3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last night the Prime Minister forgot to reply to my question whether members who have given orders for the reprinting of their speeches will be permitted to have them carried out until such time as the Printing Committee has come to a decision on the whole matter.
– A meeting of the Printing Committee has been called for 11 o’clock to-morrow morning. I hope that the matter will be dealt with then.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs ascertained how long it will take to collect, prepare, print and distribute the electoral rolls for the State of Victoria ?
– They will all be ready before the end of December.
– Does the Minister intend to have a canvass made in New South Wales to bring the electoral rolls there up to date?
– Negotiations with the Government of the State are proceeding with a. view to making the rolls as perfect as possible.
– Has the Treasurer received a communication from Fremantle regarding the statement made by the honorable member for Darwin yesterday that a municipal loan for tramway purposes had been a failure?
– I have received a telegram- from the Mayor of Fremantle to the effect that the honorable member’s statement that the loan was a failure was absolutely without foundation.
– As to-morrow is grievance day, I wish to know whether the Prime Minister, in moving then that the House adjourn for a week to allow members to attend the. Premiers’ Conference, intends to take . from honorable members the opportunity to discuss grievances?
– I propose, not to move a motion, but merely to announce the date and period of the adjournment. The proposal can be discussed on the grievance motion, if desired.
Extension of Premises
– It is stated in this morning’s Age that the Mayor of Sydney has offered to the Postmaster-General the. Victoria Markets for the sum of . £636,000, bearing interest at 4 per cent. ; and that the Deputy Postmaster- General- for New South Wales is entirely opposed to the arrangement. Will the Minister give the House an opportunity to deal with the matter before he comes to any decision or enters into any agreement with the municipal authorities of Sydney? Does he nor consider that it would better serve the interests of the Commonwealth and the States if land were resumed in Moorestreet, and a building erected there, to be connected with the present General Post Office by an overhead way ?
– When I- heard the representation of the Lord Mayor of Sydney, I told him that I should not. come to a decision until the Cabinet had been consulted. When that consultation has taken place, the House will be informed of the result.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper : -
Navigation Bill- Reply (dated 18th June, 1909), by Prime Minister to telegram of gth January and despatch of12th February, from the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What sums of money did be receive for such half-year for -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. I am informed by the Commandant that Colonel J. Burston, V.D., holds the appointment of Staff Officer to the Officer Commanding the Field Force in Victoria. His military duties take him but little on parade -with troops, as his Commanding Officer ordinarily assumes command only when the Field Force is mobilized. This is usually at camps of continuous training, which, as a rule, take place in the first half of the year. During the half-year under review Colonel Burston was present on parade at the time of the visit of the American Fleet, and was once or twice on -duty at Williamstown Rifle Range during field firing exercises. No record is kept of such attendances. The bulk of Colonel Burston’s -duties as Staff Officer is performed apart from parades wilh the troops. 3. (a) £18.
Junee Letter-carriers - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure - Undergrounding of Telephone Wires, Hamilton, Victoria.
– asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the serious complaints made by the residents of Junee as to the late delivery, and sometimes non-delivery, of letters, he will take immediate steps to have men appointed as letter-carriers instead of boys?
– Inquiry is being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I am aware that the last issue of the Statement referred to -covered the business of the year 1906.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the frequent complaints made regarding the unsatisfactory working of the telephone system at Hamilton (Victoria), provision has been made for the undergrounding of the wires in the principal streets?
– This matter , has been under consideration, and provision will be made for undergrounding wires in the principal street of Hamilton as early - as practicable.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That Mr. Sampson be ‘appointed a member of the Library Committee.
– I protest against the motion, not with any desire to reflect on the honorable member for Wimmera, but because it seems to be the’ intention of the Prime Minister to snub the Opposition.
– The. Speaker, whose ele- . vation to the Chair caused the vacancy which it is now proposed to fill, was not n member of the Opposition.
– The last Opposition was represented on the Library Committee by the honorable members for Angas, Flinders, Kooyong, and Parkes, who made up a majority of the Committee. Although the Ministerialists of the day, supported by the Labour party, could then have packed the Committee’, there ‘was no attempt to do it. We recognised that it was fair that all parties should be represented, as far as possible, on such Committees.
– The best man ought to be selected, irrespective of party considerations.
– Of course, if we cannot read, write, or spell, we ought not to be on such a Committee !
– Order !
– If the honorable member for Lang can demonstrate that of those honorable members not on the Committee, the honorable member for “Wimmera is the best man. who could be appointed to it, I have not another word to say. I do not think, however, that even the honorable member for Wimmera himself would make such a claim.
– There was nothing personal in my remark.
– I am satisfied that the honorable member did not intend to be personal, and that honorable members generally do not wish to discuss this matter from a personal point of view. I have not a word to say against the honorable member for Wimmera, but the fact remains that the honorable member for Darling is now the sole survivor of our party on the Library Committee. ‘
– The Opposition’s cause must be very weak.
– The honorable member for Darling is a host in himself.
– Order !
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Darling can hold his own whenever the Library Committee is called upon to discuss the selection of books .for the Library, but surely six to one is not a fair proportion. Why should not the usual courtesies be observed?
– This is a matter not of courtesy, but of right.
– No doubt these appointments have hitherto been regarded as matters of courtesy; but if the Fusion Ministry desire to establish the principle of the spoils to the victor - if they desire that every office shall be filled by. their own supporters - then, when the Labour party come into power, there will be a bundling out process.
– We would put the Labour party out of Parliament if we could
– The honorable member has a nice chance.
– Order !
– Unless that principle is to be affirmed, the motion ought to be withdrawn. I am sure that honorable members are agreed that it would be wrong to establish here the principle of the spoils to the victors in the way that it is recognised” in the United States of America and elsewhere.
– What has the honorable member to say as to the representation of parties on the House Committee?
– What are the spoils?
– Order !
– A trip to England, a tripto the Hague, appointments to the InterState Commission, and the filling of other offices. If this principle is to be adopted, there will be plenty of billets to go round, and scarcely enough men on the Ministerial benches to fill them. When all the loaves and! fishes have been distributed ‘ amongst honorable members opposite we may expect to receive attention.
– On the House Committee there are five Opposition members to two Ministerialists.
– No one wants to justify that.
– I should be almost ashamed to state how many times I have had to call “Order!” I appeal to honorable members to assist the Chair in maintaining order, and to allow the honorable member to proceed without these unseemly interruptions.
– There are five members of the Opposition to three Ministerialists on the House Committee.
– No; five to two - Mr. Speaker does not count on either side.
– When we were electing a Speaker last week, the Prime Minister called upon the honorable member for Maranoa to leave the chamber, because the voting was a party one, and he was paired with a Ministerialist.
– What relevancy has that to the question?
– If there are five members of the Opposition on the House Committee, as. compared with only two Ministerial supporters, I am sure a proposal to equalize the representation would meet with no opposition. I suspect, and not without strong reason, that the Prime Minister’s action is part and parcel of a deliberate policy on the part of the Ministry to snub honorable members of the Opposition, believing that they will resent such action, and that the Government will have an opportunity to again talk about the “ wicked waste of public time.”
– Will the honorable member permit me to say that I knew nothing of this motion until I saw it on the business-paper.
– Then the honorable member will have an opportunity to rectify the mistake when we proceed to a vote.
– Honorable members must obey the ruling of the Chair. It is not fair to me or to the honorable member who is addressing the Chamber that he should be interrupted by questions and answers hurled from one side of the House to the other. I ask honorable members to assist me in maintaining order j otherwise I shall be compelled to take the only course remaining open to me.
– I accept the statement made by the Minister of Defence.
– Will the Prime Minister withdraw the motion?
– I suggest to the Prime Minister that, in the circumstances, that would be a reasonable course to adopt. I am sure that the honorable member for Wimmera will not regard my action as being in the nature of a personal reflection Upon him. There is no desire on the part of the Opposition to reflect upon his bona fides; but it is well that there should not be a suspicion of one-sidedness in the making of appointments to these Committees. It is necessary for the Library Committee fi om time to time to recommend the purchase of various books, and I would certainly trust the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Parkes - who are both strong anti-Socialists - to fairly consider any request for the addition to the Library of books which were opposed to their political convictions.
– The shelves of the Library are full of such books.
– They are not. There are many standard works missing.
– The honorable member knows that any honorable member may recommend that a book be added to the Library.
– T do; but such a recommendation must first of all be approved by the Library Committee.
– That, however, is not the point.
Mr. HALL. Quite so. We are now discussing the right of the Opposition to be properly represented on such a Committee. The best thing that a Minister can do when he inadvertently makes a mistake
– It is certainly not a matter of mistake !
– Seeing that it is deliberate, it is extraordinary that a man who can pose amongst his lady friends as the most affable of gentlemen, can in public life turn himself into a mere snob and snub everybody.
– That is not language fit for this Chamber, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I shall withdraw as much of the language as is necessary to bring my remarks within your ruling, sir.
– That is not a withdrawal.
– The honorable member for Werriwa has been here long enough to know that that is not a withdrawal. I ask the honorable member to withdraw the offensive word he used - the word “snob” - which is not fitting in this Chamber.
– Very well, I withdraw the word as applied to the honorable member, but I do say-
– I rise to order. I should like to know what is being said at the other end of the Chamber, because we here do not know what is taking place. We did not even hear the remarks of Mr. Speaker.
– I very much regret that my words did not reach honorable members. The Speaker does not like to give too much prominence to words which have to be withdrawn, but, if the honorable member so desires, I shall, of course, make him acquainted with the facts. An honorable member applied to another honorable member the word “snob,” and “the Speaker ordered him to withdraw it, and it has now been withdrawn.
– I have very little to add. I have no desire to waste the time of the - House ; but I do say that it is a matter of regret that gentlemen, who came here to establish those high principles of responsible government of which we have heard so much, and to show exactly how things should be done, should descend to such meanness as they now descend to, in order to be offensive to honorable members on this side. I suppose, however, that nothing we can say on this side can make much difference ; honorable members opposite have the numbers. At the same time, I take this opportunity to assure the honorable member for Wimmera that neither on my part, nor on the part of my colleagues, is there any desire to cast any personal reflections on him in the vote which we shall give on the unfair motion submitted by the Prime Minister.
.- I am sorry that the honorable member for Werriwa has taken up his present attitude. His reference to “ spoils to the victors “ is singularly unhappy in a Parliament composed as this Parliament is. In making appointments to these Committees we should be guided by the fitness of the individuals proposed, quite irrespective of parties. I take it that it is merely the accident of circumstances that the majority of this Committee happen to be drawn from one side of the House, and that there is thereby no reflection cast on the capabilities of honorable members opposite. Honorable members on all sides will be ready to bear testimony to the studiousness, and the more than ordinary capacity of some honorable members “opposite. Anv serious objection to members proposed for a Committee should rest on their qualifications, rather than on the fact that they belong to a certain party. If it can be shown that a person nominated does not possess the necessary qualifications, the House, I am sure, will listen patiently to any criticism, and, if a case is made out, will be only too willing to agree to some other appointment.
– The honorable member knows that this motion is purely for party purposes !
– I decline to believe that for a single moment. The House Committee, it will be observed, consists, of a majority of members now sitting in Opposition. They are the honorable member for Boothby, the honorable member for Riverina, the honorable member, for Wide Bav, the honorable member for Coolgardie, and the honorable member for Maranoa, the only two members from the Government side being the honorable member for Maribyrnong and the honorable member for South Sydney. The argument used by the Opposition in reference to the Library Committee must apply with equal force to the House Committee; but I decline to believe that any of these appointments are made for party purposes.
– Look at the construction of the Standing Orders Committee !
– It is true that that Committee is differently composed, and I only quoted the House Committee to show that if the argument used applied to one side, it applied equally to the other. There are two other Standing Committees, the composition of which will, I am sure, commend itself to honorable members on all sides as being that of gentlemen eminently fitted to discharge the duties. At the same time, I suggest, so that no apparent justification for an accusation of party bias or enmity may exist, that the Committeesmight be enlarged, so as to include one or two members from the Opposition.
– Thank you for nothing !
– I only make the suggestion with a view to getting rid of any undesirable suspicion that appointments are made from party motives. I hope the Government will see their way to accept my suggestion, and that honorable members will! agree to it as a solution. It is a great pity that the appointment of these Committees should be made the subject of party discussion ; but I think the good sense of the House will accept the appointments as made because of the special qualifications of the gentlemen selected.
– I wishto nominate the honorable member for Gippsland, and for that purpose I move-
That the word “ Sampson “ be left out, witha view to insert in lieu thereof the word! “ Wise.”
I take this step apart from any party or personal feeling. My view is that it is for the House, in a case of this sort toelect the honorable member whom it thinks best fitted for the office. I hope the best man will be appointed.
.- I should hesitate to occupy the time of the House were it not that as a member of the Committee I resent the unjustifiable attempt that has been made to stir up strife over a question of this sort. Honorable members opposite state that there is a tendency on the part of the Government to select members on the Ministerial side. That is sufficiently answered by the fact that almost the whole of the members now on the Committee were taken from the Opposition side when originally appointed, showing that there was no party feeling at all. At that time the Labour party were on the same side as the Ministry who made the appointments, and if they had thought that the Liberal element was being neglected1 they could have used the influence which they so freely exercised over a period of years, in order to affect the personnel of the Committee. They did not do so, and the action of the then Government showed that they were absolutely free from party spirit in nominating the members of the Committee. It ought to be noted that the necessity of this appointment results from the unfortunate death of our late Speaker. His place is taken by the present Speaker,
X-officio, and it therefore becomes necessary to appoint somebody in the Speaker’s place. The Government have nominated an honorable member from the same side of the House as that on which the present Speaker sat for months. The innuendo that, unless the Labour party are represented on the Committee, there will be a tendency to choose books which ‘ are opposed to their doctrines, is absolutely incorrect, to use the strongest word that the rules of the House will allow. During the time that I have been a member of the Committee I have never known a question to be raised as to whether a book would affect one side or the other. I have never known exception to be taken to a suggestion made by any member of the House for the purchase of a book, whatever his party or politics were. If any book is suggested by any member the Committee at once respect the proposal, and do not hesitate to choose that book, and add it to the Library if it seems to be one that throws a direct or indirect light upon our political life. I have never known a respectable paper to be proposed that was not at once included in the collection in the Library. There is therefore no justification for any reflection upon the impartiality or judicial spirit of the Committee as to the choice of either books or newspapers.
.- It is not for me to say whether the Government intended to make this a party question but I can only infer from the facts, and from one or two statements which have been made, that that is the intention. If the Government adopt the American principal of “ spoils to the victors,” it will be a bad day for Australia.
– Spoils !
– I repeat the term, because the principle is the same. Apparently whatever appointments are going., whether honorary or carrying payment, are to be made from the Ministerial side. The honorable member for Parkes has furnished the very best argument why a change should he made in the present nomination. He showed that in appointing Committees in the past the Governments of the day have been most careful to see that both sides of the House were represented, and have been liberal and even generous towards the Opposition by appointing more of their members than of Ministerial supporters. The first we have heard about the appointment now proposed is from the motion submitted by the Prime Minister. I have not a word to say against the honorable member for Wimmera, who, I believe, is eminently qualified to fill the position; but this side of the House has some claims to recognition. I venture to say that there are on this side honorable members equal in intellect, knowledge and research to the honorable member for Wimmera, or any other honorable member who could be nominated from the Ministerial benches. If the Government want to correct the impression that now exists in the mind of the public, they should withdraw the motion and not make this a party question. If we go to a vote it will be made a party question, for I venture to predict that the Government and all their supporters will vote to make it so, instead of having regard to the rights and privileges of the House.
– What member of the Opposition will vote for the honorable member for Wimmera?
– -I shall for one. I do not want any favours.
– If the Prime Minister had consulted the Leader of the Opposition and come to some arrangement, it is very probable that a good many honorable members on this side would have voted for the honorable member for Wimmera. No exception is taken to the honorable member personally, but exception is taken to the principle of making all appointments from the Ministerial side of the House. I am very glad the honorable member for Bass has nominated a member from this side. No one can say that the honorable member for Gippsland is not eminently qualified for the position ; and if honorable members opposite want to show that there is no party bias in the matter, and that the motion has not been tabled for party purposes, they can best do so by voting for the honorable member for Gippsland.
– There are only two very brief statements which I think ought to be made to the House. The first is that any reference to a position on a Committee of the House as in any sense constituting “ spoils “ is simply intended metaphorically, because the public will be apt to assume, what is not the fact, that members receive some consideration for their services on Committees. As is well known to every honorable member, and should be made clear to the public, no remuneration whatever attaches to the performance of the duties of membership of any Committee of the House. On the contrary, they undertake obligations demanding considerable sacrifice of time, and are rewarded only by the recognition of their services by the House. The suggestion that party considerations have operated is best answered by a short statement of the facts. “Until 1 entered the Chamber last evening I did not know that there was a vacancy on the Library Committee. When informed how the vacancy had been caused, . several names occurred to me, and the honorable member for Wimmera seemed one whose appointment would make no change in the composition of the Committee. His ability and capacity are admitted, as are those of the honorable member for Gippsland.
– But the honorable member for Gippsland sits on the wrong side of the House.
– That was not considered. The fact that Opposition members are in a large majority on the House Committee, and in a minority on the Library Committee, is due to changes caused by death, retirement, and other causes. The practice has been to re-appoint each session the former Committees, making good any vacancies which may have arisen by balancing the party composition. Had the appointment of a new Library Committee been under consideration, the vacancy would have been filled by appointing a member from the party having the smallest representation.
– Why was that course not taken ?
– Because -this is the last session of the Parliament. The honorable member for Wimmera is the only person to whom I spoke on the subject, and I got his consent to act only in time to give notice of my motion for to-day. There was no premeditation.
– And no urgency.
– I was asked to make the nomination because the Committee is to meet this week, and I felt that the proper course was to appoint a member . holding the same general political views as those of his predecessor, leaving the party colour of the Committee unchanged.
.- Whatever may be the practice regarding the filling of vacancies on Committees, it must be recognised that of the seven members of the Library Committee, only one is a member of the present Opposition. It may be urged that that is of no importance. But the Committee determines what works shall be bought for the Library, and it is not fair, or in the interests of Parliament, that all its members should belong to the same political party. With such a representation as there is now, the Committee might refuse to purchase a work which the Opposition considered would be an acquisition to the Library. The Prime Minister has acted unwisely, though perhaps not designedly, in nominating another member of his own party, without considering the smallness of the Opposition representation. It is important that the Committee should be properly balanced.
– I regret that this discussion has arisen, because I do not think that there is any ground for saying that the nomination has been made for party reasons. The Opposition has complained of its representation on the Committees.
– On the Library Committee.
– On that and the other Committees. If party consideration is urged, regard must be had to the composition of the Committees as a whole. On counting the names, I find that the Opposition has more representatives on Committees than is justified by its actual strength. The disproportion has arisen largely because of the change of seats which took place at the beginning of the session. Of the twenty-nine members who constitute the Committees, thirteen are Oppositionists, whereas the proper representation of the Opposition would be twelve.
– There are only eleven Oppositionists on the Committees.
– According to my count, there are thirteen. This is the first time that complaint has been made in regard to the nomination of members of Committees, and it seems to me that thete is no ground for charging any Commonwealth Ministry with having attempted to give the’ Committees a party complexion.
– The honorable member for North Sydney is in error; there are onlv eleven Oppositionists on the Committees. . 1 accept the Prime Minister’s statement that, in nominating the honorable member for Wimmera, he did not know that it would give the Ministerialists an increased preponderance of representation, but he knows the facts now, and he must admit that it is not fair that the Committee should be composed of six Ministerialists and one Oppositionist.
– I find that the number of Oppositionists on the Committees is twelve.
– That is a smaller representation than our numbers entitle us to.
– The Opposition numbers only thirty, as against forty-four Ministerialists.
– In the past, it has been the custom for the Government to nominate Oppositionists rather than Ministerialists. When the last Deakin Administration was supported . by the Labour party, there were four Oppositionists on this Committee. It is one thing to appoint one’s friends, and another to appoint one’s opponents. The distinction between the methods of Tammany and those of honest politics is that Tammany lives byappointing its pals. I have never heard such conduct justified by the excuse that the friends who are appointed are competent. I take no exception to the honorable member for Wimmera personally, but the Prime Minister’s attention having, been drawn to the fact that the Opposition considers that it has been unjustifiably snubbed, I ask him whether a member should not be nominated from this side. I do not think for one moment that the Committee would exercise a censorship in regard to the books to be placed in the Library, but we know that the Treasurer has arrogated to himself the right to say what shall appear in reprints from Hansard of speeches made by honorable members, and we are now told by the honorable member for Parkes that the Library Committee would not refuse to add to the Library any proper book or newspaper. Are we now to have a literary censorship, of which the Treasurer is to be the uncrowned king? I am glad that the right honorable gentleman is not a member of the Library Committee. It is bad enough that he should criticise our speeches, and it would be intolerable if he had to decide what we ought to read. I hope that the Prime Minister will accede to the very reasonable request made by the Opposition, and appoint on the Committee an honorable mem ber of the Opposition. That would be a just and gracious act. Now that the Prime Minister has been informed that we take exception to his action, the least he can do is to accept our suggestion. »
– - I think it desirable to explain that if this question be pressed to a division, I intend to vote for the motion on the principle that we ought to give the Government enough rope with which to hang themselves.
– The Opposition are hanging themselves.
– Nothing that the honorable member can do or say will injure me in the eyes of my constituents. I am satisfied from what has taken place during the last few weeks that the Government intend to pursue a certain course which it should be the desire of the Opposition to assist them to follow. We should let the electors see for themselves the true position taken up by the Government and their supporters. There is not an ounce of spleen in my composition, but when the Ministry resort without reason to such snobbish tricks, it is enough to make one turn on them.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– By way of personal explanation I wish to say that in running through the names of honorable members on the various Committees I totalled -thirteen on one side of the House as against twelve on the other. I find now that twelve is the correct number of Ministerial supporters on the various Committees, and that the number of members of the Opposition on such Committees is the same.
.- If it is in order to interrogate you, Mr. Speaker, I should like to ask you what is the reason for all this rumpus? You, sir, have been a member of the Library Committee, and I should like you to explain why the Opposition object to any particular member being appointed to it. I cannot understand why the Library Committee, any more than the House Committee, should be conducted on party lines. Party feeling must be strained very severely if this objection is to hold good. My experience is that most honorable members treat the books in the Library as they treat their best friends - they never cut them. My only consideration in regard to this question is whether the appointment of an honorable member from this side of the House will affect the class of literature available in the Library. I am told that the honorable member for Wimmera is associated with journalism, and, that being so, it is reasonable to assume that he has a literary bent. There may be on the Opposition benches honorable members equally distinguished in that respect, and we ought to appoint to the Committee the very best men available.
– The honorable member for Macquarie is a journalist.
– That being so, I should like him to be appointed a member of the Committee. As it is, I do not think that there is much cause for complaint. If the action of the Government in submitting this motion is to be regarded as the affirmation of the principle of the spoils to the victor, then I do not think that the victors will get away with very much.
– This is only the thin end of the wedge.
– It is too thin a question to’ proceed to a division upon.
– It is only a waste of time.
– I do not say that; but I think that the Opposition are a little too sensitive. I am astonished that honorable members are prepared to devote so much time as they do to the work of these Committees. I am not aware that they are. well paid for their services, but if they are I shall have to look into the matter. I have never observed a great rush on the part of honorable members to secure such appointments, and I see nothing wrong in the proposal of the Government that the honorable member for Wimmera should be appointed to this Committee. I should be glad if the honorable member for Gippsland were also added to it. I only hope that the Library will be improved as the result of this new appointment. It would be well if the Committee were to get out of the beaten track into which they have fallen, and support the introduction into the Library of more distinctly Australian literature. In that regard we are sadly wanting, and such an improvement might well be made.
.- It -falls to the lot of honorable members at various times to be either on this side or the Opposition side of the House. When I and other honorable members were in opposition we had certain differences of principle with honorable members on the Government side of the House, but we fought them as questions of principle ought to be contested. We never sought to upset the whole course and conduct of public business by introducing imaginary grievances. The direct Opposition and the Opposition Corner party, prior to the formation of the present Ministry, had only ten members on all Committees, as against nineteen members from the Government side of the House. I am very glad to know that whatever grievances we may have had with the Government of that day on questions of principle, we did not sink so low as to try to make it appear that they, supported by the Labour party, in making appointments to such Committees, were introducing anything in the nature of the American “ spoils “ system. I only hope that when honorable members opposite become more accustomed to the seats they now occupy, and forget the seats they have recently left, they, too, may adopt the same high principled method of considering these questions.
Question - That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay [3.40].- I had not the pleasure of hearing the discussion, but I had thought the matter required only to be brought under the notice of the Prime Minister for him to see that it would be unwise for all the Committeemen to be chosen from one side. However, if that is the policy of the Government, it is just as well that we and the country should know the fact.
Question - That Mr. Sampson be appointed a member of the Library Committee - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16-
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to Naval and Military Defence.
.- Will the Minister of Defence kindly inform us whether the Bill is ready, and when we may expect it to be introduced? I understand that the Ministry are not prepared to discuss the provisions of the Bill immediately, but it may be possible to favour us with copies, so that we may study it prior to the second-reading speech of the honorable gentleman.
– I hope that, when this Bill is introduced, its scope may not be so restricted that under the rulings we have had honorable members may not be able to move amendments which would mean very little cost, but which would, in our opinion, considerably improve the measure. This is a matter of great national importance, and the Government ought, I think, to give the House the fullest opportunity, so that before the Bill finally leaves us it may completely represent the views of honorable members as a whole. I understand that the Government have no desire to make this a party measure in the strict sense of the term.
– Who told the honorable member that ?
– At any rate, it is a measure which should not be made a party one, and I suggest that as much latitude as possible should be given to honorable members, so that the Bill, when completed, may’ represent as far as possible the intelligence of the whole House. If the scope of the Bill is restricted, and the Government take up in regard to it a strict party attitude, it will very likely mean that valuable suggestions will be thrown on one side, simply because the party whip is cracked, and that proposals will be voted down, not so much on their own merits as because of party exigencies.
– I should hope that when the Bill is introduced every facility will be afforded to honorable members to discuss its details; indeed, that must necessarily be so in connexion with any Bill.
– The honorable member for Cook was referring, not so much to the discussion of the measure, as to the moving of amendments.
– The Bill is submitted for consideration and for amendment, if the House deems fit. It is, of course, for the Government to say whether they will accept amendments. I may, in reply to the honorable member for Adelaide, say that the Bill will not be introduced for a few days.
– Then why waste the time of the House now ?
– May I say to honorable members opposite that I hope they will give me the same fair play that they claim for themselves, and for the Minister who preceded me.
– Fair play which we never got!
– I think I am entitled to ask for that fair play ; and I am sure the House will give it to me.
Question resolved in- the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of aBill for an Act relating to Currency, Coinage, and Legal Tender.
.- I think the Treasurer might take this opportunity to express his views to the Committee, showing how much money he requires, and what he proposes doing with it. This is a very convenient time for the honorable gentleman to exercise the ordinary courtesy, and outline the policy of the Government. Of course, from what we have just seen, it is quite evident that the Government can do as they please.
– Has it been the practice for the Treasurer to do as requested on a motion of this kind ?
– It has always been the practice in other well-conducted Parliaments for the Treasurer to indicate what such a motion means, seeing that it involves an appropriation of revenue.
– Is not the second reading the usual time?
– The honorable gentleman is quite in error ; the second reading is the time to discuss the principles of the measure, but, in the case of an appropriation for a particular purpose, the time for the Government to take the whole House into their confidence is when authority is sought to bring in a Bill.
– No expenditure is authorized by this motion.
– But without this motion I presume the Treasurer would not have authority to introduce the Bill. The honorable gentleman knows what is -in his mind.
– I propose to explain the Bill on the second reading.
– It would be more convenient if the right honorable member took the Committee into his confidence now.
– It will be most inconvenient, but I will take the ruling of the Chairman as to the custom.
– I cannot give a ruling on the matter.
– Why introduce this new practice?
– The practice, in my experience, has been for a Government that had anything to say on a question of this kind, to take honorable members into their confidence at this stage.
– I will make my second-reading speech now if the honorable member wishes.
– I should not be so impertinent as to ask the right honorable member to do so. AllI ask is that he will be good enough to say. what he means to do when he obtains this appropriation. He might state, not only the purposes, but the extent and principal features of the Bill. I do not wish to overpress the right honorable ‘gentleman. Considering the manner in which the business is being conducted, it would not be wise to do so. The Government can proceed in their own way, and we shall embrace . every opportunity to protect the public interest to the best of our ability. It is true that we cannot compel a majority to do right; but we can at least invite them to do right, and protest against their doing wrong. An additional reason why the Treasurer should now state what is in his mind is that authority has just been given to the Government to introduce a very important Bill, and . they have indicated that they are not ready to bring it in. I hope the Treasurer is ready in this instance. Otherwise, we must regard these measures as mere placards, and the Government as merely beating time, and having no intention to do anv business at all.
– I am glad of an opportunity to explain the reasons why the Bill is introduced. Its object is to authorize the Commonwealth to coin its own silver. A considerable amount of revenue is derivable from the coinage of silver.
– How much?
– Will the honorable member make my speech, or allow -me to make it for myself? . I shall answer him before I sit down.
– The right honorable member need not be offensive.
– The honorable member by his interjections will allow nobody to speak. There is a difficulty in ascertaining how much silver coin is in circulation in Australia, but the information I have indicates that it amounts to between £1,500,000 and .£2,000,000. In 1891 the Deputy-Master of the Sydney Mint stated in a return that the face value of silver coin in circulation in Australia was £1,000,000 but in answer to question 904, in his evidence, given before .a Select ‘Committee of this House, he placed the amount at £2,000,000. I think £1,500,000 is probably a low estimate. The Imperial Government, after negotiations extending over a long period, have agreed to purchase the silver coin which is in circulation in Australia at its face value at each of the three Mints to the extent of £100,000 a, year. With the assistance of the banking institutions, therefore, we shall be prepared, as soon as our -new coin- arrives from London, to deliver at the Mints old silver coin not exceeding £100,000, which the Imperial Government will purchase. The sprout on the transaction to us will be about 60 per cent., or £60,000 a year. Assuming that the silver coin in circulation is £1,500,000, it will take about fifteen years, at the rate of £100,000 a year, to withdraw the whole of it. About £900,000 or £1,000,000 will therefore come into the revenue of the Commonwealth in fifteen years through this transaction. There has been no difficulty, at any rate recently, with the Imperial Government. They have behaved very handsomely to us in the matter, and have facilitated the operation by promising to give cash for the old coin at its face value at the Mints, whether it is good or worn silver.
– Are the new coins to be minted here?
– They are to be minted in London for the present. We wanted them quickly. There is not very much expense in the actual minting, and we found we could get it done much quicker in that way. Eventually, of course, we hope to be able to mint our own coin. The quantity - £100,000 worth a year - is not great, so that the operation is not a very large one, and therefore it may not be advisable at present to do the minting here. At any rate, we have not arranged to do it, but there is no obligation upon us to get the coin in London.’ As soon as it suits the Commonwealth to have it minted here, that can be done. The Imperial Mint is doing it only to oblige us. The design of the coinage is, on the obverse side, the crowned head of the king, surrounded by the words “ Edward VII., King and Emperor.” On all the coinages of the oversea Dominions of the Empire, with the exception of Canada and Cyprus, where the legend is “Rex et Imperator,” the inscription is in English. The crowned head appears on all the coinages of the Empire, so that in that matter we are simply following the approved practice. On the reverse side, there will appear an outline map of Australia, including Tasmania, with the denomination of the coin and the year of coinage. The design, which honorable members no doubt have seen in the newspapers, looks very, well; the map of the Commonwealth, with “Australia” across it, is very distinctive, and appears to me to be most appropriate. The operation, so far as we are concerned, is an excellent financial one, because we shall gain about a million pounds in fifteen years without any great disabilities. There will, of course, be some disabilities, inasmuch as the coins will be of no use as currency outside of Australia. They will, probably, not be current in New Zealand, or other part’s of the Empire, as the present coinage is. Those who travel beyond Australia will have to get rid of their Australian silver coins before they leave. At present, our silver coinage is good in the United Kingdom, and on British ships.
– The people will spend all their silver on the ships, so that the right honorable member need not worry about that.
– The ships may not take our coin. They will not take the Indian rupee without a discount, when they leave India, although they will take shillings, because they are negotiable in London. No doubt, therefore, there will be a little inconvenience to travellers, but it is no greater than what all travellers in Europe have to put up with when they pass from country to country. Of course, the gold coinage is all right.
– Will there be a constant profit of £60,000 a year?
– It may be a little more.
– Will there be any profit after fifteen years, when the present issue has been called in?
– Any additional issue of our coinage will represent the same rate of profit to us.
– Then, does the right honorable member assume that Australia will consume ,£100,000 worth a year?
– I do not think so. A good deal of new coinage comes to Australia yearly; but a great deal of it goes to New Zealand, the islands of the Pacific, and back to the Old Country. I do not think that £100,000 worth will be absorbed every year after the fifteen years have elapsed- After we have supplied the public with all the silver that they require in Australia, of course only the additional quantity necessitated by any increase of population will be new, and the profit will not be so great. Whatever additional silver is required after the end of the fifteen years’ period, the ‘Commonwealth will make 60 per cent, profit upon it.
.- The Treasurer flew at me just now when I asked him a. simple question as to how much the profit on the transaction would be. He was very insulting to me. I remember a turkey-cock that strutted about with his wings down, and made himself very offensive in that way ; but he had his head chopped off. The right honorable member reminded me very much of that bird when he flew at me ; but I notice that he carried on conversations with other honorable members afterwards. I do not ask the right honorable member for anything.
– I will give the honorable member anything he wants. I am very friendly to him.
– So was the turkey-cock, when it suited him. What I wanted to ascertain by the simple question that I put - and it was not put in any hostile way - was whether the right honorable member could say what profit there would be. I dealt with this matter before I left office, and brought it right up to the . stage at which it is now.
– I do not think the honorable member did. He left it alone, and did nothing.
– So far as I can ascertain, it was the right honorable member who did nothing. It is very doubtful what the profit will be. It was asserted by some of the officers that it would be £100,000 a year; and, on one occasion, that it would be more. That estimate has been brought down to £50,000, and now, in a haphazard way, it is averaged at about £60,000. Unless the right honorable member has more information than could be obtained when I left the Treasury 4 he does not know whether the profit will be £50,000 or £90,000. Whatever it is, I am strongly in favour of minting the coin in Australia, and not in London, if it can be done here. The Western Australian Mint made an offer to the Commonwealth to do the whole of the minting. I wanted to get a Mint of our own, and not to fix it in any one State, and I was seeking information as to how the minting could be done easily and well at some central point. It ought to be done somewhere near the Federal Territory, and, when we have a Federal Capital, should be done there. If we took over the existing Mints, we should have several old buildings on our hands. Any agreement made with the British Government should be for a short period only, as the minting should: be done in Australia as soon as possible. I have not seen the proposed design, but an important matter of this kind should not be dealt with until Parliament has had the fullest information.
– The Bill does not bind us to any particular design. We are in a hurry to get it passed.
– The Government are in a terrible hurry to go back-; wards. I do not think that any of their measures are quite ready yet. These Bills are so many placards. If the minting can be done in Australia without extra cost, it should be done here. I hope that when next the matter comes forward the Treasurer will be a little more courteous. I asked a question without any intention of harassing him, and should not have risen to speak had he given me the information which I desired. I feel certain that he does not know what profit the Treasury will derive from the proposed change, nor how much coin will be required. But this information should be available when the. second reading is moved.
– In my opinion the Treasurer explained his proposal very lucidly. I think that one of the present Mints could be used’ for coining silver. It is very simple recalculate the profit to be made by minting silver coins representing in value £100,000. You can find from the newspapers what silver is worth per ounce, and deducting the weight required for the coins and the cost of coining, you arrive at the profit. In my opinion, there would be a profit of £60,000, because £100,000 worth of silver coinage would cost only about £40,000 for raw material and minting. We ought also to have silver certificates. They are a good deal like shin plasters, but far easier to carry about than silver, which is a nuisance, because it wears out one’s pockets. Certificates should be issued for values of as. 6d., 2s.,- is., and. 6d., and used as a circulating medium, the silver being left in our vaults. The Treasurer should also enter into negotiations for an international system of gold exchange. The shipping of gold backwards and forwards across the ocean is ridiculous in an age of progress and business intelligence. If there were vaults in Melbourne, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and other big cities, and international certificates of gold exchange were made, they could circulate instead of the gold, the balances being re-arranged at the end of the year. The amount of gold held in each city could then be telegraphed all over the world. This would do away with the shipping of gold, and the destruction of millions of pounds’ worth of coin by abrasion, as gold coinage wears out in about nine years. I hope that the Treasurer will not stop with this improvement, but will help me to do something for the country. He has courage, having been an explorer, and I regard him as likely to do something. We should have been coining silver during the last eight years. Had we been doing so, and making a profit of £60,000 a year, we should have gained nearly £500,000. As it is, we have lost that amount, and the Treasurer does not know where to turn for money.
– I think that it would not be wise for the- Government to arrange to use the Australian Mints at the present time, and that it should wait until it can erect buildings in the Federal Territory for the minting of both gold and silver. With regard to the design of the proposed coins, while, no doubt, it is right to have the effigy of the King on the one side, to have a sketch of the map of Australia, including Tasmania, on the other, would “be unworthy. Such a design would make the coins resemble the tradesmen’s tokens which were circulated when we were boys. Instead of the proposed map, I would have the Commonwealth coat of arms, a pretty device, full of meaning, with which our young people should become acquainted.’ At the present time many of them have no knowledge of the significance of the sevenpointed star. I do not think that the gain of £60,000 per annum, which has been spoken of, will continue for more than ten or fifteen years. If you travel in foreign parts, you find that silver coinage is not used out of the country in which it is minted. The people of the United States are chary about taking Canadian coins.
– Canadian coins are used in the United States.
– I did not find that they were readily taken. When you are leaving any country, the people there are very ready to change a sovereign for their silver. But if you have more coin than you need, when you get away you can only exchange it at 10 per cent, discount. In my opinion, the Government should establish a dep6t at each of the Customs Houses, where travellers could exchange our silver for gold. The firm of Cook and Sons’ makes a large profit by exchanging money in different parts of the world. I should like the Treasurer to explain why it is not proposed to mint half-crowns under the new system. Two or three reasons have been suggested, but the Treasurer himself has not given any.
– I think it is right that half-crowns should no longer be minted.
– The Treasurer will probably explain why that course is to be adopted, and I trust that he will agree to substitute for the map of Australia as a design for the new coinage the Australian coat of arms.
.- I am pleased that this message has been brought down, and am delighted that Australia is at last to have the privilege of coining metals from which a huge profit may be derived. The coinage of gold in Australia from the earliest days has, if anything, resulted in a slight loss, but the coinage of silver and copper must lead to our making an immense profit. I should have been glad had the Treasurer seen his way to invite Australian artists to furnish designs for the new coinage. Had that course been adopted I have no doubt that our coinage, like that of France, would have been most artistic. In that regard the coinage of England is not to be compared with that of France, and I could point to some designs used in connexion with British coinage that have not proved advantageous. I see no objection to the- map of Australia appearing on the Commonwealth coinage, but I should have been better pleased had a representation of the Southern Cross been selected. The SouthernCross comprises as many stars as there are States in the Commonwealth, and the two pointers would do to represent Tasmania and New Zealand when, as every Australian hopes it will, the Dominion becomes part of the Commonwealth. Had the Government been as thoroughly imbued with the Australian sentiment as I am, they would certainly have invited Australian artists to supply designs, leaving the House to select what in their opinion “was the best. Some little trouble may be experienced for a time as the result of the non-coinage of half-crowns, but I think the change will prove advantageous. It was my privilege to be in Norway and Sweden when decimal coinage was introduced there, and1 the krona became exchangeable for ore. As we are to have the sixpence, the shillings the florin, and the sovereign, we need only to add the minting of farthings in order to establish a decimal system of coinage. If that were done one-third at least of our present system of arithmetic would no longer be necessary, and our children would no longer be tormented with lessons on compound division, subtraction, multiplication, practice, and so forth. We are now taking one step forward, and I think that the profit derived from the coining of silver and copper will be far greater than is estimated. When I asked a previous Treasurer what would be the profit derived from the minting of , £1,000,000 worth of silver won from Australian mines by Australian miners, the very foolish answer was made that it would be £400,000. No schoolboy would have given such a reply- Knowing that it was absurd, I repeated the question at a later stage, asking what would be the profit on the minting of £1,000,000 worth of silver, taking the price of silver as then quoted in the daily newspapers. I was then informed that the profit on £1,000,000 worth would be , £1,900,000. The average price of silver in the market to-day is, perhaps, 2s. and1-16d., or1s.11d. and 1-16d. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the price is 2s. per oz., we find that since 5s. 6d. worth of currency can. be made from 1 oz. of silver, we should make a profit of 3s. 6d. per oz. That profit is equal to 175 per cent. The charge for minting in England, namely, 3 per cent., is much higher than the rate charged in France, but allowing for that charge, we should derive a profit of £166 on every , £100 expended. I understand that the Treasurer intends to have the new silver coinage minted in England.
– Yes, it is now being minted there.
– Why should the large branch of the Royal Mint in Melbourne be allowed to remain practically idle. The officers of the Department serve the Imperial Government, and . I do not think that we control one of them. If, however, we took over the branch’ they, would be under our control. I think that Australians are quite able to mint silver. If they can mint a metal which, according to the absurd system in vogue, is said to be twenty times as valuable as silver, although in reality it is forty times as valuable, they ought surely to be able to mint silver and copper. We may take it that, roughly speaking, the value of silver is 2S. per oz., and that of standard gold! £4 per oz., so that the one is forty times the value of the other. I should be glad if I could induce the Government to adopt’ my proposal, that the profits derived from the coinage of silver should be ear -marked, for in that way we should be able to accumulate a sum sufficient to provide for the establishment of the Federal Capital. We should also be able to add to those profits by the adoption of a Commonwealth note issue. The Treasurer and the honorable member for Darwin, than whom I know of no greater authority on the higher finance, will admit that the very best legal tender one could have is an authenticated slip of paper signed on behalf of the Government and made currency. All the gold in currency throughout the world would not cover one month’s transactions on the New York Stock Exchange.
– Nor one month’s transactions on the London Stock Exchange.
– I think that it would cover two months’ operations on the London Stock Exchange, for the volume of business done there is nothing like so large as is that transacted on the New . York Stock Exchange.
– The daily clearances in the London clearing-houses are effected without a penny piece changing hands.
– Exactly. Even in Victoria, the banks use, . not gold, but vouchers of from . £500 to . £1,000, in making clearances. I am sure that England will be glad to welcome this step on the part of one of her children, by making our silver coinage interchangeable with her own. During the six and a half years that I spent in London every coin minted in Europe was in currency there until action was taken by a Chancellor of the Exchequer to put a stop to the practice. It is also common to find in currency in France the lira cf Italy, the peseta of Spain, and the franc- of Switzerland. Whilst I. was in Canada and the United States I found that the dollars df both countries were readily interchangeable, and I never saw a gold coin there, save those worn on ladies’ bracelets or on a gentleman’s watch chain. The people there find it unnecessary to use gold coins, because State notes are available. What is the need for gold coins when a country has a State note which is far safer than the note issued by a private banking company ? Perhaps the Treasurer in his “desire to obtain more revenue will grab the profit derived from this coinage system, and add it to the general revenue account, but I repeat that it ought to be ear -marked, to provide for the cost of the Federal Capital. By adopting this suggestion he would write his name in larger letters in the history of Australia than he is likely to do by reason of any action that he has yet taken.
– He would do so by establishing a. national banking system.
– If he does not do that, somebody else will. The right honorable gentleman is a keen man, and was for a long time boss of Western Australia. Indeed, he had so much of his own way there that I am afraid he is inclined to think he ought to be the boss everywhere.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– I do not think that the Treasurer can object to my statement. If he will propose a State note currency he will write his name in large letters in the annals of Australia. I should be pleased to assist him in bringing about such a system. I hope that he will not say that the design that has been selected for our new coinage is to obtain for all time. My wish is that Australian artists shall have an opportunity to display their art and genius in devising a design for the Australian coinage ; and since the Government are composed largely of Australian natives, they ought to be imbued with the same desire.
Our artists are a reflex of the land, and could put into a design for our coinage the true Australian sentiment much better than any one who was born in fogland could be expected to do.
.- I ask the Treasurer whether it is really the case that the Commonwealth will not be able to get the pecuniary advantage derivable from minting^ its own silver, unless the coins be of different design from that of the Imperial Mint?
– We should not be able to distinguish the coins, otherwise.
– Of course; but the work is still to be done by the Imperial Mint.
– But the Mint will not mint money the same as its own, for the reason I have stated.
– I do not see that it very much matters whether we have a design of our own, or the same design as that on the Imperial coinage.
– Does the honorable member desire to wipe out the Australian design?
– The honorable member always seems to have a sort of idea about people wanting to “ wipe out “ something or other.
– The honorable member is always trying to ‘ 1 wipe out ‘ ‘ Australia if he can.
– The honorable member is very much given to that sort of interjection in, I think, a spirit of humour; but it shows that he knows as little of humour as he does about a number of other subjects. I do not see any necessary advantage to Australia in having, a different design.
– Other parts of the Empire have different designs on their coins.
– What I am concerned about, looking at the matter purely as an Australian, is that we should, in unessential things, differ as little as possible from other parts of the Empire.
– British coinage in China has a different design, and also in India.
– If the honorable member wishes to follow the precedent of China or India, I have nothing to say; and, at any rate, two wrongs do not make a right. We are proposing to have some coins of new values; and I suggest that those particular coins should bear an Australian design, and I know none better than that suggested by the Treasurer. But, in regard to the florin, the shilling, and so forth, I cannot see any advantage in breaking away from the British design, while there is a certain expense in altering the design. The complete alteration of the silver coinage would lead to the necessity .of travellers changing their coins when they arrived at the Australian wharfs ; and that is a slight disadvantage, inasmuch as it makes travelling rather more difficult. There is no doubt that the English coinage will be used on all the ships.
– But the English coinage will be currency here?
– If so, then I have no more to say; but I understand that, under the Bill, the English coinage will be withdrawn.
– That is not proposed now ; and its withdrawal will be very gradual.
– But, eventually, it is proposed Chat the English coin shall cease to be currency here.
– Eventually, yes.
– In that, I see a difficulty ; though only a very small one, of course, in the way of a free interchange with the English people coming here. When one begins to get away from the coinage basis of a country with which we are dealing communication is made slightly more difficult. Of course, the sovereign, which is the basis of our currency, is still of the same value; but there would certainly be considerable difficulty if we got away from the sovereign basis.
– That is not proposed.
– Not at present; but it is proposed to depart in slight particulars as regards the component parts of the sovereign.
– The currency will still be pounds, shillings, and pence.
– I cannot see any advantage in altering the design of the coinage.
– There is very little advantage. As I said before, any coins of new value might well bear the map of Australia, because we alone propose to make those values ; but to alter the present coins in the same way, would create a difficulty in circulation the moment we left Australia. If, for instance, we wished to go to New Zealand, we should have to consult a money-changer on board the ship-, and again on the wharf when we returned. I think that the existing design would be much better.
– We wish to have the profits.
– But the Treasurer told us he could see no insuperable difficulty, even if we minted our money of the same design as in Great Britain and now here.
– There would be a good deal of difficulty in that.
– In our arrangement with . the Imperial Mint, which is to mint the money-
– The Imperial Mint need not always mint it.
– The moment we do mint our own silver coinage, as I hope we shall, we shall make our own profits.
– Why not have the English design with an “A” on the coins?
– That could be done ; we all know the sovereigns and half-sovereigns which are alloyed with silver, and bear the word “Sydney” or “Melbourne,” as the case may be.
– The same’ with the Western” Australian sovereign.
– That mint mark does not make those sovereigns and half-sovereigns illegal tender in England. What I suggest is that in regard to the coins of the values which are retained, there should be the old design, while a map of Australia might well appear on the coins of new denomination.
– I understood the Treasurer to say, when the honorable member for Melbourne was speaking, that the Imperial Mint was already minting the silver.
– Just about, I should think.
– That is an alarming statement.
– In what way ? I do not think that the minting has begun yet.
– I understood the Treasurer to make a statement to that effect.
– I was wrong there; the minting has not begun yet.
– Does the Treasurer say, that, without the authority of this House, he has authorized the Imperial Mint to proceed with the minting of a coinage for Australia? If so, the honorable gentleman should consider his position, because no Ministry could trespass further on constitutional government.
– Cannot we hurry the matter forward?
– I agree that this is the one thing that the Government have been hurrying. I agree with their coinage policy ; I take a great deal of interest in the matter, and have tried my best to educate the public regarding it ; but I cannot admit for a moment that even a Coalition Government - even a Government with the whole Parliament behind it - has any authority to alter the coinage without the specfiic authority of an Act of Parliament.
– I do not think it has been done yet.
– I am glad to hear that ; but I certainly understood the Treasurer to say that it was being done.
– The Mint authorities are getting . ready. Surely the honorable member would not have us leave the preparation of the dies and everything undone for six months?
– I entirely disagree with the Treasurer in the view that the Executive Government have any right at all to order dies or anything of the kind except for . experimental purposes.
– The House has approved of this policy over and over again, and urged it on the Government.
– But what the treasurer conveyed to us was that the Government had taken steps, regardless of whether the House agreed or not.
– Not at all.
– I do not approve of the design suggested, but that, of course, is a matter for honorable members to decide. I do not regard the map of Australia as an ideal design for the obverse side of the coinage, but I do agree with the proposal to withdraw the half-crown.
– The half-crown could be included again at any time we desired.
– I think the half-crown ought not to be included, because we ought to get as near as possible to the decimal coinage, with which the half-crown is absolutely inconsistent. I hope that the Treasurer, in his statement, will show -that he is safeguarding the interests of the country, and that he has not ordered dies or in any way given authority to the Imperial Mint to proceed. I do not take serious exception to the Treasurer’s haste to get the profits for Australia, because he doubtless needs the money. It is a matter of little moment whether the profits be rnarked in this or that way ; it is the duty of the Government to provide the necessary revenue to carry on the services of the Commonwealth. I do not agree with the honorable member for Wentworth in his desire to retain the British silver coinage here. A. change may cause a slight inconvenience, but the advantage is greater than the inconvenience, when the Australian people have a silver coinage of their own.
– What is the advantage? It is still their coinage, even if it has the same design as the British coinage.
– True, but it is not a distinctive design.
– What is the advantage of a distinctive design?
– By means of a distinct tive design, we make the coins Australian, and it has an educative influence.
– But the coinage will circulate only in Australia.
– The honorable member said that these coins would go outside Australia and be depreciated.
– I said that they could not circulate outside Australia, but would have to be exchanged.
– I understood the Treasurer to say that the British coin’s would still circulate here, and, . if that be so, he need not look forward to a profit of £60,000 a year.
– There will be no fresh British coins issued here.
– But people from the Old Country will bring the Imperial coinage with them, and if they are not compelled to withdraw it, the people will not take the new coinage.
– How much would people bring? At present we get , £100,000 worth a year from the British Government, and that will be withdrawn.
– But we cannot put £100,000 worth of silver into circulation by simply coining it. The Treasurer must supplant the present coinage with the new coinage, and if the Imperial Government do not withdraw the present coinage-
– They will withdraw £100,000 worth each year.
– The Treasurer, therefore, will be able to substitute the new coinage to the extent of the withdrawal.
– Exactly; that is what we propose to do.
– The honorable member for Wentworth wished to ascertain from the Treasurer whether the two coinages would not he concurrent in Australia.
– That which remains will be concurrent with ours.
– I do not think that was what the honorable member for Wentworth meant. His idea was that the Imperial coinage might be allowed to continue in circulation here after we had supplied our wants with our own coinage. That should not be allowed. If the Treasurer does allow it he will be giving away the whole position. Does the Treasurer think that the British shilling will be a current coin here ?
– I do not think so. If it is, it will partly defeat the object the Treasurer has in view. I would point out that if our silver currency is depreciated when it leaves these shores, the British silver currency will be equally depreciated when it reaches these shores.
– It will not come here in large quantities. People would have no object in bringing it here.
– I do not say that people would have any great interest in bringing it here, but it would be of great interest to the British Mint if they could land £100,000 worth here, for they would take back 60,000 sovereigns more for it than it cost. That would mean a loss to us. The design chosen is most unfortunate.
– It has been well received by the press and public.
– I believe a certain section of the press would indorse anything the Government did, lest criticism might weaken them. There are dozens of designs that would he more appropriate than the one chosen. The honorable member for Robertson suggested an infinitely better design in the Australian coat-of-arms. Anything distinctive of Australia would be better.
– I suppose the coatofarms would be more aristocratic.
– If aristocracy means age and descent, I suppose the outline of a country is much older and more settled than even a coat-of-arms. There are plenty of features about the flora and fauna of this country which would make the coinage distinct at once. The word “ Commonwealth “ is infinitely’ preferable to the word “Australia,” because it is the Commonwealth authority that enables us to have our own coinage.
– It would be difficult to get it on to a threepenny bit.
– I have seen the Lord’s prayer legibly engraved by a mere amateur on a threepenny bit, so that the Treasurer’s suggestion that the word “ Commonwealth” could not be printed on that small coin is not accurate. Apparently he has decided upon a design, and if he has a majority, of course he will be able to get it accepted. He will have to make the Australian silver coinage a monopoly, or other people will share the benefit. I believe he will be able to get £2,000,000 of silver coinage into cir=culation, and that in the early years he will be able to place £200,000 worth of the new coins per year. A number of people will be glad to get them, and £20,000 or £30,000 worth will be taken possession of by people who will not put it into circulation, at all. It would, therefore, not be out of place if the Treasurer, evert in. the first year, issued £200,000, because’ quite a number of people will take up and use the new design in any case. I am glad . I had the opportunity of asking the Treasurer the question that I put to him at the beginning of my speech. I should have been sorry if he had gone so far as to ask the British Mint to coin silver without the authority of this Parliament. I am glad to hear him say that he-has not gone so far as that ; but he admits having gone so far as to invite them to prepare the necessary dies. In doing so he lias gone as far iri an unconstitutional direction as any member of a Government could go.
– Because I thought everybody was in a hurry for it.
– The Treasurer makes his case worse, if he tries to justify an absolutely illegal act by saying we are in a hurry for the money. Any person who violates the laws of his country could advance that excuse, but it would not save him.
– That is rather a’ forced argument, is it not?
– The right honorable member might not have meant as much as he said.
– I shall tell the honorable member the whole truth about everything.
– If the right honorable member tells me all the facts I shall be satisfied ; but I should have been failing in my duty if I had allowed a statement of that kind to pass unchallenged. Sir John Forrest.- The honorable member will make an old man of himself if he talks about his duty in that way. It is bearing him down.
– Whether the Treasurertakes necessary criticism kindly or not has nothing to do with me. The Chairman is quite capable of seeing that the business is carried on properly. The Treasurer admitted that the work was proceeding now. In that way he has violated the constitutional principle that neither the currency nor the coinage of a country should be interfered with except by the express authority of Parliament.- ‘
– I am sure there is nothing in the charge made -by the Leader of the Opposition against the Treasurer: The right honorable gentleman is too old an administrator, and. has occupied high office for too many years, not to know that action such as is suggested by the Leader of the Opposition could not have been taken by him without the authority of Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition knows that occasionally, in the quickness of debate, honorable members use phrases which are clumsy, and capable of several interpretations. In view of the serious nature of the charge levelled against him by no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition, it would be well for the Treasurer to give the suggestion that has been made a flat contradition.
– The facts of the matter are exactly these : the Government have entered into negotiations with the Imperial Government’ to expedite the silver currency to the utmost. It has been suggested to them that they should undertake the coinage, which they have agreed to do. A design has been proposed, which they think suitable. They have been told that it is urgent that we should get the coinage here as soon as possible, and I have had a copy of the obverse and reverse sides of the coins sent out, and they have been published in the newspapers*
– Are they going on with the dies?
– The dies are being made. The honorable member must not point his finger at me.
– I just wished to ask–
– I will not answer the honorable member’s interjections. He has no right to ask’ me questions when I am speaking.
– The honorable member is the most flagrant interjector in the House.
– I do not know the exact position that the matter has reached now, but I did not expect that there would be any opposition here to our expediting the matter to the utmost. That I have certainly desired to do. Of course, the issue of coins as currency is a different matter altogether. No one would be justified in issuing new coins without the authority of law. No such idea ever entered into our minds, but, if the House so desires, it will be very easy to telegraph to-morrow morning to the Mint authorities in London not to go any further than they have gone in regard to the preliminaries, until we obtain the authority of an Act of Parliament. Personally, I think we ought to hurry along as fast as we can with the preliminaries. This is very good business. I omitted to say previously that, in addition to a certain £60,000 a year, there will be a considerable amount more coming to us at the beginning in regard to. supplying the additional silver which has been annually required in Australia. Of course, no more silver .will be provided by the Imperial Government. As soon as we can issue our own silver, no other will be taken by the banks from the Mint. In fact, I am already taking steps to ask the Imperial authorities and the Mint here not to supply any more new silver to the banks, or at any rate no more than is absolutely necessary, so that we shall have the full advantage of our own issue. I think the total profit which we will make this year will be £100,000, made up of £60,000 on account of the £100,000 worth of old coin which the Imperial Government will purchase, and £40,000 for the new silver that will be required for ordinary circulation by the banks.
– The Government will make no profit on what the Imperial Government recall, because they will have to pay face value for it before they can return it.
– No; the Imperial Government will give us face value for the coined silver that we hand to them. We shall collect £100,000 worth of the silver now in circulation, take it to the Mints, and get its face value from the Imperial Government in gold if we like.
There will be a clear profit on that, and also on any new silver required. I am making inquiries with regard to the coining machinery, but I have not full information yet. We shall not coin this year at the Imperial Mint more than £200,000 worth of silver, and probably less in future years. It will not cost much to coin that amount, and I -very much question whether it would be economical, till the output is larger, to buy machinery and set up a plant of our own. I am informed by the Mint here that their machinery is not suitable.
– Would the machinery cost much?
– Perhaps £20,000.
– We could in about two months mint all the coin we need.
– Yes. The Perth Mint has turned out £5,000,000 worth of gold coin in a year, and is capable of making much more.
– What is the value of the necessary machinery?
– I do not know ; perhaps £15,000 or £20,000. Stronger machinery is needed for the coining of silver than is used for the coining of gold. It is not a small thing, even for the Commonwealth, to make a profit of £100,000, and therefore I have felt justified in expediting matters. Had any coins been made, I should have heard of it. But designs for coins are being made, and this takes time, though the dies themselves cost only, a few pounds each. It occurred to me long since that we might arrange with the Imperial Government to give us the profit on the silver sent to Australia without any alteration of design. But that was not considered advisable, one difficulty being that it would be impossible to keep account of all the coin issued here. A great many of the British Possessions have their own coinage. Hong Kong, the Straits Settlements, India, Ceylon, Canada, and many places in the West Indies, have each their own coinage, which is minted in England, the reason being, I suppose, that the quantities required are not large enough to make it profitable for any of those countries to mint for itself.
– Does any advantage accrue from having separate designs?
– If the coins minted for us by the British Government had the same design as the English coins. “ they could not be distinguished from English coins if they got back to England ; and there would be a loss on them, if the English Mint had to take them back at their face value. The sovereign has the same value everywhere.
– Will not our florin have the same value everywhere?
– No; out of Australia, it will have only the value of the silver in it.
– If an arrangement were made with the Imperial Government, whereby, we got the profit of minting the silver that came here, that would serve all purposes, because the small quantity of silver that would get back to England would not matter.
– No doubt commercial intercourse would be a little closer if there were no distinct design for the Australian coinage, but it must be remembered that there is no standard value for silver coinage, and it is the practice of British communities to have each a sepa-, rate coinage. This, of course, causes inconvenience to travellers. We cannot afford to enter into new negotiations, but the matter was not lost sight of. On my return to office, I found that the Imperial Go.vernment had offered to give 100,000 sovereigns for £100,000 worth of silver each year, and to allow the sum so withdrawn to be replaced by new coinage of specialdesign, on which we shall make a large profit. I have no desire to act illegally, and have only done what is necessary in the interests of expedition. Had I refused to take any preliminary step without the. authority of an Act of Parliament, a great deal of time would have been lost. I should like to add that, although I have stated the annual profit as £60,000, the Treasury officials anticipate that the profit for the first year will be £100,000.
.- The words used by the Treasurer had only one meaning - that the Imperial Mint was proceeding to act in this matter. In dealing with questions of coinage, we must be exceedingly careful. The Minister does not yet possess authority to give instructions for the minting of new coins. I do not complain about action necessary for expedition, because there has been too much delay already, and it was the intention of the last Government to deal with this matter. But this Government might have afforded the House an earlier opportunity to discuss the whole subject. I hope that we shall be permitted to discuss the question of design.
There may be members possessing as much wit as Ministers for the choice of a suitable design.
– I have had the proposed design published.
– I knew nothing of the design until I saw it reproduced in the press. The Treasurer had ample opportunity to obtain authority from Parliament before doing anything in this matter, and I am glad that he is now asking for that authority. In addition to the profit of £100,000 which it is anticipated will be made in the first year, and of . £60,000, which will be made annually for the succeeding fifteen or sixteen years, there will be the gain in interest which we shall make upon the circulation of £2,000,000 worth of silver, which will be a considerable sum and will more than compensate for any inconvenience which may be suffered by visitors, to the Commonwealth, or Australians going abroad. The adoption of a national design will have a great effect in teaching the young that this is a self-governing country associated with the other parts of the Empire.
.- I do not think that the Treasurer understood my statement. I thought that he said that he hopes to make a profit on the silver he buys back and obtains gold for. No doubt he will make a profit when he buys silver and coins it, but how does he expect to make a profit on the coined silver he buys here?
– We shall make a profit only when we issue new silver.
– I think that our silver will circulate in New Zealand and the South Seas as freely as United States coins circulate in Mexico and Canada, and as Canadian coins circulate in the United States. The honorable member for Robertson is under a wrong impression in thinking that exchange has to be paid in the United States on Canadian coins. The standard of value in Canada is the British sovereign, and, in the United States, the $10 gold eagle. I differ from my leader as to the action that the Treasurer should have taken. Were I Treasurer, I would not wait for the sanction of Parliament. We are within four and a half months of Christmas, and if we are to make any profit this year from the proposed arrangement, we must act at once. There is too much red tape about parliamentary procedure. We have been talking for the past nine years about the advisableness of having a silver currency. Mr. G. B. Edwards, when member for South Sydney, moved in the matter many years ago, but, so far, nothing has . been done. The strong man is the man who does what he knows to be right, and then asks the House to approve of his action. No great general has won his battles by waiting for the other generals. When General Grant ordered the march to Richmond, the other generals said, “You cannot do it.” Lincoln wired, asking what he was going to do, and he replied, “ We are going to fight it out on these lines, if it takes all the summer.” It is the men who have the courage of their opinions who advance the world. Parliament stands for too much talk, and too little business. If a Minister believes that the House will’ acquiesce in what he thinks right, let him bring down his proposal, and leave it to members to fight it out. If we can make £30,000 between this and next Christmas, let us do so.
– I ask the Treasurer whether anything more has been done than to prepare designs for dies. Will the honorable gentleman say whether a die has yet been so constructed ? As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the House might appropriately be consulted as to what the design should be. Personally, I think that that adopted by the Treasurer is a very good one. Although not a designer, I can appreciate artistic excellence in others, and so far as I can judge from the representations in the press, the design adopted is typically Australian. Nevertheless, I think that the Treasurer might well lay it on the table, and give the House an opportunity to approve it. I also wish to ask the Treasurer whether, in making arrangements for the execution of the design, he has incurred any expense. I do not agree with the honorable member for Darwin that the will of one man ought to be impressed on a nation. Practically there is a great deal to be said in regard to that question, but it is always better that Parliament should be consulted in these matters, more especially when it is in session at the time that action has to be taken. If the Treasurer has entered into contracts for the construction of dies, and has so incurred liability, for an expenditure of publicmoney, then I venture to say that, although his object may have been entirely laudable he has done wrong.
– We have a Treasurer’s Advance Account to provide for unforseen expenditure.
– But not for such a purpose as this.
– I do not think that the Treasurer’s Advance Account is designed to provide for expenditure on entirely new purposes, as to which the House has not been consulted.
– That is the very purpose for which it is intended.
– If we had in power a Socialist Government which proposed to provide out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account for an expenditure of” £60,000 or £100,000 on the purchase and working of a coal mine, or the erection of Government workshops, I am sure that the House would in the strongest possible way, condemn it.
– But that would be an entirely new policy.
– Expenditure from the Treasurer’s Advance Account should be confined to unforseen contingencies under headings of expenditure already authorized. Generally speaking, that ought to be the rule. I have never said that there may not be occasions when a Minister should take the responsibility for action, but the Treasurer cannot have this both ways.
– What does the honorable member say I ought to have done ?
– There was no reason, since Parliament was in session, why the honorable gentleman should not have submitted .these designs to it, and asked for its approval. I am sure that such a request would have been agreed to almost without discussion. Indeed, I have never known a proposal marking so distinct a departure as that now before us does, to evoke so little opposition, and to meet with such general approval. I am glad that the Government, notwithstanding the hostile criticism that has been showered upon the Fisher Ministry, are simply following blindly in the footsteps of that Administration in everything they do which is worthy of commendation. It was the present Leader of the Opposition who, when Treasurer, took a definite step in regard to this matter. I know that the present Treasurer, when in office .some years ago, proposed to go so far as to revolutionize our system of banking to an extent that he did not think expedient to submit to his colleagues. We can understand, therefore, that, under the mask of Conservatism which he assumes, he is at heart a daring revolutionary. I am glad to congratulate him in regard to the action he has taken in this connexion ; but I repeat that he should permit the House an opportunity to consider the design for the new coin. It is surely better that it should receive the approval of the Chamber.
– There is a clause dealing with the question.
– I trust that we shall be supplied with the details as to the terms under which the existing Mints are to coin our silver. I recognise that the question must be dealt with from a business standpoint, and that we ought not to invest money in the purchase of machinery to enable us to do this work for ourselves, if we can have it carried out more economically in some other way. I do not know what is the life of a silver coin, but we Have to take into consideration the profits that will be derived from the system, not during one year, but over a period of years synchronizing with the life of the machinery that we should have to employ. Silver is largely used in Australia ; our population is growing, and a great many coins must be returned to the Mint each year. The Treasurer should have regard to all these aspects of the question in determining the best means of carrying on the minting of the new coins.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– With the consent of the House, I am prepared now to move the second reading of the Bill. I ask, Mr. Speaker, that leave be granted.
– I have not seen the Bill, nor learnt anything as to its contents. I am quite willing that we should go on with” its consideration, but such a procedure as this is unheard of.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the second reading of the Bill be taken forthwith?
– I object.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That Hie second reading of the Bill be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
.- I have no objection to the second reading of the Bill being proceeded wilh at a later stage to-day, and I hope that the Government are not going to manufacture into another grievance my attitude in regard to the proposal made by the Treasurer. It is usual for the Leader of the Opposition to receive an advance copy of a Bill when it is proposed to proceed with its consideration in the way just suggested by the Treasurer, but that courtesy has not been extended to me. It is stated that the Bill is to deal with currency and legal tender, and naturally I desire a little time to examine it before we proceed with its consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 30th July (vide page 1891), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.-I should like to explain that I moved the adjournment of the debate on Friday last, “because no honorable member appeared to be ready then to proceed with it, and that it is because of that action that I precede the Leader of the Opposition to-day. The problem that confronts us in connexion with the transfer of the Northern Territory is probably one of the biggest with which we shall have to deal for some time. I am not opposed to the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, nor to : South Australia receiving that compensation which, in my opinion, she ought to receive in return for the moneys she has expended in attempting to settle that part of Australia. We undoubtedly owe a great deal to South Australia for having preserved the Territory to us. When the people of that State had an opportunity to settle the Territory in a way that, perhaps, would not have been palatable to the rest of Australia, they saddled themselves with an enormous burden ratherthan permit coolie immigration. For those reasons I am stronglv in agreement with the portion of the Bill to which I am now particularly directing attention! ; but there are other portions of which I do not approve. The Northern Territory presents a great problem, not only in the mere taking over, but in what we shall have to do for its future development. It is 523,620 square miles in area, and no man living knows its possibilities. We have been placed in possession of a certain amount of information by those who explored the land in the early days ; and a number of people have since, at different times, travelled! over the country from north to south and east to west. Withal, however, the knowledge is not such as to afford us any ample foresight of the future. The* further fact that the Territory has 1,300 miles of coast line only adds to the difficulties we may have to face. In it are several large and important rivers, most of which - indeed, I may say. all - empty themselves on the north coast ; and this indicates that probably there will be agricultural development in that part, of Australia. From the low-lying lands near the coast the country rises to a tableland in the north, 1,700 feet in height, while, in the southern portions, we have the Macdonnell Ranges rising to a height of from: 4,000 to 5,000 feet. I have no desire to go into detail in regard to the physical features of the country, because we have already had various documents presented to us, and have further had the advantage of the speech of the Minister of External Affairs. As far back as ‘1824, the Northern Territory had settlement of a kind, that being the first attempt made by the Imperial Government to guard that part of Australia. The settlement was at Port Essington, and subsequently at Raffles Bay. Since then our knowledge of the country has been added to by the explorer, Leichardt, who travelled from Brisbane to Port Essington; by Gregory, who, some years later, went to the source of the Victoria River, and from there to Brisbane; and by Stuart, who travelled from Adelaide to the Roper River, and on to the Adelaide River and the sea. Those explorers gave very valuable information concerning the country, though as to the character of the seasons when they travelled I personally can give no information, because I have not read the whole of their works, and have derived most of my facts from the documents made available to the House. It will be realized, however, that in judging of the Territory a great deal must depend upon the time of year at which it is visited; and here I may add that a large portion of Northern Queensland and Western Australia contains precisely similar country to that of the Northern Territory. In 1863, South Australia took over the Northern Territory; and, of course, this is the commencement of the important part of its history, so far as we are concerned. From that year South Australia heroically attempted to settle the Territory, spending in this way over , £3,300,000. However heroic tthe efforts, they have been a failure, as I think even South Australians themselves will admit. I am not going to attribute that failure- purely to South Australia. When the South Australians took over the Territory the population were a mere handful, and even to-day they are no more ; and the task they undertook may well be regarded as one beyond them.
– The South Australian people have always refused lo permit the immigration of coloured races.
– I have already mentioned that they declined to permit the country to be settled by coolies from India or China and other portions of Asia, and that, in this connexion, we owe a great deal to South Australia. I cannot speak of the Northern Territory from personal knowledge, beyond that gained when, with other honorable members, I visited Port Darwin. We there were the recipients of the hospitality of the South Australian Government, who gave us the opportunity of travelling as far as Pine Creek, and subsequently up the Adelaide River for a distance of ninety odd miles. I never, of course, saw the best of the country. The portion I travelled over was very poor and inferior from a cattle point of view, although there were one or two cattle stations there. In some cases stations have been abandoned, and the cattle taken elsewhere in the Territory, with satisfactory results. During the trip down to Pine Creek I did not form any great opinion of the country as grazing areas; but, from the mineral point of view, there may probably be something more to be said, in spite of the failures made by companies which have there spent large sums of money. As in the case of many English propositions from time to time, those concerned have done a lot of work on the surface, but never seem to attempt to explore or develop the ground itself ; and I think that that may have something to do with the failure of the industry. I am only speaking from information whicli I gathered during my trip ; and one gentleman whom we met explained that the mining propositions had failed owing to the poorness of the lode, and, in some cases, to cutting out. It is evident, however, from the information I there got that there has never been any proper development along that line.
– Careless management?
– That is so. For instance, in one case a large quantity of machinery was landed at Port Darwin, but never reached the mine, not because it was obsolete, or npt the sort required, but simply because it was thought that the mine was not worth carting the machinery to. At the same time, when inquiries are made, it is found that very little exploration had taken place in the mine. In the case of one proposition at Yam Creek, it was stated that the ore had resulted in as much as 2 and 3 ounces to the ton, which, of course, would pay anywhere in Australia. I admit that at Kalgoorlie there are very rich lodes; but when, at that place, a return of n dwts. to the ton, as in the case of the Ivanhoe. Company, gives a dividend of £23,000 amonth, I think that ore, which results i refrain 1 ounce to ounces, ought to bemade to pay in a place like Port Darwin-
– It all depends on the- body of the lode.
– Quite so; and I admit that the bodies of ore at Kalgoorlie are much larger than at the place I have mentioned. I know a number of propositions in North Queensland which are paying handsomely with less than an ounce to the ton, and there the lodes are not exceptionally large. In that part of Queensland there are no large companies, but a number of small companies are, perhaps, just as advantageous. Whether this particular place in the Northern Territory has been properly developed is not for us to say; but the fact remains that, at the present time, the mining industries generally are at a very low ebb, as they are in other parts of Australia. The “demand for wolfram has fallen off owing to the fact that not so much is now used; and the price, of course, has fallen. A gentleman I met, who was one of my committeemen when I first ran for Parliament in Queensland, informed me that he and his party had made ,£12,000 or £13,000 in wolfram mining, and another of my committeemen had also done well in the same line. We cannot, however, get over the fact that the production of minerals in the Northern Territory during the last year or so, has to a very large extent fallen in value. This is accounted for to a large extent bv the depreciation that has taken place in the price of metals all over the world. Copper, which twelve or eighteen months ago was worth about £110 a tor is now down to less than £60 ; tin was then at a considerably higher price than it is now; and wolfram, which was also at a high price, is to-day not workable in many of the mines in Queensland, as well as in the Territory. Consequently, we can attribute the falling off of revenue and mining work in the Territory very’ largely to the low price of minerals, and not to their absence. I think the surface of the country has merely been scratched, so far as its mineral capabilities are concerned, and not even the most far seeing geologist could give us the slightest conception of what mineral wealth the Territory may yet produce. I pointed out to the Minister of External Affairs, when he was speaking of mining, that mining never settled a country, and the Prime Minister interjected, that it assisted to a large extent. I must remind the Prime Minister that the mining centres of Australia are not all Ballarats.
– Charters Towers has brought a lot of people to Queensland.
– Charters Towers has undoubtedly been one of the best goldfields in Australia. It has maintained a large population for many years, but we cannot get away from the fact that when the mines there give out Charters Towers will be little more than a sheep walk. As it* is the principal centre of my electorate, I regret to have to say that, but still it is a fact. The Kalgoorlie gold-field, with all the enormous wealth that it has produced, will not have settled a solitary man on the land there when its mines give out. I admit that a number of men who go to a field are often in a position to make a little money. They may actually decide to settle upon the land, and go elsewhere to take it up, but that is not what we want in the Territory. We want people to settle there. So far as the mining industry is concerned, a few years after the mines give out, a number of places in the northern parts of Australia will be little more than cattle walks. I have, therefore, no great faith in any large settlement being brought about by mining. There have been some very rich finds of wolfram, copper, tin, and gold, in the Territory, but they have not brought about the settlement of a solitary individual on agricultural land there. What we want is some method by which -we can get people to settle and stay in the Territory.
Mi. Groom. - The honorable member means that, in addition to a good miningpolicy, there must be a good land settlement policy.
– Besides searching for minerals, we should particularly look for country where sheep farming, grazing, and agriculture can be carried on. We should look more to that to settle the Territory than to mining. It is in that direction that I fear we shall find that we have undertaken a great task. We have already undertaken it, however, in Northern Queensland. When this House decided not to have the Asiatic in Australia, and to show the world that we could develop our tropical areas by white labour, we undertook to face in Queensland the same difficulty as
Ave are now proposing to face in the Territory. We are gradually overcoming that difficulty in Queensland, but it must be remembered that Port Darwin and its environments, and the lands about the northern rivers, are much further north than are the parts which are settled in Northern Queensland. They are at least 400 miles nearer the equator. In those circumstances, it will be a little more difficult to solve the problem there, than it has been in Queensland. 1 hope, however, that the Commonwealth will be equal to the task, and. realize its ideals in that direction, and that the Territory will yet see large numbers of people settled on its agricultural as well as its pastoral lands. We must look first to the nature of the country that we have to settle, and the best methods by which to settle it. A geographical map published by Mr. Brown, the Government Geologist of South Australia, indicates the different classes of country by different colourings. The first large portion is that immediately surrounding Port Darwin, which Mr. Brown describes as -
Pastoral country, well watered, good soil along rivers and creeks; tropical vegetation and coarse grass, good feed after burning; subject to tropical rainfall (54 inches Port Darwin and ig Daly Waters for 1905), part metal bearing and probably coal bearing ; approximate area, 158,000 square miles.
That northern portion of the Territory, is, roughly speaking, over one-third of the whole area which is to be handed over to the Commonwealth, and it is very difficult for us to say what its capabilities are. We are told that it is good grass country immediately after burning, but my experience is that stock never do as well as they ought to on country that has to be burnt off. It is generally necessary to fatten them on a better class of country before they are fit for market, because where there are heavy tropical rains the growth is too fast for any number of stock to keep it down to a height at which it would be really edible. It is only a matter of a few weeks or a month before it gets beyond- the power of the stock to eat it at all. In those circumstances, in order to settle the greater portion” of that country, we should be compelled to get rid of the coarser native grasses, and introduce some kind of grass more fit for stock, and that would eventually kill out the coarser grass. I have no doubt that grasses of that description can be found. There is no question about the quality of the country where that coarse grass grows. Some of it is very rich soil indeed, and with proper irrigation could certainly be used for agricultural purposes. We must remember, however, when undertaking as a Commonwealth to settle people upon that class of land, that there are millions of acres of similar country in Queensland, and it is reasonable to suppose that it will be hard to get people to go to the Northern Territory to settle when they can get similar land nearer to large centres of population and markets in Queensland. That will always be the difficulty.
– In the Territory, they would be nearer the markets of the East for export purposes.
– It will be a considerable time before settlers in the Territory are in a position to export, and what are they to do while the country is in the initial stages of development? It is much easier to carry on development when there are local markets for your products.
– There is an almost inexhaustible market in the East.
– The Eastern markets have been open for years to Queensland and the rest of Australia, but very little has been done to cater for them. The quantity of stuff which Australia produces for those markets is a very small item in our export trade. I can see, therefore, that there will be difficulty in settling the. class of land comprised in the northern portion of the Territory as marked on Mr. Brown’s map. In the north-west of the Territory there is another class of land described as follows : -
Good pastoral country, open, well grassed ; basalt, sandstone, and lime hills, wide plains, and river flats; well watered; subject to intermittent tropical rains; approximated area, 34,300 square miles.
That is first-class cattle country. It includes the Victorian Downs, Wave Hill, and other fine cattle stations. The Minister of External Affairs told us the other night that there are about 200,000 head of cattle there. The honorable members for Nepean and Lang, and myself, met the manager of one of the stations in that district, and as he happened to know the Flinders country in Northern Queensland, I asked him whether that at the head of the Victorian River is equal to it. His reply was that there is no country in the Territory equal to the Flinders territory, though there is very rich cattle country there, on which grows a grass known as the “ turnover,” which he described as one of the finest for fattening cattle that he had ever seen, and he believed that it might prove suitable for sheep. That grass is peculiar to the district, and, though similar to the Flinders grass, is slightly coarser, and more bunchy.
– The second growth is said to be finer.
– It is not a grass that dies down every year. It is always growing, and is full of nutriment. The country he described is not yet fully stocked. The rainfall is not so heavy as in the coastal district, which is an advantage. We have discovered in Queensland that, in those places in the tropics where the rainfall exceeds eighteen or twenty inches a year, the grass becomes rank, and stock does not do so well as on drier country. The gentleman to whom I have just referred had had twenty-five years’ experience in the Territory. He had been buffalo shooting all over it, and had finally become a station manager, and spoke in the highest terms of it. Outside the area in which the rainfall is heavy, there is country where millions of cattle could be raised for the southern and foreign markets. That country has not been properly used in the past, because the Western Australian meat ring has boycotted cattle sent from there which it could not get at its own prices, and station-owners have therefore had to send their cattle through Queensland, and down the eastern coast, at enormous expense. This, of course, has prevented persons from taking up stations in the Territory. But from personal information gathered there, I have no doubt that there is room for a great development of the cattle.trade, and that, in the future, instead of a few cattle stations, containing hundreds of square miles, we shall see a large number of small stations, carrying . much more stock than can be carried under present conditions. I come now to the area tinted green on the map, and described as containing patches of country suited for pastoral purposes, chiefly along the creeks and rivers, and patches of spinifex, with uncertain rainfall - an area of 148,000 square miles. It is difficult to say what that country, which is about one-third of the area of the Territory, will ultimately be used for. It will carry cattle, though it cannot be compared with that which I have just described. It will probably be valuable for horse-breeding, however, because it is a good thing for young horses to roam about a great deal, and they do better and become hardier where ihey cannot get their food too easily. Undoubtedly there is much land in this district which is good for cattle. Next comes the area tinted pale yellow. Much of that land is at present useless. It is described as spinifex, scrub, and sandhill country, with patches of inferior pastoral country, badly watered, with an uncertain rainfall. Part is metal bearing, and it contains approximately 162,000 square miles. In each of the large States there are large tracts of useless country, but it cannot be said that science will not be able to find a use for such land in the near future. Now I come to what I regard as the most important and best area in the Territory. It is that on which we may expect the largest development in the immediate future. It is described as first-class pastoral country, open and well grassed, with rich soil, where agriculture may be possible. It is subject to intermittent tropical rains, and contains approximately 28,000 square miles. I have been told that that country will carry 5,000,000 sheep, and some say that it will carry 10,000,000 to 15,000,000 sheep, but I prefer not to overstate the case. It is what is known as the Barclay tableland, and runs down into Queensland. Subartesian water can be obtained at various depths, from 200, to 300, and 400 feet, and in places where they have tested the supply, by putting down 8-inch casing and using machinery, they have found it impossible to reduce it. Water can be obtained at a reasonable cost.
– Does the honorable member think that the’ land which he is now describing is better than that at the head of the Victorian River?
– It is the one plum in the’ pudding.
– It is a mighty big plum. The area of the district I am describing is 29,000 square miles, so that it is almost one-third of the size of Victoria. Most of the settlement in the near future will take place there, and a big pastoral industry will spring up. Irrespective of what may be our opinions as to the suitability of this country for agriculture, we must recognise that for a very considerable time its development will run along the lines of stock-breeding. Horses, cattle, and sheep will be largely produced there. We are told that it can be subdivided into comparatively small holdings on which pastoralists may do well, and in the light of my experience of the adjoining country I think that it can.
– What would the honorable member describe as a small holding there ?
– Ten thousand or twelve thousand acres.
– Does the honorable member think that people would go there to secure such acreages?
– I do. When I was first returned to the State Parliament as the representative of Flinders, and advocated that that part of Queensland should be subdivided into 10,000 acre blocks, I was told that it was madness to dream of such a thing, and that holdings of less than 50,000 acres there would be of no value. But before I left the State for the Federal Parliament I saw most of that country cut up into 10,000 acre blocks, with the result that districts in which a distance of from 50 to 60 miles separated one homestead from another are occupied by these small settlers, and the whole country is fenced in.
– The honorable member will live to see the Northern Territory settled in the same way.
– I hope so. I believe that it will be settled, and that a large number of people will be profitably employed there in sheep-farming, which must be beneficial to the whole Commonwealth. In this one part of the Territory alone to which I have made special reference, we shall open up an entirely new province, which will prove to be one of the richest in the tropical parts of Australia. It can and will be utilized to advantage for sheepfarming purposes, and every one knows that that industry gives employment to a larger number of men than does cattleraising. The needs of a sheep station are much greater than are those of a cattle run, and I have every hope that with the settlement of. the country in this way, and the traffic which will consequently arise, giving employment to a large number of people, the population of that part of Australia will be very materially augmented.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 f-nt-
– Squatters, drovers, and others who are familiar with the Northern Territory are unanimously of opinion that the Barclay tableland comprises its best country, and it is therefore reasonable to assume that it is to that district that we must look for closer settlement in the near future. It is a mistake to imagine that we shall be able to facilitate settlement in the Northern Territory by immediately constructing railway lines to any particular districts. We have there, not only a number of good harbors, but many fine rivers which are navigable for many miles. That, being so, I think that, just as was the case in the eastern parts of Australia, settlement will take place first of all along the coast, and also on the rivers where irrigation, if necessary to farming enterprises, may be carried on with ease. At present, by means of the steamer Maranoa, a three-weekly service is conducted between Brisbane and the Gulf country. That service extends as far as Burketown, and it would be possible “if provision were made for settlement along the rivers to continue it by means of smaller vessels along the coast, and for a certain distance up a number of these perennial streams. Such vessels could carrysupplies to the settlers, and take their produce to market. I should be the last to attempt to propose any definite scheme for the settlement of the Territory, for I recognise that we must be guided by the experiments that will have to be conducted from time to time to determine the best system to adopt. I am sure that the experiments conducted by the Commonwealth Government will be undertaken with an earnest desire to settle the country. I have endeavoured to deal fairly with this question, and to view it from every aspect. I have here many extracts from papers which the Government of South Australia have been good enough to supply to me, as well as from other memoranda which I had intended to read, but since I have already occupied the attention of the House longer than I had intended to do, I shall not weary honorable members by quoting them.
There is much valuable information in the memorandum circulated by the Government, and in other papers that have been submitted to us from time to time. I wish now to deal briefly with the financial aspect of this proposal. In connexion with the public debt of the Territory, the Government will have to assume a liability for £2,725,761, whilst in respect of the deficit or advance account, there is a further liability of £602,222, making a total of £3,327,983. Under the proposed agreement, that liability will have to be immediately undertaken by the Commonwealth. We shall also incur a further liability in respect of the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta.
– Is not that included in the total of £3,327,983?
– No. The liability in respect of that line of railway alone amounts to .£2,242,342.
– That is so. In the event of our accepting the proposed agreement, we shall therefore be faced with a liability of over £5,000,000. We ought not to forget that the railway line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta was constructed many years ago, that only 41-lb. iron rails were used, and that considerable depreciation must have taken place. We must also take into consideration the fact that there is not daily communication, and that the line is not a paying one, but shows a considerable loss every year. Of course, I know that the line pays working expenses, and that, on this account, there was a small surplus last year; but, in all the circumstances, it is reasonable to suppose that the same attention has not been given to the matter of the upkeep as would otherwise have been given.
– The line is in good repair.
– I am assuming that it is ; but there is a considerable an”nual loss on this portion of the line. As I said earlier in my remarks, I am not opposed to the taking over of the Northern Territory.
– The liability would be less than 4d. an acre.
– That I do not doubt; but the honorable member must realize that the Territory is not giving anything like that return from a revenue point of view, so that his argument has no weight. What this agreement means is that we are to relieve South Australia not only of the burden of developing this Territory, but also of the debt already incurred, thus throwing the cost on the whole of the people of Australia. What I object to is the attempt in the agreement to bind this Parliament to the construction of a line which will probably cost £5,000,000.
– The time is not fixed for the construction of the line, which may be made piece by piece.
– That is true, but let us be honest with South Australia.
– Hear, hear.
– Let us tell South Australia distinctly that, while we are prepared to accept the responsibilities I have mentioned, we are not prepared to accept the responsibility of building this line. I admit that, under the agreement, the line may go over the Queensland border at Herbert Springs.
– Do you think’ that is likely ?
– No; everybody knows that that is almost an impossibility unless at an’ enormous expenditure. It is sandy country, which, in itself presents great difficulties in railway construction, and if we went south-east, where the flood waters run down into Lake Eyre and another lake, the name of which I have forgotten, the cost of constructing the line into Birdsville would be too enormous to contemplate.
– Could not the water be avoided ?
– To do so, the line would have to run pretty well to the New South Wales border, and take almost a southerly course. It would not be possible to use it at flood time.
– The railway has been surveyed.
– That is the reason it has not been constructed. I am informed by engineers and others, who have been over the ground repeatedly, that it would be almost an impossibility to construct the line. What I wish to point out is that there is no use trying to deceive South Australia as to what we mean. Then it is argued that there is no specified time for the construction of the railway and that we could go on developing the Territory without making this railway for many years to come. But that is not what the South Australian people expect under this agreement. On the contrary, if it is ratified, they expect that we shall, at the earliest possible moment, go on with the construction of the line; and I am opposed to the agreement on account of this clause. Of course, I may be wrong, not having been over the country ; but, when we are arranging to take over the Territory, I object to this Parliament being bound to do this work. Does it not seem ridiculous to enter into an agreement with such a stipulation, involving an expenditure of . £4,000,000 or , £5,000,000, when, ten or even five years hence, we may be told that the route of the railway line is an impossible one. I am not saying that the proposed route is impossible, because we do not know the facts ; but it is absurd to ask us to enter on a work of this kind of which we know nothing. If the Government were proposing to construct this railway they would submit plans and specifications before asking the House to vote, whereas, in this case all we have is a bare statement, while the geological map shows that in the country through which it is suggested that the line should pass, we may not expect closer settlement.
– Would the honorable member cut off South Australia’s connexion altogether ?
– No ; South Australia has exactly the same right as Victoria, New South Wales, or any of the other States to railway connexion with the Territory.
– How can South Australia have such- connexion if not by the Macdonnell Ranges?
– South Australia cannot have railway connexion under this agreement, except by one or other of the two routes mentioned. . There is no proposed line from Pine Creek, of which I have any information, that would justify us in voting an expenditure of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000.
– There is no difficulty at all on the Oodnadatta route.
– I am not talking’ of the difficulty. All I know is that while railways have been built in South Australia at a cost of £5,000 or £6,000 a mile, railways are being built in Queensland at £2,000 a mile and less.
– There have been no lines built at . £5,000 and , £6,000 a mile inSouth Australia for the last thirty years.
– I understand that railways are being more cheaply constructed now all over the Commonwealth.
– A difference in the seasons makes all the difference in the cost of railway construction.
– I know there are many causes of increased expenditure in railway building. My own opinion is that we ought to take over this Territory untramelled, and then appoint competent and responsible engineers and others to lay down a definite scheme for railway connexion with the eastern States as well as with South Australia. If the route from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta is the best, surely engineers and other experts may be found to tell us so? The least we might do is to give this House credit for dealing as honestly with South Australia as with any other State.
– If it was decided to run a line from Pine Creek to “Camooweal, how would the honorable member connect South Australia with it?
– I am glad the honorable member has mentioned that point, for I have here an interesting map pre-, pared by Mr. Alexander Wilson, and handed to me by the honorable member for Parkes.
– It is full of inaccuracies. The distances are not correct.
– The gentleman who drafted it is a very eminent surveyor. It is proposed, as shown in this map, to bring a line from Pine Creek to Camooweal, and thence down to Thargomindah. From there Mr. Wilson proposed another line to Torrowangic and Broken Hill, junctioning there with the line to Adelaide. I admit that that means expense.
– It would be almost as quick to go round via Melbourne.
– I admit that it would be almost as quick, and that the construction of that line would be costly.
– Does the honorable member object to the Pine Creek to Oodnadatta line on the score of cost or route?
– On the score of route. We must have a purpose in building a transcontinental line. We must not construct it merely for the sake of having a line from Adelaide to Port Darwin. If the line suggested by South Australia would create a large settlement along the route, I could understand it ; but honorable members must know that that settlement would be a long time in coming, if it ever came at all, considering the character of the country. If, however, we took the line along the route I have suggested, we should have a purpose. It would bring the rest of Australia into closer touch with other parts of the world, and tap some of the best (country. How could we run 2,000 miles with a narrow-gauge line, for that is what the South Australian proposal means ?
– The alternative route would be longer.
– It would, so far as Adelaide is concerned j but any transcontinental line must be constructed on a broad, and not on a narrow-gauge.
– It would be necessary to reconstruct all the Queensland lines, in that case.
– Not necessarily. On a transcontinental line, we must get a maximum of speed with a minimum of working cost. The highest average speed, consistent with safety and economy, on a .narrow-gauge line is 25 miles an hour, whereas on a 4 ft. in. gauge, 40 miles an hour could be averaged. That speed could not be approached on a narrow-gauge line without an enormously increased expenditure on fuel, and a greater strain on the machinery. If the line suggested bv South Australia is to be constructed for the express purpose of creating settlement, it will be ‘ a failure; if its purpose is to bring the rest of Australia into closer touch with other parts of the world, it will be a failure, owing to its being a narrow-gauge line. If it was desired to convert the existing line to Oodnadatta into a broad-gauge line, it would be necessary to alter it from as far down as Terowie, in order to make the gauge- uniform with that of the other South Australian railways. The Pine Creek line would, in. any case, have to be altered ; but the conversion of the line from Terowie to Oodnadatta would mean an additional enormous expense, with no direct result accruing from it. If the line were taken Ihe other way, through Camooweal, and thence to Thargomindah, and so to Broken- Hill, with a branch line to Bourke, and thence to join the Victorian line at Mildura, we should have the whole of the States linked up in the one scheme. On the other hand, if the line were taken from Pine Creek to Adelaide, passengers, mails, and goods, would have to be brought round from Adelaide to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and .Rockhampton. The further you come away from Adelaide, the greater the distance and the longer time it will take.
– What sort of country is it at Thargomindah ?
– It is good, right down to Thargomindah and into New South Wales. The only land which is not really good is the part towards Broken Hill.
– What amount of new construction would be necessary with that line ?
– About 400 or 500 miles more than if the route was from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta. I have shown that it is not possible to construct the suggested line via Birdsville, whereas the line which I am advocating is necessary, and is most likely to give the best results, to secure the greatest economy in -working, and to open up the largest area of good country. Supposing, for argument’s sake, that the line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta was constructed, the Government would be compelled, in order to develop the country, to construct a branch line from Daly Waters across to Camooweal, because that is the best sheep country in the Territory. That line, running towards the south-east, would open up the Barclay tableland. What, then, would be the result? Queensland has already constructed a railway to Cloncurry. In that connexion, I was rather surprised to notice that the Minister of External Affairs, who represents a Queensland constituency, has issued a map which does not show that railway.
– The map was supplied to us by South Australia.
– I am glad to know that the honorable gentleman is not responsible; but, of course, the line has only been constructed for about eighteen months. The Queensland Government have sent Mr. Phillips into the northern portion of the State to make a flying survey for the construction of a line from Cloncurry to Camooweal, to tap the very country that I have just spoken of. If, then, the Government constructed a line from Daly Waters to Camooweal, the Queensland Government would connect, and where would the traffic for the transcontinental railway come from? At one swoop, the line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta would lose more than half its traffic.
– The honorable member really wants to cut South Australia out of the railway connexion altogether.
-The honorable member cannot accuse me of not treating the whole position fairly. I have tried to. lay both sides of the case before the House. There is no justification for asking the Commonwealth Parliament to bind itself to spend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in constructing a line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, if it can be shown that in the nearfuture that work would be a dead loss to the community. If it can be proved that that is the best route, why bind this Parliament down to adopt it? If, as I suggest, the Barclay tableland is linked up by a line from Daly Waters, mails, and passengers for the eastern coast - and presumably they will not all be bound for Adaleide alone- must travel by that route. By using it, passengers could get to Brisbane in exactly the same time as they could get to Adelaide, and another day would take them to Sydney, whereas it takes two days to get to Sydney from; Adelaide. Passengers who wanted to reach Sydney .would naturally choose the route by which they could save a day. The result would be to take half the traffic from that line. The statisticians say that the future centre of population in Australia will be north of Sydney, owing to the increase of settlement now going on in Queensland and the northern parts of New South Wales. That makes another reason for adopting the eastern route. We must give facilities where the population is the thickest.
– How would the honorable member develop the Macdonnell Range country, which is some of the most fertile in the Northern Territory?
– Perhaps the best thing to do would be to continue the line from Oodnadatta.
– That would continue the line half across Australia.
– It would not affect my argument, if it continued it two-thirds of the way across Australia.
– What about the break of gauge at Camooweal?
– Coming from Port Darwin to Brisbane, by way of Pine Creek and Adelaide, there would be a break of gauge at Terowie, another at Albury, and a third at Wallangarra, whilst by the other route there would be only one break of gauge.
– There would be three to get to Adelaide.
– Yes; but, as I have said, the centre of population will b north of Sydney. Mr. J. G. Gwynneth, a civil engineer, who acted for the contractors in the construction of 200 miles of the Oodnadatta line, has pointed out that from Port Darwin to Townsville by way of Pine Creek and Adelaide would be a journey of 4,186 miles, occupying 142 hours, with three breaks of gauge. To Brisbane, the distance would be 3,790 miles, and the time occupied 126 hours; to Sydney, 3,065 miles, and the time occupied 104½ hours ; to Melbourne, 2,483 miles, and 90 hours in time; and to Adelaide, 2, 000 miles, and 78 hours, in time. By the Camooweal route, the distance from Port Darwin to Townsville would be 1,453 miles, occupying 58 hours; to Rockhampton, 1,745 miles, occupying 70 hours; to Brisbane, 2,067 miles, occupying 83 hours; to Sydney, 2,367 miles, occupying 85 hours; to Melbourne, 2,656 miles, occupying 93 hours ; and to Adelaide, 3,139 ‘ miles, occupying 105 hours. These distances are only approximate. With a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in., there would be a considerable saving in time, because an average speed of 40 miles an hour could be maintained, while on the narrow gauge, the speed would not be more than 25 miles an hour. This would result in a reduction of the time of the journey from Port Darwin to Townsville to 46½ hours ; to Rockhampton, to 56 hours ; to Brisbane, to 64½ hours ; to Sydney, to 6 2½- hours; to Melbourne, to 58 hours; and to Adelaide, to 57 hours.’ I hope that the Minister of External Affairs will have reprinted the map published by Mr. Alexander Wilson.
– Is he a qualified surveyor ?
– No. .
– I understand that he lectured here on Friday night.
– No; that was Mr. Lindsay.
– Mr. Lindsay is the best authority on the country that we have.
– I am sorry that I was not well enough to attend the lecture. I have read all that he has written on the subject. I ask the Minister if he can obtain maps showing surveys from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek.
– The South Australian Government has a map showing the survey from Hergott Springs to near Birdsville. I can obtain a copy of it for the honorable member.
– We should have all available information. I do not think that South Australians can accuse me of wishing to do anything ‘detrimental to their interests. I have dealt with the case from the national point of view. In my opinion, paragraphs b, c, and e of clause 2 of the proposed agreement will saddle the Commonwealth with a. debt of , £5, 000,000, for which it should not be made liable. Before we incur the heavy financial obligations involved in the transfer of the Territory, we should have fuller information. I object also to the bargaining which has taken place in connexion with the proposed Western Australian railway. I am amazed that the Prime Minister took part in it. If the Western Australian railway is to be constructed, the South Australian Government will give the necessary permission. I do. not think that the South Australian Government would be so foolish as to refuse its sanction to ‘the construction of that railway if we desired to build it, and to make its sanction part of this bargain is altogether wrong. The Prime Minister made a mistake in entering into an agreement on those lines. Then, again, South Australia had no right to attempt to bind this Parliament to the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. If that is the best route that can be selected for a railway line to develop the Territory, I am sure that honorable members will soon become impressed with that fact; but I do not think that we ought to be bound in this way. I again express my gratitude to South Australia for having kept the Northern Territory free from hordes of Asiatics, with whose aid at one time in her history she might have developed the Territory. The stand that she took in that regard in the interests of Australia is deserving of our gratitude, and we ought to reimburse her the expense she has incurred in endeavouring to develop the Territory. Beyond that, however, I cannot go. I regret that I cannot vote for the Bill because of the provisions in the agreement in regard to the Western Australian railway, and the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek.
– Would not the honorable member vote for the second reading of the Bill, so that those matters might be dealt with in Committee?
– No; the agreement has already been entered into, and we must either accept or reject it.
– Could we not suggest amendments ?
– It would be useless to do so; we ought to have in . black and white any agreement designed to carry out our wishes in this respect.
– The honorable member’s policy is such that he would not even indicate a method by which a satisfactory agreement could be made.
– I should be in favour of the agreement, provided that the provisions in regard to the construction of the Western Australian railway and the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek were eliminated. The Parliament of the Commonwealth should have the right to decide the best means of developing the Territory.
.- I listened with great interest to the very lucid, most comprehensive, and historical statement made by the Minister of External Affairs in moving the second reading of this Bill. Taken in conjunction with the memorandum which the honorable member laid on the table, it left nothing to be desired in the shape of information. It was very necessary that the whole of that information should be printed and presented to the House before honorable members were called upon to address themselves to this question, for, save from what we have read of the statistics constantly before us, we were mostly in the dark. Few of us have travelled the country, or know more of it than the newspapers tell us from time to time, or we have read of the work of our explorers. Although we can only form our opinions as to the character of the country from the information we have thus obtained, there is sufficient evidence before us to indicate the course which we, as business men, should take in dealing with this question. In discussing a matter of so much importance, I desire to remember what South Australia did for the Commonwealth before she became part of the Federation. For many years she was enterprising enough to supply us with a telegraph line stretching from one shore to the other, and year after year she bore the whole of the expense which it entailed. But, whilst we bear in mind what she has done, and desire to meet fairly what may be regarded as a reasonable claim on her part, there may be claims that are beyond those which a business man could contemplate. South Australia acquired this Territory by Imperial Statute in 1863, a year after Stuart had travelled from the north to the south. That was forty-six years ago, and we have only to look at the memorandum which the Government have put before us to see what she has done with this enormous Territory during the .whole of that period. She has let as much land as she could on leases extending up to 1935, and the land is of such a character that the rentals range from 6d. up to 3s. 6d. per square mile per annum, or one-sixteenth of a penny per acre.
– And some of it is dear at that price.
– And some of it may be dear at that rental. A few years ago there were over 1,000 white men in the Territory ; the number is now less than 600. Then, again, there were nearly 2,000 Chinese and persons of other coloured races there, but the number has been reduced to about 1,400. Thus it will be seen thai: even the Chinaman is leaving the Territory. The exports of the Northern Territory, whether they be of gold, cattle, horses, or sheep, have diminished year by year. Every year has shown a decadence. Even its output of gold has been reduced from £70,000 to £20,000 per annum; and the country is now almost abandoned. When we ask why population has not settled and increased there, we are met with suggestions that want of water is the cause. According to the statistics before us, for six months of the year there is no rain. During the remainder of the six months monsoonal rains fall, and the temperature in some parts is over 102 degrees Fahrenheit. At Alice. Springs, in the south, it is about 98 degrees. It is apparent, therefore, that the statement made by witnesses examined before the Royal Commission in South Australia, that this is no white man’s country, is very near the mark.
– In the settled districts of Western Queensland, the temperature- i* much greater than that which the honorable member has mentioned.
– But in the western districts of Queensland there is a great deal more water than falls over the area to which I have referred.
– We obtain water by boring.
– Whether it be obtained by boring or as “the result of the rainfall, the volume of water available in the Northern Territory is nothing like that obtainable in Ihe western districts of Queensland. Not only is the. Territory unhealthy, but, as the report shows, people there are subject to the depredations of about 30,000 aboriginal’s. So hot is it that in the case of open water there is an evaporation of 8 feet per annum. These are all indications that settlement in the Northern Territory during the last forty years, notwithstanding the very vigorous efforts of the South Australian Government, has been retarded by reason of the natural conditions prevailing there. For what purpose are we to assume control of the Territory ? We can only take it over in order that it may be populated, and the land settled in some way or other. We are told, however, by the South Australian Royal Commission, that it is not an agricultural country, arid we find that the fine grassed lands and splendid cattle areas that are spoken of exist on the northern side, extending from Wyndham round Port Darwin, and away to Pine Creek.
– The same yarn was told about the Darling Downs thirty years ago.
– I cannot credit that. There may be on the borders of the Northern Territory a country of tropical verdure by reason of the monsoonal rains which fall, and the great heat which prevails there, but further south the country is utterly unfit for a white man to live in.
-Where is that ?
– It has been pointed out that one may travel for 400 miles over an absolute desert.
– That is on the South Australian side.
– Then it is proposed under the agreement that the Commonwealth shall take over the railway line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, which cost £2,242,342 to construct. I find that the revenue from that railway is about £65,000 per annum, and that the expenditure is about £55,000 per annum, leaving a balance of £10,000 between working, expenses and gross takings. In addition to that, however, there is an interest bill amounting to £84,088 per annum to be taken over, making, less surplus of earnings over expenditure, a total loss of £72,088, which would have to be made good by the Commonwealth per annum. The returns from this line show that it traverses a country to which few travellers resort. A train runs along the line once a fortnight, and the total earnings are about £100 per mile per annum. The line, which is something like 400 miles long, ought apparently never to have been constructed, and we are now asked to take it over. We have to remember that only 4i£-lb. iron rails were used in its construction, and that it is a narrow-gauge line. Then, again, we should have to construct .1,063 miles of railway from Oodnadatta to Pine ‘Creek, which it is estimated would cost £4,500,000. In taking over the Territory we should have to assume responsibility for a public debt 01 £327,983 which South Australia has incurred in connexion with it ; but however thoughtful or considerate we may desire to be, we are not obliged to touch a line like that to Oodnadatta, in respect of which there is a liability of £2,242,342, nor are we obliged to commit ourselves at this early stage to the construction of a line which would cost £4,500,000. Under the terms of this agreement, however, we should have to assume a liability, of practically £10,000,000 without having before us any proper information on the subject. Before taking over such a liability we should have much more information than we have from surveyors as to how the proposed new railway is to be constructed, and as to how it is to be carried over the Macdonnell Range, which, according . to various estimates, is. from 4,000 to 6,000 feet high. We are obliged to the honorable member for Kennedy for pointing out a route, if we are to have a railway, which will reach the more populous districts of Australia, and open up what we hope will prove to be good country. If we were to start from the north instead of running direct through to the south, there is already a line from Broken Hill, within a reasonable distance of Cobar. In New South Wales and Queensland there is a line from almost every port, the State Governments having adopted the business-like method of- carrying their railways from the sea-board into the western interior. One of these lines has been mentioned by the honorable member for Kennedy, namely, the line from Cloncurry ; and the enterprising Government of New South Wales had lately a scheme on foot to construct 600 miles of line to bring into conjunction the whole of the railways leading to the ports of that State. We should have a line of railway from the ‘ centres of population, through country likely to carry settlement, instead of through areas which cannot possibly be peopled by white men. I have arrived at the conclusion that this railway scheme is net business-like, though I at once admit that we owe a debt to South Australia, and the sconer we take over the Territory the sooner we shall show our appreciation of what that State has done in the past. I object, however, to our being compelled to take over the Oodnadatta railway, and agree to the ‘construction of another line through country of which we know little, and the engineering difficuties of which have not been made plain to us. I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill with a view of expressing our intention to take over the Territory, but when we are in Committee, I hope I shall find a considerable majority of honorable members ready to oppose that portion of the measure which relates to the Oodnadatta and the transcontinental, lines.
.- In spite of the rather gloomy figures which the honorable member for Denison has put before us, no one can regard a Territory of this size without recognising its enormous possibilities in the great wealth which must be locked up within its borders. It goes almost without saying that in such a stretch of country, comprising as it does nearly one-fifth of the continent, there must be very many places which are as the honorable member for Denison has described, but there are also very many districts which are most valuable from various aspects. The map that has been placed before us by the Government Geologist of South Australia, and the other maps we have had the opportunity of examining, show us conclusively the enormous possibilities of the Territory. Northward, in the tropical areas, there are no doubt immense stretches suitable for agricultural development. Such development must, of course, be on tropical lines, and, for the most part, be for tropical productions. Those who have had the opportunity of a cursory visit to the Territory must have recognised, from the good work done in connection with the South Australian Government Agricultural Gardens, how varied are the possibilities of the northern and tropical regions. Mr. Holtze, and his father before him, have done much to show what can be done in this Territory in the way of agricultural development. We have seen there that cotton, rubber, maize, tobacco, sugar, fibre plants, and rice can be successfully grown, although the cultivation of rice with white labour still presents an industrial problem. The experience of the Territory with regard to coffee growing does not seem to have been very satisfactory. I remember seeing” a great district which was at one time under coffee culture, and all that now remains of the enterprise is a number of abandoned ploughs, and deserted farms and homesteads.
– The coffee grew readily enough, but the growers could not get labour to pick it.
– I understood that the trees got some disease which made it impossible to grow coffee.
– The Australian aboriginal will not work.
– I do not know that we can. consider the aboriginal in the matter of agricultural labour ; however, though we may be able to induce him to work amongst cattle and sheep, he will not become a worker in agriculture. It is very doubtful whether we shall ever succeed in the raising of cattle or sheep within the tropical area, although there is always the possibility. When I was at Brock’s Creek, a man, who was raising cattle cn the Daly River, said he was doing very well with 1,500 head. When I asked him how much land he had he told me he had 1,500 square miles; so that his idea, apparently, was one beast to the mile.
– No, no !
– It can be said that this country has practically never been tried with the exception of, perhaps, one settlement on the Adelaide River. But nevertheless, we have this great country, capable, in the north of agriculture, and in the midlands, and especially on the great tableland in the Victoria River district, of raising almost innumerable sheep and cattle. It is a country too with mineral deposits, the extent of which we have not at all gauged yet, and unknown latent possibilities in the Macdonnell Ranges that may prove the most valuable of all. As a start, therefore, I recognise that this Territory is an important part of the Commonwealth. The fact that it is unoccupied makes it a danger from a military point of view, and a temptation to nations who have teeming millions to dispose of. Personally, however, I do not think that the defence argument is a very. strong one; at any rate, it has never appealed to me, because I cannot realize the possibility of an army of invasion landing in the Northern Territory in order to make an attack on Australia. Such an army would simply be lost there If an invasion by settlement was attempted in connexion with war, and we were defeated, then, of course, the settlement would take place; while if we won, the settlement would be abandoned under the treaty of peace. I cannot see that there is any very great likelihood of a military, attack on Australia through the Northern Territory. At the same time, the Commonwealth ought to take over the Territory and develop it; and thus far I am with the Government in their proposals. We must recognise that South Australia,, in view of what she has done, is entitled to every consideration and generosity at the hands of this Parliament. It was one of the pluckiest things ever done in Australia, when that little settlement, forty years ago, tackled the problem of developing the Northern Territory. There are many people in some of the States who still think the problem too big for the Commonwealth, and apparently there are honorable members in this Parliament who hold that opinion. I say again that South Australia showed courage and determination in the way it attempted to tackle the question of settlement in this Territory. We owe to South Australia a debt of gratitude for the stand she took - a stand which materially increased her financial burden - in reference to the introduction of alien coloured labour on contract or any other terms, and we ought to be liberal with her. We find from the papers placed before us that in developing the Northern Territory South Australia has expended something over £3,000,000. A good deal of that money is represented by works which are still available to us. Most of it has been spent in surveys and on the Palmerston to Pine Creek railway, and some on the Government buildings, jetties, and wharfs that still exist there, although I believe that one of the jetties has been washed away. We must also recognise that the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway was built, not to develop South Australia, but as part of the scheme of development of the Northern Territory. I have no doubt that it would not have been built if the original idea had not been to junction the two lines. I, therefore, go so far as to say that in treating with the South Australian Government we should take over, not only the debt incurred in connexion with the Territory itself, but the debt incurred in connexion with the Oodnadatta railway. It is admitted that the line does not pay. It is very doubtful if it will pay as it stands at present. It is like building a bridge and stopping half-way across the river.
– Does the honorable member think it would pay if it were completed ?
– I do not think If will pay, even if it is completed to Pine Creek. I understand that the original idea was to follow as nearly as possible the route of the overland telegraph line. That route apparently was chosen because there was so little vegetation there, and the maintenance of the line would cost much less. That is a very good principle so far as a telegraph line is concerned, but when it is proposed to run a railway through such barren country, every argument used in favour of the route for the purposes of a telegraph line tells against it for the construction of a railway line The reason of South Australia’s insistence upon the Oodnadatta line seems to be simply that the traffic and trade of the Northern Territory may be compelled to go direct to Adelaide. The trade at present goes to Sydney, Brisbane, or the northern Queensland ports, and so far as I could gauge the opinions and wishes of the people of the Territory themselves, they would rather be connected east than south. Consequently the proposal to construct the line from Port Augusta to Pine Creek is purely a State project to suit State rights, and I do not think we. are compelled to go that far in our desire to acquire the Territory or to relieve South Australia of her burden.
– How else can the Macdonnell Range country be developed ?
– The necessity for developing the Macdonnell Range country has not yet been proved. I understand that there are a few horses and cattle running there, and I recognise that there is a possibility of mineral development. If the mineral development is sufficiently important it may make the Oonadatta line pay its way after all. The only hope of getting that line to pay is a large development in the Macdonnell Range country, and, in my opinion, that development will probably be a mineral, and not an agricultural or pastoral one. I think the honorable member will agree with that.
– I admit that the honorable member for Boothby ought to know more about that country than I do, but that is what I have gathered from my reading. Certainly from the Macdonnel Ranges to Pine Creek the line will not pass through any of the best of the Northern Territory country. If it is desired to run a line through the Macdonnell Ranges, there is -practically only one place that it can pass through, and that place seems almost to have been made by Providence for the purpose, but it would bind us, not to the Hergott Springs connexion, but to the Oodnadatta connexion. My idea is that all we can do with the Oodnadatta line is to make the best of a bad bargain ; to carry on the existing service as we should be compelled to do under the agreement, and face the loss every year. That loss is considerable. In the immediate future, from the time we took over the Territory, we should have to face an annual deficit of nearly a quarter of a million pounds, without new railway construction. The annual deficit on the Territory is £158,439, and the deficit and sinking fund on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway is £77,694 per annum, making a total annual deficit of £236,133 to be faced. That has been a great, and is a continually increasing, burden upon South Australia. The Minister of External Affairs, in introducing the Bill, said that hitherto the Territory had been governed by South Australia, but that she was finding the burden more than she could bear. The proposition included in the first clause of the agreement, that we should take over the liability for. all the money that South Australia has. spent on the Territory, and also pay back all the money that she has lost upon it, seems to be very generous. It will save South Australia from a constantly increasing deficit, which is apparently piling up at the rate of a quarter of a million pounds every year. She will get the relief she wants, she will be treated as generously as she can possibly expect, and she ought not to insist Upon the condition that the Commonwealth should build the transcontinental line to suit her. The proposal before us in regard to that line is too indefinite for me. We are told baldly that it will cost about £4,500,000. We do not know whether it is to be on a narrow gauge basis. I do not want to see any of the main lines narrow gauge. When we begin to build trunk lines we ought to face the question of adopting the universal 4 ft. 8i in. gauge.
– Is that .with iron or wood sleepers?
– In constructing the railway from Palmerston to Pine Creek, it Was found that the white ants were so bad that steel sleepers had to be used. A considerable portion of this proposed line would have to be laid in the same way. We have no information before us to show whether this proposal is for ordinary or steel sleepers. We have no evidence to show what gauge is to be adopted.
– There is now a specific against white ants.
– I understand that in the. Northern Territory all sorts of specifics have been tried, but the white ants will go through anything. When in the Territory we were told as a solid fact that on one occasion at a cricket match the umpire, had a wooden leg, that a slow bowler was oh at one end, and that by the time the over was completed the umpire’s leg was perfo-rated by white ants. Mr. Searcy, in his Tropical Australia, also tells some very tall yarns about what the white ants can do in the Territory. He tells us - and it must be correct if it is printed in a book, especially a book which has been- placed in the Parliamentary Library with the approval of the honorable member for Parkes - that a drunken drover one night lay down in the open, and that in the morning the passers- by, investigating a peculiar disturbance in a white ants’ nest, found that those insects had in the night built over and completely hidden ‘ him. Whatever truth there may be in these yarns, it is undoubted that the white ants are very bad in the Territory. In the museum at Palmerston is a roll of lead perforated bv white ants. Therefore, steel sleepers will have to be used for a good part of any railway line that is made.
– The white ants are found only in the coastal area.
– That is a very wide strip. It will be necessary to use steel sleepers, not only in the coastal area, but inland as well. We have not been told how the £4,500,000 which the proposed line is estimated to cost will be made Up nor do we know what revenue will be obtained from the line. It seems to me that if the proposal of the South Australian Government is followed, not only will the line not pay interest on the money invested, but it will not pay working expenses. The railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta has been a failure. The last stretch of it does not earn enough to pay for the axle grease used on the trains that go over it. One train a fortnight is run, and it carries about 25 tons of luggage each trip. But a line following the route proposed by the honorable member for Kennedy would tap some of the best country in the Territory, and would provide access from the Territory to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, and. via Broken Hill, to Adelaide. It would also create what is a great need in Australia, a back country line, traversing our grazing areas from north to south. This would make us almost independent of droughts, because it is rarely that a drought affects the whole continent.
– Such a line would develop everything but the Northern Territory.
– I do not wish to repeat .what was said by the honorable member for Kennedy in regard to the development of the Northern Territory. Undoubtedly the best way to develop it would be to construct a line across the tableland. The map shows that nearly the whole of the tableland h?.s been taken up by pastoralists.
– At a rental of is. -a mile.
– With better communication that land would be still more valuable. Some of it is now held under annual lease, but even where there are thirty-two or thirty-three years to run, it will not be long before it is open for settlement. Most of the population of Australia is settled in the eastern States, and trade will naturally flow towards the centres on the eastern sea-board. What the people of the Territory need is, not so much access to Adelaide, but access to a market, and this they could get more readily by a line going east than by a line going due south. The provision relating to the Western Australian line should not have been put into the agreement, and I hope that it will be taken out when the Bill is defeated and a new agreement is made with South Australia. The two proposals should be regarded as distinct. Of course, South Australia would be the gainer if the trade of the Northern Territory were carried directly to Adelaide; but we must study the interests of the Commonwealth, not those of one State. ..
– Is not the Commonwealth getting the Northern Territory very cheaply ?
– I do not think that the South Australian Government should desire to make a bargain in connexion with the transfer of the Northern Territory. It undertook the development of that Territory, and in considering the transfer we must have regard to the interests of the whole of Australia.
– The honorable member ought to have used that argument during the Federal Capital debates.
– I did so, but the honorable member seems to think that the north-east corner of Victoria is all Australia.
– South Australian money will be needed to build the capital.
– Not much of it.
– The Federal Capital is not wanted ; the Northern Territory is.
– In- taking over the Northern Territory the Commonwealth will be relieving South Australia of a considerable financial burden. I desire the development of the Territory, and think that it would be better served by a line going east than by any other line. Its development ought also to be an easier matter for the Commonwealth, whose resources are so large, than it lias been for South Australia, whose resources are limited.
– South Australia is quite prepared to carry the burden if necessary.
– If South Australia does not wish to be relieved of the Northern Territory, she had better keep it. The stipulation regarding the railway is unreasonable. The Commonwealth Parliament, which will have to find the money for any railway construction that is undertaken, is the proper authority to determine what route shall be followed. This is the Parliament, upon which will rest the burden of paying for the upkeep of the line, and it should have the right to say that it shall traverse that part of the Territory which is most likely to make it a payable concern, rather than through- a part which may serve the southern State, but which, at the same time, would cause it to be for some years a heavy burden upon the Commonwealth.
.- This appears to me to be a question too broad to be measured by the profit and loss account of its administration at the present time. It involves, to a great extent, the future destiny of Australia, and, that being so, we must go a little beyond the immediate financial considerations which certainly do not recommend the agreement as a business proposition per se. I can understand the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Denison. He is a man of long business training, accustomed ratherto look for profits than to view in a broad and generous spirit a proposal such as this which must tend to develop the nation. In the circumstances, therefore, it is not difficult to understand his mental attitude, and the. conclusion at which he has arrived that from the point of view of a private speculator, it is not a good bargain that we are asked to make. But, as a national undertaking, devolving, upon this Parliament,I fail to see how we can escape the obligation. I do not say that the agreement is all that is to be desired, but it paves the way. to finality in this matter. I thoroughly believe that the South Australian Government will be prepared to meet us with respect to those points in the agreement with which we are not satisfied. The actual position, although bad enough, is not so bad as some would have us imagine. Out of a total area of 523,000 square miles, 106,000 square miles of the Territory are leased for an average term of 25 years from the present time. I presume that those leases cannot be interfered, with; that . we shall be bound to observe them if we assume control of the Territory. That, however, does not condemn the proposition, since we shall still have untouched over 400,000 square miles, which cannot consist wholly of bad country. My experience of the Territory, limited as it may be, is sufficient to convince me that there are enormous untapped resources sufficient to make it worth our while to undertake the gigantic task of developing it. The annual loss in administering the Territory at the present time is £1 58,439. To that, of course, has to he added the annual loss and payment of sinking fund in respect of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, which amounts to £77,694. We must also take into account interest on the cost of constructing the proposed new railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, which would amount to £157,500. From the information I can gather, the existing railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta has “served its time, and is now practically fit to be scrapped, so that we must allow for the construction of a railway really from Pine Creek to Port Augusta.
– That is not so.
– I cannot dogmatize, but that is the opinion I have formed from the information I have gleaned.
– The cost of rails is not the principal expenditure in the construction of a railway. Even if the present rails are defective, the permanent way is good.
– But the line is a narrowgauge one, and the permanent way would have to be largely reformed. The annual deficit and sinking fund on the- railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta amounts to£77,694, the interest on the cost of a railway from Pine Creek to Port Augusta would be . £157,500 per annum, and this, with the deficit on the administration of the Territory, would make a total loss under the agreement of £393, 633. With the possibilities of future development, however, that loss ought to be considerably, minimized in the course of a few years. With additional railway facilities, an increased settlement would certainly ensue, and there would be of necessity an increased income from the Territory, with the result that the annual loss would be reduced to a nominal amount. The income derived from all sources in the Territory last year was , £56,126, but I should think that it -could be readily quadrupled, as the result of increased settlement. It must be admitted that the construction of the new railway line would make a vast difference in the matter of settlement.
– When would the new line be completed?
– If we are not to suffer almost incalculable loss, it should be constructed very speedily, and it could be completed in a short space of time if the necessary funds were forthcoming. Apart from the cost of constructing a railway from Pine Creek to Port Augusta, which is estimated at , £4,500,000, we should incur the present indebtedness of £5,570,325 in connexion with the transfer of the Territory, making a total of , £10,070,325. In these days, the interest to be paid on a public debt is regarded as the measure of, if not the actual debt itself, and I find that the interest which we should have to pay in respect of this liability of £10,070,325 would be about £600,000 a year. That would be the total loss in respect of interest, assuming that our revenue did not increase, but it is ridiculous to imagine that it would not be speedily augmented. I fail to see why in a few years it should not be increased to £200,000 per annum, leaving us with a loss of about , £400,000 a year. Even if we had to make good such a loss, it would be a cheap price to pay for the added security that would be given by our ownership and control of the Territory. The railway conditions in the agreement are the biggest barriers to finality, and they certainly do not appeal to me. I refer more particularly to the condition imposed by paragraph c of clause 2 of the schedule to the Bill, which provides that the State, in consideration of the covenants and agreements by the Commonwealth shall authorize the ‘Commonwealth - to do all that is necessary to enable the Commonwealth to make surveys, acquire the necessary lands, and to construct or cause to be constructed a railway in South Australia proper from any point on the Port Augusta railway to a point on the northern boundary line of South Australia proper to connect with that part of the transcontinental railway to be built in the Northern Territory from Tort Darwin southwards.
That precludes the possibility of any detour of the line into Queensland. My own opinion is that the proposed line ought to tap Queensland. To obviate the considerable loss that is likely to be incurred, the route must be discreetly chosen, and the line must tap better country than that through which it will pass if it be kept entirely within the borders of the Northern Territory. If we were allowed to run into Queensland, so as to connect with the termini of- railways extending to the Queensland coast, we should be able to do much to make the line at once reproductive. Unless we have some liberty to determine the route which the railway is to take, I fail to see how this agreement can be indorsed. Whilst I do not wish to look at the transfer of the Territory as a strictly business undertaking, we must recognise that the construction of this line will involve a considerable burden upon the Commonwealth, and we are justified in endeavouring to minimize that burden as much as possible. We may reasonably ask the Government of South Australia to concede the point that we shall not be required to keep the line within the borders of the Territory, but may make a detour into Queensland. In any case, the line is not to be considered as a single connexion between the north and the south. It appeals to me more as a proposed railway system than as a transcontinental railway. If it is to be /ill that it ought to be, and to return all that it ought to return to the Commonwealth, it must be linked with every State capital. We need not necessarily multiply our’ own obligations in bringing about such connexions. They would be of great benefit to the States as well as to the Commonwealth as a whole, and, therefore,” it would be only reasonable and fair to expect the
States to bear a considerable portion of the cost. Some encouragement should be given to the States to undertake such connexions, in order not only that the safety of Australia may be assured, but that the main line itself may be made a more profitable undertaking. That it will be a paying concern for very many years I very much doubt. We have heard a good deal, particularly from the honorable member for Denison, as to the failure of everything connected with the Territory. The memorandum which has been issued, faithfully, I think, accounts for the lack of success in the different ventures at settlement. There is a list of reasons given, some of which I feel justified in indorsing from what I saw while in the Territory. For the sake of those who have not read the memorandum, and in order to have the reasons published in Hansard., I should like to read one or two.
– These suggestions were given in evidence by various witnesses; but the Royal Commission did not adopt any particular one.
– In my opinion they are very sensible reasons. We are told that most of the Palmerston blocks were cornered by the usual speculators, and that such excessive prices were demanded as to be prohibitory to those willing to utilize the -land. Further, there were awkward conditions laid down by the Government ; heavy survey fees had to be paid in Adelaide, and before the necessary papers were issued there was a delay of six or twelve months. Further, there was a failure to complete the survey within five years, according to agreement, and the Government were involved in numerous litigations, and expenses amounting to over £73,000. This generally, we are told, overloaded the Colony with expenses improperly charged by the South Australian Government. This, of course, is an indictment of the State Government, and a set-off to the patriotism displayed in maintaining the Territory for Australia against many tempting offers to hand it over to the exploitation of capitalists. Then, in regard to mining, we are told that the failure was due to “ mismanagement, inexperience, extravagance, and the erection of obsolete and other unsuitable machinery.” There were big companies like those which flourished in Western Australia later, and which always flourish when a place is remote enough and “ distance lends enchantment to the view,” thus enabling speculators to “ take down “ the Home people, who are so easily mesmerized by promises. This sort of thing will be dissipated, in my opinion, by bringing the country into closer touch, with civilization by means of a transcontinental railway, which will bring the Territory within three days’ journey of the more settled portions of the Commonwealth. From the evidence it would appear that there are mineral deposits in the country, and also arable and pastoral lands, and I am quite satisfied that the country is a splendid proposition if it can only be opened up. That of course, means that we must take the responsibility of spending the money necessary to give free access -to the Territory. I have heard honorable members speak about droughts, but, so far as I can gather, the grass is never so dry as to burn- as it does elsewhere, but simply smoulders along. While the high grass may be apparently dry, there are always green shoots, and the fact that so many thousands of cattle are shipped from the various ports, or sent overland by men who have made huge fortunes out of the country, is surely sufficient evidence of its pastoral resources. I alluded just now to the fact that South Australia could very easily have ridded herself of the burden had she so desired, and as evidence of that I read the following extract from a letter written by the late Sir Frederick Holder-
I may mention that, had South Australia been willing to have given carte 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 oder was declined by the South Australian Government in its own interest and in the interests of Australia.
That offer was declined by the South Australian Government in the interests of Australia more particularly, and we are under a debt of gratitude to that State for maintaining the country, even as a virgin country, in order, as we hope, to develop it on right lines ultimately. As to the class of labour required for the Northern Territory, I prefer to speak from my own observation rather than from anything I have read or heard. While I was there I made a diligent inquiry, and I can safely say that the consensus of opinion was that, so long as white men keep from drinking to excess, they can stand the climate and do the work. It was generally conceded that one white man was as good as two or three Chinese workmen, and I learned from unprejudiced sources that, as a general rule, while it is admitted that hitherto the coloured races only have worked in tropical regions, the white man, with his greater stamina, can, when he chooses, always beat the nigger. Whether it is that in the coloured races, generation after generation being born in enervating climates, there is a loss of endurance, I cannot say; no one, of course, can tell what the effect of the climate and local conditions may be on future generations born in the Territory. There have only been, at most, three generations born there, and so far all is going well. In fact, it is significant that none of the ordinary ills- to which children are heir, such as measles, scarlatina, and whooping cough, are known in the Territory, and this goes to show that, in some respects, it is a particularly healthy country. As to the ultimate effects on future generations no one can say ; but that does not relieve us from the duty of at least attempting to subjugate this as a white man’s country. To that end, railway communication must be provided to permit of easy egress and ingress, because it will be better for those who live there to get away two or three months a year regularly, so that any evil effects of the climate may to some extent be stemmed. The counteracting influences of better civilized conditions will probably minimize to something not worth considering, the evil effects of the climate. In regard to the labour question, I would point out that, owing to the isolation of the place, it is very often the worst sort of white persons who gravitates there now. Possibly they go there for other reasons than merely to get work - it may be to get out of- the way - and that I am told is one great trouble. An inferior class of white man goes there, who avoids work as much as possible, and whose tendencies, all being degenerate, lead him easily to take to drink. Further, there seems to be a conspiracy particularly amongst the Chinese to supply abandoned whites with as much drink as they desire. I was assured on good authority that whites, who had gone there to work, had been induced to tackle the Chinese drink, and had actually been housed in the Chinese camps, and kept drunk for a considerable time, in order that they might be discredited with the employers, and cease to be a menace to the Chinese working on the fields. The Chinese system of indenture is such that I believe the changes are rung without the officials really knowing what is going on. However that may be, everything favours a monopoly of the labour market by Chinese at present. This phase of the social conditions can only be corrected by the proper handling of the Territory by the Commonwealth, particularly by means of railway communication which will afford facilities for getting to and fro. Amongst the steady and sober white residents there are some hard-working men, who have nothing to say against the climate. I was surprised to find amongst them two men whom I had) known years before in the Orange district of New South Wales. The Orange district has a very cold climate; and yet one of these men had been there seventeen years, and the other five years, and both said they had never enjoyed better health in their lives. Both were blacksmiths, and theirs, it will be admitted, is as arduous a form of labour as white men can undertake in a tropical country ; yet they were not only hale and hearty, but stout. Other residents, who have lived there forty or fifty years, have no complaint against the climate, and so inured are they to it that they would not care to live down south; indeed, one day in Melbourne would just about kill them. At the same time facilities for reaching the high lands would be a great improvement and boon to the settlers. But there is a wider view than that comprehended in the details of the question, and that wider view appeals to me so strongly that I am prepared to waive a good many of the minor objections. The only exception I take to the present agreement is the hard-and-fast stipulation that we must confine the railway line to the Northern Territory; and if that clause be removed I shall vote for the acceptance of the Bill in the general interests of Australia. The Northern Territory is, in my opinion, the front dioor of Australia, and not the back door, as the transcontinental line will demonstrate most effectively. I believe that a good deal of our trade, particularly in perishable products, will find an outlet to the world through Port Darwin, instead of being conveyed around our coasts by the longer and more tedious, if, perhaps, cheaper, routes. It seems to me that the possibilities of the land will be increased by a broad gauge fast system of railway communication between the south and the north of Australia. This Commonwealth will never attain to anything like its proper position in the comity of nations until it opens up its northern regions, and places beyond doubt the White Australia policy which is so essentially bound up with our progress and status. While the Northern Territory is empty our White Australia policy is in constant jeopardy. I am privately advised from the Northern Territory, by one of the gentlemen to whom I have alluded, that a petition is being promoted there for presentation to the Home Government, asking them to make the Northern Territory a Crown Colony. If that is done the country will be handed over to those who have money to invest, to exploit, and it will be exploited by coloured labour. Once we allow the coloured alien to darken our threshold again, especially if it is under the auspices of the Imperial Government, our White Australia policy is doomed, and it will be only by constant vigilance on our frontiers that we shall be able to keep our race pure. That is a strong enough argument to induce me to support the measure, provided that the point with regard to the route of the . transcontinental line is waived. I hope the Government will take the necessary steps to have inserted in the Bill the condition, which should be inserted in all fairness, not to any particular State, but to the whole Commonwealth, that the line without any great sacrifice of distance should pursue the most profitable course.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Henry Willis) adjourned.
The Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate (vide page 1941), on motion by Mr. Glynn -
That this Bill be now read a second time, having been read,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Parts).
– I hope the Government will not take any of the contentious clauses to-night, as a number of honorable members are absent. T wish to discuss one or two of the provisions of the Bill, but the hour is rather late.
– We can take the formal cla uses.
.- This is a formal clause, but I understand that some honorable members object very strongly to many of the provisions of the
Bill. The principal objection raised to the Bill is, I think, that instead of being a codifying measure it simply adds another law to the State Acts relating to bills of exchange. The first objection taken to it was that it was altogether unconstitutional, and that the Bill does not interfere with the State laws, and applies only to InterState exchanges.
– There is nothing in that objection.
– If so, it is the duty of the Attorney-General to show it. It would perhaps be convenient for the Attorney-General to explain the scope of the Bill on this clause. The objection which has been raised to the Bill has certainly influenced my opinion of it. I do not want to add to the legislation dealing with bills of exchange unless some advantage is to be gained by it. There is no object in passing it if it is to be merely an additional difficulty in the way of learning what the. law is on the subject. We do not want to pass mere placards.
.- Had other honorable members spoken on the second reading, I might have had an opportunity, after looking into Hie speech of the honorable member for West Sydney, to say a few words regarding what he said last night. Although the honorable member put his points with a good deal of emphasis and apparent conviction, I think lie misunderstood the decision of the High Court in the Huddart Parker case. I say that with great respect to him, because it is a judgment which requires a great deal of reading before one can see its exact drift. The deliverance of Mr. Justice Isaacs, to which he specially referred, was, as one would expect, exceedingly able, and the judgments of the Chief Justice and all the other Judges require very careful reading also, because they deal with some rather fine points of distinction as to the extent to which what are called the reserve powers of the Constitution can impliedly impose a limitation upon the express powers. Without presuming to give a comprehensive elucidation of that judgment, I mav say it is generally agreed that the Court decided that the power given by paragraph xx. of section 51 of the Constitution, in respect of “foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth,” did not mean pawer to control all the operations of corporations within the State sphere as well as in the Inter-State sphere. To put it into colloquial language, the Court decided that there is power to create corporations for the purpose of any of the express powers of the Constitution, of which “trade and commerce with other countries and between the States,” under paragraph 1. of section 51, forms one. Parliament, therefore, has power to create corporations as an instrumentality of any of the express powers, which include trade and commerce between the States. The power to create includes the power to control their- operations, and, therefore, within the Inter-State and external trade scope of the Australian Industries Preservation Acts 1906 and 1908, there is complete power over the operations of corporations. But the Court held that that power does not extend either to the creation of corporations for purely State purposes, or to the control of the operations of those corporations within the State sphere.
– Why, then, did they decide that sections 5 and 8 were ultra vires ?
– Because sections 5 and 8 of the Australian Industries Preservation Act dealt not only with trade and commerce between the States, but also with trade and commerce generally, and so with that part of the trade and commerce of Australia which is purely within the State cognisance or confined to the limits of one State. Those sections dealt with trade and commerce, but did not specify’ external trade and commerce between the States. Sections 4 and 7 dealt with trade and commerce between the States and with other countries. There, therefore, being no limitation in sections 5 and 8, they were held to be ultra vires, because that portion which dealt with trade and commerce between the States and with foreign countries could not be severed from that portion which dealt with purely local trade in the States. It was decided in a leading case in the United States that where general words include the two you cannot possibly sever them, but where there are separate words dealing with the two spheres - those of trade and commerce between the States and purely local trade - you can by a simple excision knock out the part which is ultra, vires and retain the other.
– What application has that to this Bill, under paragraph xvi. ot section 51 of the Constitution?
– It has this application : the Court held that the power over corporations in paragraph xx. of section 51 of the Constitution did not confer the power, which the Ministry at the time the Australian Industries Preservation Act was passed told us that it did, of controlling all the operations of corporations whether within the State or in relation to Inter-State commerce. The sections declared to be ultra vires included the good and bad parts in the expression, and, therefore, prevented severance. The honorable member, in effect, contends that every paragraph of section 51, however explicit, and however unrelated to a reserve power of trade and commerce, is controlled in some mysterious way by such a power. If that be so, each of these expressed powers is subject to a limitaton, not appearing on the face of the Constitution, which would prevent us from exercising them. The Bill deals, not only with the InterState operations of bills of exchange, but also with their currency, validity, and significance throughout the Commonwealth, without regard to State laws.
– Notwithstanding what the AttorneyGeneral has said, in my opinion, the judgment of the High Court is directly applicable to the Bill. The power given by paragraph xvi. is specific and definite. The States are not prohibited from passing concurrent legislation. If it is held that no power expressed under section 51 is to be read without the reservation that the States have exclusive powers where they are not prohibited in set terms, there is nothing in the paragraph which makes its powers exceptional.
– The High Court did not hold that they must be expressly prohibited.
– No ; but the Chief Justice said -
Section 51 of the Constitution empowered the Commonwealth to limit the capacity of trading or financial corporations formed within the Commonwealth by prohibiting them from entering into any given field of operations ; but that enactment does not empower the Commonwealth to control their operations in a field, the control of which is exclusively reserved to the States.
Paragraph xx. of section 51 enacts that -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to … trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
Obviously the power of the States is no more mentioned in paragraph xx. than in paragraph xvi. Since there is to be read into paragraph xx. the reservation that it is to apply only to Inter-State trade and not to Intra-State trade, that reservation must be read into paragraph xvi. The Chief Justice continued -
Sections 5 and 8 of the “ Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906 “ are not directed to the capacity of the corporations, but to their behaviour while acting within their capacity.
Mr. Justice O’Connor’s judgment was that
Section 51, sub-section xx., of the Constitution confers no power upon the Commonwealth further than to regulate the conditions on which corporations of the class described shall be recognised and permitted to carry on business, throughout the Commonwealth, and this subject to the State’s exclusive power to regulate in- “ternal trade.
If the general power to regulate trade and commerce can be applied anywhere, it can lie applied more effectively in paragraph xx. than in paragraph xvi.; and if in paragraph xx. it will not give the power to deal with Intra-State trade, there is no exception in regard to paragraph xvi. The words of Mr. Justice O’Connor are definite and unambiguous. The reservation must be read into all the paragraphs where it would not obviously render them useless. Mr. Justice Isaacs put forward the same contention as that of the Attorney-General. He said -
The Constitution is not to be read as containing an implied prohibition against interference with the internal trade of the States.
What implied prohibition is there in paragraph xx. ? When we were dealing with the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, we did not know of any, and the AttorneyGeneral did not suggest one. I submit that the point which I have raised is perfectly sound, and that consequently this Bill will apply only to bills of exchange which operate Inter-State and internationally. We should take immediate steps to provide for such an amendment of the Constitution as will remove the doubt, if it be no more, as to what our powers are, and will give us the powers which we thought we possessed. Nothing is to be gained by labouring the matter, but I considered it right to call attention to it. The existence of this doubt makes confusion and uncertainty possible. Should the judgment of the Court go as far as I think it does, our legislative powers are limited to a degree that makes them almost contemptible. I have placed on the notice-paper a question asking the Attorney-General to give the
House an official statement as to what he conceives to be the effect of the judgment, on this and kindred legislation, and I think that the further consideration of the measure should be postponed until we have received his answer.
– I am glad that the honorable member for West Sydney is now assuming an attitude the reverse of that which he took on former occasions, when he asked, “ Are we to doubt our own powers? Let us pass our Bills, and leave it to the Court to decide whether they are constitutional.”
– The Court- has given a judgment which applies to this Bill.
– As the honorable member for West Sydney had the temerity to question the application of the judgment of the Court, I have the greater audacity to question the soundness of his legal opinion on this point. There is no similarity between the Australian Industries Preservation Act and this Bill, so that the judgment of the Court does not bear upon the Bill. Sections 5 and 8 of the Act deal with corporations, not as corporations, but as corporations trading within the Commonwealth. Parliament made certain prohibitions in their case against combinations in restraint of trade. But our powers of legislation regarding trade are limited by the’ Constitution to trade with other countries or between the States. Mr. Justice Isaacs, when representing Indi, expressed the opinion that we could deal in this way with corporations; but by doing so this ridiculous position came about, that, while individuals and firms carrying on operations wholly within any State could not be interfered . with, a joint stock company doing so could be interfered with. Do not honorable members think that that “would have been a ridiculous position to be sustained by the Court? The Court, however, decided against it, holding that we were dealing with corporations not as corporations, but as traders and with their trade. It held that we had no right, under the Constitution, to deal with trade and commerce, except with other countries, or as between the States. That is the difference between the two cases. There is no such limitation applying to this Bill. The conditions in the two cases are entirely different, and there is not the slightest fear of our constitutional powers being called in question in regard to this measure.
.- Might I suggest to the Government that, until we have from the Attorney-General tomorrow a statement in reply to a question dealing with the effect of the- judgment referred to upon our power to legislate in this way, it would be useless to proceed, and that progress should be reported.
– If there was a reasonable possibility of hesitation on my part to give an answer, I should not object to the honorable member’s suggestion; but there is not.
– Whilst I have no desire to delay the discussion of this or of any other measure, I think that the AttorneyGeneral might reasonably consent to progress being reported, so that we may have a further opportunity to consider this question. If it be true, as contended by the ex-Attorney-General, that this Bill can apply only to Inter-State commerce, and to commerce beyond Australia, our power to deal with bills of exchange is so limited that it is not worth while proceeding with a measure of this kind. There are on the notice-paper many Bills in regard to which no such doubts exist ; and I think it would be well to report progress, in order that those doubts may be . resolved or further considered.
– It is not from any desire to be discourteous, but only for the reason that I have no doubt on the question, that I decline to accede to the honorable member’s request. We should stultify ourselves as a Parliament by accepting such reasoning as has been suggested. I have not the shadow of a doubt, but that the honorable member for West Sydney is mistaken in the construction which he seems to put upon the judgment in the Huddart Parker case. All- that the Court decided in that case was that, under paragraph xx., of section 51 of the Constitution, we have no power to create corporations, except in relation to the express power as to trade and commerce between the States and with foreign countries. If we had power to create corporations absolutely, then we could prescribe their trading operations; and it was because of our misunderstanding our power in that respect, that we made the scope of sections 5 and 8 of the Australian Industries Preservation Act too wide. But what have bills of exchange to do with the question of the reserve power under the trade and commerce paragraph of section 51? Absolutely nothing. I do not think that that provision gives us any power in relation to bills of exchange, even in regard to Inter-State operations. If I am not mistaken, it was decided, in relation to the stopping of postal matter under the gambling laws of the United States of America, that the trade and commerce section of the United States Constitution did not give Congress power over pure contracts, though it did to prohibit transmission as articles of commerce; that contracts were matters for the States, and that the trade and commerce section did not give Congress power to regulate the elements of contracts in relation to Intra-State operations. That being so, it would follow that bills of exchange, which are nothing more than contracts, cannot come within the scope of the trade and commerce sub-section. Notwithstanding that in the ‘ Constitution we are expressly given - without any limitation or reference to any other power - absolute control of bills of exchange, on the honorable member for West Sydney’s reasoning, we have no such power. If the honorable member is. right, also, one express power limits another, and even an implied power which is of equal vigour would limit an express power to which its subject-matter was unrelated. On the basis of that reasoning, there would be the same extraordinary limitation in regard to our power to provide for old-age pensions, and to deal with weights and measures ; and we should have, in short, a Constitution which would be the laughing-stock of the world. The High Court decided that we must take corporations created for the purpose of Intra-State commerce as we find them; that section 51, sub-section xx. of the Constitution ‘deals with corporations formed within the Commonwealth under State laws; and that as our power is not over corporations generally, but enables us to deal in certain respects with corporations which are formed under State laws, we must look to the States for the creation of corporations that are not required as instrumentalities of express powers. As we cannot create them, the Court held that we could not control them absolutely as we sought to do. All that we can do is to regulate them as instrumentalities of another power, which is the trade and commerce power. That is exactly the law in America. I may remind honorable members that the American laws upon this point deal also with the matter covered by the Australian Industries Preservation Act. They do not deal with the State operations of corporations. They recognise that the corporate power rests with the States, and that they have power to control their operations purely in relation to IntraState matters. That is what the High Court decided here, the only difference being that in our case there is some specific mention of some corporate power being vested in our Parliament. But that is a power limited purely to the control of certain relations of corporations which have been formed under State laws.
– Does the honorable member say that if we pass this Bill the States would not have power to legislate in respect to bills of exchange, cheques, and promissory notes?
– They could pass any legislation that they pleased under their concurrent powers, but any Act which came into conflict with the Commonwealth Act would be ultra vires.
– In respect to bills of exchange operating entirely within a State could not a State law be passed?
– A State could pass any law it pleased to apply within its boundaries, but if that law came into conflict with the Commonwealth Act it would go to the wall.
– Quite so ; but could this law conflict with any State laws in regard to cheques, promissory notes, and bills of exchange ?
– It could.
– If there were any conflict the Federal law would prevail.
– Under section 109 of the Constitution it is provided that -
When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.
That applies to all concurrent powers and the power to pass legislation in regard to bills of exchange is a concurrent one. I have no doubt that we have absolute power to pass a Bill relating to bills of exchange,, but I do not think we have power to deal with them under the trade and commerce provisions of section 51 of the Constitution. The only power we have is this express and unlimited one.
– The honorable member says that we have this power under paragraph xvi. of section 51.
– We cannot use the limited power of dealing with corporations that is given us by paragraph xx. to assume to ourselves what was exclusively left to the States, though not expressly - the power of
– I am glad to have had this statement from the Attorney-General, but I shall wait for an official reply to the question of which I have given notice before I say more on this subject.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Application of State laws).
– I should like to have an explanation from the Attorney-General in regard to this clause, for from what I have been able to glean it would appear to be to some extent an intrusion upon State rights. The matter should be made as clear as it can be made to the lay mind, because it has been laid down that the Commonwealth functions begin and cease with matters which concern more than one State.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I notice that in the press this morning a certain number of names are mentioned of gentlemen who it is suggested should act as an Advisory Committee to the High Commissioner when that official is appointed. I should like to know whether the list of names is authentic, and what the duties of the High Commissioner, so far as they can be described, will be. Does any member of the Government know whether Lord Strathcona has a Committee to assist him as High Commissioner for Canada? The statement in the press is an extraordinary
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the House the statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Darwin, to the effect that a loan sought to be floated by the municipality of Fremantle had been a failure. I believe the honorable member for Darwin at the same time requested the Prime Minister to make arrangements bv which municipalities similarly circumstanced should be supplied with money. This statement that the flotation of the loan has been a failure has gone forth to the public, but I have to-day received the following telegram from the town clerk of Fremantle, to the following effect -
To-day’s West Australian reports Mr. O’Malley yesterday House of Representatives ask voluminous questions reference failure Fremantle Municipality float loan. Mr. O’Malley. no authority ask questions. His statement failure loan absolutely incorrect and untrue. Loanmore than subscribed -
– I must point out to the honorable member that he is not in order in reading any document or statement which charges another honorable member with saying what is untrue. I ask the honorable member to withdraw the statement he has made, and to avoid! any further reference of the kind.
– I am very sorry if I have transgressed the rules, and I am quite willing to withdraw the statement. The telegram proceeds -
Councils Fremantle and East Fremantle willi thank you make statement in the House absolutely denying O’Malley’s assertions also kindly give denial and publicity Melbourne press.
I hope that this denial will be published! in the press. I understand that the honorable -member for Darwin quoted from newspaper reports, which were probably inspired by the very people he mentioned as having been “ done out of “ some commission. In any case, whatever was printed in the Victorian newspapers it furnished no reason for doing an injury to .Fromantle.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to afford the House an opportunity to-morrow to deal with the proposed adjournment in connexion with the Premiers’ Conference?
Mr.DEAKIN (Ballarat- Prime Minister)[11. 2]. - I propose to make a statement to-monow in regard to the proposed adjournment, and then, of course, there will be opportunity for consideration. 1 am quite willing to consult the Leader of the Opposition if he so desires. I may add that the Government have not considered - or have not even taken the first steps to consider - the ‘ appointment of an Advisory Committee to assist the High Commissioner, inasmuch as the High Commissioner Bill is only about to be laid upon the table for the consideration of honorable members. The proposal for such a Committee has been favorably discussed in the press for the last two or three years from time to time, but where the present list of names was obtained I am unable to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090804_reps_3_50/>.