3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the statement in this morning’s Age that the representatives of the trusts, rings, and coal combines have refused to meet the men in open conference to settle the strike? In view ofthe fact that the railways are owned by the States, and that, by virtue of the interlocking of the directorates of the States and the Commonwealth, we are now one people; that the strike may cause a universal strike throughout Australia, interfering with industry, trade, and commerce; that already the various corporations and companies that have been carrying our mails have demanded a reduction in the service, and that it will be found necessary to reduce the train service, too, which will cause general interference with the business of the people and stagnation-
– The honorable member is going beyond the limits of a question.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, under the law of eminent domain to which President Roosevelt referred when he threatened to operate the Pennsylvania mines, the Commonwealth has power to operate the coal mines of New South Wales if those who hold them refuse to settle the strike?
– The law of eminent domain is discussed in a number of volumes of intricate legal argument. It is certain that the position of this Government is not that of the President and Government of the United States of America ; but I will not follow the honorable member further into the remote recesses of this extremely erudite subject.
– The reply of the Prime Minister is somewhat light, but I am sure that honorable members generally regard the question as a very important one, because the position is becoming extremely serious. Seeing that there are only about fifty or sixty men at the bottom of the trouble, I think that the Prime
Minister might devise some method for dealing with it. I ask him if he will not take the matter into consideration? Will he not attempt to make some arrangement with the colliery proprietors himself? Let us take a hand in the matter, acquiring some of these mines, and working them with the labour which is available.
– I certainly did not give a light answer to the question of the honorable member for Darwin, put without notice. It seemed sufficient to remind him that the law of eminent domain in the United States,though a cardinal principle of legislation there,does not apply here to the same extent. In the first place, jurisdiction over land and mines rests, not with the Commonwealth, but with the States, and in the second place, all land vests in the Crown. Into intricate issues one cannot enter by way of reply. Every man and woman in the community views with the greatest apprehension and concern the present condition of industrial affairs, but, in such circumstances, and at certain stages, the less said the better.
– Does not the Prime Minister think that he should ask the country to give him the power which he says we have not got?
– The perfection of the industrial organization of the Commonwealth is one of the gravest tasks before us. We are proposing a step which, although comparatively short, should ensure harmony betwen the different local jurisdictions.
– It is absolutely useless.
– Is the step to which the Prime Minister refers the passing of the Inter-State Commission Bill, which is at present in another place? If so, I ask whether it is not a fact that that Bill has not been proceeded with during the last three weeks, and that the Senate did not devote more than ten hours to Government business last week?
– The Inter-State Commission Bill is in another place, and has, I think, been under consideration within the last three weeks, but at present the Defence Bill is the chief measure.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the law of eminent domain which applies in the United States is taken from the law of England ; that the King of England never gives up his rights in the land; that all property in land rests in the Crown ; and that the people can always resume it?
– In this morning’s Age appears the following statement -
Ministers, through their whip, had previously threatened Mr. Coon, the member for Batman, who had in a manly way proclaimed his determination to vote according to his conscience. Mr. Crouch had had the same dilemma presented to him in Corio, and he felt the falseness of the position he would occupy should he have to run the gantlet of a Labour candidate on one side and a Fusion opponent on the other.
The Government did not threaten me, and no pressure was put on me. It is shameful for a newspaper to indulge in such indecent and purposeless libel.
Linemen: Inter-State Telegraph Lines - Tasmanian Mail Service
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General whether new instructions have been issued instituting a body of men to control the Inter-State telegraph lines, with duties which differ from those usually assigned to linemen, the work being rather of an inspectorial character? If so, is an allowance, in addition to the ordinary rate of wages, to be given to those who will be appointed?
– The honorable member informed me of his intention to ask this question, and I have obtained the following report from, the Chief Electrical Engineer -
The duties of these men will be to patrol the main Inter-State lines, to remove defects, and make such repairs as are within their means, or, where they are not, to make a report of the required repairs. The repairs they will execute will generally be - renewing broken or flying insulators, fixing loose brackets, replacing broken tie wires, repairing old and fitting new stays, ramming or stiffening poles, cutting trees and scrub, straining wires. Casual assistance will be granted on occasions when necessary. The salaries will be those attaching to the position of linemen - ^114 minimum to £138 maximum.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General whether this statement, which appears in to-day’s Age, is correct -
The Union Shipping Company, which has the contract for carrying the mails between Melbourne and Tasmania, has asked for leave to reduce the service from Melbourne to Launceston, proposing to run the Loongana two trips each way weekly, instead of three. The Minister has agreed to this temporarily. The Oonah makes two trips weekly between Melbourne and Burnie, and the Union Company has asked for leave to reduce these to one. Assent to this application has been withheld pending inquiries.
The Minister has requested the company to make an effort to obtain Tasmanian coal for running the mail boats.
If it is correct, will the honorable gentleman kindly say on what days the Loongana will make her trips?
– I have requested the Secretary to the Department to arrange with the company for the running of the steamer on days which will best suit the convenience of the public.
– Has the Prime Minister any information to give regarding the personnel of the Commission which it is proposed shall inquire into the condition of the sugar industry ?
– Not yet.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I think it is necessary, after what has taken place, to make a statement as to my position in regard to the third reading of the Bill. At a very early stage, when the matter first came up, I felt, as I think many others on this side did, that a position of great difficulty had been created for us, as members of a newly-formed party, which we were desirous of supporting and continuing in power, by the making of an agreement with the Premiers which we were unable to accept. I am not going to say anything now to vindicate or justify my action. I shall merely state what it was. T conveyed to the other members of the party the statement that if, after full consideration - this was a promise voluntarily given by me, and was not sought-
– It was spontaneous and voluntary.
– Yes. It was an indication that if we were afforded an opportunity in Committee to take the sense of honorable members on the agreement, I, for one - and I spoke for myself only - would, if the vote went against us, not take advantage of the statutory provision requiring an absolute majority, and would vote for the third reading of the measure.
– The honorable member said yesterday that he doubted whether the
Prime Minister had carried out his agreement.
– I have had some doubt about it, and I will say why. During the discussion in Committee, I doubted whether the condition which I imposed in giving my promise had been carried out. What was present in my mind when I gave my promise was the feeling that the discussion which would take place, and the test which would be made, should be wholly free from party influence. I do not think that that happened, either on this side or the other.
– It did on this side.
– I am not concerned with the action of the Opposition.
– No pressure was exerted on the members of this party.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement. I have come to the conclusion that the condition has been substantially complied with, and that I am bound, in honour, to vote for the third reading of the Bill. May I be permitted to take this opportunity to say a word or two to my friends on this side of the Chamber? It is inevitable that in debates like those of the last week or two expressions will be used which would not otherwise be heard. I bear no feeling for what has been said. I do not regard outside criticism a jot, but I care very strongly about criticism upon myself and my friends uttered in this Chamber by members of the party to which we belong. I would ask them to consider that, after all, a majority is not always right, although a large majority of one party thinking one thing:, and finding a small minority of the same party opposed to them, are very apt to consider that that small minority are actuated by obstinncy, and that sometimes in the heat of conflict, they may be actuated by motives of an unworthy character. I would ask those honorable members to consider that if it had been m.v intention to create any difficulty in this party nothing would have been easier for me than to vote against the third reading. I sincerely hope that there may be found some way before the next general election of preventing this difference of opinion in the newly-formed Fusion party from continuing.
– That is more important than the agreement !
– I do not think it more important than the agreement. I think the settlement of this finance question transcends all party considerations. I sincerely hope that the Premiers may not press their slender advantage too far. I sincerely hope they will graciously permit this to remain a united party.I think the position is one which is, and must remain, still of a very serious character. It has been put before me by some of my friends, for whose opinion I have the very greatest respect, that, this Bill having been carried, and merely going before the people at a referendum, we who are Government supporters may entirely separate our advocacy or negation of this particular agreement from our general position as supporters of the Ministry. In theory that is so, and that is a position which I hope it may be possible to maintain, but I have the very gravest doubts about it. At present it seems to me inevitable that, unless between this time and the time of the election some modus vivendi is found - unless there is some alteration of the present position - either we who are opposed to this agreement must absolutely sink our own views, which I. for one, would not think of doing so long as I remain in public life, or else we shall find ourselves on the platform taking up a position which in the public mind would be with great difficulty distinguished from one of actual opposition to the existing Government. In theory, of course, the whole purpose of a referendum, as I understand it. is to dissociate the determination by the people of any particular question from such party issues as may be involved. There may be many cases in which that may be done - cases in which a referendum that will have that effect may be taken. But in the case of this particular measure, which brings at once, and I am afraid brings prematurely, into promiment relief the conflict which in all Federations has come sooner or later, and which must come in this Federation - I mean the conflict between what are called National and what are called State interests - I am afraid that inevitably, in the ordinary course of publiccriticism of the speeches which will be made between this and the election on public platforms, and in the course of what will take place in the press throughout Australia, all other lines of demarcation are likely to be for the time being forgotten, and we are likely to be precipitated into what the Prime Minister will recognise to be one of the most serious conflicts in which any Federation can be engaged. I am sorry that that conflict should come so soon, and should come on this particular issue, but I fear that th.it may be the result. I desire to say, regarding my own position, that I am not prepared to enter, either outside or inside this House, into an alliance with the avowed opponents of the present Government and Government party. While I am not prepared to do that, I atn certainly not prepared to mitigate or recede from my position of open antagonism to this agreement as it stands. I think I might appeal not only to the Government and my colleagues on this side of t’he House, but even to the State authorities, whose influence in the matter has been so great, to consider, not my position alone, but the position of all those Who have the same feelings as myself about the matter, and not to press it too far at the present stage - not to force us individually into what, to any man who thinks as I do about the question, is an intolerable position.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– What I suggest, and what I hope will be brought about, is “that the Premiers, who are rigidly holding the Prime Minister to a position which he has, I think, too chivalrously given in to, and who are insisting upon the rigour of their bond, should to some extent mitigate that attitude, so as to prevent the position of some of us from becoming in the circumstances politically intolerable.. This coming struggle is not a kind of game. We are not engaged in walking a minuet., but we shall be engaged, if we engage in it at all, in the most serious of conflicts upon the most serious issue that can possibly come before us.
– I am sure the House has listened with careful attention to the statement of the honorable member for Flinders regarding his own position. I have also listened with some apprehension regarding his view of the main issue. I was glad to hear him say that he considered the referendum on this financial question as transcending in importance any individual difficulty that might arise regarding himself and his party. “We are all happy to admit that the question is mire important than party. With regard to the honorable member’s statement that he did not desire to be allied with the party which I have the honour to lead,- I would say in all friendliness that he knows that no proposal for alliance of any kind has been made.
– I did not wish to say anything that could be considered in the slightest degree offensive to that party.
– I recognise that, but the honorable member spoke as though there was a proposal for alliance with .this party on this question. We are often glad to co-operate on big questions with honorable members who are on general questions the most bitter antagonists of the party. And here let me say, in the presence of my colleagues, that this question is not a. party one, and that no member of this party has been persuaded to vote against the Government proposal. Further, in case honorable members should be apprehensive on the matter, let me point out that no party, influence can be exercised in this case over the .members of this party, because the question is not a party one. Tt is not a platform question, and so it is not a question upon which the .party can control its members. The honorable member for Flinders settled t’he principle of this proposal in two minutes, and spent the rest of his time in observations regarding his own party. That, of course, has nothing to do with the question. It is a matter between himself and his party, and I shall leave it at that, casting no reflection upon either, or on the manner in which they conduct their own affairs. The proposal now before the House has not been carried by an absolute majority of the House, although it is on the notice-paper, and before the House now for its .third leading. An absolute majority of the House is against it, and would vote against it were they able to be present. It is true that the Government were in a minority of one on one division in ‘Committee, and in a majority of one on another division, and the honorable member for Flinders is pleased to call that a victory for the Government. If that is the view he takes of it, it is his affair and not mine. The point which we have to consider, and which I believe the electors will consider, if the question reaches them, is that this is a proposal on behalf of the Fusion Government, associated with the Governments of the States, for the Federation to surrender to the States powers that it possesses at the present time. The Prime Minister is the first man in his position who has declared to the electors that this Parliament is not competent to carry out the functions that have been delegated to it in the Constitution. That is what this proposal clearly and distinctly means. The honorable gentleman has used all his powers of persuasion, and all the power of the Government, to enable him to do this thing, and to do it at the request if not at the dictation, of people outside who should mind their own affairs. The honotable member for Flinders expressed what a great number of members, even on his own side, are thinking that the Premiers of the States, having got the Prime Minister into their Conference, after he had safeguarded himself against entering into an agreement of this kind, were able to. persuade him that, by entering into such an arrangement, he would obtain advantages that would more than compensate him forthesurrenderoftheopinionsthathe had previously expressed outside the Conference, both in writing and verbally. He went in, as he says himself, as a Federalist according to the present Constitution, and he came out having entirely surrendered the Federal position. He smiles, but he has admitted it. He says now that he had not fully made up his mind when he went into the Conference, but his letters to the Premier of New South Wales can be read only in one way. I do not propose to quote them again, because they have been quoted so often, but in them he pointed out that there was no necessity to incorporate any arrangement in the Constitution. Those who have been associated with him for all the years that Federation has been in existence know that he poses as a great Federalist and a great supporter of the Constitution.
– Not after this, surely ?
– I agree with the honorable member for New England that it will be absolutely impossible after this event to look upon the Prime Minister as the protector and guardian of the Constitution. The very fact that he has entered into this agreement is an admission by him of the impotence or incompetence of this Parliament to fully carry out the powers that it now possesses. It is a reflection on this Parliament, and it is worse, because it is an admission on the part of the Government, and those who are going to vote for the measure, that this Parliament would be guilty of bad faith if the Constitutional powers that it now possesses were to continue. The Prime Minister says that if we send this question to the country, a majority of the people and a majority of the States voting for it will determine whether it is to be adopted. The same thing would apply to a general election of members of this House. Members are elected to the House of Representatives on the same franchise, and in every State now, except Tasmania, they practically represent an equal number of voters. The people could determine from election to election the basis on which they desired that the financial relations of the Commonwealth and States should be placed just as effectively as they could by providing for it in the Constitution in the way now proposed. Let us look for a moment at the other side. The Prime Minister has associated with him the whole of the State Treasurers, and, I believe, the State Governments. He expects their help, not only to carry the referendum in favour of this proposal, but to return all his candidates at the next general elections.
– He has also expressed the view that they should not take an active part in the Federal election.
– That is a very pious wish.
– They would do him harm if they did.
– Whether they would or would not, it is undoubtedly that influence which has caused the Prime Minister to alter his opinion on this question. He cannot deny that he has altered his opinion within the last three months. His written expressions are definite and distinct, and cannot be set aside. When he entered the Conference he had no intention of leaving it pledged to an alteration of the Constitution in the direction now proposed. That being so, those who object to the placing of this agreement in the Constitution know exactly what their position is. A party sitting as the Labour party are, in Opposition, might readily have said, “ This is not our business ; we shall let the Government do what they propose, and avail’ ourselves of the opportunity of being able, when before the electors, to scoff and jeer at the Government as men who would surrender any Federal power in order to secure a political advantage.” We might very well have allowed the responsibility to rest with them. But what did we do? From the very first we took up the attitude that this question was far beyond party considerations, and declared our opposition to the Government proposal long before the dissentients on the other side pronounced their objections. From the very outset we intimated that in our opinion the proposal was undesirable from the point of view of the Commonwealth.
– My dissent was expressed as soon as the agreement was published.
– And long before the Labour party had spoken.
– The honorable member refers to the speech which he madeat Dandenong, and in which he spoke very guardedly. I was in Queensland when the agreement was first published, and in interviews with pressmen there condemned it root and branch.
– But the honorable member would do that in any case. What is an Opposition leader for?
– That is merely an expression of opinion ; it is. scarcely an argument. I can well recall what the honorable member for Flinders said at Dandenong. He stated that so far as the proposed per capita allowance was concerned, he did not think there was any serious question at issue. As to the proposal to incorporate the agreement in the Constitution, however, he took the most serious view. He varied a phrase which I had used about “hobbling the Constitution,” by saying that without a full knowledge of what had transpired he was not prepared to permit the leg-roping of the Commonwealth. That phrase has frequently been used during the debate on this measure. A difference of opinion arose between the State and Federal Labour parties with retard to the interpretation of our own views as expressed at the Brisbane Labour Conference, but we did not wait before taking action to gather into the fold all the dissentients. Our action on what we considered to be a broad national question was such as would do any party credit, whether from a party point of view it was sound or not. I am more than pleased with the attitude of the Labour party in the National Parliament. Not one member of the party has suggested that he shouldvote for the agreement. Not one of them in his own mind would wish to do so even if he were asked. Every one of them has taken the opposite view. The Prime Minister, after all, is not the author of this proposal. The question of whether or not a politician is the author of a measure which he submits to this Parliament may seem of trivial importance to the country, but let us consider for a moment the actual position. We see in front of us a party brought into existence to bring about responsible government. The Prime Minister is the leader of a majority in this House, but he has not spoken as its leader in this movement. He did not initiate it. It does not represent bis own wish. The honorable member for Flinders says that it did not originate with the Fusion party: It is a matter outside the party altogether. It is opposed to his party pledges, and contrary to the constitution of his party as interpreted by its members. We find then that the Prime Minister has gone outside his own party in this matter, and is the leader of a party which has no place in this Parliament. Shall we hear more from him about responsible government? Shall we hear more from him of the charge that the members of the Labour party are not responsible to the people of the Commonwealth?
– I hope the honorable member will accept my assurance that no pressure was broughtto bear upon me.
– That was hardly the point that I was discussing. My point is that the Prime Minister had no mandate from his party to make this agreement.
– That is admitted.
– It was never thought either by honorable members on either this or the opposite side of the House that the Prime Minister would surrender this power to the State Premiers. No one, in his wildest dreams, would have imagined that the honorable gentleman would leave the Conference pledged to incorporate this agreement in the Constitution. His predecessors declared that it would be impossible and an injustice to the Commonwealth to incorporate such an agreement in the Constitution. His colleagues, the Treasurers in other Administrations of which he was the head, declared at various Conferences of Premiers that it would be equivalent to a declaration of want of faith in the Commonwealth Parliament for the State Premiers to say that such an agreement must be incorporated in the Constitution. Even the present Treasurer said that it was an impossible and unreasonable proposition. It was left, however, to the present Prime Minister, perhaps the ablest advocate both in the House and the country of the principle for which we are fighting, toaccept the terms of the Premiers, and. to become their willing advocate in this House, as apparently he is to be in the country. I shall not forget the efforts of the honorable member for Mernda in the cause of Nationalism. I trust that he will pardon my reference to him. He has never been associated with our party ; he has never in any way hinted at possessing sympathy with our views in general.
– One could not describe him- as a leader of the Labour party ?
– No; although it may be his fate to meet with opposition from the Labour party, I must say that no one on this or the Government side of the House can do aught but admire the candid way in which he has presented to this Parliament the National cause. No one could but admire his clear and distinct utterances, free from ambiguity of any kind, on this question, and the fearless way in which he has faced the situation. He believes what he says. At- his time of life, perhaps, he cannot hope to take part in the struggles of the future to which reference has been made. We all wish him continued good health and many more opportunities to give the country the benefit of his political wisdom ; still he may not see the struggles .which the Prime Minister anticipates in a mood of happy contemplation. May I digress for a moment to remind honorable members of the statement of the Prime Minister that, after all, we are not proposing to place this agreement in the Constitution for a little time. He says that in less than ten or fifteen years we may take it out, if we choose. Such a statement may well provoke mirth. When the honorable member for Mernda made a proposal that the continuance of this agreement for what would practically be a period of fifteen years should be guaranteed, the Prime Minister resisted it, saying that the Premiers would not agree to such a proposition and would not release him from his pledge to submit the agreement as it stood to the Parliament.
– In the circumstances he might at least have released his supporters and have given them a free hand.
– That is so. The honorable member for Mernda believes that the incorporation of this agreement in the Constitution will be mischievous and injurious to the political, industrial, and financial progress of the Commonwealth. He is prepared, not only to put on record that belief, but to indorse it by his vote on every proper occasion. What does this proposal involve? It is one to incorporate in the Constitution a provision relating to the finances which will not merely leg-rope, but cripple, this Parliament for the rest of its term; and must lead to wrangling for at least twenty years. It is a matter of indifference to me whether or not I remain in public life as the result of my action. As I view the position now, I shall do everything possible to prevent the people placing this agreement in the Constitution. I shall not spare my strength in the attempt to visit as many places as I can in the Commonwealth in order to present as clearly as I can to the people the true situation. I shall ask them not to incorporate this provision in the Constitution, and in that task I shall have the assistance of those of my colleagues who choose to join me. They are not bound to adopt the view I express; they are free to take their own course in this matter. I shall invite the electors to unanimously support the proposed alteration of the Constitution to enable us to take over the whole of the State debts, and so to save money for the people of Australia. I shall, however, invite them not to incorporate this agreement in the Constitution, not because I think- 25s. is, for the time being, an excessive payment, or because the Commonwealth would be unable to pay it for a term of years, but because, by associating this proposal with the taking over- of the State debts, the people of the Commonwealth, over a term of eighty or. ninety years, would be saved not less than £2,000,000 a year. The Prime Minister, I know, contends that if this agreement be incorporated in the Constitution, the 25s. may be absorbed from time to time by the payment of the interest on the State debts. That is denied by nobody - it need not be affirmed or denied - but the Prime Minister refuses to seriously discuss the question whether or not the Commonwealth will be placed in the position of a. mere agent for the States. The Attorney-General endeavoured to throw some sidelights on the position, and assumed that it was the same as before. That, however, is not so; but, if it were, then all the worse for the Constitution. This Parliament, under the Constitution, has power to use the whole of the threefourths of the1 revenue in the payment of the interest on the State debts; but we have now a. proposal to return 25s. per head to the States, the money to be raised, not necessarily from Customs or Excise, but from a land tax or any other source of taxation. The Commonwealth will still have the power to use the 25s. per head for the payment of the interest on the debts; but the limitation in the new proposal, if the debts are taken over, will place the Commonwealth in the position of a mere agent, to credit and debit each particular State according to the money subscribed for each loan. I should be glad if the Government thought it worth while to further enlighten the House and the country on the question ; but I have no hope that they will any further consider the matter, and, therefore, we ought to take this opportunity to place our views on record. My idea was that there should be a National Council, if so desired, or that the Government for the time being, should have the administration of the whole of the debts, crediting each State with the revenue to which it was entitled. I was much impressed when the honorable member for Mernda unfolded his scheme for the nationalization of the debts. If the matter were investigated to-day, I think he would prove to be absolutely correct in saying that, although the large States would suffer for the time being, if the smaller States, with the exception of Tasmania, were to increase in population at a greater ratio, it would only be a matter of the twenty or twenty-five years when thecontributions towards the payment of the interest would be in equal proportion. That was a, great scheme, which, Iam sorry to say, was set aside by the Premiers, although some of them admitted that it ought to have been adopted. The Prime Minister knows my views, because, when the Labour party were supporting his Administration, I expressed to him and the honorable member for Hume my entire concurrence in the scheme ; and he promised from time to time to afford the House opportunities to discuss it. These opportunities did not arise, and we now have the result. Parliament has been gliding along, and permitting this great and important question to be pushed aside by smaller matters, until we find ourselves not only in a political crisis, but in a financial crisis, complicated with political issues - a most deplorable and unfortunate position for a National Parliament. Moreover, this Bill has been introduced in the last weeks of a dying. Parliament, which is cer tainly not the time for the consideration of such a measure: This is not the time when the Prime Minister should have gone into conference with the Premiers, and arrived at such a conclusion.
– With closed doors !
– I brush aside the matter of the closed doors. I brush aside everything of that kind, and simply ask, “Is he not a man ; and does he notrecognise the danger of his attitude in a situation like this ? “ Had he been a man of stern political thought and action, he would have said to the Premiers, “ Gentle; men, what do you want? Do you ask me, without time for full consideration, just after the formation of a new Government, representative of all parties, and when we have not had an opportunity to discuss the matter, to enter into an agreement that has never been seriously thought of or even suggested before ? ‘ ‘ He would have further asked, “ What is the meaning of this manoeuvre? Do you think that, for a little temporary advantage, I would sacrifice the best interests of the National Parliament?” We can only surmise what the Premiers would have said had he taken up that attitude. They might have said to him, “ Well, Mr. Deakin, if we cannot make an agreement with you, we shall not support you “ ; but if the Prime Minister had been anxious to protect the Commonwealth., he could easily have said to them, “ Notwithstanding what you say, I cannot accept the proposal.” And if they had threatened himwith the withdrawal of their support, to whom could they have given it? Not to the Labour party, because we have laid down a scheme which declared absolutely that it was not to be incorporated in the Constitution. Therefore, the Prime Minister would have been at no political disadvantage had he espoused the National cause instead of what I call the parochial cause. But the thing has been done; and’, although. I have previously referred to the matter, I should like to say a word as to the secrecy of the Conference. The Labour party is criticised because they hold their meetings in private, publishing nothing beyond the resolutions arrived at. But that is a perfectly proper party attitude, which, I presume, the Fusion party will also adopt, discussing and endeavouring to adjust differences amongst themselves, so that, if possible, they may present a united front on questions of moment. But the Premiers’Conference was in a different position, composed as it was of representative men of the States and the Commonwealth. They were not gathered together, I understand, for political party purposes; if they were, they should have announced on the door, “ This is a new party caucus.”
– Did they meet as a public body or as a political party?
– The honorable member puts the matter in a nutshell, and I take it that they were there as representatives of the Executives of the Commonwealth and the States, to discuss a matter of grave public concern. Every argument and reason advanced at that Conference would have assisted the electors in coming to a proper conclusion ; but we have had none of that advice and guidance. Why? I do not suggest that the Prime Minister could have expressed his views any better in Conference than he can on the floor of the House; but what of the other members of the Conference? Should we not have expected from them reasons, so that we might know, for instance, whether they were apprehensive of the bad faith of this Parliament - whether they thought that, unless they had this agreement secured to them in the Constitution, this Parliament might determine to give them no revenue in the future? This may be the last opportunity we shall have of dealing with the Bill, and we ought to examine every phase of its history from its initiation to the present stage. What were the reasons of the Premiers for urging this agreement on the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister has told us that a little inducement to himself was that this Parliament would be entitled to £600,000, six months prior to the expiration of the Braddon section. I do not think, however, that the Prime Minister expected that reason to be very seriously entertained, because the temporary embarrassment of the Government is not, in my opinion, sufficient warrant for the proposal now before us. I refuse to believe that the Prime Minister and Treasurer were seriously influenced by that convenience. If the Prime Minister was influenced by it, he is eminently unfitted for his position. To say that Ministers were influenced in accepting the agreement by the possibility of obtaining a temporary political advantage would be to make a most serious charge against them. I do not make that charge. I do not think that the advantage referred to was sufficient to weigh greatly with them. But as the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out, it is one of those little baits which might tempt men to go further than they intended to go.
– It was the mess of pottage.
– I think that the honorable member for Parkes referred to it in that way, saying that the Government were selling their rights for a mess of pottage, a temporary financial convenience. It would be contemptible to say that the Prime Minister and his colleagues were greatly influenced by that. I do not believe that they were. But I fear that they were influenced by other reasons. What they were the Prime Minister has not told us. He says that the agreement will give the Commonwealth Parliament freedom to do as it pleases after the end of July, 1910. The honorable member for Mernda and I hold a different opinion. Will not the payment of 25s. per capita to the States prove embarrassing to the Commonwealth as population increase”? I think that it will. It will embarrass the Commonwealth finances and retard the national progress. But the agreement has more than a financial bearing. In my opinion, it will tend to dissipate the National sentiment. Yesterday the Prime Minister gravely misquoted me in this matter. I find that the press published exactly the same words as Hansard gives.
– The honorable member has misquoted me fifty times, but I have not taken the trouble to notice it.
– Surely the honorable member does not mean that?
– I do not propose to enter into a controversy of this character.
-The honorable member has been studiously conversing with the Whip all the time that I have been talking.
– I have heard the honorable member make the same statements four times during the last week, but I have not heard any new arguments.
– The Government does not wish for arguments.
– The Prime Minister does not disconcert me by a statement which I think honorable members will agree is absolutely incorrect. He has accused me of misquoting him again and again. I ask honorable members if I would misquote any one willingly.
– I have not said that the honorable member does so willingly, but frequently after I have spoken the honorable member has taken a mistaken view of my remarks. I knew that the mistake was honest, and therefore I said no more.
– This comes at rather an inopportune time. When the Prime Minister made the misquotation to which I refer, I corrected him, but notwithstanding that I denied that I had used the words which he attributed to me, he replied that he had taken down what I had said, and he persisted that he was right, until I was compelled to ask for the report transcribed by the official shorthand writer for the Government Printer, which bore me out exactly. Therefore, in referring to the National sentiment I must take care to say exactly what I mean. If the Prime Minister will show me how I have misquoted or misrepresented him in any way, I shall be glad to withdraw my remarks. My view has always been, and will continue to be, that when I know that I have done a man an injustice, I should not make a temporary correction, but should try to remedy matters wherever possible. In my opinion, the development of the National sentiment amongst the youth of Australia is perfectly sound and healthy. I’ believe that the younger generation is desirous of having a National Parliament, exercising all the functions necessary for dealing with the larger questions of National Government. For questions that are local rather than National I would increase the number of State Governments. So far from being a unificationist, I do not believe in having one central Government delegating authority, if necessary, to others. I think that in the larger States there should be more Parliaments, that Parliaments should assemble nearer to the centres of interest with which they are concerned. I would have the State Parliaments consist of one House only, with less ceremony, so that legislation might be speedier, and I would improve the methods of administration.
– The honorable member would have more local government. -
– Yes ; but the State Parliaments should continue to have legislative functions. I would not have bodies possessing merely local authority, delegated to them bv the Federal Parliament. I have referred in illustration of my meaning to the conditions of Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia. Such vast ter ritories cannot in future be effectively legislated for by any one Parliament meeting in the corner of a State. In travelling from Melbourne to Brisbane you reach the capital of Queensland, but you are then only half way to Cairns, a rising town in the electorate of Herbert, and beyond is as extensive a tract of country as that already crossed, where means of communication are fewer, and travelling is more difficult and tedious. As population increases there should be a local Parliament in the north -to deal with local issues. Such arrangements will enable the people in future to manage their affairs better than they can now. But while there should be a distribution of legislative powers, the larger issues which will be discovered from time to time should be brought under the control of the Federal Parliament. I instanced yesterday industrial legislation. I am of opinion that the only effective way of preventing great industrial convulsions is to give this Parliament absolute control of industrial legislation. I would not deprive the local Parliaments of their power to pass industrial legislation. I would rely upon’ the good sense of the people for the return to them of members who “would so divide the legislation on this question that local industrial concerns would be legislated for by the local Parliaments, and the larger and national concerns by the National Parliament. I believe that if the Commonwealth Parliament had the industrial power which it seeks at the present time, it would be able to prevent the continuance of the great industrial trouble which now exists. Five years ago we were on the very edge of a like convulsion, when the shearers and rouseabouts threatened to strike. By the intervention of the Commonwealth Court we were happily able to avert that strike, and never has the industry concerned been conducted more smoothly than since. But, supposing that later the Premiers came to the conclusion that in the interests of the people the possession of the power to pass industrial legislation should be taken from the Commonwealth Parliament, and we had a Prime Minister and Government as amenable to pressure as those who now occupy the Treasury bench, the result might be disastrous. The illustration is not my own. It was used by the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Mernda spoke to similar effect. Immediately you begin to yield up powers, there is no telling where you will stop. I shall not deal further . with the matter, however, because able speakers will follow, and will probably touch upon this and other phases of the question. This financial proposal has an alternative. The alternative proposed by the Brisbane Labour Conference was much better than this, and I think the proposal made by the honorable member for Mernda was much better also, because both those proposals avoid fettering future majorities. That objection to the Government’s proposal cannot be got over. If the Bill is carried at the referendum, the fettering of future majorities is not a speculative, but a real, result, and that ought to be taken into account. I trust that the people ot the future will be allowed by the Prime Minister and the Premiers to have the same freedom as we have at the present time. It is presumptuous for us to think that we are wiser to-day than the people will be ten or fifteen years hence. The people at the referendum may put this agreement into the Constitution by a majority, but do not forget that the majority of the people will not be able to take it out again. We are, therefore, proposing to fetter the electors of the future. I hope every honorable member who believes that this is a bad arrangement will not hesitate to tell the people so.
– Or hesitate to record their ultimate vote, either.
– I do not mean so much their votes in this House as their influence outside the House, if the question goes to the people.
– I think we must do both.
– I can quite understand a man being swayed by party ties and party allegiance to do a thing that he would rather not do; but I am quite incapable ofunderstanding the position of a man who believes that this would be a bad thing if adopted by the country, and yet hesitates to tell the public outside his opinion. If we are to have public men who, even for the sake of party allegiance, will suppress their convictions on a matter of national consequence, it means saying good-bye to progress. As the honorable member for Dalley interjected, the greatest causes in the world began in a minority. The greatest reforms began in the same way. This proposal is not a reform. It is a retrogression. It is going ba-k deliberately and wilfully. The distinguishing badge that can always be pinned to the Prime
Minister after this is that he is the first Prime Minister of Australia who has declared that the Commonwealth Parliament is incompetent to carry out all the functions delegated to it. He has the distinction of being the first Prime Minister, with a majority behind him, of whom it will be possible to say that, although originally an exponent of the Constitution, he discovered, in practice, that the Commonwealth Parliament could not be trusted, and therefore invited the people, at the request of the State Premiers, to taKe away from this Parliament some of the powers that had been given to it. He will, at any rate, have the distinction of having attempted to do so, and not even his bitterest opponent could wish him to have a worse one. He and other honorable members know that, personally, I have a great liking for him, but, in this instance, no personal likes or dislikes should cause a member to refrain from saying hard things if it is necessary to say them. It is not a question of personal feeling. The question is far above that, and must be treated on its merits. I tell the Prime Minister, and those associated with him, that this was the only opportunity they had to do what they have done. If they had waited for another election, the development of an intelligent public opinion in Australia on truly Federal lines would have taken it out of their power to do it. If there had been another election, it would not have been possible even for the greatest orator of Australia to mislead the people in this way. There are shrewd men amongst the Premiers, some of whom are and always have been anti-Federal. They have no desire to see this Parliament grow, or National feeling increase, so that Australia may become a nation in fact as well as in name. Those men are desirous of crippling the Federation, and I have no doubt that this is the method they have adopted to do it. They could not do it openly. They could not do it without the help of the Prime Minister, but they have been able to do it by means of a Conference and an agreement with him. The real reasons for arriving at that agreement have never been made public, and yet we find the Prime Minister the ready and willing servant of those who up to a recent date always opposed and denounced him. These men are now holding him to his agreement, in the full knowledge that they have induced him to put the Federation in fetters.
.-I desire to say a few words to-day on this matter - I suppose the last which I shall have to say on. the subject, at any rate in this Parliament. I feel rather sorry that some of my honorable friends on this side of the House are not present. I believe they are in the precincts, as the vote is expected to be taken, but one of the disadvantages of the present state of things in the House is that on an important question such as this is, it is impossible to influence opinion - perhaps that would be too much to expect in any circumstances - or at any rate one has not the opportunity of influencingof appealing to the feelings and views of honorable members, because they are generally out of the chamber. Perhaps I am open to the same charge, but 1 think on an important occasion like this, and on such a question, we ought to have honorable members here if only to allow those who may differ from them in some respects to at any rate justify their position in their hearing. On the other hand, any onelike myself taking a serious view is at this further disadvantage, that he has no adequate access to the public through the press. But I must take things as I find them, and I am going to do my best at any rate to justify the action that I have thought fit to take in this matter. Allow me to say - I think I alluded to it before - that the action I have taken has been taken as the result of mature thought and consideration, and of an absolutely disinterested desire to aid the Government, and to promote the public good. That is my sole object. Yet I am accused in the press of paltry and miserable motives; of being a faddist - a man who has a scheme of his own and, therefore, opposes every other proposal, in order that he may get it adopted. I am perfectly content to rest under that imputation, and to have those gibes thrown at me. I received from Mr. Kidston, the Premier of Queensland, on the night before the division, a telegram which I snail read to the House, and in which he takes the same view of my action. I think I am an older man than Mr. Kidston. I have been in politics before he was heard of, and I think I know a good deal more about this subject than he does. I wish to put that telegram, and my answer to it, on record. It reads as follows : -
It is quite true that I considered your proposal the best that had been made up to that time, and did not hesitate to commend it; but after long discussion of many schemes, including your own -
He never discussed it with me - here is a settlement in sight -
That is the proposal now before us - unanimously accepted by the States -
Which I deny. - and a majority in the Federal Parliament.
Which I also deny. -
I hope you will not permit your natural preference for your own scheme to stand in the way of a settlement, but having voiced your own views, and recognising that you cannot carry your own scheme, that at the best you can only hope to block the present excellent chance of settlement, I hope you will now, with practical statesmanship, help us to settle this vexed question and pave the way for a national Australian policy.
To that I sent the following reply : -
Thanks for your telegram ; you apparently misunderstood my position. I have set aside entirely my proposals, of which you approved. 1 and those Government supporters acting with me are unanimous in accepting the agreement made by the Government in its entirety, and will vote for it if it is inserted in theConstitution in similar terms us existing Braddon clause, by providing that 25s.per capita shall be paid till the aggregate reaches£7,500,000, and thereafter until the Parliament shall otherwise provide., I hope you will accept this, and so end the matter, and secure the permanent unity and co-operation of the whole party supporting the Government, who are friendly to the States and anxious to secure settlement advantageous to them. Hope you, as one of our leading statesmen, will use your influence to solve the difficulty.
I feel that there has been an extraordinary development of what is called Cabinet government. In its inception the Cabinet was simply a Committee of the House, or a sub-Committee of a party in the House, invested with the necessary executive powers, and representing the great body of opinion which maintained it in its position. But we are rapidly approaching the position that, having put in motion the machinery, in the shape of the Cabinet, we are to be controlled completely by it. In the formation of a Cabinet very little is left to the choice of the party, and I am speaking now without reference to this or any other Government. Every man of observation knows that men are often included in a Government, not because of their merit, not because of the ability they may have shown to discharge the functions of the offices to which they are appointed, but as the outcome of political and party manoeuvring. I am not influenced by personal considerations in this matter, for, as every one knows, I have never been an office seeker. Had I chosen, I might have been in office 011 three ‘or four different occasions, but it did not suit me to take office. As a member of a party maintaining a Government in power, however, I do not admit that all the brains of the party are in* the Government. I do not admit that I, or any other man, who takes upon himself the responsibility of representing the people, should become a mere cypher. I do not admit that an honorable member, because he is a Ministerialist, is always to go with the Government, and is never to attempt to aid it. I consider that I have a right to assist the Government to the best of my ability. Not only in this Parliament, but in the Victorian State Legislature, I have never hesitated to devote time and thought, that might have been used to my own pecuniary advantage, in the management of my own affairs, to aid in the government of the country. I have done that, believing it to be my duty, and I utterly fail to see why, when an honorable member does so, it should immediately be asked concerning him, outside, “ What is his little game?” “What is he up to?” or “What does he want?” That is a course of conduct to which I strongly object. I feel that it is my duty as long as I retain a position in Parliament, to do my best for the country and its interests, yet when one does so, one is twitted in the press, and even in this House, with being -a faddist. That is what I resent. I wish that some, of my honorable friends of the Government party, who are now absent, were present, because I had desired to speak plainly to them. I shall not have another opportunity to do so in connexion with this Bill, and I wish to avail myself of that which now offers, not to satisfy any feeling of disappointment, or annoyance, because I have none, but to put before honorable members a view which is different from that which many appear to hold as to the duties of a public man. A section of the press, with singular unfairness, continues to put .before the country the view that in the action I am taking, I am playing into the hands of the Labour party. That was its first statement, and in its ‘next issue it twisted it into a declaration that I am supporting the Labour party. The statement is too ridiculous to need contravention.
– The Labour party have never played into the honorable member’s hands.
– I understand their position, and they understand mine. Every honorable member of this House knows that the Labour party knew nothing of the action that I thought fit to take in our own party meeting. It has been made equally clear that I did not know what the honorable member for Flinders thought, and was going to do in regard to this agreement, nor did I know what action the honorable member for Parkes contemplated. On the other hand, they did not know what I was going to do. We each expressed ourselves in this House freely and without concert. Then again, I did not know what the Labour party were going to do, nor did they know what line of action
I thought it would be my duty to take. They took their own course without any attempt to influence me, or any attempt on my part to influence them. Many members .of our party are absent whom I should like to see present. I would ask them when they say, as they and a section of the press have said, that I am supporting the Labour party - as if that were the unclean thing - to take one or two matters into consideration. I would ask some of my honorable friends whose names appear in the division list as voting with the Government on this question, to compare that list with the division on the Seat of Government Bill, when the Labour Government thought it their duty to ask this Parliament to reverse a decision at which a previous Parliament had arrived. How many of those honorable members hesitated to vote with the Labour Government on that occasion? How many of those honorable members who twit me with supporting the Labour party, because they happen to agree with me on this all-important and absolutely non-party matter, then voted with the Labour Ministry because it suited them to do so? It was all very well- for them to secure the transfer of the Seat of Government from Dalgety to Canberra by the aid of the votes of the Labour party, but-
– We voted for Dal- gety.
– I am not speaking of the honorable member. I have ‘been attacked because I have put forward my own independent views, and views which, I may say in passing, were brought forward in the first place -in private conference with the Government. Because those opinions happen to have obtained the support of the Labour party, I am accused by some honorable members on this side of supporting that party, and I am asking them how they voted on thi Seat of Government Bill introduced by a Labour Ministry. I am very sorry that the Treasurer is not here, because 1 had a word or two to say to him in this respect. Since I am accused in this way, I have a right to ask those who then voted with the Labour party to alter the deliberate decision of a previous Parliament in favour of the selection of Dalgety, on what grounds of consistency and fair play they can throw these gibes at me?
– The whole House voted together last night on a certain question.
– That is childish.
– I am surprised that the honorable member should make that interjection. It has nothing to do with this question.
– I. made it with a view of supporting the honorable member’s contention.
– The Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Bill to which the honorable member refers is one on which the whole House was unanimous. I know that the honorable member for North Sydney does not hold the petty views of which I complain. I know that he does not say, because my views happen to be supported by the other side, that I am playing into the hands of the Labour party.
– Hear, hear.
– I should have expected some of these extremists, on finding that the motion for the third reading of the State Debts Bill was receiving the support of the other side, to cross the floor of the House and vote the other way. I am endeavouring now to put an end to this claptrap. May I put still another question to some honorable members on this side of the House? How was it that when the honorable member for Gwydir, a member of the Labour party, submitted a motion in favour of the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the working of the Post and Telegraph Department, and the Government, of which the present Prime Minister was the leader, resisted that proposition, some of them voted with a section of the Labour party, and so put the then Deakin Government into a position of serious difficulty? On that occasion, I stood out against the advice- of many of my own personal friends. I stood by the Prime Minister, when, as he knows, socially, and in every other way, to do so was to do that which very few were prepared to do.
– Hear, hear.
– I was appealed to, and asked to remember that in taking that course I was going against those with whom 1 usually acted. But I stood by the Prime Minister for the same reason that. I have opposed him on this question. I believed I was doing that which was right. I approved in the main of his ideals. I felt that he was the only man in Australia fitted to lead the country, and I stuck to him through good report and ill. In doing so, I also supported my right honorable friend the Treasurer, and others now on the Government bench. But when the Labour party submitted a vote of want of confidence in the Deakin Government of that day, did not those very men vote with the Labour party, including the right honorable member for Swan? Are not their names recorded in Hansard as having voted with the Labour party ? This great question is not a party matter, and the day has gone by for the humbug and absolute nonsense of which I complain. I have dealt now with that aspect of the question, and trust thai we shall hear no more of it. I wish now to say, as I have in the manifestos that I have issued in connexion with Federal elections, that I am opposed radically and on principle to many of the proposals of the Labour party. I have always been so opposed to them, and have given my reasons for my opposition. They understand that my objection to their policy is the sole ground for my opposition to them. I should never feel that I was bound to oppose them merely because I did not like them personally, and it is the last thing I would do. In the Labour party I havemany friends whom I respect ; and, if wedo differ politically, why should we fail to recognise each other’s sincerity of conviction? While I think the Labour party’spolicy would be disastrous if carried out, I admit that the great bulk of them honestly believe in that policy ; and I amnot entitled to regard them as pariahs, outcasts, or inferior people, with whom I may not act in accord when they happen to holer’ the same views as myself.
– They are not political’ lepers !
– They are not political” lepers, but a party in the State, and as such, entitled to be represented here. I have never advocated that only certain sections of the community should be represented here, because all men have the right to come to Parliament if they have the support of the people. The Labour party represent a vast body of opinion- whether that opinion is right or wrong is another matter - and they have a right to be here, and their position should be recognised. In no way, however, have I ever been subservient to the Labour party. I have been fought by them, and I expect, and I am prepared, to be fought by them again, though, I hope, on principle, and not on personal grounds. This debate has been characterized on both sides, with few exceptions, by good feeling and a high tone that is admirable. I can say honestly that whatever action I have taken has been with due regard to the feelings of the Prime Minister and the Government.
– Hear, hear.
– And I think I may say that the attitude of the Prime Minister in regard to myself is the same. I am sorry I was not present to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders this morning; but I may say that, apart from this question, my relations with the Government, and with the head of the Government, are in every respect as they were before. If there is any difference of attitude, it will be the fault of the Government or of the Government supporters - it will not lie with me ; because I think I have taken up the consistent position. The Prime Minister magnanimously regarded the question as one in regard to which we’ were free men. We differed and told him our difficulties, and he agreed that we should bring the question before the House in a way that was not objectionable to either side. I understand that the honorable member for Flinders has said that to vote against the Government now would be to make a breach; but, except in regard to this particular question, I see no occasion whatever for any breach. I have been twitted in the Sydney press with having made a speech that was calm, flat, and unprofitable. Honorable members know, however, that the very object I had in view was to say not one word in heat - not a word that would be offensive or leave a sting - and I think I succeeded in my object. Yet, simply because I did not indulge in any heroics, I am twitted with having made a flabby speech. I am sorry that the honorable member for Franklin is not present, because I desire to refer to some remarks which he made regarding myself. The right honorable member for
Swan, too, is absent; but I must reply to the taunt which he delivered on two or three occasions, in the observation to myself, “ Look at the support you are getting !”
– The Labour party kept the right honorable member in power for years !
– I am just coming to that matter. Of all men in the House, it comes with singularly bad grace from the right honorable member for Swan to gibe at me simply because my views happen to be in accord with those of the Labour party. The right honorable gentleman joined the Deakin Government, which, it was known, existed and could only continue to exist by the support of the Labour party. It it quite true that, though I was a supporter, I was never asked to join the Government; but, if I had been asked, I should certainly have declined for the reason that I should thereby have been deprived of my freedom, at the next general election, to oppose views held by a great section of the Government supporters. When we went before the country I spoke respectfully of the Labour party, who opposed me on fair grounds ; but the right honorable member for Swan, when he went to Western Australia, although he was a member of the Government, flagellated that section of the Government supporters. I contend that when the right honorable member accepted a position in the Government, he gave up his right, which I retained as a private member, to criticise the Labour party; and it is altogether unjustifiable on his part to speak so offensively, as he did on several occasions, of the support I was obtaining for my views in regard to the measure before us -
O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us !
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
And foolish notion.
The honorable member for Franklin has not yet arrived ; but I’ may say he was the only other honorable member who descended from the reasonable and gentlemanly position taken up by most of the other speakers. That honorable member accused me of resorting to the mean and despicable expedient of repeating private conversations in order to make good an argument. I repelled the charge at the time; and if the honorable member were now here I should tell him that I cannot understand how a man of intelligence could have made it. I alluded quite justifiably to four honorable members, whoseviews are reported in Hansard, and to two others - who I observe are also absent - whose views had been referred to openly in the press. I did not refer to any private conversations ; and I regret that the honorable member does not bear these remarks, because I do not suppose that he will read the report of this speech in Hansard, or will know anything of it except by hearsay. I view the honorable member as a man who is like a wall-eyed horse; he can see only one point, and that a very small one, represented by what he conceives to be the interests of Tasmania. His mental adjustment has been so fixed or atrophied that, as a matter of fact, he cannot even understand or apply an argument for a moment as would a man whose mind was free and flexible - it is always Tasmania. I tell the honorable member that it was the greatest thing that ever happened for Tasmania when she got into the Federation. While there are very many broad-minded men in Tasmania - and I should be very sorry to indicate anything to the contrary - there arealso a good many specimens of the petrified dodo, and, unfortunately, the influence of the petrified dodo has retarded the progress of this tight, bright little island, whose only need is good, far-seeing, openminded men to raise it to a totally different position. The honorable member for Franklin has been here for a few years, but, of course, while I am glad to see him here,I have very little hope for him, : in view of the petrification, mental and otherwise, to which I have referred.
– The honorable member for Wilmot is better.
– The honorable member for Wilmot is a young man ; and the hope for Tasmania, and, indeed, for all the States, lies in our young men coming to the front. I hope that Tasmaniawill soon be in even a more prosperous position ; but, as one who speaks with knowledge, I do not know any part of Australia that has pecuniarily benefited so much as Tasmania from Federation. It is true that her public finances for a time were dis- arranged, owing to various causes, but the great body of the people are now far better able to pay taxation than they were previously. The right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Franklin are the only two gentlemen to whose remarks I have to take exception.
– Why doesthe Treasurer not come into the chamber ?
– I am sorry he is not here.
– The Treasurer always has “important Departmental business” when he is being “ dealt with.”
– I must say that the Treasurer did not know that I was going to refer to him. After this excursus, let me say that I am unable to agree with what I understand is the thesis of the honorable member for Flinders. The position has been put to us in this way by the Prime Minister - When the agreement goes to the country we shall have no further responsibility. The right honorable member for East Sydney has asked why we do not trust the people. Of course, he knows very well what the “people” mean in this connexion. ‘ We are asked to put the agreement before the people. I am to go to Mernda and say, “ Gentlemen, you sent me to Parliament as your representative, to use my judgment, and such ability as I may have, in the settlement of serious questions of State. I went there and supported a Government which proposed the adoption ofthe agreement which you are to be asked to vote for on the same day that I ask you to vote for me. I do not regard the agreement as a good one ; you can vote for it and vote for me, orvote against it and vote for me, just as you please.” But matters will not really end there. When I go to Mernda, I shall have totell the people exactly what my views are regarding the agreement. I must say to them, “ I cannot shift on to your shoulders the responsibility for this proposal. I must tell you what, in my opinion, you ought to do regarding it.”
– That is the duty of everv public man.
– I think so. The position then is a very grave one, and if the Government has not given serious consideration to it, Ministers should do so. I am a supporter of the Government on the programme on which the party united. I do not object to the essence of this agreement, but I object to that part of it which is not in the programme, and I shall tell my constituents so. I presume that the Government will make it part ofits programme to get the agreement carried by plebiscite. What will be its relations to the men who, while otherwise supporting it in every respect, cannot support itin this matter? There is no personal quarrel. The
Government has no right to object to my action in standing to my colours, and upholding my position. I am not attacking its policy, but I must tell the people what I think they should do.- We cannot escape our responsibilities by thrusting this matter before the people to be determined by them. T do not wish to go back on what has led up to the present position, but I say to Ministers that they cannot get more than thirty-six votes for their proposal unless they accept those of the honorable members for Flinders, Balaclava, and Corio. I do not speak for the honorable member for Corio. I solicited no one’s support, -but the honorable member came to me and said that he would stick to me - all through, as [ understood him. Apparently, he has changed his mind. I am not his judge. I was present at the meeting of our party when the honorable member for Flinders made his promise - absolutely- without pressure from the Government or its head. He voluntarily, and without qualification, said that if he had a free hand in Committee, and the majority of the Committee was against, him, he would’ support the third, reading of. the Bill. When’ I heard him say that, I thought triad, had he been a Scotchman, he would not have said it. I, being a Scotchman-, rose immediately after him,, and said, “ While 1 thoroughly agree with the honorable member’s views, I. ami not prepared to. make any pledge of any sort as to what I shall- do when the third-reading stage is reached.” I regret that my honorable friend did not assume the same attitude, and I am sure that he does so too..’ As to the honorable member for Balaclava, no doubt similar considerations weigh with him, though I am not so cognisant of the circumstances in which he is placed. Readers of the scriptures remember the affecting incident of Jepthah’s daughter - one of the most pathetic passages in sacred literature. Seeing that these gentlemen have made what I may term a Jepthah’s rash vow, is it right to hold them to it for the sake of recommending to the people a grave constitutional change? Were I head of the Government, I would absolve them from their obligation. I would not, in the interests of party, seek to carry thus, not a measure of temporary importance, but one which may affect the future- of. the country in ways which we cannot foresee: I should not take the responsibility of sending the matter -to the country by means of such support. I appeal to Ministers, even at this late stage, to say whether it is fair to men who have been loyal to them, as these gentlemen have been, to strain their loyalty, and to subject them to the vilest misrepresentation outside. Because they will be reviled and misrepresented, ls it right for the Government to hold these two men to their promise because they say “ We gave our word, and we must stand to it “ ? I say no. Ministers also know that of the thirty-six who may vote for the third reading, six or eight are not in favour of making the agreement permanent, and are yet going to vote for it. I do not impugn their motives, because they have the- right to do as they think best, but four of them have published their views in Hansard,, and two, if not more> have made their opinions known. Ministers know better than I do how these men feel. Without their support the third reading would not be passed, with the statutory majority, and, indeed, only twenty-eight oe thirty members, would vote for it on their conviction as to the- need for permanency. I am not going to- blame those who- have felt it their duty to subordinate what I consider to be the- supreme rights of the. people to part)’ interests. They say that the solidarity of the party is. of more importance, and are going to vote for sending the agreement to the people with the intention of telling their constituents that they should not vote for it. They will find themselves in a very awkward position. What will their advice to the electors be worth? They will say, “ We voted for this, but we do not believe in it; you had better not vote for it.” To my mind the position is absolutely destructive of Federal loyalty, which should rise superior to every other political consideration. It is a subordination of loyalty to the country to the interests of party. I was going to say the vile interests of party, but parties are necessary under our system of Government - I will, therefore, say the worst aspects and worst abuses of party. Is it a good introduction that the agreement should be sent to the country on the opinion of a little more than one third of the members of the House - that is, when you come to the essence of it - the well known and published views of the members of this House, and not the votes as they will be recorded? And what about our friends, the Premiers? All I say is that they have somehow or other got the game in their hand& at. the present time, and have been very astute in their “use of it. ‘ Those of us who were members of the first two Parliaments will remember that during that period this Parliament was assailed every day in the week for failing in its duty in every respect, and expending too much money. Although we were giving back to the States a great deal more than they were entitled to, we were accused of extravagance, and when the late Speaker ordered a carpet for one of the rooms here, there was a fearful flare-up about it, and charges of wasting the people’s money were made. Everything was done to attack us, and, above all, we were told that this Parliament had failed in its duty in regard to one of the prime considerations of Federation - the taking over of the State debts. Every day and every week the present Prime Minister and his then colleagues were assailed. We were ill assailed as a parcel of incapables. The cry was, “What is the good of the Federal Parliament to us? They were going to do this, that, and the other, and they do nothing, and, above all, they do not take over the State debts.” I propounded a scheme for doing it. I do not say that others could not have done the same, but I took the trouble to do it, and it was a good deal of trouble, and gave me a good deal of thought. Is it not a remarkable thing that, although that scheme was published, it was deliberately smothered in the press? When it was referred to, it was dealt with in such a way as to lay hold of little defects or supposed defects. No one was ever allowed to understand what the grand features of it were, because it meant a great unification of the debts. This point and the other point were nagged at, and the scheme was scoffed at, but from the hour that it was understood, the subject has been dropped, except that my friend, Mr. Kidston, to whom I have already .referred, expressed his approval of it. But when he came south and saw, I suppose, some of the more astute Premiers, He shied off, and never again referred to it. One public man said to me, “ Your scheme is top complete.” I replied, “Yes, it is complete. Its merit is- that you can see the end from the beginning.” The end of it was that it took over the debts, and definitely disentangled the finances of the Commonwealth and the States. My honorable friend, the honorable member for Kooyong, had somewhat different views on the matter, but I do not think they were so very divergent from mine. At any rate, my scheme had this ment, that any one who studied it could see that it settled the whole question, adjusted the whole of the differences between the Commonwealth and the States, and at the end of twenty or twenty-five years - I fixed twenty years merely for an illustration - would leave all parties clear. Immediately it took effect it would have settled all questions between the States and the Commonwealth, and removed all uncertainty as to the State finances. But what the Premiers saw then - I think for the- first time - was that it ended there, and that they had no further claim beyond that. One of them told me so. I replied, “ My dear sir, that scheme is to do one thing - to take over the debts and unify them. There is nothing to prevent Parliament enacting that that scheme shall be carried out, and that, thereafter, any arrangement shall be as Parliament may provide.” In my business transactions I believe in dealing with one job at a time, and in this case, when we had finished the job of unifying the debts, there was nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Government and Parliament from saying to the State Premiers : “ Now that that is settled, we shall give you so much per head for the next ten, twenty, or even fifty years.” But by carrying out my scheme with regard to the debts, we should have accomplished everything, secured the stability of the States, and adjusted all difficulties. It would then have been for the people and Parliament of Australia to say : “ It is only fair that, as the population increases, and the Federal Parliament is getting all the money through the Customs, the States should get a share, since we have settled our State debts difficulty.” The State Premiers perceived what the effect would be. I am saying this because I wish to have it on record, as this is not the end of the matter by any means. I do not want my name to go down to posterity as one who has inflicted a foul wrong on the Constitution. I cansee perfectly well what the object of all this manoeuvring has been. At each successive Conference the Premiers came together determined not to give up the hold they thought they had over the Commonwealth finances, and not to allow the State debts to be taken over. They ddid not object so much to the debts being taken over, but what they did object to was that they were not to have complete control of future borrowing. That is the root of the matter. I tried to make it clear that they were to have the power of future borrowing, but that it would have to be regulated. The Prime Minister was, I believe, thoroughly at one with me as to that, and is so now. I venture to say that, if this Bill is carried, even though the House unanimously last night carried a Bill to enable Parliament to take over the whole of the State debts, we shall, in all probability, never take them ‘over, for it is not intended by the prime movers in this business that we shall take them over.
– By the prime movers, the honorable member means the Premiers, and not the Prime Minister?
– I mean the Premiers. The Prime Minister and I have discussed this matter many a time, and it has made, and will make, no difference between us. I respect him, but I think he has been overweighted. He has been rushed into this scheme. If he had had a chance of talking with one or two of his Scotch friends, he would not have been rushed into it. I refer to the prime movers, because the prime movers are the Premiers. Make no mistake about that. The State Premiers have no business to intervene in this matter, although, of course, they had a perfect right to see that their States were properly and justly treated as to the amount they should receive from the Commonwealth. We are quite willing to send to the people, and put in the Constitution, a proposal to give the States 25s. a head, and the people will naturally want us to pass that, because it means a practical settlement of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. But the Premiers had no right whatever to tack on to it a condition which means an absolutely dangerous alteration of the Constitution. Now, what are the dangers? One cannot tell what they are, but every reader of history who stud:es the development of various federations knows that one of the gravest and most difficult problems that Federation.ists have had to solve has been this particular question of a conflict between the supreme Government of the Federation and the Governments of the States. Although, as the Prime Minister says, the people -are one people, yet they are organized into two bodies, and the difficulty is not the conflict of the people, but the conflict of the two organisms. Those who devised the Constitution contrived, I think with singular wisdom, a means of getting over that difficulty with the least possible friction. They enacted that the Commonwealth Parliament, as representing the whole Australian people, should have the supreme control of taxation by Customs and Excise. They enacted the Braddon section providing that the States should receive three-fourths of the Customs and Excise .revenue, which was put in as a hasty expedient, but they showed their meaning and intention by putting in the proviso that it was to continue in force for only ten years, and “ thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides.”
– This Parliament.
– This Parliament is defined by the Constitution as The Parliament, and when I talk of the Parliament, I mean this Parliament. The Braddon section is in existence, and will continue to exist for a year. It was our duty years ago to discuss and settle this question instead of leaving it until the eve of a general election. We have, however, left it to the eleventh hour,_ and the Constitution requires either that we should let the Braddon section continue as it is until >we otherwise provide, or that we should otherwise provide. We are asked to-day by this agreement to otherwise provide, and we are otherwise providing. But in doing so, why should we be asked to revert to a provision which, having originally been in the Constitution, was de- liberately removed from the Constitution by the vote of the people in 1899? If this Bill is passed by Parliament, and carried by the people, Parliament will never again be able to “ otherwise provide “ without the preliminary of another alteration of the Constitution. What right have the Premiers to insist on such a condition? They have no more authority in this matter than the man in the street. They are unknown in the Constitution in their capacity as Premiers. They are simply individuals, but in the most bare-faced and unscrupulous way some of them are showing their ruthless hand by intimating to honorable members that they will oppose them in their constituencies if they do not support the agreement. I, with my spirit at any rate, would expect the House as one man to say, in face of a threat of that sort, “ We shall not do this thing. We will meet you on fair grounds ; we will deal with you, we will buy with you, or sell with you, but alter the Constitution at your dictation, never !” I admired the ineffable manner in which the right honorable member for East Sydney glided over the difficulty of taking this provision out of the Constitution when once it is put in. It was really beautiful. I am sorry the honorable member for Robertson is not here, because his acute mind detected the fallacy at once. I dare say we all saw it, but that honorable member called attention to it. The right honorable member for East Sydney waxed eloquent, and cried, “ Send it to the people; trust the people ; they will pass it.” Of course, they will, unless we can stop it outside, for it will have great press influence behind it. Honorable members should make no mistake, because, at any rate, a large proportion of the press in each of the States will fight for the Bill. The press, after all, are only the creatures of their environment, and what suits the ruling powers in their own States suits them.
– They are governed by impulse.
– There is something more substantial than impulse governing them. The right honorable member for East Sydney, as I said, was very eloquent, but when the honorable member for Robertson asked’, “ How are you going to take it out of the Constitution again if you want to?”’ there was no answer. The right honorable member indulged in some talk about me. He misrepresented me, and made it appear that I had made a foolish observation to the effect that the arrangement would be as secure if simply dealt with by the House in an ordinary Bill, as if it were put in the Constitution. I said, nothing of the kind, as Hansard shows. The right honorable member for East Sydney did not answer the pertinent question of the honorable member for Robertson, for he knows, as we all know, that under the provision in the Constitution for a referendum, the vote of the majority of the whole people does not necessarily prevail. If this provision is put into the Constitution, circumstances may arise in a thousand different ways that will prevent the voice of the great majority of the people as a whole being properly ascertained.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.1 5 p.m.
– When we adjourned I was referring to the manner in which the right honorable member for East Sydney glided over the question put to him as to how it would be possible to take this provision out of the Constitution once it had been inserted. He said nothing on the subject, and his silence was to my mind significant. As honorable members are aware, the great objection to the Constitution Bill, as submitted to the first referendum in New South Wales, was the infamy of the “ Braddon blot. “‘There were other reasons which perhaps do not exist in the opinion of the same people at the present time; but the great objection was that clause 87 - “the Braddon blot” - formed part of the Bill, and could be removed or altered only in the way prescribed by the Constitution. The existence of that provision was given as the principal reason for the refusal of New South Wales to accede to the terms of the Federation. Is it possible that the right honorable and very astute member for East Sydney when, as Premier of New South Wales,” he took the extreme action of advising the people of that State only to accept the Constitution Bill provided the Braddon clause were removed altogether - is it possible to suppose that he failed to see that if the Bill with the clause as it then stood were retained, the difficulties to which allusion has been made during this debate would have prevented his getting it out of the Constitution ? He had’ an opportunity then to accept the Braddon clause as it left the Convention’, yet he deliberately defeated it ; and I can see in this proposal to-day the work of the right honorable member’s cunning Parliamentary hand, in asking us to practically reimpose as part of the Constitution the principle to which he then objected.
– That was not his only ground of objection.
– I am not dealing with his grounds of objection. I know that there were others.
– Is this good enough for the honorable member for Mernda? I make that statement as one of the greatest friends that he has in the House.
– The honorable member has a funny way of expressing his friendship.
– I know the honorable member for Indi. We understand each other, and are good friends.
– Of course, we are, and I do not want the honorable member to injure himself.
– I shall not injure myself. The honorable member has never had. charge of me, and I should not like to have charge of him.I desire my honorable friends to realize the position in which it is sought to place us to-day. The right honorable member for East Sydney has been an important factor in this business. I see his hand in it as plainly as if it were held up before me. He addressed to the President of the Premiers’ Conference, as he had a perfect right to do - and so had I - a letter defining accurately what, in his opinion, the Conference should do, and the Conference did it. The right honorable gentleman has justly a great influence in his own State, and perhaps beyond it. He has a great influence too with the public men of New South Wales, and I wish that he and other honorable members to whom I wish to address myself were present. If he were here now, I should ask him to explain why, in 1899, in the Parliament of New South Wales, he carried a resolution, not to modify, but to exclude altogether from the “Constitution Bill the Braddon clause. The resolutions then carried by the State Legislature are public property ; they are to be found set out at length in Quick and Garrans Annotated Constitution. Subsequently., the right honorable member met all the other State Premiers in Melbourne and presumably argued in accordance with the resolution that he had carried in the New South Wales Parliament for the total excision of the Braddon clause. He was forced, however, to accept less than he wanted, “in the shape of a limitation of the operation of the clause to a period of ten years, and he then returned to New South Wales and recommended the acceptance of -the Bill, subject to that modification. I should like the right honorable member to explain why on that occasion he did not apply .the principle that he is now advocating? Why has he departed from the principle which he then insisted upon as a sine qua non? The Minister of Defence says that there were other reasons. I agree that there were, and apprehend that if the right honorable member had a right to have other reasons, we possess a similar right. Whatever the reasons, the principle involved was the same ; yet the right honorable .member felt that the Braddon clause was a blot on the -Constitution, and desired that it should be removed. Why does he wish now practically to replace it in the Constitution? What his reasons are we may imagine. Representatives of New South Wales, the majority of whom share his view, may know something of them; but I do -not. I am bound as. a public man to deal, not with insinuations of motives or reasons, but to ask why the very people who wished to take the Braddon clause out of the Constitution Bill should now practically want to put it back again. Presumably, the action then taken was prompted by reasons that were thought .sufficient; but let me ask again why it is that at the present time - I admit the circumstances are different - the very people who advocated then what we are advocating to-day should object to our proposal. We say, in effect, to t’->e States, “ We give you your own terms. We substitute for the provision that three-fourths of the -Customs and Excise revenue shall be returned to the States one declaring that there shall :be a per capita return -out of the general revenue. We are prepared to place that ‘provision in the Constitution subject to the same ‘proviso that was attached to the Braddon section.” We say that it shall continue for “practically fifteen years, and thereafter as Parliament may otherwise provide. I ask these honorable members why that .should not :be done ? Why .should they charge me with disloyalty to my -party, as some of them do - why should that .charge be made against me in the press - when I ask for a reason that will satisfy my judgment concerning the objection of the men who limited ‘the Braddon clause, to our pro- posa-1 to limit in the same way the operation of this agreement? The question is unanswerable. The difficulties in the way of taking this agreement out of the Constitution will be enormous. Had the opportunity offered, I intended this morning .to take out a few figures showing how the Constitutional provision with regard to the making of amendments would operate. As I have already said, the difficulty is not that the appeal will be to the whole of the people. If that were the position we could face it. If an appeal had to be made to the whole of the people they would have a direct voice in the determination of the question, and I could then understand the argument Sf those who support the Government proposition. But for the purposes of the Constitution we have divided into two sections the organizations that carry on the business of the people. Collectively they represent the whole of the population, but. in reality, under the ‘Constitution, they do not, because under the section which prescribes the manner in which the Constitution may be altered, it is provided for the protection of .minorities in the States that the State majorities are to count as well as the collective majorities of all in the States. Figures have been given during the consideration of this Bill to show that if, for any reason, the larger States thought it was desirable to alter this provision in any way or to withdraw it from the Constitution altogether, they would be powerless to give effect to that desire unless there were similar majorities in the smaller States. I ask honorable members to consider the other side. It is quite conceivable that the smaller States might be unanimously desirous of altering this provision or of removing it from the Constitution, but they could not do so because of their inability to obtain a majority in all the States. The provision cuts both ways; and those who decide to recommend this measure to the people are assuming a tremendous responsibility. What have we seen in the United States? There the Constitution is different on financial matters, and such friction as has arisen has had other causes; but in connexion with slavery, the question of State Rights gave rise to the most bloody war on record. I am not a Cassandra, to predict that we ma.y have civil war over money matters;, but it is conceivable that there may be the utmost friction and straining of the Constitution, and the utmost antagonism between people who ought to be one.
– Why all this waste of time?
Honorable Members. - Shame, shame !
– You slimy reptile !
– I ask honorable members not to degrade the proceedings of Parliament in this fashion. I trust that nothing has occurred to create such a disturbance; at present I cannot account for the conduct of honorable members.
– He has been selected to do the dirty work to-day !
– Is the honorable member for Lang in order in saying that the discussion of this measure by the honorable member for Mernda is a shameful waste of time ?
– The honorable member for Macquarie has taken the proper course in directing the attention of the Chair to something that has been said. 1 understand that the honorable member for Lang has made the statement that the honorable member for Mernda is guilty of a “ shameful waste of time,” and, if that be so, I ask the honorable member to withdraw the statement.
– I expressed the opinion that this was a shameful waste of time. I take no notice of the Opposition hisses. When the Greeks bring gifts, it is time to beware. However, if you, Mr. Speaker, say that my remark is disorderly, I withdraw it. At the same time, I raise another point of order, and ask whether the honorable member for West Sydney is in order in making the absolutely incorrect statement that I have been put up to do “ dirty work”?
– The honorable member for West Sydney also called the honorable member for Lang a “ slimy reptile,” and I ask that those words be withdrawn.
– I understand that the honorable member for. West Sydney has used an expression which is regarded as offensive, and I ask him to be good enough to withdraw it.
– I may be in error; the honorable member may not have been selected, and, therefore, I withdraw my remark.
– The honorable member for West Sydney also said that the honorable member for Lang was a “ slimy reptile,” and I ask that the words be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable member for West Sydney to withdraw the words.
– I withdraw the’ “ slimy reptile,” too.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for Lang for giving me a short breathing time, but I think that we have wasted about three minutes-
– Order ! I point out to the honorable member that that question has already been determined, and I ask him to proceed with his address.
– I am certainly not speaking here in order to waste time. I ask honorable members to remember that of late years I have not addressed the House much, and I have not wasted time on many occasions when that might have been done. I have only spoken when I had something to say that I thought was pertinent to the subject before the House; and I presume that if I were erring in any respect in that way you, sir, would call my attention to the fact.
– I cannot hear a word of what has been said, owing to the intolerable noise made by the honorable member for Lang. I am now told by that honor- able member to “shut up,” because I have brought this complaint before the House.
– I ask honorable members to give the honorable member for Mernda that hearing to which he is entitled.
– I was referring to the difficulties that, without any straining of the imagination, one can foresee in removing this agreement from the Constitution once it is inserted. I do not wish to press that line of argument further than to say that I consider that honorable members, including the honorable member for Lang, who vote for sending this recommendation to the people are assuming a tremendous responsibility. I may point out that the honorable member for Lang, in his place in this House, within the last few days, stated that he disapproved of making the agreement permanent.
– I said nothing of the kind ; the honorable member is absolutely incorrect. I said that I should have preferred something more elastic if I could have got it.
-“ Elastic “ is a good term. Does the honorable member deny that he distinctly said he preferred a more elastic scheme?
– That is a different thing.
– But the honorable member added more, and the Hansard report speaks for itself. I certainly shall not have my name go down to posterity connected with such a reversal of form. I suggested a period of fifteen years, but I think it. likely that difficulties may arise even in that time if the amendment be carried. In the light of history, the position I have put is absolutely unanswerable. I am not making an alarmist’s speech, but am, I hope, speaking soberly to sober and responsible men. Once before in my political career, many years ago, in this very Chamber, but in another Parliament, I had to stand in a similar position, and I mention the incident just to show that a private and unattached honorable member ought sometimes to be listened to. It was during the boom time in Victoria, and the Prime Minister was a member of the Government, of which Mr. Gillies was the head, and of which I was a loyal supporter. The Government brought down a Budget showing a surplus of£900,000, and, instead of economizing, and putting aside the surplus in order to liquidate cur rent liabilities, and thus relieve the next year’s finances, they determined to distribute it broadcast over the country, in a manner which I thought would add to the inflation that had already developed to a most dangerous extent. I spoke then, as I speak now, with a sense of responsibility, expressing the opinion that the Premier of the day was making a great mistake, because I could foresee that there would be a collapse, when the revenue would decrease, while the expenditure kept up,and the whole machinery of government would be shaken to its centre in a convulsion the like of which we had not seen before. On the present occasion the Prime Minister, as I am sure he would again, has dealt with me considerately and gently, because he knows from my past career that I do not speak without reason; but Mr. Gillies, who was a friend of mine, jacketed me well, while Professor Pearson and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. James Munro, were stinging in their comments, while the press spoke of me as a Cassandra, as a mean, contemptible person, who, although he owed all he had to the country, was reviling Australia. But I have the melancholy satisfaction of knowing that in the Victorian Hansard there is a report of my speech which proves that 1 was correct in every particular - in fact, the disasters were even greater than I had predicted. I wish honorable members to realize that a man, speaking from experience, and with a sense of responsibility, may be forgiven if he, feeling the gravity of the position, desires only that it shall be completely appreciated. As I say, in my time nothing may happen, but I am going to have on record, as before, the opinions which I hold, so that those who come after us may be able to judge. Honorable members on the Government side have always been desirous, so far as Iknow, to confine the taxation proposals of the Commonwealth Parliament to indirect taxation - that we shall not interfere with or enter the State sphere of direct taxation. That has been the course pursued in the United States, except during the Civil War, and in Canada. The resources of the Canadian Government are derived from indirect taxation, but the Constitution allows it to levy direct as well as indirect taxation. The unwritten law is obeyed, however, by the Government of the Dominion, the Provinces providing for their requirements by direct taxation. Honorable members on this side are desirous, almost without exception., that that system shall continue here. But what are they going to do? It appears to me as clear as that two and two make four, that probably within twenty years, under easily conceivable circumstances, this Legislature will be compelled, by reason of the vast undertakings in which the Commonwealth is bound to engage, to enter upon the sphere of direct taxation, which, I think, should be left to the States. In addition to imposing duties of Customs and Excise, it will have to superimpose direct taxation on that of the States, to get money to pay the proposed per capita allowance of 25s., and to meet its own requirements. Have honorable members considered that? They mav be compelled, if the agreement be carried, to do the thing that they want not to be done. We may be faced with this position : Some of the States, by reason of the per capita payments from the Com-monwealth, may be rolling in wealth. Other States and the Commonwealth may be forced to be economical. The States which are well off might say, should a change be suggested, “We. are not responsible for the position of our neighbours. We are nil right, and object to any change.” The Commonwealth Parliament may be forced to strain the Constitution in order to get money ; because it will cause violent opposition on the part of the taxpayers if they are called upon to pay two income taxes, two probate duties, and so on. The Commonwealth may have to do what is unpopular, and what would be unnecessary if the States would1 economize, and. as the result, the people may say, “ What need is there for a Commonwealth Government. Let us abolish it.” Surely it is a departure from principle that those who impose the taxes and raise the revenue should not spend it, or have some control over its expenditure. We do not wish to interfere with the expenditure of the States, and they are entitled to be given a -reasonable share -of the -‘Customs revenue, leaving it to them to spend it as they like ; but under the proposed cast-iron agreement, we shall have to find money for States which, in the mind of -every thinking man, may be spending revenue extravagantly, or even wasting it. Another aspect of the matter is -this : The responsibility for prudence and care in the administration of State finance will become less and less as the per capita payments continue and increase. We know how Parliaments can spend money. I do not even except this Parliament, though now it will have to keep its nose to the grindstone for many years, because it will have a. diminishing revenue, and large undertakings to meet, in addition to the per capita payments. The newspapers which support the agreement profess to do so, for one reason, to prevent unification. They say that I and others who are opposed to it desire unification. It is quite within the bounds of my reasoning to suppose that this agreement itself may become the strongest lever to bring about unification. If the States, or some of them, are spending money recklessly, while others are pinched, what ‘ will .the cry be? “What is the good of having a Commonwealth Parliament and so many State Parliaments? Let us have only one. We do not desire two taxing authorities.” My honorable friends here who one and all are opposed to .unification may be doing what at no distant date may have a material result in bringing it about. I am not a unificationist. It is unthinkable to me that this vast -continent, with all its varied’ interests, could be ‘well- served bv one central Government. I am a State Rights man so far as this is concerned. We must have local Parliaments, -or local authorities of some sort, to carry out local duties. This Parliament must help them with money and in other ways. But I ‘am a Federalist in desiring to hand down to future generations the rights conferred upon us by the Constitution, unimpaired by unwise and ill-considered action. I do not intend to vote on the motion for the third reading, for two reasons, of which the greater covers the lesser. If thirty -eight members vote for it, it will not matter if no one votes against it, so that my voting against it would’ not affect the result., Furthermore, I know how’ some of my honorable friends and the press would hold me up to public opprobrium if I voted with the Labour party on this question. A vote is a vote. It stands on record. I am not afraid to vote in support of my principles when it is necessary to do so. In this case it is not necessary, and I shall not subject myself to misrepresentation by voting for the motion. Honorable members generally will understand, when I am not present in the division, that it is because it is not necessary for me to vote, and I do not choose to be misrepresented.” I again implore the Government to reconsider the posi- tiffin. They have won technically, but not really. The proposed amendment of the Constitution will be submitted to the people in accordance with the letter, but not the spirit of the Constitution. Two of the members of the House are absent, and probably could they vote the Government would be in a minority, or the voting would be even. Leaving those two honorable members out of the count, it is known that to obtain the statutory majority the Government must accept the votes of men who are placed in a most unenviable position by having rashly, out of good feeling and: friendship, made a promise from which they should be released. Five or six others are voting for the agreement, not because they believe in it, but in the interests of the solidarity of the party. A proposed amendment submitted under such circumstances goes to the people with a bad introduction, although the issues are so cunningly mixed upthat the result is uncertain. We who oppose the acceptance of the agreement wish to give to the States all that they deserve, but decline to surrender our rights under the Constitution.
Mr. Deakin, Mr. Hughes; and Mr. Agar Wynne simultaneously addressing the Chair.
– The Prime Minister !
– What is the meaning of this?
– I think that the honorable member for Balaclava has a personal explanation to make.
– I understand that the honorable member for Balaclava desires to make a personal explanation-.
– What is the meaning of this?
– Is a man to be called out of his turn ? This is an outrage. I rise to order. You have just done, Mr. Speaker, a thing which has never been done before in the history of this Parliament, and which is against the practice of this and every other Parliament. I absolutely decline to allow it.
– I shall trouble the honorable member to state the point of order which he raises.
– It has been the practice to call a member on this side after one has spoken on the other. That rule has
– Thereis an occasion - which the honorable member has apparently forgotten - when the rule is always departed from, and that is when the Prime Minister rises. It is the invariable custom of the House of Commons and of this House that the Prime Minister should be called upon directly he rises. 1 therefore called upon him on this occasion. He intimated to me that the honorable member for Balaclava desired to make a personal explanation, and I was proceeding to give precedence to him, again following the usual course. There is no desire to take advantage of anybody, nor to depart from a rule which has always been observed.
– I, too, am entitled to make a personal explanation. Immediately the Leader of the Opposition sat down to-day, I rose and addressed you . You failed to see me, and called upon the honorable member for Mernda. As you are aware, I afterwards called your attention to the fact that, although I had risen immediately under your eye,, and. addressed you, you had called another honorable member. You told me then, at once, that you had not seen me, but had seen three members rise at once.. I proposed to follow the Leader of the Opposition, but, of course, as I was not. seen, I had no more to say about it. I rose again, when the honorable member for Mernda sat down, that being the first opportunity that I had of again claiming the right to address you..
– If the Prime Minister speaks, will not that close the debate?
– It will not do so. There is no right of reply on a third reading motion.
– I rose, therefore, to claim my right, but having been informed at lunch to-day that the honorable member for Balaclava desired to make a personal explanation which would only take two minutes, when I saw that honorable member on his feet, 1 gave way to allow him to make his personal explanation.
.- What the Prime Minister has said alters the position so far as he is concerned. I wish to state, for the information of the House, that I approached Mr. Speaker before the debate commenced this morning, and asked him if he would call me after the Leader of the Opposition had spoken, or after the member who replied to the Leader of the Opposition had sat down. Mr. Speaker said he would do so. In those circumstances, I feel that I was perfectly entitled to the call, both by the fact that I rose on this side, and because that arrangement had been made. I did not see the Prime Minister rise previously, and I feel sure he will acquit me of any desire to prevent him from getting the call. He will see, however, that by the practice of the House, and by the arrangement I have mentioned, I have a right to the call, and I hope he will allow me to have it.
– The honorable member for West Sydney is quite correct in saying that he spoke to me about being called at a certain stage; but as the late Speaker laid it down, any conversation of that sort cannot be looked on as an engagement on the part of the Chair to see any honorable member.
– I rose at the same time as the honorable member for Mernda to say a few words by way of personal explanation. I saw a statement in one of the morning papers that I had been threatened with opposition in my constituency if I did not vote for the third reading. No such threat has been made to me, nor would any threat affect me in any way. I have too much Welsh blood in my veins to stand a threat from anybody, and if it were made, I should resent it, and probably be much strongerinmyoppositionthanbefore. I was, however, present at the meeting when the honorable member for Flinders stated that if we were beaten on the vote in Committee on our amendment he would vote for the third reading, in order to carry out the wish of the majority of the House. I said I would do the same thing. I may not have been as Scotch as I ought to have been, but I said it. When I spoke on the second reading of the Bill, I said that if the Government defeated our amendment in Committee, I would make one to give them a statutory majority on the third reading. Whilst not approving of the proposal put forward by the Government, but favouring that of the honorable member for Mernda, I felt that I was not justified in taking advantage of a technicality to defeat the wishes of the majority of the House. That was the reason why I said I would not oppose the third reading, if the matter was carriedagainst us in Committee.
– There was no majority, against us in Committee in one division.
– I cannot help how the clause was carried. It was carried by a majority of one. I said that if we defeated the Government on our amendment in Committee, I was quite prepared to risk my seat.
– I thought it was not a party question.
– It was not supposed to be a party question, but I had heard statements to that effect, and I, for one, was prepared to take the consequences. I did not want to sit on a bed of roses, or to get down on the easy side of the fence. I fought all I could for the amendment of the honorable member for Mernda, and I compliment him now on the speech he has made. I believe he is right, and I was quite with him, but I said that if a majority defeated the amendment, I would vote for the third reading, and I intend to do so.
– The honorable the Prime Minister.
– I move-
That the question be now put.
Honorable members interjecting -
– Order ! I appeal to honorable members when I rise in my place to pay that attention to the Chair to which it is entitled. Several expressions were used just now which I feel sure that honorable members, on reflection, will regret. I do not feel able to distinguish exactly what was said, or who said it, but I ask honorable members to conduct the proceedings of this Chamber in such a fashion as will bring no discredit on it. The question is : - That the question be now put.
– Is that what the Prime Minister got the call from the Chair for?
– I appeal to the honorable member for Gippsland not to interrupt the proceedings in that way.
– I would point out to honorable members that although the bells are ringing, the Standing Orders are not suspended. I ask them not to carry on conversations across the chamber.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Bill read a third time.
Several honorable member’s interjecting,
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question put, and division called for:
– I appoint the honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for Corangamite tellers for the Ayes, and the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Newcastle tellers for the Noes.
– I decline to act, Mr. Speaker.
– Do I understand that the honorable member desires to be relieved of the duty of teller?
– And I also.
– I find that standing order 301 provides, amongst other things, that the Speaker shall state the question, and shall appoint two tellers for each side. I do not find in the Standing Orders any power on the part of an honorable member to decline to be appointed.
– Or any power to compel an honorable member to act.
– It would be unprecedented, I think, if honorable members were to decline to carry out an instruction from the Chair.
– Is not the position unprecedented?
– I again ask the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Newcastle if they decline to act as tellers?
– Am I to understand that the whole of the members of the Opposition take up the same position?
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon ; there is no provision in the Standing Orders as to the side of the House from which tellers shall be appointed, and, under the circumstances, I shall proceed to appoint them from the side where they are obtainable.
– You asked, sir, if all the members on this side refused to act as tellers in the division. As I am included amongst those members, I should like, under the circumstances, to respectfully ask to be relieved from the duty, because
– The honorable member need not say why.
– I desire to explain-
– The honorable member will have an opportunity later.
– I desire to volunteer to act as teller.
– I thank the honorable member, and appoint him as teller. I ask the honorable member for Batman to also act as teller for the Noes.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091112_reps_3_53/>.