3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday a large number of my electors were greatly inconvenienced because I was unable to take the chair at an important meeting, over which they desired me to preside. I could not do so, because I had to remain here in the expectation of a division being taken on the measure then under discussion. My case is a typical one. In many of the constituencies electors are inconvenienced by the fact that honorable members cannot meet them, owing to their presence being required in the House in expectation of divisions. I therefore ask the Prime Minister if he will endeavour to arrange with the Leader of the Opposition that honorable members shall be informed, within a day or two, of the time at which it is intended to take important divisions?
– As the honorable member is aware, there are difficulties in the way of giving effect to his proposal, but I shall not only not raise obstacles, but shall be happy to assist an arrangement.
– The following paragraph appears in this morning’s Argus relative to last night’s proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales-
Mr. Dacey. Is the Premier aware that there is a Bill before the Commonwealth Parliament to amend the Constitution, in order to take over the States’ debts, not only as they exist to-day, but those debts which may be incurred in the future; and, if the honorable gentleman is aware of it, what attitude does the Government intend to take so far as this State is concerned?
Mr. Wade. It will be sufficient time to answer that question when the Bill becomes law, and is before the people for indorsement. At present the Bill is in a very early stage before only one House.
I ask the Prime Minister whether any arrangement or understanding of any kind was come to between the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States at the recent Conference in reference to the Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Bill, as well as to the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill?
– The arrangement with regard to the debts is embodied In the first paragraph of the agreement. It is there recognised that the fulfilment of the Constitution requires the transfer of the debts to the Commonwealth, and means are suggested for giving effect to the intention. The question was considered at the Conference, so far as time permitted, and -the Premiers were aware that it was the intention of the Government to introduce the measure of which I have moved the second reading. Neither then new . later did they oppose the proposal, which they appear well content to see brought forward.
– I desire to draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that questions relating to the details of measures on the notice-paper are not in order, and to ask them to so frame their questions as not to infringe, this very useful rule.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Federal Capital- Proposed Site at YassCanberra - Further. Papers respecting the” selection of the Territory and proposed site for the City (dated 17th August to 30th September, 1909).
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Acts - Military Forces - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - No. 540 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. no.
Defence Bill - Staff Sergeants’ Pay - Light Horse : Deniliquin- Third Battalion Senior Cadets
– Can the Prime Minister so arrange the order of business as to fix the date on which the second reading of the Defence Bill will be resumed ? When the debate is resumed, will the Go vernment make every effort to bring it to a conclusion without’ interruption ?
– When the debate on the present stages of the Constitution Alteration Bills ends, the House will be asked to resumeconsideration of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, and the Marine Insurance Bill. We wish to send the latter to the Senate, as that Chamber needs business of that description. I can fix next Tuesday as the date for the resumption of the second reading of the Defence Bill.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
With reference to the statement on the 29th September that staff-sergeants are paid according to Financial and Allowance Regulations, 6s. daily -
Does this regulation not limit the pay to orderly room staff-sergeants ?
Is not the item C.S.M. and Q.S.M. and staff-sergeants, page 133,Estimates, distinct from this?
In reference to the Minister’s statement that there are no staff-sergeants in the R.A.A., Victoria -
Why do staff-sergeants, as well as orderly room sergeants, appear in Estimates R.A.A., Victoria?
Do six staff-sergeants, R.A.A.; appear, in the establishment of the Military Forces of Victoria issued with District Order No. 2, dated 15th January, 1909?
– The answersto the honorable member’s questions are -
Yes. 3. (a) I do not know. The matter will be rectified.
asked the Miniiter of Defence, upon notice -
Will he, in order to encourage the patriotic citizens of Australia to be properly trained to assist in the defence of the Commonwealth, place a sum of money on the Estimates sufficient to meet the necessary expenses of establishing and training a mounted force at Deniliquin, and in other districts also where similar patriotic men volunteer to give their aid in the defence of their country?
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is -
This is not considered advisable or practicable. It would be impossible in such circumstances to lay down any fixed establishment, which is so necessary for the proper organization of the military forces, or to arrive at an estimateof what the expenditure would be during the financial year.
I should like to add that I hope it may be possible ; that development may take place which will enable what the honorablemember desires to be provided.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 5th October (vide page 4108), 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 have already dealt with most of the points I had in view, but there is one to which I should like to draw special attention, namely, the relationship of the problem to the development and progress of the Commonwealth generally. That is a phase which has very largely been lost sight of, but which should receive some consideration at the hands of honorable members. It has been presented to us by the honorable member for Darwin, in dealing with his proposal to establish a National Postal Bank for the arrangement of the proper financing of Government business, both here and in the Old World; and though it is of vital concern to the welfare of the Commonwealth, it has been, as I say, largely lost sight of in the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States, and in the agreement placed before us. I do not intend to deal with the matter as fully as I at the outset proposed ; but I desire to emphasize the fact that at present, and for some considerable time past, the Commonwealth has been at a standstill in regard to population. It matters not what the mineral wealth or other natural productiveness of the country may be, there must be population for the development of that wealth and for the purposes of defence, so that we may be able to take our stand amongst the peoples of the world. It would help very much to make my remarks clear, and savetime, if I had permission to insert in Hansard some tabulated statements bearing on this phase of the question, without the necessity of reading them.
– I shall first have to see the statements.
– The first tabulated statement relates to settlement and agricultural development in New South Wales; and it shows that 49,901,837 acres of alienated rural lands are held by 81,732 settlers, but that of that total acreage only 2,362,590 acres are actually under cultivation, the rest being simply held for grazing purposes. If we desire to determine the extent of agricultural development we must have regard to the small holders. Of small holdings, from 1 acre up to 1,000 acres of rural land, there are in New South Wales 74,824, representing 91.54 per cent. of the total holders, and of the 12,120,462 acres out of the 49,000,000 odd, held by these settlers, 1,379,739 acres, or 44.29 per cent. are cultivated.
– How does the honorable member connect his remarks with the question before us?
– I wish to connect my remarks with the proposal for a State Bank as a means of controlling and managing loans and other financial business, all of which bears intimately on the problem before us.
– I do not myself see the connexion.
– It is only by settlement that we can develop our territory, and bring about those conditions of progress which will help us in providing for those claims which are pressed on us by the proposal of the Government. I desire to show that the Government proposal, instead of furthering development, tends in the other direction.
– The honorable member has a perfect right to allude to the means by which the amount it is desired to raise should be raised by the Commonwealth, but I do not think he is justified in going into the land question in the way he apparently is now doing.
– I submit respectfully to your ruling. Mr. Speaker, but it seems to me that the phase which I am endeavouring to present has an important bearing on the question. Without population it is impossible to impose taxation or make progress ; and the Government are asking us to allocate 25s. per head of the Customs and Excise revenue for State purposes.
– The honorable member would be quite in order in stating that, in order to pay certain amounts, it is necessary to have more population, and also in showing the means by which the population might be increased, but he would not be entitled to go into the details of the various schemes for attracting settlers, because that would lead us into a field which is not covered by the motion.
– I do not propose to go into the details of any scheme, but simply to show to what extent we have been successful in promoting rural settlement, which, I contend, is of vital concern to the progress and development of the States and the Commonwealth generally.
I desire to prove that the progress under present methods, does not promise that measure of success for which we have a right to hope, and that the National Postal Banking scheme proposed bythe honorable member for Darwin, in addition to meeting the objects which he has immediately in view, would lend itself to the promotion of land settlement.
– If the honorable member connects his remarks in the way he has just stated with the question before the Chair, he will be in order.
– I desire to show by means of the following table that the alienation of land that has taken place in New South Wales has been largely in the direction of building up large estates, and that small holdings utilized very largely for cultivation have not developed to the extent hoped for and necessary to promote the real progress of the State.
This table shows that some 6,908 holders own 37,781,411 acres of the alienated rural lands of the State, representing 75.71 per cent. of the total alienated area, and that of that area only 966,851 acres, or 5.75 per cent., of the total alienated area are under cultivation. Three thousand holders occupy practically half of the alienated lands of New South Wales. Here is another interesting table showing the concentration of wealth equally with that of land in the hands of a few holders -
It has been stated that in Victoria 550 families or corporations hold more than one-half of the alienated lands of this State, and the tendencies noted in New South Wales are equally accentuated in Victoria -
That is the present position, and those who look the problem fairly and squarely in the face will see that the present tendencies are not in the direction of promoting rural settlement. The reasons for that may be the desire of the large land-owner to acquire vested interests in properties originally leased, and the methods adopted by him to secure that end, and, further, the desire of persons to acquire land, not for developmental purposes, but as a commercial transaction. A large proportion of this land was originally acquired quite legitimately, with the sole desire of de veloping it, and establishing homes thereon ; but, owing to adverse circumstances well known to honorable members, the efforts of many persons in that direction have failed. The establishment of a national banking system of the character proposed by the honorable member for Darwin would provide for a permanent settlement of the land in small holdings. In times of drought and disaster, struggling landholders often get into monetary difficulties, and large monopolists and private banking institutions interested in this form of monopoly avail themselves of the opportunity which is thus presented to them to acquire more land. The result is practically the annihilation of settlement, to the detriment of those primarily engaged in the industry. The States have endeavoured to meet the difficulty by the establishment of banking institutions, either directly under the control of the Government, or on the Crédit Foncier system. One of the main objects of such institutions is to meet the difficulty that I have indicated, and, so far as they have operated, they have certainly achieved that object. The following table shows the operation of these government institutions in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia. It sets forth the number of applications received for loans, the number approved of, the amount applied for, and the amount granted during the year 1907. It also gives the totals of such transactions for the whole Commonwealth : -
The honorable member for Darwin set out to draft a scheme to deal with the transfer of the State debts, but found, as he proceeded, that by departing from the antiquated methods of dealing through private banking institutions and syndicates, and establishing a national banking system, the Government could make a substantial gain for the Commonwealth. That led him to devise his present scheme for a national postal bank. In that scheme we have also a means of overcoming the land settlement problem, which lies at the very basis of all these arrangements. I commend the honorable member for the able manner in which he has dealt with the subject. Throughout my political career I have been a strong advocate of State banking institutions as a means of settling the land problem, but confess that I failed to see how it would be possible to harmonize State and Federal interests in this connexion. The honorable member for Darwin has supplied a key that will- unlock this intricate problem, inasmuch as his proposal practically means the merging of all State banks into a national banking institution, in which the States and the Commonwealth would have a direct interest - an interest which would meet the needs of the people by means of a central and more efficient control than is possible under the existing system. The popularity of these State banking institutions is shown by the number of applications to which I have referred. The pity is that those institutions have not been able to deal with many more applications, that a large percentage has been disallowed, and that in a still larger percentage of cases the amount applied for has been reduced. That is a phase of the question which deserves the earnest consideration of the House, because it lies behind the problem which we have before us, and its settlement will mean a better solution of that problem. In conclusion I wish to summarize my position with respect to the matter now under review. In doing so I wish to state first, that the Braddon section is opposed to sound principles of governmental finance, in that it either makes the Federal Parliament the taxing machine for the States, or it makes the States dependent upon, and suppliant to the Federal Parliament for a large share of its income. Both alternatives are objectionable, both are opposed to the best interests of the taxpayers, and both are inimical to sound finance “and sound economic government. In the second place, the Government proposal is a modification of the Braddon section, and to that extent it is in the direction of a more satisfactory settlement of the financial relations, of the Commonwealth and the States. But it is unsatisfactory in- that it stops midway between the more extreme position involved in the Braddon section, as at present operating, and a complete and satisfactory solution of the problems involved in that relationship. Thirdly, the Braddon section was finally placed in the Constitution as a temporary expedient only, to assist the States to adjust themselves to the altered financial conditions brought about by Federation. Ten years’ participation in Customs and Excise taxation was guaranteed to them for this purpose. Whatever may .have been the original intentions of the framers of the Constitution, that section was limited in its operation to ten years, and it was provided that thereafter the National Parliament should be clothed with supreme power to deal with the matter, and be left free to make such arrangements from time to time as would best meet the varying and changing conditions of the Commonwealth and the States. The Government proposal is a negation of that right, and that principle, inasmuch as the Government ask that it shall become embedded iri ‘the Constitutution
– Yet Mr. Bowman, the Leader of the Labour party in Queensland, says that it is almost identical with the Labour party’s financial scheme.
– I shall deal with that point forthwith. Fourthly, the Government proposal, whilst it is a colorable imitation of the scheme devised by the Brisbane Labour Conference in 1908, departs from it in some vital respects, and to that extent is objectionable and much less acceptable to the taxpayers and to all patriotic Australians. The Brisbane Conference proposals placed the National Parliament first, and provided for “State needs after national requirements had been reasonably met. The Government proposal places the States first, and guarantees their revenues from Federal taxing sources to the extent of 25s. per head of their population, irrespective of Commonwealth requirements. Does not the honorable member for Lang think that that indicates a very vital departure from the determination of the Brisbane Conference Fifthly, the proposals of that Conference respected the requirement of the Constitution that, at the termination of the first ten years of Federation, the financial relationship of the Commonwealth and the States shall be a matter of mutual arrangement from time to time as. the changing conditions and varying needs of both may. suggest. The Government scheme eliminates this elasticity, and clothes their proposals with, the extreme rigidity of embodiment in the Constitution.
Sixthly, the Constitution provides for the Commonwealth taking over, consolidating, and handling the State debts as a national concern. The advantages of such a scheme are evident and farreaching. The debts problem can best be dealt with by making the distribution of Federal surpluses a factor in its solution, but the Government proposals are in the nature of a divorcement between the disposal of the Federal surplus and the treatment of the State debts. In view of the fact that the States have maturing loans totalling ,£79,868,450 to meet within the next ten years, or ^127,607,243 within the next fifteen years, the urgency of Federal treatment of these allied questions, and the unwisdom of the Government’s proposals, is manifest. Seventhly, the Brisbane Labour Conference contemplated the establishment of a national bank under joint Federal and State control to conserve the people’s earnings, to deal with Government financial arrangements, including the handling of national debts, and to provide for the development of the agricultural and industrial life of the community. For this purpose it expressed approval of the national postal banking scheme proposed by one of its members, the honorable member for Darwin. The Government proposals contemplate no change in present antiquated methods of handling financial arrangements, nor do they appear to favour the establishment of a national bank. Eighthly, the proposal for the embodiment in the Constitution of the Government’s scheme is open to very strong objections. We have a total population of 4,275,306 souls in the Commonwealth, and under the Government proposals, if this scheme were afterwards to come, up for modification or reconsideration, it would be possible, under the referendum provisions of the Constitution, for 213,271 persons out of that total to nullify the wishes of the majority. In other words, 2,096,357 voters in the Commonwealth would have to submit to the will of 213,271 of their brethren. And finally, the Government proposals are a negation of Australian nationhood in that they sacrifice the Commonwealth interests to State advantages, which can be equally well provided for in other directions. The great national questions of Defence, an adequate system of old-age pensions, Northern Territory acquisition and development, trans-continental railways, “All Red “ cable services within the reach of the people, post and telegraph develop ment, and a Commonwealth system of penny postage, the establishment and equipment of the Federal Capital site as provided for in the Constitution, and the hundred-and-one avenues of national activities committed to the Commonwealth, these are all sacrificed by this Fusion Government on the’ shrine of State needs, and only come, in for consideration after the States have drawn from Commonwealth taxation sources 25s. per capita of their population for purely State purposes. I desire the fair and equitable distribution of any surplus revenue that the Commonwealth may have. But the solution- of this question requires the consideration of the State indebtedness, and the important banking scheme of the honorable member for Darwin should not be left out of account. The House will make a very grave mistake if it votes for the insertion of the proposed amendment in the Constitution. The interests of both the Commonwealth and States will best be met by leaving the Constitution unaltered. Then, at the end of 1910, the matter will come up for review by this Parliament. The Senate is specially charged with the safeguarding of the interests of the States, and the Premiers of the States have to a large extent usurped the functions of that Chamber, which has thereby suffered in the eyes of the electors. The taxpayers can wisely leave it to the Senate to protect the special interests of the States. Of course, the representations of the Premiers will have fair consideration. In the end, both the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments have to. appeal to the same set of electors. If we provide for ‘an elastic adjustment of the finances, much friction, trouble, and difficulty will be avoided, and therefore, while I shall be prepared to reasonably meet State needs, the proposal to embody the agreement in the Constitution will have my strongest opposition.
.;- It is not my intention to make a speech, or to deal with the merits or demerits of the Financial Agreement at this stage, but in view of the denials of the members of the Opposition that the scheme which has been proposed is largely on the lines of that adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference of 1908, I think it well to, quote from a recent speech made by the Leader of the Queensland Labour party in the local Legislature. Mr. Bowman is reported in the Hansard record of 24th August last to. have said -
Mr. Bowman. We have been told this afternoon by the Premier that the slightest mistake at that Conference might have created disharmony for years between the States and the Commonwealth. The agreement the Conference came to is largely based on the scheme that was laid down by the Labour party last year.
Labour Members. - Hear, hear.
Mr. Bowman. When the honorable gentleman went to Tasmania some twelve months ago he ridiculed the Labour party, and, he has ridiculed the Labour party’s scheme on the Boor of this House, both last session and this session, and yet, with very little alteration, the scheme drawn up by the Labour Convention of 1907 is the scheme adopted by the Premiers’ Conference.
I simply put in this quotation as the deliberately expressed view of the Leader of the Labour party in the Queensland Parliament in contrast to the statements made by Labour members on the floor of this House.
– I thank honorable ‘ members for my reception. I still feel physically unequal to the task of dealing with this great question as its importance deserves, but with the indulgence of the House I shall say a few words, more to indicate my own attitude regarding it than to attempt to traverse the splendid speeches which have been made from all parts of the Chamber, both for and against it, most of which I have endeavoured to read. At the outset I tender to the Prime Minister and Treasurer my congratulations on their success in obtaining the agreement of the Premiers to a proposal which will, at least, form a starting point for a final arrangement. In that respect the last Conference was an advance on its predecessors. There appears to be little difference of opinion in this Chamber as to the advisability of returning to the States 25s. percapita, though many honorable members have expressed opposition to the proposal to make the payments perpetual, feeling that, in view of the increase of population,” there should be some period of .review. While I am prepared to support the Government in giving effect to the agreement, I should much prefer, either the limitation of the per capita payments to a fixed period, or the fixing of a lump maximum or minimum which should not be exceeded. A considerable change of opinion has taken place since proposals were first submitted by Treasurers and private members for the settlement of this question. That justifies me in thinking that the matter may again require consideraion before any arrangement can be embodied in the Constitution. In a memorandum which I submitted on the’ 5th October, 1906, no altera-* tion of the Constitution was contemplated. It seems to me to be possible to make art agreement with the States which would be as binding on us as any other, and I still adhere to that view.
– We are not being asked to trust foreigners.
– The same people elects both the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments. That is one of the reasons why I say that if the Government, with the better knowledge which it possesses, feels- that it must adhere to the agreement without modification, its loyal supporters should follow it. But I trust that it will be felt that the time is not yet ripe for embodying any proposal in the Constitution. lt has been said that the machinery for altering the Constitution to embody in it an agree-! ment can, if necessary, be employed subsequently for altering the Constitution torescind it. But the general opinion is that it would be much more difficult to get rid of the arrangement than to make it, just as it is much more difficult to obtain money than to pay it. In my opinion, the pro-; posed arrangement, subject to what I have said about the alteration of the Constitu-tion, is a fair one in the interests of both Commonwealth and States, and, as I have’ said, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer did excellent work in bringing it about. I recall to the memory of honorable mem-‘ hers who have been here as long as I myself have, and of others who have not the same knowledge, that I have presumed on two occasions to submit to the House papers, which the House was pleased to accept as embodying a scheme for the solu-tion of this question.
– And a good scheme, too 1
– I hope so. I am glad to have the support of so distinguished a financier as the honorable member; and T say that in all sincerity because we have discussed this matter together on various occasions. In order that my suggestions may appear in Hansard for reference, I ask permission to have a portion of the proposal I formerly submitted inserted in the report of my remarks, when honor-‘, able members will see that the present proposal of the Government bears a somewhat close similarity to the suggestions I’ made on 10th October, 1906. The figures vary, but that is in consequence, chiefly,’ of the increase in population, and of the fact that we have taken over the obligation to pay practically £”1,500,000 for old-age pensions - a very proper thing for us to do.
– It is an ever increasing amount.
– Of course, the amount will increase. The first extract from my suggestions that I desire to read is as follows : -
The foundation of Commonwealth revenue being derived from Customs and Excise, which is essentially a fer capita tax, I propose to base the contributions by the Commonwealth to the States upon the interest on a capital sum which would produce ^7,000,000 per annum at 3^ pet cent., adding thereto a sum of ^350,000 necessary to make special provision for West Aus tralia. This would closely represent the amount now being returned to the States under the Braddon clause (Constitution, Sec. 87), as the sum returned to the States for the year ending 30th June, 1906, was actually £7,385,731
I have explained that if such a proposal were submitted now, at least £”1,500,000 would have to be deducted, and it is rather remarkable to discover how approximate I was, so far as the figures are concerned. I proceeded to urge -
That capital sum thus arrived at would be ^200,000,000, which, divided by the present population, equals a fraction over ^49-35 per head. If apportioned between the various States on that basis, the following would be the capital sum upon which each State would be entitled to receive payments representing interest at 2i Per cent. : -
That proposal comes approximately to the present proposition of £1 5s. per capita, with the deductions referred to, and we know that the Prime Minister, in his able and comprehensive speech, made out the capital sum involved tei be £”45 per head. In view of the increase in population, and of deductions which have to be made in consequence of legislation passed since, I am gratified to find that the figures I submitted coincide remarkably with the proposal now before us. I went on to say -
The proposed method will admit of an arrangement for an automatic re-adjustment at any period or periods if rendered necessary by any considerable change in the incidence of the population in the States or of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise.
I, therefore, felt then, as I feel now, that it is undesirable for the Commonwealth to be what has been described as “ leg-roped “ and that there ought to be an automatic reconsideration of the situation, not only in the interests of the Commonwealth, but also in the interests of the States. We are not foreigners, but one people ; the honorable member for Darwin, the honorable member for Dalley, and myself, are as much interested in securing an equitable arrangement for the States as we are in securing an arrangement of the kind for the Commonwealth. The fact that I
am a Commonwealth member does not reduce my responsibilities, obligations, or privileges, as a citizen of the States.
– The honorable member asks for mutual trust.
– Quite so. I never contemplated any change in the Constitution, but regarded it as a matter of trust between the representatives of the ;States and the representatives of the Commonwealth, holding the opinion that it is quite competent for us to enter into an obligation for a period of years that will be as binding as any Constitutional enactment. I have not yet seen or discovered any reason for a referendum on. the question. The proposal for the taking oyer of the State debts is quite a different matter ; but, in regard to the Braddon section, I consider a referendum as unnecessary at present. In insisting that it is necessary to have the arrangement in black and white, we are practically taking up the position that. we cannot trust ourselves.
– It shows a want of confidence in this Parliament !
– And also a want of confidence in the State Parliaments. The gentlemen elected to control the affairs of the States have, I think, equally with us, ideas of what is right and just. I know what my own feelings were when I was a State member; any obligation, implied or written, would have been respected to the fullest extent, and no one would have ever attempted, directly or indirectly, to repudiate an honorable understanding. The Ministry, with their wider knowledge, may feel that a referendum is absolutely necessary, seeing that they are in possession of the’ views of the various State Premiers; but I think there is a middle course which would relieve much of the existing difficulty, and enable the whole of this House - because it is not a party question, but rather a family matter, concerning our own brothers and sisters - to come to an agreement universally acceptable. So far as I can gather, the amount of 25s. per head is not a serious matter of contention, but only the period for which the payment shall last. I think the Prime Minister succeeded in making a very excellent agreement in the interests of the Commonwealth, so far as the amount is concerned. I do not say that I can follow or admit the arguments in support of the general objections to the perpetuity of the agreement, based on certain inferences from what the Tariff is likely to produce in the future. These inferences may or may not be correct; but, after having been in intimate touch with a number of gentlemen, who have come from the Old Land and various parts of the Empire, to confer on matters commercial, I think that we are on the eve of an entirely new development. The great newspapers of Great Britain are taking a closer interest in our affairs, and, for the first time, those at Home are enabled, from personal contact, to understand our position. The representatives at the Conference of the Chambers of Commerce are going Home full of hope for the future of Australia, ready to tell every one that we really do not understand the possibilities of the country . I think that if the agreement were limited to, say, the next ten years, we shall in that period have a development which will ‘surprise us all. There is much more that I should like to say, but I feel that I am unequal to the task. I repeat that if the Government insist on their scheme, I have so little apprehension that eventually the fair thing will. not be done, that, whatever the consequences, I am prepared to follow them; but, honestly, I think it would be a good thing if we could present a united front to the States.
– Make the period ten years !
– I suggested ten years, but let us present a united front, and come to an understanding acceptable to all. Honorable members will understand that I am making the suggestion rather by way of preference than by way of any opposition or obstruction to the attitude of the Government.
– The honorable member for Calare quoted some tabulated figures, which he has since submitted to me with a view to their insertion in Hansard. The honorable member quoted nearly the whole of the tables, and, in accordance with the usual practice, I have to inform the House that I have given permission for their publication.
– At this stage of a most interesting debate, there is but little new that can be added, and I should not have spoken but for the fact that, as a former Treasurer, I naturally took a great interest in the financial question, and submitted a scheme which the then Prime Minister regarded as equitable, and which I thought would have been accepted by the States. I shall not, I think, take’ more than an hour in placing before honorable ( members reasons why I formed that opinion. I went with the then Prime Minister to the Premiers’ Conference in full expectation of good results. First, let me say that, in my opinion, it is an unfortunate coincidence that this question should be discussed on the eve of an election, because I know that that fact, whether intentionally or not, has had some effect on the minds of some honorable members. It is not wise to have a matter of this kind made a party question, but, in view of its importance, not only to the Commonwealth, but to the States, Iunhesitatingly say that it would be little’ short of criminal if the question were decided on party lines, because it is one that should be disposed of in a fair and reasonable way.
– And in the full light of day !
– The proposed agreement was not made in the full light of day, and I regard that as most unwise. The Conference would have acted wisely it it had determined to admit the press, in order that the whole of its deliberations might take place in public. The question was far too important to be dealt . with in secret. I would remind honorable members of the outcry that was raised when the Premiers of the States met in secret, and altered the original Constitution Bill. A request was made at the time that the
Conference should be open to the public, and I considered that it was a reasonable one. The Conference which took place in August last ought also to have been open to the public. A great deal of the discussion which has taken place on this motion has been due to the fact that honorable members are largely in the dark as to what took place. It must be admitted that the question has been ably debated, and that honorable members generally have given thoughtful consideration to it. It is surprising, however, that such a debate should have taken place on a motion for leave to introduce the Bill. If ever there was a measure which should have been discussed on a motion not for leave to introduce, but for the second reading, it is this, and probably when the Bill is submitted, honorable members will find that it “contains provisions that will heed to be further debated at the second-reading stage. When I, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, first took into consideration the question of the settlement of the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth, the honorable member for Ballarat, as my leader, undertook to help me in the preparation of a scheme, and he certainly gave me material assistance. I looked first of all at the whole of the schemes that had then been submitted. It will be remembered that at that time there had been presented to the House schemes prepared by Sir George Turner, the right honorable member for Swan, the honorable member for Mernda, and the honorable member for Kooyong.
– And also by the honorable member for Darwin.
– The honorable member for Darwin’s scheme was presented at a later stage. It seemed to me that the best course to adopt in dealing with a question of such importance was first of all to carefully read and digest those schemes, and to select from them any proposals which would assist in bringing about a fair and definite settlement of the problem. Ultimately, the present Prime Minister and I came to the conclusion that the best that we could adopt as a basis for our scheme of settlement was that submitted by the honorable member for Mernda. With the consent of the Prime Minister, I altered that proposal in several unimportant particulars, arid I think it well to say at this stage that I also received great assistance from the honorable member for Mernda himself. On one occasion, when I suggested to him the elimination from it of a certain proposal which I did not think was likely to meet with the approval of the Premiers, he expressed astonishment, and said that it was so liberal that he felt sure that the States would readily accept it. The proposal which I, with the Prime Minister, submitted to the Premiers, was that we should allot to the various States £6, 000, 000 per annum. The difference between the amount allotted to each State and the interest and expenses due on its transferred debts was tobe paid annually by the State to the Commonwealth Government for five years, and was to be used in payment of interest to the bondholders. At the end of the five years’ period, the amount payable by the States was to be reduced to the extent of one-thirtieth per annum for thirty years, and the Commonwealth was then to accept the responsibility for the payment of interest on the debts, amounting now to nearly £9,000,000. The Premiers did not consider that a fair proposal. They desired a larger return to the States, one proposition made being that we should return to them, not £6,000,000, but£7,500,000 per annum. I have no notes as to the figures, but the whole of the details are so stamped on my memory that I can readily recall them. I was proud of the robust attitude adopted by the Prime Minister in his defence of the Commonwealth at the Conference which we attended. I never thought more of him, or trusted him more implicitly, than I did then. Quotations have already been made from the report of the proceedings of the Conference, but there are one or two that I intend to place before honorable members as showing the attitude which the Prime Minister then took up.At the outset, we were met by a series of resolutions, the effect of one of which was such that, if adopted, it would have destroyed the power of the Commonwealth, inasmuch as it would have allotted to us a too small proportion ofthe Customs and Excise revenue.
– There was a stormy interview with the Premiers.
– I am not going to tell tales out of school, but I may sav that although there was a difference of opinion, I do not think that the proceedings were stormy. The State Premiers again and again returned to the resolution to which I have referred, and to which the Prime Minister and I strongly objected. Here is a quotation from a speech made at the Melbourne Conference in 1908 by the honorable gentleman in defence of the position taken up by the Commonwealth in reference to the questions always considered together at the Convention -
One was the revenue derived from the Customs in the Commonwealth and the other was the interest on the debts which had been incurred by the States of the Commonwealth. Even before that Convention, if I remember aright, Sir Samuel Griffith had dwelt upon the necessity of considering these two factors together.
That has formed the foundation of the present discussion. To show how strongly the Prime Minister felt on this question, I would point out that when at the Melbourne Conference, he was asked by Mr. Evans, Premier of Tasmania -
We clearly understand then that the scheme of Sir John Forrest is that in taking over the State debts we cannot deal with one part without the other?
Exactly; not one without the other.
Reference having been made at the Melbourne Conference in 1908 to the option of the Commonwealth to take over the debts, the Prime . Minister said -
I do not think it was ever intended to be really optional.
That was a significant and most emphatic statement -
That is to say, it was expected that the option should be exercised in one way - by taking over the debts.
The honorable gentleman was then fighting strongiy for the rights of the Commonwealth. He said further on that there would be - useful objects achieved by considering once, more the two questions together.
Then,again, at page 245 of the Report of the Proceedings of the Conference of Premiers, held in Melbourne, in 1908, it is set forth that he said -
We are not called upon at this stage to attempt to make an arrangement for all time.
If this agreement is embodied in the Constitution, however, it will exist really for all time. It is not likely that it will be easy to secure an amendment of the Constitution in respect of so important a matter. The Prime Minister went on to say -
For us to attempt to prophecy what the conditions of Australia will be in the next century is so obviously beyond us that no one makes any calculation concerning it.
Addressing the President of the Conference, he said -
In your paper, Mr. President, you publish an illustrative table, in which you estimate the revenue of the Commonwealth for the next thirty or forty years. That is extremely problematical. It is very useful, no doubt, as a mere estimate, but no one would dream of relying on it to make any definite financial proposal which would be binding.
These quotations from the speeches made by the Prime Minister at that time are, to my mind, very important.
– The honorable member intends to go in for a weekly edition of the Prime Minister’s statements on that occasion.
– I am not going to treat thisas a party question, and I certainly intend to discuss it calmly and dispassionately. At page 246 of the Report of the Proceedings of the Conference, the Prime Minister is reported to have said -
I may say that my colleague the Treasurer points out. in his statement - “ The Commonwealth sinking fund will be recruited by annual votes from Parliament. I think it might be well if an appropriation were made of all Federal surpluses, although I have not embodied this in the scheme now presented to Parliament. The sinking fund will also be reinforced in another way. It is proposed that Parliament shall be asked to make, by special appropriation, a payment in perpetuity to the Council -
That reference was to the Council of Finance which we then proposed - of the total annual interests and expenses of loans taken over.”
– That was really on the basis of one-half per cent.
– I understand that on the present Customs revenue of?12,000,000 you have enough to pay old-age pensions and ?900,000 .
– Those estimates are in your paper, but they are challenged.
Mr. Swinburne. If the rest of the year turns out as favorably as the expired part the estimate would be correct.
-You cannot expect the revenue to turn out like that.
Even at that time, I sounded a warning note that we could not take as a basis the revenue as it was at that particular time - Mr. Deakin. - Neither the Customs Department nor the Treasury at present anticipates such a favorable result. I am afraid the prospects in three of the States are not very favorable to the acceptance of our overture.
That was, that we could see the trend of feeling in three of the States -
Mr. Swinburne. We have a great desire that vou should view Resolution No. 1 with greater favour, and look at it from a State point of view, as both you and Sir William Lyne have done in past years.
It seems to me that it is being looked at very strongly now in some quarters from a State point of view -
– I may say that it is not possible to carry that out financially as far as the Commonwealth is concerned.
Mr. Swinburne. We think it is.
– It is not.
Finally, the Prime Minister said -
Sir William Lyne quite admits that could be done for a time, but not permanently.
So it could have been done for three, four, or five years; although I think three years was almost the limit -
– For a very short time, too.
Mr. Swinburne. We have more works coming on. We have a great many schemes which have not been authorized, but I am talking about schemes already authorized.
– But you have some other revenue besides Customs and Excise.
Mr. Swinburne. Let us give another instance about railway freights. … In order that our people may compete we must reduce freights enormously, yet if we have no margin to go on, where are we?
That was a most extraordinary statement to make. A State Minister actually wanted the Commonwealth to give the State enough money to allow it to reduce freights, possibly to a nominal sum. We know that in New South Wales nearly all the income tax and the stamp duties were taken off, and the Commonwealth was expected to pay for everything. The same thing seems to have been in the minds of some of the members of that Conference.
– You can always put on direct taxation if you do that sort of thing.
If the States want to reduce freights and lose revenue thereby, they must find the money in some other way. I hope that is the course they will have to take in the future, instead of asking the Commonwealth to supply them with money in the extravagant way that has obtained in the past. I then said -
Do you think we have no right to look out that we are financially sound at the end of this long period? … I can assure you that the proposal as I consider, and as the Prime Minister considers, is very liberal - the most liberal that was ever submitted from our stand-point.
I say, again, that our proposal at that time was more liberal than the present one; but what commended, it, I think, to a large majority of the public, and certainly commended it to me, was that under it we should deal with the State debts, take them over from the States, and bring about finality. I have said, on more than one occasion, that the chances were that before we had paid the whole of the money required to deal with the debts, we would find it necessary to raise money from some other source ; but that I was prepared . to do so, in order to have the matter settled in a way which I regarded as very favorable to the States -
If we cannot do so, we will have to put on other taxation. It is by no means certain that we can carry it out without taxation. … I think you are not realizing the immense undertakings and responsibilities we are taking over. . . . Until we can get away from the bookkeeping system, and until we have our finances clear in that way, we can never really have what is intended - Free Trade between the States. What is the trouble with Tasmania at the present time?
Mr. Swinburne. That can be done with the fixed, per head return.
– I ask the honorable member for Dalley to refrain from making comments upon an accredited representative of one of the States at the Conference. In this Parliament, at any rate, matters of that kind should be treated with becoming dignity.
– On a matter of privilege, I must thank you for your homily. I made an interjection, which I did not think you were keen enough to hear, to the effect that we had too much of Swinburne and Lyne. I am, however, very glad to receive from you a lesson in taste.
– I ask the honorable member not to pursue the matter.
– I am sorry the honorable member for Dalley has had too much of me.
– I was not certain whether it should be Swinburne or Swindleburne.
– The honorable member for Dalley is now aggravating the offence to which I have directed his attention. I ask him not to do so.
– In answer to Mr. Swinburne, I said -
There is one thing I want to hear you more definitely upon, and that is if you favour the payment per capita. That is an important matter, and it has not been solved yet. There is one way you can get rid of the per capita system, but it would not be fair to all the States at present.
I made those observations because the adoption of a per capita system appeared to be proposed as an alternative to taking over the State debts, and it was very difficult to know what could be done in that regard, and what would be accepted by the States.
I must quote Mr. Swinburne again as saying
You could have the per capita system if you decreased the amount to Western Australia for a number of years.
– Why not take your boots off when talking about him, if he is such an honoured man?
– I ask the honorable member for Dalley not to make upon the Chair the reflections which he is inferentially making, but to treat the Chair with the respect to which it is entitled.
– In reply to Mr. Swinburne, I said -
Yes, as was stated by the Prime Minister, we are prepared to do that, and thought out a scheme to do it.
Let me quote now what the right honorable member for Swan said at the Brisbane Conference. On page 50 of the report the following words of his appear -
In regard to the State debts, I hope it will be agreed that the Commonwealth shall take over the whole. I notice that some one has taken some exception to the words “ take over.” Those are the words of the Constitution. It says that the Commonwealth may take over from the States their debts as existing at the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth. Although I am quite willing, and anxious, too, that the Commonwealth Government should take over the ‘ whole of the debts as they exist at the present time, I have never been, personally, a very strong advocate of that course. I have personally thought that if we carried out the Constitution we would have quite enough to do. There is, however, a decided opinion against that view from those I have consulted in London, and those I have consulted here. They all think we should take over the whole of the State debts. I am almost singular in my opinion that we might go on our way carrying out the Constitution, and leaving the forty odd millions in the hands of the States. If we should fail to come to some arrangement in regard to taking over the debts as a whole at this Conference, it is, however, the intention of the Commonwealth to proceed to carry out its powers, and take over the ^202,000,000 which it has the right to do under the Constitution.
The Prime Minister put a veto on that, and would not take over the one set of debts without the other. On page 57 the right honorable member for Swan is reported to have said -
My opinion is that taking over the State debts and the return of the surplus revenue to the States are two independent, questions.
That is a most extraordinary utterance tohave eoi from the right honorable member at that time, seeing that at the same Conference he proposed tba*. the two questions should be dealt with together or not at all-
They are really not mixed up at all. In the case of the debts, the State is liable for interest, and the only advantage I can see to a State would be the removal of the responsibility of providing for the debt as it became due, and also the management of the debt. . . . The two things could of course conveniently go together, but not necessarily under the Constitution.
What I have quoted shows the opinions expressed by the right honorable member at the Brisbane Conference, and I shall show presently what his opinion is now regarding the State debts. I have a great objection to a scheme which alters absolutely and finally what has previously been in the minds of the Commonwealth Ministry, and I venture, to think in the minds of the majority of. the members of this House. What was proposed then was a good arrangement, and I object to the Government turning round upon it and putting forward the present proposal. Since those Conferences were held, the Fusion party has been formed. I have tried hard to find out what sort of fusion it is, and how long it has been arranged for. Statements have been made that it is to last for five years. On a question of this kind, the’ House and the country have a right to know if any arrangement has been agreed upon, and for how long. We are told that the Fusion party have agreed to sink the Tariff question for five years. That is a serious matter, because very shortly we shall have to look very seriously to the question of revenue. However, for the present, I suppose we can only wait. We are now . asked to alter the Constitution by way of a referendum, and to bring about a new order of things. First of all, it must strike anyone who thinks calmly upon the question that two or three of the State Premiers who entered into the agreement now before us were very shaky in their positions, commanding majorities of only one or two votes in their Parliaments. I do not think, therefore, that they constitute a stable party to put forward such an important alteration of the Constitution as is now proposed.
– One of them has been strengthened as the result of the Queensland elections.
– Let the honorable member wait until the elections are over. I do not think that gentleman will be very much strengthened. The Premier of Western Australia has not a large majority, nor has the Premier of South Australia; while I believe the Premier of
Tasmania has a majority of only two or three. As a whole, the Premiers who entered into the agreement do not constitute a very strong combination as representing the opinions of the various States. We have to look at the matter, in that light. I do not think that there is any need for an alteration of. the Constitution. It is competent for the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States to make an arrangement which will be binding upon’ and respected by all parties. I do not think any one who read the debate on this motion could find evidence of strong opposition here to State interests, though honorable members are strongly opposed to the tying up of the Commonwealth by a proposal which will make it subservient to the States. In my opinion, the Commonwealth will treat the States even more liberally than it might be expected to do. A little while back, when I instituted two Trust Funds, I was attacked by the State authorities. What T did should have been done five or six years earlier, had it been possible, though, as a matter of fact, it could not be done under the Constitution until 1905. The result of my action was to accumulate a fund for the payment of old-age pensions. The estimated expenditure on old-age pensions for this year is about £”1,500,000, which is as much as I thought it would be. Incidentally, I would remark that many of the pensions which have been granted have been fixed almost at starvation point. I have received a large number of complaints, some of which I have brought before the Minister. I cannot understand why pensions should be lower under Commonwealth than under State administration. Probably, this expenditure will eventually increase to £”2,000,000. Of course, the Government is not paying invalid pensions. This and other likely expenditure must be taken into consideration in forecasting the future. The Prime Minister, speaking on the present motion - the passage will be found on page 3156 of the Hansard record for this session - said -
Beyond the limitation of the Commonwealth to its one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue for ten years, the question of finance was left open in all phases. It is open to-day, or will be under the Constitution itself eighteen months hence. It is significant that the other great financial problem involving the Commonwealth and the States, which has always been, and must always be, read in relation to the partnership, that of the State debts, is treated, speaking generally, in exactly the same fashion.
If we entered into the proposed arrangement, we should not be free. We should have to pay 25s. per capita to the States for all time, and, under certain conditions, the Commonwealth would not be able to do it, unless it obtained an increased revenue. The Treasurer stated that he attended all the meetings of the Convention. So did I, and most of us who were members of it. He said, too, that he took a prominent part in its deliberations, which is true. I believe, too, that he took a prominent part in the secret Conference of Premiers which was held afterwards, to whose methods I was opposed. He says that the Braddon section was intended by the Convention to be permanent, but I join issue with him there. During the Adelaide session, I made a proposal in the Finance Committee, which was discussed, its object being to protect the Treasurers of the States, though its form differed from that of the amendment afterwards proposed by Sir Edward Braddon in Melbourne. It has been asked, “ Why do I not stand up for the States now as I did when Premier?” My replyis that I stand up for all their just claims, and am prepared to give them even more than they should reasonably have. It must not be forgotten that one State has received over £20,000,000 from the Commonwealth, while all the States have received more than .. £60,000,000, and over £6,000,000 more than their constitutional three-fourths.
– The people of the States paid the taxation which created that revenue.
– Those who paid it may equally well be called the people of the Commonwealth. The revenue was collected by the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth should come first. If it does not, it will not take the responsibility cast , upon it by the Constitution, and may as well cease to exist.
– The honorable member wishes to assert the paramountcy of the Commonwealth.
– Yes; with “due consideration to the States. The people will tell us if they think that we are doing wrong. We must not allow the Commonwealth to become so short of money that the Treasurer will not know how to find funds for paying the public servants. We have already got very close to the wind once or twice. The Constitution requires the Commonwealth to pay away every penny in the Treasury on the last day of the month; and had not the law been broken by the present Treasurer and myself, the’ public servants could not have been paid on one or two occasions.
– I do not remember having broken the law.
– I am not blaming the honorable member*; but he himself has acknowledged that, had he paid to the States their three-fourths on the day it became due to them, he could not have paid the public servants.
– We have paid before the end of the month.
– Then the right honorable gentleman has acted improperly. On page 3810 of the Hansard report for this session, he. is made to say -
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.
The framers of the Constitution desired that the States should be fairly dealt with, and that their financial position should be improved by the transfer of the debts to the Commonwealth, so that they might be renewed at a lower rate of interest. In my opinion, the right honorable member is under a wrong impression. I hope to be able to show, presently, that before 1920 the Commonwealth will have no surplus revenue from Customs and Excise. That is as plain to me as it can be. In another part of his speech, the right- honorable gentleman asked -
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 admit that if wrong were done to the States, the Commonwealth would be held responsible ; but we should not hesitate to take what money we require for the proper exercise of our large and important functions, leaving the States to impose - if really required - what taxes they may think desirable to meet their requirements. They made a compact which is embodied in the Constitution, and, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, after 19 10, the Commonwealth will have full control of the finances. I do not like to hear it suggested that the Commonwealth will act dishonorably towards the States. During the past nine years, it has returned to them more money than it was compelled by the Constitution to return. In my opinion, Sir George Turner was wrong in starving the Departments to have money to return to the States, and I fought out the matter in Cabinet manytimes. The Governments of the States do not know what it is to be pinched. They have had more money from the Commonwealth than they have known what todo with.-
– Queensland was; pinched for some years.
– Queensland: did not get its full three-fourths; but most of the other States have got a great deal more, and none of them can complain of the niggardliness of the Commonwealth.. Honorable members, however, are aware that the Postmaster-General’s Department has been starved, in order to give money to the States. That has been made plainby the reports of Departmental officers. The results of our unnecessary payments to the States have not been good, because in some of them there has been unprecedented; -extravagance.
– In New SouthWales, I suppose?
– Mainly ; but I do not desire to mention names.
– The Treasurer is out of order in interrupting.
– Unless we are very careful we shall not have sufficient money to meet the responsibilities which the Commonwealth is undertaking ; indeed, I think one of the Ministers said the other day that in the future the Commonwealth must be more economical and reduce its expenditure. We know what we shall re-‘ quire; and we ought not to be afraid to express our opinions in regard to our financial relations with the States. The Treasurer, in the course of his speech the other night, quoted me as follows -
I have, on every occasion, advocated that there should be some definite return to the States provided for.
I did not say “ for ever.”
I hailed with great pleasure Sir Edward Braddon’s amendment when he brought it in.
– The honorable member desired at that time that the arrangement should be for ever.
– I did not.
– I think the honorable member did; but he was a different man in those days !
– I am a better ‘ man now ! What was in my mind was that the States should occupy a positionanalogous to that of new municipalities, and that the payments to them should expire in the course of some years.
– The honorable member was then altogether against Federation !
– I never was against Federation.
– I have several times asked the Treasurer not to interject; and I must repeat the request, especially in view of the fact that the last interjection was distinctly out of order on account of its irrelevancy.
– I do not object to interjections by the Treasurer, because they may remind me of points that I might otherwise overlook. To resume the honorable member’s quotation of my remarks -
It is simple and effective, and will coincide entirely with what I have advocated upon this question.
At that time I thought that the Braddon section would have the effect that was intended, I must repeat that the Treasurer is mistaken when he says that I was against Federation.
– The honorable member was opposed to the Constitution Bill.
– Yes, and for two reasons - one, the almost utter impossibility of amendment, and the other, the equal representation of the States in the Senate. Apart from these objections, however, I was as strongly in favour of Federation as any one could be. I think we have already had a taste of what equal representation in the Senate means.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I was really replying to an interjection; and I must say, Mr. Speaker, that you keep us pretty closely within bounds; and, perhaps, you are right, though it is unusual.
– The Senate is the States House.
– If that be so, the Senate is where this question should have been dealt with. I should like to say that, when the Braddon clause was under discussion in the Convention, and when itwas passed, I was confined to my bed in Sydney; but, as soon as I was able to get about again, I called a meeting in the New Masonic Hall, and showed what the effects would be. The speech I made on that occasion has, I think, been more than once quoted with approval by the Minister of Defence.
– The honorable member was a great State Rights champion !
– I am as great a State Rights champion to-day as I was then, always provided there is no undue interference with the Federation. I have travelled about these States as much as most people, from the years 1864-5, when I took part in a long exploring journey in Northern Queensland; and I think I know the trend of public opinion. We have to keep in view the consideration that there may be a curtailment of the States governmental machinery. This is a matter, of course, which the people will have to think seriously over; but I feel satisfied that seven Governors and fourteen Houses of Parliament, with all their attendant expense, will not be tolerated very long. If there should be a reduction such as I have indicated, how is the arrangement for the payment of 25s. per head to be carried out?
– Through the people.
– We cannot go to the door of every individual and pay him 25s.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that the State Governments,as such, will soon be abolished ?
– I said that there will be a reduction - that seven Governors andfourteen Houses of Parliament will not long be tolerated by the people, though what the result of any change would be I cannot say. The States would still have certain details left to them; but what form their future local government would take I do not know, except that it must be very much cheaper than the present system. Another very probable event is that there may be a large influx of people into one State or into the Commonwealth generally ; and I ask what would the position be, supposing the revenue from the Customs and Excise did not increase in proportion ? My own opinion is that the revenue will not increase very much in the next ten or fifteen years. In reference to the Treasurer’s statement that I at one time regarded the proposed payment to the States as permanent, I happen to know that, when the Constitution was under consideration by the Premiers in conference, the right honorable gentleman was being courted like a girl ; indeed, as the price of his coming into Federation he could have got almost anything he liked, and he did drive a pretty strong financial bargain.
– He could have got the transcontinental railway.
– Certainly ; as many railways as he liked. I happened to be in the “buzz” at the time; and I know that the great point was to get the right honorable gentleman’s State into the F Federation
– Then it appears that I did not ask for enough !
– At that time the States might have flattered themselves into the belief that the arrangement was to be permanent, because promises had been made, and particularly to Western Australia - not in the ‘Conference, but previously - that were not justifiable. In the case of New South Wales every effort was made to induce the State to join the Union ; but, at the same time, there was no promise of any permanent repayment. I was astonished the other day when the honorable member for Boothby drew attention to the fact that, according to the Treasurer, the Commonwealth will have to go On paying ^7,000,006 or ^8,000,000 to the States for all time, even after the debts have been paid. Are we going to find and exploit Commonwealth gold mines? We cannot carry out the agreement proposed, much less the extraordinary arrangement foreshadowed by the Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman in his speech on this motion said -
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.
Is that not a very large sum to pay ? The Government thus acknowledge that they have been paying the States for three years about ^7,000,000 more than should have been paid. That is part of the extravagance that has been going on. Referring to the proposed referenda, the (right honorable member said -
We propose that they shall be taken over, not by force, but with the full approval of the Government 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.
I do not know why it should be considered unreasonable -
We have dealt with them separately in order to give the electors of Australia a wider latitude.
I fail to see what additional latitude would thus be secured to the electors.
– The Treasurer went on to say that, by dealing with the two questions in separate measures, the people would be enabled, if they so desired, to reject the one and accept the other. .
– I desire to know why they should accept the one and’ reject the other. As the Prime Minister »aid at the Melbourne Conference, we must deal with both branches of the financial question or with neither of them. The Treasurer went on to quote statements made by two or three members of State Parliaments in reference to my scheme, among them being some comments offered by Mr. Nielsen, who declared that my proposal was worse for the States than that submitted at the Brisbane Labour Conference. I unhesitatingly assert that the proposal which I submitted at the Premiers’ Conference in 1908, based on” that propounded by the honorable member for Mernda, is the best that has ever been made from the point of view of the States.
– It is the most generous.
– Undoubtedly. The Treasurer continued -
I have no sympathy, and I 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 is unfair that a member of the Government should suggest that the Commonwealth “Parliament considers that the States are of no concern. As a matter of fact, as I have shown already, the States have been, and always will be, generously treated ; but I hold strongly that we must not consider their needs before those of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer went on to say -
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.
That is a misinterpretation of the actual facts, and no one but the Treasurer would take such a view. We all desire to see the States develop to their fullest extent, but, at the same time, the Commonwealth ought not to starve itself, and be prevented from discharging its true functions and responsibilities, by making too large a return to the States.
– Why should either the Commonwealth or the States be starved ?
– Neither should be starved. But when we see the States reducing their revenue from other sources ; when we see New South Wales, for instance, reducing her stamp duties and the revenue derived from other directions, we may fairly ask ourselves, “ What right have the States to take this action and at the same time to ask the Commonwealth to make good the losses of revenue they are thus incurring?”- Although we have no desire to injure the States in the slightest degree, these are questions that we must consider. The Commonwealth has enormous responsibilities. The Government now invite us to pass the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, and if we do. can any one say . the development of the Territory will involve?
– An expenditure of £500,000 a year.
– I am afraid to form an estimate. Before long, we may also be called upon to incur additional expenditure in Papua; although I hope that such a demand will not be made upon us. Then, again, several great lines of railways are projected. Perhaps I am even more anxious than is the Treasurer that the projected line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie should be laid down. When in Western Australia, I promised that I would do all in my power to promote the . construction of that line ; and I recognise that we’ shall never have true Federal sympathy as between the western State and the eastern States until a speedy means of communication is established. That can be secured only by the construction of this railway. If wc take over the Northern Territory, proposals will also be submitted for the construction of railway lines there, and are we to pinch ourselves for all time in order- that we may make a big return to the States? I should like the Commonwealth to be able to give the States more than they want ; but as it cannot do so, we must have regard, first of all, to the demands of the National Parliament. The Treasurer, in the course of his speech, said that -
Had the -proposed agreement been in force since the Federation the Commonwealth would have received ^23,621,406 more than it has done.
If the States have received too much in the days gone by, it does not follow that the same course should be pursued in the future. The Treasurer’s statement serves to show how useless is any calculation based on the data at present available, and that, therefore, we ought not to enter into any arrangement with the States that will have a duration of more than four or five years. There is an evolution taking place. Information having an important bearing on the relations of the Commonwealth and the States is being obtained year after year ; and, although we may theorize as much as we please, only experience can afford us any criterion of what the future is likely to be. That is a strong argument in opposition to a long-continued agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. I commend the attitude taken up by the Age : in regard to this question. That newspaper has been supporting the present Government; but it has certainly taken a calm and deliberate view of this grave and important question., which should commend itself to the House. I trust, at all events, that the suggestions which it has made will commend themselves to the Government. ‘ Recognising that they are unlikely to carry the proposals which they have submitted, and knowing that the question will not be made a party one, they should make a proposition which the people may Fairly 1 be expected to say iis a reasonable one. .The Treasurer, in the course of his speech, referred to the Tariffs of various countries, and particularly to that of New Zealand, as showing what we were likely to derive from Customs and Excise during the next ten years. I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman did not examine the New Zealand Tariff. Had he done so, he would have found that it is not a Protectionist, but a revenueproducing one. With the exception of. Western Australia, whose circumstances have been abnormal, no country derives so much from Customs and Excise aas does New Zealand ; and its returns cannot be accepted as a guide to what is likely to happen in the Commonwealth. In a paper which has been presented to the House, the Treasurer estimates the amount which would be returnable to the States in 1’920-r under the Braddon section on the assumption that the- Commonwealth Customs and Excise returns per head of the population in that year will be £2 8s. 6d. Neither the Secretary to the Treasury, nor the Commonwealth Statistician, could inform me, however, how that computation was arrived at.
– Who compiled the return ?
– I do not know; but it is absolutely wrong.
– it is quite haphazard.
– Let me say, then, that it is a haphazard calculation.
– It is all very well for those who have not attempted to frame an estimate, to abuse the officers of the Treasury.
– I have not abused them. I have always said that it is absolutely impossible for the Treasury officials, on the data available, to form a reliable estimate of what will be the Customs and Excise revenue in 1920 ; and I wish it to be clearly understood that I am not blaming them.
– The honorable member does not think that I prepared the return myself?
– I am not making any imputation against the Treasury officials; and I repeat that I know of no country, with the exception of the State of Western Australia, where the returns from Customs and Excise are so large per capita as are those of New Zealand. That State, at the inception of the Federation, had a per capita return from Customs and Excise of £6 per head, which was due to the great influx of males, and to the fact that the State was not then producing largely for itself. It also had the benefit of a special Tariff, which was reduced by a sliding scale extending over a period of five years ; and, being the first port of call for the oversea mail steamers, and other vessels, it obtained a great deal from abroad. New Zealand has obtained an average return of £3 5s. rod. per head from a revenue, and not from a Protective Tariff.
– The per capita return of Customs revenue in New Zealand has fallen, although the volume has been quadrupled.
– The figures that I have obtained show that in 1904 the per capita return from Customs and Excise in New Zealand was £3 5s. 2d., and that it is to-day £3 5s. 10d
– The honorable member for Parkes is referring to later official information that has been’ presented to the House.
– The old Victorian Tariff, which was more protective than our present Tariff, returned only £1 15s. 1 id. per head in 1899-1900.
– Victoria had a very large body of free goods, in the shape of raw material.
– I am quite aware of that.
– That Tariff was 7 or 8 per cent, higher than the present Commonwealth Tariff.
– That bears out my contention. I find from this list, which I have gone through carefully, that there must be a mistake somewhere.
– What dates did the honorable member take for his comparison of the New Zealand Tariff revenue?
– I started from 1904.
– The honorable member will find that the receipts have increased since then.
– The return per head in 1904 was £3 5s. 2d., while, when this return was prepared, it was £3 5s. rod., se that there has been a slight increase. However, that is a great deal more than £2 8s. 6d. per head. The population of the Commonwealth in 1907 was 4,197,037, an increase of 77,556 over the previous year. The estimated population for 1908 is 4,275,306, or an increase of 78,269 over 1907. Taking these two years as a basis, the total estimated increase for the twenty-four months was 155,825’, and the total increase by 1920 would be 935>I5°) giving a total population in that year of 5,210,456. I may say that that does not quite tally with the figures given by the Treasurer, but it very nearly does. The Customs and Excise receipts for 1908-9 totalled £10,843,985, or a decrease of £4OI>367 from 1907-8. The estimated receipts from the same source in 1910 are £10,800,000, or a decrease of .£43,985 over 1908-9. That means that, in the two years which I have taken, there was a decrease of £445,352, or nearly .£500,000, in the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth. Taking that as a basis, the Customs and Excise receipts in 1920 will have decreased instead of increased from their present total, and there will be a net return from that source of only between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000. With an estimated total population in that year of 5,210,456, I arrive at a probable Customs and Excise return of only 32s. IOC[., or, say, 33s., per head, and I cannot make it more. I think it is very likely that the Customs and Excise receipts will decrease to that extent. I may perhaps have taken an extreme case in the last two years, and the result may be altered somewhat by various factors. It does not seem to be quite a fair computation, although it is certainly a possible result. Having looked through the figures for various countries, I cannot Avoid coming to the conclusion that there will, at any rate, not be any great increase in Customs and Excise revenue. There will certainly not be in Customs revenue, and we may fairly consider that there will be no serious increase over the figures for 1908-9 or 1909-10, because, in a country such as ours, where internal development, manufacture, and production are so rapidly on the increase, the people are being supplied gradually, and will be supplied greatly, if the Tariff is as effective as it is intended to be, with our own productions instead of with imported manufactures. With a country like this, one cannot make a proper comparison by means of the figures that I have quoted from other countries, because they are old countries, and their manufactures and production are not increasing in the. same way as ours are! For many years, the manufacturing industries in most of our States have been, so to speak,’ latent. I have been through a great many of the factories in Victoria, and I know that they are increasing in number, and that their output is increasing; and, as a’ natural result’, imports and Customs revenue must decrease. I have also visited all the large factories in New South Wales lately. I know what they are doing, and I think that there will be in that State a great reduction in imports of various kinds, as the people become supplied with goods of local manufacture. What, then, will be the result if a hard and fast division of the Customs and Excise revenue between the Commonwealth and the States is made permanent in the Constitution, in the way proposed by the Government? The result will De that ultimately there will have to be an immense increase of revenue duties, or the imposition of direct taxation, or both. I do not accuse the Prime Minister, or any other Minister, of knowing or foreseeing this; but I warn the people that if this agreement takes effect for any considerable time, it means saying good-bye to a protective Tariff. That is another reason why we should look very jealously at the proposals that are put before us. As I stated, I arrive at a per capita return from Customs and Excise revenue for 1920 of about 33s. per head, which means, if the States re ceive 25s. per capita, that the Commonwealth will have only about 8s. per capita to carry on with.
– Has the honorable member looked at the basis upon which my figures are computed?
– I have not, but I can assure the right honorable member that I am not making this criticism in any carping spirit. When I looked at the figures from other countries, it struck me that there must have been a mistake in the calculation, and that it probably lay in estimating that there would be a large increase in Customs revenue. I have held all through that there will not be. There may perhaps be a Customs revenue equal to what we have now, or it may even go up to the figure for the first year in which the present Tariff operated, but I do not think that it will increase in any appreciable degree for the next four or five years; and I am sure it will only have increased very slightly, if at all, by 1920. Some time ago I’ quoted from memory the totals of a return showing the estimated expenditure in 1920, as prepared for me when Treasurer by my officers, and laid by me upon the table of the House. The honorable member for Parkes took exception to my estimate. At that time, I had not seen the estimate of revenue, which I since obtained from the Under-Treasurer. I find that I was, to some extent, wrong in regard to the estimated expenditure, and that the honorable member for Parkes was, to some extent, right, but not to the extent which he claimed. I have gone through the figures again, and in quoting them now, I wish to point out that this can only be regarded, like any .other similar computation, as an estimate in the dark. I said at that particular time that it was estimated that the expenditure in 1920 would be £9,500,000. Since then, I understand that further increases of ‘expenditure have been proposed. For instance, the Post Office expenditure will be increased by nearly ,£500,000 over the amount which I first gave. It is absurd to put down only ;£5°j°oo for advertising and immigration for 1920. If we are going to do that work properly, it will cost £150,000 or ^£200,000. When I was in London with the Prime Minister, Canada was paying from ,£200,000 to ,£250,000, or more, for advertising.
– How much did thehonorable member put down in his estimate for 1920 ?
– My officers put down £50,000. I felt very keenly when I was in England that we ought to advertise a great deal more, and, after a struggle, I got £20,000 provided on the Estimates, although only a part of that was spent. 1 am sure that in ten years’ time our advertising will cost £200,000, and,_therefore, we must add another £150,000 to the estimate. Then, again, only £50,000 is set down for further State services to be taken over. I have since tried to estimate what the lighthouses and other services that have been taken over will cost us. . I am sure that it will come to more than double £50,000. That brings the increase over my first estimate up to about £700,000. 1 also see that a statement is made that £2,000,000 will have to be found for the Postmaster-General’s Department. It was suggested that we should borrow for that purpose, but I strongly object to borrowing for matters of that kind. We have, therefore, £2,000,000 more to provide in the way of increased expenditure by 1920. I also read in the press a statement by the Minister of Defence that the Naval proposals of the Government would cost nearly £4,000,000. Where is that money to come from? The items I have mentioned would mean an expenditure of between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000 in 1920, when the revenue from Customs and Excise duties will not exceed £11,000,000. How, then, can we pay 25s. per capita to the States for all time? There are one or two other matters to which I should like to refer; but I am suffering from a bad throat, and do not wish to make it worse. This question should not be considered from the stand-point of party. We should all do our best to bring about an arrangement which will benefit the whole people. Theories are all very well, but practical results must be ‘ given first consideration ; and I think I have shown that we shall not be able to continue to pay the States 25s. per capita until 1920. If the Government deal fairly and liberally in this matter, it will give greater satisfaction to the people than will be given by the leg-roping of the Commonwealth for all time. I do not think any arrangement should be made for a longer period than five years. No one knows what will happen within that time, and at the end of it we shall be better able to arrange for the future than we are now.
– It will be more difficult to settle the question then than now.
– I do not wish to have the matter settled and fixed for all time now, and to find it impossible later to alter the arrangement. Parliament will act wisely in showing the greatest caution in dealing with this matter.
.- I rise with great diffidence to speak on this subject. Unlike some honorable members, I have not a scheme of my own to propound. I do not fear that we shall unduly hamper the Commonwealth by adopting the agreement. Whatever arrangement is come to must be fair to both parties. Judging from the debate, honorable members do not find fault with the proposal to return 25s. per capita to the States; but the Opposition seems to be of the opinion that we should not embody the agreement in the Constitution, so that the State authorities may know exactly what they will receive from the Common wealth until the arrangement is altered by a similar constitutional amendment. To my mind, there ought to be something amounting to permanency in the arrangement-. The State authorities will always have very large financial responsibilities in connexion with the development of their territories. The Commonwealth, too, will have large expenditure to make. Therefore, under any agreement, there should be a fair sharing of the revenue between the Commonwealth and the States. Various estimates have been made of the revenue of the Commonwealth in certain future years, but I donot pay much attention to them. So many condition* affect the revenue that it is impossible to make a reasonably accurate estimate for a time even five or six years hence. When the draft Constitution Bill was being discussed in New South Wales, the financial authorities of the State said that it would be impossible for the Commonwealth to raise from Customs and Excise duties more than about £6,000,000 a year ten or fifteen years after Federation ; but nine years afterwards we are raising nearly double that amount. It will be possible, without affecting the protective incidence of the Tariff, to obtain by means of it more revenue than we are now getting. Therefore it is absurd to say that the adoption of the agreement will make the Commonwealth subservient to the States. The Commonwealth has at its disposal unlimited sources of taxation, direct and indirect, of which it can avail itself at need. I admit that the States desire to be the sole authorities to levy direct taxation, and I am prepared to leave the levying of such taxation to them; though, if the Commonwealth were in need of money, I should not consider it bound to refrain from levying direct taxation. At some distant date it may need to levy direct taxation to pay for defence, but I do not think that that will be necessary in the immediate future. The Commonwealth possesses every source of taxation.
– Under the agreement we shall not have control of the purse.
– We shall have to pay 25s. per capita to the States, but, inasmuch as the Commonwealth will be able to raise as much revenue as it likes, it cannot be argued that it will not be able to fill its purse. The honorable member for Hume contended that the Parliaments of the States could lessen their needs by decreasing their expenditure. No doubt the pre-Federation promises of economy have not been kept. Were they carried out, there would . be a considerable saving in the cost of government in the States, though that is a small factor in the present equation. The saving °f £40.000 °r £50,000 a .y.ear ky the State Parliaments is a trifle in comparison with the large issues with which we are dealing. I hope that the anticipated saving will be effected ; but, in any ease, the States will need as much money as they can get to develop their resources by means of irrigation schemes, railways, and other public works. I join issue with the honorable member regarding the statement that the Parliament of New South Wales has been extravagant. It has spent a great deal of money, but the expenditure has been mainly on railways and tramways, and other reproductive works of permanent benefit to the State. The contention of the honorable member that a large increase of population will decrease the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth per capita should not carry much weight. If our population is increased by immigration, it will be increased by the arrival here of persons whose expenditure will increase rather than decrease the Customs and Excise revenue per capita. Most of them will be men and women in the prime of life ; the increase in the number of the children will be smaller than the ordinary natural increase by excess of births over deaths. The only other question is whether the taking over of the debts should be incorporated in this agreement; and there is no reason why the debts should not be dealt with separately, or after this agreement -is passed. The constitutional right of this Parliament to take over the debts, as existing at the time of Federation, is not in any way altered by the agreement, and the proposed alteration of the Constitution would give us even greater power than we have at present.
– It might make the States less inclined to hand the debts over.
– My reading of the Constitution is that the Commonwealth Parliament can take over the debts without the consent of the States, if it so desire - that is, the debts as existing at the time of Federation - and, under the proposed amendment of the Constitution, the whole of the debts. The moment we do take over the debts, we alter altogether the incidence of the financial agreement. Instead of the Commonwealth paying the States money, the States will have to pay the Commonwealth money - the States will have to pay the difference between the amount represented by 25s. per head andthe amount actually paid by the Commonwealth in respect of the State debts.
– Assuming the amendment of the Constitution is not carried, what then?
– We shall still have power to take over the ,£200,000,000 odd debts at the time of Federation ; and, even then, we shall have the balance in our favour, because 25s. per head would not be sufficient to meet the interest.
– But we should have no more advantage in taking over the whole of the debts than we have now.
– Quite so; but that is altogether a. different question. We could at any time we chose turn our debit balance into a credit balance by taking over the State debts, and financing them. The honorable member for Hume rather unfairly “ took exception to the payment to the States going on after this Parliament had taken over the debts. r If the Commonwealth takes over the debts under the Constitution, it acts merely as a sort of agent for the States, debiting them with the money paid, and, of course, the payment to the States will go on. If, however, while taking over the debts and paying the interest on behalf of the States, this Parliament at the same time creates a sinking fund out of its own money, the States will be liable to the Commonwealth for the amount so paid in respect of the debts, and to that extent the payment to the States would be decreased. On the other hand, if we create the sinking fund out of the 25s. per head due to the States, then the State debts are merely being paid out of the States’ money, and we must, therefore, go on paying the 25s. There seems to me to be nothing unfair in such a proposal.
– That is the first time I have heard that proposition.
– We can take over the debts; and it will not alter the States’ responsibility for the moneys represented by the principal and interest.
– Hear, hear; that is the Constitution.
– The only difference will be that, instead of paying in London, the States will pay to the Commonwealth. I do not claim to be in any sense a financial authority ; but I am guided to a great extent by the speeches during this debate ; and it seems to me that the agreement is a fair one, and that we run no risk by incorporating it in the Constitution. We may alter the Constitution again, if necessary ; and we always have the whip hand on the States to the extent that we can, if necessary, duplicate their direct taxation ; and if we were to threaten to take such a step, I think the States would always beready to meet us in a fairly reasonable way. I do not anticipate any danger to the Commonwealth by the incorporation of this agreement in the Constitution, and, as that seems to be the question at issue, I shall vote for the agreement as it stands.
.- It might be concluded from the remarks of the honorable member for Hume, that it was intended to construct trans-continental railways, take over the Northern Territory, and carry out other expensive administrative works-, and acts entirely out of current revenue. It is deceiving the public to permit such an impression to go forth uncontradicted. Quite a number of figures have been quoted in proof of various contentions. It has been said that figures cannot lie; but that, I suppose, is only because figures cannot .speak. Judging from the conclusions arrived at by those who quoted figures, it would appear that they can be made to prove almost anything. Speaking on the Budget T intimated that I would oppose short-dated loans, and I am pleased that I did so, because I think that, owing to the attitude then adopted by some honorable members and myself, a beneficial influence was exerted on the Premiers’ Con ference held shortly afterwards. The States, I think, recognise that the Commonwealth has incurred liabilities which will relieve them of certain obligations; and, perhaps, a better agreement was arrived at than would have been the case, had the States representatives been under the impression that the Government could force any proposal through this Parliament, and might, therefore, be careless in regard to the revenue required to meet this year’s obligations. One satisfactory feature of the Conference is that, for the first time since the inception of Federation, the States and the Commonwealth have been able to come to an agreement - to reach finality. It is now for this House to ratify or reject the agreement ; and, personally, 1 shall support it. I am prepared .to go even further and say that, if we cannot get this agreement, we should go to the people as soon as possible and ask them to ratify or reject it. This is a vital question ; we cannot afford to treat it lightly ; and, being of a Democratic turn of mind, I shall be glad to submit either myself or the agreement to the people. The unrest in regard to our financial relations, which has existed for some time, cannot be permitted to continue. Up to the present the Commonwealth and the States have been like two dogs fighting for one bone; and to this position there ought to be an end. It is only fair that the States should ask to be placed in a position of security where they may know, as they did before Federation, what they are to expect to receive from Customs and Excise revenue. The proposed arrangement will achieve that end. and also enable the Commonwealth Treasurer to know where he stand’s. He will have no trouble in estimating his obligations, and will have unhampered control of the balance of the revenue. The agreement may be regarded as a fair compromise, although I am rather disappointed that the sum agreed upon is not at least 28s. - a payment which, I think, the Commonwealth could have afforded, at any rate for a time.
– That would be a much better arrangement for a term of years, but not permanently.
– Possibly it would be better if the payment had been arranged on a sliding scale. A payment of 28s. is 8s. 3d. less than the present average, and would give the Treasurer an extra £1,829,450. On page 117 of the Budget
Papers it is stated that the estimated revenue is £3 12s. 4¼d. per head, and the gross estimated expenditure £1 16s. 1½d. showing a balance of £1 16s. 2fd., or just about the average now being paid back to the States ; in fact, I think the average .last year was £1 16s. 3d. If the Treasurer’s estimates of income and expenditure are realized the proposed capitation allowance of 25s. per annum will make available to the Commonwealth next year an additional sum of £2, 438,440, provided that this agreement be ratified. That will not be the only gain. A still more important fact is that the Treasurer will be relieved of the obligation to return to the States’ three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, and that if we decided to increase taxation in any way, we should be able to do so, knowing that the Commonwealth would reap the whole benefit. It is desirable that there should be an element of permanency associated with the agreement. It should have at least that stability which is proposed. It should be embodied in the Constitution, so that it may be varied only by the consent of the people. We have at our disposal all the sources of taxation, if we find it is necessary at any time to increase our revenue.
– Will the honorable member mention one of those sources?
– The honorable member’s leader has proposed a land tax; but that is a method of raising revenue which is hardly likely to receive my support.
– Does the honorable member suggest the imposition of duties on tea and kerosene?
– I do not ; but I would favour the imposition of a duty on cotton piece-goods. We are entitled, not only to receive some revenue from that source, but to secure a modicum of Protection in regard to it. If Protection is, as I believe it is, the policy of Australia, it should have an all-round application. If this agreement is ratified, the present Government of the Commonwealth, and its successors, will hesitate to resort to extravagant expenditure, since that would necessitate direct taxation, which is not favoured in the country, and should not be resorted to unless it is absolutely necessary. I, therefore, think that it will have a steadying influence on the Commonwealth Parliament. The honorable member for Darwin has given this question considerable attention. I noticed that his proposals were favorably mentioned at the Brisbane
Labour Conference, but the members of his party have apparently deserted him, since his proposals have not been very favorably reviewed by them during this debate. He considers that the proposed return to the States,’ under this agreement, would be a first mortgage over our resources. If it were, it would be a lien that would make the security of our stocks much better than it is. We are not proposing to mortgage our resources to some foreign Power ; we are simply undertaking to return to the States money which will enable them to meet their obligations in the way of interest. The honorable member for Wide Baytook the right honorable member for East Sydney to task for having dared to hesitate to allow the Federal Parliament to settle this question. To my mind, however, the right honorable member for East Sydney deserves all the credit, if there is any to be taken in this connexion, for having made it possible for the Federal Parliament to deal with this problem at the present time, since he was instrumental in having inserted in the Constitution the ten years’ limitation of the Braddon section. Apart from that, I would remind the honorable member for Wide Bay that there are two parties interested in this question - the States and the Commonwealth - and that an agreement was arrived at by the people before they federated. The Constitution, which was framed by the people’s representatives, and submitted to the people, was certainly accepted with the Braddon section in it, but it was only after considerable thought, and as the outcome of many Conferences, that the financial arrangements were settled, and when they were, the settlement was described as a blot on the Constitution. This has always been a difficult and complex question to determine, but it was never intended by the people or their representatives at the Convention that 1he Commonwealth Parliament should have control of the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue. Whether the agreement is a good or a bad one for the States, the amount returnable under it will be a known quantity, and the State Treasurers will thus be enabled to more accurately estimate their revenue. At the same time, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth will be able to estimate his liabilities to the States,, and those liabilities will vary only with the population. I have no intention of supporting any proposition to give the Commonwealth Government more power in respect of the State debts than they have at the present time. I wish it to be clearly understood that I do not think it. would be to the benefit of the people of Australia that the Commonwealth should take over the State debts. Under the Constitution, we have power to take over a certain proportion, and I shall not vote to extend that power.
– Will the honorable member vote against the Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Bill ?
– I shall vote in accordance with my own convictions, and my pledges to my constituents.
– Then the honorable member does not trust the Federal Parliament?
-I do not know that that is a relevant interjection ; but let me say that I shall be satisfied to return to my constituents with my pledges fulfilled. The proposal to extend the power of the Commonwealth to take over the debts of the States has not been very prominently before the electors, and as the Bill providing for that extension is linked with that now under consideration, I think it only fair to intimate the course that I intend to take when it is submitted to us. I shall certainly oppose it, and I have only to say, in conclusion, that I am pleased that the agreement which has been arrived at has relieved the Commonwealth of the necessity of issuing short-dated Treasury bonds, as proposed by the Treasurer. I trust that we have heard the last of that proposition, and am glad, if any remarks made by me, during the debate on the Budget, have had the effect of inducing the Government to drop it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
ELECTORAL BILL (No. 2).
Bill received from Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Deakin) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 24th September (vide page 3802), on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- It is proposed by this Bill to amend section 105 of the Constitution which givesthe Commonwealth Parliament power to take over the debts of the States as existing at the inception of Federation. One of the mistakes made by the framers of the Constitution lay in thinking that the Federal Parliament would, as soon as it was constituted, proceed to deal with the great financial questions which it was primarily created to settle. Unfortunately, the unexpected often happens, and in this instance, the intention of the people was not given effect to. In the meantime, instead of the debts being taken over by the Commonwealth to the advantage of the people, they have remained in the hands of the States, and have increased in the aggregate by £50,000,000, or about 25 per cent. The Commonwealth has no power to take over the whole of the debts as they now exist, and to become the principal in negotiating with the financiers of the Old World for renewals, conversions, or new loans. That is most unfortunate, and I am entirely in accord with the Government in the proposal in the Bill now before us. I think it is a proposition that ought to go to the people; but where I differ from the Government is with regard to their attitude towards this and the other Bill with which we have just been dealing. Let us assume that both Bills are passed bv this Parliament, and are referred to the people, and that the one determining the return of a fixed sum to the States from the Commonwealth revenue is carried, while the other dealing with the State debts is rejected by the people. What position would the Commonwealth Parliament be in then ? The difficulty whichthis Bill seeks to remedy will remain as it was; and the Commonwealth Parliament will have no power to prevent the constant loss of interest to the people of the Commonwealth.
– We can take over £200,000,000 of the State debts, anyway.
– That is no news to the public or to this House ; because that amount of the State debts could have been taken over by the Commonwealth from the first. That has not been done, however, and in the meantime, the whole of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth has been returned to the States. The Treasurer knows that the £200,000,000 worth of State debts have not been takenover, because we should not have been able to deal with the whole of the debts, and in all probability, we should have had no well-considered scheme to enable the Commonwealth to start out as the negotiator for new loans, and the controller of the whole question of Australian borrowing.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– Many things are matters of opinion. The Treasurer has very definite opinions about certain matters, and frequently has the courage to express them. In fact, he sometimes shows a reckless courage in expressing opinions about other people’s opinions. I believe that an enormous advantage would at once be gained by the Commonwealth dealing with the State debts - that as soon as one Commonwealth stock was created, the credit of the whole of the States would improve, and that as time went on, perhaps even the advantage of J per cent., indicated by the honorable member for Mernda, would be obtained. I have been unable to discover, from all the authorities I have read, how a gain of per cent, would be possible, but I have always assumed that at least £ per cent, in the aggregate could be saved by the Commonwealth within a reasonable time. That saving will amount to an enormous sum in the course of half a century, and, on that ground alone, action by the Commonwealth is urgently necessary. I am anxious to press on with this Bill, but may I suggest to the Government that they should first submit it by referendum to the people, and ascertain whether they desire the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with the State debts question, and so save money for them, before they submit to a referendum the proposal in the other Bill, which cannot save money for the people? If this Bill is passed, and the people agree to give us die powers asked for with regard to the State debts, we can immediately begin to save money for them, which they cannot now save ; but if the Prime Minister submits a complicated question to the people- the dual question involved in this and the other Bill - that most desirable result may not be achieved. The right honorable member for Swan says there is a difference of opinion as to whether the Commonwealth can save money by taking over the debts.
– I did not say there was a difference of opinion on that point. I said it was a matter of opinion whether it was useless for the Commonwealth to take over only £200,000, 000 worth, instead of waiting to take over .£247,000,000 worth.
– I pointed out that the greatest advantage would accrue to the people through the Commonwealth taking over the whole, and not a portion, of the
State debts; because, if we took over only a portion, we should have no controlling or guiding powers as regards future borrowing.
– What is the honorable member’s view in regard to future borrowing ?
– It should be regulated in some degree by an authority appointed by this Parliament.
– We have no such power under the Constitution.
– I admit that; and 1 do not think, as a layman, that we can prevent the States from borrowing; but we do not need plenary powers in a matter of that kind. If the Commonwealth improved the aggregate credit of the States, the people would soon demand that the State Governments should negotiate their loans through .the cheapest medium, which would be the Commonwealth. I am not one of those who declare that the States should be prevented from doing what they can do better than the Commonwealth. A little experience would soon show that the Commonwealth is the best authority to manage the renewal and conversion of the State debts, and the issue of future loans; and then the common sense of the electors will speedily compel the States to borrow only through the Commonwealth, or through the body which the Commonwealth sets up. Does not that support my argument that the first duty of the Government is to proceed with this amendment of the Constitution before they put before the people the question of the distribution of the revenue?
– Then I differ entirely from the Treasurer. The honorable member for Moreton, one of the Treasurer’s own followers, lauds the action of the Government in proposing to fix in the Constitution for all time a return of 25s. per capita to the States, but he also says: “ I tell the Government at once that they will not have my vote in this House, or my help in the country, to amend the Constitution with regard to the control of the State debts.” If that attitude is taken up by honorable members opposite, what position will the Commonwealth be placed in? The Government proposal, therefore, is to entrench the States as much as they can, and to prevent the Commonwealth, as far as possible, from taking power to save money to the people.
– The honorable member’s reasoning is difficult to follow.
– If the Treasurer find; it difficult to follow, I can easily understand how it is that he believes in the schemes that he is submitting, because he must be very obtuse.
– The honorable member seems to see in everything a dark and deep-laid plot on the part of the States to get at the Commonwealth.
– The interjection of the Minister of Defence throws no light on the question. I see no deep-laid plots. 1 simply quote a statement made by a supporter of the Fusion Government - a name which I use only because the Government use it themselves. With one exception,_ 1 know of no State Government or Premier favorable to the Commonwealth taking over the debts. As a matter of fact, the first clause in the Premiers’ agreement - and in that I would almost stake my life that I can recognise the language of the Prime Minister - sets out that there shall be an investigation into the important question of taking over the State debts. That is very different from the mandatory clauses of the agreement with regard to amending the Constitution by providing for the payment to the States of 25s. -per capita, as I say,’ for all time, although some people say that there is no ground for believing that that is to be put into the Constitution in perpetuity. At every election the people have been told of the urgency for transferring the State debts to the Commonwealth, whereas the re-distribution of the revenue has not been largely dealt with. The Government, however, have placed the cart before the horse, and arranged to dispose of the Commonwealth revenue before providing for the best use of it. I am surprised that the drafting of these Bills took so long. The proposed arrangement of the Conference could have been tarried out by one measure. The Government have decided to deal with it by two measures, which puts the position more clearly, but makes possible the defeat of the object which all well-wishers of the Commonwealth have in view. Ministers are to have with them, so far as the proposal for the distribution of the revenue is concerned, the whole of the State Governments, and, therefore, that proposal may be carried, but they have not the support of any of the State Governments for the proposal regarding the transfer of the ‘debts.
– Why does the honorable member make that assertion?
– I have read what has been said by the Premiers and other Ministers of the States, and have noticed that they are of the opinion that the Commonwealth credit will not be better than the best State credit, and, for that reason, they do not see the need for transferring the debts to the Commonwealth. The action of the Government in this matter is very short-sighted.
– I differ from the honorable member regarding the views of the State Governments.
– The Premier of Western Australia is the only one who has said that it would be an advantage to the Commonwealth to take control of the State debts. With that qualification, my statement holds good. It is certainly a mistake to think that the Queensland Government wishes to transfer its debts to the Commonwealth, while the Government of New South Wales has not agreed to the transfer. Of course, all the Premiers are in favour of the investigation of the subject. I do not propose to discuss now the advisability of transferring the State debts to the Commonwealth. The advantages of that course are admitted by all authorities. In my opinion, each year’s delay means loss to the country. The framers of the Constitution thought that the Commonwealth Parliament would at once proceed to deal with the debts question ; but they were mistaken. We have not discussed the matter ap fully as we should have done. As the Braddon section is terminable in 1910, the States are now more apprehensive regarding their financial relations with the Commonwealth than they need be, and we are compelled to deal with the question in some way. I supported the Braddon section when the draft Bill was before the country, thinking it unwise to make any final arrangement until the Parliament of the Commonwealth had had some years’ experience. We know more now than we did then, but it still behoves us to be very cautious. We shall proceed on wrong lines if we make a permanent arrangement. If, in the early years of Federation, a measure providing for the amendment of the Constitution in the manner now proposed had been passed by this Parliament, the subject could have been put before the people at every election, and. in mv opinion, it should be repeatedly brought under their notice until they become sufficiently appreciative of the -advantages which will flow from the transfer of the debts to the Commonwealth to agree to it. This Bill has been delayed too long. Its introduction should have preceded the twin proposal of the Government which we have Recently been discussing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th October, 1908, vide vol. xlvii., page 794) =
Clauses 24 to 30 agreed to.
Clause 31 (Voyage and time policies).
£6.24]. - The clause deals with two kinds of policies : a voyage policy, where the contract is to insure “ at and from,” or from one place to another, or to others ; and a time policy, where the contract is to insure for a definite period. But, by subclause 2, a time policy foi any period exceeding twelve months is invalid. I desire to insert a new sub-clause to enable a time policy in some cases to be available for a period exceeding twelve months. When a ship is at sea, and twelve months elapses, the desire is to give a reasonable time, not exceeding thirty days, in which the policy, notwithstanding the limit of twelve months, shall still be available. I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 2 : - “ Provided that a time policy may contain an agreement to the effect that, in the event of the ship being at sea or the voyage being otherwise not completed on the expiration of the policy, the subject-matter of the insurance shall be held covered until the arrival of the ship at her destination, or for a reasonable time thereafter not” exceeding thirty days; and the policy shall not be invalid on the ground only that by reason of such agreement it may become available for a period exceeding twelve months :”
– What is the object of allowing thirty days?
– The English and New Zealand Acts fix the period at thirty days, and I propose as I think, to improve on the Bill by providing for any reasonable period not exceeding that limit.
– Why not sixty days?
– We always have to determine what is, or is not, reasonable, and there is nothing but common sense to guide vs.
– I had not the advantage of being in the
House when the second reading was moved, or I might have heard something which would have rendered unnecessary the question I now desire to ask. I see that in the draftsman’s memorandum it is stated that in adapting the English Act to Australia very few departures from the text have been necessary, and that very little difference has been made in the arrangement of the clauses. I should like to know whether the departures there set forth comprehend all that have been made.
– There have been no departures beyond those, and the new subclause I have now moved.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Cla.uses 32 to 47 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Clause 48 - (1.) Where the subject-matter is insured by a voyage “ at and from “, or “ from “ a particular place, it is not necessary that the ship should be at that place when the contract is concluded, but there is an implied condition that the adventure shall be commenced within a reasonable time, and that if the adventure be not so commenced the insurer may avoid the contract.
.- I move -
That after the word “may,” line 8, the words “ on the return of the sum paid as premium “ be inserted.
I am aware that, under clause 90, where the consideration for the payment of the premium totally fails, and there has been no illegality on the part of the assured, the premium is returnable; but I submit the amendment in order that the assured may know exactly where he stands. The insurer may think that the time has been excessive, while the assured may think otherwise.
– Would the honorable member move a similar amendment in clause 90 ?
– No; because it would not be known, until after the event, whether the money was returnable or not. As a matter of fairness, it should be made clear that unless the money is returned, the policy holds.
– There is a wide distinction between the provision under discussion and clause 90. Under the latter clause, the ground for the return of the premium is that there has been a failure of the consideration which is not due to the fault of one of the parties. The money is returned as paid under circumstances that have proved futile. In clause 48, however, there is something not done by the person that is insured; and it would be contrary to all the principles of commercial morality if a man guilty of default were to have his premium returned. Besides, it might go against his interests in many cases, because the question whether the policy should be voided might be one of evidence. This is a very technical Bill, and one cannot see at once the bearing of the words. For instance, this clause speaks of a voyage policy “at and from” a particular place, and that means that the risk has been incurred before the voyage started, and that, as the risk has been running for some time, the party would be returning the consideration for which the risk was taken. This Bill was carefully drafted by English experts, notably Mr. Chalmers, who is celebrated in this connexion ; and I hope the amendment will not be pressed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses -49 to 60 agreed to.
Clause 61 (Included and excluded losses) -
– Does the provision as to “ inherent vice, or nature “ alter the present law in any particular ? There was a ruling on ‘ ‘ inherent vice “ covering the case, I think, of some live stock; but, so far as I can see, the law has not been altered. If that ruling is going to be embodied in a statute it should be more clearly stated. Take, for instance, the words, “ inherent vice or nature of the subject matter insured.” In the case of Blower versus the Great W Western Railway Company, it was laid down as to “inherent vice,” that -
This principle involves the further proposition that the underwriter is not liable for a loss occasioned by any inherent vice in the thing itself, such as spontaneous combustion, disease, decay, or fermentation. “ By the expression vice ‘ is meant only that sort of vice which by its internal development tends to the destruction or the injury of the animal or thing to be carried.” (Blower v. G. W. Ry. Co., 7 L.R.C.P. 655, per Willes, J.).
So the underwriter is not liable for the spontaneous combustion of flax put on board in a damp state (Boyd v. Dubois, 3 Camp. 133; Koebel v. Saunders, 33 L.J. CP. 310).
That would apply to wool, wheat and coal. Very many actions have arisen owing to generation of damp in small coal leading to the decks of a ship being blown up.i Actions may also arise in regard to cargoes of dampened wheat or wet wool. An underwriter ought not to be allowed to be excepted from these risks.
– Sub-clause c commences with the words “ Unless the policy otherwise provides.”
– In many cases the policy will provide for such circumstances, but in others it will not. I remember a case in which a consignment of fruit was damaged owing to the temperature at which it was carried being allowed to go beyond or below a certain point. It was held, however, that under the bill of lading there was no liability.
– That the shipping company was not liable.
– The regular shipperthe man who deals largely in these matters - will have such contingencies provided for ; but a casual shipper might take out a policy, assume that he was completely covered, and find in the end that he was not. I am inclined to think that sub-clause c is altogether too wide- Then, again, subclause b provides that -
Unless the policy otherwise provides, the insurer on ship or goods is not liable for any loss proximately caused by delay….. ‘.
It is absolutely essential, in connexion with the shipment of fruit, and particularly of apples, that the market should be reached within a certain period. A delay of fourteen, or of even seven, days makes a great difference to the shipper. This Bill is being rushed through at a great rate, and no. one seems to be giving much attention to it. The Attorney-General ought to provide as far as possible for the assured. The insurance companies, I have no doubt, will look after themselves ; but the assured, who have only two or three companies with which todeal, ought to be protected. I suggest tothe Attorney-General that the scope of subclause c be restricted.
– The reason why I should be disinclined to alter the phrasing of the clauseis that it is highly technical, and that it is difficult for one to remember the points thatarrested one’s attention on first examining the Bill. I had to go through the Bill- three or four times, and to annotate it for my own satisfaction. Nearly all the clauses are copies of the English Act.
– Have there been any alterations, so far as this clause is concerned ?
– No. I have looked at the English Act, and find that this is a copy of a corresponding section in that measure.
– The whole Bill is almost an exact copy of the English Act.
– Yes; but there are eight or nine clauses relating to local conditions. We have had to provide, for instance, for our Constitutional relations with the States; but that does not touch the principle of the legislation. All the particulars, commencing with those appearing in sub-clause 2 are merely declarations of what are, or are not, to be considered proximate causes. The clause starts with a declaration that -
The insurer is liable for any loss proximately caused by a peril insured against.
And we then proceed to set out certain things that may, or may not, be considered proximate causes.
– Without limiting what “ proximately “ involves.
– Yes. These particulars are founded upon exceedingly wellconsidered decisions of, for the most part, the English Court of Appeal - the House of Lords.
– I recognise that it is desirable that we should have, as far as possible a uniform law throughout the Empire.
– Yes. The words “ inherent vice or nature of the subjectmatter insured “ have been deduced from decisions given in the Old Country.
– Very well; I shall not object to the clause as it stands.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 62 to 79 agreed to.
Clause 80 (Liabilities to third parties).
.-! should like to ask the Attorney-General whether there is any provision in this Bill to protect the stamp duty imposed on seme of these policies by certain of the States, or will the fact that this is a Commonwealth measure do away with the stamp duties of the States in respect of marineinsurance policies?
– This Bill will not do away with the stamp duty collected by a State. There is a section in the Act which protects the States. The actual contract is what is known as the slip-note. An underwriter prepares a memorandum, which is sent to the insurers, and is regarded as a binding contract, although it is not the real policy ; but there is a declaration in the Act that that memorandum cannot be produced in Court. The policy itself must be produced, the object of this declaration being to prevent the evasion of the stamp laws.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 81 to 84 agreed to.
Clause 85 (Right of subrogation).
– I wish to draw the attention of the Attorney-General to a difficulty which has been experienced in at least one case to our knowledge, and possibly in more, in securing payment of insurance in respect of a policy issued by a company having an office but no assets within the Commonwealth. In one instance, after a claim had been sustained by an action in a State Court, the amount of the policy was not paid, and the office of the company was removed from Australia. I allude to the case of a Japanese company having an office in Australia which refused, on some technical grounds, to acknowledge a liability, and had no assets in the Commonwealth that could be attached. After a judgment had been given against it, it removed any sign of its presence in Australia by shutting up its office- It is important that companies having business in Australia, wherever their head office may be, should have some attachable assets within the Commonwealth, This Bill may not, perhaps, be the one in which to introduce such a provision ; it may be better, perhaps, to provide for it in a Companies Bill, as the Commonwealth Parliament is going to deal with that subject.
– A Royal Commission is now taking evidence with regard to insurance cases.
– The question relates to other than marineinsurance cases. We should not encourage a repetition within our borders of a. happening such as that I have mentioned ; but it may be repeated unless we make provision against it in our laws. Some of the State laws have made provision in connexion with some insurance companies, and other countries have enacted that where a company is seeking business, such as insurance, under which there are large liabilities, there shall be’ some security for the payment of those liabilities in the event of a loss. I think that is a reasonable provision to make ; and I should like to ask the Attorney-General if the Government are aware of the facts, and intend to meet the situation by a remedy, and, if so, in what way ?
– I have looked very carefully into the matter referred to by the honorable member for North Sydney ; and yesterday morning I considered whether something could not be done to protect the Australian public against such happenings. “ I believe the company referred to has already withdrawn, its office from Australia. I do not think there are many other companies of that class trading here. A great number are well-established British companies, and in these matters the word “British” is almost synonymous with. “ security.” However, to prevent the possibility of a recurrence of anything: of that sort, thematter will be considered in connexion with the Companies Bill. I could not meet it in this Bill ; an.d, in any case, it would be inadvisable to deal with the question of companies piecemeal. I Jo not think the provisions in the State Acts are sufficient, because the amount of security stipulated for by them would not meet such large losses as were sustained by those victimized in this particular case. I assure the honorable member that the matter has received attention, and will not be allowed to rest at the stage which it has reached.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 86 to 89 agreed to.
Clause 90 (Return for failure of consideration),
.- Paragraph c of sub-clause 3 provides that -
Where the assured has no insurable interest throughout the currency of the risk the premium is returnable, provided that this rule does not apply to a policy effected by way of gaming or wagering.
It is a very open question whether the law should attempt to recognise policies effected by way of gaming or wagering. I do not know to what extent they are effected in this country, but as a general principle, they ought not to be encouraged.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas- Attorney-General) £8.15]. - This clause follows the wording of the English Act ; but there is an independent Act in England providing penalties for entering into gaming or wagering in contracts of this sort, and making such contracts voidable.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 91 to 94 agreed to.
Clause 95 -
Nothing in this Act shall prevent reference being made in legal proceedings to the slip or covering note or other customary memorandum of a contract of marine insurance.
.- Will the Attorney-General explain why this clause departs from the wording of section 89 of the English Act, which provides that -
Where there is a duly stamped policy reference may be made …. to the slip or covering note in any legal proceeding.
The practice in regard to the matter seems to have been very varied. Sometimes the slip itself was regarded as the policy, sometimes the Judges held that they could look at it, and sometimes that they could not. As the aim in this Bill appears to have been to secure uniformity with the English legislation, this seems an unnecessary departure, although not a large one.
– The English provision is primarily directed to securing revenue, but part of the stamping provisions at Home are in the Finance Act. The section in the English Marine Insurance Act starts off with a reference to “a duly stamped policy,” showing that what is wanted is to get the stamp. It is provided, in an earlier portion of the English Act, that the evidence is not to be admitted in Court, unless the policy is produced. Clause 28 of this Bill provides that -
Subject to the provisions of any Act a contract of marine insurance is inadmissible in evidence unless it is embodied in a marine policy in accordance with this Act.
That protects the States if they have stamp duties, as it means that the policy must come into Court with evidence that it has been properly stamped. If it is not properly stamped, objection can at once be taken. It is not for us to expressly recognise or protect the stamping laws of the States; but, in effect, they are protected by the obligation to produce the policy in Court.
– Why not follow the wording of the English law, leaving out the words “duly stamped”?
– The English Act says that, so long as you have a policy, and it is stamped, you may go back on the slipnote, and we attain the same end in another way.
– Is there any means of sueing iin Commonwealth jurisdiction without first going to a State Court? ° Bill.
– Yes ; this being a Federal Act, a suit can be instituted in any Federal Court which has original jurisdiction in the matter.
.- It seems to me that, if an action can be brought in Commonwealth jurisdiction, the State revenues will not be protected, because there is nothing in this measure compelling the stamping of policies. An unstamped policy would be evidence under Federal jurisdiction, though inadmissible under State jurisdiction.
.- This clause is taken from the English Act, which enacts that -
Where there is a duly stamped policy, reference may be made …. to the slip, or covering note, in any legal proceeding.
But the phraseology has been altered, in my opinion, needlessly, and the words “or other customary memorandum of a contract of marine insurance” added. It is most undesirable, unless for exceptionally good cause, to depart from the wording of the English Act, and, when we were dealing with a previous clause, which I thought somewhat ambiguous and unfair in its incidence, I allowed it to pass on the assurance of the Minister that it adopted the English phraseology. I assume that the English Act of 1906, in codifying the existing law, reduced the common law on this subject to statutory form, and that the words “ slip or covering note “ were taken to include, or expressly to exclude, “ other customary memorandum of a contract of marine insurance.” In an early case, reference is made to the legal status of the “slip.” In 1803, the Court declined to look at an unstamped “slip.” I feel sure that here it will not be held that a policy which has complied with the law of the country in which it was issued is void. In the case to which I refer, there had not been such compliance, because a Stamp Act was then in force in England.
– In England, the slip is the broker’s memorandum. Under clause 27, a contract is deemed to be concluded when the proposal of the assured is accepted by the insurer, and for the purpose of showing when it was accepted, reference may be made - to the slip or covering note or other customary memorandum of the contract.
We repeat these words in ‘clause 95.
– Is clause 27 a departure from the English Act?
– No; except that we do not refer to stamping, because there is no Commonwealth Stamp Act. It is not for us to specifically protect the stamp laws of the States, though they are effectively- protected by the general conditions of the measure. In England, the slip is described as the memorandum of the contract. Arnould, the last and greatest authority on insurance, speaking of it, says -
The memorandum called the slip is presented if the insurance is effected at Lloyd’s.
– It is not the policy.
– No; it is merely a memorandum, but is obligatory on the brokers. If a man goes into Court, he must produce the contract, which is the policy itself. It is the policy which, under the laws of the States, must be stamped, but we do not refer to the stamping, because there is no Commonwealth Stamp Act.
– I agree that there should be no unnecessary departure from the wording of the English Act. There is reason, however, for making no reference to stamping, because, while some of the States may require the stamping of policies, others may not. But clauses 27, 28, and 95 seem to involve a contradiction. Clause 27 says that-
A contract of marine insurance is deemed to. be concluded when the proposal of the assured is accepted by the insurer, whether the policy- be then issued or not; and for the purpose of. showing when the proposal was accepted, reference may be made to the slip or covering note, or other customary memorandum of the contract.
Then, clause 28 says that -
Subject to the provisions of any Act, a contract of marine insurance is inadmissible in evidence unless it is embodied in a marine policy in accordance with this Act. The policy may be executed and issued either at the timewhen the contract is concluded, or afterwards.
Finally, clause 95 declares that -
Nothing in this Act shall prevent referencebeing made in legal proceedings to the slip or covering note or other customary memorandum, of a contract of marine insurance.
It would hardly be possible to prevent reference being made to the slip or covering: note, or other customary memorandum, which is declared, under clause 27, tocreate a contract, and yet clause 28 makesa contract inadmissible in evidence unlessembodied in a marine policy.
– Do not the words “ Subject to the provisions of any Act “ prevent the _ contradiction to which the honorable member has referred?
– I do not know that they apply to the measure under consideration. A contract is completed by the issue of a covering note. Goods so insured might be put on board a vessel which might sink while at the wharf, and when the insurer claimed damages, he might be met by the objection that no policy had been issued, and that, therefore, the contract of insurance was inadmissible. His remedy would be to sue for specific performance, but that might involve him in great expense. If the covering note is to create a contract, why should, it not be sued upon? The reason for clause 28 seems to be to protect the stamp duties of the States; but that should be done in another way. I think that there is need for some amendment, to prevent insurers having to take action, not merely for loss, but to obtain specific performance of the contract.
.- Clause 27 is exactly the same as section 21 of the English Act except for the words in the latter “ although it be unstamped,” and our clause 95 goes beyond section 89 of the English Act inasmuch as it contains the words “ or other customary memorandum of a contract of marine insurance.” I take it that in 1906, in the greatest country in the world, so far as marine insurance is concerned there must have been literally thousands of cases, many of which came before the Courts, and in which .it was necessary to show a slip or covering note or other memorandum of a contract. The words “ slip or covering note “ were evidently considered sufficient. I conclude, therefore, that the words are quite sufficient for the purposes of this Bill ; and if we add anything it will only confuse the law and lead to the belief that there is some departure from the English Act, thus placing on the. Courts here the onus of determining what is a customary memorandum of a contract of marine insurance. The status of the slip note has been established after literally scores of cases ; and I venture to say we shall gain nothing by any departure from the English statute, while it is highly desirable in commercial circles that there should be one law throughout the British Dominions.
– I have not the slightest objection to adopt the suggestion made, because the words are only used for greater caution. “ Slip or covering note,” in clause 27, are synonymous with “memorandum,” and ac cording to the English Act they are the memorandum of the contract. If anything the words are tautology ; but we thought it more correct to make the two sections refer to the memorandum ; and my opinion is our drafting is the better. There is the right in England to sue for specific performance of the contract, and the memorandum or slip would be regarded as the basis; and if a person cannot sue without the policy, he is entitled to sue the company for a policy. Under the circumstances we, in effect, say that nothing in the Bill shall be deemed tq take away the right to do that. The English Act is more limited than ours, because, in England, they always think of the stamp and the revenue; a litigant may have a perfect right here against an agent or insurer on the slip. But he is barred in England in an action to recover for loss because the condition there is that there must be a stamped policy. That is, J think, a limitation of rights, because, as I say, in England what they first look to is the revenue from the stamp, while here we have no Commonwealth Stamp Act.
.- The Attorney-General is responsible, and I do not say that he has not good reason for what he is urging; but I can find no record of any memorandum that would not be covered by the words “ slip or covering note.”
– In England the word “ memorandum “ has a highly technical meaning, whereas here it simply means a memorandum.
– I know that certain words in insurance circles have a meaning of which laymen have no knowledge; and when men enter into contracts upon the basis of the technical meaning, one ought to be very loath to interfere in any way, because it opens the door to undesirable vagueness. I have not the slightest doubt that the covering note is the customary memorandum, though it may be that a customary memorandum is not a covering note. I can see no reference in the cases to anything except the slip; and, therefore, we must assume that it is the slip that is looked to, and that recourse to the covering note is very rare. For my part, 1 prefer to follow the English Act.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas- Attorney-General) [8-53J- - 1 am much obliged for the criticism offered, because this is a highly technical measure, and we are all very much at sea in regard to it. If the honorable member will allow me a little time for considera- tion, I shall see that the drafting is altered if necessary.
Clause agreed to.
First schedule verbally amended and agreed to.
Second schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
That the Bill be allowed to pass through its remaining stages this day.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12th August (vide page 2449), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– After a considerable interval we again approach the consideration of this measure, and I think that we should first of all ask ourselves whether we are in earnest in this proposal, and, secondly, whether we ought not, in connexion . with it, to seriously consider the financial question. At the last general election many of us. dwelt upon the importance of the proposed transfer, because we recognised that under existing conditions the Federal Government had no opportunity to encourage immigration. The States reserve to themselves the right to look after their own lands, and any attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to encourage immigration would be thwarted by the action of the States Parliaments. We told the electors that the Commonwealth should take over the Northern Territory, and offer not only our own citizens, but white people from other parts of the world, an opportunity to settle upon and improve it. We had in mind, not only the natural resources of the Territory, but the necessity of having it adequately occupied, in order that we might be able to resist an attack on that part of Australia by any Asiatic race. It seems to be. assumed that anattack upon Australia would be made at that point, although, to my mind, an invader who sought to permanentlyoccupy the country would come further south than Port Darwin. I believe that the Prime Minister and the late Premier of South Australia, Mr. Tom Price, had the interests of Australia at heart when they entered into this agreement. No doubt the Premier of South Australia endeavoured to make the best possible bargain for his State, and the Prime Minister sought to do the best possible for the Commonwealth. As to whether the Government of South Australia were really in earnest in their professed desire that the Territory should be settled, or merely wished to make the best possible bargain for themselves from a financial stand-point, I am unable to say. I heard Mr. Lindsay make the assertion, which has beenborne out by several honorable members, that South Australia was not very keen as to the proposed transfer, and that if the Federation would not take over and develop the Territory, she would proceed to improve it. South Australia is in a much better position to do that than she was a fewyears ago. Fortunately for the Commonwealth, South Australia has experienced some successful years. Her finances are now in good order, and she may be able to do more in the direction of! developing the Territory than she has hitherto found possible. Let us hope that if this Bill be rejected, the State will take action, and that her efforts; to improve the Territory will be more successful than they have hitherto been. I am not quite certain that the people of the Commonwealth are willing that we should take over the Territory and expend upon it a lot of money. In respect of all these great questions the electors trust their representatives. They are also largely guided by the views expressed by newspaper writers, and the instructions they give through the ballotbox to their representatives, as to what course should be pursued, are not always complete. I am not quite satisfied that those who have already spoken to this motion are earnest in the desire that we should come to a decision at the present time. If they are not, it would be better to allow the Bill to stand over, and not to waste further time in its consideration. The end of the session is rapidly approaching, and unless we intend to come to a decision now, it is useless for us to go further. There are a number of Bills on the notice-paper, and honorable members cheered loudly when we passed one this evening, which, since it did not raise party considerations, was expeditiously dealt with. We have recently been considering a measure which, dealing as it does with the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, is of great importance to Australia. During the discussion of that Bill it has been made clear that the Commonwealth, although it has not exhausted all its means of raising revenue, has no money to cast to the winds.
It will take us all our time to finance other undertakings’, apart altogether from the transfer of the Northern Territory. The State Governments feel that they are in the same position, and, having regard to the enormous expenditure which the development of the Territory must involve, we must seriously consider whether it would be possible for us to finance. this project. We talk lightly of millions, although we find it very difficult to finance many necessary undertakings.
– The trouble about this agreement is that too many conditions are imposed.
– That has caused me to ask whether we are in earnest with regard to it. Under the agreement we shall take over from the States a liability amounting to about £4,000,000. I shall not say that the Northern Territory is not worth that amount, but there is not £4,000,000 worth of improvements in sight there. South Australia has certainly held up her end of the stick very well ; she has done good service to the Commonwealth in keeping the Territory white, and in preserving it from the “ land sharks.” It may be said that the fact that the “land sharks” have not monopolized the Territory is not a good advertisement for it, since, if the land were of first-class- quality, they would have devised some means of monopolizing- it.
– They have tried very hard to do so.
– I am aware of that, and the Government of South Australia have done well in resisting the attempts of gentlemen who try to make money at the expense of the rest of the community, to monopolize the lands of the Northern Territory. In order that it may be opened up, it will be necessary to construct a railway line through it. It would be useless to take it over unless we determined to construct such a railway within a reasonable time.
– Within the next fifty years.
– Within the next ten years tangible action will have to be taken in that direction. Several routes have been proposed, South Australia claiming that a railway should be constructed from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. Queensland, New South Wales, and, to some extent, Victoria are also interested in this phase of the question, and I am convinced that before it is settled we shall have some fighting from the stand-point of State interests. The desire of South Australia as to the route to be followed will, doubtless, be strongly contested. I rather question the action of that State in endeavouring to dictate to the Commonwealth the route to be followed, although it might reasonably have declared that such a route should be selected as would open up the Territory. I admit that the route suggested by South Australia is really a central one, and also that there is some force in the contention of that State that no railway can- open up the Territory properly unless it passes through, or close to, the MacDonnell Ranges. It is evident that, if there is any portion of Central Australia which is of any use for agricultural or pastoral purposes, it is the MacDonnell Range country ; but, at the same time, the route suggested by South Australia is rather isolated. I do not know whether there are any very great engineering difficulties to be overcome to the north of Hergott Springs. I know it is a great lake district, and I am told that much of it is below the level of the sea, so that it may be difficult to take the railway to the north from Hergott Springs.
– There are floods 60 miles wide.
– That is the great trouble. But for that, I think we could have arranged a reasonable compromise by continuing the line in an almost northerly direction from Hergott Springs to touch the western portion of Queensland, and then going across through the MacDonnell Range country. To a certain extent, that would have satisfied the eastern States by providing for the possibility of the railway opening up their territory as well as that of South Australia.
– Does the honorable member want to develop the eastern States or the Northern Territory.
– We are all, to some extent, selfish as regards the interests of our own States and our own constituencies, and, therefore, I cannot blame any South Australian for putting that rather pertinent question to me. My answer is that the railway is intended to open up the Northern Territory, but if the route can possibly be made to give access to the outlying districts of other States without interfering with the original idea of the Commonwealth taking over the Territory, a great advantage will be conferred.
– That will not be admitted under the agreement.
– I quite recognise that difficulty. Some honorable members who are agitating for other routes seem to want to take the line right on to the eastern coast of Australia, which would in no sense be opening up the Territory. I have great respect for the opinion of the honorable member for Kennedy, but his speech on this measure ‘was certainly coloured by the interests of the district that he represents, although there was something in his contention that the most fertile portion of the Territory was that stretching from Port Darwin in a south-easterly direction, into Queensland. Still, my idea of opening up the Northern Territory is not to tap that portion only, and, therefore, I could not vote for an alteration of route in that direction. South Australia might overcome a good deal of the opposition to -the agreement by not insisting on the railway going direct from Oodnadatta north to Pine Creek*. If Australia is willing to spend money in opening up the Territory, the line ought, «if possible, to be so constructed as to be of some utility to the other States, at the same time carrying out the original intention of opening up the Northern Territory itself. The line, however, must certainly tap the MacDonnell Range country, or it will not be a Northern Territory railway in any sense of the word. Some of the alternative routes suggested are rather peculiar. I can hardly think, for instance, that the individual who suggested a line from Bourke north to Cloncurry, and thence across to Port Darwin, through the country which the honorable member for Kennedy mentioned, was in earnest about opening up the Northern Territory. Another route which is of no use is that almost north from Hergott Springs, touching the south-western portion of Queensland, and following the meridian almost straight up ; but if the railway, could be taken to the point where South Australia, the Northern Territory, arid Queensland meet, and thence across the MacDonnell Ranges, and on to Pine Creek, it ought to satisfy the eastern States, and certainly ought to satisfy South Australia. If we were all explorers, like the right honorable member for Swan, we might be able to form -a better judgment on these matters ; but, as it is, we can only be guided by the information put before us by the experts, and they, like doctors, differ so much that unfortunate beings like myself find it hard to determine what would really be the best route. I do not want to be too hard upon South Australia, but I believe the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta is very light, and not now worth anything like the money expended upon it.
– Oh, yes, it is.
– We have had statements to the contrary.
– What is the yearly loss on it ?
– Even if it does not pay for axle grease now, I am willing to believe that it can be made payable in the course of time by continuing it to the north. It would be better if South Australia agreed to keep that portion of the railway and open up the district with it, while allowing the Federal Government to make it sufficiently strong, and so continue it as to enable it to carry fast trains across the continent. If the line is to be used for carrying mails, a fast service will be necessary ; but, from .all I have heard, the existing line would not stand trains- travelling over it at more than 25 miles an hour.
– I have travelled 45 miles an hour over it.
– I have heard statements to the contrary, but I accept the honorable member’s assurance. The service on the existing line is very infrequent’ at present, and necessarily a ‘line which is seldom used is not kept in the best state of repair. I admit that South Australia intended it to open up the country, and did not expect it to be immediately payable. It is evident that, whatever agreement is come to, South Australia will have to keep, at any rate, that portion of the railway .between ‘ Hergott Springs and Oodnadatta.
– Then she will keep the MacDonnell Range country also.
– I know that South Australia takes up that attitude, but, with all the advances that she has made in the last few years, I doubt if she can open up that country, and make the line payable; within the next thirty years. I quite expect that, if it is taken over by the Commonwealth, it will be a non-paying line for many years to come. Railways will not pay unless people are settled upon the land, and it will be a long time before there is any great settlement in that district, because it must be admitted that it contains a large amount of desert. Possibly Central Australia may be made a paradise in time to come, just as the Salt Lake district in America has been made to blossom like the rose by half a century of untiring effort on the part of the Mormons. If South Australia insists on the agreement and nothing but the agreement, this debate might just as well be abandoned at once, because I am sure that the representatives of that State recognise that, in the present temper of the House, some other arrangement will have to be made.
– The honorable member is very honest.
– I have spoken more favorably regarding this project than any other honorable member, excluding the representatives of South Australia, and, I think, am the only one to contend that the line should go through the MacDonnell Ranges. But if South Australia means business she will not stick to the hard and fast terms of the agreement. The Prime Minister has not addressed the House on this question, although he made the agreement with the late Honorable Thomas Price. No doubt, in its discussion, there must be a good deal of giving and taking. South Australia really wishes to take more than she offers to give. But while her representatives declare that the railway must follow a certain route, others favour other routes, and until some agreement is come to it will be impossible’ for the proposed transfer to be effected. I regret this, because the possibilities of the Territory are very great, though a large expenditure will be necessary to develop its resources.
– For what route would the honorable member vote?
– The line should keep more to the east than is proposed, though it should go through the MacDonnell Range country. Unless it taps that country it will be useless. In my opinion, the transfer, together with the construction of the railway, will involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure of ^10,000,000. or an annual charge of £400,000, while there must be a further large expenditure on development. It may be ten years before the whole burden falls upon the Commonwealth, but it must be remembered that, up to the present time, our great financial experts have been unable to formulate a scheme foi the raising of sufficient revenue to pay for this and other big projects. I am opposed to public borrowing, except for reproductive works ; but it would be impossible to build the proposed railway out of revenue, and for thirty years to come there would be a loss on its working. I do not think that South Australia can develop the Territory unaided No doubt it has done its best in the past, and while I should probably differ from the politi cians who framed the laws which now govern the Territory, I am willing to believe that they did what they thought best. 1 have read thirteen pamphlets and books relating to the Territory, but the views they express are so conflicting that I find it difficult to form a clear” opinion regarding its possibilities. My reason for desiring its transfer to the Commonwealth is that we may be able to offer proper inducements to immigrants, instead of being content with the ineffectiveness -of the State arrangements.
– Is not South Australia conceding a good deal, seeing that she is offering to hand over to the Commonwealth the control of a nation?
– At the present time the Northern Territory is peopled mostly by Chinamen and blackfellows, and I am inclined to think that if the State considered that it would benefit by retaining the Territory this offer would not be made. However the Territory may be developed Australia will benefit, but before anything more can be done, we must know whether South Australia intends tomake any concession, or whether she will insist on the strict letter of the agreement.
.- It is very gratifying to South Australians to hear honorable members commend the State for having kept the Territory white. Her pioneer politicians were far-seeing men, and did what they could for the proper government of the Territory, though at a loss to the State. Honorable members ask why it is not developed. No part of Australia is yet properly developed, not even Victoria. South Australia, however, has kept the Territory free from an objectionable population, and if the Commonwealth takes it over, it will have nothing to do but develop it. A railway from Oodnadatta direct to the Territory would do more to develop the continent than any other line that could be made. Port Darwin! would be nearer to Melbourne by that route than by any other, and the railway would pass through friendly country the whole way.
– Could not the same thing be said about any other route?
– The other States are not so friendly to the Commonwealth as is South Australia. Spur lines could be constructed from the main railway to places like the Tanami gold-fields. It is not to be contended that there are no gold discoveries to be made in the future. The
Northern Territory has a coastline of 1,200 miles, and Port Darwin is, after Sydney and Port Lincoln, one of the finest harbors in the world. The Territory covers an area 560 miles wide by 900 miles long, and contains 523,620 square miles, or 335,116,800 acres. The average coastal rainfall for thirty-two years has been 62 inches, 42 inches falling in the driest year. Only 6,300 square miles have a rainfall of less than 10 inches, and 21,343 square miles have a rainfall of from 10 to 20 inches, 96,790 square miles a rainfall of from 20 to 30 inches, 120,600 square miles a rainfall of from 30 to 40 inches, and 86,500 square miles a rainfall of over 40 inches. I have here a report from the last member elected for the Northern Territory. This is a very valuable report, from a man who knows the Territory well, and who has no interests to serve but those of the public. He says -
The Territory was a big country, but, unfortunately, it was nearly empty, and there was no possibility of the place being developed unless a transcontinental railway line were constructed to connect it with the southern parts of Australia. Unfortunately no definite route was included in the agreement to transfer as drawn up by the late Premier and Mr. Deakin. It was, therefore, quite possible that provincialism would assert itself and that each State would make an effort to have the line diverge into its own territory. By deviating towards the Queensland border the railway would simply get out of the Territory as quickly as possible, and would not be of much assistance in its development. That was not what was intended by the agreement.
South Australia has been at the expense of administering the Northern Territory for many years; and it is impossible to believe that the State Government would exact terms in any degree unfair to the Commonwealth as a whole. At any rate, South Australia will still remain a shareholder in the business. It would be absurd to construct a railway by any other route than that shown on the map hanging in this chamber ; and for much valuable information in this connexion we are greatly indebted to Mr. David Lindsay and’ the Northern Territory League. The report goes on to say -
New South Wales would like to see a connexion with Bourke, and this would mean traversing a lot of country no better than that to be found on the route to Oodnadatta. Besides that, the railway would, in such a case, have to cross plains which are flooded in the wet season by the overflow of the Cooper, Diamantina, and other rivers, and would have to be supported on trestle-bridges constructed at enor- mous expense. The line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta was the shortest and cheapest route to the southern States, and would open up a vast amount of country, rich in mineral, agricultural, and pastoral wealth. All the country from the MacDonnell Ranges to Pine Creek was equal to any country in Australia for cattle and horse-breeding. At present it was lying idle, because there was no provision for water supply, although it had been proved that water exists at very shallow depths, and only requires artesian boring to find a vent. Whichever direction the line ultimately took, it must be continued beyond Pine Creek to the Katherine, a distance of 60 miles, traversing as rich a belt of country as any in Australia. Minerals had been found in the whole length of it - gold, silver, copper, tin, wolfram, thorium, and other metals - and the land lay idle for want of a railway. The line would pass through the Cullen district, which had produced gold for several years.
It might be asked why all the Federal members do not visit the Territory ; but such a suggestion is ridiculous, because one trip would be of absolutely no value. If a visit were paid in a good season like the present, nothing but delight could be the result, but a visit in a bad season would only cause disgust. Under the circumstances, we have to depend on the opinion of men like Mr. Lindsay and others who have lived the greater part of their lives there. Mr. Lindsay tells us that in the Northern Territory is one of the finest countries in the world, capable of carrying 40,000,000 sheep and many cattle; and if that be so it is simply another New South Wales. I feel quite sure that if the Commonwealth do not accept the present offer, there will not be another on such advantageous terms. In Territoria, that valuable publication for which we have to thank the Northern Territory League, we are told -
From Powell’s’ Creek the road is nearly level, passing Newcastle Waters, Daly Waters, the Elsie, and on to the Katherine River, where the rainfall is 40 inches per annum, and which may be considered the outer fringe of the tropical belt extending 200 miles to the coast at Port Darwin. This country is well watered and eminently adapted for agriculture as well as pastoral pursuits.
Speaking of the tablelands, the publication ‘ says -
Stretching away to the Queensland border on the east, a distance of 250 miles, the traveller finds a really magnificent country - the famed Barclay Tablelands - pronounced by all who have seen it to be the best in Australia, containing some 20,000,000 acres, which is capable of supporting at least 10,000,000 sheep, as it has been proved, both as to grasses and climate, to be very suitable for sheep raising. Away to the west lies the Sturt’s Creek and Victoria River country, stretching across the Western
Australian boundary, elevated downs, well, watered and clothed with Mitchell, blue and Flinders grasses, on which are depasturing over 300,000 head of great cattle. This belt of country, containing over 40,000,000 acres, could carry ten times that number. It has a certain rainfall of from 20 to 30 inches. Lying between Powell’s Creek and the Katherine, extending the whole width of the Territory, is a land with a rich soil and abundant rainfall, containing over 80,000,000 acres, which, according to the evidence we have been able to gather, is not only surpassed for cattle and sheep, but is suitable for wheat-growing - a high, dry land, free from drought, with a fine climate, summer heat rarely exceeding no degrees, and the winter temperature falling as low as 26 degrees.
It would appear that there are about 80,000,000 acres fit for growing wheat, and, with the American dry farming process, which has been described to us by Senator McColl, there is opened vast possibilities of development. But railways must be built first, and then the people will follow. The honorable member for Wakefield told us’ the other night how great has been the progress in the Pinnaroo and Port Lincoln districts, owing to the construction of railways; and, with such facilities, it is not beyond probability that in ten years we may see great changes, and in fifty years another Melbourne in the Northern Territory. And’ I should like to point out that this great unoccupied country presents an eminently suitable field for the establishment of a military station in a healthy, productive climate, where the youth of Australia could be adequately trained for defence purposes. So valuable are the areas that, if either South Australia or the Commonwealth desired to sell them at any time, they could at once reimburse their expenditure ; but I hope that the Commonwealth will take over the Territory and develop it on proper lines. I have no doubt that, if the measure be passed, we shall have honorable members advocating the establishment of a temporary Seat of Government in the Territory.
– During the three days I was there the thermometer ranged from 88 to 99 and 102 ; that was in the shade in the middle of May.
– Similar heat is experienced in Adelaide or Brisbane. My remarks are in reference to the country in the neighbourhood of the MacDonnell Ranges. Territoria further states -
And yet Australia hesitates about buying this vast country of 335,116,860 acres for ,£3,000,000, and venturing upon a bold development scheme which will make Australia boom as she has never yet done, and place her among the important nations of the world. It is the railways that made possible the utilization of the great wheat lands of Canada, and enabled the wastelands of that great country to become quickly settled. So it will be with our Northern Territory. Without the railways that vast country of unbounded possibilities will remain uninhabited and an incubus on South Australia or the Commonwealth.
Without railways, what can be done? Absolutely nothing. I should like to quote a few figures in reference to the wheat land in the MacDonnell Range country -
The wheat lands will be thrown open for selection at, say, £1 per acre, payable in 20- yearly instalments of is. per acre; 1,000,000 acres will be sold each year. This will realize £50,000 for the first year, treble this for thesecond year, and increasing in arithmetical proportion for the seven years.
I hope, however, that the Commonwealth will not sell the land, but will deal with it in the way I am sure we all desire -
The production of wheat will necessitate thebuilding of a railway line into the Roper River, McArthur River, and Victoria River. An examination of the Roper River may show that water carriage to the shipping point can be made available, doing away with the necessity of -a railway line. But if it is found necessary to build the railway we find a distance of 130- miles will connect the trunk line with the head of navigation, through easy country, with noengineering difficulties, and abundance of timber for sleepers. This line would cost, say, £520,000.
– Where is the timber?
– On the rivers,, creeks, and lands of the Northern Territory.
– The white ants had charge of the “timber when I was there.
– In any case, we are told that it will not be long before steel sleepers will be used for railway construction. As to the rivers, we are told that the Victoria is, perhaps, the most important, and that, 26 miles wide at the mouth, it empties into the Indian Ocean, near the Western Australian border. The proposed railway will benefit Western Australia as much as, if not more, than it will South Australia. It seems strange that the Western Australian gold-fields should be only just across the border, and we. hope that when some of the smart men from the West go into the Territory we may have some great mining developments.. We are also told that the Victoria River is an outlet for an immense tract of splendid pastoral and agricultural country, approximating 100,000 square miles, at a very modest estimate.
It is pointed out, further, in Territoria that -
The Adelaide River, about 45 miles distant from Fort Darwin, is navigable for over So miles by vessels drawing 13 feet, and Dows through magnificently-grassed plains, good either for agricultural or pastoral pursuits. It has magnificent rice country, equal to the best in Saigon, the largest rise producer in the world……
The fattening and growing qualities of the native grasses in Territoria are wonderful and well-known to pastoralists, who hold leases there. . . . Now, apart from the splendid market in India for horses of the right stamp and stamina, Japan offers herself as a ready buyer of horseflesh, as she has evidenced by her purchases oi the past few years in the southern States. But what a difference there would be if shipments could be made from Port Roper, or a port on the Goyder River. The time has come therefore for us to push this industry, and the Government should lend every assistance to persons or companies desiring to embark in- this direction……
According to Customs records, the total value of mineral exports for 1907 was ^104,565. The principal minerals making up this total are gold, 8,023^ ounces, valued at ^23,504; tin, 423 tons, valued at ,£44,176; copper, valued at ^20,581; wolfram, 79 tons, valued at ,£11,298; and silver lead ore, 434 tons, valued at ,£4,164.
In the Government Resident’s report on the Northern Territory for 1908, some interesting figures are given as to the cattle and horses on stations having 500 cattle or over. It is shown that at the end of 1908, the number of cattle on runs was as follows : - Victoria Downs station, 76,540, increase in number branded 17,298, sales 6,000; Wave Hill 55,000, increase in number branded 15,000, sales 7,090; Ord River 20,000, increase in number branded 4,261, and sales 5,050; Brunette 24,000, increase in number branded 7,000, sales 3,700 ; Alexandria 20,567, increase in number branded 4,230, sales 1,900; Auvergne 14,000, increase in number branded 2,300; Newry 1,224, increase in number branded 900; Bulleta 1,900, increase in number branded 250; Rocklands 8,000, sales 1,500; Rosewood 7,500, increase in number branded 1,600, sales 470; McArthur River 7,200, increase in number branded 2,108, sales 947; Alroy Downs 9,000, increase in number branded 3,000, sales 1,020; Avon Downs 8,000, increase in number branded 774; Newcastle Waters 7,900, sales 1,000; Lake Nash 8,193, increase in number branded 3,030, sales 665 ; Waterloo 5,000, increase in number branded 800, sales 1,400. The returns in regard to a number of other stations are also given, but I think it unnecessary to make further reference to them. I hope that honorable members will agree that the reports from South Australia in regard to the Territory are absolutely correct. Mr. David Lindsay, in his reply to certain criticism, points out that the Surveyor-General gives the following clear estimate of the value of the land which would be traversed by a railway running from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek:-
The character of the country from Oodnadatta to Macumba, a distance of about 30 miles, may generally be described as fair pasture, comprising undulating stony table-lands, traversed by rough ranges, and intersected by numerous broad water-courses, and often extensive flats, splendidly grassed after rain, timbered with gum, box, myall, gidgea, wattle, etc.
From Macumba to the latitude of Charlotte Waters, about 90 miles, the country is more open and well grassed, with salt, cotton, and other edible bushes, and patches of Mitchell grass. It is watered with numbers of springs.
From Charlotte Waters to about latitude 24.30, on southern side of MacDonnell Ranges, the country generally comprises open mulga, fairly-grassed plains, and red sandhills, with patches of mulga and black oak scrub, and spinifex.
Along the course of the Hugh, and Finke, there is good timber - boxwood, gum, mulga, etc. - parts well grassed, and occasional stony ranges. The MacDonnell Ranges, which extend east and west about 400 miles by 100 miles north and south, is a fine stretch of high tablelands and first class country. The climate is good, and water and herbage abundant.
From MacDonnell Ranges to Daly Waters the country is generally scrubby with occasional grassy plains and rough ranges ; portions sandy, fairly grassed, and well timbered along watercourses……
The whole of the country is well suited for pastoral occupation, and portions, including the MacDonnell Ranges, river flats .and mineral areas, would support a large population.
That was the opinion expressed by the Surveyor-General of South Australia, and I do not think that there is in Australia a man more capable of giving an opinion on the subject, or whose word would be more readily accepted. Mr. Lindsay points out that Mr. Simpson Newland, a well-known pastoralist and public man of South Australia, writing to the press on 13th August last, said, in regard to the same stretch of country -
I have traversed the country, and fail to see the “ desert.” The country called “ desert,” in fact, contains stations annually sending large consignments of the fattest cattle and the best horses to the Adelaide market. Men and families are living there, doing well, and perfectly satisfied with their prospects and the future prosperity of the country. Numbers of cattle and horses from Crown Point, half way between Charlotte Waters and MacDonnell Ranges, and Bond Springs, in the MacDonnell
Ranges, sold in Adelaide from 31st July, 1907, to 31st July, 1909. For year ending 31st July, 1908, 2,364 cattle, 107 horses; for year ending 31st July, 1909, 2,367 cattle, 108 horses. Henbury, and Todmordon stations, cattle (fat) sold during 1908, 2,962; 1909, 1,142. A draft of 52 horses from these stations, just sold, averaged ?36 per head.
This proves conclusively that the Northern Territory comprises some of the best land in the world for breeding first-class horses for which, at the present time, very high prices are obtainable. Mr. Newland went on to say -
It is a splendid pastoral country. I see no reason why wheat and other cereals should not grow. I have seen splendid wheat plants, fully grown, in the MacDonnell Ranges.
Mr. Lindsay states further
The authorities for describing the country to be traversed by the direct route from Oodnadatta as a good, fair to first class pastoral country, fit in parts for agriculture - well-watered (and none of whom use the word “ desert “) - include the following men, who have traversed the country more than once, and some who have lived in it for years, are the explorers and surveyors, J. McDouall Stuart, Gosse, Warburton, Winnicke, Barclay, Lindsay; stock-drovers and pastoralists, A. Giles, J. A. Giles, Simpson Newland, Taylor, Breadon, Harding, Wallace, Hon. John Lewis, Warburton, Chewings; telegraph officers, Sir Charles Todd, J. A. G., Little, Flint, Gillen.
Had time permitted, I should have liked to refer to the splendid book written by Mr. A. Searcy, in which he described the Northern Territory as one of the finest countries in the world. All these authorities cannot .be wrong. They have no special interests to serve. The late Mr. V. L. Solomon, who was a member of this House, also declared that the Northern Territory comprised some of the best country in the world, and another gentleman, now living at Mount Gambier, Mr. J. J. Lawrie, who spent twenty years in the Territory, describes it as a beautiful country. Mr. Allan Davison, Mr. Mitchell, the AttorneyGeneral for South Australia, who represents the Northern Territory in the State House of Assembly, and others, agree with him. These gentlemen would not lend themselves to any misrepresentation, and I have no hesitation in saying that before we are ten years older we shall hear in this House honorable members singing the praises of the Northern Territory, just as others are sounding the praises of the Pinnaroo District, and other parts of South Australia which have recently been opened up by means of railways. I hope it will not be long before this Bill will be carried, and that the Commonwealth Parliament will not allow this opportunity of acquiring the Territory to pass.
– South Australia has had fifty years in which to develop the Territory.
– There is in Victoria a large tract of country, north of the town in which the honorable member resides, which is only now being developed, so that the honorable member cannot well complain of the lack of development in the Northern Territory. I hope to have the pleasure of seeing a railway line constructed between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek within a very short time. Such a line would be in the interests of Australia. We should then have a railway extending from the north to the south of Australia - from the Great Australian Bight right across to the Northern Territory. I am sure that the Commonwealth would not object to Queensland tapping the trunk line with feeders, nor to the construction of similar lines by Western Australia. This is the mother Parliament -of Australia, and I am confident that it will be kind’ to the whole of its children.
.- I have listened with the utmost pleasure to the speech of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. He approached the question with a breezy optimism, which shows that the new recruits of our Chamber are going to revivify our national sentiment, and help us in our national aspirations in a way that some of our older members are, I am afraid, almost now forgetting to do. The fact that this agreement is before us is a curious tribute to our Federal spirit. It is really instructive to see the honorable member for Fremantle, and the right honorable and gallant member for’ Swan loyally standing by while a proposal for a transcontinental railway from Port Augusta northwards is allowed to take precedence over that from Port Augusta to the West. I do not wish at present to trench upon that subject; but I can realize the great sacrifices my . honorable friends have made in withholding their claim for the time being. I wish simply to address myself to the agreement as it stands - to the points which make it unacceptable, and to the direction in which, with the concurrence of South Australia, it might be amended. Our difficulty is that, since it is an agreement, we cannot amend it with the hope of doing any good thereby, unless we have the approval of the other party to it, South Australia.
– There is no hope of that.
– I venture to think that we have a hope of making another agreement with South Australia. All the time that he has been in this House, realizing, the utter futility of endeavouring to pass this agreement in its present form, the honorable member for Hindmarsh has not been able to think out alternatives. We have, again, to thank another new member for a most valuable suggestion in this regard. I refer to the honorable member for Wakefield, who, in his recent campaign, drew attention to the possibility, if this agreement is not ratified, of South Australia retaining all that rich country, including the MacDonnell Ranges, up to about the 22nd parallel, and then transferring the rest of the Territory to the Commonwealth on mutually satisfactory terms, while giving the Commonwealth the right to make what railway it chooses over the route that seems best to it. That ‘is the most statesmanlike and sensible solution of the difficulty that we have yet heard. The weaknesses of the present agreement lie in the following facts : In the first place we have to accept a long, non-paying railway in a territory which is not our own - the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. I think honorable members generally will realize that it is not desirable for the Commonwealth to own railways ‘in State territories. In the second place, we are a business House, and yet this agreement ties us down as to the choice of the route of the overland line. I shall not canvass any particular route. I hope that if the Government eventually make an arrangement with South Australia which will give us the right to construct the overland line through whatever country we please, the House will address itself to the question in a business-like spirit, obtaining the opinions of experts as to the most’ hopeful country, and then acting with all the evidence before it. So far we have had nothing but a few pamphlets, written in such perfervid language that even the most friendly critic is apt to become suspicious.
Mr.- Poynton. - The experts recommended Dalgety as the Federal Capital site, but the honorable member did not act on their advice.
– If the honorable member refers to Mr. Oliver, I would point out that he recommended, among other sites, Bombala, and not Dalgety.
– It is in the same area.
– If the honorable member knew the area as well as I do, he wou’ld know that the territories are as different as chalk from cheese. If expert advice shows that the most fruitful territory through which to build the line lies in westernQueensland, we ought, as sensible men, to build the line through that part, unless we are so blinded by provincialism as to be dead to nationalism. If, on the other hand, it is found that the country between the MacDonnell Ranges and Adelaide is richer, we ought to build the line south of the MacDonnell Ranges. If honorable members representing South Australia really believed the extraordinary literature that we have been reading on the subject, they would be the first to submit their case to expert advice.
– I can assure the honorable member that that literature is reliable.
– I am not in a position to contest it, but I have a right to say that I am sceptical. It is so flattering that it produces that effect upon even the most unsuspicious and perhaps the youngest member of the House. I hope the Government will not persist in the agreement^ because it is obvious that the great majority of the House are not prepared to accept the transfer on those terms. I think that certain good was to be derived from submitting the agreement to the House and allowing the House to discuss it, as it will enable the Government to find out on what terms . the House is prepared to do business.
– Does the honorable member think South Australia will allow the matter to be hung up for many more years ?
– I suggest the withdrawal of this agreement, with a view to arriving at another.
– Then the honorable member means that the matter should be left over until the next Parliament? We want it settled in this ‘Parliament.
– If it can be done in this Parliament, I shall be prepared to help. I can assure the honorable member that nobody recognises more than I do the needs of South Australia, and the obligation resting upon the Commonwealth in this regard ; but this argument is not business-like or fair. Moreover, the vast majority of the House is of the same opinion as myself;,, and it has no chance of passing in its present form. Therefore the sooner matters are brought to a head, by the agreement being withdrawn and a new agreement being sought to be instituted, the better it will be for South Australia and for the Commonwealth.” The figures show that the total liability upon the Commonwealth under the agreement would be about £10,000,000, with future profits of a very doubtful character.
– There is no doubt at all about them.
– One might almost be led to believe that the honorable member was a company promoter from Adelaide. I am beginning to understand why there are so many rich people in Adelaide, and why South Australia is so prosperous, and has managed to get money from all over Australia. It must be the result of the laudable enterprise and company promoting skill of its citizens. I hope that when a new arrangement is sought to be entered into, the suggestions put forward by the honorable member for Wakefield will receive the earnest consideration of both Governments. If they are adopted, South Australia will not lose any possible future benefit from the line already built from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and the Commonwealth will be able to reap the benefit of constructing a transcontinental line through the country best suited to Australian interests. I am sure that if such a course is pursued, it will meet with the hearty approbation of the people.
– That proposal was considered long ago.
– Then I am sorry that no one has put it before the House previously. The first that I, and I believe all other members except those from South Australia, heard of it was from the honorable member for Wakefield.
– It was one of the original propositions.
– I do not wish to dim the halo which surrounds the heads of my honorable friends; and I am sure that if they want the credit for the suggestion, the honorable member for Wakefield will give it to them. I hope the Government will take the proposal into consideration, and bv withdrawing this proposition and starting on another enable the transfer of the Northern Territory to reach fruition at an early date.
.- As I understand that the Government desire to complete the debate on the second! reading to-night, I shall condense my remarks as much as possible; but, having visited the Northern Territory and taken a great interest in the proposal that the Commonwealth should take it over, I am anxious to offer some observations upon the question. The Minister of External Affairs is to be congratulated upon the way in which he introduced the measure, and upon the general tone of the debate which has followed. We all admit that South Australia is entitled to great credit for the way in which she has grappled with the problem of settling the Territory ; but any one who reads the lamentable -history of the attempts made by her in that direction must come; to the conclusion that she is not financially strong enough for the task. It is necessary that the Territory should be developed for the purpose of peopling the continent and for defence purposes. The management of the Territory by South Australia has continued since 1863, and after nearly fifty years of attempts made by that State to grapple with the problem, the country is really in a worse condition than it was when the South Australian Parliament assumed the responsibility. According to the memorandum of agreement placed before honorable members by the Government, the annual loss upon the Territory will amount to about £235,000, without any further expenditure; while the total annual loss if the agreement is carried out to the full will be about £435,000. To take over the debt, develop the Territory, and construct railways as proposed, will cost over £10,000,000. The total gold production of the Territory since South Australia took charge of it has been about £2,500,000. There are at present only 1,176 wageearners there, whose average wages amount to only £76 6s. per annum. There has been a gradual decline in population and production, and a continual accumulation of debt. That is the position we have to face. There has been a good deal of discussion of the proposition that the Commonwealth should not only take over the existing debt, but also build a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. My view is that in the development of this country, up to a certain point, the consideration of a through railway should be deferred. All the States have been developed by running railways from the seaboard into the interior, and I can see no reason why, if we take over the Territory, it should not be de- veloped in the same way. Western’ Australia, for instance, has so far developed very rapidly. It has spent a considerable amount in developmental works. It had a population in 1889 of 167,000, which increased to 263,000 in 1-907. Its lines of railway total 2,000 miles, running from the sea as far inland as, respectively, 353 miles, 379 miles, 604. miles, 186 miles, and 240 miles. The public railways have cost £”11,000,000; £”300,000 has been spent in postal conveniences, £3,000,000 in harbor works, and £3,000,000 in water supply, £1,000,600 on the development of goldfields, £150,000 in constructing roads and bridges, £755.000 in the development of agriculture, arid £”30,000 upon immigration, or £”18,000,000 in all, the whole of which was borrowed. That State is not yer connected by railway with the eastern States, so that in that respect the Northern Territory is no worse off. Neither is it worse off in respect to development than the northern part of Queensland. If the Territory be transferred to the Commonwealth, many millions will have to be expended in developing it. Instead of making a railway across the continent, we should run a number of railways inland from the coast. The Territory contains 531,600 square miles, and lies wholly within the tropics. It is about one-third the size of India, which contains 1,766,000 square miles, and can produce many of the products with which India supports a population of 300,000,000, some of the Indian States having as many as 436 persons to the square mile. India produces chiefly rice, wheat, sugar, tea, cotton, oil seeds, tobacco, and jute goods. The area irrigated there with river water is 23,000,000 acres, 7 per cent, being returned on the money invested in the irrigation works. Very large areas are also watered from wells. As the water supply of the Northern Territory is less than that of India, it could not be expected to carry so large a population, but it could supply Australia with most of the productions which are now grown in India. We import over £”6,000,000 worth of goods, the raw material for which could be grown in the Northern Territory. These imports include £64,000 worth of cotton ; cordage and twine, £”522,000; £”248,000 worth of rice; £344,000 worth of indiarubber goods; £”67,000 worth of wicker goods; £199,000 worth of cotton goods, such as socks and stockings, towels and handkerchiefs, and .£3)309,000 worth of cotton piece goods and linen. Among jute goods we import bran, chaff, and fodder bags, valued at £188,198 ; corn and flour sacks valued at £”617,866; onion and coal bags valued at £12,038; ore bags valued at £17,154; second-hand bags and sacks valued at £2,487 ; and other bags valued at £28,983. The tropical plants which grow in India could be successfully cultivated in the Northern Territory.
– Experiments have been made there, but have they been successful ?
– Experiments were made in the Ipswich district, under the stimulus of a bonus, but not on a sufficiently extensive scale to justify the use of labour-saving machinery which would allow the employment of white labour for cultivation and harvesting. In the United States the growing and picking of cotton by white labour has been a success, and it would be a success in Australia if the area cultivated were large enough to justify the use of machinery. Mr. Bottomley, an expert who has visited the Northern Territory, and knows every district in the world where cotton is grown, says that it is’ the home of the cotton plant, and that nowhere can cotton be grown more cheaply than there.
– Did not the South Australian Government make experiments which were unsuccessful?
– They were not on a commercial scale, and subject to disabilities which will be removed by the proper development of the Territory. Not only is the Territory capable of producing such goods as I have referred to, but it could be used largely for dairying and stockraising. I travelled through the Territory, and saw the natural herbage, which is too rank for the fattening of stock. To make dairying and stock-raising a success, irrigation is needed, and artificial fodder must be grown,” and to bring that about a large expenditure will be required. We know that a market is awaiting us in the Old Country, which will permit of an unlimited expansion of stock raising and dairying in the Northern Territory. The value of the imports of grain into Great Britain is £72,000,000 per annum, of which only .£6,250,000 is grown in Australia. The imports of milk products are valued at .£32,315,949, and of this amount, Australia, contributes only £”3,000,000. The imports of pig products are valued at £24,000,000, of which Australia contributes only £54,539- The imports of poultry are valued at £8,236,411, of which Australia supplies £11,977. The imports of meat, rabbits, fruit, and wine, into Great Britain are valued at £50,000,000 annually, and of this amount Australia contributes £2,827,817. Under this heading of importations into Great Britain, the total value per annum represents £187,000,000, of which amount Australia contributes only £10,319,000, or only 6 per cent, of the total importations referred to. These figures show that we have an unlimited market in the Old Country for our products. They should encourage us to devote our best energies to the settlement of our southern districts by means of irrigation, and the development of agriculture generally; and they show that there will be an outlet for our best energies in the development of our northern districts in the production of tropical products, which we require for ourselves, and for which we might find an export market ; and also in the development there of the dairying, poultry, and meat industries. It is scarcely the time now to discuss how far it is possible to open up the Northern Territory by means of irrigation, and large storages of water ; but I am satisfied, from my perhaps limited opportunity of viewing the country, that it will not be possible to bring about anything like an extensive settlement of the Northern Territory unless a .very large amount of money is expended in the first instance on the construction of railways from the seaboard into the interior, and, simultaneously, in the construction of very large irrigation works and water storage works on the rivers. This heavy expenditure must be considered apart ‘ altogether from the financial obligations involved in the proposed agreement. We should be making a huge mistake if we took over the Northern Territory saddled with such impossible railway conditions as are included in the agreement, requiring the expenditure of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 on the construction of a trans-Australian railway in a Territory which is so far practically undeveloped- I hope that the provisions of the agreement with respect to railway construction will not be varied in any way, but that they will be struck out altogether, and that when the proper time comes, this Parliament will itself decide the proper routes for the construction of railways necessary for the development of the Territory. When I consider the history of Australian development, and observe that Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, have been independently developed by running railways from the seaboard into the interior, I see no reason why the Northern Territory should not be developed in a similar manner, up to the point at which we should be warranted in connecting populous settlements in the Territory with the large centres of population on the eastern and western coasts. The northern portion of the Territory, from the coast to about ibo miles south, is the part which has the heaviest rainfall. It is mineral country with flats on which rice and cotton could be grown successfully. The Northern Territory differs from our southern districts, inasmuch as tropical plants can be grown on what in this part of the Commonwealth would be regarded as very inferior soil. Owing to the fertilizing effects of the sun on what we should consider poor country, tropical plants can be grown in abundance. There are flats in the district to which I refer along the Adelaide and Roper Rivers, where rice, cotton, and jute, could be successfully grown. The belt of country extending from 100 miles south of the sea-board for another 200 miles may be considered the middle of the Territory, and i.t is in this district that the rivers have their source. I consider that this is the part of the Northern Territory which will in future carry the densest population, because it is there that dairying could be most successfully carried on. Further south for 100 or 150 miles, we have country with a limited rainfall ; and it is in this part of the Territory that the successful graziers are established. Here the natural grasses are more nutritious and fattening, and the bulk of the cattle are produced. It is in this country that the cattle-owners hold land on very long leases. It is the most productive part of the Northern Territory at the present time, but, in my opinion, must always be held in fairly large areas. 1 refer to the country about the source of the Victoria River, and extending in the direction of Cammoweal, in Queensland, the Barclay tableland. The rainfall is limited, and the district is subject to occasional droughts. Water1 has to be obtained from wells; but the natural grasses are sweet and abundant; and, as I have said, the bulk of the cattle raised in the
Northern Territory are raised in this part of the country ; though it will probably be found,- in the” future, to be the least valuable from an agricultural point of view. I hope that some agreement may be found possible, under which the Commonwealth will take over the Northern Territory, and that South Australia will prove amenable to reason in a matter fraught with such vital interest to the future of Australia. It is impossible that one State can deal with a Territory situated at such a distance from its centre of government, especially when the attendant expenditure is so great as to more than try the limited resources at her command. South Australia should be prepared, at the proper time, to amend the agreement and hand over to the Commonwealth the administration of the Territory, not only in the interests” of defence, but for the furtherance of the general development of- the Continent.
Debate (on. motion by Mr. Webster) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091006_reps_3_52/>.