3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Duties of Inspector-General - Lord Kitchener’s Visit - Defence Bill.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Defence if the statement of the duties of the Inspector-General and Chief of the Australian General Staff, as outlined by him in the House on the 14th inst., in reply to a question put by the honorable member for Adelaide, which so excited the ridicule and contempt of that distinguished military authority-
– Order !
– I ask whether thatallocation of duties was originally recommended by General Nicholson, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff?
– That is so. The answer I gave to our General Roberts over there was based on the recommendations of the Imperial General Staff at Home.
– That is a very insulting remark.
– I very . much regret that they excited the criticism which they did. The insult was offered from that side.
– I would remind the Minister that it is the custom of the House to refer to honorable members by the names of their constituencies.
– Is the Ministerof Defence in order in deliberately insulting a member of this House by sneeringly referring to him as “our Lord Roberts, “ and by his further reference to the criticism of the honorable member for Adelaide?
– The question of the honorable member for Wentworth was a putup job.
– I do not say that it was, but it looks as if it was.
– It was not.
– I have already drawn the attention of the Minister to his breach of order. If any honorable mem ber is personally aggrieved by what he has said, no doubt he will make amends to him.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. When I gave the reply referred to the other day, this is what the honorable member for Adelaide said about it - and if there has been a breach of order, may I respectfully submit that it is contained in the language which I am about to read -
I asked him, in the first place, what were the duties of the Chief of the General Staff, and, secondly, what were the duties of the InspectorGeneral. If the honorable member has, anywhere in Australia, an absolutely independent friend with a knowledge of things military, I hope that he will ask him what he thinks or his reply.
That was the reply giving the recommendations of the Chief of the Imperial Staff -
If that gentleman will give the Minister bis unbiased opinion, then never again will this House be insulted by a similar answer.
I hope that honorable members will bear with me if I resent this kind of thing.
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– Perhaps not, but I have yet to learn that I have wronged the honorable member for Adelaide, or any other honorable member, in anything I have said to-day.
– Sarcasm is not calculated to produce peace.
– I do not feel that I should allow myself to be insulted every day by honorable members opposite, and make no reply.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Is this a personal explanation?
– An honorable member making a personal explanation is always entitled to the consideration of the House, but he must confine himself to explaining something which he has saidwhich has been misrepresented. It is almost impossible to do that if continuous interjections and interruptions are hurled at him.
– He brought them on himself.
– I should not have taken notice of the remarks of , the honorable member for Adelaide had not the honorable member for Wentworth asked me a question. I had put it out of my mind, as Iam accustomed to pass over the insolence rained on me every day. The reply I gave was based on the recommendation of the Imperial General Staff a’t Home. That the honorable member for Adelaide referred to as an insulting answer.
– Will the Minister be good enough to lay 011 the table the documents containing the recommendation?
– They have already been laid on the table and circulated.
– When ‘the Minister of Defence referred the other night to the visit of Lord Kitchener, the honorable member for Adelaide interjected that there would be a hot time for the Central Administration when he came, and I was reported in the newspapers of the following day to have said -
Then all the officers of the Central Administration will have to go. 1 find that Hansard, too, reports me as having used those words. I did not use them in the sense in which they seem to have been interpreted ; at any rate they did not convey what I intended to say, which was that I am opposed to the system of the Central Administration, not to the officers who compose it, for many of whom 1 have great respect. The interjection would be harmless were it not for the comments of the Minister which follow. He apparently regarded my interjection as aimed at the personnel, net at the system, of the Central Administration, because he added, “ There are brilliant men upon the Board.”
– On Tuesday last the Defence Bill was considered so urgent as to justify the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable its - second reading to bs moved. I notice, however, that the resumption of the debate, which appeared early in the list of Government business for yesterday, is now the fourth order of the clay on the business-paper, and that precedence has been given to the resumption of the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bureau of Agriculture Bill. I wish, therefore, to ask the Minister of Defence if he seriously contemplates asking the House to resume the second reading debate on the Defence Bill within the next fortnight?
– With the permission of my honorable colleague I wish to say that we shall proceed with the second reading of the Defence Bill as early as possible.
– As early as possible !
– That Will be very soon. The variation in the order of Government business is due to the fact that I desire to discharge from the businesspaper the Bureau of Agriculture Bill, in order that it may be dealt with first of all by another place. We have a good deal of business; the Senate has much less, and since we have not gone beyond the speech made by the Minister of External Affairs in moving the second reading, no one will be inconvenienced if the Order of the Day be discharged and the Bill introduced in another place.
– What does the honorable member mean bv “ as early as possible”?
– I cannot say how long honorable members will take to deal with other business.
– I desire to ask a question without notice, but am not sure whether it should be addressed to the Prime Minister, to the Treasurer, or to you, Mr. Speaker. I have received an invitation “ to meet the representatives of the Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire,” worded in these terms -
The President and the Speaker, for the Parliament of the Commonwealth, request the pleasure of the company of…..
I wish to know, as the invitation has been issued, “For the Parliament of the Commonwealth,” who will pay the expense of the entertainment. Is it to be defrayed out of the Ministerial fund, or to be borne by the President and you, Mr. Speaker, or is the bleeding country to pay for it? These wandering delegates are very thinly disguised politicians. If the expense is to !be borne by the Commonwealth, will the Ministry entertain any other set of party politicians who may come to Australia ?
– I regret that such a question relating to those who will be our guests should have been put, but am perfectly satisfied that whoever might occupy the Treasury bench at the time, any equally representative gathering of our countrymen would receive the recognition proposed to be extended in this case, and which I believe this House will thoroughly indorse. There has been nothing comparable to the recent Congress, which has been, and will be, of the greatest value to Australia. The delegates are not only men of standing, but represent important commercial bodies who deal with all practical business affairs in the Mother Country.
– They are here on a political mission.
– They are here to fulfil the same mission as they discharge in their own country, and which Australian Chambers of Commerce discharge here. As such they appeared to the Government to be worthy of national recognition. Our welcome js to take the simplest form possible, but I believe it will represent the feeling of our citizens, and am sure that the honorable member on consideration will realize that we are extending this compliment in the interests of Australia itself.
-I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has received a copy of a pamphlet issued by Bowden Brothers Proprietary Limited, of Sydney - a firm with which I am not connected - in regard to an action which they brought against the Imperial Marine Insurance Company of Tokio, Japan, to recover the amount of a marine insurance premium. Further, will he take action to so amend the insurance companies law as to make it compulsory for foreign insurance companies doing business in Australia to deposit with the Government securities that will insure that policies issued by them will be duly honoured?
– I have received a copy of the pamphlet, but have not had leisure to peruse it. The honorable member for North Sydney, like the honorable member for Nepean has called attention to what appears to be an omission from our legislation in respect to insurance companies, and I am directing the atiention of the AttorneyGeneral to it.
– As a number of honorable members are going to a good deal of trouble in preparing speeches on the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill, and some of them may not be permitted to address themselves to the question, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will announce when he intends to apply the “gag” to the debate on the motion for leave to introduce that Bill.
– In the House of Commons, in accordance with a practice that has proved of great advantage, the Government intimate the time which it is prepared to devote to the consideration of certain questions. The honorable member’s suggestion that we should follow suit is a very good one, and I shall be happy to consider it. .
– I understood the Prime Minister to say yesterday that he proposed to ask the House to sit on Wednesday morning instead of on Wednesday afternoon next. If that is his intention I ask him to reconsider it, since a morning sitting on that day will inconvenience representatives of country constituencies. I do not wish to be here on Wednesday, but if the House is to meet on that morning the Prime Minister will convenience not only myself but others who may desire to be absent by intimating what business is to be taken.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will propose that we sit on Thursday morning instead of on Wednesday morning next.
– A morning sit ting on Wednesday would certainly be very inconvenient.
– My desire is to meet the wishes of the House. The business for Wednesday morning, if we sit, is the resumption of the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill. That would not necessarily demand the attendance of any honorable member who did not wish to speak, since those who are absent will be able to read the Hansard report of the debate. A suggestion has just been made that it would be tetter to sit on Thursday morning, and if that alteration is desired, I think it canbe made. The advantage of our proposal is, however, that there would be a breakbetween the morning and the evening sittings, whereas if we sat on Thursday morning there would be a continuous sitting until late at night.
– Thursday would be much better than Wednesday.
– Our desire is to make an arrangement to meet the convenience of the House.
Electoral Act Administration.
– I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The administration of the Electoral Act.”
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
– I wish to bring before the House certain facts which, I think, honorable members will consider of sufficient importance to warrant the attention of the Government and the people. During the whole course of my fifteen years’ parliamentary experience in State and Commonwealth, I have never been required to deal with the question in the way in which I am now dealing with it. I have always availed myself of the ordinary time at the disposal of the House, but the recent action of the Government in applying the closure, and thereby depriving us of last Thursday afternoon specially provided for private members’ business, has compelled rae to submit a motion for the adjournment of the House. I had several times endeavoured to deal with the subject on Thursday afternoon, but without success. On Friday last, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I made an effort to direct honorable members’ attention to the question, and thought I would at length get an opportunity, seeing that the motion for the adjournment had been moved by the Government at three o’clock instead of at the usual hour of four. But the Government, or, at any. rate, a supporter of the Government, had the House counted out. That is a most unusual course, because a count-out, if it means anything, is a reflection on the Government who are expressly charged with the duty of keeping a quorum for the proper discharge of business. I, first of all, desire to quote certain questions, which I put to the Minister of Home Affairs during last week or the week before, and the replies thereto, relating to an innovation in the Department - whether in the time of the present Minister or not I cannot say - under which divisional returning officers are not required to reside, or to be qualified electors, in the electorates for which they hold their appointments. My first question was -
Is he aware that Divisional Returning Officers hold appointments anil discharge the duties ap pertaining thereto in divisions for which they are not qualified electors, and cannot become so qualified by reason of residence in other divisions?
To that, the reply was a short and concise one of “Yes.” Then I asked-
What would be the position of such divisions in the event of such DivisionalReturning Officer being called upon to exercise a casting vote?
The reply was -
He would have to give a casting vote under section 164 of the Electoral Act.
The next question was -
In view of the specified voting limitations of section 30 of the Commonwealth Constitution, is it possible to arm such officers with the right to exercise more than one vote at a Commonwealth general election, and, if not, what steps have been taken to insure the observation of this section under the circumstances indicated?
The Minister replied -
It may be possible that a Returning Officer may legally have a vote as an elector in the division in which he resides, and may also have a casting vote for some other division for which he is Returning Officer, but the provision of the Act which forbids him to vote at the election, except by a casting vote to decide the election, appears only to apply to the election for the division for which he is Returning Officer. No particular steps have been taken in the matter further than to supply all Divisional Returning Officers with copies of the Acts and Regulations and general instructions in relation to their official duties.
Then I asked -
Has legal opinion been taken as to the right of Divisional Returning Officers to exercise more than one vote, or to hold the positions under the conditions set out ; and, if so, will he have same made available for the information of the House?
The reply was -
No legal opinion has been taken, as it has not been considered necessary.
– The Minister can obtain a legal opinion.
– I think there are some phases of the question whichought to be laid before the AttorneyGeneral.”
– The honorable member could personally lay them before the honorable gentleman.
– I have been trying to do so, without success, but I hope the result will be more satisfactory now that I have moved the adjournment of the House. lt is provided that an elector shall vote only once at any general election; and section 30 of the Constitution states that at the outset the franchise that obtains for the time being in the States shall be the franchise on which the election shall take place, but specifically provides that each State qualified elector shall vote only once. The provision that, in the choosing of members, each (.lector shall vote only once, has obtained throughout our history as a fundamental principle of the Constitution; and the vote is exercised on the condition that the voter resides in the electorate.
– The vote must be counted in the electorate for which the elector is “ registered.
– Quite so. There is an exception in the residential qualification, but it applies only to members of this Parliament, who may exercise their own votes in their own electorates, although for a considerable portion of the year, or, possibly, for the whole of the year, they may reside in some other electorate. This has been specially provided for by legislative enactment. There is no provision in the Constitution or the electoral law for such an innovation as that I have indicated. The Electoral Act provides that a divisional returning officer, in case of an equal number of votes being cast for each candidate, may give a casting vote; and such officer is debarred by legislation from giving an ordinary vote, so as to comply with the declaration of the Constitution that each elector shall vote only onceUp to quite recently it was held that a divisional returning officer, in order that he might be able to give a casting vote, must te a qualified voter for a division in which he exercises his official authority. But he has not authority to give that casting vote by reason of any legislation that has been enacted. He gives it as a qualified elector of the constituency in which he exercises his functions. But at present the Department is appointing men to these responsible positions who are not qualified voters of the electorates in which they are exercising their authority, and, consequently, are not empowered to give the casting vote that may be required of them. “ We have, therefore, this anomaly - it is not merely an anomaly, but a direct negation of our Constitution - that we may have, in certain circumstances, men exercising two votes, whereas section 30 of the Constitution specifically lays it down that an elector shall vote once and once only. I am told that at present the gentleman who discharges these important functions in the city of Melbourne, is not a qualified voter for the division. I am further informed that the divisional returning officer for. South Sydney is not now - although he was formerly - a qualified elector of the electorate. Consequently, as I have already said, we are face to face with the position that men will possibly be called upon to exercise a casting vote in electorates in which they are not qualified voters.
– How many votes would be affected?
– A whole division may be disfranchised, and the Government, after incurring great expense, may find that an election is held to be null and void. I should have thought that, in a matter of this kind, so bristling with legal difficulties, the Department, before permitting the introduction of a new practice, would have armed itself with legal authority for the innovation. Until recently, no man could be appointed as a divisional returning officer for an electorate in which he was not a qualified voter. Now, apparently, the practice of the Department, for some reason that is not apparent, is not to inquire whether a man is or is not a voter for the division in which he is to exercise his functions. This marks a radical departure from the principles, usages, and practices of the Department, which have operated for a number of years. Surely we might have imagined that the Department would have secured’ a legal opinion with respect to the change inaugurated. But the Minister of Home Affairs, in reply to a question of mine, has stated that no legal opinion has been taken, as it was not considered necessary. In view of this fact, I consider that I am’ justified in directing public attention to the subject as I am now doing. What I would suggest to the Minister is that he should obtain a competent legal opinion upon the point. If that opinion discloses that it is not necessary for a man to be an elector in an electoral division for which he is “ divisional returning officer, the regulations might, at least, be so framed so as to give effect to the principle that one man shall exercise at a general election only one vote. There are other matters that call for attention in connexion with electoral administration. There is, for instance, the important matter of electoral roils. Last year a compilation was made some time in September by the police authorities of New South Wales. “I cannot speak with reference to other States, because I have not armed myself with information concerning them. The -compilation was completed in September, but the rolls were not issued for public inspection until April - some eight months later. The whole work was practically nullified by the long delay between the time when the rolls were compiled and when they were made available for the public. Within eight months some electors become disqualified, and new electors become qualified. But the public are deprived, by such a delay, of the opportunity of ascertaining definitely whether or not they are enrolled, and many of them may consequently be unable to exercise the franchise, although otherwise qualified. 1 understand that, the Minister of Home Affairs is hiving the rolls revised. I urge him to see that that revision is completed and the rolls issued long before eight months are over. If it takes as long to deal with new enrolments as it did last year, they will be useless for the purposes of the coming Federal election.
– I have already stated several times in answer to questions that I have given orders that the Federal rolls should be ready not later than the 31st December.
– How did it come about that so long a delay occurred last year?
– I was not in office then, and know nothing about the matter.
– If the Minister will inquire into the cause of the delay, I think he will find that it was unnecessary. I have no doubt that the police do their duty. But it is a very difficult duty to perform. Very often a police officer is obliged to take the information that is supplied to him, and that information may be incorrect or incomplete. The names of electors who ought to be on the rolls are not supplied to them, and it is only by the publication of the rolls that electors are able to ascertain whether they are enrolled, and, if not, to take action to secure their enrolment. The purpose for which the present compilation of the rolls is being made will not be achieved unless the new rolls are published before the new year. The electors require some time to make the necessary inquiries to see that they are enrolled, and between the beginning of the year and the date of the next elections there will not be too much time for careful scrutiny of the new rolls. Although the existing rolls were pub- lished in April last, I am still in receipt of letters from electors, asking me to ascertain why their names are not on the rolls. I have in my possession now a letter, which I shall not read, but which I shall deal with in the ordinary way, in which an old resident of my district complains that himself, his wife, and six members of his family, who are all qualified to vote, were left off the rolls in the last compilation made. He says that he understood the police had collected their names, and it was only when his attention was called to the matter that he made the necessary inquiries and found that they were not on the rolls. ‘ This is an every day occurrence, and it is therefore necessary that the nev rolls should be published as early as possible to enable the electors to discover whether they are enrolled. I should like to refer briefly to one or two other matters. As the result of the investigations of a committee of inquiry, it was found that in the city of Melbourne, the postal voting provisions had been very greatly abused. The opportunities of abuse which they afforded led to the creation of a. new variety of electoral agents, who were referred to as “ Flying Angels.” Great abuse of the .postal voting provisions occurred also in Queensland. I believe the Minister promises new electoral legislation, and certainly great care should be taken to prevent the purity of election* being impaired as a result of the abuses possible under the existing postal voting provisions. I should like to remind honorable members that it is the practice of the State Governments, and was the practice in connexion with Commonwealth elections until the last Federal elections, to appoint a presiding officer and a poll clerk for every polling booth. At some small polling booths, not more than twenty votes are recorded, whilst at others as many as 120 may be recorded, and at the last Commonwealth elections the Government appointed a presiding officer for each of these small _ booths, but did not appoint a poll clerk. One can imagine that in remote centres, or at out-back stations, where the overseer or manager of a station is appointed presiding officer, certain influence or pressure might be used in connexion with the voting. In ray opinion it is necessary that poll clerks, as well as presiding officers, should be appointed at every polling booth. I trust that the Government will not consider the small expense, involved in the payment of poll clerks, and that in the interests of the purity of elections every effort will be made to avoid even the appearance of abuse. 1 hope that in future at all Commonwealth elections a poll clerk will be appointed to assist the presiding officer at every polling booth. This would minimize the temptation to improper practices in connexion with voting, and would give a greater measure of public confidence in the purity of our elections.
– Dealing first with the last of the four matters brought under the attention of the House by the honorable member for Calare, I may say that it is perfectly true that the practice previously in vogue was to appoint poll clerks as well as presiding officers at every polling booth. Prior to the last elections it was thought that it was not necessary to appoint a poll clerk at a polling booth where not more than 100 votes were recorded.
– The State Governments consider it necessary.
– I have had a return made showing the extra expense involved in the appointment of poll clerks at every polling booth in the Commonwealth. I find that it is so inconsiderable that I shall consider the advisability of appointing poll clerks at all the polling booths. With regard to postal voting, the Chief Electoral Officer has, in the suggestions embodied in the Electoral Bill now before the Senate, provided safeguards to prevent the abuse of the postal voting provisions. The Bill is now being discussed in another place at the Committee stage, and honorable members will shortly have an opportunity to consider it here. I hope to have their assistance in dealing with the measure, because it is my desire that not only the postal voting provisions, but every other provision of our electoral law, shall be as free from the possibility of abuse as we can make it. On the subject of the electoral rolls, the honorable member for Calare has pointed out that a delay of eight months occurred in the publication of the last rolls compiled in New South Wales. I have no personal knowledge of the reasons for that delay, as I was not in office at the time, but I can assure honorable members that, as far as the rolls which are at present being compiled are concerned, definite instructions, which I issued some time ago, are being carried out, and those rolls will be ready not later than the 31st December. The electors will thus be given ample time before the next elections take place to see whether they are enrolled. The honorable member referred also to the casting vote given by reluming officers. I ‘should like, in this connexion, to point out that, while no formal legal opinion was asked for on the subject before the answer to which the honorable member has referred was given, the matter was submitted to the Attorney-General. However, I shall now submit it in a formal way, with a view to getting a definite legal opinion on what the honorable member has very properly described as a most important question. There are only three instances of the kind to which the honorable member referred - one at Sydney, another at Melbourne, and a third in Queensland. I admit that that is no reason why we should not be very careful in connexion with this matter. I shall submit it at once to the Attorney-General, and shall ask him to let me have his advice as speedily as possible. If honorable members will do me the favour of bringing electoral matters before me from time to time during the next few months I shall use my utmost endeavours, if there are any difficulties, to have them speedily rectified.
Question resolved in the negative.
Mr. FULLER laid upon the table the following papers : -
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended -
No. 142 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 105.
Nos. 156, 257-62 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 106.
Days in Lieu of Public Holidays - Recreation Leave - Telephone Instruments.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, has furnished the following information: -
This makes an average of 6£ days per official for 4 years, equalling i§ day per annum.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, 11pon notice -
– The following information has been supplied by the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney : -
Questions to Applicants - Earnings of Pensioners
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the forty questions and sub-questions the two friends of an old-age pension claimant have to declare under a penalty of six months’ imprisonment, will the Government reduce them to a few simple questions?
– The penalty applies only to a person who aids or abets a1 claimant for n pension by making a declaration containing a wilfully false statement or representation. A circular .has been issued to all magistrates and registrars who deal with old-age pensions asking them if they can suggest, in the light of experience gained, any improvements in the form of claim. When their replies have been received, the matter will be considered.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
If, in view of the fact that eleven declarations have to be made and sixty-four questions and sub-questions have to be answered by each old-age pensioner under the penalty of five years’ imprisonment, will the Government reduce the number to a few simple questions?
– A circular has been addressed to all magistrates and registrars dealing with old-age pensions, asking them if their experience leads them to the conclusion that any of the questions asked claimants are unnecessary, or if other questions are advisable. When the replies have been received, the advisability of altering the questions will be considered.
Mr. TUDOR (for Dr. Maloney) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to old-age pensioners who are not paid the full pension of 10s. per week through reductions on account of earnings prior to application, if after the completion of six months it is shown that no money has been earned during that period, will he see that full payment is made for the whole of such period?
– If the income on which the pension has been calculated ceases, the pensioner may inform the Deputy Commissioner who has power under section 34 to have the case reheard, and to redetermine theamount of pension and date from which an increased amount should be paid.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 3707), 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.
– I approach the discussion of this subject with a degree of diffidence which is caused partly by the fact that I am conscious that I arn not on all points in accord with most of those with whom I sit, and partly because of the very momentous nature of the subject itself. The Prime Minister, in opening the debate, very truly said that we were called upon to complete the work of the Convention. Our duty here is really to do what the founders of the Constitution found themselves unable to do at that time.
Surely that is a duty which ought to raise this debate - if anything can raise a debate in this House-above all considerations of party. It is a great occasion that ought to call forth the very best that is in this House and in all sides of the House. I take the liberty of saying that the speech with which the Prime Minister introduced the discussion of this subject was one which in any Parliament, in any country, or at any period of parliamentary history, would have been deemed well worthy of a great occasion. More cannot be said for it. I must say that it produced a marked impression on my mind, and, asI feel, on the minds of a great many others. It led me to carefully review all the arguments and considerations which have passed through my mind. I am glad that the Bill has been brought in in the form in which it is brought in, because its form recognises onits face the paramount jurisdiction of this Parliament over the subject with which we are called upon to deal. It is not a Bill which asks the House to sanction an agreement. It is a Bill which asks the House to deal with this great subject on its merits.
– What Bill is the honorable member dealing with? There is no Bill before the House.
– I was about to draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the motion before the Chair is a motion for leave to introduce a Bill, and that the House has no knowledge of the contents of the Bill.
– I stand corrected, because that is quite clearly the case. I think, however, that most honorable members have already been given an opportunity, if not of seeing the Bill - because no Bill has been introduced - at all events of learning exactly what the intentions of the Government are with regard to its form.
– I do not think anybody on this side has seen it.
– Extracts from it were published in the newspapera. Although I am precluded from discussing the form in which the Bill is proposed to be introduced, I think I may take it that there is what is tantamount to a statement that this House will not be asked in express terms to confer its approval upon the agreement entered into between the Prime Minister and the representatives of the States, but that it will be asked, as I think it ought to be asked, to deal with the whole subject of the settlement of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States under section 87 of the Constitution, and to make an amendment of the Constitution accordingly. I know that there is no sin more likely to be condemned in Parliament than citing from one’s own speeches, but I shall crave the indulgence of the House to refer to a sentence of the first speech which I made in this House in dealing with that question. I do so because in connexion with a speech which I recently delivered and of which some notice has been taken in this chamber, I have been twitted with having taken up a position which was inconsistent with certain views which I put forward at a very early stage of the negotiations for an adjustment of the future financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth, when I was Treasurer of Victoria. In the very first speech which I had the honour of addressing to honorable members” of this House, I said -
I merely desire to say that glad as I should be to see a definite agreement arrived at, if the Parliament either unduly delays the settlement of this vital question or accepts any settlement which does not entirely accord with its own view of what is the best thing to do, it will be abrogating the most important function which the people have intrusted to it.
– Hear, hear.
– I am glad to hear the Prime Minister say “ hear, hear,” because to my mind his interjection indicates that those who are supporting the Government will be afforded the fullest opportunity of exercising their own judgments as to what the final settlement of this question ought to be. I admit that the mere fact that an agreement has been arrived at is itself a potent argument in favour of adopting that particular course. We cannot shut our eyes to political considerations and political contingencies even in connexion with such a fundamental question as the settlement of the future financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. For that reason - if r find myself unable to accept in toto the agreement which has been arrived at - it will be my endeavour to see how far I can go towards approaching its fundamental and material elements. Now, the Constitution - if I may be allowed to repeat in the most emphatic way what is perfectly well known to honorable members - by the joint operation of sections 87, 90 and 51, paragraph xxxvi., vests in this Parliament, after the expiration of the Braddon period, absolute control of. the very large revenue that is derived from Customs and
Excise, and also exclusive and paramount authority to control and govern all legislation relating to Customs and Excise. That is a consideration of which we must not lose sight. We are not now called upon to deal merely with the financial question. We are called upon to deal not merely with the division of the revenue that is derived from Customs and Excise, which’ must take place, but also with our freedom of action in regard to all legislation, relating to matters of Customs and Excise.
– The honorable member means that we ought to revise the Constitution generally?
– No. But we must not look at this question purely from the stand-point of pounds shillings and’ pence. In allocating the Customs and Excise revenue we must be careful that we do not fetter that freedom of action which the Constitution’ gives us in connexion with that particular class of legislation. That is a point which we must never forget. It is one, too, the importance of which will become more and more apparent when’ we come to consider some figures in relation to the protective Tariffs of other countries to which reference has already been made, and to which I shall presently invite the attention of the House for a. very short time. The only check imposed upon the vast power and control which has been given to this Parliament lies in the fact which was alluded to by the Prime Minister in another connexion, that all the interests of our constituents are bound up in the welfare and security of the States, and of the States revenues., That is the real’ check: - and the only check - which the framers of the Constitution, and the people of Australia who ratified it, thought it necessary to impose upon this Parliament in its exercise of the very great powers which have been intrusted to it. T wish to say at the outset of my remarks that an alteration of the Constitution ought not to be resisted merely because it is an alteration. Whether or not an alteration should be made entirely depends upon the character of the alteration that is suggested. The basis of the scheme for the adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States which I have always favoured, and which I outlined three years ago in the speech to which I have alluded, was that the Commonwealth should practically burden itself with the payment of an amount equivalent to the interest upon the State debts as they existed at the time of the consummation of Federation, and that - having done that - the Commonwealth should thereafter have complete control of the whole of the surplus revenue which might be expected to accrue from an increase in our population. I gave reasons why that basis should be adopted, and my views upon this subject have not materially altered since. But even a scheme of that sort - as honorable members who have studied section 105 of the Constitution will recognise - would require an amendment of the Constitution ; because if the Commonwealth took over the State debts they would be accompanied by a guarantee that the States would make good any deficiency which the amount of revenue returnable to them might leave in the interest bill payable upon those debts.
– In that case, we could take over the State debts only in proportion to the population of the States.
– Unless we toolover the whole of the debts. I merely suggest that as an . arbitrary basis. But even such an adjustment of the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth as that would require an amendment of the Constitution, in that it would necessitate the abolition of the States guarantee to make up any deficiency which might arise in connexion with the interest payable on their debts. So that the mere fact of an amendment of the Constitution being necessary is not in itself objectionable. But before we amend the Constitution in such a way as to surrender any considerable portion of the powers that are vested in this Parliament, we ought to be extremely careful to see, not merely that the change is not likely to produce evil results - that it is not likely to hamper our future progress in any way - but that it is practically impossible for it to have that effect. We are not entitled to take chances, to gamble with our constitutional powers. Before we part with any considerable section of the powers which have been vested in us, we ought to be definitely certain - so far as we can be certain of things human - that such a cession of powers cannot - under the most adverse circumstances - seriously impair or fetter the future development of Australia. That is the point of view from which I for one approach this subject. It is from that point of view that this particular, kind of measure differs from every other legislative measure with which Parliament is called upon to deal. In regard to every other measure which is passed, Parliament has within itself the power to do away with the mischief that may accrue therefrom simply by repealing it. In the case of this particular kind of measure, however, we have not such power. The people have intrusted us with certain definite and very large powers in this connexion. But before we part with this Bill we must be assured beyond all reasonable possibility of doubt that we are not taking a step which may at any time affect our powers in such a way as to impede the Parliament of Australia in carrying out any of its functions. Before I go into figures, two arguments of this kind have been brought forward which I think call for a word or two. One is that even if we are doubtful as to the propriety of passing this measure we may relieve ourselves to some extent from the responsibility by leaving it to the people to determine - that this is only a measure for a referendum. My answer to that argument is that we cannot shelve the responsibility which lies upon us by leaving to the people under the Constitution a measure which a majority in this House are not convinced or persuaded ought to be accepted. The Constitution has not only imposed the obligation of an Act of this Parliament as a preliminary to any such question being submitted to the people, but it has gone so far as to provide that no such Act, unless it is passed by an absolute majority of all the members of this House, and of the other place too, ought to be submitted to the people. Therefore, it becomes our bounden duty first of all to determine for ourselves, according to the best of our judgment, and after reviewing all the facts, whether this is a measure which we think the people ought to be asked to approve. That is the point. As regards the second argument, it is said: “Suppose that we make a mistake; suppose that we induce the people to take away from us powers which ultimately it may be desirable that we should possess under altered conditions. They could always give to us under the Constitution what they have taken away.” I quite agree with what the honorable member for Mernda very ably expressed the other day, that, however true that may be in constitutional theory, it has very little foundation in practical political effect. As he put it, the mere cession of these powers is the commencement of a growth of in- terests which themselves will become all powerful. I will put the position in another way. We are called upon here and now to lay the foundation stone of our financial, and, to a large extent, political development. It lies upon us to see that that stone is well and truly laid. It is no answer to say that if, afterwards, the building should be found to be a little crooked, it can be taken down stone by stone to the corner stone again, and made plumb and square. It is our duty to see that the arrangement at which we arrive now shall be one on which the whole development of Federal and national life can proceed safely, and without being hampered or fettered. Changes of this kind partake more or less of the nature of organic changes. A tree will grow as it is pruned. In constitutional matters,- there are certain changes which are like organic changes in this respect, that the whole growth afterwards proceeds upon them. We cannot turn back the hands of the clock, and undo everything which has ever happened. We cannot wipe away all the traditions and the interests which have arisen, and revert to our original position. As I interjected in the course of the excellent speech made by the honorable member for Kennedy, suppose that at some time we should find ourselves obliged to endeavour to repeal that which we are now doing? We should find ourselves in the position of asking the people to force out of the hands of the States the powers which we are now asked to voluntarily cede to them.
– It will be the same people.
– It is for that reason that it would be all the more difficult to regain the powers. Of course, every one will admit that such a thing is possible. The mere existence of our Federation shows that the people were willing to cede powers which the States then possessed. There is no question that, in certain circumstances, under great pressure of public opinion, no matter from what cause arising, such a thing might happen as a reversion to the state of things which we are now willing to depart from. Unless we are now persuaded that nothing short of such a general cession of our constitutional powers with regard to this important branch of finance will bring about an effective and permanent settlement of our financial relations with the States, we ought not to make the cession. I ask the attention of the House for as short a time as I can make it to a somewhat concise examination of some important figures. I was rather glad to find that the honorable member for Mernda and myself had been - as I think he knows, quite unconscious of our mutual action - going on very much the same lines in certain respects. First of all, I want to refer for a moment to the Treasurer’s figures, which were published with the agreement a few days ago. I think that the figures show that, even on the estimate on which they are based, in a very few years we shall be, I will not say in a serious financial position, but in a financial position which will require us to curtail in every respect our expenditure, and to adopt some methods to meet our financial liabilities, with which, at all events, a considerable section of the House are not in accord.
– That will be the case at the end of the first year’s operations.
– I do not know that it will be. If honorable members will refer to page 5 of the memorandum, they will find that all the tables are based upon the assumption that the gross revenue from Customs and Excise will equal £2 8s. fid. per capita as long as twenty years hence.
– And on the existing Tariff.
– Yes. I was going to refer to that, because, as every one knows, there is a great deal of elasticity in a Tariff as a revenue-producing factor. t I desire to deal with these figures on the basis on which the Treasurer has presented them. If honorable members will look at the bottom of page 5, they will find that in 1915-6 the revenue from Customs and Excise which the Commonwealth will be able to retain on that assumption will be .£5,258,792. I venture to express considerable doubt, for which I shall be able to show reason presently, whether £2 8s. 6d. is not much too high a figure at which to estimate our Customs and Excise revenue per head of population at that time. I assume now, for the purposes of mv argument, that it is not too high. We have been receiving £2 9s. 7d.. so . that it is a reduction of only is. id. This year, our fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue, amounts to ^2,^29,000. When the defence scheme is in full working order, it will cost ,£2,500,000, an increase- of i, 2 50,000’ on our present defence expenditure, which is about ^1,250,000, including everything.
– This year it is ^1,300,000.
– Then the difference is about ^,200,000.. If we do not provide- for invalid pensions, and the increase in connexion with old-age pensions does not exceed ,£650,000, which is very doubtful, on these two Departments alone our expenditure would be increased by ^1,900,000.
– Is not the honor- able member able to estimate the probable” expenditure on invalid pensions? We are sure to have to provide for them.
– I have not allowed for the cost of invalid pensions, nor for expenditure on a number of other projects which members on both sides wouldlike to see carried out, such as the further, encouragement of immigration, the extension of » bounties, or the offering of other inducements to stimulate industries such, as the manufacture of iron. I am- merely taking the present proposals of the Government, and assuming, that, they will not be increased. To the amount by which the new defence scheme, and the payment of old-age pensions will increase our expenditure, must be added this year’s deficit of ,£1. 20,0, 000, making our liabilities j£.3, 100,000. to- meet which we shall have a -revenue of only ^2,629,000, so that there will be a deficit of nearly ^500,000.
– Surely there is an obligation upon us to provide for invalid pensions ?
– I do not suggest that invalid pensions should not be provided for, but, if they are, the deficit will be increased by what they will cost ; and so with other matters. I do not make this statement’ as an alarmist one, because I do not regard the position which will be created as very serious. There are many ways, even with the existing Tariff, whereby it could be dealt with without difficulty. We spend a large sum yearly on public works, but it is not to be assumed that we .shall be able to continue constructing public works entirely out of revenue. We must either curtail this expenditure very considerably, or borrow on short-dated loans. I put forward my estimate of liabilities and revenue to show that as early as 1915, without making allowance for what I believe to be imminent future financial’ burdens, we shall be faced with a position- which will necessitate the careful scrutiny of every proposal for expenditure.
– The - sum of £600,000 is to be refunded by the States.
– To meet the difficulties of the next financial year only. I shall refer to that matter in another connexion. I wish now to deal with a few figures, showing the effect of protective tariffs on revenue. I have made, as far as lay in my power, a careful analysis of the statistics of the countries which have been.’ referred to in this discussion - Germany, the United States of America., Canada, and New Zealand. I agree with what the Prime Minister said in regard to some of them,, at all events ;. that no very definite or accurate inferences can be. drawn from them. The United. States, with a population of. 80,000,000, and a highly civilized and complex society, cannot be regarded as closely analogous to a young country like Australia. Neither can Germany, whose conditions . differ from ours even more widely than do those of the United States.. But. certain general conclusions may be drawn, not merely from the statistics of. those countries, but from the statistics as to imports and. Tariff returns, available in regard to- all other countries ; and I should like to say shortly what they are. They prove themselves, with fluctuations, in every country, especially where protective Tariff’s have been adopted. The first of these principles, or rather, tendencies, is - to apply the language of the celebrated definition of Herbert Spencer regarding evolution - that the progress of a community from a simple homogeneous condition, such as exists in a new country, to the more complex life which almost always succeeds a higher state of civilization, development and evolution, as countries grow older, tends, apart from all tariff arrangements, to reduce external trade per head of population. It is remarkable that that general rule finds a good deal of support from the statistics for all parts of the world. I have been greatly assisted in my calculations by the officers of the Government Statistician, from whom I have received a long list of the imports, per head of population, of. the leading countries in’ the world, large and small. I do not intend to ask that they be printed, but I shall’ be delighted to show them to any honor- able member who is interested in the matter.
– Why not have them put into Hansard?
– Since honorable members desire their inclusion in my speech, I shall do so. They are as follow : -
New and undeveloped countries, as a rule, import more largely per “head than do countries which have been developed. Countries like Great Britain, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and, to some extent, Denmark, though very highly developed, import very largely, because they are distributing centres, or points through which routes of commerce and traffic pass. They must, therefore, be left out of the calculation, because their statistics do not afford a reliable guide. A considerable percentage, though it is difficult to say exactly what it is, of the goods imported into Great Britain, is brought there to be exported again. In most other countries, however, the importation per head of population is comparatively low, averaging between £4 and £5 per head. In the United States, and in fact most of the older countries, it is much smaller than in newer countries like the Argentine and
Australia. Let me say that I put these rather as tendencies, and that I should not take up the time of the House in dealing with vague and indefinite tendencies, but that we have to deal with a conjectural future. We have to consider the possibilities of the future, and that being so we must have regard to general tendencies, from whatever sources they may be obtained. I shall be able to give presently to honorable members a remarkable concurrence of testimony from Germany, Canada, the United States and New Zealand, which I think are all Protectionist countries, showing that, whether the imports increase or decrease, there is a steady and regular decrease in their revenue yielding capacity per head of the population. I shall be able to show that, whatever may be the circumstances - and they are as multifarious as are the circumstances of humanity - that tend to cause fluctuations in the amount of the external commerce of any community in which a mild system of Protection has been adopted, the invariable tendency is to show a perpetual falling in the percentage of revenue which is yielded by the imports. That tendency is most striking, and perhaps I had better, at this stage, give the figures by which it is demonstrated. All these considerations are complicated by the fact that alterations are constantly being made in the Tariffs of the countries in question. In the last twenty years we have had at least four important changes in the Tariff of the United States of America, the McKinley Tariff of 1890 and the Dingley Tariff of 1897 being the most marked. There have also been a number of changes in the Canadian Tariff, whilst there have been no fewer than eight distinct Tariff Acts, many of them most important, passed in Germany during the same period. With a view of ascertaining, and of giving to the House, information which seems to me to go to the very root of the question we have to determine, namely, what will be the revenue producing tendency of our imports, whether they increase or diminish, I have had a table prepared which I think will prove of interest. The question is certainly the most important with which we have to deal. The volume of our imports
is governed by a host of considerations. It is governed, of course, by the general condition of prosperity which may be maintained for any particular period. It is governed also by the current rate of prices, either here or in the world’s markets, and it is controlled very largely by the degree of rapidity of development and settlement, and by the amount of public and private borrowing that is indulged in. There are fluctuations in regard to all these matters, but the main point we have to consider is that the general tendency running through all these fluctuations - even where a mild form of Protection is in force - is that the amount of Customs revenue per head, per £100 worth of imports, gradually and steadily decreases. The figures which I am about to quote have been compiled for me, with very great care, by the Assistant Commonwealth Statistician who is acting for Mr. Knibbs. They are too lengthy to read to the House, but I shall ask your permission, Mr. Speaker, to place them at the disposal of honorable members. They cover the nineteen years period 1889-1907, and show the total imports of merchandise, the revenue derived by way of import duties thereon, the population for each of these years, and the percentage of import duties on imports .of merchandise in the countries referred to.
The column to which I direct special attention is that relating to the percentage of the import duties on the imports of merchandise. It shows how much . £100 of imports has yielded in Customs duties, and it has certainly a most important application to the subject that we are now discussing. The return also shows imports of merchandise per capita and the revenue from import duties per capita. I have not had time to study the relative proportions of the various German Tariffs, but I think I am right in saying that since 1889 there has been a fairly steady increase in the protective incidence of those Tariffs. I find that the total imports of Germany, like its population, increased very rapidly during the years 1889-1907, and that the revenue from import duties was nearly doubled.
– In gross amount.
– Yes. The population increased from 48,000,000 to 62.000,000. and the actual import duties per capita were on the whole fairly maintained at an average. They rose slightly, but not to any appreciable degree. There has not been time for the effect of the eight different Tariffs to show itself, but whereas in 1896, when the protective system was established, the revenue derived from the Customs duties was about 10 per cent, of the imports, it has gradually and steadily fallen, until now it is only 6.39 per cent.
– Is that because the people have become poorer?
– Not at all; the people have become richer. I do not think that the honorable member can have been clearly following me; and I tell him that, instead of the people becoming poorer, their purchasing capacity has increased. During that period the actual imports have increased from £4 6s. 5d. to £711s. 5d. per head. Germany is an extremely progressive community, as we all know ; the country has been advancing by leaps and bounds, very likely largely owing, amongst other things, to a thoroughly administered scientific method of Protection.
– The imports are largely raw material.
– That may be; the progress of the country has been so rapid that very large imports of raw material may have been necessitated.
– That accounts for the falling in the percentage.
– That may be; but the remarkable thing is that we find the same tendency in all countries.
– Excepting New Zealand.
– I shall come to New Zealand later on.
– In New Zealand, within the last few months, the Tariff has been altered for revenue producing purposes.
– Will honorable members allow me to turn to the figures relating to the United States for the same period ?
– Before the honorable member leaves the subject of Germany, will he state what the yield was in those years? The rate may be less, and the amount more.
– The yield during those years, as I said before, has slightly increased - from 8s. 7d. to 9s. 8d. per head. The total amount is, of course, very small, but it has increased, and we must remember that there have been eight different amendments of the Tariff. I desire to show now that, whether the imports decrease or increase, there is a steadily decreasing percentage of revenue from them.
– Is that per capita or percentage ?
– Per capita; the figures show what£100 worth of imports will yield in Customs revenue. In the United States, during the same period, there has been a rather remarkable result tending in the same direction. In 1890 the imports were 15s.1d. per head, and they went down steadily to 8s. 4d. in 1898, since when they have risen to 16s. 1d. I do not know that any very accurate inference can be drawn from these figures ; but, if honorable members look at the column to which I have before referred, they will find that the percentage of import duties on imports of merchandise was 28.701 under the McKinley Tariff in 1890.
– What was the amount per head ?
– It was 15s.1d. But I am for the moment leaving out the per capita yield, and dealing rather with what seems tobe important inferences from the figures generally. The McKinley Tariff meant a high increase in the protective duties, and from that time on to 1897-8. there was a steady and regular decline from 28.701 to 23.608 per cent. In 1898 the Dingley Tariff was introduced; and I had a hasty glance at it the other day, but it is so voluminous that I confess that, for the purposes of comparison, I am not able to say, to any great extent, what is the nature of the changes.
– Did not. the Dingley Tariff come after the Wilson Tariff? It was a revenue Tariff.
– I think the Tariff probably did make a considerable increase in some of the revenue-producing duties, because we find that the percentage which the revenue duties bore to the imports suddenly jumped from 23.608 to 28.985 and ever since, under the high protective Tariff, the revenue has been steadily going down from 28.985 to 26.985, 28.372, 27.836, 26.054, and 23.125 per cent. The percentage is now 23.161, and, though there have been fluctuations, there has been a steady decrease. Qf course, as I have said, these things depend very largely on a host of other things.
– On values, for instance.
– They depend more or less on values; and there are other considerations that may have an influence, such, for instance, as a change in the character of the imports. That is the very point I am endeavouring to make. Under a protective system it is not that we import very much less, but that we change the character of the imports - we cease to import, to a considerable extent, the class of goods, the manufacture of which we are protecting. It is not that we do not still export very large values and introduce large values in goods, but that we gradually change the character of the goods. Any inference which is drawn from one set of figures might be said to be very weak, but it is considerably fortified when it is corroborated by other figures.
– The figures quoted do not touch Excise, but simply import duties ; and one of our sources of. revenue is Excise.
– That is quite true, but I am now dealing with imports. Under the proposal to give 25s. per head to the States, we shall actually give exactly the whole of the revenue derived from stimulants and narcotics, and the whole of our Excise revenue. If honorable members will look at the figures they will see that 25s. per head is, within a few pounds, the revenue derived from the sources I have mentioned ; and the honorable member for Mernda drew attention to the fact the other night.
– It is more when we take the sugar Excise into consideration.
– I leave the sugar Excise out of the calculation, because with that Excise we have the sugar bounty. The great stable, uniform, revenueproducing duties on stimulants and narcotics, and the Excise duties, produce exactly the amount that it is proposed to hand over to the States.
– I think the honorable member will find that what I have stated is correct. We are therefore relying solely upon the protective or semiprotective duties which are left to us. We are building the foundations of our state on the shifting sands of those duties, not upon the stable foundations of revenue. We are to pay to the States a certain sum of money, and, of course, we may pay it to them out of any fund we like. ‘ But we shall pay to them what is practically an equivalent to the portion of the Customs and Excise revenue I have mentioned; and that is why, as we have to depend upon the Customs revenue, upon the product of our Customs Tariff, I have been confining my attention mainly to the Customs revenue, and leaving out of account the Excise revenue. We are, I repeat, really leaving ourselves to depend upon the protective or semiprotective duties other than those revenues which we derive from narcotics and spirits. To come to Canada, we have there a most remarkable set of facts. There is another principle which operates in the opposite direction from those which I have mentioned. In a discussion of this sort, it is, I think, very bad policy for one to endeavour to press an argument further than it will go. I think that we ought to endeavour to look at this matter as fairly as we can ; and I have no hesitation in saying that there is another principlewhich often neutralizes both the principles and both the tendencies to which I have referred. That is the principle that in new countries - where you have a great deal of country open for settlement, and where you maintain a rate of progress and settlement up to a certain speed - you can neutralize by that means the tendency to decrease the Customs revenue. A striking example is afforded by Canada., and, to some extent, by New Zealand and Western’ Australia. It arises from considerations which will be present to the minds of all honorable members. Settlers in a new country bring with them and require a host of things more than are necessary for the current purposes of the year. There is a process of what I may call capitalization, or fixation ot capital, going on. There is a great extent of fixed capital, forming farm material, stock, and a host of other things, involving a considerable increase of imports as well as of expenditure in other directions. People are engaged in what I may call, without in the slightest degree impeaching such a process, mortgaging their future, as every new settler must do. It is essential to a new country that this process should go on. It is essential to the government of a new country, if it is properly governed, that it should, to some extent, mortgage its future. Every country that has progressed has adopted, that method. It is as absurd to condemn that process as it would be to condemn a man who gets a loan for the purpose of erecting wire netting around his farm. It is absolutely essential. It is, I say, a process that goes on in all new countries which have reached the rate of progress that is being maintained in Canada. There has been in Canada during the. last ten or fifteen years, as every one knows, an extraordinarily rapid rate of development, and a remarkable degree of progress in im migration has been maintained.
– That has been only during the last five or six years.
– The progress has been much more pronounced during the last five years. I will give the figures. I think that Ave in Australia are in just the same position as Canada was before the five years’ period, if not in a better position. Indeed, I think I may say that if this arrangement that is now proposed were limited to fifteen, or twenty, or even thirty years, and if we in this Parliament possessed anything like the same authority or power that the Canadian Parliament possesses to encourage settlement and development, I should waive every objection to the scheme. Or if we possessed for settling the land anything like the organization that that country possesses in the Canadian. Pacific Railway, we could look forward with a degree of placidity and without apprehension to the next ten, twenty, or thirty years. This Parliament and the State Parliaments could then undoubtedly proceed rapidly with the settlement of people upon the land, and that would bring with it beyond all question not only the probability of the maintenance for some time of the per capita rate of return, but possibly an increased re turn. I am, therefore, quite prepared to admil that if it were a. matter of dealing with what we may call the immediate future, with the next two or three decades, I should be prepared to take all responsibility for a scheme of this kind. But we are now dealing with something far beyond such a period, and it is our duty to see whether it is wise or prudent for us to mortgage all future time for the purpose of dealing with the probabilities of the next few years to come, or even of the next generation. The Canadian figures afford a striking instance of how the tide may rise. They show that during the years from 18S9 to 1898 - in fact we might say till 1901 - the rate of return per capita from duties of Customs averaged just about £1. The yield varied between £1 is. nd. and 15s. 10d. j but we may take it in round figures that in the period from 1889 to 1899, before the great access of settlement and population, and the great increase of national activity, the Customs revenue, without Excise, averaged £1 per head. Since that time the rate has gone up rapidly. In 1907 it reached £1 15s. 5d. per head. During that period, however, the total imports went up from £32,478,000 to £75,000,000. In the time of great national effort to develop the country, to throw it open, to settle people upon it, practically hosts of people and quantities- of capital entered Canada with the result that the total imports were more than doubled. But the percentage of duty upon imports of merchandise fell from 16 per cent, to 14 per cent. The percentage had been high before that, but it fell steadily. Before that great access of wealth and settlement a protective Tariff had been in force for a great many years. In the period from 1889 to 1907 I find that the percentage of duties upon imports fell from 20.70 per cent, down to 14.56 per cent. We have there again in Canada a further corroboration of the operation of the same law which I find prevails in every country where any kind of protective system is in force. It might almost be said to be a truism that this will be the effect, because if a protective system is to be protective it must have that effect. Now I come to deal with New Zealand.. The figures from New Zealand have been cited as those most applicable to our case. New Zealand is sometimes called a Protectionist country, but if honorable members will look at the New Zealand Tariff, I venture to say, they will agree that from the point of view of
New Zealand Tariff is more properly described as a revenue Tariff. I refer them to the official Y ear-Book of New Zealand for 1905 and for 1908. There was not much difference between the Tariffs in force in. those years. T shall not ask honorable members to follow me through all the items of the New Zealand Tariff, but I will say this of it : that in New Zealand fairly high fixed duties are imposed upon almost every possible revenue producing article, including a duty of 2d. per lb. on tea. It is true that after 1904 the duty on Indian tea imported in bulk was omitted. Before the time to which the greater number of these figures relate, there was a duty of 2d. per lb. on tea.
– Prior to 1904 the duty on tea was 4d. per lb.
– I thought the duty was 2d. per lb., but honorable members will find that heavy duties were imposed on coffee, chicory, and other items of the kind. But when we come to consider items in connexion with which we might look for protective duties, such as textiles, earthenware, and such things, we find that in almost every case the duties imposed are ad valorem duties ranging between 15 per cent, and 25 per cent. Taking textiles as an example, I might roughly say that the New Zealand duties on textiles are about half the duties prevailing in this country at the present time. So that I do not think that New Zealand can properly be appealed to as a fair example of a country that has adopted what would here be called a Protective Tariff.
– And they abolished Excise duties.
– They largely abolished Excise duties. Of course an argument founded on that aspect of the case would cut the other way also, because if they adopted similar Excise duties to ours their per capita re- ‘ turns would be greater. That must be admitted.
– Not necessarily; if a great number of articles were produced within the State.
– I do not know that they are. I do not dispute for a moment that if we were prepared to mould our Tariff for the express purpose of raising additional revenue we should be able to raise a revenue sufficient for all our requirements.
– -‘But we should then have no Protection.
– The question is not whether we are prepared to adopt that, course now, but whether we are prepared to adopt a perpetual scheme which may at some time force us to adopt that course. That is something which as far as possible we ought to be sure we shall not be forced to do. I shall not press the argument one jot further than it will go. I admit that New Zealand affords a striking example of the enormous elasticity of a Tariff for revenue production. I think that we may be assured that if we had anything like the Tariff of New Zealand we might raise a huge revenue, probably sufficient for all our requirements. I am prepared to make that admission ; but I think it would in certain circumstances very probably involve serious inroads upon the particular fiscal system adopted in the Commonwealth. I propose to quote some New Zealand figures, which will be found at page 451 of the New Zealand year-Book for 1908. I find that the average of the imports per head for the thirteen years prior to 1898 was just under £10. I ask honorable members to keep that in mind. This covers a long period, the first portion of which was a period of some depression, though in the later portion there was a period of recovery. Owing to circumstances which have since arisen and with which we are familiar, there has been a rapid and steady increase until in 1908, last year, the average imports rose to £18 5s. per head. Now the Customs revenue per head from 1899 to 1908 rose from £2 14s. to £3 2s. These are the figures which I believe are relied upon to show that a Protective Tariff is likely to increase the per capita returns of revenue. But the imports in 1899 -yielded 24 per cent, of revenue, whilst in 1908 they yielded only 17 per cent. This bears out the same view of the incidence of a Protective Tariff, whether the progress of imports is up or down.
– But the honorable member said that the New Zealand Tariff was a revenue Tariff.
– I have said that as compared with our Tariff and from out point of view the New Zealand Tariff is a revenue Tariff, but in respect of some articles it has a considerable protective incidence. The honorable member will remember that I started my proposition by saying that the effect to which I have referred follows even where a mild Protective Tariff is in force.
– The people of New Zealand describe their Tariff as a Protective Tariff.
– And it is protective to a certain extent. We find that wherever there is a protective tendency in the operation of the Tariff, whether the rate of imports goes up or down, the proportion which comes into the Exchequer always goes down. I say that to hope for or expect anything else from a Tariff whose incidence is protective would be to deny the very principle which lies at the bottom of it.
– All the figures that the honorable member has quoted show that as the rate goes down, the amount goes up.
– I have taken the particular countries I have named because they have been- referred to elsewhere, although I do not think that any general inference as to the amount of imports can. be drawn from the figures with regard to Germany and the United States, because the conditions are so different. But ‘Canada and New Zealand are very striking examples df the rule that, where you. are opening up a new country, and borrowing vast amounts of money, both publicly and privately - where you are mortgaging the future, although probably rightly and prudently - you will find a tendency which, so long as that policy is maintained, will neutralize every other tendency in the direction of reducing the per capita return of the Customs revenue. I wish to impress upon honorable members the fact that, although New Zealand has not done as Canada has done in throwing open immense areas of land, and importing immense numbers of settlers, and has not increased its population at anything like the same rate, or to an,thing like the same extent, as Canada has done, yet for certain reasons, which I do not propose to discuss now, it has managed to stimulate its- progress, its borrowing, and its enterprise to such a degree that its imports have very nearly doubled during ten years.
– Largely through borrowing.
– Largely through borrowing, which may or may not have been excessive. But supposing the same problem were 1-efore New Zealand at present as is now before us, and the statesmen of that Dominion had to ask themselves : - “ Shall we adopt a scheme to hypothecate a sum based upon the amounts which we now re ceive in revenue from Customs duties?” would it be wise or prudent for them to assume that the present high rate of imports would be maintained ? If they went back to what I have shown is a fair normal rate of imports for New Zealand - £10 per head, which is about equivalent to that of Australia per head - then the total Customs revenue of New Zealand would be reduced to less than j£i 14s. per head.
– It would be very unwise for them to hypothecate their revenue on that principle, if it was to be paid to an outsider, but it makes all the difference when the money is to be paid to different parts of the same community.
– That brings us back to the old question of how far we are likely to be able to get back the powers, if we once part with them.
– I thought we had settled that.
– I do not want to go into that question, but the honorable member’s interjection rather invited me to do so. Supposing New Zealand had, under its Constitution, the power to definitely allocate between itself and its Provinces the Customs revenue it receives, would it be wise or prudent for it to say “ We find now that our imports are £18 per head, and our Customs revenue is £3 2s. per head, and we shall assume that that state of things will continue”? Would it be even reasonably prudent for it to do so? Would it not be very much wiser for the statesmen of that country to say, “ We have come to the top of the wave, or nearly SO; we must recognise that the revenue from Customs duties has been very largely inflated by a number of circumstances during the last few years, and must contemplate, if we are to take a basis of safety at all, a possible reversion to that normal condition of about j£io of imports per head, which prevailed for thirty years before?” That amount, they would say, looking towards this great country, which is their neighbour, is about the amount per head imported by our friends in Australia, who live under cond:tions very much similar to ours. It is suggested by interjection that there will be a large increase of population, but I submit that, with a largely increased population and, perhaps, - more complex industrial conditions, there will be a gradual tendency for imports to decrease per capita, although their total may increase. The honorable member for Denison asked me a moment. ago to refer to the figures for the Commonwealth. We have not many years or much ground to go on, but we have something, and, so far as it goes, it tends to bear out the proposition that I have been putting before the House. On page 42 of the Budget Papers appears a return which gives the per capita receipts from Custcms and Excise since the establishment of the Commonwealth. Those figures cannot be relied upon as being sufficiently extensive to afford in themselves any basis for conclusions, but, so far as they go, they seem to bear out the view that I have been endeavouring to submit.
– Has the honorable member the figures showing the Customs revenue of New South Wales under Free Trade and under the Commonwealth Tariff?
– I have not gone into the figures with regard to the States, but, if it is desired to do so, the States which should be taken for the purposes of a comparison of this kind are, rather, Victoria and South Australia. With regard to the Commonwealth figures, I take, first, the Tariff of 1901-2. I must leave out the year 1901-2, because every year in which a Tariff is imposed is an abnormal year. But in the year 1902-3 the receipts per capita were £2 8s. 9½d. ; in 1903-4 they were £2 5s. 4½d. ; in 1904-5 they were £2 3s.5½d. ; and in 1905-6 they were £2 4s.0½d. Then comes the financial year 1906-7, but the last half of that was portion of the year in which the Tariff for 1907 was imposed, and, as honorable members know, there were considerable clearances in anticipation. All we can judge from the figures I have quoted, and I do not think it is very much, is that they are not inconsistent with the general view that I have been putting. I will not press it further than that, because the time has not been long enough for that Tariff to have any real protective incidence.
– Those figures do not agree with Knibbs.
– They include both Customs and Excise revenue.
Mr. W. H. IRVINE. The figures, which include both Customs and Excise revenue, indicate that there was a gradual reduction in the receipts per capita, and if honorable members subtract the Excise figures from the totals - I shall not attempt to cite them from memory - they will find that the reduction in the revenue derived from Customs duties was very much more marked. Still, I must say in fairness that I doubt whether the period is long enough to enable the House to draw any conclusion from those figures alone.
– The imports amounted to £41,000,000 ten years ago, and they are now£50,000,000. Two higher Tariffs imposed during that period have produced a larger amount of imports oversea.
– I think there is a very easy explanation of that. In the first place we have recently experienced greatly improved seasons as compared with those experienced in 1897 and . the years immediately preceding it. In the second place the prices for the main products of Australia have enormouslv increased.
– And our debt has increased.
– During recent years the rate of borrowing has not been unduly excessive.
– The claim of the honorable member is that a Protective Tariff has the effect of decreasing revenue, but not of decreasing imports?
– A Protective Tariff will cause a decrease of revenue, but not necessarily a diminution of imports.
– It will change the character of the imports.
– Exactly ; otherwise as a Protective Tariff it would be ineffective. I think that the adjustment of the future financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth is a matter which we ought to endeavour, candidly and honestly, to face as business men. We should disabuse our minds of any faults or- plausible arguments, either on one side or the other. I have attempted to put forward arguments without’ unduly pressing them either one way or the other. The only conclusion which I ask honorable members to draw from them is not that we shall necessarily plunge into disaster bv accepting the proposed agreement - not that we shall necessarily hamper our future development, but what I do say is that we’ shall be adopting a course which may land us in very serious difficulty. That is the only proposition which I put forward. I say that we have been given a power which the people of Australia thought we were capable of fairly exercising, not merely for the benefit of ourselves and of the Commonwealth Government, but for the benefit of the States and of the people who are the constituents of both the Commonwealth and the States. When we are asked to surrender for all time a power which we may at some period require to exercise for the national development, I say that we are asked to rest upon a conjecture of future events, and, in a matter of this sort, we ought not to be asked to do that. I do not put forward a very extreme proposition - on the contrary it is a very simple one. I merely say that before we jump we ought to see where we axe jumping. I do not; for a moment, underrate the advantages of arriving at an agreement with the States. Moreover, I say that the financial power which has been vested in this’ Parliament by the Constitution ought never to be used - and I hope that it never will be used - as a lever to force concessions from the States. But is there any necessity under present circumstances for us to yield that power to the extent that we are asked to yield it? As I have already stated, I wish to approach to the agreement which has been arrived at between the Commonwealth representatives and those of the States as closely as I can. Indeed, I think it might be wise at this stage to be a little more generous to the
– When we hold the whip hand?
– If it he a whip hand, the whip has been placed in our hands by the people. But I ‘do not say that it is a whip, and I hope that it will never be used as such The view which I have always held is that it would be fair for the Commonwealth to assume the burden of meeting out of Customs and Excise revenue the annual interest upon the State debts at the time Federation was accomplished. That would amount to about £7,200,000 per annum. But since then we have inaugurated a scheme for the payment of old-age pensions. Whilst I do not think that we should be justified in deducting from that amount the total sum which we contemplate paying by way of old-age pensions, we might fairly say to the States : “ We have relieved you of the annual payment of £1,000,000 or £1,260,000 under that heading, and we are entitled to deduct that sum from the £7,200,000 which represents the amount of interest that is payable upon the debts which you had contracted prior to Federa tion.” That would mean that the States would share in the Custom’s and Excise revenue to the extent of £6,000,000 annually. Anything between £5,750,000 and £6,000,000 would be a fair sum to credit them with in this connexion.
– The honorable member suggests that the Commonwealth should return to the States a fixed sum for all time?
– The sum which I have mentioned might fairly be taken as the measure of the Commonwealth payment to the States. Beyond that, we ought not to part with our ultimate control of the surplus revenue from Customs and Excise for all time. .1 think, however, that we might well part with our control of part of the surplus Customs and Excise- revenue derived from increase of population for a time.
– The Government do not suggest that we should part with our control of that revenue for all time.
– I thought that they did. It is proposed to embody the agreement which has been arrived at in the Constitution ?
– If that course be adopted, it does seem to me that we can never well go back upon it. If it be necessary . to give the States a sense of security - for which they may well ask - it may be well to amend the Constitution so as to insure to them the return of a fixed sum annually for all time. Although that would be parting to some extent with our paramount authority over fiscal legislation, yet I am prepared to take the risk that would be involved in such action in view of our certain increase of population. But I do not think it would be wise to let our power of control over any increase of revenue, consequent upon an increase of population, slip entirely from our hands for all time. I am quite prepared to agree to an amendment of the Constitution which will not only insure to the States the annual return of a fixed sum - sa)’> £5,750,000 or £6,000,000 - for all time, but also to give them for a term of years - five, or, if you like, ten years - a further charge of, say, 15s. a head of the increase of population.
– I do not think we can do that.
– I am inclined to think that we can, even within the limits of the present Tariff.
– I do not think so.
– I think that we can do that without even turning the present Tariff into a much more revenueproducing one, although, of course, we might have to some extent to do that. I believe that, having regard to various adjustments in the existing expenditure, we might do that during the next five or ten years.
– Does the honorable member suggest that if we did that we might have to make the Tariff more a revenue Tariff than it is?
– “ More a revenue Tariff “ does not necessarily mean “ less a protective Tariff.”
– I think it does.
– It may or it may not; but it does not necessarily mean that.
– That, of course, is a subject on which I should not feel justified in occupying the attention of the House at present. In reply to the honorable member for Hume, I believe that, without even re-opening the Tariff during a period of five years-
– Is that the time upon which they have agreed?
– No. If we take a period of five years to secure to the States not only the £5>75°:°00 or £6,000,000 which we might give them, but any increase in a per capita sum during that time, I think that even during that time, so far as I am able to look into the finances, we might safely make an adjustment on existing conditions, and with the present Tariff, which probably would enable us to tide over events.
– In the face of the increased cost for defence?
– That would mean weakening the Tariff, instead of strengthening it.
– I do not think that the honorable member quite followed me. This is altogether too wide a subject for me to discuss at present; but in Committee I hope to have an opportunity of inviting the Government to seriously consider whether we might not, without in any way giving umbrage to the States, move in the direction I have suggested. Of course every one knows that an agreement is an agreement. If any part is altered we cannot say that there is an agreement. But, without giving undue umbrage to the States and at the same time reasonably satisfying their requirements, we might invest them with the constitutional right to a fixed sum, and also invest them for a comparatively short time, five or ten years, with a constitutional right, if they so desire it, to a further payment, say, 15s. per capita, of the increase of population. I have very little more to sa.y. There will be other opportunities of discussing this question. I sincerely hope that it will be discussed apart from party spirit. I do not know that I feel entirely encouraged by the cheers from the other side. I can only hope that my honorable friends opposite will really put aside party considerations. But whether they do or not I shall feel obliged to treat the matter as one entirely apart from such considerations. It is my duty to give to the House the best advice of which I am capable. If that is thought worthy of acceptance I shall be pleased. If it is not we shall all have to submit our individual opinions to the will of the majority. As regards the merits of the agreement, the honorable member for Wimmera said a short time ago that as the result of its adoption we should have £600,000 to spend next year. I hope that .this Parliament will not be coupled with the name of Esau, I do not like the £600,000 proposal very much. I would very much sooner _ have imposed upon us the direct obligation of financing according to the means which we possess and are going to possess, even if we should have to temporarily borrow.
– Not borrow, finance.
– The reason why 1 do not entirely like the proposal is because I think that it may be one of the inducements which in connexion with certain political inducements that I would rather not enter into, may enable certain honorable members to accept an agreement of which they otherwise might not approve.
– Hear, hear. It is a. bonus for iniquity.
– I have nearly done. I know that we on this side can, without breaking any party allegiance or party ties, discuss this matter on its merits. I take the intention of the Government to be to invite us to so discuss the question, and I sincerely hope that the House will arrive at a conclusion, whether it is because of views I have expressed or not, which will tend towards the national welfare.
..- One cannot enter upon this debate without a feeling of trepidation, but that responsibility is upon us. The importance of the occasion is great. We are making history. We are invited to recommend a far-reaching and fundamental alteration of the Constitution affecting both national “finance and national progress. For that reason the duty devolves upon every honorable member, and indeed upon every citizen, to seek with all the powers we possess to understand the immense issue under consideration. I regret that the Bill to give effect to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the State Governments is not before the House. For purposes of their own the Government have introduced this question and invited honorable members to debate it. not upon the Bill which the House will be asked to pass but upon the agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth Prime Minister and the State Premiers. It was to be hoped that an agreement would be arrived at in the non-party spirit spoken of by the honorable and learned member for Flinders. But the Prime Minister, in introducing the question, made reference to the existence of a situation, rather than an issue, from which it is reasonably apparent that party exigencies, rather than national considerations, were the governing factors in the determinations. A number of schemes for dealing with the’ financial question had previously been placed before the country, among which was one constructed by the Federal Labour party, to which I shall presently refer. We are invited to consider certain clauses in an agreement between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers. They number five, but our business is more particularly with the latter four - the first being merely a pious affirmation of the desirability of certain investigations with reference to the debts of the States. Then follow these resolutions -
The agreement is signed by
Alfred Deakin, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia.
G. Wade, Premier of the State of New South Wales.
N: E. Lewis, Premier of the State of Tasmania.
So far as the intention is to give final effect to any part of it, the scheme refers to the disposition of surplus Commonwealth revenue. A number of speakers have been more inclined to discuss the management of the debts of the States, but the agreement refers only incidentally to our immense public debt, and debatedirected particularly to it should deal chiefly with the disposition of surplus revenue. As in some speeches the two subjects have been spoken of together, I wish to state in a few words the principles which I think should govern the allocation of our surplus revenue, and the consolidation of the public debt of Australia. They are these : -
The Public Debt.
These proposals are consistent with the Labour party’s policy. Reverting to the agreement between the Prime Minister and the Premiers, T would point out that it embodies the first scheme propoundedby the party now in power for the distribution of surplus revenue upon a per capita basis. It will be seen, when I have read the Federal Labour party’s financial scheme, that where the proposals now before us have merit they nave been copied from those of the Labour party, and that those clauses which are lame, halt, and unreasonable have departed from it. The policy adopted was as follows -
That the Conference approves the general outlines of Mr. King O’Malley’s scheme relating to the establishment of a National Bank.
That this Conference expresses its approval generally of the following scheme as the basis for an adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States : -
That the State should continue to receive a share of_ the Federal revenue.
That such annual share be paid to the
States in the form of a fixed sum per head of the population, such sums to be ascertained during or before the year1910 on the basis shown in the fourth paragraph.
That the proportion of revenue allocated to the Commonwealth must be sufficient to cover -
All existing expenditure apart from reproductive services;
Old-age and invalid pensions throughout the Commonwealth ;
An additional sum, not to exceed £1,000,000 for the expanding necessities of the Federal Government, such as the creation of the Federal Capital, railway undertakings, and the development of the Northern Territory.
That the amount of the fixed payment per capita to be returned to the States be ascertained by -
Taking the average total of the Customs and Excise revenue of five representative years before 1910;
Deducting therefrom the average total of Commonwealth expenditure for the same representative years under the three heads enumerated in the thirdparagraph ;
Dividing the amount so arrived at by the average number of the population of Australia for the same representative years.
That in view of the exceptional position of Western Australia a further capitation grant should be made to that State to gradually diminish upon a sliding scale until its share of the Federal revenue coincides per capita with that of the other States.
It will be readily seen that that scheme, formulated in July, 1908, formed the basis of the agreement arrived at by the Prime Minister and the State Premiers in Conference. It may not be out of place, in passing, to point out that it has been the habit of opponents of the Labour movement to jeer and gibe at the alleged lack of financial ability within its ranks, and to emphasize the fact that we are able to claim here that the principles of the agreement now before us have been copied from the Federal Labour party’s scheme. It would take some time to explain the details of the Labour party’s scheme ; but, in a speech which I delivered in this House on 28th October last, I placed before honorable members certain calculations showing what I believed would be the payment made to the States under it. Taking what I considered to be representative years, I found that that payment, which took into account national needs for national development during the next few years, would be£1 os. 9d. per head of the population. I wish to emphasize the point that in the Labour scheme there is absolutely no provision that it shall be permanent. As one who attended the Brisbane Conference, at which it was drafted, and who took some part in the debates, I must say that in voting I was certainly under the impression that it was to be merely a periodical arrangement. It is at this point that we come to the parting of the ways between the scheme before us and that which the Labour party believed would be an equitable arrangement. Whilst a per capita payment of 25s. is too high, taking into consideration the needs of the Commonwealth, no doubt we could overcome that difficulty, as the honorable member for Flinders has pointed out, for at least a few years. I have decided objections to the proposal that this agreement shall be permanent, and they may be placed under four distinct headings -
I am compelled to thus distinctly set out my objections to the proposal to make this agreement permanent, because of the difficulty which a reader of Hansard experiences in dissociating the points dealt with in an honorable member’s address. It is somewhat tedious to have to deal with the historical aspect of this question, but, as bearing on the first of my objections, I should like to trace the development of the Constitutional provision dealing with this matter. The Braddon clause, as originally proposed at the Melbourne Federal Convention in 1898, was as follows -
The net revenue from Customs and Excise shall be applied as follows : -
Not more than one-twentieth of such net revenue shall be applied towards the expenditure of the Commonwealth in the exercise of its original powers.
Not more than four-twentieths of such net revenue shall be applied towards the expenditure of the Commonwealth in making good the net loss on the services taken over.
The balance of such net revenue remaining after the application of the sums actually applied, pursuant to the last preceding paragraphs . (a) and (b), shall be distributed amongst the States.
When the original clause was under consideration, it was objected to most emphatically by the leader of the Federal movement, Mr., now Sir Edmund, Barton, and by the present right honorable member for East Sydney, on several grounds, one of which was that it would unnecessarily restrict the functions and powers of the Commonwealth. Sir Edmund Barton spoke as follows : -
Any one who leads to the implication that Federation is going to cause financial ruin to any State unless it receives some grant, whether it calls it its own or not, is, however unintentionally, doing a great deal of harm to the Federal cause, because he supplies the enemies of Federation with this argument : That Federation will bring about financial ruin to the States.
The right honorable member for East Sydney said -
The difficulty of the Commonwealth Treasurer would be this - under a provision of that sort, by which he must be bound, from which there would be no escape, . he would be absolutely compelled in trying to define a Tariff on broad national lines for the good of all, to deform the Tariff by a multitude of proposals inapplicable to the position of the people of Australia, because he would be compelled to regard the financial position on certain iron-bound lines, and to consider the position of certain smaller States.
Further on, he said - if his power to spend is unlimited, the amount which the States will get back must always be uncertain.
I submit that in the minds of those two gentlemen there was at that time a distinct objection to any amount being fixed as permanently returnable to the States. The original clause, together with the whole of the proposed Constitution, was submitted to the referendum in four States, and the voting resulted as follows : -
But the majority in NewSouth Wales did not conform to the provisions of the Enabling Bill of 1897, under which the referendum was taken, and, as a consequence, objections were raised in the Legislative Assembly in 1898, as shown in the following resolution : -
Resolved- That this House affirms- “ (1) Its desire that steps should be taken without delay in conjunction with the other colonies to bring about the completion of Federal Union. “ (2) Its desire that the other colonies should agree to reconsider those provisions of the Bill, framed by the Convention of 1897-98, most generally objected to in New South Wales, namely : - ” (b) The 87th clause, known as the Braddon clause - concerning which this House desires to submit for the consideration of the other colonies, that this clause should be removed from the Bill.’ “ (3) Although prepared for the sake of union - if it be placed in other respects upon a fair and just footing - to accept the financial system embodied in the Bill, with the one ex. ception mentioned, this House earnestly invites further inquiry into, and a more thorough consideration of, the financial clauses, regarding as evils to be avoided, if possible, excessive burdens of taxation, a prolonged system of bookkeeping, uncertainty as to the amount of the surplus to be divided, and uncertainty as to the method of distributing it among the States.”
Following on that, in February, 1899, a Conference of Premiers was held in Melbourne, under the presidency of Sir George Turner, the Premier of Victoria. A memorandum, signed by every Premier, was drawn up, asking for an alteration of the clause; and it contained this most important statement - with a view of meeting the objections, as far as possible, consistently with the safety of the States, the Premiers are of opinion that the operation of the clause should not continue after a period of ten years if the Parliament then desires to repeal or alter it.
That means the Commonwealth Parliament. Then the new clause, which is now section 87 of the Constitution, was adopted as follows : -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise, not more than one- . fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States, or applied towards the payment of interest on debts of the several “States taken over by the Commonwealth.
It is true that in that clause there is an association of the surplus revenue and State debts, but only for a period of ten years, after which the Commonwealth Parliament, under the Constitution, is entirely free as to the disposition of the revenue. It might be the desire of the Parliament to remit some portion of the surplus revenue to the States; or, on the other hand, to formulate a Tariff which would bring in only sufficient revenue for its own requirements. On what is now section 87, a further referendum was taken in all the States, excepting Western Australia, with the following result : -
It has been stated that the original clause was accepted by a small majority of the States, and that, therefore, the people at that time were prepared to accept it; but there is the fact that, when the clause was altered to the form in which it now appears in the Constitution; the majority in all the States was infinitely greater than on the preceding occasion. So that the last mentioned section was much more acceptable to the States than was that on which the previous referendum was taken. Now we come to the meaning of the section. It can be shown from the speeches of leading members of this House, and of other leading public men, that under the Constitution as it at present exists there is no obligation upon the Commonwealth Parliament to return a portion of the Customs and Excise revenue to the States after the ten years. period. Speaking at the Hobart Conference in 1905 the right honorable member for East Sydney, then Prime Minister, said -
At any time the Federal Parliament can take over the debts. At any time the Parliament can take your interest. At any time they can spend your interest for Commonwealth purposes and compel you to pay.’ J. am only saying what Sir George Turner has said upon a former occasion.
Mr. Allan McLean, then Minister of Trade and Customs, another gentleman of great public experience, said -
I am perfectly satisfied from what I know of the views of the Commonwealth Parliament that if they are not saddled with the debts of the States they will at least reduce the amount that is handed back by the amount of an old-age pension scheme. They would certainly establish such a system on the expiration of the Braddon clause. They would also, as far as I Know their feelings, go in for penny postage, and, I believe, for the nucleus of an Australian Navy.
At the Brisbane Premiers’ Conference in 1907 the present Treasurer said -
There is a provision in. the Constitution which even seems to infer that there might be no return to the States.
In a memorandum which he presented to the Brisbane Conference, the right honorable gentleman said -
It is scarcely likely that the Federal Parliament will continue the Braddon clause beyond the 31st December, 1910, and therefore after that date the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue will be at the disposal of the Commonwealth, subject only to the provision of section 94 of the Constitution, that the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair,” for the monthly payment to the several States of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
From that brief history of section 87 it will be seen that there is no obligation upon the Commonwealth Parliament under the Constitution to return to- the States either temporarily or permanently a fixed sum. My next objection is - (b) Insufficient experience upon which to settle this question permanently. I listened with considerable interest to the speech of the Prime Minister. Although his language was very attractive it was one of the most contradictory speeches to which I have listened since I have been in this Parliament. According to the Hansard report, page 3156, the Prime Minister, referring to the Braddon section, said -
That term of ten years was intended to be a period of probation, inquiry, and experience which should fit the representatives whom I have now the honour to address for the task of reshaping the partnership according to the knowledge gained in the interval. Many thing’s settled under the Constitution even in relation to finance were left vague ; but the particular knot that we require once more to untie, that of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, remains as hard as it was left originally.
The passage indicates that in the opinion of the Prime Minister we have not arrived at a time when we could fix a permanent provision. Further on in his speech he made another reference to this uncertainty. He said, referring to the present Tariff -
As the duties which are protective become effective the return from them will decline, and there may .be a falling off in the return from certain revenue imposts.
Again he said -
No one can predict with certainty the future Customs returns. Figures based upon existing returns must be, to some extent, misleading.
In view of these studied declarations from the Prime Minister himself it is regrettable that he should now propose to base a permanent arrangement upon our uncertain experience. Even as recently as June of this year, in enunciating the policy of his Government, the Prime Minister said -
Above all, the approaching termination of the ten years period, for which the Constitution provided a distribution of Customs revenue, marks the close of a critical era, and suggests the pressing importance of this great financial question. w
Mark the words which follow -
A temporary arrangement for a term of years to replace the existing distribution under which the obligations of the Commonwealth are recognised is being prepared for submission.
Even, so recently as June last, after an adjournment of three weeks to enable the Government to consider .what attitude to take up, the Prime Minister indicated, not in a speech which was the result of the impulse of the moment, but in a set printed document embodying the policy of the Government, that there should be a temporary arrangement covering a term of years. Had that policy been adhered to there would have been much less objection to the Government’s proposal. But the proposed departure from that policy is naturally objectionable to all who have a regard for the future development of Australia. After the Prime Minister had stated that we have no reliable data on which to base an opinion he inconsistently proceeded to submit an estimate .of from 60s. to 70s. per head as the probable Customs and Excise revenue in the future. That will be found in the honorable gentleman’s speech at page 3^0 of Hansard. Singularly enough in the printed documents laid on the table by the present Treasurer it is indicated that there will be a considerable decline in our ‘Customs and Excise revenue. The revenue for the year 1908-9 was 50s. 8fd. per. head. An estimate of the Treasury Department over the signature of the Treasurer gives the probable revenue in 1910-11, and the few years following, at £2 8s. 6d. per head. There has been a disposition on the part of previous speakers to refer to the experience of countries on the other side of the world, but we have considerable experience on which to base an estimate in the operation of the Tariffs in force in the various States prior to Federation. From a calculation based on the operations extending over thirty years as recorded in our own Commonwealth Year-Book, I find that during the period between 1877 and 1907, and taking into account the operation of the Commonwealth Tariff, as well as of the Tariffs in force in the various States prior to Federation, the average annual imports per capita amounted to £11 3s. Now that manufacturing is proceeding apace in the Commonwealth an annual import of £10 per head is a liberal estimate for the future. The average duties imposed at the time of Federation in 1900 under the Tariffs of the various States produced a revenue equal to 15.9 per cent. Under the Victorian Tariff, which was. more highly protective than those of the other States, the revenue was 10.8 per cent. During the thirty years’ period referred to the revenue per capita from Customs and Excise would be £1 rs. on the Victorian basis, and on the Australian basis, reckoning the Tariffs of the various States and also the Commonwealth Tariff, it would be £1 11s. 9d. per head. I put the figures in this way : - 1. Liberal estimate of future Australian imports £10 per head. 2. Yield from Customs and Excise on the Australian basis £1 ns. 9d. per head. 3. Yield on the American basis £1 gs. 6d. 4. Yield on the ‘Canadian basis £2 2s. nd. 5. Average yield of nine European countries £1 is. 40*.
– Do these figures include Excise hi every case ?
– Yes, they include in every case the revenue from Customs and Excise. It would therefore appear that in the face of the Australian experience the estimate put forward by the Prime Minister must be regarded as special pleading. It was palpably the art of the advocate and a. desire to make the argument fit the case.
– It was the man with a brief.
– As the honorable member reminds me it was the suggestion of the lawyer with a brief. My next objection is (c) The decreasing State responsibilities. It is a common objection urged by our citizens that the cost of government in Australia is too great. I submit a few figures for the year 1907-8, making a comparison between Australia and Canada. The number of members of Parliament in Canada was 783 ; in Australia 666. Area, Canada 3,619,818 square miles; Australia 2,974,581 square miles. The population in .round numbers was Canada 7,000,000 ; Australia 4,000,000. The total cost of government less the cost of administration of State business undertakings, old-age pensions, and interest on public debt, Canada £14,125,000; Australia £20,754,113. It is clear that the objection of the ordinary citizen to the unreasonable cost of government in Australia is justified. I give details with respect to New South Wales only, because I desire to limit my remarks as much as possible, and at the same time to give information which is likely to be of interest to the people of the State from which I come. Since Federation we have had in New South Wales a policy of almost unlimited extravagance, a policy of spend and burst. Since Federation New South Wales has received from the Commonwealth the following amounts : - 1900- 1,. for half a year, £887,573; 1901-2, £=;38t,733; 1902-3, £3,048,090; 1903-4, £2,691,287; 1904-5, £2,532.156; 1905- 6, £2– 741.929; i9°<5-7, £3–025;I37; 1.907-8, £3..6i7,366 ; and in 1908-9, £3>327;623- During that period of eight and a half years New South Wales received from the Commonwealth no less than £24,252,894. or an. average of £2,853,282. per annum. In the year 1899-1900 New South Wales received a revenue from Customs and Excise of £1,736,337. Had that State continued to receive the same revenue from Customs and Excise during the eight and a half years since Federation she would have received in all £14,759,209. Instead of that she has received* £24,252,894 - a colossal amount. In other words, she has received £9,493,685 more since Federation than if .she had maintained her own pre-Federal Tariff unimpaired. Whilst considering this question we must not forget that a number of non-revenue producing Departments have been handed over to the Commonwealth by the State, which to that extent has been relieved of costly responsibilities. That is not the only direction in which this policy of “ spend” and burst “ has been exemplified. Let us take the public debt of New South Wales. On the 30th June, 1901, it was £67,361,246. On 30th June, 1908, it was £87,635,826, or an increase in that period in debt from borrowed money of £20,274,580. The public debt per headof the State on the 30th June, 1901, was £49 9s. 3d. On the 30th June, 1908,. it was £55 10s. 6d., or an increase per head of £61s. 3d. In addition, the average receipts from Crown land sales from 1900 to 1908 have been over £1,000,000 per annum. The expenditure in New South Wales in 1899- 1900 - the year before Federation - for governmental expenses, was £5,186,524. In 1907-8 it was £6.026,982. To emphasize that increase it may be pointed out that the figures for 1899-1900 included expenditure on public works as apart from business undertakings, whereas the figures for 1907-8 were exclusive of such public works expenditure, which amounted to £909,911. As far as the 25s. per head proposed to be returned to the States is concerned, no doubt those which have the spending of the money will be pleased to receive the greatest amount that they can handle, but there is no necessity for such a return. The following figures show the New South Wales Customs and Excise receipts for four years before Federation : -
It is therefore proposed under this arrangement to hand back to New South Wales from Customs and Excise revenue actually more than she received for an average of four years prior to Federation, in spite of the fact that the Commonwealth has taken over a large number of non -paying Departments and relieved the State of great responsibilities. We propose handing back to the States a considerable amount of money without imposing upon them any obligation to raise it, which is one of the great safeguards of governmental expenditure. We propose as a Commonwealth to take from Commonwealth revenues an amount which will seriously curtail necessary expenditure upon national development. I come now to the next objection (d) the expanding Federal necessities. The Prime Minister in his speech on the agreement said, as recorded on page 3164 of Hansard : -
The income we can get is£2,250,000 more; and will, with a system of prudent finance, enable us to undertake, in due measure, all those greater operations which were alluded to by my honorable colleague, the Treasurer, and in regard to which substantive measures are being submitted by the Government.
I propose to show that that statement is not only the special pleading of an advocate with a brief, but is absolutely absurd. I can prove that from the figures presented by the Treasurer with his Budget speech. I have made out a balance-sheet showing the estimated revenue and expenditure of the Commonwealth for the current financial year, 1909-10, but this is slightly reconstructed, without departing from the official figures, in order to enable the balancesheets which will follow it to be more readily understood. The Treasurer in his statement of expenditure places the debit for old-age pensions for the current year at £855,000, whereas as a matter of fact the expenditure on that object in the current year will be £1,505,800.
– We have reserved the balance for the last two years.
– Exactly, but the Treasurer should have taken that reserve from last year as income for the present year. I make up the balance-sheet for 1909-10 in this way : -
Note. - The item£15,000 interest on Treasury Bonds, referred to in the Treasurer’s accounts, has been deducted from estimated expenditure.
It will also be noticed that the expenditure on old-age pensions has been separated from the general expenditure to more clearly enable honorable members to follow the statement. How would the Commonwealth fare if this agreement were operative during the current year? I have another balance-sheet, which shows the position, as follows: -
Estimate of Revenue and Expenditure for 1909-10, allowing for return to States of 25s. per head.
Note. - The item£ 15,000 interest on Treasury Bonds, contained in Treasurer’s accounts, has not been included. Population estimated 31st December, 1909, 4,355,000.
Prior to placing the next balance-sheet I have before the House, I desire to direct attention to the average increase of Commonwealth expenditure. In 1901-2 the total expenditure was £3,733,218 while in 1909-10 it is estimated at £7,017,621. The latter amount does not include the cost of old-age pensions, because that is an exceptional item. The average increase for eight years has been £410,550 per annum. For the purpose of the next balancesheet, I desire to deal for a few moments with the valuation of the transferred properties. A Commission representative of the Commonwealth and the States made an investigation, and arrived at the valuation of £9,648,449. The interest on that amount, at 3½ per cent., would come to £337,697 10s. per annum, so that the interest for nine years would total£3,039,277 10s. That is the amount which the States are entitled to claim as standing to their credit in the Commonwealth books. Let us now take the amount paid to the States in excess of their threefourths share of the net Customs and Excise revenue. We have paid an excess amount of £6,059,088. . Morally speaking, that amount should stand to the credit of the Commonwealth in the books of the States. Deducting the State credit in the Commonwealth books from the Commonwealth credit in the State books, morally speaking we have a balance of £3,019,811 to the credit of the Commonwealth. The interest must be paid on the value of the transferred properties. That is a constitutional obligation. It is clear from the Prime Minister’s speech that this question is not connected in any way with the return of 25s. per capita to the States, and it has also been made clear from statements in the State Parliaments. Taking the value of the transferred properties at £9,648,449, and deducting the amount to the credit of the Commonwealth, namely, £3,019,811, we get a balance of £6,628,638 due to the States. However this question may be juggled with, morally speaking the obligation is upon us to pay at least the interest on that balance, which, at 3½ per cent., would amount to £232,000 per annum. Having set out the average expansion of Federal expenditure, and also the amount which must be paid as interest on the value of the transferred properties, let us take the position in 1910-11 - that is the first year in which this scheme would come into active operation -not taking into account any national policy such as has been referred to by the Prime Minister. It is illustrated by the following table -
That table does not take into account any expenditure involved in the great national proposals which are before the country, and which are being advocated in some form or other by every party in this Parliament. The Agents-General of the States estimate the cost of the High Commissioner’s Office at £90,600 per annum. If the agreement which is now under consideration be ratified, and if hi 1910-11 the High Commissioner’s Office is being administered, it will practically absorb the whole of the surplus revenue for that year. There will be only about , £150,000 left for purposes of national development. In other words, the Commonwealth will be left practically without a credit balance during the very first year that the agreement is in operation. The Minister of Defence estimates that the cost of our military defence alone during 1910-11 will be£1,407,000. So that if any attempt be made to provide the necessary funds for military purposes the Commonwealth, during the very first year that the agreement comes into force, will be faced with a tremendous deficit. We shall then be obliged either to resort to borrowing or to the imposition of further taxation. What is the nature of the Government programme? Upon the business-paper no less than twenty-two measures are listed, the administration of several of which will cost a large sum. Those measures relate amongst other things to military and naval defence, the transfer of the Northern Territory, the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture, the control of lighthouses, beacons and buoys, compensation to injured seamen, and to the transfer of Norfolk Island. To say that a policy indicated by such proposals could be financed under this agreement is to fly in the face of facts. The proposed agreement takes no cognizance of the intention of the Braddon section. It entirely ignores our admitted inexperience and lack of knowledge of the financial question, and yet the Prime Minister now wishes to settle that question permanently. Instead of seeking to place an embargo upon prodigal expenditure by the States, he proposes to hand over to them annually a considerable sum which they are not charged with the responsibility of raising. The agreement absolutely ignores the expanding necessities of the Commonwealth and those great national proposals to which it is the bounden duty of any Government to give effect. Further, it represents the essence of class legislation. It seeks to place a permanent burden upon the poorer classes through the Customs House. In this connexion I am reminded of a letter which the honorable member for East Sydney forwarded to the recent Premiers’ Conference. At some periods of his career the honorable member has rendered great service to the people. For years he was the champion of the poorer classes and a strong advocate of all proposals to place the burden of taxation upon the backs of those who were best able to bear it. But the communication which he recently forwarded to the Premiers’ Conference indicates a total abandonment of all his formerly professed principles. He now desires to place taxation only upon the shoulders of the masses. His letter reads -
August 10th, 1909.
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.
Mr.SPEAKER.- I would point out to the honorable member that that particular letter has already been read and included in the Hansard reports several times.
– I think that I am entitled to read it and to have it again included in the Hansard report.
– It would be more convenient if the honorable member would refer to it as a letter which has already been read.
– But I wish to make certain comments upon it. This is necessary to give point to my remarks.
– I would point out that the honorable member when I interrupted him was engaged in the task of reading the letter in extenso. If he desires to comment upon any particular portion of it, it is quite competent for him to do so.
– But the letter has already been read by several honorable members.
– That is the reason why I do not desire to establish a precedent which may become a very awkward one.
– I submit that I am entitled-
– I must ask the honorable member to resume his seat. If I permit the honorable member to again read this letter, a letter extending over several columns may afterwards be read by another honorable member, and the honorable member’s action on this occasion may be quoted as a precedent.
– As the letter which the honorable member for Cook desires to quote has already been quoted several times, I should like to know upon what ground you rule that it cannot again be quoted ?
– The honorable member’s question merely gives point to my statement that it would be dangerous to allow the honorable member for Cook to pursue the course which he was pursuing, because it would establish a precedent. The honorable member will be quite in order in commenting upon any portion of that letter, but with a view to saving both time and expense in printing, I suggest that he should refrain from quoting it in its entirety.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know, sir, whether you objected to this letter being quoted in cxlenso on a previous occasion ?
– No. What is the point of order ?
– My point of order is that as you have allowed the letter to be quoted more than once, it is very unfair to prevent another honorable member from quoting it.
– There is no point of order involved in that question. Because a thing has been permitted once, it does notfollow that it should be permitted indefinitely. I have not said that the honorable member for Cook must not read the letter in full. I have merely put it to him that in view of the fact that it has previously been read three times, and that it already appears in Hansard he might not consider it necessary to again read it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– To conclude my quotation from the letter -
I am more responsible than any other man for the termination of the Braddon clause, but I never wished to allow the States less than a fair share of Customs and Excise revenue, which is the only way in which the States can receive revenue from the masses of their inhabitants. The object of this letter is to make that sure for all time.
I do not wish to introduce any views of my own, except to state that there are one or two main points in which I think the States should be considered, viz. : -
They should have a fair share of the Commonwealth revenue.
That share should be on a per capita basis.
It should increase automatically with the growth of the revenue and population, or at least with the population growth.
There should be no other point of contact in matters of revenue between the Commonwealth and the States.
If I may add another word, I think the States should offer to pay the old-age pensions money until the end of the Braddon clause - those States, at any rate, which have been relieved of their pension systems, to the amount of such relief - otherwise I think you may suffer permanently far more than can be imagined.
Yours very sincerely,
– Neither my colleague nor myself had any knowledge of what was in that letter until after the Conference was over.
– It was published in the press before the agreement now on the table was arrived at.
– No; some days after.
– The agreement to all intents and purposes embodies the policy on which the, right honorable member for East Sydney was defeated at the last elections, which was stated in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 25th October, 1906, in these words -
The protection afforded by the Braddon clause to the finances of. the States should be perpetually extended, but in a more flexible form.
In June of this year the Prime Minister read a statement containing the Government’s policy regarding, amongst other things, the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue. It favoured a. temporary arrangement. The right honorable member for East Sydney, although termed by the Prime Minister an out-and-out Conservative, was supposed, in joining the Fusion, to swallow the Liberal principles of the Prime Minister. But wefind now that, although the Prime Minister wished to make the arrangement with the States temporary, the Premiers in Conference prevailed upon him to agree to a permanent arrangement, thus accepting the proposal upon which the right honorable member for East Sydney was defeated at the last election.
– Might not the resolutions of the Brisbane Labour Conference have caused the Prime Minister and the Premiers to come to this agreement ?
– Those points in the agreement which ate good, such as the per capita payment, were cribbed from the scheme formulated by the Labour Conference, which met in Brisbane in July, 1908 ; but in making the payment perpetual, the policy upon which the right honorable member for East Sydney was defeated was adopted by the Government. Notwithstanding the gibes which have been made against us as to our unfitness to deal with large financial questions, where the present scheme is good, it embodies the constructive proposals of the Federal Labour party. Why were the proposals of the Labour party accepted? To use the words of the Prime Minister, “ it was not because of an issue, but because of a situation.” A general election is impending, and it is necessary for the success of the Fusion at the .polls that the Governments of the States should be behind it. The agreement was not arrived at to meet national necessities, but because of the exigencies of party politics; to insure a more solid, and Conservative monetary backing for the Fusionists. I remember hearing the right honorable member for East Sydney, a few years ago, when he was associated with the Labour party, and had introduced (he land tax into New South Wales, claim that he had placed upon the statute-book the freest Tariff in the world. He told the mighty meetings which he then addressed in the metropolis of the State that one of his objects in life was to place the burdens of taxation, upon the shoulders of those best able to bear them. But how greatly has he departed in the evening of his career from the noble aspirations which he then expounded ! He tells the Premiers that if they do not settle this question of the finances it will be settled by the Federal Parliament. What an atrocious thing it would be, if a matter of national concern, relegated to this Parliament by the Constitution, were settled! by those elected by the people to deal with such questions. It is pitiable that a gentleman who cannot have many more years, to give to the service of the public, and who was sent into this House to voice the national aspirations of his constituents, should make a statement like that in his letter to the Premiers -
Time is on the side of your opponents.
One of the reasons for this undue haste to settle the matter is the desire to leg-rope, fetter, and shackle the Commonwealth for all time.
– We ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.)
– The right honorable member for East Sydney was afraid that if the people were left untrammelled at the next general election there might be a wholly different result. He therefore sought to range behind him on this question the whole of the Conservative forces of Australia. Another point which he em phasized was that taxes could be extorted from the masses only through the Customs House. The right honorable gentleman who built up his political reputation by freeing the people of New South Wales from the burdens of indirect or, in other words, class taxation now deserts tile commendable position which he has occupied for many years. One of his chief reasons for objecting to the Braddon clause being inserted in the Constitution was that it might mean fastening on the people a heavy revenue Tariff, and when it was inserted lie urged that its operation should be limited to a period of not more than ten years, so that the Parliament might have an opportunity to profit by its experience, and to devise a means of providing for the cost of government without adding to the already heavy burden of taxation borne by the working classes. If the Commonwealth Parliament is to be compelled to take into account the necessity for raising a- large revenue through the Customs House our difficulties in. framing a Protective Tariff will be greatly intensified. Whilst I have supported, and am prepared to support, a Democratic Protective policy, which takes into account, not only the manufacturers, but the workers and the consumers, I have always done my utmost to prevent the imposition of revenue duties. I shall continue to oppose their imposition, for they are but an old device of the Conservative classes to heap upon the great mass of the people burdens part of which they themselves ought to bear. If it were possible to go to the door of every working man each morning and to tell him, as he received from the baker his loaf of bread, that he was paying upon it a half-penny by way of taxation, and so in regard to his sugar and other commodities, he would recognise immediately that he was being called upon to bear an unfair proportion of the cost of government. But because such taxation is imposed indirectly, and is added to the cost of the articles which he purchases, he is largely blinded to the fact that he is being called upon to bear more than a fair share of the cost of government, and that taxation is being imposed, not according to the ability to bear it, but according to numbers and the volume of consumption. The honorable member for Denison gave away the whole show, so far as the Government were concerned, by an interjection which he made whilst the honorable member for Kennedy was speaking. He stated that the Commonwealth could raise £3,000,000 per annum by means of duties on piece goods. That is what the Government have in view. They are going lo hand over this money to the States, and to impose revenue duties in order to obtain it. They are going to save the great landlords of Australia from a land tax by imposing extra taxation upon the working men and women of Australia by means of Customs duties on piece goods, tea and kerosene. It is impossible to hide the object of the Fusion Government. It is impossible to conceal the object which the Conservatives of Australia have in view. State Rights, indeed ! What are they but the rights of the Conservative Upper Chambers of the various State Parliaments? They mean the “leg-roping” of the Commonwealth Parliament so that we shall not be able to frame the Tariff on lines dictated by a Democratic people, and to give effect to a truly Democratic policy. It has been shown that in order to carry out the Government policy a largely increased revenue will be required in 1910-11 and the succeeding years. We have before us great national projects. We have a large impending expenditure on naval and militarydefence. What is defence but the protection of property ? And how is it proposed to raise the money required for defence purposes? By revenue duties and by loans. And so with regard to the construction pf trans-continental railways. We are to borrow money to provide for them. We are to pay over to the States our surplus revenue, and to borrow money. What is this but a studied system of unfairly exploiting the workers of the community? The Government propose to borrow money to carry railways through the lands of the squatters - to enormously increase the value of their properties bv the expenditure of loan money in that way - and to call upon the people, by the imposition of taxes on the necessaries of life, to find the interest which will be payable on that borrowed money, while the wealthy men of Australia reap the benefit. And so with the military expenditure. That expenditure should be allocated from the proceeds of direct taxation. It is an insurance of property. In raising money from the States through the Customs House we are limiting the taxing powers of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister said that the Bill which he would place before the House was merely to enable this agreement to be submitted to the people by a referendum and to give them an opportunity to vote for or against it. It may be pointed out, first of all, that the referendum under our Constitution is not democratic. A proposed amendment of the Constitution must be agreed to, not only by a majority of the electors voting, but by a majority of the electors in a majority of the States. The less populous States may outvote a majority of their fellow citizens. The Prime Minister speaks of placing the issue before the electors, but he does not afford us an opportunity to place an alternative issue before them ; and it is the manner of submitting the question that forms one of the objections’ to the proposal. It has been indicated that, if there is a referendum, the people will be entirely free as to the way in which they shall vote. What an erroneous argument ! If there is a referendum, it will be supposed by the people that their representatives in Parliament recommend the proposal. Most emphatically I say that I cannot recommend this amendment of the Constitution; and I shall do my . utmost on the public platform to persuade the people that the alteration is against their interests. It is impossible to appeal to the occupants of the Treasury bench. The Government have a majority, and, I have no doubt that, whatever differences of opinion there may be amongst honorable members opposite, they will, when the party whip cracks, vote for the motion. This is a proposal to meet the exigencies of a temporary political party, and it represents the mess of pottage for which the birthright of the people is to be bargained away. It is an attempt to shackel future generations. I reiterate, it is impossible to appeal with any effect to the present Government ; but we can appeal to the great democratic heart of the people of Australia. We can ask the people to leave the Commonwealth, their representatives, and future generations untrammelled,, and not to permit, with our imperfect knowledge of the finances from the Commonwealth point of view, an attempt which simply means the burdening of those who are already burdened more than enough. We ought to be left free to reduce the revenue duties in the present Tariff, to place a greater portion of the burdens of government on the broad shoulders of wealth, and to afford an opportunity to those who have never before been called upon to do so under the class rule in the different States to bear their fair share of the cost of government and of our national development.
.- ; I have listened to the honorable member for Cook with considerable interest and some curiosity; but the only effect of his speech on me is to create a hope that other honorable members will not emulate him in supposing that light can be thrown on a complex financial question by a dissertation! on the inconsistencies of public men, and a continued abuse of the existing Government. It might be splendid matter for a lecture to the honorable member’s constituents, but it is certainly out of placein a responsible debate of this ‘ sort, in which every honorable member is called on to give of his best to the elucidation of one of the most difficult questions we have ever had before this Parliament. I am quite sure that other honorable members have felt, as I fee], some inconvenience im having to debate this very difficult question at the present juncture. Instead of having before us the Bill which we are discussing, we have a very short abstract motion; and those of us, who have not been fortunate enough to see the measure, have to infer from, the motion and from the agreement with the Premiers what the provisions of the Bill are. The great disadvantage is that we are, very properly, not allowed by you, Mr. Speaker, to refer to any details of the Bill, even in our general observations. It will be generally acknowledged that the subject of this debate is a very notable one. I doubt whether we have ever had before us since 1901 a question of such gravity for the Commonwealth. It is not merely a matter of legislaton that is going to be placed on the statute-book, from which it could be taken at any time if found impracticable or undesirable;’ this is a discussion on the propriety of making a very serious change in what I would call the Magna Charta of the Australian people. The effect of this Bill will be -to make an important alteration in the Commonwealth Constitution; and the question whether or not it is desirable that this alteration shall be made, raises a number of difficult problems which. I submit, throw on the members of this House a responsibility such as they have never before had thrown on them in the history of the Commonwealth. The Bill is one which aims at filling a gap in the Constitution. We know that the effect ofl anything- we may do as the outcome of the decision of the House on this motion, may have” a very, far-reaching influence on “the finances, on the goodwill of, and on the relationship between, the States and the Commonwealth. The speeches delivered by the honorable member for Mernda and the honorable member for Flinders, have shown clearly that it requires a great deal of care to trace correctly, even with some knowledge of the Constitution, the effect which this alteration may have on . that future relationship. I, therefore, say that, notwithstanding a long experience in the political life of the country, both here and elsewhere, I feel very seriously the responsibility which is thrown on me, and every honorable member on this and the other side of the House, in coming to a decision. We are attempting, as. I have said, to fill a gap which will occur in the national deed of partnership between the ‘Commonwealth and the States. I do not think we have ever had a question before us which called on us more imperatively to rid our minds of party feeling. It may be that honorable ‘members opposite see in this movement an opportunity for approaching more closely to some ideals which they have with respect to the relationship of the Commonwealth to the States ; but if that is merely a party expectation, and they are shutting their eyes to the gravity of the question which is put before them, they are recreant ‘to the trust which the public have placed in their hands. I say to those of them who are earnest and able enough to grasp the importance of this question-, that they are running great risk of co-operating in a step which they may live to repent as one of - the most important in their political history.
– Does the honorable member think that this lecture is called for?
– Not .for ‘the honorable ‘member, because he stands so high above lectures that it could have no” effect on him. He is one of the few perfect examples in the House to whom I should never think of delivering a lecture. In the first place, the honorable member is so absolutely crystallized, and stereotyped in his convictions, that nothing I could say, or even an- archangel could say, would turn him from his political purposes. Lecture or no lecture, I desire to say, in all seriousness, that I consider this a crux in our history. I have listened with great care to the speeches made on the other side of the House by the Leader of the Labour Party, and by the honorable member ‘ for West
Sydney, who was the. AttorneyGeneral in the late Labour Government. From those honorable members,, and certainly from the Leader of the Opposition, I had expected a much more earnest and impartial investigation of this financial question. I really expected, from what I knew of the earnestness of - the honorable member for Wide Bay in political, life, that he would have risen far above party considerations; that he would have forgotten this scheme and that scheme - whether it was the scheme of the Labour Conference in Brisbane, or the scheme of an honorable member who sits on his own side - and would have applied himself to the question, with one sole object : to help the people of Australia, whom he represents, to extricate themselves from one of the greatest difficulties in which they- have been placed with regard to their Constitution since Federation began. It is necessary, in this matter, to touch upon history a little. I think we have to consider how this blank or hiatus occurs in our Constitution, necessitating our action at the present time. There are certain features about the early history of our Constitution which are of very great importance to us. We all recognise the power and the sovereignty of the people. Whatever wisdom or unwisdom we may attribute to them, we recognise that they are the power to which we must bow. When this Constitution of ours was first submitted to- the people of Australia, we well remember that it had been agreed that a certain majority in each of the States would be sufficient to lead to the adoption of the new instrument of government. We also know that in three out of the six States - in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania - the Constitution was adopted by the required majority.
– The people had nothing to do with the fixing of the required majority.
– I should like to answer the honorable member on the spot. The people of Australia appointed a Convention by a- popular method. That Convention was supposed to consist of the best constitutional authorities Australia could produce ; because they were elected, not with this or that party object, but with the special purpose of framing a Constitution for Australia. The people having elected that Convention were prepared to a large extent to abide by its conclusions. As I have said, the people of three of the States readily assented to the Constitution pre- pared by the Convention by the required majorities which had been agreed upon by the Premiers of the States, who also represented the people. New- South Wales, unfortunately, upon second thoughts, decided to require a larger majority of the people in order to bind that State to this Constitution.
– New South Wales did not decide.; the Government which the honorable member supported decided.
– The honorable member has such a rapid brain that I cannot feed it fast enough. New South Wales, I say, raised the minimum, and the Constitution was not then adopted by that State, although the minimum number of electors which the Premiers, had agreed upon voted in favour of its adoption. But subsequently, as we know,, an appeal was again made to the people of New South Wales, and they adopted the Constitution. Now, I wish to point out; - because it has a very important bearing upon this question - .that the- people of Australia had in. the most representative way approved of a provision, for all’ time-, by which the States could enjoy three-fourths of the Customs revenue of Australia. I observe that I now get applause from the other side, whereas, before I noticed hesitation. I look upon the applause of the Opposition as very much like the songs of the Syrens of ancient history, who desired to attract in order to destroy ; and I would thank my honorable friends if they would not interrupt me by their applause. I again point out that the people of Australia actually did approve, when appealed to, of a provision by which the States could enjoy three-fourths of the Customs revenue of Australia for all time. And we must not forget this: that hai it not been for a provision of this sort, we should not have been federated to-day. Some of us remember that that very celebrated man, the late Mr. James Service, used to characterize the fiscal question as “the lion in the path” of Federation. When the Convention met, its members found very little difficulty in deciding upon a deed of partnership which should exist between the States and the Commonwealth on all other matters, but they held this fiscal issue to be the crux of the whole situation. Everybody in the Convention felt that unless something could be done to secure to the States a considerable proportion of the revenue upon which they had depended hitherto for paying the interest on their debts, it was impossible that they could arrive at any agreement as to Federation. The fact that the people of Australia were then ready to give to the States threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue for all time is a very important consideration when we are deliberating as to what should be done in the future. We know that whilst Queensland and Western Australia stayed out of this compact, New South Wales, before submitting the Bill with the altered requirement as to a minimum of the electors to the people of the State, asked for certain alterations. One alteration consisted of a provision as to the location of the Capital in New South Wales ; and the other - most pertinent here - was that the Braddon clause, which the people of Australia had approved of, should be limited to ten years. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am quite sure that nobody ever thought for a moment that, in limiting the Braddon clause to ten years, it was intended, either by the representatives of the States, or by the people of the States who approved of the Bill in its amended form, that that ten years’ period was to be the limit of time within which the States were to enjoy a large share of the Customs and Excise revenue. It was looked upon as a temporary expedient, to enable this Parliament and the people to acquire experience with regard to the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth. It was always expected, and expressed as expected, by all the leading thinkers upon Commonwealth questions, that when the ten years’ periodcame to an end, instead of the Braddon section being allowed to expire altogether, some steps would be taken to substitute another arrangement of, perhaps, a modified character. Does any one suppose that, if the representatives of the States in the Convention had been told that this arrangement which they had made for the sharing of the revenue was intended to be brought to a termination abruptly at the end of ten years, the Constitution would have been adopted by the States? I venture to say that there would have been one unanimous protest throughout Australia against the adoption of the Constitution under such circumstances. That consideration weighs with me very much. I consider it to be the
Starting point in this investigation. It shows what the people expected, and it shows more - that the people trusted the
Federal Parliament to recognise the state of things that existed, and, when the time came, to do something which would be a fair, reasonable, and just substitute for the arrangement which had been made in the first place. At the very outset I am confronted with a rather delicate consideration. This Bill is put before the House in such a way that at first sight it would seem that unless we adopt it in the form in which it stands, we run the risk of breaking up the whole of the arrangements which have been come to after great trouble, care, and patience, between the representatives of the States and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. But I am quite sure that the members of the Government - and J am now only repeating the sentiments so well expressed bythe honorable members for Mernda and Flinders - cannot expect their followers to adopt this Bill in its entirety without criticism and without claiming some right of modification if to them it seems desirable in any way to re-shape its provisions. I mention rather for the sake of the members of the party with which I am associated than for the information of the Opposition that we cannot forget that the published terms of our Fusion were of a definite character. We cannot forget that one of those terms was that the difficulty surrounding the continued operation of the Braddon section should be dealt with by. a renewal for a limited time, of about five years, in order to give the people and the representatives of the Commonwealth an opportunity to gain more experience of the true relationship between the States and the Commonwealth.
– That is information.
– The honorable gentleman may derive some satisfaction from my repetition of the published statement of the fact, but I am making it quite openly, because I think it is very necessary as a sort of apologia for the course which I may think it necessary to adopt by-and-by. If I thought the Government were going to look to their followers to give a hard and fast support to every detail of this measure, in regard to which they were not, and possibly necessarily so, consulted, I should think much less of them than I am inclined to at present. I want to give the lie, if I may use a strong but effective expression that is parliamentary, to the taunt from the other side, that the whole of the honorable members on this side have been “caucussed “ on this matter, and that every one is bound to support the agreement in every particular from A to Z. I want to say that there is no obligation of that kind on this side. There is no such caucus principle in existence in the conduct of this party. As a Liberal, and as one who hopes to remain an advocate of liberty to the end of his days, I can only say that honorable members opposite need have no fear that I or any of my colleagues on this side would agree to any kind of leg iron system under which we should be obliged to vote for proposals which our political consciences would dictate that we should oppose. I wish to say that this is a matter on which I at least claim some freedom. At the same time I recognise the debatable character of the whole question. I recognise that on such a question men of equal ability may differ considerably with regard to details. Like all great financial questions, there are many and various sides to it, and our decision upon these different aspects of the problem will depend very much upon our experience in State matters and upon our temperament - whether we take an optimistic or a pessimistic view of the future of Australia. I noticed from some of the observations made by the honorable member for Flinders that whether because of a difference in temperament or because the honorable gentleman has had Victorian, whilst I have had New South Wales, experience, he does not take quite so optimistic a view of the future of the finances of Australia as I do. That is a difference between us, for which neither is blamable; but it might well act as a turning point in deciding what our views will be regarding certain details of this measure. I recognise that the right consideration of the matter is not so clear and inevitable that all men who think straight must come to the same conclusion upon it. Every man who weighs this question in the scales of his mind, in all its aspects, must feel considerable’ trepidation in endeavouring to force his opinion against that of other capable men on so complex a matter. Although the conclusion at which .1 arrived differs very little from that reached by the honorable members for Mernda and Flinders, I am always prepared to hear whatever can be said by honorable members on either side so long as it is expressed in a proper analytical spirit and with a nonparty desire to get at the root of things in dealing with this question. I have given a good deal of consideration to the whole matter, as I hope every other honorable member has. Looking at the history of it as I have done, I have come to the conclusion that we must not forget that the public of Australia decided at one time to let the States have permanently a large proportion of the Customs revenue of this country. At the same time I remember that that allowance was made under conditions which differentiated it entirely from the present proposal. The allowance represented a proportion, and the principle that the States had to take for better or worse the financial prospects of the Commonwealth was involved in it. In getting three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue of this country the States were obliged, as people have to do in married life, to share one another’s fortune for better or worse. They had to agree that if the Commonwealth revenue fell to a very low figure, their revenues would also fall to a very low figure, and they enjoyed the prospect that if the Commonwealth revenue rose to a very high figure, they would participate in due proportion. But the proposal now under consideration differs from that arrangement in a very important particular. It is not a question of a proportion here. We are being asked to agree to a proposal under which, not a proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth, but a definite sum, based upon, a very high estimate of Federal revenue, is proposed to be given to the States in perpetuity. That is to say, we are called upon to relieve the States from all future anxiety with regard to their finances. This thought has occurred to me : Why should the States be relieved from financial anxiety in the future, and the Commonwealth left to risk all possible financial vicissitudes?
– Because the Commonwealth has the supreme power of taxation.
– Mr. Peake recognised that it was a gamble.
– The honorable member for Mernda says that the Commonwealth has unlimited power of taxation. I admit that, but I should like to remind the honorable member that the States also have a considerable power of taxation. As a New South Wales politician, I can well remember the time when, as a then Minister of the Crown in that State, we had a sufficient revenue from duties on intoxicants and narcotics and other minor taxes alone - a splendid revenue without a land tax, without an income tax, and without high duties.
– Bv selling land.
– New South Wales sold land of course, as every other State has done, but she did not obtain a very large- revenue from that source. I take the State of New South Wales as typical, and having regard to the fact that some of the States have now no land tax-
– Some States have imposed a land tax.
– Some of them have done so, and some have imposed income taxes.
– Nearly all have imposed land taxation.
– I submit that the State Governments, although limited, have still a sufficiently wide field of taxation open to them to disentitle them of the right to immunity from all future financial anxiety. I do not see why the States should be given this immunity; why they should be relieved in this very summary way of all future financial doubt by having a fixed amount of Commonwealth revenue guaranteed to them when every one who gives this matter serious consideration must admit that there is considerable doubt whether the giving -of that security and immunity might not embarrass the Commonwealth in the future. That thought, at all events, is worthy of consideration, because there is no doubt that this proposal is made in that spirit.
– The States have to pay over £2 per capita interest on their debts.
– That is so; but we know what is proposed to be done with the State debts. No doubt we shall take them off the hands of the States. That is a matter on which there is no difference of opinion.
– That goes against the 25s.
– No doubt ; but all I am arguing now - and I am not putting it forward as a conclusive argument - is that in considering this matter we ought to have in our minds the question whether there is any obligation on the Commonwealth, at present, if it sees difficulty and possible embarrassment in the future, to relieve the States altogether of their anxiety, at the possible risk of creating greater, ‘anxiety for itself.
– Will 25s. per capita relieve the States of anxiety in respect of their revenue?
– I do not know that any money will ever relieve anybody - Government or individual - of all anxiety. I am not arguing that we ought not to do it on that account, because I am in favour of doing it in some ways, but at the same time I think undue weight has been given to this desire to relieve the States, as if they were infants in this matter, from all anxiety as to their obligations, and to put them on a sound footing. The agreement really seems to assume that the States require some special treatment from the Commonwealth, because in it these words appear : -
That in order … to assure to the States a certain annual income, the Commonwealth shall . . . pay ….
I do not want to leave honorable members with a wrong impression as to my view. I do not think that objection is a sufficient reason for refusing some certain sum, but at the same time I’ do not believe that undue weight ought to be given to the desire of the States to be relieved of anxiety, because we must remember that, whatever our powers of taxation may be, the effect of this agreement would be to relieve them whilst leaving the Commonwealth perhaps in an uncertain position. Honorable members will know therefore that there is a very great distinction between this definite guaranteed sum, come what may, being given to the States from the Commonwealth revenue^ and a proportionate sum. There might be no reason why the States should not share the anxiety which the Commonwealth will have in the future with regard to the rise and fall of its revenue, because, undoubtedly, although it has not yet been done, an annual payment of £9,000,000 for interest w ill in the near future be thrown upon the Commonwealth. That would be a very, definite sum, and the Commonwealth therefore is facing some big certainties in the future, which fact should lead those who are inclined to take the States’ view of this question, as distinguished from that of the Commonwealth, not to be so unconcernedly desirous of relieving the States of all anxiety as to their obligations. A good deal of argument has been used by one or two speakers on the other side to show that there is no reason why any provision should be made at all. There is no burking the fact, that it would suit a certain section of the Opposition to see the States starved in. their revenues… .
– That is not correct.
– I know that certain honorable members on the other sides are taking a sufficiently impartial view of this question, and intend to give it their unbiased consideration, but we cannot have sat in this House as we have done of late years without detecting strong symptoms of a desire to emasculate the States in regard to their powers. We know very well that -in every State the power of the Upper House has been a continual block to Socialistic and Labour legislation, arid that there is a widespread desire on the part of the Labour party to get rid, if they can, of those barriers in the way of their ideal of a single House. They would delight, if they could, to centre in this Legislature, at all events all the spending powers, and many of the legislative powers, of the States, instead of leaving them to be checked by those encumbrances in the shape of Upper Houses. The ideal of the Labour party is, no doubt, unification. There is no escape from that. When I see innumerable steps being taken, and innumerable utterances being made, which have for their object the furthering of the realization of that ideal - -
– That is a paltry party cry, after all. the honorable member’s “ hifalutin.”
– Unification by strangulation.
– I know it is proposed to be done by a slow process. At all events, unification is what military men call the “ objective.” It is a long way ahead, and we may not be able to see it at present, but it is the guiding star of a large part of the Labour party. In order to show, in answer to that sort of thought, that it was never intended that the Commonwealth should utilize its power to abruptly stop the contribution to the States by the Commonwealth of part of its revenue, I desire to read one sentence written in 1900 in an article in a magazine by the late Sir Edward Braddon. Speaking of the Customs and Excise duties, he said that -
They were recognised as specially earmarked . for the; payment of interest on the national debt.
Those words, some of the last that he published, appeared in an ‘article entitled “ My Blot.” That distinguished gentleman, who was one of the representatives of Tasmania, made it a sine qua nott that there should be a division of the Customs and Excise revenue. He was the author of the section in the Constitution which forms the basis of our present discussion, and those words of his show the recognition, by a thoroughly impartial and statesmanlike authority, of the motive of that section. The late Leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for East Sydney, has said -
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.
We have there two utterances of great value, one from the man who framed the Braddon section, and the other from the man who limited its operation to ten years by his intervention as Premier of one of the States. I leave the question there, because it is quite clear that it was intended all along, not only in the minds of those who helped to frame the Constitution, but ever since by thoughtful people who take a proper view of the relationship of the Commonwealth to the States, that the Customs revenue should always be the source from which the interest on the loans of the States should be paid from time to time. We have heard, too, a good deal about the policy of allowing the Commonwealth to dominate the States. Upon more than one occasion I have expressed my view upon that question. We must remember that the Commonwealth did not create the States, but that the States created the Commonwealth. The Federal Convention was merely a meeting of the representatives of the States, for the purpose of determining what functions, they would concede to the Commonwealth, and what revenue they would allow it to collect in the interests of the people of Australia. When I hear honorable members - and especially honor.orable members opposite - talking as if this Parliament had consented to permit the States to come into existence, I am amazed at their political impudence. We have now had ten years’ experience of Federation, and I am quite sure there is no honorable member of this House who will not honestly admit that he is wiser to-day in regard to the financial relationship which should exist between the States and the Commonwealth than; he was in 1901. In that year we were all able to use our imaginations in reference to the future of Australia, but none of us could exactly foresee what has taken place. To that extent we are far better informed to-day, and far more capable of deciding upon the future financial relationship of the States and the Commonwealth than we were then. I go further, and say that in 1920 we shall be as much wiser than we are to-day as we are wiser now than we were then. I have no doubt that some honorable members of to-day will be politically dead in 1920, but I venture to hope that some of us will be as alive as we are to-day. Seeing how much wisdom we have gained since 19.01, and how much more capable we are of dealing with this question now than we were then, I repeat that we ought very ‘seriously to consider whether we are as well qualified to make any permanent alteration in our Constitution to-day as we shall be ten years hence. I notice that a great many honorable members are prone to view the Constitution very much as they do an Act of Parliament. I am not. I have a very profound respect - even a reverence - for our Constitution. It is literally the. Magna Charta of Australia. It is certainly the greatest legislative charter we have ever had, and it is one which requires a great deal of technical knowledge, either to alter with advantage or to amend without disadvantage. I do not think that our Constitution ought at any time - if that course can be avoided - to be made the battle-ground of political parties. It is a document which we should not only treat reverentially ourselves, but which we should teach the public to treat in the same spirit. They should be taught to regard it as the national deed of partnership. I object to flippant talk regarding its alteration - I do not say that much of such talk has been indulged in either by honorable members upon this side of the House or by honorable members opposite - but there is a disposition to speak lightly about altering our Constitution in connexion with any Act of Parliament which happens to be declared ultra vires of it. Within the past eighteen months the new Protection policy was brought forward, and the glib reply given to the assertion that such legislation was ultra vires of the Constitution was : “ Then let us alter the Constitution.” So, upon frequent occasions we have men who seem blind to the sanctity of our Constitution, and who talk lightlyabout altering it. Need I remind honorable members that even the articles of association of a trading company are not altered in a light way. When it is desired to. alter them - I am now comparing the great with the small - the shareholders have to be called together, and afforded a most explicit explanation of the reason underlying the alteration. Legal authorities have to be employed to advise as to the direction in which such articles should be altered. Yet some persons talk as if an alteration of our Constitution was a matter to be treated as irresponsibly as is the placing of an Act of Parliament upon our statute-book. 1” repeat that we ought to regard our Constitution with great sanctity, and that we ought not to make a series of amendments in it from time to time. It seems to me that if one party in this Parliament utilizes its majority in a party spirit to effect an alteration in our Constitution - I do not say that such a thing is being attempted here, because I am sure that the Government expect to get support for their proposals from the whole House - its successors may be depended upon to attempt in turn to alter it again.
– They would have first to get the consent of the people.
– I am quite aware of that. But I have already pointed out that irrespective of whether or not they succeeded, they would embroil the people of the Commonwealth in a struggle in regard to an alteration of our Constitution. Now, every such alteration requires the possession of technical knowledge. It is too abstruse a question to be satisfactorily settled in the absence of such knowledge. The public - especially the man in the street - do not care to be troubled with questions of this sort. They understand Acts of Parliament because they deal with concrete things with which they are familiar. But when contending political factions are endeavouring to impress upon them the reason why a technical alteration should be effected in our Constitution, or the reason why it should be resisted, their attention is diverted from their true function which is to deal with legislative policies. In other words, they are asked to decide abstruse questions with which they are not familiar - a task for which, as a whole, they are not fitted.
– They had to approve of the draft Commonwealth Constitution.
– Of course. We had no Constitution until one had been drafted. At the last general elections we know that an alteration was effected in our Constitution in regard to the holding of the State elections. But I would ask the hon- orable member for Bass to note that that amendment was made with the common consent of politicians. The public were everywhere told that the matter involved was not a controversial one. They were informed that the proposed amendment was intended to enable economies to be effected in connexion with the expenditure upon our general elections, and that, therefore, it might be made with safety. Alterations of the Constitution should be reserved for occasions of that sort ? As a rule, they should not be made unless the’ representatives of the people, recognising its sanctity, agree as to the necessity which exists for such amendments. I understand that the Government contend that such an occasion has now arisen. I sympathize with their position to a very large extent, though I do not think that an amendment of theConstitution has become absolutely necessary. They affirm that this particular portion of our Constitution has expired. The period of ten years is nearly at an end, and it becomes necessary to substitute a provision. The Constitution provides a method, because section 87 contains the words “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.” Therefore the House is in a position to create a substituted method for that which is contained in the section. But then the other question arises : How can we give any sort of permanence to a provision which is put into an ordinary ‘Act of Parliament?
– Hear, hear.
– If the honorable member will bear with me, I shall meet that objection. I quite admit that if we merely passed an Act embodying some substituted provision for that which is contained in section 87 of the Constitution, and a party from the other side came into power and disapproved of it, all that it would have to do would be to repeal the Act without appealing to the people. But I submit to the House that there is an alternative. There is a method which we have already adopted, and by which we can give, without touching the Constitution, considerable permanency, and considerable sanctity, to an arrangement of that sort. When we wanted to make an arrangement with the Imperial Government in regard to the naval subsidy, we did not merely pass an Act of Parliament, but we authorized the Government of the day to enter into a definite agreement with the Imperial Government for a period of ten years to contribute to naval expenditure a certain amount per annum. There we did not embody an agreement in an Act, but we authorized the Government to enter into a solemn agreement with another power. I want to submit to the House that when this matter is left by section 87 of the Constitution in the hands of Parliament, it would be just as open to us to authorize the Government to enter into an agreement with the States for ten or fifteen or more years, on the understanding that it shall involve the annual payment of a certain sum. Any Government which disapproved of it would hesitate very much before they would embark upon the repudiation of the contract which had been deliberately entered into with the authority of the House.
– There is the agreement with the Orient Steam-ship Company.
– There is not a parallel in the mail agreement, for this reason : that the House authorized the Government to enter into a contract with the company.
– There have been attempts made to alter the naval agreement.
– I have already mentioned that. In regard to the mail agreement there is this distinction, that under it a public company acquired legal rights and could sue the Commonwealth. But in a case of this sort, the Imperial Government would never think of taking such a step against the Commonwealth for a breach of its naval agreement. Yet it had the sanction of this House.
– Was it not in a little danger at one time?
– Only from the Prime Minister.
– I am not talking of danger, because I know that there might be all sorts of dreams as to what was going to be done. I do not think it was ever contemplated to commit a breach of that agreement without some mutual arrangement between the contracting parties. But there is before the House another agreement, in which the same principle is involved. An agreement has been entered into between South Australia and the Commonwealth Government for the purchase of the Northern Territory, and it is embodied in an Act. It is proposed - I am not speaking of whether it will be indorsed or not, but it shows that it is a feasible proposal - that this House should affirm the arrangement entered into by the
Government. Will any honorable member say that if that agreement were entered into in pursuance of that Act this House - I do not care what party was in power - would ever think of repudiating it? I venture to think that it would not. I believe, however, that the people of this country would rise as a body if any attempt were made to commit a breach of such a contract or compact. The South Australian Government would, if they liked,be able to sue the Commonwealth. Under the agreement I am proposing, the States would also be able to sue the Commonwealth, although everybody knows that it would be impossible to get a remedy of a satisfactory character ; such an arrangement would depend upon the sense of honesty and of honorable dealing on the part of the people of Australia. It is, however, a. course which might be adopted if we determine in the end to accept a proposal which has been made by the honorable members for Mernda and Flinders to renew this provision for a fixed period insteadof giving it the permanency which is proposed.
– That would mean setting aside the agreement.
– Not necessarily - it should be remembered that it is really not an agreement in the ordinary sense of the word. It is not an agreement by which the States undertake to give us something, and we undertake to give them something in return. It is rather a statement of the terms which the States will be willing to accept as an arrangement between the Commonwealth and themselves.
– And which the Government were prepared to give.
– And which the Government did give, subject to the approval of Parliament. I know that the honorable member represents a State - and I admire his patriotism - which is very anxious that this agreement in its entirety should be adopted. That is, of course, an obligation on every honorable member representing a particular State. But I remind the honorable member that there is another obligation, and that is in regard to the interests of the Common wealth. If he finds himself in a. measure stereotyped in his view of the matter, he would do well to ask whether, although it might suit Tasmania, it is the best thing that can be done for Australia. I am myself trying to look at this question from an Australian stand-point, and I am keeping in my mind the deed of partnership of the Commonwealth as distinct from the individual interests of my own State. I know that in its case, this contribution of 25s. per capita - one which I heartily approve of as a very fair compromise - involves the concession of about £1,000,000 a year, which will go for distribution amongst most of the other States. But notwithstanding that it involves that loss, I am perfectly prepared to abide by the 25s. per capita. My chief doubt isbetween a proposal for permanency embodied in the Constitution, and a proposal for a period of tenor fifteen years embodied in an agreement authorized by this House to be entered into by theGovernment. I have spoken of the experience which we have acquired since” 1901. I have very little doubt that, however much we know - and we know a great deal, for we are, no doubt, a very wise body - we shall be wiser at the end of ten years. We have not, I think, yet arrived at that finalityof knowledge with regard to the relationship of the States to the Commonwealth which justifies us in making a final revision of our Constitution. There is another point which is of importance. We have always considered that at some time the debts of the States should be transferred to the Commonwealth, and that the latter should undertake the gradual conversion of them. I have very little doubt that, under the Constitution, not only will the Commonwealth take over the debts existing at the time of Federation, but all subsequent debts up to the date of the conversion. I want honorable members to notice that this agreement does not bind the States in any way. All that the Premiers of the States have undertaken to do in consideration of this guarantee of 25s. per capita for all time is to consent to an investigation. We have already heard whispers of little birds with regard to the attitude of the States. We know that they are bound by the Constitution to hand over their debts at the time of Federation. We also know that they are not bound to hand over subsequent debts. And we know that the States are not yet prepared even to forego their right of borrowing, or to agree to the Commonwealth being the common medium through which all future debts shall be made in the interests of Australia. I have never thought it desirable that the
States should be prevented from borrowing ; but I think they should be asked to agree to do their borrowing through the Commonwealth. Whether the Commonwealth will or will not be able to borrow at a rate of interest lower than that which the States at present have to pay - judging by Mr. Coghlan ‘s account of his interviews with London financiers I doubt if it can - every one knows that it will be recognised as desirable in Great Britain, and wherever else our debenture stock may circulate, that the State loans should be raised through one borrowing power. But we have not yet succeeded in inducing the States to recognise the unmistakable advantage which would accrue to Australia from having its stock known as Australian stock. In a very able leading article which recently appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the writer, referring to this matter, said -
Mr. Deakin has told us that every London financial magnate to whom the subject of Hie transfer of the State debts has been mentioned has warmly indorsed the proposal, and said it would improve the credit enjoyed by Australia. But have the suggested terms of transfer been explained to those gentlemen, and the peculiar conditions which would then exist in this country ? We doubt it wholly. What are those conditions? Here in New South Wales we have borrowed over £90,000,000, but the security is abundant. We pay about 3^ per cent, interest, or, roughly, £3) ‘.50,000 per annum. But our railways and tramways yield a net ,£2,300,000; the Harbor Trust, ,£230,000; the Water and Sewerage Boards, ,£362,000; the “Rocks” resumptions, £33,000: and interest from country towns reaches ,£29,000, making ,£2,954,000 per annum received direct; while, in addition, there is on the capital side ,£r, 300,000 owing to the Government from farmers under the closer settlement scheme ; ,£7,800,000 is due on other Government lands purchased;, and the annual land revenue of ,£875,000, which arose mainly from the expenditure on railways represents a capital value of another .,£25,000,000. There is no question about our superabundant live assets as security. But if the Commonwealth takes over our ,£90,000,000 of debt, which will be its assets? As a matter of fact, it will have none. But the 23s. per head liability to the States will be appropriated, and for the rest its solvency will be wholly dependent upon large contributions from the States.
It went on to say -
We may take it for granted that those London magnates who said that the transfer of the debts would be a good thing, fully believed that all the State assets now” forming the security for the debts would go with the liabilities. In our view, the transfer of the debts involves an ultimate control over the greatest State asset - we refer to the railways, which, on a 3^ per cent, basis, would offset £66,000,000 of the New South Wales debt. Sir ‘George Turner at the first Conference actually proposed that the Commonwealth should have a lien upon the gross railway receipts, and it is the one thing which would give the Commonwealth supremacy in the eyes of the money-lenders. The Australian railways are a visible .security covering ,£170,000,000 of the debts.
– Is New South Wales prepared to. transfer her railways to the Commonwealth?
– The honorable member asks a1 conundrum which he is as well able to answer ‘ as I am, and it applies to all the States. If we have respect and reverence for the ‘Constitution, we shall hesitate about making alterations from time to time, each of which may be fought for and against by political parties in connexion with their policies, and shall allow matters to be matured, so that a grand conclusion which can be embodied in the Constitution for all time by one alteration may be arrived at. It is proposed that the Commonwealth shall pay to the States, for all time, irrespective of what its revenue may be, 25s. per capita. We do not know the attitude of the States regarding the debts question. We have to induce them to consent, not only to the transfer of the debts incurred since Federation, but to the institution of such a sinking fund as they and we may think requisite to give greater security for future borrowings in the Mother Country. We have also to “induce them to consent to borrow through the Commonwealth at such convenient times as will enable the best results to be obtained. The agreement merely provides that there shall be an investigation. The States may well say, “ We consent to that ; but the adoption of the recommendations of the investigating Commission is another matter.”
– There is more than that in the agreement.
– If my honorable friend thinks that I have not done the agreement justice, let me read it in full. It is this : -
That to fulfil the intention of the Constitution by providing for the :consolidation and transfer of State debts, and in order to insure the most profitable management of future loans by the establishment of one Australian Stock a complete investigation of this most important subject shall .be undertaken forthwith by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States. This investigation shall include the question of the actual cost to the States of transferred properties as defrayed out of loan or revenue moneys.
That is only an elaboration of what I have said ; a determination to bave an investigation.
– With a view to taking over the debts of the States.
– Yes. I must not be understood to affirm that the States are not generally willing to transfer their debts to the Commonwealth ; it is about the conditions of transfer that difficulty will arise. The States which are in wise hands will recognise, as we do, the advantage of unifying Australian stock, and of borrowing through the Commonwealth, but they may not readily agree to the establishment of a sinking fund, or to forego the right to borrow individually. As suggested by the honorable member for Wakefield, that may be a bone of contention. If we can discover a way of doing what is required as a temporary substitute for the Braddon section without at once altering the Constitution, reserving to ourselves the right, ten or fifteen years hence, to refuse or to allow its continuance on condition that the whole of the remaining questions are dealt with satisfactorily, the time may arrive when we shall be in a better position to formulate all the necessary amendments in one grand alteration of the Constitution. That is the line of thought which has occurred to me, and I confess that I have arrived at such a conclusion quite irrespective of party considerations, and yet with a desire to do something that is within the four corners of this agreement. I ask honorable members to carefully study the agreement. The first part provides for an investigation in regard to the consolidation, transfer, and unification of loans. In the second part we have the statement : -
That in order to give freedom to the Commonwealth in levying duties of Customs and Excise and to assure to the States a certain annual income, the Commonwealth shall, after the ist day of July, 1910, pay monthly to the States, a sum calculated at the rate of 25s. per annum per head of the population, according to the latest statistics of the Commonwealth.
This is not such an agreement - and this is n very important distinction to notice - between the States and the Commonwealth, that if we do not follow it exactly the States may declare it at an end. The States are not in a position to declare, if we do not follow it exactly, that the whole thing is “off.” I do not say that in a dominating spirit as one speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth. My sole contention is that this is not an agreement, coming within the legal definition of a contract. It in not a contract in which there is a request, a promise, and a consideration. Those elements are all wanting. It is simply an embodiment of the terms which the States are willing to accept in settling the question of the continuance of the provisions of the Braddon section. It is not a contract in the ordinary sense of the word, and, therefore, if the Parliament were to say, “ We will keep as close to the agreement as we possibly can,” there is nothing that the States could do which would nullify our efforts. The matter is entirely in our hands. Let me say again that I do not make that observation in the spirit that we are “ on top,” and can do what we please. On the contrary, I recognise that we are bound to make an honest allocation of the revenue of the Commonwealth. If this agreement has been arrived at, subject to the approval of Parliament, then I submit that Parliament has a perfect right to vary it in some slight degree. Respecting the wishes of the States, and thinking their desires fair, we can go as near as practicable to an indorsement of it. If we recognise that it is simply an embodied form of agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, I think that we cart go very near compliance with it. Possibly there is a very large number of honorable members, even on the Opposition side of the House, who would favour for a term of ten or fifteen years some definite provision for the States, pending the acquirement of more information, experience, and knowledge of our relationship with them, leaving it open to the States subsequent to the proposed investigation to say, “ We are perfectly prepared to hand over the debts on these terms, and to provide for a sinking fund and for the unification of the debts of Australia.”
– Why not leave it open for the life of a Parliament only?
– The honorable member and I would differ very much on that point. I believe the time is coming when the Parliament will have to delegate to outside bodies a very large proportion of its work. The whole tendency of Legislatures throughout Australia is to delegate to Commissions the administration of large Departments. That has been done in connexion with the railways of the States. It is toeing done in regard to the State Departments of Land, and I believe it will be followed in connexion with the Departments of Public Works. The less Parliaments have to do with these great Departments, which largely involve matters of administration, the more time they will have for passing wise legislation. Our time in this House is already too largely occupied with matters that are really” not of a legislative character. I am very desirous, if possible, of helping on a settlement of this question, but I do not think that the Government should contend, for a moment, that its own followers ought to be prepared to absolutely indorse every word of the agreement. The honorable member for Mernda has dealt with the question very dispassionately. He has shown, as he always does, that he has individuality, and that he looks at such questions apart from narrow party considerations. The honorable member for Flinders has done the same, and I hope that I am a humble follower of those honorable members in showing that I, too, possess some individuality. At the same time I do not want in any way to make difficulties. I merely want to see the Government and the Parliament do something that is compatible with the interests of Australia, and that we shall not conflict in any way with the respect that ought to lie shown for our Constitution. I do not desire to see the Commonwealth give away all that is to be given away on our part, leaving the States to hesitate about conforming to the conclusions which the proposed investigation may open up for us. If the question of the debts were not outstanding - if this were the only question involved - I should be very glad to see a final settlement of it embodied in the Constitution. But there are still outstanding many financial problems which must come up within the next year or two and their settlement in this way would resolve itself into a series of piece-meal alterations of the Constitution. I wish to avoid that. All my reading of history and, indeed, my reading generally, has satisfied me that where a country is blessed with a written Constitution such as the United States of America, the Commonwealth, and some of the States have, its- legislators should share the feelings of its greatest men in regarding the Constitution as too serious to be tampered with, and not to be made the battlefield of political parties. What would be the effect if this matter were submitted as a proposed amendment of the Constitution at the end of this Parliament? It would mean that we should embark on a general election in which, on the one hand, we called on the people to decide between two .opposing parties on a number of political issues, and, on the other hand, we should present to them, as if there were not difficulty enough in deciding between Socialism and AntiSocialism, more than one proposed alteration in the Constitution. That would be enough to make the average voter’s head ache. It is enough for a man who is skilled in reading these technically-worded documents to go through them with care, and trace their effect ; and there is not one man in ten thousand in the community who has a copy of the Constitution by him, and not one in a hundred thousand who knows anything of the experience we have had in this Chamber of the relations of the Commonwealth and of the States. There is not one in ten thousand who knows exactly how the States stand in regard to loans from a Commonwealth point of view. We should, therefore, be asking the people to do a very difficult - almost an impossible - thing; and the question that presents itself is - and I say this more to my own party than to my opponents- - whether in Committee we can possibly approach as closely as possible to the fulfilment of this agreement without involving the Commonwealth in a permanent undertaking, until we know exactly what the States are prepared to do with regard to their debts.
– - Without the referendum?
– The referendum is necessary only in order to alter the Constitution ; I am not thinking, and I do not suppose that any one is, of the referendum, except for the purpose of an alteration.
– - Does the honorable member think that this is a subject which would be understood if it went to a referendum?
– I do not. Of course there are hundreds of thousands of people just as intelligent and capable as we are to decide this question if they had the time, and if they had by them all the papers that we have at our disposal for its elucidation. But how many people have those papers and that knowledge? Are they to be supplied with copies, and also with copies of the agreement, and with a statement of the conditions which now surround the obligations of the States to the Mother Country in regard to the debts?
– And with a copy of the speeches made on both sides !
– That would simply annihilate the electors ! If the whole of the speeches delivered by the Opposition were forced on the people who elected them to Parliament, I should have some satisfaction in knowing that the Fusion Government were going to be in office for the next ten years. If I could be sure that all the constituents of honorable members opposite would be compelled to read all the speeches delivered on this side, I should know that none of the honorable members opposite would be again elected to Parliament ; and that would be another source of satisfaction. However, these matters do not come into practical politics, and I do not desire to occupy more than my share of time.
– There is a second Bill on the paper for the taking over of the balance of the debts.
– There is another Bill for a second proposed alteration of the Constitution, with regard to the public debts.
– It authorizes the Commonwealth to take over all the debts.
– Yes : it proposes that section 105 of the Constitution shall be altered by the omission of the words “ as existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth,” thus making the provision a general one, with the effect of enabling the Commonwealth to take over all the debts.
– The States may not let the Commonwealth take over all the debts.
– If the referendum were in favour of the proposed alteration of the Constitution, the States would be bound by the vote.
– Moreover, the States are quite willing.
– That does not dispose of the difficulty to which I am referring - I wish it did. The States do not agree to confine themselves to a unified debt; that is to say, they do not agree not to borrow in the future, or to give up their right of further borrowing, and that is a very important point. I do not desire to prevent the States from borrowing, but, as I said, I desire them to borrow through the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth being responsible for the debts and the States responsible to the Commonwealth for the interest. But that would require agreement, and the States would have to consent to such a plan, because the alteration proposed in the second Bill does not deal with that question.
– Would the honorable member leave it to the Commonwealth to say when the States should borrow, and how much?
– Not without consulting the States. In June last I issued a pamphlet dealing with the anti-Socialist platform, and I have not changed the opinions I therein expressed. In that pamphlet I said -
The near approach of the termination of the Braddon-clause period renders it imperative that no further delay should be permitted in the settlement of the several complex financial problems which confront the Federal Legislature; and, since Parliament contains few men who are, by experience, qualified to advise as to the best, most economical, and impartial nonparty solution of those questions.
There is part of the quotation lost here -
The appointment for a term of years, or permanently, of a Board of Non-political National-Finance Commissioners, to advise the Government and the Parliament from time to time : -
As to the best and most equitable method of providing for the future apportionment of the Federal revenue between the Commonwealth and the States.
As to the best and most economical terms of arrangement with the States, for the transference of the States National debts to the Commonwealth.
As to the best and most economical method of negotiating Commonwealth loans for the future, whether for State or Commonwealth purposes.
As to the question of the honorable member for Wilmot, I would not place in the hands of the Commonwealth itself the right to determine how and when State loans should be floated, but I should like to see established a body of financial authorities outside Parliament whose business it would be, with the help of the States - because the States would be represented on the body - to investigate and decide these questions. Of course, the object of preventing the States from floating loans will be understood. In the past we have had the States, with no discipline, borrowing one on the top of the other, sometimes raising two or three loans in six months, and then allowing twelve or eighteen months to elapse without raising any further loans. This very much inconvenienced that section of the London money market in which our loans circulate.
– Practically it made no difference.
– I said advisedly “ that section,” because I know that our little loans bear about the same relationship to the transactions of the London Stock Exchange as the few coppers we may give to our children bear to our incomes. But there is a particular class of men with whom we have to deal in regard to the underwriting of our loans; and it has been considered to be a disadvantage to them that Australian loans have sometimes been floated one on top of another within a short period. I would have the States represented on any such financial body as I have indicated, so that each State could be consulted from time to time as to its requirements, and as to the amount of loan money of which each would desire to avail itself. I hope that the States would enjoy the advantage of a smaller rate of interest by reason of the whole of the business being done through one London office. There is no doubt that the High Commissioner, whoever he may be will have a great deal to do with the regulating of these matters in London. 1 should, however, like to express my doubt as to whether the Commonwealth is going to do this business much more cheaply than the States can do it. Those of us who have taken advantage of the opportunity of reading a paper written by Mr. Coghlan on this very question, will remember that he said that, as the result of his consultations with leading London financiers, he had come to the conclusion that there would be no advantage at present in the Commonwealth dealing with loan business instead of the States.
– He said that after a little while, when the Commonwealth stock was established, the results would be better.
– I have no wish to fight for Mr. Coghlan’s conclusions. I am glad that he said “ after a little while,” though that is a very vague expression. It is the sort of expression that a Minister will use to a deputation, when he tells them that he will consider their request “ after a little while.” But when we federated,there was no doubt that the prospects of the Commonwealth promised us unmistakably a cheaper money market. It was calculated that there would be a saving of something like from £500,000 to £1,000,000 a year in interest by the floating of our loans through the Commonwealth. But I must confess to a doubt as to whether we should stand very much better than on a par with the senior
States at present as to borrowing rates No one who looks through the English money market reports can fail to have noticed the fluctuations in the value of Australian stocks. In some cases you see South Australian stock at a higher value than that of New South Wales. Sometimes you see Western Australian and Tasmanian stock as high as any of them.
– Well, higher, if the honorable member prefers it ; I merely wish to state the fact that there are unaccountable fluctuations. But when once a Commonwealth stock is established, and it is recognised that there is a certain term during which all State loans are to be floated, I am perfectly satisfied, notwithstanding the rather pessimistic note struck by the Sydney Daily Telegraph with regard to the assets all being held by the States, that there will be a lower rate of interest for the Commonwealth than has been obtained by the States. I desire to say, in conclusion, that I am very anxious to do all I can to help in formulating a scheme that shall follow as near as possible the agreement. I am not in favour of embodying the agreement in the Constitution. But we are not bound by the letter of the agreement ; and I should be in favour of the extension of whatever provision is going to be made for the States for a term of ten or fifteen years ; because I believe that at the end of that time we should be in a. better position to determine what ought to be the final arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States. At all events, I hope that the arrangement made will be of such a character as will be for the future advantage of the whole Australian people.
– I wish it to be distinctly understood1 that I have no antipathy to State rights. I believe that, although the Braddon section expires next year, and relieves us of a certain obligation, there are, nevertheless, implied obligations in the Constitution which render it necessary for us to do something for the States. That is obvious, although, as the last speaker said, we are undoubtedly in a. position to dictate our own terms. Apparently, the State Premiers have realized that, in accepting conditions at the last Conference inferior to those that they were willing to accept on former occasions. However, I am certainly opposed to any permanency in the arrangement that is made, and particularly to the permanency of such an arrangement as is proposed by the Government. In the first place, I should like to refer briefly to the speech of the Prime Minister upon this subject. He told us that while the States would in future be limited in their sources of income, the whole range of taxation was open to the Commonwealth, and that, therefore, we never need fear any shortage of income. But later, in the same speech, the Prime Minister, to my surprise, dilated upon the possibility of receiving all the income we should need, through the Customs, even after paying the 25s. per capita to the States. The observation conveyed to my mind, rightly or wrongly, that the Prime Minister, as the arch-priest of Protection, must have fallen from grace. How could he, as one of the strongest advocates Australia has known of what is called our national policy, ever hope that our return from Customs and Excise would ultimately be greater than the receipts per head in other Protectionist countries of the world? In concluding his speech, the honorable gentleman said that he really thought there would be no need for direct taxation, and that anyhow, although the whole field of taxation was open to us, direct taxation would only be adopted as a last resource. I was very sorry to hear that. I say again, that the remark showed a decided defection on the part of the Prime Minister from the course which 1 understand he has shaped for himself throughout his political life. He cited New Zealand as receiving £3 10s. per head from Customs revenue, and hoped for the day when the Commonwealth might even receive so much. At all events, he was quite sure that we should receive as much as £2 10s. per head. That clearly indicates not a protective Tariff, but a revenue Tariff, or both - that is to say, a highly protective Tariff and a revenue Tariff together, which would be nearly as bad as an absolute revenue Tariff. As to the possibility of the two co-existing, T point out that it is possible for high protective duties to operate for the encourage ment of local industries when those duties are imposed on goods which are made here, whilst a purely revenue Tariff might also operate on goods which we cannot produce here. In that way we might receive an enormous revenue. But at what, expense? At the expense of imposing taxation on the wrong people. I come to the conclusion that a revenue Tariff does impose taxation on the backs of the wrong people. Pitt said : “We must tax the people in a way that they do not understand, and then there will be no trouble about it.” But I object to that form of taxation. We do not want equality of taxation in this country ; but equality of sacrifice. That is the objective towards which I am making. I thought that the Prime Minister also stood for equality of sacrifice in taxation, and not for equality of taxation irrespective of the resources of those who are taxed. To know how futile it is to expect an adequate income from any form Qf a Protective Tariff it is necessary only to consider the revenue derived from the operation of such Tariffs in other countries. In the United States the revenue derived from Customs and Excise is only something like £1 9s. per head. In the United Kingdom it is about £1 ns. per head. We have only’ to consider these facts, in conjunction with the contention of the honorable member for Flinders this afternoon, that as a country develops the tendency is for its per capita returns from Customs and Excise to decrease, to see that the case is indeed hopeless, if, as the Prime Minister hoped we should, we are to confine ourselves to revenue from those sources, unless we tax the people in an inequitable way.
– And unless we give up Protection.
– Of course, if we do not give up Protection we must impose heavy burdens of taxation on the necessities of life, a policy which is strongly opposed on this side. On the statement made by the Prime Minister I could not support this proposal. I am prepared to support some measure of this kind, but it must coincide to some extent with my own views. I have a free hand on the question, but I cannot support a scheme which involves the extraction of the bulk of our revenue from the pockets of the poorer classes in the community, whose interests I have been sent here specially to protect. A good deal has been said, particularly by the Prime Minister, as to the safety of referring this matter to the people. We have been asked why we should not trust the people. If we do not approve of the proposal, we are asked to let the people decide. But I say that we are here as delegates of the people, and it is one of our functions to decide what is worth while submitting to them. We are the judges in the first instance, and if in our judgment a certain proposal is objectionable, or would be unfair and unjust in its operation, it is our duty to oppose its reference to the people. When we come to a decision amongst ourselves that it is desirable to alter the Constitution, it will then obviously be our duty to refer the proposed alteration to them. I say that, no matter how broad our franchise may be, or how high our opinion of Democracy, we must be governed by delegation. Otherwise we can have no progress. Often enough we have no progress with a delegation, but we must arrive at a conclusion as delegates before we ask the whole of the body politic to express an opinion. The people have not moved in this matter so far. We have not heard of any agitation by the public, or that pub- lie meetings are being held in connexion with it. There has been no instance of a desire on the part of the people to preserve intact the present relations between the Commonwealth and the States. As a matter of fact, the opposite view has found expression to some extent. A petition has been presented to this House signed by 50,000 of- the people of Australia, and its terms are in direct opposition to the object of the present proposal to perpetuate the present distinction between the States and the Commonwealth instead of merging the States more than ever in the Commonwealth. So far as the people have spoken on this matter their views are in favour of unification. The Prime Minister has been guided by the opinions of the Premiers who assembled at the recent Conference. I have a word or two to say on that, because I regard that Conference as the source from which this proposal has emanated. It seems to me that whether designedly or not this proposal comes from one party in Australian politics. There is no denying that fact. I do not say that the people concerned intended deliberately to forward certain party aims, but the proposal emanates from a Conference the representatives at which belonged to a political party that is one in sentiment and aim throughout Australia. It is significant that two of the Premiers attending the Conference maintained their positions by very precarious majorities. I think that they could claim a majority of only one in their State Parliaments, and this has led in Queensland to an appeal to the people. It is a still more significant fact that the Fusion Government which was represented by the Prime Minister at the Conference has never yet had the sanction of the people of Australia. Honorable members opposite do not yet know whether the Fusion would receive the indorsement of the public, and they obviously hesitate to appeal to the public for indorsement. I would say in passing that while I should net favour the adoption of obstructive tactics, the manner in which the Government have been conducting the business of the country has led me to attribute to them a desire to provoke rancorous discussion in this House. I say that they should have gone to the people, and they would then have been in a position to know whether they have public indorsement for their proposals. They were represented at the Conference without the indorsement of the public; two of the State representatives had reason to be very doubtful as to the position which they held in the eyes of the public, and one of them is now testing public opinion, and in view of all these circumstances, and of the fact that all attending the Conference belonged to one political party, it is only natural that the proposals they put forward should be coloured by the opinions of that party. While I do not accuse them of any deliberate design, I say that it is only natural to suppose that in the circumstances the Premiers would support the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister would support them. I anticipate that the whole matter will have to be fought out at the polls, and I shall welcome the day when the conflict is transferred to the wider arena. The agreement was drafted in secret, and we have been left to. make our own deductions as to the compromises which led up to the definite proposals which we understand are to be made. They have not yet been made, and we do not know exactly what they will be. We have now only to discuss the question whether there should be an alteration of the Constitution which will make the Federal revenue from Customs and Excise subject for ever and a day to anl annual contribution to the States of 25s. per head of their population. I have pointed out that there is no Protective Tariff in operation in the world to-day returning a revenue which would permit of such a payment, and leave enough for the Government to carry on its own affairs.
– What about New Zealand?
– I said with regard to the New Zealand Tariff that it is essentially a revenue producing Tariff. If it is protective, it is only in part, and it is made revenue producing to a great extent by the fact that it includes heavy imposts upon the necessaries of life, goods which people will have and which cannot be made in New Zealand.
– The percentage in New Zealand on dutiable goods is higher than in the Commonwealth.
– I say that the New Zealand Tariff is a revenue Tariff, and I am opposed to such a Tariff. I have said before that it is only by making our Tariff essentially a revenue producing Tariff that we could hope to raise enough revenue to enable us to give the State Governments 25s. per head of their population, and have sufficient left to carry out Federal proposals. If our Tariff should fall to the level of the United States Tariff, and return only £1 9s. per head, how should we be able to carry on the great affairs of the Commonwealth? If we gave 25s. per head to the States, we should be left with only 4s. per head to meet the financial obligations of the Commonwealth. That would be an absolutely ridiculous position in which to place ourselves. It would force us at once to the imposition of direct taxation. In regard to the public debts, the Prime Minister spoke of some arrangement having been made. He did not state what it was, but we are led to understand that a proposal is being made for permission to bring in a Bill to allow the Commonwealth to take over the State debts as they exist to-day, rather than as they existed at the time of Federation. Under the Constitution we have the right to take over the State debts as they existed then, but further power is required to deal with the balance incurred since Federation. The Prime Minister, however, added, when referring to some arrangement of the kind, that there was no chance of the States parting with their assets. If we are to deal with the State debts, to saddle ourselves with the payment of £9,000,000 a year in interest, we should have some setoff from the States. We should require from them some of their large assets - the railways particularly.
– Is there any chance of getting them?
– I am quite prepared to refer that matter rr, the people. I have every confidence in their judgment. If the people do not want that to be done, well and good. But if the people cannot trust their Federal representatives, neither can they trust their State representatives. That again brings me to the point that the proposal now before us emanated from one political party, who are anxious to retain for the. States all the powers, privileges, and prestige that they can, because under the State system of government they have a limited franchise which secures and conserves the privileges - not the rights - of those who control the large vested interests of this country, more effectively than they would be conserved under the Commonwealth system of government. That is the big reason looming behind what has been submitted to us. We cannot go on the money markets of the world and command the easy terms that we should be able to command unless our finances are backed up by the assets which set off the enormous public debt of Australia, amounting to some £250,000,000. The Prime Minister said that £180,000,000 of the debt is represented by tramways and railways. It is, therefore, only logical that if we take over the debts we should take over those railways and tramways. In fact, that is absolutely essential, if our dealings with the States are to be placed on anything like a business footing. Now is the time for us to dictate our terms and to come to a reasonable and just understanding. If we placed in the Constitution a provision for the payment to the States of 25s. per capita each year out of the Commonwealth revenue, .without taking advantage of the present opportunity to adjust the other parts of our financial relationship with the States, such as the consolidation of all the Australian stocks into one Commonwealth stock, and the taking over of the State assets, we should never be able to do it. Once we endowed the States with this lien upon our income without any set-off, we should never be in a position to make reasonable terms with them in regard to taking over their debts, and we should certainly never have the opportunity of acquiring their assets. In the present circumstances, according’ to the Prime Minister, if we take over the debts we have to raise the interest on them out of the Customs and Excise revenue. The honorable gentleman hesitates to resort, in fact he declares that he will not resort, to direct taxation except in the last extremity. He gaily hopes that the income from our alleged Protective Tariff will rise to £3 10s. per head. If that comes about we shall be taxing all the people upon the necessaries of life, in order to have enough money not only to finance the Commonwealth but to pay 25s. per head to the States, and, in addition to that, to pay -the interest upon the national debt. It is an iniquitous proposal - one not to be tolerated - and while I have a voice I shall protest against it both here and on the public platform. One cannot emphasize too strongly this phase of the proposals now before the House, lt is a distinct attack upon the masses of the people; upon those who, until we had the liberal legislation of the Commonwealth, had no effective voice in the control of their own affairs, but had simply to take what the gods gave them, the gods in their case being those whose property qualifications enabled them to capture the Legislatures. Up till that time those people had no redress, yet, apart from any humanitarian considerations for their interests, they are the backbone of the. country. They are the very strength upon which we shall have to rely if ever a testing time comes for Australia. On national grounds we must conserve the interests of the masses of the people. Every unit in this community has distinct rights, and it is only the Government which conserves the welfare of the individual and protects his rights, that is administering public affairs as they ought to be administered, and building up an asset in flesh and blood, and independent manhood, that will be the strength and glory of this nation. By permitting to pass such provisions as this, which aims at taking those enormous taxes out of the pockets of the masses of the people, we shall be striking a blow not only at their material interests, but at the manhood of the nation. I deprecate that greatly. Humanity has been exploited too often and too long already by those who have got into a position to exploit it by virtue of certain property qualifications, which, thank God, no longer have effect in the election of members to the national Parliament. I hope that the voice we are raising here as the mouth-piece of Democracy will be sufficiently powerful to prevent this iniquity from getting on to the statute-book. We seem to have arrived at a parting of the ways in so far as the relationship of the States to the Commonwealth is concerned, and the people of Australia - not the Premiers of Australia - have now to decide between the status of the States and the dignity of the Commonwealth. It is a question between the perpetuation of State rights and State forms of government as they exist to-day and the exten- sion of the central power and the conferring of a becoming dignity upon the national Parliament. I am anxious for the matter to be referred to the people. The State Premiers are naturally averse to any further concession to the Commonwealth, and despite the fact that we have relieved them of many important functions * and many expensive Departments, they have gone on spending all the income that they spent before and, in addition, all that we have given them. That applies to New South Wales particularly. The State Premiers have done this, and are now loudly talking about the great works that they have in hand, and the importance of State rights and State functions. If they spoke truthfully they would rather talk of the importance of the State Premiers and the State Premiers’ functions. The honorable member for Parkes referred to the great economies which were going to be effected when Federation was inaugurated. He, amongst others, took the opportunity of assuring the people at that time that the expense that would be incurred by the inauguration of the Commonwealth and the birth of Australia as a nation, would be more than set off by economies effected in State administration. Those economies have not been effected. The States have not justified themselves in the eyes of the people. They have maintained all their panoply of state ; all their power and dignity, and all their emoluments, and no economy has been achieved. The people as a whole -are averse to this position of affairs. They have come to the conclusion that it is out of place to have six separate Parliaments in addition to this Parliament, and six sovereign States in addition to the Commonwealth. They recognise that that places an embargo upon the growth of the Commonwealth. There is no doubt that it is doing so. If the proper attitude were adopted towards the States at this juncture, when we are in a position to dictate terms to them, not on Mir own behalf, not for the sake of conserving any glory to ourselves or adding dignity to our positions - for we are here to-day and gone to-morrow - but for the sake of an economical administration of public affairs in the interests of the community, this Parliament would recognise that now is the time to tell the States lhat unless they effect economies nothing can be done to perpetuate the present conditions. We should threaten to cut them down, we should take every advantage of the situation, unless certain economies to which they pledged themselves are effected. For instance, State Governors were to be abolished, State Upper Houses were to be dispensed with, and a substantial reduction was to be made in the number of members of the popular branches of the Legislature. It is quite competent for this Parliament - representing ;as it does the same constituents as do the State Parliaments themselves, and seeing that the State Premiers are reluctant to do anything to diminish their own importance - to tell them that they .must dispense with much of the surplusage of government, that State Governors and State Upper Houses must be abolished, and that a large reduction must be made in the number of members of State Legislative Assemblies. These great economies could be effected, and, as a result, a better relationship would be established between the States and the Commonwealth. But’ the agreement which the Government asks us to ratify would merely perpetuate the indifferent distinction which exists between the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government. While seven States retain their sovereign powers it will be utterly impossible for the Commonwealth to progress, and for this Parliament to achieve its destiny. I cannot subscribe to the proposals of the Prime Minister, unaccompanied as they are by any condition necessary to insure a proper recognition of the Commonwealth Government. At the same time, I am prepared to agree tq a temporary arrangement being made with the States for a period of ten years - even if we have to grant them more generous treatment during that time - rather than to consent to bind the Commonwealth to a condition of affairs which will clog its progress and prevent it working out its destiny.
.- I avail myself of this opportunity to place upon record my protest against the proposal of the Prime Minister’ to levy upon our Customs and Excise revenue, for all time, a per capita contribution to the States of 25s. annually. The figures supplied, by the Treasurer in response to a question” by the honorable member for Yarra regarding the Customs and Excise revenue of various countries, show clearly that if the Government of the United States had to pay to the separate States a per capita sum equal to’ that proposed ‘by the” Prime Minister and the very superfine gentlemen who are Premiers of the States, it would have to hand over ‘to them at least £115,000,000 annually. The proposal’ is so ridiculous that it ought not to” be’ considered for a moment1.
– During the past five years’ the Customs and Excise revenue of the. United States has averaged only £1 6s. 8d. per head.
– Exactly. The- Government of that country would thus have had the magnificent sum of is. 8d. per head with which to accomplish all’ the glorious work which has been accomplished by the Stars and Bars. Then let me point to- India, a country which has no franchise, whose inhabitants are’ without representation, but are absolutely tinder the control of the British Government - a country where no man, white or coloured, can exercise the right of a citizen. What is the position there? The imports from Germany, as compared with those from GreatBritain, are increasing by leaps and bounds. Then I might ask how Germany would fare under an agreement such as that which we are asked to ratify? The average amount collected in that country from Customs and Excise is 15s. 5d’. per capita. It will thus be seen’ that under this proposal Germany, with a population of 60,000,000, would absolutely be. in debt to the extent of £30,000,000. annually. I should like the German Chancellor to have a proposal made to him such as has been made to the Commonwealth by the State representatives at’ the recent Premiers’ Conference, two of whom hold office upon the sufferance of a single member, and another of whom is’ now in the throes of an election1. which will result in his being swept into oblivion as- the Leader of the popular House. I regard the proposals embodied in this agreement as representing the acme of sublime audacity. I do not believe that the heart of the Prime Minister is in this agreement. It appears to me that he fell amongst a gang of thieves, who plucked every feather from him.
– The honorable member does not mean that.
– I do not’ know whether I ought not rather to “ say that they exploited him. It is all very- well” for the’ honorable member for’ Parkes to talk about’ our years of experience of the” financial relations of the Commonwealth’ t’o-the States. The honorable member has:a’ very charming way of replying to interjectors. Outside of this Chamber’ his- manner’ is most pleasant, but inside of “ if his-‘ methods say.our a little too much of the schoolmaster. I would remind him that Democracy is scarcely yet out of its swaddling clothes. I challenge the Prime Minister to submit to a referendum the proposal that is embodied in the agreement which we are invited to ratify - the proposal that we should annually return to the States 25s. pex capita of our Customs and Excise revenue, and an alternative proposal to levy a land tax. I venture to say that the result would be a huge majority in every State in favour of the latter. I repeat that Germany, which is one of the most scientifically governed nations in the world, one of the greatest and most generous, and one which, when the day comes for the white races, to grapple with the coloured races, will more than bear its manly part, collects only 15s. 5d. per annum from Customs and Excise duties. Would the heads of the German States ever have the temerity to suggest to the German Chancellor that he should enter into an arrangement similar to that which is recommended for our acceptance by the Prime Minister?
– If they did, the Kaiser would have them shot.
– The Kaiser, great man as he is, and of monarchs perhaps he is the brainiest, would not permit such an absurd thing as this to be done, and for all time, too. No king, no Ministers, no Parliament have the right to make laws for all time. No generation has the right to impress a law on the coming generation. The dead hand of the past has no right to pull down, control, and injure the coming generation. I, for one, shall oppose the insertion of a provision in the Constitution that the Commonwealth shall pay to the States 25s. per head as the population increases. If the proposal were limited to the life of a Parliament - and T ask why did not the Prime Minister and the Premiers adopt this view - then with the majority which the Government has, it could be carried in the dying months of this Parliament, and if the Prime Minister were returned at the general election with a majority, in the next Parliament he could try ‘the scheme for three years. I am a little tired of saying that the same persons elect this House as elect the State Parliaments. On our continent, we have the infamy of second Chambers which are unequalled in any part of the world. Sir Charles Dilke, who is accepted as a high1 authority, stated that its Legislative Council nearly brought Victoria to the. verge of a revolution on two. occasions.
The honorable members for Ballarat and Bendigo will probably remember the time of “ broken heads and flaming houses.” The former will .remember how that Chamber nearly precipitated a revolution. To its everlasting disgrace, and with the contempt of every honest Democrat, it prevented any decent land legislation from being passed. Are we going to say that the dead hand of the past shall rule ; that the Commonwea’th shall pay to. the States 25s. per head of the population for all time? I do not believe that the people of Australia will permit such a thing to be done. New Zealand has purely a revenue Tariff, which is objectionable to every true Protectionist, who, of course, wants prohibition. The framing of a Tariff .always reminds me of a game of see-saw. On one side there is the real Free Trader, who does not want to raise a penny-piece through the Customs House; on the other side, there is the real Protectionist, who wants to prohibit anything which can be made here, and to admit duty free anything which cannot be made here; and between the two there is the devilish middleman, who plays the part of the boy on the middle of the see-saw. He gives to the Free Trader a lower duty on a few items, and to the Protectionist a duty on a few other items, and thus we get a revenue Tariff. The Prime Minister has fought ‘many good Protectionist battles, but if he thinks that our present revenue per head will be maintained, he has lost some of the acumen which used to distinguish him. In South Australia, the average per head is £1 13s. nd. No one will dispute my statement that, as a country ruled by a revenue Tariff, England is pre-eminent. No one will say that it is a Protective country, and certainly it is not a Free Trade country in the sense in which the port of Hong Kong is. No port in Great Britain is a free port. With a revenue Tariff, she raises more per head by Customs and Excise duties than does any other country in Europe, except Portugal, Denmark, and Norway ; or any country in America, except the United States. If the Prime Minister desires to secure a large revenue, he will be absolutely deaf to the appeals of -our manufacturers. For the first time in twenty years, sir, I am privileged to be permitted to address, the employes of various manufacturers in this city. Why? Because there is one infamous blot on our Tariff which amounts to a sex tax, It raises over half-a-million pounds from women simply because of their sex. Go to any theatre you like; go to the Yarra bank; go to Flemington on Cup Day, and you will not see one Australian lady dressed in Australian garb.
– What about the hats?
– Some of the hats are made here, but most of the material is imported and taxed very heavily. The Prime Minister knows that on the articles I refer to there are revenue duties of 30 and 25 per cent. What a ridiculous thing that is. The result is that 7,000 citizens in Victoria alone are having their employment interfered with, and most unjustly. On the other hand, there are the white-workers, who are increasing in number by leaps and bounds.
– I am proving, sir, that if we are to have a large revenue, it will necessarily mean loss of employment, and destruction of manufactures, and that Parliament will become the assassin of Australian industries. In a splendidly written article, a daily newspaper has shown clearly that this scheme is an attack upon the Protective policy of Australia. Yet there are very few countries which can show such an average as we can. Some honorable members are so much in love with statistics that the book which I wished to quote from, was not available, and so T had to fall back upon the prince of statists, Mulhall, whose latest publication is dated 1898, and who shows very clearly that the Customs and Excise revenue of Great Britain does not yield anything like 25s. peT head. As you, sir, are prevented by the rules of the House from seeing that there is not a quorum present, may I call your attention to the fact. [Quorum formed.’] The second clause of the agreement says -
That, in order to give freedom to the Commonwealth in levying duties of Customs and Excise, and to assure to the States a certain annual income, the Commonwealth shall, after the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and ten, pay monthly to the States a sum calculated at the rate of One pound five shillings per annum per head of population, according to the latest statistics of the Commonwealth.
If we had a referendum like that of Switzerland, the Government of the day would not have to fear party quarrels. The present Ministry, however, is supported by a following which is a splendid patchwork of parties. Under the Swiss referendum the people can amend or alter anything at any time, but alterations of the Constitution are more difficult to effect than determinations regarding ordinary questions. Switzerland is the home of the referendum. America has joined with Europe in naming that country the school-house of civilization. If we put this- provision into the Constitution for all time it is sure to cause friction, because those who have been termed the “ State Righters “ will ‘use all their efforts against the Commonwealth. It cost the United States an expenditure of £1,200,000,000’, and the death or wounding of 500,000 men to have one alteration made in its Constitution. Therefore, it is not right in the last days of the last session of this Parliament to propose to put into our Constitution a provision which will remain there for all time ; because subsequent alteration will be a matter of the greatest difficulty. If this proposal were likely to be discussed on as many platforms as the draft Constitution Bill was discussed on, I should not have so much to say against it. But we know that many will not be properly educated regarding it, and, lacking that education, will vote as they would not otherwise vote. Under the Swiss Constitution 1 per cent, of the population can demand a referendum. Had we such a provision in our Constitution, a referendum would have to be taken on any question, despite Parliament and the Governor-General, were it demanded by 1 per cent, of the population. Under our system, the electors have the opportunity to express their views only once every three years, because the Commonwealth Parliaments last out their full term. South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania are referred to in the agreement as the nonpension States, because they have not provided for those whose hair has been silvered by time, but if I am any judge of the Democratic movement, it is certain that in. two of them, at least, pension systems would before long, have been established, had not the Commonwealth stepped in. I am surprised that the right honorable gentleman who was once known as the King of the West, and who has a kindly feeling for the old, did not establish, a pensions system in Western Australia. As for the Premiers who signed the agreement, the next election will prove that they do not represent the people except in the sense in which most of the members of the Federal Convention represented them. A delegation from Western Australia, headed by the pre- sent Treasurer of the Commonwealth, was sent by the State Parliament, but to use the words of Hans Breitmann “Where is dot barry how?” Are the gentlemen who composed that delegation in the House of Representatives or in the Senate? Only one of them is in Federal politics, and he is returned here more through personal love and affection than because of the opinions which he holds. Where are the five Premiers whom a gentleman, known outside as, “Yes-No,” but whose lovable personality all who have been brought into close contact with him appreciate^ beat when he made Sydney dominant in the Constitution ?
– Some of them have gone to -
The undiscovered country from whose bourn No traveller returns.
– I do not allude to those who have gone. None of the others, with the exception of the right honorable gentleman, is to-day in power. Of the six Premiers who signed this agreement the fate of two hangs on a vote. I do not know of a Government that has been able to remain in office for any time with a majority of only one. . These six gentlemen are certainly Premiers of the States for the time being, but they do not represent Democracy. What of the second Chambers of the State Legislatures? Will any one say that they are elected on the splendid franchise of the Commonwealth Parliament, which recognises that life is the only wealth? The honorable member for Parkes was once wrongly accused in this House of having made the boast that when the Senate was elected the Labour party would be thrust into the dust. As a matter of fact, he did not make that statement, but some of his Conservative friends did. Thank heaven, however, we are not answerable for what our friends say. But for a mistake which has been much regretted, the Labour party would have been in a majority in the Senate during the life of this Parliament. T believe that we shall have a majority there in the next. As it is, the Labour party in another place represents a strong and solid phalanx.
– What was the mistake to which the honorable member refers ?
– We know where the Labour party is in all the States, but outside Victoria we do not. know where the Deakin party is ; and outside New South
Wales we do not know where the Cook party is.
– I do not know where the Maloney party will be.
– The Maloney party remained in Parliament when the Brown party was bumped out. The second Chambers of some of the State Legislatures are nominee bodies. Their members are nominated for life. Other second Chambers are elected on a limited franchise, and are not on the same plane of advancement as the Senate is. The franchise of the Federal Parliament is freer and higher than is that of any of the State Parliaments. If the Senate were a nominee Chamber, where would the Labour party be? We should not have a member of our party there.
– Would not that be a gain to the country?
– It might be, in the opinion of the honorable member. The State Premiers represent six Houses of democratic thought, and six Houses of undemocratic thought. They represent the Conservative power, the quintessence of the State Righters in the most adverse sense of the term. The Prime Minister, whose past will bear favorable comparison with his present work, is lowering himself in the opinion of Australia by the attitude that, he has taken up in regard to this question. I do not blame him, because, when he cannot ally himself with the party with which he wishes to be allied, he takes over a collection of remnants ; but I do blame him, as an old Protectionist, for having brought forward such an agreement as this, and for seeking to implant in our Constitution the provision that we shall pay to the States out of the Customs, and Excise revenue 25s. per head of the population for all time. A land tax would touch a few of our honorable friends opposite.
– It would touch more members of the Opposition, I believe.
– It is not often that 1 can accuse the honorable member of speaking without thought, but he has done so in this case. There should be a land tax to pay directly for the defence of Australia. If our defences will cost 10s..per head of the population, and if the payment of invalid and old-age pensions will involve another 10s. per head of the population, this agreement means that we shall have to raise in all £2 5s. per unit ; and I maintain that the Commonwealth will not be able to stand such a burden. Many of us will hail with joy the ending of the Braddon “ blot.” I do not agree with the honorable member for Parkes in praising the action of the statesman who introduced in our Constitution the provision rendering it necessary for us to raise£4 by way of Customs taxation for every pound that we require for Commonwealth services. The Braddon “ blot “ was placed upon the Constitution as a token of contempt. It was a foolish and infamous scheme for raising revenue. ‘ It has often compelled true Protectionists to vote for revenue duties, because, as I have said, it requires us to raise £4 by way of Customs taxation for every pound that we desired to spend. It has compelled us to place a burden upon those least able to bear it. I take this agreement as representing only a party move, and the Prime Minister, in indorsing it, is carrying out, not his own desires, but those of the remnants of parties which he has about him. In his own words, he has joined the wreckage of parties that once graced the Opposition benches, and has added to that wreckage the one small party that he took with him. If I am any judge of faces that party has not been happy since.If the Government are in earnest, and have the courage of their convictions, they will have a. referendum on the question whether there shoulrl be a land tax or the payment of 25s. per head to the States; and I think I know what the result would be.
– No honorable member opposite has yet supported the proposed agreement.
– My experience of the honorable member for Flinders in the State Parliament was that his votes did not follow his criticism ; and I think that, in spite of his speech this afternoon, he will vote with the party. No one is quicker to take advantage of an opportunity to secure the adulation of the daily press ; and, as one large and powerful newspaper has dealt very trenchantly with the Government’s proposals, the honorable member thinks it wise to add his criticism ; but while the newspaper may be definite in its policy 1 am afraid that, as I said before, the honorable member for Flinders will vote against his criticism. I stand for the pure referendum and initiative, but I do not ap,-. prove pf an expedient which merely puts aside the great question pf the land tax-. If we had such taxation, thelands of Australia would be thrown open for the hands waiting to till them. Our vast unsettled lands cry out -
I am the plain
Barren from time primeval,
Waiting for man, in his own good time,
To till to fertilize and cultivate me
And give me the motherhood of cities.
I ask the Government, even at the lastmoment, to come out boldly, and by means of the referendum enable the people to say definitely whether they prefer a Government of. remnants, or a Governmentcomposed of the true leaders of Democracy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Dugald Thomson) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
, - I have had occasion lately to call the atten tion of the Minister of Trade and Customs, the Attorney-General, and other members of the Ministry to the restrictions upon the importation of potatoes; and I have received answers to the effect that this is purely a State matter. However, a stage has been reached at which I think the Commonwealthmight be pardoned for interfering, and asking, at any rate, NewSouth Wales to modify the regulations now in force. The States have Vegetation Acts for the express purpose of preventing the importation of diseased produce; but when these Acts are used, not merely for that purpose, but in such a way as to have the effect of a duty designed to give the local growers unlimited command of the market, there arises what may be deemed discrimination as between State and State. In Western Australia there were wharfage dues or some charges of the kind, which operated as an extra duty on fruit from the eastern States ; and I understand that these dues were removed on a remonstrance from the Commonwealth Government. Some little time ago there was a States Conference at which it was agreed that, when a State had complied with certain conditions, produce from clean areas in that State could be sent to other States. According to a paragraph in to-night’s Melbourne *Herald, the Minister of Agriculture in this State asked the New South Wales Government to permit produce to be sent from a clean district to Jerilderie, but he was informed that the prohibition against Victorian potatoes still stands. The same newspaper states that the Victorian Government had received a telegram from’ the New South Wales Under-Secretary for Agriculture setting forth that a certain firm desired to send potatoes from a clean district at Orange across the Murray at Albury, thence to Seymour, across the Goulburn, _ and through Echuca to Deniliquin. “ Will’ you allow this?” asked the message; and the Vittoria n Government sent the reply -
As soon as your Department removes the embargo from Victorian potatoes, the requestwill be considered. lt seems that some friction has arisen between New South Wales and Victoria on the subject. That is not unnatural, because, according to the arrangement made between the State experts and Ministers, New South Wales ought to admit Victorian produce that goes out’ with a clean bill. Victoria has done all that she was asked to do with regard to declaring certain districts free from disease. She has fulfilled the conditions laid down at the Conference. But apparently the New South Wales authorities will not admit Victorian potatoes notwithstanding that that State has done all that she was required to do. I desire to read an extract’ froth a lette, which I have received from the River Don Trading Company, Devonport. They have received a communication from New South Wales to the following effect :-
There is a tendency on the part of the New South Wales Government to try and work up the local growers to grow potatoes equal in quality to the Tasmanian article and also to plant large areas. The Department of Agriculture, backed up by legislation to that effect, is trying its utmost to bring this condition of things about. Farmers meetings are being held in the country forming what is known as potato growers’ associations in which they advocate the Legislature to adopt the most stringent conditions under which the tuber may be grow*. If such a state of things continued to exist, and the Tasmanian article is kept out by various ways and means only known to this wily Minister of Agriculture, it must then mean that the Tasmanian tubers, which are known as Circulars all over this State, will have a very big chance of being displaced, or at least it will give the- locally-grown article a chance to get in - there is no ‘ doubt _ about that.
The idea of the Vegetation Diseases Act was to shut out diseased produce, not to set up a1 bar against Inter-State trade.
– Does the honorable member say that ‘there has been’ ah’ infringement of the Constitution ?1
– I claim that New South Wales is using the* Vegetation’ Diseases’ Act just as a foreign State would use’ a duty, and I maintain. that no State in Australia is entitled to do that.
– Does the honorable member say that there is no disease in the potatoes shipped from Tasmania.
– If there is any disease in the potatoes sent to New South Wales, of course, that State has a perfect right to exclude them.
– The honorable member should show that there is no disease in the potatoes before he makes a charge against New South Wales.
– I have shown that Victoria has complied with all the conditions imposed, and that nevertheless New South Wales refuses to admit her potatoes.
– What does the honorable member ask the Government to do ?
– I am asking the Attorney-General to devote attention to this subject, because I consider that the Commonwealth ought to take a .hand in the matter and prevent New South Wales from obstructing Inter-State trade.
– The honorable member has not shown that New South Wales has acted unfairly, because he has not proved that the potatoes sought to be imported are free from disease.
– If the potatoes are not free from disease- I admit that New South Wales has a right to shut’ them out. But she is shutting out clean potatoes; and she is doing that with a view of benefiting her own producers. I claim that she is not entitled to do that.
– The honorable member for Darwin has brought this matter of the exclusion of potatoes before the House on several occasions. It is a matter that has two aspects, in my opinion. The first aspect is that the regulations referred to by the honorable member for Wilmot may be used for the purpose of protecting the growers of potatoes in particular States. Secondly, the effect may be to inflate unduly the price of potatoes to the users. That is’, the casey in New South Wales. The price of potatoes has gone up to an extraordinary^ degree. It is now prohibitive. In the electorate of the honorable member for Gwydir the railway men have pointed out that the cost of living has been increased greatly owing to the inordinate price of’ potatoes. We ought to’ know whether those potatoes have .been excluded from’ bond fide reasons. The Constitution implies that there should be . free intercourse iri matters of trade between the States/ and that no State shall be allowed to set up a barrier against another State. I fear that that provision of the ‘Constitution is being infringed. I can say that some of the best potatoes consumed in the Commonwealth are grown in Tasmania. I have myself traded in many hundreds of tons of Tasmanian Circular Heads. When the potato crops have failed in New South Wales the plenitude of potatoes from Tasmania has rendered great service to very many people, especially the poorer classes in New South Wales. The dispute points to the necessity of the establishment of an Inter-State Commission. But I would suggest that in the meantime the Commonwealth Government might invite the States to appoint representatives to a joint inquiry at which the Commonwealth should be represented. We are certainly interested in the matter.
– How? Should we inspect the potatoes?
– We are interested in determining whether these potatoes are being excluded from New South Wales for bond fide reasons. It seems to me that some action ought to be taken immediately. I trust that the Government not only in the interest of the Tasmanian growers, but of the consumers in all parts of theCommonwealth will consider the advisableness of suggesting the appointment of some body to inquire into the merits of the question.
.- One thing that strikes me in connexion with this matter isthe utter indifference shown by many honorable members when this question of the exclusion of potatoes from Inter- State markets is raised. The honorable member for Darwin has brought it forward on several occasions ; and to night when the honorable member for Wilmot mentioned the subject again he was met with ridicule and nonsensical interjections. But this is a serious matter for the farmers of Tasmania as well as for the consumers of Australia. When there is a famine in India we in our liberality subscribe to assist the people. But when ruin is staring in the face many of our own producers, some honorable members laugh and chaff when the Government are asked to right a wrong that is being done. I think I am justified in speaking warmly on this matter when I read in the newspapers that 50 tons of potatoes were at Devonport ready for shipment, and 30 tons were cast into the sea rather than that they should have to be taken back to the place where they were grown. At the same time there are people in Melbourne who cannot get a potato to eat. I know also that potatoes have beem brought to Victoria from Tasmania, and hundreds of bags of them have been opened on the wharf, and, although a speak could not be found in them, those potatoes were not allowed to be sold or given away in Melbourne. This is the sort pf thing that is going on, though we say we are federated in Australia. I am at a loss to understand how honorable members of this House can treat such a matter as if it were one of fun. If it was a question of Tasmania raising a bar to the introduction of goods manufactured in Victoria, it would not be treated in any such way.
.-I cannot understand the warmth which the honorable member for Bass has succeeded in importing into the few remarks he has made.
– It was perfectly justified.
– I can quite believe that the honorable member for Cook is an authority on “ spuds,” but I would like to be permitted to address the House. My feeling, after listening to the discussion is that Tasmania is to be congratulated upon having such a representative as the honorable member for Wilmot, who can put her grievances so temperately before an assembly of this character.
– And the honorable member treated him with ridicule.
– If I cannot appeal to the honorable member for Bass, who maybe actuated by some ulterior motive of which I am not conscious, I can appeal to honorable members on this side to say that no honorable member on this side treated the honorable member for Wilmot with ridicule. The House listened with interest to the well reasoned remarks of the honorable member, and gave him that attention which it will always give to any honorable member who brings forward what he believes to be an honest and legitimate grievance. When an honorable member addresses remarks to this House with the object of benefiting his constituents, and, at the same time honoring the Constitution, he will always be received with respect. But if honorable members succeed in working themselves into a state of wrath because of a state of affairs in the House which does not exist, it becomes necessary for some other honorable member to put such honorable members right.
– On a point of order I wish to ask whether the honorable member for Wentworth was in order in implying that any honorable member of this House was not honest in the convictions he expressed in his speech.
– We did not think the honorable member was.
– Such an implication would undoubtedly be out of order, and had I heard it made I should have asked the ‘ honorable member to withraw it. I ask the honorable member for Bass whether such an imputation was made.
– Such a statement was made by the honorable member for Wentworth and confirmed by the honorable member for Indi.
– Then I ask the honorable member for Wentworth to withdraw the implication.
– I think that if the notes of the Hansard reporter are consulted it will be found that I made a general statement as to what happened when certain honorable members did certain things. If the honorable member for Bass takes it for granted that I was referring to him when I made those statements I shall at your direction, sir, withdraw them in deference to Parliamentary usage.
– I ask the honorable member for Indi also to withdraw the statement he made.
– T did not mean any harm, sir.
.- I am very glad that this matter has been brought up. For a long time I have felt that Inter-State Free Trade does not exist in the Commonwealth having regard to the fact that an opportunity is afforded to prevent it. It is quite true that the State Governments must be clothed with power to prevent the introduction of diseases. But we know that there are many well authenticated instances of the abuse of this power. I agree with the honorable member for Bass that it is deplorable that such things should occur in a Federation such as ours. It is most to be deplored, however, because we have not the power to prevent the continuance of these abuses. When any one raises his voice in favour of the investment of the Commonwealth authority with such a power he is at once told that he desires to aggrandize the Commonwealth at the expense of the States. The trouble is that honorable members will not face their obligations in this matter, and see that a body responsible to the whole of the people shall have control.
– That would not prevent the exclusion of diseased goods sought to be imported from one State into another.
– Certainly not. But the point raised now is not whether a State Government should have the power to .prevent the introduction of diseases from another State, but whether that power should be exercised for the commercial advantage of one State and against the interests of another. Honorable members who are better informed on this question than I am must be aware that the power to which I referred has been exercised in this way. Wherever facilities can be afforded for the transfer of raw material produced in one State to the other States they should be afforded. Having said so much in that direction, I wish to say that all credit is due to those State experts who have desired to prevent the spread of diseases, whether in foodstuffs, in persons, or in animals, for the warnings they have given the public of the dangers arising from this source.
– I suppose that the State Governments have taken action on expert advice?
– Not in all cases. In some cases political influence has been exercised.
– J trust that wherever they can the Government will exercise their persuasive powers in the endeavour to protect each State against aggression by any other State.
– I can assure the honorable member for Wide Bay that the Government are doing what he desires. As a matter of fact, several honorable members representing Tasmania have spoken to me on this subject during the last few days. The honorable member for Wilmot has taken a great interest in the matter, and the honorable member for Franklin has also spoken to me on the same subject.
– I think I have heard the honorable member for Darwin refer to the matter five or six times.
– I had not finished what I desired to say. The honorable members for Bass and Darwin have also referred to the matter. The honorable member for Darwin has asked several questions, and has also spoken to me privately about it. I have been endeavouring to get from the Minister of External Affairs, who represents in this House the Department of Trade and Customs, particulars of the requests made recently to the Governments of the various States that are alleged to be abusing - I do not know whether they are doing so or not - these police powers to the detriment of other States. I hope to be able to tell honorable members to-morrow what the Govern-‘ ment have done in the direction of what I might call friendly communication. I may point out that the Federal Government cannot be expected to interfere legally whenever there is an allegation that the trade and commerce sections of the Constitution are being violated. I have been in office only a short time, but I have had applications to raise issues against States, and have been obliged to refuse to do so. A short time ago an important decision was given in the High Court in a case in which I gave advice before I became Attorney-General. I advised some exporters from other States to Western Australia to raise an issue in the High Court, and they did so successfully. I gave some advice to have the validity of another Act tested, and when that is done a rule is made applicable to all the States of the Commonwealth. If Tasmania is affected by the alleged abuse of police powers by the State of New South Wales, the State Government, or anyone concerned, for instance, as an exporter of potatoes, could interfere legally by a very short process of law. If, because of his pecuniary position, a trader is unable to do so, and the matter is one which affects the whole State, I do not see why the State Government should not take the matter up on behalf of the private litigant. I am merely putting that point of view now when some people say that the Commonwealth on all these occasions should interfere. I have a slight doubt as to our status in some cases, but what I do say is that where the remedy is open to the State affected there is no prima facie assumption that it is the duty of this Department to interfere, although we will render every reasonable assistance in our power if the position is as put by the representatives of Tasmania. I hope that the fact of honorable members drawing attention to this matter will help to a solution of the difficulty. I have no hesitation in saying that if a” Slate under the guise of its police powers, on the plea “of an alleged necessity of protecting the local product against the im- peitition of diseased potatoes, is really .imposing a restraint upon the freedom of communication established by section 92 of the Constitution - in fact, unnecessarily prohibiting importations - there is not the slightest doubt that the High Court will afford a remedy. The honorable member for Darwin recently pointed out an American case in which at the instance of a private individual, the Supreme Court of America laid it down that no State could draw its prohibition in such wide terms as to exclude healthy meat under the guise of protection against the importation of diseased meat.
– It is very hard to expect a potato-grower to take action in the High Court.
– The State can take action for him if he cannot afford to do it himself. I have great sympathy with a man who is asked out of his own pocket to raise a constitutional issue. So far as we can help any one, and so far as it is our duty to do it, we shall do so; but at the same time we are not going to take upon ourselves the burden of duties which should be discharged by the State affected. We are sometimes asked in this House why we do not bring into force the provisions of the Quarantine Act applying to InterState trade. I do not want to impugn those provisions, but I was one of those who threw a doubt upon their validity, and when the question is raised I dare say it will be finally settled in the Supreme Court. In the next place, however, if we did bring those Inter- State provisions of the Quarantine Act into force they would simply amount to a restriction upon importations, which is the very thing objected to. They would not get rid of the police power of the States. The honorable member for Cook drew attention to the desirableness of vesting in the Inter-State Commission power to deal with these matters. I can tell him that the Bill will give power to the Commission so far as the articles that are being imported into a State are legitimately within the trade and commerce power. But it has been decided in America that diseased products, that is those unfit for human consumption, are not within the trade and commerce power. I merely mention this to show that the matter is not quite so clear from the legal point of view as some honorable members assume.
– But the Inter-State Commission would determine that?
– I assure the honorable member that the necessary clause has been put in the Bill so far as the constitutional power exists, and that Bill will be heard of next week.
.- I should not have risen but for the AttorneyGeneral’s reply,’ which has made me more perplexed than ever. I did think that when the representatives of Tasmania pointed out to the Government its responsibility to render every assistance in its power to the citizens of the Commonwealth affected, the Government would be only too glad to act, hut the Attorney-General has simply told them that there is no hope for them until they go to the High Court. He practically, says to honorable members representing Tasmania, “ If you have any spud-growers in your State who are not satisfied with the treatment meted out to them by New South Wales or other States, you can tell them from us that they have their remedy in the High Court, and if they do not like to apply to that tribunal the Government cannot do anything for them until the Inter State Commission is appointed.” When the Inter-State Commission Bill has beer, passed by this Parliament the gentlemen who are now complaining will have been ruined by the embargo placed upon the distribution of their products in other States. The remedy will’ come when the evil has become too great to hear. The AttorneyGeneral should be able to do something more than that. A citizen of Tasmania has exported 400 bags of potatoes to Melbourne representing practically all he is worth, and the experts after examining them have been unable to find any trace of disease in -them, and yet that poor citizen is to be practically ruined. He can appeal till he is black in the face to the Commonwealth Government, which ought to give him relief, but he can get nothing from the Attorney-General except a polite intimation that he has his remedy in the High Court. That is rubbing it in with a vengeance. All I have to say is that Tasmania has not much to be grateful for in the response made by the Attorney-General to the appeal of the honorable member for Wilmot. He has not indicated whether he proposes to give any relief at all. He has said that he will make a statement in the morning after he has submitted it to the Minister of External Affairs. Between those two legal gentlemen I am afraid that the Tasmanian growers will be left very puzzled to know where they stand. However, I am speaking on behalf of the consumers of Australia also. Out in the back blocks of New South Wales this matter is being very keenly felt. The price of potatoes in that part of the country has gone up to a prohibitive amount. If the Attorney-General does not see his way to respond to the appeal of the representatives of Tasmania on behalf of the potato-grower, surely he will respond to the appeal of other honorable members on behalf of the consumers, who are being practically deprived of one of the necessaries of life. However, I might speak until I am black in the face, but I do’ not expect that I would get anything more from the Attorney-General, because ever since Federation began, whenever any matter affecting the welfare of a State or States has arisen the only provision relating to it in the Constitution has been interpreted by legal men to mean, “ You have your remedy not under the Constitution but in the High Court.”
– The High Court was created in accordance with the terms of the Constitution.
– But when it was established, nobody ever anticipated that the question of whether potatoes might be admitted into one State or another would have to be determined by a ‘reference to that tribunal. ‘ The .High Court is practically discrediting the Constitution within the precincts of this House.
– I can only say that it may be operating beneficially from’ the stand-point of providing work for the lawyers. It seems to me that that is why a sympathetic reference is always made to it. I shall await with very great anxiety the information from the Minister of External Affairs which the Attorney-General proposes to give the House to-morrow in reference to this very important matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090923_reps_3_52/>.