3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chairat 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.HUGHES.- In the Argus report of our proceedings yesterday appears this passage, the Prime Minister being reported to have said -
Then they would have the advantage of the fact that the whole of the labour members were pledged to the hilt to an agreement for all time by the agreement arrived at by the Brisbane Conference. (Uproar.)
– It is absolutely incorrect.
– You have got their votes already.
– It is an untrue statement. (Disorder.)
– The member for West Sydney made the statement on the floor of the House.
– That does not make it true. (Uproar.)
– Mr. Hughes, Mr. Holman (leader of the party in New South Wales), and he thought Mr. Bowman (leader of the party in Queensland), had indorsed the statement.
The Prime Minister is under a misapprehension if he thinks that I, in this Chamber or elsewhere, have declared that the scheme of the Brisbane Conference provided for the embodiment of the financial arrangement in the Constitution.
– I understand that there is a consensus of opinion in the scientific world that, for the study of the sun with the best results, an Observatory in Australia is necessary. Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to place on the Estimates a sum to provide for the selection and acquisition of a site, and the commencement of an institution which is likely to give valuable scientific and practical results ?
– Such an institution in
Australia would complete the chain of solar observatories which is being established round the world, and it appears to me that the Commonwealth ought to do its share in this matter. I propose, therefore, to ask my honorable colleagues to place on the Estimates a sum sufficient for the maintenance of such an Observatory. If necessary, we may go further ; but it is desirable that in the first instance the wealthy men of Australia should have their attention called to the opportunity now presented them for the erection and equipment of an Observatory whose results would be valuable to the world at large, and, incidentally, to Australia. The Commonwealth Government would be prepared to maintain it for the sake of science and Australian meteorology.
– A New South Wales inspector, Mr. Perry, who is visiting Victoria, has declared that the Bungaree, Geelong, and some other districts are free from the potato blight. Does not the Prime Minister think that this declaration affords an opportunity for representing to the Government of New South Wales that potatoes from these districts should, on the production of a certificate to the effect that they are free from blight, be admitted into that Slate? The interests of the farmers of both New South Wales and Victoria are affected by the prohibition of the importation of potatoes from this State into the former, and I think that this is a stage at which the Commonwealth Government might be asked to intervene, to put an end to what is virtually a state of war.
– While happy to hear that the districts mentioned are free from potato blight, I do not think that that circumstance in itself would authorize Commonwealth action. We have indicated from time to time that if any opportunity to intervene presents itself, we shall be ready and willing to co-operate with the authorities of the States, and that, later, should there be no prospect of a settlement of the difficulty by taking advantage of the ordinary avenues of the law, it may become necessary for the Commonwealth Government to reconsider the Federal aspect of the question.
– Perhaps the Prime Minister will also interview members representing Victorian constituencies, to ascertain if they are willing that potatoes from clean districts in Tasmania shall be imported into this State.
– I do not claim any special knowledge in this matter, but if certain clearly defined districts can be proved clean, it will be contrary to the principle and policy of the Constitution to continue any hindrances to the free exchange of their produce.
– As the provision made in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the settlement of industrial disputes affecting the State railway and tramway employes, which, I understand, was supported by the Prime Minister in 1904, has been declared by the High Court to be unconstitutional, will the honorable gentleman take such steps as may be necessary to enable the people to vote for an amendment of the Constitution which will permit of the provision being validly re-enacted ?
– Owing, no doubt, to the fact that the honorable member was not at the time a member of this House, his statement regarding myself is incorrect. A Government of which I was the head left office because it refused to allow that provision to be inserted in the Bill. We pointed out clearly that the Constitution would not admit it, and an appeal to the High Court justified our position.
– The honorable gentleman has not answered my question. Is he agreeable now to allowing this matter to be referred to the people, so that they may vote for an amendment of the Constitution which will enable the State railway and tramway employés to be brought under the Act?
– I have not consulted my colleagues on the subject, but do not propose to submit at the coming election any referenda other than those now before us.
– As flat rate subscribers in Adelaide are paying£10 a year, while in the other capitals those who have a much wider range of communication are charged only£9, will the PostmasterGeneral alter the regulation to remove this imposition ?
– The Brisbane charge is only£6.
– The whole question of the revision of the telephone rates will be considered and decided as soon as the report of the Committee of Accountants who are inquiring into that branch of the Department has been received.
– I desire on behalf of the honorable member for Hume to ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to give the House during the present session an opportunity of further discussing the Order of the Day standing on the notice-paper in the honorable member’s name relating to Tariff anomalies and additional duties ?
– I doubt if it will be possible to take any private members’ business this session.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the notice of motion given by the honorable member for Wentworth a few days ago with regard to the sale of spirituous liquors at the Parliamentary bar can now be brought up for discussion, or whether, when notice was given of the motion, it was a foregone conclusion that it could not be dealt with this session ?
– Personally, I have no knowledge as to the possibilities of the session with regard to business.
asked the Postmaster. General, upon notice : -
Newcomer ‘ asks why the gum on the postage stamps is so poor? About one in ten adhere properly to the paper, the others peel off at the corners, and some will not stick at all. The yellow ones are not so bad, but the less said about their colour the better. The penny ones are constantly coming off the letters?”
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 3rd November, vide page 5286) :
Clause 3 -
The Constitution is altered by inserting after section ninety-four thereof, the following sections : - “ 94a. From and after the thirtieth day of
June, One thousand nine hundred and ten, sections ninety-three and ninety- four of this Constitution shall cease to have effect. “ 94b. From and after the first day of July,
One thousand nine hundred and ten, the Commonwealth shall pay to each State, by monthly instalments, or apply to the payment of interest on debts of the State taken over by the Commonwealth, an annual sum amounting to Twentyfive shillings per head of the number of the people of the State as ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth. “ 94c. - (1.) The Commonwealth shall, during the period of twenty-five years beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and ten, pay to the State of Western Australia, by monthly^ instalments, »n annual sum which in the first year shall be Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds and in each subsequent year shall be progressively diminished by the sum of Ten thousand pounds. “ (2.) One-half of the amount of the payments so made shall be debited to all the States (including the State of Western Australia) in proportion to the number of their people as ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth, and any sum so debited to a State may be deducted by the Commonwealth from any amounts payable to the State under the last preceding section or this section.”
Upon which Mr. Harper had moved by way of amendment -
That the word “ The “, line 1, be left out.
.- I do not intend to restate the reasons which I considered, when speaking on the motion for leave to introduce this Bill, justified me in objecting to its terms. I wish, if possible, to introduce further reasons why my opposition to it should be continued. You, Mr. Chairman, may have noticed yesterday that every member who spoke, if he did not exactly apologize to the Prime Minister for the stand which he took, at any rate either highly complimented the honorable gentleman^ or expressed deep reverence for the Constitution. To my mind, the speeches .were well prepared and well delivered, and contained a good deal of the ointment of conciliation. The Prime Minister, prior to his further defence of the Bill, paid the Committee the courtesy of saying that he had deeply and carefully considered the objections which had been urged to it, and, to do him only common justice, he did undertake to answer them. In the troublous times in England, when the executioner was very busy, and the axe was often, bloodstained, it was the custom.’ before an execution took place to apologize to the unfortunate victim, and in that regard history seems to be repeating itself here. The Prime Minister does not require any assurance of respect or reverence so far as his attitude in the matter is concerned. He openly stated that he went into the Premiers’ Conference as representing the Commonwealth with the intention, if possible, of coming to some agreement with the State Premiers. He stated with equal frankness that he had boldly departed from the lines of the programme, so far as regards finance, upon which the party of which he is now the leader came together some time ago. I have the strongest admiration for any
Prime Minister who will step out boldly, and while, as a member of the rank and file of the party, I dislike the idea of Liberalism being put in a straight-jacket, 1 am also opposed to those who desire to tie the- Prime Minister up tightly, in regard to matters of this kind. But when there is a call upon honorable members, to step out boldly and exercise a free and unbiased judgment, for the Prime Minister to urge that his party should be united means the absolute destruction of Parliament. I am willing to believe that the Prime Minister and his colleagues who attended the Conference were not only physically, but mentally exhausted by their labours. They say that they did their best in the common interests of Australia, and I do not question their word. Having regard to the short time within which the work of the Conference was completed, there can be no doubt that they were physically exhausted, and the effort to tyring into line the conflicting views of the members of the Conference must have led to their mental exhaustion. It occurred to me yesterday, when the Prime Minister referred to this fact that he desired to metaphysically exhaust this Chamber, for I never listened to closer subtleties than those in which he indulged. The Labour party say that this should be a non-party question, but it is significant that they are absolutely united with regard to it. In view of future contingencies, it is just as well that that fact should be mentioned at this stage. I believe that my attitude upon this question is well understood by the Labour party, but, in order that there may be no misapprehension, I desire to say that my attitude is not due to any desire on my part to placate the Political Labour forces of New South Wales. In the forthcoming battle they will justly do the best they can to oppose me, and I shall do as much as I can against them in my electorate. I am not seeking to throw a sop to the Labour party in order to free me from their opposition at the approaching general election, nor is my attitude dictated by motives of political convenience. On the contrary, it would be a very easy matter for an honorable member who desired to study only his own convenience to say, “ I agree that the Ministry have done their best in this matter, and, as the- agreement at which they have arrived is supported bv experienced men of the party, who have received credit in the past for an intimate knowledge of national finance, I shall vote with them.” That would be a most convenient attitude for an honorable member on this side of the House to take up, but one of the charms of the Liberal party is that the growth and development of Liberalism has been largely brought about by the exercise of individual responsibility. The honorable member for Mernda’s motion has been moved with the object of determining whether or not a limitation shall be attached to the agreement, and the Prime Minister says that if the agreement is not indorsed by the House as proposed by the Government, they will carry it to the country. I, for one, cannot go before my constituents, in a political sense, as a onearmed man. I feel that it is the duty of every honorable member to accept his own individual responsibility, and when I am appealing to the electors to once more repose confidence in me, I shall not shirk any problem with which I believe it is my duty to deal. I should regardmyself as a one-armed candidate if I did not urge the electors either to acceptor reject the proposal to embody this agreement in the Constitution. I shall ask them to reject it, and I refuse, for the sake of my own personal convenience as a member of this House, to barter away that whichI regard as one of the dearest privileges of a representative of the people. One of the greatest charms of life is the preservation of one’s personality. I join issue with many members of the Labour party, because I consider, rightly or wrongly, that, as members of that party, they lose their individuality.
– That is not so.
– That, at all events, is my view. I offer no apology for my attitude with regard to this agreement. I intend to discuss it upon a rational basis, and to endeavour to combat thereasons advanced yesterday by the Prime Minister in support of the position taken up by the Government. If those reasons are unanswerable, of course, no one has a right to continue to combat them ; but it is purely a matter of mental reflection. The honorable member for Parkes said that he thought so much of the Constitution that every time he met it, so to speak, he felt inclined to take off his hat to it. I have not that deep reverence for the Constitution that would lead me, when approaching it, to take off my boots, as an Oriental does when entering a mosque.
– Do not take them off.
– I should be glad if the honorable member who interjects would explain why he intends to support this Bill. The occasion is one for the utmost frankness; there is no room for political duplicity, or for excuses or apologies. The Prime Minister said that this was the gravest question with which the Parliament had to deal. If it is, that is an additional reason for displaying the utmost caution in dealing with it. I take it that the honorable gentleman, in speaking of the gravity of the question, had in mind what will be the effect of this agreement on future generations. Some years will probably elapse before its effects will be felt. Honorable members may say that by that time the people will have forgotten who was responsible for it ; but that is one reason why, in my opinion, we ought to plainly express our views with regard to it. It is a question of the gravest concern, not alone to the State politician, the State Premiers, the Prime Minister, or the Commonwealth Parliament, but to the electors of Australia; and that explains the hesitancy of honorable members in accepting the agreement. The Prime Minister did not go into the Conference with the powers of an embassy ; ifhe had done so, his party would have been bound to see him through. The House simply adjourned for a Conference between the honorable gentleman, as representing the Commonwealth, and the representatives of the States ; and he went there merely as a consultative authority to return to this House with the result. I can understand the Prime Minister giving his word to the Premiers that he would put up a most vigorous fight for the agreement, and do his utmost to persuade this Parliament to accept the arrangement. I can also understand” the Prime Minister’s desire to keep faith and to appear well before the public of Australia ; and I should be the last to endeavour to undermine him ; but his responsibility ceases when he has done his best in this Chamber. The honorable member for Mernda told us that he and others who are opposed to the arrangement have agreed upon a certain course. It may be because of my Philistine nature thatI am not one of those “ others “ ; but I do not require the honorable member for Mernda, the honorable member for Parkes, or any other godfather in this matter. If the honorable member for Mernda, and those associated with him, object to the word “ caucus “ I shall refer to their meeting as a symposium.
– It was a caucus all the s£un
– Well, I shall call it a symposium; and if honorable (members chose to attend it, it was their business. If ever there was a question that ought to be decided at the footlights it was this question, and the public have a right to know exactly what is the intention of their representative. lt is peculiar “that we should now be proposing to ask the people to take from us ‘ that very power which they gave us in the Constitution not ten years ago. There must ,be some reason for such a proposition ; and we have the same right as the Prime Minister to indulge in speculative theory on the point. The only explanation I can suggest is that the State Premiers, or a certain section of the community, fear something beyond the proposed financial arrangement ; and that fear, I take it, is that the Commonwealth system of government will become more and more unified. They are afraid of unification, and that they may be deprived of their powers and sovereignty. I am not a believer in unification, but that is no reason why I should close the door if the people desire to adopt such a policy. If the public desire to-morrow to place the whole of the political agencies of Australia under one Parliament, they have a perfect right to do so, and I have no right to use the machinery of this Parliament to prevent them. Again, however, as the Prime Minister has said, the common sense of the people will solve the question. The mere disturbance of the finances is not a sufficient reason for a State Premier to say that he will take the field against those honorable members who oppose the agreement. I have heard similar threats for several years ; and without desiring to reply in a spirit of braggadocio, I say that, if my right as a citizen, putting aside my freedom as a candidate, depends upon the sweet will and discretion of a State Premier, let him come and do what he may. I do not know what the effect of such a threat may foe on honorable members ; but, personally, if I had any hesitancy on the question before us, the mere fact that Mr. Wade, or any other Premier, had taken up such” a position, would rouse all of whatever Irish strain there may be in my composition. I do not intend to waste time by giving any answer to the State politicians who have enough to do to mind their own business. If the Labour party, headed by Mr. James McGowen, take a different view, it is no concern of mine, just as it is equally no concern of mine if the Federal Labour party either dislike or approve of the agreement. The Labour party have their own orbit and ideas, and sufficient manhood to assist them in placing the question before the electors. What does the proposed financial agreement really mean? The Commonwealth’s sole source of revenue is Customs and Excise, from which we realize 50s. per head. Up to the present, out of that 50s., there has been returned to the States 37s. 6d. per head, 12s. 6d. being reserved by the Commonwealth for governmental expenditure. It has been discovered that the demands of the services within the Constitution, will, at a very early date, require more than 12s. 6d. per head; and it is now proposed that the States, instead of receiving 37s. 6d., shall be paid 25s., the Commonwealth keeping a similar amount. When the Prime Minister was speaking yesterday, I said that, so long as we depended on the Customs and Excise revenue, he would, if in the near future more than 25s, per head were required, have to adopt one of two alternatives, the first of which was the levying of Customs and Excise taxation in the proportion of £2 to £1, whereas to-day it stands in the proportion of ^4 to £1 The objection to the Braddon provision is that to obtain £1 for the Commonwealth £4 has to be raised, but under the proposed arrangement, to obtain £1 £2 would have to be raised. Those who think that 50s. or more per capita - 25s. for the States, and 25s. or more for the Commonwealth - may well be raised by means of Customs and Excise duties are perhaps justified in voting for the agreement, but my view is that the return from the Tariff should become lower and lower. The masses of the community do not care whether the Commonwealth or the State authorities expend the revenue. Their concern is what they have to contribute. The average citizen would argue, “ If we shall have to contribute 50s. per capita to the revenue in any case, it is of little concern to me as a taxpayer whether the Prime Minister or his opponents win.” That is the pounds, shillings, and pence point of view. Yesterday the Prime Minister very cleverly and adroitly turned my interjection against me. We have in him a most subtle dialectician, a most experienced parliamentarian.
– How does it feel to have one’s leg pulled?
– The honorable member has not dared to express himself on this question.
– But I am going to vote on it.
– The honorable member has the right to vote as he thinks fit. I may not possess the literary finish of the Prime Minister, and my language may lack polish, but it does not lack frankness. I am dealing with this matter to the best of my ability. Let me now refer to. the sentimental point of view. The Prime Minister said yesterday that fifteen or sixteen years ago a handful of earnest men, all idealists, were preaching in the wilderness the Federal idea, not heeding the opposition of Premiers, Parliaments, and the press. We who to-day are opposing the agreement are also idealists. We object to the interference with the national supremacy. We may be Ishmaelites, but we have as much right as others to express our views. Were the Prime Minister speaking now, members of the Committee would be as dumb as possible. They would, figuratively speaking, listen to him on bended knees. The remarks of honorable members are disconcerting. If they must interject, I ask them in God’s name to get in front of me, so that I may deal with them. I have never appealed to the Chair for assistance, but I cannot help overhearing the remarks and taunts which have been uttered, andI wish for the opportunity to answer them. If those who are interjecting will sit in front of me, I shall be only too glad to reply to them. Let those who are going with the pack act as a pack, and get to their kennels. It is a difficult task to deal with a question in opposition to the popular feeling and party proposals.
– The honorable member is speaking better than most of those who have interjected.
– That is a matter of indifference to me. I speak as I think; not only as a member, but as a citizen, and in the interests of the class to which I belong.
– The honorable member for Darwin is pulling the honorable member’s leg.
– The honorable member for Dalley is not so gullible as the honorable member for Wakefield suggests. I am not to be made use of for party purposes. There are honorable members opposite who are using the amendment for the purposes of party warfare.
– No. We on this side are Nationalists.
– I care not whether the intentions of honorable members opposite are honorable or dishonorable, I shall proceed in my own way. I wish to see the returns from. Customs and Excise decrease. The Prime Minister said that it must not be forgotten that there are other sources of revenue besides the Tariff. That is so ; but has the party which sits on this side of the chamber ever evinced the slightest desire to draw upon them? For nine years they have remained untouched, and we can only guess the future by what we know of the present. We have power now to impose direct taxation, but would those who sit on this side of. the chamber resort to taxation if the agreement did not work out as they desire? No doubt the statement of the Prime Minister will have its effect on the people, but he cannot get us to believe that 70 per cent. of the Fusion party would vote for direct taxation. No doubt, they honestly believe that direct taxation should not be imposed by the Commonwealth. I differ from them, and therefore am not misled by the Prime Minister’s statement. Are not the Premiers desirous of getting the agreement embodied in the Constitution because they know that the Ministerial party is opposed to Commonwealth direct taxation? The Prime Minister has told us that the Premier of Queensland objects to fixing a period of twenty or twenty-five years, because that would bind the Commonwealth, and the honorable gentleman has stated that, if any limitation were made, the agency which imposed it could break it. We know, too, that the people can amend the Constitution. But the difficulties in the way of an amendment of the Constitution are almost insurmountable. Unfortunately, the Senate has become a party House, and has been so for manyyears. Any proposal for an amendment of the Constitution would be treated as a party question, and dealt with under the exercise of party authority. At the present time, party discipline is being used to bring about an amendment of the Constitution, but later it may be used to prevent an amendment. It cannot be supposed that after the States have been receiving 25s.per capita for years, they will be willing to accept a smaller sum, and, should a reduction be proposed, eighteen senators will be able to prevent it. Even if the seventy-five members of this House came back from the electors with a mandate to support an amendment of the Constitution, the representatives of. three States in the Senate could prevent the expression of the unanimous vote of the House of Representatives, and foil the will of the people. Thus the difficulties in the way of an amendment of the Constitution are to be found inside as well as outside. Parliament. The Prime Minister said yesterday that we should “ exercise all the prudence that we possess.” Was that merely a rhetorical phrase, or was it meant as a direction ? Is it a copy-book heading, or the advice of a statesman to the people of Australia? On which side does prudence lie - on that of the National Parliament taking control of its own finances, or on that of surrendering the control for the time being to the State Premiers? I could understand a referendum being taken as to whether the agreement should be fixed in the Constitution or whether there should be a time limit to it, and I am prepared to agree to the putting of that question to the people. That would mean getting at the people, not in the sense of taking them down or taking them in, but in the sense of giving them a chance to give a decision. I have no quarrel with the amount of 25s. per capita, because if it were agreed to we should have 25s. per capita of our own revenue to use for Commonwealth purposes, whereas now we have only 12s. 6d. per head. Twenty-five shillings per head would be more than ample for the immediate .needs of the Commonwealth, but it will not be ample in years to come. I agree with the Prime Minister that no man has a right to peer too far into the future. Perhaps a man has a right to peer into the future, but he has no right to insist on others taking the same view of the possibilities that he takes. The Prime Minister can no more make a reliable prophecy of what lies before us than can any other member of the House. Unlike Great Britain, where the Treasurer can foretell from year to year with almost mathematical accuracy the amount of revenue that he will receive, Australia, with its enormous area, its climatic changes, and, we trust, a probable inrush of population, presents possibilities in the near future which it is beyond the power of the average man to forecast. The
Minister of Defence, by interjection, yesterday, came into violent conflict with the Prime Minister’s arguments. The latter stated that in future years the Commonwealth might have more than enough revenue, and might desire to return some of it to the States ; but the Minister of Defence interjected shortly afterwards that in five years’ time the Commonwealth would have nothing to return. Both of them cannot be right. They are both honorable men, and well intentioned towards the public interests. They both went into and came out of the same Conference, and if two able minds like theirs differ over that matter, is it not reasonable to expect that other honorable members will differ if they express their honest opinions? It is all a matter of speculation. The Prime Minister asked us to exercise all the prudence we possess, but the most prudent course which we can follow when we enter into the arena of speculation, especially when dealing with public affairs and the interests of future generations, is to hesitate. Another fine phrase which the honorable gentleman used was, “ Let common sense guide your actions.” That sounds very well on the platform, but let us remember that the Prime Minister with his ability, and with most of the’ press organizations at his back, as they are in this matter, has a big start in the race. He is blest with certain talents, and commands phrases with which he can captivate the most hostile Australian audience on matters which they have not studied deeply, but I do not believe he could do it on this question when the people had been trained to understand it. This financial question is most difficult even to experts who have a talent for expressing themselves in public, but the case is different with those who are not blest with such powers. The public of Australia, when appealed to on this matter, will be faced with a question that is new to them. They could immediately understand arguments on a question which they had been accustomed to hear debated for years, such as the fiscal question, but in the case of the financial question there is a difficult task ahead of those who are in the land of the Philistines, and happen to differ for the time being from the Prime Minister and his colleagues, the State Premiers, and the bulk of the newspaper agencies of the Commonwealth. They would rather say, “It is not reasonable to take the voice of the people who have not been educated on this question. Let us rather take the voice of those men who, for years, have been trusted by the people to conduct their public affairs.” According to the press the Prime Minister, the right honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable member for North Sydney, and the honorable member for Mernda, all gentlemen of good repute as national financiers, have been for some days trying to get over the difficulty with which the Committee is now dealing. I should be the last to put the Ministry in a hole, but I do not consider that the ties of party’ loyalty or discipline come into this matter at all. If it were a question of general policy on which I could honestly fight with the Fusion party against the Labour party, no man would fight better or more willingly than I should, although I represent a Labour constituency. But I do not feel inclined to surrender my own views on a question of this magnitude, which affects the future beyond this or even the next Parliament. The Prime Minister advises us to be guided by the dictates of commonsense, but is common sense exemplified by adhering to the Prime Minister’s view of the matter? If we are bound to adopt the agreement for all time, what is the use of bringing it before Parliament, or debating it? I for one am not prepared, simply for party reasons, to depart from my convictions and record a vote for the agreement as it stands, [f ever a man was taking a difficult part, I am taking it at present. If I did not think that the decision of this Parliament on the question meant something, do honorable members think that I should take the trouble which I am now taking, or get “out of joint” with my own party? I am fighting for my children in this matter, and in fighting for them I am fighting for the children of the people whom I represent.
– To save them from civil war.
– I will not go so far as to say that. I do not know why the State Premiers are so concerned about embodying the agreement in the Constitution. Do they object to a time” limit because they will not trust us? Why should not the trust .be mutual? The Prime Minister will have no difficulty in getting Parliament to agree to the amount of 25s. -per capita, but the difficulty comes in with regard to the permanency of the arrangement. Another phrase used by the Prime Minister was that, “ There was no positiveness for the future,” in the proposal of the honorable member for Mernda. Neither is there in his own scheme, and therefore I cannot understand why he so ardently desires to embody it in the Constitution. According to him, that would be the highest security that this Parliament could give. But which is the higher security - the passing of an Act, or the mistrusting of ourselves by embodying the agreement in the Constitution? I think it is impudent of the State Premiers to ask a body of men who represent the same people as they do to give greater security than would be given by ordinary legislative action. The honorable member for Wide Bay pointed out yesterday that the Sugar Bounty compact was liable to be altered at the sweet will of Parliament, but that, up to the present, the arrangement come to had been respected, and Parliament was not likely to destroy it. As the honorable member said, surely Parliament can be trusted in this much more important matter. Are the State Premiers fighting for a shadow, or for something definite? They say they are stoutly opposed to a time limit ; but it should be remembered that the whole six of them were not in agreement until the last day of the Conference. Judging by their public utterances in their own Parliaments, some time before the Conference took place, not one of them was then in agreement with the other. They required a Conference to come to an agreement ; and we have yet to learn the real reason why they are so concerned about fixing the result in the Constitution. Is it that they fear the public will? Those who are opposing the permanency of the agreement are now told that they are thwarting the public will, and refusing to allow a referendum to be taken. I simply reverse the position. If we are doing any thwarting, we are thwarting only the public will of to-day ; but the State Premiers are thwarting the public will of years to come. I can understand the Prime Minister saying that he did not want the Premiers to release him, and if he believes in the principle of the agreement, let him fight for it to the bitter end; but I must say that it does not coincide with the views that he expressed in this Parliament prior to the previous Conference, and at that Conference itself. 1 can remember how, when he was leading his last Ministry, and was going with the honorable member for Hume to attend a Premiers’ Conference, he announced on the floor of this Chamber that he would not surrender any national power. If any man admired him, I did on that occasion, and it was no mere lip admiration. Times out of number, when the honorable member was Prime Minister and I was sitting in opposition to him, I not only spoke, but also voted for him. Of course, he has a right to change his opinions, but he has no right to demand that all his followers should change their opinions also. It may, of course, be a matter of mental equipment. The worst that can be said against me is that I have not the same mental elasticity that some others have. If my elasticity of mind was as great as that of- some of those I see around me, I should probably, appreciate the position better than I do; but it is because of that unfortunate weakness in my composition that I am unable to change my opinions so easily.
– The honorable member has Nationalism, ingrained in him.
– I do not say that. Isaac Disraeli, in his Curiosities of Literature, has a chapter on “ Political Nicknames,” in which he refers to the advantages sometimes derived by a party from encouraging the use of a by-name which serves to heat the public mind. But my experience is that too great an aptitude has been shown on both sides of the House to attach to their policies adjectives which they are not entitled to use. I take the view that the man in the street desires to get away from ornamental adjectives and to have a policy explained to him.’ in the plainest possible manner. I do not regard this problem as a highly complicated one; but my fear is that the constant use. of party adjectives and nicknames combined with press influence will confuse the people. There is not much trouble with regard to the allotment of this money, although I think a -per capita payment of 25s. per annum is a little too high. If I were to take a purely parochial view I could appeal to the electors of New South Wales to oppose this agreement on the ground that for a time at least it will rob New South Wales of £1,000,000 per annum. If a special appeal were made to the people of New South Wales against those who oppose this agreement, its opponents could say “ We resist the agreement because the financial adjustment for which it provides will mean a loss of ,£1,000,000 a year to our own people.” The Prime Minister said that- pounds, shillings and pence constitute a powerful weapon in an appeal to the public. I recognise that that is so. If a man lets the electors know that a certain proposal will touch their breeches pockets he will get more .attention from them than he is likely to secure in any other way. But this battle-cry of “pounds, shillings and pence” is in this case a double-edged weapon. It cuts both ways. If the Government appeal to the people on such lines, no stronger reply could be made than that the adoption of this agreement would mean the maintenance of a high level of ‘Customs taxation, and an utter inability on the part of the people to free themselves from it. Unfortunately the money raised by the Commonwealth by Customs and Excise taxation and returned to the States will not go back to the people; it will simply go into the State Treasuries. I can understand the desire of State Treasurers to obtain from the Commonwealth as much revenue as possible, and so to avoid the opprobrium which attaches to the imposition of taxation. My view is that the less taxation we have to impose the better. Why should the people be taxed more than is necessary? With economic administration, the public accounts can be balanced. I am not opposing . this agreement solely because of a desire to hit the wealthy or to strangle in a political sense any section of the community by extorting from them tribute which they have no right to yield. The Prime Minister tells us that we could amend the Constitution, . and any limitation with regard to this agreement. Why not insert in the Constitution that which can be most readily altered? Mr. Kidston says that we could not amend a provision limited in time until it had run its full term, but we’ know that we could. The State Treasurers wish to have their coffers well filled, and the Commonwealth is certainly not starving them. While the present Government remains in power there is no danger of the avenues of direct taxation being invaded by the Commonwealth. As the honorable member for Parkes pointed out last night, the States have many sources of revenue open to them. They, have paying railway and tramway systems. The power to impose direct taxation is held bv them, and they have still open to them the raising of revenue by land sales or. by the imposition of a land tax. I can well understand State Parliaments - who think that as the people gain more confidence in the National Parliament some of their functions will be invaded by us and a reduction of the membership of the State Legislatures insisted upon - supporting this agreement. There are too many members of Parliament in Australia. The country must be a marvellously rich one since it is not ruined by having to support six State Parliaments, six State Governments, the Commonwealth Parliament, and the Governor-General. It is a reasonable view that the State Parliaments favour this agreement being embodied in the Constitution for all time, because they desire to protect themselves as an agency of government. I am not suggesting anything dishonorable on their part. I am dealing with this question on the broadest possible lines, and in making these observations have in my mind no individual. I do not ask a State representative to applaud me or to cajole me. In this world, a man has to fight his own battles, and my attachment to the party on this side of the House is not a mere matter of policy. I am attached to it because a member of it is able to preserve his own personality, although I admit that at times he has to struggle a bit to do so. The Ministry are fighting for a big thing. They are fighting for Cabinet control, and more power to them if they can induce others to share their views in that regard. I do not blame them for the fight they are putting up; but I should blame myself if, as a representative of the people, I assisted them when I believed they were taking a wrong course. If they were battling only for their own supremacy, and their proposition would not affect the electors, I should perhaps be fighting for them as warmly as I am now fighting against them. The Prime Minister naturally desires to maintain his position as the leading man in the public affairs of the Commonwealth.
– At any price.
– That is his concern.
– I do not think that the honorable member ought to say that the Prime Minister is seeking to maintain his position at any price.
– Well, practically at any price.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
– The honorable member ought not to assent to such a wicked statement.
– I am not a child, fresh from a Sunday school ; if the honorable member for Corio thinks that I am, he is mistaken. The Government are fighting for the Kingdom of Dominance, and if they can induce the members of their army to respond to their call, well and good. I am endeavouring to explain whyI object to their proposition, and, although they may not believe it, occasions will probably arise when I shall be found fighting for them just as fiercely as I am now fighting against them. The Prime Minister has said that this is the gravest question that we have had to face, and we ought to deal with it in the gravest possible manner. It is said that some honorable members on this side of the House are surrendering their personal opinions to party allegiance. I shall not speculate as to that. I have my own opinions in regard to it, but have no more right to judge honorable members than they have to judge me. They are responsible only to their constituents, and, while I am courteous to them, I expect to receive courtesy in return. I wish once more to make it clear that in taking up this attitude I am not actuated by a desire to placate the Labour party. I have no wish to please them in the least degree. I ant taking this stand only in the public interests, and if I am viewing the national situation from the big end of the telescope, I think it is better that I should do so rather than view it from the small end. This is really a battle against, interference with nationalism, and every honorable member who votes to embody the agreement in the Constitution will surrender the power which this Parliamenthas. exercised with the approval of the people for nearly nine years. I decline to go on a public platform and say to the people, “ I ask you to take on your shoulders a responsibility that I am not prepared to shoulder myself.” I have no desire to see the Commonwealth starve the States. It is not my desire that they should be pinched, nor do I wish the States to pinch the Commonwealth. I am willing to vote for aper capita return of 25s. per annum, as proposed, although I do not think this agreement is the best that could be made. The States are getting the best of the bargain, but I am not going to fight in a huckstering spirit over a few shillings. The money that will be returned to the States will be used for the benefit of the same people, but it will be distributed through different agencies and employed for different purposes. I hope the States will use the money well. I view, however, with the greatest concern the proposal to embody this agreement in the Constitution, and so to make it almost unalterable. If that is not the position, why should we be asked to place the agreement in the Constitution? If it could be removed as easily as some of the State Premiers suggest, why are they not prepared to agree to its being embodied in an ordinary Statute? They know very well, however, that while certain party battles continue to take place, party supremacy must be obtained before it will be possible to remove this agreement from the Constitution. The party which proposes to ask the people to place this agreement in the Constitution is the very party that in years to come will refuse to consent to its removal. I would point out that in this matter the Leader of the Opposition is also in a very inconvenient position.
– I cheerfully take the risk.
– I think that the public like the man who takes a risk, even if he is wrong, better than the man who waits only to hear his regimental marching order.
Several Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Signs of approval are all very well, but we are told to “beware of the Greeks when they bring gifts.” Approval from honorable members opposite is no more attractive to me than dissent from my views on the part of honorable members on this side of the House is annoying to me. If I did not think the course I am taking is the right one, I should have no justification for persisting in it.
– It is a noble course !
– This is not a question of ideals ; we do not desire to paint the lily or gild a sovereign. I hope the proposal will be defeated, and if the Prime Minister thinks that a Conference is going to supersede Parliament, he has not appreciated the position; he has either over-estimated the loyalty of his followers, or under-estimated their perceptive powers. If a secret conclave is to supersede Parliament, the sooner we shut up Parliament the better. I cannot understand why we hear this talk about party discipline; because, as I said a few weeks ago, I have experienced or heard of no party strain, with the exception of that I have read of in the newspapers. If the Prime Minister does take the question to the country, I hope that all honorable members who vote for the agreement will be found advocating it on the platform, or, otherwise, it will be a case of fooling the electors. The honorable member for F ranklin says that every man who votes for the agreement ought to be prepared to take his coat off and fight in support of it ; and I am quite prepared to strongly oppose it at every stage. The Prime Minister said that he appreciated the disturbing influences in honorable members’ minds, and appreciated their reasons for opposing the agreement ; but, at the same time, the honorable gentleman concluded by saying that if the agreement were not accepted, he would take it to the country. That being so, it is as well to understand that if the question does go to the country, I shall oppose the agreement as strongly as I can. The Prime Minister, in his opening remarks, said he could conceive of two ballots - one in favour of the agreement and the other returning a candidate opposed to it ; but the concluding paragraph of his speech yesterday, if it meant anything, meant a call to arms. It may be a want of mental elasticity on my part, but I cannot appreciate such a position. If the Prime Minister’s object is merely to keep faith as a man of affairs, it is all right ; but he cannot ask his party, as a party, to come behind him. If this position had arisen after an election, the honorable gentleman would have been justified in going to any extent on party lines; but the public have not yet expressed an opinion.
– It is rather an anomaly that every speech delivered on the Ministerial side has been in opposition to the agreement. I agree with, at least, one portion of the speech of the honorable member for Dalley, when he said that this is a matter of such importance that every candidate, during the coming election, should be prepared to stand to the vote that he gives on this occasion. I cannot understand a member voting for an agreement here, and declining to support it when he has to advise his electors. On the other hand, I would be equally at a loss to understand the attitude of an honorable member who, on a test question, which may mean the life of the Government, voted against the agreement, and then, during the election, appeared as a supporter of the Government, and in opposition to the agreement, which will have to be dealt with in the new Parliament. Most honorable members have expressed an earnest desire to protect the electors from the disastrous effect of this agreement; but they shut their eyes to the fact that this
Parliament is not making any agreement - that the agreement signed by the Prime Minister can have no effect until the majority of the people have signified their approval of it through the ballot-box. It would have been very much fairer on the part of the honorable member for Mernda had he followed the example of the honororable member for Robertson, and printed in plain English the exact terms of the amendment for decision by the Committee.
-How could the honorable member have set out the amendment in full when he is only now moving to omit the word “The”?
Mr.McWILLIAMS. - The honorable member for Mernda, with the guile of an old politician, declined to put his proposal to the test on a straight issue.
– The honorable member for Mernda puts his amendment in the way he did out of consideration for the Government.
– If the honorable member for Parkes, who is so exceedingly anxious that honorable members should listen to his speeches, does not care to listen now, he can carry his writing elsewhere.
– I do not desire to listen to misrepresentation.
– If the honorable member does not care to listen, he can do what he often does - that is, absent himself from the chamber.
– Very clever !
– The honorable member should not be rude !
– The honorable member has no right to misrepresent.
– The motion of the honorable member for Mernda is of a distinctively drag-net character, in order to secure the vote of every man who objects to the agreement in any shape or form.
– Why should they not object, if they like?
– It would have been fairer if the honorable member for Mernda had followed the example of the honorable member for Robertson, and allowed his proposal to be decided on its merits. The whole speech of the honorable member was to the effect that he dreads there may be some combination in the future on the part of the smaller States to prevent a further alteration of the Constitution, once the proposed amendment is made.
– Does the honorable member not think that is likely ?
– No; I do not. I cannot understand honorable members who form part of the large representation of New South Wales and Victoria being scared out of their wits by the few members representing the other States.
– The Constitution is not altered here.
– Every amendment of the Constitution is made in the same way - there must be a majority of the people, and a majority of the States. If there is any fault, it applies to every referendum which could be taken under the Constitution.
– It is none the less a fault.
– But it is peculiar that in the State Parliament of New South Wales both parties are practically unanimous in supporting this agreement.
– Well, the leaders of both parties support the agreement.
– We do not like to be harsh ; but we know why they support it.
– I do not. I fail to see why there should be such a dread of trusting the people on this issue, as they have to be trusted on every other issue. Whether the amendment be rejected or not, the electors will have to decide the issue.
– But, if it be rejected here, the electors would decide the question by returning members.
– Under the proposal as laid before us, the electors of Australia may decide this issue altogether apart from party politics. If they be refused the opportunity, honorable members who support the amendment will have to accept full and complete responsibility for dragging the matter into the arena of party politics. The man who votes for the agreement to-day must of necessity take a similar stand at the election; and so with honorable members who opposeit. We heard a great deal last night about this being a friendly amendment. When the Government have distinctly stated that they mean to take the issue to the country, and make it a test question, there can be no friendliness in an amendment which may defeat a Government with the combined forces of those sitting in opposition. When the numbers go up, we shall see on whom the supporters of the amendment depend for their majority.
– The honorable member for Bass and another honorable member have said they will support the agreement.
– As to that, we may paraphrase the old lines, “It is all very well to dissemble your love, but why did you kick me downstairs?” I believe the solid vote of the direct Opposition will be given in support of the so-called friendly amendment. Honorable members may talk about the friendliness of the amendment ; but when that amendment depends on the support of the declared opponents of the Government, and may result in the defeat of the Government on a vital issue, I fail to see where the friendliness comes in.
– Does the honorable member think the Government will resign if the amendment be carried?
– I am not in the confidence of the Government, but the Prime Minister declared last night that if the amendment were carried the matter would be taken to the people.
– This is making it a party question.
– It is already a party question, so far as the Opposition is concerned. Every man on this side who has supported the amendment is a representative of one of the two larger States.
– The Committee is divided into Nationalists and Anti- Nationalists.
– Is national feeling to be found in two States only? Is it not national to ask the electors to say whether the money which they contribute to the revenue shall be paid in certain proportions into the Commonwealth and State Treasuries?
– All the State Righters are going to vote against the amendment, and all the Nationalists for it.
– When the numbers go up we shall see the combination for the amendment. The honorable member has applied to those on this side who are supporting it epithets which were not nearly as pleasant as “ Nationalists.”
– And I have heard the honorable member refer to the Prime Minister in terms other than those which he has used to-day.
– That is so. But in this instance, the position of the Prime Minister is exceedingly sound and logical. He wishes to leave this matter to the electors. Those who have made the referendum the first plank in their fighting plat form do not wish to apply it on this occasion, because they think that popular feeling is against them. They would not take the same stand were the referendum concerned with new Protection or some other proposal of which they think the people are in favour. Every question submitted to the people must be submitted as it is proposed to submit this question.
– Is the honorable member in favour of submitting to the people an alternative ?
– I wish to ask the people whether they are in favour of the agreement, which, in my opinion, is a fair one. The objection that it should not be embodied in the Constitution, because it may subsequently be difficult to alter, would apply to any proposed amendment of the Constitution.
– Has not the honorable member said that the States should receive 30s. per capita?
– I think that a fairer arrangement would be to pay the States 30s. per capita for a period of ten years, and afterwards 25s. per capita; but the present agreement is the best that could be made in the circumstances, and I shall, therefore, vote for it. There should be no misunderstanding on this question, and I am glad, therefore, that the differences have been narrowed down to one issue, and that the people will be asked to decide, either by referendum, or by an appeal at the elections, whether the agreement shall be ratified. Some honorable members seem to think that if the agreement were thrown under the table, Parliament could at once alter the Braddon provision. We shall have to return to the States three-fourths of our Customs and Excise revenue up to the end of 1910, and thereafter until an Act is passed making another arrangement. Do honorable members think that such an Act would be passed by a dying Parliament ?
– What is the Government proposal ?
– The Government wishes the people to say whether they are in favour of the agreement.
– Not the people, but a majority of certain States.
– In that interjection we havea fine expression of the national spirit ! Some honorable members seem to fear that the smaller States will be able to drive New South Wales and Victoria in tandem.
– They are afraid to trust the people.
– It would be most improper for a dying Parliament to deal with this matter. There should be no settlement of the question until the voice of the electors has been heard regarding it, and the issue now is : Shall the people of Australia be heard? I am ready to trust the electors. Those who vote for the amendment, whatever their professions may. be, are not willing to trust the electors. Whatever the decision to-day may be, the financial agreement will be an issue when we present ourselves for re-election.
.- The financial agreement between the Commonwealth Ministers and the Premiers has now been before the country for some time, and I do not think that the Government has been made very comfortable by the criticism which it has received. I do not think that the State Parliaments have shown any enthusiasm for the agreement, and the results of the Queensland election do not indicate that the public are particularly ready to support it. I do not assert that it was a prominent issue of the Queensland elections, but, as the PrimeMinister has contended that the public are strongly with him, I would remark that the support given to the Kidston party does not bear him out. There is no need for the repetition of second-reading speeches, but I have been anxiously awaiting a reply to the question, “ Why should the agreement be embodied in the Constitution? “ I desire to bear testimony to the courage of the Ministerial supporters who have put forward and declared their intention not to support the agreement. There may be others who would do likewise were they equally courageous, and the black looks of the Ministers support that view. The Ministerialists who favour the amendment are the strong men of the party, and their opinions on financial questions carry weight. From their attitude, and that of able press writers, I think that the country will not accept the agreement. The Prime Minister was a Federalist when the adoption of a draft Constitution was before the people, but, although he went into the Conference with the State Premiers as a Federalist, he came out as an advocate of State Rights, and to-day is fighting strongly for them. It is left for other members of his party to fight for Nationalism, for the interests of Federation as they conflict with those of the States. The Prime Minister has accused the Labour Party of having gone back on the Brisbane Conference. That is incorrect. We know what the attitude of the Brisbane Conference was, and our action has been consistent with it. They are acting consistently here. The Prime Minister stated that Mr. Bowman and other delegates at the Conference favoured an amendment of the Constitution in this direction, but the editor of the New South Wales Worker recently wrote to every delegate who attended the Conference to ascertain his views on the matter, and of all those who replied, only one had any idea that the financial arrangement suggested should go into the Constitution. Of course as the honorable member for South Sydney was out of Australia no reply could be obtained from him, but of the others thirty-one said “no” and only one said “yes.” Those who are interested in the matter can see the result of the inquiry in this week’s Worker. I do not know what authority the Prime Minister had for making that statement, but it is a weak case that has to be bolstered up by inaccuracies of that kind. . I and several other honorable members were present at the Conference, and such a thing was not proposed, or even thought about. The Labour party has always strongly opposed a continuation of the Braddon section. It was felt at the Brisbane Conference that some financial proposal should be adopted, and a subCommittee brought up a report embodying a scheme. Statements have been made in New South Wales regarding that scheme by Mr. McGowen and Mr. Holman, who were delegates, but let me quote what they said at the Conference when dealing with the report of the sub-Committee. No one can find a word in the report of the speeches delivered there which indicates that it was intended to embody the scheme in the Constitution. We all knew that that was not necessary, nor is it necessary, now. Mr. McGowen said -
They were face to face with practical difficulties, and in arriving at a solution they must have unity amongst themselves, for their opponents at the next election would no doubt try and make as much as possible out of a fight on Commonwealth and State finances. The Conference, however, should not assume that they were framing a scheme that would not receive criticism. It would be a mistake if they did. The first proposal in the scheme submitted laid it down that the States should continue to receive a share of the Federal revenue. That was a proposal upon which they could all agree, and kept the State and Federal Labour parties together fighting shoulder to shoulder for that principle. They could agree, too, on the proposal that the portion allotted to the Commonwealth must be sufficient to cover expenditure, and they would be in entire accord on old-age and invalid pensions applying throughout Aus. tralia, because all Labour men had believed in such a scheme applying without any restriction as to boundaries. As. to the proposal to grant £1 ,000,000 for the expanding necessities of the Commonwealth, it might be argued by some that it was unfair to build railways in one State and expect the other States to pay a share of the cost, but there was a limit to the amount available, and on a question of natural development -each State should be prepared to make some small sacrifice’ for the benefit of the community as a whole.
Mr. Holman, who moved the adoption of the sub-Committee’s report, stated in reply -
If members of the New South Wales party were to go into the House without some agreement having been arrived at they would be met with the statement that the Government were the only defenders of the country, and that Labour members were prepared to sacrifice everything to the insatiate maw of the Federation, or something to that effect. That kind of accusation should be met with a substantial answer. They should have something to stand upon and fight for, and this scheme would be in the nature of an authoritative pronouncement as to the principles they favoured, and it would form a “basis upon which to work until otherwise provided for.
In his last words, which I have just quoted, Mr. Holman recognised that the Arrangement was to be alterable. It is admitted that the per capita principle enabled the State Premiers and the representatives of the Commonwealth to arrive’ at an understanding as to the future division of the Customs and Excise revenue, and there is now no dispute regarding it. The whole question is whether 4he arrangement should go into the Constitution. The unanimity on all sides of he Chamber regarding the *per capita rate and the necessity of paying the States some share of the Customs and Excise revenue emphasizes the fact that the financial problem is not a party question.
– How many of the Labour party will vote on this side?
– Our attitude throughout regarding the financial question has been perfectly clear. To put such an agreement into the Constitution would be contrary to the decision of all our Conferences, and to all our history. We have always recognised that the Federal Parliament should retain control of its finances. To do anything .else is to take big and unnecessary risks. The Prime Minister could not answer that situation either in his address when introducing the Bill or in his speech yesterday. He could not show the slightest necessity for putting the agreement into the Constitution. It is not a question of the amount or of the length of time for which we could continue to pay the States 25s. per head. Whatever amount was decided upon could be embodied in either an agreement or an Act, preferably the latter, and that would stand until it was found to be injurious to either the Commonwealth or the States, or until an arrangement was arrived at for the transfer of the State debts to the Commonwealth. At all previous Premiers’ Conferences the State debts question was discussed, and various able and wellthoughtout schemes have been put forward for taking over the debts and separating State and Federal finance once and for all, which is the only, healthy and proper course to pursue. I consider that the scheme of the honorable member for Darwin was one of the best, but the Premiers, at their last Conference, jumped at the chance of adopting the per capita arrangement suggested by the Brisbane Labour Conference of 1908, and put forward the proposal now before us, of which the only part repugnant to us is the provision for its inclusion in the Constitution. When driven into a corner, the only answer which the Prime Minister could make to that objection was that the Constitution was alterable. On the one hand we are urged to include the agreement in the Constitution, so as to give the States a guarantee of permanency and finality in the matter. On the other hand, the Prime Minister now says the Constitution is easily altered. If the Constitution is so easily altered, as the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Franklin claim, where is the advantage or necessity for putting this provision into it? Honorable members know that it is not such a simple matter to alter the Constitution. If the Government get their way now, and the necessity afterwards arises for an alteration of the agreement, great difficulties may be met with. The size of the States varies, the question of finance is more important to some States than to others, there are only six States in’ all, and a proposed alteration might be defeated by the small States against the wish of the big States. With the Government behind it, and all the State Governments advocating it, the chances are that the people, not realizing the dangers which may arise in the future from the agreement, will carry it. What will be the position- a few years hence if it is thought advisable to alter it? We know what its effect is likely to be on the Tariff. If it is carried we cannot retain effective Protection, and we shall have either to resort to direct taxation or make up our revenue by increasing our indirect taxation. After considerable agitation, and a great stirring up of the people, Parliament might attempt to pass a Bill to alter the Constitution. What would happen then? An absolute majority would be required to pass the Bill through both Houses. Assuming that it secured the necessary votes in this Chamber, it would be sent to the Senate, which is the House that represents the States. There the representatives of the three smaller States might, in the interests of their States, vote against the Bill, and the 25s. per capita payment would be retained. If the three smaller States returned to the Senate men who were pledged to oppose any alteration of the Constitution in this respect, we should have eighteen out of the thirty-six senators voting against a referendum to the people to ‘provide for such an amendment, and as the Standing Orders of another place provide that in the case of the voting on any motion being equal, the question shall pass in the negative, the proposal for a referendum in such circumstances would be defeated. That is a point which those who have talked at random in regard to the principle of the referendum have overlooked. I am not suggesting that there might not be, in another place, men with sufficient courage to sacrifice themselves on what they believed to be the altar of their duty. There are, in the several parties in this Parliament, honorable members who would, I am sure, be prepared to do so; but, taking human nature as we find it - and there is a good deal of human nature amongst politicians, as amongst other people - the chances are that the majority would vote against a referendum. In that way, the three smaller States would be able to prevent a referendum being taken to provide for a repeal of this provision in the Constitution. But let us assume that, when such a proposal is submitted to the Senate, there are, among the representatives of the smaller States, some who were returned before this agreement was made, and who, notwithstanding the feeling in the States which they represent, have the courage to stand bv their own convictions. In that case, the Referendum Bill would be passed, and an appeal would be made to the people. What, then, would be the position? Let me refer by way of illustration to the last general election. On that occasion, the voting was as follows : - New South Wales, 381,336 ; Victoria, 381,185; Queensland, 124,539; South Australia, 70,539 ; Western Australia, 52,712 ; and Tasmania, 48,879. If the people of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland voted in the same numbers for a repeal of the section of the Constitution embodying this agreement, and were supported by a bare minority in the three smaller States, we should have 973,113 voting for the alteration, but the remaining 86,055, representing a majority in the three smaller States, could defeat their object. In other words, the vote of one man would be as good as the votes of eleven, and the 86,055. would win. The Prime Minister told us that the Federal voter and the State voter were one and the same. He talked of the elector taking money out of his right-hand pocket for the State, and out of his left-hand pocket for the Commonwealth, and indulged in a lot of nonsense of that kind, which, after all, is mere padding. The elector does not know what he really pays towards the cost of government. If he did, he would want to know sometimes how the money was spent. The Prime Minister spoke of the repeal of the agreement, as embodied in the Constitution, being remitted to the same people who had carried that provision, but he overlooked the fact that on a referendum of this kind the people would vote, not as individual units, but as collective entities. In these cases, there- is a referendum, not of the electors, but of the States. The people vote in groups, or States, and the difference between the various groups is so marked that the unfairness of the whole scheme must be patent to every one. In the circumstances, therefore, it is nonsense to talk about a referendum. What does the Prime Minister take us for when he puts such suggestions before us ? It would be far better for him to adhere to his airy nothings, rather than to make a statement which is an actual misrepresentation of the provisions of the Constitution under which we are working. To say that the Constitutional referendumin this case is all right is merely to throw dust in the eyes of the people. The probabilities are that if a question of this kind had to be submitted to the people, voting as individuals, we should not object to it ; but, as I have explained, that is not the position. To say that effect is given to the principle of “one vote, one value,” in connexion with a referendum for an amendment of the Constitution, is to misrepresent the actual facts. It is evident that the people of the smaller States, from considerations of self-interest, would be likely to vote against any repeal of the section of the Constitution in which this agreement was embodied. No case has been made out for inserting it in the Constitution. Only one delegate at the Brisbane Labour Conference entertained the idea that the scheme there propounded was to be embodied in the Constitution. As a matter of fact, it was nothing more than the outline of a scheme, and it was intended that if a Labour Government came into power, it should use it as the basis of a financial agreement with the States. I have shown by a quotation from a speech made by Mr. Holman that he recognised that it was only a tentative proposal, and was not to be embodied in the Constitution. A proposal that it should be placed in the Constitution would have been scouted. We are asked to allow this agreement to be placed in the Constitution in order really that the hands of the Commonwealth may be tied. It is saddening to find, as the period fixed for the operation of the Braddon section is expiring, that we have lost the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and have discovered a new State representative. The Treasurer has put up a pretty big fight on this question, but it is to be regretted that he and other members of the Government should have failed at the Conference to correctly represent the views of their party ; that they should have departed from the agreement on which they fused.
– We are fairly well united.
– If cracking the whip and looking what the Scotchman calls “ dour” at those who show an inclination to stray from the fold will keep the party united, then there need be no fear. I notice that some of the occupants of the Treasury bench cast very dour looks at those of their supporters who, like the honorable member for Mernda, are prepared to take up an independent attitude. As for the honorable member for Parkes, he has always been independent, and cares for no one. It is hard for an honorable member to have to do anything contrary to the wish of the Government which he is supporting, and Ministerialists who have opposed this agreement deserve credit for their action. No member of the Cabinet has yet stood up for the national interests. The Cabinet, indeed, are prepared to sacrifice them, and the Ministerialists who have stood by the platform on which they fused, and have declined to allow it to be sacrificed in the way proposed by the Government, are entitled to the greatest credit. There is great danger to be feared from placing this agreement in the Constitution. We can give the States what they want without amending the Constitution. No one has objected to the amount proposed to be returned to the States. The fight centres round the proposal to embody this agreement in the Constitution.
– The honorable member is afraid to trust the people.
– I have just shown that the will of the people cannot be carried out : that a small minority can upset the will of the majority, and that the referendum does not represent an equal voting power. In small communities there is greater liability to the influence of self-interest, and hence we have here presented a special danger. Had there been one vote one value, it would have ‘been a different matter.
– Four States will have to vote for the agreement.
– To put the agreement’ in the Constitution is easy ; it is the getting it out of the Constitution that presents the difficulty ; and there is no need to have it in the Constitution at all, as has been shown by the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Mernda. It would be most disastrous to have conflict between the large States and the small States - conflict in which the large States would be utterly helpless. What Constitutional step could the big States take? Would they have to send missionaries to persuade the small States? I am in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for Mernda, and I am glad he has been able to arrange for a test vote. The longer the question is debated, the more I am convinced of the great dangers of the Government proposal. As to the Labour party at the Brisbane Conference, they gave no consideration to the question of a Constitutional change, because there was no need to do so. The arguments of the Opposition have never been answered by the Government ; and, in my opinion, it is clear that an arrangement for a considerable number of years that would be satisfactory to all concerned, could be entered into. It is assumed by some that the Commonwealth and the States are antagonistic, but, as a matter of fact, the Commonwealth has throughout been too considerate to the States, so that there is no ground at all for the demand for a guarantee. The view taken by the Premier of New South Wales is rather amusing. I do not know how many hundred years it would take to pay all the principal and interest of the public debts, but Mr. Wade holds that, even when that has been done, the States can still, under this agreement, demand the 25s. per head. It is good to have farseeing men at the head of affairs; but the responsibility rests with us to protect the financial interests of the Commonwealth. If we bind ourselves under the Constitution, we shall see the destruction of the good feeling which prevails at the present time. The people are loyal to the Federation and our legislation has generally been popular, and it would be a pity to destroy that harmony by adopting the proposal of the Government.
.- Itis very amusing to listen to some of the reasons advanced by honorable members opposite for opposing the clause, especially when we know that there are members of the Labour party who approve of the agreement, and believe that it ought to be embodied in the Constitution. While honorable members opposite disclaim that their attitude has any party significance, we still find them voting as a solid party against the agreement.
– Which members of the Labour party are in favour of the agreement ?
-I dare say the honorable member could tell us if he chose to do so; but I have not mentioned names, and I am not going to repeat personal conversations. It will be found, however, that honorable members opposite will vote on this question as a party.
– That test acts two ways.
– Quite so; but the position has been forced upon us by the tactics of the Opposition, and it devolves on honorable members on this side, some of whom might, perhaps, prefer a different kind of agreement, to recognise the situation - to recognise that this will be made a party question by the Opposition.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I shall be a prophet in this case, and ask the Chairman to watch and see if my words do not come true. Honorable members opposite declare that this is not a party question, and their object is to persuade some honorable members on this side to vote against the Government. Let us note how many of the non-party Opposition will vote on the Government side. I venture to predict not one. Any one with political experience, and knowledge of the methods adopted by this, and, of course, by other Oppositions, can see that the intention is to, if possible, play on the credulity of two or three honorable members on this side; but I am not quite sure that the tactics adopted will have the result anticipated. We all know how easy it is for the honorable member for Darling to argue from two sides of a question, apparently, with equal sincerity - to advance arguments diametrically opposed to each other. That is a habit the honorable member has contracted as a result, I suppose, of long experience in addressing different sections of the people having opposite opinions with which he did not desire to appear in conflict. He is one of those fortunate individuals, who, possessing a calm, placid exterior and a mental quietude which nothing can disturb, is able to pursue a serene course of argument quite irrespective of interjections, and to persuade himself that something is true which on another occasion he would be just as ready and able to persuade himself was quite untrue.
– I cannot approach the honorable member in that respect.
– However, notwithstanding these little peculiarities, we all have a great affection for the honorable member. He has urged that it is not proper to refer this matter to the people, although the referendum is a vital plank of the Labour platform, which the party advocate in season and out of season on almost every conceivable question. Scarcely a day passes without the Prime Minister being questioned as to whether he will take a referendum on some proposal, which is either before the House or which the Labour party desire to introduce. We have now a proposal to give the people the opportunity to say whether or no they approve of the agreement made with the Premiers ; and yet we have the extraordinary spectacle of honorable members opposite opposing the referendum which is a vital plank of their own platform. Wa have been told that the vote of the people is to be taken in sections, but I ask how otherwise could it be taken. Was that objection made to the proposal to refer to the electors the question of the postponement of the Senate elections ? The referendum now proposed will be taken on exactly the same lines which the Labour party then cordially approved, and it is mere humbug to say that it will not be a referendum. How could all the electors of the Commonwealth be brought into one State to vote? But every vote will have the same value, no matter where it is cast, and no elector will be able to give more than one vote. The electors will vote on this question on the same franchise that they vote for candidates for either House of this Parliament. . To say that this is not a referendum is to talk the rankest nonsense. In no other way could a referendum be taken. The argument of honorable members opposite seems to be that if the State boundaries did not exist it would be a referendum, but that as State boundaries are in existence it is not. Could a more foolish argument be conceived? Even were their contention correct, it is extraordinary that the objection was not taken in regard to the last referendum. The intention of the Brisbane Conference, no matter what may be said to the contrary, was that the financial arrangement should be embodied in the Constitution. Although they claim to be such out-and-out Democrats, as a party they have always been afraid to trust the people. It is the Liberal party which has trusted, and will continue to trust, the people. The Labour party trusts only a small section of the people, which, I suppose, is only natural, seeing that it represents a minority. I do not regard the agreement as perfect, especially bearing in mind the commitments of the Commonwealth. I should like to see an arrangement come to which, whilst insuring the solvency of the States, would be sufficiently elastic to enable us to regulate our expenditure and income in accordance with our needs, without any further amendment of the Constitution in future, or recourse to additional taxation.
– That is what the amendment aims at.
– Yes ; but this is an agreement which we have not the power to alter without the prior concurrence of the State Premiers. If this were not a party question-
– The Prime Minister says that it is not.
– The attitude of the Opposition has made it a party question, and, therefore, compromise is extremely difficult, if not impossible. We know that the Opposition wishes to detach support from the Government, to defeat its proposals, and to send the Ministerialists to the country as a disunited party.
– Very good strategy.
– The honorable member for Lang admits that his party is causing him to vote against his convictions.
– The honorable member, as usual, is mistaken, and I am afraid that he knows that what he states is not in accordance with facts. There is no question of convictions in this case, but merely of opinion which may or may not be a correct one. There has been no cracking of the whip on this side, and no attempt to interfere with the exercise of personal judgment in regard to the matter before the Committee. Ministerialists are free to vote as their opinions dictate. That is evidenced by the speeches which we have had. Divergent views have been expressed, and, no doubt, members of the party will vote differently.
– What about the threats of the Prime Minister yesterday?
– I do not think that he made any. I did not hear him do so. No attempt has been made by him, by any other Minister, or by any other honorable member on this side of the Chamber, to prevent Ministerialists from speaking and voting as they think fit in regard to this question. The subject has been discussed amongst honorable members, but that is right and proper. It is only by such discussion that questions can be thoroughly understood, and their practical effect accurately gauged. In my opinion, the Premiers would have been well advised had they accepted an arrangement limiting the duration of the agreement.
– Then why not vote for the amendment?
– The honorable member dares not vote as he feels.
– The honorable member knows that that is not so.
– I ask the honorable member for Adelaide not to interject.
– I am distressed because the honorable member for Lang intends to vote against his convictions.
– I shall not do so. That interjection is merely intended to mislead and to misrepresent my position. No doubt the Opposition always feels distressed when Ministerialists vote contrary to its wishes. I have felt distressed under like circumstances. On more than one occasion, the honorable member for Maranoa, and others, after speaking in support of views held by members of the party to which I belonged, and taking his place in the division to vote with it, changed his mind at the last moment, and, crossing the Chamber, voted for what he had denounced in the strongest terms. The Premiers would have been well advised had they agreed to a limitation of the duration of the arrangement to fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years. That would have given the agreement even greater stability, because were an attempt made to secure an amendment of the Constitution before the expiration of the period fixed, the States would have had the right to object that the agreement was fixed for a definite term. As it is, they will be exposed to the risk of a referendum for an alteration of the agreement at any time. Although the agreement is now proposed to be in perpetuity, it may be that in five, seven, or ten years’ time the needs of the Commonwealth will require further financial consideration. This may prompt a proposal for another referendum, and such a strong case may be made out for altering the terms of the agreement that there will be a risk of the agreement being interfered with. In that case, it might not last as long as it would have lasted had a fixed period been agreed to. I am sorry the Premiers did not see their way to fall in with the suggestion for a fixed period, because it would have meant absolute unanimity on this side. But while I hold that view, and would have preferred a more elastic basis of agreement, I shall not help the Labour Socialists to dishonour the compact made with the States at the recent Premiers’ Conference. Under existing conditions, I rather favour the limitation of the spending powers of the Commonwealth, for the next few years at any rate. If we have an overflowing Treasury, and, perhaps, a Labour Government in office, they will have a very strong temptation, with the means of gratifying it always at hand, to try to materialize some of their Socialistic nation alization proposals, all trending in the direction of unification and the curtailment of State Rights. I want the rights of the States, as well as those of the Commonwealth, to be preserved, under their separate Constitutions, as far as possible intact. I have always resisted, and will continue to resist, any attempt to unduly interfere with State Rights. Unification may come some day, but if it does, it must come fairly and honestly, and not be sneaked in by an underhand process of crippling State finances. Statements regarding the permanency of the proposals of the Brisbane Labour Conference have been denied by honorable members opposite. Yet, during the Budget debate, some of those honorable members declared that the Government had stolen the Labour party’s clothes, and adopted the proposals of the Brisbane Conference. They claimed credit then for the Government’s scheme, and this denial of the resemblance between the two schemes is a development which has arisen only in the last week or two, and ‘represents an entire volte face on the part of leading members of the Labour party. The honorable member for West Sydney, in an article which he publishes weekly in the Daily Telegraph on “ The Case for Labour,” has referred to the attitude of the leaders of the State Labour party towards this question. They declare that it was intended at the Brisbane Conference that the Labour party’s proposal should be for all time. They did not say that it was intended to put it in the Constitution ; but how else could it have been for all time? Honorable members opposite must know that no permanency could be given to the scheme unless it were put in the Constitution. It is all very well to say that this Parliament could by an Act ratify the agreement. So it could, but the next Parliament could alter what this Parliament did. If it were merely an Act passed by this Parliament, it would have no guarantee of permanency, even during the life of this Parliament. Any Government hostile to the proposal could, on coming into power with a majority, repeal the Act.
– How is it that we have not repealed the Sugar Bounty Act?
– We have the power to repeal that Act, if the majority show a desire to do it. It does not follow, because a certain thing has not been done, that it will not be done. So in the case of this agreement. If the present Government were defeated, and a Labour Government came into power with a majority and the will to repeal it, they could repeal it, even during the lifetime of this Parliament. Honorable members opposite were not born yesterday, even politically, and the argument that the Brisbane Conference did not intend their scheme to be embodied in the Constitution, which has been put forward to-day with bland and child-like simplicity, will not carry conviction to any one who understands the practical side of politics. It is clear that when that scheme was adopted by the Brisbane Conference, the underlying idea was that there should be an amendment of the Constitution to secure that permanency which the delegates who represented the States say was intended.
– Or an honorable bargain equal to an amendment of the Constitution - one or the other.
– We have had some experience of honorable bargains that have been broken. When the Labour party came into power, an honorable bargain entered into by their predecessors in office regarding certain trust funds was immediately broken. We cannot, therefore, place any reliance upon honorable bargains, at any rate, when certain people come into power. The weight of evidence is certainly in favour of the contention of the Leaders of the State Labour parties that the Federal Labour party are now taking up an attitude antagonistic to the resolutions of the Brisbane Conference. Mr. Bowman, the Leader of the Queensland Labour party, stated in the Queensland _ Parliament, on 24th August last -
We have been told this afternoon by the Premier that the slightest mistake at that Conference might have created disharmony foi years between the States and the Commonwealth. The agreement the Conference came to is largely based on the scheme that was laid down by the Labour party last year.
Labour members. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Bowman’s statements were, therefore, indorsed by the members of his party. He went on to say -
When the honorable gentleman went to Tasmania some twelve months ago he ridiculed the Labour party, and he has ridiculed the Labour party’s scheme on the floor of this House, both last session and this session, and yet, with very little alteration, the scheme drawn up by the Labour Convention of 1507 is the scheme adopted by the Premiers’ Conference.
That declaration could scarcely be more emphatic. It claims that the scheme proposed by the Prime Minister, in Con ference with the State Premiers, and embodied in the present agreement, is similar, with very ‘ slight alteration, to the proposals adopted at the Brisbane Conference - proposals which the Leaders of the Labour party in the States say were intended to last for all time. That has been denied by the honorable member for West Sydney, among others. He denied it on the floor of the House this afternoon, he denied it a few days ago, and he has denied it in the public press; but he evidently has forgotten that he had just as emphatically affirmed, only a few weeks ago, what he now denies. Last Saturday, in the course of an article in the Daily Telegraph, he said -
Now, what the Brisbane Conference decided was a basis for a -per capita allowance, and it did no more than that. I say, most emphatically, that it did not contemplate a recourse to a constitutional amendment, because it was a Conference of men belonging to a movement whose chief aim has always been to enable the people freely to govern themselves. If delegates representing the movement had contemplated such a complete departure from their principles as is involved in a recourse to a constitutional amendment, they would have said so in plain terms. They did not say so; it is incredible that they intended it.
That is a very definite statement; but it entirely contradicts the honorable member’s own statement made on the floor of this chamber, when speaking on the Budget on the 1 2th August last. According to Hansard, page 2430, he said, when claiming that the Deakin Government had stolen the Fisher Government’s clothes -
And whatever may be the shortcomings of the Brisbane scheme, it had, at least, the merit of practicability. It was not merely a temporary expedient for the next year or two, but a settlement for all time.
That is his own absolute declaration, notwithstanding all that he Was said and written since. How does he reconcile such contradictory statements? How were the Labour party going to get that “ settlement for all time “? Is it not absolutely clear that it could only be obtained by an amendment of the Constitution? Yet, I venture to predict that the honorable member for West Sydney will vote against the proposal of the Government to secure a settlement for all time, almost upon the same lines as that adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference. In spite of that declaration, and in spite of the similarity of the two schemes, he, and those associated with him who were members of that Conference, and subscribed to its resolutions, will be found voting against these proposals, notwithstanding all their arrant cant about it not being a party question. And why? Not because they do not believe it is a good scheme, but because they think that they will be able to discredit the Government by detaching some support from it. That is their only reason so far as this Parliament is concerned, but they have another reason in relation to future action. They have recognised since the Brisbane Labour Conference and the making of this agreement that, if it is adopted, there will be certain limitations upon the revenue available in the future for Commonwealth needs, and in that fact they see the death-knell to their covert designs with respect to unification. They recognise that funds will not be available to enable their great Socialistic schemes for the nationalization of various industries to be carried out, and that the public will probably resist any proposals for extra taxation, either direct or indirect, to enable effect to be given to those projects. Then, again, some members of the State Labour party realize that if the (Federal Labour party were allowed to have their way, the occupation of the State legislators would soon be at an end. Therefore self-interest will prompt them, probably, to resist any proposal to vary this agreement, which curtails to a large extent the revenues that will be available to the Commonwealth and secures to the States a liberal and easily estimated share of the revenue. We know now what is behind the opposition of the Federal Labour party to this agreement. I should like to see the agreement amended in the direction of greater elasticity to provide for the increasing needs of the future which we cannot afford to ignore. I realize, however, that of that there is now no hope, since the State Premiers will not consent to a modification - unwisely, as I think. The Government are therefore now committed to this agreement as it stands and are bound to see it through. No amendment materially varying the terms would be accepted by the Premiers of the States. That being so, the Government cannot agree to an amendment without breaking faith with the Premiers. The State Premiers are parties to the agreement, and are entitled to insist upon the bargain being kept. If an amendment were carried, notwithstanding the Government’s inability to accept it, the Bill would not proceed to the third-reading stage. What would be the outcome in that event I do not know. I do not know whether it would lead! to a crisis, nor do I personally care. It would be immaterial to me. I am prepared, to meet any emergency that may arise, but it is certain that the agreement would have to go to the country in its present form unless the Premiers re-considered their determination. As that is extremely unlikely, the Government would have to submit the agreement to the country; and’ their followers would not be nearly so strong if they were divided upon it as they would be if they were able to present a united front and to advise their constituents to adopt it. The Premiers have made the position, I think, unnecessarily difficult for us, but I feel bound to see the Government through in a determination to honorably abide by their compact. For after all what the Bill really does is not to alter the Constitution. It cannot do that. It only remits the agreement to a referendum of the people for their direct decision as to its acceptance or rejection. It is beyond my comprehension how the Labour party can reconcile their opposition to the referendum, when it is a leading plank in their own platform. It shows that they are afraid to trust the people. The Opposition recognise that a Government which went to the country divided upon such a vital issue as this would not be so strong as one that was absolutely united. Some honorable members are perfectly sincere in their desire that a different agreement should be arrived at, but I trust that they will realize that that is impossible, and that they will fall into line with the rest of the party and see that the necessary majority is secured to enable the Bill to be passed in its present form.
– I do not intend to occupy the attention of the ‘Committee at any length at this stage. The agreement on its merits has been debated very fully, and from almost every point of view ; but what I propose to say on this occasion has relation to certain questions that have been raised with regard to what may be called the party issues connected with it. Criticism has been levelled at those of us who do not see our way to accept this agreement, and it has been said that we are guilty of something in the nature of a breach of party allegiance. To me that is a very serious charge. I have always been a party man. I have always believed in the efficacy of the party system. It is not the best system conceivable, but it is the only one which has shown that it can evolve in representative assemblies and under- representative” government any practical issues. The representatives of Victoria well know that I have always taken perhaps a more rigid view of the obligations of party allegiance than many others have done, and that I have been placed in a position where I have had to ask the assistance of others to uphold this principle. I desire, -therefore, to meet this charge of a breach of party allegiance, and I think I shall be justified in reiterating some of the statements that have been made, in order to direct the attention of honorable members to the real facts of the case. I claim to be, and shall always remain, a loyal supporter of the Government as long as they are in office.” If this amendment had not been accepted ‘by the Government as a friendly one, upon which the judgment of honorable members is not to be bound by obligations of party allegiance, I for one should riot have been a party to its submission, nor should T have supported it. What my action would have been in that event, is a matter that I am not called upon to discuss at this stage. But let me recall to the minds of honorable members, some of the principal incidents leading up to the present’ position, which, I freely admit, is serious for the Government, although by no means critical. It is certainly serious for all their supporters. It will be recollected’ that certain negotiations preceded the formation of this Government. There was an endeavour- and I refer’ only to’ matters that’ have since become public - on the part of those who conducted the negotiations, to reconcile the conflicting views of honorable members - conflicting, not on broad principles, but largely on matters of’ detail - who belonged to the various sections of the House now united in the Ministerial party. ‘ An agreement was arrived at, and was’ made public on several occasions, as to the main issues on .which there might be a divergence of opinion, as to the general policy of defence, the new Protection, and a number of minor matters to which I need not refer. But with regard to the great and vital question of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, those gentlemen admitted that they could riot, at that time, arrive at an agreement for a permanent settlement which would reconcile the differences between the various members of the party. That must not be forgotten. The views of many of us had often been expressed. Those of the honorable member for Mernda had been put into clear and definite form, and had been practically adopted, in principle, by ‘ a preceding Government. My own views, which differed in important details, but not very widely, from those of the honorable member, had also been expressed, and I. do not wish to refer to them on this occasion. It was found impracticable, in the formation of the party, to arrive at an agreement as to the outlines of the proposals for the settlement of the financial relations of the ‘Commonwealth with the States. It was, therefore, proposed that a temporary arrangement should be made extending over a period of five years, or thereabouts. Subsequently, the Conference was held, and was attended by representatives of the Commonwealth Government. The Prime Minister has frankly and candidly admitted, not merely in the speech that he made in this Chamber yesterday, but publicly and privately on other occasions, that he was not invested with any authority from the party at that, time, to enter into any scheme for the permanent settlement of our financial arrangements with the States. He did, however, what a Leader of a Government is perfectly entitled to do. He went beyond the mandate of his party. He adopted a scheme which he-proposed to ask his party, to accept. Every Government is perfectly entitled to do. that. Governments in this State and others, have taken action without the distinct authority of their constituents; and I, too, stand responsible for so great a sin. But such an action has always been subject .to the condition that members of the Government party, if they cannot see eye-to-eye with the Cabinet, shall be at liberty, without being charged with any breach of party allegiance, to express their dissent. That is a principle which no one will controvert. To controvert it would be to destroy the whole basis of party Government. It would be an assumption that a Government that had never consulted its supporters on some vital point .of policy, had a right to determine, on their behalf, what that policy should be. I admit that when a Government, in critical times, comes to the conclusion that it is necessary to bring forward a measure that has not received the assent of the whole body of its followers, it may reasonably and properly ask that those followers- shall, to some extent, sink their individual principles, in order to secure united action. But there is a limit to that. No matter how vital the question at issue may be, the supporters of a Government are not called upon, and ought not to becalled upon to sink all their principles in order to secure united action. I am sure that the Prime Minister will agree with me when I say that the position is that the Government entered into an agreement with the State Premiers to ask this Parliament to do something. It is not an agreement binding on any person, but simply an agreement to advise Parliament to accept a certain course. When that has been done,I take it that the duty, the obligation, that rests on loyal supporters of the Government is to endeavour to meet the Government, if they can, without breaking up some principle, which, to their mind, is of the gravest and most vital importance. The question, therefore, to me was whether there was anything in this agreement of such vital importance in its immediate and ultimate effects, that I should be justified in allowing the ties of party allegiance, in the circumstances I have mentioned, to bind me - to warrant me in giving up a clearly defined principle, which I have reiterated frequently in this Chamber before, and which, from the beginning of my political career in the Federal Parliament, and even before I was returned, I had always insisted on. That position has been frankly and fully acknowledged by the Government, and it is the position I desire to make clear to honorable members who are going to vote against their own convictions in order to support the Government. I desire to say to them that, though they might be justified in doing so for the sake of retaining the Government in power, they are not justified in adopting such a course when the question is not accepted by the Government as a party question.
– Is it not a party question when the Prime Minister says that he will take it to the country ?
– Not necessarily. I cannot refer to what has taken place outside the House, but we have been told distinctly here by the honorable member for Mernda, who moved the amendment - and it was tacitly, if not expressly, admitted by the Prime Minister - that the amendment had been submitted in a form to enable us to give effect to our view without taking any action regarded by the Government as a party move, hostile to them.
– Hear, hear.
– That, I think, is assented to. The Prime Minister himself stated in his speech that the object of allowing the amendment to be so submitted was to obtain the sense of the Committee on the question. I am not concerned with honorable members on the other side of the House. I quite agree with the criticism passed upon them, that they are not allowing themselves to vote according to their own convictions in every case; but I am not their judge. What I am saying is that there are honorable members on this side who have stated openly in this debate that they would not have voted for the agreement but for the circumstances under which it has been brought forward, and I desire to address a few words to those honorable members. We are now face to face with what seems to me the most momentous problem with which we could possibly have to deal in this Federation. We are dealing with a question which will inure for good or evil when present party lines have disappeared ; and that is a thing I cannot forget. Governments arenot everlasting, and neither are parties - there is perpetual flux. We are now called on to deal with fundamental matters relating to future Constitutional development and growth for all time. The Prime Minister has made two extremely able and eloquent appeals in connexion with the agreement, and I think the honorable gentleman was not only entitled to use the great powers he has always at command, but was practically bound to use them, after he had entered into this agreement. I, therefore, think he was entirely justified in putting his argument in the most forcible way - in a way in which no other man in the House, and probablyno man in Australia, could have put it. But, after all, powerful as were the arguments in his speech yesterday, the more we examine them, the more we are convinced that they all turn on one hinge - that the validity of all depends on one cardinal principle, and that in that principle there is a fallacy. The fallacy is that what we ask the people to do to-day, the people may, and will if necessary, undo to-morrow or the next day.
– That is so.
– I say most emphatically that it is not so ; and I propose to tell the reason why. With the greatest eloquence - and at first it appeared a very strong argument - the Prime Minister asked yesterday, “ What great difficulty is there. in getting the people to revise this agreement if a revision should turn out to be advantageous - where is the difficulty in getting them to re-invest the Commonwealth with the powers now taken away?” And the Prime Minister told us that we had only to look at what the people had done in connexion with Federation. The people and the Parliaments of the whole of the six States were then asked to combine together to give us powers, none of which they were obliged to give; and the Prime Minister told us that they all concurred. What then, the honorable gentleman asked, was the difficulty in asking a majority of the States, and a majority of the people, to re-invest the Commonwealth again with the financial power? But let us contrast the two positions. The argument seems difficult to answer until we bring it to the touchstone of reality. When the people of Australia were asked to enter into Federation, we had practically all the leading men and the most powerful political influences at work to bring about the desired result.
-Not in New South Wales.
– There was, I know, an influential section in New South Wales, opposed to Federation ; but apart from that there was in its favour the great force of political opinion, and the majority of the newspapers. In addition there was a feeling that had been gradually growing throughout the whole of the Australian communities in favour of realizing the ideal of a united Australia. That was the motive force, the ideal before the people, and they were longing to follow the example of Canada in making one nation. That was the ideal of all the speakers who advocated Federation. The advantages were cited, and sometimes magnified ; the disadvantages did not appear. The people, and also the Parliaments, sanctioned Federation. But is there any similarity between a movement of that kind, carried forward on a deep-rooted popular enthusiasm, and the kind of problem we shall have to solve if, in times of difficulty, we have to ask the people to restore to us financial powers we have voluntarily given away? Let us consider for a moment the practical effect. The necessity to ask for such an amendment of the Constitution would be, when, through bad seasons or other influences affecting the general prosperity, the Commonwealth revenue from Customs and Excise, or from other sources, was unable to meet requirements. At such a time, the very same influences which made our finances insecure and insufficient would have a similar effect, in all probability, on the finances of the States; and we should not have any wave of enthusiasm about the demand we were making. The Commonwealth would go to the States and say, “ We are faced with a huge deficit, and, though we do not desire to exercise our full power of taxation, we propose to take from you a large portion of the revenue which you have hitherto been enjoying, and we propose to do that under circumstances which will make it excessively difficult, if not impossible,for you to continue your financial business.” We shall have to ask the people to allow us to make good our growing deficiency by creating or increasing deficiencies in the several States.
– That is what is being asked of the States to-day.
– And the statement shows that we should be putting an unreasonable proposition.
– I suppose that the interjections mean that it is now reasonable togive that which it would then be unreasonable to ask back; and that is a very different proposition. We should then go to the States with no high aims for the strengthening of the National Parliament, or with anything calculated to create enthusiasm, but with the sordid desire to have authority to take away from the States a larger portion of the revenue, which we required, and which the States had grown to require as much as the Commonwealth. Is there any analogy whatever between such a position and that existing at the early stages of Federation, when the country was swept by a glowing wave of enthusiasm, in which the Prime Minister was, and justly so, one of the most distinguished leaders? I think we should be in a very contemptible position.
– Beggars !
– We should be beggars, saving to the States, “ Please give us back our power ; it is true that some years ago we decided, in our discretion, to hand those powers over to you, and that you have been living on them and calculating on them, but we now ask you to reinvest us with them, although at the moment that may be extremely difficult and embarrassing to you.”
– The honorable member forgets that we should not be begging of the States, but begging of the people.
– That brings me to the consideration that, in begging of the people, we must not entirely neglect the influence of the State politicians. Has this debate not been a lesson that, even in dealing with a power which the Constitution has intrusted to this Parliament, we do not seem to be able to disregard the feeling of the State politicians? And when we were not dealing with a power which the Constitution had given us, and which we were endeavouring to exercise to the best of our judgment, but were asking the people to re-invest us with a power we had handed to the States, do honorable members think that we should not have to take into very close account the feeling of, not merely the State Premiers, but of every State politician and constituency? To recover the powers once we part with them is theoretically possible. It is possible to say on the platform that the people will always do this or that ; but every man who really goes into the matter, and has regard to the actual probabilities, will conclude that, having voluntarily sunk down to a lower plane ofpolitical power and authority, we must go begging to the people to lift us up again. The Prime Minister also stated that he hopes we may be in a position to give financial assistance to any of the States that require it - that the agreement does not mean that we shall always give 25s. per head, and that probably we may give more in the case of some States. If the idea, is that we shall maintain the financial integrity of the weaker States in time of necessity, it is one of the strongest arguments for our retaining in our hands the power to render financial assistance. I do not intend to go at any length into the arguments applicable to this question.
– The honorable member has notyet adduced any.
– I do not speak often, or at great length, but on this subject, in a discourse extending over an hour and a half, I brought forward what seemed to me very cogent arguments, to which I have not heard an answer given. So far as I know, the honorable member for North Sydney alone has attempted to reply to me, and he dealt with only one aspect of the subject, endeavouring to show that my assumption that the New Zealand Tariff is a low Protectionist Tariff was at fault. I think that a comparison of that Tariff with ours will show me to be right, but I shall not go into the matter now, and make him a present of his contention. Except for that, none of the arguments with which I am sure the honorable member for Fremantle is familiar has yet received an answer from any member of the Chamber. There are those on this side who, no doubt believe that the proposed arrangement is the best that could be come to.
– I should think so.
– A majority think so.
– A number of honorable members on this side have said publicly that they do not consider it the best, and I believe that if we were free to frame an arrangement, by the exercise of our constitutional power, we should frame one which would differ from that agreed to by the Premiers.
– Probably seventy -five different schemes would be put forward.
Mr.W. H. IRVINE.- Yes ; if every honorable member were to frame an arrangementfor himself.
– And if no honorable member would depart in any degree from his proposal.
– Of course. The framing of a scheme by one party or Legislature necessarily involves the sinking of individual judgment in matters of detail. What I say is. that after that process had been gone through, and honorable members had threshed out the financial question, and adjusted their differences, the result would be, did they consider themselves free to exercise their own judgment, something very different from the agreement.
– The honorable member only finds fault with the proposal of the Government ; he does not put forward a substitute.
– I shall not accept the honorable member’s challenge to formulate at length a scheme to take the place of that before us. The honorable member for Mernda has indicated what, in the view of the honorable members for Parkes, Balaclava, and others, including myself, would be the best alternative. The Committee is not asked to vote for that scheme ; all it is asked to do is to say that the agreement with the Premiers shall not be. accepted without modification. The financial, legislative, and administrative powers of the Commonwealth were not won without a struggle. The Prime Minister has referred to the efforts which were necessary to induce the various State authorities to concede the large constitutional powers which the Parliament flow possesses. Among them is the power to dispose absolutely of the Customs and Excise revenue after 1910, without regard to what may be the opinion of any or of all the Premiers, and according to our best judgment.
– That is one point which the honorable member has made.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s assurance of that.
– The other statements of the honorable member will be replied to.
– The honorable member will have a chance to reply to them, because we are still in Committee, and there is no limitation to the number of times which an honorable member may speak.
– As a matter of fact, the provision which gives to this Parliament the power referred to was framed by a Conference of Premiers, after an altogether different position had been accepted by a majority of the people.
– I have heard that statement before. It is entitled to all due weight, which is very little indeed. We have heard a similar statement regarding the Federal Capital provision. The negotiations between the Premiers, and the proceedings of the Convention, have been referred to with a view to modifying or altering the written Constitution, but, if we allow ourselves to go into the motives actuating the able men who framed it, we shall find that there is no bottom to the controversy. The Constitution, which is the charter of our power and authority, is the ultimate result of various discussions. No doubt the Prime Minister is quite accurate as to what took place, but our charter is the written instrument which was accepted by the people. The power to dispose of the Customs and Excise revenue after 1910 was given to us to be exercised solely in accordance with our judgment, uninfluenced by any person outside. There have been further negotiations with the Premiers, and the difficulties of this party and of the Parliament appear to have been put before them, but if we are to believe the press, they say, “ We insist on the adoption of a certain course.” Furthermore, the Premier of New South Wales used expressions which go to show that if the agreement be not adopted, State influence or authority will be brought to bear on the Senate election.
– A similar statement has been made in Queensland.
– And, I think, too, in South Australia.
– Does the honorable member think that members of the Federal Parliament should interfere in State elections ?
– I should be sorry to see that happen. I deprecate interference by the Commonwealth in the State elections, and dictation, or attempted dictation, by State authorities in regard to Commonwealth elections.
– Both will take place.
– Evils must come, but woe unto those through whom they come. It is the avowed intention of State Governments to introduce into Federal politics the undoubtedly great influence of local political opinion.
– The honorable member will at least admit that the- States are vitally interested in this matter.
– That is the fullest justification for voting upon it as they choose ; but, if we are to conduct our discussion of a matter which has been left entirely to our judgment with regard to implied threats of what the Premiers will or will not do at the next elections, we may as well close up this Parliament, and confess that Federation is a failure.
– That has not been suggested by the Government.
– I frankly admit it. I regard the action of Ministers as fair and candid, and have said so throughout. Those who think with me have been given the fullest and fairest opportunity, and the only one that could be given, to test the opinion of the Committee on a question which we consider to be of the greatest moment. No Government could do more.
– Honorable members are joining with the opponents of the Government to defeat it.
– I am sorry that that interjection has been made. It implies that Ministers were not sincere in giving us this opportunity; but I know the head of the Government, and his colleagues, to be sincere in this matter. Either this is, or it is not, a party question.
– It is a party question only so far as one side is concerned.
– I am not con.cerned with what takes place on the other side of the Chamber. I do not make myself a judge of the actions of our opponents. I have accepted the invitation of the Government in the sense in which I believe it to haw been offered, regarding this as a real opportunity to test the opinion of the Committee upon a matter in which honorable members should not be influenced by party considerations.
– None of the members of the Labour party will vote with the Government.
– In the nine years of Federation we have dealt with a number of very contentious subjects, none more contentious than the Tariff, which has occupied a large part of the time, and perhaps none more contentious than those other industrial matters which have engaged so much of our attention. Indeed, several Governments have gone out on them.
– And certainly none more important.
– And possibly none so important. We are now called upon for the first time to deal with the question which seems to me to be the touchstone of the National Parliament, and to deal with it in circumstances which, I cannot help thinking, partake more or less of the nature of duress from outside. We are called upon to deal with it in view of the fact that a general election is approaching, and that there are outside organizations largely controlled by State authorities and State politicians, whose influence with regard to the election is to some extent feared, and whose support is hoped for.
– Will not that always be the case?
– That must always be the case, but when we find it coupled with a barely veiled threat that those influences will be used for the purpose of compelling the adoption by this House of one view of a question which this House is invested with the sole authority to decide, then I say we have either to take the high path or to take the low path, and if we take the low path we take it for ever. If we take the lower road, we shall go along that lower road. We shall not be subject to the influences of the State authorities merely with regard to finance. We shall be subject to them in a hundred other ways in performing every duty that devolves upon this Parliament. I deplore that we should be called upon to deal with this question subject to such distinct, and, I will not say, veiled, but absolutely unveiled threats by the State Premiers and State authorities. We are bound to put out of our minds the effect that this may have upon the coming elections or upon immediate party obligations or party needs. I say - and I address my argument wholl to those honorable members on this side of the House whose convictions would lead them to go against this agreement, but who think that they are bound to accept it - that if we do not put aside those feelings now, we confess that we are unworthy to carry on the functions that are intrusted to a National Parliament. We show ourselves unfit for them. What the Committee is asked to do by the amendment of the honorable member for Mernda is simply to express the opinion that some limitation either of time or of amount should be placed on the agreement, and, that this House should still retain some control over the future Customs and Excise revenue, when it reaches a certain amount, in order that we may not, in our ignorance of all those complications to which the Prime Minister referred as possibly arising in the future, blindly throw away entirely at this stage a large share of the powers with which the Constitution invests us.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- After the very able and lucid address of the honorable member for Flinders, there would be little left to say on this allimportant question were it not that it is desirable for honorable members to place their views on record, not necessarily with any hope of changing opinions already formed, but also for future guidance when the political history comes to be written of the proposal, which is being forced upon the House and the country, not by the Government, but by the State Premiers. 1 feel my responsibility in this “matter more keenly than I have felt it on any question since I have taken part in public life. All other questions, that have come before this Chamber since I have been a member of it have been small in comparison with the great issue which we have to decide within the next few hours. I feel as though I bore a responsibility for the welfare, not only of myself and -.if those associated with me on this side, and of all the people whom we represent, but also of all those who are to follow them in this great Commonwealth, for they will have to carry the burden of this agreement if Parliament sanctions it. The Prime Minister stated that he felt the responsibility keenly; the honorable member for Parkes indicated convincingly that he felt it, and the honorable member for Mernda has not only shown that he feels it, but has endeavoured from time to time to find a way out of the difficulty, so that we might not trammel the future of our people in the way proposed by the Government. There are, therefore, a number of men on the Government side who feel that, unless something is done to prevent the passage of the Bill in its present form, the Commonwealth will be in danger, and it seems strange that we should have to appeal in this Parliament for consideration for the rights of the people whom we represent. At the very inception of the Federal ideal, it was maintained bv that great and venerable statesman, Sir George Grey, that no Constitution of a free people should be founded other than on the will of that people. He maintained that no Constitution could be a people’s Constitution until every adult eligible to vote had had an opportunity to elect the men best qualified in his judgment to frame it. We know that when it was decided to create a Convention to frame a Constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia, a successful attempt was made to provide that the people should, by manhood suffrage, elect the members of that Convention. 1 mention this because that is the fundamental principle underlying all Democratic government - government by the people, for the people, of the people. If to-day, with this proposition before us, we could appeal to the people in the same way as we appealed to them to elect the members of the Federal Convention, and if a majority of the people were free to decide whether or not we should erect this barrier in the oath of our children and our children’s children, I should not feel the responsibility half so keenly as I do now. But, so far from the majority of the whole people being able to decide the question, our Constitution contains a blemish, the presence of which I have never been able to understand. Certainly, at the time the Convention met, politics had not progressed in the same ratio as they are progressing to-day, and it was possibly excusable that the delegates could not foresee the effect of the provision which requires, not only a majority of the people, but also a majority of the States, to sanction an amendment of the Constitution. Under that provision, it is possible for one-fifth of the people to override the will of the other four-fifths, and thereby place upon the shoulders of the masses of this country burdens which should never be imposed, and which, if imposed, would reflect no credit upon the members of this Legislature. When the Constitution was put before the people, with that defective provision in it, I realized the danger, and fought it from the first meeting that was held in opposition to the Bill until the second referendum was taken. Therefore, I am not now opposing something that I supported at any earlier stage in my political career. I realized that this would be a danger to the Commonwealth ; that the people would not have the power to frame the laws under which they should live, or to determine the Constitution under which their children should be governed. In the circumstances, therefore,. I have always felt that a great responsibility rests upon any Parliament that proposes to relegate to such a referendum the liberties of the people. I cannot understand why a Democrat should urge this Parliament to forego its rights and to relegate its duties to a minority of the people, who may override the will of the majority. That is what will happen if the Government proposal be carried. Only a few months ago the Prime Minister vigorously denounced the principles that he is now supporting. It is a humiliating feature of Parliamentary life that men at the helm, instead of steering the ship of State to its proper destination, are constantly changing its course, and taking it off that which leads to true reform. They are never on the straight tack. Oftentimes they about ship, merely because it would not suit some political institution which is influencing them to steer straight ahead. It is humiliating to find the Prime Minister not merely urging, but practically driving, some honorable members to do that which they would not do if they were free. It is humiliating to find him forcing them to assist in placing the Commonwealth in fetters. I am satisfied that they would not do it but for the bond of party government and the lash that is brought to bear upon them by the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister has no compunction. One would imagine that he had advocated throughout his political life the principle that he now propounds. But those who have watched his career, those who have observed the varying courses that he has steered, feel that the time has come when a halt should be cried, and the people should no longer ‘be fooled by men who talk to-day in one strain and to-morrow in another. The Prime Minister, in forcing this measure through the House, has leagued himself, not with the associations that brought him into political existence, not with the people of this State who have almost worshipped him because of his realization of what a national policy should be, but with a different party altogether. He does not recognise what he owes to the people who have made him what he is, nor does he recognise his responsibility to the National movement for which he- has spoken on platforms throughout the Commonwealth. The Government may die if this Bill be rejected, but better far that, ten Governments should die than that the Commonwealth should be undermined and ruined by the passing of this measure. It is the duty of every honorable member who has a regard for the future of the Commonwealth, and values the liberties that we have inherited, not merely to oppose this measure, but to stand here as long as the Standing Orders will permit him in an endeavour to force the Government to recognise what a villainous proposition they are putting before the Committee.
– How long will it take the honorable member to convince them of that ?
– Not as long as it will take the honorable member to understand the effect of the vote that he is about to give. What has led up to the present position ? It was only last September that the Prime Minister supported quite another proposal, with all the oratorical power and peculiar reasoning that is so characteristic of him. The honorable gentleman has made dozens of speeches absolutely at variance with the position that he takes up today.
– The honorable member is not surprised at that?
– No, nor will any honorable member be surprised. I am surprised, however, that honorable members who know how the Prime Minister has varied his opinions on this question should be ready to assist him in passing this Bill. I am surprised to find men who have not the common honesty or fortitude to stand by what they believe to be right, simply because they fear that their political existence is at stake. In the days to come, if this Bill is carried, those who vote for it will be remembered with feelings of hatred such as follow those who are prepared to sell their country for the protection of their own miserable political selves. That is the present position, and it is useless for honorable members opposite to deny it. Even those of the Ministerial supporters who are taking up a somewhat independent attitude, and who tell us that they do not think that this agreement should be embodied in the Constitution, are prepared to put a noose round the necks of the people by agreeing that it shall be placed in the Constitution, with a proviso that its operation shall be limited to a period of twenty years. Either it is right or wrong to place this agreement in the. Constitution. To insert it in the Constitution is either to indicate that this Parliament cannot be trusted to exercise the functions with which it has been vested, or that honorable members who support it have harkened to outside influences that ought not to be allowed to prevail. But honorable members opposite who do not think that the agreement should be placed in the Constitution are prepared to swallow their convictions if the Government will consent to a limitation being placed upon its operation. There is no reason why we should insert the agreement in the Constitution, or relegate to such a referendum as that for which the Constitution provides the question of whether it should be so inserted. Ten years ago the people of Australia dealt with this question. They did not tell us then that when the Braddon section ceased to operate we should submit the whole matter to the Premiers of the States. They did not tell us that we must submit to the dictation of the State Premiers, nor did they tell us that we should go into Conference with them with our hands tied, leave with an agreement which could not be altered, and try to force that agreement upon the people. The Constitution, which is our only guide in this matter, provides that for a period of ten years the Customs and Excise revenue shall be distributed amongst the States and the Commonwealth in certain proportions. The people thought that there should be a period of experiment, and they, consequently, limited the operation of the Braddon section to ten years. That experimental period will expire twelve months hence. Had the Braddon clause, as passed by the Convention, been agreed to, we should have been face to face to-day with a national crisis.
To-day we are told that ten years is too long a term; in other words, that if the present arrangement goes on for another year we shall be short of revenue, and unable to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth. This proves that the experimental stage was necessary and wise, and that it would be wrong and suicidal to embody this arrangement in the Constitution without limitation. The right honorable member for East Sydney, whose voice has been raised on most important issues, is silent on the present occasion. He has hitherto been listened to with great attention, and his views have been received and considered by the press and the public; yet we have no word from him, although he, of all others, was instrumental in preventing the Braddon section being made operative for all time. Practically, the right honorable member was all-powerful in the matter, and he did for the Commonwealth a service which is only realized to-day. We all remember when he made that notable address in the Town Hall, Sydney, and told the people that he was giving both sides, and would leave them to judge for themselves, to say “yes” or “no,” at the referendum - that he was going to support the Constitution Bill, but he advised the people not to support it. I let that pass by, however, as one of those humorous incidents which must always occur in the life of a man of the character of the honorable member for East Sydney. He realized that to place the provision in the Constitution for all time would mean a Protective policy, and he was then the leader of the great Free Trade party.
– The Braddon section did not compel the Commonwealth to raise a penny from Customs duties.
– But it compelled the Commonwealth to raise four times the revenue required, and that implied a high Protective Tariff, as experience has proved. The right honorable member regarded the Braddon clause as an infamous proposition, but what is he doing to-day ? He is really the father of the action taken by the Government - his is the master hand that is pulling the wires, lt was the right honorable member who sent that letter to the Premiers’ Conference, suggesting the lines of the settlement. He said he desired to make sure that the taxation would be placed on the backs of the masses, and, moreover, for all time. This is the gentleman whose oratory carried New South Wales to such an extent as to make a second referendum necessary, and secured an amendment limiting the operation of the Braddon section to ten years. But to-day he is not only not rendering any assistance to limit the proposal of the Government, but is backing them up indirectly by his silence, so that what he opposed in 1900 may be perpetrated in 1909. Such are the men in whose hands the destinies of this young Commonwealth are to be left ! The Prime Minister cannot stand by any view for more than six months at a time; he has turned his back on proposal after proposal which he has fathered. He supported the scheme of the honorable member for Mernda and the scheme of the present Treasurer years ago. He further supported the scheme of the late Treasurer, the honorable member for Hume, and went to the Premiers’ Conference then, and urged, in no indefinite terms, that to fix the per capita payment for all time was unthinkable, and would prove disastrous to the national welfare. Yet the Prime Minister to-day, looking as innocent as a lamb, tells the people of the country, through Hansard and the press, that the agreement is the finest thing possible to secure the future of the States and assist in the development of national sentiment within the bounds of the Commonwealth. Sentiment is, I admit, good. It arouses the enthusiasm and patriotism of the people when needs be ; but the question before us is one of hard fact, concerning the every-day existence of the community. It is not a question we can pass over with a piece of oratory, or an enthusiastic declaration as to the national sentiment. The Treasury coffers cannot be filled, nor can taxation be properly allocated, by sentiment, and neither will sentiment lift the burden from the backs of the people, if the proposed agreement be carried into law. We all know how the Fusion Government came into existence. It is a- Government of remnants - of the fragments that remained - and out of the conglomeration there has been evolved what is called a “ National party.” Members of that party were originally opposed to any agreement of this kind ; but we now find them standing shoulder to shoulder, and trying not to fasten the agreement, but themselves, on the people, because their concern is the next election. They desire to go to the electors solid, with one platform and one proposal ; and they are prepared to sacrifice the future of the Commonwealth in order to consolidate the party, and be returned to the
Treasury benches. These are hard things to say; but on an occasion of this kind we have to say what we believe to be right, irrespective of how it may affect even our best friends in the Chamber. It is because it is necessary for men to speak out with no uncertain voice that I take my present stand. We have had meetings of the Premiers time and again on the financial question. Year after year, the Federal Cabinet have arranged Conferences, and what for? To placate the parties in the States. Before Federation, we had what was called the Federal Council, which dealt with matters that the States themselves could not settle. The Federal Council, however, was found to be absolutely unsatisfactory, by reason of the parochialismintroduced by the different Premiers. But what is the difference between that Council and the present Premiers’ Conferences which meet as the Council of the Commonwealth, and dictate to the National Parliament what shall be done under a Constitution which is clear and definite, and should be obeyed ? And did the Premiers’ Conference meet, as it should have met, in a Democratic community ? Did it discuss great public questions in the open, with the press there to report the reasons for the conclusions arrived at ? Did they throw the doors open so that the public might learn what underlay the propositions made? No ; and the reason was r.heir fear to let the public know the grounds for the conclusions arrived at. So secret was the Convention where this diabolical agreement was hatched that there was absolutely a policeman at the door to prevent any one from putting his ear to the keyhole and hearing a word which might indicate whether patriotism or treachery was controlling the . action within. Although the agreement on which the Fusion is founded provides for a temporary financial arrangement, our representatives when in Conference with the Premiers practically sold the future welfare of the Commonwealth.
– Terrible !
– Nothing is serious to the honorable member, now that he can sit on the benches upon which, when in Opposition, he cast so hungry a regard. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and this selfsatisfied and complacent Minister, now that he has ‘ got into office, is willing to stay there at any cost to the country. Not only did the members of the Conference sit in secret, but, when their deliberations were ended, they committed their blotting pads to the flames, so that the public might not gain even a. hint as to what had been done, and that no evidence might be left which would convict them of having betrayed the trust reposed in them.
– The honorable member has a lively imagination.
– The honorable member’s character is branded on his forehead ; I need no imagination where he is concerned. It is humiliating to find that responsible Ministers dare not speak “in this chamber lest they should overstep the limitations placed on their actions. They are content to sneer at those who are trying to do their duty to their country. This is enough to make one feel that the Commonwealth is being betrayed in a manner unknown in our time in any other British community. What was the agreement of the Conglomerate party when its members combined? It was that the final settlement of the financial question should be postponed until there hau been four or five years’ experience of a temporary arrangement, under which the States would be paid a fixed sum, or per capita, .as might be thought best in the interests of both parties. But the Premiers overawed our representatives. I did not expect that the Prime Minister would withstand the strong men whom he met there ; compared with him, the Premiers are as giants in company with a frail child. He has never shown the possession of backbone when faced by bigger men. I predicted that we should have trouble when he came out of the Conference, especially when I knew that he was to be accompanied by the Minister of Defence and the Treasurer, who could not be relied upon to strengthen his hand. As the honorable member for Parkes has shown, the Fusion party agreed that the financial arrangements should for a time be temporary. What are we to think of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, who, having made that compact with their followers, agreed with the Premiers, before the ink on it was scarcely dry, to an arrangement which places their supporters in an unfortunate and unenviable position? Every member of the Fusion party agreed that there should not be finality in regard to the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States until four or five years had- elapsed. It is frequently said that the Labour party is bound by its platform. Thank God that that is so. We sign a pledge to carry out certain reforms, and we stand by our promises to the people, or leave the party. Are the members of the Fusion party who have broken their compact going to leave it? This is at the root of the whole matter. Had not the whip been cracked, and did not the Ministerialists know that by voting against the Premiers’ agreement they would forfeit the support of the Government and the press at the next election, they would, as has been said by the honorable member for Flinders, vote for the amendment.
– In spite of the Brisbane Conference ?
– One hears these little things sometimes, and wonders why they speak. The honorable member is a good, though feeble, echo. He religiously repeat’s what is said by his leaders. The honorable member for Wide Bay last night emphatically contradicted the interpretation which has been placed on the scheme of the Brisbane Conference, and, as Chairman of that assembly, he ought to know what it did. The honorable member for Echuca is supposed to be a stickler for veracity, but, rather than believe his brother to be truthful, he prefers to echo the misstatements of his leaders.
– The contradiction of the honorable member for Wide Bay has been proved to be untrue.
– It cannot be proved to be untrue. Nothing in the scheme, or in the report of the proceedings of the Conference, can be construed by any unbiased person to show an intention to provide permanently in the Constitution for per capita payments to the States. Thirty-one of the thirty-five members of the Conference have since affirmed that the statement of the honorable member for Wide Bay is correct. But, were the Lord’s disciples to come to earth, honorable member’s opposite would not believe them, Christians though they call themselves, unless it suited their political ends. Why should the Premiers instruct us as to what we should do in this matter ? What right have they to interfere? That is the crux of the controversy. We are empowered by the Constitution to make such provision as in our wisdom we may think best for the future needs of the Commonwealth and ofthe States. Why should we tolerate dictation in the matter from the Premiers? By doing so we should undermine the basis of the Federation, and give to their Conferences the importance of the Federal Council which existed prior to the Union.
But the man who has said more about Nationalism than any one else in the Commonwealth is now willing to take from this Parliament its power and authority, and to hand them over to the Premiers. I am anxious because the agreement proposes to pay the States 25s. per capita for all time, and the Government want to submit it to the people, they say, so that the people may decide to place it in the Constitution for all time. Those pseudoDemocrats want to use a bogus referendum - an undemocratic provision - to fasten on to the Commonwealth a scheme of this kind. They know that while they act in unison with the State Premiers, for their own salvation and the salvation of the State Premiers and their supporters, they will also have behind them the support of practically the whole press of Australia, and of the multitude of societies and organizations which support members on that side of the House. When’ the Federal and State authorities come together to perpetuate an evil of this kind, it is easy to get three necessitous States - three small States - to record a majority in favour of it. But the Prime Minister says that the people who put it into the Constitution can remove it from the Constitution. I deny it. When we find a Federal Government so negligent of its duties and responsibilities as to enter into a conspiracy with the State Premiers to do an injury to the Commonwealth, we know that it is easy for them to attain their end. But if the time comes - God forbid that it ever should - when this provision has to be rescinded and another substituted, the Federal and State Governments will not be fighting together. It will be then a case of the States against the Federation. The Federation will feel its limitations keenly, because it will not have sufficient money to meet the national obligations. Those national needs will appeal to the national spirit of the community, ‘but the States, having had more than a fair share of the Commonwealth revenue, will drift into extravagance such as we have seen during the last ten years, and, no matter how much money they have received, will plead that they are short whenever it is proposed to make the least diminution in their receipts. They will claim that they are quite as necessitous as the Commonwealth, and the fight for an amendment of the Constitution to undo what the Government want to do now will be quite a different proposition. If we adopt this agreement, we undermine the national and industrial development of the Commonwealth, arrest its progress, and sacrifice the Federal spirit in the interests of the State Righters. Is it not a sorry thing that these men, while declaring that we can alter the Constitution afterwards as easily as we can place this provision in it, should know in their hearts that we cannot do so? The honorable member for Mernda has proved conclusively that we cannot alter the Constitution once this provision is placed in it. The honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Flinders take the same view. They look at the matter from a national stand-point and would not take up their present attitude unless they felt that the national welfare absolutely demanded it. But what is to be said of the others who are backing up the State Premiers in their attempt to fasten this agreement on the shoulders of the people? We in this Parliament owe a duty to the people. Are we not capable of fulfilling our trust? Shall we admit that we are not fit for the position in which the people have placed us? Is it fair for us to say to the people, “ We want you to decide what shall be done at the instigation of the State Premiers and of a renegade Federal Government, although we alone have the power to do all that is necessary?” We, as a Parliament, should exercise our power and determine what shall be done. We are practically telling the people that they should have no confidence in this Parliament. We are pleading guilty to a charge of inability’ to do our duty. We shall occupy a humiliating position if, as custodians of the national welfare, we forego our right and privilege to settle this question in a manner that will safeguard the interests, not only of the Commonwealth, but of the States. I am quite prepared to give to the States a fixed amount per year, for all time, if honorable members like, but not to put it in the Constitution, because there is no need to do so. An Act passed by this Parliament will be honored by succeeding Parliaments.
– How much would the honorable member give the States?
– I shall be quite prepared to allocate to them £5,000,000 per annum of the Customs and Excise revenue, and, to show that I had no desire to injure them, I should also be prepared to say that, after that amount had been paid, any .surplus left when the needs of the Commonwealth had been met, should be divided per capita between the States from time to time. That is to say, they would get an assured contribution to their revenue of £5,000,000 per year, and, if the Customs and Excise revenue yielded £2,000,000 more than the Commonwealth needed, that sum would be divided amongst them per capita. If the necessities of the Commonwealth in five or six years time absorbed the whole of that surplus, with the exception of £200,000, then that £200,000 would be divided in the same manner among the States. If, after the Commonwealth had met its obliga- “ tions, no surplus remained, there would be no more than the ,£5,000,000 to be distributed among the States.
– That is to say, the honorable member would kindly give them all that we could not spend. Most generous !
– I would kindly give them, not what we could not spend, but all that it was not necessary to spend in the national interests.
– But the honorable member would assure them £5,000,000 as a fixed payment.
– I am prepared to go that far, because that would be drawing a safe line.
– Then the honorable member should not let the Minister of Defence put into his mouth something that he did not say.
– As I have said before, the Minister of Defence dare not speak ; he is gagged. He can only interject, but he does that in such a subtle way that his little remarks appear to undermine the argument of the speaker.
– The honorable member means that if the Minister cannot tell the truth he ought to keep quiet.
– I am afraid that on those conditions the Minister of Defence would always have to keep quiet. He says that I would be kind enough to return to the States what we could not spend, but he does not look at the other side of the question - that the States would spend all we gave them, whether they required it or not, and would offer to pay nothing back to the Commonwealth in any year of plenty and prosperity. That proves the truth of roy assertion that the Minister is a pure, unadulterated State Righter. He has no place in this Parliament. He ought to be in a State Parliament, alongside a State Premier, fighting to get hold of as much revenue from the Commonwealth as he could possibly commandeer, and heedless of the position in which the Commonwealth would be placed. The Prime Minister has searched the statistics of revenue drawn from Customs and Excise the world over, in a gallant endeavour to find an argument to show the equity of this agreement. But he has failed absolutely and miserably to bring forward any convincing instance other than that of the Dominion of New Zealand. Whenever he looks at the development of other countries he finds that as Protection is applied the Customs and Excise revenue per capita decreases. He sees that as the population and the revenue increase, the per capita return is reduced, but he demonstrates that New Zealand is raising 10s. per head from Customs and Excise duties, and implies that Australia is capable of doing the same. But he does not recognise the striking difference, that New Zealand has a rexenue and not a Protective Tariff. The New Zealand Tariff draws a large revenue from the pockets of the masses of the workers. If that is what the Prime Minister and his supporters want to bring about in Australia, I can understand the support which the right honorable member for East Sydney is giving him. The right honorable member knows that this agreement means, if it means anything, that the Commonwealth will have to resort to a revenue and abandon a Protective Tariff. He knows that, as the result of the passing of this Bill, we shall be compelled to raise money by that mode of taxation, not to assist national and industrial development, not to promote the growth of our industries, but to satisfy the wants of State Treasuries. Honorable members on this side of the House not only define, but proclaim, their policy. We have made it public property. It is printed in black and white so that those who read may understand. In that policy we have declared that in the financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth it should always be open, if the needs of the Commonwealth demand it, to obtain revenue from those best able to pay it. I hold that our naval and military expenditure should be defrayed, as in the Old Country, from the proceeds of direct taxation. In the Old Land, when the barometer of the naval and military expenditure rises, there is a corresponding increase in the income tax, and when that expenditure falls, the income tax is correspondingly reduced. Income tax is drawn from the wealthy classes of the community, and land taxation is paid by those who own the source from which men have,’ directly or indirectly, to draw their means of subsistence.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I refer to it only incidentally, with the object of showing that this agreement W 111 compel us to draw from those who can least afford to pay it the revenue required by the Commonwealth, not only to provide for its development and for the administration of its laws, but for the cost of its defence. It is because I know that this Bill spells misfortune, and will place, not for a limited, but for all, time, such a burden on the backs of the masses, that I appeal to honorable members not to pass it. Under the Braddon “ blot,” we have had a Protective Tariff, and I may say, in passing, that no civilized country has risen to a position of importance among the nations that has not laid its foundations of greatness by means of a Protective policy. Even England laid the foundation of her great national supremacy by means of Protection. She developed her trade and commerce, and obtained her lead of the rest of the world in that respect, by putting a stop to that unhealthy and unfair competition, which, but for Protection, would have strangled her industrial grow th. We have been following the same lines, with the result that to-day, in New South Wales, millions of pounds sterling are invested in factories which prior to Federation did not exist. Thousands of our own people have found employment in those factories in manufacturing goods that were formerly imported to -satisfy our wants.
– Will the honorable member connect that matter with the question before the Chair?
– I desire to point out that the Government are now seeking to undermine our Protective policy. Under this agreement, it will be necessary to impose revenue duties on goods that we cannot produce here, and the growth of our industrial and manufacturing industries which has been going on since Federation will be undermined and ultimately stopped. If we pass this Bill, we shall take a retrograde step, such as none of us can realize at the present moment. We are here to safeguard the destinies of the Common.wealth j yet we find in this House honorable’ members who, if they thought they would be successfully opposed by a Labour candidate to-morrow, would. in all probability, seek the shelter of the Government mantle on this question. Such conduct does not befit men who have been intrusted with the duty of representing the people in the National Parliament. It would not be tolerated even in a shire council. It is immaterial if twenty or more of us fall by the way, as long as the people rise higher in their national aspirations and prosperity. What matters it if some of us never return to this Chamber as the result of our fighting to achieve that object? This question is far more important than the winning of a seat. The holding of a seat in this House is as nothing compared with the degradation which will result to the national well-being if this agreement be placed in the Constitution for all time. The Prime Minister says that he relies on the national spirit, which he declares is growing, and has grown, since the establishment of the Commonwealth, lt is true that it has grown, and why ? Because the people have been taught to look to the Federal Parliament as the National _ Legislature, vested with powers that are essential to the development and prosperity of Australia. We have, in our wisdom, placed on the statute-book laws for the benefit of the people. We have removed disabilities that have arisen as between State and State, and have passed laws beneficial to large sections of the people who, prior to Federation, were often faced with strife and threatened with starvation. We have done all this ; we have developed our industries, increased our manufactures, made the nation more self-reliant, and so promoted the growth of a truly national spirit. But the national spirit is to-day in danger. From the very moment when the Prime Minister so far forgot the trust reposed in him by this Parliament as to allow himself to be dictated to by the State Premiers - by a body foreign to our Constitution - the national spirit became endangered. If this Bill is passed, there will be an end to the national spirit of which the Prime Minister has spoken so eloquently. What will be the position when we reach the stage at which our Customs and Excise revenue is insufficient to provide for our wants, after this per capita allowance of 25s. per annum has been made ? We are asked now to hand over to the States, for all time, one-half of our Customs and Excise revenue, regardless of the needs of the Commonwealth and the necessities that may arise. The Prime Minister professes to see in this proposal no danger to the Commonwealth, unless some national disaster should take place. In that event, he declares, the people would undo what they had done in regard to this agreement. Why should the people have to undo what there is no need to do? This Parliament can pass an Act which would suffice to meet the position, and it would be as secure as any amendment of the Constitution. If the time came when it was necessary to alter the law in the national interest, the Parliament who made it wouldbe the authority to unmake it. The men who are elected to this House have to go before the people every three years ; and it is thm decided whether they have or have not carried out their trust; and this is the safeguard of the States and the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite, when they speak of the necessities of the Commonwealth, overlook a large number of demands in the near future, though when they endeavour to assess the needs of the States they add all kinds of unusual items. We are told that the States need money for railways, tramways, irrigation works, water conservation works, and so forth, and that we must not run the risk of injuring their future development and prosperity. But the Prime Minister and others know that they are inconsistent in using such an argument. Some £66,000,000 is invested in railways in New South Wales, and the return is £4 7s. 6d. per cent, on the cost of construction. In order to carry out such works there is no need to depend on the revenue. We have here merely a plausible argument on the part of those who exaggerate the needs of the States, while neglecting to look the real needs of the Commonwealth in the face; and men who stoop to such a course are depending on a very rotten reed in support of their position.
– The States have a larger unremunerative expenditure than has the Commonwealth.
– But they have sources which are not open to us of meeting that expenditure. The Prime Minister told us that the desire is to leave the power of direct taxation to the States, which are anxious to impose land taxes and income taxes. But the. Prime Minister knows as well as I do that there is as much chance of the States imposing effective land taxation, which would bring into use valuable areas of lands now not used to their full producing capacity, as there is of my ascending to the clouds at this moment. The
State Government of Victoria has introduced a Land Tax Bill, but the tax proposed is not such as is wanted in this country, and will not achieve the purpose which the party to which I belong has in view. The State Government have no chance of carrying even the Land Tax proposal that they have put forward.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– I only desire to. show that the Prime Minister cannot get out of his obligations by saying that the States propose to shoulder responsibility in other directions. The honorable gentleman indicated that the States should be left the right to impose taxation of the kind, and that the Commonwealth should be satisfied with the 25s. per head under the agreement for all time. But before ten years are over the necessities of the Commonwealth will demand more than 25s., just as they demand more now than was given to us under the Braddon section. In view of our ignorance as to the development of the Commonwealth and its needs, and of international relations which may arise in the next few years and affect our finances, there is no argument that even the orator of the Parliament, or the honorable member for East Sydney, if he dare speak, could produce that could disprove tlie statements I have made. The people of New South Wales should demand to know why it is that their representatives are dumb. There is something ominous in the secrecy and silence of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– The right honorable member cannot speak at the same time as the honorable member for Gwydir ?
– The right honorable member has had a number of opportunities to speak; and he ought to tell us why he wrote that letter to the Premiers’ Conference and what object he had in desiring to fasten the burden of taxation on the backs of the masses for all time. He should tell us why he desires to sacrifice the national interests to the parochial interests of State politicians. Possibly the right honorable member may reply ; but I am doubtful, because having got all he desires, he has no need to speak, and, further, there is the fear that he might spoil the effect already produced by those who met the Premiers in Conference, and adopted the terms dictated by him. The Prime Minister .last night quoted from a speech by Mr. Kidston; and it is wonderful what authorities the Government rely on when they are in a corner. It is marvellous how men, who have turned their backs on their colleagues time after time, come together in a moment of danger. The Prime Minister coolly stood up in this Chamber, and quoted from a newspaper report of a speech made by Mr. Kidston the other day. That gentleman, in the subtle way characteristic of slippery men, tries to make the people believe that if the term of twenty years be fixed in the Constitution, it will not be possible to alter the arrangement until that period has expired, whereas, if the amendment be for all time, we shall be able to alter it whenever we think proper, having regard to the necessities of the Commonwealth. No one can understand his reasoning,, and I really cannot see why the Prime Minister read the quotation, though he did . so as if he had discovered a brilliant gem. However, the Prime Minister himself seemed to be ashamed of his authority, because he ended by saying that even Mr. Kidston was wrong - that if dire need or calamity came on the nation, the people could and would alter any provision in the Constitution which was found to be harassing and hampering. We all know that Mr. Kidston has been an antiFederalist throughout his political career ; and, as a matter of fact, all the State Premiers to-day desire to milk the Commonwealth dry, so that they may continue the extravagant administration which has characterised the State Governments for the last ten years or more. We have paid to the States something like £7,000,000 more than was required under the Braddon section, and the States, so far from attempting to economise or reduce taxation, have absorbed not only all the revenue from their local sources, but also the surplus revenue which we foolishly and suicidally paid to them, and which should have been used in the various departments of the Commonwealth. History shows us that the State Governments are able to spend any amount of money, that they can get through all that they can raise themselves, and all that may be paid to them by the Commonwealth. They will spend the whole of the 25s. per capita allowance, and still cry for more. Their needs will grow with their revenueBut while they have sources of taxation whereby they may meet their needs, it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall be restricted to a yearly expenditure of 25s. per capita. The Prime Minister has admitted that the agreement with the Premiers was arrived at hurriedly; that more might have been done had not the Conference been pressed for time. It was “ hustled through, ‘ ‘ as the Americans would say. He is trying to force this immature scheme on the country as if it were a wisely conceived and thoroughly considered proposition. The admission that the Conference had not time to do its work, and that the scheme is not complete, may account for the fact that no arrangement was made for the transfer of the State debts; but it makes me question whether that is desired, and whether it was not part and parcel of a secret understanding that it shall not take place. Some of the Premiers have declared that the State debts must not be touched, and many of the members of the State Parliaments have said that they will not tolerate interference in that matter. The Prime Minister should have proposed to deal with the debts of the States in connexion with the general financial relations of theCommonwealth. But he has left that for the dim and distant future. The honorable member for Mernda has a scheme for taking over the debts incurred at the time of Federation, amounting to some , £202,000,000, subject to an undertaking by the States to meet interest charges in excess of their contributions from the Commonwealth. Future loans would then be negotiated by the Commonwealth, and the substitution ofa Commonwealth for a State stock would so increase our credit that we should be able to renew at a cheaper rate, and thus establish a sinking fund which would extinguish the principal in sixty or seventy years without any call upon the revenue. He proposes that the Commonwealth should take over the debts of the States, leaving to them the assets - the railways, courthouses, schools, and other public works, whether reproductive or not - upon which the money has been expended. At the end of sixty or seventy years, the States would possess those assets free of liability,as the result of proper Commonwealth financing. Had such a scheme been provided for in the agreement with the Premiers, the Prime Minister might say that the arrangement was complete. As it is, he is asking us to vote for a scheme which he says there was not time to complete. He should have come to Parliament and said, “ The adjournment we asked for was not long enough ; we re quire another fortnight or another month to draft a complete scheme.” There are men opposite who will accept anything.
– They are governed by the lash.
– They are governed by their political necessities. They, are ready to go to the country with the scheme dictated by the Premiers because they fear to face the electors without their support, and that of the Governments of the States. It is that fear which forces them to accept an incomplete arrangement which is derogatory and injurious to the Commonwealth. Had Ministers been men, they would have determined to fix up a scheme without going to the Premiers. The Prime Minister, in apologizing to those to whom he appealed so eloquently last night, said, “ We adopted an incomplete scheme. We boldly overstepped the line of demarcation.” “ Boldly “ is a good word. They boldly attacked the liberties of the people, and are now boldly attempting to force through an immature scheme whose operation will be destructive of the national interests, and which the people cannot amend hereafter. The Prime Minister addressed himself, not to the Committee as a whole, but to the five or six members who are antagonistic to the Government proposal.
– It has been estimated that this debate costs the country £200 an hour.
– The proposed agreement will cost the people many millions.
– The Minister of Defence has no regard for the interests of the people. He does not care what injury may be done to the Commonwealth or to our protected industries ; all he wishes for is a vote which will assure him that his position is still secure. Although the Prime Minister cracked the whip last night, he did not mean what he said. There is as little chance of the Government going tothe country if defeated on its proposal as there is of the right honorable member for East Sydney speaking during this debate.
– Have pity on us !
– The honorable member will be asking the electors to have mercy on him.
– It is the honorable member who will need that.
– I have been told that before by greater men.
– Impossible !
– Notwithstanding such predictions, I have been returned, and I shall be returned again, although many of those who are supporting the agreement will then be no longer here, because they will have been called to task for what they did in this matter. The Prime Minister hinted that if he could not get the agreement embodied in the Constitution in perpetuity he would be prepared to accept the amendment as an indication that some other arrangement should be made with the States. I hope that the agreement will not be carried. If only a narrow majority, is in favour of it, the people should not be asked to indorse it. The right honorable member- for East Sydney, prior to the first referendum on the draft Constitution, increased the number of affirmative votes necessary to secure its acceptance in order that the opinion of New South Wales might be decisively stated. _ The number which he fixed was not reached.
– The honorable .member’s statement is incorrect. I opposed the proposal to increase the minimum.
– The right honorable gentleman did not do it himself, but he was head of the Government at the time it was done; and one can readily understand the amount of power which he had in the Cabinet. It did not suit him to exercise his power to the full ; and I do not fund fault with him, because he prevented the Braddon “ blot “ from being made permanent. I give him every credit for that. Seeing that, by raising the number of affirmative votes necessary to ratify the Bill at the referendum, he prevented the Braddon section from being imposed upon the people for all time, I emphatically assert that a majority of one or two in this Chamber should not be allowed to impose upon the people of this country an infamous proposition such as is now before us. If it is carried by a narrow majority, the people, between this and the next election, will be enlightened as to the attitude which some honorable members have taken up on the question in the past, and how they opposed making any provision perpetual in the Constitution before we had had experience of its working to guide us. On those grounds, we shall be able to appeal to the people ; and, even if the House carries the agreement, I believe that we shall not appeal to them in vain. I hope that they will veto the agreement, even if this House does not. They will be more independent than honorable members opposite are, and so will be a better tribunal to decide the question. There is Mr. Wade, who is a nightmare to this Government. He appears to them in all shapes. They go wading after him everywhere saying, “Yes, Mr. Wade; Decidedly, Mr. Wade; If you say so, Mr. Wade, we will agree. We dare not disagree with you. Whatever you decide shall be done, because if it is not done we shall be undone later on.” That is the true! position in this matter. The State Governments and their supporters are just as anxious as the honorable member for East Sydney and his friends are, to fasten this burden on the backs of the people. The Prime Minister seemed to think that this arrangement would last for seventy or eighty, years.
– It looks like it.
– Some honorable members, apparently, want to have a little joke, but there are men so constituted that matters of national concern do not appeal to them, even in the National Parliament.
– Surely there is a time limit, even to seriousness ?
– If the honorable member wants to limit my right to speak, he has his opportunity. I challenge him rouse it. He puts leg-irons on the people,gags their representatives in this House,, and tries to bind them in the Constitution. The party opposite are trying to forde their views on the country like the tyrantsthat used to rule of old. I shall say nomore; but shall wait until I see the result, of the division. If that result means that, my children and their children are to be victimized by an Act of this Parliament, I shall be prepared to go to any length to prevent that injustice from being perpetrated. There never was a time In the history of the Commonwealth when it was more necessary for men to show their grit and to have the courage of their convictions. This is the time to fight all along the line, and not merely to put up an imitation of a fight. Before I allow this infamous proposal to be placed in the Constitution, and the people to be bound by it: for all time, I shall do more than appeal to the people in the Town Hall, in Sydney, as the honorable member did, for I’ shall fight here as long as my strength lasts, and as long as I am permitted to do so bv the rules and procedure of the House.
.- A man must be rather new to politics not to understand the bewitching affection that has so very recently been developed upon the Opposition benches for members like the honorable member for Flinders, the honorable member for Parkes, and the honorable member for Mernda. This sudden interest is most touching to those who are not acquainted with the ordinary incidents of a great political contest. I suppose that I have had a larger share in dealing with the Braddon section than any other public man in the Commonwealth ; and I am sure the Committee will pardon me if I address myself to the question before we go to a division. I quite realize that some of tlie ardent opposition shown to the Government’s proposal springs from an entirely patriotic motive. I have been an attentive observer of this debate, and I think we can say, in all fairness, that the spirit displayed on both sides has been a patriotic one, and that the main object in view has been the welfare of the people. But as references have been made so often by honorable members opposite to the cracking of the Ministerial whip, I would point out that the course of the debate has shown, in the most conspicuous way, the absolute independence which the members of this party possess. There is no doubt ihat this division will most seriously affect the position of the Government, and that whether the whip is cracked or not-
– The honorable member is giving it another crack.
– I hope my honorable friend is satisfied with his own impassioned address ; but since my attention has strayed in his direction, may I assure his friends that they must not take too seriously the expiring agonies of his eloquence on the floor of this Chamber? The honorable member has been on the point of dying for his country regularly every week since he became a member of this Parliament. At first, I was seriously anxious about him. I was agonized with the fear that we might suddenly lose him; but I find that if any tonic is required to restore him to his pristine vigour, it is supplied by a defeat. That is exactly what the honorable member is going to experience upon this occasion, and it will do him a world of good. This party has shown, in the face of the whole country in this crisis, the absolute freedom which each member of it possesses to follow his own independent convictions. I am very sorry that any division has occurred in our ranks; but I absolutely respect the force of conviction which has led to it, and the fearlessness with which my honorable friends who differ from me have asserted their views. When honorable members opposite talk about the whip being cracked, they should remember that there is no necessity for a flagellation of that kind on their side. They are all branded and yarded before they come into this House. On all questions affecting their platform, they are absolutely devoid of a chance of exercising their independent convictions, unless they happen to agree with those of a majority of the party. Their attempt to impute to the Government some unhealthy influence over the consciences of honorable members upon this side, is a singularly audacious one. If we had the political arrangement which exists on the other side; what chance would the honorable member for Flinders, the honorable member for Parkes, or the honorable member for Dalley have of expressing their conscientious convictions as they have done on the floor of this Chamber? They would have been in an insignificant minority in the caucus. They would have had to sit on those benches, and probably remain religiously silent ; but they would have been compelled to record their votes directly against their conscientious convictions. Although this exhibition of independence’ may be inconvenient to the Ministry it has’ been displayed at a critical time when there must have been a strong desire on the part of every member on this side to support the Government if possible. I may be allowed to refer to the history of this question, because it bears very strongly; upon the difficulty in which we find ourselves to-night. Honorable members seem to think that if this proposal of the Govern ment and the Premiers is inserted in the Constitution, a fatal stab will be inflicted upon the people of Australia. Some honorable members fear that the people will be manacled. Others have gone so far as to call this an infamous proposal ; but may I remind them that it is absurd to talk of understandings between State and Federal authorities, unless they are expressed clearly and definitely in the form of a constitutional compact? When the question of Federation was before the people of Australia, even its most ardent advocates, inspired by the broadest feeling of national life, assured the people of the States that their rights would be safeguarded, not by mere vague assurances, but within the limits of a Constitution, expressed with all the precision, solemnity, and binding force of an Act of Parliament. Further, they were so careful that there should be no reckless tampering with this bond - because it represents a bond; it embodies a solemn agreement between the States and the Commonwealth - that they made provision that not a word of this Constitution should be altered unless there was a distinct reference to the people, and not until a national majority, that is to say, a majority of the people of Australia) and a majority in four States, concurred in the proposed alteration. When honorable members speak of the difficulty of erasing this agreement from the Constitution, should it be embodied in it, may I remind them that the same measure of difficulty stands in our way before this agreement can be ratified and placed in the Constitution. What is the task before those who believe in this agreement ? Honorable members who talk of Democracy, the national spirit, and the national conscience should remember that the conscience of at least four of the six States must be satisfied, and that the conscience of the whole nation, voting as a nation, must be satisfied, before this agreement can have more than the value of a piece of waste paper. I agree with an honorable member who said here to-day that it is strange indeed that there should be so much objection to a reference to the people of a proposal which concerns them. Our personal share in this matter, as taxpayers, is a very insignificant one. But to the great body of the taxpayers of Australia it is of deep and vital concern. This is not a measure intended to fasten a shackle upon the limbs of fair young Australia.
– That is what it is, and nothing else.
– I was not referring to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie when I said that. This Bill, if it is to become operative at all, must go before, I suppose, the most Democratic tribunal that exists in the world to-day. It will go before that tribunal with checks, not against the will of the majority, but checks which will make it doubly sure that whatever is done will represent the will of the majority of the free electors of Australia.
– Of the States.
– The honorable member says the majority of the States, but what can be the result of a national ballot, in which every man and every woman in Aus tralia takes a part, but a national verdict? Does the honorable member for Gwydir think that he is addressing some rural audience in the Never-Never? The honorable member ought not to push his arguments to such a ridiculous extreme.
– I should not try to pass this kind of stuff off on them.
– I am sure that the honorable member is perfectly honest, but the admission of the honesty is a painful reflection upon the intelligence of the honable member.
– Let me tell the right honorable member that the men of the NeverNever are keener politicians than are those of the towns. They will not be satisfied with “ tripe.”
– I am glad to hear that. If that be so, surely my honorable friend can allow them to express their opinions upon this proposal ?
– We will, too.
– That is all I want. I ask honorable members to consider that the way in which this proposal will be put to the. electors will not be very advantageous from the point of view of the Ministry. On the contrary, the manner in which the verdict of the people will be sought will add to the difficulties caused by the provisions of the Constitution. The Government will occupy the narrow point in a triangular duel. All the electors who are opposed to the perpetuation of the agreement will vote against the Government proposal, and all in favour of the limitation of the period during which it should operate, though at the same time in favour of a fixed contribution to the States, will also vote against the Government proposal. Consequently, it is rather strange that in a House which springs from the people, which is the mere creature of the people, we should hear these Conservative doubts expressed about the intelligence of the electors of Australia and their competence to understand the issue that is to be placed before them. I think that one of the most emphatic appeals which Labour reformers of Australia made in the early history of the Labour party was that those who were gathered within a Parliamentary chamber should no longer retain the absolute right of shaping the destinies of the country ; that on some great occasions the people of Australia should be given an opportunity to express their views upon public questions. My honorable friends were careful to point out - and it was an admirably sound argument - that the public have seldom an opportunity of recording their political views in an intelligent way ; that they might have to vote against a candidate pf whose powers to do good public service, and of the general soundness of whose principles and policy they had the highest possible opinion; that they had to register a vote upon one issue at the expense of their views in favour of a candidate, and in favour of the merits of his general policy. The objection has been urged that one of the ways in which the electors were placed at a disadvantage was that when they had a broad issue submitted to them, instead of being able to decide it upon its merits, they were entangled in a system, and compelled often to vote for an inferior candidate, whose principles they did not believe in, because on one point on which he had expressed an opinion he commanded their approval. The great virtue of this referendum is that in matters of national importance the people can speak uninfluenced by attachment to political parties, whether Ministerial or Labour ; they can vote for an able member of the Labour party on his merits, and on his general principles, and at the same time vote according to their judgment and conscience on. the precise issue submitted for public decision. It is an anomalous thing that on this occasion there should be opposition to this emancipation of the public conscience, that when an endeavour is made to enable the public on this vital matter to express a straight opinion, it should be met with strenuous opposition. And from whom ? We are told that there are Conservatives on this side of the House. There has been an attempt to brand the whole of this party as a Conservative party because one or two of its members are supposed to lie Conservative. It is just as fair to do that as it has been to brand my honorable friends of the Labour party - as they have been branded, most unfairly, more than once - as a party of anarchists.
– The Prime Minister had a better name than that for the right honorable member. He spoke of his party as wreckage.
– I am happy to say that I scorn to allow private recollections to interfere with the performance of my public duties. My honorable friends are very sensitive when their honour is impugned. I never knew a thinner-skinned man than is the average member of the Labour party’ when his dignity is touched. May I sug gest to my honorable friend that the more we try to forget our private grievances the better for the discharge of our public duty.
– The right honorable member must know that I was referring to a remark made by the Prime Minister in this House.
– But the Prime Minister did not refer to me. I was not part of the black labour wreckage. I was a member of a party which was the first to introduce legislation restricting coloured immigration.
– But the remark did not apply only to black labour.
– The Prime Minister said that the right honorable member and his party were the wreckage of all parties.
– May I suggest to my honorable friends that, after all, in these political conflicts, it is not always the shipwrecked who stand in the worst position. If I could only bring home that truth to honorable members opposite, they would be a much happier party then they seem to be.
– That is a very significant statement. The Treasurer looks blue over it.
– The honorable member is again playing on a low string.
– It is a note that tells.
– It is one of the misfortunes associated with membership of an Assembly of this kind that .one has occasionally to listen to observations which are abstained from in other gatherings in different circumstances. It is one pf the penalties of public life that we occasionally meet most undesirable companions. This Federation was impossible from the first unless the dividing line between the powers of the Commonwealth and those of the State were clearly defined by a Constitution. How would it have been possible for the two forms of government to work on the same geographical surface, discharging different duties which must overlap at a multitude of points - how would it have been possible to bring the Federation into any kind of order with a chance of harmonious working - unless the respective spheres of the two powers were strictly delimited? That is what has been done in the Constitution. The Braddon clause was placed in the Constitution on this ground : A number of members of the Convention were anxious to give the finances of the States the same absolute protection that had been given to the powers of the States. There was a great deal of sense in that desire, because the powers of the States could not be exercised unless the finances of the States were in a sound position. It was for that reason that the- Braddon clause was placed in the Constitution. I could not help describing it as the “ Braddon blot,” for it was, in my opinion, a blot in the Constitution. I addressed the electors upon the Constitution Bill with a sense of great responsibility. I was at the time Premier of a. State, and the people looked to me for a fair and judicial summing-up of its merits and demerits. In discharging that judicial duty I pleased neither party; I acquired an appellation that belongs more fairly to almost every other member of the House rather than to myself. Still, it is an appellation that has adhered to me, and I beg to express my thanks to my political opponents of the last thirty years, since they can find nothing worse to say of me. In the course of that speech, and afterwards, it was my duty to point out that the Braddon clause placed the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth upon an absolutely ridiculous footing. I mentioned the ground for that opinion. It was impossible for the Federation to raise a single penny for Federal purposes through the Customs House with the slightest approach to discretion or intelligence. If the Commonwealth required to raise £250,000 for Federal purposes, by means of Customs and Excise taxation, that clause declared that it must raise £1,000,000. That was a preposterous condition, and I denounced it. Indeed, I did more. I was able, with the people of my own State behind me, to invite the Premiers of all the other States to consider that and other matters, and I think mv honorable friends will give me credit for having obtained some alterations in respect of those other matters that were certainly in the interests of the Democracy and of the members of this Parliament.
– The right honorable member is perfectly right sometimes.
– And never more than when I am admiring the chivalrous nature of my honorable friend.
– The right honorable member always gets on the blind side of me.
– That is both sides. The six States were not represented in the Convention, but, I am happy to say, that at the Conference of Premiers held in January, 1899, they were all represented for the first time. I was the only Premier out of the six who was in favour of an alteration of the Braddon clause. We must not forget that prior to the meeting of that Conference every State in Australia to which that clause was referred voted to make it a part of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. That was the position even in New South Wales. The limitation as to the number of votes necessary to secure the acceptance of the Constitution Bill in that State was one that I strongly opposed. I thought it was an unfair condition to impose, in view of the negotiations that had taken place, but I was not strong enough to prevent its imposition, although I am glad to say that I succeeded in bringing down the number very considerably. I was defeated by a majority of the members of the State Legislature, some of whom were absolutely opposed to Federation in any shape or form. However, the whole of the States having voted for the Braddon clause, I met the remaining five Premiers, who told me that their States believed in the clause, and that they, too, favoured it. If New South Wales had not been absolutely necessary to the Federation I doubt very much whether I should have been able to get an alteration; but I stood in a position of very great power, because they knew it was idle to proceed if New South Wales stood out. We tried arduously for several days to bring forward some scheme which would take the place of the Braddon clause. We could suggest none which would give satisfaction ; but every one of us in endeavouring to find a substitute, recognised the right of the States to a permanent share in the revenue from Customs and Excise. Of course, when we use the term “ permanent “ or the term “ perpetuity,” in the very nature of things human, and especially in the -very nature of things political, it can never have the attribute of eternity ; but means only so long as a measure commends itself to the power that brought it into existence, and it is only perpetual and permanent in that sense. Since we could not arrive at a satisfactory substitute, the next best thing was to limit the operation of the clause for ten years, not, I can assure honorable members, with the idea that at the end of ten years, the States should be deprived of any right to a share in the Customs and Excise revenue, but that some method might be devised by which the rights of the Commonwealth as well as the rights of the States could Be provided for. And when I speak of “ rights,” may I say that the whole of this debate seems to me to have proceeded on an absolutely false basis. There never was a case in which the people of Australia were more one than in this case. What is the position that the people of Australia put the Commonwealth in? What is theposition the people of Australia put the States in ? Our masters have allotted to us the business we have to perform, and the same masters have allotted to the States the business they have to perform; and they have registered that, not in an Act of Parliament, which can be changed as the breath of summer, but in a Constitution which has placed a firm obligation on the Commonwealth to do certain things and on the States to do certain things. And that principal, whose agents we are, does not expect either of his agents to do the work which has been appointed them without proper financial arrangements. When honorable members choose to look on this agreement as a sort of fetter on the Commonwealth, I cannot help feeling that the real underlying motive is one that is sometimes made pretty manifest. It was manifest in one remark that my honorable friend, the Leader of the Opposition, made yesterday when he asked, “ Why should we not spend our own money in our own way.” I say that it is not “ our own money,” but the money of the people of Australia; and the people of Australia have put on the States a multitude of onerous obligations which entail a large expenditure out of the public funds.
– It is a marvellous discovery !
– That may be so. I am at present - and it is a delightful position to be in - responsible only for myself.
– The right honorable member did not say that in 1905.
– I do not know any man of the slightest intelligence who, in the course of ten years, has not spoken differently; the man who has not done so is a mere parrot.
– At the Premiers’ Conference in 1905 the right honorable member gave a different interpretation.
– Let it be so. There are some ingenuous natures-
– Consistency is the virtue of the feeble-minded !
– Consistency is the virtue of those who are unable to think - of those who begin life with the fatal mistake of believing they have nothing to learn. That is the sort of person who is always consistent, and he weighs everything by his own standard, which is always rigid and always small. May I here say, as an old public man, that a more chivalrous, outspoken and fair-minded leader than the Leader of the Opposition never existed in the public life of Australia. If he were a worse man, he would be a better leader.
– I did not make the remark which the right honorable member has attributed to me.
– I thought I caught that remark, but if I made a mistake I am very sorry, and I shall put it on some one else.
– The right honorable member is quite in error.
– I implicitly accept what the honorable member says. Underlying the opposition to this reference to the public - to this magnificent Democratic reference to the nation, to the men and women of Australia - there is, I am afraid, a desire tobring about unification by indirect means. In process of time there is nothing more sure than that gradually the powers of the Commonwealth will be enlarged. The current of modern progress and political improvement must lead to an evolution of that kind. But there are two ways of advancing that great movement, and one, and the right way, is by helping the agitation of public opinion and finally obtaining the assent of the people to a deliberate change in the Constitution. The other way is to obtain the power of squeezing the States into submission by starving the services of the States ; and that is one of the great dangers of the policy of my honorable friends opposite. We have heard remarks about the security of an Act of Parliament. The honorable member for Mernda remarked that we would be guilty of an imputation of bad faith in not leaving this matter to the honour of an Act of Parliament ; and I must be allowed to express the opinion that a more ridiculous thing was never said by a most able man, whose labours in connexion with these matters has commanded my thorough respect. In these business arrangements between two great political powers, it is absurd to talk of an understanding; everything must be put in plain black and white. Surely the protection, which any man of business requires of another in the smallest affair of trade, is proper in the case of a State when carrying out large affairs of national interest. Why should the States, with their great and expensive public works to carry on, be put in the position of being at the mercy of the Federal Parliament? The Commonwealth may find its finances weakening; and a very easy way of adjusting its difficulties would be by inserting in the annual Appropriation Bill a clause lessening the amount to be paid to the States. Thus every year the finances of the States would be unsettled. The Federal Parliament could cripple the States, and might bring about endless confusion and irritation, and bitter quarrels. If there is one thing which will keep these mighty constellations revolving peacefully, usefully, and harmoniously in their independent orbits, it is the rigid definition of their appointed courses, so that nothing may be left to chance interpretation. We see the evil of insufficient definition in connexion with the proposal of a Conference of a party which has hitherto asserted that whatever its decision, it puts it into plain words, so that every man can understand it. My honorable friends who used to boast of this most rare and valuable accomplishment are now at hopeless variance as to what was really decided upon by the Brisbane Conference. Some of the members of the Labour party say that it was decided that the States should receive a fixed and permanent share of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– Only one of them ha.s said so.
– The gentleman referred to is a very intelligent man, but another, and perhaps one of the most intelligent public men in Australia, has asserted. - the utterance is recorded in the pages of our Hansard - that the payment was to be for all time. The honorable member for West Sydney has claimed that the merit of the Brisbane arrangement was that it was for all time.
– He was not at the Conference.
– Mr. Holman was there, and he says practically the same thing.
– I did not know that the honorable member for West Sydney was not at the Conference. But for months after the Conference came to its decision, he cherished this illusion, although, in the political fold of the Labour party. That shows that my honorable friends were not as frank in this matter as they are supposed to be. Otherwise, why should the deputyLeader of the Opposition not know thenature of a solemn arrangement of his party, affecting in an important degree the destinies of the Commonwealth and theStates ?
– May I say that in some respects the arrangement was for all time.
– I do not wish to press the point, but there is the element of permanence in the arrangement of the Brisbane Conference.
– It was not proposed toembody the scheme in the Constitution.
– In that case, the Conference acted like a man who, promising topay you £50 a year for the remainder of your life, -will not put the promise into writing. If there was an honest intention to make the arrangement permanent, why should there be reluctance about placing it on record? The States are entitledto know exactly what their financial position will be. How can our friends opposite make promises which will bind any succeeding Parliament? What is the worth of the promises of a Conference, or the promise of individual members? Those who succeed them might fairly say, “ As this matter has been left to the Parliament, it has been left to the judgment of each successive Legislature, which is at liberty to deal with it in accordance with the views of its members. “ That way lie financial chaos and disaster. No agreement will be absolutely perfect. What commends this agreement to me is that it has the essential merit that it will enable the States to know what their revenue is to be from year to year. Let honorable members place themselves in the position of the State Treasurers, who have to forecast the revenue for each coming year. Under the proposed arrange? ment, they will be able to do so almost exactly, but if the States are left at the mercy of chance majorities in this Parliament, there will be no basis of calculation. The way to show our good faith is to draw up the agreement in a form in which it must be respected, unless the authority, which registers it chooses to alter it.
– There has been no at. tempt to interfere with the sugar bounties.
– If the Government tried to fasten this arrangement on the Parliament as a permanent one, I should consider its conduct wrong. The Premiers have been spoken of as though they were the antagonists of this Parliament and of the people of Australia. Their personality is a mere passing incident. But to whom are we to look for the expression of the views of the States if not to their accredited Ministers? Were not the Premiers entitled to approach :this Government and ask for an agreement ? Surely they were. Are there not mutual interests in the Customs and Excise revenue ? Do we forget that it is only through the Customs House that the multitudes of Australia can contribute towards the maintenance of our public services? Honorable members speak as if the Customs and Excise revenue was peculiarly Federal revenue. It was necessary, in order to get a uniform Tariff, t& give the control of the Customs to the Commonwealth authority ; but what was the financial position of the States prior to the adoption of the Braddon clause in the Convention early in 1898? Their total revenue from taxation for the year 1896-7 was about £9,000,000, of which only £7,000,000 came from Customs and Excise duties. Had the people transferred to the Comonwealth all the expensive public services of Australia, this revenue might well have been retained by the Commonwealth. But the most expensive of these services were left under the control of the States, and it is the duty of the Commonwealth to provide for them. Are the States, with their multitude of functions, largely affecting the comfort and prosperity of the masses of the people, not to be in a position to get one farthing from them? Direct taxation cannot be imposed on persons whose incomes are small. That is impossible. I have never believed in taxing the people through the Customs House to the extent to which they have been taxed, and I am painfully conscious of the fact that the importers whom we have appointed to collect the taxation, like the tax-collectors of Eastern despots, charge something for their services. Be that as it may, the only convenient way in which the masses can contribute towards the cost of the public services is by the payment of Customs and Excise duties. Should not the State Governments receive some part of this contribution ? In . no other way can the bulk of the people contribute to their services. But, unless the majority of the people, and majorities in four States, vote for the agreement, it will be within the power of the next Parliament to do what it likes in this matter; to give to the States anything or nothing. Was there ever a time when it was more urgent that the question should be settled, if that is possible? The States had a right to ask the Commonwealth to make an agreement with them. That agreement has been made, and at the right time - within about a year of the expiration of the Braddon provision. Is it not a positive service to the people that, instead of hiding behind generalities, the Government will go to them at the next election with something in black and white ? Is not that an advantage? Is it not a still greater advantage that the electors shall be able to vote at the one time for the men of their choice, and for the principle in which they believe ? It is too late to decry the intelligence of the people. And is it a very difficult question which they are asked to determine - the question of whether an allowance of 25s. per head of the population shall be annually returned to the States? Is that a difficult problem to ask them to solve, as against the proposal to do nothing, or to limit the agreement to a period of years? How hopelessly befogged must be the intellect of any man who thinks that the electors are incapable of determining a proposition of that kind? And if they are competent to consider it, why should any Democrat stand across their path and prevent them from deciding in their own way a mattei which intimately concerns them? The Government have taken up a position of which I approve. No member of the Ministry knew my views upon this agreement until weeks after the Premiers’ Conference had closed. As one who had been so closely associated with the Braddon section; and who had practically brought about the limitation of the operation of that section, I felt a peculiar responsibility in the matter, and I thought it my duty to address to the Chairman of the Premiers’ Conference a letter in which I set forth my views, just as any other citizen was entitled to do. It so happened that every one of the views which I then expressed is recorded in the agreement, and I may add that I had no personal intercourse of any kind with any Premier - even with the Premier of my own State. I can most warmly congratulate the Government upon this Bill: May I suggest to the honorable member for Dalley, who I observe is smiling, that I am just as competent to form an opinion upon this agreement as are other honorable members. I suppose that much will be graciously conceded to me. I am fast losing the impulsiveness which belongs to immature youth. I have expressed my opinions frankly upon this matter. I have no sympathy with those who look upon the referendum as some, ancient god which is to be paraded only on rare occasions. I regard it as one of the finest Democratic features of our Constitution. If it be a good institution, was there ever a question upon which it could be more legitimately used ? Was there ever a question which more intimately affected every man, woman, and child in Australia? The occasion ‘being a just one, the issue being a great one, and one which concerns intimately all the people of Australia, surely the attitude of the Government in seeking, not to force this Bill down the throats of honorable members–
– They seek our approval of it.
– My honorable friends opposite have shown a spirit of delightful candour all through this debate. I never saw more delightful frankness or generosity than has been exhibited by the sealed oysters opposite. When did we ever see five or six of my honorable friends stand up in opposition to the remainder of the Labour party? It would not be a bad thing if they did. I do hope that honorable members who are banded together in this new party will realize the responsibility -which rests upon them. I hope that they will remember that the affection which is lavished upon them by my honorable friends opposite is not an experience which should lull them into a sense of absolute security. If this Bill meant fastening anything upon the people of Australia, I should say that no honorable member was called upon to sacrifice his convictions in -any shape or form. But it proposes merely to establish a definite line - a line in the absence of which everything will be in confusion, and the unhappy strifes of the past will be revived. I confess that there “was a time when I shared the noble sentiment of “ trust the people,” as urged by ardent Federalists when trying to get the Constitution accepted. But trusting the Parliament is quite a different thing. During the past nine or ten years I have had some experience of Federal politics, and I cannot help saying that I feel that the anxiety Of the Premiers to arrive at a binding Agreement with the Commonwealth is absolutely wise and necessary in the interests of the people whom they represent. Talk of a mational spirit ! I cannot conceive of a national spirit which looks with unfriendly eyes upon these vast State authorities. We talk of the anxieties and burdens of this Federal compact of ours. But what is the weight of our responsibility - apart from the way in which we discharge it - in connexion with the Defence Department and the Post Office, compared with that of the manifold complex responsibilities of carrying on all the other institutions of civilized government throughout this continent ? The national spirit will be best shown by honorable members endeavoring to see that all the services of Australia are fairly provided for. We cannot yet directly provide for them. We have not the direct responsibility for them. So long as that responsibility rests with the States, they are entitled to ask, not for an assurance, not for an honorable understanding, but for a Constitutional guarantee to replace the Braddon section. If they are not, this agreement will fall to pieces. If the people of Australia do not respond to the appeal made to them, it will be idle and harmless. My great desire is that the agreement shall be submitted to the people. They are the most impartial judges. They represent the Commonwealth and the States in a sense which it is impossible to employ in reference to ourselves. We members of the Commonwealth Parliament have an atmosphere of our own, just as we have responsibilities of our own. So have the State Parliaments. But in this appeal to the manhood and womanhood of Australia, I cannot understand the action of the man who wishes to strangle the proposed agreement. By so acting, he will be strangling, not an agreement with the Premiers,- .but the right of the people to have this agreement submitted to them for their approval or disapproval. I am prepared to stand on that broad democratic principle, and if the electors reject the agreement - as they are entitled to do - my honorable friends opposite will suddenly discover that the referendum is a very splendid contrivance. I warn my honorable friends that in going against this vital principle of their platform on a matter which affects the pockets of every man and woman in Australia they are pushing their opposition to a dangerous point. They are getting into the ranks of the Conservatives. If we had on the other side the sort of gentlemen who are to be seen on the Opposition benches of the House of Lords at Home, they would stand to a man against this preposterous idea of appealing to the people. The
Labour party of Australia will find the Duke of Norfolk, and all the Dukes, and all the Earls, clasping them round the necks and welcoming them back to the grand old home of privilege, and of horror and fear of the people. We stand forward with a nobler flag than that. We say we believe that this proposal is for the benefit of the people, and we ask them to decide it.
– Every honorable member has listened with more or less pleasure to the remarks of the right honorable member for East Sydney. He so seldom favours us that we long to hear from him, but I am constrained tosay that, freed from its personalities, some humorous and some offensive, and from its comicalities and funniosities, the whole of his speech to-night was merely a pathetic plea for members to vote with the Government, irrespective of what that vote may mean to the people or to themselves. All that the honorable member said was,’ “ You are exercising for once in your life, since the formation of the Fusion, some degree of independence. Cast it out of yourselves; vote with the Government on this critical occasion, in the interest of the Government and the Government alone.” As the right honorable gentleman seems to have a distinct objection to any references to the reason why these pathetic pleas have of late been made on behalf of the Government, or since, to use his own expressive term, his skin is so very thin on that subject, I may pass him by without further reference, except to say that the right honorable gentleman, with all the halo of a King’s counselllorship floating around him, with all the dignity properly attaching to a past Prime Ministership, and with all the kudos of so many years in Parliament, to which he referred so touchingly, should have recognised that it was his duty, as he differs so materially from the honorable member for Flinders, to set himself to demolish’ the powerful, lucid, and logical arguments adduced by that honorable member this afternoon. With him, and him alone on that side of the House, after the Prime Minister had spoken, rested that duty, but he made not the slightest attempt to cut away the ground taken by the honorable member for F linders. On the contrary, there were some comicalities in his speech, and attempts to sidetrack honorable members who interjected, but not one argument advanced by the honorable member for Flinders did he attempt in any way to combat. It seems to me that in that fact alone the right honorable member’s “weakness was manifested to a positively pathetic and distressing degree. Nothing could be more distressing than to find, when a difference of opinion arises on the opposite side between two honorable gentlemen of such standing in the legal and political world, that one of them, having an almost sacred duty to perform in meeting the arguments of the other, should ma)ke remarks one half of which verge upon clownishness and the other half constitute merely a plea to honorable members to sacrifice their independence and vote in the interest of the Government. The right honorable member denied that this was a party question. While he sounded the loud drums and timbrels respecting the independence of certain honorable members on the other side, and alleged that we were unfair in asserting that this was a party question, let me point out that so far as I am aware no honorablemember on this side has asserted that it is a party question with the Ministerialists. That assertion has come from Ministerial,ists themselves. The honorable member for Flinders referred to it as a party question, and although he congratulated’ the .Prime Minister on having given a certain amount of freedom for an expression of opinion by stating that the agreement was set before the House in order toascertain the opinion of honorable members, yet he added that if honorable members on the Ministerial side were free toexpress their own convictions the agreement would not be carried. No more positive assertion that the question is to a largeextent a party one with them could havecome from the Ministerial side. We arealso asked to close our ears to interjections.When the honorable member for Flinders: asserted that it was largely a party ques- tion, and that the whip had been cracked,, interjections were made, .which he properly repudiated, that he was making private discussions public. If we want anything; stronger than the statements of Ministerial5 supporters, are we not bound to regard what the Prime Minister said when concluding; an eloquent appeal to his followers to support him irrespective of results to the country? He said to them in unmistakableterms, “If you do not support me here, at any rate, I shall take the question tothe country.” In that he conveyed a distinct threat that those members of theFusion who failed to support him would? reap the result in the shape of an elections fight. But we have also the frank and free admission of the honorable member for Lang that, were it not a party question, he would vote against the agreement. Could anything be more clear or emphatic? Is it necessary for us on this side to make the assertion, when we hear repeatedly from honorable members opposite that they are not permitted to vote as their consciences dictate or as they believe would be best in the interests of the country, but are absolutely whipped behind the Fusion Ministry for the sake of their political existence, for the sake of Ministerial support, and for the sake of the support of the daily papers that stand behind the Fusion? They abandon every vestige of independence, and sink their convictions as far down in the depths of political degradation as they can sink them, in order to get behind the Ministry. The right honorable member for East Sydney had the audacity, I call it, to say that the statement that this is made a party question comes from this side. If the honorable member had given any attention to the speeches which have been delivered during the debate, he would know that we are able to say that it has been made a party question on the authority of honorable members who have spoken from the Ministerial side. We have been informed that the difficulty of altering the Constitution must be confronted by the Ministry in the endeavour to carry this agreement. It was averred that the alteration of the Constitution necessary is on all-fours with that which would be necessary to withdraw the agreement from the Constitution, once it was embodied in it. The argument is so obviously fallacious that I am justified in saying that it was put forward merely as a pathetic plea, to honorable members to come behind the Ministry on this occasion. The Ministry in this matter have the support of all behind them who are prepared to sink their independence, and, with the exception of two, the support of all the daily newspapers of Australia. The Age, I am pleased to say, is fighting a grand battle against the acceptance of this agreement, which I hope it will continue to fight until the elections are over. I believe that the people of Victoria will decline to accept it, and I feel confident that when it is explained to the people of South Australia, they also will reject it. The Ministry have also standingbehind them in this matter the members of every State Ministry in Australia. The State
Ministers, not content with doing all they possibly can to force the acceptance of the agreement, have gone so far as to deliberately threaten honorable members of the Federal Parliament that, unless they kow-tow to their mercenary desires - for that is what it amounts to, since the State Premiers wish to have the money, without incurring the odium of imposing taxation - unless they bow the head and bend the knee, they will exercise, not merely their individual influence, but all the powers of the Government, to secure the defeat of honorable members of this Parliament who will dare to exercise an independent judgment in dealing with this agreement. When we find the Prime Minister and the members of his Government sheltering themselves behind such a threat, it speaks ill indeed for the future of our Federal life and national development.
Mr.Batchelor. - The Prime Minister has shamelessly used the Premiers’ threat in this House.
– In the circumstances, it seems to me that it should be a comparatively easy matter to have this agreement embodied in the Constitution. The Prime Minister told us that it required the agreement, not only of six State Parliaments, but of the people of the six States, to bring about Federation; but that argument was so utterly demolished by the honorable member for Flinders this afternoon that it is unnecessary for any other honorable member torefer to it. Whilst it will be comparatively easy to put this agreement into the Constitution, every honorable member knows that it will be difficult, beyond description, to get it out of the Constitution if it is once embodied in it. We might have an absolutely unanimous vote in each of the three large States of the Commonwealth, and in each of the three smaller States an exceedingly strong minority ; but unless we could obtain a majority in one at least of those small States, the agreement would remain in the Constitution for all time. I should like particularly to direct the attention of the honorable member for East Sydney to this view of the matter.
– The right honorable gentleman is too busy about something else just now.
– I suppose the honorable member claims the right to engage in a private conversation sometimes.
– I should particularly like to direct the attention of the right honorable member to the fact that, once this agreement is embodied in the Constitution, there will be a vested interest in every State in retaining it there. The State Premiers are telling the people of their States at the present time that the beauty of this agreement, from their pointof view, is its perpetuity.
– Do not say the vested interests of the States, but the vested interests of State Premiers.
– No; State Premiers are ephemeral ; they pass. Some we have heard of are already in a parlous position. The State Premiers are asserting, in contradiction of the statement made by the Prime Minister and by the right honorable member for East Sydney, that the beauty of this agreement is its condition of perpetuity. That would give them confidence ; and it is their desire and intention that it shall remain a part of the Constitution for all time. This is a clear indication of the trend of the thought of the members of the State Governments. No matter what may be the requirements of the Federation in the future, or how much we may desire to develop national life, they will hang on with all the power they can to the money which is unnecessarily being offered to them under this agreement, and will avoid the odium of imposing taxation to find funds for State undertakings. The assertion that there is any possible comparison between the difficulty of putting this agreement into the Constitution, and the difficulty of taking it out if it is once put in, indicates a weakness of argument which should strengthen the opposition of those who are determined that the agreement shall not be accepted. It is indeed strange that we should be told that consistency is merely an indication of inability to think.
– It is not strange, coming from the right honorable member who made the statement.
– It is not strange, coming from a right honorable member whose inconsistency on all subjects has ever been more prominent than his consistency. But it is strange that this should be put forward as an argument in support of the peculiar stand the right honorable gentleman is taking at the present time. If there is one man in all Australia whom we have to thank for the fact that the Braddon “blot” was not imprinted on the Constitution for all time, it is the right honor able member for East Sydney. The arguments which the right honorable gentleman adduced in 1899 must be present to the minds of all who took an interest in the Federal movement ; and as applied to the terms of the particular agreement now under consideration, they are as strong as ever they were. Why are we not informed of the circumstances to-day which justify so glaring an instance of inconsistency? If ten years ago it would have been fatal to the Federal life and development to have that particular provision operating permanently, what is there to-day to show that it will not be fatal to place on the Constitution another “ blot “ of a similar character? What argument has been adduced by any honorable member on the Ministerial side to show that it would not be equally fatal, equally a check upon the development of our national life, to place this agreement in perpetuity in the Constitution ? If the clause which was inserted in the Constitution Bill at the instance of the late Sir Edward Braddon was called “ the Braddon blot,” it seems to me that this agreement, if inserted in the Constitution, will be known in the immediate future, as “ Deakin’s dam.” It will be known under that title because it will dam back the springs of our national life. It will check and throw back the flood tide of national opinion. It will stop everything in theshape of development. It will be a check, a curb, if not checkmate to the whole of the aspirations of the Australian people. When some of us supported the Federal movement against the wish of others with whom we had the pleasure to work, it was because we had before us the wonderful examples of Germany, Switzerland, the United States, and Canada, in each of which the national life had been opened up as the result of a Federation, such as we were proposing to enter into. It was in the hope of cutting down the absurd imaginary State boundaries and the restrictions that were imposed upon us as an Australian people that we entered the Federation, and yet, after a few years of experience, we find the very men who were loudest in their praises of the Federal Constitution, foremost in proposing to place in that Constitution something that will reflect upon them for all time, and will impair, if not altogether interfere with, our development. I hope that it is not too late even now to appeal to one or two honorable members opposite to take a broader view of what is necessary. I hope that it is not too late to appeal to them to forget for the moment that the Fusion, such as it is, despite the threats of the Prime Minister, may or may not support them at the next general election, and to urge them to ask themselves if what they are proposing to do will be for or against the interests of the Commonwealth. I appeal to them to consider whether they have a right in such circumstances, their common convictions being strong in another direction, to place themselves behind the Ministry on this occasion, merely because it may happen that Ministers and their influence will be used against them at the next general election. It seems to me to beclear that if the position is put before the country in lucid and unmistakable terms, then no matter what sophistry may be indulged in, no matter how plausible may be the efforts of honorable members who are supporting this agreement, honorable members must of necessity be brought back to a sense of their responsibilities, quite irrespective of what theFusion in its extremity may do. So far as I know the Labour mind, there is not one objection to the referendum. A few moments ago, much stress was laid on our alleged objection to the principle. It was sought so to construe the attitude of honorable members on this side as to lead the public to believe that we are opposed to the referendum ; that we are opposed to placing this or any other question before the people, and asking them their opinion upon it. There is an immeasurable difference between a proposal to place in the Constitution a provision that cannot be removed, and one to submit to a referendum of the people the question whether they will give the National Parliament greater or less power, or whether they are prepared to accept a certain form of legislation. This is not a proposal to empower the Federal Parliament to do certain things by means of a referendum in the ordinary sense of the term. The question is whether this Parliament shall be permitted to exercise a power which the Constitution now gives it.
– And which was granted to us by a referendum.
– Yes, and over which we have had no means of exercising an influence. The Constitution under which we work limits the operation of the “ Braddon blot “ to a term of ten years, and that term has not expired. Will honorable members remember that a re ferendum of the people has already given us the power to deal with the financial question? It has said that for ten years we shall exercise that power in a limited manner, and that ten years’ period has not expired. Will honorable members recollect that when that time has expired we shall have the right to say what shall be done in the matter of a financial arrangement with the States? I am convinced that every honorable member on this side of the House is as firmly in favour of the referendum as ever he was, and that there is not the slightest objection to the submission of any question to the people. I am prepared to agree that there shall be submitted to the people, if necessary, by means of the ordinary referendum, the question whether the Federal Parliament shall be limited in the exercise of its present power in this regard ; but I am not prepared to support a scheme that would give the State Governments in particular a vested interest to which they would cling with the tenacity of limpets. What is our experience of State Governments? The Government of which the late Mr. Thomas Price was the leader is the only State Ministry that has ever worked harmoniously with the Federal Government and Parliament. If honorable members search the history of every State Government that has held sway from the inception of Federation until to-day, they will find that only one Government - that over which a Labour man had control for nearly four years - has displayed a national spirit and worked harmoniously with this or any other Federal Ministry that has happened to be in power. From the outset, we have had on the part of State Governments bitter and unqualified opposition and wilful misrepresentation. We have had a sinking of every sense of honour, and a doing of things on the part of every State Government which every honorable member should rebel against. We have had to fight misrepresentation from start to finish. The one long drawn-out plea of State Governments has been that the Federal Parliament is extravagant. Well do I know that the Labour party in South Australia have had to follow and speak in order to check some of the State Ministers in their gross misrepresentations of Federal finance, and the manner in which money is expended by the Federal Parliament. We have had to face bitter opposition, small and parochial as it is, and it will continue, for no State Ministry at present is displaying a spirit which could by any stretch of the imagination be described as national. We were told in this connexion only a few minutes ago that the people, by means of the Constitution, had allotted to each Parliament the duties they are to perform. But, unmistakably, so far as the Federal duties are concerned, from the year 1901 there has been a distinct, and very often a gravely wrong, interference in Federal matters by the State Governments, who have not taken notice of the fact that, according to the right honorable member for East Sydney, they have been allotted their particular duties. If they -have been allotted their particular duties, why are we informed that the Premiers have the right to come and demand an agreement in this shape? If they have that right, then we ought to know what terms they asked for, and what terms were submitted- As the Parliament responsible for what ought to be done, we should be given that information. It is most unfortunate that this Conference, interfering as it did deliberately in the realms of Federal work, and directly with the work of this Parliament,, should have been of a secret character, and that the Prime Minister dare not tell us what were the arguments adduced by the Premiers to make him change the opinion he held when he first went into the Conference room. If the Prime Minister dare not give us that information, how can we hope that, in the future, with this agreement in the Constitution, the State Governments will assist in any amendment, no matter what the extremity of the Federal Government may be. The Prime Minister is fully aware that, from* the day the agreement goes into the Constitution, every State Government will be a powerful factor to “keep it there. The records of all successive State Governments, except those of the Labour party, show that there will be an utter indifference to the requirement’s of the Commonwealth, and that they will hold whatever may be in their possession to the disadvantage of the public generally. It would be an exceptionally easy matter for the State Governments to spend money for the raising of which they are not called upon to impose taxation. Nothing is more easy than to spend when there is not the odium of imposing the burden. And may I point out, although it has been pointed out several times, that the Federal Government has always shown a disposition to be lavish towards the States. It is absurd and almost puerile to say that when we object to this particular agreement we desire to starve the States. Have the Federal Governments of the past starved the States? -Must it be repeated time and again that, during the last eight years, the Federal Government have given to the States £6,500,000 more than there was any necessity to give. If there has been any starving, it has been the starving of the Federal services by the Federal Government, as shown in the curtailed expenditure, particularly in the Defence and the Post and Telegraph Departments. And this starvation has only arisen because the Federal Government have been anxious to give the States more than the Constitution demanded. How puerile, under the circumstances, is the argument of the right honorable member for East Sydney ! How absurd it is to endeavour to fasten on this side of the House a desire to starve the State Governments ! No honorable member, so far as my memory serves me, has ever complained about the return of £6,500,000 to the States ; and it is absurd to’ suggest that there would be any complaint in the future, or that members of Parliament would dream of permitting the States to be so financially embarrassed as to cause difficulty worthy of notice. I am justified in offering these few words in reply to the comical utterance of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and, in regretting again that he did not see his way clear to attempt to answer, even if he did not succeed, some of the arguments of the honorable member for Flinders. Personally, I deeply regret that there should be any attempt to put this agreement into the Constitution, because such a course will inflict a grave injustice. Honorable members who support tlie proposal of the Government are curbing, if they are not altogether preventing, any development in the future, and inflicting an injustice upon the industrial classes of the community. They know, at the same time, that they are striking a death-blow at the Protective Tariff. . Argue how they may, or be as plausible as it is possible for some inconsistent’ individuals to be, the insertion of the agreement in the Constitution will kill Protection in Australia. The supporters of the agreement are striking a death-blow, not merely at Protection as we understand jit, but at what is termed the new Protection, and dashing to the ground any hope the industiral classes of Australia may have for the future. They are deliberately aiming at what are known as revenue taxes, which fall on the vast bod) of the people least able to bear them, and they are supporting and coddling a small section of the community, which even in conservative England is forced to add its mite to the cost of the defence of the country. Here that section of the community, at whose behest the political fusion took place, goes free; and the Administration has done nothing but approve and give effect to the demands of this section. I hope that the submission of the agreement to the people will mean its rejection. And if itbe rejected I trust the Ministry will take that as an intimation that its views on the financial question are not in accordance with the wishes of the public. Every effort of mine will be exerted to secure the rejection of the agreement by South Australia, which is, if possible, more Federal than some of the other States. I do not wish that State to put a blot on its record by accepting an agreement which wouldbe disastrous to our Federal life.
– It seems to me that to place the agreement in the Constitution will be a crime without parallel in the records of the past.
– The King will not trust the people!
– I am willing to trust the people, but when a number of questions are put before them at the same time their opinions cannot be clearly expressed. The first Federal referendum in New South Wales showed that sometimes the public do not understand the questions submitted to them. The proposed agreement would be injurious to the small States. I am the only member of the Committee who has lived for years in a Federation other than this. No other honorable member has had practical experience of Federation, except during the last eight years in Australia. My Federal experience leads me to think that the acceptance of the agreement would injure the small settled States of Victoria and Tasmania, though it would benefit the booming States of New South Wales and Queensland. The New England States of America, with the exception of Massachusetts and Maine, have not increased their population to any notable extent for the last forty or fifty years. Their young men have gone West to take up cheap land, and they have got only the backwash of the population movement. The proposed agreement would place 4,000,000 persons in constitutional shackles, it would trample 4,000,000 human souls under the brutal heel of State rights. I used to consider the Prime Minister a statesman, but last night I heard him say thatwe could not look twenty years ahead. The thinkers and philosophers of the past thought of the statesman as the man who understands the present and moulded the future accordingly ; the man who knows today what the multitude will think fifty or sixty years hence. The statement of the Prime Minister that we cannot look ahead is a sad one. We who intend to vote against the agreement are the Nationalists, those who vote for it are the AntiNationalists, the Anti-Democrats, and the AntiProgressivists. The people gave to the Commonwealth power in respect to thirtynine specified matters, making the members of this Parliament trustees for their interests. Had they intended that a provision of this kind should be in the Constitution, they would have said so.
– They did say so. They supported the provision when the first referendum was taken.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney took it out of the Constitution. Honorable members opposite are being driven with the lash. I have heard the whip cracked, and have seen the strokes on their backs.
– We shall see which side will vote solidly.
– Our vote will be as solid as a bar.
– We thought that we could trust the national financial honour to the Prime Minister, who, a few years ago, was such a strong Nationalist.
– We know better now.
– To our sorrow. The position reminds me of the action of two Yankees in a crowded American train. The passengers wore splendid jewellery, and had plenty of money in their pockets. One of the Yankees, addressing the crowd, said, “ My friend and I have been discussing whether there is a Supreme Being, and, if so, whether he takes an interest in the human family. We wish to ask you to decide. All who believe that there is a Supreme Being raise the right hand.” The hands went up. Then he said, “All who believe that the Supreme Being takes an interest in the human family raise the left hand.” All present complied, and the man then added, drawing two six shooters, “ Now keep your hands up while my friend picks your pockets.” That is exactly what is occurring here. It seems to me that the Ministerial followers in this House have been chloroformed. The Premiers of the States came to Melbournean outside body. They were just as much outsiders as is the Premier of New Zealand, or President Taft of the United States, or Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister of England. They held a secret conclave, with the aid of dark lanterns and bull’seyes and burglars’ tools. They sneaked up to this House at night, and I recollect one occasion upon which I met the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence leaving this building, when they looked as if they were being shadowed. When I spoke to the Minister of Defence he replied in low, hushed tones.
– Did the Premiers admit the honorable member to the Conference upon that day?
– Personally, the Premiers are all fine gentlemen, but they were engaged in a work which will probably affect the welfare of this country for all time. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister appears to have lost his balance over this question, which is now one for the House to decide. If the numbers are against us, we must bow to the decision of the majority. I trust that the amendment of the honorable member for Mernda will be carried-
– Will the honorable member support his financial scheme?
– No, because I consider that my own scheme is a better one. Quite recently I received a letter from Mr. Holman, who was present at the Brisbane Labour Conference, in which he admitted that my scheme is the only one which provides for a fair financial adjustment as between the States and the Commonwealth. Under it the sum of £6,100,000 would be annually returned to the States, and £870,000 would be paid into a sinking fund, so that £175,000,000 of the State debts would be extinguished in sixty years. If the proposal of the honorable member for Mernda be not carried, this agreement will be taken out of the Constitution only after Australia swims in the blood of her own people, just as America did over the abolition of slavery. There is no doubt that the Fusion party will be held to a terrible account if the agreement be once embodied in the Constitution. We must recollect that Belshazzar fell. The Persian was at the gate. The Labour party are near the gate now, and the handwriting is on the wall. If honorable members opposite are not careful, the day will come when it will take more undertakers than we possess to “ plant “ them.
– I listened with considerable interest to the very able addresses which were delivered by the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for East Sydney. I was very much sur prised to hear the latter practically de clare that “ Yes-Noism “ in politics is the correct principle to adopt. I was under the impression that some principles are founded on truth, and, consequently, are eternal. The man who sets up an opposite ideal does not do anything to elevate politics. No doubt such an ideal is one. which appeals to a political opportunist. I trust that our political life has not degenerated to such a stage that the opportunist has become an important quantity in it, but that we still have men who are prepared to stand by well -matured opinions on political questions, irrespective of whether they are popular or not. If the ethics of the opportunist were generally accepted, I fear that politics would degenerate into a condition that would reflect no credit upon public men, or on those who elected them. It is possible, however, that the present occasion will call for some kind of apology of that character, because when the Federal Constitution was under popular review, members now sitting on the Ministerial side of the Chamber expressed opinions with regard to its financial provisions diametrically opposed to those which they have expressed to-day, and probably opposed also to the votes which they will record on this proposal of the Fusion Government. It will be regrettable if such an apology is necessary on the part of the right honorable member for East Sydney, because I have every respect for him. I admire some of the great political work that he did in New South Wales, and stood behind him in carrying some of his Democratic proposals, and I should be sorry to learn, at this late hour, that those great reforms were to him matters, not of principle, but of expediency and opportunism. The right honorable gentleman passed a eulogy on the referendum proposed to be taken in connexion with this question, and appealed to honorable members on this side to support it, because the popular referendum is a basic principle of their platform. But the referendum which the right honorable member advocates is not that which we support. If this alteration of the Constitution could be submitted to a popular referendum as we understand it, I should have no hesitation in sending it to the people, but the referendum as now proposed by the Government requires an affirmative vote, not only of a majority of the whole of the people, but also of a majority of the States. Our opposition to it is, therefore, not a contradiction of our support of the principle of a popular referendum. The States have unequal populations, and, as the honorable member for Darwin pointed out, certain of them have great possibilities of expansion, while others are limited in then capacity to carry a greatly increased population. Consequently, there will be in the future, as there has been in the past, an uneven balance of population as between State and State. Surely State boundaries do not determine national aspirations and national principles ; but under the bogus referendum approved of by the right honorable member for East Sydney, a question affecting the future welfare of the Commonwealth may be influenced by the artificial lines that separate one section of the people from another. I dealt with this phase of the question in the introductory debate on the Bill, from the stand-point of population as distributed in the States, and of the latest registration of electors. The matter was dealt with by the Sydney Worker in an able article headed, “ A Party that has lost its Punch,” and published on the 21st of last month. The article deals with certain differences of opinion between the members of the State and Federal Labour parties on some phases of this question. I shall not refer to them as they are not pertinent to my remarks tonight. But I wish to deal with the presentment of the case by the Worker, which shows the un-Democratic and unrepresentative character of this referendum, which has the approval of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and of those who will vote with him on this question. The
Worker takes, not the population statistics, and not the present total of registered voters in Australia, but the actual votes which were cast at the last Federal election by the men and women of the Commonwealth who esteemed their privileges as citizens sufficiently highly to take the trouble to record their votes on that’ occasion. The total votes recorded were: For New South Wales, 381,336; for Victoria, 381,185; Queensland, 124,539 ; South Australia, 70,517 ; Western Australia, 52,712 ; Tasmania, 48,879, or a total of votes recorded throughout the Commonwealth of 1,059,168. Those votes were recorded in a referendum on a proposed alteration of the Constitution, extending the term of office of senators in such a way as to bring about the general elections for both Houses of the Federal Parliament at a more convenient season pf the year. It will be admitted that on such a subject there would not be scope for the same differences of opinion as there would be in a referendum upon the alteration of the Constitution now proposed. It must be remembered also that all the votes cast on that occasion against the proposed alteration of the Constitution did not represent an opinion against the need for the alteration. Many of them were votes polled by persons who desired to cast a halo about the Constitution, and believed that it was not wise to alter it at all.. Let us suppose that in the referendum on the proposal now submitted there was a unanimous vote in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, and that in the smaller States of South Australia and Western Australia there was a division of opinion, that some desired that the Braddon section should continue as it stands in the Constitution, and that others believed that the contribution to the States should be reduced to 25s. per capita, and that the electors voted in the following manner: - In South Australia, 35,258 for the alteration, and 35,259 against the alteration ; in Western AustraHa, 26,356 for the alteration, and 26,357 against it ; and in Tasmania, 24,439 f°r the alteration, and 24,440 against it. The result would be that of the total votes recorded throughout the Commonwealth, 973>TI3 would have been polled for the “alteration desired and only 86,055 against it. But because those 86,055 voters happended to be located on a particular side of certain imaginary lines separating one State from another, although they were within the Commonwealth, they would be able to frustrate the will of 973,113 of their fellow voters.
– I call attention to the the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– We are told by the honorable member for East Sydney that that is a referendum, and that as advocates of the principle of the referendum we should be prepared to trust this matter to a referendum of that character. Let me tell the right honorable gentleman that I believe that if the Duke of Norfolk were here, instead of voting with honorable members on this side, as he supposed, he would be found actively supporting the right honorable gentleman himself. Not only the Duke of Norfolk, but all strong Conservative interests, might be trusted to support such a referendum. The Duke of Norfolk probably would prefer that there should be no referenda at all, but I am satisfied that he would prefer a referendum of this character to one that was truly national, and the rights honorable member for East Sydney would find himself sitting cheek by jowl with the Conservatives he has named. Under the dual referendum for which the Constitution provides a proposal that failed to obtain a majority of votes in a majority of the States would be lost, although the voting might be eleven to one in favour of it. J unhesitatingly say that that form of referendum was cast in a Conservative mould. No doubt it was found in framing the Constitution that concessions had to be made to the demand that the people should be given an opportunity to voice their wishes through the medium of the referendum, and as usual with the Conservative forces the concession was given with one hand and mutilated with the other. The referendum for which the Constitution provides in effect that the States as States shall be superior to the people as a whole. That phase of the question! ought to appeal strongly to honorable members on all sides. It is true that the- Braddon clause as originally inserted in the Constitution Bill was to remain in operation for all time, unless amended by the means for which the Bill provided. New South Wales was so strongly impressed with the undemocratic nature of the instrument as originally presented, however, that it refused to give it the support necessary to secure its adoption. The result was the modification of the Bill Lel me say in passing that the vote that was recorded in New South Wales against the Constitution Bill on both occasions did not represent an anti-Federal feeling. There may have been in New South Wales a few who were opposed to Federation under any conditions, but the State was Federal :t heart. A large section of the voters there were Democratic in their views and desired the Constitution Bill to embody as completely as possible their Democratic ideals of self-government. Their opposition to its adoption was clue to the fact that it did not go as far in that direction as they desired. The fight turned on that point, and the result was an alteration of the. Constitution Bill limiting the operation of the Braddon clause for a period of ten years. If New South Wales had not joined the Federation Queensland would not have done so, and a Federation without those States would not have represented the united interests of Australia. The Constitution as finally passed provides that the States shall receive for ten years from the inception of Federation three-fourth* of the revenue from Customs and Excise raised by the Federation. Thereafter the whole matter of finance is left to the Federal Parliament to deal with as it thinks fit. Many opinions have been expressed during this debate as to the interests of the States in this matter, and some honorable members have sought to excuse the vote which they propose to give and which, it seems, will not really represent their convictions. They say that it is, after all, a matter of compromise, and that since no better terms than are now offered can be obtained from the State Premiers the agreement should be accepted. I would remind them that the State’ Premiers are clothed with no power under the Constitution to deal with this question, and are not in a position to dictate terms to the Commonwealth. That Constitution arms this Parliament with the fullest power, and under it the custodians of the rights of the States are not the State Premiers but the Senate. The Government, in order to oblige the State Premiers, and possibly to secure for the Fusion their support at a critical stage, have asked this Parliament to divest itself of the full powers with which it is clothed under the Constitution. It is proposed to so modify the Braddon section that the States, instead of receiving three-fourths of the revenue, shall receive 25s. per capita, and to embody the modification in the Constitution for all time. But, supposing the original draft of the Constitution had been agreed to by the States, what would have been the position of the Federation to-day? It is admitted by honorable members opposite, that the position would have been intolerable, and that the proper functions of the Federal Government could not have been discharged satisfactorily. During the eight years, of Federation, and particularly during the last three or four years, the Commonwealth Departments have been starved, notably the Post and Telegraph Department, which concerns the public more intimately than any other. Competent officials have informed the Postal Commission that it will require £2,000,000 to place the Department on anything like a proper working basis ; and these undesirable, conditions would continue if the Braddon clause were permitted to operate in perpetuity. When the Constitution was drafted, it was supposed that the Braddon section might reasonably be accepted for all time; and yet, in the short period that has intervened, it has been found necessary, from practical experience, to modify it to a very considerable extent. Is it not reasonable to suppose that our conditions ten yean; hence may be so different that our present assumptions may be quite as far astray as were the assumptions of eight or ten years ago? If such should prove to be the case, Parliament, if the Government proposal were carried, would be helpless to intervene, and the electors would have to be appealed to to make another change in the Constitution under conditions where, as I have already pointed out, it would be possible for 80,000 electors in’ a certain portion of the. Commonwealth to frustrate the will of 970,000 of their fellow electors. That, I admit, is an extreme presentment of the case ; but it is a possibility under the Constitution. It has been urged that the States require a definite undertaking included in the Constitution, but I am not prepared to admit that there is any such need. Legislation quite as vital is not so embodied. Let me point, for example, to the Naval Agreement, which has been, and will be, observed for the specified period, and also to the legislative undertakings in regard to the sugar and other bounties which this Parliament is prepared to honour, and, possibly, to extend if necessity be shown. Further, there is the Tariff legislation, which is of vital importance to the commercial interests of the community,. The Tariff, of course, is subject to variation ; but it has a certain amount of durance, and no change will be proposed unless the people so desire. Indeed, the same may be said of all legislation, and, of course, of the Bill before us. I am satisfied that if we adopted a term of five, ten, or twenty years, that legislative undertaking would be honoured. If it were not, and a . change were brought about, it would be the result of a very strong desire on the part of a substantial majority of the electors. I do not say that the States should not share in the Commonwealth surplus, nor that, the agreement is, under existing conditions, unfair. I am prepared to accept it, but I would limit its duration to a term of years. If necessary, I would embody it in the Constitution, giving it a duration of only ten years. I do not think that it would be wise to legislate in advance for a longer period. At the end of that term, the arrangement could be reviewed. I strongly object to putting an interminable arrangement into the Constitution, because of the undemocratic method by which alone an amendment of that instrument can be secured. Could it be altered at the will of the majority of the people, without regard to the artificial boundaries of the States, I should not hesitate to vote for the proposal of the Government ; but, inasmuch as it would be possible for 80,000 persons to frustrate’ the wishes of 900,000, and that inequality is likely to be accentuated in the future, I refuse to do so. My influence will be exerted towards providing for the adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, as conditions may require, so that changes may be made when a majority may consider them necessary.
, - I listened with great interest to the speech of the right honorable member for East Sydney. As he for years led the party to which I belonged, his views have great influence with me. I desired to hear to-night what he had to say regarding the method of altering the Constitution.
– He did not refer to that.
– He referred to the fact that in the draft Bill which was first submitted to the people the Braddon provision was interminable, and that he took advantage of the measure which required a minimum affirmative vote to secure its acceptance to have it reviewed. In his addresses to the public, he dwelt upon the difficulty of amending the Constitution, showing that to secure an amendment a majority of the whole people and a majority of the States would be required. . If three of the States, containing more than twothirds of the whole population of the Commonwealth, favoured an amendment, and the other three, containing only one-third, opposed it, the minority, not the majority, would prevail. I wished to hear what the right honorable member had to say on that matter, but he did not express an opinion regarding it. The honorable member for Mernda put forward his proposal in a manner due to its importance, and said that there were certain honorable gentlemen who sit on this side of the Chamber who think that certain things should be done. It must not be taken, however, that all who vote for his amendment are in favour of his proposals. The honorable member for Maranoa, for instance, has said that he intends to vote for the amendment because he wishes to prevent the acceptance of the agreement. The honorable member for Mernda does not see that his proposal offers an incentive to the States to stop immigration when their population shall have nearly reached 6,000,000, because then they will receive £7,500,000 from the Commonwealth, and the opportunity will arrive for reviewing the financial agreement. The honorable member for Parkes said that he had some misgiving as to the ability of the Commonwealth to pay 25s. per capita to the States.
– I said that I might favour the payment of even 30s. for a limited period.
– The honorable member poised out that there might be a falling off in the Commonwealth revenue. He evidently overlooked the fact that by a readjustment of the Tariff a much larger revenue might be raised than has hitherto been collected. I take it that, for the purpose of raising additional revenue, the Government have in view the taxation of certain articles which have hitherto escaped taxation.
– That will mean the taxing of the poor to a greater extent than they are already taxed.
– Undoubtedly. Possibly the Government will propose a tax upon tea and kerosene. The honorable member for Flinders, in his very lucid address, assumed that the Commonwealth had but one means of raising revenue, namely, through the Customs. He quite ignored the fact that it possesses unlimited powers of taxation. It may impose taxation upon land or income, or it may levy a tax upon property. We may legislate, too, for the imposition of death and succession duties.
– The States already have those taxes in operation.
– I say that all these sources of taxation are open to us. Quite recently there died in Sydney a citizen who was reputed to be worth £4,000,000, and who left the bulk of his money to two of his relatives. That circumstance points to an avenue of taxation which might advantageously be exploited in the future. But the honorable member for Flinders assumed that all our revenue must be raised through the Customs. He did, however, make one very important point, namely, that it was for this Parliament, and not for the States, to review the Braddon section of the Constitution. The recent Conference of Premiers was held behind closed doors, so that the public are not aware of the means by which this agreement was arrived at. But upon his return to Sydney, Mr. Wade let in a little light upon the subject. He gave a long explanation, which is printed in the newspapers of the 25th August, in which he stated his reason for accepting the agreement. In it he declared -
The Commonwealth held the position of vantage and drove a hard bargain in so far as New South Wales was concerned.
It seems to me, therefore, that his complaint is that he was not fairly treated. When the fusion of parties in this House took place, the newspapers reported -
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Deakin, to-day made public the policy which has been agreed to by all parties sitting behind him.
It then recited the basis of the Fusion, clause 4 of which reads -
Pending the preparation of a complete scheme adjusting the future financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, an interim arrangement to be proposed under which the Customs and Excise revenue shall be dealt with.
That was the basis upon which the Fusion took place, and upon which the Prime Minister was empowered to enter into an agreement with the State Premiers. But he emerged from that Conference pledged to an agreement which was not an interim one. On the contrary, it is to be perpetual. To alter that agreement after it has been embodied in the Constitution will be most difficult, seeing that it will require a majority of the electors in a majority of the States. In the earlier portion of the week I pointed out that two alternatives were open to us. One of these is to amend the agreement, so as to make it cover a period of ten years, and the other is to provide that the States shall indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of any money which it may require. The Commonwealth should retain all the money that it requires for its own purposes, and return the balance to the States. Thus the Braddon section would practically be continued. Confidence would be established, because, if the States broke faith with the Commonwealth, the latter would at once terminate the Braddon section. That would be an agreement of an interim character. An interim agreement being the basis of the Fusion which has taken place in this Parliament, I have no course open to me but to vote for it, and thus to remainstaunch to the Fusion. By so doing I shall give the Premier of New South Wales an opportunity of again being heard in a Conference, where he may obtain justice. I think that Mr. Wade should be given another opportunity of being heard upon this matter, so that the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth may be adjusted to the satisfaction of all parties.
– I have listened attentively to the various addresses which have been delivered upon this question from both sides of the chamber. It appears to be that it is not a question of whether the agreement shall cover a fixed period, but of whether we shall have any agreement at all. The honorable member who has just spoken indicated his anxiety to have a fixed period in the agreement, but the amendment of the honorable member for Mernda will not bring that about, and, if carried, will simply result in the Bill being dropped. There appears to underlie the amendment not only a desire to defeat the Government on the agreement, but an attempt to shelve all the legislation that has for a considerable time been forecast on the notice-paper. If the amendment is carried, and the Government carry out the intention which the Prime Minister announced, the various Bills which are now well forward must be dropped.
– Oh, no.
– I for one decline to support the Government in any other measures after the Prime Minister’s statement that this agreement must be adopted by the House or taken to the country. It will be obligatory upon him to take the Bill to the country at the earliest possible moment.
– That is absolutely wrong. He intimated that it would be taken to the country at the next general election.
– Then the next general election must take place immediately.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong.
– The Capital site question is coming on. The Bill has been passed by another place, and advanced in this Chamber, and I can see in this movement an attempt by the Dalgetyites to kill it. The honorable member for Mernda said that we were asked to submit future Parliaments to conditions to which we ourselves would not submit. I can hardly follow his meaning, but I consider thathis amendment is an attempt to force the people to submit to something which they never expected in pre-Federal days. The Government will either have to go on with the Bill or drop it. If it is dropped other consequences must follow, and the Treasurer will have to resort to a policy of short-dated loans to meet his financial obligations for this year, as he indicated in his Budget statement. The Government cannot possibly keep faith with the members of this party or with the country if they agree to the modification of the agreement in any way. A good deal of comment has been made on the decision arrived at at the Brisbane Labour Conference, and those who took part in it do not appear to agree as to what they themselves intended. But it was made quite plain to the outside world, from the reports that leaked out, that it was the intention of the Conference that the per capita contribution to the States should be for all time. That could only be achieved by embodying it in the Constitution. We have been twitted by the Opposition with not being allowed to exercise our individual judgment on this question. It has been asserted that the whip has been cracked.
– We ought to. have a quorum to hear this speech. [Quorum formed.]
– I have already indicated my view that we must have the agreement in its entirety, or the Braddonsection must continue as at present. I am sure that the electors will ratify the agreement if it is submitted to them. That has been proved by the Queensland general elections, whichhave been the first held since the agreement was entered into, and at which the Government were returned by a large majority. This question was made more or less an important issue there.
– Why should the agreement be accepted by the Queensland electors at the next election?
– Because the electors of Queensland are the same people as will have to deal with this matter when it comes before them for ratification.
-Why should we keep a quorum for the Government? Let them keep their own quorum.
– Order! The honorable member must not talk in the gangway.
– Is the honorable member in order in deliberately going about the chamber calling honorable members out of it?
– I cannot say that I heard the honorable member calling members out of the chamber. The action of the honorable member may not be in good taste, but I think there is nothing in the Standing Orders against it.
– I object to the Minister of Defence grossly misrepresenting me. I said I was not going to keep a quorum for the Government at this hour, while honorable members opposite are “ stonewalling.” I do not intend to keep a quorum for them, and shall leave the chamber now.
– I was saying, when interrupted, that the first indication that the people approve of this agreement has been given by the result of the recent elections in Queensland. The Leader of the Queensland Government took a very active part in arranging the agreement, and he has since stood most firmly by its terms. His Government were returned at the recent election by a very large majority, and the number of votes recorded in their favour shows unmistakably that the people approve of the agreement. I hope that the Government will not waver in their intention with regard to this matter, and that if the amendment is carried they will lose no time in going to the country in order that the views of the people may be heard on this very important question.
Question - That the word “ The,” proposed to be left out, stand part of the clause (Mr. Harper’s amendment) - put.
The Committee divided.
Amendment agreed to.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to intimate that, in accordance with the notice given yesterday, we shall take Supply this morning as soon as the House meets.
.The Prime Minister has made a rather cryptic utterance. If he desires to make a communication to the House:-
– Not yet.
– If the honorable gentleman desires to make a communication to the House, he might as well make one bite at the cherry.
– It is a little early.
– I admit that it is. Earlier in the sitting, the Prime Minister gave notice of his intention to ask the House to-day to grant. Supply. It was more the manner in which he referred to it than anything else that caused me to direct special attention to his remarks.
– Then I withdraw the manner.
– If Supply is to be takenas a matter of ordinary business, well and good ; but if any other intimation is intended, we shall be delighted to hear it.
– I desire to call the attention of the Attorney-General to the following news item in the issue of the Age of the3rd inst. : -
A Tasmanian Complaint.
The Minister of Agriculture has written a strongly-worded letter to Mr. Ferry, complaining at the continuation of the prohibition against Tasmanian potatoes from clean districts, which he alleges is done practically in order to keep the New South Wales market for local growers, as evidenced by Mr. M’Clymont, of that State. Tasmania, it is pointed out, had kept loyally to’ the agreement entered into at Melbourne, and which was approved of by Mr. Perry, and his State was acting inan unfederal spirit. Mr. Knight and his colleague and the Victorian inspectors have reported to the Minister here that they are satisfied with what the State is doing to cope with the Irish blight outbreak.
I wish to know whether the AttorneyGeneral is not in a position to take action to put a stop to this un-Federal method of destroying Inter-State Free Trade. Section 92 of the Constitution provides -
On the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free…..
If a State can impose taxation on the products of another State by means of wharfage dues, or inspection charges, Inter-State Free Trade will be destroyed. Section 109 of the Constitution provides -
When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall pre vail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.
Surely, having regard to these provisions of the Constitution, the Attorney-General ought to be able to take action to prevent New South Wales and other States from placing on Tasmanian potatoes an embargo which has caused the price charged for them to be so high that thousands of workers in the various States are unable to obtain them. I understand that in Western Australia the price which the miners on the gold-fields are asked to pay for potatoes is excessive. Yet some of the potatoes from the other States are almost unfit for use. Those from Tasmania are now shut out, although the districts in which the blight has appeared have been quarantined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.12 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091104_reps_3_53/>.