3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at z.30 i>.m., and read prayers.
Mr. Wilks presented a petition, signed by 3,072 members of the Commonwealth Public Service, praying the House to pass legislation’ for the establishment of a superannuation fund.
Petition received and read.
– Does trie Treasurer propose to deal in his Budget Speech with the installation of wireless telegraph apparatus on shore and on the vessels of the coastal fleet? I ask the question because I have, on the business-paper, a notice of motion which, if so, I intend to postpone, to facilitate the transaction of public business.
– I propose to deal with the question.
– Following up the question the Treasurer has just answered regarding wireless telegraphy, I should like to know from the Postmaster-General whether he will invite public tenders and have the various schemes open to competition after they have been examined by his experts ? . Will the Postmaster-General, so far as the land stations are concerned, leave the schemes to open competition?
– I have no doubt my colleague, the Treasurer, in presenting his Budget statement will fully deal with the aspect of the question to which the honorable member has drawn attention.
– Has the Postmaster-General caused provision to be made on the Estimates for . testing the efficiency of motor mail vans for the collection of mail matter for transmission to the General Post Office, Sydney?
– I cannot say that specific provision has been made on the Estimates ; but there are general votes from which the service can be paid for, if found necessary or advisable.
– The following paragraph appeared in the South Eastern
Star of 10th August, 1909, headed “ Magistrates on Strike” -
There are between eighty and ninety claims for Federal old-age pensions “in at Mount Gambier, and the necessary inquiries have been made as to the qualifications of all the applicants. The claims are all ready to be dealt with by the magistrate, but at a meeting in Adelaide, the stipendiary magistrates of the State decided not to take the pension claims till they had received due appointment, and their fees had been fixed. So far, there is no idea as to when the magistrates will feel justified in considering and dealing with the pension claims, and meanwhile the Federal pensions, which were payable from July, are accumulating, while the old people wait on the magistrates.
Will the Treasurer see that this unsatisfactory state of affairs’ is remedied as soon as possible?
– I shall have much pleasure in asking the Commissioner to make inquiries,’ and, if the facts are as stated, to do his best to remedy matters.
Adamstown Rifle Range - Case of Sergeant-Ma;ok DALY - Defence Bill.
-Will , the Minister of Defence take into consideration the inadequacy of the targets on the Adamstown Range, which is the headquarters of the Fourth Regiment, and used by persons for miles round? Will he see that proper facilities are given there for the practice of the partially paid men, the volunteers, and the riflemen? I understand that at present the range is sp crowded that they cannot follow the ordinary course of gunnery.
– I am not quite clear in my recollection as to precisely what has been done, but I know something was ordered the other day in connexion with this- matter. We recognise the congested state of the present range, and will take steps to remedy the defects.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether he has made inquiries into the case of SergeantMajor Daly, late of Molong, and whether, if the inquiries have been completed, any decision has been arrived at ?
– No report has yet been presented, but, as soon as it is, I shall make it available to honorable members.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether the Defence Bill is ready, and, if so, when he proposes to submit it to the House?
– I hope the measure may be ready at an early date.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has received any later news in regard to the missing steamer Waratah ?
– Nothing definite.
Discovery of Gold
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question based on the following letter that I have received : - 56 Roslyn-street,
West Melbourne, nth August, 1909.
Sir, - I wish to draw your attention to the re cent discoveries of gold in the Northern Territory, namely, the Tanami Field. It is well known to myself and others that have been through the back country of Australia on different occasions that large tracts of auriferous and other mineral-bearing country are known to exist in the Northern Territory, and a few thousand pounds spent now in equipping prospecting parties in the first instance, and the opening up of roads afterwards, would do more to settle the Northern Territory in two years than millions of money would do in twenty years under any emigration scheme. And the pioneering would be done by our own people - a class for such work there are no better in the world - and the emigrants from the other countries who would be sure to follow would soon adapt themselves to the conditions of life in the Territory, as has been proved in Western Australia since the discovery of gold on the Murchison in 1890.
If you think it advisable would you be good enough to test the feeling of the House on the matter ?
When the Territory is taken over will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of appropriating a few thousand pounds to this work which, in the event of the discovery of gold, will do more than anything else to attract immigration?
– When the Territory is taken over, I am perfectly sure Parliament will deal liberally with any proposals for both its agricultural and mining developments.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
I should like to say that I have a petition from the persons affected to present to the Postmaster-General, showing the urgency of the matter.
– I recognise the urgency and importance of the matter to which attention has been drawn. The Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has furnished the following information : -
In the meantime, inquiries will be made by the Department as to the advisability of constructing a departmental telephone line.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Officers’ Visit to England
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions, are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the names, positions, and addresses of the various officers in Melbourne who receive applications from women applying for all employments (including cleaning to clerical duties) under the Commonwealth Government ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Applications for employment in the temporary or permanent service should be addressed to the Secretary, Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner.
The position of Female Cleaner is exempt from the operation of the Public Service Act, and applications therefor should be addressed to the Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, for Central Offices work; to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, for Post Office work; and to the Comptroller-General of Customs for Customs House work ; and to the Secretary, Department of Defence, for work in Defence buildings.
Motion (by Mr. Chanter) agreed to -
That copies of all papers and other documents in connexion with the proposed additions to the General Post Office, Sydney, be laid on the table of this House; also copies of all papers relating to the proposed purchase of the Sydney Markets.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
.- I desire by leave to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to his promise that the motion for the adjournment of the House over the Premiers’ Conference should take precedence of all other business to-day.
– I promised to bring the motion on early, and it will be taken before the afternoon is over.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The office of High Commissioner, which will be created by this Bill, is but a logical sequence of the bringing into being of the Federal Constitution. Under the Constitution all matters of Australian interest and concern are vested in this Parliament. All matters relating to external trade and commerce, and our external relations, are within the control of this Parliament, and it follows that when Australia desires to be heard regarding its position in the United Kingdom it should speak through its own appointed High Commissioner. The office has notbeen created before, but the constant trend of events shows the necessity for its creation without any long delay.
– Who will be the High Commissioner?
– No name has yet been considered. The States, before Federation, had their agencies in the United Kingdom, and those agencies still continue. They have performed a great deal of useful work on behalf of Australia, but of course each of them has been and is concerned with its own State. The necessity now arises to have one officer, who will speak on behalf of Australia as a whole. The High Commissioner will know no State as regards any conflict of one State with another. We believe and hope that he will be able to voice the aspirations, ideals, and sentiments of the Australian people in the way that they should be voiced. He will be able to speak on Australia’s resources as a whole, and to put before the British people the intentions and aims of Australian legislation. Had this office been created earlier, several measures which were passed by this Parliament in the interests of Australia would undoubtedly have been better understood, and Australian ideals would havebeen better appreciated. Parliament is asked to create the office now. The urgency of this measure has been rather increasing as the years have gone by. When he is appointed, the duties of the High Commissioner will be, in the first place, of a diplomatic nature. He will also have financial duties, and, to a certain extent, mercantile duties placed under his control. In his office will be an intelligence department for the whole of Australia, and there will also be cast upon him important social functions, which will often give him a better opportunity of voicing the opinions and feelings, and advancing the interests, of Australia than he could perhaps obtain in any other way. The State AgentsGeneral have done a great deal of work in the past, and even though a Federal High Commissioner be appointed, it is quite conceivable that the State agencies, although we hope to a more limited extent, will still be found necessary. If they should be - and of course the States themselves will be best able to determine that question - the desire of theCommonwealth is that, as far as possible, duties which can be transferred to the administration of the High Commissioner shall be so transferred, and that the Commonwealth shall, as far as possible, represent all Australian interests in the United Kingdom. Up to the present, each State agency has been moulded to meet the exigencies of the State concerned. The result is that particular branches of work are taken up energetically by one or two agencies, and not so much by the others. A State like Queensland, which has a large area of land still available for settlement, has probably paid more attention to immigration than has the State of Tasmania - a difference arising, of course, from the conditions of the two States. Speaking generally, however, the State agencies have certain features in common. They have been the channels of communication between the State Governments and the Colonial Office upon matters affecting State interests which have not gone directly through the Governors of the States. They have been utilized also for the purpose of purchasing railway, defence, and postal material, and all other articles required in the State public services. In a great many instances inspection of the goods takes place in the United Kingdom.
– It is to be hoped that those purchases will become fewer and fewer.
– Another important duty of the State agencies has been the negotiation of loans. They have had to attend to banking business, and. to give information and advice with respect to the resources of their States to persons wishing to invest capital here ; and information with respect to the advantages of the States as places of settlement to emigrants desirous of settling in Australia. Acting commercially these agencies have taken steps to improve the position of Australian products in the United Kingdom. They have dealt with immigration, in which, at present, Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia are, I think, the three States most concerned. ‘
– The States will not allow the High Commissioner to act on their behalf.
– I think it will be found that they will, to some extent. All the agencies have ‘been doing a’ good deal in the way of advertising, and disseminating literature. They have been in touch with various exhibitions for the purpose of advertising the resources of the different States, and in this branch of their work have been supplying much useful information to persons seeking investments in Australia. Generally speaking, they have taken advantage of the opportunity to impart to the British public a knowledge of the nature and resources of their States. Some of the Agents-General have in their offices engineers, or other qualified persons, whose special duty it is to purchase and inspect material required for the construction of State public works. They have been interested in the management of the inscribed and debenture stocks of the States, five of which are dealing through banks in that regard ; while South Australia inscribes its own stock and pays the interest thereon. Those, generally speaking, are the duties at present performed by the State agencies in the United Kingdom. The State Premiers were asked in 1903 to consider the question of the transfer of the duties of the AgentsGeneral to a High Commissioner, and, at a Conference held ih that year, expressed the opinion that the appointment of a High Commissioner would not obviate the necessity of the independent representation in London of the various States. In 1904 the State Governments were again communi cated with, and several of them, while expressing trie opinion that the proposal was then premature, seemed to indicate that there were certain specific duties which could possibly be performed by the High Commissioner on behalf of the States. At a later date, the Agents- General of the States were asked by the Prime Minister to meet and consider the proposal for the establishment of a High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in London. That request was complied with, and’ the whole question was very fully considered. The Agents-General analyzed their duties - a summary of which I have given - described the nature of the work performed by them, and dealt in detail with the question of the transfer of their duties to the office of the High Commissioner. They reported that, theoretically, there was no objection to such a transfer, but several of them were of opinion that it would not be expedient to transfer all the duties then performed by them. The memorandum furnished by them at the request of the Prime Minister was ordered to be printed on 21st December, 1905, and will be found in Vol. II. of the Parliamentary Papers for that year. Dealing with the transfer of the commercial and immigration work then being carried out by their offices, they reported that the commercial representation was not sufficient, and needed to be strengthened. Speaking of Australian trade generally, they reported - Our opinion is that this trade could be extended very considerably to the advantage of Australian producers if adequate efforts were put forward to illustrate our resources.
That work, when undertaken by the High Commissioner, would necessitate further expenditure -
After going very carefully into the question with the officials of the various States, we are disposed to think that, to insure adequate representation of all the producing interests in Australia, and to supply information to inquirers and intending immigrants, a much larger sum than is now expended must be made available.
As to the purchase and inspection of material, they reported -
The inspection of material ordered in London would unmistakably be more cheaply conducted if the whole work were intrusted to one “inspecting staff, though we doubt if, taken as a whole, there would be any increased efficiency.
Another question considered by them was the management of inscribed and debenture stocks, and they reported that if the control of the public debts passed into the hands of the Commonwealth, no present relief in the expenditure incidental to that work could be effected, because of the contractual relations then existing with the banks. The Government Statistician today supplied me with a statement showing that the cost of each of the State AgentGeneral’s offices in the United Kingdom for the year ending 30th June, 1908, is as follows: - New South Wales, £10,215; Victoria, . £5,000 ; Queensland, £8,832 ; South Australia, £3,532 ; Western Australia, £6,004; Tasmania, £1,410; or a total of £34,993.
– Does that estimate cover salaries ?
– It covers salaries, contingencies, and rent, or, in other words, the whole cost of the representation of the States in the United Kingdom.
– What proportion of that expenditure would be saved by the appointment of a High Commissioner?
– According to the report presented by the States Agents-General in 1905 there would not be a material saving on the total expenditure if the whole of the existing services were transferred to the High Commissioner, but there would certainly be increased efficiency. They were of opinion that the branches of their offices having control of the advertising of the resources of the States and of commercial matters, were, as a whole, insufficiently equipped. Their estimate of the cost of the High Commissioner’s office - and it is a rather high one - was , £38,750 per annum.
– Did they furnish particulars.
– Yes; the details will be found on page 6 of their report. They allowed’ for the appointment of a High Commissioner at a salary of £3,500; secretary, £1,250; four departmental secretaries at £550 per annum each; two assistant secretaries, sixteen clerks and also Juniors, and messengers. That estimate was on the basis of the complete transfer of the work then carried on by them to the office of a High Commissioner. It was an increase upon the actual expenditure at that time, because, to use their own words -
Several of the present offices are undoubtedly undermanned and the starts underpaid, and would need raising to the efficiency of the most progressive office ; the commercial State agencies would require to be greatly strengthened and at considerable cost.
– In other words, all the present Agents-General would be recalled, and yet the present cost increased.
– Because larger spheres of activity would be entered by the High Commissioner. They pointed out that -
Each State has its special feature and interest, and, under present conditions, the only ones adequately represented are the dairy and frozen meat industries, and even these have no representation outside London ; and we do not overstate the needs of the situation when we say that a sum of £10,000 would not be more than sufficient to secure that attention in the United Kingdom for the Australian trade which its circumstances demand.
– They made a very moderate estimate.
– I think it is as regards this feature of the work.
– It depends upon the duties to be undertaken by the High Commissioner.
– That estimate contemplated their own extinction and the transfer of all their duties to the High Commissioner. Some honorable members may’ consider it excessive, but it was furnished in the light of their knowledge of the duties of the Agents-General in the United Kingdom.
– Does the honorable member believe that the Agents-General would abolish themselves?
– I have already mentioned that they reported that there was a division of opinion amongst them as to the expediency of the transfer of all their duties to the office of a High Commissioner. I commend this report to honorable members, because they will obtain from it a very adequate conception of the duties now being undertaken by the Agents-General of the States. In 1906, this Government found it necessary to appoint a representative to look after its interests in the United Kingdom, especially in connexion with the purchase of defence material. Until then, it had employed the services of the Agents-General. Captain Collins was sent to London, primarily to exercise supervision in connexion with orders for war material, to secure their prompt and proper execution and shipment, and collect information on defence matters generally. It had been found that stores were often wrongly supplied, old patterns being sent instead of new, and that delay occurred in the forwarding of material and documents. Since his appointment, considerable improvement has resulted. Then the Treasurer, having large sums of money to pay over in London, had an officer appointed to look after those matters. At present, between £250,000 and £300,000 a year is paid through our London office. Work is also done there for the Department of the Postmaster-General. A great deal of the material used by that Department is forwarded direct to Australia, where it is inspected, but some of it is purchased through the London office. The recent mail contract was arranged through our representative there, and similar matters have been attended to. The advertising of the resources of Australia forms part of the work of the office. Information, too, is supplied to persons making inquiries respecting Australian trade, investments, and’ commercial matters generally, while Australian visitors to England avail themselves of the information which is always readily supplied. Thus the office is appreciated by the British public and the Australian abroad, and serves this Government in various ways. At the present time, the staff consists of Captain Collins, a chief clerk, a supply officer, a paying officer, a clerk of records, a registration officer, one clerk, three typists, a messenger, and a storeman.
– Are the clerks English or Australian ?
– Several are Australians, but the typists, who get about £60 a year, are English. The salaries paid amount to £2,200, rent and contingencies to £2,550, and there is an allowance of £150 to the secretary, making the total annual costof the office £4,900. But, while good work has been, and is being done, it is thought by Ministers that the time has come for the appointment of a High Commissioner, who would command more influence, as representing and speaking for Australia, than can be possessed by an official. Captain Collins has been zealous and industrious, and deserves great praise for the work done and the tact shown. A High Commissioner, however, could better voice Australian feeling. His most important duties would be of a diplomatic nature. He would have a good deal to do in connexion with negotiations between the Government and the Colonial Office in matters which do not ordinarily pass through the GovernorGeneral. He would also have to attend conferences, such as are continually being held. Some of these are of an international character. There are eight or ten now sitting, or to meet very shortly. The Imperial Conference has become a permanent arrangement. It assembles every four years, and its business goes over from one meeting to another. The High Commissioner will have to observe and inform us in regard to legislation affecting Australian interests, commercial treaties, and other like matters. He will also have to deal with financial questions. If the debts of the States are transferred to the Commonwealth, which I hope will happen soon, his work will be exceedingly important, and, in the process of transfer, he will be of great assistance in obtaining and forwarding advice.
– He must be a man of great versatility.
– I think that Australia can produce a man who will have the necessary capacity. It will be necessary, too, to have in the office of the High Commissioner a branch to carry out duties of a mercantile nature, connected with the purchase of material required for defence, telegraphs, and other services. For this work the High Commissioner will have an expert officer under his control. He will also supervise the officers appointed to supply information respecting the progress of Australia, and will be expected to combat the misrepresentation which occasionally occurs respecting Australian affairs. The advertising which will be done in the United Kingdom will depend largely upon the policy adopted by this Parliament. We may advertise generally, to convey to the British public a proper conception of the financial security and stability of the country. We may advertise to increase our trade, for which there is ample scope; to induce others to invest capital here; and to attract tourists. What advertising is done to secure immigrants must depend on the immigration policy adopted In any case, we must advertise largely. A great deal is now being done to inform the British public regarding legislation on such matters as the Tariff, the Commerce Act, and the Immigration Restriction Act, and the work will increase as our Acts increase. The High Commissioner will have social duties to perform, and will be given an opportunity to speak on public occasions regarding the progress and advancement of the Commonwealth, when his views will get a wide circulation. Even though the States may not agree to transfer to the Commonwealth office all the work now done by their Agents-General, the High Commissioner will have much useful work to do. His duties will be similar to those of the Canadian High Commissioner, but, as the
Agents- General report, are likely to become greater. We hope, however, that the States will co-operate with us, and transfer as much as possible of their work to the Commonwealth office.
– There is not much hope of that.
– I think that there is. Several letters which have been written indicate the likelihood of it. On the commercial side, the Commonwealth, with a competent staff in the London office, will be able to act for Australia as a whole. We have exercised our powers under the Commerce Act to deal with the question of exports; and it seems a logical step to take the view that the produce sent to the British market is the produce of Australia, and not the produce of a particular State.
– The States will not give up their own commercial agents.
– What we hope is that the States will be able to co-operate with the Commonwealth, when, instead of having conflicting agencies, extolling one State at the expense of another, all concerned will be inspired by one Australian sentiment.
– Does the Minister really expect that?
– Yes, I believe it will be so, and our experience justifies the belief. I see no reason why the States should not combine and work in harmony with the Commonwealth, so as to secure better and more regular trade and commercial results. At the present time, our trade with the United Kingdom is an important and growing one, and if our officers are the right kind of men, they will be able to extend the trade still further, thus acting in the best interests of all the producers of Australia. There is not the slightest reason why there should be six inspecting officers inspecting six sets of material for public works in this country. A few competent men acting together might do the whole of the work for the Commonwealth. Then, in regard to advertising, I think the Commonwealth and the States might be able to work in harmony through the High Commissioner’s office. The honorable member for Boothby asked whether we had come to any agreement with the States in this regard, and my answer to that is in the negative. I have to add, however, that several of the States have communicated with the Commonwealth, showing a willingness to co-operate, particularly New South Wales, while Western Australia has expressed approval to a limited extent.
Only one State, I think, has refused to act with the Commonwealth in this connexion. I can see great advantage in the Commonwealth, through the High Commissioner, undertaking the advertising of the resources of the country. In the first place, it is better that our resources should be advertised as a whole, and not as those of any individual States. In the United Kingdom, Australia is not in friendly competition with any particular province of Canada, but with Canada as a united people, and when South Africa is united, she also will be represented in London as one great community. There is no doubt that if we can place our resources as a whole before the British people, Australia need not fear comparison with any part of the Empire, whether in regard to production, manufacture, trade, or in any other respect. It stands to reason that if States like Tasmania and Queensland are thrown into competition with the whole of a Dominion, they must, of necessity, appear exceedingly small. Considerable economy can be effected by combined action, if, instead of duplicating advertising, the business is all conducted from one office, seeing that a regular system can be planned, and the latest information made available in the United Kingdom and on the Continent. Of course, the Commonwealth will have to work with the States; and if any State is desirous of having its resources made public in a certain way, the Commonwealth, through the High Commissioner, can well undertake the duty. I see not the slightest reason for any conflict between the Commonwealth and the States. If the resources of the States are good, those resources are a Commonwealth possession, whether they consist of rich fertile lands in Queensland or Victoria, or good fruit country in Western Australia. Such resources are an Australian asset, and we should have no other object than to place before the British public, in the fairest and best possible light, the advantages of Australia as a whole. It may, of course, happen that there are particular trades or pursuits which succeed in certain States, and to these the Commonwealth might be asked to direct emphatic attention ; but there could be no objection to a State undertaking the work itself. The great object is to prevent duplication, and to disseminate the latest information in the widest possible fashion. If the plan is to succeed, there must be connected with the High Commissioner’s office skilled men, many of whom will have to be trained in Australia, and familiar with Australian conditions. In any case, it is perfectly clear that the officials connected with the High Commissioner must be of a high class ; and, if this be borne in mind, I believe the office will inspire confidence in the States, and will prove a distinct advantage to Australia. The position of the High Commissioner will be no sinecure. He will have to fulfil important duties, and lead an active and strenuous life. The Bill consists of a few short clauses, the first of which empowers the GovernorGeneral to appoint some person to be High Commisioner. The term of office is to be five years, though the person appointed will be eligible for re-appointment. The High Commissioner cannot be removed from his office, except for misbehaviour or incapacity, and then only by the GovernorGeneral upon a joint address of both Houses.
– Who is to be the judge of incapacity?
– The Governor-General, as honorable members know, means the GovernorGeneral in Council, or the Executive.
– In case of misbehaviour or incapacity the GovernorGeneral could not be the judge.
– Clause 4 of the Bill is as follows : -
The High Commissioner shall -
act as representative and resident agent of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom, and in that capacity exercise such powers and perform such duties as are conferred upon and assigned to him by the Governor-General ;
carry out such instructions as he receives from the Minister respecting the commercial, financial, and general interests of the Commonwealth and the States in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
Of course, the functions of the High Commissioner will develop from time to time with the growth and needs of the Commonwealth, and we cannot now define all the duties he is likely to be called upon to perform. Clause 5 enables the High Commissioner to work in co-operation with the States, the idea being, of course, that we shall, as tar as possible, invite the States to utilize the services of the office. The salary is fixed at £3,000 per annum, as compared with the Canadian salary of about , £2,000 and allowances.
– Lord Strathcona is a millionaire.
– It happens that the present High Commissioner. for Canada is possessed of wealth.
– Does the Minister think that this Bill gives the State Governments the power to deal directly with the High Commissioner ?
– The usual proceeding would be for the States to make their arrangements through the Commonwealth Government.
– Is it proposed to give the chief permanent official in the office £1,500 a year?
– No salaries are yet proposed for the subordinate officers. The staff that will be required, and the functions they will be called upon to perform, will greatly depend on the arrangements, if any, we make with the States. In addition to the salary, it “is proposed to give the High Commissioner an allowance not exceeding £2,000 for the purpose of an official residence, and also travelling expenses.
– Would it not be better to have a fixed sum for an official residence ?
– I think not.
– How does the salary compare with the salaries paid to other similar officials?
– It will be the highest salary paid to any Commissioner.
– It will be the highest in the world for such duties.
– It is only a fair and reasonable salary for the services, and the kind of man we hope to secure for the position. There will be two kinds of officers attached to the High Commissioner. There will be permanent officers appointed under the Public Service Act, and also special officers not under the Act required from time to time for certain work, and these the High Commissioner is to be empowered to appoint. I have shown generally the position of the High Commissioner under the Bill: I ask Honorable members to bear in mind that, as I stated before, the functions of the office must depend on the arrangements, if any, we make with the States, but whether any arrangements be made or not, a High Commissioner is at present a necessity for Australian purposes. His duties will be generally such as are now performed by the Agents- General for the States; and what other functions may devolve on him will depend on the future. We hope the States will co-operate, and I ask the
House to pass the Bill, believing the time has come when we should have some one to speak on behalf of Australia asa whole ; to explain the nature of our legislation, and represent fairly the ideals and aspirations of the Australian people. The High Commissioner will be able to promote trade and commerce to a greater extent in the way of opening up new markets, and giving advice in regard to methods of export, the nature of the Imperial trade, and so forth.
– Will the High Commissioner be able to do all these things?
– At the present time the State Agents-General are doing this work; and if the honorable member looks at the Queensland report, he will find such topics dealt with very fully. The difference is that the High Commissioner will be able to speak not for one State, but for Australia as a Commonwealth. As regards the promotion of our trade and commerce he will be able to do infinite good, and, speaking as he will in his official capacity of our position and contrasting it with that of other countries, he will be able to give us that prestige, dignity, and status in the United Kingdom to which, as a nation, we are entitled.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from: 4th August (vide page 2049), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That thisBill be now read a second time.
.- As a kind of preface to the remarks which I intend to make on this Bill, I shall endeavour to show the House what might have been. I am afraid honorable members do not appreciate as they ought the offer that has been made by South Australia to the Commonwealth. Have they considered the position in which this Parliament might have found itself but for the attitude which South Australia took up during the period in which she has held the Territory? If she had so chosen, she could have handed it over to a chartered syndicate, whether foreign or British. On one occasion, when the Honorable Thomas Playford was Agent-General in London, South Australia was offered £10,000,000 for the Territory by a syndicate, the only stipulation being that the syndicate should be allowed to employ any kind of labour it liked. South Australia might have done as Queensland did, and created a. black spot in the north of this Continent, by the introduction of indent labour, such as Kanakas, Chinese, Javanese, Japanese, or the Indian Tamil. At one time an Act was actually passed by the South Australian Parliament for the purpose of introducing the Indian Tamil to develop the Territory.
– I draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I am endeavouring to impress upon honorable members a comparison between the condition of affairs to-day and what might have happened if South Australia had not protected these great northern areas in the interests of the whole of the people of Australia. Let it be said to the credit of the people of that little State that, although they had carried the burden of the Territory for years, they almost rose in a body, when the Act to which I have referred was passed, to protest against the introduction of that class of labour. I remember how, in 1890, the late Mr. V. L. Solomon travelled from the extreme north through all the States to protest against the introduction of alien labour into the Territory. We who represent South Australia are not here as mendicants or suppliants ; rather we believe that we are offering to the Commonwealth one of the best bargains that it will ever have the opportunity of accepting. The people of South Australia recognise that in offering the Territory to the Commonwealth they are offering it to their own people, but I venture to say that if any body outside asked what is being asked now by the representatives of other States South Australia would not. entertain the proposition for five minutes. We of South Australia have struggled for years to maintain in the Territory one of the basic principles of the foundation ofthe Commonwealth, and at cur own cost have guarded the Territory from alienation and from contamination by the introduction of coloured races. The first question which the Commonwealth Parliament had to consider was the removal of the black spot which had already appeared in Queensland. Every person who uses sugar to-day is contributing his mite towards the cost of eradicating that stain. Had South Australia chosen to agree to the introduction of coloured labour in the Territory, the Commonwealth might to-day have had to face a very different situation in that great lone land, with the immense possibilities of which any one who travels over it must be impressed. The Commonwealth might have had to face the position of the Territory being held by a syndicate, with a railway constructed by the syndicate, and more than half ot the land alienated to the syndicate under land grant conditions. Had that happened, the Commonwealth would either have had to consider the possibility of buying out the syndicate at enormous expense, or to abandon for many years, if not for all time, the White Australia policy. But to-day South Australia offers the Commonwealth no less than 334,000,000 acres of Crown lands, much of it equal to the best land in Australia, at a price practically of twopence per acre, without including the railway. Is there any other place under the British flag where a similar proposition could be made? I venture to say that this is the last opportunity which the Commonwealth Parliament will have to consider that offer. If it is rejected I am sure the South Australian Parliament will never again be allowed to barter that great area for the sum which is now asked for it. We have to face the question: “Is this great empty north a menace to the peace of Australia?” Does its emptiness constitute a real or imaginary weakness in our defence? Honorable members, if they calmly face the issue, must come to the conclusion that it does constitute a real danger, situated as it is within from six to nine days’ steam from Java, with its 30,000,000 people, China with its 450,000,000, Japan with its 46,000,000, the Philippines, Sumatra, and Borneo, all teeming with populations which would be very glad to secure the Territory and would do remarkably well there. All military and na.val experts agree that the unpeopled state of that great land is a danger to the peace of Australia and a standing menace to the maintenance of a White Australia policy. There can, therefore, be no doubt in the minds of honorable members that the Commonwealth must take over the Territory if only for purposes of defence. The next question that I would ask honorable members to consider is, “ What are the potentialities of the Territory for future settlement”? Some of us who visited it two years ago rode across country for about twelve days, and passed over some magnificent land. I remember that the honorable member for Illawarra, who in the earlier stages of the trip had formed a very unfavorable idea of the Territory, said to me when we were sitting around the camp fire on the last night of our travels - “I am satisfied now that there are thousands of square miles of country in the Northern Territory that is equal to some of the very best land in the Illawarra district.” Some people have decried the mineral possibilities of the Northern Territory, because a Kalgoorlie has not yet been discovered “there. Time will prove, however, that enormous mineral deposits exist there. Some honorable members on the occasion of the parliamentary visit to the Northern Territory saw for themselves why many mining enterprises had failed ; but indifferent as those efforts have been, over £2,500,000 worth of gold, copper, tin, and silver has been won. I am sure that that does not even represent the value of the actual gold yield, because it is well known that the Chinese have again and again defeated the efforts of the Customs authorities to secure correct returns as to the gold won there and sent away. In connexion with many mining enterprises in the Territory, there has been a wicked waste of money.
– That is quite in keeping with the records of English companies.
– They have been a curse to the Territory, because their failure has given it a bad name. The Yam Creek Mining Company could expend from £2,000 to £4,000 upon a residence for the manager, it could find money to construct a billiard-room and to equip it with billiard-tables for the amusement of its staff; it could import magnificent winding and battery plants, as well as cyanide and electric lighting machinery ; but it could not provide any funds for developmental work. The funds of the company were exhausted on surface improvements, and nothing remained to develop the mine itself. Such is also the history of the Zapopan Mining Company. The mine was carried to :i depth of 250 feet, and then worked by Chinese tributors, who obtained good yields from it. In company with a Mr. Styles, a resident of Brock’s Creek, I examined) the books with a view of ascertaining what were the yields obtained by the tributors from the stone which they put through the battery, and I discovered that Stone taken from the deepest level yielded as much as 2 ounces to the ton. And yet that mine was abandoned ! There are some who say that the gold-bearing reefs in the Territory do not extend to any depth ; but a bore put down at Pine Creek within the last two years showed the existence of gold at a depth of something ‘ like 2,000 feet. Boring operations have also proved that gold is to be found at a great depth in other parts of the Territory. In the course of a speech which was being made on this question a few days ago, the honorable member for Robertson interjected that there were no tin lodes in the Territory. I do not know whether he was amongst the parliamentary party which travelled from Pine Creek to Horseshoe Creek, ‘and thence to Mount Todd, but I believe that he visited Mount Wells, which is a veritable mountain of tin and copper.
– I saw the West Arm.
– At Horseshoe Creek there is a large belt of tin-bearing country going down to a depth of 150 feet. I have here some notes which I made when we travelled through the Territory, and I propose to quote from: them a few figures as to the yields obtained lay the New Venture Syndicate, which erected a small plant at Horseshoe in 1906. From 54- tons they obtained 55 tons of concentrates; from 417 tons, 30 tons of concentrates ; and from 149 tons, 23 tons 1.8 cwt. of concentrates, and so forth. Concentrates were then worth £100 per ton. True fissure lodes were found, and in some cases were worked at a depth of 145 feet. At Mount Todd extensive lodes running up to 50 feet in width have been found, and a vast stretch of country there offers, in my opinion, great possibilities to mining enterprise. The reason why the output had to be reduced to concentrates in the case of the New Venture Syndicate was the difficulty of cartage. The honorable member for Robertson has referred to the great stretch of tin-bearing country running out from West Arm.
– How many years did it take the New. Venture Syndicate to obtain the yields to which the honorable member has referred ?
– I emoted those returns only lo show that lode tin was obtained there. True fissure lodes were found returning from 4 per cent, to 20 per cent, of crude ore. There is a vast extent of micaceous tin-bearing country stretching out from West Arm, but we do not urge that the Northern Territory should be taken over by the Commonwealth merely because of its great undeveloped mineral resources. No part of Australia has a greater stock-carrying capacity than has the table-land country adjoining the Queensland) border. With the establishment of railway communication, what is, so to speak, a mere corner of the Territory, will soon carry more sheep than are now to be found in Victoria. Something has been said as to the climatic conditions of the Territory, by critics, some of whom have never visited the North, and others who are wilfully trying to mislead the people, declaring it to be a barren, waterless land. To these critics, Mr. Lindsay, than whom no one has had greater opportunities of judging the capability of tha Northern Territory, replies in to-day’s issue of the Argus. With an area of over 500,000 square miles, there are only 3,600 square miles in the Northern Territory where the rainfall is less than 10 inches, whereas in New South Wales there are 81,000 square miles, and in Queensland 135,000 square miles coming within that category. Then there are 213,000 square miles in the Northern Territory with a rainfall of from 10 inches to 20 inches, as against 116,000 square miles in New South Wales and 225,000 square miles in Queensland. There are 96,790 square miles in the Northern Territory with a rainfall of from 2c inches to 30 inches, as against only 77,000 square miles in New South Wales and 173,0^0 square miles in Queensland.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I think that I have given a sufficient answer to those who declare that the Northern Territory is destitute of anything like a reasonable rainfall. Those who have never left the railways have, naturally, but an indifferent opinion of ‘the country, but it was my pleasure, accompanied by five other honorable members, to make a long ride from the Katherine in a south-easterly direction. The Katherine district has a rainfall of from 30 to 35 inches, and is fine basalt country, covered with kangaroo grass, and giving every indication of fertility, and suitability for the production of cereals. We crossed a number of rivers. Almost every hour we discovered large billabongs, and fine running streams, making their way towards the. Daly River. On them were thousands of ducks, geese, and other aquatic birds. We were not far from the Flora Falls, where the possibilities of irrigation on a large scale are as good as they are anywhere in Australia. We crossed rich meadow land, teeming with game, and at last came to the Daly. From there we struck across, through Mr. Burns’ country, and there saw the first signs of settlement. A booklet issued by the Northern Territory League is headed The Great Lone Land. That is what the country seemed to us. Everywhere were possibilities of settlement, and yet not the sign of a fence, or of a white man.
– We saw only one white man in ten days.
– He was a stockman, coming back from the Victoria. We met no one else until we came to Spring Creek. When we arrived at Mr. Burns’ division fence, we noticed that, on one side, the cane and kangaroo gass was so high that our horses could scarcely get through it, while, on the other side, was beautiful succulent feed, which, at a little distance, resembled a wheat crop of about three months’ growth. This we thought to be the result of burning off, because, in. that part of the world, there is so much moisture that the grass grows very high within a month of being burnt off. At one place, the honorable member for South Sydney set fire to the grass to take a photograph of a magnetic ant hill, and when I passed there about four weeks later, with Lord Northcote’s party, I noticed that the grass had grown quite high. When I questioned Mr. Burns on the subject, he said that there had not been a fire on the land since the fence was erected, and that the improvement in the quality of the grass was the result of stocking. He had been in the Territory for fifteen years. He was originally a butcher. When he went there, his capital was practically a butcher’s knife, a good constitution, and plenty of courage. Now he possesses 1,700 head of cattle, 500 or 600 head of horses, and he, and his wife and family, speak in terms of the highest praise of the country and its climate. Along the coast there is a strip of something over 1,200 miles in length, and varying in breadth from 16 to 120 miles, where the conditions are tropical ; but further back the climate is as good as in any part of Victoria.
– Is Mr. Burns’ country equal to the Katherine country?
– It is much better than a good deal of the Katherine country, though some of it is similar to that country. We went from there through what is called the Black Jungle, to Mr. Laurie’s country, passing on the way fine herds of buffalo, and many wild horses. The buffalo grass, which is seen in every garden in the State, is indigenous to that part of the world, and the buffalo feeding on it are as fat as they can be. The lakes and great swamps contain millions of black and white geese and other game, and abundance of fish, including the barramundie, which is much like our Murray cod. and varies in weight from a few lbs. to a cwt. As a result, the blacks there are some of the finest I have seen in Australia. They are great powerful men, and, probably, no honorable member has a better chest measurement. All that is asked for this magnificent Territory, including the existing railways, and the estimated cost of the proposed new line, is less than sevenpence an acre. If onlyone-sixth of it were good country, the bargain would be an advantageous one. The little piece of tableland on the Queensland border is worth more than the amount we are asked to pay for the whole of the Territory. We are not legislating for to-day alone. Let honorable members consider what this country will be worth fifty years hence. We shall be blind if we miss the opportunity to acquire it. At present, we are cramped for want of land. We talk about encouraging immigration, but the lands of Australia are in the hands of the States. If we held the Northern Territory, we could proceed to develop it on our own lines. The only railway that will develop it is a. railway through South Australia. A railway to Camooweal would not develop one-tenth of it. In the Macdonnell Range country, horses do magnificently. At the last sales, buyers from India and various parts of the Commonwealth competed eagerly for horses bred there, and some of them brought nearly £100 a pair. There is a stretch of country capable of carrying a larger population than that of Victoria at the present time, and with a climate equal to the best climate in Victoria. The winters are certainly more invigorating and healthy than those of Victoria. Yet some persons say that the Territory is not suitable for white men to live in. I am amazed at the attitude of the Melbourne press in regard to this matter. Why it takes exception to the construction of a railway through South Australia for the development of the Northern Territory is beyond my comprehension. If we take over the Territory, we shall do so to develop it, not for the advantage of Queensland, South Australia, or New South Wales, but for that of the whole Commonwealth. Here we have a proposal to construct a line 1,000 miles into other States in order to make a connexion with the Northern Territory. There must be a railway, and, in order to fulfil its purpose of development, it must go right through the Territory.
– The difference in the distance, as between the two routes from Adelaide to Port Darwin, is 219 miles.
– The honorable member falls into the same error that a large number of other honorable members have been guilty of. They look at this question purely from a parochial stand-point- from the point of view that the line may bring trade from some other port into the ports of the State they represent. I impress cn honorable members the fact that we are not justified in taking over this territory if it be simply to serve a Queensland port or a South Australian port ; the only justification for spending the taxpayers’ money is the development of the resources of the Territory. Of a total distance of 1,635 miles of this other proposed railway via Camooweal, over 1,000 miles is outside the Territory.
– The primary object is, not to run the line through the Territory, but to get to Port Darwin.
– The primary object is, or ought to be, the development of the Northern Territory, where, with some expenditure, of course, there is the prospect of settling a very large population.
– It is better to connect the Territory with four States than with one.
– The honorable member entirely misses my point, which is that the only justification for the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money is the development of the Territory. Does the honorable member take the view that quick access to Port Darwin, even from the defence point of view, is the only point to be considered? While I do not seek to draw a hardandfast line as to when this line shall be constructed, I do say that there must be no more hanky-panky work. Only a little while ago I received a telegram from a manat Pine Creek, who had wished to have a township lot, and had ordered the timber and material for the building of his cottage. When the timber came, there arrived on the same train a letter stating that the Commonwealth had decided that no more land must be alienated in the Northern Territory, but that he could have a permit for a year to build a house. The general feeling in South Australia is that there must be some finality in regard to the Northern Territory. At present, it is impossible to offer proper inducements to settlers ; and I may point out that it was in consequence of questions asked in the Senate that allotments of land are not now allowed to be sold. If I ‘were the South Australian Premier I would have a railway from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Range inside twelve months.
– If South Australia will develop the Territory, why need the Commonwealth do so? .
– I have already said that we are not here as suppliants for this Territory to be taken over, but we believe that the Commonwealth, consisting of over 4,000,000 people, is in a better position than the State of South Australia to carry out the work’ of development. South Australia has kept the Territory in the state it is to-day, so that it could be handed over unfettered by syndicates, and without a black spot. While a White Australia is the policy of the Commonwealth, it should not be left to 300,000 people to keep the danger doorway clear; and there is an obligation on the Commonwealth Parliament to assist, at any rate, in protecting this country. We in South Australia believe that for every pound we are asking, the Commonwealth, in a few years, will receive £5.
– More than that !
– Yes, and in very few years. Just imagine, land at less than twopence an acre ! Here let me read a letter signed by Mr. Lindsay, and written by him in reply to some critics -
Do you really appreciate the size of the country, or even dream ‘of its potentialities? We are afraid not. Remember there are 334,000,000 acres of unalienated land, that there are 77,000,000 acres tropical lands abundantly watered, with every facility for irrigation from the many rivers.
There are sixteen rivers ir “the Northern Territory navigable for from fifty to eight miles ; indeed, I never saw a country with greater water facilities. Mr. Lindsay went on to say -
There are 80,000,000 acres of first class pastoral land fit for sheep, cattle and horses, and almost certainly for wheat ; having a rainfall of from 15 to 40 inches per annum. Again, there are 87,000,000 acres of good pastoral lands very suitable for sheep, horses and cattle and agriculture, with a rainfall of from 6 to 15 inches, to say nothing of the possibilities of the known metalliferous areas.
– Are those rivers long or short ?
– With the honorable member for Maribyrnong I have travelled in a boat from the mouth of the Daly for eighty miles. Naturally, in the upper reaches the water was shallower, but I may say that the mouth is fully three miles wide, and that nearly every point on the way up shows a magnificent stream of from 100 to 200 yards wide.
– Is it tidal?
– The river is naturally affected by the tide, because at the mouth the rise is eighteen feet. For the first twenty miles or so the water is more or less salt, but certainly inside thirty miles it is absolutely fresh. When the tide comes in it rushes up like a wall three or four feet high, staying the current until the turn. I promised to conclude at half -past four o’clock, and that hour having arrived, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
. -I move -
That upon its rising for this week, the House adjourn until Wednesday, 25th inst.
The object of this adjournment has been explained by the Prime Minister. As honorable members know, an important Conference of Premiers is to assemble in Melbourne this week, to dealwith matters of great interest to the Commonwealth as a whole. The most important question to be considered is that of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. This question has now been under review for the last seven years, and, from time to time, various opinions have been expressed regarding it. It is to be hoped, however, that the financial question is now nearing solution.
– Does the honorable member think there is any necessity to adjourn ?
– Yes. Commonwealth Ministers have been invited to attend the Conference, andit will be necessary for them to meet and consider questions from time to time. It is highly advisable, in the interests of the House, that the motion be agreed to.
-i understood that the Prime Minister was to move this motion.
– He will be here, and will speak directly.
.- I was astounded when I heard that the Government intended to ask the House to adjourn for five days in connexion with the Premiers’ Conference. After what we have experienced for several weeks, I ought not to have been astonished at anything; but I was astonished in this case, in view of the position which the Prime Ministerhas taken up from the beginning of the year in regard to the work of the present Parliament. I feel strongly on this subject, because I was one of those whom the Prime Minister, then leading the Liberal party, asked to join in a request to the then Prime Minister to call Parliament together earlier than he intended. That was in the month of April, and he desired that Parliament should be called together earlier than the end of the succeeding month. When he was asked what the telegram which he had sent to the honorable member for Wide Bay meant, he is reported in the Age of the 6th April, to have stated -
It means that we are taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves against reproaches from the people on the score of not being able to get through the business of Parliament. We want to make it perfectly plain that our own business now before us will require a long and energetic session this year, either to do justice to it or to prepare for an appeal to the people next year.
He is also reported in the Age of 8th April to have said at Sydney -
He had urged all along with so much to deal with and with the finances in theirpresent condition it was imperatively necessary that there should be an early meeting of Parliament. If the congested session was to be feared and the disturbed election to be feared as following it came about, it could not be said that they had not given a warning of what was likely to come.
No one would think, in face of those expressions of opinion, that the same man has done practically nothing but block the performance of business in this House ever since. Parliament was not called together earlier than the Leader of the Labour party intended, and not as early by a month as the present Prime Minister wished. Instead of pressing on with business, however, instead of doing his utmost to utilize the time which, according to him was even then far too short, we had, in the first place, the defeat of the late Ministry. That lost five days, from the 26th May to the 2nd June. He then took a Ministerial adjournment of three weeks, although the two preceding Ministries, including one of his own, thought it necessary to take only two weeks. That meant twelve days more of parliamentary time wasted. When the House met again, we had a Ministerial statement, and the continuation of the debate on the Address-in-Reply. We next had a Supply Bill, .which took two days ; but everybody knows that it would have been passed in one day but for the action of the Government in insisting on having Supply for two months, although the Treasurer, who introduced the Bill, said it did not matter whether he had one or two months. One day was lost there. As soon as that was over, we had a no-confidence debate, which took twelve days. That was a necessary consequence of the putting out of the Fisher Government, and the new Government must be held responsible for the time occupied on it. We had another day wasted in connexion with the motion about the reprinting of members’ speeches from Hansard. That was undoubtedly clue to the action of the Ministerial party, and I shall have something to say later about the way in .which they performed on that occasion. That makes altogether an actual loss of thirty-one days. A considerable amount of time is to be taken up to-day in discussing this extraordinary proposal. That brings the total up to thirty-two days ; and now we are to be asked to adjourn for five more parliamentary days, which will make thirty-seven. For that the Government are undoubtedly responsible, although the Prime Minister wanted Parliament to ‘be called together for a long and energetic session away back in April last. The present proposal is so extraordinary and astounding that it has broken up the fusion which existed in the Melbourne press in regard to the present Government. I hope that that break-up will be permanent, for the sake of the electors, because they will then have an opportunity of hearing something that they do not hear now as to what is going on in this Parliament. The Age on Tuesday said -
But nothing which the Opposition has done in its ceaseless motions proposed to no purpose . . . is more culpable than the proposal of the Government to adjourn the national Parliament while the State Premiers confer. and concluded the article in these words -
Now that fault is to be openly adopted by the Government, and a fortnight’s time - which can never be made up - is to be ruthlessly sacrificed for nothing, at the same time that the dignity of the Commonwealth Parliament is seriously compromised in the adjournment. The attitude of Mr. Fisher at Hobart towards the Premiers was the correct one. But this proposal to adjourn the Federal Parliament in the midst of its work in deference to them is losing sight of the self-respect which a great Legislature has no right to play with.
So alarmed has the Argus, the other member of the late press fusion, become over the occasional breaking away of members of the Ministerial party - and I confess that I do not blame them- for breaking away, in view of the shifting and changing manner in .which the business has been conducted by the Government during the last few days - that to-day it cracks the whip over them thus -
But there have been several instances of members on the Ministerial side making a parade . of their independence in small matters -
There is to be no independence on that side now. They are to be bound down as tight as any caucus could ever bind them. That has to be remembered, not merely by the honorable members for Dalley and Robertson, but also by the latest to parade their independence, the honorable members for Flinders and Parkes. The Argus goes on to say -
It is mere folly and perversity to withhold the usual tribute of party discipline to the leaders.
Why is this adjournment asked for? Last year, when the Premiers’ Conference was meeting in Melbourne and we had a strenuous session, there was no suggestion of an adjournment. The Prime Minister and the then Treasurer - the honorable member for Hume - attended the Conference on the Monday and in the forenoon of other days. They said all they wished to say, and! the Premiers afterwards discussed among themselves what the Com- . monwealth representatives had said to them. That arrangement caused no trouble whatever. I am sorry the honorable member for Corio was not in the House when I read the leader in which the Argus cracks the whip, because he might have been expected to “ parade his independence “ on this motion, seeing that last year, when the Prime Minister talked about even attending the Conference, he asked the following questions -
Is it true, as stated in the press, that the Prime Minister proposes to meet the representatives of the States now assembled in Conference, to discuss Commonwealth matters with them? Does he npt think that such matters should be decided by the representatives of the Commonwealth rather than by members of State Cabinets?
– He has been tamed since then.
– The whip has been cracked over him, and after being warned not to parade his independence he will probably vote for the adjournment now proposed. Ministers cannot make the excuse that they are not able to leave the House because they cannot get pairs. The Leader of the Opposition openly offered them pairs last week at that table.
– When was this?
– On one occasion when the honorable member was absent.
– The Leader of the Opposition, to my knowledge, refused a pair for a sick man.
– A great deal of the time of the House is wasted by members who do not attend regularly coming here and raising questions which have been settled in their absence. The Leader of the Opposition last Thursday night offered pairs to the Prime Minister for those who had to attend the Conference.
– He said it openly.
– He said! it openly at that table, and if he had not done so, members of the party in this corner were prepared to give pairs. Ministers, therefore, cannot raise even that miserable excuse for putting off the business of Parliament for a week.
– We ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– If we met next week, what business could be transacted? We are promised the Budget to-morrow night, and next week could be devoted to a solid discussion of it. That could go on, and there is no reason why it should not, even during the temporary absence of Ministers.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the House would not want an adjournment after the Budget speech was delivered?
– Yes, probably an adjournment from the Thursday until the following Tuesday’, as was done in past years. There has never been a week’s adjournment asked for previously.
– I appeal to honorable members to refrain from making interjections. They will only cause trouble, and make it almost impossible for the honorable member to proceed with his speech in the way he desires.
– Some rather peculiar statements were made last Thursday by the Prime Minister in support of his request that this adjournment should be agreed to.
Referring to the question of finance, he said -
A consideration of that question and a knowledge of the intentions of this Parliament, are therefore of the utmost importance to the States.
How are the Premiers of the States to obtain any knowledge of the intentions of this Parliament in that regard? We have not yet discussed it, and the only conclusion to which I can come is that they are to learn it from Ministers, who rely on their being able to crack a whip over their majority. In that way alone can the Conference obtain a knowledge of the intentions of this Parliament with respect to the financial question. The honorable gentleman went on to say -
We, therefore, feeling as we do our responsibility to the electors of the Commonwealth, who are also electors of the States, realize that at the coming general election one of the greatest issues to be submitted - perhaps the greatest issue of all, if we take into account the many other questions that depend directly or indirectly upon the financial position of the Commonwealth Treasury - will be the financial.
When speaking at the Lord Mayor’s banquet on Monday evening, the honorable gentleman put the position rather differently. True, he declared that there were two issues, but he did not give pride of place to the financial issue. He said -
So I venture to say, we have two crises in view - the one political, to settle the question whether the great majority or the minority is to rule; the other, as I have said, a crisis of finance.
The Prime Minister, as soon as he leaves this House gives second place to the question of finance. When we go before the electors, the big question that will be submitted to them by the Government will be, I aim confident,, that of Socialism versus anti-Socialism, Labour versus anti-Labour. The election is sure to be conducted on those lines. The Prime Minister, in speaking in this House on Thursday last, said -
Under these circumstances, I venture to think that it is a reasonable request of Ministers to be relieved for a week from the obligation of maintaining their attendance in Parliament, and also set free, so far as may be possible, from their departmental duties in order that they may not only enter the Conference prepared, but have at all events a few days in which the necessary delays for consideration, examination of figures, and comparison of proposals may be made.
Surely, all that work has already been done. The honorable member for Hume mentioned recently that all these comparisons were made in connexion with the last financial statement, and that it ought not to take long to bring them up-to-date. Surely, “this adjourment is not necessary for that reason. The Prime Minister said further -
But the coming Conference muSt either find the Premiers in such a mood that they are prepared to consider their own requirements, their own situations-
– I should like to know, Mr.. Speaker, whether the honorable member is in order in quoting from the Hansard report of a debate which took place in this House only last Thursday.
– There is certainly a standing order which prohibits an honorable member from quoting from a report of a debate of the current session, but it has always been very liberally interpreted. I ask honorable members, however, not to avail themselves too freely of that liberal interpretation, otherwise the Chair may have to intervene.
– The honorable member ma) paraphrase the report.
– Quite so. The objection made by the honorable member for Fremantle is one of those through which a coach and four may be easily run. It comes with an excellent grace from an honorable member who “ stone-walled “ in this House not long ago, and read the whole of the Hansard report of a previous speech made by him.
– I rise to another point of order-
– Order ! The honorable member for Gippsland is not in order in discussing a point which has already been settled bv the Chair.
– I have said all that I wish to say in that regard. While the Prime Minister was speaking to this question last Thursday, the honorable member for Calare asked whether the Senate would be represented at the Conference, and the startling reply was made, “It will be.” I invite honorable members to listen to how it is to be represented -
The Senate will have its representatives in the Government which will embody the views of the Senate and of this House, as the views of the great majority of the people of Australia.
I have never heard a more presumptuous statement. We do not know what are the views of the Government - the majority of the people are in the same position - yet we are told that the Senate will be represented at the Conference by members of the Government, who will embody the views of both Houses of the Parliament, and of the great majority of the people.
The Prime Minister made something in the nature of an apology for his proposal that we should adjourn, having regard to what he described as the great pressure of public business, and a great deal has also been said, for party purposes, as to the Opposition having blocked business in this House. That statement generally is unjustifiable, and it is particularly unjustifiable in view of recent incidents in this House. Take what happened! last Thursday, when, late in the evening, the Prime Minister said that he had moved a motion that day without making a speech, and that all the objection had come from this side of the House. The honorable member was referring to a motion that he submitted in regard to reprints of speeches from Hansard, and the incidents of that night will ever live in my memory as an extraordinary exhibition of Ministerial leading in this Chamber. The Prime Minister moved that the matter be referred to the Printing Committee to draw up rules, but on the suggestion of .the Leader of the Opposition, he very promptly and properly said he would amend his motion to provide that the Printing Committee should merely make a recommendation to the House. The motion, as amended, would have been passed in a very few minutes, but suddenly the Ministerial party were in revolt. The honorable member for Maribyrnong moved an amendment of his own leader’s motion, and that amendment led to a very long and dreary discussion. The Prime Minister happened to be absent from the House when the time came to put the motion, and you, Mr. Speaker, reminded honorable members that he desired leave to amend! it in the way he had foreshadowed. When you put the question that leave be granted, we had a second revolt. That common courtesy which is almost invariably extended to every honorable member was denied the Prime Minister by the honorable member for Corio, who, like the honorable member for Maribyrnong, is one of the honorable gentleman’s small section of the Fusion. The honorable gentleman was surprised to learn on returning to the House that this courtesy had been denied him, and that there had been a revolt.
– It was not a revolt. The move was successful, and became a revolution.
– It was a well-planned scheme.
– Honorable members may call it what they please, but to me it was an extraordinary exhibition. With two exceptions, every member of the Ministerial party, and all the Ministry, except the Prime Minister, voted against the motion that had been submitted by the; Prime Minister himself, and yet we were told in certain quarters that the night was wasted by the Opposition. I find that on that occasion eight honorable members of the Opposition spoke to the question, and that eight honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House also addressed themselves to it. Let us see what happened on Friday last, and again last night. If the Coinage Bill had been in the hands of a Minister who understood! it, and could have explained to the House its technical details, it would have passed through all its stages by i. p.m. on Friday last. ‘ I was present throughout the sitting, and make that statement deliberately. As it was, the Treasurer, who was in charge of the Bill, seemed to know nothing about it, and the whole day was wasted. The honorable gentleman .went through another curious performance last night, when he moved the omission of words which earlier in the day he had declared to be necessary. Later on, there was still another extraordinary performance on the part of the Ministry in connexion with the consideration of the Senate’s amendments of the Old-age Pensions Bill. These days and nights were lost, owing to the incompetent manner in which Government business was put before us. A great deal has also been said in certain quarters as to the time of the House being wasted by formal motions for adjournment moved by members of the Opposition. The party to which. I belong was not responsible for any of those motions. It is not necessary for me to undertake the responsibility of apologizing for or saying anything on behalf of the direct Opposition, but, as a member of this House, I feel it to lae my duty to see that fair play is accorded to every section of it. In reply to the complaint that the time of the House has been wasted by the submission of adjournment motions, I would point out that only three such motions have been moved. One, moved by the honorable member for Boothby, occupied our attention for three-quarters of an hour j another, moved by the honorable member for Darwin, was disposed of in an hour and a half - the greater portion of that time being occupied by Government supporters - and the third, moved by the honorable member for West Sydney, engaged our attention for an hour and a quarter. There was also a discussion on the question of privilege raised by the honorable member for Coolgardie, which occupied two hours. I am not including in my estimate the wretched fiasco which took place over the appointment of a member of the Library Committee, since the Government themselves were responsible for it. I have named the only four motions submitted from this sidle of the House which could be said to have interfered with the transaction of ordinary business, and the whole of them only occupied our attention for six hours. Let us go a step further. We were told by the Prime Minister that it was necessary to have a long and energetic session. How have’ the Government displayed their energy ? On only sixteen days during the present session have we sat after 10.30 p.m., and on one of those occasions the adjournment of the House was moved at 10 o’clock. . although the debate which followed covered an hour and a half.
– That is not a ground of complaint.
– It is, in view of the declaration of the Government that they desire to push on with business. On many occasions during the want of confidence motion, members of the Opposition were asked by representatives of the Government to request leave to continue their speech on the following day ; and! on one occasion that request was preferred as early as 10.20 p.m. The honorable member for Hindmarsh! was speaking, and when the suggestion was made to him, he thought that it. was a joke. Later on it was repeated, and in reply to his question, ‘ Are you in earnest ? ‘ ‘ the Minister of Defence said, “Yes.” On another occasion, when an honorable member was speaking on a Friday afternoon, he was asked before 4 p.m. to apply for leave to continue his remarks.
– The Government suggested to the honorable member for Gwydir that he should ask for leave to continue his speech on the want of confidence motion.
– That is so, but I find that. Government members themselves moved the adjournment of the debate more than once before 10.30 p.m. We all remember the night on which the honorable member for Dalley rose to address himself to the noconfidence motion, and was going strongly at 11 o’clock, when the honorable member for Indi suggested that he should ask leave to continue his speech. He replied, “I will- not ask a favour from a Government to which I am not going to show favour.” The honorable gentleman is one of the Independent members of this House. Later, when a Minister said that he could continue his speech on another occasion, he asked for the adjournment of the debate. The Government has not made the attempt to pass business. It has not requested us to sit late, although the Prime Minister said that this would have to be a long and energetic session. During the Tariff session, which was an energetic one, we sat, on forty-three nights, after 1 1 o’clock, and, on seventeen of them, after 12 o’clock. For three weeks we sat five days a week, and from thirteen to eighteen, and, on one occasion, twenty-two hours a day. We did that because the Government and its supporters meant business. It had a policy which it had the courage to declare, and the determination to put through. This Government has a big majority, but the members supporting it cannot be induced to remain late at night, and, therefore, we have not been asked to sit late. I should like to know when the Budget debate will finish, if it is not to be commenced for the next ten days. When are the Defence proposals of the Government to be introduced? Ministers are absolutely unprepared to go on with business. Apparently the Government does not wish to bring down its policy measures, preferring to go to the country on a general statement -which any member of the Fusion can support. If measures are brought in, it will be seen how much the various sections of the Fusion are giving away, and some of the present supporters of the Government will have to withdraw their support before presenting themselves to the electors. That this is the policy of the Government is shown by two sentences from the Prime Minister’s correspondence with the Premier of New South Wales. Writing on the 13th Tune last, he said -
It is highly desirable that this complex question should be simplified, so that this Government can frame concise propositions for submission to the electors at our general election.
In a later letter the Premier of New South Wales was informed that -
The propositions to be submitted to our electors will consist of a general statement in our platform of the views of this Government in respect to what may be termed a permanent settlement.
The Prime Minister thought . at first that concise propositions should be framed, but, on further consideration, found that a general statement would be better.
– Do not the two passages refer to different subjects?
– Of course they do.
– To show that they do not, let me read the whole of the correspondence, as it was put before the House by the Prime Minister. On the 13th Tune, he wrote to the Premier of New South Wales -
Then he explained - I am quoting from his speech of the 5th August -
Following that letter, some telegrams passed as to the date of meeting. The Premiers fixed the 13th August; we informed them that we could not make it convenient to meet them earlier than the 16th; and that date was finally agreed to. They were informed that - “ The propositions to be submitted to our electors will consist of a general statement in our platform of the views of this Government in respect to what may be termed a permanent settlement of the future financial relations of the States with the Commonwealth.”
Let us now look at the notice-paper, to see how far Ministers were prepared to go on with business. On the 24th June, there were set down for discussion the Ministerial statement, the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, the Bills of Exchange Bill, motions for leave to introduce the Marine Insurance, the Electoral, the Northern Territory, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions, the Norfolk Island, the Telegraph Emergency, the Coinage, the High Commissioner, the Audit, and the Bureau of Agriculture Bills. Honorable members will recollect how unready,
Ministers were on the day when the censure debate finished. There was a rushing about to find something to commence with. My opinion is that it has been the practice to introduce and read Bills- a first time immediately leave has been obtained for their introduction.
– That has never been the practice.
– On the night when the censure debate finished, the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, the Bills of Exchange Bill, and the Marine Insurance Bill, all measures of a former session, were restored to the notice-paper. Leave was obtained to introduce the Electoral Amendment Bill, a policy measure, which has not yet been introduced. The Northern Territory Bill was introduced, and read a first time, and so was the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, but the Treasurer made such a tangled explanation in moving its second reading that, it was suggested that Mr. Speaker should leave the chair a little earlier than usual to enable copies of the Bill to be procured. When we re-assembled, at a quarter to 8 o’clock, we had put’ into our hands Bills marked “ draft and confidential,” showing that even this measure was not ready for consideration. The Norfolk Island Bill was presented, and read a first time, and leave was given to introduce the Telegraph Emergency Bill, the Coinage Bill, the High Commissioner Bill, and the Audit Bill, none of which was then ready to be presented and read a first time. On the 21st July,’ the Audit. Bill and the Telegraph Bill were presented, and read a first time, and the debate on the second reading of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill continued with considerable slowness. On the 4th of this month, leave was given to introduce the Defence Bill, but that Bill has not yet been introduced, and we do not know when it will be ready, although defence is of the most vital importance to the country. Speaking at Toowoomba, the Prime Minister said -
We cannot afford to neglect the proposals for defence. I indorse all the (Fisher) Government’s proposals for land defence. I approve of the spirit - though not yet speaking of the form - of their coastal and harbor defence. Our proposals were precisely the same in character and intent, different only slightly in form. I approve of them even more cordially than I did those of our own Government.
Had the Fisher Government been allowed to remain in office, its defence scheme could have been passed in June, the blame foi the fact that no defence measure is now before Parliament resting entirely upon the present Prime Minister. Yet the LordMayor of Melbourne is reported to have said 011 Monday night that -
Matters of vast importance were awaiting decision, and he might say that the safety of the State would be imperilled unless the question of national defence was dealt with speedily
To that the Prime Minister said ‘ 1 Hear, hear.” The Lord Mayor contended that-
His friend Captain Deakin, of the ship Commonwealth, had been meeting with rough weather lately. Unless that weather speedily passed away the captain would be justified in taking the very strongest measures, battening, down the hatches, and going straight ahead. (Loud applause.)
The next night, instead of battening down hatches, and going straight ahead, the Government slowed down, and went backwards and forwards. Now it proposes to stop foi a whole week, and a business day on the following week. If the Lord Mayor knew what the public is not allowed to know, he would not have stultified himself by such remarks. I am disgusted with the farce that is being played here. Men who, during the whole of their parliamentary career, have been at loggerheads, often giving each other the lie direct, and withdrawing their offensive remarks only because they were compelled to do so, are sitting together. Now they accuse honorable members opposite of blocking business. They have conducted the business in such a way that the honorable member for Flinders last night and on Thursday, had to declare that he did not know where he stood. I am sure that the electors must look upon our proceedings as nothing more than a political game, in which there is no sincerity; and something must be done to impress the public with the fact that there is some sincerity in politics somewhere. We cannot expect the public to take an interest in public affairs if they com’e to the conclusion that there is only a pretended opposition and attack ; but any false ideas on the point will not be removed bv a Government who complain of obstruction and yet ask us to adjourn for five working days in a session, which is too short to complete half the measures that have been introduced. It seems to me that the words most applicable to the occasion are those used by the Prime Minister a few days ago, when, referring to the honorable member for West Sydney, who had occupied seventy-five minutes - not five days - he said -
There is no reality and no sincerity in this constant practice of blocking business. This obstruction is a wicked waste of time.
– I point out to the honorable member that he has broken the rule not to repeat a statement which has been withdrawn. In view of the fact that this matter was before the House on a previous occasion, I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark and apologize.
– I certainly withdraw and apologize for my quotation. I may say that I had forgotten for the moment that the Prime Minister had withdrawn the words, and I was probably led into a repetition of them by the fact that they were at the commencement of a leading article in the Age of yesterday.
.- After the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland, and the extraordinary attitude assumed by the Government this afternoon - the manner in which this request for an adjournment has been made, the silence of the Prime Minister under an attack, which, coming from the quarter it did, ought at least to have stung him to some degree of recognition of the situation - the House will be still more inclined to ask itself where we are and where we are going. The Prime Minister last week delivered a carefully prepared speech, setting out a number of reasons why we should adjourn for a week. Since that time he has made a speech at the Melbourne Mayoral banquet, in the course of which he referred to the forthcoming Premiers’ Conference, the policy of the Government, and the defects of the Labour party. Those remarks in conjunction with his present attitude and the extraordinary occurrence of last evening, parade a position of affairs which, I venture to say, is without parallel in any Parliament, certainly in this. The first appearance of the Prime Minister in the House this session was marked by a speech on the AddressinReply, in the course of which he pointed out that we had a great deal to do, and very little time to do it in. The honorable gentleman said -
But, at least, the business before us which we have to discharge - which cannot wait, and which will tax our efforts and our patience - ought to be brought forward with the least possible delay. If its discussion be confined within the narrowest limits we shall, I venture to say, be extremely fortunate if, when Christmas comes, this House has sufficiently paved the way to admit of that appeal to the country which must follow in due course.
Following on that speech, the Fisher Government were turned out of office, for the reason that there was much important business to do, and the Fusion Government were the Government to do it. From that date, the 26th May, until to-day, the nth August, the only measures they have passed are the Old-age Pensions Bill, and, I think, an Appropriation Bill. Up to this moment not one measure has become law. During that time the Government have had at their disposal the same weapon they used on the day the Fisher Government brought down their proposals. They could have applied the closure. The present Government did not scruple to resort to it then, and they would not scruple to do so now if it suited their purpose. On Monday, at the Mayoral banquet, the Prime Minister spoke of a number of measures of importance that were before Parliament, but which could not be dealt with because of organized, systematic obstruction. But the Prime Minister knows very well that not only has there been no organized obstruction, but that there has been no measure of importance brought forward. The honorable member for Gippsland has dealt with the matter in detail, and in the most effective way, and I merely ask honorable members to look at the business-paper and say whether they have ever seen one like it before. I have been fifteen years in Parliament, and I never saw such a notice-paper. It is crowded with measures of second-rate importance, of the most Varied character, typical iti their nature and incompleteness of the Fusion Ministry. The measures before us are the Coinage Bill, consideration of Committee’s report; High Commissioner Bill, second reading; Northern Territory Bill, second reading debate; Bills of Exchange Bill, further consideration in Committee; Bureau of Agriculture Bill, second reading debate ; Norfolk Island Bill, second reading debate; Australian Industries Preservation Bill, second rea.ding; Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, second reading debate; Telegraph Emergency Bill, second reading debate; Marine Insurance Bill, consideration in Committee; Parliamentary Witnesses Bill, consideration in Committee; Supply, consideration in Committee; Ways and Means, consideration in Committee; and the Land Tax Assessment Bill. During the whole eight or nine weeks that have elapsed since the Government took office they have managed to do no more than lay on the table, in ill-arranged and inconsecutive fashion, a number of measures which they never had any intention to proceed with.
Five were introduced one night, but never got beyond, the stage at which the first honorable member who rose moved the adjournment of the debate. The measure for which the Government pressed mare than any, the Defence Bill, is not yet laid on the table ; and we are told that it is not ready. Finance was to be the piece de resistance of the session; and we are promised that for the first time we shall know something about it to-morrow, when we shall be powerless to do anything to shape the financial policy of the country.
– They said there should be a Defence session in March.
– The Prime Minister was the pivot round which a number of well-meaning men gyrated in an endeavour to have Parliament meet six weeks earlier than it did for the purpose of a special finance session. From that day to this there has been no mention of either in the House.
– If we mention finance we are accused of obstruction.
– Not only that, but the Government absolutely decline to give information that ought to be at our disposal. The Prime Minister, through whom the Government claim to represent responsible constitutional government, in the course of his speech at the Mayoral banquet, said - members of Parliament who set themselves the task of blocking Parliament’s business are putting themselves outside the pale of constitutional government. (Hear, hear.) If it be possible for a minority to rule a majority we shall have to reverse everything, and frame a new Constitution that will be the antithesis of the British Constitution, and we shall have to re-write, in reverse order, every maxim that has hitherto been acknowledged. This attempt I speak of is not one to heal or cure, but to destroy Parliamentary government. (Hear, hear).
We will, all of us, have a battle to maintain our rights, because we are faced by a body whose representatives are not free, and whose constituents, as far as they control them, are not free either. May this year, 1909, bring it aboutthat the people of Australia make up their minds to maintain majority rule, and their threatened freedom in all three forms of Government ! (Loud applause.)
I venture to say that a more specious, hypocritical, and unfair presentation of the true facts of the situation was never put forward to the electors in any country enjoying democratic government. It is not true that the Opposition are blocking business, but it is true that the Government are blocking business, and have done so from the time the session commenced. It is true that there is no effort to push on with the measures before us, to bring forward the Defence and Finance measures, nor any evidence of any policy on which the Government are united. The Government and their supporters speak of themselves as a. united party, but to use the Prime Minister’s own words there is no “unifying principle” - absolutely none. The Government have no policy on which they are agreed; and last night we had only one of many pitiable exhibitions of the depths to which the unhappy supporters of the Government are reduced. There were honorable members who went home at half-past 10 o’clock, believing that the amendment of the honorable member for Boothby was certain to be carried since it was supported by the Government, who learned in the press that at half-past11 the Government had turned a somersault. One honorable member told me to-day that had he known the Government intended to go back on the proposal, he would have stayed to cast his vote in the direction he intended, and in accordance with the Government’s first idea. The Prime Minister speaks about members on this side not being free; but I ask him whether he will permit the vote on this question to be recorded irrespective of party? Will he say straight out to his followers and the House that each honorable member may cast his vote as he pleases - that it will not be regarded as a party matter?
– How could any Government do that on a question of this kind?
– If a Government cannot do that, it ought not to talk about the freedom of its followers. Its followers are not free to vote as they like. They are free only to follow the vacillating purposesof a Government which is now on this side, now on that. An honorable member leaving this chamber now, certain of the purpose of the Government at this particular moment, may find himself, coming in again at six o’clock, confronted with a situation so wholly different, that not until he looks round to see where his people are will he know to what destiny he is committed. The honorable member for Flinders knows that that is perfectly true of the situation in which he found himself last night. Many other honorable members on that side found themselves humiliated by the action of the Government at the instance of the Treasurer. If to become a statesman be the highest achievement, and to be a politician be the stage below that, then I say, if there be depths below that, and depths below that again, and below that again, Ministers have plumbed the lowest depths possible. They cannot for a quarter of an hour maintain a solid front. It is a pitiable exhibition, yet they speak of responsible government and majority rule. Responsible for what? For a policy. What policy? They propose now togo into a Conference. At that Conference they purpose discussing the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. I want to make it clear that what is to be discussed at the Conference is so vitally important to the welfare of the Commonwealth and to our finances, not only of this year, but of all future years, that any agreement arrived at will materially affect the destinies of the Commonwealth. It is certain that what is said on the Ministerial side, after the Government come out of that Conference, will not matter the thousandth part of a hair’s breadth. Last night men rose and said they would support an amendment, and then, without being consulted or considered, were informed that they must follow the Treasurer, and they meekly ate their words and followed him. Of all those who had supported the honorable member for Boothby on the first occasion, I cannot recall one who, on the second occasion, was to be found on our side, although some of them may have paired. When, therefore, the Government come out of that Conference with a policy, however much honorable members on that side may oppose it in their hearts, they will have to toe the scratch and vote for it. The honorable member for Robertson wrote to the Sydney Daily Telegraph a letter, in which he condemned the Fusion unsparingly. The honorable member for Franklin also condemned it, yet both members support the Fusion and follow the Prime Minister. The honorable member for Franklin said he would never follow the Prime Minister.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I must again request honorable members to refrain from interjections. I would ask the honorable member for West Sydney whether a letter written by another honorable member has anything to do with the question of whether the House should or should not adjourn ?
– I venture to submit that it is most relevant on this motion to discuss the purpose for which the adjournment is asked - namely, that Ministers may attend the Premiers’ Conference - and the consequences of the Conference both to the Parliament and to the country. I hope
I may be permitted incidentally to refer to those matters. In so far as the Government, infirm of purpose as they are, can make up their minds to anything, the Conference will commit this Parliament, for the Government have a majority. What the Government say their followers must do. They will not be consulted; but the die will be cast, and honorable members’ protests will prove, as they have proved in other matters, to be not worth the flipping of a finger. The views that we are putting forward are not peculiar to the Opposition. They are shared by one of the most important organs in this State, and one to which the Prime Minister, formerly at any. rate, was wont to owe particular allegiance. The Age, in its leader yesterday, advanced every argument that has been put forward here to-day, and many more. The Prime Minister said last week that very much would turn on the Conference, and” that without an adjournment Ministers could not give to it the attention required. I may be permitted to quote from the Age article the following -
The State Premiers are not blind to these facts, and they are now meeting to do or talk about what they ought to have done years ago. The Premiers’ Conferences in the past have never been of such consequence in the work they did, or talked of doing, as to bear comparison with the importance of the Commonwealth Parliament. And yet we are met with the proposal that Parliament shall adjourn for thirteen days in the middle of an exceptionally important session merely because the Premiers have come together again for the ninth time to talk at large about the finances.
That position is unanswerable. It is a deliberate insult to the national Parliament to close its doors merely because there is to be held a Conference of Premiers, many of whom, as the honorable member for Hume pointed out last week, are tottering on the edge of a precipice. Several of them will soon have disappeared for ever. A year from now, a Conference of Premiers would be composed of a majority of men who will not be present next week. We see clearly that the same influences which are felt here are at work also in the State Parliaments. The Labour party is overpowering the other parties, challenging them for supremacy, and in a little while will achieve it. It is, therefore, unthinkable that the present Government should be allowed to make any bargain with men who hold office by the slenderest authority, with majorities of one or two, and who, when they go before the electors next time, may be completely extinguished. The Age goes on to say -
Of course, it may be said that the refusal of pairs by the Opposition renders necessary the constant presence of all the Ministers.
In that the paper has made a mistake. The honorable member for Wide Bay made a public offer to the Prime Minister to provide pairs for every Minister who attended the Conference. I repeat that offer now. There can, therefore, be no possible doubt that every Minister who “wishes to attend the Conference has a positive assurance that a pair will be given to him, and every consideration shown in respect Of the conduct of public business. Ministers may attend the Conference with the comfortable assurance that, nothing will happen in their absence -
And that is true, though it did not prevent Mr. Foxton being sent to a London Conference, and Mr. Senator Pearce being refused. But the argument amounts to nothing. The Conference will meet within a few minutes’ tram ride of Parliament House ; and there would be nothing to prevent Mr. Deakin or Sir John Forrest attending the Conference and still remaining within hail of Parliament.
– We had no trouble last time.
– Nor need there be any trouble this time. What a miserable pretext this is for putting in the time ! What the Ministry dread in this Parliament is, not obstruction, but business. Business means the end of them. No more appalling fate could befall the Government than that we should take this business-paper and pass these measures one after the other in an evening.
– Please try it.
– We will try it to-night, if the honorable gentleman likes, except the one measure that he does want to get through - the High Commissioner Bill.
– I will take all the rest to-night with pleasure.
– We never doubted the honorable gentleman’s earnestness when it comes to turning out billets for his friends, but what we are talking about is public business. When he was before the country, he did not say that the pressing need of the Commonwealth was a High Commissioner Bill. He said, “Defence; Finance” - there are no billets in these, and we do not see them on the business-paper. I do not hesitate to say that the greater number of measures on the business-paper are in no sense measures which ought to engage the attention of this Parliament at this juncture, when questions of national and pressing importance ought to be dealt with. Here are the Norfolk Island Bill, the Telegraph (Emergency) Bill, and the Bureau of Agriculture Bill. Even the vivid imagination of the Prime Minister did not conjure up such a trio when he was before the country.
– An essay on agriculture.
– It is an essay on tlie part of the Government, which, I venture to say, will not come off. The Age says -
The Budget will be delivered on Thursday next. It is certain to contain a good deal of controversial matter, which will probably occupy a fortnight or three weeks in discussion. What sensible reason can be assigned why this debate should not go on during the Conference? Why should a National Parliament make so little of its own dignity as to suspend its business, which is directed to important ends and issues, merely because a number of State Ministers confer, and consult, and deliberate without the power of deciding anything? . . . The proposal is one that makes a serious manashamed of the farcical thing called democratic government. It lays Ministers open to accusations of insincerity, to which they can .have novalid reply. The. Opposition will doubtless welcome the blunder. It plays into its hands. Its organs are already circulating the statement that Ministers have no work in them. The fruits. of the session so far bear this out….. a fortnight’s time - which can never be made up - is to be ruthlessly sacrificed for nothing, at the same time that the dignity of the Commonwealth Parliament is seriously compromised’ in the adjournment. The attitude of Mr. Fisher at Hobart towards the Premiers was the correct, one. But this proposal to adjourn the Federal Parliament in the midst of its work in deference to them is losing sight of that self-respect which a great Legislature has no right to play with.
It is rarely that one finds oneself sothoroughly in accord with the sentiments of this great newspaper. I venture to saythat that leading article is unanswerable;that the only reason that the Government has for disregarding its mandate is that another power has arisen, that it is a divided’ camp, and that the relations between Ministers are not cordial, and barely permit of their carrying on. There are two campsin the Fusion, the State rights party, and the wreckage of the National party. TheAge said - and it is an undeniable fact - that these are the two great politicaldivisions in Australia, the National party and the State rights party, the National party and the Provincial party. The National party expect the Commonwealth toso adjust its financial relations .with theStates as to give the Commonwealth Parliament a sufficient revenue to enable it towork out its own destiny. The State rights party, on the other hand, belittles the Commonwealth Parliament, never tires of insulting it, of hampering it, of gagging and affronting it. The Minister of Defence glories in being a State rights man, as he said in the new Masonic Hall, Sydney, a day or two before he came into office. There must be no misunderstanding ot what “State rights” mean. “State rights” mean the rights of the States at the expense of the Commonwealth.
– Who said that?
– The State Premiers are now to meet. If the Fisher Government had remained in office, would this Conference have taken place? I think not. The excuse offered for the Government proposal is that there has now come into the camp of those who describe themselves as the National party the opponents of nationalism. They propose, next week, to take this Parliament, bound hand and. foot, into the Conference, and to come out with a compromise, which this Parliament must accept, whether we like it or not. The Government have a majority behind them, and when it suits them they are prepared to use it. I most emphatically enter my protest against the Conference being so recognised by an adjournment of the House as to give it this authority. If it is to sit, let it sit just as the Women’s Conference is at present sitting in Brisbane. The Prime Minister, speaking at the banquet given by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne on Monday night, used just such an expression as one would expect to hear towards the close of such a function. He said that 1809 would be remembered for all time as a year in which men of genius were born, and that 1909 would be remarkable as a year - he was too modest to say it would be known as a year when other men of genius had flourished - of conferences. That is to say, it will be known as a year of betrayals, of surrender
– And of sacrifice.
– Literally, it is a sacrifice, and even a degradation, for this Parliament to adjourn because of the Conference. That Conference will be as alien to the Federal Constitution as any outside Conference could possibly be. The Senate is the guardian of State rights; it represents the States as States, and in it every State has an equal voice. If the Senate cannot regard State rights, then certainly the Premiers’ Conference-
– Has no right to.
– No; the proposal to hold the Conference is a reflection on the people who elected the Senate. I read recently, in a newspaper which is never tired of insulting the party to which I belong, a statement to the effect that the Labour senators were prepared* to sell the States, and that they had no conception of the duty they owed them. I venture to say that the Labour party in the Senate has as true a conception of its duty towards the States as we in this House have of our duty towards the people and the States. The States will never cry in vain to their representatives among the Labour party in the Senate. It is not the States that/ are now crying ; it is rather the cry of vested interests which are alarmed, and wish to prevent a recourse to direct taxation. The Conference has been convened to enable the Commonwealth and the States to bind themselves for a certain period to a modification of the Braddon “blot.” The Government ought to receive an instruction from this Parliament as to the attitude to be taken by them at the Conference. They should, indeed, take the opinion of the House as to the broad outlines of a scheme that would be acceptable to it. Do we consider the Ministry fit and proper persons to represent the opinion of this Parliament in respect of such matters? By what right do they seek to occupy that position? It is a usurpation of authority, based upon nothing stronger than their control of a majority in this House. The opinions of honorable members opposite are widely divergent on the financial question.
– Hear, hear !
– On the question of finance, there is a wide divergence of opinion amongst members on the Government side of the House, unless all that they have said during the last nine years has been gone back upon. During the whole of that time half the members on that side of the House have held a view totally different from that entertained by the other half. There have been amongst them State rights men and men with a National conception of finance, and to say that the Government go to the Conference at the command of a majority of such men is absurd. The Prime Minister said, at the Lord Mayor’s banquet on Monday, that he was confident that the union of parties which he led had the approbation of the great majority of the people. We hive come to such a pass, that at the Conference next week the financial future of the Commonwealth will be moulded, if not definitely fixed, by a Government without a policy, without a mandate, without the real confidence of this House and of the country. I emphatically protest against the proposed adjournment, and against any official recognition of the Conference. I protest also against the Government going to the Conference with the idea of doing anything, more than listening to what is said, and taking no part in the discussion. The Government have not set before us their financial policy. The Budget statement is to be delivered on Thursday at such a time as will preclude a discussion of it before the Conference takes place. Indeed, it is the universal practice for the debate to be adjourned immediately after the Treasurer has delivered his statement.
– There is usually a preliminary statement by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Government have during the last two months proved their incapacity to carry on the business of the House ; they have no policy, and no courage; they are weak and infirm of purpose, and, therefore, no useful end can be served by prolonging the life of the Parliament. The Government are vacillating-
– And spineless.
– They are lacking inevery essential that goes to make a stable and effective Government. This being undeniable, no useful purpose can be served by prolonging the life of the Parliament another day. If we are going to give the people a voice in determining the financial future of the Commonwealth, we ought to go to the country forthwith. It is in the last degree unwise to dignify the attendance .of the Government at this Conference by agreeing to this motion, for by this we seem to accept them as our representatives and to recognise the Conference as an authorized body. The Government have not consulted their own followers in caucus. We do not know what they propose. Probably they do not even know it themselves. They have not formulated a financial policy. We know that they are unable to finance invalid and old-age pensions; we gather that they propose to float a large loan ; and that they contemplate extending the Braddon “blot” for another period of years. But we know nothing more. In the circumstances, the only sensible course to pursue is to allow Parliament to be dissolved, and to go to the people. The people have a right to be consulted, and this is a proper and convenient time for us to go before them. The. people have a right to declare what shall be the finance and defence policy of the country. The recommendations of the Imperial Defence Conference will be published very shortly. The Premiers’ Conference may do what it likes, but I think every member of the Opposition will insist that every right and power of the Commonwealth shall be effectively safeguarded. I warn the Conference, too, that no bargain made with this Government will be worth the paper it is written on. For an appeal to the electors must soon be made, and I am confident that the verdict will be fatal to the Government. So large a sum of money is required to provide for the defence of Australia, for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, for the administration and development of the Northern Territory, and to give effect to our powers under the Constitution, that the present relations between the Commonwealth and the States, or anything resembling them, cannot be allowed to continue. I would not have it thought that the Labour party is less jealous of State rights and interests than any other. But we trust the electors to look after these things for themselves through the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Commonwealth Parliament will appeal to them before the State Parliaments can do so, and no scheme will get our support unless ample means are put at the disposal of the Commonwealth to enable it to carry out its purposes. I hope that the House will not agree to the proposed adjournment, though it is not likely that the motion will be negatived. Honorable members opposite must vote as the Government decides. Of course, in view of what happened last night, when, at half-past 10 o’clock, Ministers favoured the amendment of the honorable member for Boothby, and at 11 o’clock opposed it, we may find them later in the evening opposing the proposed adjournment. No doubt they are now diligently ascertaining the views of their supporters. The policy of the Government on these matters may be expressed in a formulaBefore they can know what their policy is, the Whip has to go round with a pencil and paper, jotting down names. Whatever the majority favours is right in theeyes of Ministers. If their supporters will come to heel at the cracking of the whip, well and good ; if not, they are asked what they want, and it is done. This it is that accounts for a business-paper of which the like has not been seen before, and furnishes the reason why a Government which took office ostensibly to expedite public business has allowed nine weeks to elapse without doing anything. We have a Ministry without policy or purpose, which, if the electors knew the facts, would not remain in power for twenty-four hours longer.
.- When ‘ the history of this Ministry comes to be written, it will be known as the lazy Ministry, and in the end, the electors will discharge it for laziness and incompetence. No worse charge can be brought against any employ^. But the honorable member for Gippsland has to-night fully proved that it can rightly be brought against this Government. Ministers fear, above all things, lest work should be done. For weeks past we, on this side, have been convinced that Ministers desire that nothing shall be done. At the outset they asked for an adjournment for three weeks, in which to prepare their measures. We gave them that time, and improved their opportunity by discussing a motion of want of confidence, the moving of which was justified, in view of the peculiar circumstances under which they took office. When that motion was disposed of, no measures were ready, although the Treasurer tried to proceed with one Bill. The Government now proposes another adjournment, so that it may confer with State Ministers, whom, I claim, are equally incompetent. This is proved by their management of the affairs of the States. Since Federation, the public indebtedness of the States has been increased by £39,000,000, notwithstanding that there has been returned to them, in excess of three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, no less a sum than £7,000,000. New South Wales has been rolling in riches, and yet its Governments have not been able to refrain from borrowing.
– They have been able to repeal the income tax. Any poor man in New South Wales who gets only £1,000 a year is now exempt.
– Yes, they have remitted taxation in regard to persons getting large incomes. It must be remembered that, not j only have the States received large sums i from the Commonwealth, but their liabili-!v ties have been reduced by the transfer to the Commonwealth of several costly Departments. We were promised that the upkeep of the office of State Governor, and other wasteful expenditure, would cease after Federation, but in point of fact the expenditure of the States has increased rather than decreased. The geniuses who have shown utter incapacity for properly managing the finances of the States are to be consulted next week by the Treasurer in regard to Commonwealth finance, and Parliament is not to be allowed to do businesswhile the Conference is taking place. The Opposition has been vainly trying to get the Government to do business. The other dayit objected to the postponement of a. measure, and it has protested against early adjournments. Now we are objecting to a proposal to do no work for more than a week. However, it is unwise to prolong such remarks as I am now making, because they only serve to further the ends of Ministers in occupying time which should be devoted to business. It must be remembered that the State Premiers do not represent the opinions of the people of the States. In two of the States the Government has a majority of only one. The Leader of the Opposition has definitely promised that if Ministers wish to attend the Premiers’ Conference while Parliament is sitting, no advantage will be taken of their absence. Why could not the Budget debate take place next week?
– Or the debate on the Defence Bill?
– That measure is not ready yet. Honorable members must not hurry the Minister of Defence. He is such a champion of State rights that he feels that he must consult the Premiers of the States before enunciating a defence policy. But as the Conference will be held within a very short distance of this building, there is no good reason for adjourning over its sittings. The Budget discussion could well be carried on in the absence of the Treasurer, seeing that we shall be in possession of all the figures in detail.
– Let us wipe off two or three of the measures on the notice-paper to-morrow.
– I should be very glad to wipe off the lot, because then I think the Government would be in such a position that they would not know what to do. Some time ago, the Minister of Defence obtained leave to introduce the Defence Bill, but evidently the measure is not ready, although it deals with a question of the utmost national importance.
– The Labour Government were in office eight months, and we did not see their Defence Bill.
– If the Labour Government had been given a chance, they would have proved vigorous workers, whereas the “present is the laziest Government any Parliament ever saw. I emphasize the point made by the honorable member for West Sydney, namely, the seriousness of closing the National Parliament just because some State Premiers happen to be meeting. Our Constitution was framed by a Convention elected by the people, and it was adopted by the people. Had the matters been left to the State Parliaments, we should not have had Federation yet.
– As a matter of fact, we could not have had Federation without the consent of the State Parliaments.
– In the Constitution there is no recognition of the States beyond the provision that they are to have equal representation in the Senate, which is regarded by some as the Chamber which ought specially to look after what are called State rights. Putting aside the fact that we have never yet found any body to give a definition of “ State rights,” our business is to carry out the Constitution, and do the business of this National Parliament, according to the views of the representatives elected by the people. We have nothing to do with the State Premiers or State Governments; if our laws come into conflict with theirs, machinery is provided to decide whether we have gone beyond the line allowed. We cannot forget that in this Government there are those who, all through their public life, have been known as State righters, amongst the most prominent being the Minister of Defence. On the programme of the Government there is a proposal to appoint an Inter-State Commission.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– The Government, having no policy of their own, have openly declared their intention to consult the State Premiers in reference to Labour legislation, and to ask them to agree to the National Parliament providing means for dealing with industrial disputes. The Government intend to ask the consent of tlie States to legislation which should be undertaken by this Parliament, steps being taken, as the Fisher Government intended, to secure the authority from the people for the necessary amendment of the Constitution. The referendum is certainly the best and most democratic method of consulting the people, because to consult the Premiers means class government, the Chamber of Manufactures, through Mr. Joshua, having suggested this latter method of dealing with what is called the new Protection. The present Commonwealth Government are the most class-governed - and the most autocraticallygoverned - of any Government, and they are now intending to take a step for which there is no authority in either the Commonwealth or the State Constitutions. No authority has been given to this Government to consult the State Premiers, nor has any opportunity been afforded to this Parliament to discuss the questions which are to be dealt with at the Conference. The Government are supported by the Employers’ Federation and the Chamber of Manufactures, and the latter is to direct the policy, and frame legislation regarding wages, hours, and the conditions which surround the struggle for life of their employes.
– Does the honorable member really believe that ? If so, he will believe in any humbug.
– The Minister of Defence is well qualified to speak on humbug. I agree that the Government are humbugging Parliament, the working classes, and the people generally.
– The honorable member must not use that language.
– I made the mistake of following the lead of the Minister of Defence. What I object to mainly is the recognition of authority for which there is no provision in the Constitution, and it is evident that the Government desire to recognise this gathering of the Premiers as a little Federal Parliament. The State Premiers made no attempt to deal with those very evils which brought about Federation ; but, so soon as Australia united, we found Conferences called from time to time. It has been left to the Fusion Government, who claim to have instituted responsible government for the first time, to hand over their responsibility to a number of gentlemen who happen’ to have a majority following in their several Parliaments, though, in one instance at least, the majority consists of only one.
– Who told the hon- ‘ )ra Die r member that we were going to hand over our responsibility ?
– The Minister cannot deny the statement. Mr. Joseph Cook. - I do deny it.
– The Commonwealth Parliament, when the operation of the Braddon section expires, will have complete control of the finances, and yet it is proposed to consult the States.
– Even after the operation of the Braddon section ceases there is an obligation to be fair.
– There is no obligation under the Constitution except to the people - there is no obligation to the States as States - and to consult the people directly is the proper constitutional method. No one more clearly or strongly than the Prime Minister supported the creation of the High Court as a means of deciding the proper limitation of the powers of the Commonwealth, but now he proposes to adjourn the House while he goes behind thai measure and consults the Statu Premiers. We have reached a striking and important stage in our political life, when there are only two parties, with policies as wide apart as the poles on many points; and that emphasizes the seriousness, at the latter end of the last session of this Parliament, of conferring with representatives of parties which, in more than one case, as I have already indicated, possess small majorities running down to one. They are dying parties, while the party which ultimately will take their place holds entirely opposite views. So far as they have indicated their programme, the Government intend to extend the Braddon section in a modified form for another five years, simply to please the States. We need money to carry on the affairs of the Commonwealth. This Parliament cannot be charged with extravagance, although it can be proved up to the hilt that some of the States have been very extravagant, especially since Federation was brought about. Hence we should do our own business in regard to finance. The States have the same people to appeal to, and the same pockets to tap for taxation, but our first consideration should be the affairs and needs of the Commonwealth. I have very much less sympathy for the State Governments, because of their notorious extravagance and the absence of any attempt on their part to economize their expenditure. Their financing in a number of Departments, notably in the larger States, is nothing but wilful waste. New South Wales is one of the worst offenders in that regard, yet the Com monwealth Government, whom the honorable member for Gippsland has proved to be slow, lazy, and incompetent, are going to meet in conference with the representatives of New South Wales and other State Governments which have also proved themselves incompetent to deal “with . finance or to govern the affairs of their respective communities. No greater farce could be enacted. I have no desire to prolong the debate, although I believe the Government would be sorry if we curtailed it. It is evident that they have been waiting and playing for this. We have no hint of their Defence policy, which they nave kept dark in an astonishing way. We cannot find out what their representative at the Imperial Defence Conference has been instructed to do, and although leave has been given to introduce the Defence Bill, there is no sign of it yet. It has been nicely ar ranged that the Treasurer shall deliver his Budget speech at such a time that no honorable member will be able to discuss it until after the State Premiers have been consulted. There is no need for the Treasurer to consult the State Treasurers about finance. They will say, as all Treasurers do, that they want all the money they can get hold of. That is their business. They look upon the Commonwealth as the authority which is to do the unpleasant work of collecting taxes, while they have the pleasant task of spending them. One of the best things that could happen to Australia would be the final separation of State “and Federal finances. The States would then have to impose taxes for themselves, and the people would probably bring into power Governments that would be economical and show some capacity in the management of public affairs.
– We can relieve them of some of their expenditure by taking over services.
– We have relieved them of some of the biggest Departments. It is of no use for the honorable member to discuss the matter, because, like all the rest on that side, he is bound by the Government. Ministers are to go to the Conference without even a caucus meeting being held, and without Parliament having the slightest idea of what they intend to propose. Whatever they decide their followers will be bound to support. Honorable members opposite are under autocratic rule.
– What makes the honorable member say that the State Governments are bad?
– The State Ministers whom Commonwealth Ministers are about to meet have proved by their extravagance their inability to deal with financial problems.
– Does the honorable menu ber suggest that the Federal Government is the only really good Government in Australia ?
– Our opinions of this Government are well known. They have shown by their management of the business of the House that their only object is to waste time. They have been waiting for this Conference, and by their action to-day have raised it to a position of importance in which it over-shadows the great National Parliament. The House could easily go on with business next week. The Budget could be debated. It can only mean that the Government do not want the Premiers’ Conference or themselves to be in any way influenced by what honorable members may say. They desire a free hand, so that the State Premiers may be able to dictate to them their course of action.
– We shall know something to-morrow.
– The honorable member will not be permitted to know anything. He has to vote as he is told. The Government was created to keep the Labour party out of power, and its followers have the choice of keeping them in power or putting the Labour party in. As they have been elected as against Labour, they must %’Ote as the Government direct. No doubt it is advisable for the State Premiers to consult one another upon a number of subjects, but I strongly object to recognising their right to any say in national affairs, except as ordinary private citizens.
– They are only being consulted.
– We have no right to consult them. We are elected by the people, and not by them, as the honorable member will find when he faces his electors.
– Their knowledge might be very useful.
– Their knowledge of finance and the management of public business is very poor, judging by results. They have enormously increased their expenditure, even though we have relieved them of large Departments, and have handed over millions of pounds of surplus revenue to them. In addition to that, they have since Federation borrowed .£39,000,000.
– Does the honorable member pretend that this Parliament has all the knowledge and power ?
– I have never claimed that, but this Parliament ought to demand that the Government should uphold the Constitution, and not hand over its functions to a set of individuals whom the Constitution in no way recognises. We are told that we are to close our doors so that the Cabinet can be handy. Apparently, the Cabinet cannot trust any of its members out of its sight. State Ministers have been trusted by their Cabinets to come far from home, and commit their respective Parliaments to whatever they decide upon, but the Federal Cabinet is not ready to trust its Prime Minister and Treasurer a few yards away. When the no-confidence motion was being debated in this House, the Opposition was ready to go to a division on many occasions, [but the Government put up members to keep the debate going. The Leader of the Opposition last week, and the Deputy Leader to-day, pledged their party to take no advantage of the absence of Ministers. We so strongly and earnestly, believe that it is a mistake to exalt the Premiers’ Conference into a position of importance that we are prepared to give that undertaking. The Government will have to answer ultimately for whatever pledges or promises they make, but to adjourn the Federal Parliament is to make it play second fiddle to the Conference. If business went on, we should not take advantage of the Government, even if they left the Treasury bench quite empty, but in any case, surely Ministers could take it in turn to remain in temporary charge of the business, even if it was desired to call the Cabinet together. The Prime Minister’s statement that they want to have .the Cabinet handy shows that it is intended to hold Cabinet meetings, and make concessions to the State Premiers. It looks as though they intend to make an agreement with the Premiers. Apparently, it is not to be merely a question of having a friendly conference, with each side consulting its respective Parliaments afterwards, but bargains are to be made. The present position in Federal politics is quite different from that which has obtained previously, because the Government are supported” by a fusion party. Previously, every Federal Government has had to depend on the support of another party, and could not take extreme steps of this kind because they knew the other party would have a say. Hence we have had the valuable legislation that has been passed since the establishment of Federation. This Government has behind it a majority which dare not break away. lt knows that, whatever it agrees upon, it can carry in the House. 1 hope the Government, even now, will see the unwisdom of adjourning Parliament. I am opposed to their policy of consulting the States upon matters that are entirelyFederal. The proper tribunal to appeal to on the question of industrial legislation is the people, and not any set of State’ Premiers who represent the employing class. It has been said that the Labour party represents only a class. That charge is incorrect ; but those who make it are governed by Joshua and Co. and the employers generally. They do not propose to give consideration to the consumers. The Government have submitted in that connexion an unworkable scheme, but unless the Premiers of the States consent to its adoption, it cannot be reached. The consent of the State Premiers has now to be obtained before one forward step can be taken by the Commonwealth.
– We cannot pay old-age pensions without consulting the States.
– That is quite beside the question. Old-age pensions have to be paid and will be paid. My contention is that our financial arrangements should be adjusted by the Parliament itself with due regard to the welfare of the people. The Government are now proposing to introduce into Federal politics a disturbing element; they propose to recognise a miniature Parliament composed of two representatives of each of the States, which is a reversal of the Constitution.
– These Conferences have been going on for eight years, yet no objection has hitherto been raised.
– It has never been proposed before that Parliament should adjourn to enable Ministers to attend a Conference of State Premiers.
– Because most of the Conferences have taken .place whilst Parliament has been in recess.
– Previous Governments would not have been able to carry such a proposal as this. Indeed, the present Prime Minister, when at the head of a former Administration, would not have made such a proposal. We find, however, that he is now dominated by members of his Cabinet, who are, and have always been, State rights men. They are always looking to the interests of one or other of the State Parliaments, whereas our contention is that the Commonwealth should consider the welfare of the people as a whole and not some small section, even though it m’ay be described as a State Cabinet. I hope that the Prime Minister will see the wisdom of withdrawing this motion. A change of front on the part of the Government is by no means new; they have more than once reversed their decision during the last day or two, and I contend that no case has been made out for the proposed adjournment. The business to be dealt with by the Conference can be transacted whilst this Parliament is sitting. The Opposition are desperately anxious to proceed with the work of the House, and the Government should be prepared to go on with it. Apparently, however, they do not wish to disturb the harmonious relations existing between the State Governments and themselves. They all belong to the one crowd; they are all supported by the one class, and rejoice because they are anti-Labour. These considerations have doubtless influenced the Government to propose an adjournment of the House, in order that Ministers may attend a Conference which is entirely foreign to the Constitution.
– I have listened to seme remarkable utterances in this House since the inception of Federation, but have never heard more astounding speeches than some that have been made to-night. One would think from the utterances of some honorable members this even - ing that the State Premiers were pirates or buccaneers, who had made a successful raid on Australia from some of the remote islands of the Pacific, and that the Treasurer was prepared to empty the Commonwealth Treasury into their pockets. According to these honorable members, the State Premiers should be run to earth at the earliest possible moment by all our available police and military forces, and hanged, drawn, and quartered in front of the Federal Parliament House, as a sacrifice to the great ideal of unification, which they have in mind. There is no more ardent Federalist in this Chamber than I am, and I do not think that any honorable member spent a more anxious time than I, in common with other Federalists in Western Australia, did in the effort to secure the acceptance of the ideals that were embodied in the Constitution. Throughout the Constitution, the rights of the various States are most emphatically laid down, and undoubtedly amongst those rights exist certain financial considerations that we cannot and dare not overlook. We have heard a great deal of the millions spent by some State Treasurers. Those who refer to them are evidently unable to look over the boundaries of the States they represent. If they were, they would find that in some of the States a condition narrowly approaching bankruptcy had been brought about by Federation. The State from which I come has made in respect of Federation more sacrifices than any other in the Commonwealth’.
– Except Tasmania.
– Tasmania has undoubtedly made sacrifices, but whereas Western Australia entered the Federation - with an almost over-flowing Treasury and a magnificent surplus, she is to-day looking round almost in desperation to see how her functions can be effectively carried on.
– That is because she has lost revenue.
– I do not wish at present to enter into the details. Honorable members are sufficiently well acquainted with them to make it unnecessary for me to point out where the financial difficulties of Western Australia have arisen. My object tonight is to point out that the Federal Parliament has a duty to perform to the States as well as to the people of the Commonwealth. One of those duties is to give every reasonable opportunity for a common-sense and equitable financial arrangement between the States and the Federation to be carried into effect. I agree that in the past State Premiers have acted in a somewhat cavalier manner towards the Commonwealth; but we have now reached a point at which it is highly important that some friendly understanding should, if possible, be arrived at. The existing financial arrangement will terminate in another year, and on ordinary common-sense grounds honorable members should welcome an adjournment for a week to enable, if possible, a friendly understanding to be arrived at which will be satisfactory to the State Treasurers, as representatives of the States, and equally satisfactory to the Commonwealth. The occasion is serious enough to demand the undivided attention of Federal Ministers, and I intend to give them an opportunity to devote that attention to it, believing that it will make for the best interests of the Commonwealth, as well as for the interests of the State of which I have the honour to be a representative.
.- It is just as well that some one should be able to voice the opinions of at least a section of the Ministerial party and to express sentiments which they are prepared to cheer as. heartily as they have applauded these just uttered by the honorable member for Perth. I listened very carefully to the remarks made by the honorable member, who hasjust come from a nice little social gathering upstairs, at which some of the State Premiers were present, and has apparently become imbued with their opinions.
– The honorable member ought not to say that.
– That is unworthy of the honorable member.
– I am the best judge of what I ought to say, and am net going to allow the Minister of Defence to be my mentor. The statement to which he has taken exception is not so offensive as that made by the honorable member for Perth, that some of us evidently desire to see the State Premiers hanged, drawn, and quartered in front of this House. No more insulting observation could be made. Surely it was not wrong to say that the honorable member had just returned from a social dinner with some of the State Premiers.
– I think the honorable member was wrong in referring to that.
– If I did wrong, 1 am prepared to retract my statement. I certainly have no desire to be personal, and had I attended such a function should not have been ashamed to say so.
– I do not think that that has anything to do with the question.
– I think, sir, that it has.
– I fail yet to see the connexion.
– I connect the statement with the question before the Chair by pointing out that the opinions of honorable members are often influenced by their digestions. My digestive organs are in very good order, but apparently some honorable members opposite are not in that happy position, since they dare not open their mouths to tell the people they represent how they view this proposal. The action that we are asked to take will create a precedent for which there is no warrant. When I contrast the proposition made by the Prime Minister with his action in telegraphing to me when I was in Western Australia last March, pointing out that it was urgently necessary to bring pressure to bear upon the Fisher Government to convene Parliament at once in order that we might deal with measures of pressing importance, I cannot help wondering whether there is any sincerity in politicians. T thought then, “as [ think now, that we have too long delayed the settlement of the great national questions submitted to us by the Australian people. The Government has not yet put before us any proposal relating to them. Why is a week’s adjournment now proposed? My opinion is that the Prime Minister dare not go to the Conference, leaving the business of the House to be conducted by the Minister of Defence, but feels obliged to take him with him. A little later, .a Minister is to be sent to a show in Brisbane, by way of courtesy to the State of Queensland. Are Ministers also going to attend shows in Sydnev, Melbourne, and Adelaide?
– The Brisbane function is to mark th”e jubilee of the State. I shall attend it.
– Does the honorable member propose to put that before the business of the country? In March last the Fisher Government was asked to convene Parliament earlier than usual, because of the urgency of public business. During the past two or three months, 1 have noticed that New South Wales representatives, who formerly were in the habit of going home every Friday evening, returning on the following Tuesday, or later, have often stayed the week-end in Melbourne. Apparently the Government has required them to do this, and now proposes an adjournment to give them a fortnight’s holiday. We have not yet been told which of the Ministers will attend the Premiers’ Conference. Former Conferences have been attended by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, to which 1 take no exception, because ‘those Ministers must make themselves more thoroughly acquainted with external affairs than the other members of the Cabinet, but their attendance should not make the adjournment of the House necessary. The public will, never know what is done at the Conference. The press will not be admitted, as it is admitted here to record our utterances, if it thinks fit, which very often it does not.
– This is to be a glorified caucus.
– Yes. The people will only know what the individual members of the Conference like to tell them, and the members of the Conference will not represent the Parliament of the States. In some instances, leaders of Oppositions have a”ked to be allowed to attend as representatives of their supporters, and have been refused permission. Therefore, it is only the Ministerial sections of the State ;Parliaments that will be represented.
– And in two of the State Parliaments the Government has a majority of only one.
– That perhaps cannot be too often repeated. In the Conference only the Ministerial parties will be represented, and I should like to know which section of the Ministerial party in this Parliament will be represented. I know that Ministerial supporters are in direct opposition in regard to the proper distribution of the Commonwealth revenue. The honorable member for Robertson, whose straightforwardness and fairness I have always admired, is tied hand and foot now, because he dare not bring about a division which may result in a change of Government.
– The Prime Minister cannot bind the country. The proposals made must go before the people.
– I remind the honorable member that he himself has stated that a political issue is being engineered bv those who are called the advocates of State rights. His duty is to follow his own precepts, and to keep clear of combinations which he has branded as unholy, allowing the people to say what shall be done. In this Chamber, votes have been given in opposition to the declared opinions of members.
– By whom?
– It would be out of order for me to say; but if the honorable member thinks that the cap fits him, I am willing that he should wear it.
– I challenge the honorable member to show that I have ever voted contrary to my declared opinions.
– I was not alluding particularly to the honorable member, and I am not prepared to make the analysis of the division lists which he suggests. It is said that every game is fair in party politics, but I contend that nothing should be done which is not honorable and straightforward. One excuse for the proposed adjournment is that the Opposition will not give pairs, yet I myself heard the Leader of the Opposition promise pairs, not only for the Prime Minister, but also for as many of the Ministers as would ask for them.
– After six weeks’ refusal.
– Pairs have always been given by the Opposition.
– I twice asked the Leader of the Opposition for a pair, and was refused.
– The Leader of the Opposition recognises that the Prime Minister and Treasurer should attend the Conference, and, therefore, has promised to give pairs, not only to them, but also to any other Minister who may desire one.
– The Leader of the Opposition refused pairs for six weeks, and then offers to supply them to suit himself !
– I personally have refused pairs; but sooner than see the Prime Minister and Treasurer go to the Conference unprotected, I have pledged myself to give one if necessary. By parliamentary necessities, and for party purposes, we shall be forced to take from the Ministers, when they return from the Conference, a policy, which neither we nor the people of Australia approve. We shall have no voice in the matter, seeing that the pledges given at the Conference will have tobe kept; and we shall be treated similarly in regard to the question of defence. The Labour party, when in power, had a well-defined policy, in the forefront of which was the defence of Australia. Everything was ready to carry that policy into effect, and both the people and the Parliament of the country were taken into the confidence of the Government. Not so with the present Government, however; and we shall know nothing until Colonel Foxton returns and indicates to the Government what has taken place at the Conference in London.
– Is the honorable member going to sign the pledge ?
– Although not a pledged teetotaller, I have been a temperate man all my life. What possible objection or excuse can the Government offer for not eliciting the opinion of honorable members as to what shall be the financial disposition at the termination of the operation of the Braddon section? In the vestibule of this Parliament House, we are reminded that “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety “ ; but there is no safety in a minority represented by Ministers who have pledged the majority against their convictions. Why should we not all be bidden to the Conference in order to express our views ? At any rate, if the Government had thought more of the interests of the country, they would have obtained an expression of opinion from honorable members as to what was a fair business proposal to make to the States. The present Treasurer, when in a former Government, was the first to attend a Premiers’ Conference, and to make an offer as to what should be the States’ share of the Customs and Excise revenue, when the Braddon section expires. It was the highest offer ever made then, or since, by any Treasurer, but it was absolutely flouted.
– It would have been accepted if it had not been hung up with the State debts question.
– I believe that the Treasurer would have always stood out for special consideration for Western Australia, which - and I do not blame him - is always predominant in his mind. Another offer, made by the same Government, but through another Treasurer, happened to be less than the previous offer. This was founded on some figures supplied by the honorable member for Mernda; and it was also rejected. Then there was the offer made - and in my opinion, the most liberal offer, from a national point of view - by the Treasurer of the Fisher Administration, who felt that he had to look to the necessities of the Federal Parliament in the first place, and to the necessities of the States in the second place ; and that offer also was rejected. It is quite possible that had there not been a change of Government, there would have been no Conference now ; but, as the honorable member for Echuca said some time ago, the Premiers recognise that this is a suitable time, because they have now a friendly Government in power.
– That was said in another connexion.
– I know; but it applies in the present instance. The Premiers naturally consider that they are likely to get more from this than any other Government. It is a fact that some members of the Government, at least, hold’ strong biassed opinions on this subject ; and, directed by certain journals, they - and I say this with due respect - are prepared to give away the powers of the National Parliament in favour of the powers of the State Parliaments, because the latter dominate them more. If the Ministry had desired to be fair and just to the people, they would have given the House ample time to consider the question and we should then. have been bound in honour to whatever arrangement or agreement was made at the Conference. We are all proud of our Constitution. One member of the Government, to his credit, and honour, had a great deal to do with the framing of the Constitution, and I, in my humble way, had much to do with prevailing on the people to accept it. This Constitution lays on this Parliament, and not on the Parliaments of- the States, the duty of dealing with this question of the finances when the Braddon section ceases to operate. It is useless for the honorable member for Robertson to say that we shall have the right to deal with the matter when the Government have, come to an agreement with the Premiers. The Government will then come into the House with a party behind them, bound at a caucus meeting, and they will say : “ Here is the agreement; we do not care whether you like it or not ; if you do not like it, we shall resign, and you will have the terrible Labour Government in power again.”
– The honorable member has a vivid imagination !
– It is a fact. I have been a party man long enough to know what party claims are, and many times I have had to strain my conscience a little in order to support my party on questions on which I had never been consulted. However, my conscience has never been stretched to breaking point; and it has never been stretched at all on either side of this House. I am unlike the honorable member for Dalley, who, now he is supporting the Government, dare not get up in the House, and voice his opinions.
– I am at it every night !
– I am referring to the question immediately before us ; and I challenge the honorable member, representing the masses he does in Balmain, to get up and voice his opinions. As I have already indicated, we shall be similarly treated in the matter of defence. Something will be told the Ministry by Colonel Foxton on his return, and there will be evolved a scheme, which, even if there be a majority averse to it, will be supported for party purposes, although a much better scheme might have been arrived at by consulting Parliament. What are we sent here for? To follow the behests of six or seven members of the Cabinet, or to keep the pledges we gave to the people? I have pronounced my opinions on the defence question times without number to my. constituents, who share those opinions. And on the financial question, I have not hesitated to express my convictions, and my constituents expect me to voice their views in this House. I am deprived of the opportunity of doing so by the Government, who refuse to tell me, or the House, what their policy is, until they have gone so far as to bind themselves to a policy, whether the House likes it or not. That is the reverse of true representation of the people. We should have had some intimation, of the contents of the Defence Bill before the Conference took place. The Minister of Defence, charged with the responsibility of defending Australia, should tell us how he can fulfil that duty in accordance with the wishes of the House, and at the same time keep the pledges which he gave to the people of Parramatta. “But, from beginning to end, the Government have refused to take the House into their confidence. They have refused to take their own party into considerration, except upon one memorable occasion, when a caucus was held, and the majority was bound by the minority.
– Has there been only one caucus?
– The honorable member could say, if his lips were not padlocked. On this question the honorable member dare not address the House and give his opinions.
– Order ! I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that every honorable member is perfectly free at all times to express his opinions. It is not right or fitting to charge any honorable member with not daring to do so. I ask the honorable member not to repeat that statement.
– It appeared to me very fitting, because the honorable member fitted it upon himself. If the honorable member, in the exercise of his privileges’, refuses to address the House, he, of course, is the best judge of that; but it is unlike the attitude which he took up when he sat upon this side. We often heard him then, with pleasure, but we do not hear him now, and we can only ask the reason why. There are in the city of Melbourne two dominating powers, and one in the city of Sydney, in the shape of the metropolitan press. On the one hand, we have the Age, true to its old-time principles, true to the requirements of Parliament and people, telling the Government and their supporters that they are about to do a most improper thing. On the other hand, the Argus cracks the whip over the members of the
Government party, telling some of them that they had dared to break away from party ties, even in small things. The whip has been cracked with the evident intention of bringing them to heel. I can only imagine that they are to heel now, and dare not break away again. All this could have been avoided, and will, I hope, be avoided in the future, when Parliament has the right to elect its own Ministers. Every individual member .would then have equal power, instead of four or five members dominating the whole Parliament, and trying to dominate the country through it, as now happens’. The honorable member for Gippsland said to-night that he was becoming sick and ashamed of what transpired in Parliament. Similarly, I have become sick and ashamed of party government. I have seen so much df the evil that comes from it, and foresee so many evils to arise from it in the near future, that I want to abolish it as soon as possible. I have, therefore, . asked the House to declare, by resolution, that the time has come to end the system of party government, and substitute the system of elective Ministries, so giving the people of Australia truly representative government. Honorable members know the difficulties in the way of private members’ business. It is necessary to fix a date for its consideration weeks ahead, in order to obtain an opportunity of utilizing the two or three hours available, and of bringing the question to a vote. The Ministry know that the debate on my motion with regard to elective Ministries was adjourned until Thursday next, and they know equally well that an adjournment of the House oyer next week will shelve the motion for three or four months, and probably prevent its being reached again this session. I hear a laugh from one member who has been prominent in party government and party procedure. He may laugh now, but will he do so after the next general election ? That will be the time, for whatever hope the Government party may now buoy themselves up with, the iron has entered into the soul of the electors of Australia, and they are determined to have a different form of Government in the future. They are resolved to stop all these improper attempts to oust a Ministry from power, not because
– The honorable member must not discuss that motion.
– The matter is certain to crop up at the Premiers’ Conference. I have no intention to transgress the
Standing Orders, but I feel very strongly upon the question. On the 12th April last, while in Western Australia, the following telegram reached me from the present Prime Minister -
We are courteously asking Prime Minister summon Parliament earlier view- of pressing business; do you agree?
One of the reasons for the request which was made at that time to the honorable member for Wide Bay to call Parliament together earlier was stated in the press to be the necessity of dealing promptly with the question of defence, and with the spasmodic attempt connected with a “dread nothing” or a Dreadnought. As soon, how, ever, as the late Government were deposed, the first act of the present Prime Minister, showing his want of faith, was, not to get on with the business, but to adjourn the House for three weeks. If the late Government had not been put out of office, those three weeks would have been occupied with important measures, and the Defence Bill, instead of being still in the clouds, would have been an Act on the lines of the policy of the Fisher Government, of which the people approved, and with which the present Prime Minister said at Toowoomba that he was in hearty accord. In my twenty-four years of political life I have never before seen a Minister ask for leave to introduce a Bill without having the Bill ready. We have this session had the pitiable spectacle of Ministers asking for leave to introduce Bills without having the measures prepared. Some of them have gone so far as to move the second reading, when the Bill was not available. The reason is that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, the PostmasterGeneral , the Minister of External Affairs, and the Minister of Home Affairsare diametrically opposed to each other on many questions, especially that of defence. They have not yet come to an agreement as to what the Defence policy of Australia is to be, and although days have elapsed since the Minister obtained leave to introduce the Defence Bill, it is not ready even yet. Is this parliamentary government? Is it government in the interests of Australia ? God forbid that it should continue. The people of Australia do not send men here to be bound with shackles, or to be tonguetied. They send them here to be free, to voice their opinions fully and faithfully, and not to sit silent as honorable members on the Government side are now doing. We know they are not dumb, because we have heard them in the past. When they get outside the chamber, we have evidence that they are not yet afflicted in that way, but in this House they are as dumb as the dumbest creature outside. If I may not say that they dare not, I will say that they will not, voice their opinions. There is no warrant for an adjournment, even for an hour, on account of the Premiers’ Conference. It is to be held within a few hundred yards of this building. The telephone connects the two buildings, and the whole of the Government could attend the Conference if they wished, protected as they are by the offer of pairs. They could give this House business to go on with, and allow us to fulfil our pledges to the people. An adjournment may suit a few members very well, but those who come from Queens-‘ land, Western Australia, and other distant parts, cannot utilize the week to advantage, for they cannot get back to their homes. They must simply dawdle about Melbourne, and we know the adage about “ Satan finding mischief still for idle hands to do.” A more damning indictment of a Ministry was never made than that uttered by the honorable member for Gippsland to-night. He condemned, in the clearest terms, this wasting of public time by those who should conserve it. He quoted the Age article, which by this time has been read and believed by thousands of people, and all the sophistries imaginable will not lead the people to believe that the responsibility for the waste of time that has taken place rests with the Opposition. We have simply been discharging the duty we owe to our constituents, and the responsibility for the failure of the House to push on with public business rests with the Ministry and their supporters, some of whom are so bound and shackled that they dare not speak.
– By way of personal explanation,I wish to say in reply to the insinuations made by the honorable member for Riverina in his opening remarks that, as a matter of fact, nearly a week has elapsed since I intimated to the Government Whip that I should support this motion.
– I desire also to make a personal explanation. In the course of the few well-chosen remarks made by the honorable and distinguished statesman who has just subsided into silence - the honorable member for Riverina-
– I would point out that an honorable member is only permitted to make a personal explanation in order to show that he has been misrepresented.
– I am afraid, sir, thatI was rather slow in reaching the misinterpretation of aninter jection which I made, of whichI complain. In the course of the few well-chosen words uttered by the honorable member for Riverina, I asked, by way of interjection, whether he had yet signed the Labour pledge.
– The honorable member did not use the word “ Labour.”
– I explained, in answer to the interjection of the right honorable member for East Sydney, that I meant the Labour pledge. For some reason the honorable member seemed to misunderstand my remarks, and made an insulting reply which I donot think it is either necessary or fitting for me to answer in the House. I should be the last to suggest any such inference as the honorable member sought to draw from my remarks. What I wished to convey was that, so far as I understand the position of his constituents, they are in considerable doubt as to whether or not he is going to join the Labour party, and I asked, by interjection, whether he had signed the Labour pledge. If the honorable member thinks it inadvisable at the present juncture to answer that question, it is not for me to complain.
.- I desire to enter my emphatic protest against the proposed adjournment. I object to it for several reasons. I am opposed, first of all, to the work of the Australian Parliament being taken out of its hands, and intrusted to a Conference of State Premiers. Surely the Senate is competent to guard the rights of the States. If it is not, the Prime Minister should take the straightforward course of proposing a referendum to the people to determine whether or not it should be abolished. That would be a manly way of facing the position. But since honorable members of another place receive a liberal allowance, and are elected for a term of six years to protect the rights of the States, we should allow it to carry out the functions that have been allotted to it under the Constitution. The proposal made by the Ministry is a deliberate insult to the Parliament, and is antiAustralian in the extreme. We are asked, practically, to go down on our knees before the State Premiers, and the proposal is one which I, as an Australian, strongly resent. I hope that it will never be repeated in this Parliament. It is absurd to say that we have no regard for the rights of the people of the States, because we refuse to consent to the Parliament being governed by the State Premiers. The relation of the Commonwealth to the States is very much like that of a father to his family. The Federation is in the position of the father, and the States represent the family. Who would think of condemning a father if he refused to allow any one member of his family to govern the whole? The Labour party fight for the composite family’ of Australia. That is the stand which we have determined to take up, and the suggestion that we are not prepared to recognise the rights of the States therefore falls to the ground. Our desire is that the Federal Government shall conserve the interests of the people of the States in accordance with the Constitution. One of my chief objections to this motion is that it will involve serious delay in the transaction of public business. The Government are displaying an almost criminal neglect of the future interests of Australia by delaying the settlement of the defence question. We have in power a Ministry who claim that they are prepared to do something. That was the chief explanation offered for its creation, but beyond placing before us a political placard, and talking of what they intend to do, they have done nothing. For the last three years, I have had to endure the agony of listening to the declarations of the present Prime Minister as to what he intends to do, and, during the present session, we have had, on his part, a most miserable exhibition of the policy of delay. When I was first returned to this House, it was my pleasure to fight for a Tariff behind the honorable member for Hume, who, night after night, declared in no uncertain tones that certain business had to be transacted before the House adjourned. He won my admiration by the determination which he displayed in dealing with urgent work. If the present Government were sincere in their desire to deal with the defence question, the financial problem, and other large and important matters that await our attention, “they would take up the same stand, and we should be glad to assist them. Tuesday is the only evening in the week when the House should rise early. Having regard to the fact that many honorable members have to travel all the previous night in order to reach Melbourne, it is only reasonable that we should adjourn on that night at n o’clock, and the failure of the Government to insist upon late sittings on other nights is their own condemnation. The* proposal now before us, that we shall adjourn for a week, is more than an enthusiastic believer in Australian progress can endure. I have endeavoured to help the Government whenever they have evinced a spasmodic desire for action. I like . to fight an enemy whom I can respect, one who will shake hands both before and after the fight is over. But we have seen in the press reports of statements made by the Prime Minister, and also press opinions, to the effect that the Opposition have been deliberately obstructing the business of the House, and that with us must rest the responsibility for the little progress that has been made. That statement, whether it be made by a Prime Minister or any one else, is disgraceful. It is a deliberate untruth, having regard to the early adjournments that have taken place.
– The honorable member must not make that statement. Do I understand that he withdraws it?
– I do not wish to use unparliamentary language. I say that it is untrue that our party are responsible for the little progress that has been made with public business.
– The honorable member does not say that any honorable member of this House has said what is untrue ?
– I do not make that specific allegation, but I say that such statements have appeared in the press. Something in the nature of a game is played in connexion with politics. I suppose that there will always be a fight between the “ins” and the “outs,” and there are certain honorable rules that ought to be observed in connexion with such contests. It is unfair to indulge in innuendoes, or to resort to the roundabout method of making charges, through the press, against one’s opponent. I like to be able to respect my enemy, and I hope that we shall not have a recurrence of the tactics to which I have referred. If it were only to enable us to pass the Northern Territory Bill - which has an important bearing on the question of defence - I think that we ought to sit next week. But there are still more important questions awaiting our attention. The Budget statement is to be delivered tomorrow, and we have to formulate as quickly as possible a financial scheme to take the place of the Braddon “blot.” In the circumstances, therefore, those who have the best interests of Australia at heart cannot fail to protest against the proposed adjournment: Surely it. should not be necessary for the House to adjourn to enable Ministers to prepare themselves for the Conference? The present Prime Minister has been a member of various Governments during the last eight years; Conference after Conference has been held during that time, and, it seems to me, that his only desire in proposing that the State Premiers shall deal with this question is to degrade the standing of this Parliament. The Government are exhibiting an unworthy little Australian and State rights spirit instead of that Australian spirit which should dominate them in dealing with the work of this Parliament.
.- You, Mr. Speaker, being an old parliamentarian, must have felt that the most agreeable place to sit in the Chamber, next to the Treasury bench, is on the Opposition side. It is irksome to support any Government, whether it be a Labour or a Fusion Ministry. But the bantering which we on this side have had to-night is slight in comparison with what the present Opposition used to receive from those now on this side. The honorable members for Riverina, New England, and others then were dumb as oysters. The gag was applied more firmly to them than it is to me. An advanced thinker - Hugo, by name - once said that all militant thinkers must in turn be popular and unpopular as sailors are in turn wet and dry. Last night the honorable member for Hume found in me his long lost brother ; to-night he appears to think that he should despise me for ever more. Although I have no Irish blood in my veins, it is my fate to be always opposed to the Government. The only complaint I have to make against the speeches which we have heard to-night is that there is a certain amount of truth in them, though, as they come from the Labour party, that must be merely accidental. No doubt honorable members opposite have carefully read the article which appeared in the Age newspaper a couple of days ago. On Friday last I took a stand similar to that which they are now taking, and interjected that I did not recognise the need for an adjournment. As I have said, the Senate was constituted to guard State rights. In my opinion it has neglected its duty, and has become a party House, but my reply to those who say that certain action will be taken at the
Conference is that the Senate is the custodian of the rights of the States. The debate on the motion for adjournment has become a miniature censure debate. The honorable member for Gippsland, with a good deal of industry and a fair amount of skill, grouped together facts which better support a motion of censure than any that have ; yet been marshalled by honorable members opposite.
– He spoke against the waste of time for which the Government is responsible.
– He tried to show that Ministers had been negligent, that they have introduced their Bills clumsily, and have explained them badly. Personally, I see no reason for the proposed adjournment. The National Parliament should not truckle to the Premiers of the States.
– Is it truckling to confer with the Premiers of the States?
– No, but to stop the proceedings of this Parliament for a week”” is truckling to the Premiers. However, it is for the Government to justify this step. If Ministers think that, by meeting the Premiers,they can bring about an arrangement which will be just and equitable to the Commonwealth and the States, well and good, but if, when the Conference is ended, we find ourselves as far apart as we are now, the adjournment will not have been justified. I voted for the fusion, and I explained during the subsequent debate that I had sufficient confidence in the new Ministry to vote against the motion of want of confidence. I said that I would wait until its Bills were tabled before I would give it my unqualified support.
– Where are its Bills?
– Honorable members opposite have fairly charged the Government with not bringing forward legislation fast enough, and it is for Ministers to answer them. I am an Ishmaelite, so far as caucuses are concerned, and sufficiently independent to sit down when there is not room to stand.
– Where is the honorable member’s party ?
– I carry it about with me. The honorable member could not live without belonging to a party, while I can. What I am now saying will not save me from the opposition of the Labour party, but I feel bound to state my agreement with those who insist upon the personal responsibility of members. Responsible government is not to be used merely as a phrase to keep a Ministry in power. It has a real meaning, and I, for one, hold myself responsible for my utterances and ray votes. I do not attempt to curry favour with either the Ministry or the Opposition. Although a fusionist, I am not a Ministerialist, and shall use my discretion in regard to the measures of the Government, waiting until I see them before pronouncing an opinion upon them.
– Would not the honorable member suggest that they should be produced within a certain period ?
– I have declared that, in my view, there is something to be said for the criticism of the Opposition. The plea of the honorable member for Riverina for the abolition of party government is justified . by the events of the past three months. What has occurred of late has done more than anything else to convince honorable members and the public of the need for elective Ministries. However, I, for one, am not tied. Although I am opposed to an adjournment, I shall not vote for a miniature motion of censure.
– The honorable member is under the whip now.
– I take as little notice of the whip as does any honorable member. I hope the criticism which the Government has had will do it good. But I never heard–a more impudent statement than that the House would be tied bv the resolutions of the Conference.
– The honorable member, for one, will be.
– I shall not be tied. If the Ministry bound itself body and soul to the State rights party, I should vote for a direct motion of censure.
– That would burst up the Fusion.
– I should not care. But no Ministry would tell Parliament that it was bound by the resolutions of such a Conference. I put national rights before State rights. The State Premiers on this occasion will adopt an attitude different from that of former occasions, and will accept whatever the Prime Minister offers. Like the books of the Sybil, the proposals put before them become dearer every time. The Opposition has not been fair to the Prime Minister. Although mv voice has not been raised in his defence, I feel bound to say that he concluded his speech the other day by stating that the powers of the Commonwealth must be preserved. A great deal has been made of his earlier remarks, but his declaration that he would stand out for a national policy has been put on one side. He has been noted for his adherence to the national idea in politics.
– Does the honorable member believe that-he means anything that he says? I do not.
– I shall accept his statement, and give him an opportunity to prove ii. He says that he needs an adjournment of the House, and the support of his Ministers at the Conference. Personally I am against an adjournment, because I see no necessity for one ; but in view of the Prime Minister’s expressed opinion, I am prepared to give him the opportunity he desires. At the same time, I do not think that the Ministry should prolong the placing of what I call Sunday-school measures on the table. These are not measures of magnitude, but merely Sunday-school texts or placards, which might very well have filled in the latter end of a session. Whether there are to be any measures of great magnitude I do not know, but some five weeks ago I ventured to say, on the no-confidence motion, that, although there was a big list of Bills, I was not fool enough to think that they could all be carried, that if we could pass two of them, together with the Estimates, it would be all we could do. In fact, in my opinion, the fewer Bills this Parliament carries, and the sooner we have an election, the better it will be for Australia. The honorable member for Hume and some others seem to think that I am going to have a bad time at the elections ; at any rate, I would rather have my Christmas dinner in peace or in pieces than in gloomy and melancholy anticipation of coming trouble. However, I think that in the interests of the country it is fortunate that, for some reason or another, we are not able to pass many measures, though I certainly thought that the question of defence would have been dealt with. My experience of the honorable member for Parramatta as a Minister in New South Wales is that, when he takes a Department in hand, he does so thoroughly. The honorable gentleman was for years in charge of two Departments in that State, and, as he there excelled in administrative power, I hope to see him excel in his present position. He has charge of one of the most important Departments; and I prophesy that, if he is a good Minister, he will be the most unpopular one since Federation began. If he revolutionizes the Department as he should, there is bound to be an outcry against him. The Labour Government took pride in their Minister of Defence, but I very much doubted any just cause for that pride when I saw how the plaudits of the the officers and others were extended to him. A Minister, such as is now required for this Department, will find his bitterest opponents within the Defence Forces, though outside he will have the public to support him. We are all to blame for the present state of the defences, because for years we have been in a lethargic state, and have only now suddenly awakened. This is a question to which we can address ourselves quite free from all party feeling or ties, because, if there is a matter beyond party, it is surely that of the defence of our country. If the Ministry do propose to submit a Bill of any magnitude, let it be the Defence Bill, which is of vital concern to the people of to-day and to generations to come. Without being hysterical, those who read and are observant realize that the world is in a troubled state; and we here shall be scandalously and even criminally neglectful of our duty as representatives if we further delay to give attention to this important question ; indeed, any Government who ‘palter with this question ought to lose office.
– What does the honorable member mean by “delay”? Has there been any delay yet? I desire to say to the House that I will not be hurried in this matter at all.
– If the Minister means by his interjection that he intends to grasp the situation and do his duty, he is entitled to our respect. If he means that he is going to occupy a masterly position, the interjection is the best utterance he has ever made in Parliament; but if, on the other hand, that is not his meaning he is merely flouting the House.
– The interjection is a cover to the fact that the Minister is not ready with the Bill.
– Even if the Bill were not ready, that would be pardonable in a new Minister; and possibly the Premiers’ Conference may have reference to financial questions on which the Defence Bill depends. To-morrow we shall have the Budget submitted; and the Labour party, if they desire to have a vote of censure, might wait until then, seeing that there is bound to be an announcement in regard to defence and other questions. Probably the ^States may be told at the Conference that they cannot expect from Customs and Excise revenue the same proportion they have hitherto received, and that if they do so expect, the Commonwealth will be compelled, in defence of its own position, to resort to other means of taxation..
– That is where they are driving us - to the pawnbroker !
– As soon as the Government introduce a loan policy I am against them ; and that is a statement made without the goad of any party whip. I am against a loan policy, more particularly for defence.
– What about the Post Office ?
– And the same with the Post Office.
– The Government say that they are going to impose a tea duty.
– I shall not anticipate what the Government are going to do. In Great Britain to-day the Navy is maintained out of current revenue; and we in Australia should provide for our defence from the same source. The proper means of raising revenue for defence purposes in the times of stress and trial which are ahead of us is from the hoards of the wealthy classes. The Customs and Excise duties, which press heavily upon the masses to-day, are sufficient for the ordinary purposes of government. But I am not here to anticipate the Budget My remarks show that I am not in the councils of the Government ; but I repeat that, if the Budget proposals show any indication of a loan policy, I shall be. one of the bitterest opponents of the Government. I have been true to the pledges which I’ gave to my electors when the Fusion was not known; and during three years, I have been attacked and ridiculed by members who sat alongside of me. Some of those very members are to-day in the Government ; and the difference between us is that I accidentally saw three years ago what they saw only three months ago. When I go to the electors it will not be as an advocate of providing for our defence from loan money cr from Customs and Excise revenue, because I regard direct taxation as a proper source from which to obtain the necessary funds. These are my answers fo the bantering about my not daring to speak my own mind. The only tolerable position in Parliament, in my opinion, is in Opposition, where an honorable member can badger and banter and do what he likes.
– The honorable member does very well on the Government side !
– I am afraid that I forget I am alongside the Government. I may say, however, that I did not come over with all the goods and chattels of a fusionist, but just as an ordinary fusionist of the kitchen garden variety ; but, of course the position, like every other position, has its limitations.
.- The honorable member for Dalley began by suggesting that the debate had taken rather wide ground, but I do not think anybody got quite as far away as himself.
– I was replying fo honorable members who had spoken previously.
– And, therefore, 1 suppose the -honorable member had to cover a wider area in order to circumvent those honorable members. I have always been interested in the honorable member’s assertions of his. independence ; and I must say that, speaking generally, he does show a more independent spirit than most honorable members opposite.
– Or than most honorable members of the Opposition.
– I question that. But the honorable member for Dalley, after his remarks to-night, must not claim that he is the bright particular star of independence, seeing that he is doing precisely what he objects to others doing - he is not going to allow his vote to follow his views.
– I said clearly I would not.
– The honorable member cannot act in that way, and, at the same time, brag about his independence. If the honorable member prefers to allow the vicissitudes of party to govern his vote, contrary to his opinions, he is doing precisely what any party man does; to use his own words, the most “shackled and manacled” man in the House is in precisely the same position. The honorable member is afraid, for some reason or other, that this is what he described as a “ miniature censure motion.”
– So it is.
– That is for the Government to say. If the Government choose to accept the decision of the House if it be against an adjournment, and to go on with the business, honorable members on this side will not growl ; on the contrary, we shall be very pleased that our representations have had some effect. Such an action would show to us and the country, in a rather unmistakable manner, that the Government are really anxious to get on with the business.
– It is also safe to say that even if we do beat the Government, the Ministry will not resign.
– We are not asking them to resign.
– It is also safe to say that the Opposition will not beat the Government.
– I am afraid it is. It is very probable that the honorable member is another of those who, if he spoke his real opinion, would admit that an adjournment now is not justified.
– An adjournment is” absolutely necessary.
– The Prime Minister, in the course of his political career, Has undertaken to negotiate some very sharp corners, and he is “ taking on “ one now. At the very moment that the Prime Minister is talking about the extreme urgency of national questions that ‘ demand settlement, he asks for an adjournment of the House in the middle of a session, and at the same time attacks the Opposition for obstructing public business ! He says the pressure of business is so great that it is essential for us to sit early and late to get it through. Yet, even while making that public statement at the mayoral banquet, he knew that at the next meeting of the House it was his intention to move an adjournment for half-a-dozen of the principal sitting days. If he could advance any reason why we should adjourn, we should have to consider it.
– Why should he give a reason when he has a majority behind him ?
– Even so, an adjournment in the middle of a session is so unusual that it is necessary for him to make some pretence at justifying his action in the public eye.
– He stated his reasons very fully last week.
– He said that an important conference was about to be held. We admit that. Nobody objects to the State Premiers holding a conference. Nobody denies the importance of the questions which they will have to consider. We do not deny that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are justified in meeting the Premiers, and discussing matters with them, if they choose, but that is no reason why Parliament should adjourn. Is it to be contended that the business of Parliament must be hung up in the middle of an important session in order to allow Ministers to attend a meeting which they could attend without Parliament adjourning? How many minutes has the Prime Minister or the Treasurer been in the chamber to-night ?
– Have they not been engaged in important business elsewhere?
-Precisely, and why cannot they be engaged in important business elsewhere next week? We are muddling through without the grace of their presence to-night. Surely we can do precisely the same next week if a caucus meeting of the Premiers is being held in a building close by, and they want to attend it? If we ought to adjourn next week, why do we not adjourn now because they are absent ?
– The right honorable member for East Sydney was always in the chamber when in office.
– No one could be more assiduous, in attention to his parliamentary duties than the right honorable member for East Sydney was when in office.
– Cannot we get on with the work ?
– I echo the right honorable member’s sentiments. Why cannot we get on with the work next week instead of stupidly adjourning? If, on the other hand, as members of the Opposition have contended, and as was well put by the honorable member for Gippsland this afternoon, in a speech which was ‘most damaging to the credit of the Government, the real reason is that the Government do not want to get on with the work, of course we can plainly see the object. It will be very welcome to the Government, because they are rapidly approaching a time when they must bring forward some measures of importance. Nearly a page ofthe businesspaper is taken up with Bills, and the Government cannot cram any more in. They have already included everything of an unimportant nature that they can think of, but they will soon have to touch the questions of defence, finance, and new Protection. They cannot go on for ever as they are doing now. They have been pouring in Bill after Bill, and Ministers have delivered a succession of second-reading speeches, all with the object of making it appear that there is a lot of work before Parliament. I admit that if you cannot actually work, the next best thing is to take off your coat and appear to be working. The Govern ment are simply taking off their coats, so to speak, with this pile of Bills. As the honorable member for West Sydney said, we could almost pass the lot to-night, with the exception of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, which, I have no reason to believe that the Government are not sincere about. Everybody is in favour of the Norfolk Island Bill and the Bureau of Agriculture Bill. There is nothing in the last-named measure with which one could possibly disagree. There is not an operative clause in it. It is simply an essay on the advantages of agriculture. It becomes increasingly evident that the Government are anxious to adjourn, not for the sake of the Conference, but to get time to prepare some real definite policy. Why do not the Government come to grips upon something that they really believe in, and on which they stake their existence? The Government, and the Fusion party were formed to protect the Constitution, and to protect manufacturers from the insidious new Protection proposals of honorable members on this side. Why then are they not doing it? They were formed to bring about a national defence policy. Why do they not do it ? They were formed to bring about a financial policy.
– The Fisher. Government were eight months in office-
– The honorable member, if he is allowed to do so, may rise and make his own speech afterwards. I shall not allow him tointerruptmine. We know, from long experience, that his interjections are framed with the object of throwing a speaker off the track. The Government were brought in to restore the finances, and to bring about a fair arrangement as between the States and the Commonwealth. Why do they not do something in that direction ? Have they to wait until the Premiers’ Conference is held before they can act? Perhaps that is the reason for the adjournment. Is the Prime Minister going to the Premiers with a blank cheque for them to fill in for him? What is the policy of the so-called Fusion party? It is absurd to call it a Fusion party, because our experience of it shows that it is simply a congregation of honorable gentlemen of mixed political colours, who are momentarily imprisoned. A party which was a fusion would know what its policy was, if it had one. The party opposite have no policy. Can any honorable member opposite honestlysay that the
Ministerial party have any policy on the great national questions of defence, new Protection, or finance ? We know they have not, and I believe they will not get one until the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have obtained it from the State Premiers. Honorable members opposite are in a rather difficult position. What are they to do during the next fortnight? Since the policy of the Government has yet to be propounded, they must either refrain from addressing public meetings, or devote their attention to what they describe as the obstructionist tactics of the Opposition.. In view of the action of the Government in proposing this adjournment, however, they can scarcely continue to suggest that there has been obstruction on our part.
– The honorable member is getting on very well.
– The honorable member will admit that I am not reading one of my own speeches. If there were some common policy on which they were all agreed honorable members opposite might be able to render useful service to their cause during the adjournment. As it is, they will have to stay at home and twiddle their thumbs; they dare not talk about the Government policy, since it has not yet been determined ; . and they cannot speak about “ the obstructionist tactics of the Opposition,” because the action of the Government in proposing this adjournment has robbed them of that trump card. The Government have a difficult task before them in attempting to justify this proposal, while at the same time complaining of obstruction on our part. There are several other matters to which I had intended to refer, but since most of them have been dealt with by the honorable member for Gippsland, I shall not do so. The honorable member effectively pricked the bubble of obstruction on the part of the Opposition. The Government have advanced no reason why the Parliament should adjourn as they propose, and I have no hesitation in saying that if the Fisher Government were in office they would attend the Conference, but would not ask the House to adjourn to enable them to do so. I appeal to honorable members opposite to vote against this motion, and so show that they are really anxious to push on with public business. As an old parliamentarian, Tarn convinced that if a Government is- really anxious to push on with business, the only course open to it is to confine its attention for the time being to one or two measures, and to ask the House to sit early and late until they have been passed). A Government that is really anxious to do business invariably asks its supporters to sit late, and deal with the work set down for consideration. But the present Ministry has persistently sought for the adjournment of the House as early as possible every night. It has put up honorable” members on many occasions to keep a debate going, and in the circumstances I doubt its sincerity.
– On only two or three occasions has that been done.
– On many occasions. The debate on the no-confidence motion was kept going by some of the Ministerial supporters when we were prepared to go to a vote. The honorable member for Barker, for instance, was put up-
– It is impossible for me to hear what the honorable member is saying, owing to the cross-fire of interjections that is taking place. I ask honorable members to desist.
– When I referred to the honorable member for Barker there was a disposition on the part of honorable members generally to cheer, for I think we all recognise that on the occasion in question he made an exceedingly good speech. During the debate on the no-confidence motion - and the Government lay great stress upon that debate as showing persistent and wilful obstruction on the part of the Opposition - the Ministry themselves put up the honorable member for Barker to prevent a vote being taken when we were prepared to go toa division. On another occasion the honorable member for Grampians was put up by them to continue the debate. Night after night, as soon as half-past 10 came round they put up some one to suggest that the honorable member addressing the Chair should ask leave to continue his remarks on the following day. Often when members of the Opposition were ready to go on they were not allowed to do so. An honorable member, at the instigation of the Government, asked thehonorable member who was speaking to obtain leave to continue his remarks on the following day. Between 10 and10.30 p.m. o’clock every night the Minister of Defence almost regularly remarked to the honorable member addressing the Chair, “ Don’t you thinkyou had better get leave to continue your speech to-morrow?” That was a direct incentive to honorable members to continue the debate. We could not help recognising that the Government did not desire the debate on the no-confidence motion to come to a speedy close, because they were not ready with their Bills. As a matter of fact, we have seen that they were not ready to proceed with business, and in the circumstances it is idle for them to talk any more about obstruction on our part. A Government anxious to push on with measures which it considered urgent has never received so much consideration from an Opposition as we have extended to the present Ministry during this session. We allowed the Standing Orders to be suspended to enable the Supply Bill, the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, the Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill, and the Coinage Bill to be passed through their remaining stages without delay.
– No, I objected on one occasion to the Standing Orders being suspended.
– That is so.
– The Opposition did not object, because they had reached the point of exhaustion.
– The honorable member is altogether in error if he thinks that that was the position. We agreed to the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable three or four measures to be passed through their remaining stages without delay, and in several instances refrained from discussing them at certain important stages in their progress through the House.
– I am looking over the list of Bills which the honorable member and his party agreed to pass to-night.
– Can the honorable member tell me of any Bill on the notice-paper that he would like to get through ?
– We should like to pass the whole lot.
– Could anything show more clearly the supreme absurdity of the contention that the Government are anxious to get on with business than the inability of the Minister of External Affairs to point to one measure that they would like to pass without delay?
– What about Order of the Day No. 14?
– I find that I made a mistake in saying that, with the exception of the Northern Territory Bill, there was not on the notice-paper one Bill worthy of consideration. As a matter of fact, No. 14 on the list is the Land Tax
Assessment Bill, a really important measure which was introduced by the Fisher Government. I do not know why we have not been asked to discharge it from the notice-paper. Have the Government fathered the Bill?
– It appears amongst Government business on the notice-paper.
– Quite so. Having regard to this request for an adjournment, nothing could be more absurd than the statement of Ministerial supporters that business has been delayed owing to the obstructive tactics of the Opposition.
– What have the Opposition done to-day?
– Is the honorable member prepared to proceed with the Defence Bill?
– There is plenty of important business on the notice-paper.
– I am prepared to agree to the passing of almost every one of the measures on the business-paper without uttering a word.
– As soon as the Government please.
– Then the honorable member should resume his seat, and let us get on with them now.
– We have the best of reasons for believing that the measures appearing on the notice-paper have only been set down by the Government for the sake of making an appearance of work. I have onlyto say, in conclusion, that the bubble of obstruction on the part of the Opposition has been effectively pricked, and that it is idle for the Government and their supporters to continue to make that charge against us.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Is the honorable member off the string?
– As usual, sir, some one else opens the speech of the honorable member who rises to address you. As one who occupied for many years the position of Leader of the Opposition, I am greatly concerned with the way in which that distinguished position has been filled since my honorable friends moved to that side of the Chamber. In my time, there was always a very earnest, intelligent, and patriotic examination of Government measures, but never the slightest appearance of obstruction. That, in a few words, states the history of the Opposition during the first seven years of this Parliament. From a long and pleasant acquaintance with the oratorical methods of the honorable member for Boothby, I know when he is obstructing and when he is in earnest. In the latter case he is painfully serious, while in the former his manner is, I might almost say, flippant. For six years, the members of the Labour party seemed to think that the Prime Minister and his conduct of public affairs afforded not the slightest opportunity for even the most cursory criticism. Year after year they followed him with a docility and implicit confidence which did not earn my approval or admiration. Not many months since, I thought it my duty to invite the attention of the House to the state of the finances of the Commonwealth, and submitted a motion expressing disapproval of the financial policy of the late Deakin Administration. The question! was a very important one, affecting the administration of Commonwealth affairs at a thousand points of con- tact ; but, to my intense surprise, my honorable friends opposite, who now never know when to sit down, then never knew when to rise. I pointed to a number of ways in which it seemed to me the Government of the day was blind to the highest considerations of finance, and yet they voted solidly against my motion, thus declaring that, in their opinion, the finances of the Commonwealth were perfectly sound. On taking office a short time afterwards, they admitted that all I had said was perfectly true. Their conduct on that occasion showed a degree of dumbness and apathy to which I had been accustomed while I was in Opposition, but in the light of their present exuberant eloquence very serious doubts as to their sincerity are suggested. One of the chief duties of a member is to fearlessly express his opinion on. the matters submitted to him, not with a view to the convenience of the Ministry, but in the light of the public interest. The tireless, if not tedious, eloquence of Labour members I regard as a sign of their resurrection from the silence of their political vault into the healthier atmosphere of free discussion. I congratulate them on the efficient way in which they talk about going on with public business, and prevent it being done. With regard to the proposal before the House, I must admit that in the midst of a very important session, and after the delays which have occurred since we first met, it is a serious thing to propose an adjournment for more than a week. Nothing could justify it but some high public necessity. The question is whether the reason advanced by Ministers is sufficient. If the approaching Conference is to resemble in its proceedings several which have preceded it, I should gravely question the need for this adjournment. At the last Conference, the Prime Minister of the day - and, I think, another Minister - waited on the Premiers once or twice. One or two addresses were made, and some questions were asked. That was practically the share taken by our representatives in the Conference. The word “Conference” implies that those who confer shall discuss together the subjects of difference between them, on terms of close association and equality. I venture to recommend the precedent which I set when I had the honour of being Prime Minister. Honorable members opposite have spoken of one or two of the present State Governments as having a majority of only one. I do not think that any one has proved more successfully than I did that it is possible to carry on the Government of the country with such a majority.
– Pairs were given in those days.
– I do not know what I should have done under present conditions. I do not think I should have survived a day. But there are signs now of a reversion to the courtesies of civilized life, of which I hope to take advantage in a week or two. I hope that the Commonwealth Ministers will make this a genuine Conference, meeting with the Premiers day after day to discuss the various matters of public interest upon which they are to confer. It will, of course, be competent for them, and for the representatives of the States, to also hold separate Conferences. That will be consistent with the holding of a free, open Conference of Commonwealth and State representatives to discuss the serious and difficult matters which are to be dealt with. But if our Ministers are merely going to attend the Conference for an hour or two, the adjournment will not be justified. I realize the importance of the Conferences. This is the last opportunity which these high authorities will have of coming to a friendly understanding in regard to certain difficult problems. If those questions are not now finally disposed of, they will be thrown into the seething vortex of political controversy, with results that may be disastrous to the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth. I express very strong regret at the tone of some of the speeches which have been made here with reference to the Premiers of the States and the States themselves. It is inconceivable to me that any one should draw the slightest distinction between the Commonwealth and the States, the people of the Commonwealth and the people of the States being the same individuals. The common interest of the population may be divided by arbitrary lines, indicated by the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament and Government, and those of the States, but in the solution of the questions to which I have referred, the only interest is that of the community at large. I regret that there should be any trace of disrespect, bad feeling, want of courtesy, or lack of confidence shown here, before the opening of a momentous Conference such as that which will assemble on Friday next. Instead of difficulties being thrown in the way, instead of an attempt being made to inflame political feeling, at a moment like this, all sides should endeavour to clear the way for an honorable and friendly settlement of difficulties. We should try to remove from the path of the Commonwealth and of the States stumbling blocks which may have to be removed by violence, but which it. would be better to remove by harmonious concert. The unification of the Australian communities may be eminently worthy of consideration, but it would .be a mistaken and ignoble course to endeavour to advance that policy by introducing discord and disorder into the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. If there is a majority of the people of the country who desire to brush aside the State Parliaments and State Governments, who wish to emasculate the State Constitutions, and add to the range and power of the Commonwealth Constitution, that can all be done in the ordinary evolution possible in a free Democracy. But whilst these two powers exist, and questions of large moment invade both, whilst the lines which separate the interests and concerns of the’ one from the interests and concerns of the other are so indistinct or overlap, we should all have only one spirit and one desire. If my honorable friend, the honorable member for Wide Bay, were head of the Government at present, I hope I should feel sufficiently disinterested to wish him and his Government the same success which I desire for the present occupants of the Treasury bench. While the honorable member for Wide Bay was Prime Minister, and some of my friends opposite were his colleagues, they represented only a minority - a number very much smaller than a majority of one, because, after all, the Labour party in this House numbered, I think, at that, time only twentyseven or twenty-eight. Although we were all aware of these circumstances, I know that, as far as I could, I threw into the scale any influence I possessed in order to show the Labour Government and the La-, bour Prime Minister that respect to which they w.ere entitled as the official representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia. Whether this Fusion was wise or not, or whether it was in the public interest or not, is a matter which will be considered by the electors of Australia in due course. But, in the meantime, the government of the country must be carried on ; and while this Parliament is in existence there should be a desire to strengthen the hands of the Government when they embark on matters of general and national concern, regarding which party feeling should disappear. There are a sufficient number of burning questions on which honorable members can light with greater earnestness and intensity ; but there. is one vital attribute which governs parliamentary government of the highest type. That is the patriotic self-effacement which, in matters of national emergency, fuses all warring political parties into one national party. We ought to act as one national party, at any rate, in the endeavour to bring about an honorable settlement of the vexed question of Australian finance. This Conference will be no caucus in the sense to which reference has been made. The Braddon section, which was put into the Constitution, certainly not with my support, is about to expire; and I think I may say I had a rather influential part in giving that section a limitation of time. Honorable members know that, as the Constitution was first submitted to the people of Australia, that section would have been perpetual, and I recognised that it would be a national calamity if the new Commonwealth were exposed to the suicidal necessity of having to burden the people to the extent of £4. of annual taxation in order to receive -£i for the exigencies of Federal finance. I accepted, as a compromise, a proposal that the period of that section should be restricted to ten years ; and that, while recognising its duty to the States, the Commonwealth should have that freedom and elasticity of finance which is demanded in the public interest. I am not sorry that the operation of that section is coming to an end, but we must not forget that there was never any idea of taking advantage of the expiration of its operation in order to neglect the legitimate necessities of the States. It is easy for honorable members to say that the States will have left to them all the resources of direct taxation, if the Customs and Excise revenue be appropriated exclusively to Federal purposes. But that sort of argument loses sight of the fact that, so far as the great masses of the people of Australia are concerned, the only form in which they contribute to the’ public revenue is that of Customs and Excise duties, and that, if the .whole of the revenue from these sources be taken away from the States, the latter will be put in a position which no well-wisher, I think, of either the States or the Commonwealth would desire. I admit; with an honorable member opposite, that on more than one occasion the State Premiers have not shown that disposition which I previously said we should show. I have on several occasions observed
Avith regret evidences of a spirit which’ is not only not diplomatic, but which may, in the final result, be destructive of what I conceive to be the due rights of the States. This is the last time when reasonable counsels will have an opportunity to prevail. I wish to see a settlement which will give to the States a very fair proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue, whilst, at the same time, resting the settlement on clear and definite lines which, for all time to come, will keep the finances of the States absolutely distinct from those of the Commonwealth. I believe it is possible to recognise the due claims of the people of the Commonwealth separated by State boundaries and the claims of the people of the Commonwealth beyond State boundaries, on lines which have already been indicated at more than one Conference. I vote for this adjournment, conscious of the inconvenience which it will occasion, and of the serious stoppage of public business - which becomes all the more lamentable when I discover the ardent appetite of the Opposition for useful legislation. I only hope that if the vote on this motion is not precisely that which my honorable friends opposite desire, the result of the division will not be destructive of the eminently patriotic spirit which they have displayed. I hope that when we meet on the 25th the honorable member for Barrier, who never speaks except when he is sitting down, and the honorable member for Boothby, who is never humorous except when he is wasting time, will come back refreshed and determined to help the Government in passing as many as possible of the useful measures on the notice-paper. If I cannot be here when the House meets again the first man to whom I shall go for a pair is my friend, the honorable member for Coolgardie, because we all k’now the pliability and amiability of his disposition. In supporting the adjournment I wish to express my hope that the Commonwealth Government, with, the assistance of the State Premiers, will be able to arrive at a friendly settlement of the most important problems that await solution - a settlement which will represent the wisdom and patriotism of the distinguished gathering about to assemble, and will be indorsed by the people of Australia as worthy of their acceptance, and as giving an earnest of a better state of things under which the great powers of the States and the great powers of the Commonwealth will work in harmony and peace for the benefit of the whole community.
– I should not have risen to say anything on this motion after the very able speech delivered by the honorable member for Gippsland had it not been for the speech delivered by the right honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat. I notice that he has taken up his perch on the very edge of the Ministerial cross bench, so that if he does not get all he wants he can readily fall off. The right honorable gentleman has appeared to-night and for some little time past as an apologist for the present confusion Government. He has tried very deftly on many occasions to smooth over the Labour party; why, I do not know, but I think I can guess. He commenced to-night in his glib and sarcastic way to jibe the Labour party for obstructing business, as though no “ohe was ever guilty of that before. I should like to remind the honorable gentleman of what he and his followers did when another Government was in power. I have seen it equalled in another Parliament, but there never was such obstruction in this chamber as that instituted bv the” right honorable member for East Sydney at the time to which I refer. It was carried on bv the honorable member for Lang, the honorable member for Wentworth, and two or three other honorable members. They took relays for three nights in succession, and for two weeks, and each spoke for about three hours. What has made the present Opposition feel indignant has been the attempt to fasten upon them responsibility for wasting time. That charge was absolutely refuted by the honorable member for Gippsland iri a speech which, on such a question, was as able as any ever delivered in this chamber. The report of that speech will be read throughout this country, and will show who are blameable for the state of things existing at present in this Parliament. It is about time that some such speech should be made, to show the electors on whom the blame should lie.
– It rests entirely on the honorable member’s shoulders.
– The honorable member will be here only for a few weeks.
– Who is that?
– I think the right ^honorable member for East Sydney expects to be leaving the shores of Australia very shortly.
– May I take that as an offer?
– The right honorable gentleman can rest assured that I would like to keep him here, because I always like to have him opposite to me. I was referring to the honorable member for Hunter, who will not be here after the next election. I expect that the right honorable member for East Sydney will have gone before that. The honorable gentleman dealt at some length with the Premiers’ Conference. He said that the Prime Minister and his colleagues representing this Parliament should meet the Premiers of the States on an equal footing. I hold that this is the” superior Parliament of Australia.. We represent the superior power. I desired arid assisted in every way I could in the past to come to a fair and plain understanding with the State Premiers, but I say unhesitatingly that unless those who represent the Federal Parliament at the Conference take a firm stand they will not get fair play from the Premiers of the States. It behoves those, who are to represent this Parliament at the Conference to be very firm indeed with the men they will meet there.
– They treated the honorable member and his offer very badly.
– I .shall refer to that presently. Eight Premiers’ Conferences have been held since the establishment of Federation. They were all proposed by the State Premiers, and except on the last occasion, when no work was entered upon,, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and his colleagues were not met by the Premiers assembled in Conference in the spirit in which they should have been met. On the last occasion on which, in company with the present Prime Minister, I attended a Conference of the Premiers as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, I submitted a proposal which was the best and most equitable that had ever been made to the Premiers of the StatesThat proposal was treated so contemptuously, that I felt it was not possible in any reasonable way to arrive at an equitable settlement of the questions at issue with the representatives of the States. I do not say this in any. hostile spirit. When I had a discussion with the Prime Minister before we met the Premiers on the occasion to which I refer, I thought that the proposal I intended to submit would be readily accepted. The basic principle that should underlie the Commonwealth’s dealings with the States is that there should be a severance of finances. Upon that principle, an equitable adjust-‘ ment should be made. I made an attempt in that direction. The original idea came from the honorable member for Mernda, He thought, even more strongly than I did, that the proposal which we made would be accepted at once, but it was rejected with scorn.
– How much did the honorable member propose to pay to the States ?
– My proposal was to take over the whole of the State debts, which then amounted to £”244,000,000. I think the debts now amount to ,£252,000,000 or ,£254,000,000. The States were to pay the balance of interest, ,£2,700,000 per annum, the Commonwealth taking over ,£6,000,000 interest for five years, and from that date for thirty years we were to make a reduction to the States of one-thirtieth each year- That scheme would have wiped out the?whole of the debts with interest, leaving the States absolutely free. I felt that in making that proposal the Government were acting generously. We were to take the whole of the responsibility for the debts and interest, and if the Customs and Excise receipts did not meet requirements, it would have been our duty to raise money by direct taxation, or in some other way.
– Last year the Premiers represented that they viewed the honorable member’s proposals with apprehension.
– I know; but they were straightforward proposals. I have said before, and I repeat, that I never saw the present Prime Minister deal with a matter of difficulty in an abler and better manner than he did at that Conference. His acquaintance with finance surprised me, and his memory of figures compelled my admiration.
– Am I to understand that the Prime Minister agreed to direct taxation for this purpose?
– The honorable member must not try to trip me. What I said was that if, at the end of a certain period, we found that we had to raise more money for the purpose of meeting our obligations, we should have to do it by direct taxation, or in some other way. The Prime Minister knew what was in my mind at that time, but there was no pledge of direct taxation. On that occasion we met the Premiers at from 10 to11 o’clock in the morning. We remained with them until lunch. If any one has to argue on financial matters for three hours, he does not want to do any more business of the kind in the afternoon.
– The honorable member would have shown more sense if he had begun after lunch.
– No, I think that is a bad time, because perhaps one’s brain is not quite so clear then. We left the Premiers at lunch time. They discussed matters amongst themselves in the afternoon. Next morning the Prime Minister and I met them again. We were in the House every day, taking our part in business ; and there was no undue strain. That is the reason why I say that it is absolutely a waste of time on the present occasion to adjourn for a week. The Prime Minister knows that we did our work in our offices, attended to our parliamentary duties, and were present at the Premiers’ Conferences, on that occasion without difficulty. I believe that our work was done very well indeed, and the whole matter was discussed thoroughly. Business with the State Premiers could be done just as well in the same way on the present occasion. But my fear is that between banquets and afternoon picnics so much time will be occupied this year that there will be little remaining for work with the
Premiers. Our work was done well on the occasion to which I have referred, because we were busy all the time. I have shown, I think, that on this occasion there is no necessity whatever for adjourning till the 25th instant. The criticism about obstruction by the Opposition has been refuted by the honorable member forGippsland in a most effective manner. He has made it clear that it is not fair to accuse the Opposition of wasting time. Nothing of the kind has” occurred. The obstruction, if I may so call it, has come from the Government. As was said by an honorable member this afternoon, when the Government assumed office they did not follow the example that was set on previous occasions, and ask for a fortnight’s adjournment. They took three weeks. There is no excuse for them, and honorable members who support them will not do themselves justice if they make excuses. I am sure that the honorable member for Balaclava, for instance, knows that what is proposed is not a good thing, although he will be whipped in to vote for it. During my political life I have had to fight strenuously to get measures through.
– The honorable member “ bul locked “ them through.
– I do not care whether the process is called “ bullocking “ or not ; I got them through. I never found it easy to get important measures through before 1 o’clock in the morning.
– When I was Prime Minister and the honorable member was Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, we used often to have to sit till 6 o’clock in the morning.
– I treated the right honorable member very fairly. For three months or over, just before this Parliament was established, I never got any business of importance through until about 1 o’clock in the morning, and thought myself fortunate if I ever got home before 4 o’clock. Judging from my experience of Parliament a Government cannot expect to get measures through without late sittings. They must make a stand and not play with legislation.
– The honorable member is giving the Government a good tip.
– Well, I have not been obstructing.
– No, the honorable member is helping the Government to get on with their business !
– I am not here to help the Government with their business, because they have no mandate from the country to proceed with business. They are not carrying out their election pledges. That is why I say that it is a highly improper thing for a Government who have not laid their policy before the country in a proper manner to go on with measures of importance, with which they have not been empowered by the country to deal. That is why I shall not consent to support this Ministry in any way ; but in our present position we must not dally with the defence question. It is too important, and should be above party. It is so serious that if it is not dealt with properly the country will quickly want to know what is the matter. With regard to the question of finance, which will be dealt with at the ‘Conference, the position is pretty well known. The figures which were prepared when I was last at the Treasury only need adding to. The present Government can tell, perhaps, a little more accurately what the exact requirements will be, but I gave, as is recorded in Hansard, a fairly accurate idea of the amounts that it was anticipated would be necessary. -It is now for the Government to say how they are going to find the money for the work that they have to carry out. I was gratified to hear the honorable member for Dalley say that he was against borrowing and against a duty on tea. Rumours are going about, and I believe that the bonded stores have been cleared of tea.
– The honorable member’s Government proposed a tea duty, but I fought against it.
– I was not Treasurer then. I believe the present Treasurer held the position, and it is a good thing that his proposition was defeated.
– It was Sir George Turner.
- Sir George Turner may have proposed the tea duty, but I think special duties upon tea and kerosene were tabled by the present Treasurer. The Treasurer ought to have known a month ago what was required. What happened on the last occasion, when the Tariff was completed? Action in regard to the financial question was not taken, because the Tariff was under consideration, and I had stipulated that the Tariff was to go through before any other serious business was brought on. Directly the Tariff became law, my first action was to create the two trust funds and to pay money into them for old-age pensions and naval defence, but the Premiers fought me at once. They took me into the High Court, and if I had not been stubborn over the matter, we might not have succeeded in our object. What happened then, however, shows the feeling in the minds of the Premiers. The Prime Minister and Treasurer will find that the Premiers will fight every inch of ground to get all they can for the States.
– We have two good battlers.
– Have we? I hope the Treasurer will not battle like he did in Brisbane, to give away everything to the States. It is a good thing that he did not go a little further and pledge the Commonwealth. I am afraid that “he will try to do something at this Conference in the same direction.
– The . Ministers cannot pledge the House.
– It was stated that if the Treasurer had gone a little further at the Brisbane Conference an agreement would have been made with the Premiers which this Parliament could not have gone back upon.
– It was subject to the approval of Parliament.
– No. The honorable member should read it. I do not want to see any pledge given upon this occasion over the head of Parliament. Let the Prime Minister and the Treasurer discuss the matter and get the best they can - they will have to be very steadfast to get anything like a good adjustment - and then promise only to submit the matter to the Commonwealth Parliament for acceptance or rejection. With regard to the question of equality, the Commonwealth, if it liked, could take over now ^202,000,000 of the public debt incurred by the States up to the time of the inauguration of the Commonwealth, without asking the States for their consent at all. It could take those debts .oyer and pay the States whatever it thought fit out pf the Customs and Excise revenue. It “is time that a halt was cried in some of the States. I shall produce figures in the Budget debate to show that in one State extravagance unparalleled in the history of Australia has been brought about, whilst borrowing has been going on faster and faster.
– That was the See Government.
– The worst part was done by the Carruthers and Wade Governments. The work that was carried out in New South Wales in the last year before I left State politics for a little over£9,000,000 now costs£15,000,000, although the Commonwealth has taken over the Defence, Post and Telegraph, Customs, and other Departments. It is very nice for the State Governments to spend plenty of money to keep their supporters together. It is a very good thing, if they have the money, to spend it on useful public works, but it is bad for the Commonwealth to have togrind down its public servants and starve its services. It is not very nice for the Commonwealth to shoulder the blame for not extending the telegraph, telephone, and postal services, but it is a good thing for the States tobe able to show how much money they can spend. That sort of thing must stop. I hope there will be no proposal to postpone the settlement of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States for five years, or, in fact, for any period. The present is the best time to reach finality. If we allow the question to standi over a settlement will become more difficult even than it is now, and there will be constant bickerings the whole time. I hope the Treasurer will consider the views I have put forward, because the position, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, is most serious. I do not want to see any borrowing. It will be a sorry day for the Commonwealth when it begins to borrow side by side with the States. The States have been borrowing up to the hilt, and if any necessity arose they would have to look to the Commonwealth to keep them solvent. Let honorable members consider the position of any of the smaller States. If they were unable to meet their engagements, as the result of excessive borrowing, who would stand in the breach? The Commonwealth. Consequently, the Commonwealth should have something to sayin regard to excessive borrowing. The honorable member for East Sydney has declared that it was never intended that the Braddon section should cease to operate at the end of ten years; that the intention was that it should be continued either in its entirety or in a modified form. I say that was not the intention of the framers of the Constitution. This Parliament was left absolutely free to determine what should be done at the end of the ten years. As a matter of fact, if theCom- monwealth took over the State debts - even if the Braddon clause were wiped out in its entirety - it would relieve the States very considerably. I do hope that great caution will be exercised by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer in their negotiations with the State Premiers. I shall have another opportunity of dealing with this matter when the Budget is under consideration.
– I was rather surprised a little time ago to notice that the Government intended to ask Parliament to adjourn over the Premiers’ Conference. I was especially surprised, in view of the fact that when the Fisher Government were in office the Prime Minister was consumed with an anxiety that Parliament should be called together at an unusually early date, owing to pressing measures of importance which had to be dealt with. There were uncharitable persons who at the time suggested that that was not the real reason underlying his anxiety. They declared that his object was to displace the Fisher Government, and thus secure the emoluments of office. The fact that immediately after becoming Prime Minister hesought an adjournment for three weeks, and that he now asks Parliament to adjourn practically for a fortnight, lends colour to that statement. Since we have met it does not appear that time has been occupied to the best advantage. We can scarcely believe that the Government are anxious to expedite business, especially in view of the character of the measures which they have submitted. They have brought down, for example, a Bill of Exchange Bill, for which there has been no great outcry in the country. “ Do I understand that the Prime Minister is willing to adjourn?
– Yes, on the understanding that we take a division upon this motion at 4 o’clock to-morrow afternoon.
– Then I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted, debate adjourned.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Prime Minister[11.29]. - In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to state that the arrangement arrived at is that private members’ business is not to be taken to-morrow. I think that all honorable members on this side of the House have agreed to that course being adopted, and that the debate which has just been adjourned will be resumed as soon as the House meets.
– The debate is to be resumed as soon as the House meets, and we are to take a division at 4 o’clock, at which hour the Treasurer will deliver his Budget.
.- If we are to close the debate at 4 o’clock, I think there ought to be an understanding that a great deal of the time of the House between 2.30 and 4 p.m. will not be occupied in putting questions to Ministers.
– Quite so.
– If honorable members on our side put a number of questions to Ministers we must, of course, stand to the agreement; but if a considerable time is occupied in that way by honorable members on both sides of the House it will be only fair that the debate on the adjournment of the motion should be allowed to continue after 4 p.m.
.- I saw a statement in the press this morning that after the delivery of the Budget the Treasurer would, possibly, with the concurrence of the Government, give private members an opportunity during the evening to deal with business standing in their names on the notice-paper. I wish to know whether that is so, in order that honorable members may make their arrangements accordingly.
– No such proposal has been made to me.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090811_reps_3_50/>.