3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
Telegraph Delays : QueenslandTelegraph Poles, Erskineville.
– Yesterday I promised the honorable member for Maranoa to make inquiries with a view to ascertaining the cause of delays in the transmission of telegrams from Queensland, and am now in possession of the following reports : - 13th instant. - Pressure of business and- indifferent working. Fault on Brisbane side. 15th instant. - Fault intermittent throughout the day. Seven Queensland lines faulted. Cause of trouble not known. 16th instant. - Fault. One line broken down. Ten insulators broken between Glen Innes and Tenterfield.
The interruptions and delays which have occurred have been doe partly to overwork, and partly to faults which the Department have not been, able to control, and about which I am not able yet to give full information. At the present time there are seven interstate telegraph lines in Queensland, and six in New South Wales, to carry the business between Brisbane and Sydney. Last year it was proposed to erect a seventh on the New South Wales side, but the work was deferred for want of funds. Provision is made for it in this year’s Estimates, the amount of £7,937 having been set down for the purpose. The length of the new line will be 495½ miles. When it has been completed it is hoped that the seven lines between Brisbane and Sydney will be equal to all the requirements of the business. Faults must occur. Sometimes they are due to accident, at other times to malicious injury to material, and occasionally to causes which we cannot explain.
-Is the PostmasterGeneral able to give me a reply to a letter sent to him a little while ago on behalf of the Erskineville Municipal Council, in reference to the removal of telegraph poles ? The council wishes for an answer.
– I do not remember to have received a letter or a communication by word of mouth on the subject ; but I shall cause inquiry to be made, with a view to ascertaining whether there is a record in the office.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that at a military tattoo, recently held under the auspices or with the consent of the Defence Department, at which a large number of cadets were present, tickets were given for refreshments, and lads seventeen years of age and under were supplied with beer and cigarettes ?
– How horrible!
– Is the Prime Minister aware that boys of the ages to which I have referred went home intoxicated ? I have evidence with which to support the statement which I am now making. I understand that no provision whatever was made for the supply of other than intoxicating drinks, of which a number of lads partook to excess. In the event of similar demonstrations being held in the future under the auspices of the. Defence Department, will instructions be given that if refreshments are provided, none but unintoxicating liquors shall be supplied, at any rate to persons under the age of twenty -one years?
– Neither the Minister of Defence nor myself is aware of the occurrence, but my honorable colleague informs me that he will at once take steps to inquire into the complaint, and if it is well founded will see that there is no repetition of the arrangements complained of.
.- I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss adefinite matter of urgent public importance, viz.) “ The administration of the Contract Immigrants Act in Western Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
-It is some months since I first took occasion to draw the attention of the. Minister of External Affairs to the immigration of foreigners to Western Australia, and at intervals since I have spoken on the matter - chiefly on grievance days - with a view to keeping the Department fully alive to the position. It appears to me, and to those who advise me, that the number of the foreigners - chiefly Italians and Austrians - who come to Western Australia in batches, and go straight to work at different places in the State, in many instances obtaining employment at the expense of Britishers, indicates that they do not enter the Commonwealth without having made an arrangement for obtaining employment on landing. I propose, in justification of this statement, to quote from a return with which I have been supplied and. which I believe to be accurate, showing the number of foreigners employed at various places in my constituency and just outside it. Most of the men are engaged in laborious manual labour, many of them being employed in the bush. The first company about whose employes I have information is the Kurrawang Wood-line Company.
– Where does it operate?
– The honorable member must know, because he is, I understand, its managing director.
– I do not know of any company of that name.
– Perhaps the company to which I refer may not be registered under that name. Possibly it is the Western Australian Gold-fields Firewood Supply Company. At any rate, the honorable member knows where the firm is operating. It is engaged in supplying wood to the Kalgoorlie mines. Independent of engine, men, horse drivers, and navvies, it employs twenty Britishers and 360 foreigners in cutting firewood. The Kurramia Wood-line Company, of which Mr. E. Graham Price is general manager, employs twenty-nine Britishers and 162 foreigners as firewood cutters and loaders. The Lakeside Woodline Company, of which Mr. A. Porter is general manager, employs nineteen Britishers and 170 foreigners, and the Lancefield Wood-Jine Company, under the same manager, fifteen . Britishers and thirtyfive foreigners, as firewood cutters and loaders. The Lancefield Gold Mining Company, of which Mr. E. H. Taylor is manager, employs seventy foreigners in mining and kindred work, the number of British employes being unknown. The Orion Gold Mining Company at Niagara, of which Mr. J. Skrine is manager, employs none but foreigners, of _ whom there are fourteen engaged in mining. Altogether eighty-three Britishers and 767 foreigners are employed by the six companies which I have mentioned. This is surely frimd facie evidence that preference is given to foreigners at the expense of Britishers.
– The companies mentioned appear to employ about 10 per cent. Britishers, and 90 per cent, foreigners.
– Of the mining companies employed at that particular work, the firm of Bewick, Moreing and Company are the worst offenders, and appear to wish to work their outback mining propositions almost entirely with foreigners, a great many being employed at the Sons of Gwalia and at the Great Fingal mines. The position has become so serious that Mr. Foley, a delegate to the Miners’ Conference held in Coolgardie on the 23rd March last, stated that -
He knew of cases where, on the Gwalia mine, nearly the whole of the men on a level were aliens. The day shift men were generally Australians, but on the other two shifts 82 out ol 100 were nliens - mostly Italians, who knew so little of English that some of them had to be led to the shaft and backed into the skips.
– Do they work for lower wages?
– I do not make a charge that they do.
– I only asked for information.
– I could not make such a charge, because they chiefly work under contract. In the great bulk of cases the day work is given to an Australian. Where the companies have to pay a certain wage for a certain time, chiefly an Australian is employed, but when it is a question of letting a contract they apparently rely upon getting more work at less cost from Italians or Austrians than they can get from Britishers under the conditions now existing.
– That means that they do work for lower wages?
– I dare say that it does work out that way.
– It is the worst system that could be introduced.
– It is certainly a most dangerous system in regard to working mines. It has a tendency not only to reduce wages, but also to increase the risk under which the miners work. I believe that a number of the accidents which have taken place in Kalgoorlie and North Coolgardie gold-fields are directly traceable to the fact that the men were employed under contract conditions.
– I believe that that applies to contract work all round ?
– I believe that it does, and in this particular case it is a most pernicious system. Referring to the men who had to be backed into the skips, Mr. Foley continues -
They were a danger to every man in the mine, though not to Australians, because so few were employed.
He means that they were a danger to one another when they could not be a danger to Australians, who might reasonably be expected to be employed there, but did not get employment.
The Asiatics were a curse out back, and any one going to Leonora would think, from the smell of camels and sight of turbans, that he was in Afghanistan.
This matter is, I think, sufficiently serious to demand the close attention of the Minister of External Affairs. He cannot claim that I have not given him fair warning in regard to my views. I have elicited certain information on the subject which I now place before him, and which, I believe, is accurate. I may say that the figures I have quoted applied to Kurrawang Wood-line on the 1st of June, T.909, to the Lakeside and Kurramia Wood-lines on the 25th June, 1909, to Lancefield Woodline and mine on the 1st July, 1909, and to the Orion Gold Mine on the 1st June, 1909. The figures are, in my opinion, sufficiently serious to call for inquiry at the hands of the Minister, with a view to seeing whether or not the Contract Immigrants Act is being violated by the introduction of men who undoubtedly land at Fremantle in batches and walk straight tu positions, in spite of the fact that in all these centres there are a number of Britishers waiting for employment.
– I suppose that the men who run the companies call themselves good Empire builders?
– We do hear expressions of opinion from them in favour of the gift of Dreadnoughts.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the unions paying men to naturalize the foreigners?
– The question of naturalizing foreigners has been brought under my notice. If we are to have these foreigners in numbers, I think it is better that they should accept the responsibilities of citizenship and hold themselves liable as citizens to defend the country rather than that they should be freelances, and if we happen to get into trouble with the country from which they come they should be able to say, “ We are citizens of another power. We place ourselves under the control of our Consul and take up the position of neutrals.”
– They would be a disturbing element.
– Yes. There may be other reasons for the desired naturalization of these alien immigrants.
– After they have been naturalized they cannot be termed foreigners ?
- No. but the fact remains that they are not naturalized when they land. My honorable friend must be aware that the statements I am making are well known to any man who has been in Western Australia for any considerable time.
– How many are there ?
– The half-dozen companies I have quoted employ 83 Britishers and 767 foreigners at the particular work mentioned. That fact is, I think, quite enough to warrant an inquiry. I have previously assured the Minister that in Western Australia there are men available and willing to work in these industries if they get an opportunity. I make this statement deliberately, because I know the condition of the labour market there. It does appear to me to be a case which deserves the attention of the Minister, and I think that I am justified in taking this course to call public attention to it.
– It is true that on two occasions the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has brought this matter before the House, and acting upon the information which he submitted I immediately caused inquiries to be instituted. He has moved the adjournment of the
House to-day to call attention to the administration of the Contract Immigrants Act, and I presume that owing to something - probably some alleged defect in the administration of the Act - he is of opinion that immigrants are coming into Australia under contract who ought not to be allowed so to come here. If any European of good character and ability and not subject to the disqualification contained in the Immigration Restriction Act, or Contract Immigrants Act, desires to come here and cast in his lot with us there is nothing in the law which prevents him from carrying out his desire.
– And casting a number of Australians out of work.
– I am speaking of the law of Australia at the present time. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said he believes that at present Italian and Austrian immigrants are coming in under contract, but he adduces no evidence to show that that is the case. He admits that.
– All the honorable member did was to call attention to certain facts, namely, that immigrants are coming into Australia, and that they are able to get work with remarkable facility.
– That they land in batches and eo straight to employment.
– The honorable member says that these immigrants immediately get employment. So far as one can fiscertain. the facts appear to be as he stated. But to argue that because men arrive in Australia and are able to get work shortly afterwards, therefore they come under contract, is an argument which I am afraid is not warranted by the investigations which have been made.
– It warrants a little inquiry on the Minister’s part.
– It warranted not only an inquiry but also a very strict administration of the Act and the closest scrutiny. This is not the first time that this question has been raised here. These people have been coming into Australia and going out of it in a regular stream, as I shall show presently. So far back as 1904, when the honorable member for West Sydney was Minister of External Affairs, the complaint which has been made to-day was made to him. He sent an officer to Western Australia specially to make inquiries, and after remaining there for some time that officer said that he was unable to find any substantiation of the statement as to persons having arrived under contract. Later, a Special Commission was appointed by the’ Government of the State to inquire into the matter, and : n the course of its report it stated -
We are of opinion that it is very unlikely that any aliens are imported under any actual contract or agreement, but we think it very probable that some of them have been induced to come by letters from friends already here who are in a position to get them work on their arrival.
Many, however, seem to have come out quite on the chance of getting employment, and have had to go from place to place a good deal before finding any. It is quite possible, neveitheless, that some secret understanding may have existed at times . between persons here and in Europe whereby men were sent out to work for contractors in the State, but we do not think that this has gone on to any considerable extent, if at all.
Later, when ex-Senator Playford was in Western Australia, he made inquiries, but was not able to find any specific evidence. The question then was : Are aliens coming in to such an extent as to seriously affect the labour market? It was a very proper inquiry to make, but it was found that in 1906 there was an excess of twenty-five departures of Italians over arrivals, the figures being 507 and 482 respectively, and in 1907 an excess of iixty-three departures over the arrivals, the figures being 552 and 489 respectively.
– According to those figures, there ought to be no Italians in Australia shortly.
– There may be a constant decrease in the number, and if that consummation is effected the desire of my honorable friend will be realized. I am stating recorded facts.
– I doubt the accuracy of the figures very much.
– I am giving the returns supplied to the Department. Of course, if the honorable member has better information than that, Ihope he will lay it before the House.
– I have not.
– For the first ten months of 1908 there was an excess of thirty-six departures of Italians over arrivals, so that the figures for the three years show a considerable decrease of these aliens.
– But the complaint rebates to the arrivals during the current year.
– I have given the latest figures available, and which were compiled, in the beginning of the year, to how the tendency during the last three years. The complaint to which the attention of the
House has been called to-day was put before my predecessor in a letter written in December last by the honorable member for Coolgardie, and instructions were issued to the officers to make special inquiries. The following reply was received : - 1 beg to inform you that every possible care is taken to carry out the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act, and from my own knowledge and personal observation I am satisfied that there are very few, if any, evasions in this respect.
The report of the boarding officer was enclosed.
– To whom was that letter addressed ?
– To the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, by the Collector of Customs, in consequence of an inquiry which was instituted by my prepredecessor. Shortly after the House met, and I was appointed to administer the Department, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie again drew attention to the fact that immigrants were coming into Australia and getting work, and asked that special inquiries should be made. I caused instructions again to be issued, and the information which I received was exactly to the same effect as that which was supplied to my predecessor. I was satisfied with what was stated in the reply ; but, with the desire of securing special vigilance, I made this minute -
In view of the repetition of the allegations with respect to importation of contract labour (foreign) in Western Australia, issue reminder of instructions for special vigilance in this respect.
– At all ports.
– This is a general instruction to the officer in charge of all ports in Western Australia. It was a second instruction, issued by me on 23rd October last, on which date the honorable member for Kalgoorlie had again brought the matter before the House. The question is not new. Every immigrant arriving in Western Australia is specially examined, and questions are put to him in accordance with the powers conferred by the Act upon the officers. Every effort has been made to ascertain whether these men are coming in under contract. A perusal of the papers leads one to the conclusion that for some time these men have been coming to. Australia, and that on their arrival here they appear to obtain employment and to receive very good wages. It is not alleged that they are receiving less than the standard rates Of wages.
– But they are being employed to defeat an Australian union.
– We are simply dealing with the question of the powers of the Commonwealth to regulate the admission of people into Australia, and I say that it is not suggested that these men are receiving wages lower than those usually paid in the districts in which they are employed.
– They are usually employed under contract.
– That is quite possible. It is not suggested that they are not receiving fair wages, and whether they are employed by day labour or under contract after their arrival is purely a matter of internal concern. The Commonwealth has power to regulate the admission of immigrants coming here under contract, but once a man is admitted, and mixes with the general body of citizens, he is entitled to engage in industry in accordance with State laws and the conditions prevailing in the different States. My reply to the question raised by the honorable member is that, so far as I can ascertain, the officers are carefully and vigilantly administering the Act in Western Australia. The records show that my predecessor also made inquiries, and appeared to be satisfied with the measures that were being taken by the officers in the Department. Apparently information is sent to these Europeans across the seas that remunerative employment can be obtained in Australia, and they consequently come here as free citizens and engage in work.
– And obtain work in preference to Australians.
– That is a matter of local conditions, with which the Commonwealth is not concerned. The Department has no general power to control the selection of individuals by persons engaged in carrying on industry in the States.
– How far would the honorable member carry that principle - that the Commonwealth has no responsibility as to interference with employment?
– If Europeans enter Australia as free men, the Department has not power to follow them further.
– Any one may be refused admission under the law.
– Quite so.; but it is neither the policy nor the wish of Australia that free Europeans shall be refused admission to theCommonwealth.
– Where the Department sees a certain class of men taking possession of an industry, it is, I think, entitled to take action.
– It certainly has not been the policy of this Parliament to exclude Europeans from Australia. I think it is the desire of the Parliament that, while welcoming Europeans, we should secure the arrival in Australia of as many Britishers as possible.
– These are nice Britishers !
– It has Been the desire of this Parliament that the Commonwealth should co-operate with the States to attract a steady stream of British immigrants to Australia.
– Does the honorable member think it desirable even for Britishers to come here and to obtain a preference over Australians in the matter of employment ?
– I am not suggesting that it is,.
– That is what is happening.
– The only question really at issue in tins instance is whether our officers are so diligently administering the Act as to ascertain whether immigrants under contract are entering Australia. We have made inquiries, and have given instructions that the Act shall not be evaded. I can assure the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that his desires in this respect are being loyally observed by those administering the law. The report of the debate on this motion will be forwarded to them, and they will be urged to continue special vigilance with a view to preventing any evasion of the law in this respect.
.- As my name has been mentioned in connexion with this matter, I desire to refer briefly to the question, and shall be able, I think, to show that” there are many reasons, other than those which have been given, to account for these foreigners coming to Australia. There has been some trouble lately in connexion with the wood supply of mines in Kalgoorlie, and having been in touch with the trouble, I have received telegrams in regard to it. In reply to inquiries, I have obtained some information which I think will be of value to the Minister in his endeavour to ascertain why these foreigners are coming to Australia. No preference is given to men of any foreign nationality on any of the mines, or in any other industry in Western Australia.
– No preference, even to Britishers?
– No preference is given to foreigners. I recently received the following telegram from the Chamber of Mines, Kalgoorlie -
Presume you have copies of arbitration awards. You may safely and positively say that in no sense whatever is any differentiation made between the British and foreign labourer in connexion with mining in this State, the hours of work, rates of wages, and other conditions of employment being identically the same in every respect. Mailing you copy of journal for October containing leading article on question which fully sets out the whole position. Chamber Mines.
That is a telegram from the highest mining authority in Western Australia. The Chamber comprises men of undoubted integrity. I have also received a copy of a small pamphlet on this very question, -published by the- Kalgoorlie Chamber of Mines. It is entitled “ Foreigners in Mines,” and was issued as the result of a case arising out of. a row which took place among foreigners on some of the mines in Kalgoorlie. The question was raised and thoroughly threshed out in the State Parliament, and in referring to the debate there we have in the pamphlet the statement -
Here the Minister touched upon the real point raised by the remarks of Mr. Justice Burnside, and he followed it up next day.
Mr. Justice Burnside, during the hearing of the case, had remarked that evidently these men did not understand the English language -
In reply to the member for Mr Margaret, he said he had already instructed an inspector to report if any of the miners employed underground at the Lancefield could not readily speak English, and also to give special attention to section 42 of the Mines Regulation Act.
This appears to touch the point raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie -
Within the last few days that report has been furnished to the State mining engineer by the Inspector of Mines at Malcolm. It is a contradiction of the statement made by Mr. Justice Burnside, and therefore a disproof of the implied charge against the management of the Lancefield. The following portions of the report are sufficient to quote : - “ I beg to report having visited the Lancefield and having examined the following Italians in English, in the presence of the manager and underground manager of the mine- A. Sartori, D. Michelletti, A. Bonettiand R. Zanzoni. The two Carraras had not returned to the mine. “ I found that all these men could speak English readily and intelligibly, and understood any question addressed to them. Sartori, who speaks English without any noticeable foreign accent, states there must have been some mistake ; he did not want any interpreter. The newspaper account was wrong, he said. ‘ Why. Did you read it?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. I handed him a paper and told him to read the news from Kookynie. He read the account of a euchre party fluently, and without hesitation. He stated he had been fourteen years in Australia ; twelve years in this State. “ All the men were questioned in a similar manner, the questions differing according to whether they were machine men or shovellers. They were asked as to the number of trucks they got out per shift, where they were working, how long they had been mining, whether they knew any other kind of work, and to make the range of questions wider the shift bosses were brought in and the men were chaffed and chatted regarding their personal affairs. Each man quite understood and gave suitable replies, and the replies to all questions were given without hesitation. Each man was asked in turn why he wanted an interpreter, and each gave a similar reply, viz., that although they could understand and reply to ordinary conversation they did not consider they were good enough for a court of law.”
I shall be pleased to lend this pamphlet to any honorable member v/ho mav care to read it. It clearly proves that no preference is given, and contradicts certain statements that have been freely circulated. I propose to quote some figures which furnish a very good reason for the presence of Britishers and foreigners in the timber industry round the gold-fields of Western Australia, and which emphasize my statement that no preference is given. Taking the returns for the Western Australian Goldfields Firewood Supply, I find that the average earnings of 207 foreigners for three months are over ns. 6d. per day. Some of them have earned up to 17s. per day. I have also a comparison of the earnings of thirty-four men of three different nationalities, which shows that the Austrians earn more than the Italians, and the Italians more than the British. The figures which I am about to give are taken from the paysheets. The average earnings of the Austrians are 14s. 5-9od. per day, those of the Italians are 13s. 11.51d., and those of the Britishers 10s. n.64d. Twenty-four foreigners who are employed in truckloading average 16s. 3d. per day, whilst six Britishers average 15s. 2d. per day.
– What .hours are they employed ?
– They work eight hours per day. Horse-drivers receive 13s. 4d. per day, and they are not even required’ to feed their horses. Other employes perform that service for them.
– All the horse-drivers are Britishers, are they not?
– The company in which I am interested employs 155 men on day wages. Of that number only three are foreigners. The average earnings of these men is 12s. 9d. per day. The total number of hands employed by the company is 610, and their wages average ns. io-35d. per day. Is it any wonder that foreigners come to Australia, seeing that they can earn as much here in a day as they can earn in their own country in a week ? I say that if these figures were known to the world we should not require to advertise the resources of this country in order to attract immigrants. The fact is that these men come to Australia to work, and not to argue. Even while they are working, they are being exploited by the Britisher. They have a man running after them to see that they become naturalized, so that they may exercise the franchise, and thus be able to put him into Parliament. He has openly stated that he intends to oust the member who at present represents that division in the Western Australian Parliament.
– The honorable member has stated that a difference is made between the employment of Britishers and foreigners upon day work. Would he mind explaining the nature of that difference?
– I’ did not say anything of the kind. I said that out of 155 men who are employed upon day wages only three are foreigners, and that their average earnings are 12s. 9d. per day. I believe it is quite possible to attract as many Britishers to Australia as we desire to obtain, so long as we are willing to turn them loose, and allow them to do what work they choose. But so soon as we require them to do so much work per day they will raise all sorts of objections. At any rate, that has been the experience upon the gold-fields of Western Australia. There is no other country in the world where men can earn 12s. per day by cutting wood. I have spoken to a great many individuals who have travelled considerably - men who have come from America, for example - and they all declare that it is an unheard of wage. Nobody objects to the men earning that wage, and nobody has attempted to reduce it. These employes are receiving the same wages to-day as were paid when the gold-fields were first opened up, when- water cost them from is. to is. 6d- per day, when provisions were at least from 20 per cent, to 30 per cent, dearer than they are now, and when they were obliged to tramp from one end of the fields to the other, instead of being able as they are now to travel by rail. It is idle for anybody to suggest- that they are not better off to-day than they were fifteen or sixteen years ago, when the goldfields were first opened up.
– But the employers get more out of the men now than they did then.
– I doubt the accuracy of that statement. Here is an industry in regard to which the complaint has been made that foreigners are employed, and yet the average earnings in that industry are 1 is. io.35d. per day. It is a wonder that Western Australia is not overrun, with men of all nationalities, seeing that such high wages can be earned in it.- The foreigners employed in it would never have gone on strike had it not been for a Britisher. The locomotive drivers are earning 15s. Sci. pet- day, and the firemen 13s. 4d.
–Of what nationality are they ?
– They are all British. I was up the line one day, when I experienced rather a surprise on being. told that an Italian had twenty or thirty horses working there. Whilst I was waiting for the train, a man rode up with whom I entered into conversation. After a little time I inquired who he was. He told me his name, which was a very Italian one, and thereupon I remarked, “ But you are not an Italian ?” His reply .was, “Oh, yes, but T was born in Bendigo.”
– The honorable member has now exhausted the time at his disposal.
.- It is to be regretted that the honorable member for Fremantle did not tell the House how many of the’ men employed by his company are foreigners.
– I did.
– I heard the honorable member say that altogether the company employed 610 men, but he did not give the proportion of foreigners and Britishers.
– I said that there were 155 Britishers and only three foreigners employed upon day work.
– What about those who are working upon contract?
– - I cannot say how many are thus employed.
– Then we may take it that the figures quoted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie are absolutely correct. I know that they have been carefully compiled, and by one who gave close attention to this question for some time.
– - They were compiled for a purpose.
– Certainly ; they were compiled for the purpose of showing that some of these timber companies which have, very large propertied interests in Australia - interests which would be confiscated bv an enemy - are not prepared to give a job to the men who would have to defend those interests. This is the sort of treatment meted out by certain capitalists to the potential defenders of Australia. They are expected to fight for the capitalists’ protection ; but when a job is going, it is given to aliens, who recognise no such obligation to this country.
– No preference is given to the members of any nationality.
– It is all very well to say that no preference is given, but the figures prove the contrary. Knowing the source from which they come, I have absolute faith in their accuracy. They show an enormous preponderance of the foreign element.
Colonel Foxton. - Does the honorable member object to the employment of foreigners ?
– I do not. I do not object to the introduction into Australia of foreigners who are prepared to settle upon the land, but I do protest against the introduction into this country of a body of men who absorb all employment offered by an industry, and thus shut Australians entirely out of it.
Mr. Hedges. Anybody would object to that.
– Why, then, does the honorable member complain ?
– I say that no preference is given to the members of any nationality.
– Is not the preference proved by the fact that 90 per cent, of the men employed by the timber companies are foreigners? Is it right that the timber industry should be captured by the foreign element, and that only 10 per cent, of Australians and Britishers should be afforded employment in it ?
– I have yet to learn that’ the employment of 200 Britishers out of a total of 600 employes represents 10 per cent.
– I am not referring merely to the company in which the honorable member is interested, but to the whole of the timber companies. I understand that they do not employ more than 10 per cent, of Australians and Britishers. There is no objection to the introduction of Italians and Austrians in reasonable numbers, provided that they engage in industries for which they are suited, and that they do not displace any large body of Australian labour. But I am certainly not in favour of the system under which these men are now being introduced. Their practice is to come . here and amass £200 or , £300, arid then to leave Australia, their places being filled by fresh arrivals.
– They must receive good wages if they are able to amass £200 or
– That is not the complaint. The complaint is that- the wages which are being paid by the companies should be paid in larger measure to Australians. I admit that there has been a great reduction in the cost of provisions during the past few years, but the honorable member for Fremantle must admit that the employers get more work out of the men now than they did in the early days. They are now in a position to pick and choose.
– But the timber getters cut the timber at so much per ton.
– That was not so from the beginning. The Minister of External Affairs has stated that no evidence has been adduced to show that these foreign immigrants are being introduced under contract. But the fact that, immediately after arrival, they proceed direct to the goldfields and obtain employment, is strong presumptive evidence that some understanding exists between the agents who engage them in Europe and the employers in Australia.
– It is only a month or two ago that the company in which I am interested had to insert advertisements in the Kalgoorlie newspapers for the purpose of preventing them from coming to Western Australia.
– I was not aware of that. Does the honorable member think that the Kalgoorlie Miner is read by the peasants of Ttalv and Austria?
– I am not speaking of any particular nationality. We inserted an ad vertisement in the Kalgoorlie newspapers stating that cutters were no longer required.
– But what the honorable member said was that advertisements were inserted to prevent those men coming.
– To prevent cutters coming in.
– From Italy and Austria ?
– Then I fail to see the application of the honorable member’s interjection. I am referring to the inrush of aliens, and not to Australians. How can his Kalgoorlie advertisement stop them? Despite the assurance of the Minister that the administration is very vigorous at Fremantle, it is evident that there must be some leakage. The facts of which we are aware are enough to arouse suspicion that there is some secret machinery by means of which these men are brought here and given work straightaway.
– It is very difficult to get proof.
– That is so. When the late Government were in office the honorable member for Boothby, at my request, went into the matter, but was assured that no satisfactory proof could be obtained.
– What is the nature of the machinery the honorable member suggests?
– I think a little judicious inquiry at the port of embarkation might reveal something. . It might be found that these immigrants are then not tutored so well as they are when they arrive at Fremantle. The Minister has all the machinery of government at his command, and a remarkable circumstance such as I have mentioned ought to arouse his activity. I do not deny that the law allows all reputable Europeans to come into Australia; but there is a qualification, as the honorable gentleman knows. Any European can be prevented from entering the country by putting to him a lest in a language which it is known he does not understand.
– It was never the intention of Parliament that that should be done.
– The honorable gentleman has no more right than I have to say what was the intention of Parliament.I was in Parliament, as well as himself, when the Act was passed ; and might just as fairly give my interpretation of the views of Parliament. I repeat that where foreigners are capturing an industry, special efforts ought to be made to get at the facts and apply the remedy at hand. No one desires to depreciate the character of these aliens ; but we cannot shut our eyes to their tendency towards crimes of violence. Only a. few weeks ago there was a murder of exceptional atrocity. From my knowledge of the gold-fields I can say that there have been a great many homicides committed, I admit mostly amongst themselves. They seldom attack people of another race; but, amongst themselves, rows occur, and a good deal of expense has been incurred in tracing the crimes and punishing the criminals. Italians, Austrians, and- others from Southern Europe make valuable settlers when they take up rural pursuits, become permanent citizens, and accept Australian conditions. There should be no objection to their presence in reasonable numbers under these circumstances. But very few of them start out with the intention of becoming citizens and accepting the obligations of citizenship. At present they form a disturbing element, by displacing from one industry Australian workers. Their docility and their unfamiliarity with the English language render them very acceptable to capitalists who manage the industry, and who on that account give them preference over their own kith and kin.
– There is no proof of that.
– No more proof is required than that 90 per cent, of the men employed are foreigners. The capitalists are ready enough to accept the Australian as a defender of the country, but when he wants a job, they prefer an Austrian or an Italian. This discussion should be of service in stiffening up the administration and diminishing the number of these foreigners.
– The honorable member said he did not object to them.
– Certainly not, if they accept our citizenship under the conditions already mentioned. But I do object to their presence here if they are to be made use of by wealthy corporations to exclude the workers of this country from employment. The honorable member revealed the reason for this preference when he said the foreigners “ did not argue.” The whole trouble is that they are more amenable to discipline and less likely to resist injustice than the Australian or Briton. But that does not constitute a good reason why Parliament should encourage them to come in in large numbers by a lax administration of the powers intrusted to the Minister of External Affairs.
– I listened very attentively to the remarks of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and the honorable member for Coolgardie, who are supposed to know the local conditions ; and I observed that, while the honorable member for Fremantle canvassed their statements, he did not dispute the general facts. The Minister himself says that there is nothing new in this complaint - that he has often had it before him Departmentally - but if there is nothing new, there is a surprising growth, of the evil. The question comes within the operation of our immigration and other laws affecting contract labour, and, further, affects the general policy of Australia. A mere motion for the adjournment of the House will not suffice; whether or not this Parliament be compelled to take action, it is absolutely certain that the next Parliament will have to do something, in view of the present proportion between the foreign and the British influx. The honorable member for . Kalgoorlie complains that foreign workers, or workers of foreign extraction, are keeping Australians and Britishers out of work, and trie honorable member for Coolgardie emphasizes that point. The honorable member for Fremantle, however, says, “ Oh, these men are getting excellent ‘wages,” though he does not deny that they are more amenable to discipline than are the other workers.
– I do deny that.
– Only a few months ago, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Fremantle joined hands, in the interests of mining and of the mining corporations in Western Australia, and urged that the duty on mining machinery should be made as low as possible. Apparently they did not care whether or not the machinery was foreign made, though the British artisans in my electorate
– Then the honorable member is a Protectionist?
– The honorable member for Fremantle and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie said they were Protectionists, but, when it came to mining machinery, they were satisfied with a duty of 7.2^ per cent. They had no concern for British mechanics employed here, though it is a peculiar feature of the trade that those who build machines are either Australian born or distinctly of British descent. The honorable member forKalgoorlie has, apparently, awakened to the fact that foreigners are displacing Australian and British labour, and I agree with him that that should not be so. “But the honorable member for Fremantle is not only willing to have foreign-made machines ; he is anxious to have foreigners working the machines. I am with those who, for very good reasons, object to an undue influx of foreigners into Australia. When the honorable member for Fremantle says, “ Look at the Italian and look at the Austrian, who is even better than the Italian-
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Fremantle says that the Italians and the Austrians, under a contract system, are getting larger wages than are Britishers, that they are doing splendid work, and that they express their satisfaction in their letters to their friends at home.
– I never said that.
– That was the argument the honorable member presented.
– I object to the honorable member putting words into my mouth that I never said.
– The honorable member endeavoured to place on record in Hansard the high wages these foreigners were earning - the Austrian even better wages than the Italian - and he asks, “Is it any wonder they come to Australia”? Truly, it is no wonder, because these men, in their own country, were employed as charcoal burners; and led a life only a few degrees above that of the brute creation. The same argument that the honorable member uses was used in regard to the Chinese on the Rand, who came from serfdom, and had their one glimmer of liberty and life under rational conditions. Is it any wonder that charcoal burners from Bohemia, or Northern Italy and Austria, should Be satisfied to earn 13s. or 14s. a day ? I point out to the Minister that this is only evidence that Australia is neglecting her work of inviting the proper class of immigrants. The Department of External Affairs should have pressed forward the appointment of a. High Commissioner, and, with him, proper officers to place the advantages and attractions of Australia before the British community. Surely the honorable member for Fremantle does not desire to see a torrent of Italians and Austrians poured into Australia ? We desire immigrants, but we desire them mainly of British birth. The mine-owners are not concerned with the nationality of their men, and the honorable member for Fremantle does not care whether mining machinery is made in Germany or in Lapland . If the machinery that is used by the canitalist is to be admitted free, the same capitalists cannot be blamed for employing foreign workmen. Italians and Austrians will work under more slavish conditions than will British mechanics. The British workman is accustomed to afreer atmosphere. The question with which we are now faced is one that is causing trouble in the very heart of the Empire. In London itself there are thousands of destitute foreigners from the centre of Europe who pour intoGreat Britain to compete with British workmen. There is no nation in the world that affords the same freedom as Great Britain does to destitute foreigners. On sentimental grounds no one can take any exception to the privileges afforded to these immigrants. Even a Laplander has a right to live here and prosper if he can. But I maintain that it is the duty of the Australian Parliament to see that a disproportionate number of foreign immigrants are not employed upon a distinctly Australian industry. It appears that at present in the timber industry of Western Australia out of every 1,000 employes 900 are foreigners and only 100 of British descent or Australian born. That is a strong reason for giving serious attention to this matter. The Minister of External Affairs says - and we cannot contradict him - that he has no evidence to show that the Commonwealth immigration law with regard to contract immigration has been evaded. But there is certainly something seriously wrong in regard to our immigration policy if we neglect to afford facilities for British people to come here in preference to foreigners. Why should we not endeavour to bring out Scotch, Welsh, Irish, and English workmen? But I cannot help remembering that when the question of mining machinery was under consideration the honorable member for Kalgoorlie forgot all about protecting the Australian workmen, and said in effect, “ Let us get our machinery oven from Bohemia if it is advantageous to do so.”
– The honorable member was a Free Trader exceptwhen any question affected the electorate ofDalley.
– I have exploded that idea long ago. I have wakened up. Surely it is a rank absurdity to complain of foreign labour beingemployed in this country when the honorable member who makes the complaint is not prepared to afford facilities for making here the very machines that are manipulated by the foreign labour. I know that in saying this I may be accused of making a rattling good Protectionist speech, but when I wake up I can be as good a Protectionist as any man in this House. The discussion should be an internation to the Government that they should as soon as possible set the High Commissioner to work to induce people from Great Britain to come out here and avail themselves of the splendid opportunities for earning a livelihood which are to be found in Australia.
.- When the honorable member for Dalley makes a charge against the honorable member for Kalgoorlie he should himself recollect the class of men with whom he is now associated in the so-called Liberal party. When he goes upon the platform and uses such arguments as he has used this morning I trust he will not forget to remind his auditors that he belongs to a party which has in its ranks a number of gentlemen who are very favorable to the conditions to which he so earnestly objects.
– I shall be foolish enough to tell the truth, and that is what some honorable members opposite do not always do.
– The honorable member knows that there are quite a number of members of the party to which he belongs who are fully as indifferent as is the honorable member for Fremantle as to whether they employ Britishers or foreigners. As to the charge that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie voted for low duties on. mining machinery, I would remind the honorable member for Dalley that the point then was that there was certain mining machinery that could not be made in Australia; and it was consequently argued that until the period was reached when there was a probability of it being made here, there should not be a heavy duty upon machinery of that char’acter
– Such machinery can be made in Australia now.
– That, at all events, was the whole point. The honorable member for Fremantle has gone a little bit further to-day than he did- when we were discussing the Defence Bill. He then made some irrelevant interruptions while I was speaking, and when I charged him with employing foreigners, he stoutly denied my assertion. As .reported at page 4853 of Hansard, I said -
I do not know whether he is referring to the pay of men on softie of the railways which he built in Western Australia. Perhaps that is what he paid the Italians whom he employed.
– I am building no railways in Western Australia. How can I be employing Italians to do what I am not doing?
– - Nor am I.
– That is somewhat like the quibble to which the honorable member resorted when the honorable member for Kalgoorlie mentioned that he was managing director of the Kurrawang wood company.
– There is no such company as he mentioned.
– Exactly- there is the quibble. The honorable member is managing director of the Western Australian Gold-fields Firewood Supply Company, which has its head-quarters at Kurrawang The Kurrawang railway line is owned by the company, so that the honorable member is managing director of the whole organization of which the line is a portion. The history of the trouble is simply this : In July, 1908, there was a. strike amongst the woodworkers of Western Australia. These were the men who, as the honorable member for Fremantle complains, were too fond of arguing. The Italians and Austrians did not argue, and that is one of -the reasons why he thinks they should bc employed in preference to Australians.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The result of the dispute of the unions with the woodcutting companies - including the honorable member’s company - was that the Premier of Western Australia became arbitrator, and gave an award which was signed on behalf of the men and of the companies. I have a copy of the award in my hand, and I notice that it is signed by W. N. Hedges, R. Henderson, and Alexander Porter on “behalf of the companies. It appears that to get even with the unions the honorable member has taken to the employment of aliens in preference to Australians. On the Norseman line, which was built by the company of which the honorable member is managing director, there were, on the 1st June, 316 aliens employed, as against twenty Britishers; and I am infarmed by correspondence which I received yesterday that at the present time an even larger number of aliens are employed. I remember that a few weeks’ ago the honorable member was a member of a conference at which it was urged that a preference should be given to British) goods. Is not this monstrous hypocrisy - to urge that there should be a preference on British goods, whilst refusing to give a preference to Australian workmen as against Austrians and Italians?
– I voted for preference in this Parliament.
– But when the honorable member is desired to give a preference in the conduct of his own industry he declines. Although he is prepared to vote for preference to British goods, he admits that in conducting the affairs of his company he thinks there should be no differentiation whatever between Austrians, Italians, and Australians. Surely if the honorable member were consistent he would give a preference to Australian workmen.
– I rise to order. 1 made no such statement as the honorable member is attributing to me.
– That, again, is a quibble.
– Order ! The honorable member must not say such things of another honorable member.
– If the honorable member refers to the Hansard report of his speech, he will find that he stated that his company made no differentiation in regard lo the employment of Britishers as against Italians and Austrians.
– He said that there was no preference for workmen of any nationality. T took his words down.
– Does the honorable member for Fremantle deny that? He is silent now. Consequently we may take it that he agrees that his company exercises no preference in regard to men of any nationality. I am surprised to learn that we have a member of the National Parliament of Australia who is not prepared to give preference in the matter of employment to workmen of his own flesh and blood.
– Who is that member?
– The eminent Empire builder, the honorable member for Fremantle. I sincerely hope that there will be more vigilant administration of the Contract Immigrants Act. It is evident that these Italians and Austrians have come to Australia to work under contract on the definite understanding that they will be employed.
– Can the honorable member prove that they are brought out under contract ?
– The managing directors are too cunning to allow us a chance to prove it. We have had this kind of thing over and over again. We know that in different industries men have been induced to come out on an understanding, but it was not possible to get anything in black and white on which to take those responsible to Court, and prove that they had broken the law.
– In any case, the understanding would be void when they arrived in Australia.
– That is not the point. The point is that these companies want to get the men here. So long as they get them through the port into their industries it does not matter to them whether or not the contract holds good any longer, because they are then able to employ them on the spot in preference to Australians. The only object for which they want an understanding with them is to get them here, and not as regards their employment afterwards.
-The Governments in all the States have been working to bring these men out to Australia.
– If all the State Governments have been doing what is charged by the mover of the motion now before the House - encouraging the employment of Italians and Austrians as against Australians and Britishers - then all the State Governments ought to be promptly put out of office, and thorough-going Australian Governments put in their places.
– During one of my trips to the West to acquire information about the Commonwealth, one of the representatives of which I have the honour of being, I paid a visit to Kalgoorlie and to the particular industry that my honorable friend, the honorable member for Fremantle, represents. T saw splendid discipline there. I saw 120 18-ton trucks go day after day to the mines. I know something about mining and the conditions attached to it, and I venture to say that the story which some of the gentlemen opposite have told to-day will be conveyed to the Kalgoorlie miners, who, without this particular industry, would be deprived of their living. I was surprised at the statements of the honorable member for ‘Coolgardie, who did not afford us that intelligent expression of opinion that he usually commands, while the honorable member for Dalley spoke from a very one-sided book. I may tell you, Mr. Speaker, and the gentlemen on the opposite side, that there are so many difficulties in connexion with mining that I am not surprised at the necessity of employing, if anything, cheaper labour than, perhaps, the British people would be able to afford. During my political experience, which is longer and likely to be longer than that of some of the gentlemen opposite, it has been my privilege to assist men of the type of the honorable member for Fremantle to lift the human race. I venture to say that all the legislation that Australians have endeavoured to bring about has been in that direction. I might remind honorable members opposite also that there must be hewers of wood and drawers of water, and is it not better that they should be of a race inferior to that from which those gentlemen spring? I am surprised at what has taken place this morning. I could understand an invidious attack being made in connexion with the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act, but it appears to me that this assault is absolutely levelled at the individual character of the honorable member for Fremantle. T say, without fear of contradiction, that I never saw a more magnificent enterprise, or a more splendid help to the: miners of Kalgoorlie than this industry. I never saw a more disciplined set of men, greater precision or business perspicuity - without any strikes. Such an enterprise should command the admiration of the people, instead of inciting the dirty personal attack that has been made to-day on the honorable member for Fremantle.
.- I must enter my emphatic protest against the statement of the honorable member for Indi that the mining industry requires cheap labour. I deny it, and the honorable member for Fremantle bears out my contention. I am surprised at the honorable member for Indi rising in the House and advocating cheap labour for that industry. There is no industry in Australia that requires that the men should be paid a fair and legitimate wage more than the mining industry does. No industry calls upon men to take such extraordinary risks as miners have to t?.ke, and under those circumstances it is well that the miners should be paid a fair wage. The position taken up by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is that there is a danger that, through the intro duction of what the honorable member for Indi calls “ an inferior class of labour,” the wage paid to them will ultimately become the wage paid for more highly skilled labour. I am also surprised that a member with the experience in State and Federal politics possessed by the honorable member for Indi, should advocate the employment of an inferior class of workers in and for the mining industry. The honorable member made in that regard a statement which in his calmer moments he will very much regret. Fancy him advocating in his own constituency the employment of an inferior and cheaper class of labour ! I make bold to say that the honorable member dare not go to Rutherglen and other mining centres in his electorate and state publicly that the mines want an inferior class of labour, or men who will accept a lower rate of wages. The honorable member must not make reckless statements like that in this chamber. The matter which has been brought before the House requires serious attention. I know that an attempt was made in North Queensland to bring out a class pf labour to work more cheaply than others were working, and it is a strange thing that the labour brought out drifted into the very industry of wood-cutting to which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie now refers. I have nothing personal against the Italians or Austrians, nor, judging from the tone of his remarks, has the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, but we do object to their being brought out here and worked under the contract system, which is the most vicious system possible, with the result that the standard of living to other workers in the same industry is largely lowered. That is the point of the objection that we. take. So long as . those men get the same conditions and the same wages as Australians do, no strong exception nan be taken to their employment. I know personally a number of Italians who came out to work in the sugar industry of Queensland, but who very soon drifted from it. They were located principally in and around Charters Towers, where they took to wood-cutting. Some of them have turned cut excellent citizens, and I might add that they are also very good labour men.
– Have net the Italians been very valuable in many places in Queensland ?
– I say they have been excellent citizens in many places, and so were the Italians who came to Victoria in the early days. What we object to is the bringing of these people out under contract, not to develop the mining industry on sound lines, but for the express purpose of being employed under conditions that are calculated to reduce the wages paid to, and the standard of living secured by, the miners already here. I am surprised at the astounding statements of the honorable member for Indi, that the mining industry requires much cheaper labour, and that an inferior class of worker is necessary for its development.
– It is breaking down all over the State of Victoria.
– I do not think so. The Victorian mining industry is not breaking down through the want of cheaper labour. The great factor in the situation is that many of the mines are being worked out.
– I know more than the honorable member does about it.
– That may be so, but the fact remains that the Victorian mines are not so rich as they were. They are getting to a greater depth, and the expense of working them is correspondingly increased. But, even so, does the honorable member for Indi mean to tell us that they want large numbers of immigrants of this particular class to work them?
– The honorable member is wilfully misunderstanding my observations.
– If the honorable member desires to explain exactly what he did mean, I shall gladly resume my seat.
– There will not be time.
– I shall give the honorable member the opportunity if he so desires.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish to state that I said that preference was given to Britishers by the company in which I have an interest. The honorable member for Cook alleged that I said no preference was given. No preference is given to any man in regard to the cutting, but in regard to the other employment, preference is given to Britishers.
– I took down the words which the honorable member for Fremantle used. I do not know whether it was in reference to wood-cutting or mining, but the honorable member said there was no preference given to any nationality. Of the men employed in that industry, 90 per cent, are foreigners and 10 per cent. Britishers.
– I am not responsible for the honorable member’s figures.
– They were given by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and the honorable member for Fremantle did not dispute them. Will the honorable member say now that there are not 90 per cent, of foreigners employed in wood-cutting by the company of which he is the managing director ?
– The honorable member admits that I am absolutely correct.
– The honorable member for Indi said he never saw a finer disciplined body of men, and that, there were no strikes. What a glorious thing for the company to have no strikes ! The honorable member must know that in Western Australia there is a Conciliation and Arbitration Act in force, and that therefore there can be no strikes. The honorable member for Fremantle put another aspect of the question when he said that, “ These foreigners will not argue the point with you,” meaning that they will allow themselves to be sat upon by their employers, and will work for a lower wage than the Britisher would take.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member did not say it, but he knows it to be a fact.
– It is absolutely false.
– The honorable member read out a lot of figures which I presume were compiled in the office of the company of which he is a representative, to show how the foreigners obtain more wages than the Britishers. I would remind the honorable member that in the Victorian Factory Inspector’s report he can find figures to prove that the Chinese obtain more wages than white men in certain industries. But does any one believe it? On the contrary, Mr. Harrison Ord, Chief Inspector of Factories foi Victoria, states that as usual the Chinese apparently earns more than the white man, but the figures are supplied to the Department by the employers. Similarly the figures given by the honorable member for Fremantle this morning were supplied by the employers. They no doubt wish to make out that the foreigner earns more than the Britisher, but the honorable member for Fremantle has admitted that the preference is given to
Britishers for work done by day labour. The reason for that is that it is known that the Britisher is better able to earn the wages paid him than is the foreigner.
– We have no power in one case. The honorable member does not understand the question.
– The employers have no power over the Britishers, who are prepared to fight for their rights if they are not given them by the company. When the foreigners have been long enough in Australia they learn to fight for their rights also. I have worked alongside foreigners, who have put up as good a fight as any Britishers for their rights. We have been asked whether we could prove that these foreigners have entered into contracts. We cannot, because the men will not admit it, and it is impossible to sheet home the fact that they have been introduced under contract. The employers arc too wide awake to admit that the men have been introduced under false pretences, and in order that work might be taken out ot the hands of Britishers. Yet these employers get on to the platform and proclaim that they are the only Empire builders. At the close of their meetings, they ask their audiences to give three cheers for the King, but they take advantage of every possible opportunity to displace Britishers by foreigners.
.- I resent altogether the suggestion of the honorable member for Indi that I introduced this matter as a personal question.
– It was made a personal matter.
– The personal tone was given to the debate after I had concluded my speech in opening it, and it was introduced as the result of interjections from honorable members on the other side. 1 have quoted figures which show that at this particular work 87 Britishers were employed as against about 700 foreigners. When 10 per cent, only of Britishers are employed in an industry, it is time some attention was given to it. I ask’ the Minister of External Affairs to look into the provisions of the Contract Immigrants Act, and see whether what I have complained of could not be put a stop to. When foreigners are introduced, and as a result Britishers and Australians are thrown out of employment, it is easy to understand that a position may be reached when the difficulty must be dealt with apart from the provisions of the Contract Immigrants Act.
– Do not some of the Italians and Austrians become naturalized ?
– I believe that some of them do.
– In Queensland hundreds of them are naturalized.
– I do not doubt it. I admit that a number of them become very good citizens of Australia. I will not say that many of them do not also become good unionists, and take a deep interest in keeping up wages.
– Are they not a race of people specially qualified for this class of work ?
– They may be, but the honorable member should not forget the figures given by the honorable member for Fremantle. Where it is a question of getting the best results from day work, the honorable member has explained that out of a total of 155 men employed at this work by the company with which he is associated, only three are foreigners.
– I understood that they were not engaged in the same class of work.
– They may not be engaged in the cutting. The figures I quoted related to the percentage of Britishers and foreigners employed in the cutting and loading in this particular industry by the company in which the honorable member for Fremantle is interested.
– The figures quoted by the honorable member are incorrect.
– I think that the honorable member will find that, as indicating the position on the 30th June of this year, the figures I quoted are absolutely correct. The remarks made by the honorable member for Dalley were not in any way relevant to the question I raised. It is true that I adopted a certain attitude in connexion with certain Tariff items.
– And wisely.
– I believe that I acted wisely. The position 1 took up was that in respect of all machinery, that could be produced in this country I was prepared to vote for prohibition in the interests of the Australian manufacturer. I was prepared to give him the whole of the Australian market. But in respect of machinery, which it was admitted could not be manufactured in Australia, I was not prepared to support a revenue duty, which could only have the effect of penalizing a great primary industry, which employs many thousands of men at a fair wage. I believe that the position I took up in the matter will be indorsed by my constituents, and that I shall be given an opportunity to take a similar course should any amendment of the Tariff be submitted in this Chamber. In view of the statement of the Minister of External Affairs, that he will cause inquiries to be made as to whether any of these men are being introduced under contract, and will secure information with regard to their employment after they have arrived in Australia, I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the letter in Herald of 12th November, page 6, wherein the President of the Master Tanners and Leather Manufacturers’ Association states : - “I would like the people of Australia to know, through your medium, that the Victorian Master Tanners’ Association is wide awake to the undeniable fact that the tanning industry, and the welfare of those of our people who are dependent upon it, is being quickly and surely undermined by the foreigner, who has found that, with cheaper labour and longer hours, our hides can be profitably purchased at a price that leaves no margin for the Autralian tanner.
Unfortunately this is not a case that, left alone, would cure itself, but one that demands immediate action on the part of Parliament if the industry is to be kept alive.
My association has, with others in the neighbouring States, petitioned the Minister to take into consideration the facts, and send us speedy relief. I also understand the Trades Hall have made a similar request, entirely independent of our action.” -
Will the Government, if necessary, intro1duce a short measure to give effect to the wish of the Master Tanners and Leather Manufacturers’ Association and of the Trades Hall?
If not, will he undertake on behalf of the Government, during the next session of Parliament, to take the necessary steps to bring about an export duty on hides, and so enable Australian leather to hold its own against the outer world ?
– I have been unable to find on page 6 of the newspaper referred to, the statement in question. I am having a further search made. Possibly the statement appears in another edition of the newspaper.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : - 1 to 4. Nothing is known in Central Office of any deprivation of leave. Inquiry will be made. Strict instructions have previously been given that every officer shall have leave, and any withholding of leave would be in direct opposition to such instructions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: - 1 and 2. Whatever steps the Constitution authorizes will be taken whenever a fitting opportunity occurs.
– In reply to a question put by the honorable member for Herbert, I have, through the courtesy of the Attorney-General, received the following memorandum : -
The Acts Interpretation Act, No. 1, of 1904, section 10, provides that all regulations, unless the contrary intention appears, shall be notified in the Gazette, take effect from the date of notification, or from a later date specified in the regulation, and be laid before both Houses of Parliament within thirty days of the making thereof, or, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament. If either House pass a resolution, of which notice has been given, at any time within fifteen sitting days after the regulation has been laid before it, disallowing the regulation, such regulation shall thereupon cease to have effect.
As a matter of practice, and also as prescribed by the Rules Publication Act 1903, regulations are in print at the time that they are laid upon the table (see section 5 of that Act)’. In the Senate they are laid on the table by a Minister, in the House of Representatives by the Clerk of the House. After having been made and passed by the Executive Council they are also notified in the Gazette.
As a rule,’ therefore, members have fair notice of the making of the regulation. It might, however, be provided that, contemporaneously with laying them upon the table of the House’, copies of the regulation (which are, as I said, already in print), should be at once circulated amongst members. Members will then have at least a fortnight to decide whether a motion of disallowance shall be tabled.
I may inform honorable members that the Attorney-General has made arrangements whereby the last paragraph of the memorandum will be given effect to.
The Order of the Day for the third reading having been read -
.- I move -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the consideration of a new clause providing that the Bill shall not become law until a majority of the electors of the Commonwealth, voting at a referendum, shall have indorsed the terms contained in the Bill for the transfer of the Northern Territory.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I shall not detain the House long in moving this motion. I have slept over the opinions which I uttered in the chamber last night, and since then, as previously, have given the greatest consideration to the seriousness of the position with which we are faced. The merits and demerits of the proposed agreement have been under discussion for some time, and I regret to have to say that, in my view, the results shown by the division lists do not reflect the opinion of this House or of the electors. It will be readily conceded that, although technically we are not in this Bill proposing an alteration of the Constitution, undoubtedly we shall, by taking over the Northern Territory on the terms pro- posed, or on any others, alter the whole character of the Commonwealth’s powers and administration, and add enormously to our responsibilities. Indeed, we shall, by taking control of the Northern Territory, alter the character of the Federation. Now, before the Constitution itself can be altered, the proposed alteration must be submitted to and accepted by the people; and no such submission can be made until, not only a majority of those within the precincts of each chamber at the time of the passing of the covering Bill, but an absolute majority of its members, are present and vote for it ; and when the proposed change is before the people, it must be accepted, not only by an absolute majority of the electors voting, but also by affirmative majorities in a majority of the States. These safeguards were adopted to prevent the engineering of any alteration through Parliament, and to make it certain that Parliament and the people recommend the change. But what guarantee against log-rolling have we now that Parliament is recommending the people of Australia to add drastically to the Commonwealth powers and to materially alter its character? A few months ago the Bill before us was thought to have “ Buckley’s chance “ of passing. . Since then a strange thing has happened. It has been felt that the few votes which .South Australia could give to any party were of sufficient importance to make this great National question the plaything of party politics. The Labour party was divided in regard to it. Those who represent South Australian constituencies thought as they did now. But others, notably representatives of Queensland electorates, thought then as they think now, but as they are not prepared to vote. In order to keep the Labour party solid, every Labour representative is voting in this matter, not for what Re conceives to be best in the public interests, but for what he considers best in the interests of the party.
– The honorable member is drawing on his imagination. I am a Labour man who does not support the Bill.
– And I am another.
– There are, of course, a few exceptions. I regret that the honorable member for Kennedy has been prevented, as Chairman of Committees, from taking part in the Committee’s deliberations. I should like to hear another speech from him similar to that which he delivered on the motion for the second reading. If he advances the same arguments again, with the same ability, we shall be sure of getting the proposal viewed from the National instead of the party stand-point by some of his colleagues. The proceedings in Committee were of a distinctly unusual character, and inspired by somewhat unusual motives. This in itself should cause honorable members to pause before consenting to impose on the taxpayers of Australia an immediate obligation amounting to at least ^£10, 500,000. Honorable members should give the people an opportunity to say’ whether they wish to take this burden on .their shoulders.
– Does the honorable member refer to the building of a Federal Capital ?
– The people in voting for the acceptance of the Constitution affirmed that a Federal Capital should be selected by Parliament and established. In this matter some honorable members no doubt take refuge in the thought that their particular electors will not be called upon to find, any of the money required. They say, “ Our electors are not rich men ; they will not have to carry this burden.” Do they not know that the expenditure of the country is shared directly or indirectly by the whole community; that in taxing this or that form of wealth you tax all indirectly? Every man who votes for the Bill votes to impose an obligation of £2 14s. on every man, woman and child in the community. So serious an imposition should not toe placed on the taxpayers without giving the electors a chance to say what they think of the proposal. Honorable members were elected on the freest franchise in the world, and surely they will not deny the people who sent them here, the opportunity to express their views on the subject. Will the honorable member for Grey prevent the people from saying whether the Northern Territory shall or shall not be taken over on the terms proposed ?
– I am sticking to the agreement.
– Why does not the honorable member stick to the interests of Australian Democracy ? Does he not know that the basis of representative institutions is complete confidence between the electors and the elected ? How are we to have that unless, before imposing an obligation of this’ magnitude upon the taxpayers, we ask them what they think of it ? Can it be pretended that this House is representative, if honorable members, especially those of the Labour party, refuse to allow this question to be put to the electors?
– We shall be taking every question to the electors very shortly.
– Will the honorable gentleman consent to the postponement of this proposal until the electors have been consulted ?
– The honorable gentlemen who have expressed their willingness to trust the people on all sorts of questions, are not willing to trust them in regard to a proposal to impose a burden of £2 14s. on every soul in the community, in the interests of the pastoralists of the Oodnadatta district.
– It is only a trifle.
– It may seem a trifle to some honorable members, but I know that in my electorate, as in others, there are many, who will suffer if this burden is laid on the community, and who would not vote for any one who considers it lightly.
– Has the honorable member ascertained how the Labour party reconciles its determination to vote for this expenditure of millions with its refusal to agree to a loan policy? Are we to understand that the proposed expenditure is to be made out of revenue?
– I do not propose to consider that matter now, but I would put before the House another difficulty arising out of the position in which we find ourselves. A day or two ago Labour members were describing a certain arrangement with regard to the finances as a surrender of Commonwealth powers and rights. It was said that the Commonwealth was being put in pawn to the States. Do they now propose spending ^10,500,000 of public money in much the spirit of the bankrupt who, having sequestrated his estate, is prepared to enter upon any obligation?
– The sum referred to wil.l_cover only the initial expenditure.
– Quite so. And if we do not go immediately as far as is proposed, we shall place on the taxpayers of Australia the burden of a. non-paying railway, which will have to be kept going purely for the benefit of the people of South Australia ! I think that I have said enough to voice the protest of every Democrat in the chamber against the manner in which the measure has been dealt with from start to finish. I hopethat the Government will give the question the gravest consideration. It must appear to the Minister that the support which the Bill has received was as unexpected as inexplicable, and I hope therefore that he will recognise it as his duty to the Australian people, of which, in hisMinisterial position, he is a trustee, to seethat the proposal is safeguarded as I suggest.
– Will the Government accept the motion?
– If the Government will promise to take the matter into consideration, with a view to action in another place,. 1 shall be glad to withdraw further opposition to the measure here. All I desire isthat the people shall have an opportunity to express their opinion with regard to it. No honorable member worthy of his place in the House can refuse to give the public an opportunity to say whether or not they should be burdened with this enormous obligation without any reference having beenmade to them, either at the last general election or since.
.- I did not think that honorable memberswould be prepared to go to a vote on this question without further discussion. I wasunder the impression that the Minister incharge of the Bill would at least inform, the House that the proposal for a referendum is so much in the interests of the people that the Government are prepared toaccept it. The principle which the honorable member desires’ to affirm is accepted! by most honorable members. No harm will be done either to the Commonwealth or to the Territory itself by submitting to the people the question of whether or not the Territory should be taken over on the termsproposed. Honorable members of the Opposition have, spoken from time to time in terms of commendation of the principle of the referendum, and I fail to see why they should not embrace the present opportunity to secure an appeal to the people or» this question. The House is not as fully seized with the importance of this questionas it ought to be. I do not think that many honorable members will dispute the desirableness of the Commonwealth taking: over the Territory ; the sole question at issue relates to the terms on which it should) be taken over. I was much impressed by the remarks made last night by the honorable member for Coolgardie in regard to» the relationship that would exist between -the Commonwealth and the Government of -South Australia, under this agreement, in respect to the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. Under the agreement as it stands, the Commonwealth will have to meet an annual loss of ,£78,000 before it reaps any benefit whatever from the transfer. It is also proposed to saddle the Commonwealth with the cost of constructing a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. The construction of that line will involve the people of Australia in an expenditure of millions of pounds sterling. In taking over the Territory on the terms for which this agreement provides, we shall practically enter upon a loan policy. We shall pledge ourselves to take over the liability in respect of certain borrowed moneys, to pay interest upon that borrowed money, and, further, to float a loan to carry out certain works in connexion with the development of the Territory. The matter is of such importance to the people of Australia that every honorable member except those who are blinded by parochial prejudice should support the proposed referendum. We object, not to the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, but to the terms on which it is proposed that it should be taken over. I hope that honorable members will carefully consider the motion for the recommittal of the Bill before proceeding to a vote upon its final stage.
Mr. HANS IRVINE (Grampians)
T2.37I. - I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Corangamite that the Government should consider the desirableness of submitting this question to a referendum of the people. If the agreement would involve the Commonwealth in a liability of only .£3,328,000, I am sure that honorable members would not object to it, but it will mean an expenditure at some time or other of £10,000,000 in connexion with the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek and other works. Where is that money to be found ? Having regard to the defence proposals and other large schemes which the Government are supporting, I am sure that we shall have to resort to direct taxation if we accept this agreement. We cannot find £10,000,000 at present, and the probabilities are that, before the present railway to Oodnadatta is extended to Pine Creek, we shall have to construct the Western Australian transcontinental railway, which should come first. The provision of rolling stock and of an adequate water supply in connexion with that line will involve a further expenditure of £6,000,000 or £7,006,000. I do not advocate a policy of borrowing ; indeed, I do not think that we ought to borrow. We should devote our energies to an endeavour to settle the people on the land, and not to wild-cat schemes to build railways in the Northern Territory that will end nowhere. The country is not ripe for such enterprises. I appeal to the Government to consent to submit this agreement to the people. It will involve an expenditure of £2 14s. per head of the population,and, taken altogether, it is unreasonable. Representatives of South Australia have said, “ Let us stick to the agreement.”. As a business man, however, I consider that it is faulty, and, from the point of view of the people of the Commonwealth, bad. If I were a representative of South Australia, and viewed the proposal from the stand-point of that State alone. I should be prepared to support it, but, as members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, we must consider all the States. We ought not to be pressed to vote for the third reading of the Bill. The Government should accept the motion for its recommittal. I repeat that if the agreement would involve the Commonwealth in a liability of only £3,000,000, I am sure that the House would agree to it, and, if necessary, would sanction an additional expenditure of £1,000,000. Let us take over the Northern Territory without any conditions. The conditions of this agreement N should not be insisted upon. If the Bill passes this House, I hope that it will be rejected by the Senate, for it will commit us to an expenditure which our present position does not warrant.
– Does not the honorable member hope that the Senate will throw out the Bill that we have just passed in regard to another agreement?
– I do not. I am sure that the honorable member for Wakefield would be prepared to support a proposal that we should take over only the territory lying north of the MacDonnell Ranges, and I hope that the Minister will make a statement as to the attitude of the Government. I am totally opposed to the Bill as it stands, and’ think that many other honorable members also object to it. I do not know why honorable members have changed their views with regard. to it, and why so many should have voted for the Bill as did so last night. Someone has said that they were well whipped. They must have been, because many spoke in one direction and voted in the other. I have always voted as I have spoken, and fail to understand the attitude of honorable members who speak to-day in favour of a certain course, and to-morrow vote against it.
.- It is not my intention to accept the motion for the recommittal of the Bill. I would remind honorable members that the question is neither new to the House nor to the country. In the first Federal Parliament, a motion affirming the desirableness of the Commonwealth taking over the Northern Territory was unanimously agreed to. Since then there have been two general elections, and the question has been frequently discussed. The agreement embodied in the Bill was signed in- February, 1907, and its provisions have been freely discussed in the press as well as by honorable members, many of whom have also visited the Northern Territory to make themselves acquainted with the true position. The terms of the agreement have been fully explained, and no useful purpose would be served by going into them once more. In the circumstances, I cannot see my way to accept the proposal for a referendum on this question.
– Surely the Government will trust the people on this Bill. They desire to do so in regard to an agreement embodied in a Bill which we passed last week.
– It is because we have the trust of the people that we are taking the present step, and I cannot see my way to accept the amendment.
.- I am rather surprised to hear the statement of the Minister. Only a day or two ago every member of the Ministry was crying out at the top of his voice, “ Trust the people.” Now, however, when amotion is submitted, which clearly invites us to trust the people, they take a stand which if it does nothing else enables us to judge of their sincerity. I am beginning to think there is a good deal of hypocrisy on the part of the Government.
– Is the honorable member only beginning to think so?
– I have thought so for a considerable time. It appears to me that the -Government are prepared to take any side which suits their own political ends.
– They have a very good precedent in the honorable member’s conduct !
– I have not been prepared to chop and change at the will of any party in the House; when I am opposed to a proposal, I vote against it. What is the Honorary Minister going to do? .Up to the present the honorable member for Brisbane has not had the courage to record a vote on this question.
– But he is paired, is he not?
– He is not even paired. Is that honorable member, or the honorable member for Swan, going to trust the people? The motion of the honorable member for Wentworth does not propose a referendum which, involves the approval of a majority of the States, but merely means a straightout majority. The honorable member for Corangamite surprised me when he spoke of honorable members speaking one way and voting another. Not long ago, in connexion with another measure, we had honorable members speaking in the strongest possible way against a measure proposed by the Government, but, when the whip was cracked, they were quite prepared to say, “ Yes, Mr. Whip.”
– It seems to me that the honorable member is .trying to make mischief !
– I am trying to do no such thing. If. ever there was a question which should be sent to the people, it is this, seeing that it has not been before them previously.
– Yes, it has; it was before the people at- the last election.
– The honorable member knows that the question was never seriously before the people.
– It was before my constituents.
– No doubt the honorable member’s constituents study every question in the most minute detail, so that it is not possible for anything to escape them; hence they send such, an intellectual representative, who can inform the House on every phase of every subject. The Bill before us, if passed, will saddle the country with a great liability. ‘There is not merely the ,£10,000,000 spoken of by the honorable member for Wentworth, because that is a mere flea-bite compared with what we shall have to spend on the ultimate development of the Territory. I admit that tht expenditure will extend over a long period, but, still, it means an enormous sum. From the moment we take over the Territory, we shall have to be prepared to spena large sums until it is thoroughly developed. If we are not prepared to do that, we have no right to pass this measure.
– Does the honorable member wish to leave the Territory as’ it is?
– While I am prepared to take over the Territory, . 1 think the conditions are not wise. If we do not intend to spend the £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, we are only deceiving the people of South Australia. I regret to say that certain honorable members have suggested that there is no time specified for the construction of the line, and that it may be postponed for fifty or a hundred years; but, if so, that is a deliberate attempt to deceive, and I hope that the Government have no such idea.
– Even if the construction of the line is postponed, we have to bear the cost of the Oodnadatta line.
– I do not object to that, because the South Australian Government built that line with the idea of ultimately carrying it through ; and, if we depart from that idea, we should be prepared to meet the outlay. The £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 which the new line would cost could be far better spent in another way in the development of the Territory. The honorable member for Brisbane is now present, and I should like to know how he is going to vote. He was one of the strongest advocates of a certain course, but, up to the present, he has dodged his responsibility by not recording a vote. We now know that the Government refuse to trust the people, and it would be interesting, in view of the able pamphlets he has written, to know what position the Honorary Minister takes up.
.- I am astounded that this proposal should have gone so far, because I never dreamt it would get beyond the placard stage. Under the circumstances honorable members must wake up to the serious responsibility of the Commonwealth. If this Bill is to be carried only to appease the South Australian Government, we are deceiving the people of that State ; and, if it be carried with the intention of doing what they desire, the
Commonwealth will be saddled with an expenditure of millions.
– Which we have not got !
– If that be so, and there is no immediate prospect of getting the money, the proposal ought to stand in abeyance. The representatives of South Australia have done very well to get the Bill carried so far. It is said that we must not mention it in Gath or murmur it in Ascalon, but we now find loyal members of the Fusion party, like the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for Corangamite, letting in a very invigorating breeze of personal independence. Up to the present we have not heard the words, “ No party question “ ; but when, a few days ago, we did hear them all round the chamber, I never witnessed a stronger instance of party discipline. Why do not the Government appeal to their supporters to “ save the face “ of the Prime Minister - to guard his good faith and honour - in the agreement he made with the ex-Premier of South Australia? Surely liberty is not to be allowed to some and denied to others ? I cannot but think that the honorable member for Kennedy is treating us to a Jittle burlesque when he says’ that the Honorary Minister is not loyal to the Government. Am I really asked to believe that the honorable member for Brisbane has not yet cast a vote on this question? It cannot be true ! The Ministry, who are loyal to the agreement, will surely not allow one of their number to abstain from voting, seeing that last week not one of the rank and file was allowed to escape ! This is an opportunity which I am pleased to take to defend the party to which I belong, against the attacks of a Labourite. Fancy a Labour man letting it go forth to the public that a member of the Ministry is not loyal to the agreement ! If the honorable member has not voted, I am sure it must have been because of some untoward accident.
– He has not even paired.
– Then there must have been an oversight. I shall vote for a referendum, not because I believe in it, but because I can see in it a means of delay. That is frank speaking; and my desire is that the public shall not be committed, without further inquiry, to the expenditure of millions. I am not one who thinks that every question ought to be submitted in this way to the public, without time being affordedfor consideration. What do the public of New South Wales know about the Northern Territory ? I should ‘be the last to suggest that the Deakin Government wish to fool the people; but, if that should be their idea, what harm can there be in delay ? The South Australian people evidently think that we as the Commonwealth Parliament ought to take over the Northern Territory ; but I refuse to do so on the conditions imposed. If a similar business proposition were put before us in our private capacity, none of us would entertain it. We would never buy a pig in a poke. The mere fact of trotting in at that door does not destroy the business acumen or aptitude of members, and 1 ask them to apply to this proposition only a portion of their business caution. I respectfully ask them to give it the same amount of honest consideration that they give to their ordinary private affairs. There is not a member in the House who would not carry out his promise if he took over an undertaking on condition that he completed certain work, and will this Parliament sully its record by refusing in this case to fulfil immediately the conditions attached to the agreement? It is well known that I am violently opposed to the inauguration of a loan policy for Australia, especially on a matter of this kind, which does not call for such speedy treatment. The Ministry refuse, of course, to accept the motion, but I cannot understand why they are so anxious to force the agreement through. It was made by the honorable member for Ballarat when he was Prime Minister of another Government, and leading quite another party. What has taken place is a splendid tribute to the power of one man. It is a tribute to him that on two occasions his powerful personality can be said to have practically dominated a party. I have never known a stronger instance of one member, although he is a Prime Minister, taking one course of action in a different Ministry, and subsequently having sufficient power to dominate another party in regard to it. It certainly seems to be a matter of personal domination.
– Several honorable members of this Government were in the previous Government with him.
– If the right honorable member believes in the project he has, of course, as much right to defend as I have to oppose it. But are those who vote for it really voting for the immediate carrying, out of all the terms of the contract ?
– Of course !
– Then they are voting for an expenditure involving millions of pounds. But how many honorable membersare prepared to impose a heavy interest charge for an affair of this character upon’ the masses of the people? There are other projects the treatment of which by the Commonwealth Parliament is anxiously awaited, and which more urgently demand settlement. This case is only another evidence to me of the fact that in all movements of life it is the master mind, the strong character, that rules. The only thing that astonishes me is the attitude of members like the honorable members for Corangamite and Grampians, who last week looked askance at myself- and others who dared, in connexion with another matter, to go on our own. The honorable member for Grampians regarded me almost: as though I belonged to some foreign breed, yet he is doing to-day exactly what I did then. According to his view, this agreement is dangerous to the community. Last week I thought the other agreement was dangerous to the community, but the honorable member and others acted on that occasion like dervishes who were unable to dance. They were afraid to dance from the fear that they might lose the Bill which they were supporting, but the acted in the spirit of the dervish in regarding everybody who was not with them as an enemy. Those of us who took an independent stand last week could not have a stronger justification of our attitude than what is occurring in connexion with this measure. Let those party organs which then tried to raise the cry of party discipline and party loyalty with regard to the financial agreement attempt now to exercise their authority and whip such scallywags as the honorable members for Grampians and Corangamite into their places behind the Government. Why do not they cry, “ How dare those honorable members insult the Government and the Prime Minister by refusing to swallow a sacred agreement arrived at by the Prime Minister and a former Premier of South Australia?” If they were consistent they would not have a vocabulary extensive enough to describe those honorable members and their contumelious attitude. When the -honorable member for Kennedy hints at the likelihood of the
Honorary Minister also taking up an independent stand and opposing the agreement, I expect the honorable member for Brisbane to rise in his wrath and tell the honable member for Kennedy what he thinks of him. The honorable member for Brisbane is loyal to the Ministry. What does he care about pamphlets written, in the past? Votes recorded and expressions of opinions uttered in the past are nothing, and he must come behind the strong personality of the Prime Minister.
– - He came right home and voted for the other agreement.
– The honorable member for Adelaide is trying to cause a split in the party on this side, but I want to defend the honorable member for Brisbane. Does he think I will sit here as a loyal supporter of the Government and allow an honorary member of it to be castigated in the way attempted by the honorable member for Kennedy? I am anxious for delay in this matter. If you, Mr. Speaker, were on the floor of the House and a big proposition like this had to be dealt with, would you not think that the ordinary methods of delay should be resorted to? The honorable member for Wentworth is moving for a referendum on this question, and the honorable member for Batman has moved for a referendum on the question of the Federal Capital site. I shall not vote for a referendum in this case only to be asked to vote for a referendum on the other. If I voted for this motion, the ingenious Labourite would say to me, “ You voted for the referendum on the Northern Territory agreement, and you cannot refuse to vote for it on the Capital site question.” I am not to be caught in that way. I shall oppose both propositions. I guarantee that even the honorable member for Grey, a few weeks ago, never thought in his wildest dreams that the House would be mad enough to accept this proposition, with the conditions attached to it, in the way it has done. I do not want to ask another place to save us from the consequences of our own actions, but if this Chamber is foolish enough to pass the Bill, I cannot believe that another place will do so. If the Government do not intend to go on with the measure, or to carry it into effect when it is passed, the sooner they adjourn this debate the better. They have pushed the Bill to a good stage now, and its general principle has been accepted. Matters of detail can well he allowed to stand over for a further Conference and a further agree ment, without any question of the destruction of party loyalty being raised.
.- In rising to support the motion of the honorable member for Wentworth, I wish to say, by way of personal explanation, that I was paired with the honorable member for Richmond in yesterday’s division, in favour of the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney, but in seme way that pair was not recorded. I hope the House will take into consideration all the facts in relation to this great question, and accept the motion, in order that the people may have some say regarding the expenditure of all this money. I have never seen a business proposition put before anybody for acceptance in the way that this has been put before us. We are told that the cost of the whole line of railway may be approximately estimated at £4,500,000. We do not know how it is going to be built, or on what gauge. There ha’j never been any survey, and we do not know what engineering difficulties will have to be overcome. What is roughly estimated at £4,500,000 may run into ,£8,000,000 or £9,000,000 before the work is done. Moreover, we do not know whether the line is going to pay. The only information the Government have put before us on that question is contained in the memorandum laid on the table of the House. This contains the statement that “ Five years after the completion of the railway it ought to pay both working expenses and interest, if the country is as good and valuable as it is believed to be by many in South Australia.” For a business proposition that appears to be absolutely the baldest and most irresponsible statement that could emanate from anybody. One would not think that an Minister could put such a statement before a deliberative Assembly. If this House and the Commonwealth is going to find the money to build that northern railway to connect Port Darwin with the eastern and southern States, then upon this Parliament rests the responsibility of find ing the best route - not in the interests of one particular State, but in the interests of the whole Commonwealth - and running the line along it. We have only vague information as to the different routes, but we are asked to pledge ourselves to the expenditure oof an enormous sum of money without any data to work upon, and with but the vaguest statements as to the probable cost. It is useless, and even dishonorable, to contend that, because there is no specific date laid down within which the railway is to be built, we can, therefore, postpone it indefinitely. As soon as this agreement is passed into law - if it ever is - and we take over the Territory, the South Australian Government will have a right to say to this Parliament: “We have fulfilled our part of the agreement ; you ought to fulfil yours.” I heard a similar argument used in connexion with the Federal Capital site. It was urged that it was not specified when that site was to be established, and I remember with what indignation that argument was repudiated. The reply was that, having promised to do it, we ought to see that it was done. We have before us two rival schemes for transcontinental railways.
– They are not rivals.
– At any rate, there are two schemes, to one of which the Commonwealth, if it adopts the agreement, will be pledged, while to the other it is not pledged. In common fairness, will not the railway in regard to which a pledge is given have to be constructed before that in regard to which there is no pledge?
– Does the honorable member mean to say that no pledge has been given in regard to the construction of the Western Australian railway?
– None that I know of. I shall be glad if the honorable member can show me that the Commonwealth is bound by any pledge in connexion with it. But, if we adopt the agreement with South Australia, we shall be bound to construct a transcontinental railway through that State and the Northern Territory as soon as Parliament can find the money for the work. If we have funds foi the construction of one railway only, we must make the line now under discussion. These considerations cause me to pause. I should like the Commonwealth to take over the Northern Territory, but I consider the conditions regarding railway resumption and construction unfair, and such as cannot be accepted by us under present circumstances.
– That is very severe on the Government which the honorable member is supporting, and which brought forward the Bill.
– It is not the Bill of this Government. The question has been before us since the first session of this Parliament. But the people have not had an opportunity to ex press an opinion in regard to the agreement, which was made in February, 1907, that is, since the last general election’^.. Should the Territory be accepted by the Commonwealth, the consequent expense of maintenance and development will fall upon the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and, in spite of what certain persons may say, there is no possibility of the proposed railway paying for many years to. come. The expenditure of ^10,000,000 odd will provide for only one additional railway, but it will be necessary, for the proper development of tlie Territory, to construct also connexions to the east, and probably to the west as well, and other expenditure must be undertaken, to which no reference is made in the agreement. Under these circumstances, it would be suicidal to accept the agreement. I shall vote for the motion of the honorable member for Wentworth.
– I regret that I called the honorable member for Nepean in succession to the honorable member for Dalley, who sits on the same side of the House. I did not see the honorable member for Bass when the honorable member for Nepean rose, and the latter, having risen previously, was in my mind.
.- So far as the electors whom I represent are concerned, they considered this question at the last election, when it was fully dealt with by me. I then expressed the opinion, which I still- hold, that South Australia asks too much. I had not an opportunity to vote on the second reading, but shall vote against the third reading of the measure. It is not my intention to support the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth, because I do not think this question is one which should be submitted to the people. We are elected to deal with questions of this sort for the people, being supposed to be better acquainted with all their details. If -we submit too many questions to the electors at the next election, they may become confused, and forget,, perhaps to vote for the candidates who present themselves. They will also have difficulty in dealing with questions if a number are submitted at one time. In all these matters, I am willing to abide byrne will of the majority, and shall not vote for a proposal which has. as its object the bulking of a decision. Alterations of the Constitution are very different. Some persons seem to think that the Commonwealth should be ready to take over any expensive proposition. No objection was raised to the taking over of New Guinea. We are also to be asked to take over Norfolk Island, which will mean more expense. The taking over of the Northern Territory will cast a still heavier obligation upon us. The States never offer to the Commonwealth a profitable Department. lt would be well for the Government to give consideration to the ways of finding money for controlling these non-paying concerns. If Ministers do not do this, we may find ourselves in a position of great difficulty. The Treasurer, no doubt, knows how he intends to manage the finances, but he has not made any statement on the subject to us, and, with the information, which I now have, I do not see my way clear to vote for the third reading. But, as I have said, those who are opposed to the measure should deal with it straightout, and not endeavour to secure the postponement of a decision in the manner suggested by the honorable member for Wentworth. I am prepared to trust the people on all questions in regard to which they are fully informed, and have had an opportunity to hear all sides, as we have in this House. In regard to this matter, they have not had that opportunity.
– - The honorable member for Dalley struck a ringing note when he drew the attention of the House to the attitude of a number of members on this side of the House with regard to this agreement, and compared it with that which they assumed towards the financial agreement a few days since. The Prime Minister, two or three years ago, entered into an agreement with the .South Australian Government, subject to the approval of Parliament, and similarly the financial agreement was subject to the approval of Parliament.
– That has been denied by Ministers.
– The Prime Minister has surely no constitutional right to bind the Commonwealth. What he did was subject to the approval of Parliament.
– Subject to the approval of the people, irrespective of Parliament.
– The honorable member will not contend that a Prime Minister in any civilized country possesses an inherent and final right to impose on the people an obligation amounting to millions of pounds. He must obtain the approval of Parliament. In this instance the Prime Minister asks us to confirm an agreement which he has made, subject to this Parliament’s approval. It was distinctly stated at the foot of the financial agreement that it was subject to the approval of Parliament. The financial agreement was diametrically opposed to the policy of the Ministerial party, yet many members on this side acted towards their fellows, who honorably observed that policy, as if the latter had been political rebels.
– No one ever had less cause to complain.
– Now, these members of the party are themselves turning round on an agreement of the Government, whose personnel is almost identical with that of the Government of which the Prime Minister was the head when he made this agreement. The Government has adopted the agreement, and brought it before Parliament. This difference of attitude throws an interesting light on the argument of convenience, which Ministerialists apply when it suits them to make a party call on those who display individuality and wish to vote in opposition to the course proposed. Like the honorable member for Dalley, I was astonished when I read in the newspapers the record of the divisions which took place last night. They indicated a distinct transformation in the corporate opinion of this House. In the earlier stages, the proposal embodied in the Bill was frequently greeted with ridicule.
– On both sides. Mr. BRUCE SMITH.- That is so. Mr. Sampson. - Two succeeding Governments have made it part of their programme.
– The party supporting the Government has not followed it in this matter. The honorable member was a splendid party man when the financial agreement was under discussion, but he seems to view his party obligations in regard to this agreement differently.
– The financial agreement was a vital part of the policy of the Government.
– The Minister of External Affairs has offered as a justification for this proposal the fact that it is not new - surely a very weak argument:
– I was replying to the suggestion that a referendum is necessary.
– The Minister was explaining why he would not accept the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth. The financial agreement dealt with a question which is as old as
Federation, a conference to discuss the subject being held as far back as 1903. The argument had no bearing on the issue. The honorable gentleman also said that the subject has been discussed by the press. That argument, also, does not affect the issue. The press, in some cases, has condemned the proposal as absolutely ridiculous, viewed from the Commonwealth stand-point. If the Minister contends that mere press discussion is sufficient, apart from the conclusions arrived at, I do not think that he advances his position at all. We know, too, as I showed the other night, that the opinions expressed by the press change from day to day. Press opinion cannot be counted upon as continuous and consistent. An editorial in favour of one view is written to-day, but if another man sits down in the editor’s parlour to write on the same subject a month hence, the chances are that, unless the discipline of the office is very perfect, he may express another and different view. That the press has discussed the matter, and that it is not new, do not therefore tell in favour of the Bill. Nor is it an argument in opposition to the proposal to put this agreement on the same footing as that which we are referring to the people.
– The other is for an amendment of the Constitution.
– It has been admitted that it is desirable to trust the people. We hear so much about the desirableness of submitting questions to the people that one wonders whether it would not be better to abolish Parliament and to allow the people to come together in the fields as they did in the old Anglo-Saxon “ moot “ days to discuss every public question. I think that the tendency of modern times, however, is to more and more affirm the principle of representative government. The people return us to this Parliament, not to remit questions to them, but to take on our own shoulders the responsibility of studying and determining them. How is it possible for the people, by a referendum, to enter into all the ramifications of the merits and demerits of such a question? The proposal to submit this question to the people, and the response with which it has been met, suggest that the cry with regard to trusting the people is little more than a platitude in the mouths of honorable members. We ‘know that the people do not wish to be trusted in the sense of having imposed upon them the consideration of complex questions which we are elected and paid to determine for them. That being so, this constant talk of trusting the people sounds like a mere placard intended to win a little popularity for certain honorable members. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth, however, that, apart from the constitutional aspect there is as much merit in the proposal to submit a question of this sort to the people as there is in one to submit the other question which it was decided last week should be submitted for their consideration. The other question is more complex; and it will require a deep study of the Constitution, and a close and intimate knowledge of the finances of the whole of Australia to satisfactorily determine it. I avail myself of this opportunity to say that there is no difference of opinion in this House with regard to the wisdom of taking over the Northern Territory. I have never heard two opinions as to the justice of South Australia being recouped the expenditure she has incurred in her pioneering and enterprising efforts, so far as they are of value, to do something with this enormous tract of country. But the question of the terms on which we should take it over is quite another matter. As one of the conditions of the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, we are asked lu take over a State railway. Honorable members who support the agreement tell us that the Territory contains such extraordinary mineral and other wealth that it will be a most valuable asset in the hands of the Commonwealth. If that is so, is it not highly desirable that South Australia should have a State-owned railway running to the border of such a Territory ? She has a railway running now to Oodnadatta, and if the Territory is capable of such great development when the Commonwealth has taken charge of it, why is South Australia’ so anxious that we should make the important departure of consenting to take over and pay for a State railroad ? It seems to me that South Australia rather stultifies herself when, through her representatives, she says in one breath, “ The Northern Territory is so marvellously rich that in the hands of the Commonwealth, and with a little capital expended upon its development, it will become a magnificent asset,” while in thenext, she declares virtually that she does not desire to be connected with that Territory by a railway of her own. She calls upon the Commonwealth, not only to take over the Territory and to expend money upon its development, but to take over one of her own railway lines and to pay her for it. If that line is going to pay its way, and it ought to, if the glowing statements we have heard with regard to the richness of the Territory are true, why does South Australia desire to part with it ? Honorable members who intend to vote for the third reading of the Bill should consider whether the desire on the part of South Australia to have this railway taken out of her hands is not proof that there have been gross exaggerations with regard to the wealth and prospects of the Territory?
– That was a condition imposed by the Commonwealth.
– Then South Australia will not be keen about its observance.
– I have heard the ultimate cost of this project variously estimated at from £4,000,000 to £10,000,000.
– Over £10,000,000.
– I am not going to try to get at the exact amount, because I do not think that any honorable member knows what it is.
– The Treasurer does.
– I do not think that he knows any more about it than he does of the probable cost of the proposed railway connexion with Western Australia, and of that we still know very little. Whether this transfer is going to cost the Commonwealth £5,000,000 or £6, 000, 000, the money will have to be found, not by South Australia, but by the whole Commonwealth. It must be accepted almost as an axiom that if the whole of the Commonwealth is to contribute towards this enormous expenditure, it should be given an opportunity of participating in the benefits of reaching this Eldorado. What effort is being made by the Government to secure to Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland an opportunity of reaching it? They are actually asking us to accept an agreement which provides for the construction of a railway through impossible country; and they are proposing to close that bargain in such a way as to oblige this House to agree to the construction of a railway through the centre of the Territory, and so to necessitate Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland extending their railways many additional hundreds of miles, whereas by a detour, which would involve only a modification of the agreement, each of those three great States, representing almost fourfifths of the population of Australia, would be able to reach the railway ultimately terminating at Port Darwin. Have honorable members considered that fact? It has occurred to me that there has crept into this question a little of that element which the Americans call “ backscratching.” We have Western Australia, so ably represented by the right honorable member for Swan, anxious to have her transcontinental railway-
– Will not the adoption of this agreement kill that project?
– There is, surely, no possible connexion between the two.
– Except the financial consideration.
– The adoption of this agreement may render it more difficult, financially, to carry out the Western Australian project, but there is no real connexion between the two proposals. The two great reasons advanced in favour of the Western Australian transcontinental railway are, in the first place, that it would be useful for military purposes - and that is a farcical reason - and secondly, that it would fulfil an implied Constitutional undertaking on the part of the eastern States to bring the west into connexion with the east. That I do not recognise; for it is not in the Constitution. The Northern railway, for which this agreement provides, has nothing in common with the railway which it is proposed to construct between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie; and to say that the one project kills the other is to make a purposeless parallel. There is no connexion between the two.
– Save the financial connexion.
– Then there will be more log-rolling to determine which shall be constructed first. If one is to cost £6,000,000 and the other £4,000,000 there will be a considerable agitation in this House by-and-by as to which should first be constructed. I repeat that there is evidence of what the Americans call “backscratching “ in this House. The advocates of the Western Australian transcontinental railway are practically saying to the advocates of the northern line, “ If you want us to go for yourr ail way you must support that for which we ask,” and the others are replying, “ If you want us to go for your line you must support ours.” And so a number of votes are being used for State ‘advantages. In this matter, and the other to which I have referred, there has been distinct evidence of honorable members giving up their Commonwealth obligations and sentiments to benefit the particular State to which they belong. The representatives of South Australia are apparently forgetting their Commonwealth obligations in voting so unanimously, and speaking so suggestively, in one way, as they have done with regard to this question. I have listened to their speeches in this House, and have not heard one of them offer an answer to the argument as to the claims of the eastern States to have an opportunity to connect with the Northern Territory line. Their whole argument has been, “ South Australia has done a wonderful thing in embarking upon this pioneering enterprise, and the Commonwealth ought to take over the Territory.” They have completely disregarded the claims of the eastern States which will have to become liable for the bulk of the money necessary to enable this agreement to be carried out. I do not think that is desirable. If representatives of each State are going on every occasion to allow themselves as in this question to be influenced by State interests, and to put aside broader Commonwealth considerations, then we shall simply be resolving ourselves into a duplication of the State Legislatures. We might just as well have an annual meeting of all the State Houses sitting as a Parliament to decide Federal questions. The very object we had in establishing in Australia this seventh body pol:tic was that representatives might be induced to view questions apart from purely State interests, and to consider the effect that legislation is likely to have from the broader and more general aspect of Commonwealth interests. Ever since 1901, in connexion with one of our largest Departments, we have been depleting our revenue, rather than float loans for permanent and revenue-producing works. Notwithstanding that this Government recognises that a loan policy is the proper one to adopt in connexion with such works, it has always been said, “ The Labour party are opposed on principle to the policy of borrowing.” I should like to know - bearing this in mind - how the Labour party are going to justify the expenditure of about £10,000,000 on the Northern Territory and the transcontinental railway.
– They will provide for it by direct taxation.
– It is only a means to an end.
– If honorable members think that the imposition of direct taxation is to be promoted by the passing of this measure are they going to assist to pass it ? Would it not be far better for the Government to show that they are going to establish a loan policy - that this work is to be carried out with loan moneys ? At present, there is no indication of our being able to overcome the determination of the Labour party to oppose all loan proposals. If there were any such Ministerial indication, the Government have had an admirable opportunity, in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, which we know has been starved for years owing to revenue moneys having to be used for permanent and revenue-producing works. Even in this year, as in the last, something like ,£700,000 will be taken out of revenue for such works. If the Government are not going to raise loans for that class of works, and are yet going to use loan moneys in the case of the Northern Territory, how can Labour members justify themselves in voting for a project which will involve the complete sacrifice of one of the first principles of their policy? I confess that I cannot understand how .this transformation has come about. It would be a very interesting psychological study if we could look into the minds of those honorable members who have opposed a loan policy from year to year, and ascertain why there has been this sudden and complete change of attitude.
– The Treasurer can twist them round his finger !
– I have not as much confidence in the ability of the Treasurer, in that regard, as has the honorable member for Balaclava. I am sure that neither the public nor the press understands the change ; and, even supposing that the “back-scratching” habit which is so prevalent in America is an element here, while it may account for a great many changes, it by no means can account for all. It will remain a mystery for some time to come how this great transformation has been brought about. I can only say that I regard this as a reckless measure, which will throw upon the Commonwealth an enormous and unjustifiable expenditure, and which will compel the eastern States, representing the great bulk of the population, to contribute the greater proportion of the cost, while they are denied a fair partici- pation in any benefits that might, under certain circumstances, result.
.- The honorable member for Parkes always gets attention, because he speaks honestly and courageously. On this occasion, however, while he may have spoken courageously, he has not spoken of some members of the House with that fairness that I think he usually aims at. He has said straightout that there has been a considerable amount of log-rolling in connexion with this measure, and has singled out Western Australian representatives as actively participating in that particular Parliamentary operation. As a Western Australian representative, I deny that I have been approached in any way, either directly or indirectly ; and I feel sure that all the Western Australian representatives are in pretty well the same position. As a proof of this, I point out that the Western Australian members are divided, some being in favour of the Bill, and others against it. Only last night, I moved an amendment, and was accused of adopting a hostile attitude towards the northern railway scheme. This does not look as if the Western Australian members were actively in sympathy with this Bill on account of some supposed benefit they will derive. It is to be regretted that such statements should be made against them on the mere suspicion of any honorable member. I have supported this Bill because I believe it is the duty of the Commonwealth to take over this great Territory ; and, although the proposed railway construction is incidental, the measure does not commit Parliament to it at any definite time. Undoubtedly, this railway will be built sooner or later, but I believe it will be many years before it will be undertaken. I am not committed, nor have I committed my State, to the construction within any definite period ; and, in that respect, this scheme is very much in the position of the scheme for a transcontinental line to Western Australia. While the latter scheme has, in my opinion, a prior claim, they are both absolutely necessary to the development of Australia, and to that true national unity which was aimed at when we entered into Federation. I hope I shall hear no more of these insinuations, which, for my part, I indignantly repudiate, and which, so far as the members from Western Australia are concerned who have been definitely named in this connexion, are absolutely without justification.
.- I hope that the question of the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States will not be introduced into this discussion. The honorable member for Parkes expressed the opinion that the question before us had an equal claim with that of the financial agreement to be submitted to a referendum of the people. But I point out that the financial agreement involves a change in the Constitution, which must, of necessity, be submitted to the people in that way, while the agreement as to the Northern Territory stands on a different ground.
– That distinction does not affect the party, I suppose?
– It ‘ does, because we might go a little further in regard to the financial agreement. It was stated by the Prime Minister that if that agreement were rejected by the Parliament, it would be carried to the people at the next election as part of the Government policy ; and, believing that the agreement was a fair one for submisison to the people, as a single issue detached from any party policy or candidate, I supported that Bill. Such a method certainly gives the people a better opportunity to pronounce a straightout opinion, clearly and definitely, than if the question were submitted as part of the Government policy. I intend to vote against the motion of the honorable member for Wentworth, because I believe Parliament should take the responsibility of deciding questions expressly delegated to it by the Constitution. If ‘we are to have a referendum on this question, there is no reason why every question involving large expenditure should not be similarly submitted, such as that of the Federal Capital site, the transcontinental railway to Western Australia, and so forth. My objection to the referendum, generally, ‘ as a principle, is that this Parliament is elected by the people to perform certain duties which legitimately come within the Constitution, and that we should take the responsibility, leaving the people to pronounce their opinion regarding our action at the general election. If every important question is to be submitted to a referendum, an opportunity will be presented to members to dodge their pledges, and thereby become largely demoralized. As I said yesterday, I am appalled to think that this House should deliberately commit itself to a possible expenditure of £10.000,000, largely upon a railway which, in my opinion, is altogether unnecessary for developmental purposes. This Territory must, I think, be developed by railways running inland from the northern coast; and the proposed railway through the unexplored and undeveloped centre of Australia, while it might be a good project twenty or twenty-five years hence, has no justification at the present stage.
– There is a line of 150 miles running from the northern coast, but it does not pay.
– For the simple reason that other elements enter into the development of the country. Grazing has not been a success in the northern districts, because the people have not been placed on the land in the proper way. When the time comes for agricultural settlement, there will have to be experimental stations, with water conservation from some of the important’ rivers ; and the present grass, which is too coarse for fattening purposes, will have to be replaced by artificial grasses, as has been necessary in the most important grazing and dairying district I know of in Australia. That country can only be developed by the intelligent industry of the people and the expenditure of large sums of money ; and to spend, say, £7,000,000 on this proposed railway, while the northern areas are crying out for a large expenditure, would be a step we could not contemplate. I have always expressed myself enthusiastically in favour of taking over the Territory ; but I am against the construction of a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek at this stage; and that is my justification for voting as I did yesterday. This railway project, in my view, is a, huge mistake; and, as it is a vital part of,the Bill, I shall be compelled to vote against the third reading.
– 14 is a matter for sincere regret, in the interests of the whole Commonwealth, that so many honorable members were absent yesterday, and happened to be unpaired. This, I take it, was largely due to the fact that they were not aware that the question would come up for discussion.
– It was announced last week.
– Then it must have escaped the minds of honorable members; and I am sure that, when they saw the newspapers this morning, they must have been considerably surprised at the result of yesterday’s divisions, especially when they reflect upon the speeches previously de livered by some honorable members, which* certainly gave the impression that their votes would be cast in an entirely different way. However, every honorable member isresponsible for his opinions and votes to his own constituents. They are the people whohave to be consulted, and so long as they aresatisfied, the House has no reason to complain. It is certain that a little while agothere were very few members on either side, even including those who most warmly advocate this proposal, who dreamt that thesecond reading would be carried, still lessthat the Bill in its original form would’, go through Committee, and the agreement indorsed with its monstrous provisions regarding the obligations of railway construction and the taking over of existing works. The honorable member for Parkes chose, as one of the absentees of yesterday, to put in an appearance to-day and lecture some honorable members on> their attitude. Indeed, it has become a favorite attitude of the honorable member lately to assume the role of lecturergeneral to the House on almost every question. I resent that kind of thing, especially from one who is so frequentlyabsent and unpaired. I never attempt to lecture other honorable members. I recognise that every honorable member isthe keeper of his own conscience, and hasthe right to please himself, being responsible only to his own constituents if he happens to change his mind or his vote. We may, perhaps, make some comment on thefact that such a thing has been done ; but it is not the province of any honorable member to set himself up as the censor or custodianof the consciences of other members. In the course of his lecturette, as he styled it, the honorable member for Parkes attempted1 to draw an analogy between the financial agreement recently entered into between theState Premiers and the Prime Minister, and’ this agreement. There is absolutely noanalogy. In the case of the financial agreement there was a certain provision embodied’ in the Constitution for a fixed period, during which no alteration could take place. The time was approaching when the fixed period would end, and it would become necessary to make some alteration. In view of that fact the Premiers met in Conference to anticipate the expiration of the constitutional provision, and the agreement arrived at was, therefore, on a footing totally different from this. There is nothing inthe Constitution involving any compulsion) on the Commonwealth to take over the Northern Territory or its debts, or the responsibilities associated with its administration. This is a purely voluntary matter so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, and the agreement was entered into on the express understanding that it must receive the ratification of both Houses of Parliament. But in regard to the financial agreement, the Prime Minister gave the House clearly to understand that whether it was ratified by Parliament or not, it would go to the country as part of the Government policy for the indorsement of the people, and he therefore asked the House to sanction a Bill to authorize a referendum on the subject.
– It is precisely the same in this case, for if this agreement is not approved by Parliament, the Government will go to the country upon it.
– Not necessarily, nor is it at all likely where the majority of Government supporters are strongly opposed to its railway provisions. It is not likely to form a part of the Government programme, because a large number of Government supporters would absolutely refuse to indorse it. 1 cannot conceive of the Government attempting to do such a suicidal thing as to unnecessarily drive a wedge into the midst of their party at the elections.
– At least they have never indicated their intention of doing so.
– They have not, and would certainly exhibit a want of acumen and political tact if they attempted it. If this agreement were submitted to the people to-morrow for their indorsement, it is certain that it would be condemned throughout the Commonwealth, with, perhaps, the one exception of the State most directly concerned financially, and that the representatives of the people would be instructed to oppose it, especially when the people obtained some idea of the expenditure likely to be involved and the amount of extra taxation which would probably have to be imposed upon every family in Australia.
– It is quite certain that if the people learn the truth about the financial agreement they will reject it.
– I do not think so, but, of course, one can never accurately foretell public sentiment. The two matters, however, stand on an entirely different footing. One necessarily means taxation either by the States or the Commonwealth for ordinary purposes of administration, but the other means the Commonwealth voluntarily undertaking expenditure running into upwards of £10,000,000 for which no necessity has yet been shown to exist. No immediate danger threatens us; there is no immediate necessity for expenditure on any of the railway lines indicated, nor from present indications, and the present rate of growth of the population, does it seem likely that there will be any need for action by the Commonwealth on some of the grounds urged for the next half century at least. It is, therefore, a matter that can well afford to wait indefinitely. The other is a pressing matter that must be met by the end of next year at latest. It would be wise to obtain an expression of the opinion of the people upon this. question, which touches their pockets so closely and heavily, before Parliament is committed to any definite course in regard to it. When we examine the financial aspect of the matter it presents appalling features from a business point of view. If the South Australian Government and the representatives of that State in this Parliament believe the Northern Territory to be so magnificent as they declare, and so capable of producing all that they claim for it - if it is such a veritable gold mine only awaiting development - why are they so anxious to get rid of it ? That is the one pertinent outstanding question that has not yet been satisfactorily answered.
– On the same principle that many working miners have had to give up a good thing to a syndicate.
– That is a piece of sophistry which can be exploded after a moment’s examination. The individual miner is not in a position to raise loans to obtain the necessary capital for the development of his claim, but a State with alleged enormously valuable assets to offer as security would have no trouble in obtaining the necessary money. As a matter of fact, loan after loan has been raised to develop the Territory and construct public works, and the result has been to render the financial position of the country more unsatisfactory year by year by increasing the annual deficit on the administration and attempted development of the Territory.
– The honorable member is destroying his own argument. We have reached the end of our tether.
– Of course, borrowing cannot go on for ever where there is continual loss and no profit. If the
Territory had all the potentialities claimed for it, South Australia could have obtained all the capital necessary to achieve success; but the result of all that has been done is nil. Whilst the expenditure has been growing every year, the income from the Territory has been getting less. There is a greater disparity between the income and the expenditure every year, and if this went on at the same rate, and South Australia continued to bear the incubus of the administration of the Territory, it would be only a question of a little time before she would certainly become bankrupt.
– They tried to give it away to a syndicate, and could not.
– We have been told about the millions of capital waiting to be invested by people who are anxious to construct railways on the land grant system. I dare say that those honorable members who have advanced that statement believe it themselves, but I do not, nor can - anybody who has read anything of the Territory imagine that people with money to invest would pass by all the fields of profitable investment offering in other parts of the world to go to this desert for the purpose of acquiring useless land and constructing railways which would have no possibility of paying unless some extraordinary mining or other development occurred. If there were any syndicate at Home which, owing to the glowing and highly-coloured misrepresentations made to them as to the possibilities of the Territory, expressed a desire to construct a railway on the land grant system, I am sure that even if they had the option, they would abandon the “ scheme as soon as their agents’ reports regarding the possibilities of the country as a paying proposition reached them. No offer of any area of land on the free grant system would induce wealthy capitalistic syndicates to undertake the construction of lines which would involve them, perhaps for all time, in a certain annual loss. Let us now examine the financial position under the proposed agreement, as stated by the Treasurer of the Commonwealth in a minute to the Prime Minister, in which we may take it for granted the subject is viewed in as good a light as possible. The Treasurer says -
The financial obligations connected with this agreement have been considered by the Treasury, and the results are hereunder submitted for your information. The financial loss is certain to be considerable for some years, but, as far as reasonable, a favorable view of the future has been taken.
The whole matter has been dealt with under four heads, viz. : -
Northern Territory indebtedness to South Australia.
Port Augusta to Oodnadatta Railway indebtedness to South Australia.
The railway from Pine Creek to join the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta.
Recapitulation (after completion of the railway from Pine Creek to join the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta Railway).
No doubt a favorable view of the future was taken. Then follows this account of the indebtedness of the Northern Territory to South Australia -
The figures given above cover merely the loss for which the Commonwealth will be liable, and does not take into account future developmental expenditure by us, which would run into millions of pounds. These figures are appalling, and should cause us to seriously consider the proposal for the transfer . of the Territory, even if it were not associated with the taking over of existing non-paying railways and an obligation to spend an enormous sum on railway construction. The statement given in regard to the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway is as follows : -
To that is added this explanation -
If, therefore, the Northern Territory is taken over by the Commonwealth together with the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, the annual sum to be provided by the Commonwealth, based on the year 1907-8, would be : -
How are we to raise the money for this purpose? In addition to being asked to bind ourselves to take over and work the unprofitable railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, we are asked to construct a line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, whose length we are informed would be 1,063 miles, or about 1,350 miles if taken east of Lake Eyre, and its cost approximately £4, 500.000. At the same time we should be bearing the cost of the non-paying line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, and of that from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. After the completion of the railway from
Pine Creek to Oodnadatta we are told that during the first year or two the annual expenditure will be approximately this -
– I thought that the honorable member objected to the wasting of time.
– Does the honorable member call it wasting time to try to prevent the imposition of unnecessary financial burdens on the backs of the workers? I object to the wasting of money. The Labour party professes to be trie party that objects to extravagant expenditure, and believes in the conservation of the public funds, yet many of its members are now trying to commit the Commonwealth to an expenditure which will amount to anything between£10,000,000 and £20,000,000.
– I think, Mr. Speaker, that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The devices resorted to by these great economists who say that they are going to conserve the finances of the country, and are yet prepared, without consulting the people, to vote for an expenditure of millions from which there will be no return, will not deter me from doing my duty to my constituents and to the people of Australia, including those represented by the honorable member who has just interrupted me.
– The honorable member for Cook is voting with the honorable member.
– There is no knowing what he is likely to do;’ his voting is so erratic that one never knows on which side he is likely to be.
– Order; that is not the question before the Chair.
– True, sir; but it is very important. A large section of the Labour party, nothwithstanding their declarations as to their desire to conserve the public funds, intend to vote for this agreement, which, as I have just shown, will saddle the Commonwealth with a total annual loss of £393. 633-
– It is the Fusion Government which makes this proposal.
– It originated with the Government, supported by the Labour party, in a previous session. I object to such a proposal on the part of any Government. I object, also, to its receiving the support of the Labour party, in view of the parade they are constantly making of the economic financial administration which would result from their party being placed in power.
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member is in order in saying that the Labour party are proposing to involve the Commonwealth in certain expenditure, when the proposal is really being made by the Government of which the honorable member is a supporter ?
– I do not quite grasp the point of order raised by the honorable member. The honorable member for Lang is justified in giving reasons why the Bill should be recommitted ; but I might suggest to him that those reasons, at this stage, should be compressed as much as possible, since he will have an opportunity at a later stage, if he so desires, to go more fully into details.
– I do not quite appreciate your statement, sir, as to my having a further opportunity to go into details, seeing that the motion for the third reading of the Bill is now before us.
– I thought that the honorable member was aware that the question before the Chair was a motion for the recommittal of the Bill. We have not reached the debate upon the third-reading motion.
– The interruptions to which I am subjected from the other side of the House render it almost impossible for me to make myself as clear as I should wish. What I desired to suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, was that the Bill, may not be recommitted, and I shall not in that event have an opportunity to go into details. As a matter of fact, I am not discussing any details, but only expenditure under general heads, and am quoting only from a memorandum presented by the Minister in moving the second reading of the Bill. I am very anxious to let my constituents know the true position, and to enable them to fully appreciate it, in view of the possibility of a referendum being taken. They have not access to papers that are available to us, and we can acquaint them with the true position only by quoting the official figures and so securing their insertion in Hansard..
– The honorable member is very anxious to waste time. If he were on this side of the House, the Government would “ gag “ him.
– I have not, I think, unduly occupied the time of the House, in trying to save the people from the crushing weight of a burden totalling about £15,000,000. I shall proceed, as soon as these interruptions are finished. They will not deter me, as honorable members ought to know, from doing my duty. It is pointed. out in the memorandum presented by the Minister that -
If a sinking fund is provided of 1 per cent., to begin five years after the date of the loan for the new railway, it would amount to an additional charge of £45,000.
This scheme is absolutely condemned by the memorandum itself, and stands condemned in the eyes of any man who has *he slightest pretence to a knowledge of ordinary business propositions. The memorandum points out that -
In addition to the foregoing, the expense of settling the Northern Territory during the first ten years has to be considered, but, after that time, it is hoped -
There is nothing to show that it would ; but it is hoped - that, with the improved means of transit and the opening up and settlement of the country, the consequent increase of revenue would make the whole transaction a reproductive enterprise.
That is a mere speculation, based upon no apparent foundation. No reason is advanced upon which such a hope could be based. It certainly cannot be based upon the known results of developmental experiments; it cannot be based upon the history of attempts to develop and settle the Territory while in the hands of South Australia, nor upon, any extraordinary increase in the annua I, revenue since the establishment of the Commonwealth. I propose, presently, to show that the revenue of the Territory has been decreasing year by year, whilst its expenditure has been increasing by leaps and bounds. Let me say, in passing, that if any honorable member thinks that I am “ stone-walling,” this Bill, he is utterly mistaken. I’ disclaim any such intention.
– We need the figures which the honorable member has been quoting.
– They are necessarynot only for the information of honorable members, but for use elsewhere.
– They are already in Hansard.
– They may be; but they have been lost sight of, and need to be reviewed and emphasized. The honorable member for North Sydney certainly gave us some valuable statistical information ; but these figures require to be analyzed and sifted, in order that one mayappreciate their full significance. The memorandum sets forth further that -
The capital invested by the Commonwealth in connexion with the Northern Territory would be-
The foregoing figures do not include the compensation due to South Australia in respect of the overland telegraph, which will be chargeable as “ transferred property “ under section 85 of the Constitution.
– The overland telegraph line already belongs to the Commonwealth ; it must have been taken over by us.
– But the compensation due to South Australia in respect of it is not included in the figures I have just quoted. What are the prospects in regard to the revenues that we shall derive by the acceptance of this magnificent proposition ? A glance at the leading items in a comparative return of the revenues from 1903-4 to 1907-8, is certainly interesting in. this connexion. We find that in land and income tax there was an increase of £815 in the four years ; in business licences, an increase of only .£75 ; in stamp duties, a loss of .£188 ; on other public works and services, a loss of ,£2,205; on railways, a loss of ,£2,236, and on other receipts, a loss of £925. The revenue in 1903-4 was £43,013, as compared with £39,720 in 1907-8, showing a decrease of .£3,293. That was exclusive of the amount contributed by the Commonwealth, which in 1903-4 amounted to ,£14,7.32, and in 1907-8 amounted to £16,456 ; but even when those contributions are included there is a decrease in the revenue of £969. In 1903-4, the revenue, including the Commonwealth contribution, amounted to £57,145, while in 1907-8, it amounted to only .£56,176, and that notwithstanding an increase, in the Commonwealth contribution of £2,314. In 1903-4, the expenditure was £61,700, while in 1907-8, it was £89,716, or an increase of £28,016. If we include interest on bonds, stocks, and bills, and provision for sinking funds, we find that the expenditure for 1903-4 was ,£164,068, while in 1907-8 it was .£207,669, showing an increase of £43,601. There is every prospect of the disparity between the revenue and expenditure becoming more accentuated from year to year; and this is one of the facts we have to face. When we consider the importance of the figures I have quoted, as affecting the financial stability of the Commonwealth, and the necessity they disclose of further taxation, we ought to be most cautious in what we do in regard to the taking over_ of the Territory. In consequence of the new financial arrangement with the States - which is certainly a very necessary one - our revenue will be diminished for a considerable length of time; and the situation is certainly one that compels us to very seriously consider our “duty to the general body of taxpayers.
– It is a pity the honorable member did not think of that last week !
– I always think of the taxpayer; and if the honorable member did so, his constituents might be better pleased. I am sorry that honorable members who give advice do not always set an example and act upon their own advice, gratuitously given to others. By my voice and vote I have tried to do what I think is right in conserving the financial interests of the Commonwealth, so as to make the burden on the people as light as possible- I can foresee that if the terms of the agreement are adhered to, we shall, in the near future, .be saddled with an enormous load of additional taxation. Without counting the cost of development the agreement will mean additional taxation of ,£2 10s. or £2 14s. per head ; and if we take intoaccount the cost of development, it will very soon reach £3 per head, or £15 for every family of five. What urgency is there for a proposition that will involve this immense burden? I am surprised” that the Government should try to push this matter to a conclusion at this stage of the session, relying on the Labour-
Opposition to help them through when they hear that the majority on their own side of the House is antagonistic to the railway and financial stipulations of the agreement, and when the election offers an early opportunity of eliciting the opinion of the people in regard to its terms ; it is a question which vitally concerns the community generally, and one on which they have not as yet been consulted. I am sorry to have taken up more time than I intended, but the importance of the subject must be my justification. If the matter be referred to the people, I shall strongly advise my constituents to resist any attempt to take over the Territory on the terms of the agreement. It might be advisable, from many points of view, for the Commonwealth to relieve South Australia of a burden which is proving too heavy for her shoulders ; but, if the people be willing to thus help South Australia, by taking upon their own shoulders her existing burden, the Territory should be taken over on fair and reasonable terms - terms just to the whole of the people, and not in the interests’ of only one particular State.
– I intend to support the proposal for the recommittal of the Bill. When the financial agreement with the States was before the House, a majority were very anxious to allow it to go before the people for consideration ; and we must recognise that in connexion with the Northern Territory the Government are introducing quite a new principle. It is proposed to take over unpayable railways from one State, and to saddle the Commonwealth with the cost of their running. In Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, there are a number of unpayable lines which the Governments of those States would no doubt be very pleased to hand over. But why should the Commonwealth be saddled with the bad bargains of the various States? It seems incredible that the Government should initiate such a policy. They are quite reversing the Micawber attitude, be- cause their exclamation will apparently be : “ Thank God, we have taken over another liability !” I wish to point out that it will be impossible to make use of this railway in connexion with an overland line. I have consulted an engineer of very high standing, with much experience in many parts of the world, and he tells me that a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge is absolutely useless for a long distance railway. It will be seen, therefore, that, if we take over this line, it will have to be run as a separate and nonpayable venture. It will be useless for military purposes, because the standard gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. is the lightest that could possibly be used for overland traffic.
– The Capetown to Cairo line is only 3 ft. 6 in.
– The biggest traffic in South Australia goes over a 3 ft. 6 in. line to and from Broken Hill for a distance of 300 odd miles.
– But -we have to contemplate a distance, of some 2,000 miles. How many troops, or how much stock, could be carried on a 3 ft. 6 in. line?
– The whole of the Queensland lines are 3 ft. 6 in.
– They are little branch, cockspur lines.
– Some of the Queensland lines extend 400 and 500 miles.
– The whole of the transport in the Boer War was carried on 3 ft. 6 in. lines.
– And a nice mess was made of the transport !
– They made an excellent job of it.
– I’ should like to see a better job here. We have virtually parted with the whole of our Customs revenues to the States, and have granted heavy bonuses for- the stimulation of production and industries ; and ‘now it is proposed to take over a liability of £10,000,000, and pay interest on it for a great many years. The honorable member for North ‘ Sydney showed last evening that the loss on this line for ten years would be £750,000 at least ; and I think that if the figures were carefully analyzed, it would prove to be a million, in addition to the interest on the debt we are taking over. We have to provide for old-age pensions, and our naval and military defence; and before we know where we are, we shall, without any borrowing, have to find £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 for services that return nothing to the Commonwealth. We are taking over from the States every service that is valueless to them and to us, relieving individual States at the expense of the Commonwealth, as a whole, and yet no consideration is shown to the National Parliament as. regards the future. It would be unreasonable and unfair, if the people did not have an opportunity, by means of the referendum, of stating whether ox not they approve of the Government taking over further unpayable services. This question is quite as serious a one as the financial scheme for the people as a whole to consider by means of a referendum. There have been great cries of. “ Trust the people,” yet the trusters are afraid to trust them in a matter of this importance. They say, “ Oh, no; we are capable of dealing with’ this. We are capable of dealing with everything that suits the majority. We do not trust the people where they are incurring liabilities. We are going to thrust those on them.” It is more reasonable that they should have an opportunity of dealing with a matter like this than that* we should take the responsibility of imposing such a burden on them without giving them an opportunity of being consulted. There would not be the slightest trouble in putting, at the next election, the question, “ Are you in favour of taking over the Northern Territory with the liability of this railway ?” The people could answer “Yes” or “ No” to that in a very simple manner, but, as the honorable member for Parkes pointed out, the financial question is a very complicated scheme to submit to them, and very difficult to explain to tr-‘em. If we are not going to protect the finances, it is time the people took a hand in it themselves. The question is brought up at this late stage of the session, and we know that a number of honorable members have expressed opinions absolutely adverse to the taking over of the Territory with this railway incubus, although they seem to have been log-rolled, or buttonholed, or induced in some other way to support it. The Government, instead of listening to the opinions of their own supporters, have carried the Bill by the votes of the Opposition, who have voted as solidly on it as they voted against the Government on the financial question. We, on this side, were twitted last week with having joined the Labour party, but nothing is said about the Government joining the Labour party now, nor do the Government say anything about dishing their own supporters by the votes of the Labour party. If we construct the transcontinental line, we shall have to become responsible for the line the whole of the way from the Northern Territory to Adelaide. What is the use of having a terminus at Port Augusta, over 200 miles from Adelaide? Surely the line should go from a live town in the Ter ritory to the capital of South Australia, rather than to a place which is nearly as dead as Julius Cæsar. I believe that Port Augusta has been retrogressing year by year, yet the Government pretend that they are willing to construct a railway line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, whereas, if they build an overland line at all, it ought to go a great deal further east. The proper way to take it is round through the better lands, terminating it at Adelaide. It seems to me that the people of the other States are not being fairly treated. Why should they be asked to take over such large liabilities from a State which is getting from the Commonwealth a grant more ‘ than sufficient to pay the interest? In years to come the payment of 25 s. per head by the Commonwealth will amount to a very large sum. What are we to be left with? We shall have to find the money to pay the interest. We are taking over liabilities to meet which will require us in a few years to borrow ,£50,000,000, and the interest on that will amount to nearly £2,000,000 a year. We shall have to meet these liabilities without possessing any revenueproducing properties. ThePostmasterGeneral’s Department at present does not pay its way, yet it is the only concern we have which has any chance of meeting its engagements. Every other Department is absolutely a dead loss to the Commonwealth, yet we are going to burden ourselves with a debt of ^50,000,000, and get nothing in return. We have parted with our Customs revenue. We may have the Excise revenue, but the inevitable result will be that we shall have to duplicate the land and income taxes. What will happen then? The .people will either suggest the abolition of the- Commonwealth Parliament or they will go for unification. It will be one 01 the other, and I should not be at all surprised if they said, “ Let us have a council of the State Premiers to manage the affairs of the Commonwealth, and wipe out the Commonwealth Parliament, which has put us into this hole and which evidently cannot manage the affairs committed to it.”
.- I regret that I was absent yesterday when the vote was taken, but I must say that, with other honorable members, I was perfectly astounded at the total reversion -of form shown on this question. When the Bill was introduced early in the session, I do not believe that one-quarter of the members of the House would have voted for the agreement as it stands. One point which I have not heard put to-day is the serious responsibility and enormous obligation that we shall place by this agreement upon future residents of the Northern Territory. If the agreement is to be anything in the way of a success, it will mean that a sufficient number of people will be settled in the Northern Territory to enable them to make it a State, and to seek admission into the Union. Yet we are now telling future settlers in the Territory that they will have to begin their new political life with an indebtedness of from £10,000,000 to £15,000,000 round their necks, and that a railway must be constructed and maintained at their cost, no matter whether it pays or not, or whether or not it is suitable for the development of the country. There is a consensus of opinion in the House that the development of the Territory will not be best served by a line running due north and south. Many honorable members who know something of the country assert that the better way to develop the Territory would be from New South Wales and Queensland. Be that as it may, I claim that the future residents of the Territory are the people who ought to decide the matter. We have no right to say to them, “ We shall construct this railway for you and hand it over to you with all its indebtedness, and with an obligation upon you to run it for all time, whether it pays or not, and whether it is necessary or not.” I take it that the terms upon which the contract will be given effect to will be on somewhat the same lines as those on which South Australia has carried out its most unfortunate dealings with the Territory ; that is, that a debtor and creditor account will be kept in connexion with the railway, and that all the losses sustained by the Commonwealth - and every one admits that there will be heavy losses - will be handed over to the Territory when it assumes responsible government. That is a condition which might well make the House pause. Is it fair to the new State to saddle it with the tremendous consequences of the muddle and serious blunders made by the South Australian Government ? The whole history of British settlement will not show so ghastly a failure, and such small results from the expenditure of money, as are shown in connexion with South Australia’s dealing with the Northern Territory. There is an existing indebtedness of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, and a white population of under 1,000 people. Now South Australia is asking us, not only to relieve her of that failure, which I think the House would be quite prepared to do, but also to incur an obligation to construct a railway which she has never constructed herself, because her losses from the sections already built were so enormous that she never completed the connexion. She insists, however, as part of the agreement, that we should carry that railway through what is generally admitted to be’ an absolute desert for the greater portion of its length, and with an obligation to continue to run it, whether it pays or not. That is not a fair deal between South Australia and the Commonwealth, or between South Australia and the other States. There is no doubt that the proposition involves a borrowing policy. Numbers of honorable members like myself have viewed, almost with horror, the prospect of the Commonwealth becoming a seventh borrower in the markets of the world, yet honorable members are deliberately plunging the Commonwealth into a policy which will necessitate immediate borrowing if the works indicated in the agreement are to be carried out. T do not think the argument put forward by the honorable member for Perth was fair. It would not be giving South Australia a. fair deal to say to her, “ Yes, we shall construct that railway. We shall put it into the contract that we must construct it ; but we do not say when we shall do so. It may be now or a hundred years hence.” That would not be carrying out the spirit nf the agreement, at any rate. I take it that every member who votes for it pledges himself to carry out the whole of its conditions in the immediate future. If I voted for it as it stands, I should regard it as only fair and honest treatment of South Australia to carry out the contract in its entirety. I view the matter just as I did the proposal for a survey of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. I. have no sympathy with men. who voted for the survey without the slightest intention of voting for the railway. I believe that of those two railways, the one to Western Australia has the prior claim ; but by passing this agreement, we shall practically prevent it from being made. I did not support that line; but if I had to take my choice of the two, I should distinctly vote for the one from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie in preference to that from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek ; because, in the first place, we should have at least two termini of large and flourishing populations, and a mail service. The other railway would go through the heart of a desert into a country about which, we know nothing. In building it, we should be spending money from which we should expect to get nothing in return. The combined railways would cost from £10,000,000 to £12,000,000. If the Commonwealth borrows ,£4,000,000 or £5,000,000 for railway construction, Parliament will not be inclined to sanction fresh work until it has seen the results of that expenditure. Not many honorable members can be of opinion that these two rail ways should be constructed almost simultaneously, and in the near future. But every one who votes for the ratification of the agreement will be in honour bound to support the construction of the Une from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta. It is because I believe that the people have not given the matter the consideration which it deserves that I shall support the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth, and, should it not be carried, shall vote against the third reading. The people should be given an opportunity to express their opinion, either directly on a referendum or indirectly at the elections, before the Commonwealth is plunged into extensive borrowing to pay for work for which we have made no provision. At the present time our revenue is hardly sufficient to meet existing obligations, and recently the Treasurer had to ask the assistance of the Premiers to provide for the payment of old-age pensions. On his last Budget there was not a shilling available for extra expenditure. Yet we are asked to undertake an obligation amounting to over £10,000,000. Before this is done we should be told how the necessary money will be found. It is very improper to propose enormous expenditure without giving information of that kind. Many of the proposals which have been brought before us show an almost reckless disregard of financial considerations, and their adoption would plunge the Commonwealth into a policy of borrowing which I, for one, think should be deferred as long as possible, and only undertaken at last for works which will prove reproductive.
.- I shall not detain honorable members long, as I gave brief expression to my views last night. The splendid speech of the honorable member for Lang, and the figures which he gave, show that we are being asked to accept an obligation whose magnitude we can hardly estimate. I feel my loyalty to the Government strained by this proposal. I agreed to the second reading on the understanding that amendments would be permitted in Committee, but the Minister in charge of the measure has not encouraged those supporting the Government to give it every fair and honest criticism.
– Surely there has been sufficient opportunity for free criticism.
– The Government have declined to accept amendmentsWhile I do not wish to shirk my responsibilities as a member, the Government have such narrow majorities on many of the large matters now agitating the public mind that I am inclined to support proposals’ for referring them to the people for decision. The expenditure of the Commonwealth Departments is increasing unduly. The honorable member for Lang showed that the annual obligation under the proposed agreement would be about £400,000, but the lack of business control in Commonwealth administration justifies us in adding another £200,000 or ,£300,000, and even then we shall probably not reach the limit. For old-age pensions we are paying to-day about £1,500,000, but before the Estimates of revenue and expenditure for next year are put before ‘us, the sum will be much larger. Our expenditure will also be increased by the cost of the improved naval and military defence scheme, while the ordinary Departments of Government are steadily becoming more costly. During the past nine years, and especially during the past five years, the Commonwealth expenditure has steadily increased. The other night 1 asked the honorable member for Mernda whether, if a vote were taken again in the near future, the people of Victoria would vote for Federation. I have no hesitation in saying that they would not. I have travelled through the north-eastern and northern parts of the State as much as any man, and know that the universal feeling there is that the Commonwealth is overstepping the bounds which it ought to respect. When we took over the State Departments at the beginning of Federation, our expenditure, according to Sir George Turner, was £2, 900, 000. I had many consultations with him, and felt with Mr. Coghlan that finance would be the rock on which we should break. I do not wish the Commonwealth to break, but our disregard for financial considerations is endangering
Commonwealth interests. Honorable members generally have to accept the people’s verdict in regard to their own election, and are bound by the expression of their opinions. I think, therefore, it will be better to refer this matter to the constituencies. If the public of the other five States wish to assist South Australia, let them say so. If they think that the taking over of the Northern Territory is necessary in the interests of Australia, they will vote for it. In view of the slight difference in number between those who support this proposal and those who oppose it, I think that the agreement should be submitted to the people.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.-I wish to say a few words on the motion for the third reading, notwithstanding that it will be opposed to the desire of the Minister, who has so skilfully, energetically, and ably piloted the Bill through, against the interests of his own State and the Commonwealth. The South Australian members have gone to considerable trouble to convince the House that we are being asked to pay only£10,500,000 or so for what is virtually a paradise. An explorer, Mr. David Lindsay, has lectured to us, giving what we thought at the time were merely his own views as to the possibilities of this region. But I have heard since - and I naturally attach weight to the statement, or I would not utter it here - that he represented a. body known as the Northern Territory League. South Australian representatives will correct me if I am wrong.
– The honorable member is not wrong.
– The Government of South Australia had nothing to do with sending Mr. Lindsay here.
– The Northern Territory League sent him here, and he swayed all the votes which could be swayed, and which had not. already been influenced by the party considerations to which I referred this afternoon.
-Mr. Lindsay has not been here for weeks.
– He was here for weeks. He gave lectures and spoke as an independent authority on the magnificent prospects of this region. I am informed that the organization which sent him is a land syndicate.
– It is opposed to the transfer of the Territory.
– Am I to understand that the league which sent Mr. Lindsay here to advocate this Bill is opposed to the transfer of the Territory ?
– Yes; quite a large number of them.
– Is that why they sent him here to advocate the acceptance of this agreement, without the alteration of a dot or a comma in it ?
– The honorable member has discovered a big mare’s nest.
– Honorable members from South Australia are willing to say anything.
– They talk of what they understand.
– Do they? The honorable gentleman led me to suggest an amendment which was afterwards moved by the honorable member for North Sydney with regard to the taking over of that part of the Territory north of the twenty-third parallel of latitude. Where did he vote on that amendment? Did he vote in consonance with his election statement ? No ; he joined the caucus. The first vote that he gave in this House was opposed to his election platform statements.
– That is contrary to fact.
– Is it contrary to fact that the honorable member,when seeking election in South Australia, advocated that all that should be granted to the Commonwealth was the territory north of the twenty-third parallel of latitude?
– I gave that as my opinion.
– The honorable member had an opportunity to back up that opinion in this House by voting for the amendment that I have mentioned, but he did not avail himself of it.
– I said that I would vote for the agreement.
– Then why should the honorable member try to interfere with another who desires nothing but honest criticism and honest statements with regard to this Bill?
– Then I wish that the honorable member would make them.
– I am.
– The honorable member is not.
– I am, and I am more consistent in regard to this subject than the honorable member has shown himself to be. If it is a fact, as I understand it is, that the Northern Territory League, which sent Mr. Lindsay, the explorer, to Melbourne to speak to all of us, is really a land syndicate, then the Federal Parliament is being engineered for the profit of a syndicate of land-holders.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– Surely the honorable member will accept the denial of the honorable member for Barker?
– Is the honorable member for Barker a member of the Northern Territory League? How many members are there in the League? They issue pamphlets and call themselves a League, but-
– They are a very honorable body of men, and the honorable member ought not to speak of them as he is doing.
– The honorable member seems to think that it is dishonorable to be an investor and to desire to secure privileges from this Parliament. I do not say that it is dishonorable to send any one here to try to influence our judgment. Even if it is incidentally to their advantage, I do not accuse them of dishonesty. All that I say is that the history of the Northern Territory has been besmirched from the beginning with the effort of private syndicates who hold land concessions there. Some time ago I paid a visit to the Old Country and found there syndicates in full going order - one of them with the ex -occupant of a high position in South Australia at its head - for the promotion and flotation of a syndicate holding property somewhere near the Gulf of Carpentaria. ‘
– Not on the Queensland side.
– No; in the north-eastern part of the Northern Territory, or on the north-western part of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
– On the Roper?
– I think so, but cannot be absolutely certain. I know that a number of shipping companies were interested in the proposal. They were to tranship the cattle that were apparently roaming in millions upon that particular section of the Australian continent.
– Millions of cattle 1 That is what we want.
– Quite so; but these gentlemen who think it so dishonorable to engage in syndicate promotion desire that this syndicate shall proceed to reap profits, not as the result of their own industry, but by insisting that a railway shall traverse a certain section of the Northern Territory which is held very possibly by their own shareholders. This consideration is entitled to the utmost weight. I am convinced that neither the Government nor the House desires it to be said or thought that it has been made the tool of company or syndicate promoters. It is a statement that I cannot make of my own express knowledge, but I make it on information that I do not believe to be incorrect, and in the full belief that everything I say is true. This fact should sway honorable members and cause them to hesitate before they allow the Bill to go out of their hands. I should like the Minister to postpone its further consideration for a few days, so that he may inquire into the facts. The Minister shakes his head. He will not consent to the consideration of the Bill being postponed for even a day. He is content to allow any rich syndicate to reap enormous benefits at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia. 1 can picture poor families in my own electorate as well as in others that will have to bear this burden. The honorable member for Barker laughs. He has no sympathy with the people who will have to bear this burden.
– Hallelujah !
– The honorable member can even make a mockery of religion, as well as of poverty. We may leave him to his own convictions, which I have no doubt have been fairly numerous and conflicting if he has acted in the spirit that some of his interjections suggest.
– The honorable member is not taken very seriously. He need not trouble !
– I am treated as seriously as my honorable hayseed friend. I have never professed to have an exclusive right to the attention of this House, but I think that I can claim, at all events, to be taken as seriously as the honorable member for Barker is.
– That is not the question before the Chair.
– The honorable member is “ stone- walling.”
– I am sure that it is beyond the intelligence of at least one honorable member to realize when honorable members are “ stone- walling “ and when they are making statements worthy of consideration.
– The honorable member forWentworth insulted the whole farming community by the reference that he made just now to the honorable member for Barker.
– If it is thought that I have insulted the farming community by suggesting that the honorable member for Barker is in some respects representative of the farmers, I immediately withdraw and apologize to the farmers. I have made statements this afternoon with reference to a body which has been most active in lulling this Parliament into a false sense of hope with regard to the prospects of the Territory. If the Government, in spite of those statements, despite the information that has come to me, and which I give freely to them and the House, is determined to proceed with the Bill-
– The honorable member has not disclosed the name of his authority, or produced any evidence that the league is a land syndicate.
– I am not prepared without consulting my informant to give the Minister on the floor of the House the information for which he asks, but I shall give it to him privately. I am prepared to give it to the honorable gentleman as soon as I resume my seat, and I think that he will believe the information as sincerely as I do.
– The honorable member knows that his information is wrong.
– I think that additional evidence in support of my statement is to be found in the very attitude of representatives of South Australia. Did they not hasten to disclaim any responsibility for Mr. Lindsay as soon as I referred to him?
– I shall tell the honorable member something presently.
– Take no notice of the honorable member for Wentworth. He is only out for mischief.
– The honorable member for Adelaide would prevent the honorable member for Wakefield from giving the House the benefit of his experience. What is this league?
– Do not make these chargesagainst honorable men.
– The chairman of the company is one of the most honorable men in Australia.
– Then it is a company, although five minutes ago representatives of South Australia denied that it was !Is this company a philanthropic institution, or is it like other companies, out to make profits? Whether it is a philanthropic institution or an ordinary company, the fact remains that it has sent to Melbourne a gentleman with a distinguished career to influence honorable members to pass this agreement and to pass it for its benefit. I think that I have proved, out of the mouths of these honorable members themselves, the information given to me.. It is a company. Like every other company, it is out for profits, and has sought to influence our judgment ona certain Bill, the passing ‘of which will give it profits. Has this House reached such a stage of degradation that we are to allow to be engineered through it, without opposition or exposure - and I use the word “ exposure “ in its mildest sense - a measure which, while it will impose the greatest financial burdens upon the taxpayers of Australia, will have a bright side to it, the bright side of putting profits into the pockets of a private syndicate?
– Everything we do has that effect. That might be said of every Act that we pass.
– I am glad to know that an honorable member of the Labour party considers that a sufficient ground for supporting this Bill !In the honorable member’s own electorate, there are many families who find it difficult to make both ends meet. If this Bill be passed as it stands, every one of the honorable member’s constituents, every member of his constituents’ families, will have to bear the burden of the accumulated debt upon nonpaying railways and unprofitable enterprises.
– I tried to show what would happen to my constituents as the result of a vote that the honorable member proposed to give last week, but I could not induce him to alter his mind.
– The honorable member is anxious now to excuse himself for the wrong he is doing to the poor of his electorate in supporting this Bill by suggesting that I did a wrong to the poor of my own electorate by a vote that I cast last week. I refuse to be drawn from the present controversy. I insist upon the honorable member keeping his conscience to the present issue, and observing his duty to the people, remembering that, while they suffer, this company of honorable men - and I do not use the phrase in a satiric sense - which has been so befriended by South Australian representatives, is going to reap the benefit and profit of the burden that they will have to take upon themselves.
– The body to which the honorable member has referred is called a league, but it is represented to me by Mr. Lindsay that the members of it have land.
– The honorable member for Parkes corroborates the statements I have made. It is first hand information with the honorable member for Parkes ; and, as the honorable member says, this is a company of men who are not pure philanthropists, but are out for profit. Why do they not call themselves a company? Why do they masquerade under a philanthropic label? If it pays them to send Mr. Lindsay across to deliver lectures in Melbourne, under vice-regal patronage - to buttonhole honorable members in the’ precincts of the House, and to lecture to them in their rooms - surely they hope to get some personal profit? I ask the Minister again to postpone the consideration of this Bill for three or four days. If the honorable gentleman can ascertain that this is a bond fide political organization, without any hope or idea of profit, I shall offer no further opposition to the Bill. The Minister of External Affair’s has, I know, already opposed this proposed line of railway, in the interests of Australia as a whole, and particularly in the interests of the State from which he comes. I make no appeal to him on that point ; all I ask him to do is to see that there is no tarnish on our good name, or on the reputation of this House for good sense and business instincts.
– The honorable member is quite wrong in saying that I opposed this line. I should like to know where he got his information.
– I have just got the information from the honorable member in front of me, the honorable member for Lang.
– The Minister of External Affairs opposed this line when it was before us previously.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I immediately withdraw a statement I made in good faith. But I am not altogether glad to hear that the Minister has been consistent, although he comes from Queensland, in supporting this route, which is for the benefit of no one but a land syndicate masquerading under the title of a league. I suggest that the statement, which was corroborated by the honorable member for Parkes from firsthand information, is too important and too serious to permit us to pass this measure in any light-hearted, easy way. I refuse to turn this Parliament into’ the tool of a financial syndicate masquerading as a league. I hope sincerely that the Minister will show such regard for the dignity of his position, and proper appreciation of the honour and dignity of the House, as to refuse to proceed any further with the Bill until this business has been satisfactorily cleared up.
– If the honorable member can give proofs, I think the Minister ought to grant his request.
– I am glad to hear those words from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. . I started with one or two assertions in which I stated I firmly believed; but I , was contradicted roundly by honorable members from South Australia. The honorable member for Wakefield, in his inexperience and perhaps heat-
– I shall contradict the honorable member again, and pretty flatly, when he sits down !
– The honorable member has admitted that this Northern Territory League is a land syndicate.
– I did not say that it is a land syndicate.
– The honorable member says it is a company - I hope the honorable member will stick to what he says.
– And they are among the most honorable men in Australia ! The honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself 1
– I am willing to take responsibility for what I say. I am indebted to the honorable member for Coolgardie for the following list of the committee of this land league, showing the subscriptions of each. These are the patriots who are financing this philanthropic institution, which is to help the Federal Parliament to an appreciation of the values of the properties they hold. The list is as follows -
Elder Smith &. Co., £50; Messrs. G. & R. Wills & Co., £s°> Messrs. Harris, Scarfe & Co., £50 ; D. & W. Murray, £25 ; John Gordon, £25; Wilkinson & Co., £$o; Bagot, Shakes, and Lewis, £50; D. & J. Fowler and Adelaide Milling Company, £$0; Harrold, Colton & Co.,
These are the most Democratic gentlemen who could be secured for the committee of this philanthropic league, which the honorable member for Wakefield. tells us is a company. The honorable member knows that a company is usually formed for the benefit of its shareholders.
– And cannot they be honorable men?
– I do not say that they are not honorable men.
– Yes, you do. You have said they are masquerading, and you have ridiculed them.
– I say they are masquerading when they call themselves the Northern Territory League, and send an explorer to tell us what we are to do to develop what we now find are their lands.
– Those firms are not the league. Why does the honorable member misrepresent?
– Those are the gentlemen, I understand, who are providing the funds.
-Could the honorable member not give a subscription if he had a mind to?
– Of course; but we must not forget that this is a company. The honorable member for Parkes told us that he had it straight from Mr. Lindsay himself that these gentlemen were paying his expenses.
– If the honorable member read the newspapers, he would see that this is no secret - it is a public thing.
– We are told that this is a public matter, and yet my statements have been contradicted in the House ! I think, however, that I have exposed sufficient of this extraordinary business to cause every serious-minded man to refuse to proceed further until we know where we really stand.
– The honorable member has covered himself with ridicule !
– He has opened our eyes !
– I hope that the honorable member for Wakefield - who is able to speak most eloquently on one side of the question and vote with much celerity on the other - will give me an opportunity to address a few serious remarks to the House.
– The honorable member is not always serious.
– No, I find it hard, sometimes, to be so when addressing myself to the honorable member ; but I am most serious on this occasion. We are on the verge of committing the gravest political blunder that could be contemplated - a blunder that is a reflection on our good sense and acumen as business men and legislators. When I first heard of the Northern Territory League, I thought it was an Ordinary league, in the same sense as a progress association, for the advancement of the public good. ‘ I ask honorable members whether, when they read the league’s pamphlets, they did not think the same? We now know from the honorable member for Wakefield that this is a company ; and we may take it that, as a company, it is out for profit.
– Every meeting they hold is made public in the press.
– How much land does the league hold in the Northern Territory ?
– The league does not hold a foot of. land.
– We ought to have the information. What harm can be done by postponing the consideration of this measure for a few days?
– The honorable member has the information now.
– How much land does the company hold?
– About 10,000,000 acres, I think.
– We have a right to know how much this company is going to make out of the Commonwealth Government by sending Mr. Lindsay over here.
– The information is in the Government returns of South Australia.
– If so, we can find it.
– Why did not the honorable member get it before?
– Because I was deceived by the title of the association. How much money is this company going to make out of its operations?
– We might just as well ask how much the honorable member will make if the Bill does not pass.
– The honorable member does not do much justice to the intelligence of the House. Many years ago, a member of my family was interested in a big syndicate, since dis- solved, which held land in the MacDonnell Ranges, and, consequently, by secondhand information, I knew something of what the members of that syndicate thought of the possibilities of the region. The land held by the members of that syndicate cost, I believe, some £7,000 a year on leasehold from the South Australian Government ; but, had a railway been constructed right through their territory, they would have been able to turn that loss of £7,000 a year into a profit of, I suppose, hundreds of thousands - just as this syndicate of philanthropists no doubt hope to do. The whole of the argument of honorable members opposite, and also on this side largely, is against the iniquity of the unearned increment. Here we have a public company promoted for profit, and we do not know what unearned increment they are going to make out of their operations in the neighbourhood of this House, through the instrumentality of Mr. Lindsay. I know that the Minister’s method of advancing a measure is, very largely, to sit back, look wise, and do nothing ; but I suggest to him that, in view of the statements 1 have made this afternoon, the time has gone by for him to continue that attitude towards this measure.
– The honorable member laughed at us while the Government treated us in that way last week.
– I stood up and demanded the right of free criticism for every member, Government supporter, or otherwise.
– The honorable member voted for the “ gag.”
– I did not. I regarded the matter as of the greatest importance, and walked out rather than vote for the “ gag.” An interesting paragraph published in’ the Adelaide Advertiser of 10th March, 1909, regarding the Northern Territory League, reads as follows : -
The league has already secured the cooperation of powerful allies in the eastern States, and steps are being taken to obtain the support of Western Australia. The prospects of a successful campaign are most encouraging.
What do honorable members think of that in regard to a public company?
– What campaign ?
– A campaign to bring to fruition the hopes of the company of which the honorable member for Wakefield made us aware a few moments ago. This is too serious a matter to be passed over lightly.
We have seen the change of attitude of honorable members on this question.
– The honorable member for Wakefield will have to reply to this.
– He will reply.
– I hope he will ; and I hope that he will vote according to his statements ! It is idle to disguise the fact that Mr. Lindsay’s advocacy of the project in Melbourne has done an immense amount to sway the judgment of honorable members. 1 have shown, out of the mouths of South Australians in this House, and by the corroboration of the honorable member for Parkes, who learnt the same in conversation with Mr. Lindsay, that this socalled league is nothing but a company, and, no doubt, like other companies, is formed for private profit. 1 ask the Minister to save the honour of the Government and the -dignity of the House, by finding out what land the company holds.
– - Or what land its members hold individually.
– By finding out who, in connexion with the company, own land individually or collectively, in the Territory, or who own land on the railway route between Port Augusta and Oodnadatta, in order that the House may know for what purpose its judgment has been swayed by Mr. Lindsay’s lobbying. If the Minister insists on exposing this Parliament to the risk of humiliation and shame, it is not my fault. I find that the area already occupied under forty-two-year leases, the value of which will, of course, be enormously appreciated by this railway, is 83,209,120 acres. How much does the league own individually or collectively of that area? I have a right to know that before this business is further proceeded with. I implore the Government, for the honour of the House; and the credit of its own trusteeship, to give us a chance to inquire into this question. Will the Minister consider what I have stated? If he does not feel in a position at this juncture to postpone the further consideration of the measure without consulting his leader, will he consult him as soon as possible ? I am sure he will realize that the matter I have brought before the House is too serious to be passed over. He could, without the slightest trouble, furnish the House by next Tuesday with a return showing a list of the lease-holders in the Territory. “Will the Minister undertake to do that?
– That has already been done.
– Over and over again. Why does the honorable member not look at these things?
– What we shall have to do is to find who compose this philanthropic institution, and what lands they own collectively or individually in the Territory. 1 am inclined to think, however, that even there we can be circumvented ; because a company which has the hypocrisy to describe itself as a league, and pretend to be acting in thi public interest, will have sufficient acumen not to hold the land in its own name or the names of its own subscribers. We may, therefore, find some difficulty in tracing the real owners. But the Government could elucidate the matter and expose the fallacy of what I am saying, if it is a fallacy-
– Is not this part of the Fusion policy ?
– It is certainly not ; but if any such item were being pressed forward by the manoeuvring of land syndicates, I should oppose it even if it were included in the Fusion policy. The Minister sits tight and says nothing ; but I cannot believe that he cares nothing how many hundreds of thousands of pounds are made by a syndicate out of the taxpayers of Australia. I believe he knows no other method of proceeding with public business than to look wise, say nothing, and go straight ahead. If the Prime Minister were here to hear what 1 have just said, I think he would be the first to say that the Bill must be postponed until some day next week.
– The honorable member has faith in him at last.
– Whatever may be urged against the Prime Minister by his most aggressive critic, no one can say that he has ever acted in the interests of land syndicates. I sincerely hope that the members of the Labour party, whether they come from South Australia or other States, will insist on seeing that no opportunity is given to this syndicate to make a profit out of misrepresentation in this Chamber.
– I have listened to the honorable member for Wentworth, although I do not know whether more from curiosity than from special interest. He is very often humorous, and sometimes up to political pranks, but very seldom serious. Occasionally, when he gets into a serious mood he is, I think, least responsible. The statements he has made this afternoon have been such as to astound anybody with any sense of decency. To deal with a personal matter first, the honorable member says that I have advocated one thing and voted another way. During my recent election I said I should stand toy the agreement that had been made by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia, and ratified by the Parliament of South Australia without any open protest by the people of that State. I said, at the same time, that I considered it was one of the worst bargains that South Australia ever made, and I think so to-day.
– And yet the honorable member is going to vote for what he believes to be the worst bargain that South Australia ever made !
– 1 am going to vote for what I promised my constituents to support. But so far as my own personal opinion is concerned, I consider that this is the biggest gift that the Commonwealth has ever had a chance of getting hold of, and I am satisfied that the members of this Parliament will agree with me in years to come. So far as the statements of the honorable member for Wentworth respecting Mr. Lindsay and those who sent him here are concerned, the honorable member has shown a great lack of information about the whole business until within the last few hours, and I doubt very much whether he has carefully read through the agreement. If he has read it only within the last few hours, he might as well not have read it at all, because of the lamentable want of information about the whole thing that be has betrayed from beginning, to end, and the honorable member for Balaclava stands in a still worse light. I wish to deal with the reflections which the honorable member for Wentworth has made on the members representing South Australia in this House, and on the gentlemen who were responsible for sending Mr. Lindsay to Melbourne on more than one occasion. The honorable member says I called them a company. If I did it was by interjection, and was a mistake. The party of gentlemen who were responsible for sending Mr. Lindsay here are known as members of the Northern Territory League, and I believe that league does not own a single acre in the Northern Territory.
– Do its members individually?
– I will tell the honorable member what I do know. The league is presided over by Mr. Simpson Newland, of South Australia, one of the oldest and most respected colonists in that State, or for that matter, in Australia. I have seen those gentlemen in meeting only once, and I suppose there were about thirty men representing the commercial life of Adelaide present. Among them were the best men in every sense among Adelaide commercial men. The Northern Territory League was formed to stimulate the development of the Territory. Is there anything wrong in men banding together with that object? What the members of the league really, believe in is the construction of a land grant railway.
– Does the honorable member say that they are the cutest business men in Adelaide?
– They are among the most successful and respected commercial men there. I understand that many” of the subscribers whose names have been read are sympathizers with, but not. members of, the league. Possibly, after their day’s work in the city, they have not the energy for, or feel indisposed to give the time to, its affairs, but are prepared to assist those who will do so.
– How much land do these philanthropists hold in the Northern Territory ?
– Some of the members of the league are lease-holders there, but the league itself owns nothing. I understand that the names of those who have leaseholds in the Northern Territory, and the areas held by them, have been published several times. Is it strange that 83,000,000 acres of land should be held under lease there? ‘ The honorable member for Went worth, if he considers this such a momentous matter, should have informed himself better regarding it.
– I knew that fact. It is significant that the league, or its members, hold land.
– The league does not hold land, though some of its members do.
– Mr. Lindsay told me, in the vestibule, that the league held land. That was his expression.
-The league is not an incorporated body, and cannot hold land.
– How much land do Messrs. Elder, Smith, and Company hold there ?
– They are considerable holders, though I believe that they have a larger holding in Queensland than in South Australia.
– Are they members of the league?
– I do not think so. They are not likely to interest themselves in anything but their own business.
– They donated ^50 to the work of the league.
– I never knew the members of the firm to give their time to political work.
– They will make 2,000 per cent, on their donation ff the proposed railway is constructed.
– Will it be a bad thing for the Commonwealth if the construction of the railway enhances the value of the land in the Northern Territory ?
– Besides, the land is only held under lease. It is hot alienated.
– That is so, and the leases carry conditions which must be complied with. It will be a good thing for the whole country to be taken up. ‘ The honorable member for Wentworth has charged the Northern Territory League with sharp practice, but its meetings are reported in the press, and every time that Mr. Lindsay came to Melbourne to advance the interests of the agreement, the fact was made public. Yet the honorable member suggests that something underhand has been going on.
– Why is the honorable member afraid of an inquirv?
– There is nothing to inquire into. Some of the members of the league, when they read the honorable member’s remarks, will give him all that he wants.
– Have they any money?
– As much as the honorable member has.
– I am sure they have that..
– The honorable member suggested that Mr. Lindsay has made a success of what was a hopeless business, but it is the honorable member for Grey who has used his long experience in the far north to win votes for the agreement. I challenge the honorable member for Wentworth to disprove a single statement descriptive of the country in the pamphlet circulated by Mr. Lindsav nn behalf of the league.
Silting suspended from 6.25 to 7.45 p.m.
– The attitude of the House towards this measure seems to have undergone a radical change. When the second reading was carried, we ajl expected that the agreement which theBill embodies would be altered in Committee, necessitating its withdrawal for the time being. Owing to his expectation, many honorable members refrained from discussing the measure. This explains why I waited until this stage to offer some remarks in justification of the vote which I propose to give. But, before touching on the Bill itself, I should like to recall the history of an incident which is closely connected with the proposed transfer of the Territory from South Australia, and which, to some extent, affects my view of the bargain made with that State. Because it seems to me that in the relations existing between the Styles, we should expect an even more rigid adherence to an honorable understanding than is enforced in private life. Now, several months, before the people of Western Australia agreed to enter the Federation, the Premier of South Australia, acting for and on behalf of the Parliament and people of that State, gave the following promise to the Premier of Western Australia : -
Adelaide, 1st February,1900.
Sir, - Following our conversation as to the possible blocking of the construction of a railway line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta by the Federal authority, by South Australia re fusing the consent rendered necessary by section 34 of clause 51 of the Commonwealth Bill to the construction of the line through her territory, I regard the withholding of consent as a most improbable thing; in fact, quite out of the question.
Yet to-day, nine and a half years since that letter was written, the undertaking still remains unfulfilled. The thing which was improbable, and out of the question, has become a reality. The letter continued -
To assure you of our attitude in the matter, I will undertake as soon as the Federation is established, Western and South Australia both being States of the Commonwealth, to introduce a Bill formally giving the assent of this province to the construction of the line by the Federal authority, and to pass it stage by stage simultaneously with the passage of a similar Bill in your Parliament.
The Parliament of Western Australia did uass such a Bill, but the Parliament of
South Australia did not, and has not done so up to this moment. It is true that the agreement in this Bill hasbeen ratified by the South Australian Parliament, and that it permits the construction, by the Commonwealth, of a railway through South Australian territory. But this does not relieve South Australia from the charge of being guilty of a gross breach of faith.
– Still this agreement would enable the construction of the Western Australian transcontinental line to be proceeded with.
– The consent of South Australia depends on the passing of this Bill, and the exaction of terms by that State. In default of the passage of this Bill, South Australia may refuse permission to construct the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. Hence it is no answer to my case to say that this agreement enables that line to. be proceeded with. Reference has repeatedly been made in the House to this question, and South Australia has been requested on many occasions both by the Government of Western Australia and by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to fulfil the promise made by the late Sir Frederick Holden as Premier of that State. That promise was renewed by his successor, Mr. Jenkins, in a telegram to the Premier of Western Australia, as follows- -
Adelaide, nth June,1901.
Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway. - A Bill will be introduced into our Parliament as agreed by Mr. Holder first February, igoo, but we strongly insist upon line joining your State forty to sixty miles north of Eucla.
Here was an entirely new condition, and although apparently no objection . was offered to it by the Government of Western Australia, the promise remained a dead letter up to 25th June, 1903, when Mr. Jenkins, as. Premier of South Australia, completely changed his ground. I invite the attention of honorable members who have heard read the unqualified undertaking, made in the most solemn way, by two Premiers of South Australia, to the manner in which it was disregarded later on. I would also ask- the House to remember that it was on the strength of the first promise made by the late Sir Frederick Holder that Western Australia was induced to enter the Federation.
– Was the first promise made before the referendum?
– It was made in February, 1900, and the referendum on the Constitution Bill was not taken in Western
Australia, until July or August of that year. On 25th June, 1903, Mr. Jenkins sent the following despatch to the Premier of Western Australia: -
Railway to Western Australia. - After the most careful consideration, we feel that it would not only be unjustifiable, but utterly useless to submit to Parliament a Bill authorizing the construction of this railway-
In other words, without any apology the Premier of South Australia repudiated his promise and that of his predecessor. He declared that the introduction of the Bill would be unjustifiable, despite the fact that in the interval Western Australia had entered the Federation on the strength of the undertaking given, and despite the further fact that the Western Australian Parliament had passed the Bill as stipulated by Sir Frederick Holder - (of which this State’s share of the cost would amount to a very large sum)
He began to take account of the cost two years after the promise had been made - without being in a position to give Parliament information as to the cost of the line.
Now, this was clearly a bogus pretence, as subsequent events show. Because when this agreement for the transfer of the Northern Territory was made with the Prime Minister in 1907, South Australia, had no information as to the cost of the Western Australian transcontinental railway and did not as’k for any. It was prepared to dispense with such information, because it was to secure concessions in connexion with the transfer -
The Commonwealth Government is at present inquiring into the matter, and the information obtained by it will, no doubt, be made available to this Government. Until this information is obtained it would be useless to submit the scheme to Parliament.
I think this Parliament should not condone a shameless violation of an honorable compact between two States. Even those who favour the agreement should insist on the restoration of the status quo, and not allow consent to construct the line to Western Australia to be dependent on some concession to South Australia. The promise made by the Premier of that State should be rigidly fulfilled before we take over the Northern Territory and agree to the construction of another transcontinental railway. I regret that the Treasurer is not here just now, as I intend to read an extract from one of his speeches. On the 17th July, 1907, the Treasurer deplored the action of South Australia, when the present Attorney-General made an inter jection. He said that the South Australian Government never made a suggestion that they would block the project of constructing the line.
– It was said that the pretext for not submitting the Constitution Bill to the people was that South Australia would block the line. I remember all the communications that passed between the Premiers of the two States.
– I do not think that the honorable member should cloud the issue.
– There is no attempt on my part to cloud the issue.
– There was a difficulty about submitting the Constitution Bill to the people of Western Australia, but the honorable member need not attempt to divert attention from the main issue.
– The State of South Australia never gave an undertaking.
– Surely the honorable member will not evade the point by a quibble.
– There is no quibbling involved. I say that the State never gave the undertaking referred to.
– Who said that it did? But will the honorable member deny that a State is bound by the acts of its Government ?
– I am not going to reply by way of interjection.
– When the present Treasurer was speaking on the occasion to which I have referred, the honorable member interjected -
The South Australian Government said they would not block the line.
The Treasurer replied -
The honorable and learned member should not try to bolster up a bad case. This sort of thing makes my blood boil. I really have scarcely patience to discuss it temperately, because I was trapped.
In assenting to this agreement without having South Australia’s promise fulfilled to the letter, the Treasurer will find that he has again been trapped.
– No; the promise is embodied in this agreement.
– I admit that we have now something more binding than we had then. But that does not affect my contention that a gross breach of faith has been committed.
– Under this agreement the Commonwealth will have the necessary authority under the Constitution to construct the Western Australian transcontinental railway.
– I do not suggest that South Australia has not definitely given her consent under this agreement to the construction of the Western Australian transcontinental line. But I do say that unless the Commonwealth grants the concessions asked for, she cannot be held to that consent.
– If the line is not constructed the fault will rest, not with South Australia, but with this Parliament.
– When I said that the Treasurer was likely to be trapped again I had in mind the possibility that if this agreement is ratified, it is extremely probable that the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie line will become of secondary importance with a large section of this Parliament. It will be urged that, in order to make good the loss on the existing line to Oodnadatta, and also for the rapid development of the Territory, Parliament should first bridge the gap between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek. This is the demand, and these are the arguments behind it, which will be heard in this Parliament before many years elapse. I say that last night’s vote justifies this forecast! If there was any real intention on the part of the representatives of South Australia to support the construction, first of all, of the Western Australian transcontinental railway, why did they vote down the amendment to give priority to that line? When a division was taken on the amendment of the honorable member for Perth we had every South Australian member voting against it. That is presumptive evidence that there is a design to trap the Treasurer again ; but he has a happy facility for reconciling his constituents to all these little misfortunes and humiliations that overtake him.
– Does the honorable member contend that the vote last night gave priority to the northern line?
– I do not say that, but it is an indication that an effort will be made to give it priority of construction later on. I have mentioned facts which will be impressed on a subsequent Parliament of the necessity of bridging that gap between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek. To prove that the Oodnadatta to Pine Creek line is first in the minds of the people of South Australia, 1 need only quote a few sentences from a circular sent out by the “ Great Central State League “ in Adelaide - which is merely a land syndicate, according to the honorable member for Wentworth..
– It is not so.
– I have never known an instance before of a body “of private citizens giving princely donations to carry on a crusade, unless, they had something more than a mere patriotic interest in the question. But if this should prove an exception, the honorable member for Grey ought to start a movement, when this Bill has been passed, to erect a monument to those unique patriots.
– Perhaps they have an interest in Adelaide trade.
– Perhaps. But they are making no such sacrifice for the Western railway. They give it second place in their thoughts and in their circulars. For instance, they recently sought my cooperation in a document dated 9th March of this year, their object being -
To secure that the surrender of the Northern. Territory to the Commonwealth Government shall be conditional on the construction of a Transcontinental Railway direct from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta and by no other route.
My Committee considers that the co-operation of the States of Western and South Australia is highly desirable in this matter in order that a united party may be formed to carry on a campaign during the coming Federal session to secure the construction of not only the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek but also of the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta.
It will be seen that it is not the Kalgoorlie railway they are anxious about, but the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. We heard yesterday of the splendid bargain the Commonwealth is making in assuring the Northern Territory. We are told that South. Australia is being sacrificed - absolutely immolated - by giving this magnificent asset away. Yet this “ Great Central State League “ evidently does not share that opinion, because, in another circular of March of the present year, they say - . . . the Northern Territory in its inaccessible and undeveloped -condition, Iia* been for many years a considerable burden to this State.
And in a later passage -
It is generally conceded that the proposed taking over of the Territory by the Commonwealth would undoubtedly relieve the strain on the finances of South Australia.
These admissions do not quite fit in with the theory that South Australia is making a tremendous sacrifice in surrendering the Territory. However, the Leaguers are candid- They quite freely admit that their primary object is to develop the northern portion of South Australia at the expense of the rest of the Commonwealth. In the circular, the interests of South Australia are kept prominently to the front, but we have .various references to “Australia as a whole.” By using that phrase about half-a-dozen times, these single-minded patriots wish to make us believe that their real object is to benefit the whole of Australia. I think 1 have said sufficient to show that South Australia intends the construction of the Oodnadatta to Pine Creek line first; and that, when that work is completed, the Western Australian line may wait the pleasure of the Federal Parliament. I apprehend, however, that when we have spent .£3,000,000 on a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek-
– The cost is estimated at £4,500,000.
– Let us put it at the minimum; and say that, when the Federal Parliament has spent £3,000,000 or ^£4,000, 000 on a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, and has committed itself to another ,£3,000,000 for the development of the Territory, it will not be in a humor to construct any more transcontinental lines. We shall be beset by an incessant agitation such as has demoralized Parliament in connexion with the Federal Capital. Parliament will be told, “ Oh, you took over the Northern Territory, and part of the bargain was the construction of a transcontinental railway; we want that done at once.” As it has been with New South Wales over the Federal Capital, so will future representatives of South Australia make it a grievance in the House that there is something in the bond that has not been redeemed. Let me ask honorable members, as practical men, what the taking over of a line about 500 miles long - which is not in the Northern Territory at all - means to the Federal Government. At the present moment that line is being carried on at a considerable loss to South Australia; a loss which this Bill transfers to the taxpayers of other States, who have had no voice in the railway policy of South Australia. This is the frank admission of the Minister in charge of the Bill. But does the honorable gentleman mean to say that that is the only loss we are likely to have to meet in connexion with the line? Is it not the most probable thing in the world that, as soon as this line comes into the possession of the Commonwealth, we shall have an agitation for more frequent trains. As indicating the magnificent country at the terminus of this railway, I may say that there is actually one train a fortnight. We shall probably be asked for two or three trains a week on the ground that a new public house and blacksmith’s shop have been erected at Oodnadatta; that the population is increasing by leaps and bounds, and so on. I should like to know how Parliament is to resist pressure of the kind applied by the united delegation from South Australia.
– I suppose the same pressure would be brought to bear on the State Parliament?
– But the. State Parliament is an economical business institution, and members from other districts see to it that Oodnadatta gets only its share. There will be nobody here to do that ; for as the Commonwealth foots the bill, the South Australian members will press for all that it is possible to get.
– The honorable members own Government were going to submit this agreement to the House.
– Is that so?
– I understand that it is so.
– I think the honorable gentleman will find that I should hold myself free to take mv own course in regard to it.
– I speak, of course, subject to correction.
– The interjection, even if correct, loses point, seeing that several members of the present Ministry do not really approve of this measure. If the Prime Minister declines to make it a Ministerial measure, several Ministers would probably vote against the third reading. I see no enthusiasm amongst them about it. But, to revert to the point that I have been urging as to the pressure that is likely to be placed on this Parliament. Not only shall we have an agitation for an increased train service, but probably an agitation for a reduction’ of the rates for passengers, goods, and stock. That is a most natural result ; and I do not see how this Parliament can resist an agitation of the kind.
– Would that argument not apply also to the transcontinental railway to Kalgoorlie?
– When we have that project before us, it will be time enough to answer the honorable member’s question. At any rate, the Western Australian transcontinental line will have a terminus amongst 260,000 progressive white people, all earning good wages and spending their money freely, whereas the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek will terminate at a place where there are, I think, about 1,000 white people and 2,000 coloured.
– The Western Australian line is a much fairer proposal.
– And we are told by experts that the Western Australian line will probably pay in a few years.
– Exactly. May I also remind honorable members that Western Australia came into the Federation on the distinct understanding that the State was to have this extension from Port Augusta. The honorable member for Indi, who has been to Western Australia, knows that the proposed railway, if it did not pay immediately, would, at least, cement Australian Federation.
– When the honorable member for Indi was before his constituents he referred to it as a “ desert railway.”
– That is an absolute untruth 1
– Order ! The honorable member for Indi must withdraw that statement.
– You know, Mr. Speaker, that I am willing to withdraw, and to bow to your decision ; but no honorable member should dare to make an imputation of that kind.
– I regret very much that something like a threat has been used in connexion with this measure. It has been hinted that if Western Australian members resist the taking over of the Territory on the terms of the agreement, and the Bill is rejected, South Australia will not give its consent to the construction of the Western Australian transcontinental line.
– Who says that?
– I am not referring to private conversations that have taken place in the House.
– If the honorable member cannot give the name it is unfair to mention the matter.
– The honorable member may take that view if he likes. In my opinion it is not unfair.
– Certainly it is
– Perhaps the honorable member would like me to accept his standard of fairness. My own view is that it is perfectly fair to refer to this matter without mentioning names. We have had the hint from several quarters that the western line would be best served by Western Australian members voting for this agreement.
– If the honorable member cannot give the name of ihe person he is not justified in making the matter public.
– Does the honorable member really desire to have the names?
– I think the honorable member ought to do so. as he has mentioned the matter.
– Well, I shall consider the suggestion. I am not in the habit of doing tilings hurriedly ; certainly not at the instance of my honorable friend. When he is a disinterested party, his advice may be safely followed ; but at present I am afraid he is very much interested. Passing from this, may I add that those gentlemen who imagine that the power of a State to forbid the making of a railway is absolute, have not read their Constitution carefully. Or if they have read it, they have not applied to its phraseology the acumen of the legal profession. Now, it is quite true that there is in the Constitution a section which prohibits the Commonwealth from making a railway through a State without the consent of the Government of that State, but there is another section which empowers this Parliament to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth. The greater includes the less, and I take it that when the Constitution empowered us to take measures for the defence of the Commonwealth against an invader, it empowered us to construct any railway required for that purpose, without waiting for the approval of a provincial Parliament. I ask our friends to reflect for a while on that point. High legal authorities agree that if ever it became necessary for the defence of Australia to build a transcontinental line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, we could do it without consulting any ether power. In such case, the lesser right of the State must give way to the greater right of the nation. It goes without saying that if the necessity for such a railway arose, we have an inherent right to build it. No mere local objection could prevail if the existence of the nation were imperilled. I am sorry that these things are said, and sorry to have to reply to them. It would be better to conduct the debate on different lines, and I refer to this matter only incidentally to make the situation clear. If honorable members have made up their minds to pass the Bill, I cannot complain. I have done what I consider to be my duty to my constituents, and recognise that other honorable members have equal responsibility with me. I would remind my honorable friends that we cannot take over the Northern Territory and become responsible for the existing railway lines, and another line to be constructed, without borrowing money. At present, we are dependent to some extent on the bounty of the States in order to pay old-age pensions, and being about to mortgage our Customs revenue also to the States, I do not see where the money will come from to build those lines, or even to carry on minor works for the Postal and other Departments, except by means of borrowing. The situation should be faced fairly and at once. This policy involves recourse to the foreign money market, a procedure which is not exactly in harmony with the platform of our party. I have no wish, however, to lay stress on this aspect of the question, and am content to merely place it on record. While South Australia in this matter always makes appeals to national sentiment, and affects to have regard to the interests of Australia as a whole, we find her always making the hardest possible bargain. Every line in the agreement and every stage in the negotiations shows that South Australia took a provincial and purely local view of this and other matters. I ask the Attorney-General why, if South Australia took a national view of questions, she refused to carry out her undertaking to Western Australia in regard to the Western Australian railway ?
– I do not think the State ever did refuse. I said that if I were in the position of the Premier of South Australia, who gave that implied obligation without authority, I should have carried it out.
– Here we have some beautiful hair-splitting. Only a legal mind would try to draw such a distinction. How can the honorable member absolve the State from the promise of its Premier ?
– I told the honorable member that if I were in Mr. Jenkins’ position, although I should not be legally bound, I should consider myself in honour bound to carry out the promise..
– That is what I am contending.
– Then why did the honorable member talk about hair-splitting?
– Because the honorable gentleman wanted to dissociate the responsibility of the State from the responsibility of its Premier. He now says it was a breach of honour.. I said it was a breach of honour on the part of one State towards another.
– A breach of honour, not between two States, but between two Premiers.
– Why did those men occupy the position of Premier ? Was it not because Parliament put them in that position, and did not the people elect the Parliament ?
– Does the honorable member contend that a Premier can make any statement and thereby bind his Government and Parliament to support him?
– When a Premier writes a letter such as I have quoted, he and his Parliament behind him are in honour bound by it. If the South Australian Parliament did not intend to be bound by their Premier’s promise, why did not some honorable member rise in that Parliament and repudiate it ?
– On the same process of reasoning, the honorable member is bound to this agreement because he was a member of a Government that promised to introduce a Bill giving it effect.
– Nothing of the sort. I have never favoured this agreement, and was never bound to it. The honorable member is very clever in these interjections, but he cannot refine away the wrong which is clone when one State repudiates its compact with another. In conclusion, I desire to say that, while fully recognising the importance of this Territory to Australia, I am unprepared to accept its surrender, hampered by conditions that prevent our developing it in the best “ interests of Australia. And this is the meaning of some of the conditions contained in this agreement. Under the garb of nationalism, one State is seeking to gain advantage at the expense of her five sisters. Had a truly national spirit prevailed in South Australia, this Territory would have been handed over to the Commonwealth free of conditions or restrictions, except such as relate to the debt incurred by the State in holding and developing that region. If Australia was prepared, as she is, to accept liability for that entire debt, and relieve South Australia from the burden, Australia had a right to expect from that State reciprocal generosity. The least that could have been expected was that South Australia should show confidence in the National Parliament, and trust it to manage this new possession in its own interests, and with the maximum benefit to the future Australian nation.
– It was not my intention to speak upon- the third reading, but I feel it is necessary to reply to some of the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie. The honorable member says he objects to the passage of the Bill because there is a desire on the part of somebody, especially the members from South Australia, to trap the Treasurer as a representative of Western Australia. If the honorable member has been able to see that design from anything that has transpired in this House, he has a keenness of perception which I do not think any other honorable member possesses. When asked for evidence, he produced two letters issued by a League which is working for its own purposes in South Australia. That League was working not necessarily for this agreement, but for a definite line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek.
– In the interests of a land syndicate.
– There is no evidence of that at all, but I shall deal with that question later. That is the evidence upon which the honorable member for Coolgardie bases his statement. The circular which he has quoted is one in which the League invites the co-operation of the members from Western Australia to secure the passage, not of one line, but of two.
– They put their line first, though.
– The honorable member thinks that because one line is mentioned first, it shows an intention to construct that line first. Let me take the speech which the Government of which the honorable’ member for Coolgardie was a member put into the mouth of the Governor-General at the beginning of this session about five months ago. The sixteenth paragraph says -
In this connexion the development of the Northern Territory is considered to be of the first importance, and the agreement will be submitted to Parliament with a view to an early settlement.
That’ is the agreement now before the House. The honorable member twitted me at one time with expressing different views on one subject, but I never expressed a different view. Yet the honorable member, as a member of the Fisher Government, was prepared only a few months ago to submit this agreement to the House in order that the House might deal with it.
– What did the last Deakin? Government do in regard to the Federal Capital site question ?
– That question is not before us now.
– Then why did the honorable member refer to the other matter?
– Because the honorable member tried to point to the inconsistency of others, and it is a fair retort for me to point to his inconsistency. He says that because one line is mentioned before another in that circular a preference is indicated. On that point, I have read the sixteenth paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s speech at the opening of thissession, and let me now turn to the twentieth paragraph -
The survey of a route for the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie is rapidly approaching completion. The field work, both in South Australia and Western Australia, having been finished, the final report, with plansand estimates, will shortly be ready for submission to Parliament.
Would it be fair for me to suggest that, simply because one line is mentioned before the other in that speech, honorable members, opposite intended to give it the preference?’
– That is ridiculous..
– Yet that is the argument which the honorable member used.
– That is one instance, but what about the vote last night?
– I shall deal with that presently. It would not be fair to accuse the Fisher Government, or the honorablemember, who belonged to it, of designing to put one line before the other, simply because one was mentioned before the otherI do not think that was their intention.
– Do not take up the weakest link in the chain.
– I shall take each link in turn, but if the honorable member putsa weak link in, he must not blame me for calling attention to it. The honorable member last night invited a division upon an> amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth. I pointed out to the honorable member for Perth and the Committee that it was unwise to ask for a vote on the question which he raised, and to put theselines into competition with each other, because I did not think the Committee desired to do it. After my statement, thehonorable member for Perth was quitewilling to withdraw the amendment, and rest satisfied with my assurance, but the honorable member for Coolgardie forced a division that apparently cast discredit upon the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line.
– He had a perfect right to do it.
– I am not questioning his right. It was the action, not of the honorable member for Perth, but of the honorable member for Coolgardie, who now poses as the true advocate of this line, which caused the division.
– That is the only trap for the Treasurer that we have had.
– Exactly. When the honorable member tried to substantiate his case to-night, he quoted from a speech of the Treasurer, who has all along been a constant supporter of the line.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie opposed the Treasurer in this matter in 1901.
– Yes. It is for him to say why he sought, by urging the construction of a line from Esperance Bay, to block that from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
– Nothing of the sort.
– If the honorable member says that that was not his intention I withdraw my suggestion. The fact remains that he did urge the construction of a line from Esperance Bay.
– I said at the time that the transcontinental line would also be needed.
– When would a line be made from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, were there a line from Esperance Bay?
– Would the one line make the other less necessary?
– The construction of one line would defer that of the other considerably.
– It has already been deferred for a long time.
– The Treasurer said last night that he was prepared to trust to the good faith of Parliament ; that Parliament by providing for the acceptance of the Northern Territory, and pledging itself to the construction, at some future date, of a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, was not binding itself not to proceed first with the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. The line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta will be built in sections as the intervening territory is opened up for settlement, but that from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta must be constructed as one work. I do not think that the Parliament or people of South Australia were in sympathy with the action taken by the jenkins Government.
– Then why did they not repudiate it?
– They did so at scores of meetings.
-The position was thus stated by the honorable member for Angas on the 17th July, 1907 -
I believe, from what I know of the people [of South Australia], that if a deliberate policy on the part of the Federation to construct this line were evidenced, the Price Government or any other Administration would be prepared to submit to the State Parliament a Bill giving the requisite consent. … I believe that, even if the provisions to which I have referred were not in the agreement, the Price Government as soon ‘as the time had arrived for the fulfilment of the promise made by Mr. Speaker [Holder] when Premier of South Australia would introduce a Bill to give the necessary consent. With the exception of the Jenkins Administration I do not know of any Government that has exhibited any hesitancy, and, as I have said, I think that many regret that the promise was not fulfilled.
Be that as it may, the good faith of the Price Government is evidenced by the fact that the Premier signed this agreement early in 1907, and passed through the South Australian Parliament an Act which authorizes the construction of this line.
– Mr. Kingston offered to bring the line to the border if Western Australia would join in.
– The people of South Australia evidently wish to carry out the arrangement, not to repudiate it.
– Why does the consent appear in the measure with which we are now dealing?
– Two or three national works were under consideration, and were dealt with as one question. There is nothing in the agreement giving priority to the construction of a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. Should it be accepted, this Parliament must determine which line shall be completed first. Personally I think that it must be the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. The settlement at each end indicates that clearly. In connexion with the transfer of the Northern Territory, provision must be made for occupation and development. Great problems will be met which it will take time to solve. The survey of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line, however, has been completed, and there is no reason why the work should be unduly delayed. My personal view is that that line must be the first constructed. It is unfair and unwise in the national interest to attempt to put the two lines into competition. The construction of both forms part of a great national policy. We should set aside provincial views in dealing with this matter. The construction of these lines is necessary to complete the Federation. That is my attitude, and, I believe, the attitude of a majority of honorable members. The bogey has been raised that the Northern Territory League is a land syndicate. That has been done to delay the passing of the Bill.
– The matter was referred to in all sincerity.
– The honorable member for Wentworth said that he desired to delay the passing of the Bill in order that the point he raise<” might be considered. Even were the league a syndicate holding land, that would not be a reason for refusing to take over the Territory. Its motives are one thing, the necessity for the national action another. The fact that 83,000,000 acres were held on lease by a syndicate in the Northern Territory would not be a reason for not taking over the Territory. The fact that the Territory is unoccupied and unpeopled hinders the progress of Australia, and menaces its future.
– We should not spend millions of money to construct railways to benefit private land-holders.
– It will be only after a full investigation that Parliament will determine what it will spend on railway construction. The route marked on the map before honorable members does not show that between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek large areas are held by syndicates. Except at the MacDonnell Ranges - and even there the area under lease is comparatively small - there is not much occupation. After all, land in the Territory is held only under lease.
– For a period of forty-two years.
– When the Commonwealth takes over the Territory, it will have power to resume any land it may reed for closer settlement.
– And it will have the right to tax.
– It will have sovereign powers of legislation. If it be found that land held under lease by syndicates is needed for closer settlement, the Common wealth will resume it on terms that are just.
– The existence of leaseholds is not a serious disadvantage.
– I think not. The motives of the Northern Territory League do not concern us. They may be patriotic or merely materialistic. To what extent Mr. Lindsay has influenced honorable members 1 do not know ; but if he lias done so at all, it has been by appeals to their judgment and reason, and every member is responsible to his constituents for his vote in this matter. I resent the suggestions of log-rolling and back-scratching. Some honorable members, if their ideas “ are not carried out, find it easy to suggest that the majority has been influenced improperly. These suggestions being vague and indefinite, do not hit any one ; but they leave a bad flavour.
– Unfortunately, the secretary to the league has made such a suggestion in a letter to a South Australian newspaper.
– I am sorry to hear it. Such a thing is reprehensible. We must exercise our own judgment.
– ls it usual to carry a measure of this sort with the support of the Opposition against Ministerial supporters ?
– This is not a partyquestion ; and the House must decide it. I do not think any honorable member has more at heart the interests of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway than has the Treasurer. No one has fought more strenuously for the line. He has made its construction one of the objects of his Parliamentary life. He advocated it before Federation was accomplished, and felt that the people cf Western Australia were thereby induced to vote for the draft Constitution. Therefore, he has repeatedly appealed to the Parliament to honour the compact.
– The Minister seems concerned on the Treasurer’s account.
– Because the honorable member made insinuations against the Treasurer’s sincerity in this matter. I do not think that he will persuade the people of Western Australia that he alone has advocated the construction of the line. They know who have been its consistent advocates, and will give credit where it is due.
.- In view of the speeches made this afternoon. I cannot allow the third reading to pass without stating my position. Hitherto, I have not said anything about the agreement. I am unable to follow the reasoning of the honorable member for Coolgardie,, and the view that he takes with regard to this Bill. Mr. Jenkins’ repudiation of the promise made by two of his predecessors in office as Premier of South Australia, undoubtedly caused a feeling of resentment and distrust in Western Australia ; for the people of that State were justified in believing that they would receive the assistance of the Parliament of South Australia in securing authority for the construction of the Western Australian transcontinent.il railway. But whilst Mr. Jenkins repudiated the position taken up by his predecessors, what is the situation to-day? Have we had in this House more consistent advocates of proposals to obtain information that would justify the construction of that line than the representatives of South Australia? I am sure that we have not. I have no sympathy with the attitude taken up by a former Premier of South Australia, Mr. Jenkins; but it is most unfair that the representatives of that State in this House should be asked to carry the burden of his repudiation. The difficulty under which the honorable member for Coolgardie labours will not be removed unless the agreement embodied in this Bill is accepted. I do not say that the fact that the agreement contains the sanction of South Australia to the construction of the Western Australian transcontinental railway is a strong reason for its acceptance ; but 1 do urge that, unless we adopt the agreement, it will still be necessary to obtain the consent of the Parliament of South Australia to the construction of the Western Australian transcontinental railway.
– I have very high legal authority differing from the honorable member on that point. One of my authorities is sitting in front of the honorable member.
– I gave the honorable member for Coolgardie a column and a half to assist him at an election.
– In connexion with the Esperance Bay line?
– My predecessor in the representation of Kalgoorlie, in connexion with that project, took up a position of placing the Esperance Bay line in antagonism to the transcontinental railway, and it helped him out of Parliament and assisted my return. I am prepared to say that this question must of necessity be decided on the rival merits - if they are. rivals - of the two projects for the construction of the Western. Australian transcontinental railway and the line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek.
– They are not rival projects.
– I do not think that they are. The agreement would have been more satisfactory if it had not definitely provided for the construction of the northern line ; but the fact that it does pro- . vide for its construction would not justify the rejection of a great national proposal, such as this, for the taking over of the Northern Territory.
– Let us take it over without conditions.
– I frankly admit that I should have preferred the Commonwealth to be empowered to take it over without such conditions as are imposed by the agreement.
– Then move in that direction.
– The honorable member must recognise that there are many occasions when an honorable member has to accept something with which he is not in absolute agreement, because he can get nothing better, and believes that it would be disadvantageous to allow things to remain as they are. It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to allow the Northern Territory to remain for years as it is to-day, unpeopled, and without a white garrison to defend it against attack.
– The Commonwealth is bound to defend it, whether it takes it over or not.
– That is so; but the best way to defend it is to people it. Judging by its history, if it is to be peopled, the Commonwealth must assume the responsibility of its administration. From the opinions that have been expressed in this House, I think that the construction of the transcontinental railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie is likely to be the first to be undertaken by the Commonwealth. After all, the defence of 270.000 people on the western seaboard is more important than is the defence of a handful of people in the Northern Territory. That, in itself, is a strong argument in favour of the proposal to supply railway communication between Western Australia and the eastern States, so that, should the occasion arise, the people on one side of Australia may come to the assistance of those on the other.
– It will be a more important railway than the proposed northern line would be.
-I agree with the honorable member ; and that is why I say that the two projects should not be in conflict. There is no stipulation in the agreement as to which shall be constructed first, and I am satisfied to rely upon the judgment of honorable members, believing that they are sure to determine that priority shall be given to the Western Australian transcontinental line. I come now to the position of the honorable member for Wentworth, who sought to support his opposition to the Bill by the statement that 83,000,000 acres in the Northern Territory have been leased.
– That was not the point.
– That was the statement of fact ; and I shall come in due course to the point which the honorable member sought to make. Surely the fact that 83^000,000 acres have been leased proves that the Territory is not the barren waste that some people would have us believe. It shows that settlers and others appreciate its possibilities.
– How does the honorable member account for the yearly loss?
– There is always a POSsibilty of loss in the early stages of any great undertaking, more especially when those controlling it have not at their command the means necessary to give full effect to *t. The development of the Northern Territory is too great an undertaking for the people of South Australia, and they have not been treated fairly by the Commonwealth. This question ought to have been decided two and a half years ago. As soon as the agreement was made it should have been submitted to the Parliament and accepted or rejected. Instead of that, it has been hung up since 1907. The Government of South Australia, I am told, have taken care to insert in every lease issued a clause providing that, for the purposes of closer settlement the land to which it relates may be resumed after the lease has been in operation for ten years. For several years the South Australian Government has been issuing only annual leases, iti respect of lands in the Northern Territory, its desire being to hand over the Territory to the Commonwealth as untrammelled as possible.
– Annual permits, not leases.
– I come now to the extraordinary attitude taken up by the honorable member for Wakefield. If I felt on this question as he does, I do not think that I should care to make to the House the statement which he has done. He says that as a citizen of South Australia, he thinks that the Government of that State is making a bad bargain. If that is his opinion, he ought not to vote for this Bill. If I held such a view, I certainly should oppose it. It would appear that the honorable member went before his constituents and said : T have my own opinions in regard to this agreement; I think it is a bad bargain for South Australia, but if you will only return me, I shall be pleased to let the Commonwealth have the Territory.” Apparently he had no convictions, save that he ought to be a member of this Parliament.
– Quote all that I said, and the honorable member will be fair.
– All that the honorable member said, beyond the reference I have made, does not affect this question.
– It does.
– The honorable member cannot side-track me. I have been a member of this Parliament long enough to know that such assertions deceive no one in the Parliament, although they may deceive people outside.
– The honorable member has been here long enough, apparently, to learn to tell half the truth.
– I have quoted the honorable member’s statement.
– Only half of it.
– I have quoted all that has any bearing on this question. If he desires to repeat the whole of his speech he can do so later. The honorable member has taken up a most remarkable position. He is associated with those who speak of members of the Labour party as being mere political machines; but I can honestly say that I have never heard a member of our party declare that he did not believe in a certain proposal, but intended to vote for it. I come now to the honorable member for Wentworth, whose difficulty seems to be that if the northern line is constructed holders of land along the route may be advantaged. Did any one ever hear a more absurd argument against a national project ? Was a railway ever built that did noL confer on some one an advantage ? The honorable member made the further statement that his people were once interested in a syndicate that held land along the proposed route, and which lost .£7,000 a year 011 the property. He added that if this railway had been constructed they would have been able to make £100,000 a year out of it.
– And he does not want the present holders of the land to make that profit.
– I am not suggesting that there is on the part of the honorable member any bitterness associated with the idea that if the northern line is constructed the “other fellow” will be able to make money out of the land. I refer to his statement merely because it indicates that there is good land along the route of the proposed railway, and that it can be. turned to profitable account as soon as it is connected by railway with centres of population. Surely that is a strong argument in favour of this Bill. I do not think that Mr. Lindsay’s recent visit to Melbourne had any influence upon honorable members. He was so interested in stating his case that he did not come to me.
– He knew the honorable member was all right !
– Probably, from my appearance, he thought that I would take an intelligent view of the case. I may say that, until yesterday, no one had asked me how I was going to vote. When we talk about persons coining here and endeavouring to secure certain results, we do not injure honorable members personally, but we do injure Parliament as an institution ; and I should be in favour of keeping these information-distributors outside the building altogether, because, as our experience in connexion with the Tariff showed, their information is. always of a partisan character, and very often exaggerated or untruthful. It is absurd to suppose for a moment that any honorable member has been influenced as the result of the views expressed by Mr. Lindsay. If this league, as has been stated, is simply a, party of interested persons, who have been masquerading as patriots, they have played the part of most contemptible cads. At the same time, I do not think their efforts will in any way influence the decision of the House. Another matter, and one to which I have referred on several occasions previously, is the attitude of the Government in regard to the financing of the proposals which come before us. To my mind, there is a most deplorable state of affairs in this Parliament. We embark on greater or lesser national undertakings without making any financial provision ; and we now have before us a proposal which, in a few years, will place a heavy annual responsibility on the Commonwealth, if this Territory .is to be properly developed and made an outpost of white civilization. The Government ought to accept the responsibility for this project. I was opposed to the Deakin Government allowing the Capital site measure to be made a non-party question; and I believe that, if it had not been so treated, Dalgety would have been the selected site to-day. It was because the Government shuffled, and were not prepared to accept their proper responsibility, that we had to accept another site.
– That is not the question before us.
– I admit that, Mr. Speaker, and I only mention it with a view to prevent the disaster which must follow when the Government are divided on a great problem of the kind. The Government ought to be able to make up their minds before they ask the House to make up its mind, and when they have made up their minds, they ought to be able to place an intelligent financial scheme before us. We have drifted into a practice during a number of years of allowing the future to take care of itself, until now we find ourselves with a deficit of £[1,200, 000; and the Government place no scheme before us beyond that embodied in the proposed settlement with the States. We have this year to face a deficit of £600,000, even if their Finance Bill passes; and now there is a Bill before us involving millions, with not one word as to how it is to be financed. Under ordinary circumstances, the absence of financial provision would be a fatal objection to a proposal of this kind. We have taken over the lighthouses, and legislated for bonuses and oldage pensions; and, although for weeks and weeks we have been asking for a financial statement, there has been no satisfactory result. Even at this late stage, the Government ought to afford us some information; but I am afraid that, if it is necessary to crack the party whip, the Government supporters will be found voting for this Bill as it is.
– I think the honorable member will be found voting with the Government !
– I shall vote with the Government on this, Bill, because it is of such national importance that even my whole-hearted objection to the present Administration will not permit me to defeat the aspirations of the Australian people.
– If the Government make it a vital question, the honorable member will have to reconsider his position !
– I have not seen the Government show any disposition to make any question vital as to the result of which there was a doubt. I have made a reasonable request ‘to the Government, and I can assure them that any financial statement by them will be received with enthusiasm, tending as it might to relieve the Commonwealth from increasing difficulty in years to come.
.- I had not intended to speak on the third reading, and I shall not detain honorable members at greater length than is necessary to give the reasons why I think this motion should be deferred. I feel strongly disposed to move that the Bill be read a third time this day six months, in view of the momentous issues involved, and the enormous extra taxation which this transaction will make necessary. It is proposed to saddle the Commonwealth with an annual loss representing£1,000 per day from the very outset, and that is without considering the additional commitments in connexion with railway construction and the development of the Territory. This afternoon, certain statements have been made which certainly call for further nv vestigation, and form reasonable ground for asking the Government to defer the third reading for, at least, a few days, so that the truth or otherwise of the allegations may be ascertained. We have been told that the so-called Northern Territory League is neither more nor less than a land-boom syndicate, whose alleged patriotism is simply a cloak to obscure the real object and character of an association formed with the hope of receiving material personal benefit . for its members, owing to increased land values created by the construction of the proposed railway.
– Does not every one expect material benefit when a railway, is constructed ?
– The honorable member is trying to confuse the issue. Is this a league for patriotic purposes, or merely a syndicate of interested land-holders, who are banded together for their own financial advancement ?
Several honorable members interjecting;
– I cannot understand how it is that I never get on my feet without being subjected to a storm of interjections from the Labourites.
– I have several times called “ order,” but honorable members were apparently talking so loudly that they did not hear me. I ask them not to converse with each other in such a tone as to disturb the honorable member who is addressing the Chamber, and not to interrupt him in his speech by interjections.
Mr.JOHNSON.- I am merely calling attention to the fact that a statement, which warrants further investigation, has been made.Itake no responsibility for its truth or otherwise. It was that an organization known as the Northern Territory League, supposed to be banded together to advocate the taking over of the Territory on purely patriotic and national grounds, was mainly if not wholly composed of interested land-holders, who desired that the taxpayers’ money should be expended for the benefit not so much of the Commonwealth as of their own private purses. If that is the character of the League we ought to know it.
– It is not.
Mr.JOHNSON.- I do not say it is, but it has been said in this debate, and a serious statement of that kind ought to be investigated. If it is simply a company of land-jobbers masquerading in the form of a patriotic league for the purpose of concealing its real object, and if it is receiving the support of Labour member? who profess to Be opposed to landlordism and capitalism, we ought to know more about it and why so many Labour members are supporting it. We also have the right to know whether Mr. Lindsay, who was here lobbying members of this Parliament, and who it is alleged has been instrumental in converting several honorable members from their previously expressed opinions, was simply the representative of a patriotic league or the paid servant of a syndicate pecuniarily interested in getting the taxpayers to foot the Bill to the tune of some £5,000,000 for running a railway through their land. The statements which have been made this afternoon will create in the public mind a certain amount of suspicion. I do not believe or suggest that any honorable member would be influenced in an improper way, but from the nature of the statements- which have been made here this afternoon, there is a danger from the sudden change in the attitude of certain Labour members to this agreement that such a suspicion may be engendered in the public mind. If the Bill is pushed forward with undue haste, without the real character of the League being investigated, we shall make a very, grave blunder. Some peculiar statements appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of 10th March last. In the course of a letter published by that paper the secretary of what was then called the Great Central State League, quoted the Sydney Bulletin to the following effect -
It points out the danger that is likely to arise from influences that are being exerted in Queensland and New South Wales to divert the railway through those States, and calls upon Australia as a whole to treat this subject in an Australian national spirit.
I want to draw particular attention to the term “national spirit.” What sort of a national spirit is it which prevents any benefit from the construction of this railway going to any part of the Commonwealth except one portion of South Australia? Not another inch of Australia can receive a farthing’s worth of benefit from the expense to which the whole of the people will have to contribute, and apparently only a few land-owners in the Territory, if we are to believe the statements which have been made, will reap any benefit. That is the broad national spirit that the League talks about ! That sort of national spirit is always confined to a certain small area within the Commonwealth. We never hear of it in New South Wales, although that State an3 Queensland and Tasmania are the only States that really show the Federal spirit in its true form.
– What about Western Australia?
– 1 am afraid that the Federal spirit of the West is mostly wrapped up in its transcontinental railway. The names of certain patriotic citizens were read out this afternoon, with the amounts of their subscriptions, the object being to show that those gentlemen, who are members of large commercial and other firms and companies, have liberally assisted the funds of the organization. I do not know whether any of them are interested in land in the Territory. I am informed by the honorable member for Wakefield that they are not. That may be the honorable member’s opinion, but is he in a position to assert the fact with absolute certainty ? We are entitled to more authentic information on the point. With regard to the peculiar unanimity exhibited by some honorable members, I notice the following statement in another letter published in the Adelaide Advertiser -
It would include all the political strength and influence of South Australia and Western Australia. It would demand the transfer . of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth on the terms already agreed upon between the State Government and the Federal Cabinet, the building of the straight and comparatively short and cheap line from Port Darwin to Port Augusta -
A cheap line costing four and a half millions ! and the building of a line from South Australia to Kalgoorlie and Perth. And its members would refuse to separate these demands, and would make it a question of “ all or nothing.”
– I point out to the honorable member that what he is reading has already been read this afternoon.
– I was not aware that the honorable member for Coolgardie read this extract. I thought he quoted from a document addressed to himself personally. The suggestion in that letter is that the representatives of Western Australia and South Australia should band their forces together ir. a united effort, and not call each other’s territory hard names - such as “ desert,” for example. 1 take no exception to that so long as it is done from; the stand-point of the interests of the whole Commonwealth, or even if it is done from the purely parochial point of view of the interests of those two States, but if it is done fpr another reason which has a private financial backing to it while it is pretended that the action is prompted purely from disinterested and patriotic motives it assumes a different aspect. We ought to know if that is the motive actuating those who are trying to lobby the members of this House to record a vote in favour of a proposition to which they have previously expressed hostility. I shall consider the advisability of moving at a later stage, if I am in order -
That further consideration of this Bill be postponed until next week, with a view to information being supplied to the House on the following points : -
Is the organization known ns the Northern Territory League purely a league of patriotic citizens banded together from personally disinterested motives, or is it a fact, as declared by an honorable member of this House, that the league is mainly an Executive Committee of that organization of large land-holders whose properties will be enhanced in value by the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money?
How many members of the league are landholders, and what is the area and situation of each holding in their possession?
Was the Mr. Lindsay who industriously interviewed members of this Parliament in the league’s interest the paid representative and servant of a landlord syndicate? Was the Government aware of the real nature of this alleged patriotic league? Is it proposed to levy a betterment land value tax on all privatelyowned lands within the area which will be beneficially affected by the railways to be constructed under the agreement?
I should further like to ask the Minister in charge of the Bill whether the Government have taken into consideration the question of where the money to construct a railway, if the agreement is ratified, is to come from. I ask further whether the Government proposes to levy a betterment tax on the lands which are beneficially affected by the constriction of the proposed railway. The House should have some intimation as to what is intended in this respect. We should know whether the Government intends to make the land-holders contribute towards the cost of the railway in proportion to the increase of value which will be given to the land bv railway construction. However, I said that I would not take up more time than was necessary to state my reasons for proposing the postponement of the third reading, and, having done so, I shall resume mv seat.
Mr. J. H. CATTS (Cook) [9.33I. - I have not expressed mv views in regard to the proposed transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth. The magnitude of the proposal renders it necessary that I should say a word or two before the third reading passes. I agree with those who regard this as a great national undertaking. The Northern Territory comprises about one-sixth of the area of Australia, and is three times the size of the United Kingdom. Whether as a whole it is rich or poor has been much debated during the consideration of the Bill. If it is too poor to be developed by South Aus tralia, the Commonwealth should take it over, so that the whole people may assist in the undertaking. On the other hand, if it is a rich territory, which South Australia is unable to develop, it will be to the advantage of the Commonwealth to acquire it. I visited the Territory a couple of years ago with a Parliamentary party, and nothing I saw there led me to consider it rich. Of course, it is so large that we had not time to thoroughly investigate its resources, but I travelled from Port Darwin to Pine Creek and a couple of hundred miles inland from there. Most of the country I saw was mineralized, and seemed to carry tremendous quantities of low grade ores. Mining operations, however, have not been conducted with much success. Rich patches have been” found, but, by and large, the results have been disappointing. On every hand one sees machinery which has cost thousands of pounds going to ruin. This shows that capitalists have been ready to spend money in exploiting the Territory. Whether more powerful and up-to-date machinery would enable these low grade ores to be worked successfully is a question for experts. I did not observe any agricultural possibilities in the country through which I passed. However, the resources of the Territory have been discussed from A to Z, so that it is hardly possible to say anything fresh on the subject. I regret that certain conditions have been attached to its transfer to the Commonwealth, though they may not be as objectionable as some assert, and as I think them to be. One of the conditions is that a line shall be made from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, to give railway connexion across the continent from Port Darwin to Port Augusta. We have no evidence that this would best develop the Territory. My opinion is that it would not, but that what are wanted are comparatively short lines running inland from the coast.
– A railway system like that of Queensland.
– Yes. It seems a mistake to commit the ‘Commonwealth to the construction of a line over 1,000 miles in length without expert opinion on the proposal. It is not usual to construct railways without a thorough investigation to determine the probable cost and the return on the outlay.
-What will the railway from Canberra to Jervis Bay return?
– The Commonwealth is not required to build that line.
– At any rate, it has nothing to do with the matter now before us. It has been argued by the Bulletin - at first sight plausibly - that the Territory cannot be developed by a line which runs out of it, and that the proposed transcontinental line is required for developmental purposes. I am of opinion that a transcontinental railway which, for the greater part of its length, ran outside the Territory would not develop the Territory. To develop the Territory, lines, each a couple of hundred miles long, would have to be run inland from points on the Victoria, Daly, and Katlierine Rivers to various points on the northern coast and to the Gulf of Carpentaria. A transcontinental line will be necessary for Defence purposes. But such a line should not be taken through what has been described as the dead . heart of Australia ; it should link up the centres of population as conveniently as possible. Were the proposed line to be made, troops could not be taken to Port Darwin from the large centres of population without being conveyed about three times as far as would be absolutely necessary, and this would give the enemy an opportunity to thoroughly entrench himself. A defence line should so link up the great centres of population that troops could be taken to Port Darwin by the quickest routes. However, these are questions to be decided largely by experts. So is the question of the development of the Territory. We cannot decide now what should be done, and will probablv do the wrong thing if we tie our hands bv agreeing to the proposals contained in the Bill. It is” said that the proposed transcontinental railway would develop the country north of the MacDonnell Ranges, but beyond a certain distance haulage becomes so expensive as to make the conveyance of live stock and frozen meat unprofitable. My opinion is that we should not commit ourselves until all the subjects to which I have referred have been investigated by experts. Apparently the Prime Minister, being enamoured of the idea of extending the functions of the Commonwealth bv transferring the control of the Northern Territory to it, ignored the conditions prescribed by the late Premier of South Australia. It seems to me that Mr. Price was very astute in detecting in the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister an opportunity to impose conditions that would be very advantageous to South Australia. South Australia ought to be recouped the whole of her losses on the Territory. I do not object to the Commonwealth taking over, at their actual cost, the State properties there, although their present value may be very much less than was the original outlay upon them. We can well afford to recoup her the whole of her accumulated losses on the Territory, but to urge that we should commit ourselves to a line from Port Augusta to the northern border of South Australia, and to the routes of other railways for developmental purposes, is to ask us to do that which I do not think we should be justified in doing on behalf of those who sent us here. Only 40 lb. rails have been used on the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, whereas 80 lb. rails are the standard for transcontinental lines. Eighty pound rails are used on the line from Sydney to Melbourne, so that in comparison the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta is a mere tramline.
– The heaviest rails we have in Queensland weigh only 60 lbs.
– Eighty pound rails are used to-day on up-to-date lines ; 60 lb. rails were up-to-date a few years ago, and 40 lb. rails were up-to-date when the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta was constructed.
– A 60 lb. rail is up-to-date at the present time, when used on a 3 ft. 6 in. line.
– Not on a line for fast travelling and heavy traffic.
– It is on a 3 ft. 6 in. line.
– The honorable member is entitled to his own opinion, but even if his statement is correct, no one will suggest that. 40 lb. rails are up-to-date.
– Forty pound rails are used on many lines in the western part of Queensland.
– Such rails may be all very well for light developmental lines. In parts of New South Wales, inexpensive railways have been put down without any ballast, but surely the honorable member would not suggest that such a mode of construction would be suitable for a transcontinental line over which a great deal of traffic is to pass. Pioneer lines, known as mud lines, are often put down for developmental purposes, and as the traffic increases, they are ballasted, and built up.
– I have never seen one in my experience.
– I appeal to the honorable member for Riverina to say whether there are not in his electorate pioneer lines that . have been laid down practically without ballast.
– That is so.
– Such lines exist in various parts of New South Wales, and as traffic develops the railway authorities ballast and build them up. Reference has been made to the way in which the development of the Northern Territory is to be financed by the Commonwealth. I have not heard it suggested that any vast expenditure can be provided for out of revenue. A borrowing policy seems to be foreshadowed.
– There is no question about that.
– I have not heard it disputed. If the cost of developing the Northern Territory is to be provided, not out of revenue, but out of loan moneys, the failure of South Australia to develop the country could not have been due to her inability to float loans. Surely no one will say that South Australia is in such a parlous state that it could not raise loans for the development of the Territory if it felt that such loans were justifiable.
– But she would not obtain any return for her money.
– Is the Commonwealth to raise loans to develop the Territory, and to get no return from its outlay ? I should like to hear some reason why the Territory has not been developed. If it is that South Australia could not afford to develop it out of revenue, I have not heard it suggested that the Commonwealth could afford to develop it in that way. If it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to resort to a borrowing policy in this con- ‘ nexion, surely it will not be said that South Australia was not in a position to borrow money for the same purpose.
– South Australia is a plucky little State. Give her a show. She gave us the overland telegraph when New South Wales would not help us.
– I have had nothing to say as to South Australia’s pluck. I have already stated that I should be prepared to support the Commonwealth taking over the Territory,, and making good the loss that South Australia has suffered in connexion with its administration. I object, however, to South Australia insisting on certain conditions that ought not to be associated with the transfer. It is quite likely that if the agreement be adopted, experts sent out to advise the Government as to the development which should take place will report that we have done wrong in committing ourselves to these conditions. It has been suggested that if we reject this agreement we shall not have another opportunity to take over the Territory. I differ from that view. I think that South Australia, will be very glad to hand over the Territory to the Commonwealth irrespective of the terms and conditions incorporated in this agreement. She cannot develop the Territory herself.
– Then the honorable member says, in effect, that we should take advantage of South Australia. That is very generous !
– I do not suggest that we should take any advantage of South Australia, but I do hold that South Australia ought not to say to the Commonwealth Parliament “ Since you are filled with enthusiasm- for extending the powers of the Commonwealth and acquiring Federal territory, we insist upon your conforming to certain terms and conditions that will tend to our advantage, although they may very likely retard the development of the Territory, and will certainly place upon the taxpayers of the Commonwealth a heavy and, perhaps, unnecessary, burden.” It is, therefore, my intention to vote against . the third reading of the Bill. I feel that I should not faithfully represent my constituents if 1 gave a vote that would commit them to a considerable, expenditure in developing the Territory in a way that might be repudiated later on by experts appointed on behalf of the Commonweailth. A proposal is put forward that this Bill should be read a third time six months hence. I hold that a Commission should be appointed on behalf of the Commonwealth to investigate the terms and conditions that have been laid down, and to make a report upon which this Parliament could act. At present, we are in the dark. There is no body so incompetent to deal with matters of this kind as Parliament itself. Parliament i» affected to a very large extent by prejudices and sentiment, and I should have been glad had the Government proposed to appoint a Royal Commission to secure authoritative information with respect to this project. There have been many advocates and experts working on behalf of South Australia, but we have had no. one to speak with any authority on behalf of the Commonwealth. The appointment of a Royal Commission should have been a stage precedent to the taking over of the Territory under the conditions imposed by this agreement. If, however, the House, having given the matter careful consideration, still thinks that this agreement, despite its disadvantages should be adopted, I shall be prepared to do all in my power hereafter to assist in developing the Territory. I feel considerable misgiving in regard to taking it over on the terms and conditions imposed by this agreement, but can only hope that should the Commonwealth embark upon its development, its efforts- will be attended with unqualified success.
.- Some six hours ago I addressed you, Mr. Speaker, on the proposal to recommit this Bil.l, and I intend again to speak in opposition to the measure, although I -shall’ not repeat the arguments that 1 then used. Since the inception of the Federal Parliament we have had nothing to equal the word painting that has been indulged in in connexion with this project. On the motion for the second reading, the honorable member for Grey, with a pointer in his hand, indicated various districts shown on the map exhibited in the Chamber, and told us that the Territory was a land of untold wealth. In the very centre of Australia we are told -lies the Eldorado of the Commonwealth. I suppose that its wealth is described as “ untold,” because no white man has been there to tell of it. Some* time ago a band of hardy, earnest members of this House undertook a perilous journey to the Northern Territory, travelling from Sydney round the coast in a splendidly appointed mail boat to Port Darwin. On reaching that point, some of them undertook another perilous journey of 200 miles by rail. Upon the information so obtained, we are asked to gauge the possibilities and potentialities of the Territory. I recognise that the Territory is enormous, but it is an unknown land. So far only the gummed edges of the envelope have been touched by white men. What the interior is like is a mere matter of speculation to the rest of Australia.
But we are asked to take over the Northern Territory with an immediate charge of £[10,500,000 ; and this I regard as too heavy a burden on the Commonwealth with its fringe of population. I can see the strategic advantages of taking over the Territory, and I am prepared to listen to those who say that it ought to be garrisoned for the defence of the Commonwealth. But it is a most extreme proposal to ask the people to shoulder the financial responsibility involved in this agreement. The honorable member for Grey, if anything, over-painted his picture when, he made his pathetic appeal to us, and dwelt upon the great riches of this portion of Australia ; but there were other honorable members who have visited the Northern Territory, and who described it as a land of white ants. This is part of the electorate of the honorable member for Grey, and, while I do not desire to draw any inference from that fact, it is certain that he would not present it to us in its worst colours. There are other projects of more concern to the people, which we have not the money to finance; and, as a matter of fact, only a few weeks ago the Treasurer said there might possibly be a shortage of £[1,200,000 this year.
– It will be over £[1,800,000 on the year’s figures.
– I “am taking the lowest estimate. If we are not humbugging the people of South Australia we shall have to provide .£10,500,000 ; and this can only be obtained by loan. I respect South Australia for the way in which she has borne the burden of the Northern Territory for so many years; but it is absurd for the honorable member for Grey to say that if we dp not take the Territory now we shall never have it offered to us again. We are not children to be told that a State would desire to hand over a country possessed of such riches as have been represented. The description of the land of Barataria is weak in comparison with the language used by the honorable member for Grey. It is idle to talk of the Northern Territory as a land of ‘ agricultural and mineral riches, when we know that three-fourths of the area is unknown land. I could understand a proposition that the Northern Territory is a fair charge on the Commonwealth, on the ground that, unless it be properly defended, it will present a standing danger, the responsibility being too great for the small population of South Australia. I am prepared to support the Territory being taken over and the Commonwealth being allowed to develop it when it feels so disposed.
– On certain conditions.
– No, without conditions, and certainly without the conditions which are sought to be imposed. I can understand a project to connect Port Augusta with Perth as one which the Commonwealth should speedily carry out ; and it would keep our hands full for years. As a matter of fact, the people of Western Australia are further from the port of departure in South Australia than is New Zealand from Sydney ; and, while the people in the West know they are in the Federation, they really have no Federal contact. We certainly cannot carry out both undertakings; and to talk of shouldering all the liabilities of the Northern Territory, and constructing the proposed railway, is ,so much humbug. When the honorable member for Grey, with tears in his voice, begged us to take this beautiful bargain - this land teeming with wealth - I wondered what was the matter with South Australia that it should desire to part with so much. Surely the Government of the State are not lunatics to desire to get rid of so rich a. territory ; if they are, it is the first time I have heard of such a case in history. The fact of the matter is that South Australia has no power to part with the Territory except to the Commonwealth. I cast no reflection on the South Australian people for desiring to have trade communication between Adelaide and Port Darwin, or for desiring to strike a sharp bargain ; but I should certainly blame the Commonwealth Parliament if we proved blind to the true position. For these reasons I shall vote against the third reading.
.- [ rise to add my protest against this Parliament entering into what I believe to be an utterly unreasonable contract with the people of South Australia. If I could perceive any argument which would justify us in taking over the Northern Territory upon the agreement that has been put forward, I should be ready to assent to it; because, upon general principles, I believe that the Commonwealth should control the Territory. I take that view because South Australia has practically admitted that she is unable profitably to herself develop that huge area. I join with those who have ex pressed their admiration for the work that South Australia has done in this regard. 1 am sure that the people of that State are sufficiently independent to desire no cheap commendation from any one. But, nevertheless, I consider that they are to be. commended for the attempt which they have made to develop the Territory. Were it not for that belief, I should not be as ready as I am to concede so many of the points for which South Australia has stipulated. It is no small thing that, when she has tried, and absolutely failed in her attemptto develop the Territory, and comes to us asking the Commonwealth to take it over, we should, under such conditions, say that this Commonwealth is willing, not only to repay to South Australia all that she has spent, but will also accept the works which the State has constructed at their actual cost, irrespective of the time that they have been in existence, and without regard to their depreciation. ,To do that would be to take over the Territory on conditions very favorable to South Australia. But she not only asks that we shall indemnify her for all that she has spent, but also that we shall take over from her a State line of railway which cannot at present be made to pay. The Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line is evidently one which South Australia does not want, because it will not pay. It is altogether within South Australia, and no project has been put forward for its extension even to the border of the Northern Territory. The argument used is that the line has been constructed in order that it may eventually be continued to Pine Creek. We take that statement as_ correct, and say that if that be so, and if South Australia has spent money upon a real attempt to develop the Northern Territory, although the attempt has failed, this Parliament will go that far with her, and indemnify her for what she has spent upon the railway. The annual loss on the. Territory amounts to from £200,000 to £250,000 a year, and that loss would fall upon the Commonwealth. It would continue to be a loss for many years, until we could develop the Territory to such an extent that the ledger would be balanced. South Australia unquestionably feels the burden of the quarter of a million pounds which she has to spend every year upon the Territory. She has been feeling it more and more every year. It is useless, therefore, for her representatives to say that she does not want to part with the Territory; that she wants to keep it; but that, as probably the Commonwealth can do more with it than she can, she will let us have it. The facts show conclusively that, in spite of all that South Australia has done to develop the Territory, it has been an absolute failure. But, not content with asking the Commonwealth to indemnify her for her losses, South Australia attaches a railway condition to the transfer. I cannot go so far as to agree to that. I consider that, any one regarding the proposal from an unbiased point of view, must agree that South Australia is asking too much. If the railway route which she suggests is the right route, what urgency is there for providing for it in the agreement? If it is the route which the railway should follow, I have no doubt that the Federal Parliament, in its wisdom, after due examination and inquiry, would so determine. But what I object to is that, on a mere statement as to cost, route, and probable revenue, we are to be bound down to construct a given line. The proposition is unreasonable and unfair. It is, in short, such a proposition as ought not for one moment to be entertained by this House.
Question - That the Bill be now -read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority … 8
Question so resolved in the’ affirmative.
Bill, read athird time.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table the following paper : -
Naval and Military Defence of the EmpireConference with Representatives of the SelfGoverning Dominions, 1909.
Ordered to be printed.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to say that after Supply has been expeditiously dealt with to-morrow, the order of business will be the Electoral Bill, and I hope the Seat of Government Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091117_reps_3_53/>.