3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether, in consequence of the many marine disasters and loss of life, he will cause a clause to be inserted in the Navigation Bill compelling all passenger ships within the jurisdiction of the Australian Commonwealth to be fitted with complete apparatus for wireless telegraphy, so that early information may be given of accidents occurring, and speedy succour obtained?
– I am informed by the Comptroller of Customs that that is provided for by clause 230, which reads -
The regulations may require the master or owner of every ship, registered in Australia, or engaged in the coasting trade, which carries passengers to the number prescribed, to cause the ship to be fitted as prescribed, before going to sea, with apparatus for transmitting messages by wireless telegraphy.
– In reference to the intention of the Government to compel every vessel trading on the coast to become equipped with wirelesstelegraphy, I desire to know whether it is proposed to complete that system by establishing wireless installations on the mainland, where found desirable ?
– That matter is at present under consideration.
Postal Commission’s Report - Estimates of Expenditure LetterCarriers, Junee - Winchendon Vale Post-office.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister if he is in a position to inform the House when the Postal Commission is likely to conclude its investigations? Will the Commission submit a progress report prior to the Estimates being laid upon the table? In the absence of any report, can a reliable estimate of the expenditure) necessary for the efficient working and administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department be placed before the House for consideration?
– I only this moment received the letter in which the honorable member was good enough to give me notice of his intention to ask these questions. My reply to the first is that, recently, when I asked the Chairman if he could fix a date for the conclusion of the Commission’s investigations, he replied that he could not. A progress report to be submitted prior to the Estimates being laid on the table would have to be presented within the next two days, and I have not heard of any preparation of this kind. The Estimates of Expenditure have been framed on the figures and knowledge possessed by the Department, and will be placed before honorable members on Thursday next.
– On 4th inst. the honorable member for Riverina put to me a question in regard to complaints made by residents of Junee as to the late delivery and sometimes non-delivery of letters, and asked whether I. would take “immediate steps to have men appointed as lettercarriers instead of boys.” An interim answer was furnished, and I beg now to give the following supplementary answer -
An adult letter-carrier is employed at Junee, his delivery occupying three and a half hours daily. He is assisted by a messenger aged fifteen years, who is occupied an hour and a half daily in this work. It is reported that no complaints of non-delivery or of late delivery of letters have been received by the postmaster at Junee, and only one verbal complaint of misdelivery by the messenger ; also that a letter addressed to the treasurer of the Junee hospital, said not to have been delivered, was duly handed in to the secretary of that institution, who, having accepted same, takes full responsibility for subsequent delay in its reaching the addressee. The circumstances as reported do not warrant the employment of an additional adult carrier.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General what has been done in connexion with the request of petitioners that the Winchendon Vale Post Office be removed from the premises of Mr. C. P. Pratt to those of Mr. W. B. Cartwright. As the matter is urgent, will he have it attended to at once ?
– The honorable member was good enough to inform me of his intention to ask,, this question, and I have communicated with the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales, who advises me that the matter is in the hands of the District Inspector for report, which he has been directed to expedite.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been directed to the cablegram appearing in last Saturday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, in which the Honorary Minister, who is representing the Government at the Imperial Defence Conference, is made to say -
The great bulk of the electors of Australia had come round to the view that the real defence of Australia would not be in their waters, but that the crucial test might have to be fought many thousands of miles away from their shores. Australia preferred to fall into line with any suggestion which might be made by the Imperial authorities. They hoped to maintain a standard which would bear fair comparison with the standard of the British Navy, so that when the time came their unit of ships might be found capable of taking its fair share in the burdens which might be thrown upon Australia as an integral portion of the Empire.
Are those views shared by the Government ? If not, to what extent has the Honorary Minister departed from the Government policy ?
– The House will know shortly what are the views of the Government upon the Defence of Australia. In the main, the statement of the views expressed by the Honorary Minister is correct enough ; I shall not deal with them in detail.
– The other day the Treasurer informed the House that he had made arrangements with the Imperial Mint to have dies struck for the proposed new Australian coinage. What will those dies cost?
– About £70. They were nearly finished, but we have issued instructions that they are not to be proceeded with further until fresh authority has been given.
– Is it true, as stated in the press to-day, that there is to be an alteration of the prescribed design, so that the proposed new coinage shall not be current outside Australia?
– The coin which we propose to have minted is legal tender in Australia only.
– In view of the generous treatment the Home land has always given Australia, with one or two exceptions, I desire to ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Imperial authorities have confined within narrow bounds the design which has to appear on our new coinage - whether the Home Government have given strict instructions beyond which the Treasurer cannot go?
– No, they have not.
– Isit a fact that the Government had already ordered the dies for the new coinage before the Coinage Bill was introduced to Parliament?
– Yes, that is so.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether the Government have come to a determination regarding the admission into Broome, Western Australia, of a Japanese medical man, and, if not, when we shall know what will be done?
– Since I replied to a question on this subject, on Friday last, application, has been made to the Department for permission to exempt a doctor, but no decision will be come to until the protests which the Premier of Western Australia says have been forwarded, and which have not yet come to hand, reach the Department.
– Is the decision of the Government in reference to the application of a Japanese medical man for admission to the Commonwealth dependent upon any protest from any Government or individual in the Commonwealth?
– No; but I think that in all cases when a protest is made on behalf of local residents in connexion with any administrative matter, it is the duty of the Government to give attention to that protest before coming to a decision.
– Does the Minister of External Affairs consider that a Japanese doctor ought to be admitted to the Commonwealth ?
– I informed the House previously that a request was made on behalf of the Japanese Consul for the admission of a Japanese doctor at Broome. Exemption was promised shortly after the request in April last.
– By whom was the promise made?
– In a letter written by the Secretary for the Department. What has transpired since is simply that we have received notification of a protest against the promise that was made.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Federal Capital - Proposed Site at YassCanberra - Further papers respecting the selection of Territory and proposed site for the City.
Ordered to be printed.
Customs Act - Regulation No.101 Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 94.
The Clerk laid upon the table : -
Post Offices and Telephone Charges in Suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne [and other State capitals]- Particulars as to - Return to an Order of the House, dated1st October, 1908.
– Is the Treasurer aware that applicants for old-age pensions in the early part of June have not yet had tHeir applications considered by a magistrate, on account, I take it, of the clerks of petty sessions being really too busy to attend to the matter, and whether he will make some provision for the applications to be considered without further delay?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of the question, in order that it may be answered with full knowledge. I should be obliged if the honorable member would state some specific case, in order that inquiries may be made.
– This delay has occurred at Newcastle.
– And there is the same sort of delay in every suburb in Melbourne !
– There are many complaints, but most of them, on investigation, turn out to be not well founded. Of course, I shall try to remedy any defect there may be in the administration of the Act. I have already sent some replies to honorable members, which, I hope, are satisfactory ; but, as I say, I shall be glad to attend to any further complaints.
– To-day I saw an old lady of sixty-seven years of age struggling in an effort to place on an application for old-age pensions the fourteen names of her children. This list of names had to be repeated in the application for an invalid pension. Has the Treasurer considered the necessity of sending out simple questions to be answered by the applicant for an oldage pension, which has nothing to do with the children of the applicant, and also other questions in the case of an application for an invalid pension? Will the Treasurer issue a list of questions that an applicant for an old-age pension, who is of full age, may answer without going into his family relationships ?
– If the honorable member will give notice of this question, and intimate the alterations he desires I shall be glad to give him an answer.
– Will the Treasurer have all the questions struck off the old-age pension application forms except four, namely - How old are you? How long have you been in the country? Doyou need the pension? Will you have it?
– I regret to say that, however much I desire to please the honorable member, I am not able to make that promise.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs aware that the Age, on Saturday, published a map purporting to be prepared by Mr. Alexander Wilson, showing the route of the proposed railway to Port Darwin, and that that map is wholly different from that which the Minister has undertaken to have printed, which also has the name of Mr. Wilson attached ?
– I saw the map published in the Age on Saturday, but I cannot say that I examined it critically to see whether it differed from the other map referred to. The map presented to the House by the honorablg member for Kennedy when speaking, was handed to me, and will be printed for the information of the House.
– Following on the question of the honorable member for Parkes, may I ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he will also circulate the map prepared by Mr. Gwynneth, engineer, who has published a veryable article on this question. We should then have an opportunity to viewall the proposed routes.
– If the honorable member will present the map, and Mr. Gwynneth will take responsibility for its accuracy in the same way as Mr. Wilson has done, I personally can see no objection to the course he suggests.
– Has the Prime Minister had an opportunity yet to consider Mr. Wade’s latest communication on the Federal Capital question, and, if so, can he inform, the House what steps the Government intend to take?
– I have considered Mr. Wade’s communication, and obtained from my colleague the Attorney-General a memorandum on the subject, which will go to Mr. Wade.
– I desire to make a slight personal explanation. On last Friday week, I stated that the honorable member for West Sydney and the Prime Minister had been allowed to speak when there was no motion before the House, and without having first been given leave. Later on, Mr. Speaker, you contradicted that assertion; and I merely desire to say that the proof of my statement appears on page 1882 of Hansard. The report there shows that the honorable member for West Sydney and the Prime Minister were allowed to speak, although there was no motion before the Chair, and they had not obtained the leave of the House.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the Senate’s message be taken into consideration forthwith.
Clause 7 -
Section twelve of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ Registrar for any district.” . . .
Senate’s Amendment. - Before “ Registrar “ insert, “ the.”
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 11 -
Section sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by the omission of the words in subsection (1) “ Asiatics (except those born in Australia), or,” and . . .
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ the omission of the words in sub-section (1)Asiatics (except those born in Australia), or’ and.”
– I regret that the amendments have not been printed and circulated, but the Treasurer asked that the Senate’s message be considered at once, because, with the exception of that now before us, the amendments made by another place are either purely formal or technical. This is a proposed amendment of clause11 of the Bill. When the Bill was before us the honorable member for Boothby moved to strike out from the principal Act the words depriving Asiatics from obtaining a pension. The amendment made bv another place will restore the Bill to the form in which it was introduced to the House. In other words, it will preserve the provision in section 16 of the original Act, which provides that - .
The following persons shall not be qualified to receive an old-age pension, namely….
The honorable member for Boothby moved the omission of the words “ Asiatics (except those born in Australia), or,” so that Asiatics, if otherwise qualified, would be entitled to a pension. After some consideration the Government accepted the amendment, and I see no reason why we should not stand by it. British Indians may be more affected than others, because, as British subjects, they need not be naturalized. Under the Naturalization Act of 1903 there is, I think, a provision that other Asiatics cannot be naturalized, so that the scope of the honorable member’s amendment is not so wide as it would appear on the face of it to be. Naturalization is one of the qualifications under the Old-age Pensions Act, and, therefore, the provision in section 16 of the Old-age Pensions Act hits more directly, it seems to me, at our Indian fellow subjects than others, because, although they are British subjects, they cannot obtain a pension under that section of the Act. The Government, for that reason, thought that the honorable member for Boothby was acting wisely in proposing the amendment in question, and I think that we ought to stand by it. I therefore move -
That the amendment be disagreed to.
.- The explanation made by the AttorneyGeneral has only convinced me that we ought to have before us a printed list of the amendments made by the Senate. As it is, we know nothing about them.
– The honorable member is very quick of apprehension.
– I am, so far as this Government are concerned. I would not trust them as far as I could see them. The amendments made by the Senate should be circulated amongst honorable members, so that they may know exactly what their effect will be. This is a very important Bill in which honorable members take a great deal of interest.
– We want to pay these people as soon as we can.
– The Government could at least have had their Bills ready and properly drafted.
– That was due to the honorable member’s obstruction.
– I object to such a statement from the right honorable member. I have not obstructed, and I shall not allow myself to be accused of doing so, but I have a right, as the Committee has, to see the amendments before they are submitted and carried. I shall not sit quietly by and allow them to be carried without knowing something about their effect.
– It is a slipshod way of doing business.
– It is undoubtedly, and we may have some discussion on the question this afternoon. I do not know what the Government are doing. It may or may not be right ; and I am not going to allow it to go through without explanation. I hope that the proper method of doing business will be adhered to, and that copies of the amendments will be placed before us before anything further is done. It is only reasonable to ask that every honorable member shall know what they are. I heard one or two proposed just now ; but I could not make head or tail of them. I think they were even carried before I noticed it. I shall not agree to that sort of thing. What I suggest may take some time this afternoon ; but nothing would be lost if consideration of the matterwere postponed until tomorrow.
– There is really nothing much to explain in them.
– Then the honorable member took a long time to explain “ nothing.” I shall not sit down until I know what the amendments mean. The order of business should be properly carried out. When I sat at the Ministerial side of the table, I tried to give honorable members all the information possible. If the Treasurer will not do so now, he will not get his business through for a little while.
– I am most anxious to please the honorable member.
– The right honorable member need not laugh or jerk his head, because he will not get his Bill through unless he does what is right. The Government have taken an absolutely improper course in submitting important business without giving notice of it, and asking for alterations which no one, except perhaps the Treasurer and the AttorneyGeneral, knows anything about. But the Bill will not go through if I can stop it, until we are given time to weigh .the proposals. That should be done in the interests of proper legislation.
– And of the old people.
– And in the interests of the old people also, although the right honorable member never cared about them or passed legislation to benefit them, until steps had been taken in that direction, first in New South Wales and then in Victoria. It is all very well for him to jeer and jibe about the old )eople.
– But they want their pensions, and are being kept waiting.
– There is nothing to prevent them from getting their pensions. I have just heard reference made to certain classes of people - Asiatics - the bulk of whom should not have pensions. So far as I can gather, the Government now propose to’ give pensions to those of whom I do not approve. The AttorneyGeneral referred to the Hindoo and the Chinaman. I shall not agree to give pensions to any one who is not, a naturalized subject, or who has not resided here for a certain number of years, and I cannot see why we should pay Chinese and Hindoos. I do not know whether the Government . are trying to alter what Parliament has decided upon in the past/ but nothing should be done in the dark. It will not cause many hours’ delay to furnish us with copies of the amendments, arid allow us time to look at them. Those who are with me have only just arrived by train, and have not been five minutes in the House this afternoon. The attempt of the Government to scurry the amendments through without any one knowing their effect will not succeed so far as I am concerned.
– Will the honorable member sit down, and let me say a word?
– I do not think the right honorable member knows much about it. This is a question with which I have had to deal to a larger extent than has any Minister now sitting in this Chamber.
– The honorable member is always talking about what he has done.
– The right honorable member never did anything except gammon to explore a place, and write a lot about it. I passed a Bill with reference to old-age pensions, and have dealt with the matter in both State and Federal Parliaments. I do not want to see anything wrong done now, and must know what is being proposed before I agree to advance it a step. I hope the Treasurer will not persist in doing anything which is not known to honorable members. He can sneer and laugh, but he will find that I am just as stubborn as he is. If he will not give us copies of the amendments, and allow us time to compare them with this Bill, and with the principal Act, I promise him that I will go as far as I can to prevent anything being done until I know what is proposed, and why it is being rushed on to-day. It cannot have the smallest effect on the payment of pensions, as the Treasurer knows, because what can be done to-day could be done equally well to-morrow morning. The Bill cannot be-‘ come law until it has again been dealt with by the Senate, and, if it be passed through this Chamber early to-morrow, it can be finally disposed of by that body before it adjourns.
– That course will involve the waste of a day, any how.
– It will not. The Senate is not sitting io-day. Whether the Bill be passed through this Chamber today or to-morrow will not make the slightest difference to the payment of old-age pensions. If its consideration here be completed early to-morrow, it can become law to-morrow night; whereas if it be passed through this Chamber to-day, it cannot become law any sooner. To bring down amendments the effect of which nobody realizes is a bad system.
– Is this constitutional government?
– I do no) know what it is. I do not wish to say anything about the Government just now - I shall have plenty to say about them later on.
– Does the honorable member wish to delay the payment of these pensions ?
– No ; but I have already pointed out that the postponement of the consideration of these amendments until to-morrow will not in any way delay the payment of the pensions. The Ministry will do well if they will defer, the consideration of these amendments until tomorrow. I promise that then, if upon con*sideration, I find that they contain nothing of an objectionable character, I shall offer no opposition to them.
– The Government are extremely anxious that this Bill should become law at as early a date as possible, because there are a number of persons who have been resident in Australia from twenty to twenty-five years, and who under it will be entitled to old-age pensions, but who, in the meantime, are not. I am sure the Government have no desire to do anything which will inconvenience honorable members. These amendments were received from the Senate just now, and I thought we might with advantage deal with them immediately.
– What is the exact nature of the Senate’s amendments?
– The Bill, as it was originally presented to this House, did not grant pensions to Asiatics. But the honorable member for Boothby wished to extend its provisions to Asiatics who had been naturalized, and the House agreed with bis view, and inserted the necessary amendment. The Senate has excised that provision. The only question which is now at issue is whether we shall insist upon the Bill in the form in which it left this Chamber, or whether we shall agree with the amendments of the Senate. If my honorable friends opposite desire to postpone the consideration of these amendments until tomorrow, the Government will only be too glad to fall in with their wishes.
.- Until the Treasurer spoke, I was not quite clear as to the precise nature of the Senate’s amendments. I understand that the position now is that we are asked not to agree to one of the principal amendments. In other words, we are asked to insist upon the decision at which we arrived the other night without a division, in regard to the payment of pensions to Asiatics.
– That is so.
– I do not wish to discuss the merits of the matter at all. I entirely agree with the view entertained by the honorable member for Boothby, and, unless I see very good reason indeed for taking a different course, I shall always be in favour of insisting upon the rights of this Chamber. I see no reason whatever for postponing the consideration of these amendments. The honorable member for Hume is, no doubt, right in saying that, on general principles, we ought not to be asked to consider amendments without having been accorded an opportunity of carefully weighing them. But, in this instance, ample time has been given to their consideration, seeing that we are merely asked to reaffirm the decision at which we arrived the other evening. I think it will be advantageous from the st and -point of time for us to proceed with this matter now, because if we finally dispose of the amendments this afternoon, the Bill will be ready for the Senate to deal with immediately it reassembles to-morrow.
– If the honorable member for Hume had not risen to protest against the course which has been followed on the present occasion, I would certainly have done so. It is not fair to ask us to deal with amendments which we have been afforded no opportunity of considering. I confess that I did not understand the nature of these amendments until the Treasurer explained them just now. I am anxious to see the Bill passed, but I would suggest that, before the dinner-hour, the Government should have the amendments printed and circulated amongst honorable members, so that we may be in a position to consider them later’ in the evening. Then, if we approve of them, the Bill can be passed to-day. It is establishing a bad precedent to ask us to deal with amendments which we have had no opportunity of considering.
– Under the circumstances. I think it would be well for me to ask the Chairman to report progress, on the understanding that the Committee will sit again at a later hour of the day.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The Public Service Commissioner reports : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government has any intention of giving effect to the Prayer of 58,209 electors of the Commonwealth, asking that the question of unifying the States of the Commonwealth under one Government, in the terms of the Petition, be referred to the electors at the forthcoming Federal elections?
– It is not intended to refer this question to the electors.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When will the telephone line from Aria Park to Beckom, promised to be constructed this month, be commenced and completed ?
– I am not aware of any promise to have the work done this month. The matter is being considered in connexionwith the Estimates for the current year, and the work will be carried out as early as practicable.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th August, vide page 2198) :
Clause 5- (1.) A tender of payment of money, if made in coins which are Britishcoins or Australian coins of current weight, shall be a legal tender -
in the case of gold coins, for the payment of any amount :
in the case of silver coins, for the pay ment of an amount not exceeding Forty shillings, but for no greater amount : and
in the case of bronze coins, for the payment of an amount not exceeding One shilling, but for no greater amount :
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. . . .
Upon which Mr. King O’malley had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ Forty shillings,” line 9, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Five pounds.”
– The object of the amendment of the honorable member for Darwin is to make silver legal tender up to£5 instead of up to 40s. That would be a very wide extension of the present limit of legal tender in regard to silver. The limit prescribed by the Bill is the English limit.
– I do not see what virtue there is in making the legal tender limit £2. The amendment is reasonable. Five pounds’ worth of . silver would not often be tendered, and one can hardly conceive of a case where a creditor would be compelled to take so much in payment of a debt.
– The forty shilling limit has been customary in all the States and in England.
– The Treasurer always thinks that we should not do something because somebody else has not done it. But if we find that it is more convenient to make a change, why should we not do so?
– This change would not be more convenient.
– I think it would; so does the honorable member for Darwin ; and a large number of other honorable members are of the same opinion. Does the Treasurer think that if we carry the amendment, debts will necessarily be paid in silver up to the amount of £5 ? Certainly not.
– The matter is not worth all the trouble that is being made about it.
– If the Treasurer would accept the amendment the trouble would be at an end.
– It seems to me to be important to ascertain whether we could not manage our silver coinage in such a way that it might be current coin in England, and on board British ships, as well as in Australia. I asked the Treasurer to-day whether it is a fact, as stated in the press, that Australian silver coins would not be capable of being used in England, or on British vessels trading between Australia and England. What departure is contemplated which would rob our silver coinage of the virtue enabling it to pass current in Great Britain? If a couple of pounds’ worth of silver coined in Australia were taken to England it would be worth no more than the value of the silver in the coins, which would be about half the face value. If we can get rid of the differentiation in value between English and Australian coined silver, so as to enable our coins to pass current in England, and on British ships, we ought to do so. There Is no doubt that the rupee in India, and the dollar in Canada, are not current coin either in Australia or in England. . But by adhering to the old-fashioned twoshilling piece and shilling, we shall not be departing from the form of the coinage which is current in the Mother Country. I wish to. inquire whether the differentiation to be made against Australian-coined silver is on account of the omission of the word “ Emperor “ from our coins? I do not know whether that is so. I am sure, however, that those punctilious members of this House who are so much afraid of the word “ Emperor “ appearing on our coins, would give up their objection rather than surrender the right of having our two-shilling pieces and shilling accepted in England, or on Britishships. I know what the grounds of the objection to the use of the word “ Emperor “ are. But, although we omit the words from our coins, we do not prevent the King being Emperor of India ; and why we should hesitate to allow the name to appear on our coins because they happen to be made in Australia passes my understanding?
– What has all that to do with the clause?
– A great deal; because the reason why our silver coinage would cease to be current in England is apparently because pf the omission of the word “ Emperor “ from them. Perhaps the Treasurer will say whether I am right in my supposition?
– There is the reason that this is our coinage, and we are to get the profit from minting it.
– Is that the only reason which would prevent this coinage from being current in England?
– The Imperial authorities would not give us the right to circulate this coinage in England, unless they got the profit from minting it.
– Then coinage minted here, no matter what the design, will not be current in England ?
– Certainly not.
– Then, why should we reciprocate ? English coinage will continue current here. It was a misfortune to make an arrangement which does not give reciprocity. I see no reason why the Treasurer could not have arranged that English coins should be current in Australia, on the understanding that Australian silver coins should be recognised throughout Great Britain. The Treasurer, as an Imperialist, should strain a point, I think, to make such an arrangement with the Imperial authorities. I think that we are now being asked to make a very great mistake, which proposes the breaking oi an Imperial thread in abolishing a common currency in these silver coins. I should be glad if the Treasurer would explain how such an extraordinary state of things is brought about.
.- I understand that the Imperial Mint is going to mint this money for us.
– We are going to pay them for doing so.
– And we are to get the profit on the minting?
– We are asking the Imperial authorities to mint coins of our design, and those coins are not to be current in Great Britain. Has the Treasurer conducted any negotiations with the Imperial authorities with the object of minting in Australia silver coinage of the Imperial design, that is, making the currency common at the same time that we received the profit from the minting?
– The Imperial authorities would not consent to that.
– Can the Treasurer say, point blank, that they refused such a proposal ?
– The honorable member suggests that coinage minted in Australia should be legal tender throughout the Empire.
– Wherever coinage of similar design is in use at present.
– We must have some difference for purpose of identification, since those who issue must redeem.
– The amount of silver carried backwards and forwards between Australia and Great Britain must be very small ; and I think it would be found that the burden would rather be. against the Mother Country. I believe that the number of travellers carrying our silver going to England would be greater than the number coming here with silver coined in Great Britain.
– I doubt that. People going to the Old Country from Australia usually carry gold or bank drafts.
– It might be so ; but the amount involved would be very small.
– Then, why make a fuss about it ?
– Because, although the amount might be small, the principle is important. It seems to me that, before deciding upon a new design for coinage, without, as I understand the matter, inviting tenders, or securing the assistance of artistic people, as the Imperial Mint doe? when proposing new coinage, the Treasurer might have exhausted all the proposals by which Australia might have gained the full profit from minting her own silver, whilst, at the same time maintaining the link with the Mother Country of having the same coinage in common. So far as I know, there is nothing to show that the honorable gentleman would not have been able to secure acceptance of such a proposal.
– I tried that, as the honorable member will see from the papers that have been laid on the table.
– Then, we are to understand that the Imperial authorities refused such a proposal point-blank? I could understand the Imperial Mint refusing to coin our silver, and send it out here, if we were to receive all the profit from the minting ; because there would be the difficulty involved in the calling in of old coinage. Underthe system I suggest, we could call in old coinage in Australia, and the ImperialMint could call in old coinage in Great Britain. I do not think they would have any objection to do that. If that were possible, we should derive a greater profit than we are likely to do under a proposal for altering the design of the coinage, which must involve extra cost in the provision of the new dies.
– It is strange that all other countries have had to do what we are proposing to do.
– The right honorable gentleman never seems to have any better argument in support of what he proposes than that somebody else has done it. We should be able to consider every subject on its merits. Dealing with this subject on its merits it is not necessary that we should follow the example of Hong Kong or India. Can we not follow the practice which at present exists in Australia in the minting of gold? Why should we not mint our own silver coinage, and secure the profit from minting without losing the value of a common currency for our coinage?
.- It would be absurd for us to alter the design of our silver coinage, if merely for the sake of having a design of our own we incurred the inconvenience of not being able to exchange it freely throughout the Empire. I understand that the Imperial Mint authorities raise other objections.
– Have they considered the minting in Australia of coins of their own design ?
– Who would rehabilitate the coinage in that case?
– We should in Australia, and the Imperial Mint authorities would do so in England.
– There might be a very large quantity to be rehabilitated in either country.
– I understand that there are some difficulties in that respect which have to be considered.
– There are natural difficulties in the way.
– If it is impossible to mint in Australia a coin which will circulate throughout the Empire, we might just as well have coinage of our own design. There is no particular advantage in having coinage of a common design, unless at the same time it has a common currency.
– We must have a distinct mark of some kind.
– We must have a mark for identification in order that those who issue the coinage may redeem it. The mark need be but a very small one, as is the mark on gold coinage, which now shows where it is minted.
– The same argument is used to justify the issue of six separate sets of postage stampsin Australia instead of one set of Commonwealth stamps.
– That matter can be got over very readily.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, and I think that we could get over this matter.
– So far as Iunderstand there are very important difficulties in the way. I think that the Treasurer ought to begin at once to have our silver coins minted in Australia and not in the Old Country.
– Why trouble the Imperial mint to do this work for us ?
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– First, because it would take a long time to get the work done here, and, secondly, because it would cost a good deal of money. We are looking into the matter.
– I hope that the right honorable gentleman will look into it carefully. The question immediately before the Committee is the proposal of the honorable member for Darwin to raise the amount for which silver coin is legal tender from 40s. to £5. What is the object of the present limitation? It seems to me that unless there is a clear advantage to be gained by retaining the fixed amount, there is no reason why it should not be raised.
– Has the honorable member over known any practical difficulty to arise ?
– We have never had any difficulty with our currency, but it is not certain that we may not have an experience of the kind. There has never been a shortage of silver.
– It is not the face value of the coin alone which has to be considered. The silver in the coin represents only 40 per cent. of the face value.
– I know that very well.
– The coin is really a token.
– It is quite arbitrary to fix the amount for which silver coin is legal tender at 40s.
– It was fixed long ago.
– That does not matter. It has no particular advantage.
– If no practical difficulty has arisen why alter the amount?
– If silver coin is permitted to be tendered to any extent, then we shall have two metals which will be legal tender, and that I submit will be bimetallism. The proposal of the honorable member for Darwin is in that direction.
– Will the honorable member withdraw his amendment?
– Whether the honorable member meant his amendment to have that effect or not it certainly would, if adopted. However, I do not intend to oppose it, because I am not certain that the last word will have been said on the matter of currency when we shall have established monometallism. I admit that for the time being bimetallism seems to be dead, but it should be recollected that when it was very much discussed, and had a large number of adherents, there was an appreciation of gold, and that since then there have been large discoveries of gold and a verv tangible increase in the amount of gold in circulation. That might happen again. Before the mines of South Africa and Western Australia came to the rescue, there was a shortage of gold, and the prices of all goods having relation to the goldsupply were raised, apart altogether from the question of supply and demand.
– Does the honorable member say that the gold supply in circulation has increased in a greater ratio than the amount of the world’s wealth?
– No; what I say is that, proportionately, the amount of gold available for the purpose of general currency has been very much larger during the past few years than it was formerly. The honorable member will find that it is demonstrated beyond question that there was an actual appreciation of gold, a greater demand for it.
– The prices of commodities have not declined in proportion.
– I think that the prices of staple products have declined.
– I think it could be demonstrated that the prices of those products have declined. I do not wish to discuss bimetallism, but to point out to the honorable member for Darwin that his proposal is in the direction of allowing silver to be used as legal tender to a very considerably greater extent than it has been. At present, it cannot be used to a greater amount than £2 in the payment of a debt ; but if the amount is raised to £5, a very much greater use of silver is likely to be made by debtors.
– That ought to be.
– I intend to support the amendment.
– With regard to the distinction sought to be made between Australian silver and the British currency, there may be some difference of opinion as to whether we should make such a complete distinction as is proposed by the design of the Treasurer. At the same time, there must be a distinction made. A very different condition exists with gold as compared with silver. With a sovereign, one gets the full value in the metal.
– Not the full value, surely ?
– Practically the full value. In fact, in America our sovereigns are taken and melted for bullion.
– Also in Austria and Germany.
– That shows that practically twenty shillings’ worth of gold is contained in a sovereign.
– The British sovereign is at a premium all over the world.
– Yes ; as a matter of exchange. With silver coinage, the position is quite different. The metal in a silver coin is not worth one half its face value. When the British Government grant to Australia, or any other Dependency, the right to issue silver coins, they must be careful to see that they alone are responsible for their own coinage and loss in weight, and that they do not become responsible for another coinage and loss in weight. I do not suggest that it is likely to occur; but it is possible that if the Government of Australia were making a large profit on their silver issue, they might come to an arrangement with certain firms or banks for the introduction of that coinage into Great Britain.
– The same might be done with English coinage by Australia.
– England must protect itself. The Imperial Government say to us, “ We give you the right to mint silver coins, butyou must distinguish your coins from ours and be responsible for wear and tear. You may have the profit on the minting, but your coins must bear a distinguishing mark, so that there shall not be an opportunity for an injury to be done to our coinage and currency arrangements, which might occur if the introduction of coins, undistinguished and not coined by ourselves, into Great Britain were possible.” That shows the difference between giving the face value of the metal in the coin, and giving much less than the face value. Great Britain must protect itself against the importation of large quantities of silver coin.
– There is the same difficulty in regard to the rupee.
– Yes, but it is proposed that our coinage shall be an exact imitation of coinage that is legal tender in Great Britain. There is therefore need for a distinction, but not for a more marked distinction than is made in the case of the sovereign. I should like to know from the Treasurer whether a change is contemplated in the arrangements with the Imperial Government as to gold coinage.
– The old arrangement still exists?
– I do not think that the proposal of the honorable member for Darwin is necessary, or would have any practical effect. The fact that silver is legal tender only for sums up to £2 does not create difficulty, and as the change would not effect an improvement, it is better to keep to the customs and laws of the States.
.- To my mind, sufficient reason has been shown for making as plain as possible the distinction between our coins and the Imperial coins. If there were no distinction, there would be nothing to prevent the importation of our coins into Great Britain for the sake of making a profit on them.
– Does the honorable member suggest that an Australian Government would do such a thing?
– In my opinion, we should mint our own silver, and since that would not give sufficient work for the necessary machinery, we should also make our own cartridge cases. Every Government must do its business with another Government on business lines. It is not likely that the British Government would allow us to mint coins exactly the same as their own.
– What I suggested was that the design should be the same, but that there should be a distinctive mark.
– The honorable member for Wentworth suggested the use of the same design, and the honorable member for Parkes thinks that our coinage should be legal tender in Great Britain. The reason why we should have the profit from the coinage of our silver is that there is now more gold in circulation in Australia than in any other country. That is due to the fact that the private banks insist on exchanges being paid on notes carried from one State, to another. This causes travellers to carry gold instead of notes, with the result that the average life of our sovereigns is only eight years. At the end of that time they have to be sent back to be re-minted. If the use of silver were encouraged, there would be a saving in wear and tear on the gold coinage. I do not know that the proposal of the honorable member for Darwin, if agreed to, would increase the use of silver, but I see no reason for opposing it. In this country there are not so many conveniences for banking as there are in the older countries of the world. In many places there are no banks, and silver is often accumulated there. It might often be necessary, therefore, to tender five pounds in silver for a debt of £$, and if the tender were refused, great inconvenience might be caused. Indeed a creditor might, after accepting five pounds in silver for a debt, take tHe legal point that £3 was still owing to him, because he accepted silver in respect of only £2 of his debt.
– A person would rather have the money in gold.
– But there are numerous places where it is impossible to get gold ; and business people in country towns always do their best to retain the silver. It is a curious fact that silver has a tendency to gravitate to the big centres, and bankers have constantly, at some loss to themselves, to be getting ^50 parcels of silver sent to the country branches.
– How would the amendment help those people ?
– It might help them if there was an accumulation of silver, and somebody desired to take advantage of it by putting them into a difficulty.
– Then why make the limit ,£5 ?
– There must be some limit, unless silver is adopted as the standard. I see no particular reason why the line should be drawn at £2
– The line has been thus drawn from time immemorial.
– I shall vote for the amendment, because I think it may prove an advantage in some cases. There is a profit on the silver coinage ; and the more we encourage people to use silver, the better it will be for the Treasurer, who requires all the money he can get in the immediate future. The sooner we do our own minting of a differential coinage the better ; and I do not see how we could possibly have an interchange with Great Britain without losing the advantage we have now.
.- Will not this proposal of the Government create something in the nature of an anomaly? The presumption is that British silver coins will circulate in Australia without limit, while Australian coins will not be negotiable in Great Britain.
– The British authorities will withdraw ^100,000 worth of silver every year.
– Has the Treasurer made provision to prevent any further inflow of British silver coins?
– The mint at Home will not issue any more silver coins for Australia.
– But there is always a large amount of that kind of currency brought into Australia by passengers on steamers.
– We shall gain when we exchange those silver coins.
– How we are to gain is not clear. While it is a good thing to mint our own silver, and make whatever profit there may be, it will be rather serious when visitors to Great Britain find that Australian coins are not accepted by the public.
– The same objection holds good against Canadian and other coins.
– - The conditions in Canada are altogether different, the Dominion being so close to the United States that she has in a measure to assimilate her coinage to that of her neighbour. While I thoroughly agree with minting our own silver, I think an attempt should have been made to preserve existing conditions in regard to the Australian coinage. As to the proposal that silver should be a legal tender up to £5, I have an open mind. I am waiting to hear what advantage it offers other than that mentioned by the honorable member for Darling, who said it would convenience country bankers and storekeepers. It appears to me that there is concealed in the amendment something in the nature of a risk. Will it ever be operative except during the stress of a financial panic? In my opinion, we shall never have ^5 in silver tendered as legal payment, except when people are hoarding gold. In the absence of knowledge of the experiences of other countries in this regard, this amendment must- be treated as purely experimental. I am not myself inclined to favour it, chiefly because its utility in times of normal trade has not been shown, and because of its possibilities when financial conditions became abnormal. Certainly the honorable member for Darwin has some justification for his proposal, in view of the fact that silver is already legal tender up to £2. Yet I hope the honorable member will not press the amendment, unless he is able to give the Committee a little more information. At present, I am not in a position to more than repeat that the provision would be largely inoperative, except when there was something in the nature of a financial panic. The honorable member for North Sydney did not convince me that it is impossible for the British Government to allow Australian coins to circulate in England. I think that the arrangement the British Government are making with us we could make with them - there might be a reciprocal arrangement to retire a certain number of coins annually.
– There would have to be a mark of distinction.
– Yes; so that those who run may easily note the difference.
– And wear and tear would have to be considered.
– Exactly; the same arrangement which the Imperial Government are making with us, we might be able to make with them.
.- I listened to the speech of the honorable member for North Sydney with an open mind, because I had hoped he would get rid of the difficulties which have presented themselves to me over this measure. I was careful to ask the Treasurer, before the. business of the House began, whether it was true, as stated in the press, that in England, or on English ships, our silver coinage would not be legal tender up to the generally accepted limit of £2, and he merely said it would not. Naturally I wished to know why, because I confess that I have strong leanings to Imperialism in its best sense, and do not like to see broken even a single thread or strand of the cord which binds us to the Empire. We have been in the habit of taking English silver up to the recognised legal tender of £2 without any hesitation; but in order that we may make a profit on silver coinage we are going to bring about a state of things in which English silver will not be legal tender in Australia even up to £2, and in which Australian silver will not be legal tender in England up to that amount.
– I do not think the honorable member is right.
– The honorable member’s answer to my question this afternoon convinces me that I am. If he can assure me that Australian silver will be legal tender up to £2 in England–
– It will not be; but English silver will be legal tender in Australia up to £2.
– The honorable member has not been following me. One naturally asks why this change is to be brought about, because it will mean inconvenience. Any honorable member may take a trip to England, and each member of his family who may have 30s. or £2 in silver in his pocket may be told on board the English steamer by which he travels, “We cannot accept Australian silver, because it is of no use in England ; it is not legal tender there.” And, vice versa, people coming from England to Australia with English silver in their pockets may be told on board ship, “ English silver is of no use to us, because it is not legal tender in Australia.” It is not a matter of great importance, but, as the honorable member for Wentworth has said, there is a principle involved. I am sure we are not anxious to break any of the threads which, so to speak, make common ground between us and the Mother Country, and I naturally desired to discover this afternoon what there was in the new step we are taking in regard to silver coinage to prevent our enjoying the reciprocity that has hitherto existed- I thought probably it was because the design was to be altered. I was told, however, that that. is not the cause. The honorable member for North Sydney propounded a theory which rather astonished me, saying that if “England were not protected in this way it would be possible for Australian Governments to force a lot of silver into the English market. It requires a very lively imagination to suppose that we are to have in existence in Australia a Federal Government that will try to flood. England with Australian silver because it happens that a pound’s worth of silver costs only IOS
– I said at the same time that I did not suppose any Australian Government would do such a thing, but that England must protect herself.
– Why did not the honorable member suppose the converse? Why did he not suppose that an English Government might try to flood the Australian market with English silver? We all* know that there is no such danger. Coining can be carried on only through the Government, and, therefore, if the English and the Australian Governments, are to be trusted not to abuse the privilege to coin silver which the public have conferred upon them, what harm can happen to us if the existing reciprocity be continued?
– If a lot of Australian silver coins got to England, what would the honorable member do with them ?
– I have never expressed a doubt as to the necessity of identifying the coins, since it is self-evident that if a pound’s worth of silver could be minted for IOS., and not identified, a very large profit might easily be made out of the undertaking. I recognise the necessity for a distinctive design, and I thought during the earlier part of this debate that the omission of the word “ Emperor “ from our silver coins was probably the .reason why they were not to be current in England.
– The honorable member must have got that idea from the newspapers.
– I did not; I tried to have the doubt satisfied by a question that I put to the Treasurer this afternoon ; but it was not. As our silver is to be coined in England, the British Government will have complete control over the quantity issued and will be able to see that the right is not being abused. That being so, is it not possible to have with the British Government an arrangement by which English silver to the extent of £2 will be legal tender in Austrafia, and Australian silver up to £2 will be legal tender in England ? There is no more likelihood of pur Government, abusing the privilege than there is of the British Government doing so. Our coins will bear a distinctive mark, so that when they have to be called in and renewed no difficulty will be experienced in making an adjustment. Let us have reciprocity, so that those who board an English vessel leaving here for the Mother Country, and those who sail from England to Australia, will not be inconvenienced in the way I have mentioned. Why should we remind people from time to time that parts of the Empire are isolated ?
– What has the honorable member to say in regard to Indian coins ?
– The British Indian Government .have chosen a different coinage. If the Indian people prefer to have the rupee and the anna, let them have it; and if the Canadian people prefer a decimal system with the dollar, by all means let them have it and take the consequences. But in this case we are going to have coins identical with those current in England - the florin and the shilling; yet we are told that the Australian florin and shilling shall not be current in the Mother Country, and that the English florin and shilling shall not be current coin here.
– Does the honorable member suggest legislation?
– No; I want the Treasurer, who, by reason of .his high office, is in touch with the British Government, to make with them an arrangement by which their ‘silver coinage will be legal tender in Australia to the extent of £2, and Australian silver coinage will be legal tender in England to the extent of £2.
– Two pounds?
– The honorable member for Gippsland seems to treat this matter rather lightly, assuming that it is only a question of £2. That is a very short-sighted policy to adopt. The honorable member might well take the bigger view that, in the cord which binds us to the Mother Country, this is a thread. It may. be a very thin and unimportant thread, but we ought, if we can, to preserve the connexion in every possible way. I re- cognise the necessity for distinguishing the coins but the Treasurer might show real statesmanship by trying to make an arrangement with the British Government - it may be made after the Bill is passed - by which it shall be understood’ that English silver shall be current coin in Australia, and Australian silver current coin in England. In that way, we shall preserve the condition of things that existed before we took it into our heads to make this profit of ^’90,000 a year.
– I cannot understand why we have been over an hour debating this matter. The honorable member for Parkes dwells upon the point with such persistency that one might imagine, if one did not examine it, that there was something in it. The honorable member ought to be told, and the public ought to know, that there never was any Australian silver coinage before. The silver that was current here was British currency, which we accepted. The argument put forward by the honorable member for North Sydney is unanswerable, so far as the question of legal tender is concerned. If we are to have a coinage of our own, we must have a. distinctive design, and the British Government cannot allow vis to pour our silver into Great Britain if we do alter the design. If we are to make a profit on our silver, there must be a distinction. The thing does not cut both ways, because the capacity of every country to absorb silver is limited by its trade, its circumstances, and its population. The power of England to absorb currency is, we might say, twenty times as great as that of Australia. Therefore, it would be absurd, on the face of it, to expect that Great Britain could make a profit out of sending her silver here, to a population which al-, ready has sufficient silver currency, although I admit that it is conceivable - but, as the honorable member for North Sydney says, it is not probable - that it might pay our Government to place a shipment of silver on the British market. I am very strongly in favour of the Australian design of these coins. We recognise our attachment to Great Britain by the design on the one side, and our own nationality on the other by the design proposed by the Treasurer, to which I have never taken exception. It seems perfectly appropriate, and no exception can be taken to it by any one. It is very much better than the Canadian or any other that I have seen. I wish to mention, in passing, that the honorable member for Wentworth, among others, referred to the
British Mint as the Imperial Mint. There is no such thing as an Imperial Mint, or an Imperial Legislature. There is a tendency to use the words :’ British “ and “ Imperial “ as transposable terms, which they are not. The Empire is not Great Britain - it is Great Britain and all the rest, including ourselves. I was glad to notice that the honorable member for Parkes did not make that mistake. . We are going to get our coinage done in the British Mint, and not in the Imperial Mint. As a silverproducing country, there is no reason why we should not make silver coin legal tender up to the amount of one hundred shillings, as the honorable member for Darwin proposes. In some cases, that provision would be effective but in the majority of cases, neither the clause nor the amendment will have any effect. The average man takes any number of shillings with an avidity for which there seems no possibility of finding a wholesome and effective antidote. In fact, the readiness with which the people of this country absorb silver, or anything else in the way of current coin, can hardly be paralleled in the civilized or uncivilized world. Now that we propose to put our own coinage on the market, we might well enact that it shall be legal tender up to one hundred shillings. For that reason, I shall support the amendment. I do not attach considerable importance to it, but it is a step in the right direction. With regard to the contention that the silver coinage of Australia should be current in Great Britain, and vice versa, I am heartily in accord with one point which the honorable member for Parkes makes, that it would be in the last degree unfortunate that a proclamation should issue in such a way as to prevent the silver of British immigrants passing current in this country.
– It would take fifteen or twenty years to get rid of the present currency.
– It is a matter of practical politics ; and I feel sure that we shall do nothing to place any person intending to come here from the British Islands in such a position. At the same time, one cannot pass a Canadian half-dollar in Great Britain ; not merely because it is decimal coinage, but because it bears an unfamiliar device. I am sure one would find it as hard to pass a Canadian penny as to pass a French penny in London. Both of them do pass; but some people will not accept them, as they a.re hot current coins.
.- It is hard to -find a correct term by which to refer to the present coinage. The honorable member for West Sydney wishes to substitute “British” for “Imperial”; but that would leave the matter still uncertain, as a British Mint undoubtedly does exist at present in most of the Australian States. After all, the word “ Imperial,” as applied to the Old Land, is more typical and distinctive than the generic term “British.” The honorable member for Parkes may not have observed a proviso in clause 5 to permit British coins, other than gold coins, to be legal tender in Australia, up to a date to be fixed by proclamation. I had intended to move the elimination of that proviso, because we should put nothing in this Bill to indicate our intention, even at a remote period, such as the fifteen years suggested by the Treasurer, to make Imperial coins cease to be legal tender in Australia. If I succeeded in that amendment, it would be open to the Government to negotiate with the Imperial authorities to obtain a similar concession for Australian coin in Great Britain. The amount of coinage introduced into either country in this way would be comparatively insignificant, but I agree with the honorable member for Parkes that a principle is involved which is well worthy of our consideration. My objection to the proposal of the honor able member for Darwin is that either it goes too far, or it does not go far enough. He proposes to change what has been the universal rule in regard to silver and copper coinage in order to stimulate the use of silver in Australia. If that be his real object, I fail to see how we should derive very much advantage by merely increasing the amount of silver which may be offered as legal tender, from £2 to £5. It seems to me that we should have to increase it to a very much greater degree.
– But 40s. is universally regarded as the amount of silver which may be offered as legal tender.
– If the honorable member for Darwin wishes to impart a stimulus to the circulation of silver in Australia, the mere act of increasing the amount of legal tender to £5 will, not achieve much. If he went so far as to make it £20 or £25 there might be something in his proposal.
– This proposal represents a beginning.
– The honorable member is not usually afraid to take very definite steps, and I am somewhat surprised at his conservatism in this matter. I quite agree with the Treasurer that where silver is tendered in payment of a debt, nobody will be likely to refuse it. Consequently I hold that there is no reason why we should alter the common system.
– I think that we might very safely act on the suggestion of the honorable member for Parkes, and approach the Imperial Government upon this matter.
– There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that course being followed.
– Of course, it might be that the proportion of British coins coming to Australia might diminish the profits that we expect to derive from our local currency. But I do not think that there is very much in that idea. As a matter of fact, the actual interchange of coins between Great Britain and Australia is exceedingly small. This provision, however, has been inserted in the Bill because it is in accordance with Imperial practice. It represents the arrangement which exists with Canada, under which a coin minted in England for the Dominion has a special local currency only. Like these coins of ours, it is specially ear-marked. So that in inserting this provision in the Bill it cannot be urged that we are making any invidious distinction against the Mother Country.
– Why not make the clause accord with the practice which exists here ?
– It is the rule at Home that the currency must be identified. Canadian silver is marked as such, although minted at Birmingham.
– They have no Act relating to that matter.
– I do not say that the honorable member is wrong ; but I believe that there is a special statutory provision under which silver coin, minted for Canada, must circulate only in Canada. The same thing applies even to the smallest dependencies of Great Britain, such as Cyprus.
– But in this clause we are providing that British silver shall not be legal tender.
– We are providing that eventually it shall not be legal tender. It might be that British coins might come out here in such large quantities as to displace a considerable proportion of our local currency, and thus diminish our profits in that connexion. I do not believe that any such thing will occur, because the Imperial Government is not likely to send out large quantities of coin to displace our local currency. As a matter df fact, coin is got rid of in the ordinary way of commercial exchange, not by the Government sending out huge quantities of silver for the purpose of making a profit on it.
– But private syndicates might do that.
– I do not think so. I would suggest that the clause should be passed in its present form, and that representations should be made to the Imperial Government with a view to securing reciprocity in this matter. If honorable members will look at the report of the Decimal Coinage Committee they will see that what is proposed in the clause is in accordance with the recomm’endation of that body, and in accordance with the expressed desire of the Imperial Government.
.- I heartily support the amendment of the honorable member for Darwin. It is a step in the direction of increasing the amount of silver currency which may be made legal tender. In the world of finance to-day one of the most scoundrelly methods adopted for legally robbing the people is by reducing the currency to monometallism, and then by making gold scarce, compelling the people to pay enormous premiums because they have to settle their accounts in gold. In view of the recent American crisis it surely behoves us to be very much alert in regard to this question. In that country, merely by making gold scarce - gold being practically the only stable form of currency - the Vanderbilts, the Goulds, and other financial magnates were able to make tens of millions sterling in a few months. As a result hundreds of business people were crushed. Some of them were compelled to pay premiums of as much, as 100 per cent, in order to obtain gold. When gold becomes scarce there is naturally a run upon it, so that those who hold it are enabled to demand higher rates for it. A man cannot then pay his debts in paper, because the individuals who hold the gold immediately commence to discredit that currency. Under such circumstances it is not likely that one bank will accept the paper of another in payment of its indebtedness. Thus, whilst the crisis continues, bank after bank goes smash, and manufacturer after manufacturer follows suit, because when they approach the gold magnates and say, “We want so many hun dreds of thousands of pounds,” the latter reply, “Last week we could have obliged you at 5 per cent., but now we cannot do it for less than 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, or 30 per cent.” In some instances manufacturers have got themselves so entangled financially that they have paid premiums of as much as 100 per cent, in order to ward off the threatened disaster. Of course, in Australia to-day, we are engaged in a nice quiet way of business. We have no financial crisis. But surely when we are considering a currency Bill we ought to provide safeguards against future trouble. If we can only offer silver to the amount of £2 as legal tender, we are in a 150 per cent, worse position than we should be if we were able to offer as legal tender silver, to the amount of .£5. It would mean that the currency of the country would be restricted to that extent. This would give the owners of gold the chance to charge a premium to every man who presented silver and asked for gold in exchange. In other words, it would give the owners of gold an opportunity to rob in all directions. Therefore, the honorable member for Darwin is to be congratulated on having moved in this direction. In my opinion, the £5 limitation is not quite sufficient. I should prefer to go further. But this is a start. I am looking forward to the institution of a national bank note currency. I shall never feel that our currency is safe until we have accomplished so much. If this Bill had been thought out in a proper manner, and we were dealing with our currency in an effective way, provision would have been made for the establishment of a national bank as well as for the coinage of silver. Of course, I am aware that I should not be in order in discussing a national banking system at present, nor do I intend to do so. But we require a national bank that will save us from the operation of the gold bugs, who at some time may make gold scarce in Australia. Their operations would be simply legalized theft, and there are many operations in business which are practically nothing better than that, although they are called by nicer names. The. Treasurer has to take up one of two attitudes. Either by limiting the legal tender amount in the case of silver to £2 he takes his stand on the side of the gold bugs who wish to create currency scares and are fighting so solidly for monometalism ; or he must take up the side of those who wish to increase the use of silver as legal tender and are therefore working in the interests of the people at large.
– I am heartily in accord with the honorable member forParkes. I consider that our silver coins should be made similar to the English coins, with the exception that they should bear a distinctive mark upon them to show that they are made in Australia. At present our sovereigns are similar to English sovereigns, and are as willingly accepted in England as they are here.
– But the Australian Mints are under Imperial control.
– That is quite correct ; but I feel satisfied that we can without any difficulty arrange with the Imperial Government that our silver money shall be current in Great Britain as well as in Australia. At the end of every year, if therebe a balance on the one side or the other, it can be settled in gold just as the banks at present settle their balances between themselves.
– There is nothing in this Bill to prevent that being done.
– But we are proposing to make our silver coins different from the English silver coins. If that be done, British tradespeople will be afraid to take silver coined in this country. They will not be sure of their value. There will be no difficulty, however, if the pattern of our silver coins be the same as that of the English silver, with the exception of a distinctive imark, such as we now have on gold coins struck in Australia. A small “ M “ appears on sovereigns coined in Melbourne, and a small “ S “ on sovereigns coined in Sydney.
– A magnifying glass is almost reauired to see the Mint mark.
– We could, at the end of each year, take up the Australian money circulating in England, and the British authorities could take up silver of British coinage circulating in this country. The balance could be paid in gold quite easily. It would be an extraordinary thing if people from Australia found when they landed from a steamer in England that the silver coins thev took with them were useless.
– The probabilities are that they would not be able to use our coins on steamers.
– That would be still more inconvenient. The amount of silver coinage imported by the banks in Australia and New Zealand does not exceed £50,000 a year. Therefore, that is the full amount of silver that we shall have to strike. I do not suppose the balance against either Australia or Great Britain under such an arrangement as I suggest would be more than£5,000 one way or the other. That would be a very small sum to settle by exchanges. Surely, instead of getting away from the Mother Country, we want to approach nearer to her in as many respects as possible. But the converse would appear to be the view of some honorable members.
– What does the Treasurer say to all this ?
– Apparently the Treasurer does not listen. He is very obstinate. He always tries to keep to the text of a Bill of which he has charge. I do not think that it matters much whether the legal tender for silver be fixed at £5 or at £2. A person can pay as much silver as he likes into a bank, and no objection is taken. I see no objection to the amendment therefore. Indeed, the increased amount will be better for the Government. They will have more silver in circulation. But it should also be remembered that if a person requires gold for silver the Government will have to provide it, this being their medium of exchange. I see not the slightest objection to raising the legal tender amount to £5.
.- 1 do not think that the Committee can be congratulated on the progress that is being made with this Bill. We have spent nearly the whole afternoon in discussing the very same point that we dealt with on Friday last. One honorable member who discussed the question then has dealt with it again today. The honorable member for Parkes is probably responsible for a good deal of the delay, because he was not attending to his parliamentary duties on Friday, and consequently did not hear the discussion which then took place. Those who have said most during the present debatehave admitted thatthe point under discussion is a very little one after all. There is practically nothing in it. Some honorable members, however, seem to fear that by having a distinctive coinage of our own we shall in some way be severing ourselves from the Mother Country.
– No one said so.
– That was hinted at. One would imagine that every other part ofthe
British Empire had the same coinage, and that the British coinage was legal tender throughout the Empire. The last speaker said that we were going to reject a coin that is legal tender throughout the rest of the British Dominions. As the honorable member was speaking of silver, what he said was incorrect. We have no hint that Canada or India or any other part of the Empire that has a distinctive coinage is proposing to sever from the Empire, but when it is proposed that we should have a distinctive coinage in Australia, it is insinuated that it is due to a desire to separate from the Empire. The reason. for a distinctive coinage is that given in the businesslike speech delivered by the honorable member for North Sydney. It is unnecessary to repeat what the honorable member said, as it should have carried conviction to anybody who appreciates a business argument. We have been making mountains out of molehills, and we are now told that a very small amount is involved. If so, why should we waste the time of the country in discussing it? If half of the objections that have been raised by honorable members opposite had been raised from this side, we should have had the press putting them forward as another example of Labour obstruction. I see no reason why we should not adhere to the Bill as it stands. In my opinion there is as little in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Darwin proposing that silver should be accepted as legal tender to the amount of £5, as there is in the other question which has been discussed upon it. I never heard that any one suffered inconvenience, because the amount for which silver is accepted as legal tender has been fixed in the past at £2. People paying a debt in money, as a rule, do so in the fewest possible coins. Apart from the question of bimetallism there is no reason why the amount should be limited at all, and if the amount were fixed in the Bill at ^5 I should see no more reason for reducing it to £2 than I now see for increasing the amount fixed in the Bill to £$ Therefore, I cannot see my way to support the amendment. The question of a reciprocal arrangement to secure the circulation of our coin in Great Britain on the condition of the circulation of British coin here can be dealt with after the Bill is passed, if we include in this Bill the power to prevent British coin being legal tender in Australia. If we remove that provision we shall have no basis on which to negotiate. The matter is one which the authorities can discuss later, and we need not waste time discussing it now.
– I am sorry to find so much Conservatism in the Committee and especially in the honorable member for Gippsland. We are living in an age of progress, and yet if one proposes the slightest deviation from the old beaten track it is opposed. I have perhaps had a. wider experience in Australia than any other member of the Committee. In the backblocks I have been told, “ We cannot take all this silver. It is legal tender only up to £2.’’
– What is the amount for which silver is legal tender in America?
– At one time as legal tender silver was on a par with gold in the United States. They have demonetised silver since, and though I cannot tell what amount of silver is legal tender there now, I know that in the United States they have silver certificates which are not redeemable in gold, but only in service. One does not carry silver around, but a silver certificate, which is absolutely legal tender all over the United States, though not redeemable in gold. I do not propose to go so far as that, but in Australia, which is one of the largest producers of silver in the world, I think we should increase the amount of silver coinage which will be accepted as legal tender. I want to provide that when gold is withdrawn from the country in a time of crisis there will be something which can be used as legal tender to enable people to exchange their commodities. I propose that a man may tender £5 in silver in payment for £5 worth of commodities. The paid-up capital of the Joint Stock Banks of England, Scotland, and Wales, is only ^70,000,000, and yet they have issued nearly ^900,000,000 worth of purchasing power. That is the result of organization. I have heard honorable members speak to-night of the poor man. When a poor man goes with £5 to a business man in Autralia, and says, “ I want to buy certain articles,” the latter has the right to take the money or not. A Britisher does not like to be put under an obligation when he is making a purchase. He wants to put his hand into his collateral security depository, and say, “ Here is the £$, take it.” But suppose that the price is £4 IOS., the tradesman’ may accept the balance in silver if he likes/ although he need not do so. I do not see any reason why we should not say that in our own country, where silver is produced, the sum of £5 in silver shall be legal tender, so that a poor man can go and demand £5 worth of goods. All we have to do is to stamp receivability upon the coin.
– Does the honorable member think that his proposal, if adopted, would bring more silver coin into circulation ?
– If we raise the amount for which silver is legal tender, it will instantly increase the circulation of silver coin, and also the profits to the Government.
– Is it not better to have in circulation money which is worth its face value - gold ?
– It makes very little difference what is in circulation if the people have confidence in it. Suppose my honorable friend takes a bit of sole .leather and stamps $5 upon it. If people will exchange produce for the leather, it will make no difference. In fact, intrinsic value is unnecessary in the case of money. In my opinion, we shall not need intrinsic value. We simply want exchangeable value. All we need is some token or symbol which is the standard of value, and, of course, that standard will have been settled for all time. A postage stamp has no intrinsic value, and yet it has a serviceable value. In the case of our currency, we are about to make a departure. The Commonwealth, as a’ Democracy within a Monarchy, is a departure from anything previously known. Canada is not a criterion, because it has a centralized Government. In Canada, the power rests in the Dominion and not in the States, but in Australia the power rests in the States, and not in the Commonwealth. Therefore, everything we have in Australia is a departure from anything which, so far as I know, previously existed in the world’s history. Are the members of this Committee afraid to make a little further departure? If it is made it will be an advertisement for Australia, because it will be acknowledged all over the world that it had the courage to do a thing which no other nation has done, and that is to raise the amount for which silver is legal tender to ^5. I do not know why honorable members should be afraid to take this step forward. Varying prices, and a contraction of the currency, mean the oppression of the poor, the ruination of the middle classes, and the increase of the affluence, and bloated wealth of the few. The honorable member for Wentworth seemed to fear that my proposal, if adopted, would interfere with the trade and commerce of Great Britain, but I can assure him once more that the currency of a country lias nothing to do with trade and commerce. International trade and commerce is a mere exchange of commodities. It is indirect barter.
– Nothing I said was the contrary to that.
– I rejoice to see the honorable member endeavouring to keep our connexion with England as close as possible, but there are ways in which it can be done apart from trade and commerce. It would not make the slightest difference to the trade of any country if there was not one ounce of silver or gold, or if the currency was based on gold or silver, or was inconvertible paper. The relative value depends upon the amount of the settlements which have to be made in different directions between two countries. In other words, the exchange is at a discount or premium, according to the relative value of the settlements to be made in each direction between two countries.
– Still all these settlements have to be made.
– If the currency of France, Russia, Austria, and the United States, were the same as the currency of England and Australia, it would not make the slightest difference. The rate of exchange would depend upon the amount of money which had to go from Australia to those countries, and vice versa. It would be at a premium or discount, according to the amount which had to be transferred.
– Does not the honorable member see that a person who was dealing in :’duds” would experience a difficulty in understanding a catalogue of prices in £ s. d. ?
– No. In the first place a man would ascertain the value of the commodities which he was going to ship in the value of his own currency, and then, with the aid of an international ready reckoner, their value in the currency of the country upon which he was going to draw his bill of exchange. However, as honorable members are not sufficiently advanced in regard to money matters, I shall withdraw my amendment, to save them from being censured by their constituents for not having voted for it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Six JOHN FORREST (Swan- Treasurer) [5.42]. - I move -
That the words,” 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,” be left out.
I propose the omission of this pro. iso because it is open to misconstruction, as it is not intended that a proclamation shall be issued during the continuance of the agreement with the British Government, which covers a period of fifteen or twenty years. We have arranged that the mints shall cease to import British coin, and that we shall supply Australian coin for local use, as required. British silver coin will continue to circulate here; but £100,000 worth will be withdrawn annually, until it all disappears. If there is any drift of British coin to Australia, it would be exchangeable at its face value, under our arrangement with the Imperial Government.
.- Is paragraph g, of sub-clause 1, of clause 8, to be left out?
– Yes; that will be a consequential amendment.
– Then, while British tourists are to be allowed to bring British silver here, and obtain face value for it, Australians visiting Great Britain, and taking with them silver coins, will have to pay discount on them.
– If possible, we shall make an arrangement with the British Government.
– The best way to obtain an arrangement satisfactory to ourselves is to take power to proclaim British coins, other than gold, not legal tender. It is our duty to protect Australian interests in what is a strictly business arrangement, notwithstanding that the honorable members for Wentworth and Parkes say that,in doing so, we are threatening to break the threads which bind the Empire together. If we get this power, we shall be able to bring about reciprocity.
– It is not necessary to hold a pistol at the head of the British Government.
– No. But as in Tariff matters it is easier to get preference when one has something to give in return, so it will be in this matter. The Treasurer evidently thought, in the first instance, that the power to issue this proclamation was necessarv.
.- If we were making an entirely new business arrangement with the Mother Country, the honorable member for Corio might be justified in his attitude; but, as a matter of fact, it is the Mother Country which is making all the sacrifice. While we get the profit on the minting of silver, we leave her to bear the loss on the reminting of gold. Most of the half-sovereigns in circulation in Australia have lost sixpence in value through wear. Great Britain has to make good this depreciation. Some years ago, she asked that it might be taken into account in arranging for the coinage of silver ; but it was not. It is out of place for us to hold the pistol to the head of a Government which has treated us so generously.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
The Governor-General may, by proclamation, do all or any of the following things, namely : -
Determine the denominations of Australian coins to be made and issued . . . . .
Fix a date after which a tender of payment in money if made in British coins other than gold coins shall not be a legal tender of payment for any amount.
.- On this clause, I desire to ask the Treasurer what steps were taken to insure a suitable design for the Australian coinage?
– Immediately on our accession to office, this matter was brought under our notice, and all but thedetails had been settled in regard to the arrangements between Great Britain and Australia. The question was how to set about the coining in the quickest way. The coins in the schedule were decided upon because they would not stand in the way hereafter of a decimal coinage, in favour of which a resolution was passed by this Parliament some time ago. The question arose whether we should retain the half-crown, and it was decided that, for the present, at any rate, it should be allowed to go out of use. Of course, that will not prevent the circulation of the half-crowns at present in Australia; and, in fact it is quite open to us not to withdraw the half-crown, or any silver or copper coin the Governor-General in Council may think best. As to the design, the universal custom, throughout the Dominions of the Empire beyond the seas, is for the coinage to bear the King’s head crowned, whereas in England itis more usual for the King’s head to appear without a crown. The question that arose was as to the designation on that side of the coin; and, as I have already told honorable members, we asked for suggestions from the Mint authorities. Before we heard from the Imperial authorities, we had to consider what should appear on the reverse side of the coin. I do not know who made the suggestion, whether it was a member of the Government or not - at any rate, I do not think it was myself - but the map of Australia was mentioned, and that commended itself to me and to my colleagues as very distinctive and very appropriate.
– Did not the Government invite designs?
– No.. We thought the inspiration a good one, and acted upon it. Our suggestion was acquiesced in by the Mint authorities, and a drawing was forwarded to us. The only cost so far incurred by us is in connexion with the making of dies and the drawing of designs at Home on the lines suggested bv the Government, with the assistance of the Mint authorities. The whole cost of preparing the design, matrices and punches is estimated at about £70, and no doubt some portion of that expenditure would be lost to us if any change were made. I do not think that a much better design or one that is more appropriate and distinctive could be selected. It shows the outlines of Australia and Tasmania and the word “Australia” is plainly printed across the map.
– Have the Government made up their minds to stand to that design if the question be tested?
– It is a matter respecting which we should not be too dogmatic, but unless a much better design can be suggested I advise honorable members to indorse that selected by the Government. I recognise that it is competent for the Committee to disapprove of it. and to select another. I have no feeling in the matter, and shall be pleased to accept the decision of the Committee.
– It is obvious that the Treasurer did not invent the design.
– I had something to do with its selection, although I do not take the credit, nor do I want any for it. I should not be displensed ifa better design were suggested. We took action only to expedite the matter. I move -
That paragraph b be left out.
Mr.HUGHES (West Sydney) [6.3].- Although the Treasurer declines to take the credit for a selection which I think is properly his due, the design is a very suitable one. It is proposed under this clause to take power to fix a date after which paymentin British coins other than gold shall not be legal tender in Australia, and’ to determine the denominations of Australian coins to be made and issued.
– Some of those provisions are to be omitted.
.-I have no desire to debate the question, but wish to point out that my remarks were not intended to be a reflection on the appropriateness of the design for our larger coins. What I am mainly concerned about, however, is that it would scarcely be recognisable on a sixpence or a “ dud.” when such coins have become worn. On the larger coins it will be something like what it purports to be, but if it is applied to the smaller coins we shall not be able to have a map with the important centres, such as Melbourne and Sydney and Bunbury, shown on it.
– Here is a copy of the design for a sixpence.
– It looks very well in print, but on our smaller coins it will not be at all plain. It would be impossible to mark on a smaller coin any of the State capitals.
– It is not proposed to do so.
– Poor little Tasmania. I commend this point to the consideration of the representatives of that State.
– Tasmania is shown in the design.
– But one would have to look for it with a microscope on a small coin that was slightly worn. I give the Ministry every credit for having evolved a very excellent design, but whether or not it is suitable for placing on the reverse side of smaller coins is another matter? I think that the Government, despite the temptation that this sudden artistic inspiration naturally brought with it, would have done well to consult experts on coinage just as the Imperial Government invariably consult experts before making changes in their coinage.
– The English authorities say that our design is a very good one.
– They are probably thinking only of its application to the florin. Do they think it is a good one for all our coin’s ? I wish to know particularly what size the “dud “ is going ‘to be, and how the map of Australia will look on it. The honorable member for Corio suggests that we should have as. tenths of a shilling duds,” which he is bound by convention to wear, and “ half duds,” which are probably a Sort of monetary kilts. I would suggest that unless some large expenditure is involved, the Government might well consider the desirability of obtaining a simpler design for our smaller coins. The threepence to-day has nothing on the reverse side but a large figure “3.” A more elaborate design would be worn out of recognition in a very short time.
– It has not been suggested that there is any difficulty in that regard.
– The idea that an outline o¥ Australia should appear on our larger coins is an excellent one if we must have a separate coinage, but I would suggest another design for our smaller coins.
.- Perhaps the honorable member for Wentworth is anxious that there should appear on all our coins an outline of Australia, showing all the Federal electorates. As I understand the design proposed by the Government, however, it is merely an outline of Australia, with the word “Australia” printed across it, for the information of those who do not need it. It seems rather strange that those words should appear across the design, since these coins are intended for circulation only in Australia. I should have liked to see the old Australian coat-of-arms - the shield under the crown supported by the kangaroo and emu -adopted. It might be possible to put the Australian coat-of-arms, instead of the word “Australia,” on the map. That would be more distinctive and beautiful. We should preserve the distinctive character of the coat-of-arms, which was used a great deal more in the earlier days than it is now. The shield bore some representation of the emblems of the different States, such as the swan for Western Australia. That design would certainly be an improvement on the larger coins, and the die could be made so clear that it could even be used on the smaller ones. The objection with regard to the design wearing out is met by the fact that it is proposed to renew the coins as they wear, and not to allow them to circulate as the Old Country has allowed some of the old ones to do. I have seen coins in use about the country which were just a thin piece of silver, about half the regular weight, and with the whole of the designs worn off.
.- I found on consultation with one or two bankers that they greatly object to the abolition of the half-crown piece. I thought there would be no objection to doing away with it, but they speak of it as the most convenient coin that they have. I do not know why it is convenient, but if the Treasurer makes inquiries he will find that the banking community do object to its abolition. I know if one is paying a cabman that it is often convenient - to the cabman. I should like the Treasurer to find out why its abolition is objected to. When I was inquiring into the coinage question, I agreed with the present Treasurer’s view that there was no necessity for the half-crown piece.
– It does not conform to the decimal system. The bankers do not care whether it is abolished, but they say it is a good deal used.
– It is often difficult, if the coins are at all worn, to distinguish them. Some of the florins are now nearly as small as a shilling. That should not be allowed. Every coin of the same class should be of a uniform size. Another matter which I should like the Treasurer to look into is that of the place of minting. All this work should be done in Australia.
– We may do it when we look into the matter further, but it would take too long for the start. The punches and matrices will be ours.
– If the Government enter into a contract with the British Government—
– We have not entered into any contract.
– It will be necessary to enter into a contract before the work is done.
– Only to do the first lot of ^200,000 worth, or whatever the amount is.
– If at all possible, the work ought to be done in Australia. If it is not possible, we should certainly have a mint of our own as soon as we can obtain one. The objection hitherto has been that we could not have the silver minted in every State. The Perth Mint offered to mint the whole of it, but some of the other States objected.
– It would be necessary to get new machinery. The gold machinery is not strong enough.
– I understood that the Perth Mint had all the machinery necessary. At any rate, there should be a Federal Mint as soon as it is possible to establish it. Any design for the new coinage should be well understood, and agreed to by the House before it is adopted. I do not care for that which has been submitted by the Treasurer. I agree with the honorable member for Darling that the arms of the Commonwealth would be very much better. The map of Australia is not a good design. The coat-of-arms would be more distinctive, and, as has been pointed out, there is no need to print the word “Australia “ across the map of Australia.
– It would be hard to get the arms of Australia on to the smaller coins.
– There should be some distinguishing mark to show the different denominations of coins. I hope that before the Treasurer decides to adopt the map of Australia the House will know something more about the matter. I am sorry the Treasurer did not invite competitive designs, so that the best might have been selected. Many who have taken the trouble to look into the question express great dissatisfaction with the proposal to use the map of Australia.
– I have never heard any objection raised to it.
– Objection has been raised to it since it has been brought prominently forward. The chief objection is that in ‘the future the design will become indistinct, and that we might adopt a very much better design in the form of the Australian coat-of-arms.
– We have the power to alter it.
– But it is better for us to settle it satisfactorily in the first instance.
– As the suggestion of the honorable member for Darling appears to have fallen upon unheeding ears, I should like ,to draw special attention to it. He has suggested that within the map of Australia on the obverse side of the coin, a representation of the Australian coat-of-arms should be inserted. I. believe that there are several forms of that coat-of-arms, but I think that within the outlines of Australia there would be room for depicting the kangaroo and emu as supporting the shield. Of course, it might be possible to picture on the shield representative designs of the various States. But, in any case, there would be room for the Australian coatofarms, which would sufficiently indicate the origin of the coin, whilst having the effect of dispensing with that plainness which the word “ Australia “ alone would give it.
.- I desire Ito ask the Treasurer whether he will agree to submit the question of a suitable design for the smaller coins to a Board of experts. It is not yet too 1 late to avoid making a bungle of the design in regard to those coins. A number of new coins have been suggested, including “duds” and “ half-duds.”” To my mind the map of Australia might very well be represented on our larger coins if we must have our separate coinages, but I would ask the Treasurer whether he will seek the advice of experts upon the question of a suitable design in regard to our smaller coins?
– I am quite willing to inquire whether there will be room for the map of Australia on the threepenny piece. My own opinion is that there is ample room for it, and for the word “ Australia “ to be inscribed across it. Honorable members must recollect that engraving is done very finely nowadays. I should like khe honorable member for Wentworth to remember that we have already made some progress in regard to this matter, and unless the Committee entertain strong views upon it, it is very undesirable that we should exhibit any hesitancy now.
– Does the Treasurer mean to put the same inscription on our coins as that which appears on the British coins ?
– On the obverse side there will be a representation of the King’s head, with the designation of His Majesty, which has not yet’ been ‘.settled.
– But subject to that, what is the honorable gentleman’s intention?
– It is to inscribe on the coins, ‘‘King of all the Britains “ or “ King of all the Dominions beyond the Seas.” I should like to put the Latin contractions for “King of all the Britains” - “Britt. Om,i. Rex.” It was, however, decided to adopt the English in preference to the Latin phrase.
– But there will not be room for that.
– That is the difficulty. However, we ‘have made an inquiry, and will probably receive a reply to-morrow.
– What is it proposed to place upon the reverse side of the coin?
– The outline of the map of Australia with the word “ Australia “ inscribed within it. The value of the coin and the vear will also be inserted.
– If the half-crown be rerained will any difficulty be experienced in distinguishing between a worn half-crown and a worn two-shilling piece?
– We inquired from the British Mint authorities whether any inconvenience would arise if our coin were the same size as the British coin, and we received a reply in the negative.
– The Treasurer has not replied to the honorable member for Hume, who drew attention to the undesirableness of dispensing with the half-crown.
– We made an inquiry from the British Mint authorities here as to the coins that we ought to import, and we were given to understand that a good many half-crowns should be imported. Indeed, the half-crown appears to be a popular coin.
– Then why do away with it? ‘
– One of th< principal bankers tells us that some little difficulty is experienced in distinguishing between half-crowns and two-shilling pieces, and we thought that if we were satisfied that the half-crown was a popular coin we need not withdraw it for some years. In the interim we might withdraw the two-shilling, one-shilling, and threepenny pieces in exchange for our new coinage. Honorable members must recollect that there are about ^2,000,000 worth of coins to be withdrawn.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
.-! doubt whether the Committee quite understand the meaning of the amendment which we now have before us. The intention appears to be to withdraw from the Government power to determine the denomination of coins. It is understood that the power is conferred by an amendment adopted at an earlier stage. We ought, however, to have a further explanation. I have heard .no sufficient justification for the abolition of the halfcrown.
– We can provide for the retention of the half-crown in the schedule.
– Conditional on the Government accepting an amendment that is not provided for at present. Considering what a convenient coin the halfcrown is, we are entitled to have a satisfactory reason for its abolition.
– We have made an amendment in clause 4j in accordance with which the coins to be issued are to be of the denominations specified in the schedule. Bv a further amendment we have also taken away the power to issue coins of different denominations from those set forth. As paragraph b of clause 8 gives power to issue new coins by proclamation, that provision must go out as ancillary to the part which we have omitted. ‘The question of the abolition or retention of the half-crown is more within the purview of the Treasurer. I do not know what particular reasons affected him in recommending the abolition of that coin. As a member of the Decimal Coinage Commission, which sat some years ago, I recollect that we took evidence as to what had been done in England in respect to decimal coinage. It was pointed out that several attempts had been made to establish decimal coinage in England. An instalment towards that end was made in 1847, by the coinage of the florin, which is the tenth part of the 1 ; the assumption being that under any system the sovereign would be retained as the unit of British coinage. But it was found, from experience, that the half-crown was a very convenient denomination, and that coin therefore has been retained in England, as well as the florin. In the opinion of many people, however, the half-crown is a useless coin. The view put before the Treasurer, and by him before his colleagues, was that it is really an unnecessary denomination ; and that if the half-crown is removed from circulation, the florin will come into greater use. That, of course, is a matter of opinion. Some bankers hold to one view, some to another. But on the balance of evidence, it was thought better to discontinue the issue of half-crowns.
– Could that be done if this clause be amended as proposed ?
– It could, by an amendment of the schedule.
.- The Treasurer has given reasons for the abolition of the half-crown, and has told us that the bankers and other authorities are in favour of that course. But we have to consider the interests of the general public, and the half-crown is generally regarded as a very convenient coin. A man who has to pay away 2s. 6d. has not always a sixpenny-piece in his pocket. If he has a half-crown he has no difficulty whatever. I am of opinion that we should certainly retain the half-crown as one of the most useful coins that we have. Too much attention is paid, in relation to such subjects as this, to the opinion of bankers. It does not really matter to them whether halfcrowns are in circulation or not. They put the coins which are paid over their counters into their coffers, and pay them out again as required. The denomination of the coins does not affect them j but it is a matter of considerable importance to the general public.
.- If I understand the position rightly, in the event of paragraph b of the clause under consideration being left in the Bill, there would be power for the Government to issue a proclamation authorizing the coining of half-crowns.
– It could be done by proclamation only. But the matter would be a little one-sided, because we have struck out the main provision to that effect.
– I do not think it is true that the bankers generally are in favour of abolishing the half -crown. ‘ I had this matter under consideration when I was at the Treasury, and every one of the bankers whom I consulted was in favour of retaining the half-crown. I cannot understand how it is that the Treasurer has been advised to the contrary. There certainly ought to be a provision, either in the Bill or the schedule, under which the half-crown could be issued under authority of a proclamation. But if this clause be amended as proposed, we may find ourselves deprived of the half-crown.
– We can provide for its use in the schedule.
– But when we come to the schedule, if the Government bring down a proposal against the halfcrown, they may carry their view by a majority, and there will be no power afterwards to bring the half-crown into use by proclamation. We should know before we proceed further whether we axe to be prevented later on from securing power to retain the half-crown which, I agree, is a useful coin. If- the Government will say that they will agree to . include the half-crown in the schedule, I need not discuss the matter further.
– - I can inform the honorable gentleman that in the opinion of the Treasurer it would be better not to include the halfcrown in the schedule. At the same time it is not proposed to exercise the power to withdraw the half-crown from circulation.
– That refers only to those now in use.
– Yes : but the attrition is so small that the half-crowns now in use will remain in circulation for ten or fifteen years, and by that time we should know whether or not we are to adopt the system of decimal coinage.
– They will not remain in use for so long, if it is true that we shall withdraw 100,000 worth of silver every year.
– I think that even on that estimate it may be twenty years before the whole of the half-crowns now in use will have become exhausted. Before that time, we may have decided to alter the denomination of many of the smaller coins, as a result of the introduction of decimal coinage. If we continue coining halfcrowns, we shall add to the difficulty of adopting decimal coinage.
– If we strike out this paragraph, no power will be left to the Government to issue a proclamation for the coinage of halfcrowns, should that be considered necessary. I know that there is a strong feeling that the half-crown should not be abolished. I was at one time against the continued use of the half-crown, but business people whom I consulted say that it would be a convenience to continue that coin in circulation. It may be true, as the Attorney-General has said, that the half-crowns now in use will not be exhausted for perhaps fifteen years, and we may in the meantime adopt the decimal system, but I think we are not likely to do anything in that direction until Great Britain has taken the lead, with the idea of bringing decimal coinage into use throughout the Empire. It may, therefore, be a very long time before we shall review anything that we do now, and in the circumstances it would be very unwise not to leave power in the hands of the Government to continue the coinage of half-crowns should that be considered desirable.
– As the Bill stands, no discretion is left to the Executive to alter the denomination of the coinage. I think there is no necessity to make special provision for the half-crown, because there will be no obligation on the Government to withdraw the half-crown from circulation, if they think that its retention in circulation is very much desired.
– But half-crowns will go out of use if we do not continue to coin them.
– If we decide not to coin half-crowns, most of those now in use in Australia will be retained in this country.
– But a certain percentage will go out of use every year.
– I explained before that the reason why we did not include the half-crown was that if we decided to adopt decimal coinage, it would be found inconvenient. I think we should work in that direction, and, if so, it is not desirable to continue the minting of a coin which would not work into that system. The decimal coinage will not be adopted in Australia for some time, but I think it is clear that it will eventually be adopted here, as it has been in most other countries but Great Britain. Personally, I like the halfcrown, but I think honorable members might let the Bill go as it is. We shall gain experience of its operation as time goes on, and be able to make an alteration, should it be found necessary.
.- I am in favour of the adoption of decimal coinage, but I was informed that it would be unwise, if not almost impossible, to adopt it until the British Government decides to deal with the question as affecting the whole Empire.
– They have the decimal system of coinage in other parts of the Empire.
– I know that it is adopted in Canada. I got all the information I could on the question, and it seemed to me that the proper course to take was to continue our coinage, as we have it now, and, when the British Government decided to adopt the decimal coinage, to make such alterations as would- be necessary. Otherwise we should find the decimal coinage very inconvenient in our dealings with Great Britain. That is the case at present in connexion with the system as adopted in India. The value of the rupee,, for instance, rises and falls .according to the value of silver.
– No; the standard value of the rupee is fixed now.
– I understood that there was a variation in value.
– There used to be, but there is not now.
– I think _ it would be wise to leave out of consideration the decimal coinage system until Great Britain has moved in the matter to secure its adoption throughout the Empire. Great Britain moves very slowly in these matters, and it will probably be a very long time before we shall be able to introduce decimal coinage. If we are going, in this Bill, to designate the different coins which are to be used, and do not include the half-crown, we should leave power to the Executive to proclaim the use of such other coins as may from time to time be considered necessary.
– I do not think we are quite in order in discussing the half-crown on this clause, because the denomination of the coins is to be fixed by the schedule. The reason for the omission of this paragraph is that it has already been determined by the Committee that Parliament shall retain in its own hands the issue of any new coin. But that in no way prevents the adoption of the half-crown as one of the coins, because that matter can be dealt with when we reach the schedule. I do not quite agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Hume concerning the decimal system. The Government have promised that if this Bill is passed an effort will be made to secure the adoption of the system by Great Britain and Australia. That will be much more difficult for Great Britain than for Australia, but there will be nothing to prevent Australia from following the example of Canada, by the adoption of a decimal system, if Great Britain cannot see her way to move in that direction within a reasonable time. But I understood the Minister to promise that communication would be opened with the Imperial Government with a view to see if Great Britain and Australia could not act together within a near period. I have no strong feeling with regard Ito the halfcrown. I do not think that it is as convenient a “coin as many people say it is, nor can I see that its abolition would be very inconvenient. But since we are not adopting the decimal system at the present time, the inclusion of the half-crown would not disturb our system. And even with the adoption of the decimal system, although it would not be a coin of the system, it might be adopted as a coin of convenience, as in other countries coins of convenience, not strictly decimal, are used. But I think that clause 8 ought to be amended, because the Committee has already decided not to leave to the Government, but to reserve to Parliament, the power to issue new coins.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.
– I did not notice that we had got so far as the schedule. I draw the attention of the Treasurer to an omission. I suggest that at a later stage paragraph g ought to be omitted from clause 8.
– It should be taken out, as that is consequential upon the omission of the proviso from clause 5.
– When I put the clause, as amended, no one rose to move a further amendment, and so I declared it carried.
– It seems to me that it is not consistent to give to the GovernorGeneral in clause 8 the power which the Committee declined to give him in clause 5. However, we can deal with the matter bv recommittal if necessary
– If the Committee is desirous that I should make the consequential amendment pointed out, I shall do so, otherwise the clause will have to be recommitted.
– I mentioned the matter incidentally, sir.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that I should make the necessary alteration?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I shall make the alteration.
.- If we intend to include the half-crown, we should do so here. I do not fed very strongly on the question, one war or the other. I altered my first opinion in consequence of statements made to me by certain bankers. I think that the Treasurer should consider now whether or not that coin should be included in the schedule.
– If the Committee desires to include the half-crown I have no objection. Unless there is a direction to the contrary it is not the intention of the Government to mint that coin at present. But if the Committee thinks that the Government should have the power to do so the matter is altogether in its hands, and the Government will not oppose a proposal to that effect. This is the first step to the adoption of decimal coinage, and I am inclined to think if we believe in that system we ought not to legislate in an adverse direction.
– All right.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
– I ask leave to move the suspension of the Standing Orders with a view to passing the- Bill through its remaining stages to-night.
– The question is that the Treasurer have leave to move a motion ?
– I object.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments resumed from page 2204) :
Clause 11 -
Section .sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by the omission of the words in subsection (1) “Asiatics (except those born in Australia) or and “ . . . .
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ the omission of the words in sub-section (i) ‘ Asiatics (except those born in Australia), or ‘ and.”
Upon which Mr. Glynn had moved -
That the amendment be disagreed with.
.- In my opinion, the honorable member for Hume did. good service in getting the Minister to adjourn the consideration of these amendments until a later hour in the day ; but I would point out that, even now, honorable members ha~ve not had an opportunity to make themselves fully acquainted with what is proposed.
.- I am inclined to agree with the Senate’s amendment. The Bill is a recognition of the principle that the man who has given many years of citizenship to the country is entitled to special consideration in his old age, should his circumstances compel him to avail himself of it. But it is held that Asiatics do not render an economic benefit to Australians by dwelling here, and I am of that opinion. Therefore, we should stultify ourselves if we provided pensions for such persons. I am gratified that I have to thank my old and esteemed friend, the honorable member for Hume, for the opportunity to see the schedule of amendments in type. That would not have been possible had we proceeded to consider them this afternoon.
.- The intention of the Bill was to make Asiatics who had been resident in Australia, and naturalized for a certain period, eligible to receive pensions; but the clause as it left this Chamber had not that effect. 1 do not agree with those who say that it is an invasion of the White Australian policy to give pensions to such persons. No one is more rabidly in favour of a White Australia than I am-; but I say that all men, whether black, white, yellow, or any other colour,, who for twenty-five years have done their duty as citizens of this country, should be treated alike. The effect of the Bill as it left this Chamber, was to qualify, for pensions only such Asiatics as might be British subjects. The Naturalization Act, however, provides that persons who are aboriginal natives of Asia may not take out letters of naturalization, and consequently such persons, under the principal Act, as we proposed to amend it, would not be eligible for pensions. The objection that clause 11 of the Bill would, by making a vast number of persons eligible for pensions, increase the charge on the revenue, and offer an incentive to Chinese and other Asiatics to come to and remain in the country, is not applicable. Paragraph c of subsection 16 of the principal Act provides that Asiatics, except those born in Australia, shall not be qualified to receive old-age pensions.
– Who are not Asiatics !
– Well, that means per-‘ sons of Asiatic descent or parentage. If we strike out the words “Asiatics (except those born in Australia),” then the persons who on the face of the Act will be excluded from the benefits of old-age pensions under section 16 are aliens, Asiatics, naturalized subjects of the King who have not been naturalized for a period of three years, and aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, the Islands in the Pacific, or New Zealand. Asiatics cannot be naturalized, because section 5 of the Naturalization Act No. n provides -
A person resident in the Commonwealth, not being a British subject, and not being an aboriginal native of Asia, Africa, or the Islands of the Pacific, excepting New Zealand, who intends to settle in the Commonwealth . . . may apply to the Governor-General for a certificate of naturalization.
Consequently, the effect of the amendment would be confined to British born subjects who happen to be Asiatics. I would vote for the proposal if it included every Asiatic .who had otherwise fulfilled the qualification, but I absolutely decline to support a policy which excludes any lawabiding citizen who is otherwise qualified. I refuse to believe -that the possibility of gaining an old-age pension would ever be sufficient inducement for a Chinaman or anyother Asiatic to come here when young, or in the prime of life.
– He would not be admitted if he did come.
– The prospect of an old-age pension does not, I am sure, inspire any of us with very much elation; and, personally, I should not do anything very particular to obtain one. While I should vote for this if it went the whole length that some suppose it will go, I shall not hesitate to vote for it because it does not go that far. I am prepared, however, under the circumstances, to make the best of the situation, and I hope that this Chamber will not agree to the amendment of the Senate. I cannot think that the inclusion of what must be comparatively a handful of persons can lead to any evil results. We ought not to discredit our Imperialism, of which we talk a great deal, or our humanity, or our White Australia policy, by such a questionable and devious practice as is proposed.
.- This proposal seems to have found the honorable member for West Sydney in quite a liberal if not almost cosmopolitan mood. His humanitarianism is rather refreshing, and is almost as unexpected as the cheers which his remarks evoked from reactionaries in the Ministerial corner. I confess that the amendment made by the Senate appeals very strongly to me, although I have no animus at all against Asiatics. If, as the honorable member says, there are only a handful of people concerned, the hardship is scarcely worth our taking much notice of. His argument thus refutes itself. Another objection to the view .of the honorable member is that there are in Australia a number of people who have been here over twenty-five years, and who are qualified by age and otherwise, but who, owing to ab”sence in New Zealand for a term of years, are thus rendered ineligible for a pension. If we are to stretch the law, we ought to stretch it so as to include people of our own flesh and blood rather than Asiatics. Then, the Government ought to consider that an amendment of this kind must increase the cost to the taxpayer; and I noticed, when the Bill was going through this House, that several amendments, with the object of including others than those included in the Bill, were, on this ground, ruled out of order. This fact ought to induce the House to adopt the amendment made by the Senate. I speak without any feeling of racial antipathy or antagonism, and merely with a view to obtaining a measure of common justice to the deserving poor of our own household. If we have anything to spare after providing for them, I should make no objection to giving, others the benefit of our laws. But our first duty is to provide for our own people, and amongst, them I include the aboriginal natives of this country, for whom we have made no provision in this measure. Meanwhile, I hope the amendment made by the Senate will be agreed to.
– I desire to announce that Mr. Speaker has just informed me that he has news on reliable authority that the s.s. Waratah has been sighted making slowly towards Durban.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
.- Both the Attorney-General! and the honorable member for West Sydneytake the view that this provision, which wasinserted on the motion of the honorablemember for Boothby, will not apply to Asiatics who are not British subjects. I point out the desirability of including, when all the conditions have been fulfilled, Asiatics who may he in our midst, who are subjects of the British Empire, and are regarded as citizens. The honorable member for Coolgardie stated that we should keep these pensions for our own race; but, as a fact, we are extending them much beyond it. By the Bill, as we have passed it,, we include natives of countries - some of whom are in a low scale of civilization - who have been admitted within our borders, and, though they have been here the requisite time, may have never been naturalized, or undertaken responsibility as British subjects until pensions were offering.
– But they have paid taxes, surely ?
– So have the others. We admit many men - some of whom, it may be, are as objectionable as, or even more objectionable than, these Asiatic British subjects - to the right to claim pensions, and we have no bar to their admission to Australia. If any outsiders will comehere because of the knowledge that old-age pensions are obtainable, they are the men most likely to do so; and we have no bar to their admission. 0,n the other hand, under our legislation. an Asiatic, though a British subject, cannot enter the Commonwealth. I am therefore simply asking that fair treatment shall be extended to those already here who have been, and are, subjects of the Empire, and some of whom have fought for the Empire. It would be very invidious. to place them in a worse position than that occupied by subjects of other nations in our midst whose people have never fought for the Empire, and who, indeed, may have fought against it. In the circumstances, as a mere matter of justice, we should extend the operation of this Act to natural-born Britishborn subjects. A comparatively small number will be able to avail themselves of it, having regard to the provision that, in order to become eligible for pensions, they must be not less than sixty-five years of age, and have resided in the Commonwealth for twenty years. Theadoption of such provision will do away with the charge that in this respect we not only fail to recognise citizenship of the Empire, but are really unjust in our treatment of British subjects, as compared with aliens to whom we are willing to give pensions. That point should receive our attention. The expenditure which this provision will involve will not be very large, and, under our legislation, will gradually disappear altogether. I would suggest that the Senate’s amendment be disagreed with, and that the words, “ except those born in Australia,” be left out, and the words, “ except natural-born British subjects,” be inserted in lieu thereof.
– Whom would the honorable member describe as “ British born “ ?
– I have consulted the Attorney-General in regard to my proposed amendment, and have accepted wording suggested by him.
– Would the honorable member’s proposed amendment cover a native of India?
– Yes. The words I have suggested appear in the Naturalization Act, and natives of India are, I take it, British subjects.
– Do these British-Indian subjects come under the Old-age Pensions Act of Great Britain?
– I cannot sav.
– None of them live in the Old Country ; the climate is too cold for them.
– If the Attorney-General does not think that the amendment I have suggested would accomplish my purpose-
– I do not think it would carry it very far.
– Then, I am prepared to agree to any amendment that would do so. We ought to do justice to the very limited number of people in our midst to whom this provision would apply.
– There are some Asiatics who were naturalized before Federation.
– I do not know of those cases.
– Would the honorable member give an Australian aboriginal a pension ?
– I should if he could be trusted with it; if not, I should give him an equivalent, as is done now, by providing for him.
– He is excluded under our law.
– There may be a reason for that, in that as a rule the aboriginal cannot be trusted with a money payment. I have an idea that the New South Wales Act allowed pensions to be received by British subjects. I merely foreshadow this amendment-
– The honorable member cannot move that amendment on the message from the Senate.
– We have compromised before on our amendments, and can do so in this case, but, of course, we must first deal with the acceptance or non-acceptance of the Senate’s amendment.
.– The honorable member for North Sydney has given some sound reasons why we should not exclude any people from pension rights because of their racial origin. He, of course, adds “ especially British subjects,” but he must admit that every argument which he used against the exclusion of Indians applies with equal force to the exclusion of any other Asiatics on account of their origin. I take it that what we want to do in passing this Bill is to give pensions to people who have resided a certain time in Australia, who are deserving, and can fulfil the conditions imposed. We are not concerned with the question of whether they originated in Europe, being, say, Armenians or Turks ; or in Asia, being Syrians, for instance.
– It concerns us very much.
– I am astonished at the honorable member saying so. He is prepared to admit a Greek, Italian, or Turk, to participate in the old-age pensions, irrespective of character, but not an Asiatic, a term which includes Syrians, who are men of a white race, and descendants of the Crusaders. They live in Asia, and the term used in this Bill is Asiatics.
– It is only a geographical fiction.
– Then why use it to exclude persons who are otherwise qualified?
– We shut them out by our Naturalization Act.
– We should haw no exclusion from naturalization on account of racial origin. If we admit a Russian, a German, or a Finn, on the ground that he is prepared to abide by our laws, and to take up the duties of citizenship among us, we ought also to admit Asiatics. I have always opposed any exclusion on account of race in any Act that I have had any hand in passing. One honorable member said that this seemed a new phase, but it is by no means new so far as I am concerned. In my first session in the South Australian Parliament I secured the passage against the Kingston Government, which I was then supporting, of a motion in favour of the naturalization of certain Asiatic aliens.
– Would this amendment exclude Jews?
– It would depend on whether the Jews happened to be born in their own country or outside it. If born in Palestine, they would be excluded. What right have we to call upon people to perform the duties of citizenship, and contribute to the cost of old-age pensions, and then to exclude them from the benefits of the Old-age Pensions Act, although they are otherwise qualified, simply because they happen to be born in Asia ? Such a position is illogical. The honorable member for Coolgardie, who said that we should stretch the law in favour of our own race if we were going to stretch it at all, must see that that argument does not apply in this case, because the proposal is to stretch the law against these people because they happen to have been born in Asia.
– The stretching has already excluded decent Britishers, who have lived here foryears.
– If the honorable member contends that we ought still further to liberalize the Old-age Pensions Act, I am entirely with him. But the fact that we are not extending it as far as we should like is not a sufficient reason for excluding one set of persons because they were born in Asia, when they have the same qualifi cations as those who are entitled to receive pensions under the present law. It has been contended in another place that the inclusion of Asiatics in the benefits of this measure would whittle down the White Australia policy. If that policy had to be buttressed up by such acts of injustice, it would stand condemned. The White Australia policy depends on our keeping the coloured races out of this country.
– I want to offer every inducement to the Chinese to go back to China, and not to keep them here.
– Then the honorable member should not take an unfair means of doing it. If we think it proper to exclude them from Australia, we ought to deport them in a straightforward way, and not take an underhand means of getting them out.
– The honorable member ought not to allow them to own any property here at all.
– That is an extremely illiberal and illogical view. We ought not to have allowed them to come in unless we were prepared to treat them in the same way as we treat the rest of the community. But, having allowed them to enter, and called upon them to pay taxes, and so to contribute to the support of our old-age pensioners, we should not exclude them from the rights of citizenship. We ought to be too proud to call upon them to pay taxes in order to pay pensions to our own race, while excluding them from participation in the pensions.
– And the cost of giving pensions to them would be a disappearing sum.
– Of course, it would. While the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney would admit the natives of India, it is open to every objection that may be urged against the present law, because it would exclude all other Asiatics, including those descendants of the Crusaders, to whom I have referred. The fact that we have adopted that principle of exclusion in our naturalization law is not a sufficient reason for perpetuating it in the old-age pensions law. I admit that the honorable member’s amendment will not apply to many persons, and I should like to see it broadened. The Committee last week decided, by accepting my amendment, that there should be no exclusion from pension rights on account of nationality.
– Did the amendment which was inserted in the Bill effect that purpose?
– It was intended to do so. The Attorney-General agreed as to the form in which it should be moved. As a lawyer, the right honorable member for East Sydney is a better judge of whether it will achieve its purpose than I am. I submit that we ought not, merely on the ground of nationality, to exclude Asiatics from obtaining old-age pensions. If we impose any such limitation, it can only be construed by foreigners reading this Act as one which is entirely due to racial prejudice. I think that the honorable member for Coolgardie stated that the insertion of my amendment would have the effect of increasing the cost that will be incurred under this Bill.
– The increased cost is estimated at about .£5,000 per annum, and even that sum will be a disappearing quantity.
– In my opinion, the amount involved is unlikely to approximate even that amount. In the first place, we have to remember that, before an Asiatic will be eligible to receive an old-age pension, he must be naturalized. Further, under the Naturalization Act, Asiatics cannot be naturalized in the future, and, consequently, my proposal can apply only to the few who are already naturalized.
– And all of those will not claim the pension.
– Exactly. Britishbom Asiatics - the Indians who reside in Australia - have also to be included in the calculation. They are very few in number, and, under this provision, those who would qualify for the pension would be almost infinitesimal. Probably the estimate which has been referred to by the honorable member for Dalley is based upon the assumption that all Asiatics in Australia at the present time will be claimants. But, as I have already pointed out, the expenditure in this connexion, instead of growing, must inevitably decrease. I base my proposal upon the fact that to admit Asiatics to the Commonwealth, and then to exclude them from sharing in privileges which are enjoyed by the rest of the community, would be manifestly unfair. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree to the amendment.
.- I would suggest that, in future, the nature of amendments made in another place should be more plainly indicated to honorable members. In the Tasmanian Parliament, when amendments are made in a Bill, the practice is to have the measure reprinted, and to clearly set out .what has been omitted from it, and what has been inserted in it.
– The honorable member means set out in special type?
– Yes. The adoption of such a method would simplify matters very considerably, and would materially assist honorable members in arriving at a right conclusion. The honorable member for North Sydney has outlined an amendment, the effect of which would be to increase the charge or burden on the people. I take it, therefore, that time would be conserved if that amendment were promptly ruled out of order.
– I should like to point out to the honorable member for Bass that the honorable member for North Sydney has not yet formally submitted his proposal. Further, the effect of agreeing to that proposal would be rather to limit than to extend the scope of this Bill.
.- In a matter of this sort it is to be regretted that the Government have not seen fit to supply us with necessary information. When the honorable member for Boothby originally moved his amendment, he stated that its adoption would involve the Commonwealth in a very small additional expenditure. That provision, however, was excised in the Senate, and surely, in the light of that fact, the Government might have been prepared to tell us exactly the additional amount which would be payable under it.
– It would involve an additional expenditure of about £82,000 per annum.
– I do not think it would mean such a large extra outlay as that. But it would probably involve considerably more than the sum estimated by the honorable member for Boothby. It was the duty of the Government to have supplied us with information upon this point. When we were in Committee upon another Bill, a little while ago, British methods were cited as a guide to us. Why, then, do not the Government tell us whether a similar provision to that advocated by the honorable member for Boothby is embodied ‘ in the Old-age Pensions Act which recently passed the British Parliament.
– Asiatics do not reside in England. They are merely visitors there.
– There must be a number of Asiatics there who would be eligible to receive pensions under such a proposal as that which is now under consideration. This burst of generosity on the part of honorable members opposite is most surprising. To me, it is little short of a scandal that the Government, which only a fortnight ago resisted the attempt of the Opposition to liberalize this measure by extending its scope so far as invalids and women were concerned, should now support this proposal.
– We do not want an unjust BiU.
– lt is a gross piece of inconsistency for the Government to oppose the proposals I have mentioned, and to support this amendment. The honorable member for Boothby speaks of the injustice and cruelty that would be done to coloured people if the Senate’s amendment were adopted. But only a short while ago this Parliament not only would not allow coloured people to become citizens of the Commonwealth, but actually passed a measure to. deport some of them. These wonderful discoveries regarding the rights of Asiatics amaze me, having regard to what this Parliament has done concerning the Kanakas, and concerning others under the Immigration Restriction Act. The Committee would be wise to adopt the amendment. We know that every one in Australia is not in favour of old-age pensions. A considerable percentage of our people do not approve of this legislation. It will undoubtedly come as a surprise to them to learn that we include” coloured people. Another argument which has no weight with rae is that Asiatics, principally Chinamen, would not return to their own country if they could qualify for pensions by remaining here. But a great many who go to China and Japan do so with the intention of remaining; and those who go on a visit and purpose returning to Australia are not likely to require pensions, because they belong’ to the wealthy class of that section of the community.
– I propose to support the Government. I consider that it would be an act of injustice to a class of people who do not belong to the same race as ourselves, but who, nevertheless, have taken upon themselves duties of citizenship, if we were to deprive them of the benefits of this humanitarian legislation. The argument has been advanced that because we have not been able to extend greater benefits to people of our own race, we should deny to others the advantages conferred by this Bill. That argument does not appeal to me. I yield to none in my desire to see the main Act made more liberal in its treatment of old age. But because I am not able to secure all I desire under this Bill, and because the Government cannot be induced to deal with the subject in a more liberal spirit, that is no reason why I should seek to prevent a bare measure of justice being done to the people whom it is now proposed to benefit. Some honorable members must be labouring under a misapprehension as to the extent to which the Bill will apply. It has been said that the amendment will be an inducement to Asiatics to stay in our midst, who might otherwise return to their own countries. But that argument only applies to Asiatics who have become naturalized, and have become part and parcel of our own community. Take the Chinese, for instance. They have a great love for their own country, and one of the last things they would think of would be to divest themselves of their national rights. They never do so except when they have made up their minds to dissociate themselves from China and throw in their lot with us. The result has been that only a small percentage of Chinese in Australia have become naturalized. That percentage can only foe referred to as the better class of Chinese, who have adopted Western ideas and customs more than their more conservative fellow countrymen have done. By their intelligence and industry they have acquired a certain status here. They have dissociated themselves from the citizenship of their own country. The complaint that has been made against the Government for not furnishing more information on this matter may have some justice behind it. The Government might have made inquiries as to the number of those who would be likely to be affected by the amendment. It has been suggested that ,£5,000 would cover the whole of the expenditure in connexion with naturalized Asiatics. Then, -again, it should be remembered that coloured people must have been resident in the Commonwealth for at least twenty years before they can claim old-age pensions. Moreover, all the Asiatics who have become naturalized did so under State, and not Commonwealth legislation. Commonwealth legislation specifically excludes them from this privilege. Consequently, those who are not now naturalized cannot secure the benefits of this measure. Its benefits are so hedged round by restrictions in the matter of naturalization that it is impossible for the Bill to apply to such an extent as to- have the effect of keeping here undesirable aliens, as has been suggested by those who are opposing the amendment. We are providing in this measure for pensions to persons who must have attained a certain age, and must have resided in the Commonwealth for a specified time. These conditions must considerably limit its operation. If this privilege is not conferred on the persons referred to, honorable members will not contend that they must be permitted to starve by the wayside. We know that they will have to be provided for, as they are being provided for at the present time. When they are unable to provide for themselves, the State must step in, and, by committing them to its asylums, provide for them in that way. Is it not more humane, and more in accord with our conception of what is due to the unfortunate, that provision should be made for such people in the way now proposed? Having granted them the rights of British citizenship, by consenting to their naturalization, and having decided not to naturalize any more people of the same races, it is only reasonable that we should extend the benefits of this legislation to those who have become naturalized. As the honorable member for Boothby has pointed out, they are compelled, as taxpayers, to contribute to the revenue of the country, and they have done their share in developing its industries. From every point of view, they are in a position to make as strong a claim to this right as can anyEuropean. The geographical line which has been ‘drawn in this connexion must do considerable injustice. We have amongst us a great many Syrians. They are not Asiatics in the sense that the- people of some other races are. They are of European origin; but, as they were born- .on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus, they would’ be excluded from the benefits of this legislation if the amendment, as now proposed is not agreed to. Any one who is acquainted with these people will admit that the better class of Syrians are as desirable as colonists as are many people whom it is not proposed to treat in the same way. In order that justice may be done to a number of very deserving people, I shall give my vote to assist the Government in pressing this amendment.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Bass that it would have been well if these amendments had been set out more fully. Had it not been for the very lucid explanation of them given by the honorable member for West Sydney, I should have had considerable difficulty in discovering what the discussion was about. On referring to the schedule of amendments, all the information I get on the subject is this -
No. a - page 3, clause 11, lines i, 2, and 3, leave out “ the omission of the words in subsection (1) 1 Asiatics (except those born in Australia) or’ and.”
That reads like a puzzle taken out of the evening Herald. If we desire to know what it means, we have to refer to the Bill, and from that again to the principal Act. We can scarcely then get satisfaction, because it is necessary that we should know exactly what naturalization really means.
– The clause we are being asked to amend now was not in the Bill, as introduced by the Government.
– That has made it mare difficult to understand what is now proposed. It would be better in future, in proposing amended legislation, to print the section which it is proposed to amend in full, in its amended form. No one can claim to be a stronger supporter of the principle of a White Australia than I am. Merely to glance at the map of Australia hung on the wall opposite me gives me a certain amount of satisfaction, because it is white. I am very pleased, indeed, to think that, so far as we could, we have kept the Asiatic races outside the boundaries shown on that map, and intend to keep them out in the future. But once we admit these people within our borders, it is the duty of the State to take care of them. If these people are poor, aged,” and infirm, they become a charge upon the State, and it is the duty of the -State to take care of them. When we have said that, we have said all that is necessary. I regret that we were not able to make the law broader than it is. A very deserving class of people have been omitted from .its provisions. I . refer to the class of unfortunate young widows who have lost their breadwinners, and are left, in many cases, with children on their hands.
– We have omitted provision for blind persons as well.
– I should like to have seen them brought within the provisions of the ‘law also. These people have to suffer probably very much more than aged persons who, approaching the end of their life’s journey, are more prepared to die than are younger people. I do not agree with the honorable member for Herbert, that we should not accept the amendment because it would make the Act unpopular in the opinion of some people. We are not here to pass popular Acts, but to do justice. Although these persons are coloured Asiatics, if they are aged and infirm, it is our duty to at least support them.
.- When this great national Parliament ceases to do justice to any of its citizens for the sake of saving a few pounds, it is retrograding. If it excludes any Asiatics who have become citizens because of racial prejudice, it is on a wrong track. I am very much surprised at any honorable members objecting to this proposed amendment on the ground of cost. To my mind the number of these persons should not weigh with them at all. Those who would be qualified to come under the provision are now kept more or less by the community in which they live. Some are in (benevolent asylums and some are sustained by benevolent societies. The citizens of Australia are responsible for the introduction of these persons, and, therefore, they should collectively bear the burden. All who have entered the Commonwealth since the enactment of our White Australia policy are of course excluded from the benefits of this measure. It is absolutely ridiculous for certain honorable members to talk of some Asiatics being tempted by old-age pensions not to return. But there will be some who will not be in a position to return to their country. We should do the handsome -thing. Those who would come ‘ under this provision must disappear within a few years. It is not creditable to Parliament that any honorable ‘members should quibble about giving pensions to a few persons of this class. I hope that the Committee will stand by the Government and adhere to its previous decision, so that all Asiatics who have become British subjects and are qualified by residence shall be placed on exactly the same footing as other citizens. It has frequently been our boast that in our legislation we are influenced by humanitarian considerations rather than by a regard for the interests of property. Naturalized Asiatics who are qualified by residence should receive a recognition of their position as citizens. Why should we shut them out of the advantages of citizenship in one respect ? If we take that step, we shall violate the great principle of which we have boasted very often, that every citizen should be on an equality in the eye of the law. If naturalized Asiatics are entitled to the suffrage, they are entitled to every other privilege which is conferred on a citizen. I shall vote with the Government to disagree with the Senate’s amendment.
– I have listened to the objections to liberalize this measure, and the only one I have heard tonight is that of cost. In all probability that section of the community which it is proposed to exclude from the benefit of the scheme will contribute much more to the fund than they will be likely to draw out of it. In view of the fact that many of these persons have passed the best part of their lives in Australia, and contributed by taxation to this fund, I feel sure that Australia will not consciously be guilty of such an act of meanness.
– If that argument is a valid one, it might be applied to the richest men in Australia.
– I am quite prepared to apply the argument generally. These coloured persons, whom we have allowed to enter Australia, become citizens, and contribute to this fund, have a perfect right to participate in it. In my opinion only a few members of this class would ever require a pension, and undoubtedly they have a right to derive some advantage from a fund which they have assisted to create.
– It has been stated by some honorable members that the Ministry ought to give them an idea of the cost which this provision would entail. It was impossible for the Ministry to have been prepared with an estimate, seeing that the proposal originated with a private member-. I have been trying to ascertain the cost. According to the last census there are about 47,000 Asiatics in Australia.
– How many of them are naturalized?
– I cannot say exactly.
– There must be very few of them naturalized.
– I am endeavouring to get at what percentage, assuming that they were otherwise entitled to old-age pensions, would be of the age prescribed. Supposing that 10,000 were over the age of sixty-five years, and entitled to a pension of £24 or £25 each, the cost would be ^240,000 a year. That seems to be rather an extravagant estimate.
– That is assuming that every one of them is naturalized?
– It is a ridiculous estimate.
– I am endeavouring to get at an estimate which would guide us, but I do not say for a moment that it is conclusive.
– It is not even suggestive.
– It is the best information that I can give.
– Can the honorable member say what is the percentage of our own people over the age of sixty or sixty-five years?
– Not at the present moment.
– There cannot be more than 10 or 15 per cent.
– The officer who is chiefly responsible for these calculations fells me that it is very difficult at once to give an estimate, but he says that probably 5,000 would be nearer the mark than 10,000. If 5.000 Asiatics were qualified to receive pensions, the annual cost would be £120,000. It is easy enough to make further reductions. The annual cost might be brought down to £50,000 or £60,000 or £70,000.
– It would be very much less than that.
– 1 hope so.
– The number of naturalized Asiatics would be a few hundreds at the outside.
– If the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney is adopted it will apply to British born subjects.
– They must have been here for twenty years, for one thing.
– That is one of the essential conditions.
– The number will decrease every year.
– Yes. I cannot give more accurate information, because the proposition was that of the honorable member for Boothby, not of the Government.
.- The Government proposed, early in the afternoon, that the Committee should forthwith consider the Senate’s amendments in this Bill, a rather unusual procedure; and consented to a postponement, at the suggestion of the honorable member for Hume and another. Now, Ministers are backing and filling, so that it would appear that they cannot be of one opinion for a few minutes together, except in regard to the advisableness of retaining office as long as possible. Or is it that they are “ stonewalling ;; their own measure? We wish to push on with legislation, and the Government should allow the matter to go to a division at once, without wasting more valuable time.
– The statement of the Attorney-General that 5,000 Asiatics would be eligible for pensions is a ridiculous one. 1 venture to say that 500 would be nearer the mark. In some of the States, it has been impossible for them, for many years past, to become naturalized, and now none of them can take out letters of naturalization. Furthermore, the Chinese who come here try to get back to their own country when they are getting old, lest they should die here. We should not make ineligible for old-age pensions any to whom we have given the rights of citizenship.
– Indians are British subjects.
– They cannot be naturalized under the Commonwealth law.
. - -In view of the extraordinary figures submitted by the Attorney-General, we are hardly in a position to divide on this question, and it would therefore be wise to postpone it until more accurate information is obtained. According to one estimate, if Asiatics were made eligible for pensions, the charge on the revenue would be increased by £250,000 a year ; that, I think, is an altogether excessive estimate. The Attorney-General tells us that there are 47,000 Asiatics in Australia.
– It is estimated that between 60.000 and 70.000 of the 4,250,000 Europeans in Australia will qualify for old-age pensions, and it must be remembered that they are all naturalized, while an immense number of the Asiatic aliens resident here are not, and cannot become, naturalized.
– It is a little hard on the Committee to ask them to suddenly swallow this large mouthful, after the statements that have been made, without any qualification or examination of the facts. If the number of Asiatics be only half that estimated by the Attorney-General, it is a matter to which we ought to devote a little more attention in the present state of the finances.
– If all the Asiatics were naturalized, 2,280 could get pensions - that is, not separating Indians from Asiatics. I am supposing that there is the same ratio among Asiatics as Europeans, the latter being 70,000 in a population of 4,250,000.
– That is, about one in ten would be eligible for naturalization.
– I am inclined to think that the estimate put before us is a conjecture, very much beyond the mark.
– It should not be forgotten that Asiatics will come under the invalid pensions provisions when these are proclaimed.
– Quite so; and this may make it much more difficult for the Government to proclaim the invalid pensions provisions.
– Asiatics are not “brought under the invalid provisions by this proposal.
– However, I do not desire to raise any difficulty, if the Treasurer, on whom really rests the responsibility, assures us that he is satisfied the . matter will not be anything like so serious as indicated.
.- The statement of the Attorney-General could have no other purpose than to frighten honorable members.
– The honorable member is altogether wrong.
– Then, why did the Attorney-General give such figures?
– Because the honorable member for Herbert asked for figures.
– If the AttorneyGeneral had desired to fairly put the position, he would at once have admitted that certain reductions had to be made. But the honorable gentleman told us that there are 47,000 Asiatics, of whom, he supposed, 10,000 would be eligible ; although he knows that, amongst the European population, only one in twenty-five] or 45,000 altogether, reaches the age of sixty-five. Then, of those who reach the age of sixtyfive, only one-sixtieth are qualified for oldage pensions. At the same ratio, the number of eligible Asiatics is reduced to under 1,000, or about 800 possibles; and then we have to make a still further reduction, seeing that very few have been allowed to become naturalized.
– Then we have to consider the exodus of ‘Asiatics that is going on all the time.
– Yes ; there is the exodus since the last census, and also deaths,- which bring down the number of possibles, even supposing that all were naturalized, to about 600. We have to remember that Asiatics have not been permitted to be naturalized, except by an express vote of Parliament, in each case, in several of the States.
– They have not been permitted to be naturalized since the passing of our Naturalization Act.
– They have not been permitted to be naturalized in South Australia, with one exception, for the last, twenty years. As a matter of fact, veryfew Asiatics desire to be naturalized ; and the small number of even Germans and other Europeans who take out naturalization papers, is astonishing, seeing that they are the most likely to assimilate with the rest of the population. Only now are Europeans pouring in their requests for naturalization ; but in the case of Asiatics, that cannot happen, because it is too late. It will lie seen, therefore, that, instead of 10,000, according to the ridiculous statement of the Attorney-General, there cannot be possibly more than 200. Personally, I do not believe that there are fifty Asiatics in all Australia, who are over sixty-five years of age and naturalized.
– What about Indians who are British subjects?
– The Treasurer has a very wide knowledge of Australia, and knows nearly everybody in the western State, and I ask him how many naturalized Indians he has met? Personally, I have only met one in Australia; and 1 do not know one that will be qualified for a pension if this amendment is carried. I have been arguing this question from the point of view of exclusion on account of nationality. The suggestion that the amendment would involve considerable expenditure will not bear examination.
– The honorable member blows hot and cold.
– I challenge the honorable gentleman to prove his statement ; he knows that it is wrong. There cannot be more than about 7,000 natives of India in Australia, and as only a very small percentage of aliens apply for naturalization, the total number likely to come under this provision - making allowance for the fact that, as a rule, only wealthy aliens apply for naturalization - must be considerably less than 100.
– Is the honorable member speaking of the native-born British subjects?
– Indian subjects have not come to Australia in large numbers. There is only a small number in Australia.
– We have about 20,000 Hindoos in Queensland.
– A reference to the statistics will convince the honorable member that he is over-stating the number. There are, in Australia, only 47,000 Asiatics, including Asiatics who are British subjects ; and the number qualifying for old-age pensions - assuming that they do so at the same rate as the rest of the population - would be one-sixtieth of that total, which would reduce the possibles to about 809.
– I should not care if the number were reduced to one.
– The honorable member is logical in his opposition to my proposal ; he is not objecting to it on account of the expenditure it would involve.
– Is not the clause, as passed by this House, calculated to tempt Asiatics to remain here?
– I do not think that the possibility of receiving an old-age pension would prevail over the natural desire of every Asiatic to return to his country as early as possible.
– It might have that effect on a few approaching the age fixed by the Act.
– And I do not think that such a possibility should lead us to be unjust. The expenditure would be a gradually decreasing one. I recognise the difficulty which confronts the Government. In the first place, the representative of the Ministry in another place accepted the decision of this House, and voted against the omission of these words. On the following day there was a proposal to recommit the clause, and I understand that the representative of the Government in the Senate then voted for the omission of these words. Surely that is not a sufficient reason to induce the Government to go back on their previous decision. I hope that they will stand by it, recognising that a very large majority of the Committee desire that this exclusion of Asiatics from the provisions of the Bill shall not remain. The Committee should take a broad view of the question, and recognise that the figures that have been submitted by the Government are utterly misleading.
– The Government, in the short time at their disposal, have been unable to obtain anything like the exact figures as to the cost which the clause as passed by this House would involve; but if those which they have submitted to us were reliable, they are so alarming that I, for one, should not feel justified in supporting a proposal which would involve such an’ expenditure as they indicate. I should feel that, whilst . we might desire to do certain things, we should in this, as in other cases, be limited by our monetary resources. I cannot think, however, that the amendment of the Senate will involve anything like the expenditure which the Government have suggested.
– According to the Commonwealth Year-book for 1908, the number of British-Indians in Australia is only 7,637, and one-sixtieth of that number would be slightly over 100.
– I think that it will be found that the proportion of natives of India who have been residing in Australia for twenty years is much smaller than the same proportion of white residents of Australia, many of whom, we must remember, were born in the Commonwealth. It will also be found that the proportion of the natives of India who reach the age of sixty-five years is much smaller than the proportion of the white residents of Australia who attain that age, and therefore I think that the figures submitted by the Government cannot be accurate. I wish to indicate a slight alteration in the form, but not in the intention, of the amendment which I propose to move, and which I should prefer to the proposal of the Government. Practically, it will cover the same people, and it will have the advantage of not being in conflict with the Naturalization Act. By the Bill as passed by this House, it will appear to Asiatics that they have the right to pensions, but some of them will find that they are barred by the Naturalization Act. I would, therefore, still propose to give pensions to those who are natural born subjects of Great Britain, and word my amendment in such a way as to omit “ except those born in Australia” and insert “except naturalborn British subjects “ inlieu thereof.
– The honorable member does not deal with those who were naturalized before.
– How many instances would they cover?
– Not very many, but why should they be penalized ?
– Would the honorable member’s amendment exclude the halfcaste islanders? They are more entitled to pensions than are Chinamen.
– It would exclude them, but Chinamen are not included. All those classes would not get pensions as the amendment has come down from the Senate; it would depend on whether they were naturalized or not naturalized.
.- I am astonished at the action of the Government. When the honorable member for Boothby first brought this question before the Committee it was the duty of the Government, if they proposed to deal with the affairs of the country in a straightforward manner, to obtain some estimate of what the amendment was likely to cost before it went to another place. Instead of that, they allowed the proposal to go to the Senate, to be dealt with there, to come back here and be discussed at length, and only at the last moment did they try to find out in a rough-and-ready way what it was likely to cost. That attitude shows very little respect for the proper conduct of the business of the country, and very little care on the part of the Government.
– The honorable member for Bass is altogether mistaken. When the proposition was originally made by the honorable member for Boothby it was dealt with by the Government on principle, irrespective of what it would cost. There was an unacknowledged idea that it would not cost much, but the matter was not discussed from the point of view of pounds, shillings, and pence.
– Then whv raise the question now?
– Simply because the honorable member for Herbert asked for the information, and raised the question of cost as if it qualified the judgment which he had expressed. If there has been any reversal threatened, or any playing with the subject, it has been upon the benches opposite. Knowing that, according to the census, there were 47,000 persons of Asiatic origin in Australia, I endeavoured to estimate, in order to meet the honorable member’s wishes, what proportion would be qualified to get old-age pensions. What I said was that, taking five or even ten out of every forty-seven, from the point of view of age, assuming that they were otherwise qualified, it would cost so much; but before I could say anything about the “otherwise qualified” condition honorable members opposite, who are always so impatient, began chiming in.” Otherwise qualified “ is the gist of the whole matter. I quite agree that if the estimate of five or ten in every forty-seven was given as categorically correct, it would probably be an over-estimate, but some honorable members are altogether misled by the statistics that have been quoted. We have heard to-night that we must take the proportion of one in twenty-five as the number of persons of Asiatic birth in Australia who will reach sixty-five, but that is the proportion of infants bom in Australia who reach sixtyfive. The conditions are quite different as regards the Asiatics in question, for they came here after reaching manhood or womanhood, and the proportion of them to reach sixty-five would be far greater than that quoted. I mention that merely to show how fallacious the statistics may be even in the hands of honorable members opposite, who are so cocksure that the estimates given by me must be altogether wrong. I advanced them as no more than figures from which deductions might be made according to the data within the knowledge of honorable members. I do not believe the amount involved is so great that it ought to affect the principle raised by the honorable member for Boothby. If there is to be a limitation, it had better be in the direction suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney.
Mr.Batchelor. - That does not touch the principle.
– But it does touch the substance, because under the Naturalization Act, the British subjects mentioned by the honorable member for North Sydney are practically the only people who will be benefited.
– Then why put a barrier against the few who have already been naturalized, and who would be benefited?
– There is a good deal in what the honorable member says, but whichever view we take of it, whether ihe wider one proposed by the honorable member originally, or the narrower one suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney, the effect will be that only those comprehended by the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney, will be benefited by the operation of the law, because the Naturalization Act practically places the others outside the pale.
– I think, on further reflection, that my amendment would be out of order ifI allowed the proposal of the Government to be first dealt with. I shall have to move it as an amendment on the Government’s motion. I feel that we owe something more than we do to other Asiatics, and more even thanwe owe to some other aliens, to the people of the Empire who have had responsibilities under the Empire, who have fulfilled those responsibilities, who have been taxpayers to the Empire in other parts of the world, and some of whom, or of whose people, have fought for the Empire.
– Great Britain treats them liberally, does she not, when old soldiers die in the streets of starvation ?
– We are not proposing to treat them very liberally. I do not know the circumstances to which the honorable member refers, but if any reflection rests upon Great Britain, which I do not infer, I do not wish to see Australia share it. I would, therefore, propose an amendment to deal only with British subjects.
– Could not the honorable member add “ or naturalized at the passing of this Act” ?
– That would require consideration.
– We are upsetting the whole principle for the sake of a few.
– It is not the whole principle. The first principle is that we. ought to have special care for British subjects. While the extended principle may be logically correct, the others have not the same claims to our consideration as have British subjects.
– Should we not care for every person who possesses the full rights of citizenship?
– I do not know how many Asiatics there are in that position. It has been urged that certain persons who were naturalized in some of the States years ago should be eligible to receive old-age pensions, but I do not know their numbers. I move -
That the motion be amended by inserting after the word “ That “ the following words : - “ the clause be amended to read -
Section 16 of the principal Act is amended
By omitting in sub-section 1 the words “ except those born in Australia,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “except natural born British subjects,” and
by inserting at the end of sub-section 1 the following proviso -
– I wish to ask the Attorney-General what would be the position of coloured persons who were born in America - American negroes - under this amendment? I understand that there are not a large number in Australia - perhaps a couple of thousand. What will be their position under the Naturalization Act, and the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act? Can they become naturalized in spite of the proviso which is contained in the Naturalization Act ? Although born in America, will they still be assumed to be aboriginal natives of Africa?
– I think so.
– If that be so, the position will be absolutely intolerable. They are men who in no sense of the word are aboriginal natives. In some cases they are American citizens. It was never the intention of this Parliament to exclude such persons from the operation of the principal Act. Its aim was to exclude only Chinese, South Sea Islanders, and the savage races of Africa. We do not desire to exclude from participating in the advantages conferred by the Act persons who, from every stand-point except that of colour, are quite as civilized as we are.
– But the honorable member is not prepared to make civilization the test of admission to Australia.
– Admission to Australia is quite another thing.
– The position we take up is that when once these people have been admitted to Australia they ought to be treated as human beings irrespective of their colour or of any other distinction.
– I am informed that if a man is born in America he is not regarded under the Naturalization Act as an aboriginal native of Africa.
– If he becomes naturalized and is otherwise qualified he may obtain an old-age pension?
– Yes. Honorable members will recollect that there was a big discussion upon the point when the Naturalization Bill was under consideration, and I am informed that the Act is administered in the way I have stated.
– I cannot see eye to eye with the honorable member for North Sydney on this question. There are many matters in which it is desirable that we should draw a distinction between those who are subjects of the King and those who are not. But when we come to deal with the claims of persons who have grown old in Australia, who are unable to help themselves - persons who have taken a part, however humble, in building up this country - I do not see that there is any ground for making such a distinction. From my own imperfect knowledge I think that there are many natives of China who have been resident here from 20 to 25 years, who have grown old and decrepit here, and who are at least as deserving of this form of assistance as are natives of India. I confess that the figures which the Attorney-General put before the Committee a little while ago have somewhat puzzled me, but I think heis now prepared to admit that those figures which were handed to him. and which he had not an opportunity to examine, are entirely erroneous. In dealing with this matter, I can only assume that the same percentage of Asiatics as of our ordinary population will apply for old-age pensions. That, I understand, represents about one in sixty. We are told that at the last census the total number of aliens in Australia was 47,000. Their number cannot be greater now ; on the contrary, it must be less. Consequently, it follows that the maximum number who could apply for pensions would be about 800. If these were granted a pension of £20 a year each, the additional cost would be about £16,000 per annum. But I do not believe that the extra outlay would amount to more than halfthat sum. We may assume, at any rate, that £16,000 is the maximum. When we are dealing with an expenditure of a million or more of money in connexion with a matter of this sort, such a sum does not present a sufficient justification for making any invidious distinction. It would be a pity to break in upon the general principle which governs the disposition of this great benefit for the sake of a sum which in all likelihood will not exceed £8,000 a year, and which will be a diminishing amount.
– No notice has been taken of the point of order which I raised, that the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney is not in order.
– I respectfully submit that the proposition of the honorable member for North Sydney means a reduction upon the exemptionsproposed to be made by the honorable member for Boothby. It would be an extraordinary thing if the Committee could not make a reduction on the amount which the Government would have to spend.
– In my opinion, the amendment moved by the honorable member for North Sydney is quite in order, inasmuch as it limits the subjects to whom pensions would be paid. The original proposal if carried would be broader in scope than the present amendment. On that ground I rule the amendment in order.
.- I understand that the Government propose to accept the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney.
– Under these circumstances further remarks would be useless. The Government have told us all along that they intended to support my proposal. Now they tell us that they intend to support an amendment which limits my proposal very much, and practically does away with the principle upon which it is based. Therefore, I shall stand to the original proposition, and ask the Committee to support the attitude which this House originally took up.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Dugald Thomson’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 2
The clause be amended to read - “ Section 16 of the Principal Act is amended (a) by omitting in sub-section i the words ‘ excepting those born in Australia,’ and inserting in lieu thereof the words ‘ except natural-born British subjects, and (i) by inserting at the end of sub-section i the following proviso.’ “
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (Mr. Dugald Thomson’s) negatived.
– As the reasonable proposal suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney, and accepted by the Government, has not been agreed to, we do not propose now to dissent from the Senate’s amendment, and I wish, therefore, to withdraw the motion.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the motion be withdrawn ?
Opposition Members. - No.
– We have just listened to an extraordinary statement from the Treasurer. The amendment of the honorable member for Boothby is really by adoption the proposal of the Government. I do not think [So] that the right honorable gentleman has stated the true reason why the Government proposed to withdraw from the position they took up.
– The honorable member is very anxious about it.
– I am, and properly so.
– A number of the members of the Committee must feel themselves in a rather peculiar position as a result of the decision of the Government. I understood’ that the Government took exception to the Senate’s amendment- I sympathized very much with the motion to disagree with that amendment, because the effect of it is to cut down the liberalism of this measure. I adopt a liberal view in considering this legislation. I voted as I did on the amendment moved by the honorable member for North Sydney, because I regarded it as narrowing the effect of the original proposal of the Government. I am prepared now to vote for the broader provision which the Government gave us to understand they were prepared to accept. I shall vote for the rejection of the amendment in order to carry out the original intention of the Government.
– Are we to understand from the Treasurer that the Government are now prepared to agree to the amendment made in another place?
– I agree with the honorable member for Parkes that honorable members are placed in a position of some difficulty. They do not know exactly where they stand in this matter. I took part in the last division following the expression of my own view, that in dealing with this matter, it is not proper to discriminate between one class of British subjects and another, merely on account of race. I am now prepared to support the Treasurer in opposing the amendment of the Senate. But I think we are entitled to a distinct lead in this matter from the Government. If the Treasurer now asks honorable members not to support the position . which the Government took up, on the ground, I suppose, of public economy, I shall feel compelled to support him. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but we have had a statement from the Government that the cost of this proposal would run into very large figures indeed.
– A statement which the honorable member did not believe.
– A statement which I disbelieved, but I am not going to take the responsibility, nor should any private member be asked to do so, of making an estimate upon a matter on which the Government cannot give us an estimate. I think we are entitled to a definite statement from the Government. If they desire to recede from the position which they took up originally, I feel myself to be under an obligation to support them.
– When we dealt with this matter before, we had not much time to give it consideration. It was discussed in the Senate, and an amendment was made restoring the Bill in this particular ito the form in which it was originally placed before this House by the Government. The question has been discussed at some considerable length this evening, and there have been great differences of opinion in regard to it. A via media was proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney, which, if adopted, would have limited to some extent the scope of the amendment carried in the Senate. That does not seem to have been acceptable to the Committee. We are trying to do too much at once. I am quite sure that this amendment, if adopted, would cost about £30,000 a year.
– Rubbish !
– I will put it at £20,000
– It will not be a fourth of that sum.
– I should say that it will cost that much. It should be remembered that the provisions of the principal Act have not yet been applied to a class who are thought by many honorable members to be more deserving of pensions even than our old people. “I refer to our invalids. Although we have not yet provided for them - and many of them are in the most pitiable condition, having lost a limb, and being unable to earn a living - our sympathies are going out to others who, I think, have not the same claim upon us. I cannot understand the desire of honorable members to extend the operations of the Bill in this direction.
– These people have to contribute as taxpayers
– I know that. I do not think that those who are support ing the amendment - of course, I do not include the honorable member far Parkes - are always so mindful of the interest of coloured persons.
– I have been very consistent.
– I know that the honorable member has. It behoves us at the present time not to move too quickly.
– But the honorable member proposed to accept this proposal.
– I know that.
– And it was accepted by the Government in both Houses.
– We have withdrawn from that position. We were willing to extend the principle to some extent in the direction desired by the honorable member for North Sydney ; but his proposal was not accepted. On further consideration, I agree with the honorable member for Hume that we shall be best doingour duty in helping first those of our own race who are in real need. I hope that the question will not be discussed further, and that we shall get to a division, and loyally accept the decision, whatever it may be. I think that we shall be actingwisely if we do not overburden this beneficent measure in the way in which some honorable members want to do.
.- We have been treated to some extraordinary examples of the way in which the Government do their business. I sympathized with the honorable member for Flinders when he remarked that honorable members on the Government side did not know where they stood ; because I heard him make a similar remark last Thursday night when the whole of the Ministers and their supporters, with two exceptions, voted against a motion submitted by the Prime Minister. This afternoon, we saw exactly the same thing donein connexion with the Coinage Bill. Now in regard to this Bill, the Senate’s amendment was carried on a recommittal of theBill, and voted for by the representativeof the Government there.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member not to discuss: what was done in another place.
– In another place, a member of the Government supported thisamendment ; and, I take it, that he knew what the Government’s views on the subjectwere. The first thing we were asked todo to-day was to deal with the Senate’samendments, before we had even seen a. copy of them in print. The Treasurer wanted to put them all through holus-bolus in about five minutes. He was going to knock out the amendments, which he described as merely formal, in one act, without our being allowed to see them ; and the honorable member for Hume was looked upon as obstructive because he asked for an opportunity to see the .amendments. Finally, he got the consideration of them postponed until after dinner, in order that a schedule of the amendments might be printed and circulated. When we were supplied with the amendments in print, the Treasurer rose and moved that this particular amendment be disagreed with.
– I did not.
– I do not want to do the Attorney-General an injustice by omitting to give him credit for his work ; because he has had to assist the Treasurer in the passage, not only of this Bill, but of the Coinage Bill. It was the AttorneyGeneral, representing the Government, and with the Treasurer sitting beside him, who moved that this amendment be disagreed with. If we had gone to a vote there and then, there would have been an end to the matter. But, after some discussion had taken place, the Government suddenly began to consider the question, and then, for the first time, they brought down some extraordinary statistics, and told us that they were now afraid of the consequences of that to which they agreed a few nights ago, and to which they asked us to agree to-night. It was not until one of their supporters had gone carefully into the figures, and given his reasons for coming to the conclusion that they were not to be relied upon, that the Government acknowledged that they were probably wrong. Then, in order to get out of a difficulty, they suddenly jumped about and accepted an amendment by the honorable member for North Sydney, which contained no principle ; and because they were beaten by the defection of some followers over whom they thought they could crack the whip, they now turn round like a lot of children and say : “ Very well, .we will go back upon what we did. We will not play in your back yard now.” And yet they call this responsible government, with a strong party of forty members.
– We have a perfect right to know definitely what the Government intend to do. The honorable member for Gippsland has said that, during the last four hours, they have been engaged, either in “ stonewalling “ their own measure or in shifting about from one point to another, never at any time having, so far as I know, any settled conviction. I am not surprised at the Treasurer ; but I am surprised at the Attorney-General, who sits on the Treasury bench and never says a solitary word in favour of what he believes to be just and proper. It was the Treasurer who suggested that the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney was preferable to that of the honorable member for Boothby. Apparently, the former was not acceptable to the Committee, and the Government do not propose to stand by their own proposal. The Treasurer asked the Committee to accept no proposal; he said that we must go slowly, and talked about invalids. I venture to say that there is only one set of invalids, and these are political invalids. Their position is paralytic. If comes as a scathing commentary on utterances we have lately heard as to a strong responsible Government that, not for four hours together, have Ministers one settled policy. Whatever I had intended to do before, my duty in this particular case lies in standing to the same position as I stood to all the evening.
– On a previous occasion I voted with some of those who usually vote with the Government, but for an entirely different reason from any yet given. We should not grant pensions to any Asiatics until we have made ample provision for the invalids in the Commonwealth. I think, as I have’ said here once or twice, that we are acting without principle when we grant old-age pensions to Asiatics, many of whom, despite what has been said to-day, will be tempted to remain in the Commonwealth by the pensions, whilst we give no consideration to a class, many of whom are very deserving, and that is the half-castes on the islands in the Straits. Although we’ know that they are the remnants of the aboriginal race, and are almost extinct, yet we say to them, “ You shall receive no help,” whilst to the Hindoos, the Chinese, the Japanese, and other coloured aliens who have .been naturalized in the States, we say, “ You can have pensions if you like to remain with us.” The clause is utterly without principle. In some of the States, Chinese and Hindoos have been naturalized, and given the franchise, and will be eligible .for pensions. In others, they will not be eligible, although contributing .to the revenue equally with those who have become naturalized. We should adopt some principle, either granting pensions to all residents of Australia, including our own aboriginals, or confining them to persons of white race. I shall vote against any amendment to give pensions to Asiatics until we have made full and ample provision for our own invalids.
– When I last spoke on this subject, I supported the proposition of the Government, and was surprised to find, when a vote was called for, that Ministers were ready to turn round.
– Surely that did not surprise the honorable member?
– It did surprise me, but it has prevented me from being surprised at their action since. The Government adopted the. proposal of the honorable member for Boothby, but the Senate rejected it, and the Treasurer asked us to disagree with the Senate’s amendment on a bald statement, before we had time to consider the matter. At the suggestion of the honorable member for Hume a postponement was allowed until a later period. The Government now asks the Committee to accept the Senate’s amendment, and, in support of its attitude, the Attorney-General has produced figures which are wholly inaccurate. According to him, there are 47,000 Asiatics in the Commonwealth, of whom, he says, between 5,000 and 10,000 will be eligible for pensions. He forgets that only naturalized Asiatics will be eligible, and they must have obtained their naturalization papers under the State laws. Ministers should therefore inform us how many naturalized Asiatics there are in the Commonwealth, and, of those, how many are likely to claim pensions? The probability is that there are not 10,000 naturalized Asiatics in Australia.
– Not 1,000.
– Ministers either do not know their own minds, or do not know the effect of the measures which they bring forward. It is, I think, only fair that those who have become naturalized, and for twenty-five years have been exercising the rights of citizenship, should, on reaching the age of sixty or sixty-five, be eligible for pensions. The action of the Government does not reflect credit on its conduct of business. I hope that justice will be done to those whom we have admitted to full citizenship, and who have borne the heat and burden of the day.
.- The glaring inaccuracy of the Treasurer in this connexion calls for more than ordinarycomment. When asked for an estimate of the cost of the proposed amendment, he blurted out, angrily, “£30,000,” but instantly reduced the sum to £20,000, on hearing an expression of dissent. Probably he would have reduced it still further, had he not been interrupted from the Ministerial side. His action reminded me of t.he’-story of the boy and the cats. At the beginning, there were a million cats, but ultimately there were found to be only his cat and another. We have witnessed tonight another lamentable display of the incompetence in the handling of Bills which has characterized the Treasurer since he took office. The bungling in connexion with the Coinage Bill was distressing, and” this is something appalling. Originally, the Treasurer, after consultation with the Attorney-General, accepted the amendment, and, in the Senate, the Government was at first ready to stand by it, but receded from that position on seeing that there was a difference of opinion among its supporters. On the Bill being returned to us, the Treasurer said that he intended to disagree with what had been done by the Senate.
– I did not sneak at all.
– Well, the honorable’ gentleman seems inclined to repudiate what has been done on his behalf by the AttorneyGeneral. An attempt to side-track us was made by the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney. That having failed, the Government decided to agree with the Senate’s amendment. The sails of the Ministerial vessel are flapping like those of a ship in the doldrums. Honorable members opposite are justified in saying that they scarcely know where they are, seeing that the Government leads them first to the right and then to the left - to all the points of the. compass, until the wind that blows seems to blow down the mast. If we have a few more such displays, I should not be surprised to hear honorable members opposite asking where the Government are. These are some of the charming results of responsible government, brought about by the notorious fusion so recently accomplished; and they tend to pull out of the fusion the peacock feathers that have been waved so proudly during the last few weeks. There are very few Asiatics who have become naturalized in Australia; their proportion -is small, indeed, to the number of Asiatics here, and much less to the total population, and few attain the age at which they can secure pensions. I am alarmed at the view of the honorable member for Franklin. I understand that his whole tendency in politics is to accept a little if he cannot get the whole; but the view he and others opposite now seem to take is that unless they can secure pensions for invalids, they will not grant them to the Asiatics to whom we have given full rights of citizenship. I suggest to the honorable member for Franklin that he had better accept half aloaf, or a slice, particularly when he knows that bv his vote, and the votes of those who sit with him, it has been made impossible to grant pensions to invalids. Perhaps we ought not to express surprise, in view of the extraordinary manner in which the Treasurer has veered round. I hope that the amendment of another place will not be approved of. It would be wrong to make an exception in the case of the naturalized Asiatics, and it would strike heavily at the boast that some people make that this is a land of freedom, wherein once settled, a man obtains all the rights of citizenship.
.- I congratulate honorable members opposite on the appeal they are now making for the Asiatic vote. For years past we have heard these gentlemen saying that the Asiatic in Australia confers no economic benefit on the community.
– Is the honorable member in order in implying that honorable members on this side are bidding for the votes of the Asiatic residents in Australia?
– I think the honorable member is quite in order.
– For years past honorable members opposite have claimed the whole of the credit for the general feeling that Australia is the home, and. should always remain the home, of the white race. We are told not only that Australia should be a white man’s land, but that there are economic reasons, in addition to racial prejudice, why we should endeavour to keep this country for our own people. We are fold that the Asiatic does not add to the wealth and prosperity of Australia - that the Chinaman sends all his money out of the country, and that he cuts under, and cuts out, by competition-
– Who told the honorable member all this?
– Honorable members opposite have often told us so. It is urged that the Australian workman, by the greater exigencies of his life, is unable to compete with the Chinaman, who can live on small wages, and under bad conditions; and that is given as one of the reasons why we should absolutely exclude Asiatics. I entirelyagree with honorable members opposite. I have heard it. stated again and again that old-age pensions should be granted as a right. We are told that, because ofthe economic benefits whichthe white citizen of Australia confers on the community by living and working here for a period of years, he is entitled to a pension. Following up the two arguments, it becomes clear that, according to my honorable friends opposite, the only man who is entitled to a pension is the white citizen. If honorable members opposite now take up the illogical position that they wish to give to certain people in Australia, who, they claim, have conferred no economic benefit on the country, pensions which it is proposed to accord as a right to those people who have conferred economic benefit, we are perfectly justified in assuming that those honorable members, who, for years have been claiming the credit for being the originators of the White Australia policy, are anxious to turn right-about face and gain the votes of those Asiatics who cannot be excluded from the country. I congratulate honorable members on their political methods, but I do not congratulate them on the illogical nature of theirright-about face. The two positions assumed by honorable members opposite are absolutely in conflict; and it is clear, as I have already said, that those who have sought the credit for originating the White Australia policy are trying to gain the votes of the poor Asiatics within the confines of Australia.
.- I have always held the view that the House goes into Committee to enable the provisions of a Bill to be freely discussed, and, if necessary,amended. The honorable member for Wentworth has just made a speech which, if delivered at 8 o’clock this evening, would have been the greatest trouncing the Government have ever had.
At that time we were invited by the Government to disagree with the Senate’s amendment, and, if the honorable member had then made the speech which he has just delivered, he would have satisfied us that they were wrong, and were resorting to trickery of the kind to which he has referred. The specious character of the policy of a White Australia does not enter into this question. In the earlier part, of the evening, the honorable member for West Sydney and the honorable member for Boothby made convincing speeches in favour of the rejection of the Senate’s amendment, and were applauded by the honorable member for Flinders and others on the Ministerial side of the House. 1 applauded them then, and intend to vote with them now. It is, to say the least, curious, that the clause in the Bill as it left this House was unanimously agreed to, the members of the Government themselves supporting it. Since then it has had a most chequered career. The representative of the Government in the Senate in the first instance opposed the amendment which is now before us, and subsequently agreed to it. If the White Australia policy stands on so flimsy a basis that we are unable to ‘ allow naturalized Asiatics already here to come under the Old-age Pensions Act, then it is in a most dangerous plight. The honorable member for West Sydney and the honorable member for Boothby took, to my mind, a most liberal view of the position, when they urged that we ought not to deny any man a pension simply because of his colour. The honorable member for Wentworth has dealt with the economic features of this proposal, but I wish to consider ft from an ethical stand-point. Surely the Commonwealth is able to find the few thousand pounds necessary to enable Asiatics who have been naturalized - Asiatics who are already here - to come under the Act.
– Asiatics who have-to pay taxes.
– I am dealing with the question solely from the stand-point of humanity. Why is it that the Government at 8 o’clock to-night considered the Senate’s amendment to be wrong, and at ii o’clock to -be right? I should be prepared to vote against the amendment, if only for the reason that I believe in maintaining the rights and privileges of this House with regard to taxation measures. On many occasions an even slighter intrusion upon the privileges of this House has been resented. Should we sacrifice our privileges in regard to money Bills because of the consideration that, the rejection of the Senate’s amendment would involve a slight expenditure? This is a taxation measure, and we ought not to allow the Senate to propose to reduce or increase taxation. It is singular that representatives of Labour in the Senate should have been able to convince the representative of the Government there that this amendment was correct, and that members of the Labour, party in this House should be able to convince many Ministerial supporters that it is wrong. Being unable to understand this change of front on the part of the Ministry, I am forced to speculate that the reason is that the Government are paying too much attention to another place, and not enough to this House. Apparently, they fear that the rejection of the Senate’s amendment would lead to trouble in another place, and, to avoid the difficulty, they now ask us to accept it. I shall vote for the clause as it left this House originally. When the Bill was before us on a previous occasion, the honorable member for Wentworth did not raise economic questions, or suggest political trickery. Surely it is rather late in the day for him to do so now.
– I took the same view, I think, early this afternoon.
– But when the clause was before us originally, I do not think that the honorable member objected to the addition of these words, .which we are now asked to omit.
– I fancy that I did.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Boothby was scarcely debated, and was agreed to without a division. We should . do honour to the. country by. restoring the clause to the for£in which it left this House.
.- I think that it will be necessary to have a new standing order, to provide against the recurrence of such an exhibition on the part of a Ministry as we have witnessed to-night. We have had two Ministers speaking with two different voices on the same clause. The Attorney-General, who, for the most part, has had charge of this measure, made a. statement in regard to the Senate’s amendment, and was almost immediately followed by the Treasurer, who made one that was diametrically opposed to it. In reply to the honorable member for BaTs, who desired to know why the Government had not supplied certain information, the Attorney-General said that they had not thought it necessary to do so. The honorable gentleman quoted some figures .as to the probable expenditure ; but, speaking as the mouth-piece of “the Government, said that they regarded the principle involved as important, and gave no consideration to the question of cost. A few minutes later the Treasurer, in reply to the honorable member for Flinders, who, as a Government supporter, found himself in a difficulty because of their change of front, asserted that it was due to the fact that if the clause was not amended as proposed by another place, it would involve considerable expenditure. The Government have absolutely no reliable information as to what would be the cost of carrying out the clause as originally passed by the House, an3 yet the Treasurer, offered the excuse I have mentioned for the change of front. We have never witnessed such an exhibition on the part of any Government since the inception of this Parliament, and are fully entitled to know who is conducting the business of the House on behalf of the Ministry. I am rather astonished that the Attorney-General has taken the action of the Treasurer so quietly as he has done, for it seems to me that the honorable gentleman gave him a severe snub-. Either the Attorney-General did not know what was in the minds of his colleagues when he spoke, or the Treasurer did not. The Government had better have another caucus meeting to arrive at something like a fixed opinion. If Bills are to be treated in this extraordinary way we shall have a very poor sample of legislation to show as the result of the session’s work. I take it that the Attorney-General expressed the correct view when he supported a principle which involves a. very small number of persons, and that the view expressed by the Treasurer does not represent the real feeling of the Government. If it does, I am sorry to learn that any Government could take such a miserable, narrow-minded view. Apparently the question of a paltry thousand pounds or two is to cause them to forsake a principle. I do not know what has happened to-night to cause them to abandon the opinion which they held when the House met, and nearly, all through this sitting. Some influence seems to have been at work. Surely the Government have some sort of collective understanding by which they arrive at decisions to which they can adhere when once they are put before the House.
The Government must have seen that there was an absolute majority in favour of their original proposal. Had the motion been put when the Attorney-General rose to give his wild explanation of figures it would have been carried on the voices, but, with a majority in favour of their own proposal, one Minister goes one way all the evening and another at the last moment goes right against him. What is going to happen to the Bill now I do not know. This is an entirely non-party measure, as the divisions which have been taken show, but we have seen evidence since the last division was taken of the cracking of the ‘whip over Government supporters. We have seen a difference of opinion amongst the Ministers themselves, and all this on a distinctly non-party measure. It looks as though they wanted to compromise with the Senate, and that the Government fell in with the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney as a sort of .middle course. Is that the way business is to be conducted toy a strong Government which has a majority of its own, and on this question a majority of the Committee behind it irrespective of party? Nothing has been brought before the Committee to justify a change of front, and yet the change has taken place. There is a good deal in the point that we should be very chary of giving way to another Chamber on a matter of this kind. It has been indicated all the evening that the Committee would be asked to reject the Senate’s amendment, which was made in another place under rather peculiar circumstances which we cannot altogether ignore. There must be some reason for the change that the Committee have not been informed of. I hope that when the Treasurer has cooled down he will no longer be frightened of the expenditure of a small and uncertain sum. The Government have admitted that they do not know how much it would cost, but the Attorney-General himself stated that they considered the principle and not the cost likely to be involved. I hope the. Government will after all stand straightforwardly by their original proposal, which involves an important principle and no great cost. If one can carry out a principle at small cost, that is surely all the more reason for sticking to it. I could understand the Treasurer being timid about supporting a principle that would cost, a great deal of money, but there is no justification for hesitation in this. case.
– In reply to the speeches of the honorable member for Franklin and the honorable member for Wentworth, I may well use the words of the Attorney-General that there is no necessity to manufacture arguments, and that no reasonable reply can be given to the contention that we should not exclude any person on account of race or colour if otherwise qualified.
– Although some of the honorable member’s own party were trying to give an answer.
– I give the AttorneyGeneral credit for still holding the same view. The difference in the naturalization law applies to all aliens ; it does not apply particularly to Asiatics, and. therefore it does not touch the question. The majority of the Committee are in favour of wiping out a stigma which attaches to us of passing partial legislation which pretends to give old-age pensions to certain persons who are qualified, and then distinctly raises a barrier solely on the ground of race. Yet, because the Government are in a little difficulty the party whip is being cracked, and I assume that honorable members who have already indicated to me and the Committee that they are in favour of my proposal will vote against it. Therefore, because of party considerations, a great principle which should be above party is to be abandoned.
– Where does the honorable member get his information about the whip being cracked?
– Every honorable member knows that a considerable number of members on the Ministerial side were disposed to vote with me, and would do so now but for the position in which the Government find themselves. Is it too late to express the hope that they will still vote for a principle which will cost practically nothing, and which is certainly just and correct?
– I think honorablemembers will admit that this Bill from the outset has had a most unfortunate reception. It was introduced) for asimple and generous purpose, and it was expressly stated that it would not be the last measure dealing with the question of old-age pensions. It was brought forward for the purpose of extending the payment of those pensions in two directions, namely, to those who had been naturalized in this country, and to those who had neglected to naturalize. We attempted to press it forward with all possible expedition, because there are a num ber of persons who have been naturalized and resident in Australia for a period which entitled them under State laws to receive pensions, but who cannot obtain our pension in the absence of this measure. Anxious as we are to see the Bill become law as early as possible, the Government havemade sacrifice after sacrifice of a minor character to push it through.
– I must ask the Prime Minister not to enter into a general discussion.
– I will not do so. Under these circumstances we approached the consideration of this question - as the honorable member for Boothby very properly put it in the remarks which he has just made - on the ground of principle. The principle involved is whether we should for reasons of colour or creed or naturalization exclude from its operation Asiatics who might otherwise have claims to oldage pensions. The honorable member has repeated his argument this evening with equal force. There are a number of honorable members who sympathize with the view which he has expressed quite as much as he does himself, and there is another considerable section who are inclined to take a lenient view of his proposal for some concession. Under these circumstances we found ourselves confronted with the position of having to consider an amendment carried in another place. In our desire to push the passage of the Billwe proposed to accept that amendment, considering it only on the ground of principle, for which the Attorney-General has argued the whole evening. But in the course of the debate a new problem has been raised which we. had not previously considered. It was the amount involved in the payment of these pensions. That question was raised for the first time this evening, and advantage was taken of the presence of a Treasury officer to obtain from him a statement of the additional expenditure that would be involved if the amendment of the Senate were disagreed with. Several conjectural estimates were made, none of them final. But it became clear that if these pensions are granted to Asiatics, there must be an increase of our liabilities serious enough to demand consideration.Consequently when a proposal was made by the honorable member for North Sydney not affecting the main principle argued for by the honorable member for Boothby, but aimed at the possibly large expenditure into which his proposal would! have plunged us, it was supported by the Government. This being rejected, we were face to face with the choice of assuming an unknown financial responsibility, small or great. t It then became the duty of the Treasurer to call attention to the state of affairs into which we were drifting. As we are well aware, the number of pensioners under the principal Act will be largely increased during the next few years.
– Why did not the Treasurer make that statement before?
– A fuller statement will probably be made in this connexion the day after to-morrow. Consequently we have to contemplate a larger outlay under the principal Act. A further demand will thus be imposed upon the Exchequer. We have also to consider invalid pensions for cur own people, payment of which is authorized as soon as the finances permit. Yet in priority to the payment of those pensions, it is now proposed to recognise the claims of another section who are, only to a smaller extent, deserving of consideration. As I have already stated, this is not the last Bill relating to pensions with which we shall have to deal. There will not only require to be a declaration enabling invalid pensions to be paid, but amending measures will have to be’ introduced in which extension of the principle and details embodied in the original Act will have to be reconsidered. The present claims for Asiatics were not provided for in the Bill as the Government introduced it. This proposal emanated from the honorable member for Boothby,’ and was resisted by the Government, on the ground that we did not wish to overload the measure.
Several Honorable Members. - It was not resisted.
– When it was pressed, upon the ground of principle, and when it became plain that a majority of the Committee were strongly in its favour, the Government reluctantly accepted it for the sake of the measure as it stood. There are members of the Ministry, and other honorable members upon this side of the chamber, who are inclined to make some advance in the direction now desired. At the same time, we have been brought face to face, during the course of the discussion to-night, with the practical question of L s. d. That is the question which has been engaging Cabinet attention for some time, and upon which we shall hear more the day after to- morrow. Our financial obligations make us very reluctant to take any step to add to our liabilities.
– The Government have only discovered that to-night.
– Because the question had not previously been raised in this connexion. The mover’s statement was accepted that the cost which would be involved by the adoption of the amendment would bemerely nominal. But we now have gravereason to doubt its accuracy. In view of the fact that invalid pensions have not yet been granted, and that the Treasury is sorely pressed, I ask the Committee to reconsider its views, and to say that whatever may be the merits of the proposal of the honorable . member for Boothby in the abstract, this is not the Bill in which it should be pressed. This is a Bill of large concessions. Let those concessions be made. They will involve an additional expenditure, which will have to be met. Beyond them, we have to contemplate the payment of invalid pensions to our own countrymen, and later we shall doubtless extend the operation of the Act in other directions. But at the present time, I ask the Committee at least to suspend judgment upon this matter, to refrain from increasing present burdens on the people, and to accept the handsome extension of the old-age pensions system which is contained in this Bill. I trust that, on this ground, we shall agree to the amendment made by the Senate.
– The Government have certainly taken up a remarkable position upon this question ; and the more Ministers talk about it, the more remarkable does it become. I have never witnessed such a sorry spectacle as that presented to-night since I entered political life. The Prime Minister has told us that the Government are taking up their present attitude because of the Treasurer’s absolute ignorance of the effect of the amendment. For the Ministry to occupy such a humiliating position is deplorable. Personally, I do not agree with the honorable member for Boothby. I contend that until the invalids of our own race are relieved, we should not include Asiatics under this legislation. But would it not be wise for the Prime Minister to consent to an adjournment while the Government confer on this matter, and arrive at some decision as to the proper course to take? It is a cruel thing that the Government should have to apologize in one hour for what they themselves have done in a preceding hour. The argument of the Prime Minister does not lend conviction. It was merely an apology for the innocence of his Treasurer, and for the laxity of the Attorney-General and himself, in not’ having realized the burden that would be cast upon the people of this country by the amendment of the honorable member for Boothby. In another place they evidently did not know where they were, and consequently, after an elaborate argument on the part of an intelligent Labour man, they were convinced of the logic of his position. But it was not the financial complexion- of the situation which affected them then. It is lowering Parliament, and degrading constitutional government, for Ministers to show such inconsistency. I thought that we were going to get back to constitutional government when we had a fusion party with forty-three members in this House.’ But if this is constitutional government, we had better return as soon as possible to what we had before. We were never in such a plight in the history of this Parliament. The Treasurer sits at the table, and I will guarantee that he does not understand a detail of any measure of which he has charge. For the reputation of his Government the Prime Minister should place his Bills in the hands of some one from whom we could get information. The cause of the trouble was that the Treasurer did not know what he was doing. The result of placing sharp-edged tools in the hands of an unskilled manipulator is that we find him cutting himself in an unhappy manner. Surely we should have an adjournment pending repairs to the Government.
– Does the honorable member want to delay this Bill still further?
– The Government are responsible for any delay that has occurred, and the Treasurer is chiefly to blame. The Bill could have been put through this afternoon if the Government had really understood where they were. But they have taken many hours to find out what they mean, and they are still trying to discover the state of their own minds. Yesterday at the Lord Mayor’s luncheon the Prime Minister; - whether under the influence of some sort of spirits, I do not know - made unwarranted remarks in trying to throw blame for delay on the Opposition. How can the public believe that when they read what has taken place to-day? The delay has arisen purely on account of the conduct of business by the Government, and the sooner the public know that the better.
– The Prime Minister has made some remarks that are not in accordance with facts. As he has not been in the “Chamber during the debate, perhaps he is not aware of what has taken place. The facts are these : When the measure was placed before the Chamber in the first instance, a discussion was raised on an amendment by the honorable member for Boothby. No pressure was put upon the Attorney-General or the Treasurer. The proposal appeared so eminently reasonable, and just that it was accepted almost without discussion. When the Bill went up to the Senate, it was only on the last day of the proceedings that the representative of the Government raised any opposition to the proposal which had been inserted at the instance of the honorable member for Boothby. Subsequently the measure was brought back to this Chamber. It was proceeded with in the early part of the present sitting. But progress was reported at about 4 o’clock, and the consideration of the Bill was resumed at a later hour. Some opposition was raised by the Attorney-General and the Treasurer, but not a word was said about the financial position until after 10 o’clock to-night. The Attorney-General then mentioned that about 47,000 people might take advantage of the provision in question. That number was whittled down by the criticism of the honorable member for North Sydnev and the honorable member for Flinders, until at last by common consent it was agreed that not more than 500 persons would be affected. Now the Prime Minister tells us that the financial position weighs with the Government. Does he not know that the Government were prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney after 10 o’clock, but that they were beaten? Does he not know that prior to that there was not the slightest mention of the financial position? I do not hesitate to say that the Prime Minister’s statement that there are objections to the position in question other than those raised by members of his own party is not in accordance with facts. As the Prime Minister has been away, it is possible he did not know the position, and I have taken the liberty of telling him what it is. I venture to say that (the Treasurer will not say what the Prime Minister has said. I say now that not more than 500 persons, at the outside, could benefit under the proposal made, and the Prime Minister must know, as well as any one, that the financial position is not involved in this matter at all. I should like to know whether the Government intend to abandon the position they originally took up. The objection raised in another place to the proposal was that it threatened the White Australia policy. The financial question was never mentioned there. The Committee will stultify itself if it goes back on what it has already approved. I hope that the proposal will again be carried, in spite of the attitude which the Government have now assumed, and which, on this occasion, seems to mie to be even worse than usual.
– I previously had no regard for the present vacillating Government, and their recent change of front has only added to the contempt in which I have held them. In spite of this, I feel that I must support the Senate’s amendment. I believe that the Senate has given the matter more consideration than it has received’ from the Ministry. Those who are supporting the payment of pensions to naturalized Asiatics are illogical. They admit that probably 800 or 500 might receive pensions, but, owing to the fact that but very few are naturalized, some 500 of these will not get the pension.
– That applies to Europeans who are not naturalized.
– I remind the honorable member that Europeans can become naturalized, but we have expressly provided that no more Asiatics shall be naturalized. We are unwilling to allow them to enter this country at all. As a matter of fact, honorable members are in this matter really drawing a colour line. I should be prepared to extend the provision for pensions to all Asiatics who are here, having regard to the fact that we have decided to admit no more ; but that would be too expensive a proposition. We have cast upon us the obligation to provide for our own people, who are unable to provide for themselves. I know aged men and widows who are not in a position to do so, but who, under this Bill, will not receive pensions. Charity should begin at home, and we should be just before we are generous. In my opinion, it is merely hypocrisy to talk of giving a certain number of Asiatics pensions because they happen to be naturalized, whilst we exclude a very great number who are equally qualified in other respects, but who are not naturalized.
– I thought the discussion of this matter would have been completed long ago. When we had exploded the figures brought forward by the Attorney-General, the Treasurer, to my intense surprise, announced that the Government intended to abandon the attitude they- had previously taken up. -I wished that we should go to a division, and I contented myself with asking the reason for the change of front. We have not been given the reason yet. The Prime Minister has said that the financial difficulty is the reason. Does the honorable gentleman mean to say that he permitted hours to be wasted in the Senate, and a discussion to continue here for a whole night, before he discovered this reason for the change in the attitude of the Government? It has been shown that the financial difficulty has nothing whatever to do with the matter. I challenged the figures quoted by the Attorney-General as soon as they were mentioned. I said that, if he looked into the matter, he would find that the proposal would probably affect not more than 500 persons. I say now that I doubt very much whether it would affect more than 100, 150, or 200. We are told, after all this waste of time, that it must be opposed because it involves a serious financial problem. What on earth will this Government do when they are face to face with a real financial problem? It has been shown that there have not been more than two or three Asiatics naturalized in South Australia within the last twenty-five years. Only one was naturalized during the whole of the time I was in the South Australian Parliament, and he is a wealthy man, and would not be entitled to an old-age pension. A considerable number of the Asiatics who are naturalized possess property, and would not be entitled to pensions. I do not believe that an expenditure of more than £2,000 .or £3,000 a year is involved in the proposal. If that constitutes a financial difficulty for the present Government, the financial affairs of this country must be in a very serious condition indeed. T should like the Prime Minister to be a little more honest in his dealings with honorable members on this side. We know that he has- not given us the real reason for the Government’s change of front. Why does not the Treasurer tell us what the real reason is? If the Government are afraid of a conflict with the
Senate, why do they not say so? The Prime Minister asked me to reconsider my decision. Why should I do so? If 1 am told the real reason for the change of front by the Government, I may be able to say whether I shall do so or not.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council probably says that he will not stand it.
– I believe that the honorable member did an injustice - unwittingly, of course - to the Leader of the Senate to-night, when he said that that honorable gentleman did something in opposition to the amendment, because in that House the representatives of the Government did all in their power, just as Ministers here did, to get it accepted..
– I must ask the honorable member to discuss the question before the Committee.
– We were told the other night about a waste of time on this side of the House. We have no desire to waste time. When we find that the Government refuse to state the real reason why they have asked us to reconsider our decision, we are justified in continuing our opposition until they do. When the Treasurer stated that the Government had decided to abandon the position which they had taken up for a week or so, he ought to have told us plainly what the trouble is. Will he tell us now what it is? As I have stated, there is no financial difficulty in the way, and if the honorable gentleman does not take us into his confidence he is not doing justice to himself, or to honorable members.
– I have noticed, with some interest, the twistings of the Government. I find that while they have agreed to this proposal on principle they have discovered that according to the treasurer, it will involve the sudden finding of £20,000. While in the strong spirit of humanitarism, which has always actuated me, I am only too willing to vote this pension, still I cannot feel I would be doing quite the right thing to the white cripples of Australia in’ voting £20,000 for this purpose before money had been found to provide a pension for those persons.
– But this proposal of the honorable member for Boothby does not involve an annual expenditure of £20,000.
– The only authority on finance in the House is the Treasurer, and, although I may feel some doubt about it, I am bound to take his word.
– But that is what he said at 10 o’clock.
– He said he was not sure that it would cost that sum.
– I suppose that, so far as he can be humanly sure, that is his estimate of the cost, and he has not corrected it by interjection. “ In order to get over the difficulty of those who believe in the principle, and cannot support it owing to the slate of the finances, I suggest to the honorable member for Boothby that he should accept the addition of these words to his amendment, “ to be brought in by proclamation after the invalid pensions and the reduction of the age of female oldage pensioners to sixty years have been proclaimed.” Will the Government accept that addition? It will get over their financial difficulty.
– No ; it does not.
– If the Government will not accept the addition, it will be of no use for the honorable member to move it.
– I intend to submit my proposal as a further amendment, though I would rather that the honorable member had accepted it and allowed us to take a vote, as it would do away with the financial difficulty. Seeing that only a few days ago we were denied a pension for the white cripples, and a reduction of the age of female pensioners to sixty years, 1 feel constrained to object to an enormous sum being paid to Asiatics. Surely honorable members on the opposite side who believe in the principle of the honorable member for Boothby’s amendment can find no objection to my proposition. I ask the Treasurer if he cannot accept the amendment as it stands.
– Then it is now a matter of principle and not a question of expense.
– As a new member I desire to say that this is the most extraordinary piece of business which I have ever witnessed or heard of.
– I think that there should be a quorum to hear the amendment stated. - [Quorum formed.]
– I hope the honorable member for Boothby will adopt my proposition. If my suggestion is adopted it will get over the present financial difficulty, and give us a chance to vote on the principle.
– It is not my amendment, but the Government’s.
– I desire to know if the Government will accept my proposal.
– We cannot, I am very sorry to say.
– I point out to the honorable member for New England that he will not be in order in moving his amendment in the form he suggests.
– We have been told by members of the Opposition that the Senate’s amendment should not be agreed to, because only a small sum is involved in the original proposal of the honorable member for Boothby. But the proposal of the honorable member for New England carries with it the inference that the amount is so great that we should postpone the making of payments to Chinese and other Asiatics until we are sure that we- have enough money to provide invalid pensions and more liberal old-age pensions fox our white population. The honorable member for West Sydney eloquently supported the provision inserted in the Bill by the honorable member for Boothby, and he and the rest of the party will also support the proposal of the honorable member for New England.
– If the honorable member lives long enough, he will find out what I support.’
– I am convinced that the members of his party will support the proposal of the honorable member for New England, in flat contradiction to their contention that only a small sum is involved in the granting of pensions to Chinese and other Asiatics.
Question - That the amendment be disagreed to- put. The Committee divided.
Majority … . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senate’s Amendment. - Insert the following new clause : - 15a. After section 38 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - “38a. - (1.) Every Magistrate may, for the pur. poses of any investigation or inquiry under this Act-
Penalty : Twenty pounds. (3.) No personwho appears before a Magistrate as a witness shall, without lawful excuse, refuse to be sworn, or to make an affirmation, or to produce documents, or to answer questions which he is lawfully required to answer.
Penalty : Fifty pounds.”
.-I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The proposed new clause and the proposed amendments in clause . 16 have been suggested by the Treasury and approved by the Senate. They ‘ contain . merely machinery provisions.
– If an offender does not pay the penalty, what happens?
– There may be distress on goods, but there is no power to imprison.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in clause 16 agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090810_reps_3_50/>.