3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Wanstead and South Belmore Letter Delivery - Peakhurst Telephone
asked the Postmaster. General, upon notice -
– The answersto the honorable member’s questions are -
It is not known that great inconvenience is caused residents of Wanstead through non-delivery by letter-carrier, as residents already enjoy the convenience of two deliveries daily from the Marrickville Post-office; one completed about 10.30 in the forenoon, and the ether at 5 in the afternoon. Complaints were made of late delivery, and the matter was investigated and improvements were effected in the mail arrangements, with the result that residents of Marrickville and Wansteadnow receive their correspondence much earlier. Provision has been made in the Estimates for the appointment of an additional letter-carrier, which will enable an additional beat to be created and still earlier delivery effected. With regard to South Belmore, portions of this locality are now served once daily, . viz., in the forenoon by letter-carrier attached to the Canterbury office. A petition was presented by certain residents of Canary-road,South Belmore, on the18th February last, requesting postal delivery by letter-carrier. An inspector visited the locality and made inquiries and found that to grant the request, and also serve other portions of the locality, it would be necessary to appoint an additional letter-carrier, provisions for which -has been made on the 1909-10 Estimates. When this is done, the present delivery will be extended, and Mr. E. Faulkner and other residents within half a mile of the present boundary will be served by lettercarrier every forenoon.
The proposal re Peakhurst cannot be carried out under present conditions, and it will be necessary, in order to grant’ the facility asked for, to erect about 2¼ miles of metallic circuit line on existingpoles between Kogarah and Hurstville, and before incurring this expenditure, it will be necessary to ascertain whether the special circumstances of the case justify it, and whether arrangements can be made for a person to attend to the instrument at night and on Sunday. This matter, and also the granting of similar concessions to other telephones in the Illawarra suburban districts, is now being inquired into. Full consideration will be given to the matter on completion of the inquiries referred to.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member, I beg to state -
Payment at Post Offices.
Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the inability of pensioners resident in scattered parts of country districts to reach post-offices where pensions are now payable, will he extend the number of such offices and make it possible for pensions to be remitted to persons not within reach of same?
– If any specific cases are brought under notice, the Commissioner will be glad to do his best to so arrange.
asked the Treasurer,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Such changes to meet the convenience of pensioners are frequently made.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Director of Defence Organization.
Organization and plans of concentration for war. Defence schemes for the Commonwealth.
Strategical and Tactical Reconnaissances.
Director of Military Training.
Training and instruction of all arms. Education and examination for promotion of officers. Arrangement of classes of instruction. Conduct of examination of officers for Staff College, and for appointment to Permanent Forces. Schemes for manoeuvres and staff rides. Drill books and training manuals. Advice upon the acquisition of training grounds and ranges. Advice upon the allotment of funds for training and manoeuvres.
Director of Intelligence.
Intelligence. Preparation and issue of maps. Head-quarters library.
Officers of the Commonwealth Section of the’ Imperial General Staff will, under the respective Commandants, carry out the duties in districts, corresponding to those laid down for the Commonwealth Section of the Imperial General Staff at Head-quarters.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is : - 1, 2, and 3. Yes, and also to the further statements appearing to-day to the effect that land has been found for the Russian farmers referred to; part of an area the remainder of which is still open for other settlers. The Commonwealth advertisements contain no statements regarding land except on the authority of information supplied by the State Government.
– - On 3rd August, the honorable member for Moreton, speaking upon the motion for the adjournment of the House, drew attention to a paragraph reprinted in the Brisbane Daily Mail from a Sydney newspaper, in which it was stated that a traveller in South Africa had seen a number of small crosses, with the inscription, “ Here lies a British Soldier,” piled up against the side of a smithy, neai the burial-ground, and was informed, on inquiry, that they were sent to South Africa by the Australian Government, to be placed at the heads of the graves. The editor of the Daily Mail was asked for further particulars, but did not reply. 4. letter has now been received from Mrs. R. Campbell McEwan, the honorary graves secretary of the Guild of the Loyal Women of South Africa, with extracts from the Rand Daily Mail in explanation, which is, briefly, as follows:’ - After the conclusion of hostilities, the Guild of Loyal Women called for tenders for the erection of iron crosses over the graves of those who fell on the British side during the war. The tender of Mr. J. Mallet, of Krugersdorpwas accepted. The Government of New South Wales sent ^150 to the Guild for erecting monuments on the graves of the thirty men from New South Wales buried in the Transvaal. These were made, with the’ inscription-, “ Erected by the Government of New South Wales,” and sent to the different parts for erection - six to Middleburg, where there was some delayin carrying out the work. The officer commanding the Royal Engineers of that district, seeing that some of the graves in the cemetery had no crosses - though these were all ready in the stores - determined that every grave should have a cross before the military left the place, and had them made, and put up. This resulted in 83 crosses being returned to the contractor, Mr. Mallet, for storing. It has now been decided that the six crosses provided by’ the Government of New South Wales shall be erected on the graves for which they were intended, in addition to the cross erected by the military. It is stated by Lt. -Colonel Bottomley, of Krugersdorp, that he did not believe there was a single Australian’s grave in South Africa over which some memorial had not been placed. He said that the Guild had done excellent work in keeping the graves iri order - work for which they deserved credit and encouragement. He also added that the duplications which had occurred might have arisen, owing to clerical errors, but that any suggestion of neglect could not be justified.
– I’ move -
That this House dissents from the ruling of Mr. Speaker, that the motion of the Prime Minister for the suspension of the Standing Orders was a motion within the meaning of Standing Orders 407 and 409.
I regard your decision of yesterday, sir, as most important, and, if you will permit me to say so, as quite wrong. I do not know whether you realized to what extent the existence of the House as a deliberative body is dependent upon the Standing Orders. Without them, orderly procedure and the proper conduct of debate are impossible. Standing orders are essential to the representation of minorities ; and all Legislatures have recognised this. In the end, of course, the majority must rule. I take no exception to that. A minority has its rights, but these must have their limits ; public business must be proceeded with, and a minority must in the end give way to the majority. But the suspension of the Standing Orders is only to be justified by special circumstances, just as the suspension of the civil law and the substitution of military rule is justified only in times of emergency. We know that when a disturbed state of public affairs has existed in Ireland and elsewhere it has sometimes been found necessary to suspend the habeas corpus, to substitute a military for the civil tribunal, and practically to deprive citizens of the charter of their liberties. But that course has never been adopted - except when the state of public affairs was so disturbed as to make its adoption imperative - without the reasons for so grave a step being clearly put forward, or, at any rate, a colourable attempt made to justify the proposed action. Standing order 407 reads -
In cases of urgent necessity, any standing or sessional order or orders of the House may be suspended for the day’s sitting, on motion, duly moved and seconded, without notice; provided that such motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of the members of the House.
I maintain that that standing order bears the same relation to our Parliamentary procedure as section 128 of the Constitution bears to the Constitution itself. Whereas all laws other than those specified in that section of the Constitution, may be passed by an ordinary majority, the laws in question require the assent of an absolute majority of this House. Similarly, a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders without notice must, in accordance with standing order 407, be carried by an absolute majority of the whole of the members of the House. What do we gather from the exposition of that condition? That the suspension of the Standing Orders without notice should be resorted to only under the rarest circumstances, and when the necessity for so doing has been clearly established. What was the position yesterday? I cannot recall a set of circumstances which displayed fewer of the conditions necessary
– There is a good deal of conversation going on in the Chamber, so that it is almost impossible for me to hear what is being said, and, of course, the matter under consideration is one in which the Chair is vitally interested. I wish also to direct the attention of the honorable member for West Sydney to the fact that he must confine his remarks to the ruling which I gave yesterday and to reasons why that ruling should be dissented from. The circumstances which led up to it have nothing whatever to do with the ruling itself. My decision was based upon the standing order, and the honorable member is therefore entitled to deal with that standing order and with any other standing order which affects my ruling, but he is not entitled to deal with matters which have no bearing at all upon that ruling.
– I shall endeavour to confine my remarks to the limits you have suggested. It is quite impossible, however, to avoid making incidental reference to the circumstances connected with the suspension of the Standing Orders yesterday. The circumstances for which it was sought to suspend those orders had none of the elements of urgency about them. A proposal to suspend the Standing Orders was submitted by the Prime Minister, in order to permit of the second reading of the De fence Bill being moved. It cannot be argued that that was an urgent matter, because the second reading of the Bill could have been moved to-day in the ordinary course of events.
– It was urgent that it should be dealt with then.
– The second reading of the measure might have been moved at any time during the past six weeks. There is absolutely nothing in the Bill - as you, sir, know very well - which was in any way contingent upon the Imperial Defence Conference, or upon anything exterior to this Government itself.
– Order. I take it that the honorable member is perfectly aware of the point of order which he raised yesterday, and I would point out to him that it has nothing whatever to do with the question of urgency.
– If the point is whether you, sir, were right in ruling that you were not called upon to ask the Prime Minister - who moved the suspension of the Standing Orders - to show that it was urgent that that course should be adopted, surely I am permitted-
– The honorable member is now proceeding todebate a matter which was settled yesterday afternoon, and which cannot be discussed at this juncture -that is the question of urgency.
– It must be debated at some time or other.
– If you, sir, will look at my motion, you will see that the question has not been settled.. I must respectfully decline to allow you to say what my motion means, by references to sources other than the motion itself. The Votes and Proceedings of this. House for yesterday read -
A point of order having been raised, and Mr. Speaker having ruled that the motion of the Prime Minister for the suspension of the Standing Orders was a motion within the meaning of standing orders 407-409, Mr. Hughes took objection, in writing, to the ruling, and motion being moved to dissent from the ruling, the debate thereon was forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.
I must respectfully decline to allow you, sir, to interpret my motion in a way that does not accord with the words of that motion.
-I think that there ought to be an independent man in the chair when this motion is being debated.
– Under the words of my motion, I am perfectly entitled to show that, under standing orders 407 and 409, your decision, sir, was wrong in every particular.
– The honorable member is aware - as every other honorable member must be who has had Parliamentary experience - that questions which have once been debated and determined cannot be re-opened on a future date. If a quest’.on is settled in a way that an honorable member regards as being unfair, that honorable member may dissent from the ruling of the Chair at that time, but he is not justified in dissenting from it at a subsequent period. The point of order which the honorable member raised yesterday is adequately reported in the official record of the House, and has nothing whatever to do with the question of urgency. I do not know whether the honorable member has reviewed the speech he. made when raising his point of order, but, if he has done so, I think he will agree with me that no portion of if refers to the question of urgent necessity, which “had already been settled by the Chair, whose decision had been accepted by the House.
– It was only accepted under protest.
– There was no protest made. I would ask the honorable member for Adelaide to do what I think every other honorable member should do upon an occasion of this k:nd, namely, to assist the Chair and the House in arriving at a correct conclusion. I cannot allow the honorable member to say that any decision of the Chair was accepted under protest if that protest merely took the form of a mental reservation on the part of honorable members. The only protest of which the Chair can take cognisance is that which is made by way of a formal motion.
– You now take it upon yourself, sir, to decide that I had in my mind, in submitting my motion, something different from the meaning that can be drawn from the words of the motion. With all respect, I say that, in the discussion of this most important question, you are attempting to tie me down in a way that we should have been very glad to see you follow when the motion moved by the Prime Minister was before you, but which you then declined to do. We asked you then to interpret the Standing Orders strictly. Instead of doing so, you replied, in effect, “It is not for me to ask the Prime Minister for reasons. It is sufficient for me that the honorable gentleman says that, in his opinion, the question is one of urgency.” When I question your ruling on that point, you meet me by saying that the matter does not fall within the terms of my motion. I decline to admit that that is so. I hold that it does fall within the terms of my motion, and I claim the right to discuss it. It will be for you, sir, to decide afterwards whether or not my reasoning is right, and whether you propose to follow what is suggested; but I most certainly claim the right to discuss the point. I shall be most reluctant tobelieve that, .having allowed the Prime Minister a latitude which, within my knowledge, has never been permitted ii> similar circumstances to any honorable member in this House, you are now prepared to say, when I question your ruling”, “ What the honorable member for West Sydney’s motion means is so-and-so. His. motion does not mean what he say’s it does.”’ That, I submit, is an entirely wrong attitude to take up.
– I am loth to enter into a discussion with an’ honorable member, but am very anxious that no honorable member should feel that his rights are unduly restricted by the Chair.
– That was the feeling yesterday.
– If that was done yesterday, exception should have been taken to it then, and not to-day. Let me state the position to the honorable member for West Sydney. A ruling was sought on a certain point, and was given. Subsequently, the honorable member rose to another point of order, and made to the Chair a statement upon which he desired a ruling. A ruling was given,’ and the honorable member then formally dissented from it. The honorable member now desires to discuss a question which was brought before the Chair previously by another honorable member, and was settled without any notice of dissent being given. I trust that the honorable member will recognise that if I allowed him at this juncture to discuss a ruling given prior to that as to which he gave notice of dissent, almost any ruling might be debated’ on this motion, on the ground that it happened to come within the scope of the standing order in question. The honorablemember based his point of order on the one contention that no proper motion had been stated by the Prime Minister when proposing the suspension of the Standing Orders ; and that is the question which I expected him to deal with to-day. I hope that the honorable member will see that if I were to permit him to discuss matters other than the specific question which he raised, I should open the door to what might be an almost endless discussion upon the effect of the Standing Orders generally.
– -Do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that if an honorable member rises to a point of order which you deal with, and, later on, another honorable member raises a wider point, of order, containing potentially, not only that which has been dealt with by you, but something more, he is precluded from referring to the ground covered, but not exhausted, by the smaller point of order ? I do not think that you will. I said that the motion moved by the Prime Minister had not been properly stated, and I now contend that my point of order was as shown in the Votes and Proceedings. The point that I raised was that the motion in question was not a motion within the meaning of standing orders 407 and 409, and I submit that I am entitled to discuss every one of the limitations set down in those Standing Orders. Standing order 403’ provides that-
The suspension of Standing Orders is limited in its operation to the particular purpose for which such suspension has been sought.
Under standing order 407- there are three essentials to a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders without notice. In the first place it must be a case of urgent necessity. Secondly, the motion must be” duly made and seconded,” and, thirdly, it must be carried by an absolute majority. The last point is a question for the House to determine. The second is for you to decide. The Clerk records the motion, and you note it. I hold that I can discuss any one of the circumstances dealt with in standing order 409 as well as those covered by standing order 407, and that the fact that the honorable member for Boothby raised a question as to the motion being in order does not preclude me from also raising it. Will you say, for instance, that I am not at liberty to discuss the question whether the motion was duly made and seconded ? If my motion is so wide as to cover all these matters, and ‘ is properly before the Chair, it is not for you to say to what extent it is limited other than by the limitations of the motion itself. I submit that the motion permits me to discuss the whole question.
– I rule that the honorable member will not be in order in discussing any matter except the specific point of order which he brought before the Chair. For the honorable member’s information I will read the’ Hansard report of his own words when he brought the question before the Chair. He said -
But under standing order 409, the suspension must be limited in its operation to the particular purpose for which it has been sought, and I submit -
Now comes the honorable member’s submission of his point of order - that no particular purpose has been mentioned by the Prime Minister. Consequently no motion under standing order 407 is before the House, and no question can be put as a result of the carrying of the motion “ That the question be now put.” There is, therefore, nothing before the Chamber, and if the Prime Minister wishes to bring the question before the Chamber, he must limit the operation of the motion which he moves under standing order 407 to the specific purpose for which it is required as directed by standing order 409.
That is the honorable member’s own statement of his point of order, and I ask him to confine his remarks to it.
– With all due deference to you, sir, I care not what were the mere words I used, I am concerned only with their meaning. I submit that I am bound by the motion now before the Chair. If you are to be the arbiter - if you are to decide what this motion is - : -
– Common sense is the arbiter of that.
– Common sense !
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the Prime Minister is not in order in cheering the Speaker when a ruling is being given.
– Cheering !
– I submit that the practice of honorable members, in cheering and passing remarks in support of the Speaker when a ruling is being dissented from, is one that ought not to be followed.
-I agree with the honorable member ; and I might be permitted to say that reflections which are made in an undertone on the ruling of the Chair, should also not be made.
– What a virtuous crowd we are !
– Order ! I ask honorable members generally to show that consideration to which the Chair is entitled, and without which, of course, the business of the House cannot , be proceeded with. The position has been made one of greater difficulty than, perhaps, it ought to have been, and it can only be brought to a successful conclusion by honorable members giving to it that attention which its importance demands.
– I am exceedingly sorry, Mr. Speaker, that you will not permit the discussion of this question on its merits, but are seeking to insist on a narrow and rigid interpretation of the rules of debate, when the very question under discussion is your power to receive without the exercise of discretion a motion to suspend the whole of the Standing Orders. The Prime Minister justnow said that commonsense was to be the arbiter, but I venture to say that the arbiter is now a servile majority, carrying out the behests of a caucus, under circumstances absolutely destructive of every sound principle of responsible government - a majority dragooned by a caucus composed of members united on no principle-
– What has this to do with the question? I ask the honorable member to address himself to the matter before the Chair.
– Well, sir, I do not propose to allow the Prime Minister or anybody else to interject, and, under shelter of your ruling, to do a thing which is cowardly and contemptible-
– Will the honorable membertake his seat? I have not heard anything which would justify the language which the honorable member is now using. If I had, I can assure the honorable member I should have taken steps to have the objectionable words withdrawn. I ask the honorable member not to use language which in itself is unbecoming of him and of this Chamber.
– You are misunderstanding me, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister has been enabled to do a cowardly and contemptible thing, absolutely destructive of the fundamental principles of Parliamentary government ; and-
– The honorable member must not use expressions of that sort. I ask the honorable member to withdraw the words “cowardly” and “contemptible,” which should not be applied to an honorable member of this House.
– If the Prime Minister
– Will the honorable member withdraw those expressions?
– I do not mind !
– It does not matter whether the Prime Minister minds or not ; the question is one which rests in the discretion of the Chair, and I ask the honorable member for West Sydney to withdraw wordswhich ought not to be applied to a member of this House.
– I feel that the words I have used are perfectly justifiable under the circumstances.
– The honorable member, as an old and experienced member of Parliament, and an ex-Minister of the Crown, knows perfectly well that such words cannot be allowed by the Chair, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– Well, I withdraw the word “cowardly,” but the word “contemptible” is,I think, perfectly justified, and I ought not to be asked to withdraw it.
– Order !
– I am not permitted to discuss a matter of first importance to the country and to this House.
– I have accepted the withdrawal of the first word, and I ask the honorable member to be good enough to withdraw the second. I may be wrong - I may be placing too high a value on the dignity of the House - but I ask the honorable member, in deference to the Chair, to withdraw the second word.
– No; I cannot withdraw that.
– Order !
– I think that, under the circumstances, the use of the word is perfectly justifiable. The Prime Minister has, without excuse or provocation-
– Will the honorable member take his seat ? I shall be placed in a position which I do not desire to occupy if the honorable member still persists in disregarding the instruction which hasbeen issued from the Chair. The honorable member knows perfectly well that, although an instruction from the Chair may be, in his opinion, of a somewhat tyrannical nature, it hasalways been the custom to bow to the ruling of the Chair ; and I ask the honorable member not to persist in refusing to do so on this occasion.
– No, Mr. Speaker. I should be very glad to do so if I had been permitted to discuss the matter fairly ; but I feel that I have’ been most unjustly treated, and that the House has been most unjustly treated.
– Let them do their worst !
– Order !
– I can only say that I hold the Prime Minister entirely responsible for these tactics; and, since every effort is made to limit debate-
– I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that there is still a request which has been made from the Chair, and which has not been complied with by him. I ask the honorable member to be good enough to withdraw the word to which I have taken objection.
– On a point of order–
– I cannot take a point of order now.
– Do I understand that Mr. Speaker asks the honorable member to withdraw the word “contemptible”?
– Order !
– The word “ contemptible” has often been used in the House before.
– Many times ; it is a good English word.
– I point out to honorable members that the course some of them are pursuing is not likely to help matters. I ask honorable members to recollect that they are virtually doing what I have asked the honorable member for West Sydney not to do; and I hope they will not persist. I again appeal to the honorable member for West Sydney to hold the Chair in that regard in which I feel sure he does hold it, and under the circumstances, to withdraw a word which the Chair considers is not fitting.
– I put my view as well as I could, but I am not permitted to explain or to set forth the circumstances. Although I have always been a hard fighter here, I think that you, Mr. Speaker, will say that I have never used any language which, where it transgressed the limits to debate set by our Standing Orders, I have not been ready enough to withdraw. But when I see the Prime Minister practically suspending the Constitution of this assembly, and flouting us without a tittle Of excuse, I feel that his conduct is contemptible, and I cannot help saying so.
– I point out to the honorable member that it is not now a question of the Prime Minister’s conduct, but a question of the direction of the Chair. I agree with what the honorable member has said ; during my occupancy of this position I have always had the readiest and most loyal support from the honorable member. Perhaps I have been tempted to go further on that account than I should otherwise have done. I ask the honorable member now to do what the Chair has requested him to do, because he knows that it must be most distasteful to the occupant of the chair to be placed in the position in which I shall be placed later on, if he refuses to comply with my request.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, if you put the matter in that way, you put it unfairly.
– Order !
– If you will allow me to do so, . when you state that my remark was a, reflection upon the Chair, or upon the House, I must dissent from your statement. I do not regard it so. It was not intended to be so, nor was it. The House and the country know very well the reason why I made the statement. The circumstances are perfectly clear. They do not permit of any misinterpretation. I say, with all deference to you, therefore, that while T am very anxious to show my respect for the Chair - and I hope that I have always done so while you have been there, as well as during the regime of your illustrious predecessor - still, I feel that a protest must be made. You will not allow me to discuss the matter in such a way as to permit of that protest being made effectually. The Prime Minister is able, by controlling the forms of this House, to get any decision from the Chair that he pleases, by reason .of the fact that he has at his back a subservient majority. We have no such opportunity. Under these circumstances, I feel that I should . be doing a wrong in the interests of the minority if I were to withdraw the word.
– I understood the honorable member to say just now that he did not intend his remark as a reflection upon the House.
– I certainly did not intend that.
– I feel myself to be, as I have previously stated, the custodian of the personal honour of this House and of every member of it. Perhaps, as I have already said, I place too high a value upon the dignity of this House and upon the dignity of our proceedings. But I feel that I have done all that I’ can do, and all that the occupant of this chair could be expected to do, in regard to the incident. I have asked the honorable member to do something which he is not inclined to do. I therefore have no recourse now but to ask the Leader of the House to do whatever may be considered necessary. My first unpleasant duty is to name the honorable member. I ask him whether he desires to place me in the position of using the last resource that is open to me? I again ask the honorable member whether, in deference to the desire of the Chair, he desires to withdraw a word which the Chair considers should riot he applied; to an honorable member of this House.
– No, Mr. Speaker; I. decline to do so.
– I name the honorable member for West Sydney, Mr. Hughes, for consistent and persistent disregard of the direction of the Chair to withdraw a -word that was considered disorderly.
– - Mr. Speaker, this is no occasion for honorable members opposite to endeavour to make political capital. The honorable member for West Sydney said in my hearing - though not, I am afraid, in your hearing - that he did not intend to cast any personal reflection upon any member of this House.
– Certainly ; I say that I made no reflection upon the honorable gentleman personally. He knows that I would not do such a thing. His personal character outside politics is not in question. The remark which I made was intended to be a criticism upon his tactics as the head of the Ministry.’
– I was afraid, Mr. Speaker, that you did not hear the honorable member’s statement that the word objected to was applied by him to the tactics of the Ministry, and was not applied to any honorable member of this House personally. Certainly his remark in no sense had relation to any action of the Chair. Under the circumstances, although perfectly, prepared to discharge my duty, and that without the slightest hesitation, it appears to me that there has been a misunderstanding, and a serious one. The word used as applied to tactics, has a different meaning and relation. If the honorable member’s statement in that regard did not reach your ears, Mr. Speaker, perhaps he will state on his feet what he has just repeated from his seat.
– I say, Mr. Speaker, that what the Prime Minister has said is true enough. My language and criticism were directed, of course, against the tactics of the Government in general and the Prime Minister in particular, for all of which the Prime Minister himself must bear the blame.
– Hear, hear.
– During the whole of the discussion - which might almost be called a debate - between myself and the honorable member for West Sydney, I used the words “ personal reflection “ over and over again. I certainly was under the impression that the word which I ruled to be disorderly was applied personally to a member of this House. I think that I used an expression to that effect more than once. I now learn for the first time, both from the Prime Minister and from the honorable member, that the disorderly expression was not applied to a member of this House personally. Under these circumstances, I can only say that I regret that I have misunderstood the honorable member ; and I desire to express my regret in the hearing of the whole House. Perhaps, before the incident closes, honorable members will pardon me for saying that they might assist the Chair very materially by allowing such matters as have now been brought before us to be discussed in that calm and dispassionate manner without which we cannot hope to conduct our deliberations to a satisfactory conclusion. I earnestly hope that, while all honorable members desire that the Standing Orders which govern cur procedure shall be observed, they will, at the same time, recognise that the rights and privileges of any individual member must not be infringed. The interrupted proceedings will now be resumed.
– I have every desire to comply with the direction of the Chair that this matter should be discussed in the way that you, sir, wish it to be discussed. But I also desired that the whole of the matters which I wished to discuss should be so treated under cover of my motion. However, you have ruled that that cannot be done, and unless I formally dissent from that ruling, I hardly know what I am to do. But I do say that you, Mr. Speaker, have discretion in this matter, and you alone. There is not the slightest doubt that’, in the case of a formal dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling, the grounds of objection must be put in writing forthwith. But, at the, same time, it is for you to say what latitude is to be allowed to an honorable ‘member ‘ in discussing the motion of dissent. In my opinion, the Standing Orders ought not to be suspended, unless the case be so exceptional as practically to commend itself at once almost to every member of the House. Everybody knows that the tactics pursued by the Prime Minister were not adopted as an eleventh hour suggestion. What he did was a premeditated thing.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– Get out.
– Of course, Mr. Speaker, there are other Standing Orders, and I shall have to ask that I may be protected, at any rate sufficiently to enable my throat to serve me until I have said what I desire to submit. I repeat that this step was premeditated, and I shall prove that in one minute. There were thirty-nine members here, including some who had not been here since an early period of this session. Members had to break public engagements in order to get here.
– One of them broke a pair, too.
– The whole thing was cut and dried.
– The whole thing, I repeat, was cut and dried.
– On a point of order, sir, I ask whether the honorable member is within your ruling in discussing the way at which a late majority was arrived at over this matter.
– He is speaking the truth any way.
– I am sure that he is not.
– I will prove that he is.
– It needs no proof.
– The honorable member for Parkes has raised a point of order as to whether the remarks of the honorable member are now within the scope of his motion. I ask the latter to confine his remarks to the question of dissent from my ruling and not to refer to matters which have no relevancy to that question.
- Mr. Speaker I shall do my very best to confine my remarks to the question-
– The honorable member is confining himself within the ruling too.
– But a great issue is involved. Am I to be kept to the very words of standing order 409 and not to be permitted to wander outside it? I claim the ordinary latitude which is permitted to honorable members in this chamber. Mr. Speaker, you know very well that two minutes do not pass in this House without the Standing Orders being broken by interjections. I claim exactly the same privilege and . no more. I propose not to go outside that latitude, except incidentally. I submit that . the essence of the justification for suspending the Standing Orders is that the occasion must be urgent ; that the urgency must be patent, or if it is not patent that It must be established. Yesterday the urgency was neither patent nor established.
– Order. The honorable member must not discuss that question.
– Under standing order 409 a suspension of the Standing Orders is limited to the particular purpose for which it was sought. What was the particular purpose yesterday? It was to take the second reading of the Defence Bill. Was that an urgent question?
– Order; that is not the question.
– It was not urgent, and the proof of that is clear.
– Order ! I have already told the honorable member that it is not competent for him to discuss the question of urgency. I ask him to confine his remarks solely to the question which has been brought before the House, and not to traverse beyond that.
– On a point of order, sir, I would point out to you that the gravamen of the whole case is whether or not the suspension was a matter of urgency, inducing the honorable member to dispute your ruling yesterday.
– I am not aware whether the honorable member for Hume was present at the time, but if he was present, he will recollect that the question of urgency was raised, and settled by the Chair previously, and was not referred to subsequently except incidentally. That matter was not brought before the Chair on the question of dissenting from my ruling. The only matter then raised was as to whether the motion had been properly stated. That is, as to whether the reason for the suspension of the Standing Orders had been included in the motion submitted by the Prime Minister.
– Mr. Speaker, I do not want to traverse your ruling.
– The honorable member cannot do that.
– But in a matter of this kind the temper, or, if I may so put it, the bad temper, of the House is generally brought about on a question as to whether or not a certain thing is necessary.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to debate that matter.
– But Mr. Speaker, if that is not to be discussed, what is?
– Order ! Unless the honorable member has a point of order to submit he must resume his seat. The honorable member for West Sydney has possession of the House.
– I have a point of order to submit.
– What is it?
– My point of order is partially what I stated just now, and also whether the whole proceeding of yesterday was, of necessity, urgent.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– If that is so, sir, we are getting to a dangerously narrow position.
– Order !
– I am not anxious to create any trouble. But I do not want to see a decision given-
– The honorable member cannot proceed. The point of order which he raised has already been settled by the Chair, and a discussion of it cannot be allowed. The honorable member for West Sydney-
– Mr. Speaker, you are getting into a dangerous circle, I can tell you.
– He has got there.
– When you state, sir, I am not to discuss the reasons which actuate me in moving my motion I am bound to say that you contrive to prevent me from speaking at all. I should have thought that when your own ruling is under review you would allow, at any rate, such latitude as is necessary to establish your own position. How are we to challenge it ? I desire to remind you of one thing. Yesterday afternoon, the discussion lasted for only a little while. While it lasted, there was some degree of interest shown in the matter. A number of points were raised, and I took the first available opportunity of reviewing your decisions. I think that, under cover of my motion, you ought to allow a discussion of the whole matter. But you rule that that cannot be allowed.
– I rule that I cannot allow it.
– But, Mr. Speaker, you are permitted to do so. I dissent entirely from the position which you have lately taken up, that you have no discretion in these matters. You have done me the honour of quoting what I said yesterday, and, perhaps, I may be permitted to read what you said.
– If it bears on this point, yes; but if not, no.
- Mr. Speaker, will you not allow me to quote whatyou said?
– On this point, yes.
– But I do not think that you said anything on this point
– Yes, I did.
– Very well, sir, I will not quote what you said. Your position is that, whereas in a matter which I brought up last Friday you had no discretion, in this matter you do not deny that you have a discretion, but decline to exercise it.
– I have ruled that the honorable member cannot discuss another ruling upon this motion.
– But, Mr. Speaker, I am repeating what you said. You said that it was an invidious position in which to put the Speaker. My contention is that it is an entirely improper thing to make a statement of that sort. What does it mean? It means that you may have to decide against some gentlemen in this House. That is a matter which does not concern us at all. The point is, are you going to interpret the Standing Orders in the spirit in which they are written, namely, to protect the rights of members? You said it would be invidious-
– Are we going to have any liberty at all ? That is the question.
– No, this is not a Parliament at all.
– I point out to the honorable member for West Sydney that he is now doing something which I told him it is not competent for him to do. He is referring to a previous decision which had nothing whatever to do with the question now before the Chair. In addition to that the honorable member seems to think that there is some discretion vested in the Chair to widen the discussion upon this particular point. I refer . the honorable member to standing order 287 -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once and in writing.
The honorable member wishes now to discuss a ruling to which no objection was taken at once. Therefore I say that under the Standing Orders he is not permitted to do so.
– I wish, sir, to ask you this question : Whether under cover of what occurred yesterday every decision you gave yesterday, or might give for fifty years, might not be discussed? I say that they could, because the suspension of the Standing Orders could be moved, and” the suspension of the Standing Orders goes to the root of every procedure in this House. You do not see what follows from the action of the Prime ‘ Minister yesterday. With the suspension of the Standing Orders all rules of procedure are set aside - the rule that compels me to sit down when you rise ; the rule that compels every honorable member to listen to you ; the rules that determine who has the floor; that decide the way in which a division shall be taken ; that compel a quorum to be present before the House can meet or carry on business. All these things are at issue on a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. And yet you, sir, take up the narrow view that I may not discuss what was done yesterday, because at that particular moment when your ruling was given a motion of dissent was not put in, although my motion was put in within ten minutes afterwards. You say that, although my motion dealt with the same matter it cannot cover the same ground. So that if the honorable member for Boothby had not raised the point the whole thing could have been discussed.
– I understood the honorable member for West Sydney to dissent on the grounds I put, or I should have dissented on those grounds myself.
– The honorable member recalls the matter to my mind. I said to the honorable member for Boothby at the time, “ That point must be taken.”
– I assumed that it would be taken; or I should have taken it myself.
– I ask the honorable member to go on with the motion before the Chair.
– Do you, sir, say that 1 may not discuss the surrounding circumstances under which this motion was put?
– In answer to the honorable member, I desire him to understand, once and for all, that he is not entitled to discuss any previous ruling which is not involved in the particular ruling now before the Chair. I have ruled that the previous ruling which he now desires to refer to is not so involved, and is therefore outside the scope of the discussion on this motion.
– On a point of order, I ask whether it would be in order to move that the honorable member for West Sydney have leave to discuss it.
– No; such a motion could not be put.
– You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot refer to your former ruling ; and there is no way in which I can discuss it except by dissenting from the ruling which you have now given, which would take us no further. I do not propose to do that. But you have not yet ruled that I cannot discuss the circumstances which surrounded the putting of the motion, to enable ‘ ‘ the second reading of the Defence Bill to be taken forthwith,” though that was amended on your suggestion to “this day.” If you contend that that is not so I must refer you to Hansard. The motion moved by the Prime Minister was “ That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to allow the second reading of the Defence Bill to be taken forthwith.” That was amended by the substitution of the words “this day” for the word “forthwith.” I have stated what occurred. You, Mr. Speaker, made that alteration for the Prime Minister, but you will not allow me to discuss anything at all. You tie me down rigidly, although my motion is to dissent from your ruling and thus call the whole procedure in question. You tie me down and will not allow me to say a word. Yet you amended the Prime Minister’s motion for him. The motion was first put in these terms -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to allow the second reading of the Defence Bill to be taken forthwith.
And that was amended by the substitution of the words “ this day “ for the word “forthwith.” That is a small thing, but small as it is, you did it. Yet you will not now allow me to depart from the question by the one-thousandth part of a line in order to discuss your decision, although it is of fundamental importance.
It is to that we take serious exception. To that we have every right to take exception when we find that the Standing Orders are to be” suspended without notice, without excuse, or provocation, in virtue of a plan, a premeditated, put-up job. I say that it was by no accident that thirtynine honorable members were here yesterday, and that one honorable member was here who had not been in the chamber since the 6th August.
– Order !
– In these circumstances we have every right to demand that the . Standing Orders shall be interpreted strictly, and I contend that the provisions of standing orders 407 and 409 were not strictly adhered to. If I had been permitted to discuss that which I thought I had every right to discuss, I could have shown that there never was a motion put forward for such a purpose that was backed up by such flimsy reasons. The Prime Minister said yesterday that we should gain one day by what was proposed. We did not gain the thousandth part of one minute, because the debate on the second reading of the Bill was adjourned until after the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill is finished.
– Order !
– The Government do not gain the fraction of a minute. Now we are waiting until they put on the gag, as they probably will do, even on this question.
– Order !
– We have come now. to the position that the gag is followed by the suspension of the Standing Orders, and the suspension of the Standing Orders is followed by the gag.. After twenty minutes’ discussion of the suspension of the Standing Orders the gag is moved to enable the Defence Bill-
– The honorable member is now going outside the question before the Chair, which is that a certain ruling be dissented from.
– It is useless for me even to fry to state the facts in this House. Apparently I am not permitted to do so. I have already expressed my opinion of the kind of tactics these are. I say that they are contemptible, and have degraded this House-
– Order ! The honorable member is now applying to a ruling from the Chair certain terms which I do not think he is entitled to apply. The only question which is before the House is the ruling from the Chair, and I can only take it that the honorable member is now applying those terms to that ruling. I trust that the honorable member will not proceed in that direction.
– Ifr you refer to your ruling of yesterday, I do not refer to it. I am alluding to those tactics which, by your ruling, I am not permitted to discuss. I submit that it is most unfortunate that you should have felt called upon to give such a decision. Had you done in this instance as your predecessor has done in other matters, I should have had that latitude to discuss this matter which its importance deserved, and demanded, and the country, at any rate, would have been informed of the facts. As it is, a biased, lop-sided and totally untrue statement of facts will be spread abroad. I am very sorry for that, and. very sorry alsothat under cover of my motion I can do nothing to remedy it. But as you have so ruled, it is of no use appealing in any way to anybody. I can only say that I regret very much that it is so. I regret that it has been necessary for me to say what I have said about the conduct of business in this House; but I thought it my duty to say it, and I thought it my duty to adhere to it. I shall do that without reflecting in any way upon any person in this House. Never, even in the most fiery moments of debate, have I had any ill-will to the Prime Minister personally ; but I say again in the most emphatic way that his tactics are really contemptible.
– - I have only one simple statement of fact to make, which I alone can make. It is this : that, having inquired from every convenient source, 1 was perfectly satisfied that consent would be given to the moving of the second reading of the Defence Bill yesterday. As a consequence, I discussed with no colleague or person any question of the application of the closure. Honorable members will recollect that, when moving the motion yesterday, I said, by way of prefatory explanation, that this was done without consultation. I had not even considered the step myself, personally, but acted entirely on my own initiative, feeling my responsibility as the leader of this House for the time being, and believing that the statement to be made was, as 3 statement, a matter of public’ urgency.
– The Government supporters rounded up pretty well !
– There was no more rounding up than usual. The thirty-nine members included two members from that side of the House.
.. - With reference to the remark of the Prime Minister, that he came here fully expecting that there would be no opposition to the course the Government proposed to take, I would point out that an opportunity had existed for a long time to move the second reading of the Bill, and the Minister of Defence had been urged to take it on more than one occasion. Does the Prime Minister think that we are a lot of cabbages? Does he regard us as a lot of members who must break through the rules without rhyme or reason ? If he thinks so, he must have a very poor opinion of the individuality of members of this House. I objected, and previously when I heard that leave was to be asked I said that I should object. I shall always object in such circumstances, and there is a good reason for objecting, as will be proved hereafter in connexion with this particular case.
.- Owing to the difficulty of discussing your rulings of yesterday within the very narrow limits which have to be observed under the ruling which you have given to-day, I beg to move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as prevents the discussion forthwith of the Speaker’s rulings of yesterday.
I move that, because I consider that the rulings given yesterday, taken in conjunction with one another, amount to an extension of our Standing Orders which equals an abuse of the rights of a Parliamentary majority. After yesterday’s decisions - I am not speaking of your own rulings only, but also of the decisions of the majority on that side - we have now reached a stage at which criticism is not permitted. A motion was moved yesterday, and within twenty minutes-
– Quite long enough, too.
-There is an absolute proof of what I am saying. According to the honorable member, twenty minutes is long enough for honorable members on this side to discuss a motion with which they disagree.
– Honorable members opposite cannot expect to take up all the time.
– The honorable member knows that I do not take up a great deal of the time of the House.”
– On a point of order, is the honorable member in order in moving a motion until the motion before the House has been disposed of ? Under cover of a second motion, he is claiming a wider range than the honorable member for West Sydney was allowed by you under his motion.
– If I may be permitted to make a remark concerning the matter before I give my ruling, I would say that I was just about to call the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he was not confining himself to the motion that he desired to move. I admit that it is rather an unusual procedure, in the midst of a discussion on a motion, to submit another motion, but I do not think that in the circumstances that is a distinct bar to the course proposed. It is my intention, therefore, to accept the motion from the honorable member at this juncture, regarding it in the light of an amendment. But I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to showing the necessity for suspending the Standing Orders, and not to go into the merits of the case, which will be discussed afterwards if his motion is carried.
– I shall comply with your request. I wandered somewhat from the subject, but only on account of replying to the interjection of the honorable member for Wimmera. I desire to submit to the House that we have reached a stage at which the rights of the minority of this House, who do not happen to agree with the members who constitute the majority, are invaded.
– That has happened many times within the last eight years.
– No such power has ever been exercised before, and the rulings given yesterday by you, Mr. Speaker, have not been the rulings of the last eight years. I put this as a matter of extreme urgency, because it can only be discussed now. I should have dissented from your ruling yesterday, when I raised a point of order, had I not understood that the honorable member for West. Sydney was going to do so. Had I dissented then, the discussion to-day would have had a wider -range than has been permitted on the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney. He was under the impression that he would be able to discuss both rulings on the motion of dissent, of which he gave notice. As we are now not permitted to do so, and the light of minorities to criticise is of supreme importance, however small they may be, and however large the majority opposed to them, I ask for the suspension of the Standing Orders, to allow of a fuller debate. That the majority may be backed up by all the monopolists of Australia is not a sufficient reason for suppressing the right’ of discussion by the minority. If the decisions of the majority are to be recorded without the public discussion of its proposals by those who disagree with them, Parliament will become merely a recording body. I mention this to show the extreme urgency of the matter. Theright of the representatives of constituencies to place their views before the House has been abrogated, and I therefore ask honorable members to give the motion the wider scope which is needed to enable the case to be properly put before the House and the country.
– I regret that the honorable member for West Sydney did not comply with the standing order which required him tostate, in writing, his objection to Mr. Speaker’s ruling. It is not sufficient to say, “ I dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling.” An objection is not a dissent; but it may be the cause for dissent. The standing order apparently requires that a member dissenting from the ruling of Mr. Speaker must set forth, in writing, the terms of the ruling, and the grounds of his dissent. Had that rule been strictly followed, we should not have had this long wrangle as to facts. I question whether the motion of the honorable member for Boothby is in order. He asks that the rulings of Mr. Speaker shall be discussed forthwith; but, “forthwith” means at the time the objection was taken, since the standing order declares that when a ruling of Mr. Speaker is given, and an honorable member dissents from it, objection must be taken forthwith, and stated in writing, and that then the discussion must be adjourned until the following day. If the motion is carried, the honorable member for Boothby will be in no better position than he is in now. He should have moved the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable him to state in writing an objection to Mr. Speaker’s ruling of yesterday, and to permit of its consideration forthwith.
– I do not know whether the Attorney-General has raised a point of order as to whether the motion of the honorable member for Boothby is in proper form ; but, if he has, I submit that it cannot succeed, first, because you, sir, have already accepted the motion, and, secondly, because there is nothing in the contention of the honorable member that the ordinary rule for stating an objection to your ruling has not been complied with. It is true that the Standing Orders provide a certain method for giving notice of dissent, which method, perhaps, was not followed yesterday ; but, if the motion to suspend the Standing Orders be agreed to, there will be nothing to prevent the ruling being discussed forthwith to-day. The carrying of the motion will suspend the standing order under which notice in writing should have been given, as well as every other standing order which prevents the immediate discussion of your rulings of yesterday. I have nothing to add regarding the point of order, though I wish to say a word or two about your rulings of yesterday, later, either on the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney, or on the wider motion of the honorable member for Boothby.
.- The necessity for a debate of this kind is greatly to be deplored. In saying that, I echo the opinion of every honorable member on this side. I do not speak for the members of the Government majority ; because it is not within my power to interpret the motives which induce them to become parties to organized tyranny. Yet I think that they will find that they have made a big mistake in attempting to gag the Opposition. I recognise the need for the strict administration of the rules of procedure, and shall always be ready to bow to your decisions, Mr. Speaker. But, in discussing this motion, it is necessary, incidentally, to mention a recent occurrence. I refer to the occasion when the honorable member for Boothby was speaking, and another honorable member, rising nominally to a point of order, took advantage of the opportunity to make himself heard to move, “ That the question be now put.” It seems to me that your action on that occasion-
– Order. The honorable member must not discuss that.
– That is ugly.
– I have no desire to discuss it except so far as it may have a bear- ing upon the present and future proceedings of the House. I do not wish to go back into ancient history-
– Is the honorable member going to argue that this motion has been improperly received ?
– No. I have nothing to urge against the reception of the motion of the honorable member for Boothby, but I think that standing order “A,” which is known as the closure, has a bearing upon it. Under that standing order you were not absolutely required to take the action which you did take on the occasion in question.
– Order. I do not think that I can- allow the honorable member to proceed on those lines.
– I think that you, sir, will see the connexion between the two things in a moment. ‘
– Assume a case.
– Let me assume that an honorable member is in possession of the Chair, as I am now, and that a Minister rises in his place. Of course you, sir, cannot be aware of the object which he has in rising and if you call upon him the Minister may then move, ‘‘That the question be now put.”
– That is what the Treasurer did the other day. “
– I have just said so, but Mr. Speaker has ruled that I shall not be in order in referring to the extraordinary circumstances under which the Treasurer managed to get possession of the Chair by means of a trick. Apparently you, sir, would interpret that standing order as rendering it obligatory upon your part to see-:_
– Order ! That is not the question which is under consideration. Mr. MAHON. - I am merely putting a hypothetical case which, under this motion, is, I think, permissible. Under the circumstances which I have outlined I do not think that the standing order requires you to see an honorable member who may rise while another honorable member is in possession of the Chair. It certainly is not necessary for you to do so until the honorable member who is in possession of the Chair has resumed his seat. 1 do not know whether under the proposal which has been submitted I am free to discuss the question of the urgency or otherwise which existed for the suspension of the Standing Orders yesterday, and I have no desire to transgress your ruling upon that matter. But it does seem to me that motions impugning the rulings of the Speaker are very unfortunate ; and that only dire necessity, such as exists in this instance, warrants their submission. While the function pf the Speaker is to maintain order and preserve the dignity of the House, his paramount duty is to protect the rights of the minority. It may be taken for granted that a majority is always able to safeguard its own interests. Mr. ‘Speaker is specially charged with the duty of preserving the” rights of the minority and of upholding the right of free speech in this Chamber. If honorable members have not the right of free speech their constituents might as well be at once disfranchised. 1 would also point out that although the standing order providing for the application of the closure was adopted when the members of the present Opposition were sitting behind the former Deakin Government, we have never authorized its brutal use. Despite repeated and prolonged provocation by the Opposition of that day, the closure was never once applied. We have never sanctioned the assassination of free speech.
– The honorable member’s party is assassinating it every day.
– I do not wish to refer to the disorderly interjection of the Minister of Defence, because it is merely a wanton misstatement. He seems to me to be the legitimate descendant of Danton, who helped to create the guillotine. But I would remind him that the guillotine which Danton created he also perished upon. Nobody regrets more than I do the necessity for a motion of this kind. It cannot add to the reputation of the House to have the impartiality of its presiding officer challenged by any section. We all have, or ought to have, at heart the maintenance of the high traditions of the exalted office of Speaker. Even if the House does not agree to this motion, it will at least be a warning indication of the danger of using arbitrary power in a despotic way, and that the rights of a minority cannot be wholly extinguished.
.- There seems to be some justification for the action of the honorable member for Boothby in attempting to obtain the permission of the House to discuss a matter, debate upon which was practically strangled at its birth yesterday. I contend that if honorable members are not allowed to discuss important issues which affect every member of this House and every elector in the Commonwealth, we may as well walk out of this Chamber as a protest against the strangulation of the liberties which we are supposed to enjoy.
– I wish that the honorable member would walk out.
– I daresay. The Minister of Defence would close” the mouth of every one of his opponents, and thus prevent them discussing any matter pertaining to the welfare of the country, provided that by so doing he could utilize the press to placard him as an individual who was above the average in administering the affairs of the Commonwealth. The motion moved by the honorable member for Boothby is that the Standing Orders be suspended in order that we may discuss the action of Mr. Speaker in accepting a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, which was moved by a member of the Government ostensibly to burke discussion and to undermine the privileges of honorable members. The procedure, to my mind, is most unusual, and has never been equalled in any British Legislature. It did not occur to the honorable member for West Sydney at the time to enter his protest against such an unusual procedure.
– I thought that my motion covered it.
- Mr. Speaker holds that it does not. I trust that the Government will agree to the Opposition obtaining that liberty which has been refused them under the Standing Orders, and the ruling given by Mr. Speaker himself. If they do not, what will be the result ? Are we to be tortured by the Government brutally using their majorityto strangle the proposals of representatives in this House - to prevent them from voicing the desires of their constituents?
– I rise to a point of order. I understood you, Mr. Speaker, to confine the honorable member for Boothby to the limits which you laid down in the case of the honorable member for West Sydney. The honorable member for Gwydir is now indulging in a kind of disquisition on the philosophy of politics and the effect which the action of the Government is likely to have on the liberties of the people.
– The honorable member’s philosophy is to strangle discussion.
– The honorable member does not know the meaning of the word.
– Order. I remind honorable members that the Chair has been appealed to. The honorable member for Gwydir was proceeding to discuss the possible results of a refusal to grant the suspension of the Standing Orders, and that he is justified in doing to a certain extent. I hope, however, that he will not go beyond the limits of legitimate discussion.
– I am somewhat surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Parkes. I was not aware that he was one of those who have banded themselves together to prevent the Opposition giving expression to their views.
– There is a proper time for everything.
– Is the honorable member the proper authority to decide when that time occurs? As the honorable member for West Sydney has pointed out, it is necessary to show reasons why the House should agree to a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, and unless we can do so we have no opportunity to prove our case. We desire to remove from this House a state of affairs which, if it arises more frequently than it has done, will lead to something far worse than we have yet witnessed in this Parliament. There is a point beyond which toleration cannot go. An honorable member worthy of his position as a representative of the people will not submit without protest to the tactics pursued by the Government with a view to strangling legitimate opposition, and thereby preventing the proper discussion of measures affecting the people. The position is serious when the liberties of the people are threatened, and I believe that when the Ministerial supporters realize what will be the effect of the treatment they have meted out to the honorable member for West Sydney-
– Order. The honorable member must not deal with that matter.
– I desire to remind honorable members opposite that their sins may come home to them sooner than they imagine, and that the penaltymay be greater than they anticipate. That penalty will be imposed not by us, but by the people who hold the sovereign power. It will be for them to decide whether the tactics of the Government are such as a free and liberty-loving people ought to indorse. I am appealing to the good sense of the Government, although, as usual, most of them are absent. When they are not “ gag- ging” the Opposition they are not in the chamber.
– The honorable member is now proceeding far beyond the scope of the question before the Chair. I ask him to confine himself to a statement of the reasons why the motion should or should not be agreed to.
– I shall try to do so, sir. If the Government have any sense of justice they will see that it is wise to pass the motion so that we may be able to throw some light upon the all-important question that has given rise to this discussion. If that right is refused us, then I can only say that this is not the last occasion on which we shall be able to enter a protest against the action of the Government. It may have been due to an oversight that they sought to frustrate the Opposition in the proper performance of their duties. The Prime Minister said that his action was not premeditated. That is something to know.
– Order. That is not the Question before the Chair.
– The Prime Minister was allowed to make the remark in question when speaking to the motion moved by the honorable member for West Sydney.
– We are dealing now with the motion moved by the honorable member for Boothby.
– Is there not a motion and an amendment before the” Chair?
– I hope that no honorable member is going to place the Chair in an awkward position owing to the latitude that has been given in allowing a second motion to be moved. I agreed to accept the motion, though it is an unusual course; but the fact of its being unusual ought to induce honorable members to assist the Chair. We cannot discuss two motions at one time, as .the honorable member knows; and I ask him, therefore, to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair at the present time, the other being suspended, so to speak.
– Am I to understand that there are two motions before the House at one time?
– If . the honorable member draws attention to the matter I am afraid I shall have to rule the second motion out of order.
– All I can say is that if, after having accepted the motion, the
Speaker rules it out of order, I do not know exactly how we are to be guided by the Standing Orders. Which is’ the right ruling ? Which are we to obey ? I rose with the idea that there was a motion before the Chair to dissent from the Speaker’s ruling, and that the honorable member for Boothby had moved, as an amendment, the suspension of the Standing Orders for certain purposes. Believing that to be the case, T was proceeding, as is usual in debates of this character, and has been the custom from time immemorial in deliberative assemblies, to make an observation or two, which I thought applied to the motion.
– The honorable member will see that I am really protecting his rights and giving him greater latitude by the course I am pursuing. If the honorable member now speaks only on the motion of the honorable member for Boothby, and that motion is carried, it will be competent for him to speak later on the main question.
– I am truly grateful for the protection which you, sir, desire to afford -me ; but I did not intend to further discuss the matter, if the motion were carried. Having a kind of prophetic mind. I had an idea that 1 should not be afforded an opportunity of discussing the matter later; but I hope that I am mistaken, and that the Government will see the justice and wisdom, of allowing this motion to pass, so that the matter my be threshed out once and for all, and we may come to an understanding as to how far the objectionable methods that have been resorted to of late by the Government are to be carried, and be able to judge how far we are to be allowed to perform the functions of representatives in this chamber. I am desirous, not of coming into conflict with the Chair, but of protecting, if I can protect, those liberties which have been enjoyed bv representatives for centuries in the British House of Commons and in all English speaking Legislatures, and which have now, for the first time, so far as my knowledge goes, been ruthlessly assailed. I do not wish to labour the matter, believing that possibly the Government will permit the motion to be carried; and, if that be the case, I shall reserve my right to deal thoroughly with all that has led up to the present position, and discuss every phase of the modern methods of the Government. If permitted to do so, I shall keep within the four comers of the Constitution and the Standing Orders, in an endeavour to convince the Government, if it be possible, that they ought to retrace their steps as quickly as possible, and extend to honorable members their inalienable right to discuss all questions of supreme importance in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.
.- It is very unfortunate, I think, that honorable members on this side should hold the view that the necessity for this motion arose yesterday afternoon. While we are anxious to conserve public time, we are also anxious, whether we sit on this side or on any side of the House, to conserve the privileges of members. As you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney cannot be interpreted, so as to permit of a discussion on the whole of the circumstances leading up to the prohibition of yesterday, it appears to me necessary that there should be a suspension of the Standing Orders in. order to decide what may be regarded as urgent public business. By no stretch of the imagination could the action of the Prime Minister yesterday be regarded as necessitated by circumstances of sufficient urgency to justify a suspension of the Standing Orders, and the handing over to the majority for the time being of the power to do what they like during the suspension. Feeling that the area of discussion is narrowed by yourdecision, sir, this afternoon, I am of opinion that the Standing Orders ought to be temporarily suspended so that the whole question may be dealt with. The matter will be discussed by honorable members on this side with as little expenditure of public time as is consistent with the safety of honorable members’ privileges, to which they feel compelled to give some consideration in view of some of the decisions given in this House. If the Standing Orders be suspended, we shall arrive at a decision which will stand, at all events, for the rest of this Parliament; and I appeal to the Government to afford an opportunity to have the matter settled.
Question - That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended asprevents the discussion forthwith of Mr. Speaker’s rulings of yesterday - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (Mr. Batchelor’s) negatived.
.- I understand that the business which we are called upon to discuss now - provided that the majority permit the debate to continue - is the following motion : -
That the House dissents from the ruling of Mr. Speaker that the motion moved by the Prime Minister, namely, that the Standing Orders be suspended, was a motion within the meaning of section 407 of the Standing Orders, and that consequently there was before the House a question upon which the motion “ That the question be now put,” could be based.
I shall be glad if you, sir, would direct me as to whether that is the motion which honorable members are now permitted to discuss ?
– I do not know what the honorable member has been reading from, but I have before me the Votes and Proceedings for 21st September, page 128, containing the following entry : -
A point of order having been raised, and Mr. Speaker having ruled that the motion of the Prime Minister for the suspension of the Standing Orders was a motion within the meaning of standing orders 407 and 409, Mr. Hughes took objection, in writing, to the ruling, and motion being made to dissent from the ruling - the debate thereon was forthwith adjourned until the next sitting day.
I have ruled that debate can take place only upon the point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney. I have stated what that point is. If the honorable member desires, I will state the point again. Does he desire that it should be further stated ?
– I do not wish that, sir.
– The honorable member, recollects the statement, and he will be in order if he keeps within it.
– I was not aware, sir, that an entry in the Votes and Proceedings of the House was precisely the subjectmatter for our discussion. I was present yesterday - and I have been here the whole of this afternoon - when the honorable member for West Sydney took an objection to a ruling. He took that objection in a particular form, which was, at the time, read by you, sir, and subsequently, in conformity with the Standing Orders, you informed us that the debate on his motion would take place to-day- I was somewhat at a loss to understand because of what has transpired during this afternoon, whether this was particularly the time when we might discuss the motion, which you declared yesterday should be discussed to-day. If that is the situation, then I submit that I am at liberty to discuss the motion and its terms, and, if necessary, the terms of the Standing Orders therein referred to.
– Will the honorable member proceed?
– If that is the case, sir, I shall proceed, as far as I possibly can, to put my view before honorable members in the hope that it may be of some slight service. I certainly was at a loss to understand the position, because of the limitations which I heard placed on other members. As I know the rules, when a motion is submitted its full terms are open for discussion, and if, as in this case, a motion refers to any standing orders, it seems to me but an ordinary rule of debate that the enumerated standing orders are subjects for discussion.
– The honorable member will see that the ruling is the only subject which can be discussed. It is the only thing which forms the substance of the motion of dissent. I do not wish to delay the honorable member or interrupt him in his train of thought and expression, but I point out to him that it is possible to imagine all sorts of things being in cluded in a motion of this character, which had absolutely nothing to do with the challenged ruling. I ask the honorable member, therefore, not to lay so much stress upon the fact that the motion is to be discussed, but to realize that -the substance of’ the motion, which is the ruling from the Chair, is really the matter to be decided by the House.
– I understand, of course, sir, that the subject of your ruling is under discussion. It was questioned in a particular form in conformity with the rules of the House; it was questioned in writing, and necessarily notice had to be given. Notice was given in particular terms, and you informed us yesterday that the motion disputing your ruling, which you read, would be under discussion today. If you now rule that it cannot be discussed, then, of course, it will be useless on my part to occupy any more of the time of the House. I do not propose to dispute your ruling in any way, or to unnecessarily take up the time of the House, but I should like the position to be made very clear indeed. If you now rule that I cannot discuss the terms of the motion, then, of course, I shall accept the decision most regretfully ; but it will limit the discussion to-day ‘to what you desire it should be - perhaps I was wrong in saying that - to what you think it should be.
– Order ! To what the honorable member for West Sydney desired it should be.
– If you, sir, rule that the discussion to-day is open to what the honorable member for West Sydney desired it to be, then, necessarily, I am at liberty to discuss the exact wording of his motion, and if therein standing order 407 is mentioned, because, in his opinion, it was violated, then that rule, it seems to me, comes under discussion at the present moment.
– Order ! In raising the point of order, the honorable member for West Sydney did not contend that the standing order as a whole had been violated. I ask the honorable member not to again make that statement. The honorable member for West Sydney rose, as every one has to rise on such occasions, to a specific point of order, a ruling was given, thereon, and it was dissented from by him. That ruling and the dissent therefrom, is the only matter which is now before the Chair.
– What the honorable member for West Sydney said, prior to submitting his motion to you, sir, is of no concern to me. What he subsequently said, what he has said to-day, is of no concern to me, in guiding me as to what I shall say during this debate. What any other honorable member may have said - good, bad, or indifferent, for or against your ruling, for or against a suspension of the Standing Orders - does not, and ought not in any way to, control my remarks this afternoon. But what does, in my opinion, control me - subject always to your ruling; sir - are the words of a particular motion which you say is open for discussion. What the honorable member for West Sydney desired,I do not know ; what is desired by any other member, I have no notice of ; but I do know what is specifically before the House this afternoon, namely, a particular motion which was distinctly read yesterday, and by your order, submitted for discussion to-day. What I want to know is, whether I am at liberty to discuss that motion? I find that the honorable member for West Sydney - dissents from the ruling of Mr. Speaker, namely, that the motion moved by the Prime Minister, that the Standing Orders be suspended, was a motion within the meaning of section 407 of the Standing Orders.
When the honorable member for West Sydney takes exception to a ruling which says that the motion was submitted within the meaning of a certain standing order, he must necessarily be of opinion, if we give him credit for a scintilla of commonsense, that that standing order, must in some way, be it large or small, have been violated. Consequently, being of that opinion, and having submitted a motion, stating, in unmistakable language, that the ruling which permitted a motion was not in conformity with standing order 407, I submit, very respectfully, sir, that that standing order comes distinctly within the purview of discussion to-day. But if I wished to. be fortified at all in that respect, then, apart from the official record in Hansard, apart from what you yourself said yesterday, apart from what the honorable member for West Sydney has contended to-day, I am fortified by the Votes and Proceedings, wherein, at page 128, I find this entry -
A point of order having been raised, and Mr. Speaker having ruled that the motion of the Prime Minister for the suspension of the Standing Orders was a motion within the meaning of standing orders 407 and 409, Mr. Hughes took objection, in writing, to the ruling, and motion being made to dissent from the ruling - the debate thereon was forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.
The point taken by the honorable member for West Sydney, and noted, not merely by the Hansard reporter, but also by the clerks, who officially report our proceedings, was that the ruling was not in conformity with a particular standing order.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Does not the honorable member for Adelaide see that his contention really is that this motion is out of order - that it is not in accordance with standing order 287, because it was not made at once?
– If you, sir, now rule that the motion yesterday submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney and directed by yourself to be brought on for discussion to-day is not now in order, I must take my seat.
– I have not done so. I have said that the honorable member’s contention was in that direction.
– With all due respect, no contention I might put forward would make the motion out of order. You alone have the power to rule that themotion is out of order. I do not wish to discuss in any way the purely technical objection urged by the Attorney-General because the honorable gentleman must see that if the Speaker has decided that the motion is in order he can only question that decision by submitting a motion in dissent in writing, which would have to be decided to-morrow. The honorable gentleman’s objection was scarcely warranted, and I must not permit it to divert me from the remarks I desire to make on the motion before the Chair. Objection was taken yesterday to a certain motion having been ruled to be in conformance with standing order 407. That is the matter under discussion at the present moment. I should like to say that, so far as I am personally concerned, I took no objection whatever to the procedure sought to be adopted by the Minister of Defence. Notwithstanding the fact that the honorable gentleman for six weeks had had leave to introduce the Bill, and that during those six weeks he was persistently appealed to by the Opposition to hurry up with its preparation and submit it, he yesterday took a course which, I will not say was calculated to provoke opposition, but which might reasonably have been expected to do so. I do not propose this afternoon to say that it was done deliberately, but any honorable member having the slightest knowledge of the forms of the House will admit that the course proposed was one which might reasonably have been expected to provoke objection.
– What has this to do with the question ?
– The honorable member is departing from the question.
– I personally took no objection to the course proposed, but ob,jection was taken to it by the honorable member for Hume. That honorable gentleman having within his rights taken objection to the extraordinary procedure of the Ministry procedure entirely uncalled for-
– The honorable member will permit me. I point out to him that the action of the Ministry and their procedure have nothing whatever to do with the matter now before the Chair. The matter before the House for its consideration is the question of a ruling of the Chair and whether it shall be dissented from or agreed to.
– I thank “you, Mr. Speaker, but I do respectfully again submit that the procedure adopted is what led, up to and necessitated the motion now before the Chair.
– The honorable member is now suggesting alternative methods.
– If I were doing so I should be offering instruction which the Ministry do not seem to require, seeing that they have adopted so many different methods during the last few weeks. In discussing a particular subject one must necessarily open up the discussion - in a reasonable form. One should not suddenly attack a course of procedure without explaining what necessitates the attack. A certain procedure was adopted yesterday which was entirely unusual. Objection to it was taken by one honorable member, as I understand it, because it was unusual, because it was interfering with the rights, privileges, and free’dom of honorable members, and because, in the opinion of the honorable member who took the objection, there was no necessity- for the unusual procedure proposed. My only reason at the present moment for supporting the honorable member for Hume in the stand he took yesterday is that I feel that unless a protest is made the privileges and freedom of honorable members will be curtailed. I fear they will gradually be taken away from them until this branch of the Parliament, at any rate, will have degenerated into merely a recording machine for the expression of the will of the majority-
– Order !
– And that the rights of the minority to deliberate and discuss will be entirely taken away from them. If that were so the representation of their constituents in this Chamber would become merely nominal.
– I wish, sir, to ask your ruling on this point. 1 understand that, as the records of the House show, the motion before the Chair is to dissent from your ruling, that the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders submitted yesterday was within the meaning of standing orders 407 and 409. If I remember rightly the honorable member for West Sydney took two points. One was that the motion was not seconded. Upon that point you ruled- against him. That point comes under standing order 407, and very properly, therefore, in the records of the House standing order 407 is mentioned. The honorable member, under standing order 409, took another point, that the particular purpose for which the suspension of the Standing Orders was asked was not stated by the Prime Minister. On that point also you ruled against the honorable member. The honorable member for Adelaide is now discussing other points which have absolutely no relevancy to the two matters which might be discussed on the motion now before the Chair. In the circumstances, I ask you to rule that he is not in order.
– I have already drawn the attention of the honorable member for Adelaide to the fact that the debate on the question before the Chair is limited within certain lines, and to the ruling proposed to be dissented from. The honorable member, in answer, said that it was necessary for him to give some narration of the events which led up to the ruling. I understand that he is endeavouring to do that now. The honorable member has agreed that he should not discuss those matters, and I feel sure that he will not do so.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is the second point of order raised by the Attorney-General that has fallen to the ground. It seems to me. that in discussing a motion of dissent from your ruling 1 should. be at liberty to say why I dissent from it. But the points of order raised by the Attorney-General are of a character to prevent me from doing so.
– That must not be discussed further.
– I was only admonishing the Attorney-General for his impetuosity and his desire to restrict my speech. I was going to say that it would manifestly be an insult to you, sir, if I were merely to rise in my place and say, “ I dissent from your ruling,” or, if some other honorable member had said that, I were to rise and say, “I also dissent.” Out of courtesy to you, sir, we should be. permitted to give the reasons why we dissent from your ruling. Such a motion, it seems to me, should never be submitted unless for the most weighty reasons, and if we are not permitted to explain OUT reasons - and that is evidently the desire of the Government - we shall indirectly be insulting the Chair, and that will never be ‘ done by honorable members on this side. If I were asked why I dissent from the ruling given by the Speaker yesterday, I would say that in the first place it is because it amounted to an undue restriction upon what hitherto had been the rights and privileges of honorable members. It amounted to giving a majority for the time being a power which, if continued to be used, could be used in such a manner as not merely to disfranchise the whole of the minority and the people whom they represent, but also to conduct the business of this House absolutely without the knowledge of the minority. A notice-paper is printed which gives reasonable notice to honorable members of the business that is to come on for discussion. Necessarily honorable members who give attention to the work of the House, look at the noticepaper in order to have some understanding of what is going on, and prepare themselves accordingly. But if the procedure which was taken yesterday is permitted to continue, the notice-paper will be absolutely of no use to honorable members ; and our preparedness to discuss particular subjects will be so much waste time, in that’ the majority, for a purpose that they did not explain, and have not yet explained, and, judging by the point of order taken by the Attorney-General, do not desire to explain, may bring on business of a character which the members of the minority do not expect
– Order ! I do not think that is the question before the Chair.
– I shall stop when you direct me to do so, but this is a most serious matter to me. During the years that I spent in the Parliament of my State, I gave particular attention to the Standing Orders, and the question of the privileges and rights of honorable members, and never once did I come in conflict with the Chair, and I hope never to do so. You ruled yesterday that a certain motion was submitted in conformity with a particular standing order. I am now trying to show that it was not in conformity with that standing order; and in doing so I wish to prove that, if your ruling is upheld, and the majority of this House are permitted to continue the procedure which, they initiated yesterday, it will mean that our preparedness for discussion will be so much waste time. We shall have no notice of what is to transpire on any particular day. While we may have prepared ourselves to discuss defence, the Ministry may spring upon us the High Commissioner Bill, or even some measure of which we know absolutely nothing.
– Order ! The honorable member must not proceed in that way.
– What I am saying is tuning up the Ministry, and that is why the Attorney-General is muttering at the table opposite to me. I ask ihat his grumblings and mutterings be checked.
– I should like to take objection
– I point out to the Attorney-General that every honorable member who addresses the Chamber is entitled to be heard without interruption. I am trying to keep the honorable member for Adelaide to the question before the Chair, and I believe the honorable member is now about to deal with it.
– I noted that when you said that in your opinion I was now about to deal with the question, some laughter arose on the other side. Those who laugh fail to see that their laughter was a reflection on you, Mr. Speaker, for if I was not previously discussing the question it was your fault, and not mine. Both here and in every other Parliament, and particularly in the British House of Commons, whose rules guide us when ours are not specific, the suspension of the Standing Orders is permitted only in special circumstances, and then only upon notice, or, if not upon notice, only by the good will of an absolute majority. We may reasonably ask why it is necessary, where notice has not been given, that an absolute majority shall vote for the suspension.
– Order ! That is not the question before the Chair.
– The objection to your ruling is that standing order 407 has been in some way violated, and I submit, therefore, that the whole purport of standing order 407. which deals with the suspension of the Standing Orders, comes within the range of debate on this motion. The suspension of the Standing Orders in every Parliament, and as a matter of fact in this, is surrounded by safeguards to prevent any form of abuse. When honorable members are under the impression that the Standing Orders have been violated, as some of us are, a little extra latitude should be given by reason of the opinion that honorable members’ rights and privileges have been taken from them. It is not a question of what my rights are, or the rights of any other honorable member on the Opposition side to-day, but it is a question of the rights of the thousands of electors who sent those honorable members here. In those circumstances, therefore, there ought not to be any undue restriction of debate, or any attempt to limit the rights of honorable members; otherwise it could safely be contended that the minority arc absolutely helpless, that they are not permitted to discuss, and are scarcely permitted even to mention, their opposition. Not only was the suspension of the Standing Orders moved yesterday in a manner quite new an.r altogether foreign to the ordinary procedure, but honorable members were not permitted even to discuss it, because the Prime Minister immediately moved, “ That the question be now put.”
– I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he is not now discussing the ruling which was given and upon which this motion was based. I hope the honorable member will confine his remarks to that question, which is the only question before the House.
– I certainly shall do so to the best of my ability. You may rest assured that I shall never come into conflict with the Chair, and when you rule that I cannot proceed I shall, perhaps re gretfully, but nevertheless readily, obey you. I claim that the suspension of the Standing Orders is surrounded by safeguards in the interests of the rights and privileges of honorable members, even though they may be in the minority, and of those who sent them here. The procedure yesterday was of a character likely to seriously endanger those rights and privileges. In the House of Lords, the suspension of the Standing Orders can only take place after a specific motion has been carried explaining the reason for the suspension. According to May, 11th edition, page 517 -
On the 9th April, 1883, no notice having been given on the previous day to suspend the standing orders in regard to the Explosive Substances Bill, the House resolved, “ That it was essentially necessary for the public safety that the Bill should be proceeded in with all possible despatch, and that notwithstanding the standing orders, the Lord Chancellor- ought forthwith to put the question upon every stage.”
There was no attempt by the Government of the day to apply the closure to the discussion of that motion, which indicated how rigidly that body safeguards the rights and privileges of its members. But yesterday the suspension of the Standing Orders was moved without notice. In my opinion, it was not moved in conformity with standing order 407, and if your ruling is to hold good, the privileges of honorable members will be seriously curtailed. When we look at the position of the political pendulum to-day, when the majority is able to take a certain course—
– The question is not what a majority may do ; but whether my ruling shall be dissented from.
– In my opinion, sir, your ruling curtailed our privileges. On page 96 of the edition of May from which I have just quoted, it is laid down that the principle, regarding freedom of speech as a privilege essential to every free council or Legislature, was well stated by the Commons at a Conference, in these words -
The members must be as free as the houses; an Act of Parliament cannot disturb the State. Therefore the debate that tends to it cannot ; for it must be propounded and debated before it can be enacted.
– It appears to me that the quotation has nothing to do with the question.
– Under those circumstances, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That this House dissents from the ruling of Mr. Speaker, that the motion of the Prime Minister for the suspension of the Standing Orders was a motion within the meaning of standing orders 407 and 409 - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 21st September, (vide page 3653) 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.
.- It is almost impossible for me to add anything to what was so well said by the honorable member for Mernda last evening in his able contribution to the debate upon this Bill. Honorable members will understand that whatever observations I may make upon this proposal are made from the standpoint of a layman, and not from that of a financial expert. I appreciate very highly the deliverance of the honorable member for Mernda, and I think that the case which he has presented is an unanswerable one. I listened with great attention to the deliverance of the Prime Minister in asking for leave to introduce this Bill, and I was amazed at some of the statements which he made. There was a good deal of padding in his speech, and it seemed to be used with a desire to conceal much of what he really felt on the subject. The honorable gentleman’s speech gave one the impression that he was trying to keep back something, and was not giving to the House his real’ views. Both the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Mernda, in their opening remarks, gave a historical sketch of the Brad don section ; but there are one or two points which I desire to add. Undoubtedly, every honorable member realizes that the question before us is of great importance, and that it should have been settled much earlier in the history of the
Federation. The financial problem has received the special attention of the Treasurer, the honorable member forHume; the honorable member for Mernda, the honorable member for Darwin, the honorable member for North Sydney, the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Kooyong, who, with the honorable member for South Sydney, and the honorable member for Wide Bay, have propounded schemes for its solution.It is true, as the honorable member for Mernda said last night, that the draft Bill, framed at the Convention of 1891, and which formed the basis of the present Constitution, did not provide for the Commonwealth returning to the States any portion of the Customs and Excise revenue. It was realized, however, by the framers of that Bill, that if the Commonwealth retained the whole of the revenue from Customs and Excise, it should utilize it in the payment of interest on the existing debts of the States, winch were to be transferred. The Constitution Bill, as submitted to the first referendum, contained a provision that the Commonwealth should for all time return to the States three- fourths of its Customs and Excise revenue.
-And all the States accepted it.
– It was not submitted to the people of Queensland, and in New South Wales it was not accepted by the requisite majority. The debates at the sittings of the Convention evidenced on the part of the members great difficulty in dealing with the financial problem; but there seemed to be underlying the discussion a very general feeling that the Customs and Excise revenue should be dealt with in relation to the State debts. The Braddon clause was adopted, and embodied in the Constitution on the last day of the sittings, and the Constitution Bill was shortly afterwards submitted to the electors.I happened to be in Sydney when the right honorable member for East Sydney, on 29th March, 1898, delivered his great speech in the Town Hall, in regard to the Bill. It was in that speech that the right honorable member declared his intention of assuming the attitude of a Judge addressing a jury, saying that he intended to point out the advantages and disadvantages of the Bill, leaving the people to judge for themselves whether ornot it ought to be accepted. He took the strongest possible exception to its financial provisions, pointing out that it was absurd to think that a Commonwealth Trea- surer would seek to obtain revenue by the imposition of Customs and Excise duties, since, by means of direct taxation, he would be able to secure for the Commonwealth every penny that was collected, and would not have, as in the case of the Customs and Excise revenue, to return three-fourths to the States. He went on to say -
If this Federation comes I shall fight in the Federation precisely the same fight as I have fought in this country. As in this country I fought that we should not take all our taxes from the masses, but take a fair, not an extravagant share, from the wealth and income of the country, so shall I fight is the Federation. I give those Treasurers notice, and those who speak with them, that if they come into this Federation with me, and those who side with me so far asI am concerned, they must come in on this footing: That they must look out for themselves. If they are in amess they must get themselves out of their own mess. In the Federation there should be as fair and equitable a division of the national taxes as - if I may be allowed to say it - we have here.
Subsequently, in the Legislative Assembly ofNew South Wales, the right honorable member took upa definite stand, declaring that he could not accept the Constitution Bill while the Braddon clause as passed by the Convention remained in it. We all know that the Bill with that clause, . as originally drafted, was not accepted bya statutory majority in New South Wales, and that further steps had to be taken in order that it mightbe again submitted to the people. What was the position of the right honorable member for East Sydney? In the New South Wales Assembly he introduced certain resolutions, which, though some additions were made to them, were carried unanimously by both Houses of the Parliament; and the second of those resolutions provided that the Braddon clause should be eliminated from the Bill. Armed with that authority, the right honorable member went to the Premiers’ Conference; where all the States of the future Commonwealth were represented ; but he could not induce the Premiers to agree to the elimination of the clause, and he came to a compromise which limited its operation to a period of ten years. The underlying idea of the Premiers, in having this term provided, was to enable the States toput their houses financially in order, and the Commonwealth to obtain the necessary data on which they could take over the State debts. We have no official records of that Conference beyond the bare resolutions, and I am guided in the assertion I make by the newspaper reports.
– The underlying object was that, at the end of the ten years, the people should decide the question.
– Nothing of the kind ; and I challenge the honorable member, to give me any proof of his statement. We have had it from the Prime Minister from time to time that the object was to give the Commonwealth an opportunity to consider the important questions involved.
– There is no discoverable indication of the object suggested by the honorable member for Franklin.
– Quite so.
– The idea was to guarantee the financial stability of the States.
– I am not dealing with the subject of financial stability, but merely repeating history which any one can read for himself. We now find the right honorable member for East Sydney in a peculiar position. He, first of all, held that the Bill Was not acceptable to the people of New South Wales, because it Contained the Braddon clause in perpetuity. Then he went to the New South Wales Parliament, and had resolutions passed unanimously in favour of the elimination of that clause; and at the subsequent Premiers’ Conference he arrived at a compromise, limiting the operation of the clause to ten years. We now find the right honorable member, in a letter to the recent Conference, and also in a newspaper interview, suggesting that a specific sum per head of the population shall be given to the States for all time. This seems to me most inconsistent on the part of the right honorable member. I shall not deal further with this point, which, however, leads me to the present agreement, and the proposal of the Prime Minister that we shall give to the States 25s. per head of population for all time.
– The Prime Minister asks the people tosay whether they will do so or not.
– The honorable member may quibble as he likes, but-
-It is a fact.
– The honorable member knows that the Bill to be introduced does more than he suggests. He may use the quibble that it is a matter for the people to decide; but we have the fact that the Prime Minster, so far as he is concerned, has come to an agreement to amend the Constitution, so that it will embody the terms I have mentioned ; and a Bill is the only method he can adopt. We know, of course, that the Prime Minister has no power to insert such a provision in the Constitution; and we can come to no other conclusion than that the agreement is one which proposes to constantly provide for the per capita payment to the various States for all time. I regard such a proposal as a deliberate insultto the House. We have power in 1910 to arrange to make a payment to the States for ten, twenty, fifty, or, if we like, a hundred years ; but we are told by the Prime Minister, in effect, that we are not to be trusted.
– Will the honorable member not trust the people in the matter?
– Will the honorable member for Wilmot trust the people on the question of new Protection?
– I am glad to hear it, and I hope the honorable member’s leader will take the hint and submit the question to the people. It seems to me that the Premiers were not prepared to trust us to deal with the matter in the ordinary way of a Bill, and regarded the course now proposed as the only one which would give them any degree of certainty. This question had much thought bestowed upon it in the Federal Convention; and, after mature consideration, it was decided that, for all time, one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue would be sufficient to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth. I believe that every man who took part in the Convention debates thoroughly and honestly believed that that proportion would prove enough. Almost from the inception of Federation it was obvious that the one- fourth would be insufficient. No man in this House can predict what the expenditure of the Commonwealth will be within the next five years. To ask the people to place this provision in the Constitution, when the people themselves will not have a clear grip of the matter, and will have no special knowledge enabling them to deal with the question - not nearly so much knowledge as we have - is not reasonable. The Braddon section was inserted in the Constitution to protect the States. But it has not been necessary to protect the States, for the simple reason that we have given back to them more than£6,000,000 over and above what they were entitled to get.
– The trouble has been that while some States have received more than they expected others have been short.
– Queensland and Western Australia have been short, but that was due to the method of returning the surplus to the States on a population basis. It cannot be supposed that this House is not prepared to deal with the States in a reasonably fair manner. May we not suppose that if the matter were dealt with by Bill in the ordinary way, the Commonwealth Parliament after 1910 would treat the States fairly and honestly? But instead of that it is proposed that a provision shall be inserted in the Constitution. The Braddon section has hindered the attainment of the Federal ideal. It has prevented the passing of many measures which this Parliament thought should have been put into operation. Many of the aspirations of those who believe in Federation have, of necessity, been unfulfilled. Many questions affecting the national life of Australia have been neglected. The Braddon section, on the top of our unavoidable expenditure, has landed us in a deficit for the present year of £1,200,000. The Prime Minister told us when dealing with this measure that the Customs and Excise revenue would increase out of proportion to the increase in the population. But let him take his own Estimates for the current year. What do we find ? The Treasurer expects to receive from Customs and Excise £43,000 more than he received last year. Under the Premiers’ Conference agreement he would have to pay to the States on aper capita basis of 25s. per head, £95,825 more than they received last year. That is to say, on the Treasurer’s own Estimates there will be a loss of £52,800. Those figures alone should cause the Prime Minister to realize that the population of Australia is at present increasing faster than is the revenue from Customs and Excise. Again I point out that according to the statistics of Customs and Excise revenue printed on page 42 of the Budget Papers, in 1907-8 the receipts were £11,645,000 ; in 1908-9 the receipts were £10,843,000, or, roughly speaking, £801,000 less than in the year 1907-8. The estimated revenue for 1909-10 is £10,800,000, which shows a reduction of £43,985 upon the figures for 1908-9. I mention this because the Prime Minister laid special stress upon the assertion that the increase of Customs and Excise revenue was likely to be greater than the increase of population. In fact, the honorable gentleman went further. He said that he had endeavoured to find out whether there was a law governing the revenue from Customs and Excise in various countries; and he asserted that, after searching and consulting with a number of special authorities, he was forced to the conclusion that there was no such law. He added that, looking for some guidance in this matter, and examining the Customs and Excise revenue of various countries, he could find assistance from none of them ; and that the only evidence he could get to assist him in coming to a conclusion was that furnished by the Dominion of New Zealand. I will deal with that point later on; but at present I wish to emphasize the fact that not only is our revenue from Customs and Excise falling, but that even if it were likely that an increase would take place, still, that increase would be so small that the Prime Minister would not be justified in saying that for a number of years to come, the revenue from Customs and Excise would be augmented to any considerable extent. The figures as to revenue per head of population will be found on the same page of the Budget Papers as that from which I have already quoted. They show that in 1907-8, our receipts from Customs and Excise per head of population were £2 15s. 5d. ; in 1908-9, £2 10s. 8d. ; and that in 1909-10 they are estimated to be £2 9s. 7d. There we have a reductionof 4s. 9d. in 1908-9, and an estimated reduction of 1s.1½d. in the receipts for the current year. If we give to the States 50 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue, that will leave us barely 25s. a head to meet our own requirements. Whether that will be sufficient to enable us to carry on is very doubtful, but certainly it is a question which requires to be dealt with, and I hope to do so at a later stage. In spite of the fact that our revenue is declining our population is steadily increasing each year. In 1900 the increase was only 49,351 persons, while in 1908 it was 78,268 persons, showing an increase of 28,917 persons as compared with the figures for 1900.
– Was that increase due to natural causes of to immigration?
– That was the total increase of population in those years.I did not think it was worth while to go into the details.
– It is very important to have that information.
– I quite understand that. I thank the honorable member for his interjection, because it strengthens my argument very materially. We expect to have, in the near future, a much larger increase owingto an immigration policy which is supposed to be set afoot, and a land tax which will open up our lands and give opportunities for a larger number of persons to settle. That will offer a greater inducement for persons to come to these States; hence the position I am taking up now is rather understated than overstated. I could reasonably add an increase of1, perhaps 2, per cent. I Have not gone into that matter, but certainly a considerably larger number will be added toour population if the proposed immigration policy is successful.
– If our population increased by immigration our Customs revenue will expand by a much larger ratio than would be the case if increase of population were due to natural causes.
– There is no evidence of that kind, and I challenge the honorable member to point to one country where that is so. Take America,, which has a larger stream of’ immigrants than has any other country. Is it found there?
– Immigrants are generally bread-winners.
– That may be so, but they may buy locally-made articles. It is not reasonable to suppose that all the goods which the immigrants will purchase will be imported from abroad, while the very fact that they have come into the country will tend to lessen the amount per head of the population. In these circumstances I contend that we are likely to have an increase of population, while our revenue per head may remain stationary - or at most will not show a very large increase. On the basis of the calculations of payments as provided by the agreement, in 1900 we should have had to pay to the States £4,706,673, and in 1908 £5,344,120, being an increase of£637,447. I worked out the figures for a number of years and found that the proportion is pretty much the same. No matter how the figures may be worked out, it will be found that the population is more likely to increase than is the revenue. I admit that the power of imposing revenue duties rests with theGovernment, but that I understand is not part of their policy. On the contrary I gather that their desire is to remain neutral in this matter. I infer that the protective policy adopted by the House and the country is to remain intact.
– We have no guarantee to that effect.
– Perhaps the honorable member would like a guarantee tobe placed in the Constitution, as in the case of the payment to the States. The only method by which additional revenue can be obtained will be by revenue duties or direct taxation. I admit candidly that these courses are open. On this Basis of calculation the Customs and Excise revenue has increased from£7,762,653 in 1900 to £10,843,985 in 1908-9, showing an increase of£3,081,332. There is a clear case where the Customs and Excise revenue has increased, but even on that basis of calculation the population has increased at a greater ratio than has the revenue. We are brought face to face with another matterwhich, to my mind, has also a very important bearing on this particular phase of the question. Whilst our revenue increased from 1900 to 1908-9 by over £3,000,000, our expenditure rose from £3,733, 218 in 1901-2 to£7,867,621 estimated in 1909-10. It will be seen that from 1902 to 1908 our expenditure increased by £2,686,146, or, if we take the estimated expenditure for this year without going into details, the increase is over £4,134,000. So that, while it is true that, from the inception ofFederation, our revenue has increased, it is also true that our expenditure during the same period has increased in a greater ratio.
– The average yearly increase of expenditure has been£400,000.
– It is reasonable to suppose in the circumstances that any additional revenue we are likely to obtain from Customs and Excise will be more than balanced by our additional expenditure. I presume that in submitting their various proposals to Parliament the Government desire that they shall be carried into effect, but if those which have already been submitted are carried into effect financial disaster must overtake us. Whilst Commonwealth expenditure has been largely increasing we have been relieving the Statesof very considerable expenditure. In taking over the non-revenue producing Department, of Defence, and the payment of old-age pensions we have relieved the States of very considerable expenditure which they would otherwise have to meet. We have in the same way largely increased the expenditure of the Commonwealth, and to a greater extent than has been met by the increase of our revenue. The fact that we are at the present moment faced with a deficit of£1, 200,000 is sufficient to show that one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue is not enough to cover the expenditure of the Commonwealth. Many useful proposals would no doubt have been considered by this Parliament but for the fact that the Commonwealth has been unable to command sufficient money to finance them. Ihave always contended that from the inception of Federation this Parliament made a stupid mistake in raising revenue for other authorities to spend. We are now being asked to give the States for all time 25s. per head of their population, or more than one-half of our present revenue from Customs and Excise. We shall be compelled to impose additional taxation, not only to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth, but in order that the State Governments may have more money to spend. As soon after Federation was established as possible we should have come to some arrangement controlling the financial relations between the Commonwealth and State Governments, which would have thrown upon the State Governments the onus of raising the money they required to spend, and upon the Commonwealth Government the onus of raising the money required to meet Commonwealth expenditure. Had that course been followed, we should not now be in the unenviable position in which we are, for honorable members will assume a grave responsibility if they force this Parliament to impose additional taxation in order that we may hand over a certain sum of money to the State Governments. The proposed agreement is unsound in principle and ought never to be adopted by this House. The present Government have de- clared that the Protectionist policy of the Commonwealth is to remain untouched. If they are true to their professions in this regard they cannot propose the imposition of revenue duties or the reduction of existing protective duties. If they are to find the increased revenue which will be necessary to meet their engagements they must impose revenue duties on tea and kerosene, which are really the only articles from which additional taxation can conveniently be raised.
– There are £3,000,000 worth of piece goods as yet untouched.
– The honorablegen tleman is really proving what I have said. I am aware that his desire is that revenue duties only should be imposed. I admit at once that if revenue duties were imposed it would be possible in that way to increase the revenue of the Commonwealth.
– But that would destroy the Protective policy.
– I was just going to point out that the Protectionist policy adopted by this Parliament must be set aside before revenue duties can be imposed. We cannot at the same time impose revenue and Protective duties. The members of the Fusion party have entered into an agreement not to touch the Tariff unless it be for the purpose of rectifying anomalies, and if they honestly intend to carry out the terms of that agreement I repeat that there are only two items from which any considerable additional revenue can be raised, and they are tea and kerosene.
– There are other items.
– The honorable member may be aware of some other items from which revenue might be collected. We might impose an Excise duty on matches, or a duty on every pound of salt used in the Commonwealth .; but no one desires to do these things. I have stated the two main items from which additional revenue might be derived. I say it would be improper for us to levy revenue duties in order to find more money for the States. The question of the course we should follow in the matter of direct taxation arises. The moment any attempt is made by the Commonwealth to impose direct taxation we are met by the State Governments with the objection that we are invading their sphere of taxation. If we propose the imposition of a land tax or an absentee tax we have the State Premiers insisting that it is to such sources they must look for additional revenue. We, therefore, cannot impose direct taxation without being accused of violating powers that should be left to the States. The only alternative is to go in for revenue duties. Neither of those courses is a good one for the Commonwealth to take for the purpose of raising revenue which is simply to be handed back to the States. I do not want to be misunderstood, for I believe that direct taxation should be imposed ; but it is not right that we should be compelled to impose it merely in order to hand a certain sum of money back to the States. If this agreement is carried, the Commonwealth will never be free, but will be compelled to levy taxation from tune to time to meet its requirements, and in order that it may be able to pay back to the States the sum fixed upon. Moreover, the Commonwealth has many grave and serious responsibilities thrown upon it, and will want all the money that it can possibly obtain to meet them. We shall want additional money, and that must come from some source or other. I do not think the Prime Minister himself believed, when making his speech the other day, that he would be able to get that additional money without imposing direct taxation. He must admit that he cannot get it from Customs and Excise. The balance which it is estimated that the Commonwealth will have from Customs and Excise taxation, after paying 25s. per head to the States, cannot possibly meet our requirements. I saw a most interesting statement in the Age newspaper recently, which put the matter very clearly, so far as the requirements of the Commonwealth are concerned. Before I deal with that, I wish to point out the expenditure which will be involved by the proposals of the Government. First, there are the naval defence proposals, which I understand from the speech delivered by the Ministerof Defence yesterday are to cost£3,750,000.
– That is capital cost.
– I quite understand that. I am pointing out the amount of money which will have to be raised. We are also told that the land forces are to be increased at an additional cost of from £300,000 to£400,000. The requirements of the Postmaster-General’s Department will cost£2,000,000, according to the expert of the Department, and I presume that he knows something about it. Oldage pensions are to cost, next year, an additional£1,000,000, because this year we have not found the full amount.
– That is more than the estimate.
– The estimated additional expenditure on old-age pensions for 1910-11 is, I think,£900, 000, so that I am merely putting it in round figures when I say£1, 000,000. The upkeep of the Australian Navy is to cost us, according to the PrimeMinister, from£700,000 to £1, 000,000 a year. Invalid pensions will involve an additional expenditure of £500,000 per year, when that portion of the Act is brought into force. According to the Treasurer’s statement in the paper presented to the House, the taking over of the Northern Territory will involve an expenditure of£10,000,000. We are told by the Minister ofTrade and Customs that lighthouses, beacons, and buoys will cost £60,000 a year.
-There is a really good revenue to be derived from that service.
– The honorable member will have an ample opportunity to. show where that revenue is to come from. I know that a revenue is derived from that service now, but the , £60,000 a year which I mention is to bean additional expenditure, when we take the. Department over, according to the Minister of Trade and Customs. Works to which we have already committed ourselves in the Works and Buildings Estimates, which Parliament has just passed, will involve an additional expenditure of , £178,000 ; while an immigration policy, if there is any life in it, or if any power is to be put behind it, will mean an annual expenditure of £50,000. The High Commissioner will certainly cost at least£20,000 a year. I do not know how much the Bureau of Agriculture will cost, but I put it down at the small amount of£5,000 a year, although I do not think that that will cover it. I have also put the Inter-State Commission down at£5,000, although it will probably cost more. I admit that all these amounts should be spread over a number of years. I have no data at my disposal to show how much will be spent each year, but those are all proposals which are now before us in concrete form, and which, I presume, the House will deal with in a business-like and intelligent way. I presume that most of them are to be carried out. No one doubts that the Northern Territory will be taken over, if not now, at least in thenext year or two. In fact, it must be taken over, for no other course can be followed. The naval expenditure, the works to which we are already committed, invalid pensions, and old-age pensions, all require large sums of money to finance them ; and although that expenditure will be spread over a number of years, I think I am well within the mark in saying that the Commonwealth balance of Customs and Excise revenue, after 25s. per head has been paid to the States,’ will not be adequate to meet it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– In a recent issue of the Age it is made very plain that the balance of the Customs and Excise revenue remaining to the Commonwealth after 25s. per capita, which would mean £5,000,000, has been paid to the States, will not be sufficient to meet our expenditure for this and next year. The writer of the article says -
As matters present themselves now, the total Federal revenue amounts to ^14,555,000. If ^5,000,000 were subtracted from that sum it would leave to the .Federation a total sum of £9,555,000. Is that sufficient?
Then follow figures which I think it quite permissible to quote in this connexion : -
This year, according to the Estimate of the Treasurer, there will be a deficit of £1,200,000, and next year, if we carry out the works which we propose to carry out, and, at the same time, make a payment of 25s. per head to the States, the deficit will be still larger. The Prime Minister seems to have entered into an agreement with the Premiers before thoroughly understanding the position, and having done so, to have sought for reasons for his action. Apparently, he has searched the statistical records of the world to find arguments to justify what he has .done. He neglected the lessons taught. by every other country in the world, to accept the example of New Zealand, where, he tells us, £3 ros. per head is received from Customs and Excise revenue. That, he seemed to regard as a reason for assuming that our Customs and Excise revenue will increase to a like amount, and that the balance remaining after 25s, per head has been paid to the States will be sufficient to’ provide for our expenditure. New Zealand, he said, is a young country, whose conditions closely approach those of the Commonwealth ; that our possibilities are asgreat as hers, ‘ and what she can do we ought to be able to do. He went on to:make the extraordinary statement that, -where there is a large oversea trade, Customs and Excise revenue must expand, and also that an increase of population means an increase in the Customs and Excise re turns - a statement which was repeated this afternoon, by interjection. If it be true that an increase of population- means an increase in the Customs and Excise returns, all we have to do to obtain the money necessary for the proper development of this great country, is to get a large number of persons to come here. It is true that New Zealand’ collects from Customs and Excise a revenue equal to £3 10s. per head of population, while that of the Commonwealth is equal to only £2 9s. 6d. per head. Strangely enough, the Prime Minister stated more than once that the Commonwealth revenue was equivalent to £3 I5S- Per head - a mistake which appeared, both on the galley slips, and in the first issue of Hansard.
– It was obviously a slip.
– I admit that; but it was a strange mistake to make when, for three-quarters of an hour, he had been trying to prove that wherever the oversea trade is large, a big return is received from Customs- and Excise revenue.
– A good Free Trade argument.
– I am not prepared to say whether it is a good Free Trade oi’ a good Protectionist argument. It is true that the oversea trade of New Zealand is equivalent to £40 per head of population, while that of the Commonwealth is equivalent to only £29; or to £11 less. The Prime Minister went “ on to say that our increase of population would naturally cause our oversea trade to increase. He then made a laboured effort to show that all that we required to increase our oversea trade was additional immigration, and that with the development of that trade we should collect an increased Customs and Excise revenue. In reply I desire to point out that any increase which may take place in our population will not materially alter our per capita receipts from Customs “and Excise. Nor will it increase the wealthproducing power of our people. In the first place it is reasonable to assume that those who settled in Australia in its early history selected a very large portion of the best lands that were available.
– They may have done so in Queensland, but they have not done so in Western Australia
– The honorable member cannot convince me that the persons who settled in Western Australia selected the worst lands.
– They cannot pick the land there at all. The Government survey it.
– An intending settler naturally selects the best block that is available to him.
– But there are millions of acres available for settlement in Western Australia.
– I admit that there is a very large area and that the settlement which has taken place between Albany and Spencer’s Brook during the past few years is simply amazing. But the persons already settled in the Commonwealth have undoubtedly secured some of its best lands. That is proved by the fact that there is not a State in the Commonwealth - Western Australia included - which has not formulated a scheme for the repurchase of estates for closer settlement purposes. It is difficult to say whether there is likely to be any g”>.at development in our mining industry in the future. Probably our best coal seams, our best copper lodes, and our best gold reefs have been, or are being, worked. Consequently it is reasonable to assume that the productiveness of our people today is equal to what it will be at any time in our history.
– The honorable member means per head ?
– Exactly. I do hot suggest that- we shall not export in greater volume. But the value of our exports per head is as great to-day as it is likely to be at any time in our future history. As a matter of fact the per capita value of that trade is likely to decline rather than to increase. In his laboured effort to prove his case the Prime Minister laid great stress upon what has happened in New Zealand But he might have looked for stronger evidence than is afforded by the statistics relating to the Dominion. Had he turned up page 598 of Knibbs’ Official Year-Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, he would have noted a table which sets forth the per capita value of our oversea trade as far back as 1826. From that table it appears that the highest point ever reached _by this country was in 1854, when that trade amounted to £56 3s. 10d. per capita. Of course everybody, is aware of the reason underlying that exceptional development of our trade. It occurred just about the time when the gold discoveries in Australia were responsible for a large accession to our population in the form of adult males. We had practically no manu facturing industries at the time, our gold was being exported, and consequently a large volume of imports was pouring into the country. The figures relating to that year cannot fairly be regarded as an index of the future.
– The honorable member is speaking of imports and exports ?
– Yes. Then there was a continuous decline in the value of our oversea trade till 1887, when it represented only £18 3s. nd. per capita. A further fall took place in 1894, when it declined to £15 185. 4d. per capita.
– That was a very exceptional year.
– It was a year in which a severe drought was experienced, and in which the number of sheep in New South Wales decreased from 61,000,000 to 23,000,000, whilst the number in Queensland declined from 21,000,000 to 7,000,000 or’ 8,000,000. It was just as abnormal a year as was” 1854. It is true that up till 1907 our oversea trade gradually increased till it had reached £29 19s. 10d. per head. But since that period it has materially declined. The argument which the Prime Minister sought to rest on that foundation falls to the ground, and he had no justification for his laboured effort to prove that we had good reason to anticipate a bigger oversea trade, and that we should thereby obtain a larger revenue from Customs duties. I find that New Zealand, Belgium, and Switzerland are the only countries which have a larger oversea trade, per head of the population, than we have. Our oversea trade is only slightly below that of two of those countries, and it is quite possible that we may make good that deficiency in the course of a year or two. We cannot expect any large increase in our oversea trade at the present time, however, and if an increase does take place it will be so slight that it will not appreciably affect our Customs revenue. During the last decade New Zealand has spent borrowed money to the extent of £9 10s. per head of her population in excess of the per capita expenditure of borrowed money in the Commonwealth, and it is only rea- sonable to assume, therefore, that the purchasing power of her people has thus been increased to some slight extent. New Zealand imports £7 15s. 3d. per head of her population more than the Commonwealth does, so that unless she has some heavy revenue duties in force the protective incidence of her Tariff cannot be so effective as is that of the Commonwealth Tariff. All these facts go to show that the argument advanced by the Prime Minister that we were likely to increase our imports and so to increase our Customs revenue, has no solid foundation. I have dwelt upon this phase of the question longer than I had intended, but I felt that it deserved some attention since the Prime Minister had devoted three-quarters of an hour to an effort to show that, since New Zealand’s oversea trade per head of her population was about £11 per head more than that of the Commonwealth, we had only to attract more population in order to obtain an increased Customs and Excise revenue. I thought that the Prime Minister, as a Federalist, would stand for the rights of the Commonwealth rather than for those of the States. The States under this agreement have secured the “ big end of the stick,” and will benefit to a much larger extent than we can hope to do. They will be relieved of the necessity to impose fresh taxation, because the amount which it is proposed to return to them under this agreement will provide them with ample revenue. I desire now to refer to the question of the State debts. Underlying the debates of the Federal Convention there was undoubtedly the feeling that the transfer of the Customs and Excise to the Commonwealth was to be associated with the transfer of the State debts. When the people were invited to accept the Constitution Bill they were assured that, as the result of the transfer of the State debts to the Commonwealth, enormous savings would be effected. The Treasurer has told us that something like £26,000,000 may be saved during the currency of the loans if we take over the debts and have a uniform stock. The possibility of effecting such a saving makes it imperative that the whole question of the transfer should be dealt with as speedily as possible. The Prime Minister, however, simply proposes that the question shall be referred to a Royal Commission for inquiry and report. Why is a Commission required? The proposal is a humbug and a farce, and only intended to shelve this important question. Every available data is now in the possession of the States, each of which knows its indebtedness, and where particular stock is held.
– If, as the honorable member says, the 25s. per head is needed for Commonwealth expenditure, there will be nothing left to pay the States debts.
– I say that more than the 25s. per head is required. If we pay that amount, the very first year we shall find ourselves with a large deficit.
– I understood the honorable member to say that this money is needed for the Commonwealth expenditure.
– I say that more than the balance that will be left is required for Commonwealth expenditure. The moment we hand over the 25s. per head, there will be a deficit which will necessitate some form of taxation in order that the payment may be made.
– But, if we spend the 25s. per head, there willbe nothing left to pay the interest on the States debts.
– I say that we will spend some; though I do not know exactly how much. Under the present proposals, we shall require more than the balance left after the payment of the 25s. per head, in order to meet our own requirements. The Prime Minister tried to console us by saying that, “ After all, we shall take backthe 25s. per head from the States when we take over the States debts.” Does that not seem ridiculous, after we have gone to the trouble of taking a referendum, by which time, I presume, the Commission will have found that it is wise to take over the States debts ?
– We do not take back the 25s. per head ; but use it to pay the interest.
– But the necessary cross entries will have to be made. I do not say that the actual money is handed back and forward. Would it not be much better to allow the Commonwealth to deal with the States debts, and pay the interest, calling upon the States to make up the difference between the amount given to them, and the amount necessary to cover the whole of the interest? That would obviate an amendment of the Constitution ; but I am afraid, as the honorable member for Flinders pointed out a little while ago, that there is something more involved than the mere paying of the interest on the debts. The general idea is that we shall establish a sinking fund as we take over the debts; and we have to realize that in the next twenty-one or twenty-two years there will be upwards of £170,000,000 of State debts that can be dealt with, or considerably more than half of the whole of the debts. One . estimate of the saving by conversion was £15,000,000, and another was £26,000,000; and if we can save. . a large sum of money, it is reasonable to suppose that within tlie next twenty years a sinking fund will to a large extent have been established’, and that the States will not be paying back any additional amount beyond the 25s. per head. The States will be relieved of the additional amount they would have to pay to make up the interest, and will still be receiving 25s. per head. As, by the establishment of the sinking fund, we were able to liquidate some of the debts as they fell due, the result would probably be that the States would find the 25s. per head more than sufficient to cover the amount of interest on the other debts. Under the circumstances, we would then be compelled by the agreement to still pay a portion -of the 25s. per head to the States.
– Of course we would.
– That is a point that the Prime Minister did not make clear to us the other night. There is so much doubt, that several questions have , been asked in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and the Premier of that State has distinctly and emphatically expressed the opinion that, after the whole of the debts are liquidated, we shall be responsible to the States for 25s. per head.
– That is what the Prime Minister said. The payment is to be continued in perpetuity.
– I did not understand the Prime Minister to say that, and I listened very carefully to his speech, and also subsequently read it.
– The Prime Minister said the payment Ay.ould be converted into a credit against the interest.
– That was only during the term of the loans.
– What I understood the Prime Minister to say was that the 25s. per head would be paid in perpetuity, but that, after the debts were taken over, and so long as there were any debts remaining, it would be used pro 6 for the payment of interest.
– I must have missed that point; but, in any case, it does not affect my argument that, after the whole of the debts have been paid, we shall still be compelled to pay to the States 25s. per head. I think that the honorable member for Mernda put the matter very tersely and explicitly last night when- he referred tq the. contention that if the people altered the Constitution as suggested, they could, if they deemed it wise, alter the Constitution again at a later period. That was one of the strongest points which the. Prime Minister- made. He said that if the people put this provision into the Constitution, they could take it out again. But there is great difficulty in amending the Constitution, and as 3:ears go on, it- will be still more difficult to do so.- In America, it is almost impossible at present to effect an amendment of the Constitution. There was a time in the history of the United States when the Constitution could be amended, with some difficulty, it is. true, but with nothing like the amount of difficulty that is presented now. If the population grew to twenty millions, and the amount paid by the Commonwealth to the States reached! j£25>°00>0°o penum,* it would be most difficult to induce the States to agree to an- alteration. Another reason which the Prime Minister gave for putting this provision into the Constitution was that we should thereby prevent the Premiers of the States from taking part in Federal elections. But if, in the course of time, there was a desire on the part of a considerable section of this House to reduce the 25s. per capita, and an attempt were made -to pass a Bill to carry out that intention, the proposal would meet with the strongest opposition from the State Rights parties in the States. One of the greatest dangers with which we shall be faced if the Constitution be altered as proposed, will be that we shall create vested interests on the part of the States in the revenue raised by the Commonwealth!
– We should be in the position of asking the people to force the States to give back something which we had voluntarily given to them.
– Yes.. When the Federal .Constitution was originally submitted to the people, they were asked to confer upon the Commonwealth certain privileges with regard to finance. Nine years after, we turn round and say to them, “ We- asked you for teo much when Federation was established ; we now desire to give you something “back.” But what position shall we be in if a’ few years hence we say to the people of the States, “ We now wish you to give back to us some of the powers which we voluntarily sur rendered to you in 1910.” The whole matter hinges on the principle which the Prime Minister enunciated when he said that “ Government is finance, and finance is government.” I am quite prepared to concede that the States should receive a fair proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue. But a time will come when the arrangement made will have to be readjusted ; and the legitimate course for this House to follow is to pass a Bill granting to the States 25s. per capita, or 24s., or any amount that may be decided upon, leaving the Commonwealth to carry on with the balance of the Customs and Excise revenue, or to impose direct taxation. Then, if we found in the future that it was necessary to make another arrangement, we could pass another Bill without any trouble. That, I consider, is the proper position to take up.
– Is not this the honor able member’s position : that as long as 25s.per capita yields less than the interest on the debts of the States, he is willing to pay that amount; but as soon as the yield was more than the amount of the interest, he would not keep to the bargain.
– That is not the position which I take up. I maintain that we ought not to insert in the Constitution a provision compelling the Commonwealth to pay to the States 25s. per capita for all time.I do not object to the amount that it is proposed to pay to the States. That is not the question. But, as the. honorable member for Flinders has stated, what is proposedwould practically put a leg-rope upon the Commonwealth. We have a right to expect that this Bill will not be carried. I am sure that the States in the past have not treated the Commonwealth as they should have done. I regret to have to say so, but I have seen honorable members in this House take up a stand on behalf of the States which was anything but creditable to themselves or to this Parliament. We were sent here to protect the interests of the Commonwealth to the fullest possible extent, while doing justice to the States ; but I have often heard honorable members in this chamber get up and speak on behalf of the States without having a word to say from the. Commonwealth point of view, simply because their party was not in power. When I witnessed that spectacleI could not help thinking that there wasa good deal of parochialism in this chamber that ought not to exist. The States on several occasions have instituted actions at law against the Commonwealth, which ought not to have been commenced. Several law suits have ensued, which have been decided against the States, as everybody who looked into the issues impartially considered that they must be. Then there was the wire-netting case. Feeling ran pretty high at that time, and the action of New. South Wales might, under some circumstances, have led to civil war in this community. It would have taken very little to cause a riot in Sydney at that time. Yet the action of the New South Wales Premier was taken deliberately for political purposes.
– I do not think that any one in this Chamber upheld New South Wales in regard to that matter.
– I think the honorable member at that time supported certain gentlemen who defended the action of the New South Wales Government.
– Thosewhom I supported had nothing to do with what was then done.
– No, but there were honorable members on this side then who were prepared to rise anddefend that action. I did not hear one of them protest against it, and when we entered a protest one night did not the honorable member for Parramatta rise and ask if the States had ho rights at all? We do not forget these things.
– You do not let us forget them either.
– Why should we?
– The honorable member did not say the whole of the Opposition.
– No, I said certain members of the Opposition. At that time there were honorable members on this side who deplored the action of New South Wales as much as did any one else. I regret that therewere even one or two honorable members who were prepared to defend it. Then there was the matter of the printing of postage stamps. It was only a trifling matter, but it showed how the States were prepared to fight the Commonwealth on every possible occasion. When it was found that South Australia was printing postage stamps at less than one-half the cost in other States, naturally an inquiry was made. And when the PostmasterGeneral - I think it was the honorable member for Eden-Monaro - argued that the officer in South Australia should print the whole of the stamps in the central office, Mr. Wade and Mr. Carruthers held indignation meetings about the proposal of the Commonwealth to have work which should belong to New South Wales done elsewhere. That I admit was only a trifling matter, but it showed the direction in which the minds of the ‘ State Premiers were running. Every possible obstacle was put in the way of the Commonwealth. There is not a member of the House, no matter where he sits, who has not been spoken of in most disparaging terms, not only by the State Premiers but also, I regret to say, by many public men in the States.
– The honorable member Is now spoiling a very good argument by introducing the personal element.
– The Commonwealth has not been treated fairly on all occasions ; but that is no reason why it should not treat the States fairly. We have always done all in our power to conciliate the States, and therefore a more conciliatory spirit should have been shown by the State Premiers. I do not desire to labour the matter any further. In my opinion the Government are making a mistake. I cannot believe that the Prime Minister in his heart thinks that this is a good agreement. It was submitted to the House by the honorable gentleman in a most eloquent, and, from his point of view probably, a most powerful speech. At the same time I think that the arguments which he advanced were weak, and certainly not in keeping with his reputation. If he had taken -up a stand against the agreement, probably he would have made one of the most eloquent speeches which he has ever delivered, because it is one of those subjects which he is not only familiar with, but which I think are very dear to him, affecting as they do the national life of Australia. I regret that he should have taken up such a weak cause -as he evidently did in trying to make us believe that this is the best possible agreement. It is perfectly true, as he stated, that it is the best agreement which we Have had up to the present time. But it is not the best agreement which could be had so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. I hope that the Bill will not receive the necessary number of votes to enable it to pass. If it is passed and the agreement is referred to the people, I shall fight it on every possible occasion.
.- I desire to make a few observations on this motion, introducing as it does one of the most, if not the most, momentous questions which have been submitted to this Parliament. I agree with the Prime Minister that the next Federal election will probably be the most important one that we have had. I think that his comprehensive and statesmanlike survey of the whole position, when he explained the agreement to the House, has arrested the attention of Australia. I anticipate that in the main the position which he has taken up will be indorsed. He has cleared away very many misconceptions from the minds of a large number of persons who were not altogether in sympathy with the agreement. Of course, it. is not to be expected that an important proposal of this kind, going down, as it does, to the very tap-root of our Parliamentary operations, will meet with the approval of all members of the House, even of those sitting on the Ministerial side. In his comprehensive view of the situation the Prime Minister went back to the very beginning and touched the foundation of finance as it is defined in the ‘ Constitution. Last evening the honorable member for Mernda traced very clearly the history of the financial provisions through the Conventions to the Constitution .itself. It is generally admitted, I think, that the various Conventions recognised that the Customs and Excise revenue should be distributed in a way which would be just to both the Commonwealth and the States. The Braddon section, which allowed onefourth of the net revenue from those sources to the Commonwealth and threefourths to the States, indicated at once a financial partnership. In my opinion, a great deal of commendation should be given to the Premiers’ Conference which limited the operation of that section to ten years. It was a wise provision, because it fixed a probationary period in which the Commonwealth and the States could ascertain the relative process of development before a readjustment should take place. After an experience of eight and a-half years ‘we find that the Commonwealth expenditure has increased very much more rapidly than the members of the Convention anticipated, as is shown by the agreement now- before the House, which provides for practically an equal division of the Customs and. Excise revenue between the Commonwealth and the States. There is no particular objection taken to the proposed division. Experience has shown that a larger proportion of the revenue should be given to the Commonwealth. Perhaps in the course of ten or fifteen or twenty years further experience may suggest the necessity of making another alteration of the Constitution. 1 can hardly appreciate the objection which is raised against any future alteration which may be found to be necessary.
– There is the difference between taking something out and putting something in.
– It is now found necessary to alter the. Constitution in that way.
– No; take nothing out.
– On this occasion there will be something taken out, because the Constitution will be altered six months before the expiration of the Braddon section. I propose to leave the detailed figures connected with this important question to honorable members who, like the honorable member for Mernda, have made a deep Study of it. Since the agreement was circulated, I have endeavoured to arrive at an independent judgment as to the equity of the proposal. A proper determination of the question can only be arrived at by a right appreciation of the public services now undertaken, and to be undertaken in the future by the State and Commonwealth authorities. In trying to arrive at such a determination, I have endeavoured to reduce the question to its simplest form. The Prime Minister stated, that of the £250,000,000 owing by the States to the British creditors, about £150,000,000 bears interest, and the balance of £100,000,000 is non-interest bearing. That is to say, that, in order to meet ‘ the interest on £100,000,006 of the total indebtedness of the States, revenue must be derived from some sources other than the works which have been constructed by the expenditure of that money. In my judgment, this £100,000,000 that is non-productive is the only portion of the public debt that _ can. properly be considered as pointing a direction in which revenue derived from Customs and Excise taxation may be applied as interest. I take the view that the railways, and other public works on which the £150,000,000 that is returning interest have been expended, should be regarded as trading concerns, and the money borrowed for their construction should not be reckoned with the debts, the interest on which might fairly be charged to revenue derived from taxation, either by the Commonwealth or the States. I fail to see how we can fairly charge to revenue derived from Customs and Excise, or any other form of taxation, the interest payable on more than £100,000,000 of the total of £250,000,000 borrowed b) the States.
– Does the honorable member include money borrowed for postal and telegraphic expenditure ?
– I regard that as reproductive expenditure.
– Does not the honorable member think that our railways are worth more than has been spent on them ?
– It would probably be found that they are, if put into the market to-morrow for sale to syndicates; but that is something which we do not desire to do. In considering this question, I think it right to set on one side whit may be called trading services, and amongst these I include the services of the Post and Telegraph Department. If properly” financed, I believe that money borrowed to carry out the new works necessary to afford increased postal and telegraphic facilities, would provide for interest and sinking fund. In my opinion, there should be no difficulty in making our post and telegraph sei vices pay handsomely, whilst extending all necessary facilities for the development of the industries and commerce of Australia.
– The honorable member refers to new buildings?
– I refer to new buildings, and to telephone and telegraph extensions. In my opinion, these works would be revenue-producing, they would have a life of perhaps fifteen or twenty years, and money might be wisely borrowed for their construction. Taking £100,000,000 as the amount, the interest on which must be met by taxation, I have worked out the relative positions of the States and the Commonwealth as simply as- I could. In making my calculations, I have not taken into account Executive expenditure. The Commonwealth Parliament must undertake Executive expenditure for the carrying out of large public services, and the States also have to provide for Executive expenditure. This has to be met out of revenue. It is possible that the Executive expenditure of the States will be reduced, and that that of the Commonwealth will expand. I have considered the. purely necessary public services which must be undertaken by the Commonwealth at the present time. To pay old-age pensions the Commonwealth must provide £1,500,000, and, according to the estimates submitted by the Minister of Defence yesterday we must provide £2,500,000 for defence. These are the two great services in connexion with which the Commonwealth Parliament must immediately provide for non-productive expenditure. Reckoning no”w the obligations of the State Governments, I take first the interest due on the £100,000,000 of borrowed money which is non-productive. I have reckoned that interest at 3 per cent., and, therefore, the interest payment on this item by the States would amount to £3,000,000 a year. They must meet expenditure on police of £1,192,000, on education of £2,624,000, and on medical and charitable services £1,500,000. This gives a total of £8,316,000 expenditure on public services which has now to be borne by the States, as against £4,000,000 of expenditure to be undertaken by the Commonwealth for old-age pensions and defence.
– We are paying more than 3 per cent, interest on some of our loans.
– I am assuming that the interest will be 3 per cent, when the debts are consolidated, and I hope the transfer of the debts to the Commonwealth will be a part of the financial scheme. Dividing Customs and Excise revenue by two, the Commonwealth and the States will each have £5,400,000 with which to meet their respective obligations. The Commonwealth having to meet an expenditure of £4,000,000, there will be a balance to the credit of the Commonwealth account of £1,400,000. The whole of that balance we know will be absorbed in other directions ; but I am speaking now of expenditure on necessary non-productive public services. The States will have to meet an expenditure of £8,316,000, and for the purpose will have Customs and Excise revenue of £5,400,000, and £3,600,000 from direct taxation. That will leave a balance to the credit of the States of only £684,000. the whole of which is, of course, absorbed in Executive expenditure. I have shown by these figures that -the obligations which the State Governments have to undertake, and are undertaking at the present time, are very much greater than those now being undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. We know that there will have; to be a very large expenditure by the Commonwealth in the construction of rail ways and in the opening up of the Northern Territory, and on many other services, which will gradually be transferred from the State to the Federal authority. But we also know that there are public works which the States must construct, and that they will incur certain losses by the construction of new railways to remote districts and of public works to provide for irrigation and water supply in arid areas. Both authorities, therefore, have important works still to carry out, and these will for a long time have to be provided for, wholly or in part, by direct taxation. I am, quite conscious of the fact that, if the Federal Parliament is determined to carry out the whole of its services by means of Customs and Excise revenue, it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to be treated more liberally in any arrangement made between it and the States in respect of the disposition of that revenue. In considering an agreement of this kind, we have to- consider whether we are really giving up any of our powers of supremacy in finance. I believe that this agreement leaves our supremacy in finance untouched. The Prime Minister explained very clearly, last week that the Commonwealth Parliament has the sole right to levy and collect Customs and Excise duties, and .that it also has the power to levy direct taxation in every direction now enjoyed by the States. That fact at once establishes the supremacy in finance of this Parliament throughout the Commonwealth, because the power of taxation means supremacy in finance. If the State debts were taken over automatically by the Commonwealth Parliament - and I very much regret that that is not made an integral part of this scheme - this Parliament would become the supreme financial power, so far as Australia is concerned, and also in the money markets of the world. Even under this agreement our financial supremacy both at home and abroad will be safeguarded and preserved.
– -DoeS that financial supremacy depend upon the power of taxation ?
Mr.- SAMPSON. - Yes.
– But the States have that power- to an equivalent degree.
– I understand that the Federal Parliament has the power to levy direct taxation throughout the Commonwealth, and if it imposes a tax similar to that of a State, and there is any conflict between the two taxes, that of the Federal
Parliament prevails, while that of the State becomes null and void. Consequently the supreme power of taxation is held and retained by this Parliament.
– That provision of the Constitution does not apply to direct taxation.. .
– I take it that naturally, where there is any conflict between the two, the Federal law would prevail. Whether that principle applies to direct taxation or not, the power of the Federal Parliament to impose direct taxation is not taken away, and that taxation will apply not to one State, but to the whole Commonwealth. Consequently the supremacy of. this Parliament in finance is sufficiently safeguarded.
– A Federal direct tax would not supersede a State tax. It would simply be superimposed.
– In that case, the supremacy of this Parliament over the whole Commonwealth is retained.
– The practical part of taxation depends on how much is left to be taxed.
– The question of how far the people can stand taxation is almost impossible of determination, and there arises the further question of how far it may be necessary to impose taxation in certain extraordinary circumstances. Examples have been quoted in the House and in the press of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise taxation in various parts of the world. The examples of European countries are not relevant to Australian conditions, ‘and therefore are valueless for purposes of comparison. The only three examples of any value are those ‘ of Canada, the United States, and New Zealand, but the conditions of the United States and of Canada show at once that no proper analogy can be drawn between even them and Australia. In Canada the revenue from Customs and Excise is £2 2s. per head. In the United States it is £1 6s. 8d. per head;, and in Australia about £2 10s. per head. The fiscal history of the United States shows that, except on two occasions, there has never been any great necessity- in that country for obtaining revenue from Customs and Excise. Only in 1812, and in 1861 and the period following, was it found necessary there to impose very large additional taxation by means of Customs and Excise duties. In those cases the money was required for war purposes, and the taxation might be regarded as a form of war tax. It is interesting to note that those two periods were those in which the biggest impetus was given to the growth of local manufactures in the United States. They really might be called the two periods which laid the foundation of’ the Protectionist policy of that country. I think it was in 1883 or 1886 that it was found necessary to reduce the duties, because the revenue was coming in too rapidly, and large surpluses led to extravagance in public expenditure. These facts show that the analogy that has been drawn between the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Australia is not a fair one. The necessity for deriving a large revenue from Customs and Excise has never been pressing in the United States, and the tendency has been rather to reduce the revenue from that source. The analogy is hardly fair, also, in the case of Canada- and Australia, because in Canada, as in the United States, the railways and many other important works are undertaken by private enterprise, with the result that the State has not to face a loss such as has had to be faced in the initial stages of public works in Aus5 tralia, and no balance has had to be found by means of some form of taxation to pay the interest on borrowed money. Moreover, the educational system in the United States and Canada is largely carried out under a form of local taxation. In New Zealand, which is probably the only country that can be taken as paralleling Australian conditions, and where the whole of such important works as water supply, education, and railways are carried out by means of public money, it will be found that the revenue derived from Customs and Excise is necessarily large. It is necessary to impose heavy revenue duties in order to make up the deficiency in interest on the money expended on public works.
– Because they are constantly borrowing money.
– That is true, particularly in regard to New Zealand. I certainly regret that under the agreement with the Premiers, the per capita payments are to be perpetual. Australia is a young country, and we must have several times our present population and great expenditure on developmental works, conducted by public and private enterprise, before we can begin to be a nation. Our circumstances change rapidly. Public services come into existence one year which were hardly thought of the year before, so that the States should recognise that it is unreasonable to make an agreement of this kind perpetual. I should not be inclined to fix so short a period as an years for the -per capita payments, but I agree with the honorable member for Mernda that a period of thirty years would be sufficiently long, and that at the end of it the politicians of the day would be in a position to judge whether any further arrangement should be permanent. Taken as. a whole, the agreement is fair and equitable, and, I believe, will be accepted by the people generally. I shall give the second reading of the Bill my hearty support, but I hope that in Committee it will be found possible to meet the wishes of many honorable members, who, like myself, think that the payments to the States should be limited to a term of years
.- It was perhaps wise and fair, in view of the importance of the measure, to allow- discussion to take place on the motion for leave to introduce this Bill. The Prime Minister spoke of a crisis having arisen. I do not think that there is a crisis now, but there is likely to be one in the near future if we make the agreement perpetual, and embody it in the Constitution. His speech in no way justified what the honorable and learned member for Flinders has referred to as the leg roping of the Commonwealth. The present discussion has centred round the question whether we should amend the Constitution and bind the Commonwealth to pay to the States 25s. per capita in perpetuity. I do not object to the amount of the payment, though I am inclined to think that it is more than we can afford, and we should consider Commonwealth interests first. I think, however, that the term should not be longer than three years, seeing that hitherto all our promises with the States have been kept. Those who have been in this Parliament from the beginning know that the Commonwealth has treated the States with great liberality ; in fact, more liberally than we now find is justifiable. The Right Honorable Sir George Turner, Sir Edmund Barton, and others, who controlled affairs at the beginning, insisted that great consideration should be shown to the States. As the Commonwealth had then taken over but few Departments, it was not spending the whole of its fourth of the Commonwealth Customs and Excise revenue, and the unexpended balance was ‘ returned to the
States, which in this way benefited to the extent of some millions of pounds. The States, however, have always been suspicious of the Commonwealth, one of the biggest offenders being that of which my constituency forms part. I have never understood how its legislators came to hold such views as they do regarding our actions and intentions. Even in Victoria, where we are under close observation, it has been thought necessary to employ Professor Moore, at £300 a year, to act as a sort of detective, his business being to see that Commonwealth legislation does not in any way infringe the rights of the States.
– Professor Moore has done much more to prevent than to cause difficulties.
– I have the highest admiration for him, and am speaking of the attitude of those who appointed him specially to keep an eye upon, the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that it has always shown a readiness to regard the interests of the States. I was surprised at the letter which the right honorable member for East Sydney wrote to the President of the recent Premiers’ Conference. It was an extraordinary letter for one to write who, as a member of this Parliament, had sworn to study the national interest of Australia. Addressing it from this building, on the 13th August last, he wrote -
My dear Mr. Murray, - As you will be President of the approaching Conference, I take the opportunity - and I do not think it will be considered a liberty - of impressing upon you and your brother Premiers the supreme necessity of a final adjustment, without delay, of the financial problems affecting the Commonwealth and the States.
It seems to me that there is, whilst the matter remains open, an increasing danger of an arrangement, .which can be determined in a short time, not by conference or compromise but by the will of the Federal Parliament.
Time is on the side of your opponents.
I take very strong objection to a member of this House, and one of the leading public men of Australia, making a. state-, ment of that character. In it the honorable member for East Sydney declares that this Parliament is an opponent of the States.
– Who says that?
– The honorable member for East Sydney. He wrote -
Time is on the side of your opponents.
I emphasize this point, because I believe that, in connexion with this agree- ment for the adjustment of the future financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth, time is on the side of the States. The honorable member then proceeded -
I am more responsible than any man for the termination of the Braddon clause. But I never wished to allow the States less than a fair share of Customs and Excise revenue, which is the only way in which the States, can receive revenue from the masses of their inhabitants. The object of this letter is to make that sure for all time.
The Braddon section of the Constitution has already handicapped the Commonwealth very severely, and yet the honorable member wishes to permanently substitute for it a section which would be only a degree better. I should like to remind honorable members that only a year ago, the Prime Minister recognised that in connexion with any financial agreement which might be arrived at with the States, an arrangement must be made for the transfer of the State debts. The Treasurer very strongly held a similar view. Yet to my surprise the transfer of the State debts was entirely ignored at the recent Premiers’ Conference. We have since been told that the per capita return to the States is to continue only until their debts have been taken over by the Commonwealth. If that, be so, surely it would be unwise to amend the Constitution. The Premier of New South Wales is of opinion that the States should continue to receive the per capita grant from the Commonwealth, even after that grant had ceased to be required to pay interest upon their debts. To-day, the Prime Minister is the special advocate of State Rights. Now, the history of every Federation in the world has exhibited those narrow provincialists who are known as “ State Righters “ as the public enemies. It was so in the case of the United States, of Switzerland, and of Germany. The statistics of the United States show that at the period in question the number’ of slaves was decreasing, and thus a weak spot was left in the Constitution, which led to the sacrifice of some 800.000 of the flower of the American nation, and the expenditure of some £200,000,000. I wish now to quote a newspaper extract which has a big bearing upon the attitude of certain persons towards the agreement which has been tabled by the Prime Minister. It reads-
At a meeting of the Employers’ Federation, the’ new president said that with the able and brilliant men now in the Federal House, they could look forward to the success of the Fusion. The country was satisfied with those who had brought about the Fusion, and it .would condemn any who tried to burst it up. (Hear, hear.) The result of the recent Premiers’ Conference would assist in putting the Fusion on a satisfactory basis.
– I do not think that the quotation which the honorable member is making has any bearing upon the question which is before the Chair.
– I intend to show that it has. It continues -
The Employers’ Federation had decided to give the fusion party a wholehearted support, and would do its best to secure the return of every man in the Federal Parliament who was following the Government. The platform of the Federation consisted of four planks - (i) Maintenance of the Constitution; (2) maintenance of State rights; (3) a progressive immigration and railway policy; and (4) anti-Socialism. There was nothing very terrible in these planks. Any constitutionallyminded man would find no difficulty in believing in any of them. The present fusion party might say, “ Hang it all, that is our own platform !”
– Order. I would direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the platform of any political party outside of this House has nothing whatever to do with the question which is before the Chair.
– It has everything to do with it.
– I wish to show that State Righters have always been opposed to the public good. That has been the experience of every Federation in the world. I do not desire to load my speech with quotations, but I think it desirable to quote an authority who is opposed to our party.
– The question is not one of party, but whether leave should be given to introduce a certain Bill.
– I have no desire to make any reference to questions of party, but I wish to quote from a leading article published in the Age bearing distinctly on this question. If you say that I cannot do that, sir-
– I have-not said so; I have simply ruled that the honorable member will not be in order in discussing a question of party.
– The Age in a leading article published on 24th August last wrote -
This precious agreement can settle nothing. Assuming - what is unthinkable - that Liberal members could ever be got to thus barter away the sacred rights of the Federation, and put this iniquity into the Constitution Act, it would cer.tainly remain there only until an uprising of the. people could sweep it away. It would become the battle. ground of parties. It would certainly be no settlement. In fact, there is no possibility of settlement in it. It will not escape observation, that in this agreement to which the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth has put his signature, there is not one word about the expedient for securing the new Protection. Altogether, the document is one drawn up in the sole interests of the States, and gives away the dearest rights and interests of the Federation. Mr. Deakin has been overreached by negotiators cleverer than himself. But at all risks, whatever they be, the Liberal party in the Federal Parliament may be expected to refuse a share in the ignominy of such a surrender and such a betrayal.
I make that quotation because the expression of such a view by myself might be considerably discounted in certain quarters for the reason that I happen to be a member of the Opposition. One of the dangers of the agreement was well put by the honorable member for Flinders in a speech which he delivered at Dandenong, and which was reported in the Argus of 23rd August last. He said -
The Constitution handed over to the Federal Parliament the control of Customs and Excise revenue - not merely the revenue itself, but the whole power of legislating on that branch of matters -
That is a most important point to keep in mind -
The framers of the Constitution after making temporary provision by the Braddon clause, provided very wisely after the expiration of that for giving the Federal Parliament the constitutional right of determining from time to time what should be the disposal of the Customs and Excise revenue. He had always advocated that that matter should be settled at the expiration of the Braddon clause by the Federal Parliament assuming the liability for the debts as they existed at the time of Federation. That would have meant, it was true, the Federal Parliament fixing itself with a permanent burden of some ^’7,250,000, but it would have left the Federal Parliament absolutely free with regard to the continual increase in Customs and Excise revenue which came from .an expansion of trade and population. He thought there was an indication that it was intended that the Commonwealth should take over the debts, but that it should reserve the right to itself to adjust from time to time, should it become necessary, the amount of further contributions which should be handed over to the States. He wanted .them to see the full effect of the proposal, as it had occurred to him. If that were made a part of the Constitution it would be practically unalterable, because once the States were given such a right as that of keeping 25s. per head of their population any attempt to alter the Constitution after that would be met by the whole weight of State parties and State influence. If it were agreed to, it would also create a fixed charge on the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth, which was of course increasing in proportion with the population. It might be that the Customs revenue might not increase iri proportion to the population. Under protective duties much of what was now imported might be made locally. If that were so the time might come when the whole of the Customs revenue might be carried off by that payment of 25s. per head.
An acceptance of this part of the proposal, added Mr. -Irvine, would have, he feared, the effect of fettering the future of the Commonwealth by’ a kind of constitutional leg-rope, which would limit the Commonwealth’s movements within a very narrow circle.
It- is always well to keep within our own control our power with regard to revenue and taxation. In doing so, we shall do nothing contrary to the interests of the States. I fail to see why a Constitutional leg-rope should be put upon the Commonwealth when we can keep it clear of such an° entanglement, and at the same time study the interests of the States. I desire now to quote certain remarks made by the Prime Minister which, to my mind, are somewhat extraordinary. He said -
As to the future finances after 1910, the Federal Parliament would be all powerful. The State Parliaments must “ cut their coat according to their cloth,” and that cloth would be measured out to them by the next Federal Legislature. There would be naturally between the Commonwealth and the States a struggle for power. The Commonwealth Parliament was anxious for more and wider authority, for greater opportunities, and for the means to take advantage of them. State legislators had the same aspira-tions, and necessarily in some particulars they were brought into competition. But for the fact that the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments represented the same people, the position to-day would be hopeless. If there were seven Legislatures, with seven different constituents, there would be arbitration, or war, but the salvation was that though there were seven Governments there Were only one people. The functions of Government whether discharged by the State or the Commonwealth might be considered the functions of the Government of Australia. They should not overlap or conflict but we could dispense with neither. After all,’ there was but one mandate to the Commonwealth and the State Governments, and that was to fulfil the mandate and conduct the Government of the. people of Australia.
It is remarkable that the honorable gentleman should have seen fit to talk about difficulties arising, in view of the fact that there has been no sign of a quarrel. The complaints, of’ which we have heard are raised more largely in the press than amongst the people. My experience is that the people applaud the work of the Federation. Some provincial politicians may have taken up the attitude to which reference is made in the quotation I have just read, but there is no great danger so far as the people themselves are concerned. In regard to the undesirability of seriously hampering the Commonwealth I cannot help quoting some remarks of Washington. In 1786 he said -
It is clear to me as A, B, C, that an extension of Federal powers would make us one of the most happy, wealthy, respectable and powerful nations that ever inhabited the terrestrial globe. Without them we shall soon be everything which is the direct reverse. I predict the worst consequences from a half-starved, limping Government always moving upon crutches and tottering at every step,
I am endeavouring to show that that is likely to be the position of the Commonwealth if we adopt this proposed agreement ; and the words of that far-seeing man, more than a century ago, apply to our own circumstances. As to submitting questions to the people, I have another quotation from Washington which is interesting -
If to please the people we suffer what we ourselves disapprove how can we afterward defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God.
That is true. We should not shirk our responsibilities, but should pass measures which we can honestly advocate on the platform, because the people look to us for guidance.I happened to drop across a further quotation which I think has a bearing on the eloquent address of the Prime Minister, on the future of this magnificent continent. Count Aranda, the representative of Spain, in his report to his Government regarding the effect of Federation in America, after that country had secured its independence, wrote -
This Federal Republic is born a pigmy. A day will come when it will be a giant, even a Colossus, formidable in these countries. Liberty of conscience, the facility for establishing a new population on immense lands as well as the advantages of the new Government, will draw thither farmers and artisans from all the nations. In a few years we shall watch with grief the tyrannical existence of this same Colossus.
I think that forecast has come true of America, and may come true of Australia. Why should we endeavour to fetterthe Federation when such a step is both dangerous and unnecessary? Even those who are most sanguine in regard to the agreement, have failed to show any reason for its acceptance ; and the outlook was well expressedby Mr. Wade, the Premier of New South Wales, in a newspaper inter view after he returned from the Conference -
Moreover, the experience of Conferences during the last three or four years has been that every fresh offer by the Commonwealth has been less favorable than the previous offer. For instance, compare the proposition put forward by Sir John Forrest little more than two years ago with the offer now made. Again, it must be remembered the control of the position will be entirely in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament in a short time, and it may be well argued in 191 1 that the utmost they can be called upon to undertake is to make provision from time to time for the States. In other words, they may agree to temporary arrangements, but each temporary arrangement will be worse for the States.
There is no doubt Mr. Wade made these remarks realizing that they are true; and, if his forecast be correct, it means that the Commonwealth will have much less to give to the States in the future than it has given in the past. It must be self-evident to every unbiased person that the States feel that if they do not accept the terms offered now they may get worse terms later on. It is fair to assume that every Federal Parliament will act in fairness and liberality to the States ; but it is also clear that in the future, with a growing expenditure, the Commonwealth will require more revenue. I have some figures here which I do not think it necessary to quote, though I may say that, in testing some of the figures used by the Prime Minister, 1 found confirmation of the statement I made prior to the Conference, that the States are better off now than they were before Federation. If I mistake not, the Prime Minister said that by the taking over of the administration of old-age pensions and other services, the States have been relieved of an expenditure of something like £3,800,000; and if we add the money which it is proposed to give them under this agreement, we shall find their position better still by £9,000,000 or £10,000,000. That show’s that the treatment of the States by the Commonwealth has been most liberal.
– I cannot quite follow the honorable member there !
-I carefully followed the Prime Minister’s figures in order to see how they fitted in with my own. On a previous occasion; I gave only the expenditure of which we had relieved the States, and the Treasurer rather twitted me because I did not also take into account the revenue under the various heads. Without going into detail, I may say that I have separated the cost of this Parliament and its elections, the salary of the GovernorGeneral, and the cost of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and I find that the expenditure saved to the States on account of the transferred Departments, works out at about £2,722,857. We have to add to that the saving to the States by the Commonwealth control of old-age pensions and other services, estimated by the Prime Minister at £3,800,000. Under the new arrangement, the gain to the States, added to the expenditure of which they have been relieved, would total £10,400,000. I am aware, of course, that the States, previous to Federation, enjoyed the benefit of their own Customs and Excise revenue ; but, if we take everything into consideration, the figures show that they are still very much to the good, having regard to the money which we pay to them, and the expenditure of which we have relieved them. I mention this to show the liberality of the Commonwealth, and the consideration which has been shown to the States throughout. The point requires to be emphasized, as showing that there is no justification for the special pleading on behalf of the States which we heard from the Prime Minister. He did not succeed in showing that there would be any danger to the States in making an arrangement of the kind proposed, inasmuch as it would be subject to revision by any future Commonwealth Parliament. It would be perfectly safe to grant to the States a -per capita allowance of 25s. for three or five, years, and such an agreement would be honorably carried out. But, on the other hand, it would be dangerous to amend the Constitution, nor is it necessary to do so. Some of the statements made . by the Prime Minister were very light and airy in character. But I have been looking up the authorities, and am inclined to agree with the honorable gentleman that it is difficult to discover any law applicable to the ‘per capita yield of Customs and Excise in ‘ the various nations of the world. Certain figures have been published in the Age bearing upon this point, but I prefer to take those obtained from our Commonwealth Statistician, and which have been published in Hansard at the instance of the honorable member for Yarra. The average yield of a five years’ period in the United States is £1 6s. 8d. ; in Canada, £2 4s. 2d. ; inGermany, 15s. sd. ; in Italy, 18s. ; in New Zealand, £3 5s. 10d.; in New South Wales prior to Federation, £1 6s. id. ; in Victoria, £1 15s. 1 id. ; in Queensland, £3 is. id. ; in South Australia, £1 13s. nd. ; in Western Australia, £6 7 s. 7d. ; and in Tasmania, £2 10s. 5d. The Commonwealth estimate, according to the Treasurer’s Budget, is, for the present year, £2 9s. 7¼d. per head. But the Prime Minister lightly swept on one side the experience of the great nations of the world, includingsuch highly-protected countries as the United States and Germany, because their results did not fit in with his calculations. I venture to say that had the Prime Minister put a case before any Judge in such a fashion he would not have won on grounds of logic. Stronger evidence would have to be given. I have been endeavouring to discover whether any explanation is to be obtained of the increasing yield per capita shown by the statistics of some protective countries. I do not say that 1 have discovered the cause, but I may as well give the House the benefit of some ideas that I have formed on the subject. It is well known that this is an age of marvellous inventions. Five years ago the revenue derived by New Zealand from the importation of motor cars was hardly worth mentioning. Motor cars were scarcely on the market at that time. At present, however, a considerable amount of revenue is drawn from their importation. This is an illustration of a fact that has to be taken into account in all countries whose Tariffs have been standing for any length of time. Since those Tariffs were passed many new kinds of importations have yielded revenue. In some nations the enormously increased cost of preparations for war constitutes a big item. Again, in a country like Germany, where there has recently been a deficit, and the need for securing revenue is very great, there is naturally and inevitably a tendency to increase the yield from revenue duties. I fancy that the increasing per capita yield shown by the Tariffs of some countries arises from such factors as I have mentioned. The Prime Minister claimed that the circumstances of New Zealand approach more nearly to those of Australia than those of any of the other countries which he mentioned. I havelooked closely into the sources of New Zealand revenue, and, putting the facts ona per capita basis, I find that the yield” from Customs and Excise is £3 9s. 6d. ; from land tax, 11s. 7d. ; from income tax, 6s. 7d. ; from stamp tax, 12s. 8d. ; making a total per capita yield of taxation of £5 os. 4d. The Prime Minister did not tell us anything about those items. The figures which 1 have given exclude the Maoris. If they are included the yield per capita is £4 15s. 5d. From 1895 to 1907-8 the proceeds from income tax in New Zealand increased by £212,127. That is to say, they increased by nearly 230 per cent.,’ whilst the population only increased by 30 per cent. It will be seen that for some reasons New Zealand has had to resort to a number of direct taxes - for instance, to a land tax, an income tax, and a stamp tax - which yield, a large proportion of its revenue. My object in quoting these figures is to show the Prime Minister that his comparisons with New Zealand will not pan out. Leaving out the Maoris, the net indebtedness of the population per head for 1908 was £67 15s. id. In 1900 - that is, at the time of Federation - the gross indebtedness was £47,874,452, whilst in 1908 it had grown to £66,453,897. In 1900 the debt per head was £63 2s. 2d., and in 1908 £70 17s. 6d., showing an increase of £7 15s. 4d. per head. What is the position of the Commonwealth?
– I contrasted the indebtedness of New Zealand with that of the Commonwealth. Moreover, the honorable member only began at 1900. If he goes back into the eighties, he will find the same growths and the same high figures all along.
– Let us take the imports and exports. Last year, the imports into New Zealand were valued at £17,471,284, including £224,122 worth of specie; and the exports at £16,075,205, the former exceeding the latter by £1,171,957. The imports have been increasing. Excluding the Maoris, the imports per head for 1908 averaged £18 5s., and the exports £17 os. 2d. In ig°7 - the latest year for which figures are available - the Commonwealth’s imports were valued at £51,800,000, and the exports at £72,824,000 - the latter exceeding the former by £21,024,000. The total trade of the Commonwealth per. head was £29 19s. 10d.; imports, £12 9s. .4d. ; and exports, £17 10s. 6d. When comparisons are drawn; things which have some similarity to each other should be compared. There is no point in comparing things which are unlike and unequal. Fortunately, the Commonwealth has not borrowed any money; but since .Federation the States have borrowed over £39,000,000.
The total indebtedness of the States is £243,335,489 ’, and since Federation they have borrowed £39,817,214, or at the rate °f £5>700>000 per year. In 1901 it averaged £53 13s. nd., and in 1908 £57 I0S- 5d-> showing an increase of £3 16s. 6d. per head. It will be seen that New Zealand has been borrowing twice as much per head as have the States of the Commonwealth. That fact nullifies any comparison which has been drawn between the two countries. The borrowing affects the whole situation., just as the spending affects the imports. I think that we have very much stronger evidence to take from foreign countries than from others. If we take the imports into New Zealand for a period of five years, we find that the importation of silks, agricultural implements, arms, and ammunition, has decreased; but the importation of beer, spirits, tobacco, and wine, has increased. Of course, the importation of motor cars of all kinds has considerably increased. Taking out the principal items’, I find that clothing and drapery were imported to the value of .£3,244,163, or 22.68 per cent, of the total importations; metals and machinery, £2,818,096, or 19.67 per cent. ; tea and sugar, £680,675, or 4.76 per cent.; wine, beer, &c, £735.-28i, or 5.14 per cent. ; paper, books, ‘ and stationery, £596,066, or 4.17 per cent.; and other items, £6,233,889, or 43.58 per cent. In other words, out of a total importation of £I4,3°3,I7°, the items I quoted were imported to the value of £8,074,281. What are the figures for the Commonwealth ? It is estimated that during the current year stimulants and narcotics will be imported to the value of £4,730,000; metals and machinery, £878,000 ; paper, stationery, &c., £166,000; apparel and textiles, £i,557>°°°? and sugar, £368,000; making a total of £7,699,000. It will be seen that from these sources the Commonwealth is expected to collect £375,281 less than the total receipts for New Zealand. Does not that fact show how foolish it is to base our calculation upon the experience of a people whose returns are so unlike ours? Look at the disparity in the imports of metals and machinery alone. New Zealand imports those articles to the va,lue of over £2,800,000, or nearly £2,000,000 worth more than does the Commonwealth. Of apparel, the Commonwealth imports over £1,500,000 worth, whilst New Zealand imports over £3,000,000 worth - that is, practically twice as much as we do. These figures show that the New Zealand Tariff is more distinctly a revenue-raising one than is ours.
– Has the honorable member compared the number of people employed in the manufactories of New Zealand and Australia?
– That Is not the question at all. The point is that New Zealand is importing more of certain lines per head, and consequently has a big revenue.
– Yet relatively they employ more hands in their factories.
– Surely the honorable member is not departing from the great Protectionist policy. His interjections are very much in the direction of having a revenueproducing Tariff.
– Because I show that New Zealand’s Tariff is protective,, the honorable member says that 1 am not a Protectionist.
– The figures show that, in spite of their protective Tariff, and the fact that they have a number of manufactories, they import ever so much more of certain lines than does the Commonwealth. The New Zealand experience, therefore, is useless for the purpose of comparison. I do not suggest that the Prime Minister was consciously arguing in that way ; but, if he had thought the matter out, he would have seen that the only inference to be drawn from what he said is that it is necessary in his opinion that our Tariff should be made revenueproducing in the same way that the New Zealand Tariff is.
– The honorable member has included in the New Zealand list a number of items that do not pay duty. The honorable member has included tea, and no Indian tea pays duty in New Zealand.
– I have given the returns from the New Zealand Year-Book, and I find that on tea and sugar, duty to the amount of over £680,000 was paid in New Zealand, and that 4 per cent, of their revenue came from tea and sugar.
– For what period ?
– I have taken , the last returns available, those for 1906.
– Since then, the duty has been taken off tea in New Zealand.
– I took the latest returns available. In the year to which I refer the New Zealand free-list, totalled £5,476,949, and the dutiable list was £8,826,.22i. I have quoted sufficient to show that to take New Zealand as a guide for the Commonwealth is misleading, and that is the point I desired to make. If we are to follow the example of New Zealand, we must alter our Tariff to make it produce more revenue, and to do that we must give up Protection. I shall have more to say presently! in that connexion. Our Customs and Excise taxation per head in 1908 was £2 15s. 6d., and in 1901-2 it was £2 6s. 6d. We have in the Commonwealth been undergoing the same experience as other countries. We have had a slight increase in revenue, and at the same time increased expenditure. I shall quote now some figures as to our expenditure to show what it is likely we shall have to face. Honorable members realize that our expenditure . has been gradually increasing, because we have been taking over new Departments from the States. We have in this way been relieving the States of expenditure, and that has inevitably increased the expenditure of the Commonwealth. Commonwealth expenditure on defence and on the post and telegraph . services has, of course, increased ; but there is a revenue from the post and telegraph services which balances the expenditure on that account. Taking the period from 1901-2 to 1909-10, the expenditure per capita of the Commonwealth has been in 190 1-2, £1 os. 7d. ; in I902-3, £1 os id. ; in 1903-4, £1 is. 8d. j 1904-5, £1 is. 8d. ; 1905-6, £1 2s. 2d. ; 1906-7, £1 4s. 3d. ; 1907-8, £1 9s. 4<3. ; 1908-9, £1 10s. ojd. ; and for this year the estimated expenditure is £1 16s. 1½d. It will be seen’ that there has been a steady increase in expenditure, and a steady decrease in receipts from Customs and Excise. Owing to the changes in’ our Tariff, a real comparison is not very easy ; but taking the last two years and this year’s estimate, the receipts from Customs and Excise were, in 1907-8, £3 us. 6fd. per head; in 1908-9, £3 7s. i£d. ; and the estimate for 1909-10 is £3 6s. 10dOur Customs and Excise receipts are decreasing, while our expenditure is increasing. Our receipts from Customs and Excise, instead of becoming more, are becoming less per capita. That differs from the experience of other countries quoted-. We know the affairs of the Commonwealth better than we know those of other’ countries, and,, we are better able to assign the reason. I think it is due to the fact that we are manufacturing more extensively here, and, owing to the encouragement given to manufacturing by our protective Tariff, by bonuses, and other means, we are shutting out imports, and so less revenue is being derived from imported goods. In the face of these facts, what excuse can we have for guaranteeing to the States for all time a per capita contribution of£1 5s. ? To do so, we must impose extra taxation. Why should we do so, and how is it to be imposed? I say that the Prime Minister should have gone further than he did. He should have seen what must be selfevident, that we must increase our taxation ; and he should have explained in what way the Government propose to increase it. If it is proposed that we shall have a revenue Tariff, the honorable gentleman should have told honorable members what kind of revenue Tariff we are to have. If the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Minister of Trade and Customs look carefully at our imports, they will find it very difficult to suggest a Tariff which will give the additional revenue they require. We are told that oldage pensions will cost the Commonwealth 10s. 6d. per head, and that the new defence policy will cost us another 10s. 6d. per head. I think that the feeling of the electors generally 13 in favour of a liberal expenditure to provide an efficient defence force, probably on the lines indicated in the address to which we listened yesterday from the Minister of Defence.
– If they want efficient defence, they must pay for it.
– I am putting it in that way. The cost of old-age pensions and defence will represent an expenditure of 21s. per head, in addition to the previous expenditure of the Commonwealth. We shall have increased expenditure in connexion with quarantine, and other services we have recently taken over from the States, and then there is the expenditure which will be involved inthe development of the Northern Territory, the construction of the Transcontinental Railway, and other proposals of the kind which, judging by interjections from honorable members opposite, the Government intend to carry out by borrowing. That would mean an additional burden of interest. I have tried to obtain a fair and reasonable outlook of the calls that are likely to be made upon the Commonwealth within the next three or four years. Taking this year’s estimate of expenditure of£1 16s.1½d. per head, and the 25s. per head to go to the States, and adding the 21s. for defence and old-age pensions, we get a total of £4 2s.1½d. per head. If that is said to be excessive, let us take the year before we paid old-age pensions. The amount was then 30s. per head, and the total on the same reckoning would be £3 16s. per head. Therefore the 60s. or 70s. per head, of which the Prime Minister, spoke in an off-handed way, would not be sufficient. In arriving at that figure the honorable gentleman dismissed in an airy fashion all the countries of the world, and their experience in regard to Customs and Excise revenue, and landed on New Zealand, but I defy anybody to show that 60s. or 70s. of revenue per head will meet the calls I have spoken of. On the figures before us, it will cost over £4 per head, and that means that we shall practically have to double our taxation, which is a very serious matter. To a family of eight even 25s. per head would mean £10 per annum. The proposal should not be entered upon at all. It is unjustifiable, uncalled for, and wrong in principle to tie ourselves up by relinquishing our control of the finances. The Prime Minister did not point out that New Zealand, even with her Customs and Excise revenue of £3 9s. 6d. per head, has not been able to carry on, and if we enter into a permanent bond to pay 25s. per head to the States, a per capita revenue of £3 9s. 6d. will not meet our expenses. We shall have to resort to other methods of taxation as New Zealand has done.
– The revenue meets both Federal and State expenditure in New Zealand.
– There is no Federal and State expenditure there. As the Prime Minister said, there is but one set of taxpayers in theCommonwealth, and the money has to come out of the one pocket. We have no right to put ourselves into the position of having to tax the people unnecessarily. The Prime Minister’s great laudation of the Commonwealth’s advantages and prospects was very contradictory of his estimate of the population twenty years hence. In spite of all that the Government intend to do to bring people to this magnificent country, with all his bright hopes, and in spite of his proposal to sendan officer to London and house him there in grand premises, the Prime Minister estimates that the increase of population in twenty years will be only 800,000. That is a most pessimistic view to take of the future of this country under a Fusion Government, which we were assured was to last for all time. Such an estimate contrasts strongly with the optimism expressed in other parts of the Prime Minister’s speech.
– The honorable member will find if he looks at the speech that I did not adopt that estimate.
– I am glad to hear it, but it was adopted as abasis of the agreement. That is the serious part of it.
– It has nothing to do with it.
– Then it is time we had some authoritative estimate of the probable population twenty years hence. We may have several millions more people in Australia by that time, and in that case what position would the Commonwealth find itself in?’ The position suggested by the honorable member for Wimmera in regard to America would arise. We should be doing then for the States what we have been doing, notably for the bigger States, up to the present -helping them to be more extravagant than they ought to be. With a very much bigger population the States would get from the Commonwealth a greatly increased revenue, and to raise that amount the Commonwealth would have to tax the people unnecessarily, simply in order to encourage the States to be extravagant.
– We shall have a bigger Customs revenue with a bigger population.
– I regret the honorable member was not present when I gave figures in regard to Customs and Excise revenue. It stands to reason that under this agreement our present taxation will have tobe doubled, and I want to know whether the Prime Minister proposes to adopt the New Zealand system of direct taxation. New Zealand has a higher revenue per head from Customs and Excise even than Canada, and it seems to me to be the greatest piece of madness for this Parliament to ask the people to indorse an arrangement which will leg-rope the Commonwealth, to adopt a phrase used by the honorable member for Flinders, which will live in this connexion. It will put a leg-rope on theCommonwealth, just as you might leg-rope the State cow, so that the StateGovernments may draw plenty of milk from her.
– Would the honorable member let the States have any of the Customs and Excise revenue?
– I do not object to giving the States 25s. per head, or even to entering into an agreement to pay that amount to them for three, four, or five years, butI object to putting it into the Constitution and binding us for all time. If in the future we have a much larger population, it will mean raising an outrageously large revenue which will not be needed. It is surprising that the idea of taking over the State debts has been so suddenly dropped. I do not know why it should be necessary to appoint a Commission to inquire into a subject which is so easily understood. If the debts are taken over, it is said that the 25s. per head will go towards the interest on them, but the understanding clearly is that after that obligation is wiped off, the 25s. is still to be a permanent charge upon the Commonwealth revenues. I come now to the question of whether theConstitution is going to be so easily altered. We know that there are pretty big differences in the different States, but we had to take them as they were. The smaller States will benefit the most, which is another injustice to the “ Ma “ State.
– We all recognise thatNew South Wales is making a big sacrifice.
– She is not sacrificing anything.
– Under the agreement she will have to give up £1,000,000 a year.
– In any case, she has the people to tax, if she needs more money. Our liberal treatment in the past has relieved them of a good deal of taxation. The point I am now making is that it will be to the interests of the smaller States to have this arrangement continued indefinitely. It has been said by some that if in the future it is found to work badly, a second referendum can be taken, and the Constitution amended again. Had amendments of the Constitution to be submitted only to the people, and decided by a majority vote, I should not be concerned about this, but to secure an amendment it is necessary that a majority of the people and a majority of the States shall vote for it, and the smaller States in their own interest would probably vote against the removal of this arrangement from the Constitution. The growth of population is likely to be greater pro- portionately in the larger than in the smaller States. In Tasmania there is room for a great many more people than live there now. Many of her people are leaving who would stay there if they had good government. But in no case is her population likely to increase to the extent to which the population of the larger States will increase. What would happen, then, should the Commonwealth find itself seriously crippled for want of revenue, and this Parliament resolve to submit a second amendment of the Constitution to the people? As I have said, I do not object to paying 25s. per capita to the States for a short period, because that amount is less than they have been getting, and we should strain a point to treat them liberally, and prevent injury to their finances. But we should not make a permanent arrangement until we know what is to be done regarding the debts. Our treatment of the States in the past shows that they can rely upon us. It provides them with a guarantee for the future. Let me read the following quotation from the Melbourne Age of 6th September in reply to those who say that a second referendum could be taken if we found that the proposed arrangement worked badly -
It would be difficult to find more confusion of thought in any single sentence than was shown on Thursday night last by Sir John Quick in a remark he made in a speech at Bendigo. He says that everybody who believes in the principle of a Referendum should acquiesce in sending to the people the question of whether the Commonwealth is, or is not, to surrender permanently a portion of its legal and equitable rights in the Customs revenue. Surely it ought to have occurred to the logical sense of the Postmaster-General that, while every Liberal believes in a direct appeal to the people’s judgment on specially-controverted subjects, he will most strenuously resist bringing into any question the maintenance of his private rights to his own property. While a man will readily submit to authoritative arbitration any disputable matter equitably brought into question, he will refuse to put to any tribunal the management of his own household, the ownership of the cash in his own till, what he shall eat or drink or wear, the church he shall attend, or the particular society he shall cultivate. It is therefore quite to mistake the Referendum to suppose that its advocates should be desirous of using it for every purpose - even that of whether they should, or should not, give away their own rights. Sir John Quick says - “ It is a remarkable fact that the party which professes to believe in the Referendum should be opposing the proposal to refer the amendment of the Constitution to the people,” to give the States a permanent and annually increasing lien over the Customs revenue. We say there is in that dictum a lapse of the logical faculty, always supposing that Sir John Quick was speaking to his Bendigo audience in good faith. He is quite too shrewd a man not to himself perceive the misleading tendency of his argument; and he used to be too good a Liberal to drag the Referendum into the odium which such a misuse of its powers must inevitably bring upon it.
I would not vote for submitting to the people a proposal in favour of whichI could not speak from the public platform.
– The honorable member would take a referendum only when it suited him to do so
– No. There are some persons whose ideas upon the referendum appear to run riot, but I recognise that only certain questions are suitable for submission to the people by that means. The Age writer points out very clearly how ridiculous it would be to submit a Tariff to the electors for their decision. Of course, it would be possible to. ask them whether they favoured a high protective Tariff or a revenue Tariff, but it would not be possible to submit details to them. The honorable member for Darwin, the honorable member for Mernda, and the honorable member for Kooyong have all dealt with the question of the adjustment of the future financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth in an exhaustive fashion. The Prime Minister has utterly failed to justify his proposal for an amendment of the Constitution. Personally I favour absolutely separating the finances of the States from those of the Commonwealth. I do not propose, however, to deal with the question of the transfer of the State debts at this juncture. I would remind honorable members that in the States themselves big changes are taking place. Of recent years there has been a very considerable development of the powers of local government. For instance, in New South Wales the State has handed over to the municipalities the power to levy a land tax. That has had the effect of relieving the State of its former expenditure upon road making.
– It has not relieved the State taxpayer.
-Having transferred to the municipalities work which was previously performed bythe Government it follows that the State must require a less revenue. The State Premiers ask the Commonwealth to return them a certain sum annually for their own purposes. But seeing that they have less functions to perform than they had previously it follows that they must require a less revenue.
– In some of the States the Government subsidize the municipalities.
– That is so. In Victoria they used to subsidize them to the extent of for every £1. But that is not the point with which I am dealing. The Federation has already relieved the’ States of expenditure upon quite a number of Departments. For example the Defence Department was in an awful condition when it was transferred to the Commonwealth, and we are only now beginning to put it into an efficient state. Hitherto we have returned to the States money which we need not have returned to them, and which, had we been wiser, we should have devoted to the creation of an old-age pensions fund. The fact that we did not recognise our error at the time ought to suggest that we should be extremely careful before we relinquish any control that we may possess over our own finances. I have been devoting my attention more particularly to the financial aspect of this agreement, but we must not forget that the fiscal question is associated with it. We have adopted the principle of new Protection, which means, as I understand it, that we are prepared to guarantee the Australian market to local manufacturers, provided that they recognise fair conditions of labour and with due regard to the protection of the consumer. I see in this agreement, however, a means of striking a blow at that policy. We know that the Government are opposed to direct taxation, and that a very large proportion of their following are revenuetariffists. To my mind, a revenueTariff is the worst of all Tariffs, and since a majority of the supporters of the Government are favorable to revenue duties this agreement is a menace to the Protective policy of Australia. A Protective Tariff is not a large producer of revenue. If the Government are opposed to direct taxation, they ought to tell us whether they intend to impose revenue duties, and, if they do, on what items those duties are to be imposed. The principal items on which the Government may seek to impose such duties are tea, kerosene, and cotton goods.
– To have a revenue duty on cotton goodswould ruin the whiteworkers here.
– If we adopt the Government proposal there will be a good deal of ruin. A demand for more revenue must necessarily involve a consideration of bur fiscal policy, and we shall have to consider whether that additional revenue is to be obtained by direct or indirect taxation. The Prime Minister said that he did not think more revenue would be required. He considers that twenty years hence our population will be such that we shall have an adequate income, but we must not forget that our Customs and Excise revenue has been steadily falling, andthat the deficiency will have to be made good from some other source. I would put up with a good deal in order to secure the indorsement of the principle of direct taxation, but the Government have declared themselves opposed to it. Every Federal Government that has been in office, including that now in office, has declared that direct taxation should be left to the States. If the Government are going to stand by that policy they must recognise that the finances of the Commonwealth and of the States must be kept entirely apart. The honorable member for Wimmera seemed to suggest that direct taxation by the Commonwealth would nullify direct taxation by the States, whereas the one would be cumulative upon the other.
– By accepting this agreement we shall not abridge any of the rights of the Commonwealth to impose taxation.
– But are the Government going to impose direct taxation ? The honorable member as a Protectionist must recognise that in ‘this agreement lies the greatest menace to Protection that has ever been suggested. If the Government have to choose between direct taxation and indirect taxation, they will certainly go for the latter. The right honorable member for East Sydney said recently that he believed that indirect taxation was the only means of making the masses pay their share of the cost of government. He has on many occasions made brilliant speeches in support of the wealthy being called upon to bear their fair share of the burden of taxation, and he put up a splendid fight in New South Wales when he introduced the land tax. I am sorry that he is departing from the stand that he then took up. Under a system of indirect taxation the people do not know what they contribute to the revenue, andI favour direct taxation for the reason that it would cause the electors to keep a closer watch on Governments than they do. The representatives of the smaller States whohave yet spoken to this question have given us an indication of what is going to take place. They rejoice in this agreement.
– No; they have simply proclaimed it to be fair.
– Theyare looking at it from a State point of view. I hope that honorable members generally will not do so. We ought to manage our own affairs, treating the States fairly and liberally, but proceeding without delay to take over the State debts. The Prime Minister proposes to -appoint a Royal Commission to investigate and report upon the question of their transfer, but wehavenot heard much as to the necessity for such an inquiry. If the Government would not press their proposal that this agreement shall be embodied in the Constitution, I should not object to the appointment of such a Commission, forit might mean prompt dealing with the question. I do not think it is necessary to take over the whole of the debts of the States, but I agree with the honorable member for Mernda, that the Commonwealth should exercise some control or direction over future State borrowing. That could be arranged without difficulty, and should be taken in hand at once. We all desire to avoid any cause of conflict with the States. Personally, I do not think there has been any conflict, though there have been little attempts made by provincialists to “raise a dust.” The Federation, however, has got along in a most amicable way ; and my experience shows that the people approve of the kind of legislation that we have passed up to the present. If the agreement is adopted, however, not many years will elapse before great evils will arise; and I again direct attention to the warning of George Washington. I trust that they will not, as the honorable member forFlinders has aptly put it, allow the Constitution to be “ leg-roped.” If I may so describe it, the States got the head of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth in a bag, and, having leg-roped him, they sent him here as a special pleader for State Rights. I should have much preferred to hear the Prime Minister advocating the other side in a national spirit. The figures of New Zealand, or any other country, only go to show that if the agreement be adopted, we shall, within a year or two, have to resort to additional taxation; and if that be inevitable, the people ought to be shown what kind of taxation they are to expect - whether the rich or the poor have to bear the burden. I have approached this question entirely apart from any party views; and I am surprised that such members as the honorable member for Denison, should have failed to grasp the national’ importance of the proposed change. It was to the credit of the right honorable member for East Sydney, that the operationof the Braddon section was limited ; because we can well imagine what the outlook would have been had that section been placed in the Constitution in perpetuity. We have only had experience for a limited time, and yet wehave a proposal from those who have all to gain, to thrust the work of imposing taxation upon the Commonwealth. We have the great question of the national defences to consider ; and, in his able speech of yesterday, the Minister of Defence showed our weakness and possible dangers. What would be the result if an unfortunate international trouble arose in Europe, and we were hampered by this “leg rope”? The people would curse the day they had ever been tempted by the State Premiers to entertain such a proposal. My desire is that honorable members should concentrate their attention on the permanence of the proposed agreement. With the other phases ofthe agreement, I do not quarrel ; but we shall be doing a most foolish thing if we ask the people to adopt the proposed amendment of the Constitution, and thus place a most heavy burden on the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bowden) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I need scarcely remind honorable members that on Wednesday afternoon next, it is proposed that this Parliament, on behalf of the Commonwealth, shall give its official welcome to the representatives of the Chambers ofCommerce of the Mother Country, Canada, and; in fact, of all the British Dominions, who by that time will be in this city. I trust that honorable members will enable us to make up for the time devoted to the welcome in the afternoon by treating the day as Friday, and meeting at halfpast 10 o’clock, the House rising for the afternoon, and meeting again in the evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090922_reps_3_52/>.