4th Parliament · 1st Session
The House met at 10.30 a.m. pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General .
The Clerk read the proclamation.
The Usher of the Black Rod being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message, that the Deputies of the GovernorGeneral for the opening of Parliament requested the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber forthwith.
Honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned,
The Commissioner to administer the oath entered the chamber.
The Clerk read a Commission, under the Great Seal of the Commonwealth, authorizing the Right Honorable Sir Edmund Barton, P.C., K.C.M.G., Justice of the High Court of Australia, to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to the King required by law to be taken or made by. members of the House of Representatives.
The Clerk announced that he had received returns to the writs issued for the. election of members of the Houseof Representatives.
The following honorable members made and subscribed the oath of allegiance: -
Hon. james Mackinnon Fowler, Perth, Western Australia.
Hon. Patrick McMahon Glynn, Angas, South Australia.
Hon. Charles McDonald, Kennedy, Queensland.
John Keith McDougall, Wannon. Victoria.
Hon. King O’Malley, Darwin, Tasmania.
.- It is my pleasure to move -
That the honorable member for Kennedy, the Honorable Charles McDonald, do take the Chair of the House as Speaker.
Those who have been members of this House for some years need no words of mine to assure them of the impartiality shown by Mr. McDonald as Chairman of Committees, a position which he filled for some time; nor do they need from me a statement of his wide knowledge of the rules of the House and of the practice and procedure of the House of Commons. They know, that he is well qualified to fill the important position to which I propose, that he shall be elevated, and I am sure that new members will accept their assurance and mine that he can fill successfully the office of Speaker, and in it maintain the high traditions so well preserved by the late Sir Frederick Holder, whose loss we sadly mourn.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (Indi) (11.5]. - I have much pleasure in seconding the motion, and, in doing so, do not propose to enlarge upon the many good qualities possessed, as the honorable member for Darling has pointed out, by Mr. McDonald: As a new member I cannot claim to have any personal knowledge of Mr. McDonald’s capabilities, but from what 1 have learned from those having a long experience in this House I am led to believe that he is possessed of qualities that will enable him at all times to be fair and impartial in his decisions.
.- 1 submit myself to the pleasure of the House.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang) (11.7]. - I have very much pleasure in moving -
That the honorable member for Laanecoorie, the Honorable Charles Carty Salmon, do take the Chair of the House as Speaker.
I take this step because I learn from the press that at a meeting of one party in this House it was determined to make a nomination for the office of Speaker in such a way as to give that office a purely party complexion. The office is one which according to the expressed convictions of a considerable number of members of the last Parliament - some of whom are now members of the present Government - should be above party, and should not be in any way associated with party politics.
– That is what I said in July last year.
– Quite so. On that occasion there was chosen for the position an honorable member, who, I venture to say, showed himself so capable in the discharge of his duties as to fully justify his nomination. .At .the time, however, exception was taken to his nomination on the ground that it was a party one. The Labour ‘ party, . who were then in Opposition, deprecated anything in the nature of- party feeling, declaring that the selection of an honorable member for such a high office as that of Speaker of this House should not be made a purely party matter. They urged that had the proper course been pursued, honorable members representing all shades of opinion would have been invited to an open informal conference, and that members so assembled should there have decided who should be nominated for the Speakership, so that we might have had the Speaker formally elected without any opposition. That was the absolute, firm, and unalterable conviction expressed by honorable members who are now themselves taking the very course which they then so strongly condemned. Let me bring forward unquestionable authorities as to the proper course of procedure. The honorable gentleman who now holds the distinguished office of Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition on the occasion of the election of the last Speaker, and it would be interesting at this stage to see what his convictions then were. As reported at page 1687 of Hansard the honorable gentleman then said -
I am not going to deal with the controversial side of the question. The Attorney-General has said that it is the right of the Government to select for the position of Speaker one of their own supporters. In other words, if the Government have a majority they are entitled, according to the honorable gentleman, to use it in the selection of a candidate for the Speakership. That is an argument with which I do not agree, and if effect be given to it the result will not be creditable.
He went on to say -
Although I believe the House will succeed under any Speaker - we should postpone our decision on the several nominations, and, in the meantime, have an open conference.
An open conference was then suggested. If the present Prime Minister held those convictions at that time, they must still hold good. In the face of such an expression of opinion, however, we find him and his party proceeding to adopt the very course which he and they condemned in our party when the position of pa’rties was reversed.
– Circumstances alter cases.
– They always do so far as the Labour party are concerned, and it is well that the public should learn how little reliance is to be placed on their professions of principle. The Labour party take up one stand when in opposition, and an entirely different stand when they are on the Treasury Bench, so little stability or sincerity is there in their alleged principles and convictions. We find them displaying one of the characteristics of the chameleon - we never see them showing the same colour on two different occasions. Chameleon-like, they are always varying their colour according to their circumstances and environment. We had it laid down by the present Prime Minister, and those in association with him in the last Parliament, that it was wrong to do that which they are now doing. They are adopting today the very procedure which they then condemned. Let me refer also to the opinion then expressed by another member of the Ministry, the present AttorneyGeneral. He said-
The Speaker is the. presiding officer of the House. He must be above party. He ought not to owe his election to a party vote. That view, which applies to every House, applies particularly to this House and the present circumstances. . Under the circumstances id which party warfare is carried on here -
That is in this Chamber.
– No; I was referring to the last House.
– It is the same Chamber and the same system. The honorable member continued -
Under the circumstances in which party warfare is carried on here, to place Dr. Carty Salmon in the Chair would be nothing more nor less than to elevate a partisan to the dignity and position of chief officer of the House. A partisan, no matter what his intentions, cannot help- seeing through the glasses of party.
I ask honorable members to consider for a moment the violent partisanship of the honorable member whom the Labor Ministry have nominated to-day for the office of Speaker, and to remember that according to the view expressed by the present AttorneyGeneral no strong party man should occupy the position. Out of the AttorneyGeneral’s own mouth, therefore, we have a condemnation of his action in supporting the nomination of a partisan. I do not say that I agree with the view expressed by him. As a matter of fact, I do not. I hold that an honorable member can be a strong partisan on the floor of the House,and yet, as Speaker, or Chairman of Committees, can at once display a judicial mind, and see with equal clearness the merits of all party opinions. Let me quote another view, as expressed last July, by the honorable member for Darwin, the present Labour Minister of Home Affairs -
– Who is a great constitutional authority.
– The honorable member has always posed in this House as. a great constitutional authority, and this is what he said with respect to this matter.
I think our protest should be directed strictly against the pernicious partisanship of the Government. . . Our protest, however, is against the method adopted yesterday by the
Government in selecting their candidate without consulting the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Corner Party.
I should like to know whether the Leader or any member of the Opposition, or, indeed, any one outside the caucus, was consulted by the present Government as to the nomination of an honorable member for the office of Speaker.
– Not much.
– We are consulting the. Opposition now.
– No ; circumstances again alter cases ! What was condemned as a crime in our party is a virtue in the case of the Labour party. What was wrong in our case is right in theirs. That is the history of the Labour party in connexion with all their transactions. They condemn ‘ in others everything that they themselves ‘are prepared to do. They exalt as a virtue in themselves that which they condemn as a vice in others.
– The honorable member is now condemning in us what he and his party did last year.
– I am only putting before the House views which honorable members have expressed, and asking them to show a little consistency, and act up to their declared principles and. convictions. They were then posing as lecturers of the House on political propriety and constitutional procedure, and condemning us for taking a certain course of action; and I am merely pointing out their own insincerity, and the hollowness of their pre-; tended championship of a definite principle, and that they are not prepared to follow their convictions to a logical conclusion. And I want to show that now, when they have the chance to set an example of what they declared to be the correct procedure, instead of doing so, they emphasize the principle of party nomination. Those honorable members, however, are not prepared to do that, but are ready to even go one better than their predecessors. I desire to quote only one other Minister, and no more, as a sample of the views held by those prominent gentlemen. The honorable member for Boothby, the present Minister of External Affairs, said -
It would have been possible to have had this matter settled on non-party lines, and I am sorry, that that has not been done.
And I say, now, in the very words of the honorable member, that it would have been possible to settle this question of the
Speakership on non-party lines if the Government and their supporters had consulted members of the Opposition, and that we could have determined to elect a gentleman without any contest whatever.
– This is a different tale from that told us by the honorable member on a previous occasion !
– Speaking from memory, I told no tale at all on the occasion referred to, but am repeating the tale that honorable members opposite told us. Without any consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, and having ascertained that the honorable member for Laanecoorie is willing to stand, I take the personal responsibility of nominating him for the position of Speaker. Apart altogether from that gentleman’s other qualifications, the honorable member has occupied the Chair under conditions more trying, I think, than those experienced by any previous Speaker, he has been acting all through the interregnum between the last and the present Parliament until to-day ; and we should do something to preserve the continuity of the highest office in this Chamber, as far as practicable.
– Why not apply that principle to every honorable member?
– If there is to be turn and turn about, the honorable member for Maranoa will be able to make a proposal of that kind, though I am afraid he will first have to alter the Standing Orders. In proposing the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I desire it to be clearly understood that I cast no reflection whatever on the honorable member for Kennedy.We all recognise that as Chairman of Committees he acquitted himself satisfactorily. He did his best, and I think displayed impartiality and a close acquaintance with the Standing Orders and the rules generally of parliamentary procedure. There is nothing, I repeat, of a personal nature in the proposal I am now making; I simply desire to take this means of entering a protest against the occupancy of a position of this kind being made a party question by a party who have denounced that system. I, therefore, have much pleasure in nominating the honorable member for Laanecoorie for the position of Speaker.
.- I desire to second the nomination of the honorable member for Laanecoorie as Speaker of this House. I think the hon orable member acquitted himself in the Chair last session in a way that earned for him the respect of all sides of the House, and that he showed every consideration to honorable members, consistent with the preservation of the dignity and decorum of the Chair. His decisions, I think, were impartial, and gave the utmost satisfaction; and I hope that this honorable House will so far preserve the tradition of the British Parliament as to give some degree of permanence or continuity to the occupancy of this position when the previous holders of it are available. I hope that this matter will be raised above party consideration altogether, and that that continuity which is necessary to the dignity and due performance of the duties will be preserved in the selection of Speaker. Like the honorable member for Lang, I have nothing to say in respect to the Chairman of Committees in the last Parliament except words of the highest commendation. His decisions, and the knowledge he displayed of the procedure and rules, were such as to gain for him the unanimous confidence of this Chamber. But, under the circumstances, in view , of thefact that the recent occupant of the office gave the completest satisfaction, we should preserve that continuity which has already been suggested, and which must tend to the better carrying out of the duties of this high and important office.
– I beg to submit myself to the pleasure of the House.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Laanecoorie rose before I did. The honorable member has held the high and honorable position of Speaker; and his proposer and seconder on the present occasion are placing him in a very unenviable position. They are asking him to submit his name to the House, when they know perfectly well that honorable members on the Government benches have a majority, and are prepared to follow the example set them by the present members of the Opposition in the last Parliament, in nominating a member of their own side chosen in caucus. They are asking the honorable member for Laanecoorie to submit himself to an open vote and to be displaced from the chair which he so gracefully filled during last session. Either the honorable member for Kennedy or the honorable member for Laanecoorie could fill the position with honour to the House; but we are now asking an honorable member, who has already been Speaker, to submit himself and be displaced by a vote. This, I think, places the honorable member in a very unfair position, and I hope that he will withdraw, his name and not allow it to be submitted.
– How does the honorable member for Balaclava know what the result of the vote will be?
– We know very well that the numbers are against us, or, at any rate, we ought to know if we do not.
– Then the honorable member will never fight unless he is sure to win?
-There is a great difference between fighting and asking a gentleman to place himself in an undignified position.
.- I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Balaclava express the opinion that an honorable member who had occupied the high position of Speaker should not be asked to submit himself again if there were a probability of defeat. At first I thought he was imploring some of his friends on the Ministerial benches to reconsider a decision arrived at in secret, and to support a man who, after all, has acted very fairly in the chair. I think I can speak on this occasion with a certain amount of impartiality. On the last occasion I was not a very warm adherent of the honorable member for Laanecoorie, who, however, in spite of my gloomy predictions, has occupied the chair with much credit to himself. I should not have spoken now - believing the fewer speeches the better - but for the suggestion of the honorable member for Balaclava that it would be better for a man to run away than to face the battle, if that battle may mean defeat. For my own part, I can support now, although I did not do so on the previous occasion, the candidature of the honorable member for Laanecoorie with the utmost “confidence in his integrity and ability to fill the chair with honour to himself and to this Parliament.
.- lt is necessary for ‘me, in view of the position I took up in the last Parliament, to explain the vote I intend to give on the present occasion. I am sorry that this position has arisen. I. voted for the honorable member for Kennedy in the last Parlia ment, believing that he was thoroughly well qualified to fill such a high and responsible position; and I still hold that belief. There is no honorable member, 1 think, who could occupy the office of Speaker with more credit to himself and more satisfaction to the House as a whole; but, as there is one gentleman practically in possession of that office at the. present time, I think it would be a mistake for this honorable House on a party issue to attempt to dislodge him. I shall give my vote on this occasion against the deplorable system pf spoils to the victors.
– The charm of the speeches of members of the Opposition is when they quote at length what has been said by members of the Labour party; and I congratulate the honorable member for Lang on his successful efforts in that direction. Curiously enough, when - members of the Labour party are original, as is generally the case, they are bitterly denounced by honorable members opposite for introducing dangerous experiments and innovations - and the denunciation is usually of a very warm character - and when we follow precedents set by honorable members opposite Ave are denounced in equally warm terms. On this particular occasion, when the precedent established by the Fusion party in the selection of Speaker - at any rate, to some extent - is followed, the Opposition are very severe intheir condemnation. Blow hot or blow cold, the members of the Labour party are quite unable to please such gentlemen as the honorable member for Lang. The argument of honorable members of the Opposition seems to be that there should be continuity of office so far as the Speakership is concerned ; but I point out that continuity of. office must depend entirely on qualifications for the office. I am pleased to be able to say that, so far as South Australia is concerned, although the members of the Labour party are there in a majority, and control the House of Assembly, it was their pleasure to ask Sis Jenkin . Coles, a very prominent Oppositionist, to continue in the office of Speaker, and I have no shadow of doubt that such would be the action’ of the Labour party in every direction if the circumstances were similar. Therefore, so far as concerns the principle of continuity of office, we have there followed the precedent where- it waspossible with any degree of credit to ourselves. We have been taunted on this occasion with selecting a party man at a secret meeting. Let me remind those who so taunt us that while our selection was absolutely unanimous, and arrived at by a majority of the members of this House, yet, last year, when a selection was made in a secret caucus meeting of the Fusionists, the voting was seventeen to fifteen, and the seventeen controlled the fifteen.
– Not so at all.
– Honorable members ought not to throw taunts and jeers and sneers across the chamber unless they wish them replied to. If they make an attack they must expect some form of defence, and in this case I hope the defence is effective. At any rate, when they had their secret caucus meeting for the selection of a party ‘man for the position of Speaker, the voting was seventeen to fifteen.
– Although honorable members opposite now repudiate the fact, let me also remind them that their secret meeting was called at a particular period when it was known full well that a number of Fusionists could not possibly attend, or otherwise the vote might have been different. In the circumstances, I support the nomination of the honorable member for Kennedy. I have no desire to speak upon the qualifications of the two nominees, but it might be pertinent to remind the honorable member for Lang that a little while ago he refrained from voting, and left the chamber in disgust, rather than put the honorable member for Laanecoorie in the inferior position of Chairman of Committees.
.- The honorable member for Lang stated that the Attorney-General of the last Government had mentioned that it was the fight by custom of the Ministry of the day to nominate the Speaker. I did say so, but there was an additional sentence which the honorable member overlooked. It was- this : that it is laid down by two of the leading and most recent authorities - Lowell, in The Government of England, and Leonard Courtney in his work on the English Constitution - that it is the right of the .Government of the day to use its majority to nominate a Speaker when there is a vacancy in the chair - which there is not at the present time.
– Yes, there is.
– There is not. The Speaker, under the practice of the House of Commons, and under our law, acts until his successor is appointed. We made provision to that effect in, I think, the session before last, or, at all events, in the last Parliament.
– Then why is he not in the chair ?
– It is a matter that we ought to approach dispassionately. I do not think the House will be affected one way or the other, as regards impartiality, tact, or experience, whichever of the gentlemen nominated is put in the chair. I do not wish to discuss their qualifications, but merely ‘ to qualify some impressions that may have been gleaned regarding what is the practice from imperfect citation of authorities. Our Speaker’s salary continues until his successor is appointed, and, by consequence, he really does act as Speaker until we put some one else in the chair. The practice iri England is the same. . There, although the Ministry -of the day, when through death or other cause a vacancy has been created, have the right to use their majority to put their choice in the chair, the invariable practice, which we sought - to follow last year, has been that once a man is appointed, he should not be displaced unless there is some proof of misconduct. Let me quote, for the information of some honorable - members who were not here last year, one authority which I then cited - Leonard Courtney. He says - as is also mentioned by Lowell in The Government of England, volume 1, page 259-
It may now be taken as settled practice that a Speaker shall be re-elected who has proved himself competent for the post.
He mentions that in some of the selfgoverning colonies a practice to the contrary seems to have grown up, but he does not countenance that practice. He refers to the fact that, in 1874, Mr. Disraeli had indicated his intention to displace Mr. Brand, who had been chosen under the strong influence of Mr. Gladstone in the previous Parliament, but that at the instance of his own party he decided to adhere to the settled practice. Courtney adds -
The present . Speaker, Mr. Gully, was first elected in 1895, shortly before the dissolution nf that year, when Sir Matthew White-Ridley was nominated in opposition to him. This was the first contest for the Speakership since 1835, and as the majority was not large, and the approaching dissolution was expected to change the balance of parties in the House of Commons- which is pretty analogous to the present case - it was asserted, with some appearance of authority, that the choice would not be regarded as binding by the new House. In the event, there was an unparalleled overturn of parties, but if the intention to set aside Mr. Gully was everseriously entertained, it was again abandoned. This experience has established more strongly than ever the principle that a member once Speaker should remain Speaker as long as he is fit for the office.
That is the practice of the House of Com-_ mons, and it was the practice that inspired the action of the Ministry last year, when there was a vacancy in the chair through the death of Sir Frederick Holder.
– Why did you not take the House into your confidence, if that was so?
– I did. The honorable member may have forgotten it, but I pointed those facts out as the reason why the Ministry were using their majority to put the then candidate for the Speakership, apart altogether from the consideration of his merits, into the chair. I say nothing on the. question of the merits of the candidates on this occasion! but I thought it due to the party to which I belong, and to some of the new members of the House, to quote what was said on that occasion.
– I rise merely to put the honorable member for Adelaide right in his figures ; which, of course, he has not the opportunity of knowing correctly.
– Does the honorable member’s party admit having a caucus at all?
– No, we do not. We are going to make the matter perfectly open and above board, as we always do on our side of the House. I wish merely to mention that, on the occasion referred to by the honorable member, Dr. Carty Salmon received twenty votes, and if every member of the party who was away at the time had attended, the decision of the party could not have been altered.
– Then it was a party question?
– Yes, of course, it was a party question. With regard to Mr. McDonald, who is entirely impartial, and has filled the chair on many occasions with the greatest credit to himself, the only thing I am afraid of is the Labour pledge that he has signed. I .fear that it may sometimes conflict with his absolute impartiality. For instance, we know that, like all the rest of the gentlemen sitting opposite, he has signed a pledge, to abide by the decision of the majority of the party.
– Did that affect the result when he was Chairman of Committees ?
– No, but I can conceive of an occasion when it might interfere with his impartiality. That is the only reason that I have for objecting in any way to the election of Mr. McDonald.
– I desire first, by way of personal explanation, to correct a misstatement of fact made by the honorable member for Adelaide. Most of the statements which he made were, as usual, contrary to fact, but I wish to deal only with one that affects myself personally. He said that when the honorable member for Laanecoorie was nominated for the Chairmanship of Committees I went out of the chamber in disgust rather than vote for him. That is not correct. I was not in the chamber when the nomination was made, and consequently could not have left the chamber at the time, either in disgust or otherwise.
– Did the honorable member vote for him?
– I could not have voted for him, as I was not in the chamber when the- nomination or election took place. I wish to make an appeal to members of the Ministerial party, through the mouth of their own leader, the present Prime Minister. He said last year, on the occasion of the previous election of Speaker : -
Before we go to a vote, I wish to enter a most emphatic protest against the action of the Government in departing from the recognised practice and procedure, and in deciding, by means of a party caucus, to bind their members to vote for a particular representative as Speaker, without consulting in any way the other parties in the House. I make that protest for the reason that the Government are laying down a new procedure and a bad one. This course has been followed by a party consisting of a majority . of the House, and it reflects no credit on them. Indeed, through the Government, such an action reflects upon the whole House.
That statement was made by the present Prime Minister last year, and I wish now, using his own words, to .appeal to him and to the other honorable members opposite who indorsed the same views twelve months ago, to refuse to be bound by a party vote, recognising only the personal qualifications of the candidates offering and to vote according to their own consciences. I fear, however, that such an appeal will fall on ears conveniently deaf.
.- While .1 listened with attention to the remarks of the late Attorney-General, for whom I have great respect, I would remind him that, although it is right for us to’ follow the British Constitution in many things, there are other matters in which it would be stupid and wrong for us to do so. A woman cannot gaze at the members of the House of Commons except from a cage, although women are freely allowed to look upon the proceedings of the House of Lords. The honorable member must know that if parliamentary candidates in Australia were permitted to spend as much on elections as can be spent lawfully in England, hardly any of those who have been returned to this House would now be here, because it costs from£1,000 to£5,000 to get elected to the House of Commons. As an Australian, I am becoming tired of the continual citation of the House of Commons, which, in my opinion, is an obsolete Chamber, and of the British institutions, under which human beings have not the full right to vote. In the words of a caustic American - I think William Webster - in Great Britain, if a man possesses a donkey worth £15, he can exercise the franchise, but should the donkey die before the polling day, he would lose that right. The late Speaker knows my personal friendship for him. I admire the way in which he acted in many of the difficult positions in which he was placed during his term of office. My regret is that he does not belong to the Labour party - the party of advance. Were he a member of the party, he would have a fair show. What was done in the Victorian Assembly regarding Mr. Beazley who enjoyed the respect of every man there? The honorable member for Fawkner was a member of the Victorian House at the time.
– Mr. Beazley’s party voted against him.
– The honorable member is wrong, as usual.
– Some of them voted against him.
– The honorable member for Fawkner will admit that what was done in that case was not in accordance with the practice laid down by the honorable member for Angas.
– The honorable member for Bourke will remember what was done. Some of the members of his partyvoted against Mr. Beazley, on the ground that, if he were elected, the party would lose a vote.
– That was on another occasion.
– Many years ago I objected to the arrangement under which the Speaker and Chairman of Committees are deprived of the right to vote. The election to which I refer was an instance of a party election.
– On the first occasion, all the members of the party voted for Mr. Beazley.
– Every Labour member did so. I am sorry that I have had to make this speech. The honorable member for Laanecoorie has my full confidence. On a former occasion I explained my position with regard to him, and I shall vote to-day as I voted then. I shall always fully appreciate what he did when in the chair. Some honorable members strongly resented some of his decisions, but I believe that he was right, and that they were wrong. The speech of the honorable member for Lang reminds me of a remark made by a famous Oxford professor, when a waggish student put a piece of brick among a number of geological specimens which the class had been asked to collect. The professor, proceeding with their classification, said, “ This piece is anteglacial”; “This piece is post-glacial” ; but, when he came to the brick, he polished his glasses, looked at it attentively, and said, “ This is a piece of dem’d impudence.” In my opinion, the speech of the honorable member was a piece of dem’d impudence.
Question - That the Hon. Charles McDonald do take the chair of the House as Speaker - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Members of the House calling Mr. McDonald, he was taken out of his place by Mr. Spence and Mr. Parker Moloney, and conducted to the chair.
Then Mr. SPEAKER-ELECT, standing on the upper step, said : - I desire to thank honorable members for electing me to this high and honorable position. I intend to act with absolute fairness to all parties, and trust that I shall perform the duties appertaining to my office, and recognise the responsibilities attached to it, in a way which will do credit to the Chamber, to the Parliament, and to Australia.
– It is with peculiar pleasure that I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on attaining the high office of Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is now over seventeen years since we both first entered the Parliament of Queensland, since when your parliamentary career has been unbroken. From the first you took a deep interest in the Standing Orders and rules of procedure, and very soon were recognised as a safe and impartial authority, and as a capable interpreter of the rules and procedure set down for the guidance of deliberative assemblies. Our experience of you here, sir, has confirmed, I believe, the opinions then formed as to your ability and impartiality. I feel that your elevation to the Chair to-day will have all the results that you have suggested, and that you will deal impartially with every question which presents itself for your decision. I am confident that the Opposition will not suffer by reason of any party bias being displayed by. you in your decisions. I do not think any one fears that a display of bias on your part is even possible; indeed. I may say, sir, that it is the opinion of the party to which you belong that you are rather more severe in dealing with them than you are in dealing with members of other parties. I would, in no circumstances, strike a discordant note here, but I should like the Opposition and the country to know that, so far as matters of this kind are concerned, the party of which I have the honour to be leader takes no steps to bind any member of it.
– Oh !
– Unfortunately, a mere sneer cannot appear on the official records ; but I make no apology for the words I have just uttered. There are very many people in the Commonwealth who will accept my word as against that of a thousand others to the contrary. May I, in conclusion, express my appreciation of the many kindly acts of the honorable member for Laanecoorie during his tenure of office as Speaker, and particularly since I have held office as Prime Minister. I thank him especially because, at my request, he took charge of the work of improving the hygienic conditions of this Chamber, and I venture to say that members’ health will benefit by the manner in which he has carried out the duty so intrusted to him.
.- Permit me, sir, on behalf of honorable members on this side of the House, to offer you our congratulations upon your selection as Speaker, and to assure you that you will have at all times oursupport and assistance in discharging the duties of that onerous position. The Prime Minister has properly referred to your long political experience, and many of us familiar with your decisions as Chairman of Committees in this branch of the Federal Legislature, look forward without apprehension to your discharge of the duties of your high office. We are confident that your aim will be to maintain the traditions to which you have referred and to sustain the high standard established by the late Sir Frederick Holder, so admirably maintained by his successor, the honorable member for Laanecoorie. At all times we shall recollect that you not only represent the constituency which returned you, but that you are the spokesman of the House in one of the most important offices of the Legislature.
– Perhaps I may also be permitted, Mr. Speaker, to offer you my congratulations. I realize, as you can well understand, the honour which the House has conferred upon you, and recognise also the. great responsibility now resting upon your shoulders. May I say that I have no fear as to the way in which thoseresponsibilities will be discharged by you. I was sorry during the debate to hear an interjection by an old member of this House which would tend to show that he, at all events, has not altogether appreciated the position of the occupant of the Chair, who is compelled to put any resolution properly submitted to him, and, in putting it, does not thereby identify himself with it. I desire, as I have had an opportunity of doing, on a previous occasion, to offer you, sir, any assistance that it will lie in my power to give you in making your path as easy as possible.
– I have ascertained that it will be His Excellency’s pleasure to receive Mr. Speaker in the Library about 2.20 p.m., and I invite the attendance of as many honorable members as can make it convenient to be present on that occasion.
– I shall be glad if as many honorable members as can attend will accompanyme this afternoon.
Sitting suspended from 12.11 to 2.15 p.m.
The House proceeded to the Library, there to present Mr. Speaker to His Excellency the Governor-General.
The House having re-assembled,
– I have to announce that I have presented myself to His Excellency the Governor-General, who was pleased to congratulate me upon my election.
The Usher of the Black Rod being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber forthwith.
Mr. Speaker and honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned,
– I have to inform the House that I have attended in the Senate chamber, where His Excellency the GovernorGeneral was pleased to deliver his opening speech, of which, for greater accuracy I have obtained a copy, but, unless honorable members desire it, I do not propose to read it. (For text of speech, vide page 8.)
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That a Committee, consisting of Mr. Scullin and Mr. Finlayson, be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of the Parliament.
That the Committee do report this day.
The members of the Committee retired.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That, until otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at Three o’clock on each Tuesday afternoon, and at half-past Two o’clock on each Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, and at half-past Ten o’clock on each Friday morning.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Audit Act -
Transfers of amounts approved by the Administrator in Council - Financial Year 1909-10 - Dated 12th January,1910.
Transfers of amounts approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council - Financial Year 1909-10 -
Dated 21st December, 1909.
Dated 14th March,1910.
Dated 8th April,1910.
Dated 8th April,1910.
Dated 27th April,1910.
Beer Excise Act - Regulation amended, No. 15A - Statutory Rules1910, No. 4.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act- Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1910, No.17.
Conciliation and Arbitration Act -
Rule of Court - Form 4; Rule 26 - Substituted - Statutory Rules1909, No. 133.
Regulations - Statutory Rules1910, No. 3.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for1909. respecting Contract Immigrants admitted or refused admission into the Commonwealth, &c.
Customs Act - Regulations amended -
Nos. 26 and94 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules1910, No. 55.
No.109 - Statutory Rules1910, No.57.
Elections,1910 - Statistics relating to the Senate Election; the General Election for the House of Representatives ; and the Submission to the Electors of Proposed Laws for the alteration of the Constitution, viz. : - Constitution Alteration (Finance)1909; and Constitution Alteration (State Debts) 1909. Electoral Act -
Provisional Regulation 6a - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 131.
Electoral Act and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules1910, No. 2.
Excise Act - Regulations amended -
Glucose - Statutory Rules1910, No. 44.
No. 1. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 24.
No.134a. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 126.
Immigration Restriction Act -
Return showing, for 1909 -
Persons refused admission to the Commonwealth.
Persons who passed the dictation test.
Persons admitted without being asked to pass the dictation test.
Departures of coloured persons from the Commonwealth.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Ararat, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Box Hill, Victoria - As a site for a Postoffice.
Germanton, New South Wales - As a site for a Post-office.
Melbourne, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Mudgee, New South Wales - As an addition to Rifle Range site.
Perth, Western Australia - As a site for a Telephone Exchange.
Port Adelaide, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Singleton, New South Wales - As a site for a Drill Hall.
Wyong, New South Wales - As a site for a Post-office.
Life Assurance - Report of Royal Commission.
Manufactures Encouragement Act - Iron Bounty Regulations - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 16.
Naturalization Act - Return of number of persons to whom Certificates of Naturalization were granted during1909.
Ordinances of1909 -
No. 20. - Stamp Duties.
No, 30. - Survey Fees.
No. 31. - Supplementary Appropriation 1909-10, No. 2.
No. 32. - Legal Agents’ Remuneration.
No. 33. - Supplementary Appropriation 1909-10, No. 3.
Ordinances of 1910 -
Gold Mining Encouragement.
Native Labour, No. 2.
No. 1. - Supplementary Appropriation 1909-10, No. 4.
Patents Act - Regulations amended - No. 133, a,b,c (Provisional) - Statutory Rules1910, No. 43; Statutory Rules 1910, No.58.
Premiers’ Conference - Correspondence re.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended, &c-
Parcels Post ; Telegraphic - Statutory Rules1910, No. 36.
Newspapers - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 48.
Packets - Statutory Rules1909, No. 137.
Packets, &c. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 32.
Postal; General Postal- Statutory Rules 1910, No. 13.
Postal ; General Postal ; Telephone - Statutory Rules1910, No. 47.
Postal, Telegraphic - Statutory Rules1909, No. 123.
Telegrams beyond the Commonwealth -
Statutory Rules1909, No. 124.
Telegrams within the Commonwealth -
Statutory Rules 1909, No. 115.
Public Service Act - Secretary to the Prime
Minister - Reclassification of office of, and promotion thereto of M. L. Shepherd.
Public Service Act -
List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, 1st January, 1910. Recommendations in cases of Appointments, in the Department of Home Affairs, of- H. Grant, as Land and Property Officer, Class C, Professional Division Quintino, as Draftsman, Public Works Branch. Regulations Amended (Provisional) - No.88a - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 149. Nos. 114,116a - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 6. No. 172 - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 53. No. 185 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 148. No. 185 - Statutory Rules1910, No. 33. No.199 - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 19. No. 220 - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 59. Regulations Amended - No. 57 - Statutory Rules1910, No. 7. No. 88a - Statutory Rules 1910. No. 34. Nos. 114 and116A - Statutory Rules1910, No. 51. No. 185 - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 52. No. 199 - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 54. Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - No.100A (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 56. No. 105 *(a)(aa)* (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 42. No. 105 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules1910, No. 25. No. 126A (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 146. Spirits Act - Regulation amended - No. 57A - Statutory Rules1910, No. 37.
Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the table a copy of a message sent, on behalf of the Parliament, on the occasion of the death of His Majesty King Edward the Seventh, and of the accession to the throne of His Majesty King George the Fifth, and a copy of the reply received thereto. (For text vide page 10.)
– I move, as supplementary to the Message just read -
We, the Members of the House of Represen tatives in the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, take the earliest opportunity we have had since the lamented death of our late beloved Sovereign, King Edward VII., to express our deep sympathy in the great sorrow which Your Majesty sustained.
I do not think it advisable to say anything further than is conveyed by the motion, for reasons which will be apparent to honorable members. I may say that I have consulted the Leader of the Opposition in this matter.
– I beg to second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, all members standing.
– I beg to move -
We, the Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, submit our respectful congratulations on Your Majesty’s accession to the Throne, and desire to assure YourMajesty of our loyalty, and to express our earnest hope that under the blessings of Providence Your Majesty may enjoy a long and prosperous reign, and that it may be marked by the increased progress and happiness of the peoples of the British Empire.
I do not think that anything I could add would better express our feelings of hope and gratefulness at the accession of the present King. I hope his reign will be equally blest with those of his near relatives and immediate predecessors in the exalted office he occupies.
.- Without repeating the sentiments aptly expressed by the Prime Minister, let me simply add that it is the whole people of this Empire who have reason to congratulate themselves on the accession of His Majesty. Certainly we of the Commonwealth recollect with no common satisfaction that we have already had the privilege of welcoming to this country our present King, whose ability and knowledge of affairs impress all who are brought into contact with him, as do the brilliant qualities of our Queen. I beg to second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, all members standing.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the foregoing resolutions be forwarded through His Excellency the Governor-General.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Ordered to be referred to Committee of Supply when appointed.
– Before moving the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the Supply Bill to be considered, I wish to invite the House to elect the Chairman of Committees. I have consulted the Leader of the Opposition, and understand that the House is quite willing to appoint the gentleman who has been nominated, and who. we hope, will occupy the position. I move, by leave -
That the honorable member for Grey, the Hon. Alexander Poynton, be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means to be appointed before the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s Opening Speech has been agreed to by the House, and to enable all other steps to be at once taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House will this day resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
In Committee of Supply:
– I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to thank honorable members for haying conferred on me this great and honorable position. I shall endeavour during my occupancy of the chair to carry out my duties in such a way as will uphold the traditions of the office. I feel confident that I shall have the assistance of both sides of the House in performing my duties, because it must be understood that, unless I have the hearty co-operation of every honorable member, it will be difficult for me to conduct the business as it should be conducted. I thank honorable members very much for the honour they have conferred upon me.
– I move -
That a sum, not exceeding£744,331, be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1911.
Perhaps it will be no breach of rules or etiquette, Mr. Poynton, for me to express my gratification at seeing you occupy the position that you now fill. Honorable members will see that a very considerable item of the large amount of Supply which I ask for to-day is due to the fact that a large payment will be made in the. first quarter of the financial year towards the expense of the construction of a cruiser.
– How much?
– It will probably amount to over £200,000, to be paid as an instalment during the first quarter of the financial year.
– For how long is this Supply?
– The Supply asked for is for one month, but the payment to which I have referred will be made in England on an experiment which the right honorable member had a little share . in undertaking- - the building of a large armoured cruiser. Part payment of the sum to which I refer will, of course, be made out of this money. That rather swells the amount, and, of course, makes the Treasurer’s Advance somewhat larger than it would otherwise be. There are no changes at all in the payment of officers ; all the payments will be made on the basis of the Estimates passed last year. There are no increases in special votes in this Bill, which is simply a temporary Supply Bill to meet the emergencies of the situation. It was’ difficult for this Parliament to meet earlier than the 1st July, for obvious reasons, and from that day the Treasurer, for constitutional reasons, is unable to spend -i single penny until authorized by Parliament to do so. I wish, therefore, to express my appreciation of the action of the Opposition and all concerned in allowing this Bill to go so far. It is hoped also that it will be passed by the Senate and become law before 4 o’clock this afternoon, so as to make to-day’s payments legal. As regards the financial position of the Commonwealth generally, the. final figures will not be available till later in the day, but a rough estimate for the financial year just . closed is as follows : - Receipts from Customs and Excise, £11,594,261. Deducting the expenses of collection leaves net receipts from that source of £1.1,316,054. One quarter of that - the Commonwealth’s share - amounts to £2,829,013. The three-quarters due to the States under the Braddon clause totals £8,487,041. The balance actually paid to the States is £8,080,496 j which is less than the amount due to the States under thf Braddon clause by .£406,545. Adding an amount of £50,000 actually paid to the States out of Trust Funds, and included in the .amount of £8,080,496 previously referred to, the total Commonwealth deficit for the financial year 1909-10, to be met by a temporary borrowing from trust funds, is £456,545. I might anticipate questions regarding this borrowing of money from the Trust Funds. These funds represent surplus moneys that have accumulated for many years, and in the possession’ and control of the Treasury, and are, I think, properly available for this purpose.
– Without any Act of Appropriation?
– There is no appropriation necessary. The money has not yet been paid. The State Treasurers were notified that it would probably .not be possible to return to them every penny .due to the States under the Braddon section at the end of the financial year. In fact, that has never been done, and has never been, even attempted to be done. An adjustment has always been made in the first month of the succeeding financial year. Sometimes the States were overpaid, and sometimes underpaid, and the adjustments were always made in. July. The State Treasurers were accordingly notified early last .month that their accounts would be adjusted ‘during July this year. These other surplus funds are available, and the Government thought it was much better to utilize them for this purpose than to borrow money and pay interest, pledging the credit of the Commonwealth, while we had actual funds in our possession. That .is the position we have taken up, and no law has been .violated ‘ by our proposal. I should like to read a telegram which has just been placed in my hands. It is, I think, a public telegram, and meant for public purposes, and I wish to take the House into my own confidence, and into that of the sender of it. It reads -
Fisher, Prime Minister, Melbourne. It is reported in to-day’s papers that you intend using State moneys in your hands on 30th June for Federal purposes. Is that, report correct ?- - W. Kidston.
We intend to do nothing of the kind. That is my public answer to the telegram. The States will be paid their full amounts as soon as the adjustment takes place. That adjustment will be made during July, and will give. back to the States the whole amount,. as -has been the custom since Federation began.
– Do I understand that the Government gets the money to meet the deficit from the Trust Funds?
– Yes; we will adjust it from the Trust Funds.
– Why were not the States paid in that- way every time?
– The States have.either been underpaid or overpaid every time, and the adjustment has always taken place in the first month of the financial year succeeding.
– But not to the extent of £400,000 or £500,000.
– If the .right honorable member’s estimate had. been correct, the amount would have been £1,200,000. He ought not to be angry because it is only £450,000.
– I cannot understand why the necessity exists.
– The necessity is that we want to’ save money to the Treasury. That money is available, and will be adjusted as usual before the end of the current month. I think that practice has always been accepted by this Parliament and by the Treasury. My answer to Mr. Kidston is that which I give to the Committee, namely, that the Commonwealth Government are not using, nor do they intend to use, any money belonging to the States. They simply desire to, .’make temporary use of surplus Trust Funds, which, in my opinion, can legitimately and properly be used on such an occasion as this.
– The Government have not yet taken any money from the Trust Funds?
– We have taken an “mount of almost £50,000 from the Trust Funds.
– What legal authority have the Government for doing that?
– Subject to further discussion,. I do not think that there is any legal embarrassment such as the honorable member suggests. I am advised that it is not legally incorrect to do that which we have done.
.- I do not think that the right honorable member for Swan has quite caught the statement of the Treasurer. It is proposed to meet the present financial stress by two means. Some money has already been appropriated from the Trust Funds towards that purpose without authority and a further sum is to be appropriated.
– Not appropriated.
– By Ministers, not by Act of Parliament.
– Yes, a sum of £50j0°o has already been taken from the Trust Funds.
– Do. not forget the £2,000,000 which the honorable member’s Government promised for a Dreadnought.
– Am I to understand from the Treasurer that a sum of £50,000 has been taken from the Trust Funds, and employed for the purpose mentioned?
– And a further sum of £406,000 is to be taken in the same way.
– That is so..
– The honorable member for Darling Downs desires to know how the Treasurer reconciles that- procedure with the requirements of the Audit Act, section 61 of which provides -
It shall not be lawful for the Treasurer to expend any moneys standing to the credit of the trust fund except for the purpose of such fund or under the authority of an Act.
I assume that as the Treasurer has not yet obtained the authority of an Act of Parliament, he must now intimate his intention of asking the House to grant it ex post facto.
– If advised I shall do so at once.
– Whatever advice may be tendered the honorable gentleman, he must, in face of the- clear requirements of the Audit Act, which protects the Trust Funds from being- operated upon without the consent of Parliament. If that consent, formally expressed by Act, is not obtained, a Government might do as it pleases with trust or other funds.” Without such lawful authority they have no right to lay hands on a farthing of the Trust Funds. It appears to me, therefore, that the Treasurer has not been advised of his position by the Law Department or by his officers. At present the position is that he has made away with £50,000, for what I hope is a legitimate purpose, but in any event he certainly has not acted in a lawful manner. I do not know what are the penalties under the Audit Act to which the Treasurer and his colleagues have rendered themselves liable, but the sooner the proper authority is obtained from this Parliament, the sooner they will put themselves in a proper position, from which we never departed, but from which the honorable gentleman has been very early tempted to stray. The Treasurer has seized the apple and has eaten it.
– If Parliament chooses to do what we propose, we can adjust the matter. It would be only for a clay, if Parliament so agreed.
– If the honorable member and I, being in the employment of the Commonwealth, dipped our hands without authority into the public purse, saying “ It is all right; we will put back this money to-morrow,” there would be properly applied to our conduct an incriminatory term placing us in a very embarrassing position. The Treasurer will see that his mistake has been in touching the Trust Funds without the authority of Parliament having been first sought and obtained.
.- I am sure that the Treasurer will acquit me of any desire to raise difficulties or obstruct business. I wish really to assist him in obtaining Supply, because I know that it is necessary. When I held office as Treasurer I had very often to submit to a good deal of obstruction in obtaining Supply, but I do not propose to deal in the same way with my successor. I gather from the statement made by the Treasurer that £50,000 has been taken from the Trust Funds and that he proposes later on to take from them a further sum of £406,000. If he is able without authority to take £50,000 in this way from the Trust Funds, why did he not take the additional £406,000 and pay the States what is due to them ? He seems to have stopped short by taking only £50,000. It is a most irregular and illegal procedure. If it is his desire that the Trust Funds should be used by the Treasury when there is a shortage, he should obtain legislative authority to do so. It is a matter of great importance. It is for Parliament to consider whether, when moneys have been placed in trust funds for a specific purpose, the Government should be able to lay hands upon those funds whenever they choose. I do not think it is right or reasonable that they should be able to lay hands on Such funds at any time they please; but I shall not express any decided opinion about this matter until I have more information. There is another very important matter in regard to which I think we require fuller information. Under section 87 of the .Constitution the Commonwealth is not entitled to spend more than one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue in any year. I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he has spent more than that pro portion for Commonwealth purposes during the financial year just ended? It seems to me that he must have done so, otherwise, he would be able now to give the States the three-fourths to which they are entitled. If that be so, he has violated provisions of the Constitution. ‘ We shall be able to deal_, later on in’ Committee, with the question of the Treasurer’s advance. I wish only to add that I am not speaking in a carping spirit, my sole desire being to obtain information.
– I do not agree with the contention of the right honorable member for, Swan that we have departed from the Constitution. If we . have spent more than we have received, it does not follow that we have spent more than we are entitled to spend under the Constitution. These funds are available from other sources, and in no way. come into- conflict wilh the proportions payable to the States, and to be retained by the Federation. The Trust Funds are entirely distinct. ° The right honorable member has asked me why we have expended the sum of £50,000, to which reference has been made. We ask for that amount as a matter of urgency, for the reason that we had to meet an obligation into which the right honorable gentleman entered when in office, to pay an’ instalment of about £50,000 on 30th June last. That payment fell due yesterday, and I felt that my first duty was to see that the obligations of the Commonwealth were met. The sum of. £50,000 was . available, and was obtainable, not from one great Trust Fund, but from several small trust funds, such as the fund to provide for the purchase of stores, and that for the purchase of army stores which, under the ordinary procedure of other Parliaments, would have lapsed. These small funds, having been carried on from time to time, the amount’ I have named was available, some of it in. London, and a proportion of it here. I feel that no law has really been broken by us; although I admit, at once, that Parliamentary authority might be Sought to deal with some of these funds which have absolutely ceased to be operative for the purposes for which they were originally created.
– The act which the Treasurer admits that his Government have committed ought not to be allowed to pass without a very decided protest, at all events from this side of the
Committee. The honorable gentleman has inaugurated his financial career by acting in direct defiance of one of the most important safeguards that Parliament has provided.
– Could I have borrowed without authority?
– The Treasurer knows very well that when an Act has been passed to safeguard the Department over which he presides,providing that no money shall be taken out of a trust fund, except by the authority of an Act of Parliament, there was only one clear constitutional course for him to follow when he desired to touch such a fund. That course was to obtain the authority of an Act of Parliament. Even if it should become necessary to call Parliament together earlier than he would otherwise have done,he should have called it together earlier.
– The honorable member knows that Parliament could not have been convened before.
– I know nothing of the kind. It might have been inconvenient to convene Parliament before, but surely we are at liberty - in fact, it is our duty - to protest strongly against a deliberate violation of an important safeguard provided by Parliament itself. Can such funds be called “ Trust Funds “ if a Treasurer may, without authority from Parliament, dip into them, and then plead the inconvenience of calling Parliament together to first obtain its authority? The Treasurer says now that he does not know whether he is going to ask Parliament for the necessary authority for what he has already done. It is a most amazing position for the Treasurer to take up in coming before the Parliament, which passed an Act providing that -
It shall not be lawful for the Treasurer to expend any moneys standing to the credit of the trust fund except for the purposes of such fund or under the authority of an Act.
Is the Treasurer prepared now, before he asks us to give him this additionalSupply, to assure the Committee that he will at once take steps to secure authority for, and to justify, an act which is a deliberate violation of a Statute?
– If the Crown Law officers take the same view as the honorable member does, I shall do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That the House will, on Wednesday next, again resolve itself into the said Committee.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House will, this day, resolve itself into a Committee to consider the ways and means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering Resolution of Supply, adopted.
That this House will, on Wednesday next, again resolve itself into the said Committee.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first and second time.
Clause1 (Short title).
.- It is proposed to vote £250,000 as an advance to the Treasurer. I wish to know the proposed destination of that large sum. Is it to be spent upon the continuation and completion of works already authorized by Parliament, or is it intended to use it to pay for new works which have not received Parliamentary sanction? I hope that the Treasurer will giveus his assurance that the money is to be spent only on telephonic, telegraphic, and other public works which have been authorized by Parliament.
– The sum referred to is required to meet obligations entered into by honorable members opposite when members of the Ministry. The sum of £70,000 must be paid to the contractors who are constructing our cruiser. That payment will fall due within the next few days. Altogether £210,000 has to be paid to them within three months from to-day.
– Has any money yet been paid to them?
– Nothing has been paid, but £50,000 has been placed in a Trust Account to meet the liability.
– Is the honorable member going to use the advance to repay the sums taken from Trust Funds?
– Not necessarily, though there will be a readjustment. Should any irregularity take place through the breach of a legal technicality, I should seize the earliest opportunity to ask Parliament to ratify what had been done, or to have the matter settled in some proper way. The honorable member for Ballarat will see from the document which I now hand to him how the money is to be spent. My reply to the honorable member for Bendigo is that some of it will be spent on new works which have been sanctioned by Parliament, but not completed.
– It is being asked for merely to pay for works already authorized ?
– Yes. Under no circumstances shall I use the money to pay for works which have not been authorized by Parliament.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer, first, when he intends to return the ,£50,000 that he has taken from the Trust Funds, and, secondly, why he asks for so large a sum as £250,000 in a Supply Bill which covers the services of one month only. I have sufficient trust in him to believe that whatever sum might be voted would be carefully dealt with ; but I should like to know why he asks for more than he needs. Treasurers do not usually do that, because of the trouble which it causes. The Treasurer will remember what trouble the last Administration had in getting Parliament to vote £100,000. Parliament has never before voted more than £200,000 as -a year’s advance to the Treasurer ; but now we are being asked ‘ to vote £250,000 as a month’s advance. I should like the Prime Minister to explain why he asks for this sum. Perhaps he has seme good reason.
– Like the right honorable member, I am guided largely by the advice which I receive from my experienced officers. In this instance, I am informed that, in view of the payments which have to be made, £250,000 is not an excessive amount to ask for, and will not leave available to the Treasurer for ordinary expenditure much more than £100,000. I told the honorable member for Bendigo that no new works or enterprises will be entered upon this month, and that not one penny of the money voted under the Bill will be used for expenditure not already authorized by Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 4, schedule, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report, adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Crouch w. Ozanne.
The Clerk laid upon the table a copy of an election petition received by him from the Deputy-Registrar of the High Court, at Melbourne, under section 202 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-5. viz. : - Petition of Richard Armstrong Crouch against the return of Alfred Thomas Ozanne as member for the electoral division of Corio, in the State of Victoria.
The Committee, having re-entered the chamber, presented the proposed AddressinReply, which was read by the Clerk, as follows : -
Mav it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign,’ and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I move -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
While this motion may be regarded as formal, it has, on the present occasion, a special significance, because this is the first time in the history of our National Parliament that there has been in power a Labour Government’ supported by a working majority. This Government is to be congratulated on the programme which it has put before Parliament for its consideration. We have been told many times since the inception of Federation that there would be prosperity next year, or the year after ; that, by a vigorous immigration “policy, population would be encouraged to come to our shores. And many other fine promises have been made. But nothing has been done to open up our lands, to provide for the immigrants who might come from beyond the seas. This Government, however, has, at the beginning of its programme, an important measure, the object of which’ is to . do that. It carries into effect a policy which for many years past we have advocated throughout the country. That is a tax on land values with an exemption of £5,000. N6w, the first thing that this tax does is’ to declare the right of the people of this country to take a portion of the unearned increment to pay for the services rendered by the people who have created those values. Therefore, to carry on the services of the Government, arid to defend the country, we ask those people who are enjoying the privilege of ‘a large unearned increment, to contribute to the support of those services, and to help to defend the hind of which they own a very considerable part. Not only will this lay down the principle of equitable ‘taxation, but it will have very far-reaching and beneficial effects. It will tell the people who own large tracts of fertile land throughout the Commonwealth that they shall not be permitted to keep .those lands in comparative idleness, unless they contribute at least a fair share of their unearned increment in return for the privileges they enjoy. The effects, as I say, will be far-reaching and beneficial. One effect will be that men who own large tracts of country, ‘which they are not putting to ‘the best use, will be unable to pay the tax, and .will, therefore, be compelled to subdivide their land. The tax in such cases must inevitably mean subdivision, with the result, of course, that large tracts of fertile country will be made available, first for our own people, and then as an attraction for immigrants from- beyond the seas, thus laying the foundation of a truly prosperous Australian nation. Of course, we who believe in the principle of taxing the unearned increment may be asked why we propose any exemption. But I ask anybody who raises that objection, whether they would’ propose at the outset to take the whole’ of the unearned increment? If that is not their proposal, they admit at once the desirability of some exemption. Further, we are taking from those people, who will be exempt, large revenue in other forms of taxation, which should be remitted before we make the further demand on all proprietors, large and small. Besides, people who own small areas, either in town or country, are putting those areas to the best possible use, and are factors in the production of wealth, and in building up the prosperity of the country. On the other hand, those who own valuable estates in the cities are entitled to pay a larger amount in the shape of taxation, because they enjoy the larger amount of protection. In the cities we have our first line of defence, and in the case of an invasion by an enemy, land values there would be practically nil, while those in the country would be. less than they are at present. If we establish the principle that large estates should contribute fairly towards the revenue of the country, then the tax should be high enough to break up such estates, and thus put into use rich lands which are capable of maintaining hundreds of thousands of people, but which are now only sheep walks. All such land should be forced into use for the settlement of families, so that, in .case of necessity, we might have the -call on large bodies of men able to shoulder’ the rifle in defence of their country. I trust that this tax will ba made effective when the clauses ot the Bill are being considered. We who f avoured, this tax, when contesting the last Federal election, were told by our opponents that the owner of £100,000 worth of land could pay a tax of fourpence in the £1 and smile. But I trust that, when the clauses are under consideration, the tax will be more than threepence or fourpence or fivepence, so that the man with land to the value of £100,000, or £150,000, who is not putting it to its best use, will be compelled to subdivide, and thus furnish areas for our farmers’ sons, who are now compelled to leave the country. This brings me to the proposal of the Government to pay to the States 25s. per head for ten years. When the financial agreement was under discussion, we were told by those who favoured its inclusion in the Constitution - and we have reason to congratulate ourselves that this proposal was defeated by the people on the 13th April - that the Labour party made no provision on behalf of the States for the carrying out of new works or the ordinary government of the country - that we did not desire to give the States any money at all. That was the argument we had to meet, everywhere. But I am glad to say - and I did not expect anything else - that the Government have come down with a proposal which recognises the right of the States to share in the Federal revenue, and even recognises their right to the amount promised in the measure introduced by the late Government. But there is a very apparent difference between the two proposals. We propose to grant this 25s. per head for ten years, whereas the other proposition was that the agreement should be included for ever in the Constitution, so that when it became unworkable, the. Federal Government would find themselves in the position ot being unable to provide revenue to carry 011 national undertakings. A referendum was taken, and the people declared that the Federal Parliament should have paramount control over the Federal revenue - that it should have power to say what the States should receive, and for what term of years. I am glad to note that in His Excellency’s speech a reference is made to the transfer of the States’ debts. This is’ a very important question, which was discussed very freely during the last campaign; and the people’ expressed their opinion in no uncertain manner. There is one thing, however, which, in my opinion, should come hand-in-hand with the transfer of the debts - I mean the right of the States to accumulate more debts when they have transferred their present indebtedness. We desire to establish the principle of consolidating our borrowing policy - that there shall be only one borrower for one people. We have heard a great deal about “ One people one destiny,” and I think we should give a more practical turn to that saying, and declare that for one people there shall be only one borrower, with the result of a better position in the markets of the world, and greater facility in meeting old loans by floating new ones on more advantageous terms. There is one other part of the Governor-General’s speech that has given me great pleasure, and that is the reference to the very humane proposals <hat the Government are going to make in reducing the age of women entitled to old-age pensions, and, further, in making some provision for invalids. I have no doubt that the question of cost will be raised, and that we may be told we have no money at present to meet such an undertaking. But my attitude is that, whatever proposition of the Government may be set aside on the score of expense, this one should not be, and that any money necessary for Commonwealth purposes should not be raised at the expense of the old people, who are unable to provide for themselves in their infirmity. The principle that women should receive pensions at a reduced age as compared with men is very sound and wise. We know that, on the average, men are about sixty-five when their wives are about sixty, and we think that such women should receive pensions simultaneously with their husbands. Further, we recognise that, in a shorter period of time, the women of the country render an equal service to that rendered by men, because of the greater responsibility they take on themselves as good wives and good mothers, thus providing a valuable asset for this young coun try of Australia. Therefore, it is proposed that women shall receive pensions at a reduced age. Invalid pensions are in many respects more important even than old-age pensions ; and we ought to see that in the future old people, or young people for that matter, who are afflicted with infirmity or disease, are, through their Parliament, provided for in an adequate manner. I trust that when this measure is in operation we shall not see in the streets of our beautiful cities the pitiful and degrading sight of infirm men and women compelled to sell matches or boot laces for a living. Personally, I congratulate- the Government on placing this humane measure in their programme for this session, and on their determination to deal with it early in the financial year. Another financial proposal is the issue of a Commonwealth bank note. This proposal, I see, is being criticised in the press, and, with sarcastic references, there are attempts to give illustrations of failure in the issue of such notes. Tri my opinion, this is the soundest financial proposition that the Government r-ould introduce, and there has been no successful attempt to prove that it is not a perfectly safe one. The proposal asserts the principle that the people, through their Parliament, have the right to be the sole issuers of the currency - not only gold, silver, and copper, but also paper - and that principle is a perfectly sound one. It will give greater safety to the people, and insure profit on the issue, while it will abolish the expense and inconvenience of exchange between the States, not to mention the gain, which is not inconsiderable, on notes lost or destroyed. Therefore, I feel that the Government should be supported in their proposal to issue an Australian note. I now come to the proposal to amend the Constitution, which is, perhaps, one of the most important measures before the people bf Australia at the present time. A good deal has been said on both sides of the House regarding the question of Protection, and the party on this side has declared unanimously in favour. of what is known as the new Protection. That, as we have seen, is not possible under our Constitution, and we, therefore, propose to ask the people, who have, on at, least two occasions, declared in favour of it, to give us the power to put it into, operation by means of an alteration of the Constitu-tion. The objection will, doubtless, be raised that to take a referendum at a time when we are not anticipating a general election will mean expense. But if there has to be any extra expense, which we shall regret, the responsibility will not rest upon the shoulders of this Government. The promise to take that referendum on the 13th April, at the time of. the last general election, was broken, but not by this side of the House ; and, therefore, if any question of the cost of tak: ing such a referendum early next year is raised, the responsibility must be placed upon the proper shoulders. The question of dealing with trusts and combines deserves earnest consideration, and an appeal to the people to give this Parliament power to deal with those combinations that are eating into our commerce will, I am sure, meet with a ready response. We want power to settle disputes by means of our Arbitration Court, no matter ‘ where they may occur; It seems rather a stupid policy to have ‘ari Act that will settle a dispute, but to have to wait until that dispute extends over more than one State. My idea of settling a dispute would b.e to nip it in the bud, I would deal ‘with it as early as possible, because any industrial dispute is harmful to both sides. Whichever side wins, they both practically lose. We, therefore, say that the people should be asked to give this Parliament the . necessary constitutional power to deal effectively with all industrial disputes;- no matter where or ‘ when they may occur* We want power, also, in dealing with trusts and combines, to control them, to acquire them, if necessary, or to compete against them”. We say that’ private enterprise will have to justify itself, and if any combinations of private enterprise work in a manner inimical to the best interests of the Australian people,” then the representatives of the people must take a hand and deal with them. Another pro- posal which appeals to me as very sound is the repeal of the Naval Loan Act passed by the late Government. It will establish the principle that the defence of this country shall be paid for by the people of this country. If we borrow money for defence* in time of peace, it seems to me that we would steal it in time of war. In my reading of history, I do not know of any country that has gone in for effective defence by adopting’ a borrowing policy in times of peace.’ I can understand that, when the unfortunate time arrives that the enemy is hammering at the door, we should take any methods of raising money legitimately to defend our hearths and homes ; but if we adopt a borrowing policy in time of peace, we shall find it very difficult to borrow in time of war. If, therefore, the people want defence, and I believe they do, they must be prepared to pay for it’; and, as in defending the country we make it possible for people to build up their enterprises, to raise large edifices upon their valuable allotments, and protect property, we should call upon those large values which we add to the land for a great part of the cost of that defence, just as we shall call upon the manhood of Australia to take up arms to defend our hearths and homes. I do not feel that 1 am called upon in this, my maiden speech in . the House, to speak at any length upon these questions, because we shall have an opportunity to debate every one of them in detail. It would be, to a considerable extent, a waste of time to do so now. I think we can say with safety that the Government are to be sincerely congratulated upon the sound and progressive policy that they have brought before the House. I am very glad to see that the result of the election is that members on this side are the strongest in numbers, and I reflect, with satisfaction, that the first country in the world where a straight-out Labour Government has a straight-out majority behind it, is the country where the masses of the people are most educated on political and economic questions. The campaign was fought strenuously. We met the combined forces of capital and a practically unanimous press, and in spite of all, we hare come back to this House charged by the people with the duty of carrying out a national and progressive policy. I am sure that all the promises made by Labour members and* candidates on that occasion will be carried out by this Government, and the best proof of that lies in the progressive measures which are to be brought before us this session. They are but the forerunners of many more progressive measures; and, in bringing them down, the Government are proving to the people that they did not place their confidence in our party in vain, that the promises made were not vague, but were practical and can be realized, and that the Government intend to realize them. I am sure that the Government are determined that those promises shall be faithfully kept by means of the measures that will be brought before us. We have heard a good deal about the promises that were made during the campaign. We are told that the people were led to believe that they would get many things ; that men expected £5 a week for mining, and that others expected to get land for nothing in the “ equal divide.” If there were any people foolish enough to vote for this party in the belief that they would get a piece of land for nothing, it was due to the misrepresentations of our opponents. It was they who said that that was what we were going to do, and we challenge anybody to prove that any attempt was made by our party to make such promises. I, therefore, say that the proposals contained in the speech show that the Government are keeping faith with the people, and I am convinced that the people throughout Australia are looking for progressive measures - for such a policy as will put Australia upon a sound foundation. They realize that the country has to be defended, that we require population, and that to get that population we must make provision for it. They believe, also, that we should have a more equitable system of taxation, and our land tax will do both these things. The defence policy that will be brought- down by the Minister pf Defence will be not only a policy in name, but will be effective. Unless we are prepared to pay for effective ‘ defence, it is better to have none at all. It is like building a large establishment to protect products from the weather, and leaving the roof off. Some people talk about spending a million or a million and a half, but my idea is that if we are going in for defence, we must spend as much money as will make that defence effective. If we do not do that, we shall be simply throwing money away. I believe that the policy of the Government will meet with the approval of the people. It is certainly more progressive than any that has ever been placed before this Parliament. It is based upon the realization that we are beginning a new era, and that this Parliament is going to justify Federation. That the people have declared for nationalism as against parochialism is undoubted ; and the policy of the Government is truly national. It establishes the principles of equitable taxation, and of just and humane treatment for our men and women. It is based upon sound finance, and full and effective protection, not only for the manufacturers, but for those engaged in our industries, and, as far as possible, for the people who consume the manufactured articles. As a young member, I do not intend to take my stand here as a parochialist. When stand- ing before my constituents I said to them, “If you are thinking of voting for me in the belief that when I glance at the map of Australia I shall see only little Victoria, or, perhaps, Corangamite, you will be gravely disappointed.” I assured them, and I assure the House now, that whilst certainly giving attention to the local requirements of my constituency, as I am bound to do, I shall approach every measure that is brought before the House, no matter from which side it comes, in a truly Australian manner, and regard it as an Australian proposition. I shall look on this House as an Australian House representing the Australian people, and myself as a humble unit of it representing them also. With these assurances,. I desire to conclude by expressing the hope that the fullest consideration will be given to the propositions of this side. I believe that the proposals which the Government bring down will be placed upon the statute-book, and that their ultimate effect will be to establish in Australia a reign of prosperity that will so open up our great resources that people will be attracted here, particularly our kith and kin from beyond the seas. I am convinced that the policy for which the people have been looking for many years will be brought down, and that this, the first true Labour Government of Australia, will lay the foundation of what I hope will be a prosperous nation, with a people contented and happy.
.- It is my honour and privilege to second the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to His Excellency’s speech, but after the eloquent remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite, there is little need for me to be exhaustive. In making my first speech in Parliament, I am sure I may crave the indulgence and sympathy of honorable members, especially of the older members of the House. Whatever my remarks may lack in lucidity of expression or method of presentation, will, I hope, be put down rather to the nervousness of a member who speaks for the first time in any ^Parliament, than to any want of earnestness or sincerity of conviction. I am pleased that the first reference in the speech is to the very much lamented death of our late King, and that the next is to the accession of King George. I am sure that every member of the House and of the community joins with the most hearty and respectful sympathy in the reference to the death of King Edward, and looks forward with considerable hope to the beneficent results that we believe will follow from the reign of King George, particularly as he has announced his intention to follow the well marked paths and the honorable methods adopted by Queen Victoria and King Edward. I am sure it must be a source of considerable gratification to this Parliament that we should meet here in circumstances of such general prosperity as now obtain throughout Australia. It must be a matter of congratulation and considerable satisfaction to every member who. is legislating for a country like this that we should have in all the States such good seasons as have been prevailing and are likely to prevail for some time to come. The prosperity of past years and the hopes for the years to come give us reason to believe that Australia can make use of magnificent opportunities and possibilities to make her name great and good in the affairs of the world. So far as this particular Parliament is concerned, I believe that we mark an epoch in the history of parliamentary institutions. Never before did a Government assume office under such favorable and honorable circumstances as the present Ministry have commenced their occupancy of the Treasury bench. History, so far as I know, affords no parallel of the position of this Parliament, and more particularly of that occupied by the Government. Remembering that our party captured every seat in one House open for election, that every retiring member of our party in both Houses was returned, and that additions to that party have been made by the constituencies to an extent which gives us a triumphant majority in both Houses, I think history will be ransacked in vain to find a similar state of affairs in any country possessing parliamentary institutions. I am sure that every honorable member recognises the significance and also the responsibility of the position. If we in this House recognise it, the public outside will watch with very considerable interest the attitude that honorable members take up towards legislation that is put before them.We are in honour bound to respect their wishes as we are in duty bound to consult the best interests of our constituents. It is our duty to approach all the legislation that may be put before us with an open mind free from political prejudice or party bias, so that in whatever we may do we shall try to secure that the laws passed by us will be of such a character as to conduce to the best development of the nation and to conserve its true interests. I pin my political faith to the statement made by that great man, W. E. Gladstone, when he said, “ It is the aim of all good Governments so to legislate as to make it easy to do right and hard to do wrong.” By that standard I purpose testing every political proposal that comes before me. Our party has a very clear idea of its duty in this direction. We believe that our mandate from the electors of Australia is to legislate for their good and for the betterment of the whole of the people. We shall not falter or be afraid to press forward courageously until the work that is outlined for us in the policy speech of His Excellency the Governor-General is put into practical legislation. There is an old couplet which says that -
He that will not when he may,
When he will he shall have nay ; and I believe that it would be to the everlasting disgrace, as it would be to the everlasting detriment of our party, if we faltered in the duties that are put before us, or in the proposals now put before Parliament. The campaign which has resulted in the election of this House was, by common consent, one of the most strenuous that has ever taken place in Australia. There was a clear cut issue, a straight-out fight, between two parties. There was no confusion in the minds of the electors as to what they were doing. I heartily concurred in the statement made by the present Leader of the Opposition at Brisbane during the election campaign when he said that the indeterminate elector was, or should be, absent from the election - that the policies of the two parties were as opposite as black was to white. In exact accordance with that standard do I believe that this party is here to-day to do the business of the country, and we have no right to hesitate in carrying out the work that we are sent here to do. If I may make a reference to the last election, it will be in two directions. The large number of informal votes was a rather sorry feature of the contest, and it is to be regretted that so many electors, in some way or other, disfranchised themselves. I am sure that every honorable member desires that, as far as possible, every elector should vote, and that every vote recorded by an elector should be capable of being counted. But the thought I have in mind is that the informal votes of the last elections were due to the fact that there were so many questions before the people. There were placed in their hands two ballot papers in respect of the House of Representatives and the Senate, in addition to the two referenda, .and the number was rather confusing to many electors. Our experience of the last general election should encourage us to try to take care that future referenda shall be tak”en free from any other issue. In Queensland we had a State referendum on the same day, so that the position was very complicated. If there is one thing in respect of which I might compliment the late Government, it is the- wisdom they displayed in refusing to allow a State referendum to be taken in the Federal polling booths at the ‘same time as the voting in the general election. I hope that it may be possible to refuse to allow a State referendum to be taken on the same day as a Federal election, even if it be held in a separate polling booth. The narrower the issues, the clearer and more decisive will be the decision of the electors. The election of a National Parliament is best justified- when we know that the. people have expressed themselves in no uncertain mind, and I believe that, in spite of all the difficulties surrounding the last general election, we have secured a very decisive vote indeed. I do not propose to deal in detail with the matters referred to in His Excellency’s speech. To do so would be to tax the patience of honorable members, and I do not wish to start my political career by such an infliction upon them. I wish, however, to refer to a few of the proposals, dealing only with general principles, and leaving- .matters of detail to be discussed when the Bills relating to them are before the House. My honorable friend who moved the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply has already dealt , extensively and eloquently with the proposal to impose a graduated tax on unimproved land values. That proposition, I anticipate, will be very keenly debated in this House, and I am confident that the debate and the decision will be watched very keenly by folks outside. I am sure that the bulk of the people of Australia will welcome the introduction of the proposed graduated tax on unimproved land values. It so happens that my attitude on the question is not derived from any of the recognised textbooks, and I am prepared to confess that I have not read one of the text-books on the land question. The opinions I am now going to express are derived entirely from my observation of men and things, and from my reading of history. From that knowledge and observation, I am of opinion that in those countries where land has been the general possession of the people - where the land has been in the hands, and under the control, of the whole of the people - prosperity and contentment have reigned. On the other hand, where the land has been under the control of only a few, and, therefore, practically a monopoly, there has been nothing, so far as I know history, but trouble and disorder.. The . land should be the common possession of the people. I do not know whether it is that peculiar affinity between us and the earth- for “ all are of the. dust and all turn to dust again” - which gives every marl an instinctive desire to have a direct connexion with a bit of land, but I find that in all countries where it has been possible to give’ the people plots of land in some form o’r other, there has been the best population and a development of the very highest patriotism.. May I refer briefly to the oldest land laws of the world? Perhaps honorable .members may be surprised to know that the first principle laid down in the oldest land laws of the world is that the land shall not be sold for ever. We find that under those land laws the family tenure of property was absolutely provided for. Even where a mortgage could be given, and where a man could temporarily part with his land, he was sure to get it back again by the return . of the jubilee year. My reading of the history of the nation of the Israelites - to whose land laws I refer - convinces me that it was the neglect of those laws that led to the disintegration and captivity of the people. Coming further down in history, let me make a couple of short quotations in regard to the French Revolution. My reading of the French Revolution is that it was brought about by the condition ot the people on the land. Here is a description of the situation before the Revolution -
The lines of streets and the stone-built houses . . were in rough-cast; the doors and windows were small and arched, and behind the leaden framework of the windows the tailor was to be seen sitting crosslegged on his board cutting out or sewing, and the weaver at his loom throwing his shuttle in the obscurity. The soldiers of the garrison with their large cocked hats, their patched white coats hanging about their heels, were most wretched of all ; they were only fed once a day. The tavern-keepers and chophousekeepers went from house to house collecting broken victuals for these poor devils ; this was still the case some few years before the revolution.
The people themselves looked wan and dismal ; a dress was handed down from grandmother to granddaughter; the grandfather’s shoes were inherited by the grandson. No pavement in the streets, no lights at night, no gutters to the roofs; small panes of glass in the windows, mostly replaced for twenty years by pieces of paper.
Here is the picture after the Revolution -
Thank God this is all over now. The peasants have acquired their share in the good things of the earth, and naturally I have not remained behind. . . . Before’89 I could have possessed nothing. I might have worked all my life for the seigneur. . . .
Coming to contemporary history, I am prepared to say that the seething discontent and the enormous povertyin the Mother Country to-day are due to the fact that the lands are held in the hands of a comparatively small number. Private ownership of property inevitably develops landlordism, and landlordism is the curse of any country. There are six good reasons for a graduated tax on. unimproved land values, and upon those six reasons I base my support of the proposal of the Government, as I base my attitude upon the land question generally -
Creator, and does not owe its existence to man.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the question of defence, which is one of vital importance. I deal with it next after the land question, because the two are so closely allied. I am glad that the Government has decided to repeal the Naval Loan Act. If anything tended to injure the reputation of the late Government, it was the fact that in the dying hours of the closing session of a Parliament, it committed Australia to the borrowingof £3,500,000 for defence. It is a false patriotism which puts the defence of a country upon the generosity of money lenders, or the taxation of future generations. Defence should appeal to one’s highest feelings, and it is a false patriotism which tends to throw upon “ the other fellow “ the burden of protecting the country. The test of one’s professions in this and other matters is the measure of the sacrifice we are prepared to make. I shall support heartily any proposal for putting the defence of Australia on the people of the country, and depending for its success on the financial and other sacrifices which the people are ready to make. It is good for nations, as for individuals, to learn to creep before they try to walk. Australia cannot yet afford such expensive toys as warships, which may become obsolete within a few years, leaving us no better defended than we were, besides doing little for the training of a defence force adequate for our protection. Our scheme of defence must be adequate. It will be better to have a small but capable force, than to have a large and expensive, but inefficient, system. I do not view the proposals for defence from the scare standpoint. I am not impressed with the statement that the people of China, Japan, and Java, countries which are already over-populated, are awaiting the opportunity to invade us. I can understand that those peoples, and European nations, are casting envious eyes upon this country; because ours is a land which any nation would be proud to hold. While such envy is understandable, I do not think that any nation is awaiting its opportunity to lay its hands upon Australia. I find considerable satisfaction from the reflection that no nation, and, in particular, no Oriental nation, possesses a transport system sufficient to enable it to land an invading force on our shores, and, at the same time, to maintain lines of communication and retreat. Great Britain, notwithstanding her shipping facilities, and the command of the sea which she enjoys, found it difficult to land and maintain in South Africa a force sufficient to bring about a successful conclusion of the war there. How could Japan or China do that with regard to Australia? Napoleon was once asked if he could invade England, and replied, “ I know of twenty ways of getting into England, but I have not yet found one way of getting out of it.” When the Northern Territory question is before the House, I may have more to say on this subject. The folks who try to make us defend ourselves by citing a danger which is imaginary rather than real have not my sympathy. The creation of a proper de- fence force has my full approbation. The proposal that we should defend ourselves appeals to the virile manhood of the. country. If we interpret correctly the enthusiastic response of our young men to the call for volunteers for South Africa, we must know that when the call comes to Australians to defend Australia, it will be enthusiastically obeyed. Australians are proud of their country, and are willing to defend it. But in establishing a citizen force no exemptions must be * .allowed. The clerk and wharf lumper, the shop-keeper and the lorry-driver must «ach do his share. I have sufficient faith in the growing generation to believe that our young men will take kindly to military discipline and education, for their own sakes ‘ as well as for the sake of the country. Compulsory military training will assist the solution of one of our most complex social problems. In every town in Australia there is to-day magnificent human material going to waste. Numbers of our young men, for want of some better occupation, lounge at night at the street corners, or spend their time and strength in the liquor bars. Many of these young men join what are known as “ pushes,” and thus become hooligans and larrikins, and the storm centres of an otherwise peaceful community. . IT they are brought under military discipline, and trained, they will £>? the men who will save Australia in time of trouble. We should make our drill halls, not only places for military training, hut centres of social and physical development. By doing so, we shall deal with one of our social evils, and secure good material for a citizen army. May I suggest that the Minister of Defence should continue the -policy announced in the newspapers, of making the drill-halls useful to the community. ‘Young men should gather there in the evenings to learn, not only military discipline, but also ambulance work, and manly arts. They should think it necessary not only to learn boxing for selfdefence, but also military discipline for the defence of their hearths and homes. I wish now to refer to a matter which, though apparently parochial, is really national, the control of the sugar industry. I am glad to know that legislation is to be introduced to amend the Sugar Excise and Bounty Act. I hope that it will be announced that the provisions . of that Act will be definitely extended.
– The proposal is to wipe out the conditional limitation.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister has given us that assurance. I believe that his statement will bt received by the growers and workers with relief, and that all concerned will hear it with satisfaction. I look upon the Excise and bounty arrangements as merely a temporary expedient. I hope that the time is coming when Parliament will deal with the sugar industry in such a manner as will serve, not only the interests of the few directly connected with it, but also those of the community generally. I cannot sufficiently express my pleasure at the abandonment, of the Royal Commission. The Commission was not acceptable to the people of Queensland; nor, I believe, to the people of Australia, and its findings would not have been respected. No Commission will be acceptable which is not composed of representatives of each of the five parties interested in the industry - the growers, the workers, the millers, the manufacturers, and the public, who pay for everything. I hope that the Government will, at an early date, consider the need for appointing a Commission to inquire into the industry, and that the Commission appointed will be thoroughly representative. . What the public wants is to have a full statement of the. facts of the case. The workers complain that they are now badly paid, housed, and fed; the growers complain that they have to contend with bad seasons, frosts, grubs, and disease; the millers, that their risks will not allow them to pay higher rates; and the manufacturers that they cannot ignore the rise and fall in market values. But the public, which has to pay for all, complains, and, I think, with a good deal of reason, that sugar costs far too much. If I wanted to support that statement with any argument stronger than another, I would refer honorable members to the announcements in yesterday’s and to-day’s newspapers regarding, the additional rise in the price of sugar, which will mean a great deal, not only to those interested in making jam and confectionery, but also to the public at large. I am sure that this Parliament has no desire to be unjust. We wish the sugar industry to be put on a proper footing, so that the profits which it pays may be fairly distributed amongst those interested. An industry which can support a large population, and keep in profitable use thousands of acres now lying unfilled, should be controlled for the benefit of Australia, not merely for the advantage of a particular corporation or company. The company controlling the industry in Australia to-day proves the old saying that a corporation has no conscience. The prices of sugar here at the present time are altogether out of proportion to the reasonable demands of those who are interested in the industry financially, and they are opposed to the interests of the public. There are two other matters upon which I wish to touch before I conclude my speech. Honorable members generally cannot’ be surprised at the proposal to reduce the age at which old-age pensions will be obtainable by women, and to provide for invalid pensions. If one thing more than another which the Labour party has done has won credit from the public, it is the consistent and strenuous advocacy of the old-age pension system. The proposal to which I have referred should be passed without the slightest opposition. Reference is made in the Governor-General’s speech to the possibility of establishing a mail service between Australia and Canada. The PostmasterGeneral has wisely deferred an extension of the contract so as to get the best terms and service. But what 1 desire to emphasize is that this service which has been built up was ‘ originally provided by the two States . of New South Wales and Queensland at very considerable expense. Now that the Commonwealth has taken over the service, I hope it will be made an Australian one. In my opinion, there is sufficient trade already between Australia and Canada “to warrant our having an AustralianCanadian service without any reference to other parts of the world. Indeed, I am prepared to say that there must be very substantial reasons, either in the direction of a better or a quicker service, to induce any of us to agree to extend the present service to New Zealand. As Canada is reaching out her hands to us, we should be equally honorable and equally willing to hold out our hands to her, and establish a service that will knit the two countries together to our mutual advantage and development. There is one point hot dealt with in the policy speech, but which, I think, ought to receive the attention of the Government, namely, the amendment of the Electoral Act in” two directions, one of which is the abolition of voting by post. If there is any privilege that is abused in our electoral system, it is that of postal voting. For the intention of allowing sick people to use postal voting when they cannot attend at a polling booth, there isnothing but commendation. We properly think that we should provide in every possible way facilities for enabling the electors to record their votes; and the onlyjustification for disfranchising people is anabuse of the privilege. I am prepared to say that the recent election was simply rotten, because of the abuse of the postalvoting throughout Australia ; and one of the . best things would be an early amendment of the Act in the direction I suggest. The second amendment I suggest would have the effect of enfranchising a number of people who at present are disfranchised, namely, absent voters. Provision should be made so that an elector could vote at any polling booth in the country where hemight temporarily happen to be, although not on the roll for the division. Hundreds of men - thousands of men - were disfranchised because they had to travel 10 or 20 miles in order to record their votes. I have now concluded. I think that this Parliament is going to make history. In Australia to-day we are, I believe, at the “ parting of the ways.” We have turned down a page of our history, regarding much of which we need say very little, because it is best forgotten. I believe, however, that from to-day Australian national sentiment will be developed, and an Australian national character maintained, and that the measures which will come before this House will, generally, make Australia all we should like it to be. We are in the place where it is expected of us to do our duty. Australia cries out today, “ We expect every man to do his- duty in this Parliament - to pass such legislation as shall make Australia a place to be proud of, and a nation revered at home and respected abroad.” We must press forward courageously, even if captious criticism and determined opposition have to be faced. But our way is clear - our work lies straight ahead. I, for one, refuse to plough the sands; we have put our hands to this work, and I hope there will be no looking back until we have satisfied the people of Australia that those who have sought their confidence deserve it, and have commanded the respect and esteem of all the countries in the world.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Deakin) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– I have to inform honorable members that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission authorizing me to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to honorable members.
Mr. G. B. Edwards made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral division of North Sydney.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
House adjourned at 4.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100701_reps_4_55/>.