3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish, to know from the Prime Minister whether, in view of the expressed opinion of nautical experts that the Waratah is probably drifting towards Australia with the current, assistedby the prevailing westerly winds, he will ask the agents of Cape steamers outward bound from Australia to give instructions for a special look-out to be kept for the missing vessel. Will he also communicate with the British Admiral, to ascertain whether a warship can be sent to assist in the search ?
– I understand that the vessels bound from Australia to South Africa are keeping a vigilant look-out for the Waratah. I shall ascertain if any vessel of the squadron is available for the search. .
-Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to propose legislation for the amendment of the Constitution, to increase the powers of the Parliament regarding industrial or other matters? Under section 128 of the Constitution, such a law. must be passed by a majority of each House, and the proposed amendment submitted to the people not more than six months later; while, if there is a disagreement between the two Houses, a delay of three months must elapse. Has the honorable gentleman taken these facts into consideration, and, if so, what date is it proposed to fix for the introduction of such a measure as he may contemplate?
– I hope to be able to give a definite answer about the end of the month.
King and Flinders Islands
– As £10,000 is provided in the Estimates for the installation of wireless telegraph stations, will the Treasurer provide for communication between King and Flinders Islands and the mainland?
– The exact position of the stations has not been finally determined.
Travelling of the Governor-General.
– No doubt the Prime Minister is aware of the annoyance caused to the Chinese residents of Sydney and Melbourne by the action of their ‘Consul - General in travelling by a steamer of the Japanese line. So great is their feeling on the subject that both in Melbourne and Sydney they boycotted his departure. As His Excellency the Governor-General recently selected a steamer of that line, instead of an Australian-owned vessel, to travel between two ports on our coast, will tie respectfully point out to him that such preference is against the sentiment of the Australian people ?
– Is this a free country ?
– I should hesitate before suggesting to the Governor-General, or other officer of the Crown, his choice of conveyance from State to State. There may have been strong reasons for choosing the Japanese mail steamer. Perhaps it was the only one available.
– Two other steamers with white crews were leaving for Brisbane about the same time.
– I do not know what their accommodation was, or whether the necessary berths were obtainable. The Consul-General of China is the representative of another Power.
– I referred to the case of the Consul-General of China only by way of example. Is not the honorable -member aware, that the late Queen Victoria suffered interference, even in regard to the arrangements of her private bed chamber, when they had a political significance? Does he not think that the Governor- Gene-
Tal should not, in his official capacity, and on an official visit, show a preference against the declared policy of the Austra;lian people?
– I remember the incident to which the honorable member refers, when the ladies of the Queen’s bed chamber played an important part in a British political crisis. I trust that he does not suggest that anything of the kind is impending in consequence of the action of the Governor-General.
– Has the Treasurer yet obtained a reply to my question as to who authorized the omission of certain crossheadings from a reprint of my speech, after this House had determined that reprints which had been ordered should be given cross-headings ?
– I have received a reply from the Government Printer in which he regrets that the omission was due to an error of his Department;1 and states that the speeches are now being reprinted with the head-lines which had been omitted. The instruction sent by the Secretary to the Treasury was that the decision arrived at by the House should be complied with.
– Will the Prime Minister see that works in hand, or likely to be put in hand, will be pushed on as rapidly as possible, and that every effort is made to use material which can be manufactured in Australia? At the present time, a large number of men are out of employment, and Government work would be helpful to them.
– A great deal of work can be taken in hand at once. We shall nsk honorable members to deal with the Works and Buildings Estimates at the earliest opportunity.
Wyalong Payments - Retention of Pensioner’s Book - Western Aus- tralian Claims.
– I have been informed by the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney that arrangements have now been made to pay old-age pensions at the post offices at Wyalong and West Wyalong.
– The statement is published in this morning’s papers that the Castlemaine Benevolent Asylum authorities have had an application from an old-age pensioner to be allowed to return to the asylum, because the authorities of a Salvation Army Home to whom he formerly paid 6s. a week insisted, when his pension was increased under the Commonwealth Act, on being paid 8s. a week, and when, in consequence, he left the home, refused to return to him his pension-book. Has any institution or person the right to keep an old-age pensioner’s book, and refuse to allow him to draw his pension for himself?
– The matter has not been brought under my notice, and 1 have no information regarding it, but I shall cause an inquiry to be made.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: - 1, Yes. 2, I believe they did, some time ago. 3, Yes, with pleasure.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - 1, How much public money has been set aside towards giving trials to new methods of labelling mail bags during the past five years? 2, To whom was such money paid, and in what amounts? 3, What length of time was allowed tor giving the Cole-Bently label a trial? 4, Will he be willing to allow a few pounds to a postal employ^ for the purpose of giving a trial to a more expeditious method of labelling bags, by which it is claimed the work can be done in one-third of the time taken under the present system?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1, Have the members of the Postal Commission claimed or drawn expenses for Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, while sitting in Melbourne, during any portion o’f the present session of Parliament? 2, If so, will he state the amounts claimed or paid to each member of the Commissioin and the dates of the Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays for which expenses were claimed or made?
– In reply to thehonorable member, I desire to state -
Yes. Those members of the Commission, whose domicile is not in Melbourne have se- drawn expenses for Saturdays, Sundays, andi Mondays.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Personal questions of this sort are unusual and unfair. I do not understand the bearing of the second question. If the honorable member alludes to a division in this House on the Bill introduced by the late Government, I would remind him that almost every member of his party supported it without respect for previous votes. The matter will come before the House shortly, and if he then desires to know my opinions regarding it, I shall have great pleasure in stating them.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 12th August, vide page 2445), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That the item “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- Inregard to the questions submitted by this Government to the House, one cannot fait to be struck by the excessive trust which is reposed in individual Ministers by their colleagues in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister, for instance, when submitting his policy statement to the House, hari to read from a printed document, whilst the Minister of Defence and other members of the Cabinet all had their eyes fixed upon him. Yesterday the Treasurer submitted a typed Budget for the consideration of honorable members, certainly not clothed in the language which he usually employs when speaking for himself, and during the whole of that deliverance he was assisted by the Prime Minister sitting alongside him, and acting in the dual capacity of prompter and censor.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the poetry was not the Treasurer’s?
– Probably the poetry was the only part of the Budget Speech for which the Treasurer could take individual responsibility, and I believe we have heard even that two or three times. The Budget is propounded as the deliberate policy of the Government, after eight or nine weeks of exhaustive examination of the necessities of the position. Never has a more incomplete or unsatisfactory Budget been presented to this Parliament, although we were advised, when the Government assumed office, that serious questions in regard to finance, industrial legislation, the future financial relationship of the ‘Commonwealth with the States, and the control of the immense public debt of Australia, were to receive the earnest attention of Ministers and of Parliament. Seeing that the House has agreed to go into temporary recess in order to allow Ministers to attend the Premiers’ Conference, the least we might have expected in the Budget was some forecast of the manner in which the Government intend to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth at that Conference. We got no such statement. We were told nothing but the bald fact that Ministers are going to enter into a Conference with the State Premiers and Treasurers. What position does that Conference hold? Several of the State Governments are already tottering to their fall. In Queensland it is expected that the Government will be defeated at an early date. They have at present a majority of only one. That is an important fact that should be taken into consideration, seeing that, as the result of the ‘Conference, we may be asked to accept an agreement that will be binding on the Commonwealth for a number of years.
– Does the honorable member say that the minorities in the State Parliaments do not want the finances of the Commonwealth and States to be fairly adjusted ?
– I do not say that those minorities, or the minority in this Parliament, are not desirous of obtaining a satisfactory adjustment of the Commonwealth and State finances; but we want an adjustment on such a basis that the future interests of the Commonwealth will be safeguarded. In both Queensland and South Australia the State Government has a majority of one.
– Did not the honorable member’s party, when in a minority, propose to bind’ the Commonwealth?
– Our party were never in a minority in the conduct of public business until the day they left office. They never swerved from their determination to put their programme on the statute-book, and they had a substantial majority, although it was composed of units in whom little reliance could be placed.
– The honorable member should not look at me.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is in a most unhappy position. He is chairman, or secretary, of the Anti-Sweating League of Victoria, and yet is associated with the biggest sweaters in Australia. He has professed, by interjections, and other methods, this morning, to be seeking the assistance of the Government in order to relieve unemployment, but he is associated with those powers which are responsible, by their conduct of the government of the country, for creating the unemployment that at present exists in Australia. He has to stick to the Government because he can do nothing else. He has forfeited the confidence of the Democrats who used to vote for him in his constituency, and is now compelled to look to the employers and sweaters of Australia - although I do not say that all employers are sweaters - and to the anti-Socialist leagues to put him into Parliament at the next election. He knows that, without their help, he has no hope of being returned. But a more serious question than that’ of the position of individuals, and one demanding our attention, is the problem of obtaining such a satisfactory adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States as will encourage that advance towards a complete national existence which the great bulk of the people of
Australia desire. I look with the greatest possible anxiety at the mission ‘of the Treasurer and Prime Minister to the Premiers’ Conference. We know that when the Treasurer went to Brisbane, he offered the States what was practically a continuance of the Braddon section for a number of years. By that means he would have tied up the Commonwealth in a way that this Parliament could not tolerate. We do not know whether he will not make a similar offer now, in order to arrive at an agreement with the States.
– The honorable member has great faith in the Treasurer’s consistency.
– I cannot say that I have, but the Treasurer has not told us that he has somersaulted from his attitude of two years ago.
– He is a man of action, not of words.
– Then he must have galvanized himself into sufficient activity to change his attitude on this question, if he is going to bring about a settlement which will be as satisfactory to the people of Australia as the Prime Minister professes to desire.
– The honorable member did not expect the Treasurer to make a public announcement on the subject?
– The Treasurer, when asked an awkward question in Western Australia, replied that he never took a fence until he got to it. We are up against that particular fence now in regard to finance, and it is a fair thing that we should know what we are going to do. The honorable member for Wentworth is apparently in a very hilarious mood. That also seems to be the state of mind of the Government, because they know they have a dumb majority, who are not going to ask questions. They are in a strong position in their administration, because of the weakness of their individual followers. There is a number of men in the Ministerial party who are compelled, by their own individual helplessness, to stick to the Government, no matter what they propose, because they know that if they endeavoured to express individualopinions they would be annihilated between two fires. The Government recognise that, and express an absolute contempt for their followers, by the manner in which they present business to the House. In my opinion, it was not fair to bring the Budget down just before the House was to go into a temporary recess. It ought to be liberally debated before Ministers are allowed to go to a Premiers’ Conference, so that they may be in a position to express opinions which will have the weight of the people of Australia behind them. More elasticity must be given to the financial relationship of the Commonwealth and States, if we are going to build up a strong nation in these southern seas. We are faced now with the fact that the Government are going to a Conference without indicating to the House the nature or extent of the proposals which they will there submit to the representatives of the States. The Government will attend the Conference, and bind themselves to give effect to proposals of which we know nothing, relying on the threat of a dissolution if they be removed from office to compel their supporters to vote for them.
– They know that such a threat will be effective.
– I have already said that I am sure the Government will find, on their return from the Conference, that they have a dumb majority prepared to indorse whatever they have done.
– I had to say that for seven years to the Labour party, and yet I could not induce them to rise.
– The right honorable gentleman, about twelve months ago, moved a motion of want of confidence in the financial proposals of the late Deakin Administration.
– And the honorable member voted against that motion.
– Because we were not then prepared to accept the responsibility of putting the right honorable member for East Sydney in office.
– That is my feeling towards the honorable member’s party.
– The right honorable gentleman declared at the time that party interests should not be considered - that the paramount consideration in our minds should be the great necessities of the Commonwealth.
– And the honorable member and his party were dumb.
– I admit that we gave a silent vote on the motion in question, but the right honorable gentleman will agree that the Deakin Government - I. am not going to say that it was in consequence of his indictment, because I believe the seed of discontent had already been sown - did not remain long in office after the delivery of last year’s Budget statement. If the supporters of the Ministry were to honestly express the opinions which they hold regarding the Budget delivered yesterday, I am sure that the present Administration would not last long. If last year’s Budget was so bad as to necessitate the removal from office of the Deakin Administration, that now before us is fifty thousand times worse.
– The honorable member has not given us time to digest it.
– I am glad to know that the microbe of discontent with the present Government may yet find its way into the right honorable gentleman’s composition.
– Did the honorable member speak on the last Budget?
– I did ; I made a severe indictment against the Deakin Government.
– But the indictment was not loaded.
– I claim no credit for what followed, but the fact remains that within a few days of the making of that indictment the Deakin Government went out of office.
– And still I was out !
– The right honorable gentleman must have a lively recollection of the incidents that led up to his retirement from office, for if ever a man was treated disgracefully by an alleged supporter, he was.
– There is a difference of opinion as to that.
-I am expressing my own view. If one who claimed to be my political friend and supporter suddenly concluded a speech in the House by driving a. political stiletto into me I should not think that he had shown me much consideration. That was the treatment which the right honorable gentleman received at the hands of the present Prime Minister.
– The Labour party did not feel it when they went out.
– The difference between our treatment and that extended to the Reid-McLean Administration is, that the latter did not anticipate the blow. They may have had a hazy suspicion that it was to be aimed at them, but there were not many who thought that the present Prime Minister would allow the Labour Government to remain long in office after the present session opened.
– That accounts for the long recess ?
– It was shorter than any other recess in like circumstances.
– It was a fair recess ; any other Government would have remained in recess quite as long.
– These reminiscences help us to more thoroughly appreciate the possibilities of at least one member of the present Government ; but I wish now to return to the question of finance. If there is one outstanding question that demands our urgent attention, it is the preservation of the supremacy of the Federal Parliament and its possibilities in regard to the future development of the Commonwealth.
– And the preservation to the States of the rights given to them under the Constitution.
– They are entitled to reasonable treatment, but should not be able to extract from the Prime Minister an agreement which will tie the hands of the Federal Parliament for years.
– We are all agreed as to that.
– The present Treasurer proposed to do at the Brisbane Conference what I am denouncing to-day ; and there is nothing to indicate that he will not make a similar proposition to the Conference of Premiers next week. The transfer of the public debts of the States, which amount to £250,000,000, and are increasing, involving, as they do, an interest account of something like £9,000,000 per annum, is of immense importance. We must all be agreed that they could be more effectively controlled by one central authority, and that savings could be effected and the future credit of the Commonwealth preserved by their transfer to the Federal authorities. As it is, a band of Ministers who have proved themselves to be financial muddlers are to have a free hand to determine what our financial relations with the States shall be. The Prime Minister has been in office for seven of the eight years of Federation, and yet is unable to finance the ordinary expenditure of the Commonwealth. His policy has been to let next year provide for itself. He and his Ministers have said in days gone by, “ We have a surplus this year; let us hand it over to the States.” Until the Surplus Revenue Bill was passed they paid no regard to the future necessities of the Commonwealth, and the result is that we have to-day a deficit staring us in the face. What would be said of any financial institution which, anticipating an expenditure in excess of its revenue made no provision, in the ordinary course of business, to meet that excess ? Yet what do this Government propose? They do not promise to exercise economy or to impose increased taxation. All that they say is, “ Let us borrow to meet our current liabilities.’ ‘ A more contemptible financial proposal has never been submitted to an Australian Parliament.
– I was asked to do the same thing when I was Treasurer, but would not consent.
– Was a more outrageous proposition ever made? Whilst the Government desire to raise money by the issue of short-dated Treasury bonds, they have a still greater desire to remain in office. So far, only two of their supporters have taken part in this debate, and both of them, whilst prepared to give the Government every consideration, say that they object to borrowing. What does that mean?
– That they will not have it.
– The Ministerial supporters have only to say that they will not consent to the proposal, and it will not be carried into effect. The Government can readily adapt themselves to any circumstances.
– Why not impose a tax on absentees?
– I have an alternative proposal to make. In view of the statements that have been made by two of their supporters, the Government will go to the Conference of Premiers with a knowledge that it will probably be difficult to carry their proposals to borrow, and they may be induced to enter into an unsatisfactory arrangement with the States to tide them over present necessities and to render it unnecessary far them to do what would be distasteful to some of their supporters. Their desire to retain office will doubtless tempt them to come to any arrangement which will give them temporary supplies, and the whole future of the Commonwealth may be involved. When the Premiers had the big end of the stick - when the Braddon section had still some years to run - they were not prepared to make any reasonable proposal which we could accept without sacrificing the dignity of this Parliament. Now the position is such that the Commonwealth has to admit that it is in a tight financial position until the Braddon section expires. I have no doubt that Federal Ministers will ask for consideration and concessions from the States, and it may be that they will con sent to the placing of unnecessary restrictions on the Commonwealth in yearsto come in order to obtain temporary relief. It is seriously proposed to this Legislature to borrow money on short-dated Treasury bonds, at an interest not stated; and yet we are told that this is not a borrowing policy. The Government desire the defence of the country to be placed in the hands of the school children, and they evidently think that school’ children compose the Legislature to which: they submit such a proposal. We all admit that the Prime Minister is an accomplished word spinner, but he will have difficulty regarding this matter. I ask the honorable member for Balaclava, who has had some financial experience, whether he does not think that the issue of Treasury bonds, redeemable at short date, on which interest is to be paid, is a loan policy?” He makes no reply. For years past honorable members have warned theGovernmentthat, unless they were careful, they would muddle themselvesinto their present position. It might benecessary to take over non- paying Departments ultimately, and, I believe, the control of such Departments is more satisfactory under a central authority; but thistransfer, together with the liability for bounties, and the unsatisfactory position ire regard to the sugar bounty, involve anexpenditure which has led to the present embarrassment. But those who warned the Government, and foretold this deficit, were regarded as false prophets; and it is only fair that the Committee should be reminded of the fact that the present difficulties were foreseen. The Treasurer now submits a new proposal. We know that nearly £7,000,000, over and above the onefourthof the Customs and Excise revenue, have been paid to the States ; and when it wasproposed that the Commonwealth should retain the surplus revenue, the present Treasurer described it as “ political burglary.” Apparently, it was - robbery to retain thesurplus when we were in a necessitous position, and within a few months of meeting: serious obligations, but now in his opinion it is a perfectly proper course to ask the States to debit themselves with the moneys they have already been paid, as a set-off against the transferred properties.
– It is a perfectly absurd proposal !
– I have noticed that theTreasurer is seldom in the chamber to listen to remarks of this kind.
– Let us have a quorum. ([Quorum formed.]
– The members of this Government have a greater capacity for finding urgent business outside this chamber than any who have previously occupied the Treasury bench; and the Treasurer is notorious for delivering speeches and disappearing as soon as possible. If it was political burglary to retain the surplus revenue - -and the Treasurer denounced the suggestion both here and in Western Australia - the present proposal is highway robbery ; as the honorable member for Franklin has said, it is outrageous absurdity, which no one would expect on the part of a responsible Government. Until the Braddon section expires, there must be difficulty in making a final arrangement in regard to the transferred properties ; but that the States should be recouped the amount they have expended on those properties is only just. The Labour party have been frequently charged with responsibility for many shortcomings of the previous Deakin Administration ; but those who make the charge forget that, when it was demonstrated that that Government would not mend their ways, definite action was taken to remove them from office.
– It took the Labour party seven years to arrive at that conclusion !
– The financial position of the first Parliament, and, in a degree, of the second Parliament, did not reach a critical stage. Within the last couple of years only have we started to take over Departments rapidly, accepted the responsibility for old-age pensions, and realized the true significance of the sugar proposals. Thereupon the Labour party took very definite action, and declared that, if the Government were not prepared to meet their liabilities, they must be removed from” office. Then the Fisher Government have been charged with a certain responsibility for the present position. But can any one say that the Fisher Government proposed a loan policy to meet current expenditure? I do not say definitely that there are not precedents for such a course in the State Legislatures, but I know of no precedent for borrowing money, except for the carrying out of public works, and so forth.
– Was it not the late Prime Minister who said that future obligations would have to be temporarily financed?
– The late Prime Minister presented an exhaustive policy at Gympie, which was embodied in the Go vernor-General’s speech, and has been explained here several times since ; and by no stretch of imagination can that policy be interpreted as being in favour of borrowing to meet current liabilities. The Fisher Government proposed to impose a tax on the lands of the big landlords for the dual purpose of bursting up big estates and raising revenue.
– How much revenue was anticipated from that source?
– In the absence of any schedule presented to Parliament, the amount cannot be accurately anticipated. Another proposal of the Fisher Government was the nationalization of monopolies.
– -Would a third of the required revenue have been obtained from land taxation ?
– Very likely.
– Was the nationalization of monopolies required for revenue purposes?
– The nationalization of monopolies, particularly of tobacco and sugar, was required to benefit the employes in the industries, and insure a better and purer article to the consumers, and, at the same time, put the profits into the public exchequer, instead of into the pockets of private individuals. It was anticipated that there would foe a return of a few .hundred thousands of pounds per year from the two monopolies I have mentioned. The late Prime Minister proposed a note issue as a first step towards a national bank. That would have given an immediate return. He would also have secured ,£30,000 more from the telephone subscribers by requiring the big users to pay in proportion to the service rendered to them. Those were four of the ways in which, under the late Administration, additional revenue could have been obtained to meet the increasing obligations of the Commonwealth. This Government proposes to obtain the necessary money by issuing Treasury bonds, which, it says, is not borrowing. Whenever, during the last eight or nine weeks, Ministers have been questioned on matters of policy, the answer has been, “ Wait until the Budget is delivered.” Yesterday we heard the Budget - the most miserable performance of the kind that has taken’ place in this Chamber - and got no information at all. Of course, a Ministry must have time in which to consider important questions affecting Commonwealth interests, (but, after nine weeks, Ministers seem to have arrived at no conclusions. What have we been told regarding the Defence policy? It is now not a matter of waiting for the Budget, but of waiting for the declaration of the Honorary Minister, who is attending the Imperial Defence Conference. The Defence policy initiated by the Fisher Administration, by ordering the construction of torpedo-boat destroyers, is one with which this Government dare not interfere.
– The previous Government set aside the necessary money.
– The honorable member knows why it did so, and why it provided money for old-age pensions. He also knows why it introduced tu« Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill within six weeks of a declaration by the Prime Minister that, unless arrangements could be made with the States, we must wail until 1910.
– It was not known then that the Surplus Revenue Act would be valid.
– There was a reason for the sudden change of front shown by the late Deakin Administration.
– What was it?
– I refer the honorable member to the Government Whip. To retain this country for the white races we must be prepared to make preparations to defend it. The Government has admitted the urgency of defence preparations, which, we were led to believe, would be outlined in the Budget. Now we are asked to wait for the return of the Honorary Minister, and the submission of the Defence Bill. Is the Government going to be satisfied with the training of school boys between the ages of ten and fourteen, “ continuing towards manhood “ ? What is meant by that phrase ? A child a day old is “ continuing towards manhood,” though not able to assist in the defence of his country. I am of opinion that schoolboys should receive certain elementary instruction in drilling, but their place is in the school, not in the field. We have been told that the policy of the Government regarding land defence will be founded on the principle of universal training, commenced iti youth, and continued towards manhood. How long does the Government intend to continue this training? To get at its policy we have to analyze the statements of individual Ministers. The present Minister of Defence used not to be an enthusiastic advocate of compulsory training. If he has been converted to it since taking office I suppose it is on the principle of accepting the smallest verdict possible.
– And no damages.
– Honorable members cpposite are more concerned about the damages which they will have to pay as the result of their actions than about the defence of Australia. The damages which will’ have to be paid when they face their constituents will be excessive. It is important to know whether the Government intendIhat this country shall depend for its defence on schoolboys and youths who havejust left school ; but Ministers have adopted a policy of studied silence, amounting almost to contempt of the Opposition. The other night, a special adjournment was proposed by a Minister, without justification, and without reply to the objections urged on the score of want of precedent, the urgency of public business, and the possibility of proceeding with the Budget debate while the Premiers’ Conference was sitting.
– Which does the honorable member prefer, the studied silence of the Prime Minister, or the studied speeches of the Treasurer?
– We should like Ministers - especially the Treasurer - to speak more frequently. This is a Government of individuals. Ministers are in agreement only when their policy has been embodied in a written document, and one of them is always on the watch to see that it is read through thoroughly and accurately. There is no agreement between their individual opinions, and there must have been a warm altercation in the Cabinet when the compulsory training provisions were under discussion. The opinion originally held by the Prime Minister, that we should have a fighting force capable of giving a good account of itself should the necessity arise, has been replaced by the statement that the training of youths, begun in the schools, continued to the age of fourteen, and further continued towards manhood, will be sufficient. On the question of naval defence, all that the Government have done has been to send the Honorary Minister to a Conference in London, for which it has been abused by its newspaper organ ever since, despite its constant apologies. Another significant passage in the Budget is the reference to the Tariff. This matter should appeal to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who used to take a very vigorous interest in the rectification of anomalies. Since the original Tariff was passed there has apparently never been much the matter with it except anomalies. On the last occasion they were interpreted to mean the remodelling of the whole Tariff. It has been alleged since that there are anomalies, and we now get this statement from the Treasurer : - “ Injurious anomalies . . . will be coped with. Fiscal stability gives great advantages to our trade and commerce, which can be preserved if anomalies are prudently provided against by wellconsidered action.” Will anybody tell me that that is the language of the Treasurer ? As there is a. doubt as to whose language it is, will anybody tell me what it means? When a Government resort to the use of phrases of that description, can any one believe that they intend to deal with Tariff anomalies this session ?
– According to the honorable member for Hindmarsh, the Labour Government were not going to deal with them for three years.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh may have expressed an individual opinion on the question.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh never said so.
– He did say it, as Hansard shows.
– The honorable member, for Hindmarsh was perfectly entitled to express his opinion, but I have no doubt that the honorable member for Maribyrnong misunderstood what he said. Will any Minister present say that the Government intend to deal with Tariff anomalies this session ? They are silent, and we know what their silence means. We know that they have no such intention. We know that there are on the Ministerial side men who were returned pledged to Free Trade and others who were pledged to Protection, fiscalism being in some cases the main issue at their election, and the contending influences of those two sections of the Ministerial party will compel the Government to leave the fiscal question alone during this Parliament. If they did have any intention of dealing with the Tariff, what was there to prevent them from accepting the motion of the honorable member for Hume ? Whilst I have been unable to see eye to eye with some honorable members with regard to proposed duties on all items, I can say that if it is demonstrated to me that injury is being done to an Australian industry which can be reasonably established, I shall vote to give it a duty.
– Even on mining machinery ?
– Yes, even on mining machinery. My attitude on the question of duties on mining machinery stands beyond reproach. It was an intelligent attitude to adopt. I said that I would agree to prohibition on all machinery that could toe reasonably and suitably manufactured within Australia, with a satisfactory arrangement that patents should be available. But, I said, we should put on the free or nominal duty list all machinery that could not be produced in Australia. Why should we penalize one of the great primary industries of this country in order to bolster up something, as the honorable member for Bendigo wanted to do in regard to crucibles? Because three men were employed mixing mud at Kangaroo Island, the honorable member proposed to put a tax of several thousand pounds a year on analytical research and the mining industry of Australia.
– What about mining machinery ?
– Take out all mining machinery that is being made, or can be made, in Australia, and I will. vote to give it prohibition. But I am not going to vote for any blundering proposal .that lumps together things that can be made and things that cannot be made here, things that are covered by patents and things that are not, things that are used and things that are not used here, and puts them all under one duty, as was proposed in the last Customs Tariff.
– The honorable member is always safe on what the mine-owners want.
– I am not associated with the sweaters of Australia, as the honorable member is, whilst at the same time a member of the Anti-Sweating League. He cannot say that I am associated with “ boodliers,” and, at the same time, preaching Democracy. I shall not have to apologize in my constituency for any action I have taken. The great test is that, while the honorable member for Bourke will in all probability be missing from his seat in the next Parliament, I think he will find that I shall get a walk-over. If any four men deserve to be dismissed from Parliament for absolute treachery to all their previously expressed political opinions, they are the honorable members for Maribyrnong, Bourke, Batman, and Corio. The Government are only endeavouring to further delude the people with regard to the Tariff. They have no intention of dealing with anomalies during this Parliament, although those anomalies are said to be as bad now as they were previously. At that time, as honorable members will remember, there were anomalies which threatened to prevent some people from enjoying their Christmas dinners. No doubt the Government will go on considering the question, but will that be satisfactory to those who are suffering in the Australian industries that are being injured by those anomalies? If those people are to have any hope of getting the difficulty rectified, they must look beyond this Government to the party that has given them assistance before. There is no doubt that the Tariff would not have gone through in its present form if it had not been accompanied by the promise of new Protection. The honorable member for Batman came into this Parliament pledged up to the hilt to new Protection. Probably he would not’-have got here if he had not been, and, even with the assistance of that pledge, he will hardly get here again.. In order to bring about new Protection, he has associated himself with the Chairman of the Employers’ Federation and all the representatives of monopoly in this country.
– Not all; we have not got Jack Wren with us.
– The honorable member for Bourke, by innuendo, infers that some one on .this side has Jack Wren behind him.
– He was associated with candidates of that party at the last election.
– Can the honorable member prevent any man in Australia from supporting him if he wants to?
– Then why does the honorable member complain of those men supporting us?
– I am complaining that they are associated in politics with the honorable member. The honorable member must get the indorsement of the Employers’ Federation at the next election, or he cannot get back.
– Rubbish !
– Does the honorable member say he will not accept it?
– I will accept support even from the honorable member’s friends if they will give it to me.
-Yet the honorable member asserts that Jack Wren assisted candidates running on our side. In any case, it is most objectionable to drag the names of individuals into debates in this
House. So far as I know, Mr. Wren is a very straight business man. 1 have had no business transactions with him of any description, nor do 1 suppose I ever shall ; but I get that opinion from others who have had business relations with . him. Cross-firing of that sort cannot get those honorable members away from their associations. They have to sit with, the Fusion party, and get its nomination, or they will have no chance of getting back to Parliament. Does the honorable member for Batman believe that if he does not pursue a course in this House in keeping with the programme of the Government he will have a chance of being returned?
– Neither would the honorable member if he were not nominated by his party.
– I admit that if I were not nominated by my party, I could not get back to the House. The day that my party lose confidence in me will be, and ought to be,- the end of me in my constituency, because I can only lose’ their confidence by breaking the pledges that I have given. Honorable members opposite who used to belong to the Liberal party have lost the confidence of Democrats who used to vote for them, because they have forsaken Democracy, and have associated themselves with the Plutocracy.
– We never obtained any assistance from the honorable member’s party.
– By hanging on to our apron-strings, so to speak - by claiming that he had voted with us again and again, and was as democratic as a Labour man - the honorable member got many votes.
– I am. more democratic than the Labour party are now. ‘
– The honorable member’s main mission in the world of politics used to be to resist the representatives of the black labour party, the monopolists and Conservatives, who were previously sitting on this side of the House. That was the text of many speeches made during six years by him and other honorable members of the Liberal party in this Parliament.
– At the same time they never opposed us. They supported us, whereas the Labour party fought against us.
– The honorable member has hitherto been able to secure the support of a certain number of the workers.
– And we shall obtain more and more of their support despite what the Labour party maysay.
– Not by talking legitimate politics. The workers throughout Australia who will vote for the Ministerial party will be induced to do so by other methods than the discussion of political questions.
– It is easy to make such a statement, but it is of no value.
– Working men who were induced in years gone by to support the honorable member and several others, because of their close association with the Labour party, have had their eyes opened. The honorable member can no longer claim that he is fighting “for the programme of the Labour party. He is going now to carry, out the programme of the men who run the financial institutions, the monopolists, the employers, and the sweaters of Australia.
– Rubbish !
– I have dealt with proposals that may be submitted by the Government, and wish now to turn my attention to a few that have not been mentioned in the Budget. The Treasurer occupies a most unfortunate position in that he will have to tell the people of Western Australia that the Government of which he is a member is not prepared to provide a penny for the constructionof the transcontinental railway. Is the right honorable gentleman pleased to be associated with a Government that will give no consideration to the construction of that line?
– That is not so, and the honorable member knows it.
-Can they build the line without money?
– How would the Labour party provide for the construction of the line?
– I am here not to explain the policy of the Opposition, but to ask what the Government intend to do. The right honorable member’s face wears a smug smile of satisfaction, but it will take him all his time to laugh when he has to go before the people of Western Aus- tralia, and tell them that the Government of which he is a member will not construct the line.
– If they believe the honorable member in preference to me, I will go out of politics.
– The Treasurer will have to explain why he left Western Australia without saying a word in favour of the gift of a Dreadnought to Great Britain, and yet immediately on his arrival in Melbourne took part in pledging Australia to such a gift, which will involve an expenditure of £2,000,000. He will have to explain his association with a Cabinet which has not provided one penny piece towards the cost of constructing the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. True, he say’s that he never takes a fence until he reaches it, but as soon as he returns to Western Australia, he will find that he has reached the fence so far as those two questions are concerned.
– Thehonorable member is unknown there ; he does not know the place, and the people do not know him.
– I am known so well that the Treasurer thought it advisable to alter the tour he had arranged to make in connexion with the last general election, in order that he might follow me to two or three towns in his constituency. He had arranged to go up the northern line, but he learnt that I intended to visit Bunbury, Collie, and Pingelly, and by an extraordinary set of circumstances followed me in each of those towns on the night after I had spoken. In the theatre at Bunbury I addressed a crowded meeting for two hours, and when the poll for. that part of his electorate . was declared, he received the greatest shock of his life. Whether I am known or not, the few days that I spent in his constituency caused him a good deal of anxiety, and his cry that I am unknown will be a very poor answer to those who ask why the Ministry of which he is a member do not intend to proceed with what is really a great national work. Since there is before the House a Bill providing for the acceptance of the Northern Territory, I cannot make more than a casual reference to that proposal, but I should like to point out that no provision is made in the Budget for the liability which the passing of thatBill will throw upon us.
– But the Government have not amajority to carry that Bill.
– Then we are to understand that they are simply enacting a farce in keeping it before the House? They complain that honorable members waste time in criticising their measures, and yet they are proceeding with a Bill which they know they cannot carry.
– If they think they are right they ought to proceed with it.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that a Ministry who claim to have restored responsible government, will not demand the support of its followers for an important plank in their platform - for what they regard as a matter of national concern ?
– They may demand it, but thev will not get it.
– The transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth is a great national issue.
– Which does the Honorable member think should be proceeded with first - the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta or the Northern Territory line?
– Both are urgent, and I do not intend to pit one against the other.
– Would the honorable member borrow to construct them nextyear?
– It is very likely that I should be prepared to support the seeking of temporary assistance to enable a great national policy such as the construction of railways, on which the safety of Australia may depend, to be carried out. That, so far as I know, is in keeping with the views of the members of our party, but we are certainly opposed to borrowing money to meet current liabilities, including the payment of old-age pensions. The Government have proposed to take over the Northern Territory, which may ultimately involve a liability of £10,000,000 and must mean an immediate expenditure of many thousands of pounds per annum, yet we find in the Budget no provision to meet these financial obligations. It is only fair that the people should know without delay what is the opinion of this Parliament with regard to the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. Another question of importance is the establishment of the Federal Capital.
– That has gone bung.
– What has the Minister of Defence to say to that statement? We find in the Estimates an. item of£5,000, which is to provide for the acquisition of the Territory, the payment of compensation to freeholders within the area, and the establishment of the city. This question has been paltered with for years.
– What is there to be done at present other than to push ahead the negotiations with New South Wales?
– I admit that those negotiations are necessary. Does the hon orable member say that the rapidity with which the Government intend to move in this matter, between now and August or September, 1910, will entail an expenditure of only £5,000?
– There will te plenty of money for all purposes?
– I am not going to accept that lofty assurance. Does the Minister for Defence mean that we are to have more Treasury bonds of short date?
– We shall find all the money that is necessary.
– We are entitled to take the amount set down as a fair estimate of what the Government intend to spend ; otherwise, the Government are deceiving the Committee.
– The honorable member would not grumble if the Canberra proposal were dropped.
– In my humble judgment, Canberra is the wrong site. Had the Deakin Government believed in their own proposal, the Federal Capital would at the present time have been in course of erection at Dalgety ; it was because the Government could not make up their minds as a Government that delay was caused, and ultimately a site agreed upon which does not meet, at any rate, with my approval. I cannot be accused of any lack of desire to have this question settled, because I make no secret of the fact that I would like the Seat of Government to be removed from Melbourne. But, if the question is held over for another Parliament, I am afraid we shall have the same fightover again.
– Will the honorable member help us to decide the question?
– What is required is the help of the Government, and that help at present is represented by an estimated expenditure of £5,000. . The people of New South Wales are entitled to ask themselves whether their representatives in this Ministry have not played them false. The Government ought not to submit Estimates which they expect to be exceeded, and if they anticipated an expenditure of £50,000 on the Federal Capital, that sum ought to have appeared. The Minister of Defence no doubt feels this to be an awkward question; and his only statement, on behalf of the Government, is that there will be “ plenty of money “ provided. I suppose the Government think they have inexhaustible credit on an anti-loan short-dated Treasury-bond basis. If the Government have “plenty of money for all purposes,” they certainly ought to provide for invalid pensions.
– Had not the honorable member better ask why his leader has fooled his party on this matter so long?
– The Minister cannot shirk his statement in that way.
– And the late Prime Minister repeated the fooling at Gympie.
– The Minister may make offensive interjections, but, in view of the fact that invalid pensions are not being paid, those interjections do not explain his statement that there will be “ plenty of money for all purposes.” There is no more crying necessity than that for invalid pensions. A person who, perhaps, because of an unhealthy occupation, is struck down in the prime of life, so far as years are concerned, is, in my view, even a more deserving subject for consideration than one who has reached a necessitous old age.
– What about the miners of Bendigo?
– I am sure the miners at Bendigo cannot very well approve of the Postmaster-General, in View of the fact that there is no mention of invalid pensions in the Budget.
– The miners at Bendigo can look after themselves without the honorable member’s intervention.
– What does the PostmasterGeneral mean?
– I mean that the miners can look after themselves without the honorable member’s intervention.
– The miners are in very bad hands at present, if they have to rely on the Postmaster-General.
– They are not complaining.
– .They are complaining ; their representatives came before the Oldage Pensions Commission and asked for special consideration.
– How many cases are there ?
– Scores of cases, and the number is increasing.
– Give me particulars.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral mean to tell me that there are not scores of men suffering from miners’ complaints ?
– Did they apply to the State Government?
– Under the State law, pot only had the applicant to be a pauper, but all associated with him had to be paupers, before a pension could be obtained ; and, in my opinion, that is the most contemptible kind of relief that could be imagined. I know from personal experience that miners, who are engaged in deep mines, inhaling unhealthy fumes, and, for eight hours together, exposed to all sorts of risks and anxieties, become, when maimed, or otherwise incapacitated, even more deserving of pensions than, as I said before, persons who have reached a necessitous old age. If there is “ plenty of money “ why should not £250,000 be devoted to relieving the minds of those poor unfortunates who are being killed in the industrial struggle? There is no chance of any large percentage of the men, now engaged in deep mining, ever qualifying for old-age pensions, and honorable members who sit behind the Government are responsible for the refusal to afford relief in this direction.
– Why did the Leader of the Opposition, in May, agree with the Government of Victoria that invalid pensions should still be paid by that Government ?
– Because he was humane, and desired to do something for the relief of those unfortunates. Why did the honorable member not give the Leader of the Opposition a chance of submitting the financial proposals of the late Government? If those proposals had been submitted, invalids would be receiving pensions at the present time.
– The arrangement was made within a fortnight of the House meeting.
– I do not know of any arrangement. Has the honorable member any objection to invalids receiving pensions ?
– That is another question.
– It is the question we are discussing. Is the honorable member prepared to accept the responsibility of paying invalid pensions, or does he prefer to leave the Government of Victoria to dole out charity? Tt would appear as if representatives of Victoria could not extend their view beyond the boundaries of the State, or rid themselves of the idea that the Federal Capital is centered round the .Melbourne Age office. They ought to remember that in other States mining and industrial enterprises are carried on, and invalids are starving.
– Why did the Fisher Government not proclaim invalid pensions?
– The honorable member cannot justify a real wrong of the present by an appeal to an imaginary wrong of the past ; and it must be remembered that he voted against invalid pensions last week. The. members of the Opposition are prepared to impose taxation, if necessary, for the payment of invalid pensions.
– The Opposition vote for measures which cannot be carried out.
– Honorable members are offering explanations, but they are nothing to the explanations they will have to make when they are before the electors. Evidently the Government proposes to take no action regarding the charging by the banks of a penny for every postal note collected. The Postmaster-General has evidently not yet had a deputation from the Chamber of Commerce’ on the subject.
– Yes, I have.
– The members of the Chamber of Commerce have not assisted him in getting the banks to forego this imposition.
– They have.
– Then they have not succeeded very well.
– They have not succeeded as well as they did in inducing the honorable gentleman to adopt regulations under which big users of the telephone could get ten times as much service as ordinary subscribers for the same money. The opinion has been generally expressed that the time is at hand when we should have areadjustment of the finances in relation to the payment of sugar bounty and the collection of Excise. We have been told that the State Treasurers are gaining by the present arrangement, but no proposal has been put forward for safeguarding the Commonwealth revenue.
– The Excise more than pays the bounty.
– But the States get a large part of it, and the Commonwealth Treasury pays all the bounty. There are several other matters with which I should like to deal, but it is not convenient at this stage to consider minutely the statements of the Treasurer. I hope that the practice of former years will be pursued in regard to the Works and Buildings Estimates, so that necessary public works may be undertaken at the earliest possible date. In my opinion, the Budget we heard yesterday is the worst yet submitted to this Parliament. It contains proposals in the highest degree antagonistic to the expressed wishes of the majority of the people, and we may reasonably suppose that Ministers will submit to the Premiers’ Conference schemes which will unnecessarily hamper the Commonwealth in years to come. Therefore, the best thing for us to do is to pass the Estimates as soon ‘as possible, and appeal to the people before any arrangement of a party character can be made with the States which will affect our national development.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. My statement that the honorable member for Hindmarsh had said that it was the intention of his party not to interfere with the Tariff or deal with anomalies until it had had three years’ experience of its working was denied. But the following quotation from the Hansard report of a debate of the ist July proves its accuracy -
– What did the ex-Prime Minister propose in his Gympie speech in regard to Tariff anomalies?
– Does the honorable member or any one else believe that it was the desire of even the -Protectionist section of this House that the Tariff should be re-opened until after the next election?
– That is not the point.
– We include in our programme, not shams, but schemes that can be carried out. After the Tariff had been in operation for three years - after we had been able to ascertain its anomalies and how it worked - we should undoubtedly have been prepared to give our industries the protection they deserved and needed to encourage their extension.
If that does not mean that the Tariff should be in operation for three years before anything is done to amend it, I do not understand the English language.
.- Whilst in certain respects yesterday’s Budget may appear vague, especially in regard to financial questions affecting the raising of money and the provision for Defence, it has many features distinctly in advance of those of previous Budgets. About £500,000 is to be provided for Defence purposes, and nearly £500,000 to bring the telephones and telegraphs up to date. I shall not deal exhaustively with the figures submitted last night, because the mass of detail is tod great. But I have one or two observations to make on the financial position in connexion with the Conference between the Commonwealth Ministers and the State Premiers. Last year the expenditure of the Commonwealth exceeded its share of the Customs and
Excise revenue, and this year it will do so again. Therefore, if the Commonwealth is to carry out the urgent public works and services which are required for the development of Australia, without imposing direct taxation, it will have to secure very liberal terms from the State Premiers. The excess of expenditure over revenue in the Department of the Postmaster-General is .£419,000, of which much is due to expenditure on new works. Twenty thousand pounds is set down for the establishment of wireless telegraph stations, and £850,000 for old-age pensions, in excess of the amount obtained from our one-fourth share of Customs and Excise revenue. The expenditure on quarantine will be £30,000, making in all, allowing for the odd figures, about £1,320,000. In regard to Defence, we have an increase of £564,000, and provision must be made for meeting our offer of a Dreadnought, or its equivalent. Assuming that that will involve an expenditure of £2,000,000, to be incurred within three years, the annual outlay will be £700,000. That makes the total £2,584,000. In addition, there is the prospective expenditure connected with the transfer of the Northern Territory, which will amount to £250,000 per annum, apart from the construction of railways and other developmental work. Therefore, in the future, if we are to leave direct taxation to the States - and I regard that as their legitimate source of revenue - we must further dip into the Customs and Excise revenue to the extent of about £3,000,000 a year. That is the position which our Ministers will have to put before the Premiers of the States. But, inasmuch as the Constitution created a partnership between the Commonwealth and the States, the subject must be approached with a due appreciation of the tremendous responsibilities resting on both parties for the carrying out of the public services and public works necessary for the development of the country. The States have to provide for education, construction, maintenance and working of railways, the carrying out of irrigation works, thi; maintenance of law and order, and the performance of other functions which are as important as those of the Commonwealth. We are charged with the supremely important duty of providing for the defence of Australia, and we have also to carry on and extend the service of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which, if properly managed, must be a chief agency in the de velopment of our commerce, and in bringing communities into closer communication will assist settlement by making country life more attractive. We must also encourage immigration, without which our developmental work will be largely ineffective. At present we have only one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue to pay for this and other large expenditures. The States, on the other hand, have a variety of sources from which to raise revenue by direct taxation. If the Federal Parliament is to be confined to the Customs and Excise revenue for the carrying out of its great policy of public expenditure, the States will have to deal liberally with it in the distribution of that revenue. The States have the kind that they can tax, and they have also the income tax, stamp and probate duties, and other forms of taxation which they may impose if they are forced by public necessities to do so. I dealt with the land tax in a previous speech, and so it is not necessary for me to deal with it again. I believe that the land, like any other branch of revenueearning property, has responsibilities, and if it is necessary to place a tax upon land in order to provide the money required for the development of this country and for an adequate system of defence, let it be imposed. But I contend that this Parliament has no justification for invading the avenues of direct taxation now enjoyed by the States while the Customs and Excise revenue is yielding a much greater sum than is necessary for Commonwealth purposes. The revenue from Customs and Excise is at present more than double the amount required for Commonwealth purposes. The Constitution plainly directs that after the amount necessary for Commonwealth purposes is appropriated, the balance of Customs and Excise revenue shall be returned to the States, or applied to the payment of interest on State debts. That is an indication, although the Braddon section was only to extend for about ten years, that the framers of the Constitution, and the people who afterwards indorsed it, believed that that great revenue should be distributed in some form between the States and the Commonwealth. It was not shown precisely how the money was to be divided after the ten year period, and, owing to the tremendous advances made by nations in all parts of the world in building up armaments, the requirements of the Commonwealth are likely to be much greater than was anticipated ten years ago. This means that a sum which the States might fairly have anticipated five years ago will not be available now, in the light of the large responsibilities which the Federal Parliament will have to undertake. I hope that when the Pre miers and the representatives of the Federal Parliament meet, at one of the most important Conferences of public men that have been held in the Commonwealth, due appreciation, not only of the responsibilities of the States, but also of those of the Commonwealth will be shown. I trust that, if it is intended to confine the Commonwealth to raising money by indirect taxation through Customs and Excise, while the States are still allowed to impose direct taxation, if necessary, in whatever direction they deem best, the State Premiers will recognise how essential it is for them to deal most liberally with the Commonwealth in the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue, in order that this Parliament may be able to carry out those large developmental works and public services which are urgently required, and so do justice to itself as a National Legislature, and to the interests of the people of Australia.
.- If the late Charles Dickens were here, and seeking models for his characters, he would find a splendid example of the “ Artful Dodger “ in the person of the Commonwealth Treasurer. When we examine the Budget, and see how the Treasurer has successfully dodged every question of importance, and postponed for a few years every difficulty that ought to be met and faced to-day, we cannot help thinking that the original Artful Dodger has a serious rival in this Parliament. I admit that the right honorable gentleman has had many years in which to learn the dodges which culminated in last night’s effort.
– I thought the honorable member was going to call him a Mark Tapley.
– I could not, because Mark Tapley was cheerful in all circumstances, but we occasionally see the right honorable gentleman the reverse of cheerful. That happens when he contemplates the possibility of his present position being endangered, or when the honorable memberfor Kalgoorlie begins to recall the number of votes which were cast against him at Bunbury, or other places where his majorities are falling. I regret that we have at last arrived at that stage in the history of the Commonwealth when we are starting upon the road to borrowing. Many of us hold that there is not the slightest justification for the Commonwealth to begin to borrow. We believe that borrowing is a political sin. There are some sinners, such as the men who sin boldly, whom one can pardon or excuse, but one cannot help feeling contempt for the miserable way -in which the, gentlemen composing the present Government are setting out to commit the political sin of borrowing.
– The Labour party were going to borrow also.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has since he reached the Ministerial side, developed a remarkable imagination, to which he can appeal in the absence of facts to help him out of am difficulty.
– Unfortunatelyfor the honorable member, I am only quoting the facts.
– There is no fact in what the honorable member states. He does not believe in manufacturing goods in Australia, but is always ready to manufacture his facts on the spot.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay stated the fact I have mentioned at Gympie.
– I can well understand circumstances arising in which it might be. necessary for a Parliament to undertake a policy of borrowing for reproductive works. But this Government do not pretend to do that. They are proposing to borrow to meet ordinary expenditure, which by every canon of parliamentary procedure ought to be met out of revenue. We are told that they do not propose to enter into a permanent arrangement, and that their scheme of borrowing is to extend only over four years. They are remarkably like those ladies who pawn their things on Saturday night in the hope of getting them out again aday or two later. The excuse of the Government is that theirs is only a temporary scheme, to be completed in four or five years. Indeed, they seem to hope that in five years’ time all the difficulties that are now pressing on them will pass away. They seem to look forword to five years hence like some religious sects look forward to a certain day which is to witness the end of the present dispensation. They do not purpose to enter into a permanent arrangement with the State Treasurers. They hopemerely to make an arrangement which will carry them over the next five years. They hope to make this borrowing arrangement carry them over the next five years also. I cannot help thinking that the Treasurer has hopes that, when the bills which he now issues fall due four or five years hence - when these chickens are coming home to roost - he will be many thousands of miles away, enjoying himself ‘in a different position, and leaving the Commonwealth to get out of its difficulties as best it may.
– And the honorable member talks about other people’s imagination !
– One has only to observe the attitude of the right honorable gentleman, and to read the little inspired paragraphs that appear in the Melbourne Age as to who is the man best fitted to be High Commissioner, to realize that the right honorable gentleman is hard at work, and looking forward with a considerable degree of hope - made up more of desire than of any legitimate expectation - that the time will soon come when he will find himself transferred to another sphere. While I do not think it desirable to indulge in unnecessary personalities, or to try to belittle any other member of/ the House, I cannot help feeling that it will be a culminating act of shame on the part of this Ministry if they send a man so unfitted for the position of High Commissioner to London.
– To whom does the honorable member refer?
– To the right honorable gentleman who proposes to float Treasury bills and make them redeemable four years hence. In fact, he puts everything off for four or five years, in the hope that when the “difficulties have to be met, he will not be here to meet them. I see no evidence in the Budget of any great financial genius. Honorable members on the Ministerial side seem to be under the impression . that the real difficulty which the Treasurer has to face to-day is that set forth last night by the honorable member for Moreton, who inferred that we passed the Old-age Pensions Act before we had the money to pay for it. But if the right honorable member for Swan had had no old-age pensions to pay, and had been left to finance the Commonwealth, he still could not have got through the current year without- a big deficit or without resorting to borrowing.
Sitting suspended from z to 2.15 p.m.
– It has been contended that the real financial difficulty confronting the Commonwealth to-day is due to our having undertaken the payment of old-age pensions before Che expiration of the Braddon section. The figures submitted in the Budget, however, show that even had the Old-age Pensions Act not been passed, the present Ministry would still have been unable to finance the current year without a deficiency. We are told that old-age pensions will cost the Commonwealth £1,500,000 per annum, but the Ministry will not have to find that amount this year. By the passing of the Surplus Revenue Bill, we have been able to present the Treasurer with accumulated revenues to the extent of £650,000, to finance old-age pensions. Had this House taken his advice, that Bil! would not have been passed, and he would have found himself in a far worse position than he occupies as Treasurer to-day. Deducting this accumulation of £650,000 from the amount which will have to be paid, we see that the Treasurer has only to find £850,000 this year for the payment of old-age pensions. Yet he tells us he will have a deficiency of £1,200,000, and that despite the failure to carry out our obligations to put the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in order, and to improve our defences. Those and other matters have been relegated to the future. The Argus contends this morning with a good deal of force, that the policy of borrowing can be justified only in connexion with reproductive works. I hold that it is not justifiable in the present circumstances, but we are told that borrowing can be excused only when it is proposed to expend the money so raised on reproductive works, and to pay the revenue received from those works’ into a sinking fund to liquidate the original debt. The reason why that precaution is to ‘be ignored, and short-dated Treasury bonds issued, is. the Government assert, that, in four or five years’ time, we shall pay back the money so raised. Will any one who has the slightest idea of the immediate necessities of the Commonwealth say that there is any prospect of our getting out of debt once we get into it? There is nothing in the history of State finance to lead us to suppose that there will be a desire to pay back almost immediately what we borrow.
– The plunger always intends to pay back..
– The bank clerk who abstracts a £1 note from a till with a view of backing a horse honestly intends at the time to pay it back. Indeed, every one who starts upon the insane course of borrowing does so with the intention of paying back the money so obtained, and I venture to say that the pave-stones of hell will be considerably increased by the good intentions of the Ministry in this regard. Four or five years hence, we shall have to finance out of revenue, not only old-age pensions, but the cost of putting our land and coastal defences in order, and the raising of the Postmaster-General’s Department to a standard of efficiency. In less than four years also, the colossal blunder made by the present Administration in offering a Dreadnought to the British Government will have to be paid for. Will any one say that we shall be able, out of revenue, to find within the next four or five years £2,000,000 for a Dreadnought, pay off the proposed loan of£1,200,000, and make provision for all the urgent undertakings to which I have referred?
– Generations yet unborn will pay for them.
– They will have the privilege, no doubt, of paying interest on the money we are going to borrow. We shall pay it back much after the style of the historic Micawber, who met his bills by signing fresh promissory notes, and then said, “ Thank God, that’s settled.”
– Then there is the cost of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
– No doubt within the next three or four years we shall have to seriously consider the construction of that line. Yet the Ministry deliberately pretend to-day that they will pay back within the next four years the money which they now propose to borrow. That, indeed, is their excuse for proposing to float a temporary loan. ‘ The’ Treasurer told us that the cost of issuing these Treasun bonds would be £1 5,000. If he can issue them without incurring more expenses, he will have succeeded in financing a great deal better than the States were able to do in their palmiest days.
– If he is going to float them locally, there should be no cost.
– Whilst this Ministry remains in office, the difference between what should be and what is must be very considerable. When the credit of New South Wales was at its best, it cost her a little over2½ per cent. to float her loans, and if the Treasurer succeeds in obtaining £1,200,600 by issuing Treasury bonds, at a cost of twice £15,006, he will have done admirably. That expense is to be incurred, and within a few years we shall be asked to undertake it once more. There is one item in respect of which I should have thought it essential to expend a good deal of money, but for which only £5,000 have been provided on the Estimates. I should like to make a suggestion to the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– May I suggest to the honorable member that he should postpone this matter ?
– The disposition on the part of honorable members opposite to postpone everything seems, like the small-pox, to spread rapidly, and has now extended to the right honorable member.
– It is unusual to discuss a Budget statement the day after its delivery.
– I have heard the right honorable member discuss a Budget within five minutes of its delivery.
– But I have never known a Government to allow the debate on the Budget to be taken up on the dav succeeding its delivery.
– If that is a crime, then the right honorable member should blame the criminals, and not those who are prepared to go on with the debate. The right honorable member well knows that when the. Constitution was framed, there was a distinct agreement that within a reasonable time the Federal Capital should be established in New South Wales.
– Was he not re sponsible for that agreement?
– I believe he was. I am not here, however, to discuss the history of the Capital site question. I am concerned more with its future prospects. Whilst the Labour Government were in office, there was a reasonable certainty that action would be taken during the present session to put the settlement of that question beyond doubt. But the Minister of Defence thought that by selling. . not his own birthright, as in the case of Esau, but the birthright of his State, he could secure the mess of pottage that he seems now so much to enjoy, and he readily sold it. There is serious danger that the Federal Capital question will not be definitely settled during the life of this Parliament.
– A lot the honorable member cared about the matter when he was on this side of the House.
– If the honorable member can suggest anything thatI might have done, but failed to do, to expedite the settlement of the question, when I was sitting on the Government side of the House, I shall be obliged to him.
– The honorable member will never have to follow a party which deliberately betrayed a settlement.
– Honorable members opposite have strange ideas of what is fair debate.
– If the Labour party were ever able to influence the speedy settlement of the Capital site question, they cannot do so as long as they remain in Opposition. Our requests, however reasonable, scarcely receive any attention from the Ministry. They barely do us the credit of listening to them. We have the most perfunctory attendance on the part of Ministers, but it is always possible for even a whisper to reach the Prime Minister, if it comes from the Ministerial corner.
– Why did the Labour party not whisper “ Federal Capital “ all the time they sat in the corner?
– It was whispered continuously, and the Labour party, when they did get into office, took the only steps ever taken to make the Federal Capital an accomplished fact. The honorable member for East Sydney and his friends will find that the Prime Minister’s right ear is highly sensitive, and the slightest whisper from gentlemen in the corner will be heard. If that whisper is not given, then the chains that bind the Prime Minister to the Age newspaper will continue to bind him until after this Parliament expires.
– Is the honorable member speaking from experience? It follows that his party have not done much whispering.
– The honorable member’s speeches, while the Labour party were sitting in the Government corner, and he was in Opposition, provide an answer to the question whether or not the Labour party whispered to the Prime Minister. If the Federal Capital does not become an accomplished fact during the life of this Parliament, the responsibility will rest, not with us, but with honorable members opposite, who come from the Mother State.
– That is perfectly clear; I admit that position absolutely.
– I am glad of the admission. I hope that the evidence displayed in the Budget will prove not to be true; but that during the year much will be done in this connexion.
– Would the honorable member mind saying what other steps could have been taken than have been taken during the past few months? It is a fair question.
– It is, and I shall give the honorable member a frank answer. I do not know of any other steps that could have been taken during the last two months, but I am not now speaking of the past. I am speaking of the future, and I say that if the Government do their duty £5,000 is not nearly enough.
– I hope sincerely that it will prove not to be enough !
– I join the honorable member in that pious hope; and I remind him that it is within his power, and not within the power of members on this side, to bring that hope to fruition.
– I shall tell the honorable membersomething more - the money will be spent if it can be.
– Either the Government do not place on the Estimates the amount they contemplate expending, or they do not expect to spend more than the sum mentioned. While some satisfaction may be felt at seeing one’s political opponents do something which will make them unpopular, and render easier the task of winning their seats, such satisfaction as I might feel would be considerably less than my disappointment, as a representative of New South Wales at the failure of that State to get its just due from the Commonwealth, and considerably less than will be my disappointment, as a citizen of Australia, if this Parliament is not within its home in the course of the next few years. I regret to see that, while the Ministry contemplate a borrowing policy, they leave promises of works, for which borrowing might possibly be justified, absolutely unfulfilled. The -evils that have existed in the Post and Telegraph Department are to continue ; and there was not one witness of any authority before the Royal Commission who did not admit that at least £2,000,000 is required to place the Department on a proper footing.
– And we are losing revenue every year.
– There is no doubt that we are losing revenue owing to the Department not being in a proper state of efficiency.
– The estimate mentioned is that of Mr. Hesketh.
– Several other witnesses made the same estimate. If the honorable member for Nepean is like other honorable members, he must have received many letters from the Department intimating that works asked for have been approved, but that funds are not available. All the evidence tends to show that £2,000,000 will be required; but the honorable member stood in the way of reform when he approved of the Government reverting to the old telephone rates. On page 234 of the Estimates, we find that, while last year £23,000 was voted for temporary assistance in the Postal Department in New South Wales, £24,000 is required this year.
– There are 6,000 new hands to be employed in New South Wales.
– If every able-bodied man in Australia were employed in the Post Office, it would not please some honorable members.
– I do not think that is quite a fair interjection. Between pleasing the carping critic and meeting the obvious necessities of a public business of this kind there is a considerable difference; and the honorable member knows as well as anybody that, without attempting to please even the wise - without attempting to please even himself - considerable expenditure is required on the Post Office. It appears that we are to have the old system of temporary assistance perpetuated.
– We cannot help occasionally employing temporary assistance.
– But the estimated expenditure for this year equals the amount expended last year for this purpose. The experience of country postmasters is that boys, for instance, who are employed in telegraphic work know that, however zealous they may be in the performance of their duties, their services will be dispensed with at the end of nine months ; and the result is thatthey do not care whether they give efficient service or not, and simply make the best of their billets for the time. Those postmasters have ample reason for complaining of the inefficient service givenby temporary hands, who, in the absence of any motive, are naturally tempted to giveonly a poor return for the wages’ they receive. In the matter of defence, we are told that additional estimates will be brought down. The honorable member for Brisbane will return from the Imperial Conference in due course, but it appears that, whatever additional estimates may be introduced, we are to have recourse to a system of borrowing. There would have been no need to wait for the return of our delegate if a Labour Ministry had been in office.
– If Senator Pearce had gone Home it would only have been fair to wait for his return.
– There would have been no waiting for Senator Pearce. If the Labour Government had been in office their promise to provide a flotilla of twenty boats, in addition to the vessels already ordered, would have been fulfilled.
– The action of the Labour Government was illegal. The Labour party requested that the Act under which the money was to be set aside should not be put into operation for a time, and the Government took action without submitting the matter to Parliament.
– I have a profound respect for the honorable member’s knowledge of law, but the opinions he gives off-hand here are worth just about what he charges for them.
– The Labour Government simply flouted Parliament.
– That does not make their fiction illegal.
– Yes, because it was unconstitutional.
– An arrangement has been made with my leader to adjourn this debate about 3 o’clock, and, however tempting the prospect may be, I have not time to cross swords with the honorable member in a constitutional argument. For naval defence practically the same amount is provided this year as last year- that is, £68,000, as against £63,000 for 1908-9. The expenditure in the different States is also very much the same. In Tasmania, last year , £150 was voted for naval defence, and of that amount only £4 was spent. What sort of naval defence could be obtained for £4 is more than I can tell.
– It must have been the cost of a telegram) I think.
– However, Tasmania may take heart, because £235 is set down this year. The additional expenditure on defence generally is utterly inadequate to meet the requirements. There is no justification for deferring the compulsory training proposals until next Parliament, because there is a majority in this Parliament, and, I believe, in the country prepared to vote for them. Honorable members recollect the eloquent speeches in which the Prime Minister declared the urgency of this matter.
But it has ceased to be urgent with him since he entered into political partnership with gentlemen who have always opposed compulsory training. No provision is made in the Estimates for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission. With the abandonment of that proposal comes the abandonment of most of the purposes which the Ministry set out to accomplish. Three-fourths of its policy was bound up in the appointment of the Inter-State Commission. According to the programme read by the Prime Minister -
The most complex series of measures to be submitted includes those affecting the industrial -interests of the Commonwealth. The pivot of several of these will be found in a Bill for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission.
But not a shilling - in the language of the honorable member for Corio, not a “dud” - is provided on the Estimates for the InterState Commission. This body was to have had a general oversight of production and exchange, to manage a Commonwealth Labour Bureau, to assist in supervising the working of the existing Customs Tariff in its operation upon the investment of Australian capital and labour in Australian industries, and to consider any divergencies between industrial conditions in the various Stales.But in the Budget, no mention was made of it, and so it passes away. That part of the policy statement which referred to it may be summed up, in the words of Koko in the Mikado, as “ mere corroborative detail designed to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.” Actually, the proposal was still-born, and under no circumstances could have fulfilled one-tenth of the things promised. There are one or two other matters to which I intended to refer; but I shall leave them overfor the present.It might fairly be asked, what would the Labour party do to avoid borrowing under the present financial conditions ? It is not wise for an Opposition to say what it would do; at any rate, it is easier to criticise the proposals of the Government. But had the Fisher Administration remained in office, the country would at least not now be pledged to finding £2,000,000 for a Dreadnought, which, ten years hence, will be obsolete- We should have expended the country’s money inproviding a force which in that time would have become a living and vital fighting machine, capable of doing much better service than an out-of-date war vessel .
Mr.McWilliams. - A force which could leave Australia to help the Empire?
– No; though, whenever the Empire is in danger, Australia will be ready to do its part to help it, and, under the Labour party’s policy, there wouldbe trained and able men to send abroad should their services be required. We should also have raised money by means of a graduated land tax, though it is impossible to say how much.
– Nothing could have been raised this year.
– I am inclined to think that we should have got some return from the tax this year. Then, in meeting the State Premiers, we should have demanded from them bigger sacrifices than this Ministry intends to demand. It must be remembered that the States are by no means insolvent. Last year, New South Wales, after paying away over £500,000 for old-age pensions, had a surplus of more than £460,000. This year, we shall relieve it of the liability respecting old-age pensions, though it will continue to pay invalid old-age pensions. The Parliament of that State has been able to ‘practically abolish the income tax, and to remove many of the stamp duties. Would not the Prime Minister, therefore, be justified in saying to the representatives of the States, “ We are not going to borrow money to provide for the pensions in regard to which we relieve you of liability”? If they refuse to meet us, we should appeal to their masters and ours, asking the people whether the Commonwealth should go into debt in order that the States might he tempted to be extravagant. Victoria, last year, had a surplus of £50,000, and paid away £233,000 in pensions. This year, she should be relieved of that liability. South Australia has a surplus of more than £250,000, and Queensland a surplus of nearly £10,000. Tasmania had a deficiency. It is not known how much it was, but it cannot exceed £20,000 ; and; probably, when all the accounts are made up, will be found to have been inconsiderable. Western Australia, by reason of its exceptional position - which for some time to come will require special consideration from this Parliament - also had a deficiency. The Prime Minister is going to confer with Premiers who are well provided for the immediate future, and, instead of pledging our credit by entering upon a ridiculous borrowing policy, should insist upon the remission to us by the States of the sums which we are saving to them by paying old-age pensions. If we commence to” borrow, the people of Australia will have much reason to regret it later on.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I ask the House to concur with this amendment. It is merely a verbal one, which I have mentioned to the Acting Leader of the Opposition. Clause 2 deals with payments outside the Commonwealth made after the close of the financial year, and refers to any obligation involving expenditure which “has been incurred outside the Commonwealth.” The Senate inserts after the word “incurred,” the words “or is intended to be incurred.” That is, I understand, merely a technical convenience in the work of arranging the Departmental accounts. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- I am not at all clear as to the purport of the amendment. If it means only an intention previously authorized and assented to by Parliament, or by virtue of some statutory power, it is all right. The only point is the meaning of the word “intended.”. By whom is it to be intended? Is it by virtue of some appropriation ?
– Very well.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Sir John Quick) read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from HisExcellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I shall be glad if the Prime Minister will bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence the fact that whilst the Australian Field Artillery have been paid their fees at other towns, no payment has yet been made at the town of Young, although some time has elapsed since the money was paid elsewhere.
– I think I heard the name of Young mentioned in connexion with an account, but shall make inquiries.
-! notice that one of the Melbourne newspapers this morning did me the honour of mistaking me for the honorable member for Barker. As I gave the Government some candid advice last night, I do not wish the honorable member for Barker to have to shoulder the responsibility for it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090813_reps_3_51/>.