4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
PRIVILEGES OF PARLIAMENT.
Mr. GROOM. - In 1908, the honorable member for Bendigo, as Chairman of a Select Committee of this House, presented a report on the subject of the privileges of Parliament and their statutory definition. Is it the intention of the Government to look into the matter further, with a view to seeing to what extent it may be necessary to take action?
Mr. FISHER. - Though personally I do not favour the adoption of the drastic recommendations of the Committee, I think that the privileges of this House and the Senate should be defined by Statute, so that we may not be tempted to try to use powers which we do not possess.
Mr. FULLER.- The Premier of New South Wales, writing to the Prime Minister on the 1 8th April last, relative to the issue of the proclamation under section 5 of the Seat of Government Act, said - i shall esteem it .1 favour if you will now take the necessary steps to have the proclamation in question issued.
To that the Prime Minister replied -
The question of what machinery mast be provided for the purposes of government before the Commonwealth takes over absolute control of the Territory is under consideration.
I wish to know whether the consideration “ of what machinery must be provided for the purposes of government before the Commonwealth takes over absolute control of the Territory ‘ ‘ is the sole cause for delay in issuing this second proclamation. Is the Prime Minister aware that the Act passed last session specially provides that the laws of the State of New South Wales shall operate for the government of the Territory until the Commonwealth Parliament legislates specially? In view of this provision having been made, is the honorable gentleman of opinion that there is any reason whatever why the second proclamation taking over the Territory should not be issued immediately ? If there is any reason, will he inform the House what it is ?
Mr. FISHER.- The honorable member was good enough to hand to me, on entering the chamber, a copy of his questions. There seems to be no urgency in this matter. The Government is aware that the facts are as stated, but Ministers are of opinion that, although the State laws may apply, it might be advisable to pass Commonwealth laws relating to the Territory before taking possession of it. For this reason we are giving the matter our most serious consideration.
Mr. MATHEWS.- Has the Minister of Home Affairs noticed the weather and stock reports relating to the Canberra district? It appears that only 36 points fell there during the last rainy season, and that there is no grass for horses and cattle.
Mr. SPEAKER.- The honorable member is not now asking a question,
Mr. MATHEWS.- I am drawing the attention of the Minister to reports which I have read in the newspapers.
Mr. SPEAKER. - In asking a question, an honorable member may not make reference to newspaper reports by way of argument.
Mr. MATHEWS.- I ask the Minister if he is aware of these reports; and, if not, whether he will consider them, so that he may not go further in dealing with an undesirable site.
Mr. SPEAKER.- The honorable member will see that an honorable member might introduce argument indefinitely were I to allow him to ask - “ Is the Minister aware of this fact” and “that fact” ? Such questions are not permissible.
Mr. MATHEWS. - I want to know from the Minister if he has taken notice of the adverse weather and stock reports regarding the Canberra district?
Mr. KING O’MALLEY.- I have read some of the reports, but am afraid that the newspapers responsible for them have exaggerated the condition of affairs.
Mr. PAGE.- I” should like to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether it is true that the honorable member for Lang wishes to have a Zoo established in the Federal Territory, and to have alligators trained so that he can ride upon them?
Mr. SPEAKER. - Order !
Mr. KING O’MALLEY. - No such proposition has been made to me.
Mr. FULLER. - Following on the statement made by the Prime Minister in answer to my question a few moments ago, I should like to ask the honorable gentleman whether, in view of the fact that three months have elapsed since his letter to the Premier of New South Wales was despatched, any progress has been made with the consideration of the matter, and when we are to expect a definite pronouncement in connexion with it?
Mr. FISHER. - Substantial progress has been made, and the subject will be dealt with at the earliest convenience of the Government. The subject-matter will not be unduly delayed.
– As a doubt exists regarding the right of the Commonwealth to determine the railway route under the terms of the Northern Territory Agreement, will the Prime Minister, before asking Parliament to ratify that agreement, communicate with the Government of South Australia, with a view to obtaining its assent to the interpretation placed on it by the Attorney-General ?
– I do not feel that it would be wise for the Government to canvass an opinion expressed by its legal adviser.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say that the Government would abide by trie advice of their legal advisers in regard to the question that I asked. I should like to ask a further question. Having regard to the fact that the only two legal gentlemen on the other side of the House differed last night on a certain legal point involved in a Government measure, does he not think that it is important that this House should know definitely whether the interpretation put upon the power of the Government to carry the projected railway so as to meet the extremities of the eastern States, instead of being compelled to run it through South Australia, is concurred in by the South Australian Government, and is that upon which Ministers ask the House to rely?
– I do not propose to canvass an opinion given by the legal advisers to the Government with any other Government j but I am able to say, from my personal knowledge of the views of the South Australian Government, that they do not dispute the ruling in question.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs aware that the Commonwealth Statistician computes the population of Western Australia at a number more than 3,000 less than that at which it is computed by the State Statistician, so that, if his computation be accepted, the State will lose under the. per capita distribution more than ,£4,000? Will the Minister ask the two Statisticians to go into the matter together, with a view to arriving at an understanding ? I wish to mention in this connexion a matter which I think of sufficient importance to justify my reference to it. Whenever I have made a voyage from Western Australia to Victoria-
– The honorable member is now going beyond the limits of a question.
– What I am saying is explanatory of my question, though I can put it in another form.
– I shall have the matter looked into. The facts show how important it is to have a Commonwealth Statistician in addition to a State Statistician.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether he is aware that Inter-State passengers travelling between Fremantle and eastern States have placed in their hand’s on board mail steamers forms which they are required to fill up conveying particulars as to names, occupations, addresses, and so forth, and whether those forms are issued with the object of obtaining statistics concerning immigrants into Australia, and to indicate the movements of population from one State into another? If so. would it not happen that Western Australia would be debited in an incorrect fashion with passengers temporarily leaving that State?
– I am not aware of the practice mentioned by the honorable member, but will have the subject inquired into, and will see that no injustice is done to any State.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Postmaster-General, without notice, a question with reference to the new telephone regulations, which have already been issued and laid upon the table of the House. I may explain, so as to give point to my question, that under the Acts Interpretation Act only fifteen sitting days of the House are allowed within which the validity of regulations may be questioned. Unless they are questioned, they come into force automatically. The date has already been determined in regard to the new telephone regulations, and I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will provide an opportunity, on an early occasion, for the House to consider the whole question before the regulations come into force ?
– There are always available to honorable members methods of challenging a regulation. I do not propose, in this case, to give special facilities for that purpose. The Leader of the Opposition can. of course, find a means.
– Suppose that we find an early means of raising the matter, will the Prime Minister facilitate its discussion and settlement?
Mr. TUDOR laid upon the table the following papers : -
Commerce Act -
Butter Export Trade of Australia - Report by N. Lockyer, Assistant ComptrollerGeneral of Customs.
Meat Export Trade of Australia - Report by N. Lockyer, Assistant ComptrollerGeneral of Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The last return issued was for the year 1907. That for 1908 has been printed, and copies will be available, I understand, from the Government Printer within a week. The information for the return for theyear 1909 is now in the hands of the Government Printer for the first proof.
See answer to No. 1.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - 1.Is it still the intention of his Department to. issue a map showing the position of all tele graph and telephone lines in the Commonwealth?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
Case of Mrs. Meyers, Berwick
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th July, vide page 545):
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
The Commonwealth shall, duringthe period of ten years beginning on the firstday of July, One thousand nine hundred and ten, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, pay to each Stale by monthly instalments or apply to the payment of interest on debts of the State taken over by the Commonwealth, an annual sum amounting to Twenty-five shillings per head of the number of the people of the State:
Provided that in the year ending the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and eleven, the Commonwealth may deduct from the amounts payable in pursuance of this section the amounts set out in the schedule.
– I propose to move an amendment, but before doing so would like to make a few remarks on the clause. The Prime Minister said last night, in regard to the ten years’ period, and the whole purport of this Bill, that the Government were following out election pledges. He referred to a manifesto which he issued in some parts of the Commonwealth. All that I can say is that I never saw the manifesto, and if it was published in Western Australia it did not come under my notice, nor do I remember it being referred to by his party. It seems strange that the leader of a great party should issue a manifesto, and not take steps to insure its wide publication in every part of the Commonwealth. I remember seeing some newspaper reference to the honorable gentleman’s policy, suggesting a desire to delay the settlement of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States for three years, but the manifesto of the party was never brought under my notice. The leaders of the Labour party in Western Australia did not advocate the limitation of the payment of : 25s. per head to a term of ten years. I do not know that the two members of the Labour party now in the House of Representatives from Western Australia made any statement about the term of twenty-five years. I think the honorable member for Coolgardie said that he was not adverse to the arrangement, so long as it represented the will of Parliament, “and that his objection was to placing the agreement in the Constitution. I believe that was also the view expressed by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, but members of the Senate representing Western Australia, and amongst them Senator Pearce, who was Leader of the Labour party in that State, did refer to the matter. Without desiring to be offensive to any one, I have already referred to the way in which the people of Western Australia were misled in this matter by the leaders of the Labour party in that State. I have quoted from a letter by the present Minister of Defence, who led the party in that State, and distinctly pledged them to an agreement for a term of twenty-five years, provided it was not placed in the Constitution. In support of my previous contention, I intend now to place on record three more statements by labour representatives of Western Australia, in order that there may be no doubt whatever of the complete accuracy of my statements.
– I should like to know whether what occurred in the Senate or in Western Australia has anything to do with the clause now under discussion.
– I understand that the honorable member for Swan, in the reference he has made, is leading up to a statement that he proposes to make. I think he is in order at present.
– The proposal made in the Senate on the 1st December, 1909, by Senator de Largie was continually reiterated in Western Australia during the last election. It was mentioned over and over again as affording proof that the Labour party were in favour of a twenty-five years’ term. It was stated over and over again that the motion moved by Senator de Largie in the Senate was voted for by every member of the Labour party in that Chamber.
– Is the honorable member in order in referring to a discussion that took place in the Senate?
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
Mr.W. J. Johnson. - That the honorable member for Swan is out of order in referring to a . discussion which took place in the Senate.
-The honorable member is referring to what took place in the Senate of the last Parliament. He is perfectly in order.
– I am referring to statements made inWestern Australia as to what was done inthe Senate. It was stated that Senator de Largie, on 1st December, moved a motion to the following effect : -
From and for a period of twenty-five years after the 1st July, 1910, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Commonwealth shall pay to the States by monthly instalments, or apply to the payment of the intereston the State debts taken over by the Commonwealth, an annual sum equal to 25s. per head of the people of the States, as ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth.
It was further stated that that motion was supported by every member of the Labour party in the Senate. These statements were made in Western Australia during the election campaign, with the object of inducing the people of that State to believe that they represented the views of the Labour party, and that the Labour party were pledged to those views, yet we do not find that this Bill provides for a ‘ term of twenty-five years, but for a term of ten years. Another senator from Western Australia, Senator Lynch, stated in a speech delivered and published in the West Australian, on 25th September, that -
The motion of Senator de Largie, in the Senate, was for twenty-five years’ absolute security for the finances of Western Australia, without danger or disturbance of any kind.
Again, in a letter written by Senator Lynch to the West Australian, and dated 9th January, the honorable senator said -
Put in the briefest compass, our efforts . . . so far as our State was concerned, were directed to place beyond question the security of our finances for a term of twenty-five years.
These are all the quotations I intend tomake, and my object in making them is to show that, during the election campaign, Western Australian senators, and among them the present Leader of the Labour party in the Senate, led the people of Western Australia to believe that, if they voted against the insertion of the Financial Agreement in the Constitution, a similar proposal, limited to a term of twenty-five years, would be advocated and submitted to Parliament by the Labour party. I have only to say that the pledge given by these gentlemen has not been carried out. I do not know whether any effort has been made by those who made these statements to carry out the pledge. They have been very silent. Of course, we do not know what took place in the secret caucus. Two things occur to me in this connexion ; first, that they should not have pledged the party unless they were in a position to do so; and, secondly, that something is due from them to the people of Western Australia because of the way they misled them at the last Federal elections. Last night we had a long discussion on clause 2 of this Bill. I was very sorry that it was so long, but I think it was all due-
– I do not think the honorable member is in order in referring to that.
– Then I shall not refer to it. I have the same complaint to make about the clause now under consideration as was made about clause -2. The honorable member for Angas, referring to the drafting of clause 2, said that it was ingenious drafting, inasmuch as it aimed at not disclosing what was intended by the clause. I do not know whether the honorable member meant it or not, but I think he was complimented by the Prime Minister on his statement. It was, however, the most severe indictment that any one could make, to suggest that a Bill was ingeniously drafted with the intention not to disclose the object in view. What could be more dishonest than that? We have complained that the Treasurer has not told the Committee what the Government intend to do. We were hovering about to the very end between two opinions as to the intention of Ministers. If the honorable member will read the report of his uncorrected speech in Hansard., he will see how very clumsily he replied to the objections.
– I am glad to say that my speech stands uncorrected and excellent from my point of view.
– I read the newspapers, and thought his remarks very contradictory.
– Ah ! Barrackers !
– If the speech has not been corrected I shall have an opportunity of reading ifr in Hansard.. What is the position in regard to the proposed payment of 25s. -per capital I have taken the trouble to look into the matter closely; and if the Prime Minister had told us what I now propose to tell honorable members he would have saved hours of debate last night. For the present half of 19 10 the States will be entitled to threefourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue under section 87 of the Constitution, amounting, as nearly as I can ascertain, to £4,250,000, meaning about 19s. 6d. per head for the half-year, or at the rate of 39s. per annum. That is 7s. more than the 12s. 6d. per head which the States would receive if they were paid at the rate of only 25s. per head per annum from the 1st July this year, an excess of about ,£1,500,000. I. do not myself see what object the Government have in seeking for an arrange- ment with the States during the continuance of the Braddon section. What does it matter whether the States receive £1,500,000 in the first half of the year, and have to refund it during the second half, or whether they are paid only at the rate of 12s. 6d. for the first half-year and 123. 6d. for the next half-year? The result is the same ; and it is a waste of time going to the States and asking for that which they have no power to give, except by passing an Appropriation Act. The easy and straightforward plan would have been to let the States have the full advantage of section 87 to the 31st December, and for the Government then to commence to operate under the powers which their majority in this Parliament will no doubt give them. For the second half-year, at 12s. 6d. per head, the States would receive .£2,730,000, but from that amount the Government propose to deduct, first of all, £1,500,000 that they have overpaid, as they say - though it cannot be said to be overpaid - and then £450.000 as in the schedule of the Bill, and a further ,£125,000 as representing half of the bonus to Western Australia. The total deduction for the whole of the year thus amounts to about £2,075,000, leaving a net payment to the States for the second half-year of about £655,000, or about 3s. per head. That is the result, so far as I am able to understand, that will be attained when the 30th June arrives next year ; that is, the States will have received £4,250,000 during the first half-year, and will have had deducted during the second half-year £2,075,000.
– What would the States have got under the right honorable gentleman’s scheme?
– I arc not dealing with any other scheme; and I do not know that the Chairman would allow me to discuss other schemes just now. The result, I repeat, is that the States will receive £4,250,000 for the first half-year, and £655,000 for the second half-year. So long as that is understood we know exactly where we are. I wish that the object had been attained in a different way from that proposed in the Bill- that the Braddon section had been allowed to run its course to the end of December, and other arrangements made as from the 1st January. It would have been easy to state that the Bill would commence from the 1st January, 1911, that it would run for nine and a-half years, and that £2,075,000 would be deducted from the ,£2,730,000 paid in the first six months. That would have let us know exactly the result of the proposal of the Government. I do not know whether others understood, but I must say that I did not understand the Prime Minister’s proposal until yesterday. I had a suspicion that what I am saying now was the intention, but interjections and replies made across the table, particularly to the honorable member for Werriwa, and even what was said by the Leader of the Opposition, seemed to show that my suspicion was erroneous. I asked, “ If more than 25s. be paid for the first six months, what then? “ and to that the Treasurer replied, “ They can keep it.” What I meant and what my words expressed was, 25s. per annum.
– I said that we would pay more than 25s., meaning more than at the rate of 25s. per annum; but, instead, it was intended by the Prime Minister that his words should mean 25s. per head for six months, and not at that rate per annum.
– The misunderstanding was not my fault.
– It was the fault of the Prime Minister in not making the matter clear.
– It says per annum in the Bill.
– I do not wish to labour this matter, because it is in the hands of the Government, who. must take the responsibility. They cannot say that the position has not been pointed out to them clearly by many honorable members on this side of the House, and by the only two members who have spoken on their own side. At any rate, it is a great pity that in an important matter like this we should have to ferret and fossick about to find the meaning of the measure, when it could easily have been made quite clear. It is, as the honorable member for Angas says, an ingenious piece of drafting. I will not go so far as to say that it was an intentional attempt to hide what the Bill meant, but if that was not the intention, certainly that object was attained. T move -
That the words “ July. One thousand nine hundred and ten” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ January, One thousand nine hundred and eleven.”
I do this because I consider the Bill a lefthanded way of legislating - an attempt to legislate from July, 1910, when we have no power whatever to do anything before ist January, 191 1. The carrying of my amendment would not in any way interfere with the Prime Minister doing what he wanted ; he could get the same result financially if he chose during the next six months as he will get even if this Bill is found to be within the Constitution.
– I hardly expected this amendment. I am astonished to know that it has been moved by a member of the Conference which drew up an agreement providing for the very contrary.
– We proposed to alter the Constitution.
– Hear, hear; rock it into him.
– It is not necessary to “ rub it into “ any one, especially men who have occupied responsible and honorable positions in the Commonwealth and in their respective States. The right honorable gentleman has been Treasurer, and has occupied, I think, nearly every other position, ‘including that of Acting-Prime Minister, yet he makes now a proposition which is diametrically opposed to all the public utterances and pledges of himself and his party to the people at the last election. They did not urge that by the Financial Agreement the Commonwealth was invading the rights of the States, but the plea that the then Prime Minister and Treasurer, according to his last Budget, put forward was that the Commonwealth was bankrupt and in immediate need of more revenue. We have passed that period of immediate need,’ and others have had to shoulder the burden and the difficulties left behind by the right honorable member, who now tries to further embarrass the Commonwealth. I do not think, in the whole of my public life or my reading of the actions of public men, I ever heard or read of a more daring proposition from gentlemen who have just vacated office, and left their embarrassments behind them. Of course, there are other phases of the question which need not be lengthily discussed. Some people ask us why it was necessary to begin on the ist July this year instead of the ist January next year. I will give two items of Commonwealth expenditure to try to impress members of the Opposition with the necessity, if they need impressing. During the last financial year the Commonwealth paid in old-age pensions 6s’. nd. per capita, and in defence 6s. 9d. per capita, making a total expenditure of 13s. 8d. per capita on those two items alone, from the Commonwealth’s one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise receipts.
– Was not that the real reason of the embarrassment?
– No one need wonder about what the honorable member’s trouble is. Is he ashamed of the crude statement of facts being made to the public?
– Not at all.
– Then why worry?
– All right; I shall not interrupt again.
– Those two items of expenditure totalled 13s. 8d. per capita. Assuming that the net Customs and Excise revenue is between 52s. and 53s. per capita, those two items alone exceed the Commonwealth’s one-fourth share by over is. per capita.
– What about the land tax?
– Has the honorable member his senses with him? The late Government made no provision at all for raising other revenue.
– The honorable member is getting very arrogant and abusive.
– Only a moment ago the honorable member for Parramatta said he would not interject again, and yet he is interjecting now.
– The honorable member need not be offensive.
– I had no intention of being offensive.
– The honorable member was offensive just now when he asked a member if he had brought his brains with him.
– I did not use any suchcoarse expression.
– Well, his senses > it is the same thing.
– The honorable member ought to go to a boarding school again.
– The honorable member has not a monopoly of sense himself.
– I appeal to the honorable member for Parramatta to remember that these continued interjections are disorderly.
– Naturally one feels that a proposition of this kind must be answered. The people might assume that our proposal is extraordinary and unusual, and that it has been made for party tactics and purposes. The fact is that it is made to meet the absolute financial necessities of the Commonwealth - that it is just and reasonable from every point of view, and in fact most generous from a Commonwealth stand-point. It is less drastic to the States financially than the proposal of the previous Government, because the States agreed to their proposal that if the deficit was £600.000 the States should be debited with that amount. The deficit was not so much, and therefore the States will be relieved to the extent of £150,000. If the amendment were carried the Commonwealth would be deprived of between 6s. and 7s. per capita.
– During this financial year ?
– I think so. I am assuming that the amount which will be paid for the half-year under the Braddon section, working it mentally, will be from 19s. to 20s. per capita.
– Why bother about the amendment at all ?
– Because I desire not only honorable members, but the people of the Commonwealth, who are responsible for the personnel of this House, to understand what this amendment really is. It is a proposition which would compel the Commonwealth to pay to the States between 19s. and 20s. per capita during the first half of the present financial year, whilst it might, or might not, take the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue during the following six months. If the amendment were carried no Commonwealth Government could do otherwise than take every penny of the Customs and Excise revenue foi the full period of six months next year. Do honorable members think that that is a better proposition than the one put forward by the Government? What would be gained ? The only advantage is that for which the Opposition, with exceptions - and I exclude the Leader of the Opposition from this statement - have been fighting : It would give them a political cry if this Government were compelled to take the whole of the net Customs and Excise revenue from 1st January to 30th June next. I do not think that that is advisable. The right honorable member for Swan further desires that the proposal to make a per capita return of 25s. per annum shall come into operation on 1st January next, and remain in force for ten years. That differs fundamentally from the proposition which he and his party put before the electors. The late Government told the people that, owing to the embarrassed condition of the Federal finances, it was proposed to bring the ‘operation of the Braddon section to a close six months before the time fixed by the Constitution. This Government have adopted that view, not from choice, but because of financial necessities. It was never intended by the framers of the Constitution, or by the people who voted for the Constitution Bill, that invalid and old-age pensions should be financed by the Commonwealth out of the one- fourth of the net Customs and Exciserevenue allotted to it. No honorable member ever thought of such a thing. Indeed, when the proposal to provide for a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions was first discussed in this House, nearly every responsible Minister hesitated to undertake the expenditure, because of the great financial burden which it would throw on the Parliament without any power being given to it to allow its expenditure to exceed one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue.
– The honorable member,. like myself, never thought that we could use the surplus revenue until somebody discovered that we could.
– The surplus revenue is governed by section 87 of the Constitution.
– We returned surplus revenue to the States to the extent of several millions pf pounds.
– That is not the point with which I was dealing. When it was proposed that we should establish a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions responsible Ministers of the day could see no prospect of being able to finance it out of the one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue that we were entitled to retain. What did we do?
– I must ask the Prime Minister to confine his remarks strictly to the amendment before the Chair.
– Then I shall ask the Committee to reject the amendment. It is not a practical proposal, and has no relation to our financial policy, except in so far as it is an attempt, for political reasons, to embarrass the Government. It is contrary to the pledges I made to the people of Australia and contrary to the policy of this Government. Of course, we cannot complain if the Opposition choose to put forward what is practically a want of confidence motion in connexion with the first Bill brought forward by the Government.
– It is not intended as a want of confidence motion.
-It could have no other meaning. What Government could remain in office if their financial policy were upset by the Opposition? The Opposition can choose its own methods, but I wish to intimate politely to honorable members opposite that when they assume control of the financial policy of this Government they will take upon themselves the responsibility of government altogether.
.- The Prime Minister’s closing declaration was hardly to be anticipated, although upon consideration I admit that if the amendment seriously disturbed the financial proposals of the Government he might see fit to follow the course he has suggested. There has been, however, no idea on the part of the Opposition to submit any amendment with such an object. As it appeals to me, this is scarcely a question for argument. We believe that the Constitution guarantees, as a matter of good faith in the fulfilment of the constitutional contract, a payment to the States of threefourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue until 31st December of the present calendar year.
– That is not in dispute.
– To pay three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to the States in respect of the first half of the present financial year, and to take back part of it by means of this device during the second half, so that the per capita payment of 25s. per annum would nominally commence as from the 1st inst., is equivalent to a breach of contract. The Prime Minister puts it as a very strong point that what he proposes was involved in his pledges to the country. Throughout nearly the whole of the election campaign I followed the speeches made by the honorable gentleman and by practically all the Labour candidates ; I looked particularly at the official manifesto issued by the Leader of the Labour party and countersigned by its secretary for, perhaps, the mostprecise statement of its financial policy. The whole policy, which is dealt with at great length, is summed up in two paragraphs from the manifesto published in a newspaper -
If the people choose to permit the present proposal -
That was the proposal of the late Government for an amendment of the Constitu tion to provide for a per capita payment of 25s. per annum - to remain for generations unchanged they are entitled to do it. If they desire a change on the other hand opportunity should be given to them to effect it. Our objection to the Ministerial proposal is that if once placed in the Constitution it may be kept there indefinitely by a small minority against the wish of an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia. For this reason we ask the people to reject the proposal.
Its rejection was not urged because of any financial considerations, but simply upon the ground of its duration.
We have been told that some guarantee of reasonable stability of this arrangement is due to the States. We do not deny the reasonableness of such a demand, and have always been prepared to concede it. And we are prepared to give a guarantee that, for a period of ten years, we will do nothing to disturb the proposed arrangement. At the end of that period, if the Parliament so decides, the matter may be submitted to a simple referendum of the people to determine whether the scheme should be accepted for a further period. In this way an effective assurance of stability would be assured to the States, the financial arrangements of the Commonwealth fixed for a definite period, and the rights of the people to make what laws they please remain unimpaired.
I think the Prime Minister will agree that this statement embodied his whole intention. If the Prime Minister now interprets that statement to mean that the present Government proposes to adhere to the dates in our agreement, but to nothing else, he interprets it in a way that neither I nor any other public man or elector interpreted it during the recent general elections. The bargain which was made by the late Government with the State Premiers necessarily elaborated and stated the consideration which each party was prepared to concede for the purpose of arriving at a settlement of this important question. The representatives of the Commonwealth made surrenders just as did the representatives of the States ; and, as a result, the agreement emerged from the Conference for an amendment of the Constitution; and - as a concession to the Commonwealth - for ante-dating the termination of the Braddon section. In consideration of this and other concessions, the agreement was to continue until altered by the people of the Commonwealth by means of an amendment of the Constitution. That was the carefully balanced arrangement made by the late Government; and if the Prime Minister and his party were prepared to give effect to it. no exception could be taken. He could have stepped into our shoes. If he had, the language he has employed could be given its ordinary meaning. But when he discards one side of the bargain made with the States by the late Government, it is impossible for him to hold those with whom that bargain was made to their portion. It is impossible to insist that they shall maintain their obligations, while dismissing the obligations of the Commonwealth. I feel sure that no elector who- read the manifesto just quoted, or who heard the Prime Minister state his intentions, ever guessed from any of his deliverances that if our agreement were rejected, and an entirely new state of affairs substituted, that it would be cut in half and back -dated as if it were our agreement, and constitutionally authorized. That position is wholly untenable. I have been puzzled again and again why the Prime Minister retains it. with such warmth, because the agreement for the earlier termination of the Braddon section having been rejected, that section is necessarily current until the end of the present calendar year. The Prime Minister’s promise, the Ministerial promise, and the promises of the party opposite, that the agreement to return to the States 25s. per capita shall be continued for ten years, did and can mean only one thing, namely, ten years from ist January next. Neither I nor anybody else ever suggested that the Prime Minister could retain one-half of the agreement made with the States - that which told against them - whilst striking out the half which was the consideration granted to them, and yet claim to be holding them to their bargain. That position has certainly never occurred to any one. This being so, I am face to face with the absolute obligation to register my vote - however hopeless the act may be -against a proposal which, in effect, departs from the Constitution, by a device ante-dating the .period of ten years, and indorses an attempt to hold the States to one-half of a bargain arrived at with great difficulty, and after a strenuous conflict of argument, as a compromise which represented on each side the least and the utmost which the parties were prepared to take and to give. It is unreasonable to expect that the Commonwealth shall derive all the benefit from its own half of that bargain if the Government discard everything agreed to be given in consideration of that bargain. The only other plea urged by the Prime Minister is more forcible, and not unconstitutional. He says, in point of fact, “ My poverty, but riot my will, compels me.” The continuation of the Braddon section until the end of the present calendar year, so as to fulfil the Constitution, will deprive him of so considerable a sum of money that the Commonwealth finances will be temporarily embarrassed. We do not yet know to what extent, but no doubt the Treasurer is fully informed upon the subject. Probably his forecast means that unless his proposal be adopted the Government will receive about ^1,000,000 or £I.-3.i3:°=o less than by his device.
– We could, if we chose, take the whole of the deficit out of the revenue collected during the second half of the financial year. But to do that I should have to violate the pledges which I have made.
– It appears to me that as the Constitution stands unamended by the vote of the people, the proposal of the Prime Minister to return to the States 25s. per capita for ten years will violate his pledges unless it be dated from ist January next.
– Under the amendment.
– Irrespective of the amendment, in my judgment that is the only course open to the Prime Minister to follow, in view of the statements in his manifesto which I have read. Though it may be unfortunate if the dating of the proposed arrangement from’ the ist January next deprived the Commonwealth of ^1, 000,000 during the current financial year, I understand from newspaper reports - to some of which the Prime Minister himself has contributed - that the very next measure to be submitted to this House will supply him with’ far more than the amount of the deficit.
– The honorable member is overlooking the fact that if the dating of the arrangement is put forward six months, we cannot assume that portion of the 25s. per capita has been returned to the States
– Of course not. The honorable member is not entitled to assume it. The payment of 25s. per head should begin on the ist January, 1911, instead of on the ist July of this year.
– Exactly. That means that we should lose fully 6s. or 7s. per capita.
– It does. It appears to me that we cannot help that. -On the one side there is the requirement of the Constitution j on the other side here is a programme for ten years; but the two cannot be made to overlap, as is ingeniously attempted in the Bill so as to subtract a large sum by a subterfuge.
– It is all right.
– The Treasurer is taking advantage of might rather than of fight. I am putting this view as a representative of the Commonwealth. The more money there is at the disposal of this Parliament the better I shall be pleased; but it ought to be legitimately obtained and not seized in this way, at the expense of an honorable agreement under the Constitution holding good up to the end of this year. Outside this would be termed sharp practice. People would say that the Government are pressed to do it; but surely, even under some pressure, they ought not to do this thing. Surely the Commonwealth is strong and rich enough to discard this forced levy. It is the last of this endowment thatthe States will ever get. Under the Constitution they will have parted with whatever hold they had in this regard.
Mr.Fisher.–But in old-age pensions the States have got it back, and more.
– They have obtained a great advantage in old-age pensions.
– Two millions.
– Of course; but we shouldered that responsibility of our own accord, because we had to do so, whether it relieved the States or not. We were not deterred by its effect upon their finances or on our own. We thought that it ought to be done, andnobody regrets that it was done. In present circumstances it seems to me that the proposal of thehonorable member forSwan is one which is not hostile to the Government’s electoral promises, but which complies with the obligation we are all under to fulfil the Constitution without any deductions, to fulfil it honorably and up to the last farthing, and to courageously face any difficulties inherent in that fulfilment. The knowledge that we shall have then fulfilled our utmost obligations to the States, that from this time forward we shall be free to deal with our finances as we please, arid that this embarrassment can never recur except by our own default, ought to be sufficient reward. So, with Our present only temporarily encumbered, and with the future entirely in our own hands, we should allow the last stage of our dealing with the States under the Constitution to be completed without being marred by that which they, as well as our public, will certainly regard as sharp practice. After all, this is not forced upon us by our necessities. It is said that necessity knows no law.
– The honorable member knows that in the past we have always found it impossible to deal with the Premiers; no one knows that better than he does.
– And nobody knows better than the honorable member that from this day forward the State Premiers will have nothing to deal with in the finances of the Commonwealth. Consequently there is naught to fear from that quarter. I am sure that nothing in the shape of reprisal would commend itself to the honorable member or to any one else. We are closing the period for which our financial powers were confined, and if we closed it with a full consciousness that we had done justice in an ampleway, that would be both the best close for the old era and the bestangary for the new.
– I listened very attentively to the speech made by the honorable member for Swan and the speech made by the honorable member for Ballarat. But I understand from the Prime Minister that the States will be paid three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue for the calendar year 19 10.
– That being so, I think it matters little whether the money is paid in the first half of the year or in the second half. The honorable gentleman, I take it, proposes to Overpay the States in the first part of the year, but to pay the total within the calendar year. If that is so, it does not matter how the amount is made up.
– I do not think that the honorable member has quite got the idea.
– I think that I have.
– With all deference to the honorable member, I do not think that he has.
– If that is so, the States have nothing to complain of. If they get three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue during the year, they will get all that they are entitled to receive, whether it is paid in the first half of the year or in the second half. There is a point to be considered, and that is whether the non-payment of the money month by month will be an infringement of the Constitution ; but I leave that entirely to the legal members of the House to decide. I wish to get at the broad principle, and that is that the States will be paid threefourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue within the year. The honorable member for Ballarat, I take it, says either that that is not so - I am not quite sure what he meant us to infer - or that it is not legal, that we have not carried out the spirit or the letter of the Constitution by not paying three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue in the second half of the year. I do not think that that is worth considering at all.
– We shall pay it.
– No, the Commonwealth will pay the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue within the year.
– Not in the halfyear.
– By deductions, the payment may be less in the second half of the year, but the payment for the whole year will amount to three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– No, three-fourths for the half-year.
– The point on which I started was whether that proportion of the Customs and’ Excise revenue is to be paid for the whole year, and if it is, then the provision of the Constitution will certainly be fulfilled.
– That is the calendaryear.
– That is right.
– But what about the next half-year? The Government are going to take it back then.
– No. The other point - and I think it was the strongest point, if there was oneat all - which was made by the right honorable gentleman and his leader was that the Prime Minister stated during the general election that he would pay to the States 25s. per head for ten years, but that by this Bill he proposed to pay them 25s. from 1st July, 1910, instead of from 1st January, 1911, thereby reducing the period of payment to nine and a-half years. If there is anything in that point - and it does not matter very much if there is - I certainly think that it is possible to extend the term to ten and a-half years in the future, and if that is done the States will get the money for ten years, as was stated by the Prime Minister.
– But I stated that it was to be in substitution of the proposal of the Deakin Government.
– The Leader of the Opposition took exception to the honorable gentleman commencing the payment from 1st July of this year because that would reduce the period of ten years by six months. But that objection can be overcome, if the Treasurer likes to do it. by making it a period of ten and a-half years from 1st July of this year. It is a very simple thing to do. I think the Prime Minister has been a great deal too liberal to the States, especially to Western Australia. I cannot understand the honorable member for Swan raising a question as to whether that State is properly treated or not. I think that it is being treated most liberally. The reason why the Treasurer has been too generous to the States is, I am afraid, that after the first half of this year the money which we obtain will be at our disposal. We have financial responsibilities to face, and I think that without further taxation we cannot pay 25s. per head to the States for ten years. I believe that at the end of five years the Treasurer will find that the 25s. will be required to carry on the business of the Commonwealth, unless he obtains a. great deal of fresh taxation.
– Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
– Ten years is a long period. This Parliament has not yet been in existence so long, and many changes have taken place since the inauguration of Federation. While great responsibilities have been cast upon us, our future responsibilities will be still greater. Therefore we shall act wisely in husbanding our revenue. I am afraid that, at the end of five years, the Commonwealth will be in need of revenue, if the proposed arrangement be carried out, unless a much larger sum is obtained from fresh taxation than I think it will yield. The States should be grateful for the manner in which they are being treated. The right honorable member for Swan has no right to carp at this arrangement. Western Australia is being dealt with most liberally.
– It is our own money that is to be returned to us. The people of Western Australia pay the taxes which help to create the Commonwealth revenue.
– But the sum returned to them is greater than their contributions. In my opinion, Tasmania, as well as Western Australia, should have special consideration.
-The honorable member may not refer to that matter now, though he will be in order in dealing with it on clause 5.
– All I wish to say is that the Tasmanian Treasury - not the people of Tasmania - has lost a great deal through Federation. Her people are better off now than they were prior to Federation, but her Treasury loses about £150,000 a year, .as compared with what they would have obtained from their old Tariff. We should make provision in the Bill for the weaker States. Western Australia is being well looked after.
– The position of Western Australia has nothing to do with the question before the Committee.
– The right honorable member has had a good deal to say about it. He has complained bitterly that ha did not. see a paper which was circulated throughout the States. I myself saw it in two or three States.
– If I had seen it, I should have used it.
– I do npt think, that the amendment has been proposed seriously, though it may gain a small amount of kudos from State politicians for those who support it. It is with the Premiers and Treasurers of the States that we have all the trouble. The sooner we get a definite arrangement under which the authorities of the Commonwealth and of the States will know how much revenue each will receive, the better it will be.
– I submit that the amendment of the right honorable member for Swan, substituting the 1st January next for 1 st July of the present year, is out of order, because, in effect, it increases the burdens of the taxpayers for the current year, and is beyond the terms of the GovernorGeneral’s Message recommending an appropriation for the purposes of the Bill. Section 56 of the Constitution sets forth that -
A vote, resolution, or proposed law, for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by Message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.
That Message, although in general terms, always has reference and application to a particular and specific Bill.
– But it can be brought in at any time before the Bill passes.
– Although it may be brought in at any time, there is clearly no virtue in a resolution, vote, or proposed law until the Message has been brought in, and the terms of the Message limit the scope of the measure to which it applies. The effect of the amendment would be to increase the burdens on the community, and it is not in order for a non-official member to make such a proposal. Standing order 171 provides that -
No amendment for the imposition or for the increase of a tax, rate, or duty shall be proposed by any non-official member in any Committee on any Hill.
I do not say that this is a tax, a rate, or a duty but clearly the amendment has the effect of increasing the burdens on the community. While there is nothing in the Standing Orders dealing particularly with appropriations, the general principle, recognised in the House of Commons and here, is that no amendment can be received which has the effect of increasing the burdens on the people, or goes beyond the scope of a message, vote, or resolution dealing with a measure. The effect of the amendment is to increase by about 6s. per capita, or about £1. 500,000, the taxation of the people. Consequently it obviously increases the burdens of the community.
– Supposing the position of the Attorney-General to be correct, the Government can cure any defects in the measure by bringing down a second Message, and is expected to do that when the sense nf the Committee is expressed in an amendment not covered by the original Message.
– When I said last session that that could be done, the honorable member ridiculed the suggestion.
– My memory does not go back to all the points of order taken last session, though my impression is that the Government of the day promised that, if the Committee came to a decision not covered by the Message recommending an appropriation for the purposes of the Bill under consideration, it would facilitate giving effect to that’ decision. by bringing in another Message. Another point I would make is that no comparison by means of figures has been made by either the mover of the amendment or the Attorney-General to show what its effect will be.
– The Attorney-General gave figures.
– He made no comparison such as I shall make presently. At present all that you know, Mr.’ Chairman, is that there is a proposition to change a date. The object of a
Message from the Governor-General is to ask for Supplies, and we ought not to interfere with the discretion of a GovernorGeneral when Supplies are asked for. But suppose that the object of the right honorable member for Swan were to change the amount of revenue which is to be paid to the States. Then the right honorable member would be interfering with the States, not with the Governor-General ; and on principle, though it may seem paradoxical, the request for these moneys ought to come from the Governors of the States. Section 56 of the Constitution provides that a proposal for the appropriation of revenue shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has been recommended by Message. The reason for the Message is that it is for the Crown to say what Supplies are wanted, and we should not increase them. In this case the Crown is represented by the Governors of the States. As regards the imposition of a tax on the people, we have not the slightest evidence that what the right honorable member for Swan has in view would increase taxation one way or the other.
– Where is the money to come from?
– We are not now dealing with finance, but with a Bill to provide a method with regard to the disposition of surplus revenue. There is nothing to show that the undoubted right of an honorable member to move an amendment is frustrated by the fact that the passing of such a Bill, has to be preceded by a Message from the Governor-General .
– I submit that the proposal of the ex-Treasurer does not contravene that very explicit standing order which the Attorney-General has read. So far there is no proposal to increase any charge on the people, or to impose any tax, or to do anything of the kind. There is merely a proposal to change a date. Even assuming that that proposal were followed by another which incidentally had the effect of increasing a charge upon the people, it would not follow that a Message would be required to cover it.
– The right honorable member said that that was his purpose in proposing the amendment.
– Even supposing that he did, I contend that a proposal which incidentally involves a charge upon the Treasury does not contravene the standing order in question. When we were dealing with the Public Service Bill some years ago an amendment -was made to the effect that no officer over the age of twenty-one years must receive less than £110 a year. No Message from the Governor-General was required to effect that amendment. Instances of the same kind could be multiplied. Amendments have frequently been agreed to which incidentally made charges upon the. public Treasury. There is scarcely a Bill that we pass that does not incidentally impose some charge upon the Treasury. Every function the Commonwealth takes over does that. Even supposing that the right honorable member for Swan had made a direct proposition that the rate proposed to be paid should be increased, I submit that he would not have been out of order. His amendment imposts’ no charge directly. It inVol’ *es no liability upon the people. Whether or not it would ultimately mean an addition to the amount the Treasurer will have to pay depends entirely upon the action of the Government. The Treasurer has told us himself that it does not matter much how we fix the period, since the Government will absolutely control the amount which has to be paid. The Government give their whole case away therefore. There is nothing to prevent them next year passing a Bill to keep everything from the States if they wish. Clearly this amendment imposes no financial obligation upon the Treasury as such. It is an amendment incidental to a Bill which has not yet been dealt with, and may be so modified as not to increase the charges upon the Treasurer iri any way. For all we know the results may ultimately be to decrease them. Therefore it cannot be held that this amendment contravenes in any way the very salutary standing order that has been quoted. “ “
– The Government have derived their authority for the introduction of the Bill now before the Committee by virtue of Message No. 3 from’ the Governor-General. The Bill proposes that during ten years, from the ist July last, a payment of 25s. per capita per annum shall be made to the States. The amendment proposed bv the right honorable member for Swan ‘would increase the amount payable to the States for the period of half a year. Therefore, the amendment involves, in my opinion, an addition to the requirement signified in the Governor- General’s Message. Consequently, .1 rule that it is out of order.
.- I move -
That the word “first,” line 2, be left out.
The effect of the amendment will be simply to elicit the opinion of the Committee upon the point in question. If the amendment be agreed to, the Government will, no doubt, take it as a direction to bring down another Message, if necessary
– I do not desire to debate this matter any further. Evidently, the Opposition are determined to challenge the policy of the Government, and. of course, they can take their own way of doing so. Our proposal is fair, and, as the honorable member for Hume stated, most generous. The amendment of the honorable member for Darling Downs means, virtually, the same thing as did that of the right honorable member for Swan - that there should be paid to the States their full threefourths during the first six months of the present financial year, up to the 31st December next, and that any reduction that is to take place should commence from the 1st January next. The proposal of the Government is much more equitable, and is entirely in accordance with the pledges which we gave to our constituents.
.-If the amendment now submitted be in order, the argument may proceed on exactly the same lines as were being pursued prior to the Chairman’s decision on the amendment of the right honorable member for Swan. While yesterday, and to-day also, we were told that the Bill is an example of ingenious drafting, we were treated just now, by the honorable member for Ballarat, to a most ingenious piece of reasoning. It might properly have been characterized as clever, but for the use of the two words “ sharp practices.” The honorable gentleman repeated those words ; but, perhaps, later on he will see fit to withdraw them.
– The people affected are using much stronger language than I did. I was translating their views, but putting them in milder terms.
– The honorable member for Swan, for instance, uses very much stronger language than the honorable member for Ballarat would dream of using; but the language the latter honorable gentleman has used was so strong that I am confident he will, in the very near future, express some form of regret for having used it. I do not believe that the honorable gentleman used the words to which I have referred in their keenest sense, or with any desire to reflect upon> the political practices of honorable members on this side. ‘ We are informed that there was an agreement with the States ; but I remind honorable members that there was no agreement with the States. There was an arrangement arrived at between the Governments of the States, acting without the consent of their respective Parliaments, and the Government of the Commonwealth, with a view to strengthening the position of the party at the time occupying this side of the House. Since that arrangement was come to, one of the State Governments that was a party to it submitted itself to the people, and was defeated. It is possible that when the other State Governments who were parties to that arrangement submit themselves to the electors, they will meet with a like fate. The defeat of the State Government that was a .party to the arrangement with the Government of the Commonwealth, and the Premiers of the other States, showed that they were not in touch with the people of their State, and has distinctly strengthened our position in dealing with this matter. We were informed, also, by the honorable member for Ballarat, that we are not justified in accepting half the agreement arrived at when the other half of it has been rejected. It is contended that, as the provision for the inclusion of the agreement in the Constitution has been rejected, the whole of the agreement is annulled, and we should start afresh. It is further argued that the party on this side promised the people that they would not disturb the proposed arrangement for a period of ten years, and that must necessarily mean for a period of ten years from the date of the expiration of the Braddon section. I venture tobelieve that that cannot be supported by a reference to the manifesto issued by the Prime Minister. In that manifesto, it is clearly stated, as read by the honorable member for Ballarat, that the party on this side objected to the Financial Agreement going into the Constitution. There is no dispute on that point. We specifically asked the people not to place the agreement in the Constitution - for what purpose need not at the present moment be argued. The people refused to place the agreement in the Constitution ; and, to that extent, approved the attitude of the party on this side, and dissented from the arrangement proposed by the last Government. But the present Prime Minister says, in his manifesto, “ If you refrain from putting the agreement in the Constitution, I have no desire, and do not propose, to alter the proposed arrangement for a period of ten years. 1 That is quite clear, from the wording of the manifesto. We naturally turn back to discover what “ the proposed arrangement ‘”’ was, according to the terms of the agreement signed by the honorable member for Ballarat.
– Was the honorable member quoting from the manifesto?
– No : interpreting it.
– No ; I was reading it. The words “ the proposed arrangement “ are the actual words of the manifesto. I read from the copy of the manifesto which the honorable member for Ballarat was kind enough to hand me. Our first . statement was that the people should not put the agreement in the Constitution ; and our second statement was that, if it was not embodied in the Constitution, we. did not propose to interfere with “the proposed arrangement” for a period of ten years. The proposed arrangement signed by the honorable member for Ballarat was to commence to operate from the ist July of this year; and that is in accordance with the terms of the Bill now before the Committee.
– But ten years could not be fixed until we first amended the Constitution.
– That was not in question.
– I say that when the Government knew they could not amend the Constitution, they must have meant that the ten years’ period should commence from the ist “January, and so the people believed.
– I understand the contention of the honorable member for Ballarat to be that we cannot amend the Constitution.
– No; the point the honorable member for Ballarat makes is that the proposed arrangement was for an alteration of the Constitution.
– I am quite clear upon that point. The proposed arrangement was for an alteration of the Constitution, and under it the payments were to start from the ist July of this year. So far as the alteration of the Constitution is concerned, we have the mandate of the people for that. That portion of the agreement was specifically annulled by the people, and goes by the board. That is precisely what was advised by the present Prime Minister in his manifesto when he asked the people not to place the agreement in the Constitution. The people have annulled that por tion of the proposed arrangement by a specific vote, given apart from the personal element inseparable from a general election.
– The honorable gentleman claims that one-half of the arrangement may be annulled and the rest accepted.
– I shall attend to the honorable member in a moment. I have no desire to be discourteous to him. The people said that the portion of the arrangement providing for its inclusion in the Constitution should be rejected. But the other portion of it remained so far as the people are concerned.
– No. if that were so the reference in the manifesto would have been to “ the period of ten years,” and not to “ a period of ten years.”
– I do not see the sentence to which the honorable gentleman refers, but I see a cross-heading to the paragraph from which he quoted.
– The cross-heading is the work of the newspaper. It was not in the manifesto itself. The manifesto is not cross-headed. I have it here in another paper, in which the words used are “for a period of ten years.”
– The wording of the cross-Read is “ The ten years’ guarantee,” and the honorable gentleman is correct when he says that the words of the manifesto are “ for a period of ten years.” But I think we are justified in the circumstances in saying that “ a period of ten years “ means the period starting from the same date as that suggested by the honorable gentleman himself.
– That would be “the” period.
– It was my period. . I do not know whether it was “ a “ period or the “ period.
– The constitutional provision still operates.
– I am aware, of that, and it will continue to operate until the 31st December next. The whole arrangement was that that should be abrogated so far as the current six months is concerned, and in our manifesto the people were told that the proposed arrangement would be held intact for the period of ten years. I venture to say that the period in the mind of the Prime Minister in framing his manifesto, and certainly the period in my mind when I read it, although I did not see it until a few weeks before the election, was intended to start from precisely the date suggested by the State Premiers and the ex-Prime Minister. In these circumstances we are more justified than ever in starting the period from that date. The amendment of the honorable member for Darling Downs means practically the same as the amendment of the right honorable member for Swan. Unless honorable members on the other side are prepared to alter the wording of the clause under discussion immediately after the amendment is carried, ifit be carried - seeing that the clause provides that in the second half of this financial year the Government may pay back to the States only such portion of money as would give them 25s. per head for the whole of the financial year - the result will be to financially embarrass the Government. When the right honorable member submitted his amendment he said that it would make no difference to the finances, because the Treasurer could take the money during the second half of the year.
– That is whatis going to be done now.
– That is precisely what will be done under the Bill; and it appears to me that the amendment was not fraught with the danger, as anticipated by the Prime Minister, that it would result in financial embarrassment, but that its effect would be merely to extend the period of the payment of 25s. per head for another six months. The right honorable member indicated that, in his opinion, the Treasurer could deduct in the second half of the year the balance of the money, so that at the end of the year 25s. per head only would have been paid to the States.
– That has to be done now; it is the only way in which it can be done.
– That is the practical result under the Bill. But a different complexion entirely was placed on the amendment by the Leader of the Opposition, whose words, of course - and I say this with all due respect - carry greater weight than even those of the right honorable member for Swan. The Leader of the Opposition clearly indicated that he supported the amendment, because it would mean that for the next four or five months, until the end of December next, the Braddon section would be adhered to in its entirety, and that, starting from that date, the payment to the States would be at the rate of 25s. per head. That, of course, means financial embarrassment.
– I did not advocate that, but only said it could be done.
– I do not know that the right honorable member did particularly advocate that course ; but there is a material difference between him and the Leader of the Opposition, so far as the effect of the amendment is concerned.
– I wish the honorable member would not pursue that subject, because we have disposed of it. The amendment before the Chair is to strike out the word “ first”
– I shall not pursue the subject any further, sir, if you rule against me; but I desire to point out respectfully that it is proposed to strike out a particular word as a test, and that if the word be struck out, the amendment of the right honorable member for Swan will be moved in its place. Even though the wording be different, the effect would be precisely the same, and when the effect is the same I cannot at present see why I should be forced to use different arguments to place my opinion before the Chamber. I desire merely to say that if the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Darling Downs is approved, it distinctly means financial embarrassment.
– Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition could more clearly explain to the right honorable member for Swan than I could. It is admitted by the Leader of the Opposition that the amendment means financial embarrassment to the Government ; and I desire to place against that, the view taken by the late Government when, last year, there was a suggestion made in regard to old-age pensions, which suggestion the then Government claimed would mean financial embarrassment; it was very warmly, and, perhaps, properly from their side, denounced when made. Honorable members on this side were on that occasion informed that they ought not to financially embarrass the Government by such amendments; and the incident has even been referred to this session by the right honorable member for Swan.
– And I shall refer to it again, because I think it was very bad on the part of honorable members opposite.
– It was very bad when it was suggested by this side and the right honorable gentleman was in power ; but. now that he is in Opposition, and some other persons happen to be in power, apparently such a suggestion is very good, seeing that the right honorable member distinctly approves of it. 1 sincerely hope that no financial embarrassment will be pressed on the Government, because it would seem that such a policy may prove a two-edged sword.
.- The gravamen of the argument of the honorable member for Adelaide seems to be that the pledge of his party was that the whole of the Financial Agreement, as arrived at between the Premiers and the ex-Prime Minister some time ago, should be carried out with the one exception that it was not to be placed in the Constitution. I ask the honorable member whether this measure and the clauses before us do actually carry out the whole of that arrangement known as’ the Financial Agreement? If it does completely carry out that Agreement, there is a great deal to be said for the honorable member’s argument. It is notorious, however, that the duration of the arrangement as provided in this clause will impose certain hardships on the State of Western Australia at any rate, which would, in consequence of the arrangement not running for twenty-five years, lose £980,000 ; and, therefore, the whole of the argument that the honorable member has erected with such studious care falls to the ground.
– The Bill does not say that the arrangement may not run for twenty-five years, but only that for the present it will run for ten years. Parliament will have an opportunity of continuing it.
– The Bill guarantees the payment for ten years, but, under the old arrangement, Western Australia had a guarantee for the special payment for twenty-five years; and that is the difference. The Bill gives a guarantee only so far as an Act of Parliament may, and it is known that such is not altogether a complete guarantee. At any rate, Western Australia will suffer by this arrangement as compared with the treatment it would have received under the previous proposed arrangement. However, I am not very anxious on that point ; but I would particularly like the Government to show the States exactly what they are to receive during this year. I do not stand here as a State Rights man or as a Commonwealth Rights man ; I desire the Commonwealth to maintain its solvency right through the year, as I urged on the Committee last, night when dealing with another matter. I also wish that the Government, in making the arrangements they feel necessary to maintain the solvency of the Commonwealth for the next twelve months, will give the States in the clearest and most unmistakable language an indication of the actual amount they are likely to receive from month to month throughout the year. I think that would be only fair.
– The more we give to Western Australia the more New South Wales will have to pay !
– My honorable friend must realize that, in a Federal Parliament like this, we are bound to look at these matters not through State spectacles. I am not now urging at the present juncture that the previous payment proposed for Western Australia was the right payment; all I say is that that particular State has not, as claimed by the honorable member for Adelaide, had its bargain adhered to. I now desire to put right in a small particular a statement made a short time ago. At that time, referring to the question of the duration of the arrangement as it applied to Western Australia, I said that the Labour members from that State were pledged to a period of not less than twenty-five years, in order to guarantee the State receiving an amount equal to what it would have received under the Financial Agreement. I have had placed in my hands by the honorable member for Coolgardie a report, from the West Australian of the 29th March, of a speech he made at Geraldton. In this he said he had no objection to the payment of 25s. per head at the discretion of the Federal Parliament. It is clear that he did not pledge himself there to a period et twenty-five years. Further on in his speech, he said that the advocates of the agreement, who were claiming that it was better than anything Western Australia would otherwise get, had often been wrong in the past, and might be wrong again. I make this correction in order to make the position of the honorable member for Coolgardie perfectly clear. But it is obvious that if honorable members from that State wish to safeguard its finances, and put it in as good a position under this arrangement as it would have been under the last, they ought to do all they can to extend the period for twenty-five years. No one here is the keeper of other men’s pledges to the electors, and I am not personally much concerned with anything the Prime Minister might have said in his numerous speeches, or what might have appeared in the original draft of the Labour manifesto, if that outofdate instrument could be produced from the honorable member’s waste-paper basket. All I urge upon him is that he should do the straight thing as between man and man, and assist the Treasurers of the States, who are responsible for the carrying on of vast State agencies with which the people’s happiness is intimately interwoven, by letting them know in his Budget statement this year - and I think it ought to be provided in this Bill - what they are to expect from month to month, in order that they may be able to put their finances in order, and run the States assolvently as he claims the .power to run the Commonwealth. That is my whole point. If he does that, he has an absolute mandate from the people, whatever his pledge may have been on the Financial Agreement, to take the whole of the Commonwealth revenue, if he sees fit, after a certain time. He is the guardian of his own conscience, and all I say to him is, “ Play the game as between the Commonwealth and States, and consider, as a whole, the interests of the people of Australia.”
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) £4.34]. - Honorable members on the other side appear to look at the matter from one aspect only, and exclude one important consideration. They say that the result of the general election was to vary our agreement in one particular only, by eliminating the element of perpetuity. They seem entirely to overlook another consequence - the negativing of a proposal on our part to modify the Braddon, section. That decision’ of the people was equally valid with the other. The decision of the electors was that the Braddon section should not be modified, but should run its full term, and that the people of the States should benefit under it until its expiry.
– Unfortunately, you cannot get a specific vote of the people on points like those.
– I do not know that that modifies in any way what I am saying. To our proposal for the termination of the Braddon section six months sooner, the people said : 1 1 No, it must not be terminated one minute earlier.” The Constitution now provides that it shall run its full term, and, under that decision of the people, the Government are proceeding to pay the States the full three-fourths until the end of this year; but the Prime Minister, in a way which I cannot help characterizing as mean and underhand–
– The honorable member must not use those expressions.
– Then I will say in a Va v that is not straightforward.
– Nor must the hon,orable member use that expression.
– It is the first time I have ever heard that word objected to in a Committee, but I am glad you are laying clown a stricter code. I shall subscribe to it, and take care that other people do. I heard worse words used by the Prime Minister this afternoon. Time and again he imputed motives to other people, and I have yet to learn that the use of the term “ want of straightforwardness “ is not in order. However, you so rule for the first time in my parliamentary experience. Shall I say that the Government are trying to get behind the decision of the people in that regard?
– Why not say it is crooked ?
– The honorable member for Parramatta has been crooked all his life.
– I ask for the withdrawal of that insulting remark.
– I withdraw it. I said it, so that it is all right.
– Will the honorable member withdraw without qualification?
– I withdraw it.
– The Government are ostensibly meeting the obligations of the Braddon section, and paying the full three-fourths until its expiration, but after giving the money to the States they say in this Bill, “ We are not going to pay you 25s. per head for the next six months; we are going to make you pay yourselves.” That is the effect of “the Bill’ It is a crooked way of legislating.
– I thought the honorable member would adopt that term.
– I do. The Prime Minister must have his tongue in his cheek when he first gives the money to the States, and in the next breath tells them “ You will have to give it back to me in the next six months.”
– I am not taking anything back from them.
– That is the effect of it.
– I do not propose to take a penny back.
– The honorable member will not take it back; he simply intends to keep it back. The effect is the same. What is the difference between their handing to him the difference between 2s. 7d. and I 2S. 6d., and his keeping it from them?
– The effect of the Bill will be precisely the same for ten years, as the Fusion Government’s arrangement.
– That shows what my honorable friends have come down to. During the election they smote us and our works hip and thigh, but now they say, “It is your arrangement, and we are going to carry it through.”
– With one difference.
– With two vital differences, of which honorable membersopposite take notice of one only. There is not only the question of perpetuity, which was decided against us, but the question of altering the Braddon section, which was equally decided against us. Now the Government propose to undermine the validity of that decision of the people by this legislation.
– The honorable member assumes the latter. The agreement in perpetuity was decided against him, but there was no specific decision respecting the Braddon section.
– I take it that our agreement was negatived by the people at the referendum. The alteration of the Braddon section was one of its terms. That proposal was rejected. The people said that the Braddon section must run its full course, and that the States must receive the full benefit of it. The Prime Minister now says, “ We will carry out the Financial Agreement so far as it goes, and make the effect of what I do just the same as if it had been decided in favour of the late Government.” This is a way of getting round the decision of the people at the late referendum which I think ought not to be followed by any legislative body. Test the matter. Will the Prime Minister be prepared to agree to an amendment a little later on, so as to continue the ten years’ period for a further term of six months ?
– There is no necessity.
– Of course there is no necessity to do anything save that for which die Bill provides. The Bill declares that the States shall receive 25s. per capita per annum for nine years, and about 2s. yd. per head for six months. It makes that declaration most distinctly and unqualifiedly. I say, therefore, “that when honorable members talk about a variation of the Financial Agreement in only one particular they are leaving out of considera tion an equally important provision, to which we agreed in consideration of the fact that the Commonwealth had taken over the payment of old-age pensions, which would involve a deficit then estimated at £1,200,000. If we had thought at the time that the deficit would be only £450,000, we should not have bothered about that feature of the agreement. But a deficit of £1,200,000 staring us in the face was sufficiently serious to induce us to ask the States, in consideration of our taking over the payment of old-age pensions, to agree to a suspension of the Braddon section six months before the end of its natural term.
– Then it was not love of the States, but fear of its own deficit, that made the late Government enter into the agreement.
– I do not know that matters either of love or of hate for the States come into consideration. We made what we believed, in view of our financial difficulties, was a fair proposition to the States. Those difficulties were certainly not of our own creation. I am amazed that the Prime Minister should have said to-day that they were. He has stated, over and over again since he came into office, that the present financial embarrassment of the Commonwealth is the creation of his predecessors in office. The honorable member has said quite the contrary on many occasions. He has said, for instance, that it was caused only by relieving the States of the payment of old-age pensions, and that he claims to have been his own particular act. Why, then, does he say now that the embarrassment is of our creation?
– The late Government made no provision for it.
– The agreement into which we entered with the State Premiers made full provision for it. The honorable member, however, threw that agreement over, and would have nothing to do with it. He would not listen to us as we pleaded that our difficulties had been so created, and that the agreement offered us a ready means of obviating them by the earlier termination of the operation of the Braddon section. The honorable member smote us hip and thigh, and metaphorically swore at the agreement from Dan to Beersheba. This Bill will not give effect to what the Prime Minister told the people to expect, and what was clearly and specifically expressed by many members of the present Ministry and their supporters in various parts of Australia during the election campaign. We ask them to provide for what they told the people of the country to expect, and the only argument left to them in defence of the Bill is that it provides for our agreement with the elimination of the provision for perpetuity.
– We did not propose that the agreement should be in perpetuity.
– I am using a term that has been coined.
– The honorable member has let the cat out of the bag in regard to the question of perpetuity. His leader knows more about the matter.
– I am quoting the language of my honorable friend.
– The result of the referendum proved what we said.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is speaking the truth when he says that the Financial Agreement was to be in perpetuity.
– Am I, in view of the fact that the decision of the people at the late referendum has shown that it is possible to alter the Constitution in the readiest possible way?
– It shows the frightful difficulty that the present Opposition had in trying to alter it.
– I ask honorable members to cease interjecting. Every hon.orable member has the right to speak, and I must ask that an end be put to these con”tinuous interjections.
– I do not wish to labour the question, for the position to -my mind is very clear. The Prime Minister would do better if he considered it carefully instead of suggesting that we have only a political motive, and that that is to embarrass the Government. How could we embarrass it? The Prime Minister has “behind him the caucus as solid as a stone wall.
– And millions worth of notes.
– Does not the honorable member envy him?
– I hope that he does not. Any one can make mischief, lt requires no ability to do that.’ The Prime Minister, when he began to bethink himself of Governments of former times who used to respond to the canons of responsible government, threatened us with certain consequences if the amendment were carried. That remark was equally idle. It is not for him to say whether or not the Government will resign.
– Does the honorable member think that that matter has anything to do with the question before the Chair?
– It has something to do with an argument put forward during the debate by the Prime Minister himself. The honorable gentleman declared that if a vote were given adverse to the Government a certain course would be followed by them. I am simply saying in reply that that was an idle statement on his part, since he has not the power to make it effective. It is idle for him to adopt the trapping and forms of the oldtime theory of responsible government, since the caucus has obliterated it and really thrown it overboard.
– The position I take up in regard to this question differs very much from that occupied by the majority of honorable members on this side of the Committee, because, when this question was under consideration in the last Parliament, I was one of those who took exception, both to . the .proposal to embody the agreement in the Constitution, and to make it operative in perpetuity. I generally agree with the conclusions which are arrived at by the honorable member for Adelaide, who expressed the view that, wisely or unwisely, this Bill really gives effect to the proposals of the late Government, with two exceptions. Those exceptions are that it does not contemplate embodying the agreement in the Constitution, because the people have objected to the adoption of that course, and that it does not provide for the return, in perpetuity, of 25s. per capita to the States. But, with those two exceptions, the Bill practically gives effect to the scheme of the late Government. In the agreement which was submitted for our consideration last year, the State Premiers and Treasurers, as representing their Parliaments, expressed their willingness to accept the return by the Commonwealth of 25s. per capita, and to make the scheme operative six months before the termination of the Braddon section of the Constitution. Had it not been for the latter condition, there would have been no need to ask the electors by referendum to indorse the Bill dealing with this question which was framed by the late Government.
– Hear, hear ; and the people said “no” to that proposition.
– I do not agree with the honorable member on this occasion ; although I do agree with him upon many matters. I did not agree with himlast session, and I do not agree with him now. I do not accept the inferences which he has drawn from the result of the referendum. It is impossible to say which particular feature of the scheme put before them the electors either approved or disapproved. All we know is, that, taken as a legislative proposal, they did not approve the agreement which the late Government entered into with the State Premiers. I should have been very glad if we could have asked the electors to answer specific questions - to say, for instance, whether they approved of that agreement being for’ all time, or whether the termination of the Braddon section of the Constitution should be antedated by six months. But, in the circumstances, we can only accept their decision as a whole. The honorable member for Parramatta is not in a position to say that the electors did or did not object to the proposal to make the agreement in perpetuity. They may have objected to that feature of the agreement; although they may have agreed with the proposed antedating of the Braddon section. In the same way, they may have objected to the amount which it was proposed to return to the States - because they thought it either too much or too little. We cannot take a specific part of that legislative proposal, and say that the people were against it, simply because they negatived the whole proposal.
– We cannot say that they were in favour of any part of it.
– Exactly ; and we cannot say that they were against any portion of it.
– They were against the whole of it.
– That is so.
– And, therefore, they were against every part of it.
– Not necessarily. The honorable member knows that the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill need not have been submitted to the electors if it had not involved the antedating of the Braddon section by six months. From listening to the debate upon this question to-day, and from reading the discussion which took’ place yesterday, it appears to me that we are debating totally different issues. In the speech which the Prime
Minister delivered to-day, he dealt almost exclusively with the question of how far the proposed amendment would affect the finances of the Commonwealth, and thus embarrass the Government. It seems to me that it is very difficult to embarrass the present Government, because - as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta - they have a solid phalanx behind them, which assures them of a majority of twelve or fourteen votes in this Chamber. In addition, they intend to submit a Bill which they will be able to carry with the aid of that majority, and which will empower them to issue Commonwealth notes to the extent of several million pounds. Most people would not imagine that they were in financial difficulties if they were able to do just what they chose, and had a practically unlimited sum of money behind them. But the issue which is involved in this Bill is not merely how the measure will suit the finances of the Government and States, but how it will affect the Commonwealth as a whole. Many honorable members have dealt with the question of whether it honorably gives effect to the bargain which was entered into with the States by the late Government, and whether we are entitled to accept a part of that bargain and to discard the other part. If .our primary purpose were to carry out that agreement. I admit that we should not be justified in subscribing to part of it, and in repudiating the other part. But, as a matter of fact, we are in no way bound by that bargain. It is true that it was approved by a slender majority in this Chamber, but the people have rejected it ; and, as trustees of the people, we have not to consider how this Bill will affect ‘any one State, but how it will affect the Commonwealth as a whole. We do not appear to have yet got away from the provincialism which impels us to pay regard only to its probable effect upon our particular State. But, as one of seventy-five members. I have entered this Parliament to consider what is best in the interests of the Commonwealth. We have, then, to ask ourselves not whether the Bill is in accordance with the wishes of the State Premiers, or with the policy of the late Government, but <: Is it just to the Commonwealth? “ That is one reason why there has been a disposition evidenced by the electors, and why there is a disposition on the part of this House as representing those electors, to limit- the agreement which it is proposed to make, to a period of ten years..
We do not know what may happen during that time. It is possible that we may desire to alter the allocation, either by reducing the amount returnable to the States for reasons which I advanced the other evening, or by increasing it for other reasons. Therefore, I submit that we ought not to inquire whether or not this Bill is acceptable to the State Premiers. I admit that we have a right to consider their needs - to consider what the Constitution granted them under the Braddon section - but we are not bound to sacrifice Commonwealth needs merely becausewe think that the State Premiers may experience difficulty or embarrassment in financing their particular portions of it. I say that we have to look first at the constitutional aspect of this question, and secondly at how the proposed arrangement will affect the Commonwealth. I wish now to point out to the Prime Minister the difficulty in which I am placed over this Bill. I do not consider that it is obligatory on the part of the legal members of this Chamber to cudgel their brains as they would cudgel them if they were going to give a professional opinion upon which he stakes his reputation. We come here as representatives of the electors - as men of the world, who possess some knowledge of business. Apart from these considerations we are justified in throwing upon the Government and its legal advisers the responsibility of dealing with the legal aspects of this question. But I take exception to the constitutional aspect of the clause under consideration. Broadly viewed, clause 3 recognises the existence of the Braddon section of the Constitution, and the right of the States to three- fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue until the end of December of the present year. It acknowledges the obligation of the Commonwealth to return that amount to the States, and impliedly undertakes to pay it. But clause 4 provides for something additional, viz., that the Commonwealth shall return to the States 25s.per capita from the 1st July of the current financial year. So that really this Bill double-banks the financial provision which has been made for the States, by giving them their three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue for the first half of the present financial year, and by giving them in addition 25s. per head for the last half of that year.
– They can claim both sums.
– Legally, the States can claim under the Bill, “ We do not thank you for recognising the Braddon section, because we have that in the Constitution, but you have actually provided for us 25s. per head of our respective populations from July to December, in addition to what we have guaranteed to us in the Constitution. “ The Bill really does not represent the Government’s intentions. That is the peculiar position we are in, because the Government are anticipating that the States will, in the spirit of the agreement into which they entered with the last Government, consent to forego what they are entitled to under the Braddon section, in return for the 25s. per head which is provided by clause 4 of the measure.
– How can they do that?
– I quite agree with my honorable friend. If the Commonwealth cannot deprive the people of the States of their money rights under the Braddon section, how can the States do so ? The States cannot consent to an alteration of the Constitution.
– They can agree to pass a Bill through their own Parliaments.
– I doubt whether the State Parliaments could abrogate the rights of the State citizens. And I doubt whether a State citizen could not take a Treasurer who was consenting to such a thing to the High Court, and complain that he was abrogating a financial right of the people of the State, under which the States are entitled to three- fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– I beg leave to differ from the honorable member. I formed a different opinion on that question.
– That is why I rose to tell the honorable member what my opinion is. He has stated that he relies upon his legal advisers. I was not here yesterday, but I have read in the press that the only two legal representatives on the Government side of the Chamber - the honorable member for Werriwa and . the honorable member for West Sydney, neither of whom has been in the legal world for a very long time - were at issue over a most important legal point.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Werriwa expressed an opinion : he admitted a doubt.
– That sometimes amounts to an opinion when it is made by a man who knows; and the man who knew in this case was the Attorney-General. I do not want to say anything disparaging of the weight of the legal opinions of the two honorable members to whom I have referred, but the Prime Minister turned to me and said that, on this question, he had formed a different opinion. I can boast thirty years’ experience at the Bar, twentyfive years having been spent in very active practice. I do not think that that is to be absolutely thrown away. The more law I know, the less certain I feel in regard to things. That is the effect of practice, and we can only come back to Pope’s maxim that a little learning is a dangerous thing, and that we must drink deeply at the spring if we want to be sure.
– Does the honorable member mind stating the words on which he bases his contention?
– It is based on no particular words but on the Bill. If the honorable member looks at clause 3 he will see that it is a recognition of the force of the Braddon section which entitles the States to three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, and then if he turns to clause 4 he will see that it contains this provision -
The Commonwealth shall, during the period of ten years beginning on the 1st day of July. 1910, and thereafter until the Parliament pro- vides, pay to each State by monthly instalments 25s. per head of the number of the people of the States.
The honorable member will see that we can- not in any way repeal or touch the potency of the Braddon section which provides three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue for the States. Yet this Bill proposes to give them 25s. per head from the 1st July of this year, which covers six months of the same period. I take it that the object of the honorable member for Swan was to make the 25s. per head period begin with the termination of the Braddon section.
– What was asserted yesterday by eminent legal members was that the honorable and learned member’s contention could only be correct if the monthly instalments were to be equal ones.
– I do not see that that touches it, because we know very well that under the Braddon section the States are entitled to three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, and if the honorable member will look at clause 4 of this Bill he will see that it provides for monthly instalments at the rate of 25s. per head from the 1st July of this year. The
Prime Minister may say that one is intendedto cover the other, and I have no doubt that it is. I have no doubt that he will say that the greater includes the less, and that, therefore, if the States have their three- fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, which would be equal to about 37s. 6d. per head, that includes the 25s. per head. But I would remind him thai Courts of law do not take much notice of what Parliament meant. Everybody in the House I suppose knows that if he went into the High Court to-morrow, and attempted to read to the Judges an extract from Hansard in order to show what Parliament meant, he would be reminded that the High Court only considered what Parliament did, not what some individual member said. Therefore, we are asked here to doublebank the payment to the States. The Prime Minister knows that whatever suggestion I make is not offered in a party spirit, because, generally speaking, I am in favour of theBill. I suggest that he ought to consider very carefully whether he will jeopardize the safety of the measure, and whether he will risk humiliation, because it would have that effect if this question were taken before the High Court, and it were to determine that as the measure read it made double provision for the States.
– Does the honorable member mind saying if, in his opinion, the monthly instalments should be equal ones?
– I do not think that they need be equal instalments. I do not believe that the word “equal” is used, but theGovernment have to give them during the half year, because it is covered, at the rate of 25s. per head. The Bill bristles with legal difficulties over two clauses. I take it that it is presented in this peculiar form because the Prime Minister anticipates that the States may be willing by Acts of their own to forego their rights under clause 3 in consideration of their getting everything under clause 4.
– Is that reasonable?
– It depends upon the basis of the reasoning. I do not think that it is likely to occur. I do not consider that the attitude of the States towards the Commonwealth on this financial question is of such a character as to make it probable that they will contemplate such a thing. They, or some of them, are in a mood - I do not speak authoritatively - to insist upon their pound of flesh.
– Suppose that some States are prepared to comply with the suggestion which the honorable member has made?
– The honorable member will see that if we were to go into a consideration of that sort, we should land ourselves into a labyrinth of confusion. The Bill, as it leaves the House, ought to be watertight. It ought to be in such a condition that it will stand going before the High Court. The Prime Minister is apparently trusting to some action on the part of the States, which I do not think will be constitutional, if they forego some of the rights of their people conferred by the Constitution.
– The honorable member is in error in supposing that the Prime Minister is relying on some action of the States.
– I do not know that he is doing so; but I say that if he is, he has not much basis for his reliance, because the feeling of the States towards the Commonwealth just now is a very angry one. .
– That of some of them.
– Well, that of some of them ; I do not wish to be microscopic. They pin their faith to the. agreement which was rejected by the people; and now assume the attitude that, while we are professing to give them, bar two things, what the agreement would have given them, we are not doing so. They were willing to forego their constitutional rights under the Braddon section for the last six months of 1910; and, had the proposal to alter the Constitution been agreed to by the people, that could have been indirectly done. But it was not agreed to; and, therefore, the Braddon section stands adamant against out legislation. The Constitution cannot be altered unless the people agree to the alteration.
– Why should this Government pay a fine of£1,500,000 to put into force an agreement which, in all respects, is the same as that of the last Government ?
– I am not advocating that. I am dealing with the constitutional, not the financial, aspect of the proposal. What I say is that there is only one direct way of getting rid of the Commonwealth’s constitutional obligations, and that is by an amendment of the Constitution. The people have not agreed to an amendment of the Constitution respecting the Braddon section : and it. therefore, stands adamant against our legislation. Neither the States Parliaments nor the Commonwealth Parliament can touch it. It is possible that, by some circuitous arrangement, the States might agree to give up an amount of revenue equivalent to that which they will receive under the Braddon section; but are they in the mood to do so? Clause 3 recognises the force of the Braddon section, under which three- fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth must be returned to the States; and clause 4 gives to the States, in addition, for the last six months of 1910, 25s. per capita. Clause 3 is merely a recognition of the constitutional obligation of the Commonwealth, and of the unalterable force of the Braddon section until the end of 1910. There is nothing in clause 4 which says that the distribution to the States of 25s. per capita of their populations is in substitution of the return obligatory under the Braddon section. If that were provided, theprovision would be unconstitutional. In my opinion, the clause provides that there shall be returned to the States, for the last six months of 1910, as well as for the first six months of 191 1, 25s. per capita of their populations.
– It provides for a payment extending over the whole of the present financial year.
– The present financial year began with this month. If the money is not given to the States during 1 910, it must be given to them during the first half of 1911. Besides, “monthly instalments “ are provided for. Clause 4 provides for monthly payments at the rate of 25s. per capita of the populations of the States for the twelve months beginning 1st July, 1910, and ending 30th June, 191 1. The Government will, therefore, be very unwise to allow the Bill to pass with provisions couched in this equivocal language. Something has been said about Western Australia, and when the. matter was referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth during the second-reading debate, I was inclined to think that the provision regarding that State needed consideration. The Bill provides that a special allowance of £250,000 is to be given to Western Australia during the current financial year, to be reduced in subsequent years by £ 10,000 annually. In ten years this would reduce the special allowance to the State by only £100,000. There is nothing to say either that the allowance shall thereafter continue to be £1 50,000 a year, or that it shall continue to diminish by£10,000 a year. In respect to all these provisions, the words of the Constitution, “ and thereafter as Parliament otherwise provides,” apply. I take it that the intention is that, at the end of ten years, the financial situation shall be reviewed in the light of the alteration ‘of circumstances caused by changes in the Tariff or in other ways. It has been fairly suggested that, if it were intended that the special allowance to Western Australia should cease, at the end of ten years, the annual reduction should be greater than £10,000, which would not cause it to disappear until twenty-five years have passed. The provision in the Bill seems to contemplate that when the special allowance to Western Australia has been reduced to £150,000, Parliament may say, “ This allowance shall continue, subject to further annual deductions, for another ten or fifteen years.”
– Then why not say so in the Bill?
– Because that is undesirable. We do not say how we are going to treat the other States at the end of ten years, We do not bind ourselves to any course of action after the end of ten years. We merely provide for a period of ten years, at the end of which we shall be free to review our financial arrangements with the States. We must constantly keep before our minds the fact that the people of the Commonwealth and of the States are one people. That is a platitude, but I find it necessary in my own case to constantly remember that the distinction between the people of the States and the people of the Commonwealth is largely a matter of bookkeeping. We must remember that what we take from the taxpayers, so far as State purposes- are concerned, is spent through the Commonwealth agencies. What we are taking from the people through the Commonwealth we are using for the same people as if it were used through the States. It is not as if we were dealing with separate political entities, or as if everything given or taken was of permanent deprivation with regard to the people. I think that this clause really needs careful consideration by the Government ; and the mere fact that a change in the original proposal of the Government will appear to be in consequence of the criticism offered by the Opposition ought not to influence them. They ought to be magnanimous : big-minded enough - if I may use a plainer expression - to say, “ We are open to accept suggestions.” The
Prime Minister did say in his opening speech : “ We shall welcome criticism, and we want everything to be decided on its merits.” If the Government see that a suggestion made, say by a person like myself - who is not hostile to the measure and who has no party desire for victory with regard to it - is a good suggestion. I hope that the Prime Minister will be ready to say, “ I have heard all that can be said, and think it would be better to make such and such changes in order that this Bill may be rendered water-tight and capable of standing in any Court in the Commonwealth.”
– I had the same difficulty in my mind yesterday as has been referred to by the honorable member for Parkes. In reading the Bill carefully, one must feel that under it the States will have an opportunity of claiming the payment of three- fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue under the Braddon section of the Constitution, and the 25s. per capita from the 1st July of this year. It is all very well to say that we shall treat the payments made to them under the Braddon section as part payment of what is due under the 25s. provision; but if I am a trustee of an estate under which the beneficiaries are entitled to threefourths of the income, I am bound to pay them that amount. If. in addition. I enter into a covenant to pay them 25s. per annum, I do not think that any court of law would say that payments made out of the trust estate could be regarded as part payment of the engagement entered into on my own behalf. That is how I read this Bill. We as trustees are compelled to pay to the States under the Braddon section of the Constitution three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue until the end of the year 1910. In addition to that, by clause 4 of the Bill, we undertake to pay to the States 25s. per head per annum from the 1st July, r.910. When by a slight alteration the Government can make this Bill absolutely safe, it is foolish for the Commonwealth Parliament to put its head in a noose by means of which the States can go to the High Court and claim both these sums. To my mind, it would be simpler to say that from the 1st day of January next we will pay to the States a sum at the rate of 25s. per head per annum, and take credit from the rst of July this year for the payments made under the Braddon section. That would be absolutely safe, and would only involve the alteration of a few words. It is a pity that the Government should be wedded to the wording of their Bill when we know that at present the Ministries of the various States are - as the honorable member for Parkes has said - antagonistic to this Parliament, and anxious to take advantage of any slip that we may make. I commend what has been said by the honorable member for Parkes to the consideration of the Government. Let them consider whether it is not better by a slight alteration to put what is intended on safe and firm ground.
.Objection has been taken by the Leader of the Opposition, and by other honorable members on the front Opposition bench, to this Bill being made to commence from the1st July of the present year, and to operate instead of the Braddon section of the Constitution. I confess that when I first read the Bill, I was struck by a doubt as to this provision. It occurred to me as being unnecessary, and as practically implying that, as far as the Government were concerned, it made no difference whether the measure commenced from the1st July, or from the 1 st January next. But when I considered the matter further, I could see that the idea which the Government had in view was - as has been acknowledged by the Prime Minister sincethe matter has been under discussion - that they wished to carry out what he, at all events, had promised to his constituents and others, namely, that the Commonwealth would be prepared to give to the States exactly the same terms as were contained in the Financial Agreement, with the exception of the embodiment of that agreement in the Constitution as a provision for perpetuity. I can understand the desire of the Government, because it must be remembered that during the contest on the referendum the newspapers and the people who were supporting the Financial Agreement represented the opponents of it as persons who wished to deprive the States of their fair share of revenue. In answering that contention I, for my own part, pointed out that there was no objection to the proposal of the late Government, except as regarded the embodiment of the agreement in the Constitution, and the provision for what was called perpetuity. I stated that the opposition to the measure was led by the honorable member for Mernda, and that it had been stated by him on more than one occasion in this House, and by those who were working with him also, that they were prepared to make to the States a payment at the rate of 25s. per capita for ten years, and that we were even prepared to consent to the ten years’ arrangement being embodied in the Constitution, provided that at the end of that term the power to deal with the whole matter remained in the hands of the Federal Parliament, where it had been placed at the commencement of Federation. I pointed out that the only dispute between us and those who were supporting the agreement was in regard to that particular provision. I can understand that the Government now desire to frame this Bill in such a way that they can go to the States and say: “We are giving you exactly what we promised.” But, at the same time, it must be recognised that this is a complicated measure. I listened very attentively to the discussion which took place last night. The honorable member for Darling Downs and the honorable member for Flinders took the view - I am not sure that they stated so positively - that there is practically a double appropriation; one-, under clause 4, of 25s. per capita, and another, under the Braddon section, of threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue-. They suggested that an alteration should be made, in order that the intention might be made clear. On the other hand, we had the statement of the Prime Minister that the Crown Law officers had advised him that the Bill was good in its present form, and that there was no fear of a double appropriation. He added that that advice was concurred in by the honorable member for Angas. I felt that the Government had a fair amount of legal knowledge at their back, seeing that both their draftsman and the honorable member for Angas had expressed the opinion that the Bill would carry out what they intended. Personally, I was afraid of it; and, as a matter of fact, I had actually drafted an amendment to the clause with which we are dealing, in order to get over the difficulty that presented itself to my mind. The Prime Minister professes that he is satisfied ; but wheneverI draft a provision I prefer to make assurance doubly sure. As the honorable member for Angas has said, we have no reason to expect any consideration from the State Premiers. We have fought with them over this matter, and they have fought with us. We can only say that they will be prepared! to go for every penny they can get from us.. They will go” to the High Court if they are given a chance at all, and, as we have seen from their action in connexion with the Surplus Revenue Act and other matters, they are prepared to go to the Court when apparently they have no chance of success. They are prepared to take the risk, and we may be pretty certain that they would take it in this case. It would be humiliating, as the honorable member for Parkes has very properly said, if it were subsequently found that by passing this Bill in its present form we should be obliged to give the States their three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue up to the end of this year, and 25s. per head as well. Of course, we could rectify such a state of affairs by retaining the money in the following year, but, if we did that, we should be at once charged with going back upon the terms of an Act which we passed, and which we said should hold good for ten years. Even assuming that the Government are perfectly satisfied with the drafting of this clause, and that under it they will be able to take credit for the three-fourths of net Customs and Excise revenue payable to the States under the Braddon section until the end of the year, it would make assurance doubly sure if we inserted “some provision whereby we might beyond doubt take credit in the payment of 25s. per head over the whole of the current year for the payment of three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue under the Braddon section during the first half of the year. The Government would be in no way humiliated by adopting that course, it would not affect the strength of the Bill as it stands if its drafting be good, but it would save, us from any possible defeat at the hands of the State Governments. I entirely agree with the remark make by the honorable member for Parkes, speaking as a lawyer, that the more experience one has in dealing with legal matters the more uncertain he becomes as to what the legal decision in a particular case will be. In this clause we have a provision that the Commonwealth shall be at liberty to deduct from the share of the States the amounts mentioned in the schedule to the Bill. If there were included in it some words’ authorizing the Government to deduct from the payments under the Bill the amount accruing to the States for the present half-year under the Braddon section, in excess of 25s. per head of their population, everything would be well. As regards the merits of the proposal to make the payment start from the 1st July rather than from the 1st January, I am entirely with the Government. I do not think that they can be charged with acting unfairly or with taking any advantage with the States in the proposal they make. They are proposing to carry out what many of us, and I for one, said we were quite prepared to do. We said that we were prepared to give the States 25s. per head of their population for a period of ten years, as the Fusion Government were prepared to do, and their proposal dated from the 1st July of this year. The whole question involved was one of finance. The Federal Government wanted money, and the ‘State Governments desired to get as much as they could. The State Governments were prepared to agree that the payment should commence from the 1st July. That was the great feature of the agreement which commended it to the Fusion Government. It may be remembered that we had a good deal of difficulty, and, in fact, 1 am not aware that we were ever able really to ascertain from the ex-Prime Minister why he was prepared to accept the Financial Agreement and have it embodied in the Constitution. But when the honorable gentleman was speaking at Sydney he disclosed the real reason why the agreement commended itself to him. It was because under it he would be getting money which would enable his Government to get out of financial difficulties due to an anticipated deficiency in the Commonwealth revenue. Speaking in February last, at Sydney, the honorable gentleman said -
What recommends it from the Commonwealth point of view is that wc are to obtain by consent £600,000 during the year to pay towards old-age pensions. The next clause alters the Constitution, so as to ante-dale by six months the time by which the Commonwealth Parliament becomes complete master of the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue. By these two items we get £1,700,000.
He had previously stated that the Government anticipated a deficit of about £1,000,000, and then he said that what commended the Financial Agreement to them was the fact that under it they were to get the £600,000 referred to, and th? ante-dating of the expiry of the Braddon section, by which means they would secure £1,700,000 more than they would have without the agreement, and so would be able to meet the anticipated deficiency. One reason why it was said that the State Governments were prepared to give up that money was that they would get the agreement embodied in the Constitution, and secure its terms in perpetuity. Honorable members, will recollect that when we objected to the perpetuity aspect of the agreement, and offered the Prime Minister to agree to the payment for a period of ten years, and have that agreement embodied in the Constitution, the honorable gentleman’s objection was not that the period proposed was too short, but that if we embodied in the Constitution an agreement covering a period of ten years we should be tying the hands of this Parliament and of the people if they desired to alter the arrangement in two or three years’ time. He did not at that time treat “the perpetuity provision as the consideration which induced the State Premiers to concede terms whereby they were to hand over to the Commonwealth £1,700,000 this year. In the circumstances, I do not think there is anything in the objection to the proposal of the present Government to commence the payment from the ist July. I do not say that I am not satisfied with the opinion of the honorable member for Angas and the draftsman of the Bill on this subject, but I should feel, as the honorable member for Parkes has said, a good deal more satisfied if we inserted some words which would prevent any possible litigation, and any possibility of our suffering at the hands of the State Governments a defeat which would be not only a defeat, but would be rather disastrous, inasmuch as it would mean that they would receive their three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue for the first half of this, year, and the 25s. per head as well. I have always believed in making assurance doubly sure, and even though it might make an artistically drafted measure rather a clumsily drafted one, I think we should do so in this case.
.- I do not intend to go into the merits of the case, which have been sufficiently dealt with by the various speakers who have addressed themselves to the question. I have endeavoured to acquire full knowledge of the whole of the details connected with it, and, as I indicated when speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I am in general agreement with its terms. My difficulty is one which has been expressed by several honorable members, and lastly by the honorable member for Gippsland, and that is as to its constitutionality. The Braddon section expires on the 31st December, and no legislation by this Parliament can interfere with the fulfilment of the requirements of that constitutional section. The Bill has been drafted in such a way as to provide for a payment of 25s. per head cf the population of the
States from the ist July of this year. Whatever be the amount of money proposed to be deducted in the second half of the current financial year, there can be no doubt that the payment of 25s. per head is under this Bill to date from ist July ot this year, and that in my opinion is unconstitutional. If the Government were disposed to agree to an alteration I should be quite prepared to vote for an amendment - and that is my reason for stating that I must vote for the amendment now before the Committee in the absence of a better one - which would enable the Braddon section to be carried out until the 31st December next in its entirety, and which would enable the Government at the same time, should the exigencies of the Treasury render it necessary, to pay such a reduced amount from the ist January next as would make the payment for the whole of the financial year 25s. per head of the population of the States. So far as my calculation goes, if the full amount under the Braddon section is paid up to the end of the year, and the’ overpayments are deducted in the second half year, together with the £450,000, as provided in the schedule, the States will, in that second half year, receive something like £670,000. If that be correct, and the Government believe that they require the money to meet their financial arrangements, I am prepared to support an amendment fixing that amount, or such amount as the States, under present conditions, would be entitled to after the deductions. This has been a long discussion, but, I ami sure, in no sense a party one. There is a desire throughout the Committee to carry out an arrangement to which every party committed itself on the hustings in regard to the distribution of the revenue; but there are certain constitutional difficulties in the way of the measure before us. Under the old agreement with the Premiers, the late Government, as already stated, submitted the question to the people, and asked them to amend the Constitution, so that the arrangement might be given effect to as from ist July of the present year. The present Government, however, are endeavouring to carry out the terms in the agreement without alteration of the Constitution, and that I regard as something for which there is no constitutional authority. I hope that, after this discussion, the Government will seek to carry out inviolate the terms of the Constitution up to 31st December, and introduce legislation to enable the States to receive the amount provided in the presentBill; and I should be prepared to support an amendment to that effect from an absolutely non-party point of view.
.- I shall not touch on the constitutional aspect, which has been thoroughly threshed out, both yesterday and to-day. I am glad to hear the honorable member for Parkes corroborate some of the opinions which have been offered from this side, and which I think the Ministry would be very well advised to consider before the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. I was rather sorry to hear the Prime Minister charge the right honorable member for Swan with launching a no-confidence motion. Surely if there is any proposal of a non-party nature, it is a Bill of the kind now under consideration? We are trying to make a fair arrangement for the people of Australia ; and the question is not whether we should please the Premiers or altogether please ourselves. We are one agent of the people, and the State Parliaments are another; and it is our duty to endeavour to the utmost to properly adjust the financial difficulties. I have said before that, in my opinion, the Prime Minister could make the payment of 25s. per head start as from 1st January next, and thus adhere to the Braddon section. 1 have listened very carefully, and the only objection the Prime Minister seems to raise to that suggestion is that he has given certain pledges which are practically embodied in the Bill. But so far as I can see, the Prime Minister has given no such pledges. If he bases his position on the manifesto, I think that any one who reads it carefully will see that the honorable gentleman and those with him said in effect that, if the people threw out the agreement that was submitted by the then Government, the Labour party would insure to the States as much being returned as under that agreement - that all that was desired was that the agreement should not be placed in the Constitution The people rejected the agreement then submitted, but they did not give the new Government a mandate to introduce the present proposed agreement ; they left it to Parliament to say what should be done. The Prime Minister cannot show that he is not free to come to this Parliament and ask for a term of five, seven, or even fifteen years if he chooses - the election bound him down to nothing.
– The Prime Minister stated that the term would be ten years.
– At the same time there was nothing very binding about that statement ; the people practically left him free to suggest what arrangement he liked in Parliament. In fact, a number of honorable members opposite never even saw the manifesto; I certainly never saw it myself, and never heard anybody refer to it in Tasmania during the elections. Further, I have heard honorable members opposite say, since the session commenced, that they are not particularly bound by that manifesto, but consider themselves free to support some other proposal. Unless the caucus has since told the Ministry what they are to do, they are not bound in any way, and I do not think that any such step has been taken by the caucus. This financial question is not one included in the platform to which Labour members subscribe, and I take it that this House is free to deal with the matter; and the Prime Minister ought to be only too glad to welcome any suggestions that are well meant.
– Does the honorable member think that the right honorable member for Swan means well to us - politically, I mean?
– If by “us” the honorable member for Maranoa means the Labour party, I do not think that the right honorable member for Swan, either politically or in any other way, means any harm to that party.
– How childlike and bland the right honorable member is !
– All I can say is that I am in favour of the amendment, the substance of which I have urged on more than one occasion this session. We are making an arrangement under which the Commonwealth is practically making its last payment to the States ; that is, the financial affairs of this Parliament, and the financial affairs of the State Parliaments are, after the close of the present year, to be independent. As under the new agreement we are going, to handle two and a-half millions or somore than we have ever handled before, we can afford to treat the States generously. I do not think we should be treating them too generously by giving them what they are entitled to up to the end of the current year, and then beginning the ten-year period at 25s. per capita. Because the Premiers of the States have annoyed or fought members of this House bitterly, that is no reason why the people of the States should be penalized, since they are our people as well as the people of the State Parliaments. If the State Treasurers are embarrassed by anything we do in this Parliament, it is the same people that suffer all the time. I hope that we shall take a broader view of things, and make a settlement upon which we will not need to look back afterwards and think that we could have given a little bit more and did not. It is better to err a little on the generous side, seeing that we are supposed to be the National Parliament and to take broad and generous views. I think the Prime Minister would be prepared to accede to the request contained in the amendment if he were not just now a little embarrassed in the matter of finance. If that is his only reason for keeping money back from the States, he is not doing this Parliament justice. He is rather keeping back money that, for our own self-respect, we ought to hand over to the States. It will not mean a great deal to us to do so, because we shall have larger revenues coming in for the future, and taxation is about to be imposed that will also yield revenue. Altogether the Commonwealth is going to handle a lot more money for its own purposes than it had before, and whatever temporary embarrassment the Treasurer is suffering from, Parliament will be quite ready to help him over. That being the case, he will be doing himself and Parliament some injustice if he does not take a broad and generous view and accede to the proposition so ably put forward this afternoon by the right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Darling Downs.
.- A good deal has been said this afternoon as to what promises were made to the country .and what was the decision of the people. The honorable member for Wilmot says the people did not say what should be done, but gave the Government a free hand, and that the Government can do as they like in this matter, so far as the people are concerned. If so, why during the whole of this discussion have we heard statements that we on this side are not keeping our pledges to the country? Speaker after speaker has said that the Prime Minister is bound by the pledges given to the people, and the honorable member for Ballarat went so far as to take the manifesto signed by the Prime Minister and read from it. When the whole of his contention was knocked out by the honorable member for Adelaide, he was reduced to the argument as to the meaning of the words, “ A term “ or “ The term.’.’ That was the absolute and final analysis of the effort of the honorable member for Ballarat. The honorable member for Parramatta now says that one of the features of the agreement which was thrown out on 13th April was that it would have lasted in perpetuity. During the contest before the 13th, one of the arguments used by the honorable member for Ballarat, who was then Prime Minister, was that it would not be for perpetuity, but could be altered at any time. The honorable member for Parramatta also said then that it would be an easy matter to alter the Constitution. If anything is proved, it is that it is not “an easy matter to alter the Constitution. The very vote that was taken shows it. In spite of the fact that the other side had the whole of the press, and wealth, and the Premiers of every State behind them, and the Federal Government advocating it, they were unable to insert the agreement in the Constitution. We are therefore justified in saying that it is difficult to alter the Constitution, and the honorable member for Parramatta was well advised today in admitting that the agreement would have been in perpetuity. The honorable member for Ballarat and others have asked how we can take one-half of the agreement entered into with the Premiers, or, as they say, with the States, and refuse to give them the other half. I claim that the other half was not the question of perpetuity. The honorable member for Ballarat said that the States would not accept any agreement that did not give them a guarantee of perpetuity. My answer is that the States have accepted it without a guarantee. Does the honorable member for Ballarat believe that those six gentlemen who sat in secret conclave with him were the States? My idea is that the people are the States. Those six men thought that they were speaking for the States, but when the States, which are the people, were appealed to, they said, “ No, we do not want this agreement in perpetuity.” Therefore, the States rejected that portion of the agreement. They did more, for they accepted our proposition. The honorable member for Wilmot says that the whole agreement was thrown out. Even admitting, for the sake of argument, that the whole of the agreement entered into by the Fusion Government and the State Premiers was thrown out by the people, there was an alternative proposal made by this party. The then Government went to the country with a proposal for a certain agreement, which was to be put into the Constitution. We went to the country with a similar arrangement, which was not to be put into the Constitution. When the people put our party into power, and refused to place the agreement in the Constitution, they declared by those two acts that the policy of the Labour party should be placed on the statute-book.
– The honorable member’s argument is illogical. Only one POliCY was put to the referendum.
– The question whether the agreement should go into the Constitution was put to the referendum, and the people decided that it should not, but through every Labour candidate the proposition went to the people that there should be a similar payment made to the States, but for a limited period. When the people voted for this party by such a large majority, they indorsed our proposition, and, at the same time, threw out that of the previous Government. We have heard complaints to-day that the Government have a solid phalanx behind them, and that it is useless to talk. Why, then, have those honorable members talked hour after hour, and wasted the time of the country, if they think it is useless? I do not say that it is useless. Honorable members opposite do not know whether we have ever discussed this question in caucus or not, or whether there is a solid party behind the Government on it. But they do know, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Wilmot said, that every Labour candidate, except one, went to the country on the very proposition that we are now placing in this Bill. That exception was Mr. Carpenter, who was defeated for Fremantle, in the State of Western Australia.
– That was not the reason of his defeat.
– One of the reasons of his defeat was that he supported the honorable member in his contention that the Financial Agreement should be placed in the Constitution. One of the terms of that agreement was that it should be carried out in perpetuity. In return the States consented to the suspension of the Braddon section six months earlier than the Constitution provided, and agreed to contribute up to ^600,000 towards the estimated Commonwealth deficit. Trie advantage that the States were to gain was that the agreement should be embodied in the Constitution and remain there in perpetuity. Yet we hear the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable member for Ballarat, and others declaring that that agreement was not to be in perpetuity, and that it could have been taken out of the Constitution whenever the people desired. We know, however, that a simple majority of the people of the Commonwealth could never alter the Constitution. The honorable member for Parramatta made what he appeared to think a very strong point. He declared that although the Labour party went all over the country smiting the Fusion Government hip and thigh because they advocated the Financial Agreement, they were now reduced to the argument that this Bill proposes to do exactly what was proposed under the agreement except that the Constitution is not to be amended. We did not smite the Fusion Government hip and thigh because of any of the terms of that agreement, save that which provided that it should be placed in the Constitution. As a matter of fact the per capita payment proposed by the Fusion Government was that which this Government proposes, and almost exactly what was proposed by the Brisbane Conference. The Fusion party cannot say that we have copied them in this respect, because we first made the proposition at the Brisbane Conference. It matters little, however, whowere the first to make the proposal. The Fusion Government entered into an agreement with the representatives of the States that if the guarantee of a per capita payment of 25s. per annum were placed in the Constitution, the States should, amongst other things, agree to the conclusion of the operation of the Braddon section being anticipated by six months. The Labour party went to the people and said, “ The representatives of the States have declared that a payment of 25s. per capita is reasonable, and that they can carry on under such an arrangement. We agree to that. Despite all statements to the contrary in the press, we do not question the amount. We are prepared to pay to the States the amount that the Fusion Government promised, and the new arrangement shall begin on exactly the same date as they proposed ; but we object to the agreement being placed in the Constitution so as to tie the hands of the Federal Parliament in the future.” We objected to the proposed amendment of the Constitution, because no statesman or party could foretell what would be our troubles in the days to come. The people indorsed our view. They refused, by a majority of 25,000, to consent to the agreement being placed in the’ Constitution. Honorable members of the Opposition have sneered at that majority as being a very small margin, but I would remind them- that had the agreement been accepted at the referendum by a simple majority of five, it would have gone into the Constitution, and, possibly, would have remained there for all time. The present Government, having power at the expiration of the calendar year to do what they please with the Customs and Excise revenue, tell the States that they do not intend to use that great power, but are going to keep faith with the people and carry out their platform pledges. They are going to make what they believe is a fair distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue, and to guarantee this payment, so far as this Parliament can guarantee anything, for ten years. The honorable member for Wentworth raised the argument that we are proposing to vary the Financial Agreement in respect of Western Australia, seeing that the guarantee is for only ten years, whereas it must take twentyfive years to work out. I would remind honorable members that the very terms of this measure imply, in the case of Western Australia, a guarantee of twenty-five years. If the guarantee of ten years is effective, then I claim that we are also giving to Western Australia a guarantee for twentyfive years, so far as we have power to do so. It is admitted that we cannot, by any legislation, tie the hands of the next Parliament; but we believe that future Parliaments will respect the guarantee we give, and honour it if they can possibly do so. As was rightly pointed out by the honorable member for Flinders, difficulties may confront the Federal Parliament, necessitating an alteration of the terms of this agreement before the end of the ten years’ period. There might come such a calamity as war ; but that very argument proves that it is desirable to make such an arrangement as this somewhat elastic, and to refrain from placing it in the Constitution. The placing of the Financial Agreement in the Constitution could not have been considered by the State Premiers in conference to be the most important point involved. We cannot possibly imagine that the representatives of the Federation meeting in conference with representatives of the States could have entered into a guarantee to place the Financial Agreement in the Constitution. As a matter of fact, they knew that that was a question for the people themselves to determine. In the circumstances, therefore, the deliberations of the Conference rp”t have hinged upon the amount the States were to receive, and the date upon which the agreement should come into operation. I am surprised that there should be so much opposition to this proposal. The Opposition say that the Government are proposing, because they are financially embarrassed, to bring this measure into operation before the expiration of the Braddon section. There was a general recognition on the part of the State Premiers when the Fusion Government were in power that, owing to special circumstances that had arisen, certain concessions must be made to the Commonwealth. If we were at liberty to discuss the question of how the financial embarrassment of the Commonwealth arose, we might be able to show that it was really one of the legacies of the late Government, due somewhat to the generosity of past Administrations in paying to the States surplus revenue largely in excess of what they need have paid. But the State Premiers recognised when the Fusion Government was in power that the Commonwealth required special consideration, and all that the present Administration asks is that it shall be treated by the States as they proposed to treat their predecessors in office. We say to the States: “ We will treat you as fairly as the Fusion Government would have done. We will give you to the last farthing what the Fusion Government were prepared to give you.” All this talk about the States losing money to the extent of ;£i. 500,000 or £2,000,000 under this Bill is only special pleading. The fact remains, and the people know it, that the Government are proposing to give the States exactly what the Fusion Government undertook to pay them; and, further, that the Government are carrying out their election pledges by proposing to guarantee this payment to the States for a period of ten years. I trust that the amendment will not be carried, because I think a sufficiently strong case has been made out in support of the contention that the new arrangement should practically begin from the ist July of this year. Whilst we recognise that there are technical and legal difficulties in the way of starting the payments from that date, we car. begin by paying to the States up to the end of the calendar year the amount that we are required under the Constitution to pay, and make a corresponding reduction in the return for the remaining six months of the financial year. .The honorable member for Parramatta said that we proposed to take money back from the States. We do not propose to do anything of the kind. We shall give the States the amount which the Constitution compels us to give them up to the end of the calendar year, and for the balance of the- financial year we shall pay to the States so much less as will make our total contributions for that year 25s. *per capita. I cannot understand why, with one exception, honorable members opposite should now vehemently denounce the very agreement which they advocated with so much energy during the recent election campaign. The honorable member for Parramatta has declared that the electors have affirmed by referendum that the Braddon section should not expire six months before the period fixed by the Constitution for its termination. They did nothing of the sort. They affirmed that the agreement which was entered into by the late Government with the State Premiers should not be embodied in the Constitution. There is no doubt of the issue which was placed before the country. There was only one question upon which the people were asked to vote, both by the press and by candidates on the public platform. That question was, whether that agreement should be embodied in the Constitution. When, therefore, the electors returned the Labour party with a majority behind them, they declared that the policy which was announced in the manifesto issued by the Prime Minister was the one in which they believed; and that policy is embodied in the measure which is now under consideration.
– The honorable member for Corangamite has presented the case for his side very fairly and fully. But when he undertakes to lecture honorable members upon this side of the chamber for having occupied so much time in discussing the Bill, he forgets that he himself occupied quite as much time as has any member of the Opposition. Further, he did it with malice aforethought; because, when he rose he was armed with four or five sheets of notes. I would remind him that under such circumstances it is scarcely his province to catechize us. Further, I hold that nothing in the nature of factious opposition has been indulged in by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The honorable member for Parkes, myself, and others, have directed attention, not so much to the main principles underlying the Bill, as to the question of how far its provisions will give effect to the intentions of the Government.
T did not intend to again address the Committee, except in regard to clause 6, but for the fact that in the course of the debate upon the provision which is immediately under consideration the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Balaclava, and the honorable member for Gippsland indorsed the criticism which I directed against the measure upon the motion for its second reading, when the Attorney-General accused me of not having read it. Viewing the position from a commonsense stand-point, I then held that the Government were incurring grave risk of the High Court deciding that under the provisions of this Bill the Commonwealth will be called upon to pay to the States, during the Erst half of the current financial year, not only the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to which they are constitutionally entitled, but also their monthly proportion of the 25s. per capita. Neither honorable members upon this side of the chamber nor the supporters of the Ministry desire such a state of things to be brought about, and if the Government will consider the matter with a view to amending die Bill so as to make their intention perfectly clear, they will expedite its passing. But, although we endeavoured all last night, and have attempted during the whole of this afternoon, to extort from the Attorney-General a definite opinion as to the legal effect of these clauses, we have obtained nothing from him except general declamatory speeches about the operation of the Bill - speeches that were in no sense an answer to” the criticism to which its provisions have been subjected. For my own part I desire this clause to be made operative from the 1st January next, and in saying that I have no wish to embarrass the Government. If they can show me that the adoption of my suggestion will embarrass them I would be in favour of allowing them to add to the schedule of amounts to be deducted from payments to the States such a sum of money as would relieve them of embarrassment. My object is merely to make their intentions perfectly clear. Both the honorable member for Gippsland and thehonorable member ‘for Capricornia, last night emphasized some constitutional doubts as to the way in which the measure would operate. I ask the Government, through its legal adviser - who appears to be engaged in looking after the case “for Labour instead of the case for the Commonwealth - to tell us definitely whether this clause will give effect to their intentions. Upon its face it appears to me quite plain that they have double-banked their payments. In other words, they have provided for the return to the States of three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to which the States are constitutionally entitled, and also for a statutory payment of 25s. per capita. If I stood alone as a layman iri my view of this question, I might begin to doubt its soundness. But the AttorneyGeneral has not replied to my criticism of last night, nor to the criticism which has been indulged in to-day by that experienced lawyer and politician, the honorable member for Parkes,”” who argued that there is a grave risk of the ‘provisions of the Bill and of the Constitution operating concurrently. The AttorneyGeneral sat in his chair, and heard the argument of the honorable member, and also the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland. Yet he quitted the chamber without giving us any idea of what he thinks will be the effect of this clause. I exceedingly regret that the amendment submitted by the right honorable member for Swan could not be considered and discussed upon its merits. At the present time we are debating it by means of a subterfuge. In Parliament, when we cannot do a thing directly, we usually find some method of achieving our object indirectly. Under cover of a subterfuge we are thus discussing whether this clause should not be dated from 1st January, 191 1. Personally, I do not think there is anything in our Standing Orders to prevent us from dealing with the amendment which the right honorable member for Swan desired to submit.
– The honorable member must not question my ruling in that respect.
– I do not, sir. I only wish to point out that this matter is provided for in the Constitution, and that in accordance with our constitutional rights we are seeking to vary the principle on which the money shall be returned to the States. I hold that no message from the Governor-General was required to enable us to deal with that question, and consequently that the amendment would have been quite in order if it had been looked at as an amendment of the Constitution, which does not increase any appropriation but decreases, if it can be in any sense argued that it can decrease, the burdens on the people. But the Prime Minister meets our contention by saying that it ought to take the shape of a direct challenge to the Government, li undertake to say that on this side of the Chamber no such thought was suggested by the action taken by the right honorable member for Swan. There was no question of challenging the position of the Government : on the contrary, the object was to endeavour to put the measure in such a form as would give absolute satisfaction to the States and remove all grounds of friction. Last night I listened with great pleasure to the honorable member for Capricornia when he said that it ought not to matter much to the Commonwealth whether it cost £200,000 or £300,000 more or less, so long as an end was put to the financial relationship between the States and the Commonwealth, and the former were made to feel thoroughly satisfied while we went on our way to further develop the government of this, nation. I listened, I repeat, with great pleasure to his remarks, coming, as they did, from the other side of the Chamber ; and, although he was twitted with saying, that which evoked cheers from this side, I applaud his attitude as that of a trueNationalist, of one who desires to secure the success of this institution. The settlement of the financial question in any way which would give absolute satisfaction to the States must be looked upon as satisfactory to every Nationalist in our midst. Whether he advocates the rights of theStates or the rights of the Commonwealth, he must desire to reach some point which would terminate the financial relations between them, and give us a clean cut off from the past and a clean entry into thefuture process of development. The only answer to our contention which we have had so far has come from the Prime Minister, who deprecated our raising this point on the ground that it was an absolute party movement. He said that it ought to take the form of a direct challenge. He urged that it interferes with the Government’s control of the finances and that any honorable members who seek to deprive the Government of that control should accept the responsibility of office. That was not. I think, a reasonable attitude for the honorable gentleman to adopt, because while I am supporting the amendment and acting consistently with everything I have expressed in regard to the Bill, I do not desire to upset or to interfere in any way with the Government’s absolute control of the finances. If the amendment can be accepted by the Government, I for one am quite prepared to see the amount in the schedule increased from £450,000 to such a sum as would represent the difference between the two proposals. My only object is to get a sate, complete and definite settlement of the trouble which would not be open to any litigation. Roughly, the difference between the two proposals is £700,000.
– It is far more than that.
– I am taking into account the sum of £450,000, which is specified in the schedule.
– It is £1,500,000 more.
– Fully that.
– I do not see how it can be, because during the second half of the year the Government will be paying only 12s. 6d. per head. I reckoned that on the first half of the year the difference between giving effect to the two proposals would be £800,000 or ,£900,000.
– I would rather provide in the schedule for the payment of that sum and thus secure an alteration of date, which would get rid of the constitutional difficulty pointed out from this side and admitted by several independent members on the other side. I am prepared to put the Government in the same financial position as they would occupy in regard to the Bill if it were passed without the alteration of a single letter if they will -agree to such an amendment as would give us a secure outlook and remove any probability of litigation in the High Court with regard to the position between the “States and the Commonwealth.
– And preserve the present terms.
– Yes, in all respects. My object goes much farther than even the Government propose to go, and later I intend to ask the Committee to negative clause 6. I want to secure a complete termination of all financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth, except that which will result from the passing of the Bill, namely, the payment of a -definite sum from this time to the States ibr ten years, and the arrangement to be reconsidered at the end of that term, and settled in the light of such information as might then be available. There has “been not only sufficient said on mis side, but sufficient admitted on the other side, 7to show that very great doubt exists as to the operation of several clauses of the Bill. I realize that I cannot secure from the Government such terms as I want to obtain, but I hope to get such a settlement of this problem as will not be called in question in the Courts.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 7.4s p.m.
.- It seems to me that the wording of the clause under consideration furnishes the sole reason why the Committee has been discussing the Bill since last night. Had the Government expressed its intention in clear language, so that every one could grasp at once what it wishes to do, we should have been saved the long debate which has taken place.
– The honorable member is not acquainted with parliamentary procedure; if he were, he would not have said that.
– As a new member, that seems to me the common-sense way of looking at the matter. Had the Government drafted a provision which would have stated clearly and distinctly what it wishes to do, we should have arrived at the same result in much less time. The wording used in the clause appears to have been adopted for several reasons. In the first place, Ministers desire to keep as near as possible to the terms of the agreement between the last Government and the Premiers ot the States. That agreement, I understand, was merely tentative, depending for its force upon its acceptance by the people. The electors refused to indorse it, by negativing a proposal for an alteration of the Constitution. That being so, I do not see why this Government thinks that the wording of the agreement should be followed as nearly as possible in the Bill. Secondly, Ministers recognise the constitutional difficulty created by the existence of the Braddon section, and are attempting to evade it. But even if they consider that, although the people refused to indorse the Financial Agreement, they are to be held to it in so far as the ante-dating of the operation of the per capita distribution is concerned, their end could be accomplished by the use ot a different form of expression. Why do Ministers adhere so strongly to the wording they have adopted ? Why do they not accept the warnings that have come from both sides of the Chamber in reference to this matter? Inasmuch as they can effect their object as easily and as well with different language, why do they not propose to word the clause differently, and thus avoid all danger of unconstitutionality ? In my opinion, the Financial Agreement should have been embodied in the Constitution, so as to make the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States a matter absolutely subject to the control of the people, because it is those relations which must determine, to a great extent, the lines of our national development. However, the electors refused to allow the Constitution to be altered, and it is now proposed to determine the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States for a term of ten years. The measure is practically a fulfilment of the pledge given by the Labour party to the electors in the manifesto signed by its leader. There was nothing in that manifesto regarding the proposed deduction of £450,000 in respect to the current financial year; but, as a whole, the Bill carries out the promises made by the Labour party to the electors, and in that respect may be regarded as unexceptionable. As to the proposed deduction of£450,000, inasmuch as the anticipations of the late Treasurer in regard to the deficit have not been realized, and as this Government, by reason of proposed new taxation, and the forced loan of, perhaps, seven millions which it proposes to raise, will not experience the financial difficulties which confronted him, I donot think that it should be insisted on. I ask Ministers, however, to agree to an alteration of the wording of clause 4, so that, while clearly expressing their intentions, it will do so in such a way as to give no reason for doubt as to the constitutionality of their proposals.
– I cannot allow the discussion to close without saying a word or two upon an importand subject, which, to my mind, is surrounded by a large amount of doubt. I admit that I am uncertain that the Government can effectively carry out its intentions under the provisions of the measure. I see no reason why Ministers should insist upon putting into their proposals ambiguous language when what they desire could be more adequately expressed in another way. The Government claim that they are trying to carry out their promises to the people. The only promise that I made on the subject was that I would vote for a payment of 25s. per capita to the States. I made no promise with regard to the ten years’ period, because I thought that there should be no time limit whatever. I believe that the matter should be left open, so that the Federal Parliament might be free to readjust the finances in accordance with the necessities of the Commonwealth. That, to my mind, is the logical outcome of the debates which we have had in this Chamber from time to time. One of the conditions of the agreement made by the Premiers of the States, in conjunction with the late Government, was that the new arrangement to be made should be embodied in the Constitution. That agreement was defeated by the people. But that is no reason why we should try to abrogate the provision of the Constitution which requires that three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue shall be paid to the States until 31st December, 1910. The point is whether we can alter the Constitution by means of a Bill of this character. Whether we like it or not, it appears to me that the States can, under the Constitution, claim from the Treasurer of the Commonwealth the payment of their three-fourths until the end of 1910.
– We propose to pay that.
– I do not doubt that ; but the Government also propose to pay 25s. per capita from the1st July, 1910, to the end of the present financial year. We have to admit that there is an obligation to continue the payment under the Braddon section until the end of this year. If, however, we are going to pay 25s. per capita during the whole of the present financial year, we shall not be fulfilling the Constitution, but shall be taking away that which the Constitution has given to the States. I think that the difficulty would be rectified if the Government would state in this Bill, in so many words, that they are going to carry out the Constitution and pay back to the States, under the Braddon section, the proportion allotted therein first of all; and then to say that, after1st January, 1911, they would return to the States such moneys as would amount to a certain definite sum, being such a sum as the Treasurer wishes to pay in the manner provided by this Bill. There is no reason why, in accomplishing our object, we should not keep within the four corners of the Constitution, and leave ourselves free from legal intricacies. We have had too much of that kind of thing in this Parliament, in consequence of trying to tinker with legislation that was outside the Constitution. The High Court has had more work in consequence of what has been done by this Parliament than it should have been called upon to do, in my judgment. As usual. the legal members of this Chamber are at sixes and sevens with regard to the point at issue, and the lay members find it difficult to know where they are. It is always so when we look for guidance to these gentlemen. I have invariably listened attentively to the arguments of the legal members when addressed to an intricate point; but I have usually crime to the conclusion that it would have been better if I had remained out of the’ chamber, and arrived at a conclusion from the use of my own reason and common sense. However, it seems to be the result of the training of lawyers that they see two or three sides of a question, and are scarcely able to be definite one way or the other. But the Treasurer should make this provision definite. He could get the amount of money that he requires just as easily by taking the course that I have suggested, as by leaving the matter involved. I do not wish to debate the other clauses of the Bill just now, because to do so would lead to a discussion as to whether the ten years’ provision is or is not an equitable one. All that I say is that I have a doubt on the constitutional point, and should like to have it cleared up in the interests of the Commonwealth, and, indeed, of the States themselves. We ought to know definitely what the States are to get during the next twelve months. I can see no particular virtue in arguing that it is necessary to make the Bill provide for the next ten years; but, if so, why should not the ten years start from the1st January next ?
– That would make a difference financially.
– It would not. If the matter is made clear in the Bill, we can so regulate the finances as to secure what is desired without getting into the involved position that has now arisen. The promise made by members of the. Government in regard to the ten years’ settlement can be fulfilled by making the new arrangement start from1st January. The honorable member for Parkes has argued that the Bill may be read to mean, first that we agree to stand by the Braddon section, and then that under clause 4 we also agree to pay 25s. per head to the States. The honorable member contends that that is a duplication of the arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States, and that under it the Commonwealth may be called upon to pay 25s. per capita irrespective of the lapse of the Braddon section at the end of this year. I do not think that that argument could stand for a moment if it were presented before the High Court. Because, after all, common sense rules the law all the time. Some of my honorable friends laugh, but at any rate that is the impression I have derived from Courts of law. The Judges who interpret the law view it from a common-sense stand-point. In other words, they use their common sense in the interpretation of Acts of Parliament ; and if an Act of Parliament is not in accord with common sense it goes by the board so far as the Judges are concerned.
– That is a compliment to the lawyers.
– They know it well enough. Many a time a litigant, who has had common sense on his side has won, whilst his adversary, who has seemed to have the law on his side, has gone down. If the High Court were asked to interpret the Bill now before us, and had to consider whether Parliament intended that the Commonwealth should pay to the States the amount provided for under the Braddon section, and should also pay them 25s. per capita, any Judges worth their salt would say at once, “. That is ridiculous and absolutely untenable.” But why should we leave a doubt when we can make the matter clear? That is my position. Some of my honorable friends seem to be of opinion that because the Opposition has taken up a certain attitude, we should not take much notice of their contention. But I have yet to learn that a parliamentary Opposition need be so constituted as not to be desirous of dealing out at least fair treatment, even to a Government, when they think the interests of the country demand it.
– That is not the way in which we were treated when in Opposition.
– I am willing to treat my honorable friends opposite somewhat differently from the way in which they treated me. I know that I am stating the course we followed when in Opposition, and that suggestions were then made from the Opposition side that were entirely unbiased by party considerations. In my judgment it is quite possible for honorable members on the other side to rise above party influence, and endeavour to deal with a particular proposition in a manner which will be to the credit of the Commonwealth. I am prepared to give them credit for that. I hope I am justified in doing so, and if I am not, God help this Parliament and Australia.
.- The amendment before the Committee proposes merely the omission of a single word, and I wish to put clearly on record the reasons which actuate me in supporting it. In doing so I am not trying to embarrass the Government in any way during the current financial year, nor do I desire to grant any advantage to the States, as States, as opposed to the best interests of the Commonwealth in whose Parliament we sit. But I do wish to record the fact that the method proposed to be adopted in dealing with Commonwealth finance for this financial year is not in the interests of a complete understanding between this House and the country, or of the proper and regular financing of the States. In passing the second reading, the House accepted the principle underlying this measure, which is that, during the present financial year, the States shall receive an amount equivalent to 25s. per head of their population. We have admitted, therefore, that the Commonwealth Government have the right, in the second half of the year, to pay the States a less sum than 25s. per head of their population. The course I should like to see the Government adopt to carry this policy into execution is, that after the expiry of the Braddon section, compelling the payment of three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to the States, they should find out exactly what that amount was, and then pay such an additional sum for the latter half of the year as would make, the payments to the States over the whole of the year amount to 25s. per head of their population. That would be the most straightforward and open way to deal with the question. I regret that that course has not been followed. It is because it has not been followed, and because the method here proposed, and so ingeniously framed, will perhaps hide from the people of Australia the fact that, by our devious method, we shall prevent the Treasurers of the States, who are equally with us the servants of the people who have sent us here, from making a proper estimate of the revenues they are to receive from the Commonwealth from month to month during the year, and because I believe that such a method will not conduce to the proper and efficient operation of the great public agencies, such as railways and tramways, of the several States, that I intend to vote for the amendment.
– This will not affect the Budget statements of State Treasurers for 1 910, -because they deal with accounts closed on 30th June last.
– The Budget statements of State Treasurers must be based to some extent upon this Bill, because they must make estimates for the current financial year, and should be able to gauge with reasonable accuracy the revenue they will receive if they are to operate the public departments with proper economy. There is not one line in this Bill which will enable the State Treasurers to arrive at a sound basis on which to estimate the revenue derivable from the Commonwealth. It is because the Bill is framed in such a way that I intend to vote for the amendment. It is solely on that ground, and not for any party political purpose, nor, as the Prime Minister this afternoon insinuated, in order to embarrass the Government. My object is solely to secure that the finances of the Commonwealth and the States shall be placed on an honest and sound basis. I do not care how many tubs are thumped by our honorable, friends opposite upon this question, the outstanding fact will remain that the critics of this measure have been actuated throughout solely by a desire for sound public financing in the interests of the people as a whole.
.- I have listened carefully to the arguments advanced by both sides upon this question. I must say that I certainly did admire the way in which, last evening, the Prime Minister preserved the best traditions of his race. The honorable gentleman stood the fire from all sides and never moved. I’ entirely agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that this is a matter which could be settled by a Judge or jury in a very short time. It must be perfectly clear to every member of the Committee that three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue can be claimed by the States up to the end of the present calendar year. It is equally clear that the 25s. per head need not be paid until after ist January next, and that, from that time, it will have to be paid in full. I think we are all agreed about that.
– No, the Government are not.
– They cannot get away from it. If the 25s. were paid from the ist of this month to the end of the year, no State Government would ever expect that it should be paid twice. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Gwydir say that the members of the legal fraternity are capable of arguing for ever. They can first take one side and then the other, and men like the honorable member have to come in to settle the question. I hope that, when it is settled, it will be properly settled, because it is one of very great importance to the different States. If the agreement is not put into the Constitution I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that it does not matter whether the period fixed is three years or ten years, but I think that every Parliament should have the right to carry out its business as - it thinks fit. If this arrangement is not embodied in the Constitution, this Parliament has no right to bind a future Parliament to the payment to the States of any particular sum of money. Future payments should be left to future Parliaments, and I hope they will be.
– There has been a long discussion, and many opinions have been expressed. Several honorable members opposite have stated that they do not wish to attack the principle of the Bill. The right honorable member for Swan, however, submitted an amendment to leave out the word “ July “ with a view to inserting “ January,” and that, I contend, was a fundamental alteration of the whole financial basis of the Government proposal.
– I do not think it was.
– That amendment was ruled out of order, but I do not think 1 should be allowed to explain further than to say that the Commonwealth would, if that proposal were adopted, lose 6s. 3d. per capita, or£1,400,000 to the States during the financial year.
– Not if the measure was re-drafted to meet the difficulty.
– A clause could be inserted to avoid that result.
– Immediately that amendment was ruled out of order, the honorable member for Darling Downs moved the omission of the word “ first “ as a test. To test what? To test the proposal made by the right honorable member for Swan to alter the whole basis of the Bill. We are asked innocently to believe that the idea underlying the whole opposition to the Bill is not to endanger the financial policy of the Government, but to help the Government, forsooth ! Honorable members opposite are burning with anxiety to make it quite clear that the
Commonwealth should have the amount of money that they will have under the proposal of the Government.
– With another clause the difficulty could be met.
– In the last resource any one in my position must take the advice of his responsible legal adviser.
– We do not object to that.
– The proposition in the Bill is, undoubtedly, that during the first six months the States shall be paid threefourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue, according to the Braddon section. Some States may, of their own volition, pass a Bill permitting the return to the Commonwealth of the difference between the proportion of 25s. and what they would otherwise be entitled to under the Braddone section; and if the States did that they would be doing nothing more than they promised a previous Government, and advocated before the people of Australia at the last election; they would.be doing exactly what they said they wanted to do, and using practically the same language.
– That argument has been replied to a dozen times !
– Sir George Reid, who was then member for East Sydney, and is now High Commissioner, in his celebrated letter that led to the Conference with the Premiers, stated that it was absolutely necessary that the States should come to the aid of the Commonwealth, or worse would happen to them. That was said in regard to old-age pensions ; but I do not wish to read the letter, because the facts are known to honorable members, including the honorable member for Parkes, to whose opinion I, of course, give great weight.
– Does the Prime Minister consider himself bound by that agreement ? Is he not free to do as he chooses ?
– After all, what we have to consider is this : Does this Bill express, in clear and distinct language, what the Government desire, “allowing, of course, for the inevitable differences of legal opinion, or is it more ambiguous than it should be? In my opinion, the Bill clearl y expresses the view that I have indicated, and the Government will be able to effect an adjustment by paying the difference between the amount that will be paid to the States under the Braddon section, which is mandatory, and the 25s. per head under the authority of this Bill. As a layman, I regard that as representing the authority the Treasurer will have for paying the difference. The payment of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue up to the 31st December is provided for by the Constitution. This Bill sets aside section 87 of the Constitution completely on the 31st December, and. the other payments will be made by the Treasurer under the authority of this Bill. Taking all in all, that, I think, is the position. The Opposition obviously desire by this proposition of the honorable member forDarling Downs to take the conduct of the business out of the hands of the Government, but we do not intend to allow that to be done if we can help it.
Question - That the word “first,” proposed to be left out, stand part of the clause (Mr. Groom’s amendment) - put.
Ayes … … … 30
Noes … … … 20
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the word “ year,” line 11, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “six months.”
– The Attorney-General has, apparently, realized now that it is impossible to pretend to make any deductions from the amount which the States are entitled to receive under the Constitution in the first six months, and is remedying any doubt there may be on the question. I would suggest to the honorable member, in the interests of the Commonwealth, that it may be necessary, by some addition to the word “ schedule “ in this clause, or by an alteration of the schedule itself, to enable the Treasurer to make deductions equivalent to the amount over and above 25s. per capita which the States will have received during the constitutional period.
– I propose to add a new sub-clause after this.
.- It would facilitate business if the AttorneyGeneral would give a short explanation of the effect of the later amendment which he has indicated. I take it that the object of this amendment is simply to make it perfectly clear that it is not intended to deduct any amount during the first six months.
– The object of the amendment is to make it perfectly clear that we intend to do what must be done - to take the amount over and above the 25s. per capita per annum out of the payments during the last six months. It is, in fact, a. declaration.
.- It might facilitate business, and possibly shorten discussion, if the Attorney-General would indicate the nature of the subsequent amendment that he intends to propose. The amendment he has now moved only increases the doubt that, under this Bill, the Government will not be able to give effect to their own intentions.
– The honorable member voted for it.
– I voted simply against an amendment suggested by the right honorable member for Swan, which, if carried, would have had the effect of embarrassing the Ministry financially to the extent of between£1,000,000 and £2, 000,000.
– The honorable member may say “nonsense” in his characteristic manner, but his leader, who understands the subject, admitted that fact. The doubt which has been expressed during the whole of to-day and yesterday as to whether the Government will be able to carry out their own intentions still remains, and I should like to see it removed.
– The object of this amendment, and of the new sub-clause which I shall propose, is to make the intention of the Bill perfectly clear, and to remove, if that be possible, any doubt as to the constitutionality of what we propose to do. The new sub-clause will operate in effect as a sort of declaratory statement of the intention of the Bill, and serve to remove what I might call the last shadow of doubt about the constitutionality and effect of the clause.
– I am sorry that the Attorney-General is yielding to unnecessary anxiety on the part of some honorable members, and proposing an amendment which will really create a doubt. As the clause stands at present, there is no doubt that we cannot deduct the sums in the schedule from the amount to be paid under the Braddon section, and, therefore, we cannot deduct them during the first half-year. But, by saying that the amount is to be deducted during the second half of the financial year, we give rise to. the impression that we might possibly be able, as the Bill stands, to make a deduction during the first six months. Under what conditions could that be done? We could do it only if the 25s. per capita to be paid during the first six months of the financial year were in addition to the amount actually payable under the Braddon section. If it were - and a doubt has been expressed as to whether it is not a duplication - then it would be necessary to make this amendment, because we could then deduct the amounts named in the schedule from the 25s. per capita paid during the first six months, as we should not be touching the amount paid under the Braddon section. By making this amendment we shall really be introducing a doubt, and I am sorry that the Attorney - General, yielding to the unnecessary anxiety of some of the laymen behind him, has proposed this amendment. Instead of making the clause clearer, it will certainly raise a doubt.
– I have never met with a more singular illustration of that sea of ingratitude which sweeps over a man when he does that which every one asks him to do, and I feel inclined to bury myself in its deepest depths and do no more. I have yielded in the face of the honorable member for Angas - a legal Eddystone defying all the waves of adversity and criticism - and I certainly think that the amendment will not make the clause more ambiguous. It simply sets forth in so many words what, by virtue of the powers conferred upon us by section 87 of the Constitution, is implied in the proviso. It was deemed advisable that that should be done, and I see no reason why it should not be. I think the amendment is a good one.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted - “ If in order to comply with section 87 of the Constitution the sums paid and applied under this section during the six months ending on the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and ten, amount to more than twelve shillings and sixpence per head of the number of the people of the several States, the amounts paid and applied under this section during the next six months shall be correspondingly reduced, so that the amounts so paid and applied during the whole of the financial year ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and eleven, shall not amount to more than twenty-five shillings per head of the number of the people of the several States, less the deductions provided for in the proviso to the last sub-section.”
– If I follow the amendment proposed by the Attorney-General, it is, in effect, a statement by the Government to the States: “We are obliged to pay you, under the Braddon section, the full threefourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue, but we now propose to cheat you out of it by taking back the excess during the second half of the financial year.”
.- I welcome the proposed new sub-clause. I think, with the honorable member for Parramatta, that it is infinitely to be regretted that the Bill, in the first place, was not as clear as the Attorney-General has now made it. The House, by agreeing to the second reading of the Bill, has accepted the principle which the Minister has now clearly enunciated by means of the proposed new sub-clause, so that the time has passed to cavil about the Ministerial ‘policy in this regard. But I commend the Ministry for the vast improvement that they have effected in the measure, and 1 am delighted to see that the Prime Minister is equally as happy in his mind as the Attorney-General appears to be on this subject ! It proves that an Opposition that is devoted to its higher responsibilities may help the Government to improve its own legislation, even if, in the first- place, it disagreed with the policy underlying it. There is no question that the Opposition, ably assisted by the honorable member for Gwydir - in debate, if not in the division- has been at last enabled to induce the Attorney-General to see reason on a legal point.
– I regret that the honorable member for Parramatta should have described the proposed new sub-clause in the way that he did. The Committee has accepted the proposal of the Government /that the per capita payment of 25s. shall date from the ist July instant, and, that being so, I think that when honorable members on this side,as well as some of the supporters of the Government, have doubts in their minds as to whether the clause as drafted clearly states the intention of the Government, they ought to thank the Attorney-General for meeting them in the way he has done, and proposing to carry out what is evidently the wish of honorable members generally.
– The Attorney-General now proposes to do that for which the Opposition have been asking for the last two days, viz., that the Bill should be made more explicit and definite. I have been charged with a desire to embarrass the Government, simply because I have said that they should state clearly in the Bill what they intend to do. The sub-clause which has been submitted by the Attorney-General certainly makes the intention of the Government clear. But I can see no reason why so much objection was urged to my proposal to make the Bill operative from the ist January of next year, seeing that that is what the subclause will effect.
– It will do nothing of the sort.
– It will operate in such a way as to cause the Bill to date from ist January next. We all know that during the first half of the current financial year approximately ,£4,200,000 will be returned by the
Commonwealth to the States. That w/ll be about ,£1,500,000 more than the equivalent of 12s. 6d. per capita for the halfyear. The sub-clause, I understand, will enable the Government to charge that £1,500,000 against the amount returnable to the States during the second half of the financial year.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– The sub-clause provides that if the Commonwealth returns to the States more than the equivalent of 12s. 6d. per capita during the first six months of the current financial year, it may deduct the excess from the sum payable to them during the second half of that year.
– That is what I am saying. Will not that be equivalent to withholding from the. States £1,500,000 during the second half of the financial year? Certainly it will. But when I made that statement just now, the AttorneyGeneral denied its accuracy. I do not know whether he heard me distinctly.
– I never have any difficulty in hearing the honorable member, but only in understanding him.
– It seems to me that the sub-clause will have the effect of making the Bill conform to the provisions of the Constitution. The only point which I find it difficult to understand is why the Government wish the Bill to date back to the ist July of this year. If, instead of prescribing a ten years’ period for its adoption, they limited it to nine and a-half years, their position would be understandable. The Prime Minister was altogether inaccurate when he charged me with endeavouring to embarrass the Government in regard to the finances of the Commonwealth. I have had no thought of doing that. Whatever embarrassment comes to them must come after 31st December next. It cannot come before. Until then, the provisions of the Constitution govern the whole question. If my proposal to make the Bill date from the ist January next had been adopted, it could not have embarrassed them, because on the expiration of the Braddon section of the Constitution the entire revenue from Customs and Excise will be at their disposal. I can recollect the time, however, when the Prime Minister attempted to embarrass a Government of which I was a member. But I have no desire to pursue such tactics. I think too highly of my duties to Australia to desire to embarrass any Government, particularly in regard to the finances. I still hope that on the motion for the third reading of the Bill my honorable friend the Attorney-General, who has climbed down from the position that he has taken up in this Chamber during the past two days, will consent to make the Bill date from the ist January, 1.911.
– I do not think it is becoming on the part of any honorable member upon this side of the chamber to exult over the fact that the Government have seen fit to amend the Bill. In common with some other honorable members, I have made suggestions to the Ministry in a proper spirit, and I am very glad that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have recognised, that we were imbued with praiseworthy motives, and that they have seen fit to agree to an amendment of the measure. I know that the proposed alteration will not produce the results which some honorable members desire, but from my stand-point it will make the Bill express more clearly the intention of the Ministry. The new sub-clause declares that if during the first half of the current financial year the contribution by the Commonwealth to the States of three-quarters of the net Customs and Excise revenue exceeds 12s. 6d. per capita, the excess may be deducted from the payments due to them under this arrangement during the second half of that financial year. That seems to me to clearly effect the object of the Government, and I congratulate them upon having manfully recognised the force of the reasons which were advanced in -favour of the alteration.
– Why not cross over to the other side of the chamber altogether ?
– I have heard the right honorable member for Swan before, and I think I have his measure in regard to suggestions of that kind. He has gone over to the other side more than once, with very good results. In “ the phraseology of the sub-clause, I think that the words “ next six months “ are used, rind I would suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that its meaning would be rendered more specific if the words “ next following “ were employed in lieu thereof, and the period of the six months mentioned.
.- The doubts, which I think were justified in regard to the first amendment submitted to the Committee, have certainly been allayed by the sub-clause which has just been proposed by the Attorney-General. The Government are now doing what they would have done in the absence of this amendment, which has nothing whatever to do with the objections that were urged last night in regard to the drafting of the Bill. The sub-clause merely makes clear the intention of the Ministry, namely, that during the whole of the financial year the States shall receive not more than 25s. per capita.
– If under the Bill in its original form it were possible for the High Court to take one of two courses, the amendment will certainly have the effect of leading it along the course which . the Legislature intended it should follow.
– Under the new subclause there is no doubt as to what will be paid to the States, but that provision does not touch the question of the apportionment of the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled during the first half of the current financial year. It is now clear that 25s. per capita is to be returned to the States during the whole year, and also that if after deducting the expenditure of the Commonwealth from the total revenue, and paying them that amount, any surplus remains, that surplus must be handed over tq them. But the finances show that there will be no surplus at the end of the current financial year.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
.- As no doubt you, sir, are aware it was my intention to move the insertion of a new clause ; but after hearing you rule an amendment by the right honorable member for Swan out of order this afternoon, I came to the conclusion that you would treat my proposal similarly. In order to obtain an intimation to the Government of what is the will of the Committee, I move -
That the word “ first “ line 2 be left out.
– I submit, sir, that the amendment is out of order. The honorable member frankly admitted that while you would have ruled his full amendment out of order, he is now by a side wind seeking to do precisely the same thing, and that is to test the feeling of the Committee on a particular subject which you practically decided could not be raised. By his own admission the present amendment amounts to practically the same thing as his proposed clause, and in such circumstances I submit that it is not in order.
– I submit that my present amendment does not amount to the same thing as the new clause which I had intended to move. If I had been allowed to move the insertion of the new clause, and it had been adopted, it would have been part and parcel of the Bill. As it is now, the most which I can achieve is to let the Government see what is the will of the Committee on the subject which I wish to bring under notice. It seems to me that the honorable member scarcely touched the point in issue.
– The honorable member is in order.
– This clause provides for the payment of a special sum to Western Australia, in addition to what is payable to that State under previous clauses. I take it that the Government ought to have made special provision for one or more States besides Western Australia. I only propose to deal with the case of Tasmania, as that is the only one in respect to which I have prepared any figures. If the Prime Minister will carefully go into the information which can be gleaned from Tasmanian officials and others, he will find that the book-keeping system utterly broke down. The Constitution contemplated that when imported goods were transferred from one State to another the duty paid thereon to the Commonwealth should be credited to the -consuming State. Tasmania has consumed a great quantity of imported goods in respect to which no duty whatever was credited to her, and thus she has lost revenue. I do not blame anybody for that result; I do not blame the administration one iota, because when the Commonwealth was established - in order, I suppose, to avoid the irksomeness and inconvenience to the travelling public of having all their luggage and other articles overhauled - a regulation was passed whereby that work was left undone by the Customs officials. The consequence was that inasmuch as Tasmania was a small State, and a great many of her inhabitants’ proceeded to the larger States and brought back imported goods on which duty had been paid, no account of them was taken in the consuming State.
– Would not the honorable member get this in better on clause 6?
– I do not think so. At any rate, 1 intend to get it in now when I have a chance. There has been a break-down. The leakage from which Tasmania has suffered has been due, not to lax administration, not to anybody’s fault-
– I would draw the attention of the honorable member to a notice of motion on the business-paper dealing with this question, and remind him that he cannot anticipate the debate thereon.
– I thought of that, sir; and, after taking what I considered good advice, I was informed that I could deal with the question of leakage. I think that the remarks which I have made so far are admissible on clause 5.
– There is nothing about leakage in the clause.
– In the clause, one State is given special consideration, and surely the omission t of another State is a subject for debate at this point. What I wish to show is that Tasmania should receive special consideration, just as is Western Australia. Through the breakdown of a system which came into vogue under the Constitution, Tasmania has lost money which otherwise she would have received. It is impossible to say exactly how much she has lost. At any rate, it is a large amount, which her Statistician has estimated at ^£40,000 per an-‘ num. The honorable member for Hume, who, as ex-Treasurer, ought to know something of the matter, stated to-day that she has lost as much as ,£150,000 per annum ; but I think that that was hardly what he meant to say.
– I. know that she did lose it.
– Standing order 117 says -
No motion or amendment shall anticipate an Order of the Day or another motion of which notice has been given.
The honorable member for Bass has given notice of a motion for Thursday, the 21st inst., in which he deals with the question of Customs leakage in Tasmania, and proposes to recoup the State.
– Is not the honorable member in order, sir, in view of the fact that the clause gives special treatment to Western Australia, that in the Bill Inter- State certificates are abolished, and that as a result of that abolition Tasmania will lose the revenue which she previously obtained from the use of the certificates, which, including leakage, amounts to a. certain sum? That, I understand, is the point which he seeks to raise.
– A notice of motion by an honorable member cannot prevent any honorable member from dealing with a Bill before the House ; it cannot stop legislation.
– What the honorable member for Parramatta has interjected goes to the very essence of the thing, sir. I do not think ‘it was ever intended that, by putting a notice of motion- on the businesspaper, an honorable member could stop the consideration of a question on a Bill. If that can be done, an honorable member could block legislation on, say, old-age pensions by tabling a notice of motion that it was desirable to have such pensions, and so stop the consideration of the Government’s policy. What the standing order 117 says is that no motion or amendment shall anticipate an Order of the Day, that is an Order of a similar character. In other words, two honorable members cannot table and debate two notices of motion dealing with the same subject, and one anticipating the other. For instance, an honorable member cannot move a notice of motion to-day to anticipate the discussion of a motion of which another honorable member has given notice. Nor can an honorable member introduce a Bill to deal with exactly the same matter for which another Bill is on the file already. Surely it was never intended that a Bill to enact something is to be stopped because a moot point, germane to the subject, is raised by another honorable member on a notice of motion !
– If the intention of the honorable member for Wilmot is to do what he wished to do by the proposed new clause, the amendment is clearly not in order, being an attempt to impose a burden of £225,000 on the taxpayers not contemplated in the message from the GovernorGeneral.
– That was the objection taken to the amendment of the right honorable member for Swan, but the hon orable member for Darling Downs was allowed to move the omission of the words to enable the discussion of his proposal to proceed.
– I do not take exception to the omission proposed by the honorable member; I take exception to the argument which is used.
– My desire is to show that Tasmania has lost money by reason of the breaking down of the bookkeeping system, and that, therefore, special consideration should be shown to that State. I presume that, if the Committee supports my view, the Prime Minister will see that effect is given to its desire. The honorable member for Hume, who has had experience as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, thinks that the State should receive special consideration. Any State which can prove that, through the breaking down of the Commonwealth bookkeeping system, she has been losing revenue, should have its claims for consideration recognised. In joining the Federation, Tasmania sacrificed more revenue, in proportion to her total receipts, than any other State, and has had to tax her people more heavily since to make ends meet. Her Governments have not been extravagant, as the figures which I quoted the other night show. Had the returns been on a per capita instead of on a consumption basis, Tasmania, in some years, would have received . £90,000 more than she did receive.
– What States got the money ?
– Victoria and New South Wales chiefly. I said a good deal on this subject the other night, but I would remind the Committee that, not only the honorable member for Hume, but another ex- Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the right honorable member for Swan, also holds the view that Tasmania is entitled to consideration. I was going to ask for a sum spread over ten years, amounting to £225,000, so as to be on the safe side. The Tasmanian Statistician estimates the loss of the State at £40,000 per annum, and I would take his opinion on this subject before that of any one else, because he is a most capable officer, and, living in the State, knows what is happening. The Customs officials have not kept accounts to show what the State loses, so their evidence is not worth much. I am not now going to ask for , £225,000, but I think that we should be given , £200,000 in annual payments, extending over ten years.
– As my name has been mentioned, and as
I referred to the matter earlier in the day, let me say that, in my opinion, Tasmania has lost considerably, for the reasons given by the honorable member for Wilmot. Many of its residents visit Melbourne and Sydney, and buy goods to take back for which the State is not credited, so that its revenue suffers. The State has lost about £150,000 a year, which is the difference between the amount of its Customs and Excise revenue when it had a Tariff of its own and its receipts from the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member think that other States have been similarly affected ?
– Queensland was also affected by the same cause. Tasmania needs special consideration, because it is a small State and financially weak. When the financial question was being discussed in the Convention, it was shown that Tasmania was likely to lose revenue, and the then Premier of New South Wales, acknowledging that that was so, said that his State would be willing to come to its assistance, and mentioned the sum of £50,000 a year as the aid which it would give. As Premier he spoke with some authority. Of course, neither Western Australia nor Tasmania has an absolute claim on the Commonwealth, but their positions must be considered. The Tasmanian Treasury is certainly in need. I would suggest to the Prime Minister that Tasmania should be given back part of what she has lost under the present system, from which New South Wales and Victoria, but chiefly the latter, have benefited. I think the people of Tasmania have derived great advantages from Federation, because they have obtained larger and wider markets for their produce.- But that does not affect the Treasury of the State, which is £150,000 per annum short of what it used’ to derive from the Tariff before the Federal Tariff came into operation’. I would ask the Prime Minister to consider whether Tasmania is not, in justice, en-, titled to that for which she is asking. I admit that the officers of the Federal Treasury cannot trace the leakage of which Tasmania complains. I know that there are in the Department reports from the officers, because I took the matter in hand when I was there, being very anxious to do something to meet the position. It was reported, however, that the officers could not trace any leakage whatever. It is quite true that they could not trace it in the Treasury figures, but we know, as practical men, that the leakage referred to takes place outside the cognisance of the Treasury, and is caused by the travelling of people backwards and forwards. I certainly think that Tasmania should have special consideration, although I am aware that the Treasury officials are against it. While I was Treasurer I induced the Prime Minister to write to Sir Thomas Bent, then Premier of Victoria, and to Mr. Wade, the Premier of New South Wales, to see whether they would not consent to a sum being paid to Tasmania. Sir Thomas Bent was quite willing, but Mr. Wade would not hear of it. However, what is desired can be done now, without reference to the other States, if the Prime Minister thinks fit.
.- I would ask the Prime Minister to be good enough to look generally into the claims made on behalf of Tasmania. Of course, the Tasmanian representatives Would be more than human if they allowed this opportunity to pass without bringing the position of their State under the attention of Parliament. The subject has been frequently touched, and it is generally admitted that there must be some leakage, although there is a difference of opinion as to the amount, and as to whether or not it is large enough to merit special consideration. But apart from this, as the Prime Minister is well aware, there is. under the Constitution, power for this Parliament to grant financial assistance to any State ; and I feel sure that all that is’ desired in this case is just consideration of its position.
– Absolutely nothing else.
– Under what plea?
– There is power under the Constitution for this Parliament to - grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
– That is not a provision to meet demands for justice.
– It affords a way in which justice can be done when any State, owing to” its situation and circumstances, is placed in a position different from that of every other State. I think that this is becoming manifest in the case of Tasmania and most distinctively. Whatever contrast there may be between the mainland States, they are alike in their large general relations. They differ from one another with regard to size or climate, but in many other respects their conditions are similar. In the case of Tasmania. however, we have to recollect both the smallness of the area and the smallness of the population.
– If the honorable member looks at the proposal with which we are dealing, he will see how Tasmania will stand under the 25s. per capita system.
– I am not aware that there is any special provision for Tasmania. She will only get her share per capita; and a per capita proportion for Tasmania is not an increasing quantity, I am afraid. The last few census return? have not shown any considerable increases of population in that State.
– In one year the increase of population in Tasmania was larger than in Queensland.
– It has not been so recently. What I ask the Prime Minister to take into account is, that if after consideration and investigation he can see his way to do any justice to Tasmania, in accordance with our powers, that it should be done.
– I am afraid that the discussion with regard to Tasmania is out of order. Of all the speeches that I have heard on the subject, that of the Leader of the Opposition is the most astounding. He has stated that in regard to Tasmania the per capita payment would not be an increasing quantity, because the population is not increasing. But the basis of payment under this Bill is that a certain sum shall be paid per capita, irrespective of the amount of a State s contribution to the revenue.
– I spoke of the per capita payment to Tasmania in comparison with the other States.
– At any rate, the more her population increases, the more the State Government will receive under our proposal.
– Of course; that is what 1 say; but the increase of the population in Tasmania is slight, whilst the other States are increasing their population all round.
– Let us look at the position. Less than a year ago the Leader of the Opposition signed the document, a copy of which I hold in my hand. The Premier of Tasmania, acting for his Government, agreed to the proposal, that we have embodied in (his Bill, and it contained no suggestion that Tasmania was being wrongly treated.
– That was not the fault of the Premier of Tasmania, I can assure the honorable gentleman.
– But the Premier of Tasmania signed the Financial Agreement.
– He could not get more.
– The right honorable member for Swan may smile, but I am stating facts.
– The Prime Minister must not assume that the Premier of Tasmania did not try to get more.
– He did.
– Then it is fair for me to reply that the Premier of Tasmania tried to get more, but failed. Why did not the late Government accede to his demand ?
– We had not the revenue which the present Treasurer is going to have; if we had had this revenue to deal with, we should have been able to do more justice.
– The statement now made is that special consideration is being given to Western Australia. That is true. We, as a party, were the first to lay down the position that special consideration must be given to Western Australia, because the Western Australian people contributed per capita in Customs and Excise duties nearly double the amount of the average contributed by the people in other parts of Australia.
– Surely the Labour party does not claim to be the originator of the principle of special treatment for Western Australia ? The Federal Con- .vention provided for that.
– We need not claim to have originated anything, but we made this a matter of practical politics. The people of Western Australia contributed last year in Customs and Excise revenue £3 12s. per head of the population. The honorable member for Wilmot challenges the special treatment extended to Western Australia.
– I do not challenge it.
– The reason why Western Australia is specially treated is that last year every person in that State contributed to the Commonwealth through Customs and Excise £3 12s. In the same year each person in Tasmania contributed only £2 is. 1 id. - a very considerable difference.
– The honorable gentleman should add 4s. or 5s. per head to make up for the amount that Tasmania has lost through the leakage which has been referred to.
– It is well to hear the honorable member who is making this claim.
– That is the estimate of the Tasmanian Statistician.
– I do not admit its accuracy. I cannot do so with the knowledge I have. But, for the sake of argument, we might accept the statement that Tasmania has lost credit for 4s. or 5s. per head of Customs revenue through the leakage, and I refer honorable members again to the table which I have previously read and which will be found at page 420 of Hansard for this session. Let the honorable member look at that table, and he will find that under our proposal, after the States have received 25s. per head, the amount which each person in each State will contribute is as follows : - In New South Wales, £1 7s. 3d. ; in Victoria, £1 is. ; in Queensland, £1 8s. ?d. j in South Australia, 19s. 3d. ; in Western Australia, even after that State has received the special grant proposed, £1 3s. 10d. ; and in Tasmania, only 14s. 6d.
– Those estimates, I presume, are based on last year’s figures.
– They are based on the estimated payments by the people of the different States.
– The honorable gentleman should add to the Tasmanian figure 4s. or 5s. on account of the leakage.
– That is the Tasmanian Statistician’s estimate of what Tasmania has lost, and it cannot be disproved.
– If, for the sake of argument, I add to the figure for Tasmania 5s. per head, the highest estimate the honorable member for Wilmot mentions, it would amount to 19s. 66.., or practically to the same amount per head as that of the next lowest contributor, and much less than the people of Western Australia will contribute, even after making allowance for the special grant to that State. The honorable member for Wilmot has no case in the estimates for the future.
– I do not base anything on the future, but upon the revenue for which Tasmania has not received credit in the past.
– Why is this brought up now?
– Because this revenue was lost in the past through the practical breakdown of a constitutional provision.
– Why did not the exPrime Minister, when in office, and supported by the honorable member for Wilmot, deal justly with Tasmania if it was known that that State had not been justly dealt with ?
– That should not prevent the honorable gentleman from dealing justly with Tasmania now.
– The proposal of the present Government will deal, not justly, but generously, with Tasmania. At the Hobart Conference I said quite plainly that the distribution of revenue on the per capita basis would assist the smaller States, and that they were entitled to assistance. Beyond that no man could go, and it is absurd for the honorable member for Wilmot now to suggest that Tasmania, as well as Western Australia, is entitled to special consideration. The people of that State will receive greater benefit under this proposal than will those of any of the other States.
– In the future.
– Every individual in New South Wales and in Queensland will, under the per capita system of distribution, be asked to contribute towards the services of the Commonwealth practically twice as much as the people who live in Tasmania. Surely, in view of that fact, the honorable member will not proceed with such a proposal as that now before the Committee? Personally, I think that the amendment ought not to be accepted.
– I think it is in order.
– If such an amendment can be accepted, I think we shall have to amend the Standing Orders, because, if this practice of raising a debate on the proposed omission of a single word continues, we might never be able to pass any measure.
– The honorable member must know that it is in accordance * with the rule invariably followed.
– I do not at all object to a discussion by consent upon questions nf policy involving the fate of a Government; but I do not think that it is right that a discussion should be raised on a question like this, in the way which has been adopted. I say that, as regards the future, no Government in the position of the present Government, could entertain such a proposal as that submitted. The wrongs which Tasmania may have suffered in the past should be discussed and dealt with in this House in some other way. That State has suffered no wrong from anything done by the present or previous Labour Governments. I could give a number of details bearing upon the questions at issue ; but I shall conclude by submitting another table showing what would be the position in the various States under the Government proposal. Its insertion in Hansard will, no doubt, assist honorable members in coming to a decision on the question. This is the table to which I refer -
In other words, the average difference, after die special credit to Western Australia, is 13s. 3d. for the next year. The difference in the case of Tasmania is 6s. 2d., and the average is more than double the contribution by each person in that State.
– Nevertheless, the position of Tasmania is such that something exceptional will have to be done.
– The honorable member will admit that an appeal will have to be made in some other way, after a document like that, which is official.
.- There is one thing to which I take exception in the statement just made, and that is where the Prime Minister sought to give a party complexion to this matter and assess the responsibility of respective Governments for the ‘ ‘ leakage “ that has been going on in the past. It is not a matter for which any Government in particular has been responsible.
For instance, the honorable member for Hume, who is at present supporting the Government, will, I am sure, cordially agree with me that, as Treasurer, he was not responsible for the leakage referred to by the honorable member for Wilmot. The Prime Minister said that whatever had happened was not the fault of either this or the preceding Labour Government. As a matter of fact, it was not the fault of any particular Government, but the misfortune of existing conditions. When there is a State like Tasmania, supplied practically by the distributing agencies of a neighbouring great city like Melbourne, it is only to be expected that Government systems of checking should occasionally prove faulty; and all the honorable member for Wilmot has urged is that his State has suffered in the past through a faulty system of checks, and that, as we are now beginning to settle the whole question de novo, it is only fair that the Commonwealth should make up to that small and impecunious country what has been lost. I am not ‘going to say that I support the honorable member for Wilmot in this matter ; but I can most cordially express my appreciation of his energy on behalf of his own State and his own people. It is his duty in this House to put his arguments forward in the best possible way; and every argument be has used has been strengthened by the figures produced by the Prime Minister.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there should be a reduction of the amounts paid to the other States ?
– I am not going into dialectics even to please the AttorneyGeneral. What I am suggesting is that if we examine, on its merits, the proposal of the honorable member for Wilmot, we find that his case is actually strengthened by the figures produced by the Prime Minister. The yield per head ‘from Customs revenue is so small in Tasmania, largely, according to the honorable member, because of the leakage which has occurred as between Victoria and Tasmania.
– New South Wales is supposed to have caused the greater loss.
– The case is not affected for one moment by the State from which the loss arises. .The Prime Minister, as occasionally happens, against his best intentions, has been able to assist those to whom he is opposed. He has on this occasion undoubtedly strengthened the case of the honorable member for Wilmot; but I do not think this is a Bill in which such a question could reasonably be dealt with. It should be treated separately. I shall not pledge myself in advance on any figures submitted by the Statistician of any particular State, because such an official is almost bound, by his surroundings, to be biased in favour of his own neighbourhood. We have to regard these matters from a Federal point of view, and I hope that, when we come to consider this particular case the Prime Minister will not regard it as deserving of reprobation and adverse comment if we should ask so ardent a Democrat to be generous to those in difficulty !
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) (9.40]. - I listened very carefully to the statement of the Prime Minister, and I deprecate the way in which, in almost every speech, he tries to put a political complexion on everything done in connexion with the Bill. The honorable gentleman has not made a speech in which he has not done so. To the criticism from this side, all he has to say is that we here are responsible for the position, and should have dealt out justice. In my opinion, the figures which the Prime Minister has quoted to-night make the case for Tasmania clear beyond the possibility of cavil. They show, for instance, that Tasmania, financially, is very poor, compared with the other States ; and I am speaking now from a purely financial point of view. The Prime Minister says that Tasmania does not contribute as much as the other States do; but we must not forget that Tasmania does not. get so much as the other States in return. The Prime Minister really only emphasizes the appeal put forth by the honorable member for Wilmot, for the kindly consideration of this Parliament. I submit that if we are to be a Federation we must not let any action of this Parliament press unduly heavily on any member of the group. To do so would not, I take it, be a display of the Federal spirit; and if there is a State in the group just now that needs “kindly consideration from this Parliament it is the small State of Tasmania.
– What a number of sympathizers Tasmania has all at once !
– That remark does not apply to me, for I am taking up a position that I have assumed for a long time now. It is a poor case when a big, dch, prosperous Federation like ours can not prevent one of the smallest States - indeed, the smallest - suffering from some action of ours.
– How much did the Fusion Government propose to give Tasmania ? .
– We proposed to deal justly with Tasmania. Owing to the temporary reign of unjust sentiment in the community, which has resulted in the projection into this Chamber of honorable members in such large number over there, justice is for the present overcast and obscured, though we hope that she will again lift her head to the sunlight and enable us to deal justly with every State. It is quite clear, from a reasonable consideration of the figures relating to trade and commerce, that Tasmania is suffering very heavily. The Chairman has prevented us from going into the causes ; but the honorable member for Wilmot is quite right in pressing the claims of Tasmania, as we should do if we were in a similar case. I think it can be proved, when we come to deal with the matter in detail, that other States are benefiting at the expense of Tasmania. A number of Treasurers who have investigated the subject are clear to conviction that that is so ; and it does not behove a Federation like ours to see a small State suffer by reason of the application of the Federal principle to finance.
– Why did the Premiers’ Conference refuse special consideration, although the Premier of Tasmania urged it?
– I am learning lots of things about that Conference that I did not know anything of.
– Does the honorable member mind answering the question?
– I am quite unable to do so. It would be better for the honorable member for Wilmot to bring the matter , up on another occasion, and not in connexion with this Bill. I believe that it will then receive, from all sides of the House, that fair and friendly consideration to which I think Tasmania is rightly entitled.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) [9.47J. - The Prime Minister wanted to know why the Government of which I was a member did not give Tasmania this special treatment. I intended to do it, and applied to the two States that derived benefit at the expense of Tasmania. Those States are the distributing States to Tasmania. They get the benefit of the duties on the goods imported, and send the goods to Tasmania ; but Tasmania is not credited with the duty. That applies more to Victoria than New South Wales; but both of them do it to a certain extent. I therefore got the then Prime Minister to write to the Premiers of those two States, to see if they would agree to the amount of £20,000 or £30,000 being paid to Tasmania, as Tasmania was losing and they were benefiting. I’ notice, in the Annotated Constitution, by Quick and Garran, that Tasmania and her position are specially referred to. The question was discussed at the Convention, and, as a result, the provision which has been quoted was inserted in the Constitution, allowing the Commonwealth to make special concessions to a State in case of necessity. I hope the Prime Minister will not be stubborn about this matter, or shut his mind against further consideration of it. Surely the wealthier States will not object to giving some consideration to Tasmania. Undoubtedly, it was intended that it should be done, if Tasmania could prove its case, as it can right up to the hilt. Still, it would be better for the honorable member for Wilmot to bring the question up as a separate motion. I am sure that if the Prime Minister knew Tasmania as well as I do, and how its trade hangs on to Victoria and New South Wales, he would not be stubborn.
– There is a notice of motion on the paper on the subject.
– But the honorable member has very little chance of reaching it. I do not want to harass the Government over the matter. Some one said just now that it was considered a party question ; but I do not think that the Government can accuse me of using it in that way.
– They cannot accuse me, either.
– They might, with more justice, accuse the honorable member than myself. I simply wish to see justice done to Tasmania.
– The honorable member is fighting for his native land.
– I know its conditions, and know that it is very poor in comparison with the other States.
– And badly managed.
– It might be better managed, but, if that is the reason, it has been badly managed as long as I can remember. I hope the Prime Minister will not say positively that he has made up his mind, because some consideration should be shown to this poor State, and I hope the matter will be brought up in another way.
.- - -Everybody knows that the question cannot be discussed on this motion. It can be brought up and debated in another way, and I shall then be glad to hear arguments dealing specifically with it, but, of course, I cannot commit the Government now to any particular attitude with regard to it. At present I cannot accept the amendment as a guide to anything, and must vote against it.
– Look into it with an openmind.
– If the honorable member for Wilmot withdraws the amendment, I shall listen to the arguments regarding the claims of Tasmania, apart from the present proposition altogether.
Mr. ATKINSON (Wilmot) L9.53]. - I am willing to withdraw the amendment, so long as I have an assurance from the Prime Minister that he will look into the matter, and give every facility for it to be dealt with in a fair way, so that some effective result may be obtained, and we can get the justice that we consider we ought to get.
– I am prepared to hear the question discussed.
– I do not expect the Prime Minister to make a promise until he has heard all that we have to put before him. In the circumstances, I think I am taking a wise course in asking leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- As the Prime Minister has generously agreed to consider the question, he should also consider whether the provision for Tasmania should not be on a different principle from that of this clause. Under it we give Western Australia £250,000 per annum,, but all she is entitled to, on the figures given by the Prime Minister, would be £136,000, because all she gives up is less than 10s. per head on a population of 276,000.
– That is after they have been credited with their proportion.
– But I work the figures out on the basis of the three-fourths, and . the result is the same. I think the Prime Minister gave the figures of the total returns to Western Australia. On the estimates made last year in connexion with the Conference, Western Australia was surrendering on its three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue less than 10s.. per head of its population over the average payable under section 87.
– There is some mistake.
– There is not; I have the figures. Her population was 272,000, so that taking the average payable under section 87 she was really to give up about ^£136, 000 and to receive ,£250,000. I do not object to that, but this is a principle which ought to be considered in connexion with the remarks made by the honorable member for Hume. The other States, and not merely States that are benefiting at the expense of Western Australia, are making good that difference. The other States, all of which are cut down, have to pay out of their revenues a proportion of the allowance. I could never see the justification for that proposal, which was embodied in the agreement made last year. If special treatment is to be ‘ extended to Tasmania, the proper method of payment would be to make the States which reap the benefit of the loss of revenue sustained by that State contribute practically the whole. If not the Commonwealth should bear the whole of the deficiency. Western Australia does not lose substantially on imports from the other States, because, unlike Tasmania, she imports direct.
– Western Australia gets a considerable quantity of goods from the other States.
– But I think the honorable member will find that the other States do not act as importers for Western Australia.
– To a considerable extent, that is carried on.
– I think not. At the time of the Convention a great deal of Western Australia’s imports came from oversea. The bulk of her Inter-State imports came, first of all, from Victoria, and, secondly, from South Australia. Victoria was a large importer of goods for consumption in Tasmania, and in the first year of the Federation the Tasmanian Government brought an action against the Victorian Government asking, under a provision of the Constitution which remained in operation for two years, for a refund of revenue paid to Victoria which ought really to have gone to the island State. The case of Western Australia is substantially different. Western Australia does not lose by reason of other States being credited with revenues which ought to go into its coffers, and she is getting under this arrangement about £100,000 more than she should get if we take into account the per capita ‘difference to which she would be entitled as against the average of the States. I do not wish to interfere with that arrangement, but hope it will not be followed in any special treatment of Tasmania.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Where in this Act reference is made . . . to the number of the people of a State the reference shall be deemed to be to the number of the people … as estimated by the Commonwealth Statistician. . . .
.- This clause is very important in that it deals with the determination of the population of the States,” and I should like the Prime Minister to agree to an amendment. Under the Bill, every unit of the population means £I 5s. to the State concerned, and there may arise a conflict between die Commonwealth and the States as to what is their respective populations. The clause as it stands provides that the population shall be deemed to be “as estimated by the Commonwealth Statistician.”
– I am prepared to agree to the omission of the word “ estimated “ and the insertion, in lieu thereof, of the words “ ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth.”
– Under the Representation Act, rules for determining what shall be deemed to be the population of Australia for the purposes of the Act are set forth in a schedule, and that schedule can be altered only by means of a regulation which must be laid on the table of the House. By that means, the House can keep control over the rules for estimating and determining the population of the several States. Under section 16 of the Census Act, we also have power to frame regulations to determine the population, and in a Bill passed last session to provide for an amendment of the Constitution the words occurred -
The amount payable shall be debited to the States in proportion to the number of their population as ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth.
– 1 am prepared to use similar words.
– Very well.”
Amendment (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the word “estimated,” line 4, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth.”
– The whole operation of this Bill depends so closely upon exact statistics of the population of the various States that it gives rise to the question of whether we ought not to have the census taken in Australia at intervals of five, instead of ten, years, as at present. I hope that the Government will consider the expediency of providing by an amendment of the Census Act for the taking of the census at intervals of five years. It has been pointed out in other parts of the world that nowadays, when so many calculations are dependent upon exactitude of numbers, an interval of ten years between each census enumeration is too long to enable anything like accurate statistics to be obtained upon which to base any theories. Our financial relations with the States depend upon a calculation as to the number of people in each State, and as variations have to be dealt with from year to year by the statisticians, who have to calculate the movements of people from one State to another, errors must take place. That serious errors do take place has been demonstrated when a census has been taken, and a provision should be made, following the passing of this Bill, for a census enumeration every five years. If that were done, there would be less dissatisfaction than there is at present in regard to the estimate made of the population of the various States.
Amendment agreed to.
– I hope the Prime Minister will make a statement to the Committee in regard to this important question of taking account of the population of the States. The question now assumes an importance that has never previously attached to it. At the present time there is very grave con: flict between the statisticians of the various States regarding the methods which apply to the enumeration of the people. The suggestion made by the honorable member for North Sydney, that an enumeration should take place every five years, is a good one. I do not say that that enumeration should be made by means of the expensive processes which will apply to the next census. But certainly there should be an enumeration of the’ people more frequently than every ten years, now that the matter has become of so much importance to the people of Australia.
– The representation of the States in this House also depends upon the enumeration.
– I do not regard that circumstance as of so much consequence as the one to which I am referring. The Prime Minister may very well take the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney into serious consideration as early as possible.
– I do not think that the honorable member for North Sydney expected any reply to his suggestion other than that it would receive consideration. As honorable members are aware a census is to be taken next year, and obviously the Government must await the result of that census, so that we may be able to compare it with the estimated population of the Commonwealth before we can make up our mind on this question. In my younger days I was in favour of taking a census every five years, but the expense of that step is so enormous that, if the estimated enumeration be anything like accurate, it would not be justified.
.- This question also arose in connexion with the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill which was submitted to Parliament last session. Section 89 of the Constitution provides that the monthly balances returnable to the States shall be in proportion to their population. I think that under the Census Act of 1905 the census had to be taken from the middle of June. Since then, however, arrangements have been concluded with the States by which, in the future, the calculation will be made as from 30th September. Had the Financial Agreement, which was entered into by the late Government, been ratified by the people, the population of the States for the purposes of the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Act would have been estimated as from that date.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message):
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize a temporary advance from the Trust Fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
. -May I take it that this Bill covers the appropriation which has already been made out of the Trust Funds ? Is it a validating Mill, so far as that is concerned?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring ia a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher and read a first time.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn -
I wish to say that the Trust Fund Advances Bill will be the first Government business proceeded with to-morrow. It is an important measure, and, therefore, should be dealt with without delay.
– It is much more urgent than is the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– What will be the order of business to-morrow?
– The order will be that ii; which the business appears - upon the notice-paper. Unfortunately, the Government will not have absolute control of the business to-morrow. I understand that under our Standing Orders to-morrow will be Grievance Day, but as we have already been discussing grievances for a few days, I hope that honorable, members will exercise some measure of restraint.
House adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100720_reps_4_55/>.