3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– It is stated in this morning’s newspapers that the Premier of New South Wales, replying last night to a question by a member of the Legislative Assembly of that State, said that by the agreement between the Premiers and the Prime Minister, 25s. per capita is guaranteed to the States for all time; that even after the debts had been transferred to the Commonwealth, and the whole of the interest and principal paid off, the States would still be entitled to that contribution. Does the Prime Minister indorse that view ?
– I have read the reports in both newspapers, and do not place upon them the interpretation of the honorable member. The Premier of New South Wales questioned in relation to a reported utterance of mine, for which there is no warrant, replied that when the debts had been taken over by the Commonwealth, the contribution of 25s. per head would be applied under the Constitution to the payment of interest, and would therefore not be paid directly to the States. The telegraphed report is abbreviated, but I do not remember any statement as to what will happen when the debts have been entirely paid off.
– May I ask the honorable member to read the latter part of this paragraph in the Argus of this morning ?
– The passage which my honorable friend asks me to read is this -
Mr. Wade said he was perfectly sure that there was no intention, and it could not be so construed, that if the debts were eventually taken over, and were extinguished, when the extinction took place and the obligation on the State to pay interest ceased, the States’ right to still enjoy contribution from the Commonwealth would also cease. He was perfectly sure it could not be so.
– That it would not cease, but would continue.
– That might depend upon who paid the debts, and when.
– This is an argument.
– If honorable members do not desire an answer-
– I would point outto the Prime Minister that I scarcely think that an answer is now being given, but that the matter is being debated. It would be well for the honorable member for Wide Bay to repeat his question.
– I shall be glad to do so. I ask the Prime Minister whether he indorses the statement of the Premier of New South Wales that, after the State debts had been transferred to the Commonwealth, and under its management interest and principal had been paid off, the States would still be entitled to an annual contribution of 25s. per head of the population ?
– In the first place, what the States will be entitled to will always depend entirely on the determination of the people of the Commonwealth. What is meant by the debts of the States : the liabilities incurred up to date, or debts yet to be incurred ? Is it meant that the States will have contributed to the repayment of the principal, or that theCommonwealth will have discharged both interest and principal ? No one can tell from this bald report of the Premier’s utterance, telegraphed from Sydney, based on a similar report of what I may have said, telegraphed from Melbourne. The position under the agreement is perfectly plain. It is provided that 25s. per head of population shall be credited to the States, and that when their debts are transferred to the Commonwealth, the money shall be applied to the payment of the interest upon them. If honorable members wish to regard a. future time, when the population will have so increased, without a proportionate increase in the debts, that this payment will have satisfied both interest and principal - I would not like to say how far ahead that must be - they are then met with the difficulty that it is not known whether this newspaper reference is to future debts as well. The relation between the Commonwealth and the States-
– The Prime Minister is now going beyond an answer to the question.
– We propose a Council of Finance, a permanent body, to deal with the present and future debts and their repayment, subject to conditions laid down by Parliament.
– Is there any contract or implied undertaking on the part of the Commonwealth to contribute towards a sinking fund? If not, is it likely that this question will arise during the present century ?
– There are no implied obligations in the agreement, and there is in it no direct obligation on the Commonwealth to contribute towards any sinking fund.
– If we created a sinking fund and liquidated the existing debts, would any part of the 25s. be credited to it?
– The control of future debts will depend upon the policy adopted by this Parliament after it has received the report of the Royal Commission. If no alteration were made in the present arrangement, the 25s. could be credited against any debts.
– If we took over the whole of the debts-
– Is it in order for honorable members to ask a series of questions, practically amounting to a dialogue, in anticipation of the discussion of an Order of the Day?
– Debate on a subject set down for discussion is not allowed, but questions asked to elicit information regarding such a subject are allowed.
– If the Commonwealth takes over the debts now accumulated, and, by the establishment of a sinking fund, extinguishes them, will 25s. per head still be payable to the States under the proposed agreement?
– I presume that the honorable member has in mind a sinking fund established by the Commonwealth, though he did not say whether it would be established by using the 25s.
– No matter how it is established.
– That is the whole point. If the 25s. contribution to the States, after meeting all interest, is paid into a sinking fund to liquidate their debts, and accomplishes that object, the mere fact that it has done so will not terminate the agreement. But the latter is terminable by the people at any time, and is certain to be readjusted in the far distant future into which we are now endeavouring to look. The mere fact that the contribution of 25s. per head created a sinking fund, and extinguished both interest and principal, would not affect the obligation under the agreement to continue that payment to the States unless and until that was amended.
– In yesterday’s Age, Hen- Martin, of Germany, is reported to have said that ten years hence that country will have 1,000 dirigible balloons and 10,000 aeroplanes, which will be armed with torpedoes, and, in the event of war, will imperil the British fleet and facilitate the invasion of England. In the face of this declaration from such afighting nation as Germany, is it worth while to continue spending money on fleets, instead of constructing aeroplanes?
– The honorable member should address his question to the German Admiralty, and suggest the discontinuance of the building of vessels of the Dreadnought type. In the next place, I believe, from the multiplicity of the suggestions that are now” reaching the Commonwealth Defence Department, we shall be able to match the Germans in any particular.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Inter-State Conference, Melbourne, August, 1909 - Agreement on Commonwealth and State finance, with tables prepared by the Treasurer.
Papua - Ordinance of 1909 - Native Labour Amendment.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Old-age Pensions Act?
– I have not yet obtained from Sydney the information necessary to enable me to answer this question, and I, therefore, ask the honorable member to postpone it until Tuesday next.
Debate resumed from 9th September (vide page 3304), on motion by Mr. Deakin -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to finance.
– The Prime Minister has exhibited to us this morning another phase of this question, displaying quite accidentally the amazing fertility of resource of the representatives of the Commonwealth at the Con- ference, and the inexcusable neglect of its interests in the recent agreement. I shall speak of that neglect in due course, but it appears to me to be necessary to emphasize now the fact that it is deliberately proposed to enter into an agreement from which the Government of the Commonwealth can never extricate itself, and that, no matter what may be the outcome of the recommendations of the Council of Finance, no matter whether we pay off that proportion of the State debts, the annual interest on which would be met by the payment of 25s. per bead of the population, that payment is to continue for all time. The Prime Minister dealt most exhaustively and thoroughly with this question on Wednesday evening, but I venture to say that during the whole of his speech he did not succeed in convincing any one either of the expediency or wisdom of his action. One is indeed amazed by a comparison of his former declarations with his present attitude. I do not wish to refer to the dim and distant past, when the honorable gentleman posed as the champion of the Commonwealth, but to that comparatively recent day when he laid upon the table of the House a memorandum of the policy cf the Government which was divided into three parts - in that respect typical of the Ministry itself. One part was labelled “ Finance,” and in it we have the statement that -
Finance is every year a vital question, but it is no exaggeration to say that the obligations of the next eighteen months render it at present more important than at any period since Federation.
The proposal there hinted at was -
A temporary arrangement for a term of years, to replace the existing distribution in which the obligations of the Commonwealth are recognised, is being prepared for submission.
If that statement means anything it means that the intention of the Government when the memorandum was laid on the table was to propose that we should continue for a. term of years the Braddon blot in a modified form. The memorandum was presented early in June, but from that time until the Conference met no scheme had been put forward; none had been conceived. The Prime Minister admitted the other evening that he had no conception of the obligations of the States when he entered the Conference, and that their requirements proved to be such as to fill him with the most profound amazement. As a set off, however, he found that the States had not the slightest conception of the obligations of the Commonwealth. When they saw the balance-sheet presented by the Treasurer they realized that they could not receive or expect to receive from the Common wealth as much as they had hoped, whilst he on his part realized that we could not withhold as much as we desired. This is all very interesting, but an honorable member who has been so long in the public life cf the Commonwealth, and yet calmly admits going into that Conference without knowing the financial circumstances of every State, must have neglected utterly the duty cast upon him by virtue of his office. There is no circumstance in the financial position of the States or Commonwealth of which he ought not to have informed himself - no contingency with which he ought not- to have been thoroughly conversant. The honorable gentleman asks the House to affirm agreements that have been arrived at with the State Premiers, the central idea of which is a permanent arrangement, to be embodied in the Constitution, providing for an annual payment from the Commonwealth to the States of 25s. per head of their population, with a special provision in favour of Western Australia. To that arrangement there are two objections, both of which, I think, are fatal. One is that the payment is too high, and the other ‘is that the arrangement itself is to be permanent. I take it that the first objection must always be fatal in relation to a division of money. When a man proposes to work for another, the question as to whether he shall receive wages is one concerning which there is no dispute. The whole point involved is what wages he shall receive. And so when an article is to be sold, the question at issue is not whether it shall be sold, but. whether it shall be sold at a certain priceIn the same way when there is to be a division of money, the question is not whether there is to be a division, but what the division shall be. When, therefore, it is proposed that we shall pay to the States 25s. per head of their population per annum, the question is not whether we shall pay something, but whether we shall pay that amount. To propose not only that the payment shall be made, but that the agreement shall be as permanent as human beings can make it in a Democratic country - and far more permanent than it ought to be made in a Democratic country - is to reach the very climax of inexpediency and unwisdom. From the inception of the Commonwealth the Prime Minister has declared himself to be a champion of national as opposed to provincial rights; but it has been reserved to him to make an alliance with an honorable gentleman whose boast it has always been that he opposes nationalism and upholds provincialism. The Minister of Defence a day or two after he had been called, for some mysterious reason, and by some inscrutable means, to his present office, declared, in the new Masonic Hall, Sydney, that he was glad to. say he was a State Rights man. We see clearly enough in this agreement his handiwork. We find on it his thumb-prints.
– What did I say?
– The honorable gentleman declared in the new Masonic Hall, Sydney, that he was an advocate of State Rights, and was proud to be recognised as such.
– Is that all I said?
– No; but since the honorable member has the honorable member for Corio at his back, I am not going to quote all that he said, for it would take too long.
– The honorable member’s statement is an entire misrepresentation.
– It is not.
– The Minister Qf Defence must withdraw the remark that the statement made by the honorable member for West Sydney is a misrepresentation.
– I will, sir, if it be out of order; but I think, sir, I am entitled to say that it entirely misrepresents me.
– Since the honorable member has questioned my statement, I repeat that not only in the new Masonic Hall, Sydney, but constantly in this House and elsewhere, he has gone out of his way to declare himself a champion of State Rights. It is no misrepresentation to say that. Indeed, it is a gross misrepresentation of fact to say the opposite.
– Is ..the honorable member opposed to State Rights?
– I am opposed to the monstrous position taken up under the guise of the championship of State Rights, by which the honorable member and his friends really mean vested interests. Who are behind the State Rights party? Is there one relic of Toryism - one relic of the Black Labour party - the wreckage of which the Prime Minister spoke last year - who is not a State Rights man to the very backbone? I well remember when the Age declared that the division on the Sur plus Revenue Bill in this House separated into two camps, in the one those who were in favour of a national policy, in the other, those’ reactionaries who cling to a provincial policy. Every honorable member, except the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Wimmera - all who now sit on that side of the House, and who were not members of the Prime Minister’s former party - voted against the Surplus Revenue Bill. The honorable member for Parramatta has always been the Leader of that Party, and he is the one in whom the Conservatives of the country, who now call themselves the State Rights men, place implicit and blind trust as their champion. The honorable member has succeeded in diverting the steps of the Prime Minister from the plain broad path along which he was marching into a tortuous and rocky road ending in a culdesac, and affording no prospects for national progress. What are the circumstances surrounding the agreement? Any one can understand why the French, after the confusion and rout of their forces at the fall of Sedan, agreed to the treaty with Bismarck, or why a rat in a trap will agree to any condition in order to escape. But the Commonwealth had at its command the entire situation, and was in a position to dictate reasonable terms, and have those terms accepted by the States. At its back was and is the great overwhelming majority of the people, who, as the Prime Minister said the other night, are the least likely to overlook State Rights, seeing that every one of them is a citizen of the States. When it comes to the rights of the States, no one is more jealous than the men who send us here; and not one of us would be within these walls if we had dared to oppose true State Rights in any serious particular. Does the- Prime Minister think for a moment that he, or any one of us, would have been returned to- injure their true interests by the electors of the Commonwealth, who are, as he told us, also electors of the States? Does he think that the people would send me here - the same electors who send representatives to the State Parliament - if, in any vital particular. I was opposed to the interests of the people of New South Wales? After ten years of a burden, which, as time went on, became almost intolerable, does any one think the Commonwealth is justified in neglecting an opportunity to come into its heritage? Are we justified in approving an agreement, which, in all essentials, binds the Commonwealth for all time in fetters not less intolerable and vexatious than those of the Braddon section itself ? Comparing the Braddon section with the proposed agreement, it has to be said that the former, unwise, illogical, and unscientific as it was, at any rate was agreed to by men who, in some sense of the word, were admittedly placed in a difficult position. I do not believe that the position was really difficult ; but the consummation of Federation depended on assent by the smaller States, which did not regard their financial position as assured without some such proviso. The section was introduced into the Constitution without any clear conception of its effects; but, after nine years’ experience, can any one say that, if it were submitted to the people, they would reaffirm it? Never ! Yet, after nine years’ experience, the Prime Minister calmly asks the House to make permanent a provision’ which, in all essentials, so far as principle is concerned, is not less obnoxious or less harmful to the interests of true national Government in this country. Let us see, first of all, what the position is in regard to the amount. It is proposed to hand over 25s. per head to the States; and that, roughly speaking, divides the revenue of £10,600,000 into half, giving some £5,000,000 to the States, and a similar amount to the Commonwealth. In the year 1910-11, according to the tables prepared by the Treasurer, it is proposed to hand to the States £5,668,000, which, on the revenue I have mentioned, would leave us with £5,000,000 ; and I venture to say, on the statement by the Treasurer, that that will be insufficient to meet our present obligations. When I speak of “our present obligations,” I do not refer only to those obligations set forth in the Budget, but also to those which have been deliberately invited by the Government, and which the country realizes will have to be met - I mean the obligations connected with defence, and others hardly less important, to which we are irrevocably committed. The Government have deliberately involved us in an additional expenditure of ,£2,000,000, in connexion with the provision of a Dreadnought or its equivalent. Defence generally, according to the Minister in charge of trie Department, is to cost this country at least another 5s. per head. I estimate that the extra taxation to place defence on a sound footing will be, at least, £1,000,000 per annum, in addition to the expenditure proposed in the Budget, for some years at any rate ; and this means very little less than 5s. per head per annum. This expenditure will have to be met. There is an indication, as shown in the cables recently, of a proposal to borrow a sum of money for defence purposes, the sinking fund and interest of which would amount to £500,000 per annum. I sincerely trust that this House will never assent to such an unwise and suicidal method of financing the defences of this country. No country which makes any pretence to wise administration of its financial affairs has ever resorted to such means for defending itself - an actual state of war alone justifies such a step. But if we do borrow, and* have to find £500,000 per annum, we must get the money from somewhere, and the payment of 25s. per head will leave us without sufficient means of doing so. But there are several other proposals of great importance which involve additional expenditure : The Northern Territory, the administration of which at present involves a loss of about £200,000 per annum. The construction of a transcontinental railway, which will cost anything up to £5,000,000, the interest on which1 will mean, even in the early stages, £50,000, and, when the whole of the money has been expended, five times that amount. We should also, have to spend money in developing the Territory, and, for a little- while at any rate, we shall have to make up the loss on the working of the railway. Either this Order of the Day is on the notice-paper for show purposes or it is there for a definite purpose; and, if it is there for the purpose of taking over the Northern Territory and developing this Eldorado-
– There is not a road there yet !
– Not yet. If we are to develop this Territory, the riches of which are fabulous, or would be so regarded in anyother country in the world but this - if we are going to avail ourselves of an opportunity almost unique in the history of a young nation, to people, develop, and defend this country - we shall have to spend money. Then, of course, there is the Western Australian transcontinental railway and the Federal Capital. I emphatically protest against the statement of the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth is free to impose both direct and indirect taxation. The honorable gentleman knows very well that, with the cohorts behind him, direct taxation in this House is impossible, and that there is a deliberate intention on the part of those men, whose handiwork in this agreement is too clearly seen, to impose revenue taxes on the people. lt is by means of duties on tea, kerosene, and sugar that the deficit is to be made up - screwed out of the very life blood of the people of the country. That is the ideal of finance and taxation of the honorable member for Parramatta. He advocates direct taxation on the land, the question to be remitted to a State Parliament, where there is a. Legislative Council, the members of which would die on the floor rather than accept such a policy - an Assembly where there is an obedient majority behind Mr. Wade, who would never agree to it, or, if they did, would agree to it in such an emasculated form as would bring land value taxation into contempt. The Minister of Defence knows that it is perfectly safe to say that he is in favour of direct taxation by the States, and of placing the Commonwealth in such a position that it must have more revenue, when he knows that the people of whom he speaks - the party of vested interests whose mouthpiece he is - intend to tax tea, kerosene, sugar, and other necessaries of life. ‘lt is just as well that the people of the country and honorable members should be reminded of the taxation to which we already submit. The Age, in a very excellent leader published on the 8th of this month, gave a table of the Customs and Excise taxation per head of the chief countries of the world. It showed that in Germany - a country which, if any country has, has adopted Protection deliberately, and derived a benefit from it, a country whose population has gone ahead with most amazing strides - the revenue from Customs and Excise is 15s. 2d. per head. That of Australia is £2 10s. 8d., or over three times as much. The United States, a country which is avowedly and deliberately protective, derives a revenue of £1 9s. 6d. per head from Customs and Excise, while in the United Kingdom, which deliberately imposes Customs and Excise taxes for the purpose of deriving revenue, and draws 67 per cent, of the whole of its receipts from that source, the amount is £1 ns. 5d. per head. In Canada, the country which is most like ours, the amount is £2 2s. nd., which is less by 5s. than has been derived by the lowest tariff imposed in this country since the inception of the Commonwealth, and 8s, less than, under the present Tariff. Clearly, therefore, there is no room here for increased ‘Customs taxation. In fact, the very reverse is the case. Surely the people of this country have a right to expect that the burden of government shall be shared equally - that the additional” burdens shall not be piled only upon them - and yet this agreement is so cunningly devised that it is upon the people that the burden must be placed. A sound principle to go upon would have been to leave to the one authority the raising of practically all direct taxation, while leaving the other to get the whole of its revenue by indirect taxation. The Commonwealth could have financed its obligations almost, if not entirely, out of indirect taxation.
– -What about defence expenditure ? The wealthy ought to pav for that.
– I admit that thai is an exception. The practical answer to my honorable friend is that the Labour party proposed to impose ii tax upon the unimproved value of land, which, I think, would have given us, together with the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue, a sufficient amount. If we keep from the States an amount of revenue sufficient to enable us to pay our way, it throws upon them the onus of getting revenue by direct taxation. It leaves their, the disagreeable duty of imposing taxation upon their friends and suppor”ters, that is to say, upon those men who now regard the States as the citadel and hope of Conservatism and reaction. Truly times have changed. I remember how the honorable member for Parkes, who sits peacefully now on the back Ministerial bench, went about the country eight or nine years ago, clothed with the mantle of Elisha, and delivered himself of prophesies. One of them was the promise of a glorious political mansion, inside which the hob-nailed boots of a party ignorant alike of sociology, history, and economics, should never enter. That mansion has been erected, but inside its sacred walls the honorable gentleman sees, to his eternal discomfiture, the hob-nailed boots of that party making themselves more and more prominent. Now, therefore, the honorable gentleman and his friends have transferred their wavering allegiance to the State Parliaments. They heard the trumpets, and saw the advancing phalanx - the cohorts of the Labour party - in the State Parliaments, and they thought, “ We must be up and doing. We must erect a place where these pestiferous persons cannot come.” They erected it, and behold, in the very holy of holies, we came, we saw, and we conquered !
– We see through the conspiracy for unification.*
– The honorable gentleman, in regard to his Federal sentiments, occupies a very curious, and rather entertaining, position. The things he said in favour of Federation would move any one to tears. The hopes he entertained, as contrasted with the Dead Sea fruit which has since been gathered, would complete the process, and any one who could refrain from shedding teats at the great deal that he has done, and the very little that he has received in return for it, would indeed have a heart of stone. I am not a unificationist at all ; I never was. But at the same time I never have been, and never shall be, a supporter of that cause which, under the guise of State Rights, is deliberately intended to put back the hands of the clock of reform. The people of this country are determined that the wealthier classes shall pay their fair share of taxation, and wriggle about as that party may, first to one side and then to the other, Federalists at one moment and State Righters at another, the people, who the Prime Minister said the other evening are the same people, whether acting as electors of the . States or of the Commonwealth, have awakened, and no effort of the honorable member, or of any other like him, can pull enough wool in front of their eyes to blind them to the true facts of the case. I was speaking, before being interrupted, of the requirements of the Commonwealth. I said that the Northern Territory would involve us m an additional annual expenditure of anything up to £500,000 ; that there is now an annual loss of £200,000, and if the transcontinental railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek is constructed, allowing for the loss on working in the earlier years, for interest and sinking fund, and for money expended in development - because we must spend money in developing that country - there will be necessitated an additional expenditure of anything up to half-a -million pounds per annum. Even putting the loss at £300,000, which is very much less than sufficient, still that money will have to be found. There is also the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, which we must assume that the right honorable the Treasurer is desirous of carrying out, and which will in- volve us in a sum very little less. At least £50,000 a year will be required for the Federal Capital for the next ten years. The High Commissioner Bill is on the noticepaper, and is, apparently, so urgent that the other evening the first honorable member who desired to say one word against it was promptly gagged. It, therefore, must be a very urgent measure indeed, and that also will mean an expenditure of another £20,000 a year. Now it is obvious, I venture to say, that under the 25s. per head arrangement we can do none of those things. The very most that we can give to the States at the present time, and pay our way, is £1 per head. The Prime Minister said the revenue would increase, but how any man in his position could make such a statement I fail utterly to understand. I confess I have a sneaking sympathy with the honorable member’s difficulty in wandering about the maze of figures in which he finds himself, no doubt”, continually at a disadvantage. Figures are very awkward things. To an expert they may be most plastic, and, in his hands, can be made to prove anything, but to a gentleman like the Prime Minister they are obdurate beasts and a source of continuous trouble. They can never be relied upon, and compilations carefully made for him have to be handed in at the tail-end of his speech, because he has entirely overlooked the fact of their existence, or the place in which they should go. But we had a right to expect that he should look at the circumstances of the case. The revenue will never become any larger per head, unless he proposes to impose more taxation.
Honorable members interjecting,
– On a previous occasion I drew attention to the undesirableness, and, in fact, the disorderliness, of running comments upon an honorable member’s speech while it is being delivered, and I trust that honorable members will not subject the Chair to the imputation of differentiating between honorable members by allowing similar comments to be made now. I hope, therefore, that the rule laid down will be observed.
– The Customs revenues of countries are subject to well-known and long-established laws. One of these is that the amount derivable from’ revenue duties depends upon the spending power of the people. The spending power of the people per head in this connexion is not likely to increase. We are a prosperous country, and although we shall be possibly more prosperous, when ampler opportunities are afforded to the people of getting a fair share of their earnings, of going upon the land, and of producing more wealth, yet for all that, their spending power will be spread over other articles and over those not imported, but manufactured within the country. The revenue derived from duties on articles which are so made must necessarily tend todecrease. I am not, and never have been, a Protectionist, but I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that, since the imposition of the Tariff, manufactures have increased in New South Wales to a notable extent. When in England I visited a verylarge establishment whose proprietor told me that, whereas formerly he had been exporting to. this country annually ,£50,000 worth of women’s underclothing, he now exported practically nothing. One has only to study the records of the Statistician to see that the tendency is for more and more of our own requirements to be made here. Consequently, the Customs revenue must decrease. It would be inexplicable if the Prime Minister, who for years has been the tireless advocate of Protection, should forget the purposes for which the Tariff was imposed, and be unaware of the circumstances which I have mentioned. The object of protective duties is to encourage and stimulate industries, at the expense of importations, and, consequently, of the Customs revenue. I voted for duties on iron manufactures, amongst other things, with a view to encourage their local manufacture, and the honorable member for Dalley, another ardent Free Trader, did the same.
– I used to be, but I am not now. I am full of it. I want a Democratic movement; I do not want the other business.
– I do not regret what I have done. Under the circumstances my action was not merely excusable, but praiseworthy. Since there was to be a Tariff, it was better to frame it for the encouragement of manufacture than to screw money out of the people, and enable the rich to evade their just responsibilites. The Prime Minister tells us that he anticipates that the revenue will increase per head of population, a statement which can only be interpreted to mean that we are to have revenue duties. We shall know in the future what “ State Rights “ mean. The people should be told every day and every hour, until the election comes, that it is behind this mask that Conservatism and vested interests hide. What State Right is threatened by any action of this Parliament? Do we propose to deprive any man of his liberty, or to take a penny from his pocket? No. The Prime Minister himself exposed the fallacy of the assertion that State Rights are in danger when he said that all taxation comes out of the one pocket. The only question is whether the taxpayer will pay his money to Peter or to Paul. The people can bring to a proper sense of responsibility both the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments, and if either endeavours to take away their privileges, or to tax them unnecessarily or unwisely, that will be done. The Prime Minister showed the hollowness of his case when he spoke of the division of interests between Commonwealth and States, which if we were other than one people would have led to
Avar or arbitration. What he meant, if he meant anything, was that there are conflicting interests. It is quite true that in some respects the interests of the Commonwealth and the States are not identical. For eight years the Prime Minister has been pointing to the path which the Commonwealth should follow. He has advocated the building of a glorious edifice of national life, provision for national defence, development of the country, and the abolition of provincialism. But now he is endeavouring to switch the Commonwealth car off the main line on to a side track, whence it may well plunge into a ravine. This morning’s Age shows clearly why the Commonwealth and the States have not the same interests. Every one knows that they are composed of the same people. But the interests of the man who pays rent are not identical with those of the man1 who receives it. Nor are those of the man who borrows a sovereign identical with those of him who lends it. The interests of the States as such consist in side-tracking, delaying, and hampering the Commonwealth in every conceivable way ; the interests of the Commonwealth as such consist in laying a sure and lasting foundation for the future of this great nation. The Age properly points out that the States have their watchdogs of Toryism, their Legislative Councils; men who represent nothing but their own interest, in some cases nominated, and, in others, elected upon a restricted franchise. In South Australia there have been several battles on the question whether the people or rested interests shall rule, and times out of number the people have been defeated and compelled to accept a compromise. In this Parliament alone the people rule without let or hindrance, and it is against this great Democratic body that the State Rights party is arrayed. There is in this House a fair representation of the will of the people as recorded at the ballot-box, and in the other Chamber a representation of the States as entities. Either the Senate is superfluous and unnecessary, or it is clothed with sufficient powers to safeguard every State right. We were told when the Constitution was being discussed that the Senate was required to protect State Rights, and on that ground we adopted the undemocratic arrangement whereby Tasmania, with a population of 180,000, receives the same representation as New South Wales, with a population of 1,600,000. There are more people in my own constituency than there are in the whole of Tasmania.
– But not as great.
– Order. I think that the honorable member is now going beyond the question.
– Well, I’m blest !
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– Then shall I sayI am cursed ?
– The honorable member knows that it is not in order for an honorable member to make a remark in an audible tone when the Speaker is addressing the House.
– If you think, Mr. Speaker–
– The honorable mem- bercommentedonastatementmadefrom the Chair. He had no right to do that, and I hope that he will extend to the
Chair, regardless of who may be its occu pant, the courtesy to which it is entitled.
– May I say that I did not intend to reflect on the Chair?
– The honorable member for Gwydir must resume his seat. The honorable member for West Sydney was proceeding to discuss the constitution of the Senate and the advisableness or otherwise of equal representation of the States in that Chamber. I fail to see what connexion that has with the question immediately before the Chair.
– I am merely following the example, good or bad, set by the Prime Minister. I am endeavouring to show that the question of State Rights, about which we have heard so much, gave rise to the Conference and to the agreement now sought to be forced upon us. I am showing at the same time that the Constitution provides for the Senate as the guardian of the rights of the States.
– I interrupted the honorable member when he was proceeding to discuss the advisableness of equal representation in the Senate. His remarks concerning the position of another place in regard to State Rights are perfectly in order, but his comments in regard to the constitution of another place are not.
– When the Constitution Bill was before the people, we heard as a justification for the proposal that there should be equal representation of the States in the Senate, that it was necessary, owing to the fear that the rights of the States would not otherwise be safeguarded. We know that the preservation of State Rights is provided for in the Constitution, and I call upon the Government to declare whether they have lost faith in that part of the Constitution which provides for the States as such, and if so, they have to take the onlycourse open to them. The Prime Minister has become a strong advocate of the principle of the referendum. He and his party say to us : “You will commit yourselves to nothing by passing this Bill. Let the people say whether or not they will accept the agreement.” I reply : “Ask the people, too, whether they believe any longer in equal representation in the Senate.” The honorable and democratic member for Parramatta
– The honorable membersometimesstumblesonanaccurate statement.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order, Mr. Speaker, in describing the honorable member for Parramatta as an honorable Democrat?
– I do not regard that statement as offensive, nor do I think that any honorable member would.
– I admit that it was very questionable taste on my part to make such a statement concerning the Minister of Defence. What I was about to say was that honorable members who profess to believe in Democratic principles, and at the same time cast reflections upon a Parliament which faithfully represents the opinions of the people, if any Parliament does, accuse Democracy itself of being unable to manage its own affairs. In this Parliament the people speak without let or hindrance, and, therefore, I do not hesitate to emphasize the point that the State Rights party is simply a body of men banded together in the only citadel left to them to prevent an equitable and proper adjustment of the burden of government on the a shoulders of the rich. Many years ago the Minister of Defence expressed the opinion that land values and land ownership were legalized theft, but to-day, with a pathetic devotion which is most touching, he stands within the citadel, and is the chosen champion of “ legalized theft,” hoping to be amply rewarded, no doubt, by his friends. In a table provided for us by the honorable gallant and learned Treasurer, who, for some inscrutable reason, insists upon placing his full title on every paper that he submits to us, it is shown that in 1920 the population of the Commonwealth will be 5,238,000. As a matter of fact, it will not. That estimate is based upon the increase of population, being at the rate of 1.49 per cent. ; but, as a matter of fact, the increase today is at the rate of 1.88, so that in 1920 our population at that rate will be, not 5,238,000, but 5,380,000. But, if the increase be on the basis of that of New South Wales at the present time, namely, 2.77, then our population in 1920 will be 5,934,000, and consequently Ave shall have to pay on that basis. The Prime Minister deliberately put forward this agreement on Wednesday evening as being an inducement to the States to encourage immigration. For every additional person they can bring to our shores they
Will receive from the Commonwealth 25s. per annum. The Commonwealth Government say that as soon as the High Commissioner Bill is passed they propose to carry on a systematic campaign of advertising the resources of the country, and to endeavour to attract more people to Australia. In the circumstances, therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that, before long, the present .rate of increase in New South Wales will, in all probability, be general throughout Australia, and that our population in 1920 will be nearly 6,000,000. Now it costs the Commonwealth more to govern every person, and pay the States 25s. per head, than every person returns in revenue to it. Last year the Customs and Excise revenue amounted to £2 10s. 8d. per head of the population, but the average has been about £2 6s. per head. If aare return to theStates 25s. per head of their population, and it takes over 25s. per head to governthe Commonwealth. it is very clear that we must lose on every additional person that comes to the Commonwealth. The more people the States gain, the more revenue they will receive from us, and the greater must be the loss to the Commonwealth.
– This agreement isreally an immigration bonus.
– Undoubtedly. That point Avas emphasized by the Prime Minister, who urged that, as the result of theagreement, more people would come to Australia, and that, consequently, we should receive .more revenue. It is true that we shall, but we shall not get more revenue per head of the population. The class of immigrants coming here is a class that settles in our towns. I am told - and this is a point on which Ave ought to have an answer - that the Victorian Railways Department makes it a practice, in taking on casual’ labourers, to give a preference to new-chum immigrants.
– -The same thing is being done in New South Wales.
– The reason is perfectly clear. The Department desires to obtain on its books a large number of persons, so that it may be able to pick and choose, and may never be at a loss for labour. Another reason is that it is desired to afford every immigrant a chance Qf sharing the wage fund, which is already too low for those here. ‘ The immigrants coming here to-day under existing circumstances are a class of men who merely share what is already here. In 1920, instead of giving the States £6,622,500, as estimated in one of the tables presented by the Treasurer, Ave shall give them £7,500,000, and the Commonwealth revenue will not have increased proportionately. Every year we shall be worse off. Every year our obligations and expenditure will be increasing, while this fetter will be perpetual. The Leader of the Opposition last night pointed out that some modification of Mr. Harper’s scheme seemed a logical, scientific, and sensible way of adjusting the -finances, severing once and for all the dependence of the Commonwealth on the States. It is an undignified position for the national Government to depend on the States. It is not a dependency on the people of the States, because the State and the Commonwealth people are the same, but it is a dependency on the States, who must be paid the 25s. per head even if our revenue falls to £9,000,000 or £8,000,000. No matter what the fluctuations of the revenue may be, we have to provide a perpetual payment, like an annuity, in regard to which we take all the risks and responsibilities, while the States have all the advantages. The Prime Minister said that the payment would be a sufficient one to enable us to take over £160,000,000 of State debts; and I then thought that what he meant was that, if we took the debts over under a recommendation of the Council of Finance, we should, when we had taken them over, arid had liquidated them by payments to a sinking fund over a long term of years, be better off. But the Prime -Minister tells us that, after paying all the debts off, owing to our being able to float loans at a lower price, we shall still have to pay the 25s. per head - for ever and ever. A more monstrous ot more idiotic proposal “ has never been put forward. The Age, to which I turn with the devotion of a needle to the magnetic pole, says on this matter : -
Nothing that the Ministry has ever done, or could have, done, is so much abhorred as this anti-Nationalist agreement with the States, in which the latter have succeeded in ensnaring the Ministry into giving a deadly blow to Commonwealth prestige. … It may be, of course, that such Ministerial pressure will be put upon some of these Ministerial supporters as will compel them to choose between smashing up the “ Fusion “ Government or voting for a thing which they utterly disapprove of. If it be true, as is alleged, that Ministers have resolved to make the acceptance of that agreement a party question, on which the Ministerial life is to depend, it evinces a tyrannical pressure which is contrary to the natural freedom of a free man in Parliament, and as such it ought to be resisted at any hazard of party complications by every man who has the spirit of sel’f -respect, and who feels fidelity to his own principles to be a more sacred thing than the ties which can bind him to any set of Ministers. Before taking such a step as Ministers took at that secret caucus of the enemies of Federation, they owed a duty to their supporters. They had no more constitutional right to bind Parliament than they had to tear up the Constitution Act itself. We may still hope that the matter will not be treated as a strict party one.
I ask the Government whether they propose to make this ai party question or not. If they do, then all discussion is wasted ; there ought not to be one hour allowed to elapse before the honorable gentleman, who has been selected for the honorable duty, should be asked to move the “ gag.” Let us come to a decision - let the Government put its cohorts into force. Protests from that side are only hot air, unless they are tq be backed by a vote. If honorable members are to protest and then fall obediently into line, it is a humiliation and degradation that this Parliament might well be spared. Under the circumstances, we ought to be told, and we have a right to demand, from- the Prime Minister, whether this is to be a party question or not ; and, for my part, I insist, on an answer now. Does the Prime Minister propose to allow his followers to have a free hand ? If he does, then no time need be wasted, and the division could be taken to-morrow - only the result will be the exact opposite of that which the honorable gentleman anticipates, for there is in this Parliament a majority who will never vote for the agreement if it is allowed to vote as it pleases. There is, however, an unhappy band of men, whose fortunes are allied to those of the Ministry, and who, though opposed to the agreement, will be compelled to vote for it. The Commonwealth will then have sunk and degraded to the level- of merely recording the decrees and determinations arrived at in secret caucus by a body of men whom the Constitution does not recognise, who have no authority or mandate from the people, and who hold office by the slenderest of tenures. One of the Premiers to-day is fighting for his political life, and, I venture to hope, will lose it; while another Premier holds office with a majority of one. An epidemic may at any moment reduce any of them to disaster - cholera morbus may put them all out. The Ministry have come to an agreement with the Premiers, and they force it on their followers. To what contemptible depths are they being dragged? The honorable member for Robertson has a superior smile, but will he not yield ? The honorable member knows very well that, when the whip is cracked, he will fall in and record his vote for the agreement. On his life, he dare not do otherwise. The honorable member for Maribyrnong will, when the whip is cracked, vote for an agreement which will kill new7 Protection utterly - which will also kill the old Protection for ever and ever. This agreement is a deliberate handing over of every power and function of the Parliament of which we have proudly boasted, into the hands of the State Rights party, who are the party opposed to every principle to which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has ‘ always avowedly owed allegiance. Is this to be made a party question? If not, let us waste no time, but make short speeches the order of the day. Let every man record his sentiments and vote; and we shall see on the Ministerial side a miserable, puny, ragged band of men united by some ties, the nature of which they dare not disclose, and deserted by every man in the chamber who is free to follow the dictates of his own conscience. But if, on the other hand, the party whip is cracked, we shall see a majority, composed of unfortunate and degenerate men, who would rather betray the Commonwealth and sell the people than stand up for their own principles. Now, let me say something about the proposal to make this agreement a permanent feature of the Constitution. I have shown that the amount is insufficient, and that the circumstances which led up to the agreement were such as to make it an insult and a degradation to the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister proposes that the payment to the States shall be made permanent. Why? How can any Democrat make this infamous attempt - for an infamous attempt it is - to fetter posterity? The history of all progressive nations shows conclusively how futile, or how dangerous when not futile, are the attempts of one generation to determine the course of another. The United States attempted to do that, and did it; and paid the penalty in the bloodiest war of modern times. And that country is now on the eve of another upheaval the result of which, whether it finds expression in a war in the ordinary sense, or in some wild social cataclysm, we cannot foretell; but, as surely as the rule of the dead hand endeavours to prevent the American people ridding themselves of the incubus of trusts and wealth, so surely will there be a disturbance the like of which the world never saw. We have a Constitution, which, happily for us, is only a feeble imitation of the United States Constitution. But yet our Constitution is one which hampers Democracy at every turn - is opposed to the basic principle of Democracy. It sets at nought rule by majority. It is a compromise and an unhappy compromise. When we regard it as the last word of wisdom of men whom we were taught to look upon as the greatest statesmen of our time, when we consider that this is their supreme effort to enable Democracy to achieve a national existence, we can only say that time, and a very little time, has proved them to have been lacking in every essential of true statesmanship. We see clearly enough that in the finance sections they committed the most egregious and inexcusable blunders, and, in other parts of the Constitution, blunders not less deplorable. Before the Constitution can be amended, there must be a majority in a majority of the States. What does that mean? It means that Tasmania, which, under the agreement, will derive considerable benefit, will have the same voice in declaring whether the agreement shall be repudiated or removed, as a State fifteen times its strength in point of numbers. We have a perfect right to expect the Government of the Commonwealth to faithfully reflect the opinions of the people ; and when the electors consider that an amendment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States should take place, they ought to be in a position to see that it does take place. The Prime Minister told us that it is necessary to amend the Constitution because a Statute cannot bind a succeeding Parliament. That is perfectly true ; but I venture to say that any Parliament would honorably observe a Statute of a previous Parliament unless a mandate of the people, expressed in an unmistakable way, authorized it to do otherwise. We do not realize in this country yet, the extent to which we have fettered Democracy. The first Constitution in the world, the British, is not written, and sets no limits to the powers of the people. I do not know whether honorable members appreciate the extent to which the British Parliament is sovereign. When I heard the Prime Minister say that the States would have no guarantee that we should not repudiate the agreement, I do not know whether he remembered the powers of the British Parliament. Do honorable members realize that the British Parliament could within twenty-four hours declare that King Edward was no longer King, and put plain John Smith in his place? Do they realize that if necessary every article of the Act of Union between England and Scotland could be repudiated to-morrow if the British Parliament liked?
– Does the honorable member say that-
– It is not time for the gag yet, nor has there been another Boer war, so the honorable member need not again volunteer and then hide himself away. The honorable member has put himself outside the pale. Let him go and hang himself.
– Order ! I point out to the honorable member for Corio that interruptions are disorderly, and ask him to allow the honorable member for West Sydney to proceed.
– On a point of order I submit that, if an interjection is reasonable, and the honorable member who is speaking likes to recognise it, it sometimes becomes the salt of debate.
– What I complained of was an interruption. The honorable member for West Sydney apparently did not wish to reply to the remark which the honorable member for Corio desired to make, but the honorable member persisted, and it was for that reason that I asked him to desist.
– I was saying that the British Parliament has it within its power any day to abolish the Act of Succession. Let me read what Dicey has to say on this question, so that honorable members may realize the difference between the powers of Parliament and its actions. My point is that it would be perfectly safe to embody any agreement in a Statute, and that every Parliament would honorably observe its terms until such time as the people gave an unmistakable mandate to the contrary. The Acts referred to by Dicey on page 63 are the Acts of Union with Scotland and Ireland, which were, if any Acts could be, deliberate agreements between parties having most divergent interests. The union has been observed ever since, seeing that England, Scotland, and Ireland are now under the Crown, and the treaties which were embodied in those Acts were intended to bind future Parliaments, although they never did.
Mr.Crouch.-Thehonorablemember cannot prove his statement about the abolition of the monarchy.
– The honorable member is out of order. He has been repeatedly called to order, and I ask him now to observe the direction of the Chair. Otherwise a further step must be taken.
– I wish to show how safe it is to allow a Parliament to rely upon a Statute which embodies an agreement, and to prove that in cases which embodied agreements and treaties infinitely more important than this, the result, after a hundred years’ experience and more, has been that no accusation of breach of faith has been made. Dicey says : -
Of statutes intended to arrest the possible course of future legislation, the most noteworthy are the Acts which embody the treaties of Union with Scotland and Ireland. The legislators who passed these Acts assuredly intended to give to certain portions of them more than the ordinary effect of statutes. Vet the history of legislation in respect of these very Acts affords the strongest proof of the futility inherent in every attempt of one sovereign legislature to restrain the action of another equally sovereign body.
It is shown that in several important particulars those Acts have been amended after a lapse of time, but only with the approval, and very much to the advantage, of all parties concerned. Here is a passage, on page 64, that will apply particularly to us -
One Act, indeed, of the British Parliament might, looked at in the light of history, claim a peculiar sanctity. It is certainly an enactment of which the terms, we may safely predict, will never be repealed and the spirit will never be violated. This Act is the Taxation of Colonies Act 1778. It provides that Parliament “will not impose any duty, tax, or assessment whatever, payable in any of his Majesty’s colonies, provinces, and plantations in North America or the West Indies; except only such duties as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce ; the net produce of such duties to be always paid and applied to and for the use of the colony.”
From the time that Act was passed until now no attempt has been made by the British Parliament to infringe it, but it is competent for that Parliament to-morrow to impose a tax upon every person in Australia, Canada, or the West Indies. Of course, no Parliament would do it, but it shows that the check that would prevent this Parliament, for instance, from going back upon the Premiers’ agreement, would be that if the people outside were opposed to such a course. Parliament would not dare to take it. We clearly reflect the opinions of the people. Parliament is a reflex of the people outside ; members at each election represent the opinions of the electors, and endeavour, as far as they are able, to give effect to them. The things that the British Parliament might do, and does not do, are staggering. Dicey says, on page 76 -
Parliament might legally establish an Episcopal Church in Scotland; Parliament might legally tax the Colonies; Parliament might without any breach of law change the succession to the throne or abolish the monarchy; but every one knows that in the present state of the world the British Parliament will do none of these things.
– The honorable member does not pretend that Dicey knows more about it than the honorable member for Corio?
– Order ! The honorable member for Gwydir has just said that an honorable member of this House is an imbecile. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– I trust the honorable member will not put me in the position of having to prove what he did say. I heard him distinctly use the word, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I did not use the word in the sense that you mentioned.
– I am not aware in what sense the honorable member used it, but I ask him to withdraw it, as it should not be applied! in this Chamber to any honorable member.
– I withdraw the statement, but I am very sorry I have to do it.
– The British Parliament might do any of those things, but does not do them, because, as Dicey points out, there is an internal and external limit to all powers. Those limits are very real and effective. The external limit is determined by the character of the person or body to be affected by the acts of the Parliament, and to whom Parliament is responsible. The other is the nature of Parliament itself. Persons elected to Parliament are necessarily subject to their environment. They have been before the people, have laid their views before them, and realize that they should represent them. It is, therefore, in the last degree improbable that the Commonwealth Parliament would repeal an agreement arrived at between the States and the Commonwealth until such time as the majority of the people throughout Australia wanted it repealed. And will any man say that when the people of the country want it repealed, it ought not to be repealed? No one dare say or ought to say so. Therefore, this infamous attempt to fasten this fetter upon our limbs for all time is inexcusable. I oppose this agreement. It appears to have been conceived under most extraordinary circumstances, which can only be explained by the sinister relations that now exist between the so-called State Rights party and the Fusion Government, whereby nationalism has been deliberately sacrificed on the altars of provincialism. When I say “ provincialism,” I do not refer to the opinion that the States ought not to be shorn of their powers. I mean by “ provincialism “ that settled body of opinion which aims at checking the growing determination of the Commonwealth to tax the wealthier classes. That, and that alone, is the thing by which we are faced. There is a very proper room for difference of opinion as to how far the Commonwealth powers should go. I can conceive of an elector asking himself whether a power should be exercised by the Commonwealth or by a State, and considering the matter in a way which would in no narrow sense be provincial. But a deliberate attempt is being made to fetter the Commonwealth, to prevent us from giving effect to the new Protection, and from fulfilling the fiscal destinies of the country. Rightly or wrongly, we have adopted a protective policy. The champions of Free Trade are, one after another, abandoning even the pretence of opposing Protection, and seek now merely the imposition of revenue duties. So long as the honorable member for Parramatta is in power we shall not have direct taxation. In the Parliament of Victoria, it has been proposed - it may be the mere rattling of a pea in the colander - to tax wealth and monopoly. But here taxes upon tea, sugar and kerosene threaten us. I oppose the proposed agreement because I consider the contribution per head too high. I think that £1 per head is as much as we could give. I oppose it because it is to be permanent, and because of its underlying recognition of our dependence upon the States. I oppose it because, as the Age points out this morning, the powers arrayed in opposition to us have set their face like steel against the new Protection, Wages Boards, and liberal Factory Acts. The honorable member for Parramatta says not only that he is “ as good as a Labour man,” but that he is better, and to show that he is so he sits on the same seat as the ex-president of the Employers’ Federation. To show how closely he is allied with Democracy, he sits cheek by jowl with those whose every attempt has been to choke it.. I see no excuse for making the contribution to the States permanent. We have now the opportunity, for which we have long been sighing, to break free from the constitutional fetters, and acquire control of our revenue. As for putting this question to the people by referendum, I ask the Prime Minister if he will give the people the opportunity to deal by referendum with other questions ? Is he prepared to ask them, not to only accept or reject this agreement, but whether they will accept 25s. or £1 a head, or allow the Commonwealth to take control of the whole of the debts, the States paying each year sufficient to make up the shortage between the interest due and the Commonwealth revenue available for the purpose of paying it ? If not, of what value is his talk about the referendum? The press of this country, with few exceptions, will counsel the people to accept the agreement, and they will sign their death warrant without knowing it. Nine out of ten of those who voted for the draft Constitution thought that they were voting for the abolition of State Parliaments. Were it before them to-day, they would spit upon the provisions relating to equal representation and finance. They see now that Democracy is hampered in every direction, and needs an opportunity to freely express itself. I shall never assent to a matter going before the people unless they are able to do more than follow the advice of the press. They may act foolishly at times, but they rapidly recover their senses. If this agreement is ratified, a year hence the people will wake up to the fact that they have made a mistake, and that not a little one. I hope that the public will not be gulled by the specious talk about a referendum, and the furious desire expressed by the Prime Minister to put the matter before the constituencies. Of the three points to be considered, the first is whether the method of distribution is desirable. I have nothing to. say against a per capita distribution, just as I would have nothing to say should a man with whom I was in partnership propose to divide the funds of the concern between us. But I should ask, “ How much am I going to get?” As to the Council of Finance, it must either be a fraud and a sham, and proposed only as a placard, or it must be absolutely destructive of the agreement. Under the agreement, we shall not have enough money to take over the debts of the States, and to take over only half of them would not do good, but harm, because there would be a Commonwealth stock competing with State stocks. The advantage to be gained by the transfer of the debts is in allowing one Commonwealth stock to be substituted for the State stocks. To make the agreement permanent would be an outrage to which, I hope, Parliament will not agree. I hope that even the most abject of the Ministerialists will make some sort of protest against this. Let the matter be treated as a non-party question, and let the people demand that honorable members shall express themselves regarding it without fear or favour. The Ministry will then be left with but a scattered remnant of its followers, who will cling to it either for something they hope to get, or because their position is so desperate that they dare not emerge from its cover.
.- We have listened to some rather strong deliverances from honorable members opposite, though last night the Leader of the Opposition said that this should be treated as a non-party question. I agree with that observation. This is one of the most important questions with which a Parliament has to deal, and we should approach it as calmly and judicially’ as possible. I do not agree with the honorable gentleman that this is not a critical time in the history of the Commonwealth. It is absolutely necessary to effect an amicable settlement of the financial question. This question was one of the most troublesome when the Constitution was being framed, and since Federation, has occupied the attention of six or more Premiers’ Conferences, and has always been treated in this Parliament as of the gravest importance. Unless it is settled now, there cannot be harmony in the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. Therefore the situation is critical. If we do not settle the matter now amicably, on a basis satisfactory to the Commonwealth and to the States, we shall not have anything approaching true Federation for many years to come. Friction will result. If the people are losing faith in Federation now, they will do so more rapidly in the future.
– They are not losing faith in Federation.
– Some honorable members have declared that the people, if they had the chance, would reject the Constitution.
– They desire unification.
– If something is not done for the settlement of the financial question, and the Parliament seizes upon the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue, we shall practically have unification. But, however beneficial that might be - though personally I regard Federation as preferable - it should be brought about by means which are fair and above board. If we desire unification we should go out to the people and advise them to accept it, and so bring it about by constitutional methods. Even if such a system were better than Federation, we certainly ought not to attempt in an indirect way to break down the Constitution in order to introduce it. To return to the main question, I would remind honorable members that the members of the Federal Convention, and more particularly those who were regarded as financial authorities, were extremely anxious that a settlement should be arrived at whereby the future financial stability of the States would be safeguarded. Even such an ardent Federationist as the late Mr. Kingston strongly held the view that such a settlement should if possible be devised. That was the view he took at the Melbourne sittings of the Convention. The Convention recognised that there were two parties to be considered, and that the Commonwealth would take over one of the chief sources of revenue which the States possessed. It did not know what results the adoption of a uniform tr.riff would produce. It had no data to go upon, but it was felt that the situation demanded the greatest care, and that the utmost forethought was necessary to insure the solvency of the States and the Commonwealth. So critical did the situation become in regard to the question of finance, that the Conventions were almost being dissolved without any definite result. A compromise, however, in the shape of the Braddon section, was ultimately arrived at. It was determined that that provision should remain in existence for ten years, and it was hoped that during that period data would be forthcoming which would enable a more satisfactory settlement of the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth to be made. All this goes to show that the Convention never lost sight of the fact that there were two legislative authorities, each possessing moral claims to fair treatment. Why honorable members should overlook that fact, I fail to understand. If we desire to view this question fairly and impartially, we must give full weight to what was the evident intention of the Convention. No less- an authority than the Age also took up the position at that time that it was absolutely necessary to safeguard the financial stability of the States. On 17th January, 1899, the Age, discussing the information published, that the right honorable member for East Sydney had formally invited the Premier of Queensland to join the Federal Convention, said : -
One of the amendments of the New South Wales Parliament is a repeal of the Braddon blot. Everybody is quite agreeable to see the clause struck out, because it is admittedly a very cumbrous and unworkable one. But there is just as great a consensus of opinion that the reasons which induced the Convention to insert the Braddon clause still render some substitute for it necessary. The point may be stated almost in a sentence. The Colonies, under the Bill, give up in Customs duties their mainstay in revenue. They must have the money back in a practically undiminished form, or local financial chaos would ensue. The Braddon clause compelled the Federal Treasurer to return to the Colonies £3 out of every £± raised in Federal revenue. This was the only guarantee which the provincial Treasurers would have concerning the sources of their own revenue. The provision was about as clumsy as can be imagined, but the guarantee contained in it, such as it is, must be maintained in some better shape, or else the Federal Constitution would leave the Colonies mere helpless hangers-on of the Federation, dependent on the nation month by month for their solvency. Such a situation would be a blow at “State Rights” more staggering than anything suggested in any other quarter.
– Was that statement published by the Age?
– It was published by the Age at a time when its true mind, so to speak, on this question could be correctly gauged. It agreed with the view I have just expressed. It rightly pointed out that the States depended largely for their revenue upon Customs and Excise, and that the Commonwealth, in ‘taking over that source of income, must give, some guarantee for their future solvency. That is what we are asking for in this agreement, and I may say at once that I regard the agreement as a fair one. In another article dealing with the Convention Bill as adopted by the Premiers’ Conference, the Age, on 4th February, 1899, made the following statement : -
The retention of the Braddon clause is clearly the result of this feeling, for they confess they only retained it because, after giving full consideration to the objections that have been urged against it, they could find nothing better to put in its place, unless the whole financial question is reopened and a fresh start made with it. If the Federation-at-any-price party had been given their way it would have been simply dropped altogether, and the Treasurers of the various States would have been left at the mercy of a dominant Assembly over which they had no control for their revenue. The hysterical cry of the Trust-the-Federal-Parliament has, fortunately, been shrieked into the ears of the Conference in vain.
These are telling quotations, and go to the root of the matter. Another reason why the financial question should be settled now, and settled upon a fair basis, is to be found in what may be described as the history of Federal expenditure. The statistics show that the Federal expenditure in 1901. which covered really only a six months’ period, amounted to £1,296,0 -53. In 1901-2 it was £3,932,746, and it increased year by year, until in 1907-8 it had reached the large sum of £6,162,129. In his Budget statement last month, the Treasurer estimated that the expenditure for the current year would be well over £7,000,000. Surely, if we think that the States have a right to participate in the receipts from Customs and Excise, it is time that we began to place them on a sound and definite footing. Year by year, we are dipping more and more into the fund from which the States are supposed to obtain a large proportion of their revenue, and we have reached a point in our history when the Federation must take the responsibility of financing its own projects. When the Commonwealth was established, no one imagined that by 1910 the Federal expenditure would have reached its present enormous proportions. The position from the point of view of the States each year becomes more critical. We have many large projects in front of us, and it is unreasonable to assume that they can be financed out of revenue. If they are to be undertaken, we must look them fairly and squarely in the face. Instead of taking out of revenue for these projects, year after year, a few hundreds of thousands of pounds - sums which may not seem large compared with the great undertakings that we have in view, but mean a great deal, to some of the smaller States - we should prepare to finance our own projects, and to take the responsibility for them. The Treasurer must look at this matter fairly and tell the House what his borrowing policy is going to be. We have undoubtedly reached the time .when such a policy must be initiated.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I was saying that, in my opinion, the time has come for the Commonwealth to inaugurate a loan policy - that a Commonwealth like this should be prepared to finance its own projects, and not, year by year, dip into the surplus that is returnable to the States. We have large undertakings looming in the near future, including important railway construction, the taking over of the Northern Territory, and the Federal Capital, and so forth, and some of these works are of a permanent character. The only feasible method is to borrow ; and, if we go about the matter in a businesslike way, the borrowing will not be a matter of much concern, seeing that we shall have good assets. It is time the Treasurer took a stand, in order to show the States that he means to do his duty to them ; and this would tend to establish that confidence which the Federal Parliament ought to command. I hope, of course, that in any borrowing the Treasurer will exercise business caution ; and that, if there be works urgently necessary in the Post and Telegraph Department, and £2,000.000 or £3,000,000 is required for them, he will see that the loan is short-dated, with a good sinking fund, so that the indebtedness may be cleared off, at any rate, within the’ life of the works.
– We have been talking of sinking funds for half a century !
– We have not as yet borrowed as a Commonwealth, and we have plenty of time before us.
– There are sinking funds established in one State.
– Sinking funds have, I believe, been established in Western Australia. In the case of a great railway, for instance, especially if it is to be of a reproductive character, there is no need for a sinking fund, or, at any rate, the annual contributions may be very small and spread over many years. In fifty years’ time the railways in some of the States will be of infinitely greater value than they are today; and, in fact, there is hardly a more striking fact in colonial history than the magnificent results of the policy of borrowing. Some thirty or forty years ago our borrowings were small, but we have since borrowed with much greater freedom, and the amount borrowed, as compared with our assets and the progress we have made, show that good business qualities have been exercised in this regard. No doubt, in some of the States, and my own especially, there arc “white elephants,” and log-rolling may have been frequent; but, as a whole, the results of our borrowing are highly creditable. Has the time come when the borrowing policy should be nipped in the bud, and Australia cease to develop her great resources? It would appear that we were becoming a little afraid of our future; but surely our resources will bear inspection, and, if judiciously developed, will provide handsomely all the interest and sinking fund contributions necessary. At any rate, I hope the Treasurer will show that the Federation is prepared to finance its own projects, and so avoid throwing the onus of raising additional taxation on the State Treasurers. As to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, I find that this year there is a deficiency of over £1,800,000. Against that we have in the trust fund for old-age pensions over £600,000, leaving .a net deficiency of £1,200,000. This deficiency, we are told, is greatly due to the fact that we have to pay old-age pensions; and, seeing that the States are practically giving £600,000 under the agreement towards that expenditure
– And are being relieved of a liability of £900,000 !
– Yes, but after this year the States will practically give up more than the equivalent in the amount they are receiving under the present system. However, I do not wish to press the point, but merely say that, seeing that this Parliament imposed the necessity for the payment of old-age pensions, the States are doing as much as can be expected of them. Old-age pensions are intimately connected, not only with the agreement, but with the whole scheme of finance. It is over twelve months since the Old-age Pensions Act was passed, and we immediately started a trust fund, which’, as I say, now amounts to over £600,000. If it has taken us so long to collect £600,000, and we have to pay annually at least £1,500,000, old-age pensions will undoubtedly tax the financial ability of the Treasurer of the day. While I agree with the principle of old-age pensions, and hold that we ought to see there is no privation on the part of the man who has worked hard, and, perhaps, reared a creditable family, while, owing to one circumstance or another, he has been unable to lay something by for his old age, the fact remains that the Commonwealth has to raise a certain amount of money. Old-age pensions are established in nearly all civilized countries; and I am glad to say that our scheme stands well to the front for liberality. But we must sooner or later follow the example of other communities, and call on the people to make some contribution towards a special fund. In Germany there is a system which is much belauded, and which, so far as one can judge from reading, is giving great satisfaction. There the object is to encourage thrift ; and the people are divided into various classes, and called upon to contribute, according to ability, towards an insura nee fund. The German Government pav a subsidy of £2 10s. for each person entitled, and the other contributions to the fund are divided between employer and employe, the former being allowed to deduct the necessary amount from wages. Under our Act we could not have such a scheme, because we have decided to pay pensions of 10s. a week, without calling for any contribution, but it seems to me that some step must be taken in that direction. I suggest that every member of the community should be called upon to contribute according to ability, and only those who, under our present system-, are entitled to pensions should receive th’em. It is only fair that society should levy from those who can afford to pay it a contribution for the assistance of those who cannot maintain themselves in their old age. If we had such a scheme - and it is not so visionary or impracticable as might be thought from a superficial view - it would be very easy to collect the money, particularly in the cities. Every head of a factory could pay the contributions that would be levied upon- his employes, and, at the end of certain periods, he could deduct the amounts from their wages. We should all pay our fair share towards the fund, and no very large subsidy would be required from the Federal Parliament to make up the amount required to pay the pensions of those entitled under the Act. Such a system would be beneficial, because it would encourage thrift. It would be an antidote to the defect in the present scheme, which means the sapping of self reliance in the people, and, when the person entitled to a pension came to draw it, there would be attached to it none of the stigma attaching to a charitable dole. It would be to every man the reward of his own thrift, and he would feel that he was entitled to it. It would also bring home the fact that each and all of us ought to be prepared to provide for the needy. It would give the people generally an idea of what taxation was; whereas, as things are now, some people pay very little taxation, take no interest in affairs of State, and have no knowledge of how government is conducted. If a scheme of that sort turned their minds to those subjects, I am sure that great benefit would ensue. We could issue stamps, so that when 1 man paid his contribution he would get a receipt stamp affixed to his book, and, unless he could show that, or was good on the books, a pension need not be granted to him. If I were framing a scheme of that sort, I should provide for exemption certificates for persons who were so poor that they could not contribute, who, if otherwise entitled when they reached the age, should certainly be entitled ‘to receive a pension. Both that subject and the matter of borrowing might well be recommended to the attention of the Treasurer at this period of our history. The question of insuring against unemployment is a kindred idea to the one which I have just been elaborating. I am- sure it is feasible, and I believe a practicable scheme that will meet the difficulty could soon be evolved. I come now a little more directly to the agreement which is before the House. I am glad to see that in the first clause it is set out that the agreement is 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, for the establishment of one Australian stock. I am pleased to know that the parties to the agreement have thrown their minds back to the time when Federation was inaugurated, and endeavoured to place before the country a scheme based on the true intentions with which the States entered into Federation. According to the second clause, the arrangement is that j£i 5s. per annum per head of the population, according to the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, shall be paid to the States by the Commonwealth. In that the Commonwealth wisely does not limit itself to Customs and Excise revenue. All it has to do is to provide for the States j£i 5s. per head of the population. That, of course, is to be a first charge upon the revenues of the Commonwealth, but is not limited to Customs and Excise. I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to several passages in a speech delivered by the late Mr. Kingston, at the Melbourne Federal Convention, in 1898. On page 863 of volume 1 of the Debates, he is reported to have said -
I am one of those who in all things necessary are prepared to trust to the uttermost the Federal Parliament, but I have some little doubt as to whether the amount of confidence which we are asked to repose in the Federal Parliament in this matter is necessary in the national interest. I am sure of this, that it is altogether against the provincial interests that it should be so reposed if it is not necessary, and for this reason : It makes the financial condition of the provinces absolutely depend on the’ good-will of the Federal Parliament, and that means the good-will of the Federal Treasurer. It places the question of the solvency or insolvency of the States absolutely at the mercy of the Federal Parliament.
On page 866 of the same volume, these words are recorded -
I do not know that any Federal Executive should, for all time, be placed in the position of having the power to decide on the solvency or insolvency of the States. Having this surplus of four or five million pounds, increasing in the natural order of things, for distribution amongst the States at their own will, and subject to no restriction, I am almost inclined to think that it would be better to provide that at some period, at the least, a per capita distribution should be insisted on.
Those remarks, uttered by Mr. Kingston at the proper time from which to gauge the intention of the framers of the Constitution, are worthy of the most careful consideration by the House. If we are to take an impartial view of this question - and the Leader of the Labour party has invited us to regard it as a non-party question - we cannot pass those sentences by without due respect.
– No nationalist objectsto a per capita basis.
– Then I should likefo know what the honorable member does object to in this agreement.
– The permanency.
– In the very debate from which I have quoted the late Mr. Kingston was very clear upon the point that there ought to be a permanent protection for the States. He recognised that they were parties to the whole Federal bargain.
– He spoke on that occasion in the pre-Federation days.
– It was when the delegates to the Convention met to frame the Constitution - a time that should be regarded as very vital in our consideration of this question if we are to do it justice. I do not think that anybody can object to the amount which the Government propose to return to the States per capita as too much. If the States could only have agreed to some definite per capita basis, as they did at Hobart last year, they would, two or three years ago, have received a very much larger per capita return from the Commonwealth than they are now able to secure. Some years ago, in some articles in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, T think, speaking from memory, it was worker? out that the States ought to receive about- £2 per head, and Mr. Johnston, the Tasmanian Statistician, also put the amount much above 25s. I am positive that i f the States could have agreed amongst themselves two or three years ago, and settled. the matter there and then with the Federal authorities, they would have received a larger amount than they are now prepared to take. I do not think that 25s. per head is enough to give the States. I should like to see the amount higher, because the Federation could stand it. If, for example, it were 5s. higher, it would mean giving back to the States, roughly, £1, 000,000 more. Seeing that we are about to be committed to the expenditure of millions, and are going in for a. loan policy, what is a million in that matter to us? But a million spread over the services of the States might keep the ledger straight in some of the small States. If the States suffer, the Federation suffers. It is the same people that are being dealt with, and it is to our interests to maintain the solvency of the States. Honorable members ought to study table 4 on page 7 of the papers circulated by the Treasurer in connexion with the agreement. It appears from it that in the year 1910-11, under Sir George Turner’s scheme, propounded at Hobart in 1905, the States would have received more. They would have received £8,041,850. Under the present proposal, the States will receive £5,668,750; so that the Commonwealth gains £2,373,100. Similar results would have flowed from the acceptance of the Treasurer’s scheme; while, had that of the honorable member for Hume been adopted, the Commonwealth would have gained £331, 251 more than they will now. Under the scheme propounded by the Premiers at Hobart, in 1909, the Commonwealth would pay to the States in 1910-11 £1,081,250 more than it will under the present scheme. The gain to the Commonwealth under the agreement will be a continuing one. No one who wishes to treat the States fairly will object to their receiving 25s. per head of population. Any one who would do so would be prepared to see the Commonwealth, at the end of 19 10, seize the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue, leaving the States to provide for the interest on their debts as best they might.
– How is the Commonwealth to obtain the revenue necessary to pay the contribution to the States ? Is it to borrow ?
– During the past nine years, we have been paying the States £2, 000.000 a year more than we shall have to pay them under the agreement, and have had no difficulty in finding the money.
– It is proposed to borrow to pay old-age pensions.
– That remark is more reckless than accurate. Old-age pensions will be financed by the States giving up a certain amount of revenue. I have roughly outlined a scheme for their payment. No trouble about finding the money is to be anticipated at present, but there may be trouble in the future, when we have great public works for developmental purposes to pay for as well. If we carry out any large part of the programme which has been outlined for us, we shall require special contributions to provide for the payment of old-age pensions. I am glad that the per capita system of distribution has been adopted. The credit for this must be given to the Government Statistician of Tasmania, who worked out a scheme for meeting the present difficulties and avoiding future troubles, which is better than any other yet proposed. Parliament owes a debt to that gentleman for his practical and businesslike proposal. It is strange that two Tasmanians are so prominently associated with the settlement of the financial difficulties of the Commonwealth. The name of the late Sir Edward Braddon will go down to history in association with the section of the Constitution to which it is so often applied. Although that section was adversely criticised at the time of its proposal as clumsy and unworkable, those who so condemned it have since pronounced it to be, not a blot on the Constitution, but a blessing.
– Some of the members of the Convention say that the late Sir Frederick Holder originated the proposal.
– At any rate, Sir Edward Braddon moved the insertion of the provision in the draft Constitution.It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and perhaps the necessitous condition of Tasmanian finance is the reason why two Tasmanians have beenso prominent in this regard. Ever since Federation, the Treasurers of the smaller States have had an anxious time. One reason why we should adopt the agreement is that the States have at least 87 per cent. of the functions of Government to perform. On them devolves the expense of developmental works of all kinds, including the construction of railwavs,and the opening up and maintenance of roads. A young country cannot expect to attract immigrants unless its resources are developed.
– The States have the assets on which they have borrowed.
– Without revenue they cannot pay the interest for which they are liable.
– The position Has been caused by their bad management.
– In my opinion, that is not so. Even a financier like the honorable member would have found it impossible to repay, in ten years, debts amounting to £240,000,000. The arrangement provided for in the agreement will work automatically, and will make it unnecessary for the Commonwealth to raise four times as much revenue as she may need for any particular project. It will also enable the odious bookkeeping system to be discontinued. The Constitution provided that this system should remain in force for five years ; but, after nine years, it has not been abolished. It is the smaller States which suffered most from this un-Federal and unscientific arrangement. Although the States are credited with Customs and Excise revenue on the basis’ of their consumption, they are charged for Commonwealth public works on a per capita basis. Tasmania and Queensland, being small consumers, receive only a small part of the Customs and Excise revenue, but have to contribute per capita for big works in other States from which they get little or no benefit, direct or indirect. The proposed arrangement will guarantee the position of the States, enabling the Commonwealth to know what it must raise each year, and the States to know what they will receive. Hitherto, the State Treasurers have been unable to present their Budgets until the Commonwealth Treasurer has made his statement, and it will be of great advantage to both parties to have a definite and fixed arrangement. It was proposed, in the first instance, that the Braddon section should be perpetual; that the States should receive from the Commonwealth, for all time, three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue. Recognising the necessities of the Commonwealth, the States are now prepared to take a much smaller sum, and it is our duty tomeet them fairly and honorably. The fact that the framers of the Constitution were exceedingly anxious that the States should receive a fair proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue is emphasized by the provision which they made for the special treatment of Western Australia, and I am glad that this agreement proposes to continue that special treatment.
– Western Australia has lost more than she has gained.
– I know that she has lost a great deal.
– And under this agreement Western Australia will be paying £50,000 towards the cost of old-age pensions in other States.
– Western Australia, perhaps, has made as great a sacrifice as has any State in joining the Union. The provision in the agreement providing for the special treatment of that State to the extent of £250,000 shows that, even if its sacrifice was not recognised to the full extent, it has, at least, been recognised in part. The Premier of Western Australia has accepted the agreement as it stands, and its representatives in this House should not hesitate to follow so excellent a lead. At page 8 of the Memorandum which has been circulated, there appears a table comparing the estimated amounts payable to the States in the year 1910-11 under this agreement with the interest on their public debt as at 30th June, 1908. It shows that under this agreement the deficiency to be provided by the States will be as follows: - New South Wales, £1,066,519; Victoria, £370,053; Queensland, , £884,033; South Australia, £599,896; Western Australia, £113,041; Tasmania, £137,403; or a total deficiency of £3,170,945. Viewing the circumstances fairly, we must recognise that the States are proposing to do all that could be expected of them. Whilst I hold that the per capita system of distribution is the right one to adopt, I do not think that the amount proposed to be returned to the States is as large as they are entitled to receive.
– So far as the present is concerned, I agree with the honorable member.
– But for the fact that the 25s. per head is to be paid for all time I should not be prepared to accept this part of the agreement. I am forced to the conclusion that every time a scheme has been brought forward for the settlement of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States the tendency has been to diminish the amount proposed to be returned to the States, and that if I do not accept this arrangement, and the whole question is once more re-opened, the States may not receive as much as it is now proposed to return to them. The State Premiers have closely studied the question; they know the necessities of their finances better than I do; their Treasurers are prepared to accept the payment of 25s. per head of their population, and therefore they must regard it as satisfactory. In all other respects I am heartily in accord with the agreement, and hope to see it become law. I have heard, with some surprise, the objections raised to it by honorable members of the Opposition. In April last year the Brisbane Labour Conference propounded a scheme which closely resembles that which we are now asked to adopt. It provided for a return to the States of something like 24s. per head of their population. The per capita system of distribution was adopted, and yet we find in the Labour party in this House some of the strongest opponents to the agreement now before us. Had the Labour Government remained in office, would they have dared at the next general election to advocate any financial settlement other than that adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference? I think not. That scheme was not included in the programme of the Federal Labour party, otherwise they would have been compelled to accept it.
– It was not proposed that that scheme should be a permanent one. It was to be a temporary arrangement.
– One of its strongest advocates was Mr. Holman.
– A State Righter like the honorable member.
- Mr. Holman would be an ornament to the Opposition. He claimed that the great merit of the Brisbane Labour Conference scheme was that it provided for the future, whereas the defect in that propounded by the honorable member for Hume was that it did not provide for the fair treatment of the States in the future. Will the honorable member for Melbourne Ports say that the honorable member for South Sydney is another smallminded State Righter? I would remind him that the honorable member evidently thought that the Brisbane Labour Conference was asking too much from the States, because he said that it would be a bit of a wrench for them to have to give up £2.700,000.
– He said also that he did not care whether or not the State debts were transferred.
– The Leader of the Opposition last night sought to make a great deal of capital out of the fact that this agreement does not provide for the transfer of the State debts. But the members of the Brisbane Labour Conference, who carried the Labour scheme, said it would be impracticable at present to deal jointly with the distribution of revenue and the transfer of the debts. The Opposition, to my mind, have no basis for their objections, and if they are true to the majority in their ranks, they will be found heartily supporting this measure. When on the platform they invariably take up the attitude that they vote according to principle, and that it is only their opponents who have any time-serving objects in view. Yet in connexion with what is undoubtedly one of the most important questions that could engage our attention, we find them absolutely opposed to what, in reality, they believe in. That alone should make the waverers on this side of the House, if there are any, determine to support this agreement. This is a Federal scheme in that it provides for a per capita distribution of revenue so that all the States will be treated alike, and in the main it is based on justice. The larger States, and particularly New South Wales, will be called upon under it to make considerable sacrifices. But New South Wales may well take into account the fact that the bookkeeping system has been in operation for about four years longer than was intended. The Premier of that State is taking up a magnanimous position, recognising that as a giveandtake policy must be adopted, the larger States should be prepared to make some concessions to the smaller ones. The smaller States are giving up much, because,, as I have shown, they are not likely to receive, under the proposal, nearly as much as they are receiving under the Braddon section. Queensland is a sufferer under the return upon a consumption basis, but no State suffers more than my own. I have no desire to indulge in any special pleading, or to ask for charity ; but, watching the progress of matters closely for the last two or three years, it seems to me that honorable members do not really appreciate the position of Tasmania.
– I know no State that has been more efficiently represented than has Tasmania in regard to grievances.
– I do not wish to appear as ventilating grievances, but merely as presenting a few facts, and asking for simple justice. However accurately honorable members may gauge conditions in other States, they do not seem to quite grasp the Tasmanian position. That State has given up a larger proportion than almost any other State of the revenues she relied on before Federation. In the year before the Commonwealth was inaugurated, Tasmania collected £492,000 through Customs and Excise, and has since not received anything like that amount as her share.
– Does that not mean that the people of Tasmania are taxed less?
– That is a pertinent question ; and the fact, to a certain extent, does mean that the money remains in the pockets of the people, although not to the extent that it should. Tasmania has largely increased her imports from Victoria, New South Wales, and the other States, and, though we do not object to that, the fact has been detrimental to her revenue. For the articles imported, in certain lines we pay as much as we did when they came from abroad, duty added, and, while revenue is lost, the money is in the pockets of neither the purchaser nor the Treasury. I also remind honorable members that, since Federation, Tasmania has increased her direct taxation far more than has an) other State. At the time of Federation, the direct taxation in Tasmania was about 13s. per head, whereas it is now 29s. per head.
– It is 30s. per head.
– I shall take it at 29s. ; and from that source, at the time of Federation, the State raised £111,557, as compared with £276,450 to-day. Honorable members will begin to see how serious the position of Tasmania is, especially when it is remembered that most of the sources of revenue there have been pretty well taxed. As I have already said, Queensland suffers much in the same way, though that State has large resources yet untouched to fall back upon. In addition, Tasmania has the heaviest land tax of all the States, so that even £20,000 or £30,000 means a good deal to her at the present time; indeed it may mean all the difference in the balancing of the ledger. Tasmania ought to receive at least what is proposed, and, if she has to develop her resources and attract intending settlers, a great deal more. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports seems to think I am not putting the case from the stand-point of the Brisbane Labour Conference quite fairly; but I remind him that the honorable member for West Sydney urged, as the merit of the scheme of that Conference, that it was for all time. Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition said quite the opposite next day, but I suppose these little differences must occur in the best regulated families.
– Who is right?
– I have read the report of the Conference, and, judging from those who chiefly spoke, I think the honorable member for West Sydney is right. Some people object to the permanent arrangement, but there are two parties to the agreement; and, even in an ordinary land transaction, we cannot expect one party to hand over all the security and trust to the honour of the other. Is it not right that the States should have some security ? And what security is there that the Federation will carry out the arrangement in the spirit and for the time contemplated, unless it is embodied in the Constitution? It is only fair, if we are in earnest, that we should be prepared to give every security. If the arrangement is not satisfactory the Constitution may be amended ; and surely the people may be trusted ? In twenty or thirty years the Commonwealth may be reaping a huge revenue, and the people will then know how best to deal with the position. I believe that a great deal can be done by means of this agreement to establish harmonious relations between the Commonwealth and the States, seeing that each will be independent in their finances, and thus many causes of friction will be removed. Another fact that makes’ for better feeling is that now, for the first time, we have a Government that may be said to be fairly representative of the people; and the State and Commonwealth authorities at the last Conference have, I think, surpassed all efforts in this direction. Their relations are more amicable than ever before, and points have been settled which, in the past, have caused great difference of opinion. I am satisfied that if the Federation and the States act to each other as they should, the people may well be trusted to look after their financial arrangements when the time comes for a change. At any Tate, we have no right to ask or expect the States to accept the arrangement without a guarantee of our good faith. It is an arrangement that can be well recommended to the people. It has been adopted by the Premiers and by the present Government, and, if the Government only stand firm, they will carry the country with them. The agreement will appeal to the people, who, as a. rule, are pretty keen in money matters, especially when they can grasp the fact that that issue is involved. Those who support the Federal union as against unification, will regard the arrangement as founded on justice, and I think I cannot say more in its favour than the Age has already said. I am not referring now to what that newspaper has been saying during the last few days, but what it said when it viewed . this matter from a truly national and not a provincial point of view. On the 6th September of this year, speaking of the agreement, the Age said -
In the second place, it proposes to take away from the Commonwealth Parliament a power which it now possesses of dealing with the Customs revenue as its best judgment may decide. That is a very valuable power, deliberately invested in the Commonwealth by the people in a Referendum. There is no reason on earth why that power should be taken away from the Commonwealth,
According to the earlier quotations I gave from the same weighty journal, it seemed to take the view that there was no reason why a permanent power should be given under the Constitution as against the States. However, I think honorable members will gain a little enlightenment as to the position if they compare this quotation with those I previously used. or why the people should be asked to take it away. That a Commonwealth Government, for mere party ends, should ask the people to contract the legislative power of the Commonwealth is an act of Federal perfidy so heinous that every true friend of the National Parliament should rise up and denounce it to the people. It is a wanton proposal of the State Rights party to belittle the National Parliament and to exalt the power and cause of the States. It is not too much to say that should Mr. Deakin ever seriously press upon Parliament this iniquity against the Commonwealth Constitution, he will rue the day.
That is one side of the picture. Now let me refer to a time when the Age could be regarded as speaking just as impartially - s it can be to-day - a time when the question of Federation ‘was being fought out and the Constitution was being evolved at the Convention. In its issue of 7th November, 1898, the Age used these words -
We are told that we may safely leave our fate to the Federal Parliament to determine, but we should be disregarding the lessons of experience if we did. When the Canadian Constitution was being made, its authors faced the difficulty in a very different spirit. They saw the necessity of safeguarding the revenues of the various States, and met it by allotting them a per capita grant out of the Federal Treasury for all time.
– - I should like to compliment the honorable member for Wilmot on the speech which he has just delivered. My leader said that this was not a party question, but insinuations have been thrown out that we nevertheless would make it so. I agree that it is not a party question, and can prove it by the opinions of people outside, by the real views of those on the other side, and by the opinions of members of the party to which I belong, who are in the State Parliaments. In our movement we have many men who think that this is a good agreement. In it there are men who are not national in spirit, but who are just as much State Righters and just as provincial as are many honorable members opposite and those who support them outside. So far from being a party question, the issue is really as between the broad national franchise upon which both Houses of the Federal Parliament are elected and the franchise which returns the Lower and Upper Houses of the States. If there is a. fight, it is based on that difference, and is not among the people themselves. Very, few of the people understand the question. The fight is really a political one, in which there are engaged those who are sitting on the Ministerial side in this House, together with those who hold the reins of power in the State Houses, on the one side, and on the other those who are actuated by the true national sentiment. The Federal and State Governments and their supporters have agreed to sink their differences at the next elections and to stand side by side to fight the Labour movement for all they are worth. That is the true position. To show that the question itself is not a party one, I know that in my constituency there are men who have never voted and never will vote for me, or for anybody in the Labour movement, but who are as strongly opposed to the agreement as I am myself. On the other hand, there are men whowill vote for me, but who are in favour of the agreement. The question is simply made a party one for political purposes inboth the Federal and State Parliaments.
– It cannot be made a party question, since, as the honorable member says, it has to go to the people apart frompa’rty.
– What the PrimeMinister says would be perfectly true if the people as a whole understood the question ; but he knows, as well as I do, that it is a complex one, which, not being trained” in finance, the great bulk of the people cannot understand. The only opportunity which they will have of hearing it explained will be by listening at the next election to candidates who will place before them views and opinions from their own political stand-points, and by reading the newspapers. It is evident up to the present that all the leading newspapers of Australia except one have taken the provincial and not the national attitude. I do not know whether that one will maintain its present stand.
– Some of the others have wobbled on it.
– That may be,but perhaps, with a view to being on the side of what they think is the stronger party, they will still keep to the opinions which they are expressing now. I and other Victorian members have been charged in this Chamber with being under the domination of the Age, so that anything I may say regarding that newspaper may be laughed at ; but I would point out that the Age has now taken a stand in opposition to men whom it has supported for years in Victorian political life. No one, however, can say whether it will be brave and consistent enough to maintain its present attitude until after the next election. I hope it will, for then we shall have an opportunity of placing the true position at least before the people of Victoria. The question can be made a party one only by politicians. It is not a case of how the people will regard it, but of how politicians and newspapers will present it to them. That is what I am afraid of, for I fear that the outcome will be baneful, not to the Federal or State Parliaments, but to the national life of the Commonwealth. I shall be glad to obtain leave to continue my remarks on a future date.
Leave- granted ; debate adjourned.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to inform honorable members that the first business taken on Tuesday will be that of supply for one month, which has become necessary.
.- The honorable member for Yarra has asked the
Treasurer to cause a statement to be prepared showing the Customs and Exciserevenue for five years prior to Federation in the case, I think, of Victoria and South Australia only. Will he be kind enough to have all the States included in that return ?
– I shall be glad to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090910_reps_3_51/>.