australia have been registered by many degrees.
Captain Barclay, F.R.G.S., who has lived there for years, says -
It is true the climate is tropical, but, at the same time, it is, without doubt, the healthiest tropical climate in the world. Experience has amply proved that settlers from Northern Europe can live, work, and thrive, even in the town of Palmerston on the shores of Port Darwin. Many instances can be pointed to where three generations lived, strong and healthy, two having been born within its limits; whilst the average children about the streets are at least as rosy and chubby as any in the Commonwealth.
I frankly admit that there are contrary opinions, and these are set out fairly in the memorandum. But experience has shown that the northern districts of Queensland can carry a white population, and that the legislation which was passed with a view to promoting white settlement there has been successful. It must be remembered that the climatic conditions of the Northern Territory vary considerably. On the coast, the climate is humid, but inland it is drier and cooler. Emphatically, the Northern Territory is a white man’s country. In return for the surrender of this Territory, and all the State property, what does the Commonwealth undertake? I will take the covenants in the order in which they appear in the agreement. The Commonwealth, in clause (1) (a), covenants with the State of South Australia to become responsible for the State indebtedness in respect to this Territory. The loans outstanding, on the 30th June, 1908, amounted to £2, 768.062, less £16,169 unexpended; and a sum to the credit of the sinking fund amounting to £26,132. Deducting this total of £42,301, the indebtedness comes to £2,725,761. In addition, we undertake to be responsible for accrued deficits amounting to £602,222 ; the total obligation being, therefore, £3>327»983-
– Does that include all deficits?
– All deficits of any description in connexion with the administration of the Territory by the State of South Australia. The annual interest will be £110,999; an(i the annual payment to the sinking fund £6,963. As regards. the dates of the redemption, honorable members will find a complete list in the memorandum. The figures I have given have been supplied by the South Australian authorities, and have been provisionally checked by the Treasury ; but, of course, should the Territory be taken over before the Bill is proclaimed law, the figures will be subject to exact revision.
– The expenditure, exclusive of interest and sinking fund, is given for 1907-8; is there an estimate for the preceding years?
– If the honorable member looks at page 33 of the memorandum, I think he will see the figures for five years set out. Paragraph b of clause .1 of the agreement sets out that the Commonwealth undertakes to -
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway with the 1 ail way from a point on the ‘Port Augusta railway to connect therewith is hereunder referred to as The Transcontinental Railway).
Then, by paragraph d of clause 1 of the agreement, the Commonwealth ‘ undertakes to-
Construct or cause to be constructed as part of the Transcontinental Railway a railway from a point on the Port Augusta Railway to connect with the other part of the Transcontinental Railway at a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper.
At the present time, there is a line from Palmerston to Pine Creek, a distance of 145 miles. This small line has a small surplus in earnings over expenditure. In 1907-8 it was £402. There is also a line from Adelaide to Oodnadatta, a distance of 688 miles.
– It is not proposed that we take over all the latter line?
– No; but I am giving the complete distance. The line to be constructed between Pine Creek and Oodnadatta is a distance of 1,063 miles.
– If the railway were in a straight line.
– It will be that distance, supposing we follow the suggested route. The Commonwealth does not undertake to connect the railway from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta; the particular route on which the line shall be constructed is left absolutely to this Parliament to determine, the only condition being that it shall pass through the northern boundary of the State of South Australia. The agreement contemplates a transcontinental line constructed, as this Parliament shall “determine, through the Northern Territory into South Australian Territory, to connect, where Parliament thinks fit, with Port Augusta by means of the Oodnadatta line.
– One terminal point is Pine Creek; what is the other?
– A point anywhere on the Port Augusta line. The real terminal points are Port Darwin and Port Augusta. An erroneous impression seems to have got abroad that, if this agreement be accepted, the Commonwealth will be bound to construct a railway from “Pine Creek to Oodnadatta. Parliament, in its wisdom, may construct that line, but, my view is that before any of the lines are constructed, a proper investigation w,ill be made, and we shall have to wait until we are in possession of knowledge gained from experts. As I say, according to the strict interpretation of the agreement, it contemplates a line with all its length from Pine Creek to the South Australian border within the Northern Territory ; but the Government of South Australia, having in view the possibility that this Parliament might desire to construct, the transcontinental line as near the Eastern border of the Territory as possible, marked a suggested alternative route on the map they presented to their Parliament. As difficulties in building such a line wholly within the Territory were foreseen, they appear to have been willing that it should run partly through Queensland territory. Such a deviation would cross the border near Austral Downs, about 150 miles from Cloncurry.
– Then it is proposed to make a connexion at Hergott Springs?
– That was the suggestion.
– It is not possible ; the line would be under water.
– I am not discussing the possibilities ; all I am pointing out, as showing the liberality with which the South
Australian Government have approached the subject, is that, in case of any difficulty, the route might be changed in the way I have indicated.
– Why fix on any route?
– The honorable member for Newcastle is quite right; because, at this time, we cannot bind ourselves to any particular route.
– -Under this agreement, will the whole of the railway have to be within the Northern Territory?
– That is so, according to the strict interpretation of the agreement ; but the South Australian Government take a more liberal view, and contemplate the possibility of having to cross the Queensland border.
– Is it not mentioned in the agreement that the line must be on South Australian land?
– That is what I say the agreement strictly seems to contemplate ; and, as the width of the Territory is about 570 miles, a fairly wide expanse is given for the choice of a route.
– It is of no use saying that we can go outside South Australian - territory.
– The South Australian Government contemplate the_ possibility of such an arrangement being made. The first point I make is that the particular route is not determined by the agreement, and my second point is that there is no definite time set down in this agreement for the construction of the line, that being left to the discretion of the Federal Parliament. But no one can conceive of the Northern Territory being developed without railway communication, though at this stage it would be ridiculous to say what line should or should not be constructed. The map of Queensland shows that, instead of there being one line from east to west, the day is not far distant when there is a possibility of there being three such lines from one end of the State to the other. It is open to the Commonwealth to allow any connexion from any of the other States with this particular line in the Northern Territory.
– That is the safeguard.
– Quite so. It stands to reason now that we have Inter-State Free Trade, and we are to have an Inter-State Commission, to permit trade to flow in its natural channel, it is impossible to lay down any condition. We shall have to be guided by the progress of settlement, and any discoveries that may be made.
– The railways will assist settlement.
– Settlement and the construction of railways will go hand in hand.
– The railways will have to be built first.
– Quite right. The first thing necessary to make lands available is to construct railways to them ; and, although that may be done at a great loss, the work must be carried out. However, that is a question for the Parliament in the future. Supposing that the gold-field referred to were to prove a second Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie-
– lt will prove a second Coolgardie, all right !
– The honorable member must not despise Coolgardie. If the gold- field should prove a second Kalgoorlie, and attract a large population, it may be necessary to have railway communication from quite a different direction. I think I have made it quite clear what our position is under the agreement.
– In any case, the line constructed must connect with the Port Augusta railway?
– Ultimately it must connect at some point on that railway ; but, as I have already shown, we are not bound down to any time at which the line shall be constructed. We agree to construct a line, but we are left to develop that line according to our own policy.
– Does that mean that we may construct some other line.
– We will have power to deal with our own Territory only, except with the consent of other States. What can happen is that the Queensland people may push their, system right up to the border, seeing that it is now within 150 miles of it. I have figures here showing the distance of the Queensland railways from the border. From Cloncurry, the distance is about 150 miles, from Winton it is about 300 miles, from Longreach it is about 360 miles, and from Charleville about 480 miles. It will be seen, therefore, that Queensland is already stretching her railways in the direction of the Territory.
– Queensland is in the best position in relation to the Territory.
– In time, it is obvious that the eastern State must be connected with the Northern Territory line. Until the railways are so connected in such a way that we can gather military strength in theshortest possible time from the different centres of population, we cannot regard the line as complete. However, these are glimpses into the future. Then, under the agreement, we undertake to acquire the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta ; and I think that the acquisition is perfectly justified. The Commonwealth will then control the whole of the railway traffic on this line across the Continent from sea to sea.
– There will not be any traffic.
– There will be considerable traffic.
– Will a valuation of the railway be made?
– We agree to take the railway over, and pay for it at its cost price j and that is only fair, because it represents the expenditure of the State. If the Western Australian line be completed, the Commonwealth will have complete control of railways extending from Port Darwin, and from Port Augusta, to Kalgoorlie.
– Then it is contemplated that this Northern Territory line will be constructed before the Western Australian line.
– I do not 461, that the honorable member is quite fair in making that suggestion. I never hinted at such a thought; on the contrary, I think the honorable member will admit that I have fought continuously and strenuously for the rights of Western Australia, as I know the Treasurer also has. The honorable member must realize that when we are dealing with national problems, it is better not to suggest that this or that State may reap particular benefits. So far as Australia is concerned, we want both lines. If this railway is constructed, South Australia will get from it exactly the same communication with the north as other States can have under the agreement. The agreement has no clause preventing other States from being connected with the line. South Australia will get no more benefit than any other State. If the trade naturally flows to South Australia, she will get it. If it naturally flows from the Northern Territory to Queensland, Queensland will get it. South Australia, before handing over the Territory, practically says : “ We are giving up absolutely our right to determine where the route shall be. We could have built the line, and then, perhaps, handed the
Territory over with an increased debt. Instead of that, we leave it to the Federal Parliament to build the line as it thinks fit. All we ask is that the route shall be decided in such a way that we shall get the communication with the north that historical associations and geographical relations entitle us to have. I have dealt with the Commonwealth obligation, so far as the liability upon that line is concerned. The total capital liability on the Port Augusta railway will be £2,242,342. In addition to that, there is a sum of £29,292 in connexion with the construction account, and the annual interest amounts to £84,088. The line shows a surplus of £12,000 in earnings. We shall be liable, then, on this for a deficit of £77,694, made up by deducting earnings and adding sinking fund contribution. This is the liability we are under in respect of this part of the agreement. If we take over these railways . we shall have to continue running them, and we must give the State running rights over them, and also the right to connect with them, but, beyond that, we have no obligations. On the other hand, the State undertakes to give the necessary permission to -enable us to survey and construct the lines, and also to acquire the necessary lands. In addition, it covenants to give consent to the construction df the Western Australian railway through its territory. One other matter respecting the liability connected with the overland telegraph line, must be mentioned. In the keeping of its accounts, it has been debited to South Australia alone, and not to the Northern Territory.’ We have made an arrangement with South Australia, to be carried out under this Bill,, by which we agree to compensate the State for so much of the line as runs through the Northern Territory, as transferred property. In that way we put it exactly upon the same footing as all other transferred properties taken over by the Commonwealth.
– How is the money to be found ?
– I have several times requested order, and, while I . was on my feet, I was sorry to hear an honorable member make a remark which should not be made in this assembly. I ask honorable members not to put an undue strain upon my physical strength, but to recollect that I am new to the Chair, and to give me that assistance which they have been good enough to promise me in maintaining order and decorum.
– Make the Minister answer.
– I ask the honorable member for Dalley not to comment on any statement made by the Speaker.
– Where is the Minister going to get the money from?
– If the Territory is taken over by the Commonwealth we shall be liable for a deficit upon it amounting to £158,439 per year. We shall be liable tor a deficit and sinking fund to the extent of about £77,694 on the railway to Port Augusta. Those are our present liabilities, assuming that we undertake no further expenditure. They total £236,133 per annum; and we must add any interest which we incur in the future development of the Territory. We commence with that initial expenditure. In addition to that, we become liable tor the loan amounts which I have already stated. There are two points in which we criticise the Act which the South Australian Government has passed. Section 7 seems to us to impose a restriction upon our power to deal with the lands in the Territory. The South Australian Government have promised to amend that section if our Act is passed in its present form. We contend that if the Commonwealth takes over the whole Territory, we should be free and untrammelled in dealing with the lands as we think fit. That condition is set out by us in clause 10 of our Bill. We shall recognise all estates and interests which are held at the time of transfer, but we reserve to ourselves full power to deal with them as we think fit. The only other point of difference between us is whether, according to their Act, we are not bound by certain conditions of South Australian legislation with respect to railway construction. On that point also the South Australian Government have promised to meet us, if we pass this Act.
– Where does that appear in the South Australian Act?
– In section 10, dealing with railway construction. It would appear as though that Act was passed subject to the condition that we adopt their legislation on the subject.
– What about the gauge of the railway?
– That is a matter for the Parliament to determine. With regard to future development, Australia has to face the position that, whether the Territory is to be developed by South Australia or the Commonwealth, it will necessitate the expenditure of large sums of money. That is inevitable. We have to decide whether we shall face the question of the settlement of the Territory seriously or not. My hope is that the Commonwealth will do it. It will be, of course, for this Parliament to decide its own policy in that regard if it takes the Territory over. One thing is clear, that if the Territory is to be developed, the backbone of any policy to secure its settlement must be railway construction. Side by side with railway construction there will have to be) an immigration policy, and an exceedingly liberal land policy, by which people can acquire land on the easiest possible terms. There will also have to be liberal mining legislation to assist in the development of the mines, and the people will have to be prepared for measures providing for advances to assist agriculturists and other settlers to occupy the land. There will have to be. generous assistance in the shape of experimental farms to test the possibilities of the soil, and to give instruction and help to those who are prepared to undertake this great work. Every encouragement will have to be given by Parliament to assist pastoralists and others to market their produce, and to discover new markets for them. Water supply and conservation will have to be undertaken on a large scale. Those may, or may not, be matters of proper State action ; but my own opinion is that this Parliament will have to adopt them, if it proposes to approach the question seriously. We can no longer stand idly by and see the small population of the Territory getting smaller every year. We must regard it as a national obligation to do all that we can to develop, not only this, but all the other portions of northern Australia.
– T?o time is fixed in the agreement for the construction of the new railway, but I suppose it is understood that it shall be proceeded with practically immediately.
– There is no such understanding, but what is contemplated is that, if the Commonwealth takes over the Territory, it will seriously face the question of developing it. Parliament will first have to be guided purely by national considerations. It will then have to be guided also by what is best in the interests of developing the Territory itself, and, further, by what is best in the interests of Australia in promoting Inter-State trade and commerce. We may build 100 miles or more of the proposed railway this year, and so many miles next year. We may concurrently build in another direction, to open up another part of the Territory. But, clearly, the understanding is that the objective shall be the construction of the transcontinental line connecting Port Darwin with Port Augusta.
– There should be no doubt upon that point.
– There is none. That is the objective clearly contemplated by a fair and reasonable interpretation of the agreement. This is not a matter affecting South Australia only. The security of all the States of the Union from attack in the north is a matter of Australian concern. It is, perhaps, more important to Queensland than to South Australia that there should be a large and prosperous population there. It is important to New South Wales, because, if an alien race did get a footing, and gradually moved south, Australia would have a frontier which it would have, at all times, to defend, and possibly at enormous cost. Therefore, in the interests of the preservation and occupation of the Commonwealth as a whole, we ask honorable members to pass the Bill, and to affirm the desirability of taking over the Northern Territory.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Audit Acts 1901-1906.
Resolution reported and adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is administrative, but, at the same time, it is very important. I may explain in a few words its object. In the early days of Federation, Sir George Turner, when Treasurer of the Commonwealth, instituted! the practice of remitting to London almost simultaneously with an order for works or supplies being placed there, the moneys which had been appropriated for the year in respect of them. That practice has been continued up to the present time, so that work may be paid for as soon as it is completed. One of the reasons for the introduction of this system was that the Treasurer did not wish to be called upon to remit payments to London at short notice, and because it was desired that money appropriated for expenditure abroad should be so expended during the year in which it was appropriated. In some instances, however, the whole of the moneys so transmitted to England have not been paid to the contractors by the end of the year in respect of which they were voted. Balances have remained in the hands of the London Agency, but have been treated in the public accounts as if they had been expended within the year for which they were voted,’ although they were not actually paid over until some time after the close of the year. The AuditorGeneral has demurred to this procedure, and has said that balances so remaining at the end of the financial years should have been taken into account in the distribution of our surplus revenue among the States.
– He contends that they form really part of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth?
– Exactly. The moneys not having been actually paid in the year in respect of which they were voted, the Auditor-General contends that they form part of what we call our surplus revenue. In order to get over that difficulty, this Bill is submitted. Honorable members will recognise that if the existing system is to be continued, it is necessarv that this Bill should pass, and that it is well that we should remove all dbubts in regard to the matter.
– The Auditor-General’s contention is that until the money is actually paid away, it should not be treated here as having been expended.
– That is so, and he desired that legislation should be passed to remove all doubt in the matter.
– I do not think there can be any objection to this Bill. It is designed reallv to carry out what, I am sure, is the desire of the House : to validate the custom that has hitherto prevailed in regard to the expenditure of votes beyond the Commonwealth. In these circumstances, I am sure the Opposition will facilitate its passing.
– The Minister did not say whether this Bill would be retrospective.
– It will be.
– The Treasurer’s statement shows that business has been transacted in the past in a very slovenly manner. Had the High Court given judgment, againstthe Commonwealth in regard to the constitutionality of the Surplus Revenue Act, we should have found ourselves compelled to return to the States these unexpended balances. The members of the present Ministry who were in former Administrations should have taken care to act in accordance with the constitutional requirements in this regard. An endeavour, however, is now being made by the passing of this Bill to get on the right track, and’ that being so, I do not think we ought to object to it.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short Title and Incorporation).
.-I should like to ask the Treasurer whether this Bill will apply to general appropriations, or only to appropriations of moneys that are to be expended beyond the Commonweath.
– Only to appropriations to be expended beyond the Commonwealth.
– I should have been glad had it dealt with the difficulty with which the several Departments of the Commonwealth have been beset for many years in regard to unexpended votes.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Publication of Members’ Speeches in Pamphlet Form - Attendance of Ministers.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- It is with some regret that I have again to bring before the House the unreasonable attitude taken up by the Treasurer in regard to the publication, in pamphlet form, of the Hansard reports of honorable members’ speeches. The honorable gentleman is the primary sinner, if there be any sin, in this regard. He has done more towards establishing the system of which he complains - the introduction of headings in these reprints - than has any other honorable member. He has also admitted in the House that he has padded his reprints of speeches from Hansard.
– The honorable member admitted that he had cut out junks.
– I was told that in my reprints I could cut out interjections if I desired to do so.
– Since the Treasurer raised objection to these headlines, I have appealed to the Prime Minister, to know whether I cannot have underlined, or printed in raised type, particular sentences or words on which I wish to rivet attention. He thought that there was no objection to that being done, and spoke to the Treasurer on the subject, but the latter doggedly refused to do to others as he has done to himself.
– He is acting in accordance with a principle of which I knew nothing.
– It has been the practice to put headings into the reprints of speeches. The Prime Minister, in reprinting one of his speeches, used the headline “Cut-throat tactics.” No headline which I have used is so offensive as that. The Treasurer is taking upon himself the duties of a censor.
– That is precisely what I do not wish to do.
– The Treasurer has done it deliberately. He has treated me as no other member has been treated, and not only refuses to allow me to use headlines, but prevents me from printing certain words in raised type. This is an infringement of our privileges. He, for years, has taken advantage of the opportunity of having speeches reprinted.
– I have never abused it.
– The Treasurer has struck out sentences which he has not wished to see in the report. My headlines are merely an index, and appropriate to the succeeding paragraphs. Why have I been singled out as the victim in this case, as in other cases in which the liberties of the House are concerned ?
– Some of us are in the same boat.
– My speech was dealt with before that of the honorable member. I claim the right which has been always exercised, to make my views known to my electors. I do not wish to reprint more than the words which I have actually uttered in this Chamber, with certain phrases in bolder type to arrest the attention of readers. This the Treasurer refuses to allow. The last Speaker, I am informed, would have nothing to do with the publication of the Hansard report in pamphlet form, and would not permit his officers to edit those reprints of speeches. The Government Printer, however, is now refusing* to allow headlines.
– Because the honorable member has gone too far.
– If the honorable Treasurer quotes examples I have used, I shall be able to prove that all my headlines are apropos.
– Can the reprints be termed true copies of the Hansard report?
– They are as true copies as the reprints issued by the Treasurer have been.
– There has been nothing offensive in my reprints.
– What could be more offensive than to print a speech, omitting certain portions? That the Treasurer acknowledges he has done. I should be glad if the Government Printer would let me pay for the type from which the Hansard report of my speech was printed, leaving me to take the responsibility of publishing it without privilege, a risk I have not hesitated to take before. I do not know why the Treasurer should treat me as he has done. Who is he, and what qualifications has he, that he should sit in judgment in this matter ? He says-that he has not reprinted a speech for six months. But. for five months Parliament was in recess. Last session he was sulking and snarling in the Opposition corner, and now he is muzzled. He, like other Ministers, makes his speeches by way of interjections, relevant and irrelevant, while other members are speaking. In this way offensive remarks are made which bring replies from the speakers, and passages are thus incorporated in the report for which Ministers alone are responsible.
-Are we to make no reply to erroneous statements?
– Looking at the sanctified, political larrikin of this chamber-
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but it is absolutely correct. At the Honorable member’s door lies three-fourths of the trouble that occurs in this Chamber. Honorable members have been inferentially charged by the press with having done something to shorten the life of the late Speaker; but if the blame lies at any one’s door, it is at the door of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– The honorable member must not make that statement, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I say that if the blame lies anywhere, it lies with the Minister of Defence.
– You brute !
– I must ask the Minister of Defence to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw them, sir, but I ask that the honorable member for Gwydir also withdraw what he said in regard to myself.
– I ask the honorablemember to withdraw the words he used in reference to the Minister of Defence.
– I merely said that if there was any blame, it lay with the honorable gentleman. I did not say that the blame did lie with him.
– Will the honorable member withdraw the remark?
– If you say I must, sir, I withdraw the words in deference to the Chair. The action of the Treasurer is absolutely unconstitutional, because he has no power to make himself the censor of honorable member’s speeches. In any case he is the least fitted man in the House to undertake duties of the kind. I hope that the honorable gentleman will read the head-lines of which he has a list. If he does not read them all, I undertake to read the remainder.
– I assure honorable members that I have no personal feeling whatever in this matter. I have no desire to interfere in the slightest degree with the honorable member for Gwydir in the publication of’ his speeches; but the matter was referred to me as the official head of the Commonwealth Printing Office. I was bound to deal with the case; and I am of opinion that I was perfectly justified in taking the action I did. In looking through the correspondence, I found that a rule was laid down in regard to the reprinting of honorable member’s speeches; but the custom of inserting head-lines has grown up, and more latitude allowed from time to time, until the matter has been referred to me, in order to ascertain whether the head-lines are consonant with parliamentary usage. I do not think I should be asked to act as censor to the speeches of honorable members. Honorable members say I have no right to do so; and my reply is that I do not wish to have any right.
– The Treasurer is exercising the right.
– No Minister should have a duty like this cast upon him ; and the suggestion of the Prime Minister that the Government Printer, in case of difficulty, should refer to the Printing Committee commends itself to me.
– The Prime Minister’s suggestion was that the Printing Committee should frame rules.
– And it is a very good suggestion. It is most unpleasant for a Minister to be addressed in the way I have been this afternoon.
– I do not think I ought to have been singled out.
– The matter was referred to the late Speaker, who was of opinion that such reprints should be an exact reproduction of the Hansard report.
– Why did the Treasurer slice out part of his speeches?
– I understood that head-lines were permitted, and there was nothing exceptional in those I used.
– But did not the Treasurer take something out of the reprint of his speeches ?
– Only interjections, and that was because I was publishing the’ speeches as information, and I did not think the interjections necessary, or of interest to my readers. The practice laid down by Sir George Turner and Sir Edmund Barton, and also the opinion expressed by the late Speaker, have not been acted upon ; and it is difficult to say where the practice that was growing up would have ended. However, honorable members now know that until a further decision is arrived at, if they wish to have reprints that are not an exact copy of the Hansard reports, they must get the work done at some other office.
– That means that only rich members will be able to reprint their speeches.
– I do not think that the cost would be much more if a large quantity were ordered.
– There would be all the cost of setting the type.
– If the matter be left to me, I will adhere to the practice recommended by Sir George Turner and approved by Sir Edmund Barton - and will not agree to any head-lines.
– Who is the honorable member that he “ will not agree” to headlines ?
– At present I am the head of the Printing Department. I. should wish to be relieved of the unpleasant business ; but if I am to have the responsibility I shall exercise it until it passes to some one else. Let me ask if the head-lines I am about to read ought to be published and issued as by authority from the Government Printer?
– The reprints are paid for by honorable members.
– But there is nothing on the reprint to show that it is a private publication. The excuse of the honorable member for Gwydir “is that the head-lines he used were phrases that occurred in the body of his speech. I ask honorable members, however, if they think that it is justifiable to use such objectionable phrases as placards or headlines, as “ The stiletto,” “ Treacherous treatment “ - that refers to honorable members” Betrayal of Alfred,” “ Another quintet of peddling politicians,” “ A double shuffle,” “Didn’t know it was loaded,” “A political anarchist”-
– That is the Treasurer !
– “A demon of modern politics.”
– That’s the Treasurer again !
– “ Blackhearted treachery” - that is a nice expression to,be proud of. “ Cook’s refuge,” “Reid the Conjuror.” Other headings are “ Reid’s Downfall,” “ The Resurrection,” “A Threat that Failed,” ‘.’The Gravedigger,” “ False Pretences,” “ God and Mammon.” On the cover is printed “ Read for yourself the record speech by William Webster on the Fusion Government and Australia’s peril.” So long as the responsibility is on me, I shall not be prepared to allow such placards to go out as headings in any speech issued by the Government Printing Office. They are not a true reprint from Hansard. The best plan we can adopt is to adhere to Hansard. Whatever we may have done in the past, let us do right in the future. If the House likes to make other rules and relieve me, as I desire to be relieved, of this responsibility, I shall be only too pleased. It is not a position which I wish to have cast upon me; but, if I allowed such head-lines to be printed, I should be encouraging the spreading all over the country of insults to honorable members of this House, and that I am not prepared to do.
.- We have had a little amusement, which is a good thing ; but I should like the Treasurer to look at some of the sub-headings which he has put in his own speeches. I remember, 011 more than one occasion, when he was Treasurer before, that he inserted head-lines-
– Never; except those 1 paid for.
– I did not say the right honorable member did not pay for them; but I think he will find, in speeches which he has published, headings infinitely worse than those he has quoted.
– I should be ashamed of myself if that were so.
– The Treasurer himself introduced the practice.
– That is perfectly true. So long as it suited him, and he was in Opposition, saying nasty things about the last Government-
– That is very unfair. It is not truthful, either.
– I ask the right honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. I did not mean that the honorable member was not telling the truth. I meant that he was repeating what was not a truthful statement, and that he was speaking without knowledge.
– I was telling the plain unvarnished truth. So far as I remember, when I was Treasurer, there was never an objection raised to cross-headings. I remember one occasion on which an honorable member sent down a speech which was very nicely improved, and somewhat altered in phraseology. I remember it well, because the speech was brought to me. The
Prime Minister himself is the chief member in this Chamber to improve his speeches, and also to cross-head them. That has never been objected to. He is noted for improving his speeches after delivery. I have seen his speeches published with crossheadings on many occasions. I saw one to-day in which the cross-headings were certainly no less objectionable than those which the right honorable member for Swan has quoted. I can see no objection to cross-headings, so long as their substance is in the speech itself. If they contained entirely new matter, very strong and reasonable objection might be taken to them; but there should be no objection, either to emphasizing matter in larger type, or to inserting cross-headings pertinent to matter contained in the speech. Honorable members have a great deal of expenses in various ways. They are not all wealthy men, and cannot afford to pay large sums to outside printing firms for reproducing their speeches. Hansard is set up for members, and for distribution by members. It is stereotyped by the Government Printer, and it does not matter how many copies he rolls off. Especially in view of the action of the press in refusing to publish the utterances of certain honorable members, .Hansard is the only means by which the majority of honorable members can reach their electors. If they are prepared to pay the extra cost for crossheadings, which do not go beyond the speech itself, the Government Printer loses nothing, the Government lose nothing, the country loses nothing, and honorable members have an opportunity of placing before their constituents speeches which otherwise they could not afford to print and circulate. Every convenience should be given to honorable members to let their electors and the public generally know what happens in this Parliament. I shall shortly move for the establishment of a daily Hansard. I have all the particulars of Committees that have sat in other States, and my object in moving in that direction is that the electors may know what takes place in this Parliament. They cannot learn it at present from the press. The Treasurer, if he looks at his own speeches, will find that he stands at the head of all honorable members in altering and embellishing speeches, and putting cross-headings to them. If honorable members were debarred to-morrow from making use of Hansard, the right honorable member could go to the most expensive printing establishments and pay them to do the work. The cost would be a bagatelle to him; but other honorable members are not in the same fortunate position. The Treasurer and the Ministry should be the last to restrict the rights of honorable members, or to prevent the electors from knowing what goes on in thisHouse. They should rather be the first to give honorable members all the facilities possible for distributing their speechescheaply and effectively.
– Why not take the Hansard report, which covers all that issaid ?
– What harm can there be in inserting cross-heads - and the Treasurer himself has adopted that practice - in order that the attention of theelectors may be drawn to certain points ir» a speech.
– Objection is taken not to the cross-headings but to the character of the cross-headings.
– I was not aware of that. I hope that there will be no curtailment of the privileges of honorable members in ‘this regard. As long as the cross-headings inserted are in reality part and parcel of the speech delivered in the House and reported in Hansard they ought to be permitted ; but I disapprove of the introduction of outside matter in such reprints.
.- If the premises of the honorable member for Hume’s argument were correct there would be little to object to in the conclusion at which he has arrived ; but I take it that Hansard is not published for the benefit of honorable members. It is published inorder that the people may obtain an accurate report of what has actually happened in this House.
– It is a record.
– It is.
– This question does not touch the publication of Hansard” as Hansard.
– I hold that it does. If honorable members are prepared to pay for the cost of having their speeches reprinted with cross-heads in order that they may be circulated in pamphlet form, and without the statement ‘ ‘ Reprinted from theParliamentary Debates,” I have no objection ; but it is not fair that the words, “ Reprinted from the Parliamentary Debates,”” should appear when additions have beenmade to the speeches as. reported in Hansard.
– I do not think that those words appear on reprints.
– They do.
– They are placed on the pamphlet by the Government Printer.
– Because honorable members desire it.
– No, we do not desire it.
– I do not.
– Is the honorable member prepared to allow the Government Printer to omit that statement from a reprint of his speech in which cross-headings appear?
– I am. My speech will stand without any adornment.
– I understand that a recent speech made by the honorable member is of considerable weight, and would stand by itself ! I have a certain amount of feeling for the honorable member, because I recognise that, without cross-heads, his constituents would experience considerable difficulty in finding the thread of his argument in a speech covering something like fourteen volumes.
– I have had fifty applications this week for copies of the speech to which the honorable member refers.
– I am not at all surprised because paper is very valuable nowadays ! The Treasurer has been accused of inserting cross-headings in reprints of his speeches from’ Hansard, but I know him well enough to believe that now that it has been pointed out to him that it is wrong to do so he will not sin again in that . respect. I believe, too, that honorable members on this side of the House, realizing the false pretence of publishing as a reprint of Hansard what is not an exact reprint, would be very loth to interfere with the publication of reports of proceedings in. this House in the way now asked for by honorable members opposite.
.- I intervene in this interesting discussion chiefly to point out that the difficulty which has arisen may be overcome by the omission of the words, “ Reprinted from the Parliamentary Debates,” from the cover of speeches issued in pamphlet form. The only legal obligation on the Government Printer, so far as I am aware, is to place his imprint on such publications, but he would probably disregard that if so instructed.
– That would not suit the Government.
– I cannot imagine that the Government has descended to such a depth of meanness as to interfere with the reprinting of honorable members’ speeches. If they desired to be fair, they would assist the Opposition to circulate the parliamentary reports in the country since the capitalistic press of which Ministers are the parliamentary exponents and patrons suppress our remarks whilst devoting columns to those made by Government sup: porters.
– The position is exactly the reverse in the case of the Sydney newspapers.
– I have had more experience of the Sydney newspapers than the honorable member has had, and although it would be very difficult to find a parallel to the Age, I believe it is to be found in Sydney.
– The Sydney dailies devote more space to the utterances of Labour members than to those of Government supporters.
– That is not correct as regards most of the Sydney papers. Surely the Government will not be so unfair as to prevent the republication of speeches that are informative to the public. If so, the only inference is that they fear the light which we are throwing on their actions. But passing from this incident I must compliment the Government on the fact that two Ministers are now present in the Chamber. It is a truly marvellous spectacle. When important private business was being discussed in the House yesterday, there was not one Minister present, and there were only two or three of their supporters in the Chamber. I tender them, and particularly the Treasurer, congratulations on their persistent attention to business in the Chamber. But there is a point beyond which they ought not to go. They are treating the House with a degree of contempt that certainly ought to earn them short shrift.
– When the Labour party were in office they were always away.
– We have nothing to apologize for to the honorable member for Bourke in respect to our actions as Ministers.
– The honorable member for Bourke has made a wild .statement.
– Tt is perfectly true. One could never find Ministers in their offices.
– The honorable member cannot say that of me. I was constantly to be found in my Department, and I think that the same may be said of most of my honorable colleagues. I was to be found in ray office, not merely on ordinary working days, but on holidays.
– I can say that I put in every minute I can in the Chamber.
– The honorable gentleman is a fairly constant attendant in the House. Even when in Opposition he was constantly here. The Prime Minister, however, flits in and out, rarely remaining for any lengthened period.
– The Prime Minister works as hard as any two men put together.
– When I desire an impartial reading of the Prime Minister’s character I shall not go to his lap-dog for it.
– Order !
– I consider that remark decidedly offensive, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I heard what the honorable member for Coolgardie said, but did not think that his remark applied to any honorable member.
– If the honorable member for Maribyrnong thinks that I likened him to a lapdog, I withdraw what I said, with apologies to the lapdog.
– The remark should be withdrawn in a way which will not be offensive. The honorable member’s withdrawal was as bad as his original utterance. I made an interjection in regard to the work of the Prime Minister, and he retorted that he would not accept an opinion on the work of the Prime Minister from his lapdog.
– I ask the honorable member for Coolgardie to withdraw what he said.
– I have already withdrawn it.
– Honorable members ought not to interrupt.
– The trouble was caused by the disorderly interjection of the honorable member for Maribyrnong. The Prime Minister should be oftener in the Chamber, to afford honorable members information about public business. He is not here now, and we do not know what is the business for next week. It is more than two months since he expressed great anxiety to proceed with legislation; but I should like him to say what legislation he has passed during that time. It is nine weeks since he declared that we should proceed at once with the work of the country, and I wish to know from him what work has been accomplished in that time.
– Let us catch our trains.
– There is nothing to prevent the honorable member from leaving. I should be sorry to detain him, but I wish for information from the Prime Minister as to what business the Government intends to propose next week, and what he thinks he has accomplished since he made his extraordinary statement, nine weeks ago, about the urgency of the work of the country.
– Not much, thanks to the stone-walling ‘ ‘ of honorable members opposite.
– The Minister of Defence knows that remark to be unparliamentary.
– The Government are now thinking of asking for an adjournment for two weeks.
– I understand that an adjournment of two weeks is to be proposed, so that the Prime Minister may attend another Premiers’ Conference, to allow State politicians to discuss Federal matters. It is time that this House made an emphatic and decisive protest against the way in which the Government are lowering the reputation and prestige of the Commonwealth before State politicians.
– Is it a dishonour to meet the Premiers of the States ?
– Certainly not. But the question to be discussed at the Conference is purely a Federal matter, which this Parliament was created to settle.
– The honorable member said that the Government are lowering the honour of the Commonwealth.
– Yes, by consulting other than Federal members about the business of the Commonwealth. The Government, in taking advice about Federal matters from those who have no constitutional right to meddle in Federal politics, are lowering the dignity of the Commonwealth.
– That is not the correct way to put the position. It is not the Federal Ministers who are seeking theadvice of the State Ministers.
– The Federal Ministers, by appearing at. these conferences, and discussing Federal matters with State politicians, who have no constitutional rights in- regard to them, are lowering the dignity of Federation. I invite the honorable member to refute that statement before he meets his Waterloo.
– The Fisher Ministry did not think it advisable to refuse a similar invitation.
– We met the Premiers of the States, but did not enter into consultation with them. I wish to know from the Prime Minister what arrangement he proposes to make in regard to the question of privilege which I brought’ up yesterday. He gave to the honorable member for West Sydney a promise to the effect that he would refer it to the Standing Orders Committee. I have not “been able to ascertain by what authority he will do that. He is the Lender of the House, but there is nothing in the Standing Orders or in May’s Parliamentary Practice which constitutes him the intermediary between the House and the Standing Orders Committee, or empowers him to give instructions to the Committee through you, Mr. Speaker, or in any other way. I have also a complaint to make. The Prime Minister and the honorable member for West Sydney may be very exalted personages, but they have no special rights not possessed by the humblest member. Yet they were allowed to speak yesterday when no motion was before the House, and without leave having been given by the House. I hope that in the future no member, however great or distinguished he may think himself to be, will claim the ear of the House, except under the ordinary rules of procedure.
– Why did not the honorable member raise a point of order at the time ?
– Because I had done all that I considered to be my duty.
– I made an interjection, but it was not acted upon.
– I am now taking a more decorous and . formal way of calling attention to the matter. In future, I shall object to any member being heard, except on a motion before the Chair in the usual way. Members must be treated as equals. The. Prime Minister has shown gross disregard of his duty in not being here to reply to the questions raised during the adjournment discussion, and to take charge of the House as its leader. I see that he is present now, but I shall not weary honorable members by repeating what I have said in his absence. It is not that I have said anything which I would not say in his presence, but that I do not wish to detain honorable members longer.
– I have not heard much of what the honorable member has said, but am indifferent as to what it was. As a member of the Standing Orders Committee I could bring any matter before it. It is not proposed to proceed in that way in regard to the subject of yesterday’s debate, but to take the more formal course of asking you, Mr Speaker, to bring it under the notice of the Committee. Any honorable member can adopt a similar course in regard to any matter he wishes the Committee to take into consideration.
– I desire to say that I intend to adhere strictly to the attitude of my predecessor in this chair with regard to reprints of speeches from Hansard. I will have absolutely nothing to do with them. They do not in any way concern me in my position as Speaker. My duty and responsibility end when the final proofs of Hansard are sent to the Government Printer. Any further undertakings with regard to the printing of speeches are of a commercial character as between honorable members and the Government Printer. They are matters for honorable members themselves, and not for me. I say so much because an appeal was made to me by the honorable member for Gwydir. He also mentioned another matter with regard to interjections which have been withdrawn. I intend to consider the advisableness of taking steps whereby interjections of an offensive character which are withdrawn need not appear on our records at all.
– That would be rather a dangerous procedure.
– I do not say what I intend to do, but simply that I shall consider the matter. With regard to the statement of the honorable member for Coolgardie, and that of the honorable member for Dalley, that I yesterday allowed certain honorable members to address the House without leave, and when a motion was not before the House, or a point of order raised, I say at once that if what has been represented occurred, it was wrong, and I should not permit it to happen again. But I am not aware that the facts are- as represented. As far as my recollection serves me, the Prime Minister and the honorable member for West Sydney spoke to a matter which was properly before the House, namely, a question of privilege.
– I referred to what took place immediately after the division.
– I think there was a point of order before the House then.
– At any rate, I will inquire into the matter. I am, of course, new to my present position, but I am a parliamentarian of sufficient experience to know that no favoritism must be shown by the Chair. I intend to treat every member of this House, whether he be the Prime Minister or the newest member, on exactly the same footing, and to extend precisely the same consideration to all.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided.
A quorum not being present,
Mr. Speaker adjourned the House at 443 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090730_reps_3_50/>.