3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Treasurer yet in a position to answer the question I put to him some days ago as to whether arrangements would be made for paying oldage pensions at the Wyalong post-office ?
– Inquiry is being made, and I shall give the Honorable member a reply as soon as possible.
– Has the Prime Minister given further consideration to a suggestion which I made, some weeks since, that a boat containing provisions should be moored in. the lagoon at Middleton Reef, to provide sustenance for unfortunates who might be shipwrecked in the neighbourhood?
– I am having inquiries made as to the best means of meeting the emergency.
asked the Minister of Defence,up on notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
.- I move -
That this House dissents from the ruling of Mr. Speaker that an honorable member is not entitled to read from a newspaper matter reflecting on honorable members personally.
Yesterday, during the discussion of a motion arising out of the presentation of the Printing Committee’s report, you ruled, Mr. Speaker, that I should not be in order in reading from a newspaper report of proceedings in this Chamber, so far as it affected honorable members of the House. I wished to read that report to show that certain things had been done here of which Hansard contained no record. Your predecessor could not be cavilled at for want of ability to control the conduct of honorable members.
– It was he who authorized the omission from Hansard to which the honorable member wishes to refer.
– I shall deal with’ that later. I wish now to make a quotation from Hansard to show what the late Speaker allowed in regard to the reading of newspaper statements reflecting on honorable members. According to the. official record, volume XLVII., page1379the honorable member for Wentworth, on the 21st October, 1908, quoted the following passage from the Brisbane Worker - “Laugh and jeer, as we may at G. H. Reid, what can we wish him worse than the partnership of Alfred Deakin? He built his little house upon the faith of Deakin, had he read his Encyclofedia Britannica more closely he might have been forewarned by the parable of the house built upon sand. Deakin is all sand - sand without grit, quicksand. Woe betide the political wayfarer who ventures, his feet that way ! There is no foothold in Deakin. He is true to nobody, not even to himself.” The same newspaper said again - “ The workers’ delight at the downfall of Reid is only equalled by its contempt for the bloke that did it.” “ Appropriately enough, the champion Judas of Australia represents a Bally rat.”
The following remarks appearing in the Brisbane Worker on that occasion are singularly appropriate, of the present situation - “ Double-dealer Deakin is still ‘ explaining.’ History repeats itself with the difference - Judas did all his explaining at the end of a rope.” I do not make these quotations because I think they are altogether fair criticisms of the Prime Minister. I recognise that the honorable gentleman has been wickedly treated. He always is ! The Worker referred to the fact that the Prime Minister was still explaining. The honorable gentleman is at the same business yet. He is now engaged in explaining the little difference as to figures to which the honorable member for Flinders referred the other night.
– What is the honorable member doing?
– Throwing mud.
– The honorable member might come to my ruling.
– I should like first 10 quote another newspaper extract which the honorable member for Wentworth was per- nutted by the late Speaker to read. It was from the Adelaide Herald, and in these terms -
Mr. Deakin has betrayed in politics more friends, parties, and coalitions than any other three men in Australia. … At all times, supported by a powerful daily paper, and obedient to its every whim, he was able to betray with impunity where others would have been crushed. . . ‘ . Mr. Deakin may last this’ Parliament. It might be well ta keep him there.
Your predecessor. Sir, permitted those passages to be read, and to be recorded in Hansard, and’ in my judgment, the report which I was proceeding to read yesterday -did not reflect on any honorable member -nearly as seriously as do they on the character and political honesty of the leader of this House.. The report which I wished to read contained words actually uttered in this Chamber, though not recorded in Hansard. It will form a dangerous precedent if two or three members are allowed to put their heads together, and agree upon the elimination from Hansard of true and faithful reports of our discussions. In addition to the passages which I have just read,I could instance many other quotations, by prominent members, of newspaper passages reflecting on . the character of other honorable members more strongly than that which I wished to read yesterday. But it is not necessary for me to pile up precedents. It has been laid down in other Australian Parliaments that Hansard is not to be altered except by the vote of the. House, and recently when, in the House of Commons, a member had said something detrimental of Mr. Will Crooks, and, finding that he was wrong, appealed to have the record expunged, the House granted the request. To go a little further, we find right through our own history cases where a House itself, on being appealed to by those affected, has been liberal enough to expunge records which had better never have entered the pages of Hansard. I do not desire to hurt any one’s feelings by referring to a notable case in Queensland, where statements, made by a responsible member concerning another, were deleted by a vote of the Chamber. Had the extracts I read been published in the columns of Hansard I should, 1 think, have been in order yesterday. Be that as it may, the report did not appear in Hansard, and that fact alone indicates that there has been some . censorship which is out of harmony with the practice observed throughout the British Dominions. I do not think it necessary to say more in proof of the admissibility of a quotation similar to that I attempted yesterday, What the honorable member for Wentworth quoted is ten times more a reflection on the present Prime Minister than what I read was a reflection on the honorable members concerned, yet it Was permitted by the late Speaker; and there are numerous other instances. I do not wish for a moment to cast any reflection on the Chair. The Speaker has nn arduous position to fill at all times; but, when honorable members on the other side read from the newspapers I have mentioned quotations of a disparaging character regarding other honorable members, there do not seem to have been any objections raised. I trust there will be no differentiation made between honorable members as to what they are permitted to do in the performance of their -duty, as they realize it, to the country and Parliament. When I rose yesterday to appeal against your ruling, I felt keenly as I feel now - though then to a greater degree - that I had been ‘ intercepted in a way that had not been usual in this Chamber, that had not been adopted by your predecessor since the beginning of Federation. I felt that I was being treated differently from the honorable member for Wentworth and others who have read more disparaging reports ; and I regarded it as my duty to appeal against the ruling. I have, however, gained my object in drawing attention to the matter, and personally I do not desire to press the motion.
– I recognise that it is the inherent right, and one of the highest privileges of every member in the Chamber, to, in the manner provided in the Standing Orders, move dissent from any ruling of the Chair ; and I should be the last to resent any motion of the sort. I also realize that it is the duty of the Chair, on all occasions, to preserve in every possible way, all the rights and privileges of honorable members, and to so exercise the duties, of this very high position, as to show that there is absolutely 110 differentiation, between honorable members on either side, or belonging to any party. I desire to say that the ruling I gave yesterday was based on standing order 272, which is as follows : -
No member shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member thereof, or against any statute; unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations or improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
The honorable member for Gwydir was proceeding to read from a newspaper statements which made it appear that an honorable member of the House had called another honorable member a “ prevaricator,” “a scoundrel,” and a “scoundrel talking like that.” I pointed out to the honorable member that such an interchange would not_be’ allowed in the Chamber, and surely the report of such an interchange is more disorderly? The honorable member has appealed to the late distinguished occupant of this chair; and I intend to read three rulings which that gentleman gave on two consecutive days. On 27th July, 1905, as re ported on page 243 of Hansard, on a newspaper article being read, the late Speaker said -
If the honorable member were making such a statement as that in the course of a speech he would certainly be out of order, and would be called upon to retract his utterance. Therefore, I do not think that the honorable member, under the cover of some article in a newspaper, should say things concerning an honorable member that he could not utter directly.
– What member was that ?
– Is it necessary to mention the name?
– I should like to know.
-It was the honorable member for Dalley. On the next page, 243, the late Speaker is reported to have said -
I do not think that the honorable member should read such statements. As I have already pointed out, he would not be allowed to make them upon his own account ; and that which he would not be allowed to say upon his own account, he ought not to be permitted to utter as an extract. If he feels it necessary to read such extracts, I would suggest that he should omit all objectionable epithets.
Then on page 349 is this further statement -
I pointed out yesterday, in another connexion, that I cannot allow honorable members to repeat as having been said by some other person that which they may not say themselves. If I did allow it, an honorable member might take advantage of the fact to say almost anything, by imputing it to a third person, who might not even be in existence.
I leave this question with the utmost confidence to the consideration of this House, only desiring to say that I regard myself, and must regard myself, as the custodian of the personal honour, as well as of the corporate dignity of this House, and that I shall always endeavour by interposing to give honorable members time to consider whether personal reflections and imputations should be made.
.- As one of the worst offenders in” this House on many occasions, I wish to say that I am not sorry the honorable member for Gwydir has brought this matter before the House, because it has enabled you, sir, to emphasize one of the most valuable rules which has governed our proceedings. We must* all recognise the enormous difficulties of your position, Mr. Speaker, because occasionally rules will . be broken under circumstances of personal wrong, which may even call for sympathy and to some extent, perhaps, the indulgence of the Chair. But I do not think that any such situation was in evidence when the honorable member for Gwydir used those extracts. May I also take the opportunity to emphasize one remark which you have just made, namely, that the Speaker is the guardian of the personal honour of this House. That remark can be amplified, because the Speaker is not only the guardian of the personal honour of this House, but the guardian of the personal honour of every honorable member. I have sometimes heard from the. Chair, even within the last day or two - and formerly under the best of Speakers we could ever have - the observation that if an honorable member considered any remark offensive it would have to be withdrawn. That often brings a laugh down on the honorable member who is smarting under some unparliamentary utterance - some remark which is, and which we all take to be, positively offensive. I do not think that when an honorable member calls the attention of the Chair to a breach of the rule which you have just mentioned, he should be put in the position indicated by the observation I have referred to. It is the Speaker’s personal duty to protect each honorable member of this House, and it should not lie on the honorable member who is aggrieved to put himself sometimes in a ridiculous position bycalling the attention of the Chair to the injustice he has suffered. I think that the honorable member for Gwydir will be entirely with you, sir, now that he sees that the rule is what it is, and that it has been carried out as it was by the late Speaker.; and that he will be the first to concur in the observations I have just made.
.- I indicated that, as far as I am personally concerned, my object has been attained, and that I did not desire to place on record any objectionable remarks made by a newspaper. My idea was only to point out that there had been a custom of eliminating matter from Hansard, and that this should not have been allowed without a vote of the House. I have no personal feeling on the subject, and. as 1 should not like any one to cast aspersions on my character - I like to do to others as I would have them do to me; - with the permission of the House, I shall withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
C.10.58]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I have already, on the consideration of His Excellency the Governor-General’s message, explained the object of the Bill, and given all the information that occurred to me at the time. I do not know that I need say anything more now, because, when we are in Committee, I shall be able to give any further information required by honorable members in regard to the various clauses. I may say that the standard of the coinage will be the same as in Great Britain and Canada, namely, 92.5 per cent, of silver and 7.5 of alloy. In every other British Dominion where there is a distinct coinage, the standard is lower, namely, 80 per cent, of silver and 20 per cent, of alloy. Of course, there is greater profit in the lower standard, but we have thought it better, in regard to the intrinsic value of our coins, to follow the example of Great Britain and Canada.
– Will that help us at all in the interchange of coin?
– I am not prepared to say, but it will show that we have not sought to depart from the standard established in Great Britain and Canada. Of course, it would be possible to make the coins of iron, when the return would be nearly all profit, but that is not the precedent that has been established in the two greatest parts of the Empire.
– Would what is proposed help us in exchanging a pound’s worth of our silver at ‘Home ?
– 1 do not think our silver coins will be interchangeable in the Old Country, but they may be taken to some extent in the islands of the Pacific, and even in New Zealand. We know that something similar occurs in the United States and Canada and also on the Continent of Europe, where a Swiss or Italian franc is taken in France, and wee versa, although in neither of those cases do the actual value of the coins represent the face value. That is done for convenience in many countries that adjoin one another, although the practice is not universal.
– Why will not our coins be interchangeable in the Old Country, if the standard is the same?
– Because one could not get gold for them. In the Old Country one can get gold for the Imperial silver coinage, and one could get gold in Australia for the Australian silver coinage, but if ours were taken to the Old Country, one could not get gold for it at its face value. I shall be glad to give any further information required in Committee.
– It is a pity that while on the coinage question we have not at once adopted the decimal system of dollars and cents. It seems foolish to perpetuate the antiquated system of pounds, shillings and pence in an age when the world is abandoning all its old methods and adopting progressive ideas. Nearly half the world to-day has chosen the decimal system. It seems funny to hear people talk of intrinsic value in money. Money is only a medium of exchange. A postage stamp has the same value as though it were made of gold of the same amount. Indestructibility of value is the morality of money. Coin represents an exchangeable value, and all that we want is something by means of which we can exchange our products, properties, and commodities. When one buys a property or commodity the seller does not weigh one’s money. Our gold or silver does. not pass because it contains so many ounces. If that were so, our silver would have to be weighed, because the intrinsic value of a pound’s worth of silver coin is only about 8s. Yet that pound of silver passes as current coin throughout the Commonwealth. That being so, does it not seem folly, when beginning a new system of currency, not to adopt at once a system whereby we can utilize the credits, of the country? The credits of the country are not used when we only establish our currency on the basis of gold. You might just as well have the title deed to a property written on a gold bond of the value of the property, whereas you only have a piece of paper to represent a title to property worth perhaps millions. But you do not claim that that piece of paper should possess the value of the property. According to our system of exchange, our measure of the standard of value, every title deed ought to possess the value of the property itself. In other words, every title ought to be written on a piece of gold to the value of the property. The time has come for us to begin to think upon these questions. The Treasurer now has a chance to introduce a system of coinage which is recognised by 90,000,000 people in the United States, 6,000,000 in Canada, and 15,000,000 in Mexico, and by the people in several other countries, while Japan has virtually a decimal system although it is not upon the same basis. We have now a chance to make a change, yet no change is made. We are to continue the same antiquated system, and the same old conditions. I did expect something progressive from this Treasurer, but I am disappointed. I suppose it would be of no use to try to persuade the right honorable gentleman, backed as he is by honorable members on the Government side, to make a change, for if they attempted to do so they would be frightened, arguing that they had no precedent to follow. Yet every, person admits that a child landing in the United States could pick up the American currency in an hour. One hundred cents make a dollar, 50 cents half a dollar, and 25 cents a quarter of a dollar. The whole currency is so easy to calculate that any child could understand it, but no man in Australia could figure up the interest at a certain rate, upon, say, ,£1,357 7s. 8Jd., without consulting a book. The Treasurer has a splendid chance to effect reform, but I suppose it is not to be done.
.- While I am in accord with other honorable members in congratulating the Treasurer on the monetary advantage that will accrue to Australia bv the adoption of the proposed scheme of Australian coinage, I also regret that he has not seen his way to introduce the reforms suggested by the Coinage Committee. There are, of course, certain difficulties in the way of the adoption of a decimal coinage system in any country. I readily admit that they exist in the case of the proposals of the Decimal Coinage Committee ; but similar, difficulties have been overcome elsewhere, and the change, after it has been made, has invariably been found to be of great advantage to the community. I am sure that if the change were made in Australia any slight difficulties that might be encountered at the outset would be more than counterbalanced by the facility with which calculations could be made. Much less time would be taken in educating children in arithmetical problems, and the community would at once acquire a facility in calculations which would be equal to several degrees of added intelligence amongst the whole people. That of itself is no mean consideration, and I am exceedingly sorry that the question was not grasped and its difficulties fairly faced, because I am sure that those difficulties could be quite easily overcome. It has been pointed out that the substitution for the penny piece of the decimal coin which comes nearest to it in denomination would be a slight disadvantage to any one who has to buy, say, a morning newspaper. I quite agree that that would be so.
– Hear,’ hear. The papers ought to be reduced to a halfpenny.
– That is the tendency, but we have not reached that stage in Australia yet. In other directions, however, there would be advantages which people who deal with the existing coinage do not realize. Poor people who have to buy their goods in small quantities lose considerably in the course of the year by the lack of any coin of less value than a halfpenny. For instance, a poor person who wants to buy half a pound of butter which is valued by the retailer at 10½d. per lb. loses exactly’ the half of a halfpenny in each transaction. Those losses steadily accumulating, as they do, mean a considerable deduction in the course of the year from the actual value of the purchases. I intend later to move in Committee an amendment which. I think will improve the measure. It is intended by the Bill to make nothing in the shape of coinage legal except what bears the Australian device. It is not intended to make our coins in any way different in value from the Imperial coins, and, therefore, I do not see why we should penalize any one who happens to land in Australia with a few silver or copper coins in his pocket.
– It is not intended to do that now.
– It is intended to do it ultimately.
– About fifteen years hence, when we have completed our agreement with the Imperial Government, and sent all the old silver coinage away.
– I do not see’.why we should not continue an arrangement by which- a few British silver coins could still be accepted in Australia as the equivalent of similiar Australian coins.
– That will be so until the proclamation is issued, which it is anticipated will not be for many years.
– I want to have it permanently established that any one calling at an Australian port with a few British silver coins in his pocket shall have no difficulty in making any purchases that he may require on shore with them. The quantity introduced in that way would be infinitesimal, for nobody would carry any considerable quantity of silver change to Australia. It would be a decided advantage if a facility of that kind were continued for all time.
– The honorable member can deal with that point in Committee on clause 5.
– I am merely indicating my intention to move accordingly, for I think it will decidedly improve the measure.
– Every body will admit the advantages of decimal coinage, and the still greater advantages of a decimal system of weights and measures.
– I think they ought to go together.
– I should like to see them brought in together. From the point of view of the time- wasting effect of the present clumsy methods of computing, certainly weights and measures are much more important than even coinage. During the term of their education the attention of children is taken up for long periods of time in learning our present complicated and antiquated system of computation.
– Do not such exercises develop the brain?
– I think not. If a child cannot, with reasonable ease, arrive at a result, he is naturally inclined to turn his attention to something else.
– We cannot develop the brains of children bv giving them puzzles.
– I agree with the honorable member. Many of our calculating systems are veritable tangles, and a child, in endeavouring to make himself familiar with them, often finds himself, so to speak, against a stone wall. In connexion with field measurement, for instance, we have a most extraordinary set of calculations.
– What about the pons asinorum?
– That is practically simple and straightforward as compared with many calculations in connexion with our present system of weights and measures. The question that confronts us is whether it would not be better to wait until we can deal comprehensively with the whole question of decimal coinage, and the metric system of weights and measures, instead of dealing with decimal coinage in the incomplete manner proposed by this Bill. Another consideration is whether by making the sovereign the standard unit, as is proposed under this Bill, we shall not set up a standard that will ultimately lead to alterations of the penny and the halfpenny, so as to make them decimal proportions of the present shilling and sovereign. I think that it would be better to make the halfpenny the standard unit. It is all very well to say that people can readily accommodate themselves to changes in our monetary system, and can put up goods to meet the altered values of coins, but, by making the sovereign the unit, we should meet with serious difficulty. We should have to make changes that would lead to an increase of something like 15 per cent, in the cost of goods now purchasable for one penny. For instance, ten papers, now sold at a penny each, would . be sold for a shilling, and the effect of such an alteration would also be seriously felt in connexion with the payment of wages, which are. calculated by the hour in pence. The values of a hundred and one articles of domestic use would be changed.
– Under this Bill ?
– Not under this Bill, because for the moment the Government are shelving the whole question of decimal coinage by leaving the penny and the halfpenny untouched. That means that we shall have only the pretence of a decimal system of coinage. It is proposed to do away with the half-crown.
– The Bill” will not do away with that coin.
– No ; but under the Bill a proclamation may be issued for calling in the half-crown. We have to consider, however, what is intended ultimately to be brought about by this reform. The Bill, so far as it relates to decimal coinage, will be meaningless unless we alter the denominations of the penny and the halfpenny, so as to agree with the new system. Honorable members may well consider whether, instead of providing that the sovereign shall remain, and that all other coins shall, correspond in their decimal proportions with it, it would not be better to make the halfpenny the unit, and to work upwards.
– Would not that be disadvantageous to the worker? Under such a system he would only get for a shilling what he may now buy for tenpence.
– It would be better to start -with the five-mill piece? That would overcome any difficultyof the kind.
– That, I think, is the best of all proposals. Such a change would make very little difference in values, whereas if the denominations of the present pennies and halfpennies were altered, so as to fit in with the adoption of the sovereign as the standard unit, purveyors of goods now sold at a penny would reap an advantage of about 15 per cent, in values. If the scheme proposed under this Bill were extended, it would mean that a penny would be a tenth of a shilling.
– But the Bill means nothing - it is mongrel, or hybrid.
– Adopting the honorable member’s own “ language, it is like most of the proposals made by the Government - meaningless and mongrel - and is hardly worth while passing, so far as it relates to decimal coinage.
– We shall make a profit of£100,000 a year under it.
– I am quite prepared to accept that part of the Bill which provides for the Commonwealth minting its own silver, but I have been referring more particularly to the proposals to alter the demominations of Australian coins. I agree with the honorable member for Perth that it would be much better to adopt the proposals of the Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage. If we do make any change, it should be one to which we should be able, later on, to graft a workable system, instead of one that we should have ultimately to undo in order to bring about a proper system of decimal coinage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) The Treasurer may cause to be made and issued silver and bronze coins of the dimensions, designs, ‘and denominations specified in any proclamation under this Act. (2.) All coins to be so made and issued, if of the denominations mentioned in the Schedule, shall be of the weight and fineness specified in the Schedule. (3. ) Any silver coin to . be so made and issued, if of a denomination not mentioned in the Schedule, shall be of the same fineness as is specified in the Schedule for silver coins, and shall be of a weight which bears the same’ proportion to the weight of a shilling specified in the Schedule as the denomination of the coin bears to a shilling. (4.) In the making of coins, a remedy (or variation from the standard weight and fineness specified in the , Schedule) shall be allowed as follows : -
.- I wish to ask the Treasurer whether, under this clause, it would be possible, assuming that the schedule be adopted, for the Government to proclaim and” to issue new denominations that were not authorized by the Parliament when the Bill was under discussion ?
– I should like some explanation from the Treasurer of the terms “standard weight,” “least current weight,” and “remedy allowance,” used in the schedule. Why, for instance, is the standard weight set out in Imperial weight grains and metric weight grams ? Is it to facilitate the discharge of international commercial debts? Is our coinage to be based on the mint, the current, or the commercial par of exchange.
Mr.FRAZER (Kalgoorlie) [11.33].- It seems to me that clause 4, read in conjunction with clause 8, would allow the Treasurer of the day to authorize’ at anytime the issue of coins of denominations not specified in the schedule, without even submitting the matter to Parliament.It says : -
The Treasurer may cause to be made and issued silver and bronze coins of the dimensions, designs, and denominations specified in any proclamation under this Act, and clause 8 provides that -
Every proclamation under this section shall come into operation on a date therein specified, and shall have effect as if . it were enacted in this Act.
Of course, any proclamation would be that of the Governor-General in Council. Apparently the Ministry is endeavouring to get power to do something by proclamation which is not otherwise provided for in the Bill. The alteration of the coinage system is surely a matter for Parliament.
– Sub-clause 2 of clause 4 says -
All coins to be so made and issued, if of the denominations mentioned in the schedule, shall be of the weight and fineness specified in the schedule.
That seems to contemplate the possibility of coins of other denominations than those mentioned in the schedule.
– Read sub-clause 3.
– It provides that-
Any silver coin to be so made and issued, if of a denomination not mentioned in the schedule, shall be of the same fineness as is specified in the schedule for silver coins, and shall be of a weight which bears the same proportion to the weight of a shilling specified in the schedule as the denomination of the coin bears to a shilling.
No doubt the issue of coins not now specified is contemplated.
– But the proportionate value will not be altered.
– That is so.
– I cannot conceive of the possibility of the issue of coins* of denominations not specified in the schedule, other than half-crowns and crowns. It seems to me a weak point to make the unit a shilling instead of a bronze coin. The difficulties which this would create would increase with time. It would cause something little short of a revolution to attempt to depreciate the penny. I should like to add to what the honorable member for Boothby has said that the introduction of the decimal system will be of but little utility if it is confined to our currency, and not applied to weights and measures. The metric system, where universal, facilitates computations and calculations to such an extent that it probably results, in education and commercial transactions, in a saving of time equivalent to 25 per cent. From the stand-point of the revenue, the proposed arrangement is, of course, a good one, and I cordially support it. But as a contribution towards the adoption of the decimal system, it is almost negligible.
– I wish to know if there is any limitation on the Treasurer’s power to issue silver and bronze coins in times of financial depression. A Treasurer who is hard-up might feel tempted to inflate the currency by issuing a tremendous number of coins. The power of money depends on its volume, the regulation of its issue, and the manner in which it is received.
– It must.be remembered that bronze is legal tender only to the value of a shilling, and silver only to the value of £2.
– That is so, but a Government which was in difficulties might try to put a great quantity of coinage into circulation, hoping to make things right a little later. I should like the Attorney-General to express an opinion as to the provisions of this clause, because the power of issuing coinage is one which vitally concerns the interests of the nation. One thing to be maintained is the power value of the coinage, which should never be allowed to depreciate.
– What the honorable member for Kalgoorlie says is quite correct. There are certain coins specified in the schedule, subject to any variation by proclamation that does not affect their standard relation in weight and fineness. In regard to silver, the standard is the shilling, and all new coins must bear a certain ratio to that coin.
– Can the standard be varied by a proclamation?
– Sub-clause 4 of clause 4 is as follows : - (4.) In the making of coins, a remedy (or variation from the standard weight and fineness specified in the Schedule) shall be allowed as follows : -
– I do not like that.
– It means that a variation in regard to new coins may be prescribed by proclamation.
– Sub-section 3 provides that any coin not mentioned in the schedule shall be governed in both weight and fineness bv relation to the shilling.
– Yes, and that gives power to vary the variation ; and in this, though 1 am not sure, I think the Bill follows the Imperial Act. There is power by proclamation to introduce new denominations of coin, and to vary them and vary the remedy as prescribed by the schedule. If honorable members wish to keep full control, it could be provided that no proclamation shall issue except by a motion by both Houses, or the reference to the proclamation could be struck cut altogether, any fresh coinage being authorized by Bill. I suppose that the reason power is given to issue a proclamation is that formerly the issue of all coinage lay with the Crown, and the authorities are slow to make any alteration in the Old Country. ‘ The honorable member for Darwin suggested that the Treasurer might issue an extraordinary amount of coin at any time when we were in* want of money ; but I do not think the Treasurer is likely to do that, seeing that his chief desire is to get money in. T regard the suggestion of the honorable member as practically impossible, because the Treasurer does not issue coinage except on demand by the public.
– But the Treasurer is the public in regard to the issue of coinage.
– Where there is no Act of Parliament compelling certain things to be done, as there is in America in connexion with silver and paper money, the issue of coinage depends on the demands of the commercial community ; and the relation of the volume of silver to the volume of gold will depend on the . peculiarities of the demand in Australia. In other words, the Treasurer pays in the- ordinary course, just as a banker does ; and we know that a banker does not issue notes ad libitum, but only on demand being made for them on the bank.
– But the banker encourages overdrafts in boom times, and withdraws them in bad times.
– As a matter of fact, a banker cannot swell the amount of the currency, so long as it is not legal tender, beyond the demand by the public over the counter ; and I think that the same applies to all operations of the kind to the Treasurer in England.
– Would it not be possible under this Bill for the Exchequer to introduce the decimal system, while there might be a majority against that course in Parliament ?
– I do not think so, because the standard would then have to be altered, the standard under the Bill being a shilling. I cannot conceive such a change being made by proclamation, even if it were possible under the Bill. I was a member of the Decimal Coinage Committee, and, although I was not at first convinced that the system was the best for Australia, I eventually signed the report in its favour. It is not clear that the Executive could issue a proclamation instituting the decimal system, although a motion was carried by this House in its favour five or six years ago.
– Would it not be possible, under this Bill, to pave the way for a decimal system?
– Not under this Bill, because the standard renders that impossible.
Mr.AGAR WYNNE (Balaclava) [11.53]. - I move-
That the word “bronze,” sub-clauseI, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ nickel.”
Our bronze coins are heavy, clumsy, and dirty to handle, as any one realizes when he has twelve pennies in his pocket. Newspaper boys soon get their pockets full of the unwieldy coins ; and I am told that in some weeks’the Melbourne Tramway Companv pay as much as a ton of copper into the bank. Nickel makes a very light coin in the sizes of a threepenny-piece or a sixpence, and nickel coins are in use in Canada and other British Possessions, and in the United States.
– One disadvantage is that nickel coins are very like silver coins.
– I had not been in Canada two days before I could tell the difference ; and . when nickel coins are the currency of the country very few, or no, mistakes can be made. It is true that’ visitors might, during the first- day or two of their stay, fall into error, but it would not prove very expensive, seeing that the largest nickel coin is about the size of a sixpence. A “ nickel V is an easy way of describing a coin ; and I do not see why we should adhere to the old-fashioned bronze coins, which are dirty, and, no doubt, unhealthy. There have been manycases of children suffering seriously from placing them in their mouths ; whereas nickel coins are clean; and, moreover, would be cheaper and more profitable for the Government. As to the decimal system, I think we could adapt it to our English coinage, if we made our lowest coin or penny equal to a cent., so as to have ten to the shilling. The difference is something less than a farthing; and the only people who might gain slightly would be the newspaper proprietors. In any case, the loss to the individual would be almost infinitesimal.
– It represents a large percentage.
– I. should say that it would represent a very slight percentage of loss to the individual ; though, at the end of the year, it might mean something more to the newspaper proprietors.
– In such case, the florin standard would be better than the shilling.
– AllI desire is that we should begin with ten or twentv cents. In regard to the gold coinage, I regard it as a waste of money to issue the £5 piece. In America and in Canada I saw two $2o-pieces, but they were only, shown as a pattern or’ curiosity, not a single person, so far as I could learn, using them in exchange.
.-I join in the regret that the Treasurer has not adopted the decimal system, because I regard the recommendations of the Select Committee as incontrovertible. I take it that clauses 4 and 8 should be read together. I join with the honorable member for Balaclava in the proposal that we should have nickel coins instead of copper coins; though I recognise that this would rather tend to complicate matters in connexion with the slot machines, which are coming into use in many directions.
– It would only be necessary to alter the adjustment slightly.
-That might mean considerable expense. The similarity in appearance between the silver and nickel coins could be easily obviated; and, before the honorable member for Balaclava spoke, I had intended to make. a suggestion in this respect. I do not see any reason why we should conservatively adhere to the present shape of our coinage. Why not have square or rectangular coins? It would be an advantage to make the halfsovereign octagonal in shape, for people sometimes give that coin in mistake for a sixpenny piece. On one occasion I gave a two-shilling piece to the Sydney Ferry Company instead of a penny. The Treasurer has- power to fix the design of the coins by proclamation, and it would be very easy to alter the shape, so that there could be no possible mistake. That would also meet the difficulty raised with regard to using nickel instead of copper. I hope the Treasurer will adopt my suggestion, on behalf of numbers of people who are not as careful as they might be in handling money.
– I do not like the idea of making coins octagonal.
– The right honorable member’s Conservative mind cannot rise to the idea. He cannot get away from old methods; but I trust that he will give my suggestion serious consideration.
– As a member of the Coinage Committee which reported in favour of the decimal system, I very much regret that the Government have not seen their way to adopt it. I recognise that any Government, in making such a change, would have to face the differentiation from the British system ; but the proposals of the Committee were so framed that the differentiation would be as small as possible. The- difficulties of calculation, and of bringing the two systems into line in commerce, were minimised by the recommenda-tion of the Committee to fix the florin as the standard, and to make the Australian sovereign, if minted under such a system, of the exact value of the British sovereign. The florin, which would be one-tenth of the sovereign, would be the standard. Half the florin would be a shilling, a quarterflorin sixpence, and so down to the cent, which would be about a halfpenny. The only difference would be a variation of 4 per cent, in the penny and halfpenny piece in favour of the consumer.
– And an advantage in the subdivision of . existing coins in favor of small purchasers. Mr.. . DUGALD THOMSON.- The honorable member is quite right. I regret that no Government has yet seen its way to adopt that system. It must come, sooner or later. It would be an advantage commercially to the buyer, as the honorable member for Perth has said, in the greater subdivision of the coins ; and it would be a facility in every way to every individual in the community, saving cost in schooling in arithmetic, and so on, and giving considerable advantages in other ways. I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava as to the convenience of the nickel as compared with the bronze coin. One reason why the Government did not adopt the decimal system may have been that they did not wish to depart at present from the British system ; and, for the same reason* they may have decided not to adopt nickel coins immediately. But probably effect might >be given to the suggestion of the honorable member for Balaclava by giving the option of nickel or bronze.
– Clause 8 deals with that.
– I see that clause 8 gives the option to the GovernorGeneral in Council to proclaim the character of any coin’s other than silver or bronze. I wish to draw particular attention to paragraph b of sub-clause 4 of clause 4. A distinction is made between the remedy or variation which shall be allowed in the case of coins of denominations mentioned in the schedule, and the remedy to be allowed in the case of coins of denomina-tions not mentioned in the schedule. The first is fixed in the schedule by Parliament ; the second is to be left to the GovernorGeneral in Council to fix by proclamation. The Imperial Act allows a proportionate variation on all coins, whether mentioned in the schedule or new coins not in existence when the schedule was published. It provides, first, that -
All coins made at the Mint of the denominations mentioned in the first schedule to this Act shall be of the weight and fineness specified in that schedule. . . .
That is practically the same as the provision in paragraph a of sub-clause 4 of this clause. But the Imperial Act further provides that -
If any coin of gold, silver, or bronze of any other denomination than that of the co.ins mentioned in the first schedule to this Act, is hereafter coined at the Mint, such coin shall be of a weight and fineness bearing the same proportion to the weight and fineness specified in that schedule, as the denomination of such coin bears to the denominations mentioned in that schedule.
That is, it shall be proportionate.
– -.And it means that no Government can alter it.
– That is so. It is important that we should hold in the hands of Parliament the remedy or variation to be allowed on our coins. It is also logical that if we fix a certain variation or remedy for coins that are now existent and mentioned in the schedule, there should be a proportionate reme’dy or variation if other coins of similar metal are afterwards adopted. When we hand tq the Governor-General in Council the power to decide what coins may be issued,in addition to those already existing, we ought not to part with the power of fixing the remedy or variation in regard to them - a power which we exercise under this clause in regard to the remedy or variation for existing coins. The one is a matter of convenience ; the other is a mattei of the honesty of our coinage.
– It is a matter 6f drafting.
Mf. Fisher. - But Parliament should finally determine the standard.
– I agree . with the honorable member for Wide Bay.-
– Paragraph c of clause 8 shows that it is purely a matter of drafting. It fellows’ the English Act’.
– Paragraph c of clause 8 enacts- that the GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, “ diminish the amount of remedy allowed by the schedule in the case of any Australian coin,” but so far as I know there is no other power under the English Act to change the remedy.
– To diminish the remedy means to rectify the variation.
– While I should be perfectly willing to give to the Government, for the sake of convenience, the power to adopt coins other than those now existing, I should not be ready to give them power to alter the remedy or variation allowed from the standard, lest, under certain circumstances, it might be taken advantage of to the depreciation of our currency.
– I quite agree with, the honorable member for North Sydney. The Government should agree to amend the Bill so as to treat ajl coins exactly alike, both those whose denominations are mentioned and those to be issued in the future. There is, in paragraph b of sub-clause 4, a power which could be used to debase the currency. In any case, it is inadvisable that pur new currency should be open to the suspicion that there is any such power. We should be very jealous of anything of that sort. An amendment could easily’ be made so as to insure that all coins should be treated alike. Before we reach clause 8, I hope the Treasurer will be in a position to show exactly what “diminish the amount of remedy “ means. If it means that the Government cannot depreciate or debase the currency, I have no objection to that provision standing. If it means that the variation can only be made less, that is all right; but if the variation is to be more, it is all wrong. In the schedule, the standard fineness for gold coins is fixed as follows - “ eleven-twelfths fine gold, one-twelfth alloy; or millesimal fineness, 916.6’.” The remedy allowance varies from . 06479 metric grams in the case of the five-pound piece, down to 00972 in the case of the half-sovereign. I must confess that I do not know how that applies, nor is it set forth very clearly what the variation is, unless we are to assume that it runs from 916.6 standard fineness to any of those indications set forth in the second column. The millesimal fineness is 2 for gold coinage, and the standard fineness is 916.6. Perhaps the
Attorney-General will tell us whether the fineness alluded to in sub-clause 4 of clause 4 means the standard fineness, the millesimal fineness, or both.
– I think that they are different expressions of the same thing.
– But we ought to know what is really meant. No doubt the Treasury officials can give us the information, and perhaps the Treasurer . will obtain from them, before we reach clause 8, a statement as to what is exactly meant by the use of the word “fineness” in this clause, and what is meant by the amount of remedy alluded to in the schedule.
– I can explain that matter.
– I shall be glad to have the right honorable member’s explanation.
.- I db not think that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Balaclava is of great moment, provided that the nickel to take the place of the bronze is of the equivalent value of the penny. But if, as suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney and others, the value of the penny as a twelfth of a shilling is altered-
– The nickel will be the twenty-fifth of a florin.
– The penny is a twentyfourth part of a florin, and the honorable member proposes to alter its denomination to the twenty-fifth part of a florin.
– If the suggestion made by the honorable member for North Sydney is adopted.
– To my mind the whole value of the adoption of the decimal system in Australia hinges upon whether those with whom we work and trade also adopt it. If, for the sake of argument, we adopted it, with the object of avoiding a great deal of unnecessary work in our schools - with the object of securing more ready reckoners amongst the people and effecting a saving of time - we should still have to do with the present system, because the great bulk of our trade is carried on with people who use it. Consequently we should have to keep the two systems in force.
– Take the position in Canada and the United States.
– I am quite prepared to do so. This proposal involves the whole question of Imperial trade relations. Notwithstanding the very heavy preference that the Dominion has given to the United Kingdom, Canada having practically the same denominational currency as the United States, does an increasingly larger trade with the United States than it has ever done before. I do not say that the whole reason for this increase is the similarity of the currency of the two countries.
– It is not. That similarity would not divert trade one bit.
– A great deal of the trade of a sparsely populated country like Canada is done by means of catalogues. A trader from the Mother Country sends out his catalogues with prices stated in British values, which the farmers there do not understand. They do not know what pounds, shillings, and pence really are, but they have an intimate knowledge of the value of cents. The trader on the other side of the border sends out a catalogue in which prices are quoted in dollars and cents, and the farmer in the back blocks orders on that catalogue. The result is that a large business is done with traders in the United States to the detriment of the Mother Country, because the currency of Canada is different from that of the Mother Country.
– Any number of English catalogues with prices stated in dollars and cents are distributed in America.
– I have seen them there, but the facts are often as I have stated them. In passing a Bill of this kind our object should be to obtain for the Commonwealth Treasury a profit on the minting of coins to be used in Australia. If we can do that and at the same time do nothing to interfere with our present relations with people of other countries - both in regard to trade and personal intercourse - I think it will be of great value.
– But if this amendment means an improvement why should we object to it?
– I am endeavouring to point out that it is not an improvement. If the honorable member thinks it is I have nothing more to say to him.
– If the Committee thinks it an improvement is it not justified in adopting it?
– The Committee is justified in adopting any proposal which - it thinks will tend to improve our present system; but the honorable member either under-estimates my intelligence or is doing no credit to his own, by his interjection, since all that I am seeking to do is to state reasons why the Committee should not adopt the amendment.
– The honorable member said that it would interfere with the trade of Great Britain.
– It will be an additional difficulty in the way of doing trade with Great Britain, which has the denominational currency that we at present enjoy.
– Another reactionary argument.
– In some quarters anything said in favour of tightening the ties which bind us to the Mother Country is regarded as reactionary. Some honorable members are prepared to say that anything we may propose in that direction, whether it be in regard to defence, trade, or currency, is reactionary the moment it ceases to be of that particular “ national “ brand that the honorable member and his colleagues advocate. But to return to the nickel. It is a very small question whether the penny is to be made of nickel or of copper. The only cogent argument I have heard in favour of the nickel is the statement that copper is poisonous if put in the mouth of a child. It seems to me that a nickel might be swallowed at least as easily as one of our copper coins and do infinitely greater harm. But this potent argument in favour of the nickel, therefore, if I may say’ so without offence, is of a “childish” nature. The great objection that I have to a nickel coin is that it is easily confused with silver. When one travels in the United States or Canada one has ‘to be very careful in handling such coins.
– I never knew any one to be taken down with a nickel.
– I have done some travelling, and know that in taking out a handful of change in the United States of America or Canada, one has to be careful that he does not pay away a silver coin for a nickel one. We may be quite sure that no one will take a single nickel for a single silver coin.
– There is a difference in the weight.
– But with a lot of coins in the hand one does not feel the weight of an individual coin.
– The 5-cent nickel is smaller than the quarter and has a smooth edge.
– I know it. I do not think there is much in the proposal, provided that the nickel is to be of the same value as the penny ; but I hope that, in view of the fact that we do the bulk of our trade with the Mother Country, we shall not interfere with the arrangement of that trade by altering the denominations of our coins. I’ shall be compelled to vote against the amendment, as there is no indication at present that it is not intended to alter the denomination of the penny.
.- Important as is the amendment that has been moved bv the honorable member for Balaclava, there is a more important aspect of the question to be considered. I wish to ask the Treasurer if he is still of opinion that we should have on the obverse side of the new Australian coins an impress of His Majesty the King’s head, and on the reverse an outline of the Australian continent. Further, does he think that the words “King and Emperor” should appear on the new coins?
– Then I shall join with the honorable member for Corio in entering an emphatic protest against such a proposition. I trust that Parliament will refuse to give the Treasurer permission to use that inscription.
– The same inscription appears on British coins in every part of the Empire.
– The Treasurer will agree with me that the only designation that His Majesty the King possesses to-day is that of King of Great Britain and the British Dominions beyond the seas and Emperor of India.
– The same inscription is used in Canada.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether His Majesty has any legal right to be designated “Emperor” in any of the oversea dominions of Great Britain?
– He is Emperor of India.
– Certainly, but no British coins can rightly _ bear the inscription “ Emperor of India.” Edward the Seventh is King of Great Britain and Ireland, Emperor of India, and King of the Dominions beyond the Seas. He is certainly not Emperor of the Dominions beyond the Seas; therefore the proposed design is not constitutional.
– In adopting it we are following precedent, because all the other British Dominions have these words on their coins.
– The Canadian coinage was designed before the title of King of the Dominions beyond the Seas was determined upon.
– The words “ King and Emperor “ appear on Canadian coins dated 1904.
– My recollection is that the title “ King of the Dominions beyond the Seas “ was determined upon later than that.
– Is it not a good thing to place on our coins words which will be a reminder of the Empire to which we belong?
– That is admirable claptrap. The British Parliament would not permit the King to be spoken of as “ Emperor of Great Britain and Ireland.”
– “ Emperor of India” is the title ascribed to him on English coins.
– Exactly. If the Treasurer wishes to use? the word “Emperor” on Australian coins, let him give the full title of “ Emperor of India.”
– The average man would know, if the words “ King and Emperor” were used, that “ Emperor” referred only to the Empire of India.
– If we declare that the King is Emperor, the average man will not understand that the title is confined to the Indian Empire.
– I do not see any difference between the titles “King” and “ Emperor.”
– If the Treasurer wishes to use the word “ Emperor,” he should adopt the full title, “ King of Great Britain and Ireland, Emperor of India, and King of the Dominions beyond the Seas.”
– Surely a design that is considered suitable for the coinage of half-a-dozen other Possessions is good enough for us?
– The fact that the words “ King and Emperor “ are used on other coinage is not a sufficient reason for using them on our coinage. It was after the Berlin Conference, which followed the RussoTurkish war, that Lord Beaconsfield announced that the Powers had agreed to recognise the Queen as Empress of India. But the announcement was not received enthusiastically in the British House of Commons. It would be a retrograde step to use the word “Emperor” on the coinage of the country possessing the freest Constitution on earth, unless the proper limitation is added. We should not take this retrograde step. Wlhile I do not think that the use of the words “ King and Emperor” would affect the constitutional position of the Commonwealth, it would be indicative of a recognition of an authority which does not exist in fact. If the words “ King and Emperor “ are placed on coins minted expressly for Australia, the significance that will be ‘attached to them will be” that the monarch is King and Emperor of Australia.
– He is Emperor only of a country where no one enjoys the franchise.
– He is certainly not Emperor of Australia.
– If I thought the significance to which the honorable member alludes attaches to the words “ King and Emperor” I would support him; but it seems to me that they merely amount to the declaration that the Sovereign whose head appears on the coin is both King and Emperor - King in one part of his Dominions and Emperor in another.
– The coins will not be big enough to hold all the words which the Leader of the Opposition wishes to place on them,
– I can see that the opinions of honorable members have changed since I rose to address the Committee. When the matter has been thoroughly ventilated, the Government will see the advisability of adopting mv suggestion.
– Why not deal with the matter on motion? It is not- affected bv the Bill.
Mr. FISHER. Clause 4 provides that the Treasurer may cause to be made and issued coins of specified dimensions, designs, and denominations, and unless there is a clear expression of the will of Parliament, he will adopt a design using the words “ King and Emperor,” to which I object. This is not a party matter.
– Its discussion serves to occupy time. ‘
– That is not a fair remark. For the first time in its history, Australia is having a special coinage prepared. On the obverse the Treasurer proposes to use the wards “ King and Emperor,” while we know there is no such title.”
– That is the inscription in all but two of the other Dominions.
– Such an inscription might very properly be used in some of the other Dominions before the King received his “added title of King of the British Dominions beyond the Seas.
– He is King in India.
– He is Emperor of India, which is not a Dominion beyond the seas, but an Empire.
– The King is not Emperor, except in conjunction with the word “ India.”
– If the words “King and Emperor” are used, it means that His Majesty is King and Emperor of the Commonwealth.
– I think it is common knowledge that “Emperor” means Emperor of India.
– That may be, but we must not use words which have to be corrected by common knowledge. Unfortunately, I shall not be here on Tuesday next, and I respectfully urge the Government to use words in accordance with constitutional practice.
– Does the honorable member object to the Latin inscription ?
– I should not object to a Greek inscription, so long as it was correct. This is not a matter on which we ought to take a vote ; and I can. only again urge that the words proposed should not be used.
.- The view of the honorable member for Wide Bay is worth consideration. The Treasurer is rather unfortunate in his . suggestion that this discussion is time wasted, because, as a matter of fact, it is in Committee that we do the real work, the waste of time being usually on second-reading speeches. There is a. very important principle involved in this question. The word “ King “ we can follow back until we lose it in’ antiquity, but it carries with it a meaning indicative of the fact that the ruler is, to some extent, and in some indefinite way, chosen by the people over whom he rules. On the other hand, the title “ Emperor “ is that of an absolute ruler, and we do not care to attach it to our coinage in any local Australian sense. It would be a very graceful recognition of the new title of our King, if it were indicated on the coins even more clearly than is suggested by the honorable member for Wide Bay. We might well make a new departure, and inscribe our coins with the declaration that His Majesty is King of the Over-Sea Dominions - a fact of which we are all proud.
– All these negotiations have been carried on by cablegram. Our suggestion was that His Majesty the King’s head should appear on one side and a map of Australia on the other ; but we were not very dogmatic in our suggestions. The reply came that we could have the inscription’” King and Emperor “ in Latin or in English, and we preferred to have it in English. I have taken some trouble to ascertain what is the practice elsewhere, and I find that while in Canada and Cyprus the inscription is in Latin “ Rex Imf erator,” it is in English “King and Emperor” in British East Africa, British Honduras, Jamaica, Nigeria, Uganda, British Guiana, Hong Kong, and the Straits Settlement. These latter countries, I may say, have no responsible government.
– The inscription is quite appropriate in those places.
– However, I shall be glad to make further inquiry, and to suggest that, instead of “ King and Emperor “ there shall appear the words “ King of all the Britains.” In England, the words in Latin on silver coins are Dei gra: Britt : omn: Rex on the obverse side, and Fid: Def : Ind: Imp: on the reverse side. We shall make inquiries at once by cablegram, and I do not think that there will be any objection raised to the alteration ; but rather that there will be every disposition to meet our wishes. I have no feeling at all in the matter; indeed, I think “ King of all the Britains “ a magnificenttitle.
.- I am very glad that the Treasurer takes the view he does on this question. I know of no country which recognises the name of Emperor, except Germany, that gives the franchise or freedom to the people. I remember the stormy discussions in London, when Her late Majesty was made Empress of India. In the shop windows there I saw cartoons inscribed “ You scratch my back, and I will scratch yours” which was intended to mean that, in return for the new title, the Queen made Disraeli a peer. I remember with what energy the Liberals of the Old Country objected to this new title for Her Majesty. On the other hand, I may say that in England the franchise is yet” of much too limited a character. In Canada there is manhood suffrage, while in Australia there is the freest franchise in the world ; and I think that the inscription “ King of all the Britains” is a splendid idea. I speak as a Republican of twenty years ago; but my visit to the East showed m-i the danger to be apprehended from that quarter; and I desire to see no severance of the ties we have, not only to the Home Land, but to our brothers of the United States, who number more English-speaking people than there are in all the British Dominions. I feel sure, sir, that the title now suggested will meet with the approval of the English-speaking people throughout the world.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- We should not depart from the inscription that now appears on the British coins. That is as follows :- “ Edward VII., by the grace of God, King of all the Britains, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India,” in Latin.
– I suggest that we have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– In the present shilling that inscription appears partly on the obverse and partly on the reverse. During the reign of Queen Victoria, the wording was a little different. It is only since the King came to the throne that we have had the description, “ King of all the Britains.” That is most appropriate for our coinage. On the reverse we might very well put “ Defender of the Faith and Emperor of India.” Will the Treasurer explain what is meant in subclause 4 of clause 4 by the reference to standard- weight and fineness, arid the remedy or variation?
– The description of standard fineness in the schedule is - “ TI/I 2ths fine gold, 1/12 alloy; or millesimal fineness, 916.6’.” That means that out of a thousand parts there are to be 916.6’ parts of fine gold and 83.4’ parts of alloy. The term “millesimal “ means that the proportions are calculated according to a thousand parts. The “ remedy “ is the deviation allowed below the standard, but, according to the schedule, it must not amount in the weight per piece to more than one Imperial grain, or a fraction of a metric gram, in the case of the £5 -piece’ and proportionately less for coins of less denomination. When the gold is minted, there is sometimes a very slight variation in weight in different coins, “but, so long as that difference does not exceed the “ remedy “ fixed in the schedule, the coin is regarded as conforming to the standard.
– In the ^5-piece, the standard weight is 616 grains, and the variation allowed is 1 grain?
– That is so.
– I trust the honorable member for Balaclava will press his amendment to a division. The big bronze cartwheels, in the shape of pennies, belong to a bygone bronze or barbarian age.
– Some of the nickel coins used in America are so small that one is apt to lose them.
– 1 heard lately of a boy who was clever at selling newspapers, and who was bowed down with the weight of the coppers that he got for them. The penny piece is so big that if one carries any quantity of it, it wears out one’s pockets. In the United States the nickel coin is the universal standard of the ordinary purchasing power of the multitude. It is the money of the masses, while gold is the money of the classes.
– Copper coins are used in France.
– France is a little antiquated. I am talking of America, the country to which we must all look for progressive ideas. The cent is used there. I remember when the. New York Herald, about the year 1873, reduced the price of its issue from what would be called a penny here, to a cent, or halfpenny. The agents fought the proprietors, who finally, had to circulate the paper themselves all over New York. You can buy the New York American, in America, for a cent, which is equivalent to a halfpenny in Australia. If we make the cent the unit in Australia, I believe the Australian newspapers will reduce their price to a cent, or a halfpenny. There are many reasons why we should at once fix the cent as the unit of currency. We might well adopt nickel instead of copper coins. They are very convenient and light. The United States, with 90,000,000 people, and Canada, with 7,000,000 people, can do wonderful business with each other with that currency j but, of course, the money of a country has nothing to do with its commerce. I would point out to the honorable member for Wentworth, who feared that the proposition of the honorable member for Balaclava would eventually interfere with the trade and commerce between Australia and England, that it makes no difference whatever to trade and commerce what the currency of a nation is. The commerce of a country is based upon the rate of exchange between it and other countries. The premium is on the amount of money that has to be transferred from country to country. Great Britain does an immense trade with India, where the rupee is the standard.
– The honorable member is using a dangerous Free Trade argument, lt comes down to a matter of the import and export of goods.
– And of balances. If in our trading operations with Great Britain there is a balance against us, we send over a cargo of goods which we sell on a bill of exchange and cancel the debt. The term “rate of exchange” means the value of the money of -one country reckoned in the value of the money of another, the value being a fixed rate, and the price a fluctuating rate of exchange. It is preposterous to say that by introducing a currency different from that in force in Great Britain we should interfere with our trade in that country.
– The only difference is that the one method is more convenient than the other.
– That is so. Notwithstanding the difference in their currencies, the United States of America’ does a great business with France, and Great Britain does an enormous trade with the United States of America. A few years ago America exported £300,000,000 worth of material and imported about £170,000,000 worth. There was an immense difference between the exports and imports in favour of the United States, yet that country did not get back any money on the balance of trade. Americans travel largely, and they have to take with them letters of credit, which the bankers of Europe enter in their books against the American bankers. Then, again, those who float corporations in Europe have to raise money there, and that is charged up to the American bankers. As the result of these operations, the United States of America, instead of receiving in money an enormous sum in respect to the balance of trade in her favour, had to send £600,000 in gold to Europe to cancel her debt. In these circumstances, why should we say that any change in our currency is likely to interfere with our trade with other countries? A decimal system of coinage would certainly be a great convenience to the people, and its adoption would not make any difference in our trade with other lands. The foreign business of the world is not carried on nowadays by means of money.
No one uses money except the poor. Trade is done by transferable credits. I hope we shall carry the amendment.
– The Government have not intimated that they will accept my amendment, but some objection has been raised to the use of the nickel coins I have suggested, on the ground that they might often be mistaken for sixpences. During the luncheon hour a member of the- press suggested to me that if the small nickel coins which I proposed were adopted, we might have a hole pierced through the centre, so as to make them readily distinguishable from more valuable coins of similar size. Many years ago I often saw strings of Chinese coins with square holes pierced in them. If we did not care to copy the Chinese, we could have a, round hole pierced through these nickel coins. That would make them still lighter, and render them no less valuable as a token. A penny, after all, is only a token, and I think that my proposal would be advantageous to the people.
– I hope that the honorable member for Balaclava will not press his amendment. An arrangement has been made that the British Government shall gradually withdraw the silver and copper coins now in circulation in Australia by purchasing from us .£100,000 worth per annum. The Government do not propose at present to deal with the copper coinage. There is not a very large number of copper coins in circulation here, and if we were to gather them up in order to sell them to the British Government, we should not reap any substantial benefit. Under the arrangement which we have made with the British Government it will take about fifteen years to “withdraw from circulation the present silver coinage, and the withdrawal of the copper coins in Australia is not of pressing urgency.
– But the adoption of the decimal system is at stake.
– This Bill does not deal with the decimal system, save that it does not propose the minting of any coins that would conflict with the adoption of that system. I think that we ought to follow the course suggested by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney. The main object of this Bill is a financial one. It will enable us to secure the profit made on the coinage of silver, while at the same time doing nothing to affect our present currency. We can discuss the whole question of decimal coinage at some other time. Pennies are not used very largely by those who have considerable incomes. They could not even bestow a penny on any one as a gratuity, and as such coins are heavy, their disposition is to get rid of them as soon as possible. That, however, is not the case with the humbler portion of the community. To them the penny is a very important coin. I think it was Mr. Gladstone or Mr. John Bright who said that to attempt to interfere with the people’s penny in England would be to bring about a revolution. A proposal to do away with that coin must necessarily receive very careful consideration. I do not think that any advantage would be gained by substituting for it a small nickel coin. There is no intention on the part of the Government at present to deplete by sales to the British Government the quantity of copper coins in circulation in Australia ; nor do we propose to coin at present any coin in lieu of the penny. I ask honorable members to pass the Bill as it stands, recognising that there will be plenty of time later on to consider the other questions that have been raised. I have visited the United States and Canada, and cannot say that I was very much impressed with the usefulness of the small coins of the value of sd. .and 5d. in circulation there. The cent piece is as large as the 5d. piece, but is composed of some amalgam of a yellowish colour. I seldom saw one, and such a coin would certainly be of no use to us.
– The penny-in-the-slot telephone and penny-in-the-slot machines generally are becoming more and more used in Australia.
– That is so. I do not think it desirable to upset arrangements’ that have existed from time immemorial, unless there is some very good reason for doing so. I have heard no good reasons advanced for the proposed change. But in any case I hope that no attempt will be made now to bring about the change proposed by the honorable member for Balaclava. ‘But for the -fact that the Bill is designed to enable us to withdraw the silver coinage at present in circulation in Australia, and to substitute for it Australian silver coins, it is unlikely that it would have been introduced at this stage.
.- While 1 agree with the honorable member for Balaclava that there are good reasons in support of the use of nickel instead of copper in minting coins of. the smaller denominations, still I am inclined to think that it would be a mistake to introduce such a change until we adopt the decimal system, and in that way standardize the sizes of our coins. ‘
– Now is the accepted time.
– If we could decimalize the whole system of currency, it would be. The honorable member for Balaclava suggested the use of a nickel coin for the penny. That would necessarily mean the minting of another nickel coin in substitution of the halfpenny. I am not sure that the use of such a number of small coins - the sixpence, the threepence, a nickel for the penny and a nickel for a halfpenny, would be at all satisfactory for those who have to handle change largely. It is undoubtedly an advantage to have pennies and halfpennies of their present size. Smaller coins would be very inconvenient, especially on cold mornings, . when they would be hard to finger.
– Not if there were a hole iri them.
– Before making such a change, we should obtain the opinions of persons who are in the habit of constantly handling coins of small value. It must be remembered, too, that while copper is a natural production of the country, nickel is not, and, therefore, the mining industry receives some support by the use of bronze coinage. In my opinion, it is advisable to retain bronze coins for the present, though I am heartily in accord with the suggestion that we should decimalise our coinage, and I hope that we shall do so before long.
.- To my mind, many of the arguments against the proposal of the honorable member for Balaclava ought not to have much weight with the Committee. As to the objection that nickel coins would be too small, I would point out that they would not be smaller than sixpenny or threepenny bits, of which there are probably more in circulation than there are pennies and halfpennies. There would be more profit in minting nickel than in minting bronze. As to what the honorable member for Wentworth said about the adoption of the decimal system complicating trade relations with the Mother Country, I would ask whether any difficulty is caused in the trade relations of the Mother Country and India, the European nations, and America, by the existence of two systems of coinage ? Probably the business .done between England and India is ten times as great as that done between England and Australia. I hope that we shall soon adopt the decimal system, and, with it, the metric system. At one time I was living in Holland, and though at first I thought that the decimal and metric systems would be difficult to get used to, I found myself quite conversant with them’ at the end of a month, and when I returned to England the English system of values and weights and measures became very awkward. Why should our school children be put to the trouble of learning tables of money values, and of weights and measures, when so much time could be saved by teaching them the decimal and metric systems ? We have now the opportunity to lay the foundation for the adoption of that system, and if we avail ourselves of it, the next generation will thank us for putting aside traditional methods, and adopting what is reasonable and sensible. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
– The Treasurer has promised to consider the design of the proposed new coinage. The objection of honorable members opposite to the use of the words - “ King and Emperor” - reminded me of a passage in the beginning of the Tempest, ‘ What care these roarers for the name of King?” To my mind, they are making a great deal about very little. With regard to the amendment of the honorable member for Balaclava, I would like him to allow the course which he proposes to he made optional.
– I am willing to do so.
– Clause 8 provides that the Governor-General may, by proclamation, direct that any coins other than silver or bronze, shall be current. The honorable member wishes to insert in the Bill a specific provision for nickel coinage. If the adoption of such coinage be made optional, as a substitute for bronze, it will, of course, not be necessary to issue a proclamation. The schedule, however, provides no remedy allowance for nickel coins, as it does for gold, silver, and bronze, and it may not be possible to at once determine what the proper remedy allowance should be, because the figures in the schedule are based on English calculations. The honorable members for Darwin and West Sydney have suggested that, until Parliament/otherwise directs, the coins issued should be those mentioned in the schedule. As the Bill stands, coins belonging either to the decimal or the duodecimal system can be issued, and I suggest that we should bring it into line with the English Act by amending clause 4 to read -
The Treasurer may cause to be made and issued, silver and bronze coins of the dimensions, designs, and denominations specified in the schedule.
Paragraphs a and b of sub-clause 4 of clause 4 provide that as a remedy or variation from the standard weight and fineness specified in the schedule, there shall be allowed, in the case of coins of the denominations mentioned in the schedule, an amount not exceeding that therein specified, and, in the case of other coins, an amount not exceeding that prescribed for the purpose by proclamation. Clause 8, paragraph c,- provides that the GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation!, diminish the amount of remedy. That makes it impossible to- cheat the public by debasing the coinage. As the schedule provides remedy allowances only for coins of the denominations specified therein, I suggest that subclause 4 of clause 4 should be amended to read -
In the making of coins, a remedy (or variation from the standard weight and fineness specified in the schedule) shall be allowed of an amount not exceeding the amount specified in the schedule.
If those amendments were made, we could only issue coins of the denominations specified in the Bill, and should have to get authority from Parliament to issue new coins.
.- I point out to the Attorney-General that by the Victorian Crimes Act, and I think by similar legislation throughout the British Dominions, offences against gold, silver, and bronze coinage are alone contemplated, and that it will therefore be necessary to insert in the Bill a provision making it a criminal offence to counterfeit nickel or any other new coinage which we may determine upon. That is a point that deserves consideration when introducing a previously unknown form of coinage.
– I am very glad that the honorable member has called attention to what is an important point; but I anv afraid we cannot make the amendment in this Bill, because it would be rather prescribing the criminal law of the States. By drawing the attention of the States to the matter, the difficulty might be got over, if not by us, by them.
– Surely we have the right to put criminal clauses into our own Bills relating to coinage?
– Yes, in relation to our own coinage, but, supposing that, in the criminal Act of a State, there are particular coins mentioned by definition? I do not think we could alter the significance of the State Acts by anything in this Bill. Of course, we can insert criminal provisions to prevent the cheating of the Crown.
– Thenwe are to depend on the readiness and willingness of the States to amend their criminal Acts, and, until they do so, we are to be at the mercy of any criminal.
– I do not say that we cannot provide penalties for any attempt to debase the coinage or to violate any of the principles expressed in this or in the Imperial Act; but there are, for other purposes, certain references to the coinage in the laws of the States, and I am afraid we cannot alter them. However, that matter will be noted.
– With a view to inserting the words, “or nickel” after the word “bronze,” I beg to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Agar Wynne) agreed to -
That after the word “ bronze,” sub-clause 1, the words “ or nickel “ be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the words “ any proclamation under this Act,” sub-clause 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, “ the schedule.”
.- I had intended to propose an amendment on this clause providing for the adoption of the decimal coinage system. In view of the favorable expressions of opinion which have come from all parts of the Committee today, I feel it my duty as a member of the Select Committee on coinage to give honorable members an opportunity to vote on the question. What I suggest is that to the clause ‘as it now stands the following words should be added : - and in accordance with the recommendations contained in the report of the Select Committee on Coinage, 1901-2.
This appears to be the best time we shall probably have in the history of the Commonwealth to arrive at a decision.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Fowler) proposed -
That the following words be added to subclause i, “ and in accordance with the recommendations contained in the report pf the Select Committee on Coinage, 1901-2.”
– I doubt whether what the honorable member desires could be done in this Bill, because it is a direction, and an Act of Parliament ought to be specific. If the honorable member will leave the matter as it is the whole question can be considered. As a member of the Decimal Coinage Committee, he knows that our difficulty in arriving at a unanimous report was in connexion with the question of whether we ought not to consider the whole commercial relations of the Empire, and ascertain if there was a probability of a consensus of opinion in favour, before we acted. It was decided, however, that we should act at once ; and on the motion of the chairman of the Select Committee, Mr. G. B. Edwards, the House affirmed a motion in favour of decimal coinage. The motion was criticised by the then Treasurer, Sir George Turner, but was carried, I believe, without a division. That is a pretty strong recommendation to the Government to see what can be done to open up communication with the Imperial Parliament.
– Nothing has been done for seven years.
– The amendment would carry us no further; and it would be rather difficult to recast the Bill so as to provide for the decimal system. I ask the honorable member to be content with the expressed desire of several, if not a majority, of honorable members, and the report of the Select Committee accepted by the House.
.- If the Government are prepared to admit that probably a majority are in favour of the adoption of the new system, and are willing to make representations to the Imperial Government, indicating the likelihood of our adopting it before very long, I shall be prepared to leave the matter with them. I agree that it would be a great advantage if the decimal system could be adopted by Australia and the Imperial authorities simultaneously, and that the temporarywithdrawal of an amendment of this kind, in order to achieve such an object, is fully justified. I hope the Government will see their way clear to take such action as I suggest. In the meantime, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Perth is willing to withdraw his amendment before we have any definite assurance from the Government
– I do not believe that investigations of the subject have yet commenced at Home.
– Why should we wait for investigations to be made at Home? We ought to be able to make inquiries for ourselves, and to tell the Imperial authorities that whether they are ready or not, we are. All we require to ascertain is whether there are any. difficulties in the way of our adopting a decimal coinage before the Imperial authorities do so. There is very little hope of our achieving this reform for the next twenty-five years if we wait for the Imperial Government. As the Attorney-General seems to think that the time has come when something should be done, the only way is to get an assurance that the Government will institute inquiries. Whether we get an assurance or not, I admit that this is not the Bill in which to deal with such a large question; but I should like the Attorney-General to say that the Government are ready to do something more than has been done in the last seven or eight years.
– I think I might give ah assurance that some step will be taken to see if anything can be done ; but, of course, I cannot take the responsibility of saying anything further without a Cabinet decision on the matter.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
. -What is the use of the words in’ sub-clause 2 “if of the denominations mentioned in the schedule,” seeing that those mentioned in the schedule are the only coins to be minted? There is no “if” about the matter.
– I do not think the words much matter, but if they are omitted in this clause, they ought also to be omitted in clause 3. I would sooner the words were allowed to remain, because we may exercise the power to issue other coins afterwards. However, the words may be unnecessary, and I move -
That the words “ if of the denominations mentioned in the schedule,” sub-clause 2, be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
Sub-clause 3 consequentially amended.
Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That sub-clause 4 be amended to read as follows : - “ In the making of coins, a remedy (or variation from the standard weight and fineness specified in the schedule) shall be allowed of an amount not exceeding the amount specified in the schedule.”
– It may be necessary to strike out sub-clause 3 altogether ; but, as it may perhaps be advisable to look into the matter a little further, I shall not move in that direction now.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) A tender of payment of money, if made in coins which are British coins or Australian coins of current weight, shall be a legal tender -
Provided that a tender of payment of money, if made in British coins other than gold coins, shall not be a legal tender for any amount after a date to be fixed by proclamation.
– This is a very important clause, for it is really the legal tender power. In it the Treasurer has simply adopted the British system. I desire to move that silver coins to the amount of£5 and bronze coins to the amount of 2s., shall be legal tender. The present restriction is very inconvenient. As I understand that the honorable member for Corio wishes to move a prior amendment, I shall move in the matter later.
.- This clause, as the honorable member for Darwin says, is very important. I would point out that the reference to “ British coins “ in sub-clause 1 makes it possible for the Indian rupee to become legal tender in Australia, because under the definition clause “ 1 British coins ‘ means coins which have been issued in accordance with the laws of the United Kingdom.” The Indian rupee, and other coins equally objectionable, issued in certain parts of the British Empire, have undoubtedly been issued “in accordance with the laws of the United Kingdom.” The rupee is a currency which is always depreciated.
– It will not be legal tender under this Bill.
– It is distinctly a British coin as defined in the Bill.
– I do not think it is.
– It only gets its authority to circulate in India from the British Parliament, so that it must have been issued in accordance with the law of the United Kingdom. I shall be glad if the Attorney-General will look into the matter. I would point out that up to the time of the passing of this Act we shall have had no legal . tender law in Australia. A Coinage Act has been published as part of the Imperial Statutes, and the late Chief Justice Higinbotham appended to it the following note : -
This Act has never been brought into force in Victoria. It would appear that there is no legal tender in Victoria and that silver is tendered to any amount. Part of the Act is in force here -
That refers to another part - and the whole Act has been set out in case it may be extended to Victoria under section 19 at some future time.
Section 19 gives power to any British Possession to apply it. It has been known for some time that there is no legal tender, so far as silver and bronze are concerned, in Victoria. I shall be satisfied if the Attorney-General will promise to strengthen the definition clause so as to make “ British coins “ in this clause cover only coins that are legal tender in the United Kingdom, or make some amendment in the clause itself.
– I do not think it is necessary ; but I will look into the matter. The coins of the United Kingdom are not those of India.
– The Attorney-General has not copied the concluding paragraph of the corresponding section in the British Act, which is as follows : -
Nothing in this Act shall prevent any paper currency, which under any Act or otherwise is legal tender, from being legal tender.
– That refers to the Bank of England.
– The honorable member knows that both a cheque and a bank-note are a legal tender, unless distinctly refused as such.
– A cheque is a legal tender unless it is refused, but a. Bank of England note is absolutely a legal tender.
– And a note issued by any Australian bank is a legal tender, unless when tendered it is declined on the ground that it is not. It seems to me that the words, “shall be a legal tenaer,” which appear in sub-clause1 make them exclusive of any other legal tender. The AttorneyGeneral might consider the point that the draftsman of the British Statute has inserted in it the provision to which I have referred. I come now to the point. raised bv the honorable member for Darwin that silver up to £5 should foe made a legal tender. In ordinary business transactions no practical difficulty arises in regard to the tendering of silver in payment of a debt. The average man is ready to accept payment in silver up to£5 or £10.
– Then why not make silver up to £5 a legal tender?
– Because, by doing so, we should depart from what is the statute law, and the recognised custom of the whole of the British Empire. There is no constantlyrecurring difficulty under the present system, and such an amendment as the honorable member suggests would certainly not extend the use of silver. If it were proposed to make silver up to any amount a legal tender, the question of whether or not Australia is a great silver-producing country would be worthy of consideration, but the alteration which he suggests is trivial in itself, and would at the same time be a departure from an Empire custom. I trust that he will not press it.
– I promise the honorable member for Corio that I will look into the question that he has raised. The words, “British coins,” are used apparently on the assumption that the words “United Kingdom” used in the definition clause mean as defined in the Acts Interpretation Act “Great Britain and Ireland,” and that the currency must be confined to Australian coins or coins in currency in Great Britain and Ireland.
– I take it that that definition would meet the difficulty.
– This is a Treasury Bill, and I am viewing it with an open mind. I think that the “British coins” referred to in sub-clause 1 are coins which would be legal tender in England, or, if sent out here, would be legal tender in the Commonwealth. They do not include rupees. The honorable’ member assumed that the “ laws of the United Kingdom “ are laws that would be applicable to India, and that rupees would, therefore, become a legal tender here under the definition clause. The matter is a little ambiguous, and I shall look into it in the light of the honorable member’s criticism. . I do not think that the words “ shall be a legal tender” in subclause 1 are exclusive. The clause simply declares that certain coins shall be a legal tender, and all others cannot be a legal tender, unless they are made such. If. we declare that a thing is a legal tender, we give it an authority which it would not otherwise have. The honorable member’s conclusions are right, but I do not know that his reasoning is correct.
– Is a rupee a legal tender in England?
– No. If necessary, we will make it clear that “the laws of the United Kingdom ‘ ‘ referred to in the definition clause do not include laws passed in the United Kingdom, and applicable to India.
– I do not wish to press my proposal, but I hold that we should not always be guided by custom. A new country like Australia should be not a follower, but a leader, of nations, and I am sorry that the honorable member for Corio should desire us to continue a practice merely because it is antiquated, obsolete, and fossilized. Fossils die hard, and often when one thinks they are dead, they are not. I agree that people a re prepared to accept silver in payment of a debt, even to the extent of , £5, but I think that no harm would be done in making silver up to that amount a legal tender. . It seems to me that under sub-clause 2 of. clause 5 a man might be liable to be arrested for tendering a coin which, by reason of its having been in circulation for several years, had become diminished in weight. A stranger innocently tendering such a coin might be arrested, and have to spend a night in gaol before he could procure bail.
– This is not a penal clause. There is no penalty attaching to it:’
– I ask the Treasurer whether that is so.
– It only modifies what may be a legal tender.
– I want to guard our people, for things like this are likely to come back on the Labour fellows.
.-I agree with the honorable member for Darwin that forty shillings is not a fair maximum to. fix as a legal tender in the case of silver, more especially in a country where that metal is largely produced. I am certainly far from giving my acceptance to bimetallism, but I do not think that to fix forty shillings as the maximum legal tender in silver and to make gold a legal tender to any amount is fair to a country which is the second largest producer of silver in the world. If our desire is to make a profit by the coining of silver, we ought to encourage its use in every possible way. Gold has naturally a tendency to push out silver, just as paper pushes out gold. If we desire to encourage trie production of silver, we ought to make it a legal tender up to £5. In very few cases would £$ in silver be tendered in payment of a debt ; but trouble might arise owing to £2 being fixed as the maximum legal tender. Take the case of a mortgage in respect of which interest amounting to £2 5s. or £2 10s. is due. The mortgagor tenders that amount in silver. The mortgagee is not prepared to take it, and consequently something happens.
– Such an offer would be seldom refused.
– It would be refused only where there was a deliberate object in view. This clause is either to be operative or inoperative, and if it is to operate it must be in the direction of limiting the use of silver. For that reason I shall support the proposal to increase to £5 the amount of silver which may be .1 legal tender.
– We will look into the matter before Tuesday next.
– I move -
That the words “Forty shillings” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Five pounds.”
– I should like to know what has induced the Treasurer to come to the conclusion that the legal tender in the case of ‘ bronze coins should be reduced from five shillings to one shilling ? I understand that hitherto it has been the British custom’ to make bronze coins up to 5s. a legal tender.
– I am informed that thu provision to which the honorable member refers is on all fours with that in the British Act.
Bill presented, and (on motion By Mr. Groom) read a first time.
House adjourned at 3.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090806_reps_3_50/>.