3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that complaints as to the ill-treatment of aborigines in one or other of the States have constantly been published, will the Prime Minister consider whether the- Commonwealth can take action to prevent occurrences which arc undesirable in themselves, and tend to injure the” reputation of this and the State Governments? We have not much power in this connexion, but we should be able to intervene, by formulating a code of rules for the guidance of those who have to do with these unfortunate people.
– I am sure that any call of humanity will be responded to by Australians as a whole, and, if it is possible for the Government to assist to safeguard the rights of the few remaining natives of this country, or to render abuse of authority over them impossible, it will be happy to do what it can. As the honorable member said, our powers in this regard are so limited as to be almost nonexistent. There is the authority of public opinion. Should an opportunity arise in which our assistance can be given, it will be most cheerfully and willingly tendered.
– Has the Federal Government supervision over aboriginal stations? If not, will the honorable gentleman appeal to the State Governments to stop such’ practices as, the whipping of women by .men, whether the victims be coloured people or others?
– The publicity given to the fact’s referred to has already assisted to form public opinion on the subject. This may prove little less potent than a law, operating without a formal communication from the Government, which might be misinterpreted.
– I wish to know from the Attorney-General if he has seen a report published in the newspapers to the effect that the Newcastle Coal Vend refused a cargo of coal to a vessel called the Lama, on the ground that the ship was not on the list of vessels authorized to be loaded by collieries connected with the vend, and because the vessel, is new to the trade? Is he aware also that the owner of the Laura is reported to have stated that he was informed by the manager of the Hilton Colliery that the supplying of the Laura with a cargo could be arranged if permission could be obtained from the Union Steam-ship Company, but not otherwise? Will he have inquiries made to ascertain whether the Newcastle Coal Vend is a combination engaged in restraint of trade, in contravention of the provisions of Part II. of the Australian Industries Preservation Act ? If the provisions of the Act do not cover tha Laura incident, will he take an early opportunity to amend the Act to cover all attempts by private individuals or corporations to interfere with the free trading rights of the community?
– The honorable member was good enough to send to me a copy of the newspaper paragraph to which he refers, which! I have read. The Department is at present engaged in making inquiries under the Australian Industries Preservation Acts 1906-7, with a view to putting a stop to interference with external or Inter-State trade by the action of monopolies detrimental to the public. I assure the honorable member that the Government will endeavour, by insisting on compliance with the provisions* of the law, to put an end to alleged acts such as “that to which he has drawn attention. As I. see no reason for doubting the efficacy of the law, I think that there is no reason for introducing an amending Bill.
– I “wish to know from the Prime Minister whether he intends to take action to prevent the buyers of harvesters and drills from having to pay high’ rates of interest on their purchases? The following statement, taken from the report of the Royal Commission, shows the interest charged on deferred payments, the date of purchase being taken as ist November -
International Harvester Company of America - Deering Line (Victorian prices, 1.2.09).
The interest charged on deferred payments for drills, the date of starting or purchase being taken as 1st April, is as follows -
In view of the exorbitant rates shown by these figures, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to take any action to prevent the farmers of this country being fleeced when they purchase implements on the time-payment system?
– Speaking from memory, the fairness of the cash prices charged for agricultural implements was one of the subjects of inquiry on .which a good deal of conflicting evidence was taken ; this may lead to another reading of the report upon the extreme and exorbitant rates of interest such as some of those to which the honorable member has referred.
– “ Cash price “ is merely a fiction in practice.
– What I understand the’ honorable member to mean is that the cash-price system is rarely used. The absolute purchase of machines for cash would occur in but’ a few cases, if the honorable member is correct.
– About 34§ per cent, of the sales are for cash prices.
– It would appear that two machines are bought on credit for every one for which cash is paid. But as I recollect - and am reminded - one question exists as to our jurisdiction, and another as to the means of making any Act effective. These matters are under consideration. There is also the question whether when we are dealing with prices, we should stop there.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether he can inform the House as to the result of his interviews with Mr. Wade, the Premier of New South Wales, in regard to the Federal ‘Capital Site? I think the earliest possible moment should be availed of to give information to the public, if the Minister has any at his disposal.
– I have had two consultations with the Premier of New South Wales in regard to the Federal Capital Site. But I have had no opportunity of submitting the results to my colleagues. I propose, to do so at the earliest possible moment.
Telegraphs and Telephones
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been given to the evidence given by James Kinmond, Central Staff, Post and Telegraph Department, who states that in the year 1908-9 there was a loss of £71.000 on account of the Telegraph Branch, and of .£233,142 on account of telephones. In face of that statement, I should like to ask the Minister whether he does not think that the time has arrived when a scale should be drawn up under which subscribers would pay in proportion to services rendered ; and also whether he does not think that the time has arrived when Adelaide should be put on the same footing as Brisbane with regard to charges ?
– The statement referred to by the honorable member, as part of the evidence given by Mr. Kinmond, was prepared on data and materials in the Department. But as the House is aware, a Committee of accountants has been appointed to revise and consider those data, to ascertain to what extent they are reliable. The accuracy of the data is not acquiesced in by accountants. The Committee will have to submit a. report before I shall be in a position to prepare a. revised scale, either increasing or decreasing telephone rates.
Charges of Ex-Sergeant Daly
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether the charges made by exStaffSergeant Daly, of Molong, have been reported on and dealt with, and, if so, whether there is any objection to laying upon the table of the House the papers relating to the inquiry, so that the information may be available to honorable members ?
– The inquiry is not quite complete yet. When I receive the papers I will see whether I can do what the honorable member suggests.
– I wish to ask the Minister of External Affairs, without notice, whether his attention has been drawn to an ordinance recently published in Pa.pua, having regard to the protection of native birds ? I understand, from what I have read, that the old method of treating this subject has been altered, and that power has been given to the LieutenantGovernor to use his discretion in giving permission to those collecting birds for the purpose of propagating their species in other parts of the world. What I especially desire to know is whether the Government will see that the fullest possible protection is extended to the native birds of Papua?
– I understand that the intention of the new ordinance is to give the fullest possible protection to the birds. I believe that a very limited power is given to collectors purely for scientific purposes ; but I will look at the ordinance again, since the honorable member has drawn attention to it.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question without notice, in reference to a matter about which I have previously addressed questions to him. It relates to the preparation of electoral rolls. A paragraph is published in to-day’s Age in which it is stated that-
The Commonwealth Electoral Department is working at high pressure preparing for the revision of all the rolls for the coming general election. The entire rolls for the whole of the six States will be in the printer’s hands by the end of December.
I desire to know whether that statement is correct or not? If the rolls are not to be in the printer’s hands before the end of December, when does the Minister expect that they will be out of his hands?
– I have already informed the House that my instructions were that the rolls were to be ready for distribution on the 31st December. As the honorable member has called my attention to the paragraph which he has quoted, I will see whether my instructions are being carried out.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that the police in some of the suburbs of Melbourne - to my own knowledge the statement is true - are not collecting names for the electoral rolls, but are simply leaving at houses papers for people to fill up or not, as they choose ? The Minister will recollect that, in the past, it has been the duty of the police to collect names, and all necessary particulars, and supply the information to the registrars, in order that names might be placed on the rolls.
– I should be glad if the honorable member for Riverina would supply me with information as to specific cases such as he has mentioned. If so, I will cause inquiries to be made. I understand that the police have, as a rule, been carrying out their work satisfactorily ; but
I should be very glad to make inquiries into such cases as have been instanced by the honorable member.
– I will supply the Minister with particulars.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper : -
Public servants receiving less than£110 per annum - Return to an Order of the House, dated 31st August, 1909.
Pay - Light Horse, Deniliquin District
asked theMinister of Defence, upon notice -
On page 133 of the Estimates the following item appears : - “ Company Sergeant-Major, Quartermaster-Sergeant, and Staff Sergeants, 6s. per day “ -
Is it proposed to pay this rate?
Has npt the rate previously been 5s. 6d. to 5s.9d. daily?
In most of the other items is not the estimate rate paid to the holders . . of the positions ?
Will he arrange to pay 6s. daily in future?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Company Quartermaster-Sergeant, 5s. 6d. : Company Sergeant-Major, 5s. gd., and Staff Sergeants, 6s. per day.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has he yet considered the application made by residents of the Deniliquin district to form a squadron of Light Horse?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to Old-age Pension Applicants -
Does he think this question asked of aged men and women is a necessary one - viz., their mothers’ maiden names?
Will he give to the House the name of the originator of this question?
What section of the Act demands this information ?
If the mother’s maiden name is withheld, would it debar any claimant?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Circular. 16th September, 1909.
Sir, - I have the honour to inquire whether, as the result of your experience, you consider any of the printed questions at present asked claimants, their friends, or police, are unnecessary, and, if so, which. Have you received any complaints on the matter?
I shall also be glad .to learn whether there are any questions which you think it would be advisable to ask in addition to those at present prescribed.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 to 4 and 6 to 9. The Government has recently received information to this effect, but otherwise, is unacquainted with the facts. 5 and 10. I am not aware.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House meet to-morrow at 10.30 a.m., and that at 1 p.m. the sitting of the House be suspended until 7.4^ p.m.
.- I take exception to the finnicking way in which the Government are conducting the business. I do not see why we should meet at half-past 10 o’clock to-morrow morning, and later in the day suspend our sittings until 7.45 p.m. To break the day in the way proposed is entirely unwarranted and unnecessary. We have had previous experience of similar petty special adjournments, and I am sure honorable members will agree with me that the practice followed has not expedited business in the least. Instead of meeting to-morrow morning at half-past 10 o’clock, we might meet at half -past 7 or 8 o’clock in the evening, and sit half-an-hour later than usual. I have no doubt that, following the usual practice towards the close of every session, the Government will later on in this session ask that Monday afternoon should be devoted to Government business. That will be all that will be necessary to expedite business. I suggest to the Prime Minister that, instead of breaking the day, we should meet to-morrow at 7.30 p.m. instead of in the morning as proposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 24th September (vide page 3800), 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 desire to express my views in .connexion with the question involved in the motion before the Chair, because, apart from my present official position in the Government, I was a member of the Conference that framed the agreement with the States. I was also a member of the Federal Convention of 1897 and 1898 that framed the Constitution, and a member of the Premiers’ Conference that afterwards met in Melbourne in February, 1899, and made amendments upon, the Commonwealth Bill as framed by the Convention, and in particular suggested a limitation of the operation of the Braddon clause to ten years, though under the Commonwealth Bill as it left the Conventions, its operation was to have been permanent. The right honorable member for East Sydney and myself are the only two members of this House who were members both of the Federal Convention that framed the Constitution, and the Premiers’ Conference of February, 1899. Of the remaining four Premiers who were members of that Conference, Sir George Turner, then Premier of Victoria, has, unfortunately, retired from political life, and the other three Premiers, Sir James Dickson, Premier of Queensland, Sir Edward Braddon, Premier of Tasmania, and the Right Honorable C. C. Kingston, Premier of South Australia, have all, I regret to say, gone to the undiscovered country. No more important question than that now under consideration has had the attention of this House at any time since the establishment of Federation. I think it is right, on an occasion like this, that the views on this question of those who framed the Constitution should briefly be placed before honorable members. It was thoroughly understood, when Federation was established, that the States were permanently to have a share of the Customs and Excise revenue. Those who framed the Constitution had for their object the improvement of the financial position of the States, and had not the slightest desire or intention to impoverish them.
– Does not the right honorable member think that they intended the functions of the States to be reduced?
– I ask honorable members not to interject, because I do not intend to answer interjections. I have quite enough to do, and, as honorable members can see, I am not too well to-da.y. The Convention fixed the return to the States at three-quarters of the net Customs and Excise revenue, and fixed it permanently, subject1, of course, to the Constitution!. No expressions such as “ for all time,” or even “ permanently “ were used, but the effect of the proposals of the Convention was that this division of the revenue - three-quarters to the States and one-quarter to the Commonwealth - was to be of a permanent character. Every one knows, of course, that the Premiers’ Conference, without interfering with the pro portion as between the States and the Commonwealth, limited the term of that provision to ten years, specifying that thereafter the distribution should be “as Parliament might provide.” I think those words are important. ‘ They did not say that the arrangement should terminate at the end of ten years, but left it discretionary with the Federal Parliament to say whether it should continue under the same conditions or on some modified basis. We have at present almost arrived at the” first epoch - the end of the ten-year period, and I should like to show what the framers of the Constitution thought of this question. What was the bargain made by the parties - because it was a bargain? Six autonomous, almost sovereign, States, of their own free will, in time of peace, without any pressure, in their own interests, came together, and formed this Union, and it is therefore most important to know what was in the minds of the framers when they made that arrangement for Federation. It is not right that we should look at the matter from the stand-point of what is in our minds at this time; but we ought to give great consideration to what was in the minds of those who made the bargain. Are we to act so as to recognise the honorable understanding then arrived at, or are we to take our, stand solely on the legal bond? I need not repeat the truism that this Parliament and the Parliaments of the States are agents for the same people. That is a significant fact that every one of us is inclined to overlook at times - that there is only one people in Australia, and that we represent them in regard to certain matters, while the State Legislatures represent them in regard to all other matters. The people have two agencies, but both Commonwealth and State Parliaments are elected by the same people. If in our arrangements the Commonwealth in carrying out its functions obtains some advantage that is detrimental to the States, or vice versa, then the same people will either have the advantage, or suffer. The late Mr. Kingston, on the 1 2th March, 1898, at the Melbourne Convention, said, in reference to the Braddon section, or as it was afterwards termed the “ Braddon blot “ - I refer to section 87 of the Constitution, which provided at that time for a permanent return to the States of three- fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue -
I think we are indebted to Sir Edward Braddon for having successfully carried a provision of this sort.
That is the Braddon clause -
Unless you lay down this hard and fast line, I think you wi-11 find that there will be gradual invasions by the Commonwealth on the surplus which should be payable to the States. . . . Without this amendment - that is, the permanent Braddon clause we leave the States at the mercy of the Federation. … I am sorry we have not adopted the basis of a per capita distribution to come into force immediately or at some future time.
Sir Frederick Holder, our late lamented Speaker, who also represented South Australia at the Convention said -
If the Federal Treasurer has not the statutory obligation upon him to make a certain return to the States, he may not make it. Hs may establish large defence organizations, 01 spend it in other ways, and then it will be said, “Where will the States be”? As the States are surrendering £6,000,000 of revenue it is not an unreasonable request to have some assurance as to what the return shall be.
Sir Edmund Barton, who was the leader of the Convention in 1897-8, said at the meeting in Melbourne -
While I have been against the principle of a guarantee - that was the Braddon clause -
I now accept that principle as carried by the
Sir William Lyne, now the honorable member for Hume in this House, who was 3 member of the Melbourne Convention, said on the 12th March, 1898, in supporting the Braddon clause -
I have, on every occasion, advocated that there should be some definite return to the States provided for. I hailed with great pleasure Sir Edward .Braddon’s amendment when he brought it in. It is simple and effective, arid will coincide entirely with what I have advocated upon this question. “What a falling-ofT was there.” The great political champion of the States then ; the political opponent of the States now ! I myself said at the same time, on the same subject -
It is like beating the air to tell us that we (that is, the States) are to give up our great revenue producer - the Customs - and that we are to have no guarantee whatever that any part of that money will be returned to us, although we shall each have to provide for the payment of our public debts.
Sir Edmund Barton, in summing up the work of the Convention, said of the Braddon section -
It is a fair corollary to the provision for dealing with the revenue for the first five years after the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, and further reflection has led me to the conclusion that on the whole it will be a useful and beneficial provision.
The present Prime Minister said of the Bill, with the Braddon clause in it as a permanent provision -
A charter of liberty is enshrined in this Constitution, which is also a charter of peace, order, and good government for the whole of the peoples whom it will embrace and unite.
This was the spirit of those who framed the Constitution. They trusted the people of the future ; they provided for a permanent return to the States which has averaged for the last three years £1 18s. 6d. per capita. The amendment limiting the Braddon section to ten years gave no index that would suggest a substantial diminution of the amount to be returned. We now . propose to reduce it to L1 5s. per capita, with a special provision for a number of years in the case of Western Australia. The average annual loss to the States, if the proposed agreement had been in force during the past four years, would have been £2,713,000. In. dealing with this question - the substance of which is the per capita amount of Customs and Excise revenue to be annually returned to the States, and the permanency or otherwise of that provision - it is well to consider the scheme which was formulated by an important political party at Brisbane in July, 1908. I shall, therefore, devote a little consideration to that scheme. My excuse for so doing is my anticipation that the chief opposition to the Government proposals will emanate from honorable members opposite. The basis of that scheme was -
In regard to these two principles there is no difference between that scheme and the proposals of the Government. The Brisbane Labour Conference adopted these principles in July, 1908. On 30th March, 1909, when the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, he delivered an important policy speech at Gympie. Having attained to the important office of Prime Minister and Treasurer he appeared to view this question with different eyes from those with which he viewed it when he occupied a seat on the Ministerial cross benches.
– I shall, I hope, be able to prove every statement that I make. After becoming Prime Minister, both at Hobart in February, and1 at
Gympie in March of the present year, the honorable member endeavoured to make it appear - and he still persists in doing »so - that the scheme formulated by the Brisbane Labour Conference does not contemplate a per capita, distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue, but merely the permanent return to the States of a fixed sum annually. If that be so, what is the meaning of the words? -
That such annual share be paid to the States in the form of a fixed sum per head of the population.
Do they not mean that a per capita distribution is to be made?
– They mean that a fixed sum is annually to be distributed per capita. I was present at the Conference, and I know what was decided upon.
– I shall be able to show the honorable member what others think of the matter. Under the scheme framed by the Brisbane Labour Conference a fixed sum would annually be returned to the States - a sum which in 1909 would have amounted to £5,229,017 - and an additional £250,000 per annum, decreasing by £10,000, yearly to Western Australia. Under that scheme, as it is interpreted by the Leader of the Opposition, the payment to the States in 1909 would have been £5,479,000, whereas the amount payable under the Government scheme would, on the same population, have beer £5,549,000. In other words, the contribution under the former scheme would have been only £70,000 less than under the latter. But that is not all. The honorable member for Wide Bay, who was Prime Minister at the time, concluded this portion of his speech by holding out to the States the hope that they would receive even more than that amount. He said -
In leaving this subject, I desire clearly to state that the Commonwealth is riot bound to limit its contribution to the State funds to any amount that may be agreed upon. -
He was then catering for the favour of the States. Being Prime Minister, he naturally desired to be upon good terms with everybody. He went on to say -
It may be taken for granted that the Commonwealth Parliament will be fully aware of the necessities of the States, and that it will not permit any extravagance in Commonwealth expenditure, and that it will endeavour in the future as in the past to hand over to the States not only so much as it is bound to do, but to supplement such amounts whenever it is possible.
Nothing could have been fairer or more reasonable than that declaration. He added -
I congratulate the Hobart Conference on having arrived at a decision that the bookkeeping period should be abolished and that the surplus should be divided on a’ population basis with a special concession to Western Australia.
How different is the honorable member’s tune only five months later? Speaking in this House, on 25th August last, the honorable member said-
In my opinion, apart from the method, the amount proposed to be given to the States is excessive.
Again, he said -
I think that it is too much, and that it would be absolutely impossible for any Government to provide it in later years.
Fifteen days later, namely, on 9th instant, having had a little more time to consider the matter, he said -
I should be ready and willing to support any proposal to give even a larger sum than 25s. per head, provided that it was associated with the transfer to the Commonwealth of the State debts.
On 25th August, the amount proposed to be returned was, in the honorable member’s opinion, .too much ; on the 9th September, the agreement was a reasonable and a fair arrangement, and he was willing to give even more if it were associated with the transfer of the State debts. I am glad to be able to take the honorable member at his word in regard to the transfer of the State debts. We propose that they shall be taken over, not by force, but ‘with the full approval of the Governments of the States. We propose something more than that. We intend to ask the people to vote at a referendum, not on one Bill, but on two - on the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill, and on the Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Bill. It has been asked, ‘’ Why not deal with both subjects in one “Bill ? Why deal with them in two?” The suggestion that we should deal with the two subjects in one measure is unreasonable. We have dealt with them separately in order to give the electors of Australia a wider latitude. Some may approve of the proposed distribution of Customs and Excise revenue, but may disapprove of the transfer of the whole, of the debts, or vice versa” ; and if the two subjects were dealt with in the one Bill, they would have to swallow or reject both our proposals. As it is, they will be able, if they so desire, to accept the one and reject the other. I have referred to the opinions expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, and I propose now to direct the attention of the House to remarks make by his first lieutenant, the honorable member for West Sydney. On 10th September, the honorable .member said, as reported in Hansard, page 3335-
To that arrangement there are two objections, both of which, I think, are fatal. One is that the payment is too high and the other is that the arrangement itself is to be permanent.
Apparently, the honorable member forgot that, on 1 2th August, he had stated in this House, as reported in Hansard, page 2430-
Whatever may be the shortcomings of the Brisbane (Labour Conference) scheme it had at least the merit of practicability. It was not merely a temporary expedient for the next year or two, but a settlement for all time. ‘
I will leave the honorable member to explain that political somersault, which took place within a month, and I am quite willing that he should try, if he can, to wriggle out of his statements. I wish now to quote the views expressed by Mr. Bath, Leader of the Labour party in Western Australia, and a representative of that State at the Premiers’ and Treasurers’ Conference, held in Melbourne, on 9th October, 1906. At that Conference, Mr. Bath moved -
That the Braddon clause be continued in perpetuity in conjunction with the bookkeeping system.
He said -
All we desire is a continuation of the Braddon section - the return of three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to the States.
That was a plain unequivocal statement. Later on, Mr. Bath said -
When moving the motion for the perpetuation of the Braddon clause my desire was to obtain the opinion of the people on one direct issue. …. I want to see the question of the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth placed before the people free from any other conflicting issue.
That is exactly what the Government propose to do. At the Premiers’ and Treasurers’ Melbourne Conference of 1906, amongst the members of which were the Leader of the Labour party of New South Wales, Mr. McGowen, M.L.A., the Leader of the Labour party in Victoria, Mr. Prendergast, M.L.A., and the Leader of the Labour party in Western Australia, to whom I have just referred1, it was unanimously resolved that the the Braddon section, with some slight but immaterial alterations, should be continued till 1920, and thereafter until the Constitution was amended, as provided by. section 128. We make the same proposal, so far as the question of permanency is concerned. That Conference decided that the Braddon section should be continued until 1920, and that no alteration in regard to the amount to be returned to the States should be made thereafter, save with the consent of the people. I have thus shown that the proposal to place this agreement in the Constitution is no new idea, but has been advocated and supported by most of the public men of Australia, including leaders of the Labour party. I have already stated that the honorable member for Wide Bay, and some of his colleagues, have tried to wriggle out of the Brisbane Labour Conference proposals; and I ask them whether they do not regard those proposals or decisions binding on themselves and the party ?
– Certainly not.
– Will they not bind the Labour party in the next Parliament ?
– That is another matter.
– That reply is a subterfuge. If the proposals are not binding, I do not see that they are of much use. However, I gather from the honorable member for Gwydir that, while he does not regard these decisions as binding on him now, they will be binding on bini in a few months, if he is returned again.
– I shall have the privilege of saying whether I agree with them.
– But I understand the decisions are binding on the next’ Parliament?
– They may be - on those who agree with them.
– The honorable member will agree to the proposals right enough ! Fortunately, we are not limited to the views of honorable members in this House as to the meaning of the financial proposals at the Brisbane Labour Conference. A large number of representatives of the Labour party attended; but I shall quote only two, who are, personally, unknown to me, but both of whom are members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. The first I shall quote is Mr. Nielsen, and from his speech I gather that he was -a member of the Conference; at any rate, he appears to speak with full knowledge.
– Mr. Nielsen was not at the Conference.
– At any rate, he is a member of the Labour party, and a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales; and on 23rd July, 1908, immediately after the Conference, when discussing the Address-in-Reply, he said -
When that scheme was put forward at the Brisbane Conference as a means of settling a difficult problem the Colonial Treasurer (New South Wales) said that the scheme was much better than Sir William Lyne’s scheme, because it proposed to hand back to the State, for all time, a fixed allowance per capita on the basis that the larger the population of the State the more would be returned to it from the Federal revenue. Sir William Lyne’s scheme was one I could not agree with, as it did not provide for the expanding interests of the State but for the expanding interests of the Commonwealth …. the principles laid down in the financial proposals by the Brisbane Labour Conference are such as must commend themselves to every one who is prepared to be, at any rate, slightly fair to the Federal Government. Our proposals are to bring back to the State something equal to £1 2s. 4d. per head, including is. 2d. foi Western Australia, 01 £1 3s. 6d. in all. . . . There is no getting away from the fact that when this scheme is adopted by the Federation, when the Premier gets from the Federal Government, if he can, a scheme similar to ours, the public will always know that the Labour party are the people who first put forward that idea in black and white.
The other gentleman, who, I have no doubt, is known to honorable members opposite, is Mr. Dacey, also a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, but I do not know whether he was a member of the Conference.
– He was not.
- Mr. Dacey, on 26th July, 1908, said -
Some people say that the scheme of the Labour party is unfair to the State. Others say it is unfair to the Commonwealth. I have this to say, with regard to its being more unfair to the State than Sir William Lyne’s scheme, that at the end of eleven years we shall have reached the amount offered by Sir William Lyne to-day, when the amount returned to the State will go on increasing with the increase of population; and it is much more satisfactory to us that we should share in the increased revenue of the Commonwealth than that we should never get more than ^8,750,000 at the most.
– That is only Mr. Dacey’s idea of what the scheme meant.
– That was as Mr. Dacey understood it, and the honorable member for West Sydney has expressed similar, opinions.
– Nothing of the sort !
– These quotations, at any rate, show what Labour members thought and said.
– They were not delegates.
– Do I understand honorable members opposite to repudiate the deliberate statements of those gentlemen ?
– I do.
– Certainly. Why not quote what I said ? This is very unfair.
– I am quoting from the debates of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.
– Quote the Conference proceedings !
– It is very inconvenient for an honorable member to be interrupted by demands for quotations which, apparently, he does not desire to give. It is the inherent right of an honorable member to quote what he pleases ; and I ask honorable members to allow the Treasurer to make his speech in his own way.
– I now turn to another matter. The scheme which will be submitted in the Bill, in accordance with the resolution, has the great advantage of having been approved by the representatives of the Commonwealth and the representatives of the States, after long and careful consideration, and with the utmost goodwill on all sides. I need hardly say that, if the proposals are not accepted by this Parliament and the electors, there will .be great disappointment amongst a large number of people throughout Australia. After eight or nine years, during which the question has been discussed and re-discussed at Conference after Conference, the time has arrived for a settlement ; and there ought to be sufficient patriotism and wisdom in us to enable us to make an amicable and reasonable adjustment. What has been so long desired has, for the first time, taken place ; and it would be a great misfortune, which we ought to go a long way to avoid, if these important negotiations had to be commenced de novo. Both in the Commonwealth and the States, the people desire, and ave willing to incur, large expenditure for the purpose of developing the country and carrying out the functions of government. In the Commonwealth, large expenditure is necessary on defence, old-age pensions, the Trans- Australian Railway, and other matters ; while the States could spend millions more if they had the money on their internal development. But the Commonwealth, if it finds it necessary to spend largely on defence and in other directions within its ambit under the Constitution, should do so without depleting the revenues of the States, which are so much required for developmental and educational purposes, and thus retarding the progress of the country ; the Commonwealth ought to put its hands into the pockets of the whole of the people of Australia in order to increase the revenue as may be required. I have no sympathy, and 1 hope I never shall have, with those who ignore the importance of the necessities of the States, as if these were of no account. It would be better to have unification at once rather than impoverish the States, and thus render them incapable of carrying out their important duties. Is it not absolutely imperative, I ask honorable members, that education, railways, and means of transit, water conservation, development of the national estate, settling and making homes for the people, administering law and order, shall flourish? If we turn our eyes to our own functions, can any one say that they are more important to ‘the progress and development of Australia than the matters which are in the hands of the States? Therefore, I hold that we had better have unification than impoverish and make incapable the State authorities in carrying out their important duties. I ask honorable members, would they cripple the States? Who are the wealth producers of Australia ? Who are the working men of Australia in the Federal family? I think that the only answer is - the States. The States are the working men who are opening up this country, making it habitable, productive, and fit to live in, carrying on the progress, advancement, and development of this large territory. All these things are intrusted to the States. But if some honorable members had their way they would deplete their revenue in such a way as to make it impossible for them to carry out their functions. Some honorable members, if they had their way, would kill the “ goose which is laying the golden eggs.” They are always doing that.
– Pure balderdash.
– Order ! I ask honorable members to refrain from making these comments, some of which are not in order, during the honorable member’s speech. I remind those who have not spoken that they will have a full opportunity of discussing and criticising the measure.
– That is a little uncertain, Mr. Speaker.
– Those who hold these ideas are doing a great wrong to this country. Better far, I repeat, to have unification, which I am absolutely opposed to, than to practically strangle the wealthproducers of this country. Had the proposed agreement been in force since the establishment of Federation, the Commonwealth would have received £23,621,406 more than it has done. These figures give some idea of the enormous extra burden which will be placed upon the States by the agreement. On the other side, the immense expenditure by the Commonwealth on old-age pensions and defence will also be a very heavy burden. In the future both the Commonwealth and the States will have a much heavier burden to carry than hitherto. If this agreement should become Jaw, then, in 1910-11, the States will receive £2,373,100 less than they would have received under the Braddon section if continued. New- South Wales will lose £1,321,043; Victoria, £488,237; Queensland, £346,228; South Australia, £148,338; Western Australia, £65,443; and Tasmania, £3,811, making a total of £2,373,100. Against that, of course, honorable members are aware that New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland will be relieved of the payment of old-age pensions, which comes to nearly £1,000,000 a year. In considering this whole question we must not forget that if this arrangement should become law this House will have complete control of the proceeds of Customs and Excise duties, and can retain, not only all that we have at present, after paying the amount agreed upon to the States, but the whole of that which we may from time to time raise. Honorable members are a.ware that if it were desired at the present time to raise through the Customs the £1,200,000 that we require under ordinary circumstances for financing this year, we would have to raise four times that amount. All that will be swept away by the agreement, and, in future, whatever the requirements of the Commonwealth may be by way of taxation, through Customs and Excise, only the actual amount required will have to he raised, and the Commonwealth will be able to retain the whole of it. During this debate, Australia has been compared a good deal with other countries in regard to Customs taxation. I remind honorable members that Australia is a unique country, excepting in some regards New Zealand. New Zealand raises, and for many years has raised, by Customs and Excise duties, over £3 a head; and, so far as one can see, there is no sign of diminution.
– On- a revenue Tariff.
– I know that has been said; but I do not think so. In 1903, New Zealand raised in Customs duties £3 3S- 5d- per head ; in 1904, £3 5s. 2d.; in 1905, £3 3s. 4-d. ; in 1906, £3 7s. 2d. ; in 1907, £3 9S- 7d- i and in 1908, £3 4s. I said just now that during the debate Australia has been compared with other countries with habits, customs’, and tastes dissimilar from ours, and with different Tariffs, different standards of living, and different spending power. In my opinion - and I have taken some trouble to look into them, and will refer to some directly- - the comparisons are not of very much value. Even a comparison between parts of Australia, our own country, is very much weakened by the fact that for many years prior to Federation, New South Wales had a different Tariff from that existing in all the other States; and, therefore, the comparisons are not satisfactory. Comparisons, in order to have a value, must be based on similar conditions; otherwise, they aTe most misleading. I do not see any good ground, for taking the experience of old, thicklypopulated countries, when we have our own experience of the results of Protectionist Tariffs. In Western Australia in 1901-2, £6 17s. icl. per head was raised through the Customs. * Probably there was never a more flourishing period in the history of Australia than that enjoyed by Western Australia at that time. The estimate for the present year is £3 6s. 2d. But, although the people of Western Australia are only taxed £3 6s. 2d. per head through the Customs now, I appeal to those honorable members who know Western Australia to say whether the people are better off now than they were in the years in which they paid a very much higher rate of Customs taxation per capita. In Queensland, in 1900, the Customs taxation per capita was £3 3s. 8jd. : it is estimated that in 1909-10 the yield will be £2 13s. In New Zealand, the Customs taxation, in 1903, was £3 3s. 5d. per head; it .was £3 4s. in 1908. On’ Thursday night last, we listened to a very able and interesting speech from my honorable friend, the member for Flinders. I think it is but right that when a man holding his position in the community and in this House makes an important and carefully prepared statement, if it contains anything adverse to the case submitted by the Government, there should be some reply to it. The honorable member supplied the House with some interesting tables, from which he quoted, and I am glad to seq that they have been embodied in Hansard. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for having directed that they should be inserted, because they have been of great service to me in considering the points raised in the honorable member’s speech. The figures supplied by the honorable member to the House showed the total imports, duties, population, &c, in the German Empire, the United States of America, and the Dominion of Canada, for the last nineteen years. He dwelt at some length on the suggestiveness of the decrease of the percentage of duties on imports, of merchandise during this term of nineteen years. The column in which that information is contained shows how much £100 worth of imports yielded in Customs duties. The honorable member attempted to prove from these statistics that the gradual effect of a protective Tariff was to change the character of the imports, so that the result was that more and more free goods, or goods bearing low duties, were imported in proportion to the whole. In Germany, the percentage is shown to have been, in 1889, 5.62 per cent., rising gradually to 8,74 per cent, in 1895, then rising suddenly to 10 per cent, in 1896; and afterwards fluctuating with a downward tendency till it reached 6.39 per cent, in 1907. In the United States, and in Canada, the percentage also dropped, and it would appear from the honorable member’s argument and his figures that the effect of the Tariffs was to diminish the importation of heavily taxed articles. But if we look at the column in which we are really interested - that is, the total per capita collections from import duties - -we find that in every case the amount collected per capita has steadily increased. In the nineteen years, the amount received per capita increased in Germany to the amount of over 50 per cent. ; in America, 13 J per cent. ; and, in Canada,. 76 per cent. Expressing the figures in another way, in nineteen years the population of Germany increased by 27 per cent., whilst the import duties increased by 92 per cent. In the United States, the population increased by 40per cent., whilst the import duties increased by 50 per cent. In Canada, the population increased by 30 per cent., whilst the import duties increased by 123 per cent. This is the fact in which we are especially interested. It would appear, then, from the tables furnished by the Government Statistician to the honorable member for Flinders, and inserted in Hansard, that the effect of protective Tariffs in these three countries was largely to increase the amount of Customs collections per head, although, at the same time, the imports, as a whole, yielded a less rate of duty. I cannot follow the honorable member for Flinders when he stated that in all cases - I quote his exact words - in which a mild system of Protection has been adopted the invariable tendency is to show a perpetual falling in the amount of revenue per head which is yielded by the Tariff.
Let me give some figures for the nineteen years covered by the honorable member’s statistics. In Germany, from 1889 to 1907, the population increased by 27 per cent. ; the import duties increased by 92 per cent. ; and the import dutiesper capita increased from 6s. 5d. to 9s. 8d. In the United States during the same period of nineteen years, the population increased by 40 per cent. ; the import duties increased by 50 per cent. ; whilst the import duties per capita increased from 14s. 2d. to 16s.1d. In Canada, during the same nineteen years, the population increased by 30 per cent. ; the import duties increased bv 123 per cent.; whilst the import duties per capita increased from 20s.1d. to 35s. 5d. In New Zealand, for the same period, the population increased by 50 per cent. ; the import duties increased by no per cent. ; and the import duties per capita increased from 48s. to 67s.
– If the right honorable member takes the figures for a further period, he will find that they show a decrease.
– I cannot look into the future. I have taken the very years chosen by the honorable member for Flinders, and from his own figures I think I have proved that his argument was not borne out by his statistics. His statement, as I listened to it, was one that affected me very much. It was evidently made with great deliberation. The honorable member attempted to prove that in all cases in which a mild system of Protection has been adopted, the invariable tendency is to show a perpetual falling in the amount of revenue per head which is yielded by the Tariff.
– ButI do not think that the honorable member for Flinders took the limited period with which the right honorable gentleman has dealt.
– The honorable member took the exact period with which I have dealt. It seems to me, however, that instead of proving his case, his figures prove the opposite. His tables show, I think, that although the population in the countries mentioned by him has increased, the import duties and the import duties per capita have increased at a much greater rate. I wish, also, to refer to the speech made last week by the honorable member for Parkes. I quote him the more readily because I know that he is a man of independent thought, who invariably expresses fearlessly the views at which he arrives. I am glad to tell the honorable member that. I am absolutely in accord with every word I propose to quote from his speech. He said -
I am quite sure that nobody ever thought for a moment that in limiting the Braddon clause for ten years it was intended 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 limited 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 the Parliament and the people to acquire experience with regard to the financial relations of the States and Commonwealth. It was always expected and expressed by all the leading thinkers upon Commonwealth questions that when the ten years’ period came to an end, instead of the Braddon section being allowed to expire altogether, some steps would be taken to substitute another ar. rangement 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.
This is the exact state of the matter, and justifies the action of the Government in asking for support for this agreement. The Prime Minister has placed the whole matter in connexion with the agreement before honorable members, and has dealt with almost every aspect of it. It is unnecessary for me to repeat what the honorable gentleman has said. Imay, however, say that we have in this matter a higher duty than that dictated by selfinterest, and that is to be fair and honest. Every one is aware that the States entered the Federation in good faith. They transferred to the Commonwealth their great engine of financial safety, namely, taxation through Customs and Excise. They trusted the whole people of Australia. They knew that at the time they had a burden of £7,000,000, which had to be paid annually as interest on their public debts. The amount has since been increased to £9,000,000 per annum. In spite of that fact, there was a feeling in the Convention that the Federation was necessary, and that we might trust the people in the future. This Government and those who support them do trust the people; and if we have an opportunity we shall ask the people to approve of what we propose to do. We shall ask them for their approval at the next general election. We shall appeal to them with confidence, knowing that we are proposing what is fair and just to all. The main objection to the agreement, so far as I have been able to gather, seems to be to the provision for embodying its terms in the Constitution. If the agreement did not contain such a provision, it would perhaps be too much to expect that honorable members opposite would have supported it; but, ,at any rate, the arguments they have used against the proposal would to a large extent have been cut from under them. I think that a great deal too much has been made of this provision. The agreement says, nothing about “ all time” or permanency. The proposal is merely that the terms of the agreement shall be embodied in the Constitution by the people of Australia. It is proposed that the people shall place them there just as they have done in the case of all its existing provisions. Though, for my own part, I have no doubt that for many years there will be no desire to alter this agreement, because I hope and believe we shall be able to work out our destiny under it, still, if times of difficulty and disaster should come upon us, the same power which embodied this agreement in the Constitution can if it pleases put something else in its place. That will be a matter for the consideration of the Parliament and people of the day. The object of placing the agreement in the Constitution is to give stability to the proposed arrangement, so that a chance Parliamentary ma jority shall not be able to alter it, and that the people alone shall be entitled to do so by a direct referendum. If I remember rightly, the Prime Minister dealt with this matter fully. Let us imagine this financial question between the Commonwealth and States being open for discussion on every platform at every general election, and made the sport of contending parties, not’ only at elections, but in this House. What a perennial source of dissension and difficulty it would be. The Tariff is supposed to constitute a perennial source of division between parties. It has been said that if it were removed we should have no room for differences of opinion. We must have something on which to fight on all and every occasion, and the Tariff supplies such an object. So it would be with this agreement if it were not embodied in the Constitution. The amount to be given to the States would be a subject for discussion at every general election, and by contending parties in this House. Will any one say that that is a prospect which we could look forward to with any degree of equanimity or satisfaction? We should avoid such a thing by every reasonable means. I believe that every honorable member in this House is agreed that the States should not be at the mercy of any political party. The only way in which we can prevent that is to embody the agreement in the Constitution, and so place it beyond the reach of contending political parties. In support of the view that it is wise and necessary to embody the terms of the agreement in the Constitution, and so place it to some extent, at any rate, beyond the interference of political parties, I am in a position to quote from the honorable member for Flinders, who, when Premier of Victoria, at n Conference held in Melbourne on the nth February, 1904, expressed himself substantially as I am doing now. There had been a Treasurers’ Conference, and after the Treasurers had met in conclave, there was a meeting of the members of the Conference, which the Prime Minister and myself were invited to attend. On this very question as to what, was to be the ararrangement after the Braddon section became alterable at the end of 19 10, the honorable gentleman said : -
The position which was taken up by most of the Treasurers in ‘Conference was that first of all it was absolutely essential to any provision for taking over the State debts that there should be a continuation of the protection of the Braddon clause. . . . We emphasized in the strongest way that without that amendment of the Constitution, not only would it be quite impossible te enter into any discussion of the proposal for taking over the States debts. but that the whole of the finances of the States must, in the future, be entirely dependent, not merely upon the Commonwealth, but on a chance majority in the Commonwealth Parliament, at any time, quite uncontrolled by the ordinary safeguards that attach to the expenditure of public money in Constitutionallygoverned countries. This is not distrust of the Federal Parliament or of the Federal Government, but an absolute distrust and apprehension of that state of affairs which enables a central parliamentary body to spend, or places it in the position and in the temptation of being able to spend, large sums of money entirely free from the restrictions without which Parliamentary government, so far as finance is concerned, becomes a snare and a delusion. That is the view -which we hold, and we hold it in the strongest way. . . . My views in connexion with it were entirely indorsed at the recent Premiers’ Conference, and I believe that every State Treasurer present at this Conference feels as strongly upon this point as I do. I have no doubt that the position has only to become known to the people of the Commonwealth to have it imperatively insisted upon that some such protection shall be assured in order to maintain the relations arising out of Federation.
Could anything be stronger, or more clearly and forcibly expressed, than those deliberate statements of the honorable member for Flinders when he was Premier of Victoria? I am completely in accord with those views, which leave the ultimate decision .in the hands of- the people of Australia. The honorable member for Mernda approves of the agreement, except that he thinks it should be limited to thirty years. The honorable member for Flinders also approves of the agreement, but thinks it should be limited to twenty or thirty years. I think that a limit of thirty years, which, of course, would be a fixed period, and the proviso that afterwards the matter may be dealt with as Parliament might determine, is much more inflexible than the power of the people, in the manner prescribed by the. Constitution, to amend the law. If the only alternative to the scheme is that we should place in the Constitution a fixed term a long way ahead, when probably none of us would be here-
– Why tie it up for posterity ?
– I think posterity at that time will be able to look after itself. Being of a practical disposition, I think that if we legislate in a way that will last thirty years, we may safely trust the people to do what is right after that long time ahead. I am prepared to do “so. The placing of the agreement in the Constitution means that it is permanent until the people alter it. It is a people’s Constitution. We know very well that the people approved of what the Premiers did. They adopted the Constitution, not in accordance with the views of the Convention which they elected, and which framed it, but as materially altered by the Premiers’ Conference.
– What percentage of the people understood it?
– I do not know “ why the honorable member should ask that. The people have treated him very well, and he should not disparage them. I see no cause for any of us to disparage the votes of the people who have placed us ‘ here. The Constitution is a people’s Constitution, The people make and the people unmake. We, the Parliament, are here to carry out the will of the people. I must now refer shortly to some of the remarks of the honorable member for Mernda. He knows that we have never altogether agreed with regard to this matter. Probably it was because, if I may say so, with the greatest respect, the honorable member, with his knowledge, gained from experience in finance, in framing his scheme, found himself hampered by the terms of the Constitution. In framing his scheme he has not adhered to the Constitution, and the Constitution would require, to be altered in a good many particulars if the scheme which he has propounded were to be agreed to. Although I say this, I still feel grateful to the honorable member for the great trouble he has taken, and I think that we all owe him a debt for what he has done in the matter, not only now, but for several years past. In my scheme in 1906 I desired to adhere to the Constitution, and to carry out my proposals subject to its provisions; but the honorable member for Mernda has all along departed from the terms of the Constitution. I do not blame him. I believe he thinks that he knows better than the Constitution, and that the power which can alter the Constitution in one particular can alter it in others to meet his case. Although I thank him for the general support which he has given to the provisions of the agreement, I cannot follow him when he says that so soon as the L1 5&. per head reaches the amount of the interest on the debts, the States should cease to receive any further contribution from the Commonwealth. I would point out that there is nothing, and never has been anything, in the Constitution, or in the minds of those who framed the Constitution, which makes the Commonwealth responsible to the States for the payment of their debts. On the other hand, it is clearly stated in section 105 of the Constitution that every State shall be responsible for its own debts, and that if the Commonwealth took over the management,’ it was to be indemnified by the States against any loss or deficiency caused thereby.
– Does the right honorable member say that it was never contemplated that the Commonwealth should take over the debts?
– Of course I do not say so, for it is plainly stated in section 105 of the Constitution that it may do so. Honorable members will see that under that section it is not compulsory that the Commonwealth should do so, but it is empowered to do so.
– Ninety per cent, of those who voted in favour of Federation were under the impression that the Commonwealth would take over those debts.
– And for six years we were constantly charged with having failed in our duty by having neglected to take them over.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that I have always been in favour of the Commonwealth taking over the £202,000,000 worth of debts which we are authorized to take over by the Constitution.
– Then we are authorized to take over some of the State debts?
– Yes. We are authorized to take over the debts which existed at the time Federation was established, which amounted to about £200,000,000. But there is nothing in our Constitution which makes the Commonwealth .responsible to the Stai.es for their debts. When Federation was established it was clearly understood that each State was liable for its own debts - and that if the Commonwealth took over the management of them it was to be indemnified by the States against any loss or deficiency in respect of the debts taken over and interest payable upon them. Let us assume that the Commonwealth paid off the State debts. In that case the States would have to indemnify the Commonwealth for every penny paid on their behalf, and, therefore, I can see no reason for discontinuing the payment of the proposed subsidy to the States on that account. I wish to make it clear to the honorable member for Mernda that it is not proposed to return to the States a per capita contribution of 25s. annually merely because the States have to pay interest upon their public debts, because, under section 105 of the Constitution, they have to indemnify the Commonwealth in full on that account. We propose to return that sum to them annually as their fair share of the Customs and Excise revenue in lieu of the £1 18S1. 6d. per head which represents the average payment to them during the past three years. The fact that the money thus returned is applied by the States to the payment of interest “on their debts dees not diminish their liability to the Commonwealth. In considering this question, the obligations of both States and Commonwealth must be fairly weighed. We are not a Unification, arranging to divide the Commonwealth into States, with full power to give or withhold just what revenue we may choose. We are a Federation, and have been intrusted by the people with the duty of acting fairly, and even generously, to the States. I hope that honorable members will not forget who brought the Commonwealth into existence, and who gave us our Constitution. It was the people of the States. They trusted us’, and I hope we shall not be unmindful of the trust which they have reposed in us. I should like to .point out that- the draft Constitution Bill under which the Braddon clause would have been permanent, was carried at the first referendum, cn 3rd June, 1898, by a majority in the four States in which that referendum was held. I wish to emphasize that circumstance with a view to showing that the people of Australia were willing to permanently return to the States three-fourths of the Commonwealth Customs and Excise revenue. In New South Wales the majority in favour of the Bill was a small one.
– What would have been the result if the Braddon section of our Constitution had been, made permanent?
– That is not the point which I am making. The referendum taken on 3rd June, 1898, on the draft Constitution Bill, under which the Braddon provision was permanent, resulted in a majority for Federation, which amounted to only a few thousand in New South Wales. In Victoria, five electors to one voted in favour of that measure ; in South Australia, there was a majority of two to one; whilst in Tasmania the majority was five to one. No referendum was taken at that time in Queensland or Western Australia. The fact that the operation of the Braddon section was after- wards limited to ten years - a step which I am glad was taken - does not imply that the decision arrived at by the Federal Convention meant nothing. Nobody can argue that. The Premiers’ Conference did not lay hands upon that decision j and if the members of that Conference had regarded it as a wrong one, they would, undoubtedly, have done so. They merely limited its operation to ten years, being content, subsequently, to trust the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Surely their action must not be interpreted as meaning nothing ?
– It does not mean that we should embody a new financial scheme in the Constitution.
– It means that a fair and equitable arrangement shall be devised-
– By this Parliament.
– Yes; and afterwards approved by the people.
– That is a matter of opinion. My own opinion - is that any scheme which may be devised, should be’ of as permanent a character as is the Constitution itself. . Apparently, the honorable member thinks that we should have a scheme which may be altered by a chance vote of Parliament from time to time. Had it been thought for a moment that after the expiration of ten years, the amount annually returnable to the States would be fixed by this Parliament every three ‘ years, I am sure that Federation would never have been accomplished. After all, where are the Federalists in this House? Where are those who framed the Constitution and who fought for its adoption””? Are they upon the other side of the House, or are they upon the Government side?
– The Nationalists a.re on this side of the Chamber.
– And the State Righters are on the other side.
– The friends of Federation, and those who were responsible for its accomplishment, are to be found upon the Government side of the House.
– Why did the Treasurer fight for it ?
– Unfortunately, in every community a section is to be found whose members can never credit others with being influenced by patriotic motives, but who are always prone to look a gift horse in. the mouth. If those who voted and fought for Federation are now to have their motives impugned, I have nothing to say. As everybody knows, the Federal Convention in 1898 proposed that the Commonwealth should return to the States three-fourths of its Customs and Excise revenue, whereas the proposed agreement contemplates the return to them of 25s. per head, which, for 1910-11, it is estimated would represent £2,373,100 less than the three- fourths. In ten years, the reduction in the payments to the States under the proposed agreement would be £2,642,213 less than the three-fourths. Yet this immense diminution in the amount returnable to the States, which has been agreed to by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, is opposed by honorable members opposite. I do not think that anything proposed by us would satisfy them. I think, therefore, that it would be useless to try to please them. I am glad, however, that during the last week or two honorable members opposite seem to have evinced a better feeling in dealing with this question. They do not seem now to be so hostile to the States as they were last session, and even during the early part of the present session. Nothing has given me more pain or shocked me so much in the course of my political life as the spirit almost of repudiation evinced by honorable members opposite. We hear them speak of “our revenue,” “our interests,” and “ our rights,” as if they were unmindful of the conditions under which Federation was established. Any one would think, listening to the remarks of some honorable members, that the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue belonged to the Commonwealth, and that the States had no right to a share of it. I join issue with those who hold that view. Up to the present time, three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue has been returnable to the States, and, for the future,, some arrangement which will be fair to both parties must be arrived at. This matter should not be decided solely on the basis of the obligations of the Commonwealth. We should do what is fair to both, as intended by the Constitution. As to the future, both the Commonwealth and States must work out their own advancement, and the Commonwealth being the stronger, I have no doubt that its task will prove the easier. With the weight of
Defence cast upon us in a manner that has never before been experienced, with an annual expenditure of £2,000,000 on oldage pensions, which we have not had to provide for hitherto, the Government have a great burden to shoulder in carrying on the affairs of the Commonwealth. But the burdens of the States are also enlarging every day. New avenues of expenditure - new railways, roads and bridges, waterworks and .harbors - have to be provided for by them, and, unless we approach this question with a sense of the obligations resting upon both the Commonwealth and the States, we are not likely to do right. Unlike some honorable members, I have no fears for the future. I am not in the habit of being afraid of what my judgment tells me I ought to do. I am not always looking backward and afraid to go forward. The past is useful only as a guide to the future, and if we are to be hampered by fears of our own imagining, we are not likely to succeed.
– We are to rush blindly onward ?
– Some people are always afraid. If it should be found in the future that this agreement works out disadvantageous^ to the Commonwealth or to the States, the people will have to be appealed to, ‘and their mandate obtained. I believe, however, with the honorable member for Mernda, that the day when such an appeal will have to be made is a long way off. We must ‘not forget. that the taxpayers of the Commonwealth and the States are the same, and that the revenue is expended in the interests of the same people. The States and the Commonwealth Governments are like two managers of one establishment, each carrying out different duties. The Commonwealth has received as its share from Customs and Excise duties, during the past three years, an annual average of 12s. 2d. per head of population, and if this agreement had been in force, its share per head would have been more than doubled. If the proposed agreement had been in force since Federation, the Commonwealth would have received £23,621,^06 more than it has received. This would have been an enormous sum for the States to relinquish. The agreement means a reduction in the amount returned to the States during the year 1910-11 of £2,373, too. To those who say that we are proposing to give too large a sum to the States - and I certainly do not agree with that idea - I would reply that we shall be giving it to the people whose representatives we are. We are not proposing to sink it in the sea, or to give it to strangers. We are not going to use it to assist the people of other nations. We are simply proposing to give it to those whose agents we are, and whose interests we are here to safeguard. We are now approaching the second decade of the Commonwealth’s existence, or what I may describe as the second epoch in our Federal destiny. If we can enter upon it, as I believe we shall - and as our proposals will insure- with separate and independent financial arrangements, amicably and unanimously agreed to; with power to take over the whole of the State debts; with our industrial legislation placed on a sound Federal # basis ; with the trans- Australian railways connecting east and west and north and south agreed to; with military and naval defence placed on a firm basis, the Commonwealth acting in concert and in unity with the Mother Country; with the Federal Seat of Government decided upon ; with old-age and invalid pensions firmly established ; and last, but not least, in friendship and goodwill with the Governments and Parliaments of the States, and with our kinsmen in the Old Land, we shall indeed have cause to rejoice. If these attainments herald our entry into the second epoch of our Federal life, as I believe they will, we shall have ca.use to congratulate ourselves, ‘and we shall know that our labours have not been in vain. Our Constitution was brought into existence by the people, and it cannot be altered except with the consent of the people. I hope that honorable members will take a broad view of this question, and that they will approve of the proposals of the Government. I personally feel a special responsibility in urging the acceptance of what I consider a fair and reasonable arrangement to all concerned. I cannot but rememmber that I was, to some extent, responsible for my own State entering the Federation, and that I have a strong moral obligation to see that its interests, and the interests of the Commonwealth and the States generally, are protected and safeguarded. In conclusion, I reiterate that we have no fear of the result of our proposals, for we believe that we have justice on our side. Our electors are also the State electors, and we shall appeal to them, feeling sure that they will do what is best, and also what is just and right.
.- The Treasurer undertook to reply to speeches which have been delivered on the proposed agreement, particularly the speeches of the honorable member foi Mernda, the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Parkes; but it will be admitted that any one of these gentlemen is as well qualified as, or, perhaps, better qualified, than the gentleman who happens to be Treasurer of the Commonwealth for the time being, to form a correct opinion on this question. I must take exception to the contention of the Treasurer, reiterated time after time, that every honorable member who is courageous enough to differ from the proposals submitted by the Government is an enemy of the States. I worked as hard in my way as the Treasurer did in his. to bring about Federation; and I refuse to be classed as an enemy of the States. I recognise, what the honorable gentleman fails to recognise, that we can be a friend of the States in another way than by permitting them to continue squandering the revenues of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth ; and no honorable member knows better than the Treasurer what has taken place in this connexion. No one knows better than the honorable gentleman what was in the mind of the people when Federation was accomplished. It was said that there Avas to be retrenchment in expenditure and reduced taxation by the States; but, instead, both expenditure and taxation have been increased. The public debt of the Commonwealth has been increased by, practically, £50,000,000 during the last ten years.
– That does” not apply to every State.
Mil. CHANTER.- Later on, I shall show that it does apply to every State, and figures will prove that I am correct. How was this agreement born?’ What brought it into life? Were the people trusted ? Were the representatives of the people trusted when the Premiers came to demand that a Conference should be held and the financial question considered? I cannot say that it was sought to have the question fairly considered, because, if the people were to be trusted, as they should be, what necessity was there for the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Minister of Defence to meet the Premiers in conference, from which the press and the public were excluded? What necessity was there for the doors of the Conference chamber to be guarded by police, and for even the blotting pads to be burnt, in case some of the secrets of tlie proceedings should be disclosed? If ever the people had a right to be trusted, it was when these great financial questions were being considered. The people had a right, on the platform, and through the press, to set forth their ideas as to the future financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States ; but from that time until now - in neither the speech of the Prime Minister nor of the Treasurer - has any explanation been given to this House of the arguments which were used in order to bring about the agreement. Surely we are entitled to know what took place at that Conference? While again denying that I am in any way antagonistic to the real welfare of the States, I have to say that I have no sympathy with this agreement, which means more than appears on its face - something can be read into that agreement that is not printed thereon. It is not a financial agreement, strictly speaking, but a political agreement, by which tins Government, who desire to drag their party at their heels, undertake to join hands and forces with the Premiers of the States at the next election, in order, if possible, to deprive the Opposition of any opportunity of taking part in the government of the country. A more unholy agreement was never made.
– Exactly; it never was made 1
– I am glad to have a disclaimer from the Prime Minister; but similar statements have been made in the press, - without any attempt at refutation until this moment.
– It is too ridiculous !
– Actions speak louder than words.
– I hope so.
– In the first place, what was the object of the secrecy? In the second place, what are the facts ? All the organizations which support the Premiers in their demands, and which support the present Government, are now banded together, and straining every effort to bring about the continuance in power of the present Government and the adoption of this agreement.
– The President of the Women’s National League said so yesterday in her address,
– Yes; and the statement has been repeated. I have travelled a little through the country, and I have seen the organizers at work; and the statement is made, particularly by the country press,- that the proposed agreement is in the interests of the Fusion Government and their followers. In view of the fact that the Conference was held in absolute secrecy, and that these organizations are at work, what conclusion can the people of Australia come to other than that the agreement is intended to, at all hazards, keep the present Government and their supporters in power? The Treasurer repeatedly tried to show that the Commonwealth would suffer no loss, but that the States were going to suffer a terrible loss. Under the agreement New South Wales would receive considerably more from Customs and Excise than it did prior to Federation. Whether it is so intended or not, the agreement must surely have the effect of depriving the people of the Commonwealth of that protective policy which they so earnestly sought when they brought about Federation, and which they thought, and rightly thought, would do more’ to develop our resources than would any other force that could possibly be introduced. It is useless in my opinion for the Treasurer to argue, as he did to-day, on the lines laid down by the honorable member for Flinders, or any other honorable member, that we can have an effective protective policy and also a large revenue from Customs and Excise. We can have a large revenue from Excise, but not from Customs. If we are to have a large revenue from import duties, we must have decreased protection. Only a very simple illustration is needed to prove that. What is the effect of a protective duty ? It is to induce some person to manufacture an article which is imported, and the local manufacture of an article means one article less on which Customs duty can. be collected. As the honorable member for Flinders very properly pointed out, the effect of protective duties is to change the character of the articles imported. Take the history of any nation which has a protective policy. I find that in such countries the revenue per capita has steadily decreased ; and if the same principle applies to a protective tariff in Australia, in the not distant future it will not have sufficient revenue from, that source to pay 25s. per capita and meet its necessary expenditure. Before I quote some figures, I desire to reply to a few statements made by the Treasurer regarding what was in the minds of the people when they were asked to accept the Constitution Bill. It is quite true, as interjected here to-day, that at that time not 5 per cent, of the people of the Colonies had studied the financial question. I went through the campaign. I occupied the same platform as the honorable member for Parkes on many occasions; but, so far as my recollection serves me, not once did he or any other gentleman deal with what was afterwards termed the Braddon Blot and is now called the Braddon Blessing. The first appeal to the people to accept the Bill was made on other grounds altogether. But one point which was laid before them more than any other was the great advantage which would accrue to them from a policy of Inter-State Free Trade with Protection against the world, and also from the transfer and consolidation of the State debts, which it was estimated would lead to the saving of a million a year. These were practically the only two considerations which engaged the minds of the people of New South” Wales at that time. Of course I will not pretend to speak about the feeling in the other Colonies. The first statement which was heard about the Braddon provision was after another secret Conference of the Premiers. It is history, and not to the credit of New South Wales, that it broke the agreement solemnly made by the Premiers to submit the Constitution Bill to the people with a provision for a minimum affirmative vote of 50,000. That promise was deliberately broken by one Colony out of the six, the minimum affirmative vote being increased to 80,000. It is also a matter of history that at the first referendum, although the original minimum vote of 50,000 was reached, the increased vote was not reached, and the Bill had to remain in abeyance for the time being. Next came the second stage of the Bill, and then for the first time in the history of this great movement the people heard about the Braddon clause. They heard about it from a member of the Conference, who came back to Sydney and described it in very lurid language as a very great blot and one which he would not recommend the people of New South Wales to accept unless it was altered or modified. I think I am correct in saying that that gentleman - I refer to the honorable member for East Sydney - was the convener of the second Conference of Premiers at which this question was discussed. The people of Australia as a whole were so anxious to create a Commonwealth that their representatives were prepared to meet him, and then new demands were made. The honorable gentleman said he would only recommend the people of New South Wales to enter the Union if the Premiers would agree to limit the operation of the Braddon clause to ten years, and to deprive every other Colony of the opportunity of having the Federal Capital established within’ its territory. These two alterations were made, and the people of New South Wales were so annoyed at the action of the honorable gentleman that he, for a time, at least, had the greatest difficulty in getting a hear, ing on any platform in Sydney. I honestly believe that nine-tenths of the electors of New South Wales who voted for the acceptance of the Constitution took the view that the financial problem was too difficult a one for the elected representatives of the people in the Convention to solve, and therefore they said “ The limitation of this provision for a period of ten years will give the Commonwealth Parliament an opportunity of gaining by experience a knowledge of the real necessities of the States and of the Commonwealth.” The people did not provide in the Constitution that there should be a secret Conference, but they did’ deliberately provide that the Customs and Excise revenue should be distributed in the manner set forth until this Parliament otherwise provided. That is to say, they provided that this Parliament should continue the arrangement or alter it, as might be expedient. No intimation was given that the matter was to be .referred back to the States at the end of ten years. It was to be settled solely by the Federal authority. It was considered that this Parliament, at the end of fen years, would have sufficient experience to know how much of the Customs and Excise revenue was’ required for the service of the people in their Federal capacity, and how much in their State capacity. Those facts are beyond refutation. The Treasurer has talked about a referendum ; but he knows perfectly well that if the alteration in the Constitution now proposed were made, it would be exceedingly difficult to get the provision out of the Constitution again. I should not have a word to say if we could submit this matter to the people, and abide by the vote of the majority ; because I trust the people. But the referendum to which this matter would be submitted is of a different character. A majority of the States, al though their electors may form a minority of the people, can hereafter refuse to permit any alteration of the Constitution. Is that majority representation?
– Is there not likely to be a movement of population in the States?
– The tendency is for the population of the most largely populated State to increase. A claim has been made for Western Australia. I have no word to say against that State. T have ns kindly a feeling for Western Australia as has any honorable member. But I am persuaded that once the mining strength of that State goes, she cannot hope to sustain a very large population. The same condition does not apply to Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and perhaps South Australia. These, in my opinion, will be the centres of population in Australia for all time. We have to look at this referendum proposal from two points of view - from a national point of view and from a States point of view. Many an elector votes for a certain candidate because he wants a bridge to be constructed, or a little culvert to be made. Such a man would be regardless of national requirements. That is the trouble with which we should be faced. Such considerations have influenced many elections in the past, and that fact warns me of the difficulty there will be of getting this agreement out of the Constitution once we permit it to be inserted. No one will deny that when Federation was advocated in Australia, . it had to be admitted that the result would be to increase expenditure in certain directions. But the people were told that that increase could be counterbalanced by decreasing the expenditure of the States. What has happened, however? The expenditure of the States of Australia in 1899-1900 - that is before Federation - was £28,538,182. Instead of there having been a reduction, we find that the expenditure of the States increased to £32,970,817 in 1907-8.
– There have been good reasons for the increase in many instances.
– Perhaps the honorable member will show, in his speech, what those reasons are. The only material reductions made by the States have been in regard to the salaries of (he Governors. Before Federation, these salaries amounted, in the aggregate, to £31,017. They have been reduced to £29,252. But the expenditure in every other Department has gone up. Take the expenditure on the
Parliaments of the States. The advocates of Federation told the people from the platform that expenditure in this connexion would undoubtedly be decreased. But such has not been the case. There is not a Parliament in the Commonwealth that has not increased expenditure in connexion with itself.
– The number of members in South Australia was reduced by one-third.
– What about the reduction in the number of members in Victoria ?
– Does the honorable member think for a moment that a small reduction in the number of members of Parliament, and the saving of their salaries, has made any material reduction in the cost of the State Parliaments? The amounts thus saved have been a mere drop in the bucket. Although the expenditure of the States on their Parliaments has been increased, we are now being urged to establish a Federal Capital, which will involve the erection of new Parliamentary buildings. Large sums of money are also proposed to be expended, and have been expended, in connexion with buildings for the State Parliaments. I was present at the laying of the foundation-stone of the New South Wales Parliament House, and I remember it was stated that the superstructure would cost more money than has been expended on the building in which we are assembled at the present time. That was in accordance with the policy of extravagance which has been fostered by the State Parliaments. It was in the mind of the people when they were taking action to establish the Commonwealth Parliament that this extravagant expenditure should be put an end to. From the same statistics I quote the increased expenditure in the different States, excluding the figures with respect to loan redemption and the railway services. The expenditure in New South Wales has been increased per annum by. £1,504,072, and in Victoria by £756,899.
– What have been the increases of revenue?
– I. propose to deal with one matter at a time. I have been told by interjection that the expenditure in Queensland and in South Australia has been reduced, and, if so, our statistics are incorrect. The increases in the other States were - Queensland, £255,309 ; South Australia, £318,740; Western Australia, £73°>499 > Tasmania, £58,930.
– These figures are valueless without the particulars.
– They are valueless without the corresponding revenue figures.
– Honorable members may think so, but let me give the figures for all the States for the years 1899-1900 and 1907-8. In the first year quoted, the interest on the public debts amounted to £7,261,287, and in 1907-8 to £8,665,062 ; sinking funds and redemption from revenue, £607,463 in 1899-1900, and £1,894,306 in 1907-8. Railways and trams, £6,610,025 in 1899-1900, and £9,144,217 in 1907-8. Public works and buildings, £1,751,848 in 1899-1900, and £1,827,129 in 1907-8: Lands and survey, £649,822 in 1899-1900, and £864,340 in 1907-8. Mines, £278,250 in 1899-1900, and £372,996 in 1907-8. Police, £1,058,823 in 1899-1900, and £1,215,621 in 1907-8. Education, £2,044,008 in 1899-1900, and £2,641,548 in 1907-8. The honorable member for Fawkner will see that comparatively little of the total increased expenditure by the States is due to the expenditure upon education. Medical, lunacy, and health expenditure amounted to £490,655 in 1899-1900, and to £645,199 in 1907-8; Governors to £37,071 in 1899-1900, and £29,250 in 1907-8. I repeat that this is the only item that shows a reduction in State expenditure. Parliaments cost £238,287 in 1899-1900, and £265,810 in 1907-8. There is an increase of about £30,000 in connexion with the State Parliaments, although prior to Federation the people were invited to believe that it would lead to a reduction of the expenditure under this head.
– Does the honorable member object to the increased expenditure in connexion with any of the other items ?
– I do, and I shall refer to them later on. The expenditure in connexion with the Agents-General of the various States was £25,958 in 1899-1900, and, although it was understood that Federation would lead to the appointment of a High Commissioner to represent the whole of Australia, and would thus do away with the necessity for separate Agents-General to represent the States, there has been an increase in the expenditure to £36,200.
– Why did Ave not appoint a High Commissioner?
– We did not do our duty in the matter. The people intrusted the Federal Parliament with the duty of saving them needless expenditure in connexion with the appointment of separate Agents-General for each of the States, but we have failed to perform that duty, and the State Governments have increased their expenditure under this head by nearly £11,000.
– The increase has been on the commercial side, and has paid handsomely.
– As I have not been a member of a State Parliament since the establishment of the Federation, I do not know whether the increase has beenon the commercial side or not. At this stage I merely mention the fact that, although in connexion with this matter the people were promised that Federation would result in decreased expenditure, the expenditure of the States has increased. We have heard a good deal about what is due to the States and to the Commonwealth; but if the people were led to believe anything at the time Federation was established, it was that the Commonwealth Parliament would receive and retain one-fourth of the revenue from Customs and Excise. That was the honest belief of the people right through, but a great many of the people are not yet sufficiently informed as to what did take place. Again we failed in our duty, because we did not keep the one-fourth that we were entitled to. Had we retained it from the initiation of Federation, it would not have been necessary for the Treasurer to ask the House, as he did a little while ago, to agree to the issue of short-dated Treasury-bills to finance the present year. It is only recently that we awakened to our true duty, and, by passing the Surplus Revenue Act, diverted a certain amount of money into the Old-age Pensions and Naval Defence Funds. Had that not been done, the Treasurer would have had to face a deficit to-day, not of £1,200,000, but of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. Where did the money go? It was handed back to the States to the extent of about £6,000,000 over and above their threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue. Notwithstanding those facts, New South Wales, which was getting over £1,000,000 more tham it ever received before, increased its expenditure from about £10,000,000 to £14,000,000 per annum, to govern practically the same number of people. Where does the charge of extravagance lie in the face of facts like those?
– The Federal Parliament handed back so much money because it was afraid of public opinion.
– And it appears to be afraid of public opinion now. If it were not, it would at once adopt the financial scheme suggested by the honorable member for Mernda, or some other arrangement that would keep the control of Commonwealth finance in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament, instead of giving it away to others, who are not, and never have been, Federalists. I am proud to believe that the great majority of the members of this House do regard their duties here as something more than parochial, and look upon themselves as the representatives, not only of the particular districts which return them, but of the people of Australia as a whole. When we are faced with the necessity of arriving at a decision on a big financial question, we must deal with it in a practicalway. I recently put to the Treasurer the following questions : -
The right honorable gentleman, in his reply, gave figures for all the States, of which those for New South Wales were as follow : -
I have pondered very deeply over this matter, because it appears to me that unless we destroy the Protective policy, and come down to a policy such as we formerly had in New South Wales, those figures prove clearly that this Parliament would be absolutely bound and fettered, as the honorable member for Flinders said, because it would not have the money to pay. That is the position, which was given away a few days ago, when the honorable member for Flinders was speaking, by an interjection of the honorable member for Denison, who said: “We can easily get £3.000,000 a year by revenue duties.” There, then, is the danger. We must have a revenue sufficient for Commonwealth requirements, and sufficient to pay 25s. per capita to the States; and that will drive this Parliament away from its Protective policy and into the necessity of imposing revenue duties upon every article that the people consume. It was the boast of the Free Traders of Australia, before Federation, that New South Wales had an ideal Tariff. That brought in 25s. per head, according to the Treasurer’s answer to me ; and we are now asked to bind ourselves to return that amount to the States and keep nothing for ourselves. Have we no loyalty to the people of the Commonwealth who sent us here? If we save money for the people who sent us here, are we not saving it for the same people as are supposed to benefit in the States?
– That argument cuts both ways.
– I know that; and I shall show the two ways in which it will cut. If the money that we return to the States were distributed over the whole of the States for the benefit of the whole people, less could be said against it. But is it not -a fact that the great -expenditure in New South Wales, for instance, has been, not for the benefit of the people of the whole State, but for the benefit of the City of Sydney, and those residing in the County of Cumberland ? In our Commonwealth expenditure, however, it is immaterial whether the people are in a metropolitan or any other centre. Every unit in the Commonwealth gets the benefit, which he does not obtain now from the expenditure of the States. I have deplored that tendency in my own State times without number; and I deplore it to-day; because there is no true Federation unless it gives the advantage of expenditure to all the people alike. Has any real Federation existed on the borders of these States since the inauguration of the Commonwealth? Is it ever likely to exist, if we adopt the proposed agreement? In consequence of the refusal of the State Governments to expend the money that has been returned to them for the benefit of the people as a whole, that immense tract of country along the border between Victoria and New South Wales, and known as the Riverina, is to-day practically cut off from civilization.
– The State Government have abolished the income tax.
-Their action in abolishing that tax and the stamp duties, which brought in large amounts of revenue, shows that they had a plethora of money. The desire of the people in the district I have mentioned, is that the Commonwealth should keep control of the finances, and insure to the people their national rights, while not depriving the States of their just rights.
– They desire effect to be given to the provision in the Constitution relating to the appointment of an Inter- State Commission a great deal more.
– The creation of the Inter-State Commission would not cure the evil of which I complain.
– It ought to do so.
– I agree with the honorable member. We have been told that no necessity exists for the appointment of an Inter- State Commission to deal with the question of railway rates, because those rates are settled by Conferences of the Railways Commissioners, which meet from time to time in the various State capitals.
– The Railways Commissioners will never settle the trouble in that connexion.
– Despite the agreements which are arrived at by these Conferences, and despite the published rates for the carriage of goods, it is a fact that cut-throat rates obtain to-day. Emissaries are continually being despatched to agricultural and pastoral districts for the purpose of ascertaining the cost of sending goods to the market of one State, with a view to levying a competitive rate.
– That is quite hue.
– When the Common- wealth takes over the’ State debts, it ought also to assume control of the railways.
– That will not lae in the honorable member’s time.
– I think it will be.
– It will not be in the honorable member’s time, nor in that of his children.
– The question was seriously discussed a few years ago.
– And it will be more seriously discussed in the near future, more particularly as the question affects the control of trunk lines of railway. We shall never have a real Federation until some tribunal has been established which is vested with the requisite authority to pre- vent a State from constructing a railway only so far, and no further.
– We have the power to create an Inter-State Commission.
– But we cannot vest an Inter-State Commission with power to construct a single mile of railway. The power of constructing railways belongs to Hie States.
– The attitude-of this House towards the proposed railway through the Northern Territory from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek is a complete answer to the honorable member’s argument.
– The House cannot be blamed for its attitude towards that project, seeing that it has not yet pronounced a decision upon it.
– And- the proposal will not suffer by the honorable member’s vote.
– It, will not. In my opinion, the evil to -which I have directed attention will never be cured unless in taking over the State debts, the Commonwealth assumes control of the railways.
– The people do not desire that to be done.
– I think otherwise. Of course, I recognise that the people of Sydney are opposed to any such step, because their policy has always been to compel our rural producers to send their produce to Sydney, instead of to their nearest market, which may be Adelaide or Melbourne. The same condition of affairs obtains in the other States. It particularly applies, however, to the northern portion of New South Wales, whose natural market is Brisbane. But the onlymarket open to producers there is that of Sydney. “
– Because New South Wales will not make the necessary railway connexion.
– And because it will not allow another State to construct railways to exploit its territory- Take, as an illustration, the gap between Tocumwal and Finley. The distance between these two places is only 14 miles. Yet the Government of New South Wales will not connect them by railway. It thus compels the producers in that portion of its territory to send their produce a distance of 500 or 600 miles to Sydney. Time after time, it has been pressed to bridge the gap, but it has refused to do so on the ground that any such action would tend merely to facilitate trade with . Melbourne. Between. Jerilderie and Deniliquin, and between Hay and Deniliquin, similar gaps occur. When a member of the New South Wale. Parliament, I repeatedly urged that these gaps should be bridged, but the reply always forthcoming was that, by acceding to any such demand, the State would lose its trade. I have also argued that the persons who are chiefly interested should themselves be permitted to construct railways to their nearest market; but the desired permission has always been refused. The question of competitive railway rates is one which this Parliament ought to consider in connexion with any agreement which may be arrived at in regard to the ‘adjustment of the future financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth. When Sir George Turner propounded his scheme for determining those relations, he proposed that the Commonwealth, in taking over the State debts, should also .assume control over the. railways.
– An Inter-State Commission could never overcome the difficulties which the honorable member has pointed out.
– No. All it could do would be to prevent the charging of detrimental rates for the carriage of goods. The honorable member for Mernda has given such a close study to questions of finance, that his utterances on the subject deserve the serious consideration of honorable members. I followed his speech the other evening very closely. His position amounts to this : He is willing that a -per capita payment of 25s. should be made to the States for a term of years, contingent on the whole of their debts being transferred to the Commonwealth, and all future borrowing being under Commonwealth control and direction, the per capita payment not to exceed £9,000,000 a year, which is the present interest on the public debt. Is there any need, in dealing with these matters, to go to the people for a special declaration ? Does not the Constitution enact that the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States shall continue for ten years from the inauguration of Federation, or until afterwards altered by this Parliament? Was not that provision specifically accepted by the Commonwealth people, and indorsed by them, when, during the last elections, they were told that this Parliament would arrive at an agreement with the States regarding the finances ? We are now being asked, although competent to deal with it ourselves, to refer the matter to the people. There should not be an alteration of the Constitution which will deprive future Parliaments of the power to review the situation; and, if necessary, to make a fresh’ arrangement. Any agreement come to should be made between the authorities of the Commonwealth and those of the States, and indorsed by the several Parliaments. If whatever arrangement is made is embodied in the Constitution, it will be most difficult later on to get an alteration carried, should that be found necessary. An alteration of the Constitution cannot be made without the consent, not only of the majority of the people, but also of a majority of the States, and the smaller States would object to any alteration by which their interests would in any way suffer. I am afraid that the Commonwealth will be able to pay 255. to the States per head of population only by destroying our Protective policy. Of course, that might be obviated by continuing the system of borrowing, of which the States have already clone too much.
– -Only some of them.
– I speak particularly of New South Wales, whose history I know best. In the pre-Federal days that State could manage with a revenue of between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000, notwithstanding that it had to pay for the upkeep of its Military and Naval Forces, and its posts, telegraphs, and telephones. By the transfer of the Departments of Defence and the Postmaster-General to the Commonwealth, it has been relieved of a burden of £3,000,000, and yet to-day its expenditure is £14,000,000 per annum. Under its Tariff the State obtained per capita just about what it is proposed that it should receive under the agreement for all time. If money .is borrowed, provision > should be made for its repayment. I understand that one or two of the States have recently instituted small sinking fluids ; ‘ but practically no provision has been made for the repayment of the £250,000,000 borrowed by Australia as a whole. New South Wales would have done much better had she used the money obtained from the sale of public estates, which, in some years, amounted to £2,000,000, though now it is much less, to reduce her debt, instead of treating it as ordinary revenue, and- squandering it. Unless the Commonwealth controls future borrowing, we shall have a continuance of prodigal and wasteful expenditure.
– New South Wales is the only State which has been guilty of that.
– When a member of the Legislative Assembly of that State, I often deplored the wasteful expenditure of borrowed money. Victoria, after the bursting of the boom, retrenched its expenditure, and for years paid for all public works out of revenue; but New South Wales has always charged such expenditure to loan funds. This wasteful finance will be continued unless the States agree to borrow in future only through the Commonwealth, and for strictly legitimate purposes. A good deal’ has been said regarding the returns per capita of various countries, and a table has teen supplied by the honorable member for Flinders, which should assist us in determining whether the proposed per capita payment to the States should be for all time, or for only a short period. In this connexion, let me refer first to a table prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician in .reply to a question put to the Treasurer by the honorable member for Yarra, showing the receipts from Customs and Excise revenue per head of the population in the United States of America, which is undoubtedly a Protectionist country. Its prosperity has been built up under Protection, and its per capita return of Customs and Excise at the present time is due to the adoption of that policy. The table is as follows -
What will be our position if we bind ourselves to make a per capita return to the States of 25s. per annum? That payment will have to be made in respect, not only of the present population, but of every increase, either by immigration or by -excess of births over deaths. Many years would elapse before we should obtain anything like the equivalent of the -revenue paid to the States in respect of every additional immigrant to Australia and every new-born babe. During the five years’ period covered by the return, the population of the United States of America has increased by 5,441,000, and the Customs and Excise revenue by £9,093,000, but the per capita return of Customs and Excise revenue has increased only from £1 5s. 4d. to £1 5s. 10d. . These figures support the statement made last week by the honorable mem- ber for Flinders that, although our Customs and Excise revenue may increase, that does not necessarily mean that there will be an increase in the per capita return. I come now to the position of Canada, which is somewhat different from that of the United States of America. In 1903-4 the estimated mean population of Canada was 5,568,000; its Customs and Excise revenue, £11,179,000 ; and its per capita return of Customs and Excise revenue, £2 os. 2d. In 1907-8 its estimated mean population had increased to 6,196,000, and its Customs and Excise revenue, approximately, to £15,458,000, the per capita return being £2 9s. nd. These statements show that the arguments advanced by the Treasurer, and the figures presented by him for the guidance of honorable members, are of no value. The population of a country may increase, but its per capita return of Customs and Excise revenue does’ not necessarily advance.
– Such statements are not of much value.
– I am quoting returns supplied to the Treasurer by the Commonwealth Statistician in reply to a question put to him by the honorable member for Yarra, so that reliance may be placed upon them. What is the position in regard to Germany ? For the last thirty years Germany has’ been a most pronounced Protective country, and under the policy of Protection has made substantial progress. In 1903-4 she had a population of 58,789,000, and ber Customs and Excise revenue amounted to £40,966,000, or a per capita return of 13s. nd. In 1907-8 her population had increased to 62,208,000; her Customs and Excise revenue had advanced to £54,166,000 - an increase of £13,200,000 - and the per capita return of Customs and Excise revenue was 17s. sd. In all Protectionist countries the per capita return of Customs and Excise revenue shows a tendency to decrease rather than to increase. If that be so, this’ Parliament, by binding the Commonwealth for all time to a per capita return to the States of 25s. per annum, must either absolutely destroy the Protective policy of the country or impose heavy additional burdens on the people by resorting to borrowing. I invite honorable members to study these figures, and, having done so, to ask themselves what is their first duty. Is it to the Ministry of the day or to the people of Australia? Should they have regard to the desire of the people that the policy of Protection shall be continued, or merely to the wellbeing of any Ministry which ‘happens to be in power?
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I have read one or two quotations relating to the per capita allowance, and, as I do not desire to overload Hansard, I shall, without quoting the whole, merely give the returns from various nations from the very latest data, and allow those returns to speak for themselves. I do not select one or two nations or States in order to suit my own argument, but practically take the whole; and from the figures honorable members will see that, if the payment of 25s. per head be made, it will be impossible to finance the Commonwealth and the States without resorting to loan funds or to a revenue Tariff. In Russia, in 1906, with a population of 147,200,000, the total revenue from Customs and Excise was £52,170,000, or 7s. id. per head; in Germany, in 1906, with a population of 60,499,000, the revenue was £45,880,000, or 15s. 2d. per head; in Italy, in 1907, with a population of 33,641,000, the revenue was £33,234,000, or 19s. 9d. per head; in Austria-Hungary, in 1906, with a population of 47,941,000, the revenue was £49,037,000, or 25s. per head; in Sweden, in 1907, with a population of 53,580,000, the revenue was £55,528,000, or£r. os. 8d. per head; in Denmark, in 1907, with a population of 2,609,000, the. revenue was £2,855,000, or £1 is. rod. per head ; in Norway, in 1907, with a population of 2,319,000, the revenue was £2,656,000, or £1 2s. 1 id. per head; in the United States, in 1907, with a population of 85,150,000, the revenue was £125,590,000, or £1 9s. 6d. per head; in the United Kingdom, in 1907, with a population of 43>77°;000> the revenue was £68,818,000, or £1 1 is. 5d. per head; in France, in 1907, with a population of 39,260,000, the revenue was ,£65,193,000, or £1 13s. 2d. per head ; in Canada, in 1906, with a population of 5,833,000, the revenue was £12,516,000, or £2 2s. nd. per head; and in Australia, in 1908, with a population of 4,275,000, the revenue was £10,843,000, or £2 10s. 8d. per head. It will be seen that, with the five exceptions of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada,- and Australia, it would be impossible for any of the countries that I have mentioned to make a payment of 25s. per head, seeing that the Customs and Excise revenue does not amount to so much, and in the five exceptions, 25s. per head is exceeded in the United States by only 4s. 6d., in the United Kingdom by 6s. sd., in France by 8s. 2d., in Canada by £1 17s. nd., and in Australia by practically the same amount. The experience of die world, therefore, is that on such a revenue as that of Australia, it is absolutely impossible to, at the same time, obtain revenue and maintain a Protective policy. Revenue can be obtained only by destroying the Protective policy, and thereby destroying the industries of the Commonwealth - by resorting to the worst policy of taxation, in the shape of a revenue Tariff, which taxes every man, woman, and child. Such a Tariff possesses no Protective incidence, and, therefore, leads to no industrial activity, while it imposes an extra price on every article of consumption. Such results are to be deplored by every Protectionist, and by every representative here, who values his pledges and places the interests of the people before his own political interests. The revenue of £10,843,985, from our partially Protective Tariff, showed a decrease last year of £801,367, with a gradual but sure indication of a further decrease. Out of that revenue, if the agreement is given effect to - though I sincerely hope it will not - the States, in the first year, will receive £5,668,000 ; and that payment will increase every succeeding year with the increase of population, whether naturally or by immigration, although the Commonwealth revenue will be on a descending’ scale. Under such circumstances, in a very short space of time, the States will receive a much larger sum than they at present receive, and much larger than they ought to receive. I have stated the expenditure and the revenue as at present. I should like to put another view of the position. To start with, our portion of the revenue would be £5,I75;°85- As regards the debtor account, our first consideration should be to discover how we are going to meet our obligations to the people of the Commonwealth. The Minister of Defence has told as, and in his Budget the Treasurer partially told us, what our expenditure in the immediate future is likely to be. Defence alone is to cost £2,500,000 a year. Oldage pensions are costing £1,500,000 per year. The Government are making provision for the appointment of a High Commissioner, and this with the necessary appurtenances, buildings, and other matters in connexion with that appointment may be fairly estimated to cost not less than £20,000 per year. The expenditure on advertising, Papua, and many other matters, may be put down ‘ at £20,000 per year. These items total £4,040,000, which must be obtained either from Customs, and Excise duties, or from the pawnbroker, or by direct taxation. That leaves a balance of £1, 135,985 to meet the expenditure on proposals which are before the House, and for which provision must be made. Now, what are the Federal necessities? The Federal Capital, concerning the completion of which so much pressure is being brought to bear upon Parliament, is not going to cost the Commonwealth in the immediate future less than £500j°00- On the Northern Territory, which I think should be taken over as rapidly as possible, in order to complete the Federation and protect its interests, a debt of about £3,000,000 has been incurred by South Australia. As regards trans-continental railways, the Treasurer did not forget, this evening, to remind Parliament of its obligations to his State. I estimate that the national line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek for developmental as well as defence purposes, and the proposed line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, will not be constructed under at least £4,000,000. I think that my estimate of the cost of the two lines is considerably within the mark. .
– It is admitted that one railway will cost £5,000,000, and the other £4,000,000.
– I am giving the Government the benefit of the doubt. I want to show that even with this serious underestimate, the Commonwealth will be in a parlous position, and will be forced to borrow money for a number of public services. As regards the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services, we need at least £1,000,000. We have been told, not by the present Postmaster-General, but bysome of his predecessors, that £2,000,000 is wanted to complete those services. Here, again, I am giving the Government the benefit of 50 per cent, by estimating our requirements at only £1,006,000. I estimate the expenditure on Papua, Norfolk Island, advertising, immigration, and sundries, at the low- amount of £100,000. On the Minister’s own showing, the Australian Navy will cost £3,750,000. Although, for our immediate necessities we shall require a. sum of £12,350,000, yet, under this agreement, if adopted, we shall have only £r,I35>985 available.
– Does the honorable member really suggest that the expenditure of £3,750,000 on the Navy should be set against one year’s revenue?
– No ; I am not setting that expenditure against one year’s revenue.
– The honorable member did just now.
– No. That was the second phase of my argument. Will it not be absolutely necessary, I ask the honorable gentleman, for the Commonwealth, in the immediate future, to take over the Northern Territory and give facilities for defence generally by. constructing a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek?
– I look upon these as matters which will have to be dealt with immediately. The other matters to which I have alluded show that the expenditure of the Commonwealth is increasing, and must, in the interests of the people, continue to increase year by year. That does not apply to the States in anything like the same ratio as it does to the Commonwealth. We have already relieved the States of a considerable number of burdens, and, as time rolls by, we shall relieve them of more. The national expenditure must, of necessity, be larger than the State expenditure. I propose to give a * few illustrations in order to justify my assertion as to the necessity for maintaining a Protective policy, and that if it is not maintained the revenue must diminish. Take Germany, France, and the United States, with the highest ‘known Tariffs in the world ; Tariffs purposely made high, in order to foster internal manufactures, and to promote the welfare of their own people: I have already shown how the per capita allowance, in the case of Germany 20s., in the case of France 25s., and in the case of the United States 26s., has been reduced. That deals effectively, from the Protectionist point of view, with’ three undoubtedly known Protective countries, as against those which are not so Protective, and which I enumerated a little earlier. That the increase of State expenditure will be relatively smaller than the Commonwealth’s as population increases, should, I think, Jio without saying. The expenditure of a State will not increase with each additional head of population. The Commonwealth expenditure will increase by -25s., per head, but the mere fact of an infant being born, or an immigrant’ arriving, will not increase the State expenditure by 25s. per head, or by anything like that sum.
– The interest on the debt is £2 per head.
– I am not now dealing with that phase of the subject, but with the per capita allowance and the increase in expenditure which must of necessity accompany Commonwealth and State extension, and I say that it will not increase relatively in the States as it will do in the Commonwealth. For instance, though the States might have a population half as large again as they have at present, that would not necessitate much more expenditure upon civil administration. They would not require many more magistrates, Judges, fire brigades, and so forth. Such functionaries and bodies are in existence now, and could deal with a population 100 per cent, larger than that for which they are required at present. So that the idea that an increased population would increase relatively the expenditure of the States is not borne out by facts. The machinery of civil administration is already in existence, and that machinery need not be materially increased as population grows. Let me quote an example from my own State. Under the proposal of the Government to pay 25s. per capita, New South Wales would receive £1,875,000 per annum. If her population increased to 15,000,000, the Commonwealth would have to pay to her £18,750,000. It would be absurd to think of the Commonwealth paying so much. The Customs and Excise revenue would not be sufficient.
– What does the’ honorable member think would be sufficient?
– I think the people of Australia desire that provision should be made for great national services, which are requisite to protect the interest of every man and woman in the country.
– The honorable member does not wish to return anything, to the States.
– I did not say so. But the first consideration in the interests of the people of this country should be our national requirements. The money derived from Customs and Excise should first be applied to such purposes, and whatever surplus remained should annually be returned per capita to the States. An agreement on that basis is what I should like to see made.
– How would the States then pay their interest?
– How do they pay their interest now?
– They pay more in interest than they receive from the Commonwealth.
– Some of the States are paying their interest in a very improper manner. Some of them are paying it out. of the sale of the public estate. Are any of them contributing to a sinking fund with the object of wiping out their debts? In my opinion, the States should be in such a position that when a loan became due they would be able to go to the money-lender, and if he refused to renew at a lower rate of interest, they would be able to say, “ We will pay you off.” But, so far as my knowledge goes, there is not one State that is in that position. For the most part, the interest is paid from the earnings of railways, and by the squandering of the public estate to the detriment of the people’s interests.
– The interest has to be paid.
– There is no doubt about that ; but it is very much easier to pay off a loan of £5 than one of £50. The honorable member for Wilmot seems concerned as to how the interest due by the States is to be paid. I agree with those who think that that interest could be much more effectively paid by the Commonwealth Parliament taking control of the debts of the States, consolidating them, converting them, and assuming the responsibility for them. We should take over the whole of the debts, amounting to £250,000,000, and, at the same time, we should take over the control of the railways of Australia.
– Socialize the lot.
– The honorable member apparently cannot see the difference between socialization and centralization.
– Why take the railways from the State Governments?
– Because the State Governments are not using them in the interest of the people.
– Nonsense !
– I recollect the time when the honorable member for Indi was as firm on this question as I am. He was one of those who clamoured for a true federation of the people of Australia by federating the railways, so as to give the people the right to travel in the best possible manner, and to get their produce to the cheapest market.
– The honorable member must have misunderstood me, for I was not in favour of Federation.
– I know that the honorable member was not in favour of Federation, but I also know that he was as. strong as I was for the extension of therailway system in Riverina.
– That is quite a different matter.
– That is the matter to which I was alluding when I said that I was in favour of the Commonwealth taking control of the railways, which should” be run in the interests of the people of Australia, and not in- the interest of any particular State.
– A dream !
– It may be a dream. I believe, however, that the people of Australia will yet see the necessity of makingit a reality. We can have no real Federation with six different railway gauges. Should Australia be attacked, we should have no time to alter our railway gauges. Will honorable members contend that, if we adopted a uniform gauge throughout Australia, our railway systems could not be worked more economically than they are at the present time? 1 say that if we adopted -a uniform gauge, and our railway systems were controlled from one centre, with deputies in the different States, they might be worked for very considerably less than they are at present.
– The advantage of such a proposal is very much exaggerated.
– When Federationwas proposed, the people did not desire, any more than they do now, that there should be twelve Houses of Parliament inaddition to the Commonwealth Parliament, conducting the affairs of the country. It was believed at the time that Federation would lead to a reduction in the membership of the State Parliaments.
– Why does the honorable member jump from railways ta Parliaments?
– I wish to show the parallel. If the Government of this country, could be more economically conducted from one rather than from seven centres, it is not unreasonable to argue that our railways might be more economically controlled from one centre in the same_ way. I view this matter of the control of our railways as one of great importance in the consideration . of the question now before the House. We have ten or twelve Rail- ways Commissioners in the States, holding responsible positions, and enjoying large salaries. They control the railways, not in the interests of Australia as a whole, but in such a way as, if possible, to enable one State to secure trade which ought to go to another.
– The honorable member is aware that that might be remedied by an Inter-State Commission.
– I recognise that an Inter-State Commission could prevent the charging of preferential rates ; but the honorable member must be aware that the Inter-State Commission could not control the construction of a mile ofrailwayin Australia. We shall not properly develop Australia merely by constructing railways into certain districts. . One of the objects of their construction should be to create traffic. Produce can be grown profitably only where there is railway communication to the nearest and best market, and, under the provincial control of our railway systems, this method of development is not and will not be followed. This is proved by our experience in more than one State. I have travelled over every State in the Commonwealth, and have made myself conversant with these matters. What is required is that the Commonwealth Parliament should assume responsibility for the £9,000,000 of interest on the £250,000,000 of debts owing by the States, and should at the same time take over the railways. The people would profit by the adoption of such a course. If a railway is now earning £1, the money goes back to the people in the form of reduced fares, or in some other way ; and if under Commonwealth management the railway earned 30s., the same people would secure the increased advantage. I have never heard a valid argument against the control of the railways by the Commonwealth authority. I am sure that the honorable member for Parkes would say that, in commercial matters, it is possible to secure a higher profit and better control from the operations of a big concern than from the operations of a small one. I agree with that, and the argument holds good as applied to the control of our railways by one authority. Unfortunately, there are some honorable members who, while they are prepared to admit that these proposals are good, will not agree to them because they represent a form of Socialism. I do not care twopence what term is applied to them ; what we have to look at is the benefit to be derived from the adoption of proposals of the kind. I can quote for the honorable member for Parkes, as advocates of the same thing, some persons to whose opinions he will probably attach more weight than he will to mine. Sir George Turner, who was at one time Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and who, in matters of finance, admittedly stands high, at one of the Premiers’ Conferences, made it a sine qua non that if the debts of the States were taken over by the Commonwealth, we should at the same time take over assets of the States equivalent in value.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that it is practicable to embody in this Bill a proposal for the taking over of the railways?
– Such a proposal could not be embodied in this Bill, but there is another Bill before the House.
– The honorable member is aware that the Bill provides for an investigation into the question of the transfer of the State debts.
– The honorable member is slightly in error. The Prime Minister has asked for leave to introduce the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill; but the Bill is not yet before us. We have before us an agreement, and from past experience we know that we cannot alter a line of it without the concurrence of the State Governments.
– The agreement provides for an investigation.
– I am aware of that. The Treasurer has laid on the table another Bill to empower this Parliament to take over the debts of the States which have accumulated since the establishment of Federation.
– Even that Bill does not involve the control ofthe railways.
– I should like to reply to the honorable member by asking why he, perhaps unwittingly, decries the ability of this Parliament? Is not this Parliament as well able to decide these matters as an Inter-State Commissionwould be?
– This Parliament could not take over the railways.
– This Parliament might do what it is proposed the Commission should do. It might inquire into the best and most equitable means of taking over the debts of the States. There are some financiers in this House in whom I have every confidence. I should be prepared to see such a question handed over to them, and to give consideration to their recommendations.
– We cannot do the work of a Conference in Parliament.
– I am tired of this practice of proposing to hand over our responsibilities and duties to some outside authority. The practice now is to say in every case, “Let us appoint a Commission.” I remind honorable members that we are responsible to the people of Australia, and if we have not sufficient ability to deal with these matters we should give place to those who have. This Parliament was constituted, not for the purpose of appointing outside Commissioners, but. rightly or wrongly, was selected from what the people believed to he the best talent available at the time, to discharge the duties intrusted to it. I have always deplored the constant desire on the part of Ministries to hand over their functions and responsibilities to Royal Commissions. That course in many cases means delay, and delays, as the old adage tells us, are dangerous. Before the end of 1910, and before there is even any suggestion of submitting this agreement to the people, the whole question of the transfer of the State debts ought to be dealt with by this Parliament, and the people should be told by their representatives exactly what the real proposal is. The Treasurer’s statement of the finances shows the absolute necessity for placing at the disposal of the Commonwealth a greater amount of money than was even proposed under his own arrangement. According to his own showing, he will have a deficit of £1,200,000 for the year. He hopes to reduce that by £600,000, which is promised to him by the States in respect of old-age pensions which they have been paying. Surely such a deficit is startling enough for the people of Australia to say, “ This is not the time to talk about the Commonwealth giving revenue away to the States. It is rather a time for the States to be called upon to retrench still further in the interests of economy, to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to carry out its proper functions.” I may say, in passing, that the -States did not show very much generosity in offering to find £600,000 this year towards the cost of ojd-age pensions, seeing that the States were paying for that purpose £946,000, which this Parliament has relieved them of.
– That was part of the arrangement. The States have been getting £1 18s. 6d. per head ; but they are to get only £1 5s. per head in the future.
– The Treasurer need not remind me of that ; but how much would the States be getting at the end of 1910? It is for this Parliament to determine the question at that time, and, if that period is to be anticipated, it is for this Parliament to say whether the arrangement is sufficiently liberal and places the Commonwealth in the fair and national position in which it ought to be placed.
– They are going to find another £1,000,000 before July next.
– There have been so many changes lately in governmental procedure and policy, that 1 will not undertake to say whether that £1,000,000 will be required. When” the Fusion party was formed, it was stated in the press, and not refuted, that an arrangement had been come to for a continuance of the -Braddon section for five years. That has gone by the board. Recently, the Treasurer said he was going to meet his deficit of £1,200,000 by short-dated Treasury bills; but that proposal also has gone by the board. With these constant changes of front - and financial problems are difficult enough to solve without them - we are not in a position to know what the real financial policy of the Government is.
– They are going to stand on this.
– Will the honorable member guarantee that they will ? Humpty Dumpty did not stand, but sat upon a wall, and he, as we know, ha.d a great fall. So I think this Government will find that they are reckoning without their host; and that the people are not behind them in this matter. It is all very well for a few State politicians to confer with them ; but when the great body of the people of Australia are appealed to-
– That will be the time.
– That will be the time when the Government will find out their mistake.
– Let us go to the people, then.
– It is refreshing to find this overweening anxiety to go to the people. The honorable member for Wakefield has only just come from the people, and he has a right to speak for the section of the people who sent him here; but it is very strange to hear other honorable members, who have been doing all they pos- sibly could for the last three months to prevent us from going to the people, interjecting that they want to go to the people.
– Is the honorable member verv anxious to go to the people?
– I am ready to do so. I do not suppose that any honorable member - if he spoke the truth from his heart - would say that he was very anxious ; but the point is that the Government do not propose to refer this agreement to the people. If it were proposed to put the question to the people of the Commonwealth as a whole, untrammelled byany conditions, I should not hesitate five minutes about submitting it to them. I am always prepared to trust the people. But the proposed agreement would be submitted to them in such a form that they would be denied an opportunity of understanding it, and would thus be likely to perpetuate an evil before they realized what they had done. Then they would not be in a position to remedy it.
– They could negative the proposed agreement.
– The honorable member knows that very frequently it is much easier to do a thing than it is to undo it. We often do evil things which we cannot undo. There are six States in the Commonwealth, but the great majority of our population is to be found in two of them, namely, New South Wales and Victoria.
– Two-thirds of the population are settled in those States.
– As the honorable member for Robertson has truly remarked, two-thirds of our population are settled in New South Wales and Victoria. Yet if the proposed agreement be embodied in our Constitution, they would be powerless to remove it.
– A minority in the other States could prevent them from so doing.
– Exactly. We all know the political tarradiddles that would be put to the electors. They would be told that if they voted for the removal of the agreement from the Constitution they would not secure this bridge, or that telephone, or that they would be denied some other public service of which they stood urgently in need. Human nature being weak, they would probably be more inclined to vote for the retention of the agreement than for what was best in the national interest.
– On the other hand, they would be told that if they did not vote for the agreement they would be taxed.
– Under the agreement they will be taxed, too. I have already pointed out that an expenditure of £1,000,000 is required in connexion with postal, telephonic, and telegraphic services. We shall have that money very shortly, and yet it is now proposed to part with the control of it. Is there a country representative in this House who has not received letter after letter, stating that, “ afterconsideration, inquiry, and report, the proposed telephone line ‘ from so-and-so to so-and-so ‘ has been approved, but that as there are so many similar works higher on the list, it is absolutely impossible to make the necessary provision for it on the present Estimates.”
– Has the honorable member received one of those letters ?
-I have received dozens of them. When the public understand that the ratification of the proposed agreement means depriving them of urgently needed services, they will unhesitatingly condemn it. I was rather surprised to hear the Treasurer say that he desired this question to be submitted to the electors absolutely free from all other political questions.
– I quoted the utterance of Mr. Bath, who said that.
– Then Mr. Bath deserves commendation, in that a great matter of public importance should be submitted to the electors free from any other conflicting considerations. But this question will not be submitted to them free from conflicting elements. One of those elements is to be found in the present combination of political parties. The battle will range over a large field,and thus considerations of finance will be entirely forgotten.
– But the referendum will relate onlv to financial matters.
– According to the statement of the Treasurer, two referendums are to be taken, one in connexion with the proposed agreement, and the other in connexion with the proposed transfer of the State debts which have accumulated since the establishment of the Federation.
– Both questions relate to finance.
– Two referendums are to be taken, and simultaneously the electors will be called upon to choose members of this House and the Senate. They will thus be confused.
– The people are not so silly as the honorable member would have us believe.
– In a much less complicated matter I have seen the electors so confused that they have torn up their ballotpapers for the Senate election.
– That must have been a very exceptional case.
– I believe that every honorable member has had a similar experience. If the proposed agreement be submitted to the people, it would be a thousand times better to submit it to them free from all other political questions, even if the adoption of that course cost twice £50,000.
– If it is submitted to them at all.
– The Government will have to whip some of their supporters to- get it to the people.
– I have a lot more notes available, but I do not propose to make use of them. I had intended to prove out of the Treasurer’s own mouth what are the financial requirements of the Commonwealth .
– The honorable member ought to put those requirements upon record.
– The task would occupy too long, and I do not wish to be charged with obstruction. I recognise that other honorable members desire to address themselves to this question.
– The honorable member has made a very effective speech.
– Whatever may be the fate of the proposed agreement, I trust that it will be submitted to the electors in a direct form, assuming that it is submitted at all. Personally, I have no sympathy with it, because it was not initiated in the manner in which a great public reform should have been initiated, f have always contended that public questions should be dealt with in the open light of day. I have always advocated the discussion of great national questions in the presence of the people. I have never regarded secret Conferences with favour. This was the most secret of all that we have had of its kind. Although the press was not admitted to all the earlier Conferences, when they were not present a full statement was made daily, for publi cation for the benefit of the community. In this case, however, no information was given to the people for a whole week.
– Does not the honorable member trust those who formed the Conference ?
– I do not trust those who hide behind a hedge, or transact business in dark and devious ways. Why were the people kept in ignorance of what was taking place ? There must have been some reason for this secrecy. Even yet, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Minister of Defence have not condescended to tell us what took place there. Was some wrong done of which they are afraid to inform the country ? When the Prime Minister returned from London, where he had been- to represent the interests of the Commonwealth, he did not hesitate to tell ‘ us what took place on the other side of the world, and when the honorable member for Brisbane returns from the Imperial Defence Conference, we shall be fold what took place there.
– We shall know only the result of the deliberations of the Conference, as we know the result of the deliberations of the Premiers’ Conference.
– Does the honorable member wish to read the speeches which were made?
– I should like, to read some of them. I should like to know what was said to cause the Treasurer to change his opinions.
– I did not do so.
– I could show that the right honorable gentleman has agreed to an- arrangement which differs from his former proposals to the States, and, no doubt, that will be made clear before the debate is closed. A more weighty reason for objecting to the agreement is that I am convinced that, if accepted, it will mean the destruction of the Protectionist policy of Australia. I speak as one pledged to Protection, who has fought for the policy.
– In what way will it lower the Protective duties?
– A Protective duty is not imposed to produce revenue. Its object is the encouragement of local manufacture or production. Once local manufacture or production has increased sufficiently to meet the local demand, the duty ceases to produce revenue.
– But how will the acceptance of the agreement cause the reduction of duties?
– The honorable member for Riverina has expressed a desire not to be drawn into a lengthy debate, so it is scarcely fair to subject him to questioning of this kind.
– If I have not convinced the honorable member, 1 would remind him of his recent letter to the Premier of New South Wales, .regarding the action of the authorities there in excluding Tasmanian potatoes.
– 1 do not see the relevance of that.
– I admit that there is not much connexion between potatoes and finance. All true Protectionists, however, feel that the acceptance of the agreement will destroy Protection, and materially injure Australia. Furthermore, an examination of statistics shows that in the near future, if the agreement be accepted, the Commonwealth must follow the example of the States, and borrow indiscriminately, leaving posterity to repay. I recently read the agreement to a section of my constituents, and received their instructions to do all that I could to prevent its acceptance. I shall therefore oppose the Bill at all stages, strengthened in my attitude by the knowledge that I am giving effect to the view of my constituents.
– To that of a section of them.
– To that of the majority. Many of those who are opposed to the acceptance of the agreement would be in opposition to me, and probably vote against me, on other matters ; but I am satisfied that the electors of Riverina, if they were polled, would refuse to ratify the agreement, and I trust that it will not be accepted. It will shackle the Commonwealth for all time. It will deny the people a truly national distribution. It will prevent the proper development of our railway system. It will retard development by delaying the extension of telephonic, telegraphic, and mail services, It will burden the present generation with increased’ taxation, .will load the people with a huge national debt, and will be altogether against the real interests of Australia. “Mr. MCWILLIAMS (Franklin) [8.56]. - I support this agreement for many of the reasons which the honorable member for Riverina has given for his opposition to it. I fail to understand why honorable members who are so confident . that the electors of Australia are opposed to this proposal are afraid to give them an opportunity to vote upon it. It has been said - and the honorable member for Flinders was the first to use the expression - that the agreement if adopted would “ leg-rope the Commonwealth.” That, if I may be permitted to say so, is one of those meaningless expressions which catch on with the people, and which, if not well considered, may be calculated to mislead. It is not possible either for the Prime Minister or the State Governments, or the whole of the State Parliaments and the Federal Parliament to “leg-rope” the Federation, in the slightest degree, by an alteration of the Constitution. Only one power can possibly make an alteration, and the Tories on both sides of the “House are prepared to refuse an opportunity for that power to be exercised. What is the plea of those high-priests of Democracy, the Leader of the Labour party, the honorable member for Kennedy, and the honorable member for Riverina? It is that the people will not understand the position when the question is submitted to them ; that we, the selected of the people, are more likely to come to a just conclusion than are the people themselves. That argument has been used by Tories in all parts of the world, whenever a proposal has been made to trust the people, either by an extension of the franchise or by means of a direct referendum. The proposal made by the Government is Democracy itself. It is a piece of Democracy which some of my honorable friends, while posing as Democrats, are afraid to put into operation. The Government propose that the people shall have a direct opportunity to decide the issue, apart altogether from the political and party influences inseparable from a general election.
– That is just what they will not have.
– I would remind the honorable member that whether we like it or not, the people are going to settle this question. They will settle it either by a direct referendum, as proposed by the Government, or through the ballot-box, tainted as it will be by considerations that must come into operation, in the selection of representatives. I can understand thoroughly the considerations that might induce electors to vote for a candidate who was in favour of this agreement, although they themselves were directly opposed to it. I can understand also the attitude of hundreds of electors in a- constituency who, while being in favour of the agreement, would nevertheless desire to vote for a candidate who was opposing it. Such an opportunity should not be denied them. The whole head and front of the offending of the Government in this matter is that they propose that the people shall have an opportunity to review a question which they have already determined. The history of the Braddon section has been given over and over again, but there are one or. two points which yet remain to be stated. It has not yet been mentioned during this debate that the people of Australia had an opportunity to say whether or not threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue should be returned to the States for all time, and that in every State in which a vote was taken, a majority decided that it should. The Braddon clause as finally passed at the Melbourne Convention and submitted to the people, provided that three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue should be returned for all time to the States.
– What about the other part of the Constitution Bill?
– I am speaking of the first referendum on the Constitution Bill as a whole, of which the Braddon clause formed a part.
– A very small part.
– A very important part.
– It was so important that it led to the gerrymandering practised in the New South Wales Parliament which prevented effect being given to it. At the vote taken in New South Wales on the Constitution Bill as it left the Convention, 71,595 voted in favour of it, and 66,228 against it, a majority of 5,367.
– Will the honorable member state what was the voting on the Constitution Bill as - amended at the Premiers’ Conference?
– Certainly. A total of 107,420 voted for the Bill and 82,700 against it.
– On that occasion a statutory majority voted for the Bill.
– Quite so; but whereas only 66,228 voted against the original Bill, 82,741 voted against the Bill as amended, with the time limit placed upon the operation of the Braddon clause.
– But there was an increase of 30,000 votes in favour of the Bill as amended.
– I grant that. The voting on the original Bill as it left the Convention was : In Victoria, 100,220 for the Bill and 22,000 against; in South Australia, 35,800 for and 17,300 against; and in Tasmania, 11,-794 for and only 2,716 against it. We know that the first referendum in New South Wales failed, not because a majority of the people of the State did not favour the Bill as originally passed, but because the statutory majority was not obtained. Those who are supporting this agreement say that since a majority of the people in each of the States voted for the Braddon clause as originally passed by the Convention, as well as for the clause as amended at the Premiers’ Conference, they should have an opportunity to say now whether or not this alteration should be made I think we make a great mistake in our definition and use of the words “States”; I much prefer the word ‘ ‘ people. ‘ ‘ We might compare the electors of the Commonwealth to one body of shareholders with two bodies of directors. Calls are made on the same body of shareholders ; and now for ten years there has been a certain allocation of the funds in accordance with the wish of the electors. That period has expired; and it is proposed to go back to the same electors, and ask them how the money shall be allocated in the future. If honorable members refer to the debates of the Adelaide and Melbourne Conventions, they will find that the speakers, almost unanimously, pointed out that the salvation of the States depended on their securing a certain proportion of the revenue for all time. It is strange to hear Protectionist members arguing that the proposed agreement is going to kill Protection, when we remember that it was the Free Trade members of the Convention who inserted the time limit, on the ground that otherwise Free Trade would be killed, and the Federation compelled to put on such enormous duties as would seriously hamper the industrial conditions of the people. We find that the right honorable member for East Sydney, the present Attorney-General, and other Free Traders, all voted in favour of the time limit, while the Protectionist members, including the honorable member for Hume, supported an arrangement providing for an allowance lo the States for all time. Sir George Turner who, as a financier enjoys a very high reputation, speaking in Melbourne, said -
Unless we carry some such provision (Braddon section) which will protect the States so that they will not lose a large amount we shall dislocate the finances to a considerable extent.
I do not say to the extent of insolvency or bankruptcy, nobody ever dreams of that, but that the Treasurer of a particular State would be forced to put on extra taxation. If we are to frame a Constitution which will be acceptable to the people of the States we must be prepared to say to them that we feel perfectly certain that such provisions have been made as will not throw further burdens upon them.
Sir William Lyne said
I hailed with very great pleasure Braddon’s amendment. It is simple and effective, and will coincide entirely with what I have advocated on this question. I also think that, as regards the small States as well as possibly the larger States, this is one of those clauses which will help very materially to recommend the Bill.
These words are very important -
I asked Mr. Reid what position the States would be in if they got only 5s. in the ?. Under this provision they get 15s. , The States will have a much better chance of getting the money if this provision is retained.
– What does he say now ?
– i dp not desire to labour the questions, or give more quotations ; but merely point out that Mr. Isaacs contended strongly that, unless the provision appeared on the face of the Constitution, the States would still have all their liabilities to meet, while the revenue would be out of their reach. We have now approached very closely to the termination of the operation of the Braddon section, when, unless some provision is made, the States will find their liabilities still hanging around their necks; while, they have no security that they will receive from the Federation that which they have a just right to expect, and which w,is the basis of the Federal agreement. I venture to say that if speeches that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House, in opposition to the proposed agreement, had been made before the vote on the Commonwealth Constitution was taken, there would have been no Federation. The people would have absolutely refused to federate - as members of the Convention, who were in close touch with the electors, pointed out, they would decline to hand over the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue to a new power while the whole of the liabilities were left to the States. What liabilities have the Commonwealth taken over ? We have taken over Defence, Post Offices and Telegraphs, and the Customs. The Post and Telegraph Department is practically a paying one; and in pre -Federation days it was productive of revenue in most of the States.
– The Commonwealth has taken over quarantine.
– As yet, we have spent practically nothing on quarantine; and the only expenditure really that we have taken over is that on defence.
– And old-age pensions.
– Quite so; but when honorable members talk about relieving the States of old-age pensions, we must remember that the States never asked us to take over that obligation. Honorable members opposite accept all the kudos for having passed a Federal Old-age Pensions Act, and, at the same time, they look to the States to continue to pay the pensions. That does not seem to me to indicate a very high political standard. As a matter of fact, we are leaving practically the whole of the liabilities with the States. There is the interest on the national debt, and the expenditure on hospitals and charities ; the latter of which, up to quite recently, more than equalled the expenditure on old-age pensions. Then we leave to the States the whole of the developmental work of Australia, in the form of roads, bridges, and so forth; and I quite agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that the functions retained by the States are very much more important to the future welfare of the country than are those which have been intrusted to the Commonwealth. i have the whole of the figures here; but have no desire to insert any more in Hansard, merely recommending honorable members to observe the liabilities which are still left to the States. It may, however, be interesting to honorable members to know that, in 1907-8, the expenditure on police was greater than that on defence. The former amounted to ?1,192,330, or 5s. 8d. per capita, while the latter amounted to ?1,084,505, or 5s. 2d. per capita; so that the States were really paying more per capita on police than the Commonwealth was paying on defence. The posts and telegraphs and the railways may, i think, be left out of the calculation, because the receipts practically equal the expenditure. The railways are showing a small profit in some States, and a small .loss in others.
– The railways?
– Yes; in New South Wales and Victoria the railways are earning a profit. In 1907-8, the States expended on public works, ?3,488,227 ; on education, ?2,566,327 ; on hospitals and chanties, £1,371,684; and on interest, £8,591,378. The Commonwealth expended £1,538,898, while the States expended £7,044,384. On its total functions, the Commonwealth spent £6,158,893, while the States spent £38,730,556. The Commonwealth expended, -per capita, 29s. 4d., and the States £7 15s. id. We are now told by some honorable ‘members that, in order to meet our requirements, it is necessary for the Commonwealth to retain the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue. But I hold that it will be practically impossible for the States to carry on in the same condition unless the Commonwealth returns to them, at the very least, 25s. a head out of the Customs and Excise revenue.. Some honorable members have quoted the revenue of the United States, as the honorable member for Flinders did the other evening. Every man who has written on the subject closely has agreed that it has been practically a curse to the United States that it has retained the whole of the Customs revenue, while the States have been without revenue. We have heard that the United States is not able to carry on with its present Customs revenue. Only twice during the last century has it needed to impose revenue duties. Its difficulty has been to get rid of an enormous revenue. It has purchased tons and tons of silver ore, and stored it in vaults at Washington, ostensibly with a view to relieving the silver market, but really because it wanted to utilize its surplus revenue in some way, so that it would not have to reduce its Customs taxation. We know that whilst the Union has had more money than it required, the States have been on the very verge of bankruptcy, and to-day they are compelled to resort to all kinds of absurd forms of taxation in order to pay their way. A poll tax is a common tax. Owing to the inability of the States to carry out their legitimate functions, they have had to grant what Americans call franchises, but what we call concessions. Huge monopolies, which are really sucking the lifeblood out of the people, have been created in order to get works done. During the greater portion of their existence, the majority of the States have been put to the most severe strain to find the necessary revenue to carry out their legitimate functions, while the Treasury of the Union has been overflowing, and only twice during a century has the Union had to resort to revenue duties. The majority of honorable members have dealt with the condition of affairs in their own States under the Federation. Before quoting a few figures in connexion with Tasmania, I ask those who think that the Commonwealth is making some concession to the smaller States, to enable them to carry out their legitimate functions, to remember that, sin~e Federation, some of the smaller States have had an exceedingly difficult task to perform. Tasmania has by far the heaviest land tax and the heaviest income tax in Australia, and even with the proposed grant of 25s. per capita from the Commonwealth, the Treasurer of the State has been obliged to propose a surtax of 25 per cent, on the land tax and on the income tax. Let us see how the figures for Tasmania compare with the figures for other States. In land tax, New South Wales pays, per capita, 2s. 5d. ; Victoria, is. 5d. ; Queensland, nil ; South Australia, 4s. 6d. ; Western Australia, 10d. ; and Tasmania, 6s. 3d., which is brought up to nearly 8s. by the surtax of is. 7d.
– Does that include municipal taxes?
– No ; it does not include the municipal tax of is. in the £1 on the annual value, the codlin-moth rate, and other rates. If we go into those matters, the discrepancy will be found to be very much greater. I should like the honorable member for Swan to remember that, whilst under this agreement he asks Tasmania to make a special contribution to Western Australia, the latter is paying, per capita, in land tax, 10d., while the former pays nearly 8s. In income tax, New South Wales, pays per capita, 2s. 8d. ; Victoria, 4s. nd. ; Queensland, 9s. 9d. ; South Australia, 10s. 5d. ; Western Australia, 8s. 6d. ; and Tasmania, 10s. nd., or with the surtax, 13s. 7jd. In land and income taxes, New South Wales- pays, per capita, 5s. id. ; Victoria, 6s. 4d. ; Queensland, 9s. 9d. ; South Australia, 15s. id. ; Western Australia, 9s. 4d. ; and Tasmania, £1 is. 5½d. In land and income taxes, Tasmania pays four times as much as New South Wales, and three times as much as Victoria. Yet we are told by some of the New South Wales representatives that their State cannot afford this small contribution to the smaller States, because it would involve taxation upon their people. I say immediately that we make no claim for special consideration on behalf of Tasmania. Personally,. I have objected from the beginning to Tasmania receiving any special contribution from the Commonwealth. We do not want it. I objected to my State coming into the Federation as a pauper. I object to her remaining as a pauper. But I do make this claim. It has been admitted that there is a leakage, estimated by the late Treasurer of ‘lasmania at £40,000 a year, through imported goods coming to Tasmania through Victoria, and, to a smaller extent, through New South Wales. The ex-Treasurer of the Commonwealth - the honorable member for Hume - estimated the leakage at £20,000. If any special contribution is to be considered at all, it should take the form of a recognition of our just claim under that head. When the draft Constitution was being prepared, it was never intended that the bookkeeping section should remain in operation for more than five years. There can be no true Federation so long as the bookkeeping system continues. It is because the proposed agreement is based upon an entire separation of the finances of the Commonwealth and of the States that I think it deserves the highest commendation from this Parliament, and I am sure it will receive the highest commendation from the people. But there can be no permanent basis except by making allowances for a continuallyincreasing population. Any system which would anchor the contribution of the Commonwealth to the States for all time at a fixed sum, whilst there were fluctuating conditions in the different States, could not be considered. The bogy has been raised that, as population increases, the contribution of the Commonwealth to the States will become intolerable. The whole argument of the honorable member for Flinders was based on that consideration. He contended that as population increases the demands upon the Commonwealth will become greater and greater. But if the honorable member will give the matter a little further consideration, he will find that entirely the reverse will result. If there were a large influx of immigrants into Australia to-morrow - so ‘.long as they were workers ; and the great proportion of immigrants would be breadwinners - each of them would consume goods returning Customs and Excise revenue to the extent of from £4 to £5 per annum. Under the proposed agreement, the States would get 25s. per capita. If an immigrant, paid £4 per annum to Customs and Excise, as he must do to live honestly in this country, the proportion of his contribution retained by the Commonwealth would be ample for Federal purposes.
– The average payment of Customs and Excise is only £2 10s.
– The honorable member is speaking of the average paid by men, women, and children. But that is not a fair basis of calculation. Not onehalf of the entire population of Australia are breadwinners.
– We shall not pay the 25s. per capita on account of the breadwinners only, but on account of the men, women, and children.
– I admit that, but the argument of the honorable gentleman was this : That if a tide of immigration were to set in here, as has been the case in Canada and the United States, the drain on Commonwealth funds would be more than we could stand.
– I think the honorable member misunderstood me. My argument was that as long as we could maintain the incoming of immigrants at a certain rate, we should maintain the Customs revenue.
– I think that we are making a very great mistake indeed in introducing the fiscal question into this debate. Our revenue from Customs and Excise will be just what this Parliament decides that it shall be; and Parliament will decide what the Customs and Excise revenue shall be in accordance with- the wishes of a majority of the electors. No agreement which we can make will affect to the extent of £1 per annum the fiscal policy of Australia. If there be a majority of the electors in favour of high duties such as we have at present, those high, duties will be retained. If there be a majority of the electors - and I am inclined to think that there is, even at the present time - who think that our duties have reached the highest limit to which the people of this country are prepared to submit, our Tariff will be no higher. If the majority of the electors say that there are certain revenue duties which can be imposed upon certain goods without interfering with the Protective policy of the country one iota, those revenue duties will be imposed ; and I can see avenues from which we can obtain considerably increased returns from Customs and Excise, without touching one item in the Protective duties of the Tariff schedule.
– The honorable member means duties on tea andkerosene?
– No,I do not mean duties on tea and kerosene. But i know that honorable members opposite are not prepared to vote for increased duties on spirits, tobacco, and beer, and face their electors after doing so. i am not here to advocate duties on tea and kerosene, and would not support the latter, but there are luxuries which can be taxed to a greater extent than is now the case. We can get revenue if we are in need of it, and we can obtain it from those who are well able to provide it.
– Does the honorable member consider that tobacco is a luxury?
– i do, and i think that the honorable gentleman and i would be a good deal better off if tobacco were dearer than it is. i am exceedingly glad to know that the Government are taking a firm stand in this matter, and are not prepared to allow this contract to be torn up and thrown into their faces, and into the faces of the other signatories to it.
– But they are willing that it should be torn up.
– i have yet to learn that. i say that no Government worthy of the respect of this Parliament would allow the control of the finances to be taken out of their hands, either by honorable members behind them or by those sitting in Opposition. The agreement before us is one which was arrived atbetween the Prime Minister on behalf of his Cabinet, and the State Premiers on behalf of their Cabinets. There is no room for any amendment of this contract.
– Nonsense !
– Except on one condition, and that is with the complete consent of all the signatories to it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Federal Parliament is a party to the contract?
– i say that this Parliament must be a party to the contract.
– The Prime Minister has said that it leaves the fate of the Ministry unaffected.
– The whip is cracking.
– If i were the Prime Minister i should crack the whip on some of those who profess to follow the Government. If i were a member of a Government i should absolutely refuseto allow the control of the finances of the country to be taken out of their hands. We have here a complete agreement made between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers, and if there is anything in the responsibility of Ministers at all, they must carry that agreement, or they must do, what some honorable members would regret, and that is, send them straight away to face the verdict of the people upon it.
– The Prime Minister said, “ If we are not honestly convinced that this is the best and wisest scheme it is our duty to say so.”
– Order ! The honorable member for Robertson is out of order.
– I think it has been universally admitted that this agreement is by far the most important matter which hasyet been brought before this Parliament. The tone of the debate has shown that. Since I have been a member of the Federal Parliament I have known no other question to be so seriously, so thoroughly, and so honestly debated. Honorable members have risen above party differences, and, in my humble judgment, the debate from both sides has been exceedingly creditable to the Parliament and to the honorable members who have taken part in it. The seriousness of the question has been realized. This agreement is of infinitely greater importance than the Ministerial Budget. It is of importance because this is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that the Government have been able to come to an agreement with the State Premiers, and submit it to this Parliament. It is not submitted to enable us to come to any decision, or, as has been said, in order to leg-rope the Federation, but in order to give the people of Australia, the electors of both States and Federation, an opportunity to decide the issue by a direct referendum.
– Would the honorable member support a per capita payment to the States of 30s. for tenyears?
– I am going to stand pat on the contract so long as the Government do so. I am going to stand pat on the contract, whether the Government stand by it or not. Pe’rhaps I have no right to say that, because I understand that Ministers do intend to stand by the contract.
– Will the honorable member appeal to the electors on it if the Government will not do so?
– I can aisure the honorable member that, in common with the majority of the members of this Parlia- ment, and of every other Parliament that I have known, I am not anxious to look into the steely eye of the elector one hour earlier than I am forced to do so. But if there is to be true responsible government in the Commonwealth, if the Government are to carry out their functions, and if it is really their duty to govern, they must accept the rule of honest responsible government, and cease to exist when they cease to govern. That is the one rule under which we can carry on the government of the country with a system such as ours. When” the Government have deliberately committed themselves to an agreement such as this they are in every way bound to see the contract right through.
– -The honorable member thinks that they should resign if they cannot put this- agreement through ?
– If the honorable member asks me what I think the Government ought to do, I” shall tell him what I believe the Government intend to do. I believe they intend to carry this contract through this Parliament or through the ballot-box.
– How can they carry it through the ballot-box if they cannot get it through this Parliament?
– Dees the honorable member speak with authority?
– I speak my own views in my own way, accepting full responsibility for my words, and I can assure the honorable member that after I have spoken I shall vote as I have spoken.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the agreement?
– I am in favour of it, although I think the Government have struck an exceedingly hard bargain with the State Premiers. In my opinion the Prime Minister and his colleagues who took part in the Conference represented the Commonwealth honestly and honorably. If there is a fault to be found with them it is that they held the Treasury bills over the heads of the Premiers to obtain from them the very best terms1 they could possibly get. I believe that the Prime Minister acted to the best of his ability as a representative of the Commonwealth, that he did not consider the State Premiers any more than he ought to have considered them, and that, in fact, the bargain he struck with them was an exceedingly hard one. But the bargain was a compromise on both sides. We know that the State Premiers asked for a good deal more than 25 s. per head. We know that they agreed to accept such a payment only on the condition, not that it should be embodied in the Constitution, as some honorable members are so fond of saying, but that the people should be allowed to say whether it should be embodied in the Constitution or not.
– Because they thought they otherwise would get less.
– The honorable member for Gwydir, like many other honorable members, is in favour of the referendum so long as the dice are loaded. When they think the numbers will be with them they are in favour of the referendum, but’ when they find that it is possible the numbers will not be with them we have the whole of the high priests of the Labour Party and ultra Democracy saying that it is not safe to allow this to go to the people by referendum’, because they would not understand it.
– Because it would not be a real referendum.
– The honorable member knows that it is the only referendum we could get under the Constitution.
– That does not make it a real referendum.
– The honorable member is aware, also, that honorable members opposite have put the referendum in the forefront of their fighting platform. They are seeking to obtain a referendum on exactly the same conditions in favour of the new Protection.
– One never submits one’s own property to a referendum.
– The honorable member is quite right. As the disgusted disputant said, “ Call this arbitration ? Why, they have given it agin’ me.” “Call this a referendum?” says the honorable member for Gwydir, “No; the voice of the people will be against us.” Those who do not say that take the stand that has been taken by every Tory in the whole history of Parliaments - “The people would not understand; give us the power.” This lust of power has been the curse of Parliaments, of every organization, and of every body, since the dawn of civilization. By the merest chance in the world, honorable members have this opportunity in their own hands now, and they refuse to allow the people to say whether the power shall be granted or not, or whether the Commonwealth shall return to the States a certain amount or not. . The honorable member for Riverina said that it was well enough for the small States, but that it would not be fair to New South Wales, which is the largest State. The people of Tasmania have a very kindly recollection of New South Wales ; and I should be quite prepared to accept the verdict of that State alone on this question, if it could be put to the people there fairly and honestly. We all recognise that that State will be called upon to make the greatest sacrifice under this agreement.
– Why should that be so?
– Because it is in- evitable that the largest and richest State, where the percentage of Customs receipts per head is more than in the poorer States, such as Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania^ -
– Does the honorable member call Victoria a poor State ?
– It pays less per head through Customs duties than does New South Wales, and that is the best index of the spending power of the people.
– What about Western Australia, which pays nearly £4 per head?
– Western Australia pays an abnormal amount per head in Customs duties, because so large a proportion of bread-winners who went from the eastern States to the gold-fields are Hying there under totally abnormal conditions, and paying more per head than they would do in the older-settled communities. The Customs return of Western Australia per head will come down year by year, as the State approaches to the more normal conditions of the rest of Australia. But any claim that the special concession which is to be given to Western Australia should be regarded as a right, because of her larger Customs return per head, is not based on a sound argument, because it is not the ordinary average citizen of Western Australia who is paying that increased amount.
– Then, who is paying it?
– The abnormal amount is due to the abnormal conditions which surround all new gold-fields in new countries ; but no State has ever yet recognised that fact in framing its calculations, or imposing its taxation. The miner of Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie has not been relieved of the ordinary State taxation because he has been paying more through the Customs. The State of New South Wales does not make any special concession to the miner of Broken Hill, because he pays more per head in Customs duties. In the early days of Zeehan and Mount Lyell, on the west coast of Tasmania, we had exactly the same conditions as now obtain on the Western Australian gold-fields. Young men flocked there, who contributed much more largely to the Customs than did residents of other portions of the island ; but the State Government never offered them relief from other taxation. I am not going to vote for this concession to Western Australia as a right. I shall vote for it because I believe the existing conditions of that State will be best met by our making some special concession to her. At the Conference at Melbourne, when this proposal was made, the right honorable member for Swan rose and said, “ I cannot think it right that the State of Western Australia should take anything from a small State like Tasmania.” The exact proposal which we are now making was then rejected, and Western Australia, was given the special concession of being allowed to impose certain taxation on herself.
– The right honorable member put up a great fight for Western Australia.
– He did; and I have always admired him for it.
– Why should we not put up the same fight for New South Wales now?
– Because the conditions are not the same. New South Wales has a larger area, a greater population, a larger revenue from her land, and from the people generally. In fact, it is the State in the Union which is in the best condition, and will remain so for many years.
-1 The honorable member wishes to exploit New South Wales.
– There is no exploiting when the people of New South Wales are receiving exactly the same treatment as the people of my own State. I am prepared to accept this concession to Western Australia, together with the rest of’the contract. My State asks for no concession ; but we do say that we have made the greatest sacrifices under Federation, seeing that we are now receiving less than half the Customs revenue that we received prior to Federation-
– Is not that better for the people ? The poor people are paying less taxation, and the rich are paying more.
– I think there has been very little improvement in the cost of living in Tasmania since Federation. Previously, we imported large quantities of articles, such as boots. Whether they came from England, America, or Victoria, they all paid the same duty. We now obtain the same boots from Victoria, the English and American goods being shut out, ‘ and we receive no Customs revenue from that source, although the price of boots in Tasmania remains practically the same. While the price of living has not decreased, direct taxation has doubled in Tasmania since Federation, whereas direct taxation in New South Wales has been considerably reduced. I do not blame the Government of New South Wales for having reduced the taxation levied upon its people the moment that it was in a position to do so. Nothing can justify a Government in collecting revenue which it does not need. But, in Tasmania, the position is entirely different. Whereas, under the Commonwealth Tariff, New South Wales doubled her revenue from Customs and Excise, the revenue of Tasmania from that source decreased by 50 per cent. In addition, the latter State has had to double its direct taxation, and to institute a rigorous system of retrenchment. The number of members of the Tasmanian Parliament has been considerably reduced, and, in view of the fact that they receive only £100 a year, whilst Ministers are paid only £600 or £650 per annum, that State cannot be accused of extravagance. From one end of it to the other, developmental work has been retarded for lack of funds, and the salaries of public servants have been considerably reduced, notwithstanding that they ‘were previously lower than those paid in any other State. The proposed agreement is the first at which we have been able to arrive with the States, and it is an eminently satisfactory one. Personally, I do not think that it proposes to return a sufficient sum to the States. It will be a good thing for the Commonwealth when it is called upon to foot the bill for its own expenditure Hitherto, we have had an unlimited purse upon which to draw-, and we have been accustomed to return the balance to the States. I maintain that any Bill proposing expenditure ought to be accompanied by a Bill relating to Ways and Means. When the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill was introduced, honorable members should have been shown how the cost of administering that Territory was to be financed. A similar remark is applicable to the establishment of ‘a Federal Capital and the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. That would be the greatest guarantee that the people could have against extravagance. It has been said that the Government ought not to make the proposed agreement a party question. But if the Bill be amended, it cannot become other than a party question. It has been said that the people will not understand the issue when it is put before them, but I claim that no simpler issue could be submitted to them. That issue is, “Are you prepared to embody in the Constitution a section providing that the Commonwealth shall annually return to the States 25s. per head?”
– For all time?
– It cannot be urged that the agreement is to be operative for all time.
– Be honest about the matter.
– That is an insulting remark for the honorable member to make.
– It is what the Treasurer himself said to-night.
– Anybody who talks about embodying the proposed agreement in our Constitution with a view to afterwards removing it, does not understand the question.
– The scheme formulated by the Brisbane Labour Conference contains no reference to the return of a specific sum for a fixed period, or for all time. In . embodying the proposed agreement in the Constitution, we do not say that it shall continue operative for all time, or for a fixed period. We merely say that it shall continue in force until the people decide to alter it.
– But a minority of the people will be able to prevent its alteration.
– A majority of the electors in a majority of the States can secure its removal from the Constitution.
– Let the honorable member reflect upon what two of the small States are offered as an inducement to embody it in the Constitution. They are offered an absolute bribe.
– A majority of the people of Australia will decide this issue.
– Not at. all.
– A majority of the electors in a majority of the States will decide it. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Herbert are at liberty to return to their own State, and to declare that they are afraid to trust their electors in this matter, because Queensland is one of the small States.
– Indeed, it is not.
– It is from the stand-point of population.
– It is the third State of the group.
– But it is one of the four small States. Queensland and South Australia are practically on the same plane.
– Read up a bit.
– The honorable member has affirmed that, under the proposed agreement, the Commonwealth will not be paying the States too much. But he fears that the electors will not understand the issue presented to them, and holds that the question is one which should be decided by this Parliament. The people will not understand it, declares this high priest of labour. He urges that they are not to be trusted in the matter because they are not so competent to decide it as is this Parliament. We can decide this matter. The people would not understand it.” There is not an elector in Australia who could not understand it after five minutes’ explanation. Honorable members have been dragging in side issues to hide the main point. Although always talking about trusting the people, they are afraid to do so in this case. Any amendment made in the Bill will be equivalent to tearing up the contract into which the Government have entered, which cannot be altered without the consent of every signatory.
– Had the Government any authority to make a contract?
– When the Prime Minister signed the agreement,- he imposed upon the Ministry full responsibility for it, and if Parliament amends the Bill in any material respect, it will take the control of the finances out of the hands of Ministers, a thing which no Government could submit to and live.
.- I desired to address myself to this question on non-party lines, as I would address myself to such questions as the Capital site, Defence, transfer of State debts, the High Commissioner Bill, the Western Australia railway, and the transfer of the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Franklin, however, whether instructed by the Government or not, has made it clear that we are expected to deal with it on party lines. I hope that on such important questions, and even on minor ones, the wisdom of the House will allow proposals to be dealt with on their merits. While I have the honour of a seat here, I shall so deal with them. Therefore, I intend to vote for the motion. Ever since I have been in this Parliament, I have favoured a per capita distribution of Customs and Excise revenue. We have not had a true Federation .during the past nine years. It was understood that with Federation we should have one people, one destiny, one flag, and one purse. It was thought that Federation, by providing for the consolidation of the debts of the States, would bring about a large saving in interest. I do not propose to discuss the liabilities of the States, or their expenditure. Those are questions for their Governments and Parliaments and their electors. Neither shall I, in dealing with the question, as# it concerns us, make use of a great mass “of figures. Mr. Knibbs’ publications have been pretty thoroughly overhauled during the past few weeks. Dozens’ of tabular statements have been quoted, so that any one who attempts ‘to read the figures which have been given in the speeches of honorable members must become thoroughly bewildered in time. Indeed, the Treasurer and the honorable member for Flinders arrived at different conclusions from the same set of figures. We have been sent here to do what we think best in the interest of the Commonwealth, and it is absurd to suggest that any one of us would seek to injure the States. Yet the Treasurer, this afternoon, charged the honorable member for Hume with wishing to do so. The’ electors of the States would soon deal with any one who acted contrary to their well-being. The Prime Minister has asked us to trust the people, and I am willing to trust them, not only in this matter, but also in regard to unification. He will not put that question to them, although, if it is right to refer one matter to them, it is right to refer others of equal importance. I was opposed to the Draft Constitution Bill, because I favoured unification. No business mam would double his expenditure unless he thought that he would gain a corresponding profit ; but the people of Australia have largely increased their expenditure without much direct gain. I consider that a payment of 25s. per capita to the States would be a fair one to make. But if the Constitution is amended, to make the agreement perpetual, it will subsequently be difficult to effect any alteration, should that be deemed necessary, because such an amendment requires the consent of a majority of the people and of a majority of the States. I do not think that the Commonwealth can afford to pay more than 25s. per capita to the States. If 1 did, I would vote for a larger payment. But I do not agree with the honorable member for Franklin that the Commonwealth has been extravagant. When the right honorable member for East Sydney moved a motion of want of confidence in the last Deakin Administration, he charged it with neglecting to expend a sufficient sum on postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services, and with saving up money to return to the States. In ray view, that Government, knowing the necessities of the States, did right in assisting them as much as it could. The position of the Commonwealth and the States is very much like that of individuals. Every man, as a general rule, would like to spend more than he is able to do, but he finds’ that he must live according to his income, and consequently has to go without many things that he would like to have. And so with the Commonwealth. Wc could have expended with advantage much more than we have done on the extension of postal and telegraphic services, just as the States could expend a great deal of money on the construction of railway’s, roads, and bridges, if they had more at their disposal. As it is, they have to go slowly, and take advantage of the opportunities offering. The Commonwealth, in my opinion, did right in returning to the States as much as possible. If I were a member of a State Government, I should certainly be prepared to trust the Commonwealth, but we know that, unfortunately, in sections of the press and elsewhere, charges of extravagance are made for party purposes, sometimes against the States, and occasionally against certain members of the Federal Legislature. It would be a mistake, however, to bind the Commonwealth for all time to a per capita payment, of 25s. per annum to the States. 1 should certainly be in favour of such payment being made for the next ten years, and rather than that the agreement should bc lost to us altogether, I should vote for its continuance for twenty or thirty years. As the honorable member for . Parkes pointed out, we know more now concerning the finances of Australia than we did eight years ago, and our experience will be still broader ten years hence. If we agreed to make a per capita payment to the States of 25s. per annum Ibr ten years, we should be able, at the end of that term, to decide whether that. pa> ment should be continued, or whether it should be increased or reduced. We should then be able, if we found that the arrangement was endangering the Protectionist policy of Australia, to vary its terms. I should certainly be prepared to trust the people and their representatives to do what is- right at’ the end of the ten years’ period. The States ought to be satisfied with such a proposal, remembering that the State and the Federal Legislatures are elected by the same people, and that if we do not treat the States fairly, the people will have the power to select men who will. Members of Parliament might do wrong for’ a year or two, but, as soon as their masters - the people - discovered that they were doing so, they could promptly bring about a change. A few years ago in Tasmania the electors rejected the whole of the Ministry of the day, and returned only one or two of their supporters. It cannot be denied that this is one of the most important measures that has- been brought before us, both from the stand-point of Federal expenditure and the relations of the Commonwealth to the States. The transfer of the State debts is associated with this question, to a certain extent, although . it is, dealt with in a separate measure, and it is certainly one of the highest importance. During the Federal campaign, the people were told that, as a result of Federation, the expenditure of the States would be reduced, and that by the transfer of the debts alone a saving of about £1,000,000 per annum would be effected. In the circumstances, therefore, one cannot help regret-: ting that the transfer has not been made before, and that the strife of party should have raged so long. Instead of dealing with the financial question, as business men do, and endeavouring to effect savings in the interests of the people, we have been fighting,, party against party. It may be asked,. “ Why should we not make this payment to the States for all time?” in this connexion, let me say that I hope before manyyears to see many changes in Australia. I hope to see the day when the railways of the States will be controlled, if not by the Commonwealth, at least unitedly for Australia. As the honorable member for Riverina said in reply to an interjection, if we had a uniform railway gauge all over Australia it would be unnecessary, for instance, for passengers travelling by rail from Melbourne to Sydney to change on reaching the New South Wales border, and if there was a shortage of railway carriages in one State, supplies could be speedily obtained from another. About this time last year, on the occasion of the visit of the American Fleet, the railway carriages in Victoria were not sufficient to cope with the traffic. If we had had a uniform gauge, a supply could have been obtained from New South Wales, and in other ways savings could have been effected. If we had. a uniform system, great savings might be made in connexion with haulage and in other directions. I hope, also, to see the day when Australia will be far more self-contained than, it is. If the Protectionist Tariff is to have the desired effect, instead of importing manufactured goods from other countries, we shall be largely making them for ourselves. Manufacturers from abroad will be establishing works here, and in that way Australia will become more self-contained, with the result that her Customs revenue will be reduced. In the circumstances, therefore, I think it desirable that the proposed agreement should have only a ten years’ currency. At the end of that period the people could be trusted to deal with the whole question in a business-like. way. I do not see why we should not bc a self-contained community. We are going to manufacture our own small-arms, and build our own warships. Why should we not manufacture here everything that we require ? We have, for instance, land that will produce cotton,’ and the power to manufacture it into piece goods. This fair ‘land of ours possesses great possibilities, and if the legislators of Australia would only deal with this question in a straightforward, business-like manner, the whole country would be benefited. Although, as the result of an extension of our manufactories, our revenue from Customs’ would be reduced, we should have a larger population, which would tend to the better defence of Australia. I am not disposed to vote for the agreement being fixed for all time, but am certainly in favour of its being embodied in the Constitution in the terms of the Braddon section, its -operation to be for ten years “ and until the Parliament otherwise provides.” Surely the members of this Legislature, ten years hence, could be trusted, just as we are, to deal with the affairs of Australia. If the
Federal Parliament, ten years hence, seeks to deal unfairly by the States, it will be for the people to change its’ personnel, and to return men who will do what is test for Australia as a whole.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Agar Wynne) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090928_reps_3_52/>.