3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.rr.., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received a return to the writ issued for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral division of Wakefield, in the place of the Honorable Sir Frederick William Holder, deceased, indorsed with a certificate of the election of Richard Witty Foster, Esq. “
Mr. R. W. FOSTER made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
– Is the Minister aware that on a recent date the s.s. Airlie arrived at Thursday Island with 500 tons of coal to be discharged there, and that owing to the lumpers declining to work under the wages agreed to be paid by other shipowners, Messrs. Burns, Philp,. and Company, the agents for the Airlie, through their manager, discharged the coal solely with coloured labour? Will the Minister take such steps as may be necessary to ascertain whether the said coloured labour was Japanese or other labour indented ostensibly to conduct pearl-fishing operations, or, if not such labour, whence was it obtained?
– I shall cause inquiries to be made into the case.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs. say whether it is the intention of the Government to drive the first peg into the Federal Capital. Site during the” present year ?
– Very satisfactory arrangements were made with the Premier and Chief Secretary of New South Wales, in a Conference with them at the last weekend, in pursuance of which the Premier will next week move a motion in the Legislative Asembly of New South Wales. As to the driving of the first peg, I hope that the matter will be finally settled this session.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the Melbourne City Council, and one or two suburban councils, have recently increased the wages of their labourers, and will he review his contract conditions, in order that the rates paid by the Government may be at least as high as those paid by other corporations?
– I have recently had occasion to consider this matter in connexion with the calling for tenders for underground work and conduit laying in Melbourne and the suburbs, and have directed that in new contracts, or when work is to be done by day labour, the minimum rate of” pay shall be fair and reasonable, and not less than that given by municipalities for similar work.
– Am I to take it that the reply just given is an answer to the questions which I have asked the PostmasterGeneral privately, and to the letter which I addressed to him about three weeks ago?
– The honorable member brought the matter under my attention, and it was in consequence of his representations, and those of other honorable members, that to-day I wrote a minute dealing with the subject.
– Is the Prime Minister in possession of despatches, giving particulars of the proposed Naval Agreement, which he can place on the table, so that honorable members may inform themselves regarding it?
– As I replied yesterday, I have not yet received any official despatch.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs arrange, in connexion with the preparation of the new rolls, that they shall be made up according to the polling places in various subdivisions, and that attached to each there shall be a map of the whole electorate, in addition to the subdivisional maps already published?
– I shall consult with the Chief Electoral Officer, to ascertain whether he considers it advisable to have that suggestion carried into effect.
– Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of a speech by the Prime Minister, you announced to the House that you could authorize the insertion in the Hansard report of- returns which he had laid on the table without reading them. Will you kindly say by what standing order or rule of procedure you are empowered to authorize the insertion in speeches of matter which has not. been read to the House?
– The authority is that of practice and custom.
– I agree with what you did in that matter, Mr. Speaker, and assume that you will allow the honortable member for Mernda and myself to have similar information embodied in our speeches when we come to deal with our financial schemes.
– And other honorable members, too.
– Following on the question I have just addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask whether or not permission was given to the Prime Minister to insert in Hansard returns that were not read when he delivered his speech yesterday-
– The House refused leave.
– I may say that, exercising my own authority, I gave instructions that the tables were to be inserted in the report.
– Then I desire to raise a question of privilege. The position that has been created is, so far as I. know, without precedent, and is sufficiently serious to justify the careful attention of honorable members.
– So long as the same privilege is open to every member, it is all right.
– That is just the question. It has been the custom, in the case of Budget speeches, to permit the insertion, without reading, of numerous tables of figures, but the contents of these tables, if not all read in detail, have, on nearly every occasion, been outlined. The present is an entirely new departure.
– Some honorable members may say “ No,” but let them tell me when anything of the kind has been attempted previously.
– When Sir George Turner was Treasurer.
– Order; honorable members’ must not interrupt.
– Sir George Turner merely did what I have already indicated - had inserted in the Hansard report in connexion with his Budget, tables, the contents of which, if not read in detail, had been outlined to honorable members. In the present case, however, the tables were neither submitted to the House nor dis- cussed ; and yet they will appear in the Hansard report.
– Does the honorable member say that the matters dealt with in the tables were not discussed?
– I say that the returns contained in the tables were not presented to the House. If they had been, where was the necessity to seek any authority to have them inserted in the report of the speech? Mr. Speaker took a sufficiently serious view of the proposal to avoid acting on his own authority, and, in the ordinary form, he asked whether leave was granted by the House for the insertion of the tables without their being read, and that leave was refused. .We now learn that Mr. Speaker, in the face of that refusal, gave authority for the tables to be printed. Is Mr. Speaker going to appoint himself censor of what shall or shall not be admitted in tIle reports of speeches - of what is germane to the question under discussion, and what additions may be allowed or refused? Is Mr. Speaker to be authorized to undertake such duties, and have it within his discretion to grant the privilege to one member and refuse it to another ?
– It would be equal to proceedings in ‘the Russian Duma !
– It would be establishing an autocracy which is not provided for in our Standing Orders, and the like of which has never previously been attempted. I take a most serious view of the inauguration of an objectionable custom of that description. If the Prime Minister thought the particular returns of sufficient importance to the elaboration of his argument, as to justify their appearance in the report, why did he not read the figures to the House? If the returns were such that they could not be conveniently read, why did the Prime Minister not move that they be printed as Parliamentary papers?
– That is what the Prime Minister yesterday said he would do.
– The course adopted was the more convenient.
– Does the honorable member take the view that the publication of the tables in Hansard is more convenient for honorable members than if they appeared as a Parliamentary paper?
– Honorable members opposite would appear to be prepared to justify any action or motion of the Government, and, in the present case, to permit the inauguration of a custom, the dangers of which cannot be estimated at The present time. Hansard, if anything, ought to be a faithful representation of what actually occurs in the House.
– Two weeks ago we had a discussion on the same question.
– And the Government then, by a majority, decided that reprints from Hansard for private circulation, could not be put in a more readable form for presentation to the public. Now it appears that honorable members opposite are willing to permit the insertion of whole slabs of matter and figures which have never run the gauntlet of criticism or analysis by honorable members - matter which may be appealed to and quoted by, perhaps, thousands of people outside, while honorable members are ignorant of the fact that it has been published. Quite apart from the merits of this particular case, I regard the practice as a serious interference with the privilege of honorable members, and a menace to the accuracy of the Hansard report ; and it is a matter that should receive serious attention. It is absolutely undesirable that Mr. Speaker, who should occupy an impartial position, and be free from any suspicion of party bias, should have thrown on him, or should accept, the responsibility of acting as censor of Hansard in regard to matter that has not been uttered in the Chamber. No such discretion ought to be allowed ; and, in my judgment, seeing that it is not provided for in the Standing Orders, and is a danger to the privileges of Parliament, it ought not to be tolerated or countenanced.
– The honorable member has had no experience, or he would not talk like that.
– If that can be said of me after I have listened for six years to the right honorable gentleman’s enlightening speeches, it must be a reflection on the right honorable gentleman himself. It. was the right honorable gentleman who recently assumed the position of censor of crossheadings in the reprints of speeches from Hansard. He appointed himself Czar for that purpose, although, in the reprint of his own Budget speech, he has announced that it was delivered by “ The Right Honorable Sir John Forrest, P.C., K.C.M.G., LL.D., Member of the Royal Geographical Society, &c.” The practice which has been adopted in this case is an interference with the safety of honorable members - with the guarantee that they can refer to Hansard as being as nearly -as possible a correct record of everything that transpired in the House, and as containing nothing that did -not transpire there. If this new practice is allowed, we shall never know whether the statements printed in Hansard were delivered in the House or not, or whether returns or other introduced matter will bear criticism and analysis. It is a dangerous practice, which will be sure to come back, like a boomerang, in time, on every honorable member.
– Were not the totals of the figures contained in the tables stated in the House?
– If they were, there was no necessity to secure the permission of anybody . to insert them in Hansard.
– The honorable member has not seen Hansard yet, and does not know what is in it.
– I asked you, Mr. Speaker, whether you had permitted the tables to be inserted, and received an affirmative reply. Surely that is sufficient. I did not expect an affirmative reply after the House had refused its permission. The matter is sufficiently serious to justify me in submitting a motion, in order that an opinion may be taken as to whether the practice is to continue. I have not seen the returns presented by the Prime Minister, and I assure him that there is nothing personal in my action ; but I do not like to see the rights of Parliament filched away. I move -
That the actionof Mr. Speaker in authorizing the inclusion in the Hansard report of the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat of certain matter which was not delivered in this House, is not approved of.
– It is desirable that the facts should be stated with greater accuracy than the honorable member’s recollection has enabled him to attain.
– Order ! It is necessary for me first to state the question. Standing order 112 states that an “ urgent motion directly concerning the privileges of the House shall have precedence of other motions, as well as of Orders of the Day.” I frankly admit that I hardly see that an enlargement of the privileges of honorable members is an interference with the privileges of the House; but I shall accept the motion, seeing that it is moved in regard to my own action.
– I rise to a point of order. As to your statement that you do not consider an enlargement of the privileges of honorable members to be a question that can be discussed as a matter of privilege, I should like to know-
– What is the honorable member’s point of order? At present, he is simply asking a question.
– I consider that that is a more serious ruling than the other.
– Order ! It is not a ruling. I have accepted the motion. That means that I have ruled that it is in order. If the honorable member desires to dispute that, he will be in order in doing so.
– No; but I think that your reasoning is bad.
– On the question of fact, I suppose that half-a-dozen times in this Parliament, as well as often in other Parliaments, I have myself placed on the table a document without reading all of it, having always, as in this case, given its general purport and effect. I read the headings upon the returns, and simply asked to be relieved of the necessity of reading the figures under them. I had given the effect of the figures in my argument. So far as I am concerned, printing the return does not help at all. I had given its effect, and made my statement upon it. The reason I suggested its inclusion in Hansard was in order that honorable members would be placed in a better position to criticise or challenge either my interpretation of the figures, or the deductions drawn from them. It was not for myself that I suggested that the return should go into Hansard, but following the precedent, as the honorable member himself has admitted, which is observed in the freest way, in respect to the Budget, placed the materials in the hands of honorable members who desire to criticise the statement, in the most convenient fashion for them. These being . the facts, and that being my own personal knowledge of the practice, I should very much regret if that practice were in any way confined. One would think, from the honorable member’s remarks, that it was difficult to get anything into Hansard, or that it mattered very much what one did get in. One can picture, by the utmost stretch of imagination, circumstances in which the exercise of this power could be abused ; but I know no power in Parliament, or out of it, which is not capable of abuse. Honorable members with the longest experience in this House have never yet witnessed an abuse of this power, and are never likely to. If, Mr. Speaker, the introduction, on jour authority, into Hansard of statistical tables prepared by Treasury officials, is to be described as a matter of privilege, we shall require a new dictionary. Surely the more information that is placed at the disposal of honorable members, and the more accessible it is, the better.
– Why not give the information in the House, where honorable members could criticise and analyze it ?
– I was quite prepared to do so. It was at the request of other honorable members that the Speaker took action after I had passed the matter by. The concession was granted, not only in accordance with precedent, but at the request of honorable members who desired to use the tables to criticise my arguments.
– Did not the Prime Minister himself say that he would move later on that the papers be printed?
– Yes, if it were desired.
– In addition to their appearing in Hansard?
– Before honorable members had asked that they should appear in Hansard, I wished to make them accessible to the House. Surely if ever there was a storm in a tea-cup this is one.
.- The Prime Minister seems to regard this matter as unimportant.
– I do.
– It may or may not be. The statement has been made that an extension of the privileges of the House cannot be regarded as a question of privilege. Under the Standing Orders, however, every member has equal rights. Every member of this House, whether he sits on the Treasury bench or anywhere else, is a representative of the people ; yet the specious pleading of the Prime Minister is that there is no cause for complaint. What right has any honorable member, whether he hold office as Speaker or occupies any other position, to give an order contrary to the decision of the House? Even if it had been the custom to allow the introduction of such matter into Hansard, the action taken would still be bad, unless authority had been granted by the House. I do not think that anything serious will result from what has been done, but I submit that if one honorable member is to be permitted to introduce into the Hansard report of his speech tables that were not read by him, there can be no limit to the number of returns of that kind that may be so inserted. If you, Mr. Speaker, rule that the correct course has been followed, can you refuse to allow any honorable member to introduce into the Hansard report of his speech as many tables as he pleases, although he has not read them? Objection was raised to the proposal made by the Prime Minister, because it was thought that it meant differential treatment of the representatives of the people in this House.
– Do not rage about the matter.
– I am not at all excited, although the statement made by the Prime Minister that this is only a storm in a teacup might well provoke some feeling. He who runs may read. If the course to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has taken exception is to be followed, the honorable member for Parkes, for instance, might some day desire to embody in Hansard a number of tables that his industry and ability had led him to prepare, but which were so complicated that he did not think they would be readily understood if read in the House.
– It would not be my fault if they were not understood.
– If the honorable member said that he had a number of tables which he desired, although he had not read them, to have embodied in Hansard, then I submit, Mr. Speaker, that, on your ruling, those tables would have to be inserted. The honorable member for Darwin was recently refused permission to insert in the Hansard report of his speech certain elaborate tables with which he had provided himself with a view to giving information to honorable members and the public generally, and I submit, with great respect, that it would be well to have a definite rule on this question. To leave with Mr. Speaker the decision of such matters is to burden him with that with which he ought not to be burdened.
– It is not fair to Mr. Speaker.
– It is not. No man could do justice to such a position. He would be sure, at some time or other, to differentiate between honorable members according to his ability, or want of ability, or according to his prejudices. I am not anxious that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie should press his motion, but I think he has done a service to the House in submitting it. The present system cannot work smoothly, and I should have been glad had the Prime Minister admitted that it was anomalous, and that an early opportunity would be taken to deal with it. There are some honorable members who think that everything that emanates from their party is right.
– We cannot have a party Hansard.
– Quite so; but I am alluding to the attitude of an honorable member opposite who seems to think that everything is all right. Fortunately, matters of this kind cannot be decided on party lines. The view taken by all the great Speakers of the House of Commons and of other Houses- of Assembly is that Standing Orders are primarily for the guidance of the House, and, secondly, for the protection of minorities. With a majority behind him, under the present system, the occupant of the chair could permit a party to do what it liked with” Hansard, and I certainly think that a rule ought to be framed for the guidance of the House in this respect, and should be strictly adhered to.
.- You have pointed out, Mr. Speaker, that, instead of restricting, you have enlarged, the privi-leges of honorable members, and, in view of that statement, the complaints of certain honorable gentlemen seem to be somewhat invidious. If by innuendo they charge you with favoritism - a charge which I would not support - with having treated the Prime Minister differently from other members, it is not enough to move a motion of privilege.
– The honorable member is not justified in assuming that such an insinuation has been made. Had it been made, I should have asked that it be withdrawn at once.
– It was suggested that danger might result from the exercise of this power by the Speaker. I do not agree with that. The occurrence was exceptional. The Prime Minister took the ordinary course of asking the leave of the House to have inserted in the Hansard report of his speech tables of figures which it was inconvenient to read, and that privilege was refused.
– Only one honorable member objected.
– I do not think that, under such circumstances, the objection of one honorable member should be valid. I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie as to the importance of this matter. I do not see why you, sir, should have the responsibility of saying what shall and what shall not be inserted in Hansard. It would be intolerable if every honorable member had to knock at your door, and ask as a privilege that information which he wished to publish in his speech should be so published.
– It would be most improper.
– An honorable member may have information, the publication of which he thinks would be of value to his constituents, and it would be intolerable if he had to find out from you whether, in your opinion, it was sufficiently important to be so published. We cannot be too careful about our privileges. The belief that we are all on a dead level is mere fiction. That some are differentiated from others may be due merely to their good luck, but to say that we are all on the same level is absurd. Therefore, I shall always contend for the granting of the same privileges to all.
– I do not think that any harm will come from the publication of the tables which the Prime Minister wishes to have inserted in his speech, but I object to the system
– I should like to know whether whatever rule is made is to apply only to tables of figures, or whether, as in the United States Congress, speeches may be handed in for publication. Probably the Government would be in favour of that.
– Has what is now proposed ever been done before ?
- Mr. Speaker intimated that it had been done in the House of Commons, but that is not a reason why we should do it. It is a pity that the ordinary machinery was not allowed to work yesterday, and that, when the Prime Minister asked for leave to have these tables published, it was refused. I would rather leave the matter with the House than with any Speaker, The Speaker has enough to do in presiding over the deliberations of this assembly, and should not be asked to decide in private what shall and what shall not go into Hansard. Such a. power would’ be a dangerous one to place in the hands of a Speaker.
– I am beginning, to think that parliamentary life generates privileges, and I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on having had the courage to strike off the chains which fetter us. Last week, in speaking on the Budget, I tried to have published, without reading them, some figures which would have been of value to honorable members, but the Chairman refused to allow it. I am a man of figures, and can do nothing without them. Of course, most honorable members leave the chamber when figures are being discussed. Statistics do not make interesting reading, and it would remove a collar of torture if in financial discussions they could be taken as read.
-Why not leave the matter to the House ?
– That would mean leaving it to no one. Mr. Speaker stands for the whole House.. He is appointed to preside over our deliberations because he is regarded as a proper man to do so. If the President of a banking corporation, or of some other great institution, can be intrusted with the exercise of certain privileges, so can the Speaker. I am sorry that honorable members on this side of the chamber are becoming so conservative. I heard one of them ask if this thing had ever been done before. We should not do a thing because it has been done before, but because it has never been done. We should be the missionaries of politics. What we do should be done because we think it right, and to set an example to weary travellers who have net the courage to act for themselves. Those of us who are concerned in financial matters should be allowed merely to read the heading of any table we wish to have inserted in order to insure its publication in Hansard. Splendid speeches are printed in the records of the Congress of the United “States, because written contributions are published, whereas we have to make our speeches on the floor of the chamber. I shall vote to leave this matter with the Speaker, and whenever he makes an advance he will find me behind him. I desire that all our fetters shall be broken, and the endless cables of privilege, rank, and caste, destroyed. I would throw aside all the Standing Orders.
.- - My sympathies are with those who speak on behalf of privilege, realizing fhat many things can be done only by allowing the completest freedom.’ of action to honorable members ; but many of the speeches now delivered in this Chamber are dreary enough, and would be intolerable if the columns of figures which it is sometimes necessary to introduce had to be read at length. On occasions I have desired to introduce into my speeches tabulated matter which would be useful for reference, but having been prevented by the forms of the House from taking them as read, I have left them out rather than weary honorable members. But my speeches have suffered in consequence. Brilliant master of the English language as is the Prime Minister, even his magnificent oratory will not rivet the attention of the House when tables of figures have to be read. In my opinion, an honorable member ought to be able to ask the leave of the House to take as read figures which he wishes to use. In my case there was no such opportunity. J. shall support you, Mr. Speaker, in the attitude you have taken. You are not the first who has done this, and will not be the last, though I have no desire to curtail your tenure of office. When privilege becomes destructive, it must be abolished. I would gladly consent to the handing in of written speeches not exceeding a certain length. I thank the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for the opportunity to ventilate this matter. These silly old idiotic ideas, against which I have inveighed for the last twenty years, should have been swept away by common sense, and doubtless will be swept away when the people have the power of referendum. I shall support the insertion of figures without reading in Hansard, if they are necessary to elucidate a speech, and make it more clearly understood and valuable for reference.
.- The honorable ‘tnember for Darwin raise: a serious question. It is not beyond the range of possibility that the honorable member, who takes an enthusiastic interest in all matters pertaining to the progress of the United States, might, in his desire to impart information to the public, and, incidentally, to honorable members, fill a whole Hansard with figures relating to the various States of the Union. The honorable member fairly revels in figures, and, if he had the power to fire them into Hansard without consulting the House, we should all have good reason to complain ‘of tha severity of the infliction. And such methods might not be confined to the honorable member for Darwin, but might prove catching. In this particular case, I understand the gravamen of the complaint to be that permission of the House had been asked and refused. If, in the face of a refusal of the House to sanction it, the insertion of the tables was permitted, no matter by whom, there is involved a serious breach of the privileges of the House. I suggest, however, that’ the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, having brought the matter prominently before the House, and had it ventilated, should not press the motion. to a vote, but ask for leave to withdraw it.
.- I was very sorry when I. heard the Prime Minister say that this was a storm in a teacup. Personally, I quite agree with your remark, Mr. Speaker, that if ever there was a question that should be seriously debated, it is the question before us now, and that we should, if possible, leave out of consideration the particular papers or person, and deal with the matter purely as one of principle. I have heard your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, time after time, refuse, except in the case of Budget papers, to allow figures or reports to be inserted in Hansard, unless they were read. On one occasion, the Treasurer of the Deakin Ministry desired to have a long table inserted, but the late Speaker refused permission unless it was read, and other honorable members have been similarly treated.
– Is not the speech of yesterday analogous to a Budget speech?
– No; and the unfortunate circumstance is that, when the Prime Minister was told that the tables could not be inserted unless they were read, he said he would move that they be printed as papers, The matter was then left until the question of leave arose, and, as we all know, leave was .refused. I concur thoroughly in the view that these returns should, as a matter of convenience, have -been embodied in Hansard, but I regard your direction, Mr. Speaker, after leave Ind been refused, as wrong altogether - as a fatal blunder, if I may say so with due respect. Either you, sir, had to obtain leave of the House, or you could order the incorporation of the document on your own motion; and evidently you thought you should have leave. Under the circumstances, it appears to me that the tables should have been printed as papers. 1 was struck by the remark of the Prime Minister that, having said he would have the tables printed as papers, he left the matter, but that afterwards some honorable members represented that it would be more convenient to have the tables inserted in Hansard, and it was agreed that that should be done. I wonder, however, when that request was made, and by whom, and when the agreement was come to that the tables should be inserted. I noted the words of the Prime Minister, and thought they were very significant ; and, at any rate, the agreement was never made in the House. I wondered whether the Prime Minister made a mistake, as I certainly hope he did; but, at any rate, it is a matter to be cleared up.
– There were requests for the insertion of the tables from all over the House
– I do not know what the Government Whip has to say, but he certainly always has more to say for the Government than, any member of the Government itself. 1 agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that, however wise or agreeable it might be for honorable members to have the tables inserted without their having been read, there is, at the same time, possible danger in leaving the responsibility to Mr. Speaker or any other member of the House. As the honorable member for Wide Bay said, if there were a saint in the Chair, he could not give satisfaction to everybody in such a matter; and it is desirable that such a. task should not be imposed on the occupant of the Chair. Perhaps a question of the kind might be decided by some sort of committee; but, at any rate, it ought not to be left to the Speaker to discriminate. It is, I agree, exceedingly convenient to have tables inserted in Hansard, but there are regulations in regard to that matter, and these ought not to be departed from. With others, I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is to be thanked for bringing this question before the House. I confess I was surprised when the honorable member got an affirmative reply to the question he put to the Speaker ; but now that the matter has been ventilated, we may hope that something will be done to provide a satisfactory procedure, which will not prove invidious in its operation to either members or officials. I think that the motion, after it has been discussed, might be withdrawn.
. -I understood Mr. Speaker to say that there ought to be very little ground for complaint at the enlargement of privileges of honorable members, but it is possible that the case under discussion may represent the enlargement of the privileges of only some honorable members. I do not think that either the Speaker or the authority suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland ought to be given a discretionary power in matters of the kind. Either every honorable mem’ber has a right to have matter inserted in Hansard, or he has not ; and we all know that the moment there is discrimination, no matter how impartial or fair the decision may be, there is bound to be dissatisfaction, or, at any rate, the risk of dissatisfaction. The only safe course is to allow no matter of the kind to go into Hansard. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne, and partly agreed to by the honorable member for Darwin, that discretionary power ought to be given in certain cases. In my view, such a power might be very greatly abused, and, in fact, is almost certain to be abused.
– I suggested that there should be a limitation.
– If a table is valuable because it is short, it may be ten times more valuable if it is long. We have to thank the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for submitting the motion, and I think it has served the purpose he has in view. Let us hope that in the future there will be no discrimination, but that the Standing Orders will be carried out thoroughly and impartially.
.- The thanks of every member are due to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for raising this question. The Prime Minister said it was a storm in a teacup ; and doubtless there would have been a storm if no notice had been taken of the remonstrance made. Every member, from the Prime Minister to the humblest, is bound by the Standing Orders. The gravamen of the offence on this occasion lies in the fact that we have precedent after precedent; by both the late Speaker and various Chairmen of Committees, for the ruling that the Standing Orders shall not be departed from except by the unanimous wish of the House. I cm recall quite a number of instances in which Ministers of the Crown have attempted, without asking leave of the House - which would probably have resulted in . leave being granted - to have various schedules and so forth inserted in Hansard, but it has always been borne in mind that the Standing Orders must be obeyed by all/ and the privilege has been withheld. On this occasion the Prime Minister, finding that he would be out of order in inserting the tables without reading them, asked leave of the House through you, sir.
– The Prime Minister did nothing of the sort : that is not correct.
– I understood that the Prime Minister said he would ask leave, and lha’t you, sir, subsequently did ask leave for him. At any rate, leave was asked, and the House, within its undoubted rights, refused it.
– One member did.
– The honorable member for Parkes knows that in all British Parliaments in Australia and elsewhere, it is the privilege of one member to object to the abrogation of the rules ; on such occasions, one member, for all practical purposes, is the House. If the honorable member affected wanted to take some other means to achieve his object, he could do so. On this occasion, you, Mr. Speaker, asked the leave of the House practically for the suspension of the Standing Orders for the time being, to allow the Prime Minister to do something that he could not otherwise do. That leave was refused. It has been asked for in other cases, and has been refused in the same way; but whenever that has happened on previous occasions, no attempt has ever been made to get behind the refusal. On this occasion, an attempt has been made to do so; and I can only presume from what the Prime Minister himself has said, that he communicated with you either personally or in some other way, and pointed out to you that you had certain powers. With all due deference to yourself, or any one else who may occupy your position, it would be a dangerous innovation on the rights and privileges of the House if the Prime Minister could thwart the will of the House, or if the Speaker could override the decision of the House by doing something that the House said should not be done. That is the whole cause of offence, and I sincerely trust that it will never arise again. I hope that every member of the House, whether he be the Prime Minister or a private member, and no matter in what part of the
House he sits, will be held impartially to the forms of the House. This matter is sufficiently serious to warrant* the honorable member for Kalgoorlie in taking action upon it, and in seeking to test the opinion of the House by putting his motion to a vote.
– The question of whether the table is included in the record or not is a very minor matter, as compared with the very serious question of whether the decision of the House has been overridden. The fact that the matter has been brought before the House has, I am certain, achieved this much, that it will never occur again. As has been pointed out, if one honorable member objects he really becomes the House for the time being, and expresses the will of the House on that occasion. The House by its Standing Orders’ has provided that if one honorable member objects to a certain thing being done, it cannot be done. That honorable member, therefore, for the time being is expressing the wish of the House according to the Standing Orders ; and no Speaker has a right to override the deliberate decision of the House, even if that decision is expressed through only one member. If the House decided, as it did on this occasion, that those papers could not be taken as read, it was. not a proper proceeding for anybody, Speaker or any one else, to decide against the wish of the House that the papers should be inserted in Hansard. Matters relating to the control of Hansard have been brought before the House more than once. On one occasion I happened to quote something that 1 heard spoken in the House, but when I turned up Hansard I found that it was not there. The question arises as ‘to how far the correction of proofs should be allowed. Speaking with some little expert knowledge, I think the Hansard reports as prepared by the staff are quite equal to any reports of the kind in any part of the world. It has often been a wonder to me how exceedingly well the reporters have recorded not only what members have said, but very often what they intended to say but did not express fully owing to interjections. I think the less the Hansard proofs are interfered with, and the fewer directions come from the Speaker, who is in control of Hansard, the better it will be for the correct and honest interpretation of honorable member’s speeches as published. Apart from that, on the ques tion now before the House, I think the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has served every purpose that he had in view, and- 1 hope he will not press the motion to a division. I think he has made it certain that in the future, when the House expresses a deliberate opinion, that opinion will not be ignored by any one.
– I regard the matter that is now being discussed as of very serious, importance. I was surprised to’ find that, after what took place yesterday, the decision of the House had been set aside by some one, ostensibly, I take it, through your agency, Mr. Speaker, and that certain matters which the House had decided should not be inserted in Hansard were to appear in its columns. I remember that a little while ago, when you were appealed to for an opinion as to whether certain customary methods in connexion with inserting headlines in reprints of speeches from Hansard should be followed, you deliberately refused to take any action, to give any advice, or to interfere in any way with the Hansard reports as they left the reporters’ hands.
– He was in a right position then, except as to the inclusion of objectionable matter.
– The excision of such matter is always taken to be a privilege of the Speaker, the exercise of which no honorable member would object to; and when you took up the position to which the honorable member for Dalley refers, you took up one that - was absolutely unassailable. It is because you so recently expressed that opinion that I feel the more concerned about your action in this case. I should not like to say that it savours of favoritism that this matter has been inserted in Hansard because it was the Prime Minister who desired that something should be included in his speech which he had not included in the ordinary way - but I do say that the treatment meted out now to the Prime Minister, as contrasted with the treatment meted out to other honorable members a little while ago in regard to a similar matter, requires explanation from those who are responsible for it. I do not agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Darwin that we should Americanize our Hansard. No man who desires Hansard to be a true reflex of the utterances of honorable members would seek to introduce a method by which the public might be deceived and misled as to what took place in this Chamber.
Whatever a member’s utterances may be, he should be responsible for them, and I do not think that the amount of alteration and revision of Hansard proofs that has taken place in some cases in the past should be allowed to continue. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that we can leave Hansard absolutely to the Hansard staff. They are capable and impartial, and I am sure that they will do their work without fear of, or favour to, any member.
– They have beautiful literary imaginations.
– I am not going to question their imaginations, but I say that, sq far as I know, we have very able men doing that work on behalf of this Chamber. -
– It is admirable reporting.
– I have no reason to complain of the manner in which the reports are produced, and very rarely indeed have I any alteration, even verbal, to make of any proof that is sent to me. That is a great tribute to the Hansard staff. When the matter was before us a little while ago, you, Mr. Speaker, laid it down clearly that you would not interfere with, but would follow, the decision of your predecessor that Hansard as it went from the Reporting Staff to the printing office should not be interfered with. But now we find that, because the Prime Minister requires to insert a table of figures, that wise decision which was asserted so emphatically then has been set aside. I absolutely object to the inclusion in Hansard of anything but what has been duly spoken, according to the Standing Orders, on the floor of this chamber, and recorded as the utterances of honorable members.
– What standing order deals with that?
– The honorable member for North Sydney is ever on the qui vive for technicalities to upset honorable members’ statements. I know that there is no standing order” dealing with the publication of Hansard, but the late Speaker, who was Speaker of this House from the initiation of Federation,, laid down the present practice with regard to the handing to Hansard of figures or documents which had not been read in the House. I have seen honorable members compelled to read for twenty and twenty-five minutes figures or extracts which they had asked the Speaker’s per mission to hand over to Hansard unread. He was always adamant in his determination not to allow the privileges of the House to be in any way assailed or undermined by action of the kind now taken. If we allow this kind of thing to begin, we do not know where it will end. The serious part of the matter is that it was done in this case after the House had spoken. The Prime Minister sought to have these figures inserted. You, Mr. Speaker, put the question to the House, and the House said, “ No.” The House is above the Speaker, and above every other man who holds office within these walls, and) when the House says “No,” its “No” should not only be respected, but should be absolutely unalterable. When the House has said : “ We shall not allow this precedent to be created, we shall not permit the thin end of the wedge to be inserted even by the Prime Minister, whereby a misrepresentation may find its way into the pages of our official records,” it is a serious matter for any man, Speaker or otherwise, to interfere with that decision of the House. For that reason I feel very strongly on the matter, and I hope that the fact of its being brought up in the House will be an object lesson to those who, were responsible for taking this step. I do not wish to press the motion to a division, although I could do so if I chose, but ‘I think sufficient has been said.; and I believe that in all probability you have been over-persuaded by some one in this case, and have strained a point to do what you may have thought to be’ a public service. While thinking you were doing a public service, however, you were undermining a greater right than you or any other man should be allowed to interfere with. I shall watch events to see whether this debate has the effect that it should have. If in the future we find that what has happened in this case is only the beginning of a loose system whereby members can throw “junks” of figures and ‘ ‘ junks ‘ ‘ of speech into their Hansard proofs, or cut out “junks” of what they have said-
– They could pass in the Year-Book.
– An honorable member could hand over Knibbs’ Year-Book, and ask Hansard to reproduce it. What kind of padding should we have of the records of the parliamentary debates if that were permitted? It is travelling from the sublime to the ridiculous to suggest that the Year-Book might be embodied in the Hansard report of an honorable member’s speech, but sti.i no one could object to even that being done, seeing that the concession of which complaint is made has been granted to the Prime Minister. When that honorable gentleman treats the flouting of the will of the House as “ a storm in a teacup “ one must recognise that he does not view the privileges of this House as they should be regarded. I object to the insertion in Hansard of anything that has not been actually read by an honorable member unless the permission of the House is given to its inclusion. That practice has been followed since the inception of the Parliament, and it is in accordance .with the custom of every Legislature of which I have any knowledge.
– I do not object to the inclusion of these tables in the Hansard report of the Prime Minister’s speech, but I certainly wish to know whether a like privilege is to be extended to honorable members generally. On several occasions whilst the late Sir Frederick Holder occupied the Chair, I brought forward tables that I had prepared, but Mr. Speaker refused to allow them to be incorporated in the Hansard report of my speech unless I read them. On 26th November last, in the course of a speech which I delivered, I had occasion to allude to a set of figures, which 1 had been at some trouble. to prepare, relative to the appreciation of Australian’ banking shares, and owing to the late Speaker’s ruling I was compelled to go through the tedious task of reading the table in order that it might appear in Hansard. Seen in tabular form these figures immediately conveyed to the reader what I desired they should convey, but it was wearisome to the House to listen to their recital, and the task of reading them was certainly a tedious one. We shall shortly be entering upon a lengthy debate on the financial question and various honorable members will probably desire to place before the House some tabular statements bearing on the question. In the circumstances, therefore, I ask that honorable members shall be afforded the privilege that has been extended to the Prime Minister.
– With regard to this question I feel it my duty to make a few observations. I have refrained hitherto from speaking in order that honorable members might have an opportunity to ex press their views upon the matter as it presented itself to them. It is rather unusual for a Speaker to be charged with a breach of the privileges of the House, and I fully realize the gravity of the situation. The facts, however, may be briefly stated. When the Prime Minister was speaking yesterday upon a matter affecting an amendment of the Constitution he desired to incorporate in the Hansard report of his speech certain figures which he had not read. He said, in the most casual way, “ Instead of reading these figures I will hand them to Hansard,” and of my own volition I at once informed him that he could not do that. I mention this to show honorable, members what was my feeling in the matter. It was subsequently pointed out to me by a few honorable members that it would be advantageous to have the figures included in the Hansard report of the Prime Minister’s speech. The Prime Minister himself neither directly nor indirectly - I ought not to have to say this but feel constrained to do so because of certain remarks that have been made - communicated with me with regard to the matter from the time that he laid the figures in question on the table. No one on the Government side of the House spoke to me on the subject, but it was represented to me that it would be an advantage to allow the tabulated matter to appear in Hansard.
– By whom was that representation made?
– It is unnecessary for me to mention names. I take the full responsibility for my action and am not going to attempt to put it upon those who spoke to me on the subject. I certainly do not desire that the responsibility should- be placed upon any one save myself, and it is for that reason that I refer to this phase of the subject. It was because of the representations made to me that I informed the House that I intended to ask for leave to take the course suggested. As honorable members aire aware, however, I am new to the position, and it was not long before I recognised that, in asking the leave of the House, I was propos-ing to do that which was unnecessary. It is necessary to ask for leave only where it is proposed to do something contrary to the Standing Orders. As a matter of fact, there is no standing order affecting Hansard. Some honorable members have spoken in such a way as to suggest that a standing order had been disregarded ; but nothing of the sort has been done. If there has been a departure from anything, it has been a departure from custom. Before taking action, I first saw the returns, and then made inquiries as to what had been the practice. I found that, upon at least three occasions - once in the case of a Minister, and twice in the case of private members - my predecessor had allowed statements of a similar character to be inserted in Hansard, although they had not been read. I then gave instructions to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to embody these tables in the report.
– Will you state, Mr. Speaker, what the instances were?
– I cannot, at the moment, give the dates on which this was done.
– The returns related to the Budget?
– No. Two of them were submitted by private members, and in the third case, the statement was presented by a Minister who was not then dealing with the Budget. This is a plain statement of what has occurred, and I think that honorable members will acquit me of any desire to arrogate to myself any functions other than those I possess.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I refused, absolutely, to have anything to do with the question of the insertion of headlines in reprints from Hansard; but Hansard itself, from its initial stages until it is actually bound, is under the control of the occupant of the Chair. I have only to say that I recognise the inalienable . right of every honorable member to bring before the House a matter of this. kind. When I was asked to-day why the tables had been embodied in Hansard, I said that I had acted in accordance with practice and precedent. I have precedent to support my action; but I frankly admit that it was with great reluctance that I agreed to the insertion of the tables. It was only because of their character, and not because of the honorable member who presented them, that I allowed them to be inserted. I was also influenced by the fact that I had at least three precedents to guide me.
– May I ask, sir, whether your action is to be regarded as a precedent?
– I shall wait until the occasion presents itself before I give a ruling.
.- Having listened to the debate, and to your own statement, sir, I feel that the object I had in view in submitting this motion hasbeen achieved. It was ungraciously suggested by an honorable member that I wasinduced to take action because of personal feeling against the Prime Minister; but 1 assure the House that I was influenced by no such motive. I should not endeavour to avail myself of the rules of the House to give vent to such feelings, even if I entertained them. I did not, and do not, think that any harm will result from the insertion of the tables in Hansard. Indeed,, honorable members may benefit from what has been done; but I recognised - and I think you, Mr. Speaker, thoroughly appreciate - the danger of allowing such a custom to grow up. It would certainly be prejudicial to the safety of honorable member!,, and would place you, sir, in a most invidious position, since you would have todetermine what should and what should not be inserted in Hansard. Having achieved my object, I desire, by leave of the House, to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question without notice. According to the press the honorable gentleman has given instructions that works in the vicinity of Melbourne authorized under the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill, recently passed by this House, shall be proceeded with. I desire to know whether ‘he has instructed the Deputy Postmasters-General in the various States to expedite works authorized by that measure in order that they may be completed before the close of the financial year.
– Before the Bill had actually passed through the House, I sent telegraphic instructions to the Deputy Postmasters-General of all the States to hold themselves in readiness to proceed with the construction of works as soon as the Bill had been assented to. I am satisfied that the necessary instructions have been issued by the Deputy Postmasters-General, and that everything is being done, and will be done, in ‘all the States, to proceed at the earliest opportunity with the works . authorized. If honorable members have reason to believe that unnecessary delay has taken place, and will bring the facts under my attention, I shall be very pleased to take further action. ‘
– I wish to put to you, Mr. Speaker, a question relating to the destruction of waste paper removed from the House, and the various rooms in this building. I understand that it is bagged, and sent to the pulp mills, where it is destroyed by being worked into pulp. I desire to ask you, sir, to request honorable members to take steps to prevent their private letters or papers being sent out in this way, and, perhaps, made public. I am not objecting to the method of destruction, but I think that care should be taken in the direction 1 have indicated.
– It has always been the custom to send to the pulp mills the waste paper collected in the various rooms of this building. It is there destroyed in the way mentioned by the honorable member, but I take it that those who have papers which they do not desire to become public property will take care to tear them up, so that their contents cannot be made known. I feel, however, that the honorable member has done good service in calling attention to the matter.
Mr. GROOM laid upon the table the following paper -
Papua - Ordinance of 1909 - Removal, of Natives Ordinance 1907 - Repeal.
The Clerk laid upon the table
General Post Office and Proposed Purchase of Markets, Sydney - Return to an Order of the House dated nth August, 1909.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Garrison Artillery, New South Wales, states that when three of the companies were together at South Head, he suggested that each noncommissioned officer and gunner give one shilling towards a testimonial to Mrs. Lester. There was no compulsion, and no deductions were ever made, but the men voluntarily paid the money to some one representing the company.
I may add that I consider even this practice reprehensible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will have prepared, for the use of members during the discussion of the financial proposals, a statement showing the amount per head of Customs and Excise raised in the following countries for the last five years for which the figures are available : - United States, Canada, Germany, and Italy ; and also the figures for Victoria and South Australia for the live years beTore Federation?
– I shall have much pleasure in doing my best to obtain this information, and shall add the figures for Queensland, Western Australia, and New Zealand, for which the honorable member has omitted to ask.
.- I move -
That this House is of opinion that wireless telegraphic stations should be immediately established, as found desirable, round the coasts of Australia, and” that our merchant marine should be equipped with wireless installations as an up-to-date means (1) of gaining intelligence of the appearance in Australian waters of a hostile force, and (2) of saving life and property imperilled by accidents upon the sea.
I shall not occupy more than a few moments in commending the proposal to the House, because the time which now remains available for the discussion of private members’ motions is limited. I gave notice of this motion before the Government decided to take action in the direction in which I wish it to move, but its decision makes it unnecessary for me to discuss the matter as if I were moving in a missionary spirit. Not only is it transparently true that, with the equipment of the mercantile marine with wireless telegraph apparatus, and the establishment of stations on the coast of Australia capable of receiving and transmitting wireless messages, much anxiety, and perhaps loss of life and property, could be averted, in the case of broken tail shafts, or other mishaps to vessels; but the installation of the wireless telegraph system is even more important as it concerns defence. Our chief anxiety in time of war will be to know when and where raiding cruisers make their appearance in our waters. Such vessels will not come within sight of land, so that they can be reported, but will lie in wait in the track of our commerce. Their presence in our waters might not be known until it was noticed that vessels leaving, say, Fremantle for the eastern States, or going in the reverse direction, were missing; and that there was an interruption of trade. I suggest that we should establish at such places on the coast, as experts may recommend, wireless telegraph stations, and that the mercantile marine should be fitted with similar installations. Then, directly an enemy’s ship made its appearance, the authorities on shore would be warned by the first Australian ships in sight it, and shipping masters could be notified of the danger threatening them. It is obvious that this would be a more efficient and cheaper way of getting intelligence than the suggestion of Captain Creswell for the employment of vessels faster than the enemy’s ships. Even if it were possible to efficiently distribute such vessels throughout Australian waters, the gain in time following a discovery would be only the difference between the intervals needed by both to reach their destinations; whereas, were a report transmitted by wireless telegraphy, the notification would be instantaneous. I have been informed that the cost of a shore installation, including buildings, would be between £6,000 and £7,000, and that such an installation could receive and transmit messages over a distance of 500 miles. The cost of maintaining and operating such a station would be £1,388 IOS. per annum. A number of installations would be necessary for defence and the convenience of shipping. Probably it would be well 10 begin with a large installation somewhere on the eastern coast, to connect with New Zealand, and with one on the Leeuwin, where most of our trade routes converge. Some time ago, ‘before wireless telegraphy had been so much developed as it is to-day, the defence authorities recommended the establishment of ten installations; one at Cape Yorke, one in New Guinea, one at Brisbane, one at Sydney, one at Melbourne, one in Tasmania, one in Adelaide, one on the Leeuwin, and one north of Perth. These installations were each to operate over a radius of 350 miles. Now, however, the radius could be extended to 500 miles without increase of cost. That recommendation would have covered the coast-line from Rockhampton to the Australian Bight, and from Albany to beyond Geraldton in Western Australia, as well as Torres Strait, and would have been very advantageous to the Defence Department.
– -Was no provision made for an installation at Port Darwin?
– That was not recommended at the time; but I should like to see an installation placed there. In this matter, a principle might be- adopted which could well be applied to Government Departments generally. We have now no methodical way of proceeding in reference to the re-arming of forts, the equipping of telephone bureaux, and other works of that kind. Plant is allowed to run absolutely into disrepair before anything is done to set it right. I would suggest that, assuming, for the sake of the argument - it would really be nearer £70,000 - the cost of our wireless telegraph stations to be ,£20,000, and the life of the installations ten years, the Government should pay, yearly, £2,000 into a trust fund, using the money for remedying defects, and making improvements and renewals when these became necessary.
– Would the honorable member charge part of the cost of these installations to the shipping companies ?
– I have not thought of doing that.
– They would have to pay for their own installations.
– Yes; and would provide us with information which would be of the greatest service. The steamers trading to Western Australia and to New Zealand would probably be equipped at once, in the interests of their passengers, with powerful transmitters; but small vessels, making voyages of only a few hours’ duration, would be equipped with apparatus of much more limited power. I hope that the House will accept the motion, as its proposals are in no sense controversial.
– What about the Government?
– The Government have already accepted the principle, and I should like them to put it into practice by the adoption of a comprehensive system.
.- I have great pleasure in accepting the motion on behalf of the Government. The sum of ,£10,000 is provided in the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act for a beginning in regard to radio-telegraph communication.
– Similar votes have been passed year after year; but nothing has been done.
– A like sum was voted on two former occasions, but no action was taken, because when tenders were called for certain installations, the cost mentioned was largely in excess of the parliamentary appropriation. Since then, however, I believe the cost of installation has been greatly reduced, and we have every hope that, within the limit of the £10,000, we shall be able to, at least, start with two stations on the Australian coast. It would be wise to start with no more than two stations, so that we may ascertain the preliminary cost of establishment, and the cost of working.
– Where is it proposed to have the stations?
– The general trend of the . professional and expert advice is that the two most important and prominent stations would be - one on the eastern coast, of which the centre would naturally be Sydney; and one on the western coast, of which the centre would be Fremantle or Rottnest. These are the two centres that will probably receive first attention.
– What about Thursday Island ?
– Then Thursday Island, and also Wilson’s Promontory, and the north coast of Tasmania, will come on for consideration. We must start, however, with what we are advised are the most important points. Sydney is the most important starting place from a defence point of view, seeing that that is the naval centre, and, to a certain extent, the centre of the commerce of the Pacific and communication with New Zealand.
– But the naval authorities already have an installation at Sydney.
– There is not a land system in connexion with, or under the control of, the Commonwealth Government. A station on the western coast will naturally command the whole of the incoming and outgoing traffic in the case of Europe, South Africa, and America, and it is considered to be a position quite as commanding and important as that of Sydney. I propose, with the concurrence of my colleagues, to commence what I think will be a successful experiment. It is proposed to make the service revenue-earn ing, so that it may not be a burden on the Department. “ We cannot afford to give free wireless communication, either for defence purposes or for the convenience of the public ; and I have asked the officers to submit a scheme by which we shall probably be able to earn an income from messages transmitted to steamers, or from steamers, and delivered on shore. I have no reason to doubt, from the information I have received, that we shall be able to start with a small but increasing revenue. That is the commercial aspect; but, of course, the defence aspect is of supreme importance; and if we couple defence with commercial utility and profit, I think we shall be able to justify our experiment. If the House is willing to pass this motion without further discussion, I am quite willing to’ conclude with the remark that I shall lose no time in pushing on with the work, and giving effect to the vote and evident wish of Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That it is desirable, for the better protection of the people, to have uniformity of legislation throughout the Commonwealth for the control and registration of all members of the medical, legal, and other professions.
I need not offer any apology for submitting this motion.
– Preference to unionists !
– We often hear that remark, but the true meaning and intention of all such measures as I advocate, is the protection of the public. Medical Acts in both the Old Country and in Australia are nearly in every instance for the protection of the people from quacks and charlatans, who, if allowed their own sweet will, may do very serious injury. It is often suggested that the medical profession is a “ ring “ or union, into which no one can be admitted. That is quite an erroneous idea; because the organizations in the profession are altogether apart from any question of registration.
– But the associations make it rough for the man outside.
– Not necessarily ; all depends on the conduct of the man himself. If a practitioner is not a member of an association it makes no difference to him in his practice.
– Does it not?
– I can only say that I long enough ago withdrew from all associations of the kind ; and whenever I have to attend a patient - which is not often now - in consultation with a member of an association, I never experience any difficulty.
– Then the honorable member is a non-unionist?
– Yes. As I have already indicated, the laws made for the registration of medical men, lawyers, dentists, veterinary surgeons, and, in some cases, engineers, surveyors and nurses, are all directed to preventing the public from being imposed upon.
– And still quackery is rampant in Australia !
– Quite so; in fact, it is rather notable that Australia has for many years been the happy ‘hunting ground of quacks and charlatans.
– If the honorable member and myself had our way we should soon pass a Bill to stop the quackery !
– That is quite true; I have been working with the honorable member for some years in that direction, and the House has supported us by a unanimous vote. Of course, the registration of the professions is at present beyond the Commonwealth Constitution, so that the motion is really a suggestion that at some time in the future the Constitution should be amended in order to give us the necessary powers. There is great disparity amongst the various State Acts. Some of the Acts are very old, and some of them of more recent years ; but the general tendency of all is to register those who come before the public as professional men, and the best of them, and one. we could very well copy, is that in force in Tasmania. Under that Act there is a power, not found .in Victoria or New South Wales, to deal with a practitioner guilty of unprofessional conduct; so that, if a man has been convicted of a criminal offence, the Medical Board has power to remove his name from the register. A similar power is exercised in Great Britain, where, of course, there are thousands of medical men, and where the Medical Council does a considerable amount of good in safeguarding the interests of the public. The whole trend of all the Acts that have been passed throughout Australia is to form a Medical Board, composed always and almost entirely of members of the medical profession. As a rule the Chairman of the Board is appointed by the Governor-in-Council, but in some cases is elected by the other members. In Victoria. New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland those boards have the power only of considering the claims of those who desire to practise medicine in. their particular State, and to put the name upon the register or not as they find the qualifications set out in the various Acts are or are not complied with. In the Queensland Act, which is .the oldest and most out-of-date of all, there is an additional power, allowing members of the medical profession who have been registered in the United Kingdom to practise in that State. The reason of that, I take it, was because - I think the Act is from thirty-seven to forty years old - it was found very difficult in the early days of settlement in Australia to get medical men to go to out-of-the-way places. In the first place, there were not the numbers of them, and in the second, they often came out direct to different parts of the States, and wanted to practise straight away. In New South Wales, the law has always been very lax. The South Australian Act is, perhaps, most deficient, and the New South Wales Act comes next in that respect ; but all the Acts, with the exception of those of Tasmania and Western Australia, are out of date. It is certainly desirable and necessary that the Medical1 Board, wherever it exists, should have power to deal with medical men who are guilty of unprofessional conduct, or who are convicted of some criminal offence, and whose names should certainly be no longer allowed to remain on the medical register.
– Do those Acts empower medical boards to deal with those who profess to practise medicine outside of the profession ?
– No; that is another difficulty. The general trend of the Actsis simply to say that no man shall practise as a medical man, or call himself, or lead the public to believe that he is, a legally qualified medical practitioner, unless he is on the register. If he does so he may be fined, and in some cases imprisoned. If a man presents himself before the board with falsified diplomas, or degrees, or qualifications, the board has power to imprison him for such falsification, but the power mentioned by the honorable member for Perth is not given in any of the Acts. Of course,, chemists are registered in the same way,, and the Act gives no power in any State to interfere in any way with the conduct of a registered chemist ; but a man may set himself up in practice and call himself a herbalist, or something of that sort. He may sell to the people some decoction of marsh-mallows, or pills of aloes, or something else that may be effective, but not always the particular drug indicated in the case’; or, in addition, he may use massage or electricity, or something of that sort, and profess that he knows a great deal about it. when he may really be very ignorant. He may profess all these things, take people’s money, and practically charge what fee he likes, but the Medical Act gives no power to deal with him. That really is the crux of the matter. The motion brought forward by the honorable member for Barrier, with which I was in complete sympathy, goes still further. It deals with the question of the admission of patent medicines. Many patent medicines, drugs, and appliances were being brought in, and not only imposed on the credulity of the public, but were doing the public a very serious injury in many cases. Yet we, as a Parliament, appear to be powerless to assist the people in this direction. It is a direction which is altogether desirable, because it is really a case of an ^unscrupulous person hitting a man when he is down. One of the greatest functions that a Parliament can exercise is to assist those who are helpless. A medical man may register in Victoria, but that does not carry with it registration in the other States. He has no power to practise in the other States as a registered medical practitioner. He may wish to practise in Tasmania or New South Wales as a locum tenens, but when he does so, unless he is registered in those States, he is really not a registered medical practitioner, and suffers certain disabilities. For instance, his evidence at inquests, and his certificates of death, may be questioned. Many other things that arise in the practice of his profession may be questioned, but as a general rule they are not, because he signs after his certificate his degrees and diplomas.
– That does not prevent an unregistered man from giving a certificate.
– No, but the certificate of an unregistered man is not accepted.
– Excuse me, it is.
– What I meant was the certificate of an unqualified man. I was pointing out that if I went into New South Wales, I should not be registered there, but as a matter of custom my certificate would be accepted because of my degrees.
I think the honorable member for Hunter is registered also in Victoria. If he is not, I think he has practised in Victoria, because I remember the honorable member for Wentworth and myself sending him some cases on a certain occasion. Medical men who desire to move about from State to State are under the disability of being really unregistered practitioners outside their own State, although they may possess the highest qualifications that can be obtained. This difficulty generally arises in some remote country centre, so that it is really the people in the remote districts who are hurt by the present state of the law. Of course, in the bigger centres no such difficulty arises, because generally any number of medical men are available. The members of the legal profession seem to be controlled only in New South Wales and Victoria by special Acts. In each of the other States there seems to be a Law Institute of some sort which controls them. I have found considerable difficulty in discovering the actual position of that profession in the other States. The Law Institute, or whatever it may be called, seems to be a body which has established itself, and which controls the practice of the profession in each State. In Victoria the Judges of the Supreme Court are the arbiters in the mat.ter, and outside of them there is the Lav Institute, which decides what qualifications a man shall possess before he may practise as a barrister or solicitor. In Victoria a barrister may be a solicitor, and a solicitor may be a barrister, and a similar position seems to exist in South Australia. There seems to be no Act dealing with the legal profession in Tasmania or Western Australia. The Victorian Act dealing with members of the legal profession goes into the matter very thoroughly. Any man or woman - I think women are admitted now in this State - desiring to enter the profession must pass the matriculation or an examination substituted by the Supreme Court, be articled to a solicitor or barrister, and then pass an examination in law approved by the Supreme Court, when he is called before the Court and admitted. He may be admitted either as a barrister or solicitor. If he becomes a solicitor of certain standing he may become a barrister, and a barrister may relinquish his position as such and become a solicitor. It is not always apparent to those outside the profession why these things should be done, but in Victoria many members of the legal profession practise both as barristers and solicitors. Barristers in the higher grades of the profession, however, refuse to appear in Court with a barrister who practises also as a solicitor. This custom is controlled, I believe, by the Law Institute, but I do not think it is altogether desirable, since it may sometimes shut out a solicitor from practising in the Courts. In New South Wales there is an Act relating to the legal profession, which, like those of all the other States, with the exception of Tasmania, is very loosely drafted. It is certainly explicit, however, with regard to the admission of barristers and solicitors to practise. To become entitled to practise as a barrister, one must pass certain examinations. The graduates of certain universities are exempt from those examinations, but in other cases, the Judges of the Supreme Court, the AttorneyGeneral for the time being, and two barristers are elected to constitute a Board to deal with applications for admission.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum. (Quorum formed.]
– I am indebted to the honorable member for having called attention to the state of the House. He has given certain honorable members, who unfortunately were absent, an opportunity to discuss a really important subject, in which they. take little interest, because of the belief that, -as a general rule, the members of the legal and medical professions are of such high standing that there is no need to regulate their practice. As a matter of fact, however, there is great necessity for the regulation of these professions, and it is the more pressing in the case of the law since an unscrupulous man, having been admitted to. practise, might inflict great wrong on his clients. We have all heard of widows and children who have been left small estates which have been swallowed up in legal expenses’, or have been appropriated by a member of the legal profession. In the circumstances, therefore, it is very desirable that the legal profession should be carefully regulated. In New South Wales barristers appear to be placed upon a higher pedestal than are those belonging to the other branches of the law. Applicants for admission to the Bar, having passed certain examinations, have to appear before a Board, consisting, as I have said, of the Judges of the Supreme Court, the Attorney-General, and two barristers elected by the barristers practising before the Court, within certain months. If the applicant satisfies the Board that he possesses the requisite qualifications he is admitted to practise. In reading the New South Wales Act, I was much struck by a sentence which does not appear in similar measures in operation in some of the other States, although it is to be found in two relating to the medical profession. I refer to the provision that a person applying for admission must be of ‘ 1 good fame and character.” Those words have doubtless been copied from some old English Statute, and I think that they might well appear in all Acts relating to the learned professions. The succeeding sentence in the New South Wales Act, curiously enough, is to the effect that this provision does not apply to members of the Middle or Inner Temple, and certain other persons. Owing to the way in which the Act is drafted, some people might think that if an applicant for admission to the New South Wales Bar is a member of the Middle or Inner Temple he need not be of good fame and character, but the assumption really is that the character of a man who has been admitted to either of those Courts must necessarily be beyond question. There seems to be no definite provision in the New South Wales law as to the terms upon which a man may be admitted to practise as a solicitor there. One may read into the Act that he musthave been articled to a solicitor, or have passed certain examinations; but it is difficult to find any definite provision as to the qualifications for admission.
– The admission is governed by regulations made by the Supreme Court Judges.
– Regulations made, I presume, under the Act. The New South Wales .Act provides that a. conveyancer need not be either a solicitor or a barrister. A man who secures registration as a conveyancer may sue at law for work done, but an unregistered practitioner may be fined or imprisoned for misleading the pub.llc as to his actual qualifications. All this goes to show that the present position in regard to both the legal and medical professions is unsatisfactory.
– The people will not have quack legal men.
– In some of the States a “quack” might get into the legal profession and gull the public.
– But a man must have passed certain examinations before he is admitted “to practise as a barrister or solicitor.
– So far as I have been able to ascertain, only in New South Wales and Victoria are there Acts regulating the admission of barristers and solicitors to practice.
– A fairly high standard is fixed in South Australia, under the rules of Court framed by virtue of the authority of the Supreme Court Act.
– That is also the position in Queensland.
– Apparently in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania, admissions to the legal profession are controlled by regulations framed by the Supreme Courts.
– - The position is the same in New South Wales.
– In New South Wales there is in force an Act dealing specifically with the question.
– That is only the Attorneys Act.
– It applies also to bar.risteirs, ‘and specifically sets forth ‘what must be done in order to secure admission to the Bar.
– But solicitors and barristers may interchange.
– By giving certain notice and appearing before the Board, a barrister mav be granted permission to practise as a solicitor, and vice versa.
– Can a man practise in New South Wales both as a barrister and a solicitor ?
– No. The two branches of the profession are on a different footing.
– A solicitor there has a right of audience.
– But he is not on the same footing as a barrister. The New South Wales Act provides that a barrister or solicitor from Victoria or Queensland may be admitted to .practise there on satisfying the Board that he has been practising in either of those .States ; but a barrister or solicitor from South Australia or Tasmania would not be allowed to practise unless he had complied with all the requirements of the Act.
– He could obtain admission on paving a fee of forty guineas.
– That ,is an appalling statement.’ We are getting information from members of the legal profession which we could not have expected. ‘ The position of all the professions in regard to regulation and registration is most unsatisfactory. Each State exercises more or less control, but an Australian doctor, lawyer, dentist, nurse, veterinary surgeon, civil engineer, or other professional practitioner is under considerable disability outside the State in which his qualifications have been recognised and registered. In this regard the State boundaries have not been abolished by Federation. In my opinion, a duly qualified medical man who had been registered in Victoria should be able to practise throughout Australia.
– This subject is so important that there should be more than twelve honorable members to listen to the debate. [Quorum formed.’]
– It is of considerable importance to the people of Australia that there should be uniformity in regard to professional registration. We should have Federal action in this matter. In the legal profession many restrictions have been re moved by the establishment of the High Court, before which lawyers from every State may appear, although not permitted to appear in the lower Courts, except in the States where they are registered. Th( dental profession is one of great importance. At one time every chemist who had drawn a few teeth for amusement or for fees, or indeed any other person, could call himself a dentist, and practice as such, to the detriment of the community.’ Dentistry, however, should l:>e most beneficial to the community. By improving the teeth of the people, the dentists improve their digestion, and lessen their chances of falling victims to disease. The examination of children’s teeth, and the inculcation of cleanliness, will do much in this direction. Therefore, it is important that only properly qualified persons shall be allowed to practice dentistry. But persons so qualified and registered should be allowed to practice throughout Australia, whereas now their activity is confined to the State in which they are registered. Nurses, again, when properly trained, are most useful members of society. When a nurse has acquired a proper knowledge of her profession, she should be allowed to practise it in any part of the Commonwealth. The same remark applies to the veterinary surgeon. The importance of veterinary surgery has not yet been fully realized in Australia. A properly qualified and registered veterinary surgeon should be in residence at every port where animals are admitted from abroad, to prevent the introduction of disease. So little regard has been paid to the profession hitherto that there are comparatively few qualified and registered veterinary surgeons in Australia. But such men should be allowed to practise throughout the Commonwealth. I shall not deal with civil engineers, surveyors, and others, but simply say that it is desirable, for the better protection of the people, to have uniformity, under the control of the Commonwealth, and to have it provided that, when once a person has been admitted to any of these professions he shall be free to practise in any part of Australia.
.- The motion must appeal to any one who has given any thought to the question. I should like the honorable member for Corangamite to clearly understand that it was not through any ill-will that I insisted on a quorum when he was speaking, but simply because I regarded the subject as of great importance. I shall be glad, if, during the course of my remarks, a quorum is not present, some honorable member will call attention to the fact. There ought to be one system of registration throughout the Commonwealth1. In the olden times, the recognised professions were, first divinity, then law, and last medicine; and, even up to comparatively recent times, the professions were in so chaotic a state that, perhaps, the less said about them the better. There are something like 400 different religions represented in the city of London alone; and I do not see very well how the)’ could come under any registration scheme. I know that, when a marriage is performed, it is not considered civilly legal until the documents have been sent to the RegistrarGeneral, so, in that sense, the ministers of religion are recognised. The honorable member for Corangamite will remember when the present Mr. Justice Isaacs introduced and carried a Bill in Victoria pertaining to the legal profession, and debarring fellow Australians in New South Wales from being permitted to practise in this State. I do not say that all the fault is on the Victorian side ; but if my memory serves me aright, I then took the view that the law was being made too stringent, and that there should be more reciprocity between two communities living under the same flag, and speaking the same language. Any one who is qualified to practise law should be permitted to practise in any Court up to the highest ; and I go so far as to urge that, if a client cannot afford to pay legal fees, he ought to be able to obtain the services of some one, even a layman, to put his case clearly before the proper tribunal. I look on all law, even in the highest Courts, as a farce, when I compare it with justice. In the High Court of Australia, it is not justice that is wanted, but judgments on technical points, and an interpretation of the law; and if justice were screaming out for vengeance, and a point of law were raised, justice would be swept aside. We are told that he who has the longest purse can win most cases in the law courts of Australia ; cases are dragged out to such an extent that even the Judges have taken action. I have heard it stated, and I am inclined to believe it is a fact, that, wherever the liberty of an individual is at stake, it would be wise, in the future, when a jury has once been chosen, to keep the members of that jury, and also the barristers and others concerned, within the precincts of the Court, so as to prevent such cases as that we read of recently in the newspapers. It is an English aphorism, “The law is an ass”; and I certainly do not think that the law will ever be the means of impartially dispensing justice until the legal profession is nation’alized, and the lawyer, like the policeman, made the servant Ot. the public. If legal practitioners were paid by the State, we should have far fewer technical points raised, and less miserable repetition and dragging out of cases day by day. I believe in the nationalization of all the professions ; and I point to the fact that, today, the Republic of France has nationalized religion, in the sense that every religion, no matter what its ethics may be, has a claim on the finances of the country, in proportion to the congregation. Thank goodness, we have no national Church in Australia, where every one is free to worship as he or she pleases. However, the law -is different ‘in the various States ; .and I have had some experience lately. A case in which I was interested was taken from Victoria to the High Court and then to New South Wales, and the first member of the legal profession whom I consulted subsequently got two years for some offence, while the second I consulted “ rooked “ me of j£6o, and was afterwards sentenced, to seven years’ imprisonment, but escaped owing to a technicality. Both these men, who were “ gentlemen “ by virtue of their profession, lived in the State of New South Wales. In the case of the medical profession, I am even more convinced of the necessity for nationalization than in the case of the law. The late Dr. Gresswell, as a public servant, did more good for the health of Victoria than all the other medical men of the State in their individual capacity ; and he could have done far more had he been given larger powers. The present chief of the Health Department of the State is a man of very high honours, and, though some people might prefer another considered by them a little more distinguished, he won his spurs at the Melbourne University, and has competed with credit in the outer world. I feel sure that Dr. Ham will follow in the footsteps of Dr. Gresswell ; and I may say of the latter that his mother university, Cambridge, and other learned bodies of the Old Country .greatly regretted the loss of his services when he came to Australia. At the present time the great white plague is killing more persons than were killed in the battles of any century. That plague has to be dealt with in a national way; and, if there be one mode of / registering the profession, it will make it easier for some advanced Government of the future to declare that the public health is far too sacred to be in the hands of any private individuals. I can look forward to a time when all sickness will be treated in hospitals, and when there will be no medical men in the present sense. If a man of wealth takes ill or meets with an accident, he will probably be attended at Menzies’ Hotel by a medical man who may bring with him the germs of other diseases; whereas such dangers would be averted if all cases were treated in properly appointed State hospitals. Thi! present infirmary system in England is growing rapidly ; and while it will be admitted that no hospital is absolutely perfect, yet it is now impossible for the average genera! practitioner to keep his studies up-to-date. A lecturer at one university at Home said that a medical man who could not examine sputa with a proper up-to-date microscope was taking his fees under false pretences. But how many« qualified men in Australia can afford such instruments? Professor Luff, one of the greatest analysts in Great Britain, has declared that the analysis of water is one of the most difficult that a chemist can undertake, although such knowledge of analysis is not necessary for the ordinary medical man. The health of the individual is more valuable and sacred than property; and yet, while we have publicly-paid Judges and policemen, with gaols, and so forth, all mainly for the protection of property, the security of the public health is left to private effort. If the medical men were, so to speak, policemen to guard the public health, and were, of course, paid by the State, we should not find Collins-street and other thoroughfares crowded by doctors. Our big cities would not then be overmanned by surgeons and physicians as they are to-day. When the Kelly gang were terrorizing portion of Victoria, if any man away out in the back country was likely to be robbed, he had the whole police force at his back to support him, without a penny of cost to himself ; but if the wife of such a man were hovering between life and death, about to bring forth a new unit in Australia’s population, and the doctor were 20 miles away, his fee would have to be paid. I am not pointing a finger at the fee, and no one knows better than the two medical men opposite that a doctor in the country cannot stay with all his patients. He may make a perfunctory visit, but if there is danger, he stays until the trouble is over, and then away back over the 20 miles by which he came to visit again on the second and fifth day. Our community cannot claim to be civilized until we rate the health of the human being above the care of property, and under a proper State system of medicine and surgery, no mother would be left without the care that she deserved in the hour of her need. In New Zealand, thanks to the Democratic leadership of the late Mr. Seddon, no woman to-day need fear that she will lack the medical and nursing attention which are her right in her time of trouble. We cannot claim that that is so in Australia, nor do I know any other country in the world where it can be claimed ; but New Zealand, so far as that reform was concerned, regarding the woman and the future child, stands on the highest pinnacle. If there were one system of registration throughout Australia, it would help to pave the way for any State which was wise enough to take over the control of duties which should not be left in the hands of a few self-elected individuals, who have the power, which they should not. have, of admitting, or refusing to admit, applicants to registration. It should be put ‘down in plain simple language in the Act, so that no little galaxy of selfesteemed talent should have the right to refuse admission. One instance of which I knew in Western Australia was, 1 believe, due to a personal animus. A man had practised in that State and gone away. Ten years afterwards he wanted to be registered. The Board charged him two guineas, took his money, and said they would return it if they did not register him. But they did not do so, and a little later they asked him for another two guineas, and got it. That was when Western Australia was under the sway of the man who was known as the King of the West - the head of the “ six families “ - the right honorable member who now represents Swan. I would point out the ridiculous absurdity and absolute farce that exists at the present moment of any medical man being able to register himself as a dentist. I do not know a single medical man in Australia - and I speak after four months’ experience in a dental hospital under the late Mr. Hayward, one of the greatest dentists in London- 1 challenge any one to point to a single medical man in Australia who can do bridge work, crown a tooth, take a proper mould, or properly clean out, asepticize and stop a cavity in a workmanlike manner. If there is one, 1 shall be glad to know his name. It is easy enough to remove a tooth, but an up-to-date dentist will not sacrifice a good tooth. If a man, on the other hand, asks a doctor to draw a good tooth, the doctor will generally do so. When I was practising in Western Australia, a man asked me ro draw a tooth for him. Although I told him it was a good tooth, and that he should not have it drawn, lie insisted on having it out, and as I had a ride ot 50 miles ahead of me before the evening, on not too good a road, I at last consented to draw it. Afterwards, I asked him why he insisted on having a good tooth drawn, and he replied : “ I have been paying you for a couple of months, and I thought [ might have some work for my money.” I should not have believed tha’t if it had not happened to myself. If the profession of dentistry, as well as of medicine, were nationalized, much better arrangements could be made for the inspection and examination of our school children. Take the example of Paris, which gives in charity £1,000” for every pound that the municipality of Melbourne does - or did six years ago, when I took out the figures. They have 150 specialists to regularly examine the children at every school in the city and suburbs, in regard to the eyes, mouth, nose, teeth, and throat. Compare that with the result of the Commission of Inquiry quoted by Sir John Gorst in connexion with the schools of Edinburgh, which is called the Athens of the British-speaking world, and whose educational system is supposed to be absolutely the highest under the British flag. That report showed that in the Edinburgh schools, 75 per cent, of the children were suffering from “ disease of the nose, throat or ears,” and no less than 30 per cent, from starvation. That was the infamy branded upon the Athens of the British Empire, although Scotland, in her treatment of the woman and the child, stands pre-eminent over England, Ireland, and Wales. I give Scotland her meed of praise for that ; yet with all her advantages thirty out of every hundred little children being taught in the schools of Edinburgh are suffering from starvation. The medical world of the present day is being divided into two schools, which the Germans call the drug doctors and the natural doctors. Every one should know that more can be done by dieting and nursing than by the too frequent administration of drugs. If drugs could cure as some people think, what a lot of drugtakers doctors would’ be ! And yet they take very few drugs indeed. In France, no child is taught hungry in the schools. Each child is fed by means of a system of baskets hung on pegs, in such a way that no child knows whether its neighbour has brought a meal or has been supplied with it. The medical profession of Paris advised the French Government to see that the children in the schools were fed, because, they said : “ You cannot bring up a strong, healthy race without it, just as you cannot raise plant life in a cellar, or breed animals properly without proper food, light, and air.” Great Britain ould take a splendid example from France in that regard. Let me come now to the veterinary surgeons, whose work, to my mind, is a branch of the medical profession. We all know how a character in Milky White, the. famous play in which George Coppin distinguished himself, had great confidence, which is half the battle, in a man because he cured his cow, for, he thought, if he could cure a cow, he could cure a man. I am told that great difficulties are being made now in the matter of entering the veterinary surgeons’ profession. Far too many and heavy fees are being exacted, and the profession is being limited to a. very few. Want of brain power will not keep out the Australian youth, so that I should like to see the examination made as hard as they please, but let it be absolutely free. I think I might have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.] I regret to state that it has been related to me that to become a dentist nowadays is really more expensive than to become a medical man. owing to the fees that are charged. Twenty years ago I moved in this Chamber that the university fees should be abolished. Although I’ obtained the support of the then Minister of Public Instruction, the late Professor Pearson, a man of fine intellect, Victoria was not ripe then for the reform. Perhaps, if Democracy sends more members into the House, the next Parliament may be wise enough to pass it. I am sure that any professor would sooner lecture to 500 students than to five. In the case of the dentists, it is an anomaly that a men who is fully qualified to practise in New South Wales is not allowed to practise in Victoria. I have already shown the utter ridiculousness of allowing a medical man to register as a dentist simply because he is a medical man. Dentistry is a profession which has to be specialized, and the average medical man knows nothing about it. I come now to the question of nursing. The nurses have been relegated in the past by the governing bodies to a position that is quite unjustified. The late Sir Edward Henry Sieve-king, physician in ordinary to the late Queen, and one of the first holders of the Royal Society medal, stated in a lecture that every woman who takes up the professon of nursing shortens her life by from five to fifteen years. A fellow student of mine was engaged to one of the sisters of the hospital where he was working for his diploma. She had one day off a month, and the first thing they did when the holiday came round was to go out and have a good meal, for the food at the hospital was very inferior. When I moved in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria that the eight-hours system should he extended to nurses, I was laughed at. No less a man than Sir George Turner said that he thought it would be very dangerous in a critical case to change the nurse. It is in such cases that changes ought to be made. If the honorable member who submitted this motion has ever had a case of hydrophobia or tetanus, he will know that in such cases the nurses arc changed every hour. In the old days when efforts used to be made to form a clot in a large artery by the application of the thumb, the attendant who had to do this work never remained on duty for more than ten or fifteen minutes. Many women, upon whose education large sums have been expended, join the nursing staffs of our hospitals, and are absolutely sweated. They receive a very low salary, and have to serve a long period of probation. I know of no more dangerous calling than that of a nurse. A doctor’s life, compared with that of. a nurse, is a comparatively happy one. He calls on his patients, gives his instructions, and knows that in an acute case the more closely his orders are observed by the nurse the better is the chance of the patient’s recovery. Nursing ought to be placed upon a different footing than it occupies at present. Any honest woman devoting eight hours a day to the work of nursing should be able in one year to learn all that a nurse ought to know. There is not a diploma issued in Great Britain excepting, possibly, the degrees of M.D., and M.S. of London, and the F.R.C.S. Eng., that could not be obtained by a man of average ability who devoted to the task every day three hours of consistent and persistent study. The nurse follows a dull, miserable, and dangerous profession, and when the State proceeds to control the health of the individual, recognising, with Ruskin, that life is the only wealth, then, and then only, will she occupy the high position that she undoubtedly deserves. It makes my blood boil to think of the hours and hours during which the nurses in our big institutions have to remain continuously on duty. I have condemned these long hours again and again, and shall continue to do so. I should prefer to see adopted in connexion with the nursing staffs of our big institutions the system observed at sea, where sailors remain four hours on and eight hours off duty. That system could be adopted without difficulty, and it would give the nurses a better chance than they at present enjoy of preserving their health. In Australia they are not treated so badly as in the Old Land, but charity has been made very often a peg upon which to hang sweating and other cruelties. Charity, after all, is only the make-shift of the rich, who wish to dull their pangs of remorse. We need to have a uniform system of registration throughout ti.e States, so that an Australian-born shall be permitted to earn his or her own living as he or she has a right to do, on being properly registered. If the honorable member for Corangamite proposes, as I gather from the wording of his motion, to introduce a Bill dealing with this question, he may count upon my loyal co-operation.
.- It is to be regretted that we have no power under the Constitution to legislate upon this question.
– I ask for a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– When interrupted I was expressing regret that this Parliament has no power at present to legislate with respect to these matters, and that to obtain that power it would be necessary to ask for a referendum of the people on a proposed amendment of the Constitution. I do not know that the referendum is altogether desirable. It has its good and its bad points.
– Eliminate the bad and take the good.
– The public is something like a horse, in that it is able only to make up its mind upon one thing at a time. We are supposed to be specialists in politics, and the people look to us for explanations and advice when any question is to be submitted to them in the form of a referendum. It is sometimes to be regretted that the necessity for such an appeal to the people should arise. The honorable member for Corangamite is to be congratulated upon the attitude he has taken up. He has moved that it is desirable for the better protection of the people to have uniformity of legislation on this subject, and I’ must confess that the words “protection of the people” and “ uniformity “ appeal strongly to me. I am almost reluctant to speak in this House on medical matters, because they meet with little sympathy in an assembly of this description. No sooner does a medical man raise his voice than his ears are assailed with the cry “Trade Unionism,” or with ribald jokes.
– The medical profession is one of the noblest.
– It is one of the noblest, if not the noblest, of all the professions, and a man who enters it from sordid motives is unworthy of being a member of it. Unfortunately, the profession is sometimes prostituted. As education becomes more general there is a tendency to enter the medical profession on the part of some men who do not do so in good faith.
– It gives them social standing.
– Not necessarily, but there is a standing which education should give to every one of us. Education is the hall-mark of our standing; ‘the nobility of humanity. The question is not whether a man is a K.C.B. or a noble lord, but whether he has talents, and the sense and opportunity to use them. After all, education is not a preparation for life ; it is life itself. We are none of us too old to learn, and from the cradle to the grave it is for us to educate ourselves, and so to make our jives more progressive. Reference has been made to the ethics of the medical profession. I take it that the meaning of the word “ ethics “ in this connexion is simply “the protection of the people.” We have in the profession a code of morals having as its basis the protection of our patients. Under that code a medical man who, from anv cause has to cease attending a patient before he is convalescent must consult with his successor, and lay before him all he knows of the case. He must also inform him of the drugs that he has been administering. Serious results might happen if that were not done. Certain drugs are cumulative in their action, and it would be a serious thing if the successor were not informed of the drugs that had been administered, since he might continue their use in such a way as to imperil the life of the patient. Yet professional men are constantly spoken against because of their refusal to consult other than recognised practitioners. Uniformity of registration apd regulation throughout the Commonwealth is desirable. Federation was established to sweep away the fiscal boundaries which divided the States, to substitute one Commonwealth system of defence for a number of State systems, and to secure uniformity of action in matters like that under discussion. I am qualified to practise in New South Wales and Victoria.
– May not a duly qualified man practise in any part of the Commonwealth ?
– No. That is one of the chief reasons why there should be uniformity such as I speak of. To practise inNew South Wales a man must register there, and if such a man crossed into Victoria to attend a patient, without becoming registered in this State as well, he would be liable to criminal prosecution for malpractice. The procedure for obtaining registration varies. When I wished to become registered in New South Wales, I presented the diplomas which I had earned elsewhere, and went before the Medical Board, which consisted of very elderly gentlemen, who looked at me, shook their heads, mumbled together, and presently signed their shaky signatures to a document whereby I was duly licensed to kill or cure. When I applied for registration in Victoria, I found it necessary only to go to the office of the Secretary to the Board, in the Treasury Buildings, to exhibit my diplomas. Hetold me that in a day or two 1 should be registered, and asked me to inform him of any change of address. Before I could practise in Western Australia, -it would be necessary to register again, and to pay a fee of £,2. 2s.
– A properly qualified man should be able to practise all over the world.
– In some countries, notably France and Germany, a man, however well qualified, is not registered until he has passed through the prescribed University course of medicine in that country. We have acted very liberally in allowing a Japanese doctor to settle at Broome merely on the presentation of diplomas which he has brought with him. Although there are many English residents in Germany and France who would prefer to be treated by their own countrymen, doctors cannot be registered there until they have qualified by passing through the Universities of those countries.
– The same practice obtains in Japan.
– I understand from a gentleman who recently visited Japan that certain English medical men are practising there.
– We are more liberal to the Japanese than to our own people.
– Ves, in the case referred to. Whenever this question has been brought before a State Parliament, honorable members have shown an utter want of sympathy, on the plea that medical men are members of a trade union.
– We believe in that.
– We should not like to see unqualified men in practice.
– Whether the unqualified man should be totally prevented from practising is a debatable subject. To acquire a diploma in medicine a man must spend several years in study, must pay for the instruction which is necessary, and must maintain himself for several years during which he is earning nothing. On becoming qualified, he is entitled to be paid for his skill and knowledge, and to a return upon the capital which he has invested in his education. Now, there are many districts in Australia where the population is so sparse and scattered that it would not pay a medical man to settle in them. It has been suggested that the Government might well appoint medical officers in such districts.
– It should do so.
– No doubt, in time, something of that kind may be done. But as things stand, it is questionable whether persons who, for want of a diploma, are not registered, should not be permitted to exercise what skill they have in alleviating suffering. Such persons may have only a limited knowledge of medicine, but unquestionably they often fill positions in which they are needed. Of course, there are seme such persons who are mere imposters, whose only object is to exploit the public.
– What objection is there to the appointment of Government medical officers in certain districts.
– That would savour somewhat of Socialism - a word which strikes terror into the hearts of many persons; but, as we have Government railways and other public works,I do not see why it should not be done. The hospitals are partly supported by the Government, and I do not see why they should not be entirely maintained out of the public revenues, unless it .be that it is well to encourage charitable giving by the people. To show how the laws of the States regarding medical practitioners vary, let me quote from some of the State Acts. Subsection 1 of section 13 of the Tasmanian Medical Practitioners Act, 8 Edward VII.,
No. 32, enacts that -
Every person possessed or hereafter becoming possessed of any one or more of the qualifications described in the Second Schedule hereto, who shall prove on personal attendance to the satisfaction of the . Council that the testimonium, diploma, licence, or certificate testifying to such qualification was duly obtained by him after due examination from some univeristy, college, or other body duly recognised for such purpose in the country to which such university, college, or other body may belong, shall be and be deemed to be and shall be entitled to registration as a legally qualified medical practioner, and shall receive from the Council a certificate of qualification.
– The Tasmanian Act is the best in existence.
– It is the best in Australia. Section 4 of the Queensland
Medical Act of 1867, 31 Victoria, No. 33, provides that -
Any person who shall prove to the satisfaction of the Queensland Medical Board or a quorum thereof that he has passed through a regular course of medical study of not less than three years’ duration in a school or schools of medicine and that he has received after due examination from some university, college, or other body duly recognised for that purpose in the country - to which such university, college, or other body may belong a diploma, degree, or licence entitling him to practise medicine in that country or who is or has been a medical officer duly appointed and confirmed of Her Majesty’s sea or land service shall be deemed to be a legally qualified medical practitioner within the meaning of this Act, and shall be entitled to registration and to a certificate as such from the said Board.
The Queensland Act is a very old one. It provides for a three years’ course of study, but, ten years ago, in the principal universities, the course was four years, and it is now five years.
– In Germany, and also in Japan, the term is seven years.
– That speaks well for Japan, because Germany is a country which encourages its scientific men, as I wish they were encouraged in Australia. One of the finest men one could wish to meet is Dr. Kitazato, a Japanese savant, who discovered the plague bacillus. I would much prefer to have discovered the plague bacillus than to have discovered the North Pole. I do not envy Peary or Dr. Cook, but I do envy Dr. Kitazato. The New South Wales Act is somewhat more complicated. Section 3 provides -
Any person who proves to the satisfaction f the New South Wales Medical Board -
Every person who proves to the satisfaction of the said Board that he is possessed of one or other of the qualifications mentioned in section three, sub-section (1) of this Act, shall be entitled to a certificate from the said Board as a legally qualified medical practitioner.
I quote these Acts to show how diverse are the various laws. I sincerely hope that the action of the honorable member for Corangamite will bear fruit, and that ultimately we shall have one Australian law dealing with the registration of the medical and other professions. As the hour for the adjournment of the debate has arrived,’ I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 -p.m.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 3176), on motion by Mr. Deakin - r.
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to finance.
.- I have to offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister on the speech he delivered on this important question. It was a speech bearing evidence of careful preparation; and, of course, as is usual with the honorable gentleman, he was able to present it In a form of language which should convince any one who could be convinced on the merits of the case. I regret to say that I am unable to agree with either his arguments or many of his conclusions; and, as regards the main conclusion, I am entirely against him, as, of course, he must have anticipated from some remarks I made on the Budget earlier in the session. I fear that there are evidences in that able speech of the honorable gentleman appearing more as an advocate of the States than as the chief guardian of national feeling and interests. I am indebted to the public press for a very considerable report of the speech, and there I find ideas that I had read again and again in official reports of the various Conferences of the State Premiers, -and also in speeches delivered by the Premiers and some of their Ministers in their several Parliaments. That may be a mere coincidence arising from a similarity of ideas j but it is clear that the Premiers could not have been more successful in their search for an advocate of the case they believe in and put forth to the people, if they had selected the Prime Minister for the position. The honorable gentleman is noted for his ability to make even a bad case appear a good one, and a late member of this House once said that the present Prime Minister could make the road to a certain place, which need not be mentioned, look attractive. I do not say that the present position is on all-fours with that - shall I say? - allegorical statement of a previous supporter of the Prime Minister; but I do say that the honorable gentleman has not fulfilled those duties which, in my opinion, a Prime Minister ought to have fulfilled at the Premiers’ Conference in protecting the best interests of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister told us in clear and distinct language that he and his Ministry had been able, for the first time, to come to an agreement with the States, and that it would be a great advantage to the people of the Commonwealth and of the States - who, he elaborately set forth, are the same people - if the two parties to the agreement worked in unison in matters of the kind. But I am not so sure about that, because, if it had been so, the Commonweath should have agreed with the Premiers at the first Conference, and we ought not to have wrangled here one single day ; as soon as the State Premiers contested the Commonwealth authority, we ought to have bowed and acknowledged their supremacy. The Commonwealth, however, did not do that, but took advantage of the rights which were conveyed to this Parliament by the Constitution, and which made us the guardians of the destiny of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister, if I understood him correctly, said that the guardians of the Constitution and the destinies of the Commonwealth were two separate entities - that we were responsible up to a certain point, but that, in regard to State interests, it was desirable, if not imperative, that we should consider the States as guardians of the Constitution. I stated previously, when sneaking on the Budget, that the Prime Minister undoubtedly grafted the preamble to the agreement. If I am in error, I fully apologize ; but in the draft agreement we find the following’ words: -
That to fulfil the ‘ intention of the Constitution by providing for the consolidation and transfer of State debts, and in order to insure the most profitable management of future loans by the establishment of one Australian Stock a complete investigation of this most important subject shall be undertaken forthwith by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States. This investigation shall include the question of the actual cost to the States of transferred properties as defrayed out of loan or revenue moneys.
In my opinion, the Prime Minister, in that preamble, gains nothing and supports nothing, though he may delude the public regarding the true position. He proposes in the next paragraph of the agreement to divide the Commonwealth revenue between the Commonwealth and the States, and he sets forth that the provision to that end shall be put into the Constitution, and shall not at any future time be interfered with.
– Who says that the agreement shall not at any time be interfered with?
– I say it; and if the Government say to the contrary, they are not honestly presenting the true case to the public. What should we say of a number of men, who happened to be the Ministers of the Commonwealth, coming down to this House and temporizing with a matter of this kind, while pretending that they are going to secure for the people an irrevocable advantage? We expect better things of the Ministry, and yet we have the Minister of Defence following on the same lines as the Prime Minister, and saying that in this matter the Constitution may be altered now, and altered again later on. The circumstances are not the same to-day as when the Constitution was first drawn up by the Convention. Undoubtedly some of the delegates were exceedingly anxious, as we were entering into a new system of government - one practically unique in the world’s history - that the financial, provisions should be tested for a few years before being finally decided upon. But they left the power of dealing finally with the question of finance to the Federal Parliament alone, and it has been reserved for one of the principal representatives at the Convention to come clown now, as the advocate of what are called State Rights, but are not State Rights at all, with a proposition to divide the powers of the Commonwealth with the States, and prevent true national progress. The Government, and the head of the Government particularly, have sacrificed some of the national interests of the Commonwealth for the sake of a little temporary advantage. I ask the Government what honesty there is in the proposition that we should alter the Constitution on the plea that the States may always be assured that this money will be theirs, while at the same time telling us that we can always in the exercise of the same power, alter it again ? Surely that is not the kind of argument that need be advanced to support a position such as the Government are now taking up. I have said that I believe that this agreement has been partially, if not wholly, entered into for political purposes, rather than for national advantages, in order that the Government may be able to carry an amendment of the Constitution by a combination previously unknown in the history of politics. And yet they expect that the Constitution will in the future be re-altered in the direction of compelling the States to give back the money which by this amendment of the Constitution the Commonwealth Parliament and the people may hand over to them. There is an immense difference between a Convention putting something into a Constitution, and the people affirming it before the newly created Parliament meets, and this case, where the Parliament is asked to decide upon an allotment of the revenue, and the people will be urged by a combination between the States and Commonwealth Governments to put that allotment in the Constitution, with the reservation that afterwards the old state of ‘affairs can again be reverted to. If the States are now, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, ready and willing and anxious to take less liberal terms than they ever were before, what does that indicate? Tt indicates clearly the growth of a national feeling in Australia. It shows that as the people become better acquainted with the doings and prospects of the Federal Parliament, and with their own prospects, they)’ are becoming more willing from day to day to intrust this Parliament with larger powers, and to afford it the necessary means to give effect to the legislation which it thinks will be beneficial to them. . Yet, we find this Government intervening to thwart that growth of public thought and national sentiment, in order, from the Prime Minister’s point of view, to assist the States, and in order, from the States’ point of view, to prevent the Commonwealth from developing as it ought to do. I wish to express my view regarding the utility of the preamble in respect to the State’ debts. The Prime Minister was good enough to say that it was the intention of the Government to assist in every way in the transfer of the debts to the Commonwealth, so that we might have one common stock, by means of which the loans might be- converted as they fell due, and new loans floated at a lower rate of interest than could be secured by the States separately. I agree with that view entirely. I indorse the statement of the Prime Minister that every authority who has been consulted is of opinion that it would be an advantage to the people to have one Commonwealth stock, and that in all probability within a few years the Commonwealth would be able to borrow at at least one quarter per cent, less than the rate that would rule in other circumstances. That of course would be an enormous advantage to the people of Australia. I should like to ask the Prime Minister how he proposes to induce the State Governments to hand over the State debts to him more readily after he has parted with nearly the whole of the Commonwealth revenue to them, than he could have done before the Commonwealth irrevocably handed over that portion of its money. I should have thought that, if any one occupying the Prime Minister’s position believed that it would be to the advantage of the people of the Commonwealth for the debts to be transferred, the time to urge that with force and effect was when he met the Premiers in conference. I understood the Prime Minister to say that we had reached a crisis. He said, indeed, that this was the most important juncture in the history of the Commonwealth, and that, had it not been for the fact that the six State Parliaments and the Commonwealth Parliament were elected and controlled by the same people, the question could only have been settled by arbitration or war.
– That is a very big “ if.”
– It is the statement ot the honorable member’s leader. It indicates his idea of the importance of the question. I agree that it is most important, but there is a tendency amongst politicians when it suits their convenience or their policy to exaggerate the effect of any particular proposal which they are advocating. I believe that the people of the Commonwealth are as sensible as we are, and perhaps a little more so. They know that one or other of the Parliaments must spend the money. They know that the Commonwealth Parliament will have the control of the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue after the end of 1910, and they know also that both Houses of this Parliament are elected on a freer franchise than is any State Parliament. Yet the Prime Minister asks us to believe that a Parliament elected on that broad general franchise may do injustice to the people of the Commonwealth ! I should like to know how he can reason that out. He spoke eloquently of the effect of the whole of the financial provisions of the Constitution being in the melting pot at the next election, and of the disastrous consequences that might follow if this. .Parliament were intrusted with the whole control. That might be true if there were to be returned to this Parliament a band of brigands who desired to take possession of and misuse other people’s property.
– Or who represented a class.
– Or, as the honorable member for Boothby says, a band of men who represented a class interest only. If that were likely to happen, the Prime Minister’s speech might be very effective. I had the pleasure of hearing him in the pre-Convention days, and in the days when the Bill was before the people. In those days he controverted all such allegations. He asked, “ Are the people who are going into the Federal Parliament likely to be a band who will live by rapine and murder, and the destruction of every public interest?” He would not believe it. “Were they going to stop the trains, or destroy the shipping, and everything that concerned intercourse between the States?” He knew very well that that was not so, nor is it likely to be so now. It is deplorable that one so capable and competent, and with such large experience, should now hint to the people that if this Bill is not carried there will be no further safeguard for the interests of the States. Indeed, if his words mean anything, they mean that the people themselves are corrupt, and that the members of this Parliament are the most corrupt of all the people of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister, in seeking to support his case for the insertion of his proposal in the Constitution, . has gone further than in his calmer moments he will be able to justify. I hesitate to say that, because I have never seen him deliver such a carefully prepared speech. I have never seen him take more care, or reiterate his points so frequently. No one need complain of that, because, as he said himself, there are people in both Federal and State Parliaments who imagine things about the financial position that are absolutely absurd and ridiculous. He took occasion to point out that a number of people thought that if the Commonwealth took over the State debts the States would be absolutely free from the payment of the interest required to meet their obligations. I can go further and say that I have heard members of State Parliaments assert that the proposition made by the honorable member for Hume, when Treasurer in the Prime Minister’s previous Government, to the State Premiers, to take over the whole of the State debts - and his proposition was a variation of the scheme of the honorable member for Mernda - meant also taking over from the States the whole of the works constructed by means of the money the borrowing of which brought the debts into existence. I have heard that extraordinary statement made, whereas the proposition of the honorable member for Hume was to take over a large proportion of the State debts to begin with, and gradually to absorb the whole of them, while leaving the States absolutely every public work constructed by means of that loan money. The Commonwealth was to accept the whole of the obligation for the principal and interest of the great indebtedness of the States, amounting at that time practically to what it is now. So far from agreeing with the proposal of the Prime Minister to pay 25s.- per capita to the States for all time. I should be ready and willing to support any. proposal to give even a larger sum, pro,vided that it was associated with the transfer to the Commonwealth of the State debts. By such a transfer the Commonwealth Parliament would derive no monetary advantage; on the contrary it might suffer a distinct monetary loss ; but the people would be advantaged in that the Commonwealth, by reason of its ability to obtain cheaper money in converting loans, would be able within a century, without increasing taxation, to wipe out the whole of the indebtedness of the States. Is that not worthy of consideration? Would it not be well for us to refer the matter to another Conference of Premiers before we commit ourselves irrevocably to a scheme which does not meet that position?
– How would this scheme prevent the transfer of the debts ?
– I do not object to pertinent interjections. This is not a party question. It will not be made a party question by the Opposition, and it ought not to be so regarded. If, however, the agreement with the State Premiers is a cooperative movement, pledging the Commonwealth interests for party purposes, I can say nothing.
– That is what it is.
– It would be deplorable if one of the so-called guardians of the Commonwealth Constitution had brought us into that position.
– I thought the honorable member said that it was not a party question?
– I am glad to hear that it is not, and that we may accordingly expect honorable members generally to freely express their views upon it.
– The honorable member should not ask too much of the Ministerial supporters.
– The honorable member for Wentworth has said that it is not a party question, and I am accepting his statement.
– The honorable member himself said that it was not, and I expect a number of the honorable members of the Opposition to vote with us upon it.
– I would remind honorable members that it is not in order to make comments during the course of an honorable member’s speech. The Leader of the Opposition has intimated that he does not resent pertinent questions, but the time to offer comments on his observations is when hehas resumed his seat.
– Honorable members themselves will have to decide whether or not this is a party question; but I should be sorry to find anv member of the Opposition in favour of the agreement before us. I repeat that with the Labour party the question is not a party one. It is well that the Ministerial party should understand that, because I hear that they have been holding caucus after caucus to determine what should be their attitude. ‘ I presume that the question will be debated by honorable members opposite, and that we shall not have repeated in this House . what took place for the first time a week or two ago, when the State Premiers, after discussing this question with the Commonwealth delegation, declined to let the people know any of the reasons advanced at the Conference for the bringing about of this agreement. If we are to be told nothing concerning the counsels of the State and the Commonwealth, and honorable members opposite are to remain silent, the people themselves will suspect that more than the welfare of the Commonwealth is dependent upon this agreement. I am loth to leave the question of the transfer of the State debts, because I think the Prime Minister was weaker on that point than on any other which he touched upon during his speech. I understand that a Commission is to be appointed to investigate the question of the transfer of the State debts.
– That Commission is to be appointed.
– I submit’ that we should hold in suspense the question of what shall be the revenue returnable to the States until that Commission has completed its investigation, and reported as to the best means of making the distribution. The Minister of Defence will admit that if the Commission is to be appointed forthwith, it must be the desire of the Government to hurry on some arrangement, . yet to be arrived at, to enable us to obtain from the States the necessary funds to enable us to deal with their loans and take over their present indebtedness. I presume that that is what the Government have in their minds. If it is it should be clearly stated. Regarding the future borrowing of the States, I should like to express an opinion that I have always held, although, perhaps, it is unpopular, and will not be acceptable to the House. I hold that the States should not be interfered with in any way, so far as their future borrowing is concerned. If this Parliament is what it ought to be - if its leaders are what they ought to be - the credit of the Commonwealth will soon be considerably better than that of the best of the States. That being so, we can rely on the good sense of the electors of the States, who are also the electors of the Commonwealth, to take care that the States shall not borrow outside the Commonwealth when they can borrow more cheaply through it. If that were done, a great deal of the opposition at present offered to the transfer of the State debts would be removed. It is onlv paltering with the question to try to confine the States absolutely to borrowing through the Commonwealth”. What I suggest would in no way interfere with the value of a consultative Council of Finance.
Such a body would have plenty to do in adjusting the loans of the States which agreed to borrow through the Commonwealth, and I am convinced that in that way we should be able to save more money for the States and the people than will be possible under the proposition before us. I wish now to address myself very briefly to the position taken up by the State Premiers regarding the transfer of the debts. I should like the Prime Minister to tell us when the State Premiers were first converted to the proposal. At what time have they publicly stated that they are in favour of the States’ transferring their .debts to the Commonwealth? The first intimation that we have had on the subject is contained in the preamble to the agreement, from which it appears that they have been bargaining with the Commonwealth. Under that agreement they have secured, for all time, a monetary payment per capita tor State purposes. We must bear in mind, however, the reservation which the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have made, that if the agreement be embodied in the Constitution the people can amend it whenever they desire.
– By a convulsion.
– If we deliberately amend the Constitution in this way, leaving in the public mind the impression that it is to be a tentative amendment, when it should be a permanent one, we shall get as near political immorality as I can conceive of. There is not the shadow of honesty about such a suggestion.
– It would be a political impossibility.
– There would be no possibility of altering the Constitution ; but if we think that it should be altered again, we should say so now.
– How can we forecast what is likely to happen thirty years hence ?
– No one can forecast what the wisdom of the people of Australia may suggest years hence. The Labour party, recognising that fact, review the whole of their programme once in every three years. Every political proposition we put forward to-day as part of our programme will be reviewed in the light of our experience three years hence. I agree with the honorable member that no one can foresee the possibilities of the future; that no one can tell what political conditions may arise from the superior knowledge we possess in years to come. But that is hardly an argument in favour of the present proposal. The Government propose to make it impossible for the people to remedy the evils of the present agreement whenever those evils are recognised. It is said that if we do not embody the agreement in the Constitution, we shall have at every election wrangling as to the amount of money that the States will receive, or the Commonwealth may withhold. That may be true, but it is a charge against the political morality of the Parliament. While the Prime Minister was speaking, one or two on this side asked, “What about the Sugar Bounty Act?” That was a fair question. How often have Parliaments shown themselves ready to repudiate such arrangements? Does the Prime Minister say that if we made provision in an Act for the return to the States, during a term of ten years, of a certain sum per capita, the arrangement might be repudiated? Such a suggestion would be unworthy of him. If we passed an Act embodying an arrangement to have force for five years, time would be given for further investigation if necessary, and the matter would come up for consideration again when there might be a more liberal national feeling than there is now. The honorable gentleman said that this .Parliament has great duties to perform, and, therefore, needs an enlargement of power. I agree with him. He spoke of getting this increase of power by the separation of Commonwealth and State finance, of which he spoke. He said that his proposal would leave this Parliament free. He forgot that in any case it will be free in a very short time. In 1910 the Braddon section will cease to bind us. What, then, is to be gained by a settlement of this matter six months earlier than it need be settled? The Prime Minister made a great deal of the fact that by the proposed arrangement, the States would pay to the Commonwealth .£600,000, and that we should get another £1,000,000 six months earlier than it would otherwise come to us. This is only a temporary advantage. The honorable gentleman said that it would get the Government out of. the difficulty created by the proposal of the right honorable member for Swan to issue short-dated Treasury Bills to cover the Budget deficit of £1,200,000. The Prime Minister professed himself to be delighted at the prospect of avoiding Commonwealth borrowing. Undoubtedly the Government would have been seriously embarrassed had it put forward definite proposals for borrowing, and I agree that it would have been deplorable if, after having prevented Sir George Turner from raising a loan for£500,000 in 1902, we now proceeded to borrow for ordinary current expenditure. But let me go back to the genesis of the Conference, and read a letter which was sent to its president by a distinguished member of this House. Il is as follows : -
My Dear Mr. Murray, - As you will be President of the approaching Conference, I take the opportunity - and I do not think it will be considered a liberty - of impressing upon you and your brother Premiers the supreme necessity of a final adjustment, without delay, of the financial problems affecting the Commonwealth and the States.
It seems to me that there is, whilst the matter remains open, an increasing danger of an arrangement, which can be determined in a short time, not by conference or compromise but by the will of the Federal Parliament.
What an awful calamity to be imminent.
Time is on the side of your opponents.
I am more responsible than any other man for the termination of the Braddon clause, but I never wished to allow the States less than a fair share of Customs and Excise revenue, which is the only way in which the States can receive revenue from the masses of their inhabitants. The object of this letter is to ‘make that sure for all time.
I do not wish to introduce any views of my own, except to state that there are one or two main points in which I think the States should be considered, viz. : -
If I may add another word, I think the States should offer to pay the old-age pensions money until the end of the Braddon clause - those States, at any rate, which have been relieved of their pension systems, to the amount of such relief - otherwise I think you may suffer permanently far more than can be imagined.
Yours very sincerely, G. H. Reid.
That letter and the agreement are practically interchangeable. It was a singular thing that a private member should think it necessary to write to the Conference just at the proper moment from the point of view, not of the public interest, but of that of this Government. Every influence was sought to bring about the desired result. The Prime Minister was the ready and willing servant of the Premiers. He adopted their proposals, -practically without protest, or serious amendment. Except for the preamble regarding the State debts, which will be dead and buried as soon as this proposal is carried, he was able to insist upon nothing. The letter deserves attention, because the agreement practically coincides, with its suggestions.
– The two are not quite alike. The arrangement suggested in the letter would increase the State receipts as time went on.
– The two documents are not absolutely word for word alike, but their general tenor is so much the same that if they were both read to an audience, it would be said that the agreement is only an extension of the suggestions in the letter. The agreement indicates that in a very short time the Federal Parliament will proceed to impose any taxation it may please to impose, and would not have any particular source of revenue hypothecated to provide money for the States. Everybody knows that to be true ; but we should not be more free than before, or than we should be at the end of 19 10 without the agreement. The right honorable member for East Sydney stated in his letter -
I am more responsible than any other man for the termination of the Braddon clause, but I never wished to allow the States less than a fair share of Customs and Excise revenue, which is the only way in which the States can receive revenue from the masses of their inhabitants.
Yet we have the Prime Minister saying that there is no intention to take more money from the inhabitants. In the report of a press interview with the right honorable member for East Sydney, subsequent to the Conference agreement, it is stated that he was in favour of that agreement, (because it was the only way that taxation should be got from the multitude. Is that the aim of the Prime Minister in entering into the agreement - to have an opportunity to increase the Customs and Excise receipts to such an extent as to enable him . to carry on all the purposes of the Commonwealth ? I understood that the Prime Minister was a Protectionist ; and my idea of Protection is that it involves duties sufficiently high to enable industries to be established, which, of course, would practically deprive us of revenue from that source. If it is meant that the Commonwealth will be free to impose additional revenue duties, then I think the Prime Minister ought to say so. The honorable gentleman speaks of the States having no resources in the way of Customs and Excise duties ; and that is quite true. But they have every other source of revenue open to them, while we also have, every source open, plus the Customs and Excise. But the Prime Minister safeguarded himself - and again I am indebted to the press for the full report of the speech - by using; the words “except by direct taxation”; and that clearly means, that the Prime Minister had. not in his mind the idea of imposing such taxation. I now ask the Prime Minister whether he really believes, as. he invites other people to believe, that the time will soon come when the Commonwealth will be able to contribute to the revenue, through the Customs and Excise, an amount in excess of £3 10s. per head. The idea is ridiculous and absurd ; and, in ney opinion, that piece of special pleading was worse than worthless - it was not only absolutely useless, but, though not intentionally, misleading to the public. What does the Treasurer think of the matter? The Treasurer takes a very much more conservative view ; and he will not accuse me of any personal disregard, when I say that I presume the estimate he gives is that of his responsible officers, confirmed by his own view.
– For the current year?
– No, not for the current year. If the honorable member looks at the agreement, he will find that the Treasurer estimates that the revenue will be equal to £2 8s. 6d. per capita from now to the end of 1921. The Prime Minister made a good point of the fact that we are at present receiving from the Customs and Excise, towards our expenditure, the sum of only £2,700,000, and said that by the proposal of the Government there would be added> practically immediately, £2,250,000 to that amount. But, although there is to be added £2,250,000, how much will be added in the ten years from 1910-11 to 1920-1? Practically is. per head of the Commonwealth population ; and all the growing expenses of those years will have to be made good from some other source.
As a temporary expedient for two or three years, it may be all very well ; but there is no provision in the agreement for a largely increased revenue in years to come If honorable members turn to page 5 of the agreement, they will find that the Treasurer has prepared two tables comparing ihe estimated payments to the States under the proposals of the Conference, with the estimated three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue for the years 1910-11. 1915-16, and 1920-1. I dislike very much quoting figures, and have no desire to tire honorable members; and I now suggest that it might be preferable, if these tables were permitted to go into Ilansard as read.
– The printed paper is before the House.
– But there are many not present in the House to know what is said and to whom the paper is not available. The honorable member ought to remember what I often forget myself, that people outside are interested in these matters - people, thousands of miles away, who are true Australians in their thoughts and desires, and who will not know the facts unless they appear in Hansard. Honorable members can go to the Treasury and get the information ; but the great public cutside, especially those who reside at a” distance, are at much disadvantage in ascertaining the facts on which we debate this, and, indeed, every other Federal question. However, I had better state the figures in these very important tables’. The Treasurer estimates that in 1910-11 the population will be 4,435,000, and that the amount which will be payable to the States, under section 87, with a distribution made in accordance with the ‘ bookkeeping system would be £8,041,850, or £1 16s. 3d. per capita. The estimated amount payable to the States in accordance with the proposals of the Melbourne Conference, at £1 5s. per capita, would be £5,543,750, with a special payment to Western Australia of £250,000. The moiety of the special payment to Western Australia deducted from the States would be £125,000, leaving a net amount of £5,668,750 ; and showing the difference to the States, as compared with the book-keeping distribution, at £2,373,100.” It will be seen that the difference is a little more than that which the Prime Minister stated last night, namely, £2,250,000 ; ‘but it is near enough for all practical purposes. The following table contains the estimate in re ference to the three periods I have named -
I may say that in the year 1915-16, the difference, instead of being£2,373,100, would-be£2, 408,156, and in 1920-1, it would be£2,642,213, or an actual difference to the advantage of the Commonwealth, of very little more than1s. per head.
– What increase of population is assumed?
– A very considerable increase. It is contended by the Treasurer that by the action of this Government, under the proposals of the Conference, we shall have a larger percentage of increase in population during . those years than at any previous time in the last ten years.
– We shall be in a bad way if we do not get the increase !
– I have heard the “bad way “ spoken of often, and mostly, I may say, for political purposes. The Commonwealth, small as its population is - and I deplore the fact - will be able to look after itself even if there is no increase. ‘ That people are not coming to Australia is not the fault of the party to which I belong. I do not desire to charge the Prime Minister with not being in favour of immigration, because I believe he did his best to assist the movement; but he has as supporters, and associated with him, those who vilified me for my attitude on the question. It ill-becomes the Minister of Defence to say that unless we get more population the Commonwealth will be in a bad way.
– I do say so.
– Australia is more likely to be in a bad way if we have a Government who make political advantage at the expense of the national welfare, than if we have a Government with a straightforward policy.
– Let us get on !
– That means, I suppose, that I ought to sit down and that we should have no discussion upon the question. That has been the idea from the commencement; and it is always the desire that nothing shall be said of conduct which the Government do not wish to defend. I desire to point out that, while the right honorable member for East Sydney, who is the author and finisher of this agreement, pointed out that it would afford an opportunity of taxing the multitude, the Prime Minister did not put the matter in that blunt way. He put it that there were countries where the population increased, but where the receipts from Customs and . Excise increased also in a much greater ratio. He, in effect, congratulated himself on that illustration, as enabling him to get out of his difficulty, but I would point out that his Treasurer and the responsible officers of that Minister have come to the conclusion that in 1920 the best the Commonwealth can expect from Customs and Excise is a per capita receipt of £2 8s. 6d. Therefore, either the Prime Minister is speculating on his own account, or his Treasurer and his officers have been too pessimistic. I go so far as to say that I shall regret it very much if the receipts from Customs and Excise for the Commonwealth ever exceed £2 8s. 6d. per head. That amount extorted from every individual in the Commonwealth, whether well to do or otherwise, is high enough, in all conscience.
– It is too much, by millions, to take out of the pockets of the people.
– If the honorable member for Robertson is of opinion that it is too high, I am sure I can say, on behalf of the members of our party, that we will assist him to reduce it. We have clearly two distinct policies from which to make a choice. Let there be protection to every one - protection to the worker and employer, and a safeguarding of the interests of the consumer - and we shall assure to those manufacturers who can produce the goods that are necessary in Australia the Australian trade. That is the position which we occupy, but that will destroy the revenue producing qualities of the Tariff, so far as concerns goods made entirely in the Commonwealth.
– Effective Protection, as it is called.
– Yes, but to all, and not a one-sided Protection. On the other hand, so far as revenue duties are concerned, we ought not, while we have absolute power to impose direct taxation of every kind, to resort to the expedient that has been abandoned in Great Britain. May I illustrate my point by referring to the financial proposals of that great country which we heard, when the Prime Minister came back from the Imperial Conference, was about to put its shutters up? Poor Great Britain, with ten millions of its people on the verge of starvation, according to a statement attributed to the late Sir Henry Campbell -Bannerman.
– He said thirteen millions.
– That is a very much larger number. What is happening there? Are the Government imposing indirect taxation j are they putting further burdens on the people to meet the demand for money for the defence of the Empire? Quite the contrary. They are prepared to tax the people who are most benefited by the protection of the country. They are levying direct taxation on those who are best able to bear the burden, and, in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not a cupboard will be barer because of that levy. Yet we find the head of the Commonwealth Government offering the excuse that we cannot raise the revenue necessary to carry on the services of the Commonwealth, because it would mean the imposition of direct taxation. Could anything be more pitiable than to find under the freest Constitution in the world a statement made by the Prime Minister that we cannot raise the revenue because we happen to be restricted by political promises to indirect taxation ? It is entirely a political matter. There is no constitutional embarrassment or limitation regarding direct taxation, because, as the honorable gentleman very clearly said, we have absolute power in that regard. I have endeavoured to deal with the phase of the question as it appeared to the right honorable member for East Sydney, and the position of the Government as advocates of a policy that was not their own. If any member of the Ministry intends to speak, I should like him to be good enough to say, if he can, that the Federal Government are not in any way associated with the Premiers of the States in a political compact. If there is a political compact between them, as we are told by some of their press friends, it will have to be met by another political compact.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ political compact “ ?
– I mean exactly what I say. It is indicated clearly in the terms of the letter of the right honorable member for East Sydney to Mr. Murray -
I take the opportunity - and I do not think it will be considered a liberty - of impressing upon you and your brother Premiers the supreme necessity of a final adjustment, without delay, of the financial problems affecting the Commonwealth and the States. It seems to me that there is, whilst the matter remains open, an increasing danger of an arrangement which can be determined in a short time, not by conference or compromise, but by the will of the Federal Parliament.
– And the people.
– No, that does not apply. I am arguing that if there is a political compact between the Government and the Governments . of the six States for a personal advantage to each and every one of them, it is not putting the true position before the people. It means that there are six State Governments desirous of getting the best terms they can from the Commonwealth, and offering, in return, to give the Commonwealth Government protection at the polls for their nominees.
– Will the honorable member let me relieve his mind at once? We never saw that letter until after the Conference was over, and it was published.
– What poor little things we are ! It was announced in the press before the Conference met that the right, honorable member for East Sydney had thought it necessary to write a letter to the President of the Conference.
– It was not published until afterwards.
– I shall accept the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta, that they knew and heard nothing about it. I will take him further and agree that it was a surprise to him when he saw it published.
– I did not say so. I heard of it, as the honorable member did.
– I will take the honorable member to that length, and leave him there.
– Ask his Eskimos what thev have to sav about the matter !
– After all, it simply means that the right honorable member for East Sydney did not need to communicate with Ministers, or to let them know what his views on the question were. He knew that the views he expressed would have to be accepted by this Government. I thought the right honorable member had a better opinion of them, and had regard for their independence, but apparently he did not think it necessary to consult them in order to enable his views to be carried at the Conference. He, therefore, took the stand of an independent member, and wrote to the President of the Conference, knowing well the kind of men that he had to deal with in the Federal Government. In that he paid a very poor compliment to the Ministry to whom he has publicly promised support, and from whom he, perhaps, expects to get certain necessary protection and support in return. It showed very little respect for them that he did not let them know what he was doing. I accept the statement of the Minister of Defence that they knew nothing about the letter. At any rate, the right honorable member for East Sydney deserves all the credit for this Conference agreement. I trust that he will take the field in favour of it in the same manner as he took it in f avcui of the Commonwealth Constitution Bill. He being the author of this agieement, we shall expect him to address a large meeting, explaining its value to the people of the Commonwealth. If he balances his arguments then as well as he balanced them in that celebrated meeting in the Sydney Town Hall, I shall ask nothing better for the enlightenment of the people.
– This is mere envy !
– We have learnt so little from the Government about this matter, even up to the present time, long after the agreement was arrived at, that naturally some of us are apprehensive as to the reasons for their silence. We are apprehensive also on account of the want of frankness on the part of those who are bound sooner or later to take up a definite position upon the agreement. I do not think there was ever a time in the history of . any Parliament when on a big question like this members refused to commit themselves as certain members of this Parliament have done ever since the agreement came about. We have the Government meeting from time to time in the endeavour apparently to get an agreement among themselves to bind themselves irrevocably to this proposal. We also have the Prime Minister stating, or we have it indirectly stated for him, that this will be made a Government matter, and that the Government would stand or fall on it: If that is so, it becomes a question of the existence of the Government, and consequently their supporters are not allowed to speak on it. Whatever their position may be as individuals, they are not permitted to express their opinions.
– There has been no opportunity yet.
– No one is more capable than is the honorable member of expressing an opinion on these financial matters, and no one would be more alert to express his views in the public press, to his own honour and to the advantage of the country, if from a political point of view he thought it advisable.
– I have done so already.
-I read the . opinions which the honorable member expressed in the Sydney press. I think he expressed a general approval as to the terms of the agreement, but I have no recollection of his taking up any definite attitude on the question of placing it in the Constitution. As regards the general terms, I say the same. With regard to the amount, while it mav be impossible to pay it for all tit>e with- out embarrassing the Commonwealth, yet I should be prepared to give more it’ it were associated with the taking over of the debts. The main fight in connexion with this question centres round the proposal to embody the agreement in the Constitution, but on that point the Prime Minister was silent. I ask honorable members opposite, who are apparently pledged to the agreement, what attitude they took up when they were before their constituents. It is for then: to say what their attitude was, and what it will be; but my recollection is that at the last general election there was very little definite discussion of this question. lt was regarded as one that would concern the people more at the next general election, and very few honorable members pledged themselves absolutely to support an alteration of the Constitution in regard to the question of finance. It will be interesting to honorable members on both sides of the House to look up the platform speeches on which they secured their return, and to see what pledges they made in this regard. It would be a violation of the principles of representative government for honorable members to go back on their pledges.
– Why should the honorable member assume that they intend to do so?
– I am not. I. an: simplylaying down a proposition. My recollection of the speeches made by honorable members when they were before their constituents is that they declared themselves to be absolutely opposed to an alteration of the Constitution to provide for a permanent return of certain revenue to the States. I hesitate, however, and hope that I shall always do so, to make any statement bv way of quotation until I have verified its accuracy. The Prime Minister said that we were about to enter upon a most critical election. In what respect will it be critical ? Why does he try to frighten the people? What is the matter with the Commonwealth ? Since the inauguration of Federation, with the exception of the first two years of drought, the wealth of Australia has been increasing at a ratio unthoughtof, and unheard-of in any other period of Australian history. The Commonwealth produces to-day an amount of wealth per capita much greater than was dreamt of when the Federation was inaugurated. Yet we are told that a critical situation must arise -at the next general election. What is this con stitutional crisis? Would it concern the welfare of the Commonwealth if every member of this House were defeated at the next general election ? If they were, does any one believe that the people would seriously suffer? 1 am sure no one does, and I therefore ask why the Prime Minister should have indulged in mock heroics as to a great constitutional crisis in the history of the Commonwealth? Is it not to be regretted that such ridiculous nonsense should be indulged in by the leader of a national Parliament ?
– It was only the beating of the big drum.
– The honorable member as a military man, will recognise what I mean when I say that it sounded rather like the beating of a kettle-drum to cover an ignominious defeat. It is pitiful to find leading public men urging that a critical stage in the affairs of the nation has been reached merely because of some temporary financial arrangement. The Prime Minis’ter again and again pointed out yesterday that the people of the States and of the Commonwealth were’ identical, and that the same people must provide the funds for the government of both the Commonwealth and the States. He pointed out in eloquent language that the States had great constitutional powers, and great obligations affecting the welfare of the people within the ambit of their administration. We recognise that this is so, and that the position is the same in regard to the Commonwealth. Do not the people of the Commonwealth know that if these powers are exercised by one Parliament, they will not be exercised by others? Notwithstanding the desire of nearly all the leading public men who took an active part in bringing about Federation that the Constitution should be preserved as something sacred - that the “dead hand “ should be kept upon it as long as possible, and that it should not be amended unless in a conservative direction - I find a growing feeling on the part of the people in favour of wider powers being given to the National Parliament. The growth of that feeling is clue to the instinct of selfpreservation. The people entered the Federation with the greatest hesitation. They viewed it as a big experiment, and the idea was that the States would seek to magnify their powers of control. But although the Federal Parliament has gone out of its way to strengthen the State Legislatures from financial and other points of view, we find that the people themselves are searching for a leader to guide them along national lines of thought. The only place where such a leader cannot be found, apparently, is in the National Legislature. Is it not humiliating that such should be the case? We see evidences of it every day. Mark the temporizing character of parties tottering in and out of office - with little courage, but with a magnificent ability to explain why they are in office, or why they should be there. No taunt in that regard can be hurled at me. From the moment that the Labour Government came into power, both the Prime Minister and the’ Minister of Defence knew what attitude I took up; Even when an attempt was made, before we had been more than eight or nine days in office, to turn us out, I told them that they could take possession of the Treasury benches. Thus the taunt to which I have referred cannot be hurled at me. The trouble that has arisen in the Federal Parliament has been due largely to want of courage. I deplore, and always have deplored, the magnifying of trivial incident? into matters of national significance. No sensible man believes’ in such things. No sensible man believes that we have reached a. critical period in the history of the Commonwealth.
– Then there must be some very senseless people in the Commonwealth.
– No; but I think that there are many people, who, not knowing the facts, are under a grave misapprehension as to the present situation. Many think that the Commonwealth desires to steal money belonging to the States. If it did, and the people knew it, the trouble would soon be at an end. The responsibility for the misapprehension that exists outside with respect to this question lies largely with the Prime Minister, since he has failed to afford opportunities in this Parliament for more -discussions of the financial question than have taken place. Many of us have desired that more such opportunities should be afforded, and I feel confident that a number of honorable members could enlighten the public on this particular question. I trust that, late in the day as it is, some enlightenment will be given the people before this matter is determined by the House. In the course of his speech, the Prime Minister used the words “beggar or bankrupt the States.” What did he mean? Did he wish to suggest that any party would attempt to beggar or bankrupt them? Is it not utter nonsense to sug gest that there are parties desirous of beggaring the States? From time to time proposals in regard to the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, and more particularly in relation to the transfer of the State debts, have been put forward with the object of assisting both the States and the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding that this scheme is to endure for all time, it will help the States less than others that have been proposed would do. It will not help them nearly so much as it would if it provided for the Commonwealth taking over a proportion of the debts of the States, the- annual interest payable on which would be equivalent to the 25s. per head of the population that . we are to return to the States. Under this scheme, this Parliament will be deprived of its national position.
– Did not the Brisbane Labour Conference propound a scheme?
– I have explained it on several occasions, and, in the report of the Premiers’ Conference at Hobart, the honorable member will find it clearly and distinctly set forth. At that Conference I stated my position in regard to the Brisbane Labour Conference scheme, and save for the fact that it was not proposed to embody it in the Constitution, it resembled very closely that proposed by the Premiers. lt was a general outline of a sound scheme. The very first announcement of policy made by the present Government contained a statement that the scheme which they intended to submit so closely resembled that prepared at the Brisbane Labour Conference that it should . on that account be acceptable to us. It has the defect which I have stated. What becomes now of the cry that the Labour party is incompetent to produce any scheme worth considering? At the Brisbane Conference an alternative scheme was proposed. I have never concealed my view that, in the re-arrangement of the finances, the Commonwealth should take over the indebtedness of Australia. The Constitution does not permit us to do that in regard to the whole of the debts of the States, but I would have supported any proposal to take over a part.
– What would the average elector gain by this arrangement?
– Does the honorable member regard these proposals as too liberal towards the States, or as not giving them sufficient?
– I think that they are reasonable in principle, but to put them into the Constitution would be fatal to a policy which I regard as essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth and the States. This is, comparatively speaking, a fair arrangement, subject to that limitation.
– Let us give the agreement a five years’ currency.
– Quite so.
– Then it comes to to this-
– It is disorderly for an honorable member to make comments while another is speaking.
– I was not making a comment, but asking a question.
– Honorable members should not ask questions, lt is difficult for the occupant of the chair to act in a manner which must be regarded as impartial if, because one honorable member is good enough to say that he does not mind interjections, he permits them in his case, and prevents them when a subsequent speaker is addressing him. It is better to observe the ordinary rule of debate, which allows no interjections.
– Personally I am notopposed to interjections which may suggest ideas and elicit information. I shall not say. that this is a critical period in our history, but we are” discussing an important question, and a bad arrangement may prejudice the Commonwealth.
– Is it not, therefore, a critical period in the history of the Commonwealth ?
– I would confine the phrase to a period when danger was threatening the Commonwealth from outside.
– Or, when a break-up of the Federation seemed likely.
– Yes. I have always believed in the transfer of the debts of the States to the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister yesterday made an important announcement when he said that, had he had another week with the Premiers, he could have settled the debts question. After he had agreed to return to the States a certain fixed sum annually, he would have negotiated for getting part of it back ! What chance would there be of that? I know some of those with whom he was negotiating, and having carefully read his speech several times, in addition to hearing it, I recognise in it the language of some of the most bitter enemies of the Federation, men who have toiled and wormed themselves into Conferences, to defeat the purposes of this national Government. Having got the Prime Minister bound, they said, “ We graciously permit you to appoint a Commission to inquire as to the best means of dealing with the debts.” We know what Commissions can accomplish. When would such an investigation be completed? Might not the Commissioners think it imperative to visit London to acquire information, instead of accepting reports and published lists of securities ? In the meantime, would the States return to the Treasurer part of the 25s. to enable him to pay their indebtedness? No doubt the Prime Minister is innocent enough to believe what he said to be true. But we cannot accept his story. He tried to convey the impression that if the agreement were not indorsed, this Parliament would remain bound. But he, and every honorable member, knows that at the end of 1910 the Braddon section will cease to fetter us, if we desire to legislate in regard to finance. The Government apparently takes the view that those who return representatives to this Parliament cannot be trusted.
– Why not trust them by referring the agreement to them?
– I shall tell the honorable member. The agreement was drawn up as the result of an effort by the newspapers, Ministers, and Ministerial supporters, to thwart a certain political party. It was said, “ If we come to an agreement now, we shall be able to dish them. If you will scratch my political back, I will scratch yours, and we shall thus be able to do something to the disadvantage of those who hold certain political views.” Those who are opposed to us occupy Ministerial positions in the. States and in the Commonwealth, and took advantage of the fact to advance their own political ends. Their present influence is such that, even though in a minority, they might be able to carry this scheme through Parliament, and get a majority of the people and of the States to vote for it. But is it to be thought that what is the opinion of the people on this subject now will be their opinion two or three years hence? And does any one honestly believe that it would be as easy to strike the proposed amendment out of the Constitution as it would be to insert it ? The Constitution is defective. A majority of the people cannot carry a referendum. The Prime Minister would say that that provision was inserted for the protection of the minority. But the majority can return a majority of representatives to this House, which can carry its wishes into effect, despite the other Chamber. If we pass a measure, and it fails to find acceptance in another place, we may, after a term, pass it again, and compel the Senate to also face its masters. We have every kind of machinery to insure that the will of the people shall prevail in this House. It is undemocratic, if three small States - say, Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia - should decide against any referendum proposal, that the proposal “ should not be carried. From a Democratic point of view: the Constitution is not sound on that point ; and that is one reason why this provision should not be put in the Constitution, when there is a Parliament, both Houses of which are directly elected by the people. Further, the Senate was designed particularly to represent the States, and, under the Constitution, the small State of Tasmania elects as many senators as does the large State of New South Wales. The interests of the States, financial and otherwise, are thus guarded. I have always held that Premiers’ Conferences, while useful in their way, constitute an absolute reflection on the Senate, and, when I attended the Hobart gathering, and chatted over matters, I took care to show that I in no way lost sight of the fact that there was such a House in existence. Whatever may be the result of the Government proposals, the Prime Minister has, in my opinion, disappointed a large number of those who differed politically from him, but who, in other respects, are extremely friendly, and desire to see him close his political life giving us a political lead from a national point of view. Of course, there are honorable members who are quite incapable of understanding anything in politics beyond their own personal interests- honorable members who have had no experience of facing the people on unpopular questions do not know the feeling to which I refer. There are men in politics who have always floated in on sympathetic waves, with the press behind them, or a great public leader in front; and they cannot understand such a position as I have indicated ; but there are other honorable members here, who commenced their political career without any support, and in the face of long continued newspaper vilification. If such members understand the bitterness of political contest, they have ideas beyond the mere saying of their own political skin; and, whether they occasionally lose a seat or not, they can feel respect for those honestly engaged on the other side of the fight. But honorable members, who take the view that the agreement represents a passing phase of State apprehension, will be disappointed if they do not find in their leaders men who, while careless of political conditions, are careful of the national welfare of the people of the Commonwealth.
– I desire to take advantage of this opportunity to draw attention to the Budget speech delivered by the Treasurer four weeks ago; but before I do so, I should like to refer to the closing words of the Leader of the Opposition, and follow them up with a different exordium. The honorable member, in the restricted area to which he and some of his friends belong, may regard the speech of the Prime Minister last evening as likely to lose the honorable gentleman a few, if not numerous, friends. But the Prime Minister is associated with every Premier throughout Australia, and, the agreement having been, arrived at in Conference, the heads of the Governments have left for their States, and will soon be recommending to their Parliaments, and through them, to the electors proposals, which I am sure the majority of the people throughout Australia will indorse. We are still under the influence of the glamour of the great speech delivered last night by the Prime Minister, a speech from which our minds can hardly mow, even though twentyfour hours have elapsed, and which will dwell in our memory for years, and cause us from time to .time to speak of the honorable gentleman’s oratory as becoming a great man and a great statesman. No speech which the Prime Minister has delivered here or elsewhere will go down to posterity conveying a clearer idea of what can be accomplished by a man of his ability ; because the speech was worthy of the occasion, and the occasion was worthy of the speech. I am sure that the Prime Minister’s utterance will be read by our constituents with very much pleasure. The people to whom the honorable gentleman has rendered great services, though he may have been mistaken in some of the work he has attempted, will, I feel sure, be perfectly satisfied with the results of the Conference. I now desire to refer to the speech of the Treasurer. A Budget speech is looked forward to by the people with more than ordinary interest, representing, as it does, a statement of their assets and liabilities. We may congratulate the Treasurer, if not on the text of his speech, at any rate, on the admirable summary of the details given in the statistics furnished. Whether our legislation has been good or bad, the people, by their energy and enterprise, have sur- mounted all difficulties, and shown wonderful progress in every direction; and the Commonwealth, according to the figures, is moving not only steadily, but rapidly forward. The work of our forefathers is but an earnest of greater progress in the future. Commercially, domestically, and in other respects, the statistics show nothing to regret, and much to cause extreme satisfaction. We all remember the terrible crisis through which we passed in 1893 ; and yet, since then, millions have been added to our bank deposits - as much as , £21,000,000 since the inauguration of Federation. As showing the thrift of the people, and their desire to make provision not only for themselves but for their families, I may point out that the life insurance companies have accumulated funds amounting to . £41,000,000, and that they pay nearly , £4.000,000 a year in surrenders and claims. The Minister of External Affairs, in that admirable brochure, Nation-building in Australia, supports the Treasurer in the statement that during the last year our products were valued at , £170,000,000. This must have added considerably to domestic comfort and convenience, and incidentally added to the value of our exports, which, I may here say, have, during the years of Federation, risen in value from £45, 000, 000 to , £64,000, 000. All these figures show how vast has been the accumulation of wealth, and how rapidly we have redeemed our position. Last year, our sheep numbered 87,000,000 head - a larger figure than had been reached previously. In the brochure of the Minister of External Affairs, we have the interesting fact that, incident to the Protectionist Tariff, 1,100 new factories have been established, employing 53,000 more persons than were employed a few years ago. These figures should be an assurance that the country is not retrograding or standing still, but is making that great progress of which, it is capable, while promising still more gratifying results in the future. Undoubtedly the increase in the number of factories and hands employed is principally attributable to the fact that we have raised a high Tariff. The Tariff has risen during the period of Federation by two leaps - the one in the Tariff introduced by Sir George Turner and the late Right Hon. Mr. Kingston, and the other in the later one introduced by the honorable member for Hume. Notwithstanding the fact that the Tariff has been raised, and that our factories have increased in number, we have had the extraordinary experience that £41, 000,000 of imports oversea in 1901 have grown to , £50,000,000 worth in 1908, or an increase of 20 per cent. The increase of population during that period was only 1.3 per cent. That is a strange corroboration of the statement made by the Prime Minister last night, that the figures with respect to various countries showed that an increasing population was more than overtaken by an increase per head of Customs revenue. In this instance, of course, I have given the increase of imports, but when we speak of imports we naturally associate with them the idea of revenue, and we find that our revenue has expanded at the same pace, because, whereas our Tariff gave us , £2 -per head eight years ago, it now gives us £2 10s. 8¾d. per head. The revenue from Customs and Excise for the year 1909-10 is estimated at , £10,800,000, but the record year for the past nine years has been £11,600,000. When Sir George Turner and the late Mr.’ Kingston introduced their Tariff, the amount collected therefrom was £8,500,000, but honorable members who were here at that time will recollect that their idea, and the idea of some of the other Ministers, at any rate, was that the imposition of what was then called a higher rate of dutv Tariff would reduce the Customs and Excise revenue to such an extent that in the course of five vears the normal amount collected would be about /[‘q.ooOjOoo. We have never got Sown co low as that. The receipts varied from that , £8,500,000 to the , £q,5oo,ooo reached in T006-7, but directlv the Lvne Tariff was imposed, notwithstandine its high rate, and its intention to shut out imports, the Customs and Excise revenue rose to . £11.600,000. It reminded me very much of some lines in the Riglniv Pa-pers, which I shall misappronriate by saving that that great. Protectionist or prohibitionist, the honorable member for Hume -
Has flourished aloft his protectionist nostrums,
Bidding foreign imports keep out of the Customs,
But’ the cry is, “ Still they come.”
Whatever you may do with respect to your Tariff, there are so many things that we need for our households, our buildings, machinery, and bodilv necessities that cannot possibly be manufactured in Australia for another twenty or thirtv years, that the more you increase vour Tariff rates, the higher becomes the revenue which you receive. Therefore, call it a Protectionist Tariff as you please, it becomes in operation a revenue and protective Tariff. You accomplish the one purpose of Protection by assisting your factories to manufacture goods, and by increasing the number of persons employed therein, but you also bring in good revenue. So in its first year the Lyne Tariff, under abnormal circumstances, I admit, brought in £11,600,000, which came down, last year to what may be regarded, as the more normal revenue of £10,843,985, and the Treasurer, after consulting with the officers of the Customs Department, estimates it at £10,800,000 for the current year. I am not at all disposed to disagree with the right honorable gentleman. .When he first delivered his Budget, I arrived at the conclusion, without very much consideration, that that might be considered a fair estimate. But we have to-day to rejoice, if an increase of revenue is a matter of pleasure, at the fact that a period of two months of the current financial year has already given us nearly £200,000 in excess” of its proportion of the estimated revenue, so that the £10,800,000 which was estimated to be realized is likely to be considerably exceeded. We have in that a further testimony, seeing that our imports have ‘so largely increased during the last nine years, to the prosperity of the country and the people. But the idea of a scientific Tariff altogether disappears. There is no science in the matter at all. There is simply the imposition of a larger amount of duty here and there, but the result defies all your powers or purposes of Protection, because your revenue greatly benefits, and let us hope that the people benefit also. Passing from the question of a high Tariff, we naturally come to the question of expenditure, because the revenue which we receive must find an outlet somewhere. I mention this only to sound a note of warning, in the hope that every honorable member will recollect that we must look forward to many drains upon the revenue in the future. That consideration should make us just as careful with the public revenue as we should be with our own - to make provision year by year for circumstances which may arise. Let me in this connexion call attention to the very large amount which we have spent upon practically nothing. In using the term “nothing,” I am not raising any objection to the old cry of a White Australia. I believe in it myself, and I should like to accomplish a purely white Australia, but we have spent a vast sum of money in accomplishing practically nothing in that direction. I know that as a member of the first Federal Parliament I am partly responsible for this, and I am blaming no one. I am simply using the fact to show that we should be very much more careful when indulging in expenditure to see that we know what we are doing. We have got rid pf 4,000 kanakas, and we have remaining over 60,000 Syrians, Japanese, and Chinese. . If we could have cleared the whole of them out, we should have accomplished a White Australia; but to say that we have done anything to realize that ambition of the people is simply misleading. We have spent £14,000 in deporting the kanakas ; we have given £2,300,000 in sugar bounties, and there must also be added the difference of £2,106,000 between the sugar duty and the Excise; so that we have spent, to get rid of 4,000 kanakas, a total of £4,420,000. Unfortunately, we find from the statistics that the Treasurer has given us that the output of sugar in Queensland during the current year is expected to fall off very considerably, so that the Excise is estimated to be only £150,000, as against £257,000 last year.
– Does the honorable member attribute that to the departure of the kanaka?
– Not at all; but we have given all this to Queensland, hoping to encourage a larger output. We expected, of course, that she would monopolize the whole of the sugar trade of Australia, or I suppose some of us would not have voted for some of the great changes that we made, or would not have voted, at any rate, for the difference between the Excise and the duty, or for the bounty. I allude, therefore, to these matters as reckless finance, in the hope of securing attention to the necessity of being more prudent in the future, and of watching the Treasury Department closely with respect to its expenditure. I need not dwell upon the fact that we have spent £14,000 in viewing Federal Capital sites. It is to be hoped that our expenditure in that direction, after the £5,000 put down for this year is spent, will have nearly ceased. In connexion, again, with our revenue from Customs and Excise, I think there are sources of income which are altogether overlooked. The Excise paid on tobacco during the past year was £651,000, at is. per lb. ; and owing to the difference between the duty on manufactured tobacco and that on unmanufactured tobacco, allowing for the Excise, we are losing another £650,000.3 year. But we also permit the importation by the tobacco manufacturers of 450 tons of sugar, spice, alcohol, tabs, and materials of that sort, absolutely free, by a regulation under the Customs Act, in order to encourage them to manufacture tobacco from locally-grown leaf.
– A gift to one of the greatest monopolies in the world.
– It is ; and we are receiving £650,000 a year when we ought to be receiving £1,300,000 a year in duty. This, however, was done for the purpose of encouraging the growth of tobacco leaf in Australia. I hope the Treasurer will ponder well over these figures, so that he may recognise in that line alone an item of new revenue which may be secured by a change of the Excise without detriment to any persons who are working in the community. In view of the purpose which I have just indicated, it is instructive to note that, whereas in 1888-9 there were 6,641 acres under tobacco in the Commonwealth, there were in 1907-8 only 1,337 acres. This shows that we have given to the tobacco monopolists an absolute gift of £650,000 a year, and have -received nothing therefrom. Apart from that, there is a loss in connexion with the Excise on spirits. Spirits with a duty of 14s., as compared with an Excise of 10s., give a loss of £96,000 a year. In 1908, £244,000 was collected ; but I find that this is a diminishing quantity, seeing that £351,000 was collected from the. same source in 1907. There was, therefore, last year a loss or diminution of £100,000 in the collection of Excise on spirits. I have noted from the evidence given before the Royal Commission which inquired into the question of Excise that the total capital expenditure by the distillers might be’ bought out for about £300,000, and that one year’s loss of our Excise revenue would pay for the purchase. I am surprised that Governments do not pay more attention to such items, with a view of securing more revenue, instead of allowing so much to go into private hands. “ The difference between the duty and the Excise was made in the hope that the growth of barley would be encouraged, and that the farmer would derive some benefit from it. But what is the result? The production of barley in 1901-2 was 1,519,819 bushels, and in 1907-8 it was only 1,991,650, or an increase of 471, 83T bushels. About one-half of that was malting barley, and if we take the value at’ about 4s. per bushel, we find that we have thus given the barley-grower a gross revenue of £47,000, a very small proportion of which would be a profit to him ; whilst at the same time we have suffered a loss in Excise revenue of £96,000. In this way, we are suffering losses of revenue that might well be secured by the Government. There are other items in the Tariff demanding our attention. For instance, there are the items relating to piece-goods, some of which are free, some subject to a duty of 5 per cent., and some to a duty of ro per cent. Why Parliament thought fit to make any of the goods coming under those items free, I do not know. The placing of them on the free list could benefit only a few manufacturers of shirts and underclothing; and if we desired to assist them, we could achieve our object by allowing them to cut their’ piece-goods in bond. In respect of these items, and those of tea and sugar, we are losing over £2,000,000 per annum in duty which might very readily be secured by the Treasurer. I do not hesitate to say that we might well return to the duty of 3d. per pound on tea, because it is not an item that is consumed only by the masses. It is consumed more largely by the classes. For every pound of tea that is used b the masses, and which is left to simmer in pots all day until nothing but the tannin remains, 5 or 10 lbs. of tea are used bv the classes, who make fresh brews five 01 six times a day, and throw, the refuse into the dust-bin. By the re-imposition of a duty of 3d. per lb. on tea, by a duty on kerosene, and an alteration in regard to the duties on tobacco and spirits, we should secure an additional revenue of nearly £2,500,000 per annum. We need not fear, therefore, that the Commonwealth can find no other source of revenue than that which direct taxation offers. I come now to the question of loans. I have been very much surprised on the many occasions when it has been urged in this House that the policy of borrowing should be avoided. A few evenings ago, the honorable member for Parkes pointed out very clearly that loans were advantageous to the community, in that we earned by them more than we paid for them. During the last nine years, we have expended on public works £4,000,000 taken out of revenue. That large sum has been taken from the pockets of the people, many -of them poor, and much in need of a few pounds. By the use of revenue instead of loan moneys in carrying out these works, we have secured saving to the Commonwealth of 3 per cent., or £120,000 a year. Had that £4,000,000 been left in the pockets of the people, they would have been able to earn 8 per cent., 9 per cent., or 10 per cent, upon it. It would have gone into their banks or house properties, and in many ways would have contributed to their annual income. In order to save the Commonwealth £120,000 per annum by way of interest on loans, we have robbed the poorer classes, who would have accumulated this money, and obtained from it a yield of from 8 to 10 per cent.
– Supposing we had in that way relieved a man of taxation amounting to £1, what interest would he have got from that amount?
– Every little girl who puts money in the Savings Bank desires to add to it. Even if, in the case of an individual, the saving effected would amount to only about £1, in the aggregate it would amount to £360,000. The Scotchman says, “ Many a mickle makes a muckle,” and if we teach the people to be thrifty, we shall have accomplished a great work. I shall offer no excuse for quoting from an article on “ Federal and State Finance Problems,” published in a brochure by Mr. R. M. Johnston, the very capable Government Statistician of Tasmania - who is also a phenomenal worker - in which he deals with the question of loans, and shows how borrowing has paid. He writes -
Since the year 1842, the six States of Australia have practically entered into partnership with local and foreign capitalists in the construction of all such important works, and in no other way would it have been possible to have succeeded in making the initial outlay of over £240,000,000 in a period of about sixtyfour years, or at the rate, of about £3,750,000 per annum. Notwithstanding that, the total interest burden on such State debts has thereby nominally increased by 24s. 8d. per head,
And this is the point which I wish honorable members particularly to notice - since 1870, such has been the marked increase in the profits of working State railways alone, namely, 25s. rd. per head, that the total interest burden connected with the total State debt of £240,000,000 has actually diminished by 5d. per head.
In other words, we have borrowed more, and paid more interest, and- yet the expenditure has been a reproductive outlay. The quotation reminds me of the statement made by the honorable member for Parkes a few nights since, that it is better to borrow for reproductive works than to spend our revenue upon them -
That is, the profit to the State “ Treasuries from the working of State railways alone, apart from the unmeasurable material benefit resulting from the opening of vast areas of virgin lands by cheap and rapid mode of transit and communication, has already almost wholly wiped off the taxpayers’ interest burden on the whole of the accumulated debt of £240,000,000,.
I hope that honorable members follow that statement. The difference between the old carriage rates by road and the new carriage rates by rail is of so much importance that it has already almost wiped out the whole of the interest burden on the capital sum of £240,000,000.
In spite of errors in the initial practical work of . .carrying out the industrial policy of the State, it has resulted in giving room and a productive field of work to a population 2.55 times the number so employed in the year 1870, and, after deducting the share of our local and foreign capitalist co-partners, we find that the income of the people of the Commonwealth has a present capital value which exceeds that of the year 1870 by as much as £3,473,000,000 sterling. In addition, we have a valuable asset in our 14,060 miles of railways to bequeath to posterity, and the effect in the saving of cost of transit alone is estimated to be equivalent to a present capital value of £820,000,000 sterling.
I thought that statement worthy of reproduction in Hansard, so that the people may know that in borrowing money for reproductive works we are doing them not only an immediate good, but one that must go on increasing year by year.
– Does Mr. Johnston .mention that at the same time we are bequeathing to posterity an annual obligation of £9,000,000 ? ‘
– We are bequeathing to posterity all the advantages of our railway systems,, and are accomplishing year by year in connexion with those railways that which the honorable member desires - the settlement of the people on the land. It is idle to talk of settling the people on the land whilst by our Tariff we are inducing them to settle in our cities. When we can make railways and roads into parts of our great States where the people can be settled on the land, I shall hold up both hands for settling people on the soil as fast as we can. But until we have such means of communication, whether it be in Tasmania or elsewhere, it is idle to talk’ about land settlement.
– A land tax will increase settlement.
– That is a mista.ken notion. A land tax will be of little service in that regard, unless we extend our railways and roads into the interior. I am with the honorable member in his desire to settle the people on the soil, provided that we proceed along honest lines, and by buying the lands «e require from those to whom they belong. They have come to them through great difficulties. The forefathers of the present holders were the pioneers of this country. When I compare the Melbourne of to-day with what it was in 1835, when Batman and Fawkner came here - when I think of the work of the pioneers from 1835 to 1855 - I am astonished that any honorable member should be in favour of so imposing taxation as possibly to confiscate the lands which their descendants have inherited from them. The policy of borrowing, if proceeded with on proper lines, must be beneficial. I do not suggest that we should adopt the method favoured by the Labour party. I do not suggest that we should commandeer , £8,000,000 of the reserve funds of our banking institutions and pay no interest upon that amount. Nor do I suggest that we should issue Commonwealth notes to the value of , £4,000,000, as sug- gested by the honorable member for Wide Bay at Gympie, and keep a gold reserve of only , £2,000,000, thus saving 3 per cent, on the remaining , £2,000,000, when at the present moment the banks are paying 2J per cent, and 3 per cent, on ^£4,000, 000. In that way we should lose the dutv on the present bank note issue, of* about £3,500,000, and gain by the saving of 3 per cent., which I have mentioned, only about half that amount. Therefore, the issue of notes in the manner suggested in the Gympie speech would mean a loss to the Commonwealth. If the Government should find it necessary to raise a loan, I trust that it will obtain the money locally, though the arrangements made in the recent Conference may avoid, for the present, the necessity for borrowing.
– What advantage would be* gained by borrowing locally?
– It would be better to borrow locally than to go to Eng- i_,i n ,,
– This matter scarcely comes within the scope of the question before the House.
– Then I shall not pursue it further, though in dealing with the Budget, and with the results of the Premiers’ Conference, we shall hardly be able to avoid the consideration of how funds are to be raised, not immediately, but in the future. No one rejoices more than I do that the Conference was able to come to an agreement with the representatives of this Government. So many Conferences were without result that we were vefry idesi’rous that a scheme should be agreed to on this occasion which Parliament could recommend to the people. Personally, I applaud the Conference for the work which it has accomplished. It may be said that Tasmania will benefit more than the other States by the proposed arrangement.” No doubt for that we shall have to thank the people of New South Wales, who will lose jQt 00,000 a year so that Tasmania may gain , £1,000 or ^2,000 a year. But Tasmania will have to make a large contribution for the payment of old-age pensions, and the net sum which she will receive this year will be less than she would otherwise receive. Indeed, she will gain nothing this year. The circumstances of the States differ so much that their contributions to the Customs and Excise revenue varies greatly per head of population. The average Customs and Excise revenue for the Commonwealth is £2 1 os. 8d. per head of population, and the average contribution of Tasmania about £2 per head, or nearly double what she will receive under the proposed arrangement. It may be that our contribution is low, because we have fewer miners and less agriculture than the other States, or because our people are more thrifty, and consume fewer luxuries and semi-luxuries. Prior to Federation, the Tasmanian Customs and Excise revenue was £2 10s. per head of population. Although we are not going to continue to iTeoeive three-fourrihs of our contribution to the Customs and Excise revenue, it is satisfactory to know that, under the proposed arrangement we shall not lose to any considerable extent. I . was associated with the Conventions which met between 1891 and 1899, was a member of the Convention which framed the draft Constitution, and travelled to England to present that instrument to the Imperial Government. I have, therefore, taken great interest in constitutional questions, and have looked forward with hope to the time when the bookkeeping system would be abolished. The honorable member for North Sydney is the only Minister who has expressed the opinion that the time has come for its abolition, and he did so when Minister of Home Affairs in the ReidMcLean Administration. It still continues, however. Next year the Braddon section will cease to have force, and contemporaneously it will be impossible for the States to demand three- fourths of the revenue from Customs and Excise. Therefore, if the Conference does nothing else, it will have done well should it bring these results about. Alternatives have been suggested to the proposal to pay to the States 25s. per head of population, but each has had its defect. For instance, the assumption by the Commonwealth of the debts was regarded as unfair to the Federal partnership, seeing that Victoria has an indebtedness of , £47 per head of the population, and Queensland of . £67. To say that the proposed agreement is for all time is to use words which are not applicable to it. When a testator has died, his will, presuming it to be valid, may be termed final and for all time. But we are a living people. This Parliament cannot pledge the next, and one referendum cannot prevent another referendum, which will give a contrary result. The people may ratify the agreement of the Premiers, believing that they are consenting to a fair arrangement, and five years later may discover that a great mistake has been made. We are not making an arrangement for all time, and cannot do so. A war might occur, or the revenue from the Tariff, by reason of the increase in manufacturing, might so diminish that a new arrangement would be imperative. We can deal only with the things of the present; to attempt to deal with the future is useless, seeing that we do not know what the circumstances will be. I hope that the people will accept the agreement, because I do not think that a much better arrangement could be made. They know the need for an arrangement of this kind. Figures were given last night by the Prime Minister which proved beyond doubt that thp increase of Customs revenue is not in ratio with the increase in population. I have already shown that during the last nine years our imports have increased by 20 per cent, while our population has increased by only 13 per cent. In the early days of Western Australia its Customs revenue amounted to , £8 per head of the population. People were pouring in there and needing not merely domestic necessaries, but houses, furniture, tools of trade, and implements of industry. In a settled community they would have needed only their domestic necessaries, and renewals in connexion with their houses, furniture, and plant. The incidence of taxation has altered greatly during the last nine vears. With regard to the ratio of direct to indirect taxation, I can speak positively from memory only of the circumstances of Tasmania. Prior to Federation, its Customs revenue was . £2 10s. per head of population, and its direct taxation 12s. per head. Now the Customs revenue derived in Tasmania is about 40s. a head, and the direct taxation about 30s. a head. If there were any other States in the position of Tasmania, the position would be serious. It was well the Conference met and re-adjusted the fiscal position, so that we may know what to expect in the future. In Tasmania we have almost reached representation without taxation, reversing the old order. The direct taxation was paid, 4.15 per cent, by 88 per cent, of the voting power, and 95.85 per cent, by 12 per cent, of the voting power, so that the bulk of the taxation was thrown on a few of the classes. The great masses of the people do not pay any large proportion of the Customs revenue, seeing that most of it is raised on luxuries and semi-luxuries, as is shown by the fact that, of the , £9,000,000 received a few years ago, over , £3,000,000 was for spirits and narcotics. We in Tasmania are perfectly satisfied, as we hope Labour members are, that an appeal to the people and majority rule is the best course. There will be ample opportunity to advise the electors as to the acceptance or rejection of the agreement, but my belief is that the referendum will show that the people are in favour of the proposal of the Conference.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
Additions to “Hansard.”
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Some figures in a small return, which I believe formed part of the Treasurer’s Budget statement, were quoted this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. Those figures have already been presented to the House, and, substantially, the whole of them were quoted by the honorable member this evening, but there are some headings, and one or two of the items, which were not quoted, and without which the return would not be complete. Under the circumstances, as the matter has been referred to me by the Chief of the Hansard staff, I have instructed that the tables be inserted. I desire also to inform honorable members that, as cases of a similar character arise, it is my intention to report them at once to the House, so that I may be relieved of the duty of censoring the reports, and, at the same time, honorable members generally may be placed in possession of such figures as they may desire to have incorporated in the reports.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090909_reps_3_51/>.