3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In reply to questions asked and communications sent to me by the honorable member for Herbert respecting the remuneration of electoral officials, I asked the Chief Electoral Officer to prepare a report upon the subject. It is as follows : -
The remuneration to assistant returning officers is, in my opinion, fair and reasonable, namely, £3 3s. for the day of election and £1 per diem for authorized services rendered prior to or subsequent to polling day. Under this scheme of payment, an assistant returning officer at a large counting centre who may be employed during two or more days receives more remuneration than an officer at a small centre, whose work is probably completed on election day or on the following morning. It would not be right to compare the work of a Commonwealth assistant returning officer with that of a State returning officer, inasmuch as the latter has the whole statutory responsibility of conducting an election, whilst the Commonwealth assistant returning officer has restricted functions, and acts under the direction of the divisional returning officer,or, in other words, apart from the work for which he may be paid before and after polling day, at the rate of £1 per diem, he acts as presiding officer at a given centre, and conducts a scrutiny of the ordinary ballot papers received from the polling places within his subdivision. He is, of course, provided with any assistance which may be necessary to enablehim to efficiently discharge his duties. Originally provision was made for the payment of a fixed sum of £3 3s. to each assistant returning officer for his services, but it was recognised after the 1903 election that this method of payment was not entirely fair to those assistant returning officers who were necessarily engaged prior to and subsequent to an election, with the result that a further allowance at the rate of £1 per diem for authorized service, apart from that rendered on polling day, was approved. The remunerationto presiding officers, assistant presiding officers, and pollclerks, as indicated in the accompanying extract, is, in my opinion, ample. The remuneration to electoral registrars has been’ very substantially raised from time to time, and when the very light duties ordinarily imposed upon these officers are taken into consideration, must, I think, be regarded as liberal.
Liverpool Military Reserve - Light Horse : Deniliquin - George’s River Rifle Range - Junee Rifle Range - Instructional Staff : Medical Attendance
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs state whether any decision has yet been arrived at with reference to the resumption of land within the proposed military reserve at Liverpool ?
– The matter is under consideration, and a decision will be arrived at shortly.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What is the estimated cost, pei annum, to equip and maintain a squadron of Light Horse at Deniliquin, including the cost of sending an instructor either from Bendigo, Elmore, or Echuca ?
– The cost of first equipment is estimated at j£io per head, or about ^700 for the squadron; and the cost of maintaining the squadron at about £1,000 per annum.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What steps are being taken to provide the rifle clubs in the district of Junee with a suitable rifle range?
– The Department, before finally dealing with this matter, is awaiting further particulars from the District Commandant. As the honorable member is aware, there are difficulties in securing a lease of a suitable area or in obtaining permission to construct a range on privately-owned land in the district.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Is he yet in a position to state what sites are available for rifle ranges on or adjacent to the George’s River Military Reserve?
– The District Commandant has been asked to fully report in this matter, but the report is not yet to hand. Instructions will be given to expedite action as much as possible. .
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
I may say that to grant medical attendance throughout the Commonwealth would involve expenditure impossible to estimate. Approval has recently been given, however, for the payment by the Department of entrance fees, &c, of such warrant and non-commissioned officers of the Instructional Staff stationed in country districts, to become honorary members of friendly societies, in order that they, together with their wives and families, may receive free medical attendance.
Telegraph Messengers and Linemen - Tasmanian Mail Service - Undergrounding of Telephone Wires, Perth
– I understand that the Government intend to bring in a Bill to amend the Public Service Act in respect to the provision which requires telegraph messengers to retire on attaining the age of eighteen years. When will the House be invited to consider the measure?
– If time permits, I shall be glad to ask the House to amend the Public Service Act to extend the period for which telegraph messengers may be employed, and also the period of eligibility of linemen from eighteen months to three years.
– Does the honorable member intend to allow names to remain on the register for that time?
– Yes ; to increase the period of eligibility.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Watson) on account of urgent private business.
Amendment (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the following words be added, “ and to the honorable member for Brisbane (Colonel Foxton) on account of public business.”
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Old-age Pensions : Valuation of Claimants1 Properties : Correspondence with Commissioner : Payment of Pensions at post-offices - customs ADministration : Importation of Explosives - Postmaster-General’s Department: Accountant, Sydney Post Office : Theft at. Kalgoorlie Post Office : Works Expenditure : Telephones in Country Districts - Alleged Influx of Aliens - Electoral Department : Assistant Returning Officer, Kalgoorlie : Supply of Electoral Rolls to Honorable Members : Sub-divisional Maps : Pollingplaces : Electoral Expenditure by Party Organizations - Federal Capital Site - Sugar Excise and Bounty Legislation - Sale of Postage Stamps - Prohibition of Tasmanian Potatoes.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- It is most unusual for the Treasurer to seek to present a Supply Bill on grievance day.
– Does it interfere with the discussion of grievances?
– It does to this extent, that we know the experience we had with the last Supply Bill. The Government brought it down so late that, although it was passed with the utmost expedition, the money was not made available for payment until the last moment.
– It will take us all our time now in. the case of this Bill.
– Then why did not the right honorable member bring it down yesterday? Apparently he expects the House to pass his Supply Bills on sight, even though private members’ day has been taken away from them. I hope the right honorable member will not take up the same unfair attitude on this occasion as he did on the last, in blaming the Opposition for the Bill not being passed in time to meet the public liabilities, just because they spent a couple of hours” in ventilating grievances before it was passed. The course now taken is most objectionable, and the Government would be well advised to bring such Bills in on a day which is not grievance day. I do not think there is a case on record where a Supply Bill has been brought down on grievance day, and I hope it will not be done again. I should like to draw attention to one or two matters of importance.
– Has the honorable member obtained permission?
– Honorable members opposite adopted1 a peculiar method of stifling grievances on the last occasion, but I do not think they are prepared to do the same to-day. I wish to tell the Treasurer, as the administrator of the Oldage Pensions Act, that a great deal of dissatisfaction is felt by applicants in Western Australia. Although the right honorable gentleman claims that the utmost expedition has been shown in dealing with applications in that State, the figures which are available show that .the same liberal treatment is not accorded to applicants there as has been accorded in some of the other States. A return presented the other day showed that the claims in New South Wales numbered 3,333, of which 1,896 were granted. There were also taken over from the State 21,619 pensioners.
– They all had to be dealt with just the same.
– Under the Federal Act those drawing pensions under a State Act pass over ipso facto. They, may have to exchange their certificates.
– How can they come over without an investigation, seeing that the length of residence is different under some of the State Acts?
– Our Act was amended to meet that ‘ discrepancy. Those who were drawing pensions under a State lawhad their certificates transferred to the Commonwealth accounts, and their cases were not half as difficult to deal with as were those of new applicants.
– I understand they were just as troublesome.
– That makes the Treasurer’s case worse, although I do not think they were as troublesome. In New South Wales, as I said, there were 3,333 applications, of which 1,896 were granted, and 21,619 certificates were exchanged. In Victoria there were 6,074 claims, of which 5,760 were granted, while 11,721 were exchanged. In Queensland, of 1,209 applications, 724 were granted, and 6,651 certificates were exchanged. In South Australia there were 3,815 applications, of which 2,576 were granted. In Tasmania 2,803 applications were made, and 2,271 were granted ; while in Western Australia, of 1,959 applications only 993 were granted. Those figures work out, rough!)’, at the following percentages: - New “South Wales, 55 per cent. ; Victoria, 95 per cent. ; Queensland, 70 per cent. ; South Australia, 73 per cent. ; Tasmania, 85 per cent. ; and Western Australia, only 50 per cent, granted. Can the Department furnish any explanation for the extraordinary discrepancy between Western Australia and the other States?
– The applicants in that State came mostly from the other States, and there was a good deal of trouble in investigating the claims.
– That brings me to another point - that in Western Australia, when the claims were temporarily rejected, the impression was allowed to go abroad that there was no appeal, and the applicants were told that they had to wait for six months before they could renew their applications.
– The honorable member can tell them differently.
– It should not be a question of what I can tell them, but a question of what the Treasurer ought to do in administering the Act.
– It suits the honorable member very well to find fault.
– The Treasurer knows that I sent a number of cases to his Department for investigation.
– I have never seen any of them.
– That appears to be typical of the way in which these complaints are investigated by the Department. The Treasurer says : “Send the cases along,” and afterwards, when he is asked about them, he says that he has not seen them.
– I should see them if they were sent to me, but not necessarily if they were sent to the ‘Commissioner.
– Does the Treasurer want them sent to him? It appears to me that the consideration which would be shown to applicants by a Minister desirous of administering the Act in. a humane way is not being shown at any rate in Western Australia. While I desire that eligible applicants should receive pensions, I am also desirous that there should be no imposition under the Act; but we ought to be able to obtain sympathetic administration, under which reasonable proof would be accepted by the magistrates. This is a matter I do not care about debating on the floor of the House; and if the Department were to show more expedition in dealing with applications, less would be heard of the subject here. Another matter to which I desire to refer concerns the PostmasterGeneral. A Mrs. Baxter, of Bardoc, sent a registered letter, containing, I think, ^31 19s., to Kalgoorlie, for the payment of her storekeeper’s account ; and, while the letter was in the custody of the Department in the Kalgoorlie post-office, the safe was robbed, and the money disappeared. The woman obtained a receipt from the Department for the registered letter, and, as the thief was subsequently punished, there is no doubt whatever as to the facts, or any suggestion that she was in any way to blame, or responsible for the loss. The Postmaster-General, in accordance, I presume, with regulations, has intimated to Mrs. Baxter that, as an act of grace, the Department will allow her the sum of £2 as compensation; and, under the circumstances, this strikes me as a particularly hard case. It may be necessary to provide against fraud or imaginary losses; but when there has been, as it appears, neglect on the part of some officer, and the facts, as I have stated them, have been proved to the satisfaction of the Department, reasonable compensation should be paid.
– There are many hard cases.
– I do not think the PostmasterGeneral will say there are many cases as hard as the one I am citing; and, under the circumstances, I think the Department might take a generous view. The third matter to which I desire to direct attention concerns the Department of Home Affairs. A man named Green, who, for a number of years, had held the position of assistant returning officer at Kalgoorlie, and had always given satisfaction, was removed from his position some time ago beca.use he had taken it into his head to enter as a candidate in a selection ballot for a Federal election. The Central Office, acting, I presume, on advice from Western Australia, had the man removed immediately his action’ became known, though, as a matter of fact, he was not a selected candidate.
– I know an official who was removed because his brother was a trade union secretary.
– Our officers should be men on whom we can rely for fair con- sideration for all interests; but I am afraid that, if we seek men who have no political opinions at all, we shall have to part with about 90 per cent, of our assistant returning officers. All men have a leaning in some political direction ; and this man, apparently, committed the blunder of leaning in the direction of the Labour party. There certainly ought to have been some inquiry before the man’s services were dispensed with, and, failing satisfactory evidence, he should have been permitted to retain his position. Then there is a matter into which the Department of External Affairs might make some inquiries. For many months past, it is alleged, there have been in different portions of Australia a large number of youngChinamen who are incapable of speaking a word of the English language. They could not’ possibly have passed the education test, and have evidently not been long in the country. Their presence gives every indication that aliens are finding their way into the country, in spite of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– I wish the honorable member would specify localities and times, because the Department has been making inquiries.
– I have here this week’s issue of the Labour Call, published in Melbourne, and containing an article, which I believe to have been written by the late editor of the paper, Mr. McLeod, shortly before his death, during a holiday trip in North Queensland.
– The honorable member, I’ suppose, is sure as to the authorship ?
– The article is not signed, but I am reasonably sure as to the writer.
The evidence of North Queensland back countrymen shows that the inevitable is happening. Travelling journalists, itinerant newspaper photographers, lone prospectors, who go into far countries in the hope of striking something big, all sav that in the western wilderness, and far from the ordinary routes, they meet parties of Chinese making east. Usually only one, or at most two out of a dozen or more, can speak even the most elementary pidgin English. Drovers confirm this evidence ; as to way-back graziers, thev admit that frequently a couple of Chinamen call on the cook, cadge what they can, and if fortune seems favorable, get an extra allowance for their mates, planted somewhere out of sight.
– Where is this?
– In North-western Queensland. I shall hand the newspaper to the Minister.
– I should be glad to have it. Inquiries have been made, but no definite information has been obtainable.
– North-western- Queensland is very sparsely populated, and the conditions prevailing there would lend themselves to what is alleged to be going on. Like the north-west coast of Western Australia, it needs the most vigilant watching in order that the illicit entrance of Chinese into Australia may be prevented.
– What remedy does the honorable member suggest?
– It is the duty of the Government to devise a means of ascertaining whether or not these allegations are correct. If the honorable member desires to know what the Labour party would do be should give them an opportunity to give effect to their proposals. Whilst the Fisher Government was in office it did its utmost to prevent Chinese being smuggled into Australia, and if the present Ministry supports the policy of a White Australia, it will do the same.
– The Labour Government detected more attempts to smuggle immigrants than any other Administration had done.
– That is so. I hope the Minister will give this most important matter his serious attention. If it were found that Chinese or other Asiatics were continuing to effect a secret landing in Australia, I should not hesitate to support a proposal that every Chinese already in the Commonwealth be given a Government certificate, and that if a Chinese failed, when called upon to produce what, in the opinion of the Department, was the certificate that had been issued to him, he should be deported. If Chinese are to be smuggled into Australia in the way alleged, that method, I believe, will ultimately have to be adopted.
.- As the new electoral rolls are shortly to be issued, I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will give some attention to the maps to be supplied with them. I do not know what is the position in the other States, but the maps attached to the rolls for New South Wales give more information that a man interested in electoral matters does not want, and less information that he does require than any I have seen. I am alluding, not to the large electoral maps obtainable at the various postoffices, which give the names of pollingplaces, and are well prepared, but to those supplied with copies of the rolls. Here is a roll for my own electorate, and in it are twelve or fourteen maps, not one of which gives any information, of the slightest value for electoral purposes. I produce a copy of one- of the maps. As honorable members will see, it is full of various entries printed in such small type and so crowded, that it is difficult to read them. At the top of the map the following will be seen : “Murphy, 938 acres; 146; 4%; 145; 43; 107,” and so on. What does that mean?
– If the honorable member were Murphy, he would probably know.
– The map is a very old one, and probably the Murphy referred to either never existed, or was a dummy for some one who desired years ago to obtain possession of a large tract of country. At all events, I am satisfied that the Mr. Murphy whose name appears on this map will have nothing to do with the next Federal election. The chances are that any man who took up land in this area before the date of the preparation of the map has long since ceased to exist.
– But the original Mr. Murphy may have a descendant to whom the entry relates.-
– If that is so, why should his name be specially given in this map, and the names of other land-owners in the district left out ? At the bottom of the map there is the following statement : - “ C.R. ; 49 J 22> > 31 ‘> Deer., ‘07.” I do not suppose that many know what that entry means, but I believe it refers to a camping reserve having been notified in the district. Then we have shown a subdivision of Crookwell, which is correct, and, in small print, there is the name “ Kiama.” Kiama is in reality in the Illawarra ‘ electorate, and no one knows what the reference means.
– Will the honorable member indicate what information he would like to have embodied in these maps?
– I should like, first of all, to see shown on them the polling places, and also, if possible, the post-offices within the electorate.
– And the mileage distances between the polling places
– If, for instance, the Department were to prepare a map like that published with “ Pearson’s Cyclists’ Guide,” and to show on it the polling places in each electorate, good service would be rendered. A proper map would show the roads.
– Does not the map to which the honorable member is referring show the towns?
– No. Subdivisional maps should show the location of the postoffices, the roads - if possible, the mountains and rivers - and the polling places within the various areas. Then they would be of value. Were the big divisional maps which are displayed at post-offices subdivided they would do very well.
– The present subdivisional maps are larger than such subdivisions of the divisional mar> would be.
– Yes, but they are out of date, and convey next to no information. I ask the Minister, in attaching maps to the new electoral rolls, to see that they are up-to-date, and contain valuable information.
.- I have previously called the attention of the Minister to the deficiencies of the maps to which the honorable member for Werriwa has referred. Formerly it was the custom to issue a separate roll for each polling place. That enabled electors to ascertain where to present themselves. They, knew that if they did not go to the polling place for which they were enrolled, but voted elsewhere, they would have to take advantage of what is known as the “Q” form. Now rolls are issued covering the rolls for a number of polling places, and each is preceded by a map, but they give the elector no information as to where to vote, unless he takes the trouble to follow the boundary lines, which not one in five hundred would do. Information should be given in connexion with each subdivisional roll as to the polling places within the subdivision. On a subdivisional map which I. have here the names printed are, in many cases, those of sheep stations ; but what the electors require to know is where the polling-places at which they should vote are situated. It would also be an advantage if, as the honorable members for Werriwa and Wentworth have suggested, the distances from place to place were shown. Then an elector could present himself at the nearest polling-place.
– It would be very advantageous for a new candidate who did not know a district to have information of that kind.
– At any rate, such information would be of value to electors. I suggest that each subdivisional roll should contain a list of the polling-places within the subdivision. At the last election persons living on the boundary of the Riverina district close to a polling-place in an adjoining electorate, went there to vote, and, in one instance, which I reported to the Department, the officer in charge of the booth, not knowing his duty, said that they could not vote outside their electorate. Therefore, they did not vote at all, because it would have been too far to travel to a polling-place in their’ electorate. As a matter of fact, they should have been informed that, by taking advantage of a certain form, they could vote at the place where they presented themselves.
.- I wish to refer to the cases of certain oldage pensioners with which I hope the Department will deal. The first is that of William Silvester, of Yarra Yarra station, near Germanton, who complains that he has not received his pension. 1 communicated with the Department on the subject three or four weeks ago, but have not yet received a reply. ‘ I get no satisfaction at all from Mr. Clegg, in Sydney, but I know that Mr. Allen will attend to the matter as soon as he can. These delays are very trying to old persons who have no means of livelihood. Another case is that of Mrs. Mary Crandell, of Adelong, whose son-in-law pays her 5s. a week for the use of a room. In reply to my communication to the Department about that case, I received the following letter, signed by Mr. Allen -
I have the honour to inform you that the following is the manner in which the pension of £19 per annum granted to Mrs. Mary Crandell, of Adelong, is arrived at : -
Deduct from the maximum pension payable (£26 per annum) £1 for each £10 of the balance, leaving £19 per annum as the net pension due to Mrs. Crandell.
Mrs. Crandell’s case was referred to by you in the House on the 16th ult.
It is very hard that a woman who has saved to get a house should be deprived of part of her pension because she has been thrifty.
– Thrift is being penalized.
– Every one is treated in the same way.
– Under the New South Wales Act, pensioners were allowed to hold as much as£300 worth of property. There was what was called a thrift provision in that measure.
– There is a similar provision in the Commonwealth Act.
– The Commonwealth Act is not so liberal. To put down £120 for Mrs. Crandell’s house is an excessive valuation. I have advised her to let her son-in-law go elsewhere, so that she may draw the full pension. This reduction of her pension to £19 a year is an outrage.
– No doubt the law is being properly administered. The honorable member was responsible for it.
– The Bill was introduced, not by me, but by a colleague.
– The honorable member’s speech is degenerating into a conversation, which cannot bepermitted. A member is entitled to address the House in his own fashion, without interruption. I ask honorable members to consider what would happen if the practice of conversing with the member addressing the Chair were to become universal.
– I presume that what you have said applies to the interjections made by the Treasurer, but I would point out that I should like the right honorable gentleman to give me information about each case as I bring it forward.
– I shall look into the cases, if the honorable member will send them to me.
– I shall send them direct to the Treasurer, after I have quoted them. Another case is that of John Bourke, of Lavington, near Albury. A pension was recommended in July last, but has not yet been paid. The man is becoming very despondent, in consequence of not receiving payment. The Department now state that the pension was not granted, but that Bourke will be examined by the Government Medical Officer under section 15, which deals with the granting of pensions on grounds of permanent incapacity. I have received a letter from Mrs. Colquhoun, a most respectable and superior woman, the wife of the postmaster at Lavington, asking me to use every means of urging the payment of the pension, because the man is becoming seriously despondent”. The postmaster also writes to me as follows: -
This is to draw your special attention to a very urgent case, requiring immediate relief. Mr. John Bourke is the name of the applicant. He was recommended by the local bench in July last. He has such an independent disposition regarding his condition, and it is said he feels it so ‘much, that he is getting desperate. , He is starving himself rather than go into debt. It will be a blessing for you to have the matter looked into, and the pension granted at once. Hoping you will do so,
Yours faithfully, (Signed) Jas. Colquhoun.
Mrs. Colquhoun adds that not receiving the pension renders the man quite dependent upon others. As the pension was approved by the bench in July last, there is nc reason why it should not have been paid. I do not know the man’s age, but I believe he is over sixty-five. Another case is that of. J. E. Perrott, of Tumberumba, who, under the State regime, received a pension of £z a month. He is now receiving only 17s. 6d. a fortnight, although he has no other income. I have written to Mr. Allen, asking why the pension has been reduced, seeing that he has no income of any kind. Another case is that of Harry Carrier, to which I have previously referred in the House. I wrote to Mr. Allen about it on the 24th September, reminding him of my previous communication, but I received no reply. This is a very peculiar case. Miss Loughran wrote te me from Wagga that nothing had been done about the alien, Harry Carrier’s, pension, regarding whom she wrote to me some time ago. She has also written me another letter, in which she says : -
I am sorry to trouble you again so soon. I am in difficulties now with the Old-age Fensions Bill. The clause respecting aliens will Cause me some work. An old man named Harry Carrier, a native of Mauritius, and the son of a Madrasee, who was a British soldier, has been in receipt of a pension from the State for over seven years. He is totally blind in one eye, and has very defective sight in the other, and is now 72 years of age. Under the Federal Pensions Act he has been deprived of his pension, and of course has drifted to the Benevolent Society, of which I am secretary. Now, I would like to know if such a case is to be thrown on the charitable institution, with- out any hope of sharing in the pension privileges. Do you not think such treatment to an alien of 72 years, who has spent the greater part of his life in the State, and who has been honest and respectable, although poor, extremely harsh, especially after having enjoyed State bounty for so many years, with the expectation of ending his days in security from absolute want? Of course, if nothing can be done under the Federal Act, I suppose I must try and get the Invalidity pension from the State, as he is almost blind. I shall not be surprised to have more cases of this kind on my hands, so I would like to be informed on the matter. I have talked the matter over with Mr. Walker, C.P.S., who has advised me to write you, so you must blame him for this long letter.
There should be no delay in dealing with that case.
– An alien?
– Yes, but he has lived here nearly all his life.
– The honorable member voted against the granting of pensions to aliens.
– Whether I did or not, I bring this matter forward now, because it is a very important case. Surely an old man of seventy-two, who is nearly blind, is not to be allowed to die in the gutter.
– Is he an Asiatic?
– He was born in Mauritius, but his father was a Madrasee.
– That is, an Asiatic.-
– I have some other cases, but I have not been able to get all the particulars in time to bring them forward now. Another matter with which I wish to deal is the supply of electoral rolls. A member who has a large country electorate, with a great many polling places, ought to be supplied with more electoral rolls than a member representing, a concentrated city electorate. I understand the system- is that each member receives only six rolls. I have, in my electorate, which is 250 miles square, 123 polling places, and it is ridiculous that I should be allowed only six rolls. I understand that, if a member wants more, he has to pay from 2s. to 4s. apiece for them. I heard, incidentally, that I did not get more because I did not send the money when I wrote for them. I did not want them for nothing, and, of course, I shall pay for them when I get them ; but 1 did not know how much they would cost, and the least the Department might have done, in courtesy, was to send me the rolls with the account. I could then, have sent a cheque in return. The people are asking me for a roll at every polling place or subdivision in my electorate.
– I have spent £20 in rolls.
– The custom of supplying each member with six rolls has always obtained.
– I have never before been refused rolls on the ground that I had not sent the money. At any rate, some distinction should be made between a member representing a very large country district, with many polling places and subdivisions, and another who has only a small district, for which half-a-dozen rolls would be quite sufficient.
– No matter what the size of our electorates, we always have to buy extra copies.
– That may be; but surely I am not supposed to buy 123 rolls for my electorate, so as to have one at each polling place ? I thought I would get some satisfaction from the Electoral Office; but I did not, although I am willing to pay whatever amount is necessary. I think, also, that any candidate, whether he is a member or not, should be supplied with a number of rolls free. I have brought the matter forward on this occasion because now is the time that we want the rolls. I have looked at the maps which have been referred to; and I must say that the way they are prepared is ridiculous. One cannot find anything on them. They should be made to show clearly where the polling booths are, and the divisions around each polling booth should be marked. As the honorable member for Riverina stated, great care should also be taken in marking distinctly the divisions between the different electorates’, to avoid confusion on the part of the- electors, who may otherwise abstain from voting, or go over the boundary into another electorate. Instances have occurred in my electorate where the polling place ‘ was so far away, although there was a nearer one on the other side of the boundary, that farmers and others would not vote. I hope the Minister of Home Affairs will let us have good, bold maps, instead of little affairs which require a magnifying glass to find a name on them.
– I should like to reply to the observations of honorable members with regard to the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act.
– Why not hear the whole of them first?
– It may save a good deal of subsequent debate if I reply now. This is a new Act, which came into force only on 1st July. It was amended by Parliament this session, and the amendment became law only on the 13th August. It was an immense undertaking to enter upon the administration of this vast business, and to organize the administration in the three States where old-age pensions had not been previously in force. I have had a return made, in most cases up to the beginning of this month, and in the case of Victoria up to to-day; and I am inclined to think that honorable members, when they see the figures, will admit that some expedition has been used when the large number of claims are considered. The return given me by the Commissioner is as follows : -
The following information has been supplied by the Deputy Commissioner for Victoria in regard to that State -
Statement showing present position in Victoria with regard to claims received and granted in con - .nexion with Commonwealth Old-age Pensions, 7th October : -
– I think the administration goes to too much trouble to try to reduce “the number of pensioners.
– It is easy to abuse the administration of a beneficent and philanthropic law, and thus try to get kudos and credit as the only friend of the poor. In this, the honorable member is an adept ; and he should command all the votes in his district. But he ought not to endeavour to injure the reputation of the officers and myself, as if we were heartless wretches who have no sympathy with the poor old people. It is time we dealt with the pensions in a business-like way, without fear or favour ; and, as the honorable member for Wide Bay said the other day, the enemies of old-age pensions are those who wish to see the law loosely administered and assistance given to those who are not entitled to it.
– I do not think that is a fair remark.
– I am sure that the officers throughout have shown a most sympathetic disposition, though they are, of course, bound by the law ; and it is very unfair that they should be publicly held up to opprobrium. The other day, I heard a remark that one of the best officers in the Commonwealth service was “ the greatest brute of all.” Surely that is not the way in which to speak of one who was trying to do his duty. It will be seen that, in Victoria, the work is pretty well completed.
– Owing to the energy of honorable members here.
– I do not think so, though, no doubt, there is an advantage in that inquiries into Victorian cases can be made at once, whereas some time is occupied in investigations in other States.
– The figures seem to indicate that the percentage of rejections in Western Australia is higher than the percentage in Victoria.
– The honorable member will see that, in Victoria, 11,933 pensioners were already on the list. I can only reiterate that the Commissioner, and all the officers concerned, are most anxious to carry out the law in its integrity; and I shall always be glad to make immediate inquiry into every complaint that reaches me. It is pretty hard to receive words of blame when trying to do one’s duty. Personally, I do not mind much, as no doubt it is considered that I am “ fair game.” I am concerned, however, for the officers who, if they err - though I hope they will not, on either side - will, I am sure, be most likely to err on the side of the claimant.
.- In reference to the case of the assistant returning officer in Western Australia, who was dismissed because he took part in a selection ballot, I urge on the Minister of Home Affairs, who was not present when the honorable member for Kalgoorlie spoke, to see that, if the principle is to be acted on, it shall apply to all officers and all political parties. In my own electorate, it was sought to dismiss one of the officials at a polling-booth, for the reason that he was a delegate on the Trades Hall Council ; and when it was shown that the man held no such position, and was not even a member of a trade union, it was pointed out that his brother did, and that that was sufficient disqualification. However, the authorities found that they were making a mistake, and, I understand, the man was not removed, No doubt our officers should be absolutely unbiased, and, while they cannot help taking a personal interest in political events, they ought not to be permitted to show any partisanship. I have heard that partisans do hold such offices in some electorates; and I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will look into the matter. The Electoral Act limits a candidate’s expenses to£250 in the case of the Senate, and to £100 in the case of the House of Representatives. That money has to be spent in certain specified ways; and the Act also contains stringent provisions against bribery of any kind Section 175 provides that -
Whoever - (i.) Promises, or offers, or suggests any valuable consideration, advantage, recompense, reward, or benefit for or on account of, or to induce any candidature …. (ii.) Gives or takes any valuable consideration, advantage, recompense, reward, or benefit for, or on account of, any such candidature …. shall be guilty of Bribery,
And section 181 provides that bribery shall be punishable by a penalty not exceeding £200, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year. I desire now to direct attention to the following letter which appeared in the Hamilton Spec tator of 26th May last - (To the Editor of the Spectator.)
Sir, - Kindly grant me space in your paper to lay before the anti-socialistic electors of the Wannon a matter of grave national importance. At the impending Federal election we shall enter into a struggle with a well-organized and united force - smaller though they are in numbers and visionary and impracticable in their politics - yet united they stand, and disunited we fall. How, then, can we overcome our disadvantages, how set our forces in order, so that when the fateful day arrives we need fear no foein socialistic armour? By organizing, sir. That’s what I am driving at. To do this we want the one thing needful - money, and plenty of it. With money we can employ a good organizing secretary ; we can be organized ; we can engage halls, and ask prominent men on our side to address the electors in every town in the province; we can supervise the list of voters; we can distribute pamphlets and papers showing clearly our politics, and, at the same time, the fallacies of the other side; we can, in fact, do’ all that is humanly possible to enable our chosen candidate to win, and not only to win, but to hold the seat. I feel sure that it only requires an appeal to the property owner in town and country and there will be an immediate and generous response. … I appeal to the land-owners- big and little - to the farmer, and to those who abhor class legislation - legislation by a class for a class, and to blazes with every one else - to subscribe to this antisocialistic fund. When we have sufficient funds I would suggest that a meeting of subscribers be called; that the subscribers appoint a committee, and the committee in turn will appoint an organizing secretary. We want representatives of the stamp of Mr. Winter Cooke, Mr. Thomson, and Mr. Campbell, and the best way to get them there and keep them there is to help them by all the means in our power. I have always maintained that it is wrong on the part of the electors to expect their candidate not only to do all the hard work but to pay for it as well. He is fighting our battle too, and should receive all the legal assistance we can give him. . . . I beg to say that I shall be happy to subscribe to it the sum of £100. I am, &c,
– I wish that I had some men of the same stamp in my electorate.
– What I desire to know is whether this sort of thing can be carried on?
– Of course it can; there is nothing to prevent it. It has always been the boast of the party to which the honorable member belongs that they set other parties an example in the matter cf organizing. It is done by all parties.
– In a circular dated 23rd June, 1909, Mr. Ritchie also wrote -
It is proposed to establish a Wannon Liberal League to uphold sane and constitutional government, but to insure effective work and successful results funds will be necessary. So far we have been promised about .£750. In a large and wealthy constituency like this, where such huge vested interests are at stake, there ought to be no difficulty in getting ,£1,000. I therefore appeal to you with the utmost confidence to assist in stemming the rising tide of anarchy. Should you object to have your name published just send a note to the “ Editor, Hamilton Spectator,” stating the amount you are willing to give, and he will acknowledge it as from a “Friend” or “Anti-Socialist.” Any amount from £1 upwards will be appreciated.
If the Minister says that political organizations may spend as much as they please in assisting candidates, well and good.
– The honorable member knows that that has been done by the party to which he belongs.
– Unfortunately, we have not the money.
– How does the Labour party carry on its organization all over the country?
– By voluntary effort.
– It is provided for by means of funds raised by Trades Hall bazaars.
– Who pays for all the motor bicycles?
– I have not one.
– Every man pays for his own.
– I have already had occasion to ask honorable members to cease interjecting, and I trust that I shall not have occasion again to call upon honorable members to allow the honorable member who is addressing the Chair to do so in his own way, and not to interrupt him, either by questions or by the introduction of irrelevant matter.
– I might have answered several of the questions that have been addressed to me; but that they were all asked simultaneously. Apparently Ministerialists desired to show that they were present by interjecting that they are in favour of organizations spending large sums to assist their party candidates ; because, according to them, the same practice is adopted by their opponents. 1 candidly admit that I wish some of these funds would make their appearance in my electorate. They will be very useful.
– Does the honorable member say that Labour organizers in country constituencies are not being paid?
– Will the honorable member name one?
– Mr. Scullin.
– He is organizing on behalf of the Australian Workers’ Union.
– He is appointing political committees wherever he goes.
– I hope that he is, and that he is doing good work. All the socalled organizers of the Labour party to whom reference has been made have now been narrowed down to one, and he is being paid by the Australian Workers’ Union to carry on its work in this State. He is enrolling new members of the union, but I hope that he is, at the same time, doing some effective political work.
– We have not one organizer.
– Honorable members opposite have one organizer in Melbourne who is receiving a salary of £600 a year.
– What about Menzies?
– We ‘ have heard of Mr. Menzies, Mr. DeHelin, of Geelong, Colonel Tunbridge, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Harrison, and other organizers who, as honorable members opposite know, are being employed in their behalf. I have already shown that in the Wannon electorate an organization of squatters, started by a man who holds 16,942 acres, and who subscribed 75 I 00 to its funds, is working with a view of securing the defeat of the Labour representative. Mr. Ritchie stated in his letter that his object was to avoid the imposition of a Federal land tax. If squatters, or any one else, are at liberty to subscribe funds to assist a’ candidate, then the section of the Electoral Act to which I have referred is absolutely useless.
– It was never of any service.
– If the Minister will admit that, we shall know where we are. I thought it well to have placed on record the fact that one of our opponents had subscribed .£100 to a fighting fund, and another had offered to give £1,000,if his side could secure a win. He said, in effect, to the members of the organization, “ If you can beat McDo’ugall, here is £I,000 for you. ‘ ‘
– Would the honorable member propose to make the Electoral Act so stringent in this regard as to prevent trade unions from engaging in political work?
– Under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act they are not permitted to do so. The honorable member was not in this House when that measure was passed, but nearly every one of those with whom he is now associated voted for the insertion of that provision. I rose only to ascertain whether party funds could be legally used in the way I have indicated. If they can, then the section of the Electoral Act which provides that the expenses of a candidate shall not exceed £100 is absolutely useless.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Committee a matter of some interest to my constituents which arose while the honorable member for Yarra was Minister of Trade and Customs. It relates to the importation from South Africa of explosives made by black labour, which is having a very disastrous effect upon an Australian industry. At present there is, at Deer Park, Victoria, an explosives factory, in which gelignite and other explosives are made by white labour. I cannot say whether or not the men are well paid, but I presume that they are receiving good wages, since they are perfectly satisfied with their position. In February last a deputation of importers waited upon the then Minister of Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Yarra, and asked him to admit to Australia an explosive made, by black labour, by the De Beers Explosive Company, of South Africa, and which, if admitted, would come into competition with Australian explosives, made by white labour. In consequence of that importation being permitted, an agitation arose amongst the miners, w’ho did not desire to use an explosive made by black labour, and a deputation, introduced by Mr. Tunnecliffe, M.L.A., waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs in reference to the matter. In a report of the deputation published in the Age of 26th March last, it is stated that -
At its last conference the A.M.A. passed a resolution protesting against the importation of this black labour dynamite, the conference then being under the impression that the De Beers company in South Africa was alone amongst the big dynamite makers which depended on coloured labour. Only this week did the conference’s representatives on the deputation discover that the Nobel’s company, the sole serious rivals to the De Beers, and the firm whose explosives are most extensively used in the Commonwealth, also employ black labour. When, therefore, Mr. Tudor met the miners yesterday, they had to admit that half of their case had gone; and all they could do was to ask if there was any machinery for giving preference to makers of explosives who used only white labour. The Minister had regretfully to inform them that, though sympathetic with their aims, the Tariff provided him with no machinery enabling him to discriminate in the way desired.
The honorable member decided that South African black labour explosives should be admitted, and, further than that, he stated, according to the Age, of 19th December, 1908, that he was - of opinion that in the competition between the combination (Nobel’s and the Cape Explosives Works Ltd.), our mining industry will materially benefit by the reduction in the price of explosives.
I should like to point out to the Committee, - and I have already brought the matter under the notice of the Minister - that at no time prior to the permission given by the honorable member for Yarra, as Minister of Trade and Customs, had there been any importation into Australia of explosives made by black labour.
– I could not keep them out.
– Evidently the importers of the South African black labourmade explosive thought it could be kept out, or they would not have asked for permission to import it. The Nobel Company, which has works in Glasgow, and other parts of the world, and whose importations come into competition with the productions of the Deer Park factory here, has at no time employed coloured labour in any of its works. Consequently, the permission given by the honorable member for Yarra was a blow at both an Australian industry and white labour generally. He said at the time that he had no authority to keep out this black labour product, but that was after he had given permission for its importation, and had told the delegates from the mining associations that he was admitting it because the Nobel explosive was also produced by black labour, and that consequently the competition was between two black labour employing companies. He did not then say that he could not stop the importation. He said that the mining industry would materially benefit by the reduction of the price of explosives. A good many men are employed at Deer Park. They are satisfied with their wages, and are buying cottages, and otherwise doing their best to get on in life; but the manager of the explosives company there has made this statement regarding the effect of the importation on his company’s business, which was conveyed to the Minister by me -
I very much regret to say that no profits have latterly been made by my company, and the result of the irruption of these black labour explosives on our market, I calculate, means a loss of£2,000 during the present year. It is a question how long this will last. If” it lasts long, our factory will simply have to close down.
– Is not the Deer Park Company in the Explosives Combine?
– It entered into an arrangement to keep up prices.
– That does not affect the point at issue, which is, whether black labour should be allowed to compete with white labour.
– Honorable members opposite forget all about white labour when they commence mining.
– Yes ; whether in South Africa or Australia.
– What provision in the Tariff permits a Minister to discriminate?
– The Australian Mining Associations, and the public generally, should know that the Australian Explosives Company is making explosives here with white labour, but has had to reduce the selling price for gelignite, its chief product, from 52 s. to 40s., to meet the competition of the De Beers Company. Until the honorable member for Yarra gave permission, no black labour made explosives had been imported into Australia.
– No permission was required.
– The manager of the Australian Explosives Company says -
I do not need to tell you, who know our factory, that the Australian Explosives Company pays better wages than the De Beers Co., whose coolies, I am informed, get £1 weekly.
It was the product of such labour that the Labour Minister of Trade and Customs allowed to be brought into Australia.
– Will the honorable member show how I could have prevented it ?
– Does the manager of the Australian Explosives Company desire new Protection ?
– The Australian Explosives Company is not protected in its operations, because Labour members, like the honorable member for Newcastle, thought more of the interests of the mining capitalists than of the workers, and would not allow a duty to be placed on explosives. The honorable member, when on the Labour platform, talks about new Protection, but, when the Tariff was under consideration, Protection, so far as he was concerned, was allowed to go by the board. The honorable member for Yarra asks how he could have stopped this importation. He did not consider or refer to that side of the matter when replying to the deputation from the Miners’ Associations. The miners, who are better patriots than the honorable members for Newcastle and Yarra, by their disinterested action on the occasion of the deputation, are ready to pay higher prices for explosives rather than see the industry progress at the expense of their fellow Australians, and of white labour generally. On two occasions, they sent deputations to the Minister to make that clear to him, and Mr. A. J. Sullivan, the president of the Chiltern, Indigo, and Rutherglen branch of the Australian Miners’ Association, writing to the Age on the 20th March last, said -
Seeing that I am responsible for the resolution which was passed at the A.M. A. Conference in Bendigo re the importation of dynamite into the Commonwealth, manufactured by cheap black labour in South Africa, I would like to make our position in the matter clear. We were informed that the De Beers Syndicate in South Africa was manufacturing dynamite with black labour, and sending it into the Commonwealth ; and also that one of the Nobel companies was doinglikewise. Dalgety and Co., the agents for the Edinburgh Nobel Company, stated in the Age of yesterday that only white labour is employed in the Edinburgh works. Now, 1 am led to believe that there is another Nobel Company, whose headquarters are not in Edinburgh, and that that particular branch is the Nobel’s Company who are employing black labour in the manufacture of dynamite in Africa.
I am assured by the Australian representative of the Nobel Company, and by the manager of the Australian Explosives Company, that the Nobel Company has no control over the South African company, and has been engaged in cut-throat competition with it, as the ex- Minister could have learned from the papers in his Department. He asks how he could have prevented the importation. This is what the Australian Industries Preservation Act, section 5, says on the subject -
Any foreign corporation . . . which . . . makes or enters into any contract, or engages or continues in any combination -
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.
Then section 6 declares that -
Competition means competition which is unfair in the circumstances; and in the following cases, the competition shall be deemed to be unfair unless the contrary is proved….
If the competition would probablyor does in fact result in creating substantial disorganization in Australian industry, or throwing workers out of employment.
The manager of the Australian Explosives Company says that if this competition lasts long, his factory will have to close down, which, of course, will result in from 90 to no workers being thrown out of employment.
– What does the present Ministry intend to do?
– As the honorable member always works back to the time of the Flood, and as I have not spoken in this Chamber for at least three weeks, I hope he will permit me to present my case fairly. The Labour Minister introduced and permitted-
– That is not so.
– He introduced and permitted the importation of the product of black labour to compete with that of an Australian factory.
– The honorable member is absolutely wrong, and he knows it. .
-I appeal to the honorable member for Yarra to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it; but cannot help thinking it.
– The honorable member must not qualify the withdrawal.
– Was the honorable member for Corio in order in repeating a statement which the honorable member for Yarra had denied ?
– An honorable mem ber addressing the Chair should not take notice of interjections which are disorderly ; but it has always been the custom to accept the denial of another honorable member. If the honorable member for Corio is attributing to the honorable member for Yarra, conduct which the latter denies, I am sure he will not repeat his statement.
– I do not know that the honorable member for Yarra has denied the truth of my statement.
– I absolutely deny that I gave any permission.
– I have not said that the honorable member’s statement is incorrect. I am presenting certain facts; and the honorable member’s denial can go forth in association with my presentment of the case. Possibly, he would say that he would prefer to have the explosives made by prison labour, such as recently he so forcibly advocated, rather than by black labour. Of course, he says that he did not approve of black labour ; but he has approved of prison labour. I shall let him put himself on the horns of that dilemma. In March, 1909, the Minister of Trade and Customs, who could not have been the honorable member for Yarra, because he denies having done what was done, approved of and permitted the importation of explosives made by black labour.
– The honorable member fox Corio says that when I was Minister of Trade andCustoms, I gave permission for the importation of goods made with black labour. I desire to say that the honorable member is absolutely in error, and has made an incorrect statement, as no permission was required, and none was given.
– I have shown that his action would have the effects of throwing workers out of employment, of reducing wages, and of destroying an Australian industry. Under the Australian Industries
Preservation Act, each one of those results is declared to constitute unfair competition. I have here a statement from the manager of the Victorian industry that the factory will simply have to close down. It pays good wages, and should be encouraged. I should like the present Ministry, whom I know are sincere in their support of white labour, to consider another point in connexion with this matter. I am told that the South African company, having been permitted by an unknown Minister of Customs, whom, as he denies it, we will call X, to send its black-labour dynamite or gelignite into the Commonwealth, has actually applied to be allowed to come under the British Preference section of the Act, because it manufactures its explosives in South Africa. The only Protection of any sort which the Tariff gives on these goods is 5 per cent. against the products of countries other than Great Britain. That applies to German-made explosives, and has previously applied to those made by black labour. These goods do not come under the South African Preference Tariff, and I trust that the Government will not allow them to come under the provisions in the Tariff Act giving preference to Great Britain. If that has to be done by legislation, I hope and believe that, in spite of the efforts of the Labour party, the advocates of a White Australia on this side of the House will be able to stop it,no matter what influence those Labour capitalists interested in the South African mining industry may be able to bring to bear upon the bulk of the Labour party. I hope the Government will not introduce any such legislation ; but if they do, I ask those on this side of the House who believe in white labour, not only on the platform, but in practice, to throw it out. I believe that those on this side of the House also believe in the payment of good wages, not only on the platform, but in practice, and object to the introduction of goods made by black labour to the ruin of Australian workmen. ‘. I trust that even some members of the Opposition will make a stand for fair wages, not only on the platform, but in actual practice, even if those affected are only a small group of men at Deer Park. The company whose works are situated at that place, state that what has happened means a loss of . £2,000 to them this year; and that if the black-labour competition lasts long enough, the factory will simply have to be closed down. If it is a capitalistic company, that result ought to please some of the Opposition. I do not know whether the Socialistic Jubilee is to come about when all the factories and mines close down, but practically that is what the Opposition are working for. Perhapsthe gentleman in question, who is not only an ex-Minister of Customs, but also a Minister, whom we must call X, was satisfied that the cause of Socialism would be advanced by closing down this factory.
– The honorable member is blanketed with the Free Traders now.
– I suppose the honorable member for Darwin has occasional lapses into sanity when he is not affected by too close a study of his great postage stamp banking scheme, under which,I understand, there is to be no gold currency, but each man is to have his own postage stamp, and in the absence of cash the reserves are to consist of used postage stamps. Does the honorable member consider that I am a Free Trader?
-i said that the honorable member was the tail end of the boodleiers’ Free Trade push now.
– It is difficult to obtain a definite statement from the honorable member. His reference to boodleiers reminds me of a little story that I saw in the Ballarat Courier, according to which the honorable member called himself a boodleier. I hardly know what a boodleier is, but it is so often on the honorable member’s lips that he must have a clear knowledge of its meaning. That story, which I understand the honorable member told about himself, was that some years ago, his “cousin Charlie” asked him to join the Orangemen. He replied, “No; but you stick to all the boodle that the Orangemen have got, and I will join the Hibernians and get all their boodle. Between the two of us, we will then collar all the boodle.” It is a grave charge against me to include me among boodleiers of that sort.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Every honorable member knows that no Minister of Customs can grant or refuse permission for any article to enter, no matter what class of labour it is made by. I defy the honorable member for Corio, who apparently desires to make political capital by making a groundless charge against me, to produce any paper or other proof that I ever granted the permission to which he refers. Every
Minister of Customs is sworn to administer the law as he finds it, andI am sure that no one whohas ever held that office would more gladly have shut out the products of black labour than I would if it could have been done. But it was impossible to do it. As to the question whether there was an infringement of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, so many matters come before a Minister that it is impossible to state distinctly whether that particular case was referred to the Crown law authorities for an opinion; but I have every reason to believe that it was, and that they decided that the law was against taking any action. The honorable member for Corio has, either deliberately or unwittingly, misrepresented me. I took no action to permit these goods to come in. No permission was required, and the Minister can exercise no discrimination, by whatever labour the goods may be produced.
.-I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to a question in connexion with the compilation of electoral rolls. It is the practice for electoral registrarsto accept claims far enrolment from whoever brings them in. They are supposed to check them and forward them on for printing and registration. There have been cases in which claims sent to a local registrar have not reached their destination. The Secretary of an organization - it may perhaps be an organization belonging to the other crowd, for they have so many - may have a number of claims filled in and send them to the registrar in the district, and they may never go any further. Is it not possible for the Department to devise some way of checking those papers? We suppose that the registrars are honest men, but our experience is that the claims do not reach their destination. The registrars are paid 2s. 6d. per100 for registering the names, but that is a very small amount. They have their political predilections as have other people, and they may be very strongly tempted to accept 2s. 6d. from somebody else, and say nothing more about the matter. I do not say that that is done, but, judging by some of the men who have been employed in electoral work in my electorate, I do not hesitate to say that it is at least possible. Cases have also been brought under my notice in Melbourne recently in which claims have not gone to their proper destination. Nobody knows where the leakage occurs, but I would suggest as a partial remedy that as soon as the claims are printed a copy of the proof should be sent to every post-office in the electorate concerned, and to the registrars, to be posted up, so that a man who has sent in a claim may see at once whether he has been registered or not. If his name has not been included he will then be in a position to put in another claim.
– Is not that done now?
– It is not. Until the roll is printed, no man knows whether his namehas been included. Will the Minister state whether the matter has been considered by the Department ? I think it has already been brought under the Minister’s notice. It is a very serious matter, because when an election is held, a man who has sent in a claim may go to record his vote, only to find that his name is not on the roll, not through any fault of his own but through the laches of Departmental officers.
– Why should not every application be acknowledged?
– It would hardly be possible to do that considering the number of applications that are sent in. I wish to support the remarks of the honorable member for Hume with regard to the’ supply of electoral rolls to members. New rolls are to be issued in December or early in the new year, and no doubt thousands of theold rolls will then be destroyed. Those might just as well have been distributed to members, instead of being left in the offices.
– Would not they be misleading after the new rolls were issued?
– They were not obsolete when they were printed, and in fact are not obsolete yet, and it would have been very much better for the electors and members if they had been distributed. It is not too late yet to hand rolls which are still effective to honorable members to distribute if they choose. The honorable member for Hume made out a good case. The distribution of rolls has cost me a good deal of money, and one cannot help feeling it somewhat when he knows that so many copies of the rolls will be destroyed as soon as the new ones come into operation. I would particularly direct the attention of the Minister to the question of the registration of electoral claims. Some improvement ought to be made at once in view of the approach of the general election.
.- The honorable member for Corio made one of his usual virulent attacks upon the honorable member for Yarra with reference to the importation of explosives, and as usual immediately left the Chamber so that he would not hear anything in reply.
– He is only a cur.
– Will the honorable member withdraw that remark?
-i withdraw it
– The law must be carried out by every Minister, and, although the honorable member for Corio spoke at some length, he never attempted to show where the late Minister had tried in any way to break the law. The only way in which the explosive could have been kept out was by the imposition of a duty, but when the item was being discussed in the Tariff, the honorable member for ‘Corio took so much interest in it that he did not utter a word of protest when it was made free by the unanimous vote of the Committee. He thought so much of the interests of his electorate at that time that he was either absent, or did not say a word to induce the Committee to retain the duty proposed by the then Government. Since then I take it there have been some importations. The law allowed them to come in, and there was no need for any one to approach the Minister to ask him to admit them. As soon as this importation was permitted, the honorable member for Corio suddenly woke up and. made a request to the Minister, not that he should carry out the law, but practically that he should break it. Because the honorable member for Yarra would not consent to do that, he is now attacked by the honorable member for Corio in a way that is characteristic of him. I do not propose to take any notice of the exhibition of temper on the part of the Treasurer this afternoon, save to say that in complaining of the delay that has taken place in dealing with applications for old-age pensions in New South Wales, I made, and have made, no attack upon the officers of the Department. I am going, however, to raise my voice on behalf of those who have had their pensions, as paid under the State Act, materially reduced since the transfer of the system to the Commonwealth, and who have had no reason assigned for the reduction. Itis high time that some expedition was shown in dealing with applications. As the Treasurer has pointed out, a good , deal of work was involved in making the necessary transfers from the State; but surely that is not a sufficient reason for the delay and the mistakes that have occurred? Old people, who were receiving the full amount of the pensions payable under the State Act, having proved that they had no property, have suddenly found that, according to officers administering the Commonwealth Act, they are imagined to possess property, and that a corresponding reduction in their pensions must be made. I do not know, nor do I care, whether the Treasurer is sympathetic or unsympathetic in his administration of the Act. But I do know that honorable members generally never thought that a few sticks of furniture possessed by a claimant for a pension would be held to be property within the meaning of the Act. In every case, the few pieces of furniture owned by a claimant are taken into account in determining the amount of the pension payable. Yet we are told that the Act is being sympathetically administered ! I would remind honorable members of a case to which I recently referred that of an old man living in a small cottage, and looked after by his daughter, who also earns a few shillings at the washtub. That old man’s house has been held to be incomeproducing because his daughter lives with him; and a proportionate deduction has therefore been made from his pension.
– And a deduction of10s. has also been made in respect of board.
– Quite so. I hold that the Act, instead of being sympathetically administered, is being deliberately violated.
– Cannot these people appeal ?
– They have appealed, and some of them have been waiting three months to have their cases determined.
– The honorable member had better get a law passed to suit himself.
– All that I desire is that the law, as it was passed, shall be carried out.
– In a way that will suit the honorable member.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I ask the Treasurer, who has already spoken, and is therefore debarred from making a further speech, not to interrupt the honorable member.
– Very well, sir. I withdraw the remark. I did not mean to be personally offensive to the honorable member.
– I have never said a word against any officer administering the Act, and I do not blame the Government for what has been done. I think, however, that a mistake was made in failing to appoint as Commissioner an officer who would be able to devote the whole of his time to the administration of the Act. I do not question the ability of the present Commissioner, but, as Secretary to the Treasury, he has quite enough to do, quite apart from the administration of this Act, and I can well understand that the delay complained of may have been due to the fact that he has not had time to deal with all the work falling upon him as Commissioner of Oldage Pensions. I trust that the Treasurer will endeavour to secure finality in connexion with cases that have remained unsettled for over three months. I refer, not only to the claims of transferred pensioners, but to the claims of new applicants. I know of many applicants who are absolutely without means, ‘and who have been waiting some months to have their cases dealt with.
– Up to last week, there was not even a medical officer in the head office at Sydney.
– That is another illustration of the sympathetic way in which the Act is being administered ! The patience of many of these old people, whose pensions under the State Act have been reduced, without rhyme or reason, and that of others whose claims have been pending for three months, is exhausted, and it is time that something was done te expedite the work of dealing with both claims and appeals.
Mr. THOMAS BROWN (Calare)
Il4-55]- - I was very much surprised at the restiveness under criticism shown this afternoon by the Treasurer, and at the innuendoes hurled by him against honorable members who ventilated grievances in regard to the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act. I admit that it must take some time to get into thorough working order a new piece of legislative machinery, and while it appears to me that there is something in the nature of want of sympathy in the administration of the Act, I am not prepared to make a charge in that connexion. The officers administering the Act in New South Wales are certainly sympathetic and desire to carry out the law. The Treasurer, instead of resenting criti cism and suggesting that it is prompted by unworthy motives, should rather welcome it as being calculated to assist him to ascertain where the machinery is not running smoothly, and to remove the causes of discontent. I have brought under his notice the case of several old people in my electorate who feel that they have a grievance. I should certainly be glad to be relieved of the duty. If the old people in my constituency had their claims dealt with promptly, so that there would be no occasion to ventilate their grievances in this House, I should be delighted. As it is, I should not be doing justice to the position I occupy if I did not avail myself of the means provided for ventilating their grievances and endeavouring to secure their redress. I therefore resent the suggestion which the Treasurer has seen fit to make - that those who bring these cases before the House, instead of desiring to help the Department or to give credit where credit is due, are merely seeking to secure sympathy to which they are not entitled. «I require no such sympathy, and I think that I may say the same with respect to other honorable members. I have already brought under the notice of the Treasurer the inconvenience suffered by a number of old-age pensioners in remote country districts who have to travel long distances in order to secure payment of their pensions. The payments are made fortnightly, and if the money is not claimed within the prescribed period it is forfeited. Some pensioners live 20 or 30 miles from the post-office at which their pensions are payable, and in certain cases have not the means of reaching it. In one case brought under my notice an old man is compelled to travel by coach 20 miles to reach the post-office at which his pension is payable. As the coach does not return the same day he has to spend a night in town, and thus incurs expenses which eat largely into his pension. And yet in the neighbourhood of his residence is a postoffice, and he naturally wants to know why his pension should not be made payable there.
– He can have it made payable there. Give me the particulars of the case, and I will see that it is.
– I have already supplied the honorable gentleman with two cases of the kind, and I am sure he will carry out his promise. But what has he to say in regard to the hundred and one cases which do not come under the notice of a member of Parliament and in respect to which the same difficulties obtain? Will the Treasurer endeavour to arrange with the Postmaster-General for pensions to be payable not merely, as at present, at post-offices attached to which are money order offices, but at all postoffices ?
– Certainly. But the honorable member must give me particulars of the cases to which he refers.
– I desire the Treasurer to give a general instruction that authority be given to make payments at local post-offices regardless of whether or not money order offices are attached to them. If that general instruction be given, honorable members will not have to worry the Department about individual cases. I come now to the question of delay in dealing with applications. The Treasurer this afternoon presented a return showing how applications have been dealt with up to date. It sets forth that in Victoria 6,759new applications have been lodged, and that 255 yet remain to be dealt with., That shows that the Department in this State, at all events, is dealing with applications with reasonable expedition. In New South Wales, however, according to a return recently published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, 3.333 new applications have been lodged, of which only 1,898 have been dealt with. Greater expedition in that case iscertainly necessary. The trouble is that the Department has been endeavouring to carry on this work on the basis of the volume of business done under the State Acts, and sufficient provision has not been made to meet the rush of new work. I know that, in Sydney, officers of the Department are employed night after night, well on to midnight, in order to cope with the additional work imposed on them.
– We do not desire that.
– Certainly not. That is one reason for the difference with regard to the proportion of applications dealt with in New South Wales and Victoria. The Central Administration should see that the State Departments are amply equipped to deal with their work. There are, at the present time, some 1,437 applications awaiting treatment in Sydney. I direct attention to a case which illustrates the effect of the delay of which I complain. I have received a letter from an old miner, verging on eighty-two years of age, who, being unfitted for work, applied some time ago for a pension. He has not yet received a reply to his application, and has written to ask me what is the cause of the delay. This man has lived in the Commonwealth, and practically in the one State, for fifty years, but he is of foreign birth, and did not apply to be naturalized until about two years ago. The principal Act provided that pensions should not be given to persons who had been naturalized for less than three years, and when this miner first communicated with me, I informed him that he was ineligible for a pension; but that a Bill was on the stocks for remedying the injustice of which he was the subject. When that Bill passed, I wrote him that he had become qualified, and he then made his application. But although the measure was assented to on the 13th August last, the application has not yet been dealt with. I understand that applications of this nature are specially reserved for submission to the central authority. But there should not be undue delay, and I ask the Treasurer to remedy these grievances by requiring more expedition. Then the provision under which persons between the ages of sixty and sixty-five years, who are physically unable to earn a livelihood, may obtain pensions, is being so strictly interpreted that those who apply must show, not only that they are physically unfit, but that they are never likely to be fit. In support of their applications, doctor’s certificates must be shown. In country districts this means an expenditure of a guinea, or, at least, of half a guinea. Should the medical certificate show a case to be serious, the applicant has to be examined a second time by the Government Medical Officer. Much hardship could be obviated if one examination were made to suffice. In many instances, applicants are totally unable to pay for a doctor’s certificate, and have, therefore, either to accept the charitable services of a doctor, or get some person to pay the doctor’s fee. The certificate, when thus obtained, is not regarded as conclusive, and an examination by a Government Medical Officer has to follow. Sometimes, by reason of rheumatism, or other ailment, persons are totally unable to move about. This forenoon, I received a letter from a man whose age is between sixty and sixtyfive years. Some settlers for whom he at one time worked were keeping him, but they have been obliged to turn him away, and now he has nowhere to go, and probably will ultimately find aresting place in a benevolent asylum.
– What did his forefathers do?
– The law is not concerned with what his forefathers did or left undone. Thi3 man is a very decent, respectable individual, who has done his part in helping to develop the State; but, because of rheumatism and other troubles, he cannot now obtain employment.
– If he had not been a working man, he would not need assistance now.
– Perhaps not. At any rate, he cannot obtain employment. But, because the doctor from whom, after travelling a long distance, he got a certificate, failed to state plainly that he is permanently incapacitated, the Department refused his application for a pension. I plead for a more humane interpretation of the provision. Whilst the taxpayers desire that abuses shall be prevented, they do not wish injustice to be done.
– Does not the honorable member think that Ministers are as eager as other honorable members to do what is right?
– I hope that they will show their eagerness in a practical way. The Treasurer seems to resent this criticism, but he should welcome it as bringing under his notice cases of injustice of which otherwise he would not know, and might not be able to remedy. I am not criticising the work of his Department because of any personal hostility to him. I credit him with the desire to deal fairly, but, if he shows resentment, I shall alter my view. I wish now to emphasize what has been said by the honorable member for Hume regarding the electoral rolls. The new form is a very handy one. Instead of the rolls being compiled in connexion with polling places, they are compiled for subdivisions, each of which contains a number of polling places. A map is attached to each, showing the boundaries of the subdivision. Unfortunately, old county or parish maps have been largely drawn on for the compilation of these subdivisional maps for New South Wales, and parishes, instead of polling places and important centres, are shown. It happens very frequently, however, that a township or village of a certain name is not within the parish which bears that name, but the Department seems to be unaware of that. Because a polling place bears the name of a parish, it seems to think it sufficient to show that parish. There is not any necessary connexion between a village and a parish of the same name, and, were the Department to leave out the references to. parishes, which are of no concern in this connexion, and give prominence to thenames of polling places, the maps would be much more useful. The general roll contains a list of the subdivisions, which is very convenient, but it would be a great advantage to the electors if the subdivisional rolls also contained lists of the polling places within the subdivisions. We are about to be asked to pass a monthly Supply Bill, and I, therefore, wish to know how long it will be before the Estimatesin.Chief will be dealt with. We have already passed an Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill to provide for expenditure on new works, but works are being held up because the Estimates-in-Chief have not been passed. This is particularly the case in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Two years ago, application was made for telephone connexion between Manildra and Cudal, and provision was made for the work in the Estimates for the year. But for some unexplained reason it is still in abeyance.
– A good many works are in the same position.
– Then, recently, on behalf of Walli, a township near Woodstock, I asked for an estimate of the cost of a telephone system. The Department reported that there would be an annual loss of j£i& on the working of a system there, and refused to install it, but I was informed that it could be carried out were the local people prepared to place a certain sum at its disposal. Under these circumstances, it might have been expected that the work would have been carried out at once, but a letter which I have received from the Acting Secretary carries this sting in its tail -
I am to add, however, that even if the contribution referred to were forthcoming, it would be some considerable time before the line could be erected, on account of the large number of lines which are now awaiting erection.
– We all seem to get the same letter.
– I have been getting that kind of letter for the last two or three years. I thought that in view of the large sums secured by the Postal Department on the current Estimates *he end of the old practice had been reached. I suppose it still continues, because the Estimates have not yet been passed. I want the Government to take those Estimates up and deal with them as speedily as possible instead of bringing forward Supply Bills, which simply carry on the Department in the old ineffective way. Not only new works, but also the additional services required, are held in abeyance pending the passing of the Estimates-in-Chief. If we continue to pass monthly Supply Bills, we may eventually vote the necessary money so late in the year that the Department will be unable to give effect to the wishes of the House. The result will be to leave the work undone and to show large surpluses or “ savings “ at the end of the financial year. This serious state of affairs has unfortunately obtained for some time past to the detriment and disorganization and disgrace of the Department. The only way to remedy it is for the Government to place this and other Departments in a position to spend their money within a reasonable time, and so to do their work satisfactorily. That cannot be done by making the Departments live from hand to mouth by means of monthly supplies.
.- On the last grievance day I refrained from speaking, in response to appeals made to me by the Postmaster-General, on a number of matters which I wished to bring under his attention. He told me that if I sent them to him he would have them investigated. They related to letter carriers.
– What was the complaint?
– There were several complaints, but I am not going into them now. The Postmaster-General acknowledged the receipt of them, but I have not yet received any further reply. I notice, however, that since. I sent them in a statement has appeared in the press from the Public Service Commissioner to the effect that some of the complaints are groundless. It is not advisable when a member brings a matter before the Postmaster-General that the Public Service Commissioner should offer public criticism upon it. I do not say that his statement is a specific reply to the matters which I brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– It is not.
– But it is a criticism of one of them, and how can I get now from the Postmaster-General any’ reply different from the statement made by the Public Service Commissioner? I shall deal with the matter when I receive an official reply from the Department, and I think I shall be able to show that the Public Service Commissioner’s statement with regard to letter carriers and the sorting tests can be disproved. I wish to bring another matter under the attention of the Postmaster-General or of the Minister of Home Affairs. An accountant living in Sydney last week directed my attention to the fact that Mr Gregory, an accountant in the Postal Department of New South Wales, in receipt of a fairly good salary, has entered into competition with outside accountants for the position of Auditor of the Civil ServiceCo-operative Society. I have seen the balance sheet of the Society with Mr. Gregory’s name attached to it, and I notice that the payment for the position is 100 guineas per year. My informant pointed out that it is contrary to the regulations of the Department for a public servant to compete for private employment against those outside the service, and that in any case it was unfair for a public servant receiving a good salary to take work from those who depended’ upon it for their daily bread. I mention the matter with some diffidence, but the gentleman who waited upon me said there was a strong feeling among the accountants in Sydney about it. I shall be glad if the PostmasterGeneral will make investigations and let me have a reply, although perhaps the matter comes more particularly under the Home Affairs Department, as regards the enforcement of the regulation. Now I wish to say a word regarding the progress towards settlement of the Federal Capital question. I noticed in the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday the following paragraph -
In the Legislative Assembly yesterday afternoon Mr. Carmichael put the following question to thePremier without notice : - “ Has his attention been drawn to the fact, as appearing in the public press this morning, that in his final interview with Mr. Fuller, the Minister for Home Affairs, he left it optional for the Commonwealth to accept the original area as recommended by the Advisory Board ? Is that accurately reported, and, if so, has he power to make that optional, seeing that a vote of the House has been made against making it so optional ?” Mr. Wade said - “ There is no foundation for the statement. It was not even discussed between myself and Mr. Fuller.”
The Minister of Home Affairs made a statement in the House recently at variance with the statement now made by the Premier of New South Wales, and it will be regrettable if any misunderstanding arises to prevent the early settlement of this vexed question. I regret that the necessary measure has not been introduced. I hope the Government will take an early opportunity of pushing it forward.
– Notice was given in the Senate yesterday, and the second reading will be taken to-morrow.
– Unfortunately the Government have had a number of Bills read a second time, but that is the last we have heard of them. There is already a list of over twenty measures on the notice-paper. The Government have no excuse in this matter, and if it is not carried to a stage which will enable the work of constructing the Federal Capital to go ahead before the session ends, the responsibility will be entirely upon them. To a number of us the delay that has taken place is incomprehensible. I hope the Minister will try to clear up this difficulty with Mr. Wade, and prevent any insistence by him upon any other area than that prescribed by Mr. Scriviner and the Board, because if the question is reopened there will be a great danger of delaying a settlement for years. I did hope that when the last selection was made and the Labour Government set to work so earnestly to give effect to it, some actual and practical steps towards finality would have been taken before now.
– Too long debates are delaying it.
– The Treasurer cannot complain about me. I have been speaking for only a few minutes.
– The honorable member has taken half an hour already
– The honorable member for Indi is very seldom here.
– Do I not show my good sense by staying away, instead of listening to rot of that kind?
– I can quite understand the honorable member sneering at the little time that has ‘been taken up this afternoon in. an attempt to redress the grievances of old-age pensioners. What does he care about them ? This day is set apart, under the Standing Orders, for the ventilation of grievances, and the Treasurer and one or two other honorable members on that side, because the criticism is not to their liking, have no right to challenge those who take advantage of the opportunity.
.- Notice of a Bill dealing with the Federal Capital site was given in the Senate yesterday, and the second reading will be proceeded with to morrow. We took that course because we thought time would be saved, and the matter expedited in view of the state of business in this Chamber. There is no difficulty with the Premier of New South Wales. I saw the report to which the honorable member for Cook referred, but I have since had a telegram from Mr. Wade. Through all the interviews that I have had with him, he has shown the greatest desire in every way to bring the matter to an issue. The honorable member for Cook said the responsibility would rest on the Government if the matter was not carried through. We are prepared to take the responsibility, but we hope we shall have the assistance of honorable members on both sides of the House in passing the measure. I feel sure that all honorable members recognise the necessity of settling the question as speedily as possible, and every effort will be made by the Government to bring it to a prompt and satisfactory conclusion.
– What was the nature of the telegram from Mr. Wade?
– It is a long telegram, and I have not a copy with me, but the end of it, and the part which interests us particularly, is to the effect that Mr. Wade is prepared, on receiving an intimation from this Parliament as to the area which is wanted, to submit that area to the State Parliament without delay, with a view to having the matter brought to a speedy termination. I may add that that is in exact accordance with Mr. Wade’s speech when introducing the resolutions recently in the New South Wales Assembly. He said that the matter was one for the Commonwealth Parliament to decide, and that all the State Parliament could do was to intervene with i suggestion which it thought would be helpful, because it believed a certain area was better than the one recommended “by the Advisory Board.
– If the matter has to go back to the State Parliament, there will not be much prospect of having it finally dealt with this session.
– An Act of Surrender will have to be passed by the State Parliament. We are introducing our Act of Acceptance, and we can arrange that it shall come into operation when the other Act, on which it depends to make it com,plete, has been passed by the State Parliament.
– If the matter has to gc back to the State Parliament, there. i« all the more reason for expediting it here.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. Every effort is being made by the Government in that direction, and I think we have shown our bona fide by introducing the matter in the Senate in the form of a Bill, instead of in the form of a resolution, so that as little delay as possible may occur. Several matters connected with the electoral’ branch of the Department of Home Affairs have been mentioned. One raised by the honorable member for Herbert related to claims which were sent in for enrolment to electoral registrars, and which were not forwarded. The honorable member, in what he said, either went too far, or not far enough. . He stated, in effect, that 2s. 6d. was a sufficient sum to induce registrars in his district to either send or not send these claim forms along. I am sure the honorable member must realize the seriousness of a statement of that sort. It is a grave reflection on the registrars. I think that the honorable member should furnish me with the names of those who he thinks are capable of acting in this way. If he does I shall speedily ascertain whether there is any truth in the statement, for my desire is that we should have, as registrars, men in whom the most complete confidence may be reposed.
– I think that the Minister is under a misapprehension ; that what the honorable member for Herbert said was merely that if the district registrars were receiving 2s. 6d. instead of is. per 100 they would pay more attention to their work. I do not think that he suggested that they were doing anything wrong.
– Perhaps I have misunderstood the honorable member, but if I have I am sure that he Will not think that I desired to misrepresent him. Various suggestions have been made with regard to the electoral rolls. A fortnight or three weeks ago the honorable member for Riverina suggested to me the advisableness of inserting in them a list of the pollingplaces. That suggestion will be considered, and, if it is carried out, I hope that it will prove a great convenience, not only to honorable members, but to the electors generally. The complaints in regard to the maps inserted in the rolls have been brought before me for the first time to-day. I admit that until this afternoon I had not looked at any of the maps. I know my district sp well that
I have never had occasion to refer to them, but having examined one this afternoon I can agree with the criticism’ which has been levelled against them. I shall ascertain whether it is not possible to publish a map that will be more useful for electoral purposes than are the old land maps, which are now being used. The honorable member for Hume has complained of the nonsupply of the number of rolls for which he applied; but I trust that he will not think that the Department has been guilty of any discourtesy towards him. He is one of the seven or eight honorable members who have held office as Minister of Home Affairs, and since the Electoral Act came into force the custom of the Department has been to issue free of charge only six maps to each member of the Parliament. Additional copies must be paid for, and the rule of the Department is that the transaction shall be a cash one. As long as I remain at the head of the Department I intend to support that rule, which I think is a good one to apply to every business.
– Honorable members cannot obtain, from the Central Office, copies of rolls for electorates in other States, or even application forms.
– I have not heard any complaint in that regard before, but shall, be glad to receive any suggestions calculated to assist and improve the administration of the Department. The honorable member for Calare, and the honorable member for Riverina, have suggested that polling-places, and particularly those situated- close to the boundaries of an electorate, should be dis.tinctly shown on the maps. I shall bring that suggestion under the notice of the officers of the Department.
– When will the Federal rolls for Queensland be ready?
– I have given instructions that the rolls for the whole of the electorates shall be ready not later than 31st December next.
– If they are not ready before then, and we have a severe rainy season, they -will not reach some parts of ‘ my electorate until after the next general election.
– This Parliament decided, after careful consideration, that the general election should take place in the month of March or April, that being the time most likely to meet the convenience of the greatest number of electors. Unfortunately there is a difficulty with regard to Queensland.
– Tens of thousands of votes will not be recorded there.
– The honorable member for Calare made a complaint in respect to telephone matters. I, too, have had reason to make a similar complaint in regard to the construction of what will be one of the most important telephone lines in Australia - that from Woollongong and Port Kembla to Sydney. The work has been hung up for considerably over two years, but I feel sure that under the administration of the present Postmaster-General those who have had so much reason to complain will have their grievances redressed.
.- I have only one grievance to ventilate with regard to my electorate, and it relates to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I should sooner tackle the job of drawing a tooth from a camel than that of trying to induce that Department to expend £5 in the western part of Queensland. I could hobble a camel, but I do not think I could hobble the Department so as to be able to draw anything out of it.
– What the honorable member needs to do is to nobble the Department.
– Government supporters appear to have done that. Many of them, when sitting in Opposition were full of grievances, but now that they are on the other side of the House they are as meek as sucking doves, and have no complaint to make. It is the hardest thing in the world to get anything for my electorate I have been pegging away for years with a view of securing the construction of a telephone line, either from Charleville to Adavale, and thence to Eromanga, or from Charleville to Eromanga direct, or from Thargomindah to Eromanga. The only reply that I have been able to obtain to all my representations is that the revenue from the line would not be sufficient to cover the interest on the cost of construction. Australia was not peopled and developed by Governments influenced by such parsimonious considerations. If the Government of Queensland thirty or forty years ago had taken up the same stand with regard to the construction of important public works, we should have had to-day neither railways, telephones, nor telegraphs in the western portions of Queensland. The people in that part of the Commonwealth are as much entitled to have telegraphic or “telephonic services as are the people of Melbourne ; but, unfortunately, we cannot get the official mind to grasp that fact. When a request is made for a telephone liner out-back, the first question put to the applicant is, “ What is likely to be the revenue to be derived from such a line? “ .1 cannot tell the Department what is likely to be the revenue from the line for which I ask ; but I would remind the PostmasterGeneral that Eromanga is on the main stock route in the heart of Australia. All stock pass through that district, and drovers would strike the telephone line from Thar.gominda to Charleville at various points between Adavale and Eromanga. Western Queensland is a place of great distances. I was there in the early part of last year and if the whole Empire had been dismembered, 1 should not have known about the occurrence. I ask the Postmaster-, General to give my electors this telephone line. The Department say that the cost, of construction would be ,680 per mile; but I know that the work could be done for much less. Native timbers could be used,., and the poles could be spliced. Spliced poles are being used in Melbourne, yet the; Department will not allow them to be used in Western Queensland. There are also old rails there which could be used as tele-, phone poles. I know of a man who offered to construct a telephone line from Thargomindah to Eromanga, a distance of 150; miles, for .6 ],000, provided that the Department would provide the wire. But,, because he would not supply poles according to the specification prescribed by the Department, his offer was rejected.
– It would be unwise to erect poles that would fall down in four or five years’ time.
– There are in Western Queensland fencing posts made of gidgea and boree which have been in the ground for thirty years, and are as sound to-day as when they were first erected. Even the white ants will not touch them. Spliced poles made of myall, gidgea, or boree, could very well be used for this line. The stations use 12 and 13 feet posts, 4 inches in diameter at the top, and many lines so constructed at a cost of £4 10s. a mile have been standing for years. The Department, however, desire to erect one at a cost of £80 a mile. I asked the PostmasterGeneral to obtain from Brisbane the papers relating to this case.
– They have just reached me to-day.
– I have so much faith in the revenue-producing possibilities of a line from. Eromanga to Charleville, that 1 should be prepared to construct it myself. :The Department, however, would not allow me to do so. The people themselves would be willing to construct the line, provided that they were permitted to control it and to make charge-, sufficient to cover interest on cost of construction ; but the Department will not allow them to do that. They are, therefore, between the devil and the deep sea. If people so situated could obtain permission to construct such lines for themselves, I am satisfied that there would be many payable lines in different parts of the Commonwealth where to-day there are none.
– This is good antiSocialism.
– I do not care what the honorable member calls it. If we cannot get the line on Socialistic principles, I am prepared to have it built on anti-Socialistic principles. I should be quite willing to put .£1,000 into the work, knowing full well that it would pay good interest on the cost of construction.
– The honorable member knows the explanation of all these delays : the present beggarly system of paying for new works out of revenue.
– Many lilies have been built out of revenue, and are paying today. The Department, when met with a request of this kind, either says, “ We have no money,” or “ The cost will be too great.”
– The Department had plenty of revenue to make good a loss of £60,000 in connexion with an English mail contract.
– Most of our mail contracts -out west are non-paying; but the people are entitled to receive their mails. The pioneers out-back ought to be connected with centres of population. Complaint is often made that too many people desire to settle in the towns, yet the Government do nothing to improve the lot of the settler. All that I ask the Postmaster-General to do this year in my electorate, which is almost as large as New South Wales, is to expend about £2,000 in constructing this line. The electorate of Maranoa is the wealthiest in the Commonwealth; and I appeal to the Postmaster-General to give it the same fair and square deal that is accorded to town and city constituencies.
– Applications for the extension into the back country of postal, telephonic, or telegraphic communication’ will always receive my favorable consideration. The honorable member for Maranoa mentioned the matter to which he has referred only a week or two ago. I promised it my personal attention, and immediately sent to Brisbane for the papers, which reached me to-day. I find that the proposed line would be 200 miles long, and would cost £8,000 to construct, and there would be an annual loss of £91 on its working.
– I would construct it for one-fourth of the Departmental estimate.
– If the work could be done for £2,000, it could be put in hand without delay.
– I could get a tender for that amount.
– I am bound to accept the opinions of my expert advisers regarding estimates of cost. I could not sanction work without taking their advice.
– In this case, £57 is set down as the cost of inspection.
– I have not had time to inquire how the estimate was arrived at, but I shall make an examination of it to see whether the cost can be reduced. Where a service will give a return approximating the expense, it will have my favorable consideration, when the preparation of Estimates is to be undertaken, but so far as this year is concerned, practically all -the money available has been appropriated, and therefore I hold out no hope of this particular work being carried out till next year. I shall act on the suggestion that telephone construction in country districts may be cheapened. Where it is not necessary to use lofty poles for numerous street crossings, as in the cities, the cost should be less, and I shall encourage economical construction; but I must be given time.
– I have been trying for five years to get this work undertaken.
– I am not responsible for whatever delay has occurred. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred to a loss of £31 sustained by Mrs. Baxter, who posted a registered letter at B ardoc addressed to a firm at Kalgoorlie, and containing cheques. On arrival at Kalgoorlie, the letter was placed in the postoffice safe, which was locked, and the key taken possession of by the official charged with that responsibility. During the night the post-office was broken into by a former employe, who knew where to find the key. Opening the safe, he abstracted this registered letter, and other articles, and, before his arrest, cashed the cheques which it contained, appropriating the proceeds. The case was investigated by the Deputy Postmaster-General at Perth. He found that a felony had been committed, and that no official had been guilty of negligence. The Department has no legal liability in cases of this kind. Undoubtedly the unfortunate woman who posted the letter is entitled to the greatest sympathy in her deplorable loss, but in cases of this kind1 I cannot, in the exercise of my discretion, pay away more than £2. That sum has been offered to her, and declined.
– The Postmaster-General might perhaps treat this as a special case, and make a larger offer, as an act of grace.
– I cannot offer more, unless Parliament authorizes me to do so. It is a moot question whether the liability of the. Department in connexion with registered letters should be increased. If the Department were made the insurer of registered letters, it would be exposed to demands of a very serious character, and I should not like to advise the increasing of its liability. Fortunately, cases of this kind are rare. If there are any special circumstances which have not been brought under notice, which would justify me in asking Parliament to make a larger offer to this poor woman, I shall be prepared to take them into consideration.
– As the first act of the Minister was to authorize a post-office in my electorate, I have no grievance against his Department. I rise to complain of the exclusion of Tasmanian potatoes from the other States. The potato is a native of Virginia, and, being transplanted to Great Britain, became the national support. In fact, the British Constitution rests upon the American potato. They go hand in hand. The effect of excluding Tasmanian potatoes from Australia is to make potatoes so dear that the good ladies of Melbourne complain that they cannot supply their families at reasonable prices, although there are millions of bushels of good potatoes in Tasmania. Why cannot the Government help the Tasmanian Government to test this question in the High Court ? I am sure that the Treasurer, who has a heart as big as that of a Texas bullock, wishes to do what is right. I should like the Government to take a constitutional stand, and remove the embargo on Tasmanian potatoes. We went to a great deal of trouble, ten years ago, to obtain Free Trade within the States.
– It is only bad potatoes which are excluded.
– There are no bad potatoes in Tasmania; there are only good potatoes, and better potatoes.’ The action which has been taken by the other States is in the interests of trusts and rings. Were the Tasmanian red-skinned potatoes allowed to come into Australia, the people would get potatoes cheaply, and therefore the bogy of Irish blight has been raised. I find that some sort of disease is affecting the potatoes in some of the districts in Tasmania, but that their edibility is not affected. Queensland is the only State which is not excluding them. There, potatoes which pass the inspectors are allowed to enter. Why does not the Commonwealth appoint inspectors for all the States? The present system allows an injury to be done to the workers of Australia. The price of bread is very high. Apparently, the more bountifully God blesses the country with wheat, the higher the price of bread becomes, and this combination for the keeping out of potatoes is creating a famine. I wish the Government to say to the States, “ We control quarantine.” That is the position in America. When a western State tried to prevent the importation of cattle by fixing very high rates for inspection, the United States Supreme Court declared its action to be illegal. If the State could charge what rates it liked for inspection, it could, by making its inspection fees so high as to render importation unprofitable, shut out, not only diseased fruit or animals, but also- sound fruit or animals. The Treasurer was a great Nationalist. Had he not helped the honorable Mr. Howe, of South Australia, to secure an amendment of the draft Constitution, it would be impossible to have Commonwealth old-age pensions. I appeal to him then to do justice to the fairest gem of the sea, Tasmania.
– This is a matter within the control of the Minister of External Affairs.
– It is the man who holds the purse who runs the show. Every Minister must go to the Treasurer in the final resort. I have also to complain of the Newcastle coal vend, through which the people of Australia are suffering.
– Certain proceedings have been initiated, so that that matter is now sub judice.
– Does the Government mean business? It means to test this matter in the High Court?
– Certain questions have been asked.
– Then I shall say nothing about the matter now. I would suggest to the Treasurer that it was a huge mistake to put Mr. Allen at the head of the Pensions Department. The Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Victoria would have been a splendid man for the position. We need specialists. Without them there will be no progress. A butcher cannotact for a doctor, however clever he may be in wielding the knife, and a baker cannot give a legal opinion. The Under-Treasurer has more work than he can do in looking after the finances of the country, and the other man would have more time. We ought not to overwork the UnderTreasurer ; in fact, I think he ought to , be brought under the Factories Act and given an eight hours’ day. If there had been in Australia a national postal banking system. the old lady referred to by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie would not have lost her £31. She would have deposited it with the national bank, and the moment that it was entered in her book,’ the Commonwealth and State Governments would have become responsible for it. She could have transferred it from one place to another by cheque. The Treasurer will never make a name for himself in Australian history until he introduces a financial system by which the whole of the people of this country will be able to do business without the actual transfer of a single dollar. If we had a proper system of finance, we could do the whole of our business without exchanging a penny. The honorable member for Corio must have been labouring under a multiplicity of delusions when he referred to my scheme as a postage stamp scheme. I want no such system. I want a system under which every pound note will rest on gold - on the property and products of the Commonwealth. The honorable member also referred to my cousin Charles, and I should like to explain that story, because his speech will appear in Hansard. I never made any such suggestion as the honorable member attributed to me. What happened was that my cousin was the King Mogul of an Orange Lodge in Western America. He ran the whole circus. When I wanted to join he told me not to, because whatever there was in the show he got it ; and he advised me to join the Hibernians if I wanted to join any organization, because then, if there was any profit in that body, I could get it. When my cousin died a good priest thought he belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, and he was buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery. When his widow heard of it she was most indignant, but when she approached the priest on the matter he said to her “ My good lady, do not be disturbed ; when Gabriel’s trumpet sounds on the last day a Roman Catholic cemetery will be the last place in which the devil will think of looking for an Orangeman.”
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I think we might have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer one particular phase of the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act which operates very unfairly. Men in the backblocks who received pensions from the State were allowed to leave their homes in search of light employment in order to supplement their pensions, and whilst they were absent, their wives or other relatives were permitted to draw their pensions for them. Those who are acquainted with city life do not seem to appreciate the disabilities under which men in remote parts have to labour. I know cases in which men whose relatives were formerly permitted by the State to draw the pensions for them have now either to remain at home and draw the pensions themselves, or travel, perhaps, forty or fifty miles to obtain some light employment, and have the place of payment altered, so that they may draw the pensions themselves miles away from their homes. This involves their taking out post-office orders or postal notes in order to send money to their families. I think these people ought at least to be treated by the Commonwealth in the same way as the State treated them, but the answer I get from the Department is that the Commonwealth law prevents that being done, because it allows the pension to be drawn by a person other than the’ pensioner himself only by reason of old-age, infirmity, or other just circumstance. But the circumstances to which I have referred are common in country districts, and, in my opinion, come within the definition given by the officers of the Department. Of course, the Treasurer has heard so much about old-age pensions that I hardly expect him-
– It seems to be the only stock-in-trade of the Opposition now.
– The matter is important, as the Treasurer would find if he were one of those old-age pensioners.
– I should apply to those in authority, and get what I wanted.
– It is because I have received a reply which shows that the Act is. not being administered as liberally or sympathetically as it ought to be that I have brought the matter before the House. If I had received a decent reply from the Department, it would not have been necessary for me to apply to the Minister who administers the Act.
– -Will the honorable member send me the particulars ? I shall be only too glad to see what can be done.
– I shall be pleased to lay the case before the Treasurer. I wish to deal with some other matters which show a deplorable condition in the administration of the. affairs of the Commonwealth. It is becoming really unbearable to honorable members to have to appeal to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to meet the legitimate requirements of settlers in their districts - requirements which have been investigated, reported upon, and admitted by the Department to be just - and to get letters in reply, such as I get day after day, stating that the necessity of the works is admitted, but that they cannot be granted for two or three years. What an impotent position we must have got into ! The matter to which I particularly refer is the extension of telephone facilities which are essential to country districts in order to remove some of the disabilities under which people in isolated places suffer. Whilst we are greasing the fatted sow, so to speak, by giving the large merchants and other subscribers in the big cities a cheaper telephone service than is to be found in any part of the world - charging them very much less than the real value of the service rendered - we are refusing to the men who are making this country even a small share of similar facilities to which, as taxpayers, they are entitled. What are the Government doing to remedy this state of affairs?
– I think they are waiting for the report of. the Postal Commission.
– That report .will not affect this matter, .because their own officers have agreed that these works are necessary.
It is purely a matter of administration, and simply requires the Treasurer to find money for works which, as a matter of equity.,, ought to be carried out.
– Does not the honorable member think that some of his own party should be here to listen to him ?
– If the honorable member had a little more of the manner.^ which become a member of this House, we should see him oftener and hear him less. I am not speaking to the honorable member, because I do not expect him to understand) anything which does not bear on the sale of cattle or sheep. I” am addressing the Treasurer, as the man in charge of the purse.
– I have given the Postal Department all the money that it wanted.
– If so, how is it that the letters received by honorable members from the Department day after day indicate that works which have already been deemed necessary and justifiable cannot be proceeded with for two or three years ?
– I expect that the Department does not consider them urgent.
– The Department admits their necessity and the justice of the appeal, and intimates that if the writer and those associated, with him put their hands in their pockets and build the telephone line, it will send them a set of regulations under which they can work.
– I had a case where the people offered to build the line, but the Government would not let them.
– That is still worse. The state of affairs to which I have drawn attention is disgraceful when we contrast it with the treatment meted out by the Department to the well-to-do merchants and other big subscribers on the flat rate system in the cities. It is .not worthy of a Govern ment who profess to administer the affairs of the country with some regard to equity and fair treatment as between man and man.
– Will not that be a matter for the report of the Postal Commission to deal with?
– No. I should not have mentioned it if it had come within the four corners of the Commission’s inquiry. It is because “it could be and should be remedied now that I have brought it before the House. It is a matter of such urgency and reflects so much discredit upon a professedly Liberal Government that I am bound, in the interests of the men to whom.
I have to forward the letters from theDepartment, to make a public appeal to the Government. They, however, appear to be so steely-hearted as to have no sympathy with the pioneer in the backblocks, who gets few of the advantages of the Commonwealth administration, and who is apparently only to receive a fair share of the facilities of modern civilization two or three years hence.
– If we had the report of the Postal Commission before us, we could deal with all those questions together.
– The honorable member is so interested in the Northern Territory, and so busy obeying the behests of his new party, that he is not in a fit state of mind to understand so important a matter as that report will be. I hope that country members will support me in what 1 have said. Of course the honorable member forWimmera has no one in his electorate suffering from lack of telephonic communication. Judging by his remarks he must be one of the favoured few who can secure the ear of the Government, and have his requests attended to in return for his support. I happen to be one of those unfortunates who are outside the Government party. 1 do not say that the Government do show favoritism-, but from what the honorable member says it looks as if something of that kind is going on. I appeal to the Treasurer to loosen the purse strings a little in the interests of the people in the back blocks
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee :
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding£360,472 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June,1910.
This is the ordinaryresolution on which a temporary Supply Bill is founded. It is necessary to pass such a Bill at this stage because we require a fresh appropriation before the 15th of the month. I have brought the measure forward now in order that, if possible, the Bill may be passed by to-morrow. As honorable members are aware, after the Bill has been passed it must receive the Royal Assent, and the warrant of His Excellency the Governor-General has to be obtained and this involves some little delay. There is nothing extraordinary contained in the schedule to the Bill about to be introduced. Honorable members will have noticed that the amount asked for is smaller than usual, and that is due to the fact that the expenditure for the month will not be very heavy. One month’s Supply is being asked for, and all the items in the Bill are included in the Estimates which arebefore honorable members. I shall, of course, be only too willing to explain the items when we reach the schedule in Committee on the Bill. I am glad to be able to inform honorable members that the revenue of the Commonwealth is coming in satisfactorily.
– It is going up by leaps and bounds.
– No, but it is satisfactory. The Customs and Excise revenue for the first three months of the current financial year, that is to say, up to the end of September, amounted to £2,926,455, as against £2,876,724 for the corresponding period of last year. This shows an increase for the three months of £49,731. Honorable members will recollect that when the Estimates were tabled, and I made my financial statement, I estimated that the revenue from Customs and Excise for the year would be £43,985 less than the revenue for the previous year. So far there has been no diminution of revenue, but, on the contrary, I am glad to say there has been an increase to the extent of nearly £50,000. The revenue for the three months just passed from the other great revenue-producing department of the Commonwealth, the Post Office, was £881,517, as against £820,905 for the corresponding period of last year ; showing an increase of , £60,612. It was estimated that the revenue from this source for the financial year would amount to £140,993 in excess of the revenue for the previous year, 1908-9. Already, in three months, we have received £60,612 towards that increase.
– That would seemto show a very bad calculation.
– I do not think so. It is not easy to make these estimates. I do not mind the. reproach, and I shall be very glad if at the close of the financial year I have been shown to have erred in this direction. I have said that the increase in theCustoms and Excise revenue, for the first quarter of the current financial year, amounts to £49,731, and I might now inform the Committee that the figures show an increase in every State but Queensland. There was an increase of £33,119 in New South Wales, £7,385 in Victoria, £14,012 in South Australia, £2,650 in
Western Australia, and . £372 in Tasmania. In Queensland, I am sorry to say, the returns for the quarter show a decrease of
– That might be due to a decrease in the returns from Excise duties only.
– That is possible. It is not possible to draw conclusions as to the results for the financial year from the figures, for a small portion of the year.
– The failure of the sugar crop in Queensland would account for far more than the decrease referred to, in the reduced returns from Excise duties for the three months.
– I am merely stating the facts for the information of the Committee. I do not think there is anything in the Supply Bill which requires particular notice from me at this stage.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman would explain the vote of £1,000 for the Postal Commission.
– That is to meet the expenses of the Postal Commission for the current year.
– When is the Commission expected to report?
– I do not know. Honorable members will have noticed that provision is made on the Estimates for a vote of £1,500 for the Postal Commission, and that vote is based upon what was considered as likely to be required for six months. That is to say, up to the 31st of December next.
.- I am sure we are all glad to hear that the Treasurer’s estimate of the income from Customs and Excise, and from the Postal Department has so far been more than realized. The right honorable gentleman will admit that there are good reasons why that should be so. The seasons have been exceptionally good, and we all hope they will continue to be good. I think that the figures which the Treasurer has quoted with respect to the returns from Customs and Excise for the quarter in each of the States do not fairly represent the position. I can understand that thefalling off in the production of sugar in Queensland this year, as compared with last year, and the consequent reduction in the Excise return, will account for the falling off in the revenue from Customs and Excise in that State. It might be said by some persons to be due to the political dis turbance in the State, but I do not think that has in any way affected the revenue returns. I wish to ask the Treasurer whether the Government have given any consideration to the extension or alteration of the present system of sugar Excise and bounties. The time has come when the Government should be able to make a statement of their intentions in this connexion.
– I think the Prime Minister did say something on the subject.
– I have no recollection that the honorable gentleman did so. I think he has made no statement of the views of the Government with respect to the continuance of the bounty on sugar produced by white labour. The matter has come up for discussion from time to time, and at the end of every Parliament it has been necessary to ask the Government of the day what view they took of the future. The sugar industry is one in which a large number of people growing sugar by white labour are brought into direct competition with those who employ coloured labour in its production. The principle of the existing sugar Excise and bounty is that those who employ white labour in its production have returned to them of the Excise £3 per ton in the shape of a bounty, whilst those who produce sugar by coloured labour are paid no bounty. In the Sugar Bounty Act of 1905 a proviso was inserted that, in 191 1 and 19 12, there was to be paid only two-thirds and one-third respectively of the bounty I have mentioned. That shows clearly that the opinion of Parliament at that time was that this question should be absolutely settled at the close of those years. I quote section 6 of the Act in order that there may be no mistake -
The rates of bounty payable under this Act shall be as follow : -
In the case of sugar cane - six shillings per ton calculated on cane giving ten per centum of sugar, to be increased or decreased proportionately according to any variation from this standard ; and
in the case of beet sixty shillings per ton on the actual sugar giving contents of the beet.
Provided that the rates payable on all such cane or beet delivered during the years1911 and 1912 shall be respectively two-thirds and onethird of the aforesaid rates.
The year 1910 beginning with the1st January next will be the last year in which bounty will be paid at the present rate. I have embraced this opportunity to make a few remarks on the question, because there is an impression abroad that the people of the Commonwealth are paying this bounty out of the ordinary revenue from the Customs and from the Post Office. As a matter of fact, there is levied on every ton of sugar produced in Australia an Excise duty of £4.
– And £3 out of every £4 goes to the States.
– That is so, under the Constitution, but it does not affect the question one iota.
– It affects the Commonwealth finances.
– That is another question.
– We receive only £1 out of every £4 collected by way of Excise, and we have to pay the bounty.
– I am not dealing with that phase of the subject. There is no greater misapprehension on any important question connected with the Commonwealth Parliament than exists in regard to the application of the sugar Excise and bounty. Many honorable members do not understand the position, and despair of ever being able to do so. ‘ The point that I wish to emphasize is that the policy embraced by these Acts was that of differentiating between persons who produce sugar by white labour and those who produce it by black labour. The opponents of the policy of a White Australia in the first Parliament declared that it was impossible for white men to work in the cane fields of the tropics ; but those of us who advocated the policy of differentiating between sugar grown by white and that grown by coloured labour believed absolutely in the capacity of the white man to work in the cane fields. Our contention has been completely borne out. All that we asked at that time was that there should be given to the grower of sugar by white labour the difference between the cost of the two labours, in growing the quantity of cane capable of producing one ton of sugar. Experts estimated that difference to be between £2 and £3 per ton. At the outset we differentiated between the two classes of sugar to the extent of £2 per ton, and as part of the whole policy, the Commonwealth stopped the introduction of Polynesians, and provided for the return of those already here to their islands. To many honorable members, the success of the scheme for the first two or three years, seemed to be in doubt, but all doubts were removed when the principal Act was amended, and it was provided that an Excise duty of £4 per ton should be levied on all sugar, and that there should be returned to growers of sugar by white labour £3 per ton by way of bounty. Since then, those who were violently opposed to the employment of white labour have found it to be economically more profitable to use white labour in the industry ; and with a few exceptions representing, I am sorry to say, a considerable number of coloured workers, the planters have adopted the white labour policy. We have now reached a point at which there is considerable danger to the white labour policy. After next year, the Excise and bounty will automatically decrease by one third yearly, and at the end of 191 2 there, will be neither Excise collected nor bounty paid. The Commonwealth will then collect no Excise on sugar and pay out no bounty to the white growers ; but it will not benefit. Indeed, the revenue will suffer to the extent of £1 per ton of the sugar produced. We shall simply return to the old unsatisfactory state of affairs; and planters who employ coloured labour will obtain exactly the same price for their product as is secured by those who employ white men.
– Will there be sufficient coloured labour available to enable a general return to the employment of coloured labour in the cane fields ?
– According to the Commonwealth Statistician, there are about. 60,000 coloured aliens in Australia. I do not think that the whole of those will be collected in the cane fields of Queensland and New South Wales; but nothing save an economic law of the kind now in force will prevent a large increase in the employ ment of coloured labour there. A great deal has been said as to the defence of Australia, but nothing has demonstrated so fully the possibility of white settlement in the tropical parts of the Commonwealth as has the white labour policy as applied to the sugar industry. It used to be said that only one State benefited under this policy; but I am happy to say that from Victoria,. South Australia, and New South Wales, a large number of white workers migrate to Queensland from time to time to assist in taking off’ the crop. Many men from other parts of the Commonwealth go there, and acquit themselves well.
– Has the number of small freeholders increased under this policy ?
– There is a large number of small holders, but there always was, and they employed coloured labour because they were forced to do so in competition with the larger planters, who used only that class of labour.
– Still, the number of small growers has increased under this policy.
– Happily, that is so. So prejudiced were a number of the larger planters against white labour that they sold their plantations, and they have been subdivided into small holdings. That, however, is only a side issue. My point is that the industry cannot be dealt with in one or two years, and that the planters should, have some security. My object in bringing forward this question at the present time is to give the Government an opportunity to consider and make a declaration as to what their future policy is to be. 1 have pointed out that if these two Acts are allowed to lapse, the Commonwealth will not benefit.
– Does the honorable member advocate their continuation ?
– Certainly, 1 do. When a limit was placed upon their operation, I said that it was a mischievous and misguided policy to adopt, and that the differentiation between the products of the two classes of labour should continue .as long as there was any danger of the competition of sugar grown by coloured labour.
– Would not the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth be affected ?
– Much less in the future than it has been. If the Braddon section is to be amended, an adjustment may be made under which the Commonwealth will actually benefit.
– Are we not at present losing considerably?
– We are ; but that arises from a provision in the Constitution which we cannot alter. When we first entered upon this policy, it was arranged that a rebate should be granted, and there was then no necessity to give to the States three-fourths of the amount collected by way of Excise. It was discovered, however, by the Crown Law officers, that we had no legal authority to do that, and we had then to provide for an Excise and a bounty. If we are to consider this question from the point of view of the States and the Commonwealth, let us assume, .for the sake of. argument, that 200,000 tons of sugar are produced in Australia, and produced wholly by white labour. That would mean the collection of Excise amounting to ,£800,000. Under the Braddon section, the States would be entitled to ,£600,000, -and the Commonwealth would receive as its share of the Excise revenue ,£200,000. Out of that amount it would have to pay to the growers of sugar by white labour £[600,000 by way of bountry. Thus it would lose £400,000 on the transaction.
– There would be a net loss of £2 on every ton of sugar.
– There is a ner loss to the Commonwealth, owing to a constitutional difficulty, of £2 per ton of sugar produced by white labour; but that is not an actual loss to the people of the Commonwealth.
– The people have to pay for it.
– Not a penny of it.
– The consumers have to pay.
– No; the cost of sugar to the consumer would not be affected, even if there were neither Excise nor bounty.
– There would- be a slight difference in the cost if there were no import duty.
– I shall deal with that aspect of the question ; but I have at present enough difficulties to contend with in endeavouring to make the facts clear to honorable members who do not understand them.
– It makes a difference of about £[100,000 per annum to Western Australia at the present time.
– That is not so.
– Sugar, in Western Australia, is from ,£6 to .£6 10s. per ton dearer than it was prior to Federation.
– The Customs duty is only £[6 per ton, and if sugar in WesternAustralia is j£6 10s. per ton dearer than it was before Federation, sugar from oversea must be costing more than before the Customs’ duty was imposed.
– The freight from Queensland to Western Australia is more than is that from Mauritius to Western Australia.
Mr. FISHER. The honorable member will admit that Western Australia ought to get its sugar now- as cheaply as before, plus the duty. If the honorable member for Fremantle desires the abolition of the duty, he should say so.
– It is the honorable member who says that ; I do not.
– The honorable member gets out of the difficulty very cleverly. The inference to be drawn from his interjection is that there should not be a duty of £6
– Will the honorable member permit me to say that the duty of £6 per ton should be abolished?
– The honorable member for Parkes would abolish, not only the duty on sugar, but also every restriction on the employment of coloured labour.
– That is not so. I have never voiced such an opinion.
– The honorable member has consistently opposed the placing of restrictions upon the employment of coloured labour.
– I opposed the hysterical treatment of the subject in this House.
– I have never before known the honorable member to equivocate regarding his principles. Perhaps he is now more careful than is his wont, because of the company in which he finds himself. He has always been the straightforward advocate of views which have nothing in common with mine. If any one has declared our white-labour policy to be wrong, it is the honorable member. I have heard and read such statements by him, not only in the Australian and English newspapers, but even in the Chinese press.
– In the Chinese press !
– It may be news to some honorable members that there are important journals published in China in the English language, which quote the remarks of honorable members on racial questions affecting the relations of the Commonwealth with other nations. I ask the honorable member for Parkes whether, in saying that he is in favour of abolishing the duty of £6 a ton on sugar, he is speaking for the Government ?
– Is the honorable member for Wide Bay speaking for the Opposition?
– Including the honorable member for Coolgardie?
– I am speaking for the Opposition, which has always upheld the white-labour policy.
– But the honorable member is discussing the laws affecting the sugar bounty, Excise, and duty.
– It is difficult to get honorable members to understand the posi tion. The question is an important one, and must be dealt with soon. I ask Ministers whether they have considered it? If so, to what conclusion have they come? It will never do to allow the white growers to face the competition of the growers who employ coloured labour.
– What proportion of the sugar is produced by coloured labour?
– In New South Wales, 9.4 per cent., and in Queensland, 9.6 per cent, of the area under cane is cultivated by coloured labour j but directly we cease to differentiate between white-grown and black-grown sugar, it will be impossible for the white growers to continue in the business, because there are in Australia 50,000 coloured persons of all nationalities, mostly Asiatics, who are available for the work. It must not be forgotten that the attempts of engineers to produce machinery with which the sugar-cane could be trashed and cut better than by hand labour have failed. To obtain cheap manual labour gives a greater advantage in sugar growing than in any other industry with which I am acquainted. Our contention in the early days was that no honest white man would ask his fellows to compete with coloured men in the canefields. We are, however, within two years of the time when the present differentiation will cease. It will be a disaster to the industry, and an injury to the Commonwealth, if that is permitted. I strenuously opposed the putting of any limitation to the period of the bounty, but such a limitation was insisted on by the Senate. The Commonwealth finances will not benefit by it, but it will bring the white growers into competition with the coloured growers. Furthermore, there is a sugar combination in Australia which can determine every morning what the selling price of sugar is to be, within the rate fixed by the duty. A grower of cane cannot dispose of it as a grower of wheat or other agricultural products can sell his crop. Sugar-cane is valueless unless it can be cut when ripe”, and there is a mill where it can be conveniently crushedMills cost from £50,000 upwards, and there must be a reasonably large crop to make the crushing payable. Afterwards, the sugar has to be sent to a refinery. Thus it will be seen that enormous capital is needed for the marketing of the product of the sugar-cane. The growers, and all interested, must know well in advance what the legislation governing their industry will be. I suggest to the Government that it is necessary to give the Commonwealth larger industrial powers for the protection of the growers of cane against the mill-owners, and for the protection of the mill-owners against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It may even be necessary to go further, to prevent the public from being fleeced by a monopoly. The cane-grower is not in an enviable position. We have tried to fix a minimum wage for those working in cane-fields, but the employers of white labour cannot be certain of obtaining a reasonable price for their cane. In some of the New South Wales districts they have not been getting fair prices, because they must take what the proprietors of the mills offer. These considerations all show the difficulties that exist. Our attempt to insure a fair wage for the white labour which cuts the cane has had a good effect up to a certain point, but further legislation will be necessary. I believe I am voicing the opinion of the great mass of the white sugar-growers, who have done so much to show the possibility of the white race cultivating the tropical regions of Australia, when I say that they desire fair and reasonable conditions of labour, and Protection both within Australia and without. On these grounds I think the Government would do well to introduce a Bill to extend the existing law for another three or five years, until we have time to give the matter further consideration. I have publicly stated that if the Commonwealth had full industrial powers - the power to prevent competition between coloured and white labour - I should not advocate an extension of the Act. But while the Commonwealth has not that power it will be absolutely impossible to prevent such unfair competition, and we can rest assured that if there is a large influx of coloured labour into the industry, people like the honorable member for Parkes, who object to the imposition of any Customs duty on sugar, will use, as a lever for the removal of the duty, the argument that they are protecting a black labour industry. We must do our best to prevent that, and to avoid the destruction of a great industry of which we are all proud. I see no prospect of full industrial powers being given to the Federal Parliament to prevent’ the employment of coloured labour on the canefields. When in office I was informed by competent authorities that we have no constitutional power now to do so. and it is, therefore, the bounden duty of this Parliament, until we get such power, to protect the white growers against any encroachment on the position that they at present occupy. I invite honorable members to view this matter carefully and seriously, and to recognise that the sugargrowers are not benefited one bit by the existence of the sugar Excise and the sugar bounty Acts. Speaking generally, they would like to see them wiped out, so long as they would not be brought into competition with coloured labour. But those who particularly want them wiped out are the people who wish to employ coloured labour, and at the same time to get the same amount of Tariff protection. The great mass of the white small holders, who have been fighting for the white labour principle, want protection against another influx of coloured labour, because they well know that if the Excise and Bounty Acts were wiped out the great bulk of the cheap coloured agricultural labour of Australia would migrate to the cane-fields. That would be disastrous, because the people of the Commonwealth would not tolerate the granting of high Customs duties to an industry which was largely carried on by coloured labour. Honorable members know the complaint that has been made regarding an industry in Melbourne which is largely controlled by an alien race. White labour has practically disappeared from it, and we all regret that it should be so. I have heard it stated that it is very difficult now to get journeymen cabinet-makers in Melbourne, because of the unfair competition of Asiatics in that industry.
– Why does not the honorable member get rid of these Asiatics? Why not turn them out altogether?
– From the very first time that I began to discuss the undesirableness of allowing Asiatics or Polynesians to come into Australia, I have held the view that in justice, we ought not to interfere with those who were previously allowed to enter freely.
– I would not give any of them civil rights.
– The great injustice that was done to Australia, and to them, was in many instances asking them to pay a penalty in order to come in, and treating them unfairly after they came in. That is totally repugnant to my sense of justice. The damage was done by letting them in, but we did the next best thing by stop- ping any further influx. I ask that protection be extended to the white growers of cane against the highly unfair coloured competition which may take place partially in 191 1, and completely after 1912. The Government may be able to make a statement to the House on the matter, and perhaps to take some action. I regret exceedingly that the time limit was put into our legislation. Dr. Maxwell, who was then the Government sugar expert in Queensland, said that that time limit had destroyed the prospects of the Queensland sugar industry. I immediately took exception to that statement as an exaggeration, and expressed the hope that the sugar-growers would not accept that gentleman’s view. The result has proved that I was right, and he was wrong, but the time is now drawing nigh when there must be apprehension in the minds of the sugar-growers. I should be glad if the Government could as early as possible indicate their views.
– I wish that the honorable member for Wide Bay had been good enough to give some intimation of his intention to bring this question forward. A member occupying his position who takes a serious view of any matter affecting a great national industry, and that sugar growing undoubtedly is, becomes entitled to be informed, as far as the Government are in a position to inform him at any particular moment, of the trend of their intentions.
– I did not think it was urgent, if the Government had not considered the matter.
– It is sometimes more difficult, when you have been considering a matter, to make a statement about it, than when it has escaped your attention. The honorable member appeared to express apprehensions of some reversal of the policy which this Parliament has consistently followed. At great expense we assisted the deportation of some nine or ten thousand of the kanakas who were growing sugar.
– Not so many.
– Speaking in round figures, the number is now approaching 10,000. The policy which this Parliament has constantly pursued despite financial burdens most disadvantageous to the Commonwealth - separating the Commonwealth for the time being from the States - was undertaken to give effect to the deliberate intention, of ‘.the great majority of this House, and, I think, of the vast majority of the people of Australia. I have seen no indication from any quarter of a desire or intention to reverse or vary that policy.
– But the Act reverses it.
– The Act was adopted by a previous Parliament that took equal care to provide for the future of the industry. It was never contemplated by the honorable member himself when our legislation was originally introduced that it should be permanent in its present form.
– Oh, yes.
– It was foreseen from the first that it must be adapted to the changing conditions of the industry. At the time it was introduced ours was an entirely novel policy - one which, so far as I am aware, had never been applied in any part of the world in the same manner and with the same intent.
– I said it should last until the last coloured man had disappeared.
– I do not know that our legislation or the continent need wait for the last coloured man. Even to comply with the honorable member’s most ample desire, it need not take the same form when dealing with the last coloured man as it did when affecting thousands at its inception. We took our first steps on an entirely untravelled road. I think the House may fairly congratulate itself upon the conspicuous success which has attended this policy in regard to its main object. Although we may have as a Commonwealth - distinguishing again the Commonwealth from the rest of Australia - paid dearly for it, in recent years there can be no doubt of the efficacy of the measures then adopted. At no time since that Act was passed has the question been allowed to . slumber. It was always present with us, pressing us on either the financial or the practical side. There are very few members in the House who have not at some time made themselves acquainted with the conditions governing this great industry in the two States in which at present it has reached large dimensions. We have personally associated ourselves in the closest manner with this interesting struggle to transfer to white labour, white machinery, and white control an industry in which coloured labour might have displaced some and, perhaps, all of them. Most of us have had the opportunity personally of witnessing the success of that policy. Like many others. 1 have myself conversed with those of our own race engaged in the actual operations of the cane-field, some of them newly arrived from the Mother Country, quite strange to our climate” and conditions, and others who had made it their highly successful calling year after year. The general tenor, in fact the summary, of their verdicts was that the industry was one that sacrificed in no respect their health or vigour, one which they were able to engage in with efficiency, and at the same time to maintain themselves in conditions at least equal to those of the south. There have, of course, been difficulties to be surmounted, but, so far as one could judge, they were being rapidly overcome years ago. Again, since this Government came into office the question has occupied attention. No Budget could be prepared under present conditions without a re-examination of the financial side of the problem. _ It has also been pressed forward from time to time by members who are particularly well informed and who ,directly represent the industry, several of whom sit ora this side of the House. In point of fact, the honorable member for Capricornia has for some time expressed a similar desire to that expressed by the honorable member for Wide Bay for a statement from the Government in regard to this policy. I was glad to observe that the honorable member for Wide Bay recognised that the question was many-sided and required to be approached from several points of view. He gave a summary which appeared to touch upon almost all, if not upon all, of its serious issues. This sugar problem is not merely a problem of cheapness of production, ‘area of cultivation, or even of the labour employed. Every commercial aspect of the industry, of the competition to which our Australian sugar is subjected, and of the conditions under which that sugar is sold upon the local market, comes under review. To most of those aspects the honorable member referred. They have been engaging, and must continue to engage the attention of this, and probably of successive Governments. Whatever may be the full effect of existing legislation, some of the problems which arise will not be settled even when the primary and all-important question of coloured labour has been absolutely disposed of. The consequence is that no one would wish to approach any further amendment of the existing Act, such as the honorable member for Wide Bay suggests, until we had satisfied ourselves by an exhaustive inquiry as to the best means of coping with several serious issues.
I fail to see, at this moment, why the time which must elapse before the expiration of the existing Act, should not be employed in that way. According to the honorable member, it appears that we have three years; I fancy we have rather more.
– No ; the bounty begins to decrease next year. That is an important factor.
– But the Act does not terminate until 1913. Consequently, we have three years before the Act finally expires, and twelve months ‘ before the amount paid begins to decrease. Complex as the subject is, I doubt whether it ought to occupy more than twelve months in this investigation.
– How long will it take the honorable gentleman to make ‘up his mind?
– The honorable gentleman should not forget that it takes a long time to get a crop.
– I am aware of that. As to making up our minds, they will require to be settled upon the scope of this Commission, so that, without overloading it, all essential matters may be dealt with in the clearest manner, and in the briefest time. No one has anything to gain by postponing the acquisition of that knowledge, or by postponing action. But, if we are to avoid the perpetual patching of our legislation, we should make it one of the chief objects of any investigation of the kind, to suggest means for dealing with it. finally.
– What knowledge does the honorable gentleman expect to get which we have not now ?
– If I might judge by the expressions of opinion of those most closely associated with the sugar industry, there are a great many questions on which we, require further information.
– Their demand is of the simplest kind - continue the bounty.
– That is a demand which will be granted by Parliament only if they make out a case justifying it, not merely as an expedient, but as the best expedient to meet the present situation. It might have been the best, and the only expedient possible, open to us at the time it was adopted. It might not now be the only expedient that can be suggested to relieve the Commonwealth of an undue financial burden. That burden is not essential to this problem, not even associated with it, but imposed upon us by the interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution, affecting the manner of settling accounts between the States and the Commonwealth. These have no more to do with this industry than with any other ; but they have made this an extremely costly experiment to the Commonwealth. One of the principal objects of any investigation should be an endeavour to find some means of dealing with the matter which would not involve the inequitable, though apparently legal distribution, at present imposed upon it. In reply to the honorable member for Coolgardie, let me say that if he followed the statement of the honorable member for Wide Bay, he must admit that the working conditions of the industry, and subsequently our market, require to toe examined. Although this may not involve a lengthy inquiry, it is a very serious one, and might have important results. I rose on the spur of the moment without an opportunity to refresh my memory, as I should like to have been able to do, in order to answer the honorable member« for Wide Bay.
– I did not make an3 charge. I merely asked for some inquiry.
– That is so ; but it was rather new ground, because, if I remember rightly, when the honorable gentleman occupied the position of head of the Government, he did not, in the official statement of his Government’s policy, dwell upon these difficulties, or make any proposal of this kind.
– I never made any statement on the subject. I was never allowed to make any statement.
– None at Gympie.
– I made a full statement at Bundaberg, and the principal sugar centres; which was published abroad.
– And also at the Hobart Conference.
– That was personal and financial only.
– The financial question was dealt with at Hobart ; I dealt with the industrial side of it in the sugar districts.
– And in the GovernorGeneral’s speech ?
– I made a full statement of the case in the sugar districts.
– -That statement was to the same effect as that which the honorable gentleman has now made as to the necessity of amending the Act at once.
– Or providing industrial powers protecting persons growing sugar with white labour against the competition of those employing coloured labour.
– That shows that the question .to be investigated is not as simple as some of the interjections made would appear to suggest. I rose to inform the honorable member for Wide Bay, as I think he was entitled to be informed, that, in common with every other Administration, we have been obliged ito consider the sugar question. It has been impressed upon us from many quarters that some provision should .be made before the present Act expires in consonance with the fulfilment and perpetuation of the policy deliberately adopted by this Parliament and the country. We have not been asked from any source to retrace our steps, or to undo what has been done ; but we have been asked to reconsider the adaptation of the legislation framed with the best intention, and with the best knowledge in our possession at the time, in the light of existing facts, the present situation, the new forms of the old problem, and new contingencies that have arisen. We’ seek an application of the same policy in a more economical, and, let us hope, a not less efficient shape. For, rich as Australia is, and great as are the possibilities of this country, amongst the industries now established, whether natural or domesticated, of great value to the whole country, most certainly that of tropical agriculture, of which sugar production must always continue to be one of the chief constituent parts, stands high. It is not merely of local interest to Queensland and the northern rivers of New South Wales. It is a question for the great sweep of our northern coasts, and the sub-tropical belt of Australia; If these lands are not to lie idle, but are to maintain a population, we must, so far. as we can, assist in their development by sub-tropical or tropical agriculture, in keeping with the conditions already established in the rest of the country.
– By white labour.
– Just so; by whitelabour.
– Can we hope for anexport trade?
– Within a reasonable time, it should be possible to export many products of tropical agriculture. Without pretending to be personally informed upon the subject, I do not see that Australian sugar, as at present produced, on the present scale, and at present prices, offers an opportunity of profitable export. This industry, which, so far as we are concerned, although its total production sometimes nearly reaches our present annual consumption, is yet only in its infancy, is not to be taken by itself, but as associated with other industries in the same zone, in which, by the help of modern machinery, and modern scientific methods, we can hope to find employment for white labour. Although the task is new, although it has its risks, and there may be those who entertain well-defined doubts, we have yet to find problems of this character which can defy the resources of modern science and civilization. The habitability of the tropics by a white race was at one time a matter of doubt. It is now ceasing to be a risk to health. Many of the productions of white labour to-day were a generation or so ago produced wholly by coloured labour. Science has not ceased its march, civilization has not won its last triumph. The- white race has not yet exhausted, by any means, it has hardly commenced, to avail itself of the full powers of research and invention wisely directed. At all events, whatever may be the result, in Australia we have absolutely no choice. If the northern parts of this country are Ito be peopled, as they should be, by those of our own blood and race, they can only be maintained there by a full development of tropical and sub-tropical ‘ agriculture. Our success so far in that direction is one of the most satisfactory achievements of this young community. The task we have commenced is one which it is not possible for us to relinquish, even if we so desired. No one desires to relinquish it, while any hope remains, justified by Our small experiment so far as it has gone, that we shall ultimately enable the great stretch of this vast continent which lies under the tropical sun to be utilized with profit to the people of this country, and to those engaged in the industries which can be developed there.
.- The delightful discourse to which the Prime Minister has treated the Committee has been enjoyed by us all ; but I do not know that the sugar-growers will get very much satisfaction from it. The honorable gentleman was asked what the Government intended to do with respect to the future of the sugar industry. He was reminded that it takes about two years to produce a crop, and that under the existing Act the sugar bounty is to be reduced by one-third in twelve months’ time. It is necessary, even from the point of view of those who disapprove of the payment of the bounty, that the Government should declare their policy in the matter. They should say whether they intend to continue the bounty, Excise, and import duty affecting sugar as at present.
– I said that we proposed to investigate each of those questions.
– It appears to be the practice of the present Government to dodge decisions in matters of difficulty by proposing investigations. I asked the Prime Minister what knowledge he expected to derive from the proposed investigation that we do not possess to-day ? We know all about the production of sugar ; what it costs to till the soil, plant the cane, and to bring the cane to the mill, and from the mill to the refinery. I have seen, in (the Sugar Journal, most elaborate calculations of tha cost.
– They are disputed.
– The calculations to which “ I refer cannot be very far out. The subject has been practically exhausted, and the Prime Minister can obtain from the proposed Commission little information of value, either to the House or to the Government.
– That is not what the sugar-growers say.
– Naturally, the sugargrowers say what , will suit their own interests ; but it cannot be gainsaid that everything relating to the cost of producing sugar is already known. The Government, therefore, have no excuse for deferring the announcement of its policy. This is not the time to discuss the bearing of the Excise and bounty and import duty on the sugar industry and on the public. At the same time, the incorrect statements so often made on this matter call for refutation. The representatives of other States may not be so wellacquainted with the operation of these duties as are honorable members from Queensland ; but they are no longer under the delusion that the planter provides, through the Excise, the money which he receives as bounty. The sugar-grower pays an Excise duty of £[4 per ton, and if he produces his sugar bv white labour, he obtains a return of 63 per ton in the way of bounty from the
Commonwealth Government. The idea has been sedulously disseminated amongst the people of Australia that the sugar-growers are really paying £1 per ton for the privilege of carrying on their industry.
– I do not think that that idea has been suggested.
– An enlightened and progressive newspaper published in this city deliberately printed a statement to that effect. It declared that the sugar-growers were the only section of the community obliged to pay for the privilege of carrying on an industry. And the statement has been repeated on the public platform in this city by a Queensland senator. The important fact is deliberately concealed that the import duty of £6 per ton creates an artificial value. Any newspaper desiring to furnish an honest statement of the position would begin with that admission. In other words, if there were no Customs duty, instead of sugar costing, roughly speaking, £20 per ton in Australia; it would be only £14 per ton. It is palpably dishonest to ignore the fact that, although the sugar-grower contributes to the revenue £3 per ton by way of Excise duty, the price of his commodity is enhanced, by reason of the Customs duty, to the extent of £6 per ton. The honorable member for Fawkner touched a vital point, which the Prime Minister, with great tact, avoided, when he asked what was to happen when the production of sugar in Australia overtook the local demand.
– It will be sent to South Africa, and sold there for less than the price at which it is offered in Australia.
– That is said to have occurred on one occasion. But if the honorable member for Fremantle expects our white grown sugar to be sold in South Africa or elsewhere in competition with sugar grown by black labour, then he seems to be meditating an exquisite joke.
– It was reported that that was done some time ago.
– A certain quantity of Australian sugar is used in the local manufacture of jams, preserved fruits, and confectionery, which are sent out of the Commonwealth, and a rebate is allowed. I have obtained from the Customs Department a variety of answers to questions as to the amount of the rebate granted, and each reply has been contradictory of the other. Some time having elapsed, I cannot recollect the details; but at the time, I discovered that the local exporter of jam, who paid a higher price for Australian sugar used in its manufacture, received a rebate of about three-fourths of the amount.
– I do not think that it is three-fourths.
– I cannot recall the exact figures ; but honorable members who are curious will find them recorded in the Hansard report of the discussion of the item when the Budget was under consideration about eighteen months ago. It cannot be denied that, under the present system, the price of sugar to the consumer is increased by £6 per ton, and that the Commonwealth loses £2 on every ton of sugar produced by white labour. It also loses an additional sum in respect of every ton of sugar used in the local manufacture of jams and confectionery exported from Australia. I have no desire to dwell upon this question; but I think that the Government might reasonably be expected to comply with the request of the honorable member for Wide Bay, and tell the House at an early date what they propose to do in regard to the industry. I have no animus against the sugar growers. Nothing would please me more than to see this industry flourishing on its merits. I regard the planters as the most successful Parliamentary tacticians in Australia. I am informed that in certain parts of Queensland our legislation has had the effect of trebling and in some cases quadrupling, the price of sugar-growing lands. A section of producers who can induce the Legislature to ignore the interests of the whole community and pass laws which materially enhance the price of their product and quadruple the value of their land, deserve to be congratulated.
– But is that an actual fact?
– I am credibly informed that the price of sugar lands in certain; parts of Queensland has trebled since the passing of this legislation ; and it is worthy of note that the representatives of the sugar districts are silent on the point.’
– I shall reply to the honorable member.
– In justice to the sugargrowers, the Government should announce at an early date whether or not the bounty! is to be continued. There is another matter also in respect to which information is desirable. I listened with mingled feelings to the announcement made by the
Treasurer in the course of his- Budget statement, that the Government proposed, by the issue of short-dated Treasury bonds, to raise £[1,200,000 to provide for works chiefly in connexion with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Although I am not able, and, indeed, am not called upon, to approve the policy of borrowing, I may be permitted to point out that many important works connected with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department await attention in the vast electorate which I represent. I understood that the Postmaster-General was prepared to provide for some of these works out of the money to be borrowed, and the Government should tell us whether or not they are going to persevere with their proposal to raise £[1,200,000. If the money is not borrowed, I presume that these works will not be carried out ; but we are certainly entitled to information on the subject. The Postmaster-General has been good enough to provide on the Estimates a sum of £[8,000 or £[9,000 for the construction of a very necessary telegraph line in Western Australia, as an alternative to a line which is constantly being blown down, with the result that people residing in a vast area are deprived of communication with the outside world. I trust that before this Bill is passed we shall have from the Government a statement as to whether they intend to raise this money ; and whether this telegraph line, the necessity and utility of which the Postmaster-General has recognised, is to be speedily constructed.
.- As the Prime Minister said, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the question of whether or not the sugar bounty is to be continued has been exercising the minds of representatives of the sugar growing districts for some time. The Committee will doubtless recollect that some six weeks ago I gave notice of my intention to move -
That in view of the complexity of the interests involved in the sugar industry, viz., the renner, the manufacturer, the grower, the wage-earner, and the consumer, and the questions of policy involved in the bonus and excise system, it is desirable that there shall be a thorough, impartial, and non-political inquiry into all matters relating to the industry.
Since then I have been constantly in communication with the Government on the subject.
– Is the honorable member’s motion on the notice-paper now ?
– No; I withdrew it in order to be able to speak on the subject in Committee of Supply, anticipating the re sumption by the Government of the time set apart for private members’ business. The interests involved in the sugar industry are so large that those concerned should know as soon as possible what legislation is to be passed concerning it. They know that the fate of the industry is in the hands of this Parliament, and that it is particularly affected by the white labour policy, which the Parliament and the country are determined to maintain. The legislation which was passed1 to bring about the production of sugar by white labour will lapse at the end of 1912, and all concerned in the sugar industry wish to know what will then happen. The honorable member for Coolgardie has twitted the Prime Minister with having expressed a desire for an inquiry. He ‘informed the House that he, and, he presumed, other honorable members, knew all about the industry. I represent a district in which sugar is grown, and have been in constant touch with those engaged in the industry. I assure the honorable member that, while he may know all about its details, the business is so complex that often those engaged in one branch do not know exactly the problems and difficulties confronting those engaged in other branches of the business.
– I said that we know enough to be able to legislate on the subject.
– That is a matter of opinion. One honorable member may feel that he knows enough, while others may feel that they do not. Some members are too much inclined to legislate without a thorough knowledge of the effect of such legislation on industry and trade. It has been too ready to make a shoe without considering where it may pinch. That is why I wish the Government to institute an inquiry. If such an inquiry is made, those connected with the industry will know that our legislation is framed with a full knowledge of their difficulties and the circumstances surrounding their industry. Only this morning, I drafted a series of questions, of which I have given notice, asking the Prime Minister for a declaration of the Government policy on this matter. It is curious, therefore, that the Leader of the Opposition should have raised the subject to-night. We both represent sugar-growing districts, and, although we differ regarding certain details, are always glad to work together in this matter. He put the case for the considera- tion of the continuance of the bounty very clearly. To say that the bounty and Excise provisions have made Australia white is to misrepresent the position. Although most of the kanakas have gone, there are far more Chinese, Hindoos, and other coloured persons in Australia than the largest number of kanakas that was ever here. If the differentiation on coloured labour is removed, these persons may flock on to the sugar-fields, especially in the north, and growers in the south, who may not be able to get such cheap labour, will be unable to compete. The honorable member for Wide Bay said that those who were against the bounty and Excise desired the employment of coloured labour, but that is not a fair statement of the position. No doubt, it was aimed at the bigger growers. But one of the things that is feared in the Bundaberg district, which I represent, is that the present legislation may be allowed to cease, and that then the growers there will have to compete directly with those in the north, who might employ coloured labour. They feel that it should be made impossible for growers to employ coloured labour. The abolition of the bounty and Excise is advocated by many, because the £1 which represents the difference between the bounty and the Excise is taken off the price paid for the cane, and that means a loss of 2s. per ton to the growers. Were the bounty and Excise to cease, the growers would get the full benefit of the £6 duty. The net Protection now given to the sugar industry is only £5 per ton. There is, however, some desire for the retention of the bounty and Excise, especially among the smaller growers. They cannot sell their cane as men sell butter or wheat in the open market. They must sell to the millers, and some of them feel that they are more or less in the hands of the latter, and therefore desire the retention of the bounty and Excise. There are many phases of this question, of which those who are not familiar with it are ignorant. I did not come prepared to deal with it to-night ; I intended to speak on it later. Involved in it is the question how far the Government is justified in intervening in industrial matters. That is an exceedingly large question, but it must be faced. I am not prepared to deal with it at the present time. But as the honorable member for Wide Bay brought up the matter, I felt it due to myself and to him to mention the fact that I have given notice of the questions to which I have referred. I did not wish it to be thought that I had, so to speak, jumped his claim.
.- I have been called to my feet mainly bythe final remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia. Had the honorable member for Wide Bay been speaking as Leader of the Opposition, I could understand the natural delicacy of the honorable member for Capricornia, about putting a question to the Government on this subject. But if I am in possession of my full faculties, the honorable member for Wide Bay was not representing the Opposition view. I have heard no really pertinacious attack on the sugarbounty except from the honorable member for Coolgardie, who has dealt with the question most ably and exhaustively. Times without number he has referred to what he is pleased to term the grave anomaly of the existing position. Although the honorable member for Wide Bay, in view of the result of the recent Queensland elections, may feel it necessary to say something on the question at this juncture, he does not expect to have it believed that he represents the views of his party on the question. In one remark which he let fall, I was able to gather a certain amount of hope for the Government. He expressed the opinion that the arrangement regarding the Excise and bounty should be more lasting. , In fact, he seemed to think that it should be made in perpetuity.
– What nonsense. That would be as bad as the Government proposal to put the agreement with the Premiers into the Constitution.
– That is what I am alluding to. While the honorable member for Wide Bay thinks that the sugar agreement should be in perpetuity, he objects to similar treatment of an agreement affecting all the functions of the States, and their financial relations with the Commonwealth. Surely this is illogical!
– It might be pointed out that, as we have loyally kept the sugar agreement, we mightbe trusted to keep the financial agreement.
– That fact shows that there is no reason for expressing the gravest fears regarding the continuance of the sugar agreement. I regret that the honorable member for Wide Bay spoilt the judicial character of his remarks by an attack on what he was pleased to terma monopoly seriously affecting the conduct and prospects of sugar growing in Queensland.
– It seriously interferes with the selling price of sugar.
– I am inclined to discount the efforts of my honorable friends in attacking the monopolies of Australia. A year or two ago, they took every occasion to abuse the tobacco monopoly. They, and that very able and veracious journal, the Bulletin, in season and out of season, attacked that hideous octopus, the Tobacco Trust. But the most able series of articles of the kind which I have read, which was being published in that paper, suddenly ceased, in order that the paper might put in a full-page advertisement from the Tobacco Trust, and incidentally drop its opposition. It would, of course, be most ungrateful for the paper to publish such an advertisement, and at the same time continue its criticism. For some reason, my honorable friends have, since then, seemed to forget that there is such a thing as a Tobacco Trust, and have brought all their artillery to bear upon the well-conducted institution known as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am not here to champion it, but I dare say, if honorable members looked into its affairs, they would find that it paid and treated its employes infinitely better than the Commonwealth treats its employes. At any rate, we do not have the same complaints from the employes of that company as we hear from the employes of the Government Departments.
– They are probably afraid to complain.
– No. I think the reason is that a certain part of the profits of the company is allotted to the permanent employes in the shape of shares. In other words, there has grown up in the company that system of co-partnership which seems the most sensible solution of the industrial problem, and which, therefore, meets with the most violent opposition of my honorable friends opposite. I should like the Postmaster- General to inquire, without delay, into the extraordinary time which it takes to get a reply from his Department. Tn fact, the same applies to all Government Departments. The usual course seems to be to have an immense number of printed forms ready, with the signature of the Deputy attached. These are sent out a few days, or weeks, after the receipt of a letter, to inform the correspondent that his communication has been received, and is being considered. After a few months, the Department is graciously pleased to let the correspondent know that the matter has received consideration, and, if he is very lucky, he is sometimes told that he will receive further information in due course. In any business firm, there is a clerk always ready to reply at once to communications. But under our Departmental methods it seems to be absolutely essential that correspondence should first go to one clerk, whose whole business is to deal out printed forms, and next to another clerk, whose business it is to inquire into the case. Why should we not get rid of the first clerk altogether, and deal direct with the second? It ought to be possible. It is possible in every private business of which I have any knowledge, and I think it would save money, time, and the credit of the Department. The present system of awarding stamp licences seems to rest upon no business basis. The Department al lows a stamp licence to be taken out, and pays the licensee a percentage of 5 per cent, om the sales. If it is worth the Department’s while to pay that commission to an agent, the more agents it gets the better it ought to be for business. But the Department, in its wisdom, seems to take quite a ‘different view. It appears to think that it pays it to have agents, but not to have as many as possible. I quite agree that it does not pay to have agents that enter into competition with the Department ; but if a shop which is willing to sell stamps keeps open after the post-office in the locality closes, it does not compete with the Department, but caters for an entirely different class of purchaser, and every effort it makes to sell its stamps must benefit the Department. I believe that if this question is looked into, as I hope it will be, many grave anomalies will be discovered. I know a large business house, which probably sells many pounds’ worth of stamps in the course of a week, which is next door to a great post-office, and which yet has a stamp licence. This means that that private firm is enabled to get stamps for its own use at nineteen-twentieths of what they cost the public, and also competes with the Government Department next door in the sale -of stamps, because it does not keep open a minute after the post-office closes. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, who previously graced this Department, assures me that some of the owners of these private offices waited upon him to complain that their privileges were being curtailed. I sincerely hope that no one will regard a stamp licence as a privilege. It should be purely a business arrangement between the Department and the persons concerned, and also a public convenience. The more public conveniences we have without a decrease of revenue, and the more agents there are for the sale of Government stamps, so long as they do not compete with the sale in the post-offices, the better it will be for the Department. I submit these few common-sense proposals for the earnest consideration of the PostmasterGeneral. I should not have spoken to-night, but for the modest demeanour of the honorable member for Capricornia. I am glad to be able to say a word on his behalf, because Queensland has no more earnest advocate than he. I am sometimes amused at the attitude of Queenslanders in the House. They seem to stick together like brethren. When the interests of Queensland are assailed, they are all to the fore, no matter what side of politics they are on; but- I will say for the honorable member for Capricornia that his advocacy of the needs of the sugar industry of Queensland is ever present, and is not most in evidence immediately after a general election in that State.
.- I trust the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay with, regard to the sugar industry will produce a definite statement from the Government of their intentions. If they do not intend to announce their policy in that regard to the House before this Parliament is dissolved, I hope they will set it out distinctly when preparing their policy speech for the electors, in order to let the sugar-growers know exactly what position they are to be placed in. When head of the Customs Department, I had an opportunity of going through the sugar-growing -parts of Queensland, and found that the whole of the big growers were in favour of wiping out the Excise and Bounty Acts, while all the small growers wished them to be retained. Every mill-owner in Queensland wanted that legislation to cease, and it struck me that, the bigger the man, the less he cared about it. It appeared to me, from the tone of all the deputations that waited on me, and I suppose I received from fifty to a hundred while I was there, that what they wanted was a £6 per ton import duty, with absolutely untrammelled conditions in the matter of the employment of workers. In fact, one man said that £1 a week and rations would be quiteenough to pay men in that industry for sixty hours per week. That was at Bundaberg, in the electorate of the honorable member for Capricornia. I replied that they could not expect a protection of £6 a ton, equal to about 50 per cent., and pay only £1 a week to their workers, because this Parliament gave Protection in order to insure that the workers obtained a fair deal. The High Court has ruled the Excise legislation to be ultra vires, and we are now promised an InterState Commission to deal with this industry, but it will be found that that Commission cannot deal with it, because practically the same conditions prevail in the two States concerned. Page 119 of the Budget Papers shows that the proportion of black labour is practically the same in each case, and if we allow the full payment of the Excise and bounty to terminate at the end of next year, while permitting the £6 per tori import duty to remain, the whole of the growers will revert to as much cheap coloured labour as they can get hold of. Every big mill-owner claimed that he should be allowed as much cheap labour as possible, and with that claim the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s representatives are in harmony. The Minister of External Affairs went through the district about twelve or eighteen months before me, and I am sure that he also found that the growers complained about the enforcement of wage conditions by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs. They said the industry could not afford to pay 4½d. per hour, and yet they ask us to protect it to the extent of £6 per ton. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, one of the biggest monopolies in the Commonwealth, showed their love for white labour about six months ago, when they started a small plantation on which to experiment with some new varieties of cane, by immediately withdrawing it from the whitelabour provisions, and cultivating it by black labour. They are taking every possible opportunity to employ black labour instead of white. The Budget Papers show that, although the number of coloured employes in the field is decreasing, the number in the factories is increasing. In 1905, only 500 coloured men were employed in the mills ; but last year there were 677,; an increase of 177 in four years; whereas in the production of the cane, on which bounty is paid, they have decreased in the same years from 8,452 to 2,642. Of course, the kanaka has practically gone, but the Japanese, the Assyrian, the Hindoo, and all sorts of other aliens, ‘are being employed on the tramways, and wherever else they can be worked without jeopardising the bounty.
– They, too, must decrease.
– It is strange that, so far from decreasing, their numbers are absolutely increasing. On the plantations as far north as Geraldton or Cairns, as many aliens as can be secured are employed, not in the fields, but on the tramways and in the mills.
– Is the increase in the number due to a natural increase in families ?
– No, the aliens employed are adults. If we are to deal with this question intelligently, we must take into consideration the conditions under which those engaged in the industry are employed. Although I am prepared to give absolute Protection for the development of an Australian industry, I should have to seriously consider whether it would be advisable to impose a duty of ,60 per ton, equal to about 50 per cent., Protection to this industry if those engaged in it continue to employ a great number of aliens, and to cut down the wages of white workers. Some-of those engaged in it said that it was impossible for them to pay 4½d. per hour, the wages specified as fair and reasonable by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro when he occupied the office of Minister of Trade and Customs. The planters have absolutely refused to meet the representatives of the white workers in conference to discuss a scale of wages. The workers in the industry have no legislative means of redress. There is no industrial Court to which they can take their* grievances. If they are to be remedied, it must be by this Parliament in connexion with the class of legislation to which I am referring. The honorable member for Fremantle interjected that the workers of Australia were obliged to pay £6 10s. per ton more for the sugar they consumed than they would pay but for the Protective duties imposed on the article.
– I said that they are pay: ing that in Western Australia.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company fixes the price all over the Commonwealth, -and they have fixed it at £5 10s. per ton higher than the price at which sugar can be purchased abroad. If the price goes up in Europe they put up the price here, and according to their balance-sheet they have one of the best monopolies that it is possible for a company to possess. Notwithstanding the assistance given them by the legislation of this Parliament, and the extent to which it has increased the value of their properties, they have done absolutely nothing to improve the white labour conditions in the industry. They will employ black labour wherever they can, and I believe they are prepared to give the preference to black labour. If the Government desire to protect the small men engaged in the industry they must make provision for the continuation of the existing legislation or some other legislation which will guarantee to them their fair proportion of the product of their labour. If the bounty is abolished, advantage of the position will be taken by the owners qf the big mills. Farmers must sell their cane to the nearest mill. There are two mills in the Cairns district, one, the Mulgrave mill, owned by the farmers themselves, but previously owned by the Government, and the other a Colonial Sugar Refining. Company’s mill. Two or three years ago the farmers who sold their cane to the private mill got 6s. per ton more than the growers got from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mill during the same season, the prices being about 14s. per ton at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mill and £1 per ton at the Mulgrave Central mill. A mill can take only a certain quantity of cane, and the cane produced by the farmer is valueless unless the, nearest mill will purchase it from him. There must be a thorough investigation into the whole matter, and the Government should let it be known as soon as possible whether they intend to continue this class of legislation or not. This afternoon I asked a question of the Attorney-General or the Minister of Home Affairs which they did not bother to answer. I ask whether under the law any body of men are at liberty to subscribe any amount of. money they please for the purpose of run- rung candidates at an election. If they are, the sooner we know it the better. If this kind of thing is permitted, the limit imposed by our electoral law upon the expenditure of a candidate will : be swept away. I trust that the Minister of Home Affairs will give an answer to my question.
– Ministers do not give legal opinions.
– I do not ask for a legal opinion; it is a question of the interpretation of the Act. I wish to know whether what I have described can be done under our electoral law.
– How do the Labour party spend their money?
– We have not any to spend ; I wish we had. If what I have described can be done, there is no limit to the bribery that may be indulged in. The section of the Act which I think is evaded by this practice is one dealing with bribery.
– I ask the honorable member not to dwell upon that matter.
– Some of the money covered by the resolution before the Committee is intended to meet the expenditure of the Electoral Department.
– That does not justify the honorable member in a detailed discussion of electoral matters.
– I have no desire to discuss them in detail. I wish merely to ask whether the Attorney-General or the Minister of Home Affairs will give an answer to the question I addressed to them this afternoon. If they intend to ignore that question, we must take other steps to secure a reply from them.
.- I was very pleased to hear the Prime Minister state that the Government intend to appoint a Committee to inquire into the condition of the sugar industry. I was for some time connected with the industry, chiefly in supplying money to pay wages. I should like to say that if the workers’ in the cane-fields sweated as hard as I had to do, in securing money from the bankers to pay their wages, they thoroughly earned their money. The great drawback to the industry in those days was the uncertainty of its future. We did not know when the Government of the day would close it up. The industry is again threatened with a similar state of affairs, and I was, therefore, very pleased to hear the statement made by the Prime Minister. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the Queensland sugar industry is a magnificent industry. There is no finer example of the development of tropical agriculture to be seen anywhere than is to be seen at Bundaberg, Mackay, Townsville, Ayr, and other places on the northern coast of Queensland. To close up the sugar industry of Queensland would be nothing short of a national calamity. A thorough investigation of its conditions should be made in order that we may learn how it can be maintained, and also how it may be possible to supply the other States with cheap sugar. A great many portions of Victoria and Tasmania would be put under cultivation for fruit if cheap sugar could be secured.
– Particularly small fruits.
– Yes, small fruit? suitable for canning. If we could get sugar at from £12 to £14 per ton, the price at which it could be imported free of duty, an immense impetus would be given to the fruit-growing industry in Australia.
– Cheap sugar would not necessarily follow its introduction free of duty.
– I do not think that what the honorable member suggests would be likely to take place, because sugar is so widely produced, and it might be imported in enormous quantities. I was informed the other day that in Java, which is close to Australia, sugar can be produced for £5 per ton.
– That statement can hardly be correct.
– It was made to me by a gentleman who has a thorough knowledge of the industry. He explained that labour could be secured in Java for sixpence a day ; but I think his statement must be slightly exaggerated.
– At that price it could be sold here duty paid at £11, and so capture the Australian market.
– My informant could not have referred to refined sugar, because at the price stated it could be profitably imported. I think, however, that we cannot expect to export Australian cane sugar. The Prime Minister pointed out that the limit of the operations of white men has not yet been reached, and that machinery may be invented which will enable us to produce very much more cheaply than we can at present; but I do not think that we can expect that we shallbe able to compete with other parts of the world in the production of sugar. The question is one which affects -a great part of Western Australia, because between Perth and Albany there is one of the finest fruitgrowing districts in the world. An immense quantity of fruit would, no doubt, be grown there if it could be canned, and that could only be done with the advantage of exceedingly cheap sugar. The honorable member for Wide Bay expressed a fear that if the bounty were abolished it would lead to a great influx of coloured labour to the sugar-growing districts.
– There is no doubt about that.
– With all respect to the honorable member, I have very great doubts about it. The 60,000 coloured people who are in the Commonwealth at the present time are remuneratively employed, for the most part, in market gardening, cooking and such occupations, in which they earn exceedingly good wages. In the circumstances, I think the honorable member’s fears are not justified. It is one of those matters that require to be thoroughly investigated. If there is to be a great influx of coloured labour - if we are going to return to the old state of affairs - then Australia will not be prepared to make the sacrifices which the honorable member indicated, and to pay a Customs duty of £6 per ton on sugar in order that an industry may be carried on by means of black labour. A case has certainly been made out for a thorough inquiry into the whole surroundings of the sugar industry.
– A case has been made out for the extension of the existing legislation so as to give the planters some security while that inquiry is being made.
– I agree with the honorable member. No industry can be carried on if it is to be threatened from year to year. Sugar cane has to be planted twelve months in advance.
– And in New South Wales two years ahead.
– There is a very strong feeling among residents of the southern States who have not been to Queensland, that we are paying too much to enable the sugar industry to be carried on by white labour.
– We have equally high duties to support other industries.
– I do not know- of any commodity so widely used as sugar is on which such a heavy duty is imposed.
– We have a duty of £14. per ton on jam.
– The honorable member will admit that jams are not likely to be imported to any extent. The Australian jam industry, in my opinion, would stand against the competition of the world.
– The jam manufacturers do not say so.
– We could not expect business men to give away their secrets.
– There is a duty of 250 per cent, on hats.
– I desire to confine my remarks to the sugar industry. This is essentially an Australian question concerning which the interests of the States are not entirely at one. It is to the interests of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania that sugar shall be as cheap as possible in order that the great fruit industry may be encouraged. On the other hand, it is to the interests of Queensland that the price of sugar should be as high as possible, so that the sugar industry may be artificially encouraged. These conflicting issues need to be reconciled in the interests of the people, and I am pleased to learn that the Prime Minister contemplates at an early date appointing a Commission to inquire into the question, so that the Parliament may be placed in possession of all the facts and have an intelligent grasp of the situation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering resolution of Supply adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Glynn do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest and passed through all its stages.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091007_reps_3_52/>.