4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs aware that regulations have recently issued from his Department requiring applicants for admission to the Public Service to pay various sums, ranging up to 15s., for the right to present themselves for examination for the position of messengers? Does he consider the imposition of these fees on boys seeking to enter the Public Service in keeping with the Labour party’s professed desire to open avenues of employment?
– The honorable member is going beyond the proper limits of a question.
– I am aware that examination fees are charged, but the regulations referred to were not issued under the authority of the present Administration. I intend to have a thorough inquiry made into the system.
– Can the honorable gentleman tell us the date of the new regulations referred to by the honorable member for Parkes?
– They are not new regulations.
– They were issued under the Fusion Government.
– Isthe Prime Minister able to say when he will deliver his Budget speech?
– I am not able to fix a date, but the speech will be delivered early in August.
– Is it proposed tolay on the table, before the Budget speech is delivered, the accounts for the last quarter of the financial year? If so, when does the Prime Minister think the returns will be ready?
– As soon as the official figures are available they will be printed and circulated.
– To-day is the 21st July.
– The honorable member, as an ex-Treasurer, must know that I am dependent in this matter on my officers.
– Some days ago I brought under the notice of the Postmaster-General the fact that shire and municipal councils were being charged the cost of altering telephone poles which had been erected on a wrong alignment, and he promised to look into the matter. ‘ . Is he now in a position to give any further answer ?
– I shall send whatever information I have to the honorable member almost immediately.
Mr. TUDOR laid upon the table the following paper -
Sugar - Statistics,1901-2 to 1910-11, re White and Black Labour, Production, Duties, Bounties, &c.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House and the country what he intends to do regarding the proposed export duty on hides and skins?
– I promised a deputation that I would submit the matter to the Cabinet, but have not yet had an opportunity to do so. When I have done it, I shall be pleased to reply to the honorable members question.
– Has the Prime Minister read the utterance of ViceAdmiral Poore, recently delivered in Sydney, regarding the naval defence of the British Empire. His Excellency is reported to have said -
There is one great question which, I think, may well be considered - that in the establishment of an Australian Navy this fact should be clearly recognised, that the navy must exist as a part of the whole service, and that no portion of the navy must consider its duty to exist only in the country in which it has its base. It has only one duty, and that is the defence of the Empire as a whole. . . . There is only one Navy, and that Navy can only exist under one supreme head.
Is the Prime Minister prepared to observe that principle in shaping the administrative machinery of the Australian naval organization?
– This Government does not propose to take serious notice of newspaper reports of utterances regarding its policy, however distinguished may be those who have made them.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been called to a paragraph in to-day’s newspaper, from which it appears that Dr. Bell, the inventor of the telephone, rang for about an hour before getting his call answered? If so, has he made inquiries as to the cause of the delay?
– I have read the statement, but I have not made inquiries concerning it.
Randwick Rifle Range - Magazine and Long Rifles - Plain Clothes, R.A.A. -Thursday Island Service
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In thelast annual draft of men for Thursday Island -
How many of those selected asked to be excused or discharged?
3 gunners. Men on enlistment under take to serve in any part of the Commonwealth for a period of five years.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to pay to Hospitals which receive and attend to Old-age Pension Patients an equivalent to their pensions, or some sum to recoup the Hospitals the cost of such attention?
– No; it is not intended to pay the equivalent to their pensions.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
.- The object and terms of the proposition which I have the honour to submit are such as, I venture to hope, will receive, without any protracted discussion, the general assent of the House. It reads -
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as follows : -
May it please Your Majesty -
We, Your Majesty’s loyal and dutiful subjects, the Members of the’ House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, desire most earnestly in our own name and on behalf of the People of Australia, to express our unswerving loyalty and devotion to Your Majesty’s Person and Government, and to respectfully represent -
That since full freedom of religious belief and practice obtains throughout the Empire, the British Sovereign should not be called on to make any Declaration offensive to the religious convictions of any section of Your Majesty’s subjects.
That the Act of Settlement, passed in the year 1689, requires the Sovereign”, at the Coronationor on the first day of meeting of the first Parliament after Accession, to make the following Declaration : - “ I do solemnly and sincerely, in thepresence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper there is not any transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever ; and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other saint, and the sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous; and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration, and each and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever, and without any dispensation already granted me for this purpose by the Pope or any other authority or person whatsoever, and without any hope of such dispensation from any person or authority whatsoever, or without thinking that I am or can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration or any part thereof, although the Pope or any other personor persons or power whatsoever should dispense with or annul the same, or declare that it was null and void from the beginning.”
That the foregoing Declaration is held to be objectionable by Your Majesty’s Catholic subjects, because -
It declares the central and most sacred truths of their religion to be false and idolatrous; and
It implies that a dispensation for the taking of a false oath might be applied for by the Sovereign or granted to him.
This House is therefore of opinion that the Declaration required by the Act of Settlement should be amended by the elimination of all words reflecting on the religious belief professed by over twelve millions of Your Majesty’s loyal and devoted subjects.
In submitting this motion, I shall endeavour to avoid as far as possible any reference to those polemical or theological issues with which it must be admitted its subject fairly bristles. Nor is it my purpose to arouse any historical controversy regarding the origin of the declaration which the Sovereign is obliged to make at his coronation, beyond saying that, in the opinion of reliable authorities, it arose out of the perjuries of the infamous Titus Oates. There is indeed some ground for believing that he had some personal connexion with its drafting. In a pamphlet written by the then Anglican Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Samuel Parker - who was a contemporary of Titus Oates - a suggestion is made to that effect. Although that pamphlet has had many critics, none of them has ever disproved or denied the connexion of Titus Oates with this declaration. The declaration itself dates back to the reign of Charles II., and it is interesting to recall that it was not originally intended to be applied to the King. It” is contained in the Bill of Rights, but it is the Act of Settlement which was passed in 1689 which enforces it upon the King. As I have said, its object was not to put a test to the King at that time, but simply to exclude Catholics from membership of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and to forbid their entrance into any other office of profit under the Crown. It was not until after the accession of William and Mary that the declaration was placed in the Act of Settlement. It was then resolved that it should be enforced on all future sovereigns-, and the first of these to subscribe to it was Queen Anne. The following is the passage in the Bill of Rights which - re-enacted in the Bill of Settlement - prescribes how the declaration is to be taken -
And every King and Queen of this realm who at any time hereafter shall come to and succeed in the Imperial Crown of this Kingdom shall; on the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament next after his or her coming to the Crown . . . dr at his or her Coronation . . (whichever shall first happen), make, subscribe, and audibly repeat the declaration.
As we all know, this test is no longer exacted from those for whose disadvantage it was originally devised. So that to-day we have this curious anomaly : that, whereas the intention of the framers of the test was to exact it from every person of note except 1 he Sovereign, it lias now been abrogated in the case of all others, and is imposed upon the Sovereign alone. The absurdity of exacting a guarantee for the religious ‘ belief of the Sovereign in cur time is sufficiently apparent. He is surrounded by his responsible advisers; he is controlled by
Parliament at every turn ; and, in addition, is subject to the restrictions imposed by the Bill of Rights, as well as by other constitutional limitations. The Bill of Rights itself, in the absence of anything else, guarantees the Protestant succession; and Catholics, as a body, take no exception to this. They make no complaint against the Protestant majority for requiring the Sovereign to profess Protestantism j all they ask is that, in making this profession, the Sovereign shall not be obliged to reflect on the sacred beliefs of Catholics. We are not now concerned with the question whether there ever was any real necessity for this declaration. The point is that it is not necessary to-day ; and that, in any case, as Lord Llandaff points out, the Catholic doctrines which the King is required to repudiate have no present political significance and no bearing on the exercise of the Royal powers, lt may be asked why it is that the outcry against this declaration has been so long delayed. The explanation is that during the long reign of Queen Victoria its existence had been “practically forgotten. But on the death of her late Majesty, the enlightened public opinion of” the Empire was shocked by this apparition from a dead age, and since that time its amendment or repeal has been loudly called for. It is unnecessary to detain the House in order to trace the history of the agitation on this subject in Great Britain since the death of Queen Victoria. lt is sufficient to say that both the great political parties are practically in accord as to the necessity of amending the declaration, and also as to the impropriety of compelling the Sovereign to make it in its present form.
– Why, then, should we interfere?
– I will tell the honorable member why. If we share the views of those elsewhere who are seeking to remove this grievance, we ought to help them. They have a right to expect assistance from us. The continued existence of the declaration is really due to a difficulty in framing an acceptable substitute, and not to any belief that the declaration is still essential. The House of Commons has declared in favour of its amendment by an overwhelming majority. The Canadian House of Commons by 125 votes to tq, adopted an address to His late Majesty asking that the objectionable references to the Catholic belief complained of should be omitted. As showing the unanimity of public opinion against the declaration, I would ask honorable members to listen to a brief epitome of the views of prominent British statesmen and churchmen. The late Lord Salisbury is quoted in the Tablet of the 21st May, 1910, as having described the declaration as “an ugly blot on the statute-book.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the official head of the Church of England, was quoted in the House of Commons, on the 14th May, 1909, as having said -
If some declaration is necessary …. it surely does not follow that it should be couched in insulting terms; and I do not think, strictly speaking, that it need denounce anything at all.
The Lord Chancellor, speaking in the House of Lords, in reply to Lord Braye, on 9th August, 1909, said -
In my opinion, it is thoroughly wrong that an Act of Parliament should require from the Sovereign, or from any man, that he should insult the religious opinions held sacred by any person in this Kingdom.
The Anglican Bishop of Grantham, in the Times of 14th May, 1910, asks -
That His Majesty should be relieved of the grotesque duty of … . publicly branding millions of loyal subjects as idolaters.
The Bishop goes on to say -
The declaration coarsely and brutally stigmatizes doctrines held most dear by multitudes of devout Christians.
Dr. James Gairdner, the eminent Protestant historian, writing in the Morning Post of 17th May, 1910, says -
This declaration which we force out of the mouth of each successive Sovereign is not merely an insult to the religion of our Roman Catholic fellow subjects. It is a positive insult to the Sovereign himself. The Nation is supposed to ask him, “ Do you repudiate the doctrine of Transubstantiation ?” Answer, “I do.” “But will you assure us that you have not secretly applied to the Vatican for liberty to tell a lie for political purposes in disowning it?” Answer, “ I assure you I have done no such thing.”
Then Dr. Gairdner asks -
Is this worthy treatment of a Christian member? We virtually presume that he is an unscrupulous man, and then make him say things on his word of honour which, after all, an unscrupulous man could easily say and “ make no bones about it.”
On this point also Lord Llandaff enlarges with great effectiveness. He says -
He (the King) is required to vouch for his sincerity in this profession by a clause which obviously assumes that he is capable of mental reservation, and which is insulting to him, if he is an honest man, and futile if he is not ; since a person capable of mental reservation on his oath would be capable of mental reservation on the clause directed against him. He is also required to profess his disbelief in a supposed dispensing power which the Catholic church has never asserted ; and he has put into his mouth a false statement of Catholic doctrine, when he is called upon to say that the “adoration” of the Virgin Mary and the Saints is “ now used in the Church of Rome.”
It is reported on the authority of persons present at his coronation that his late Majesty King Edward VII., when making this declaration, deliberately dropped his voice and was almost inaudible. I could give further quotations in the same direction as those which I have read, but I will conclude this portion of my speech with three short ones, to which respect will be paid on account of the prominence of the gentlemen whose opinions they embody. Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, speaking in the House of Commons on the 14th May, 1909, said -
This survival of an obsolete state pf things is retained only for the purpose of branding by the mouth of the Sovereign some of the most sacred beliefs of some of the most loyal of his subjects, at the very commencement of his reign when they, like everybody else, are most anxious to welcome him as Sovereign . . For my part, as I say, speaking for myself, but I believe I speak also for the very large majority of those on both sides, the time has come to put an end to this declaration.
Sir A. Conan Doyle wrote in the Times -
It is mere juggling with words to attempt to show that it is anything other than persecution to hold up the Roman Catholic faith to obloquy in the Oath, while every other creed, Christian or non-Christian, is left unassailed.
Coming nearer home, we have the Premier of Victoria, the Honorable John Murray, making this manly and forcible statement a few days ago. He said-
The declaration was most objectionable to all right thinking Christians of any denomination, who had Christian charity within the compass of their belief. It always seemed to him unaccountable and something impossible to understand, that at the most solemn, most gorgeous ceremony connected with the assumption of the Crown by a British monarch, who had at his right hand as the highest official assisting at the cermony one of England’s great Roman Catholic noblemen, such offensive words should be used.
I have here a number of quotations from the leading journals of Great Britain, which are not published in the interest of the people affected by this declaration, but which are no less emphatic in opposition to the retention of it. Almost all the important newspapers of Great Britain take the same view as those which I have just quoted from prominent statesmen and churchmen. The quotations which I shall make are all from journals that have no leanings towards Catholicity, and in one or two instances the opinion is that of a newspaper published in the interests of Anglicanism. For instance, the Church Times of 14th May, 1910, wrote -
The declaration is a recourse to horrible blasphemy. As it stands it is a disgrace not only to ordinary decency, but to civilization, and it is shameful for the nation to retain it, as it must be painful to the Sovereign to make it. . . . The thing is as cruel a mockery as it is an outrageous profanity.
That is the opinion of an English Church journal.
– It is very High Church.
– The opinion of the Spectator will probably meet with the honorable member’s respect. That journal wrote in May last-
The notion thatthe State in its corporate capacity . . should declare the conscientious belief of any man or body of men to be superstitious and idolatrous is utterly hateful ; and in our view utterly inconsistent with tolerance and liberty of conscience. The declaration was due to panic, and even if excuses can be found for panic at the time when the Act was passed, none are to be found now.
The Saturday Review, which is also a journal of some eminence, wrote at the same time -
It is unfair to the King personally that he should be made to insult the religious feelings of a large number of his faithful subjects. Publicly to condemn all Roman Catholics as idolators is so gratuitously offensive as to become grotesque.
The Guardian, which is a Church of England newspaper, wrote -
The declaration is now meaningless as well as offensive, and a distress to the Sovereign who is compelled to use it.
On the occasion of the accession of King Edward VII. the Catholic Peers offered protest against the declaration-. This protest was hailed with a. chorus of approval by great organs of public opinion. The Times granted that -
Not unreasonably was exception taken to the contumelious epithets and provocative tone of the Oath.
The Guardian asked why ‘ ‘ the studied insult of calling all His “Roman Catholic subjects idolaters “ was to be retained; whilst the Pilot expressed pleasure that the making of the declaration had evoked “ a strong sense of its incongruous indecency,” and regretted that the King’s first public act was to offer Catholics - the worst insult that the perverted ingenuity of an age of controversy could suggest.
The Morning Post furnished an additional reason why the declaration should be abolished. In its issue of 13th May, this journal pointed out that -
Since this form of words was adopted, the dominion of the Crown has extended over countries whose people are, andalways have been, in communion with the See of Rome. In Malta, in Mauritius, in Canada are Soman Catholic communities who learn with horror and dismay that their Sovereign is obliged by law to use on the most solemn occasions expressions of contempt for the faith they hold more dear than life.
I shall conclude with an extract from the Manchester Guardian, which is a provincial newspaper of high repute in Great Britain. On the 16th May that journal wrote -
The sympathy of all moderate men, whether they belong to Protestant communions or not, is with the Roman Catholics in this matter. . . The present form of the Oath is a disgrace to the spirit of toleration, and the cause not only of pain to many millions of our countrymen who are Roman Catholics, but of shame to the majority who are not.
I propose to deal now with the point raised by the honorable member for North Sydney. He apparently holds that in view of the action of the House of Commons, the unanimity of public men and of all parties in Great Britain, in opposition to this declaration, any expression of opinion on the part of this Parliament is superfluous. I intend also to deal with a possible further objection that, as this Parliament possesses no power to alter the declaration, we ought not to meddle in the matter. I admit that both of these objections deserve to be seriously examined. As to the first, there is this to be said - that the Bill to alter the declaration has only passed its first reading in the House of Commons, and that the next stageof the measure has been postponed until November. We are aware that the political outlook in Great Britain at present is very hazy, and that there are very important measures pressing for adjustment there, which may delay this reform indefinitely. We know also that no change in the declaration can be made without the concurrence of the House of Lords, and it is to be apprehended from the composition of that House, that the alteration which the Commons is apparently prepared to make, may receive considerable opposition in the hereditary Chamber. But there is a still stronger reason. Being subjectsof the same King and having interests identical with those who seek to amend this declaration, it is our privilege and duty to lend them assistance. Surely they are entitled to ask, and to receive, the moral support of their fellow subjects here who sympathize with their efforts and object. But the main answer to all objections to our interference in this matter is that the King of Great Britain is also our King. To anything which he does as King, we cannot be indifferent. It affects us just as intimately as it does our fellow citizens in the Old Land. We have not the power to alter or revoke the declaration, certainly, but we have the right to express to the Sovereign our desire that he may be relieved from the painful necessity of making it. There is no reason to suppose that such an expression of opinion by us will be unacceptable to His Majesty’s Advisers. On the contrary, seeing that it accords with their expressed policy regarding this declaration, the probability is that they will welcome our views. I certainly hope they will. As a general rule, it is no doubt high wisdom for this Parliament to confine itself closely to matters within the scope of its constitutional authority. Because interposition in affairs external to Australia savours somewhat of an invitation to others to meddle in our domestic concerns. But I remind honorable members who are new to this House that we have never taken a rigidly narrow view of our prerogatives in this regard. Whenever the interests generally of the Empire were affected, we have not hesitated to offer our advice. We did so when Chinese coolies were being dumped into the Transvaal, and when an exaggerated report reached us that a Russian fleet had attacked some British fishermen in the North Sea. Neither of these incidents directly touched the interests of Australia, yet this House adopted resolutions of admonition to the Imperial Government. Again, both Houses of this Parliament, by substantial majorities, resolved to advise the Imperial Government to grant Home Rule to Ireland. So that the motion with which we have now to deal breaks no new ground in this regard. It follows strictly the precedents already set by this Parliament, and those set earlier and oftener by the Parliament of Canada. When this point first arose in the Canadian Parliament, which was very many years before it arose here, Sir Wilfrid Laurier declared that “ Canada :ad earned and found her place’ in the Empire,” and that this gave her the right and privilege of a word on questions outside her legislative sphere indeed, but affecting the interests of the Empire or its parts. The then Leader of the Canadian Opposition, “Mr. Borden, was even more pronounced. His remarks are extremely pertinent to the object of this motion. He said -
We are a portion of the British Empire. The compact which the King makes with his people, when he ascends the throne, is a compact with us as well as with the people of the Mother Country, and it should not be expressed in terms which are offensive to a large body of citizens.
It can be claimed for this motion that it comes more nearly within our constitutional rights than any other -which we have adopted in relation to matters external to Australia. In every other instance so far in which we have interfered in outside affairs, cur interest was indirect and remote. In this matter our interest is direct and our obligation personal. As I have already said, the King is our King, and, on behalf of a million of his Australian subjects - our constituents - we are entitled to ask that His Majesty shall no” longer be required to declare their cherished beliefs to be “ superstitious and idolatrous.” Some objection to the phraseology of this motion has been raised by a Melbourne newspaper. The Argus thinks its terms “ curt and needlessly emphatic,” and suggests that they may “ arouse acrimonious controversy touching the fundamental question.” As no extract from the motion is quoted in support of these statements, I am unable to say in what particular the motion is at fault. After considering it again carefully, I see nothing in it to which any rational or unbiased mind could reasonably take exception. However, I am not wedded to any precise form of words, and I shall welcome a bond fide amendment which leaves intact the central and essential features of my motion. I may add, for the information of honorable members, that it has been modelled largely on the Address, already referred to, which the Canadian Parliament presented to His late Majesty on the subject. I have a copy of that Address here, but I shall not detain the House by reading it.
– Why not read it?
– It is rather lengthy. Any departure which I have made from the language of the Canadian Address is in the direction of brevity and moderation. The motion I have now the honour to submit is, indeed, studiously moderate and respectful, as all messages addressed to the Sovereign should be. It is a temperate statement of unquestioned facts, coupled with a prayer couched in sober and becoming terms. In conclusion, I venture to hope that in my remarks I have preserved throughout the conciliatory spirit of the motion itself. As suggested in the beginning, this question is charged with painful memories ; but I trust that I have handled it without awakening any of them, and that in commending this proposal to the favorable consideration of the House, I have uttered no word of irritation or offence to any fair-minded citizen of Australia.
– J beg to second the motion. When the honorable member for Coolgardie gave notice of this proposal the other day. ‘I must say 1 was very much surprised to find there was a declaration so worded in existence ; and. in my opinion, there has been too long a delay in dealing with the matter. But, as the honorable member said very rightly, he has moved his motion, and worded it, too, in the most temperate terms, and his speech should commend it to all honorable members. As to an interjection when the honorable member was speaking, suggesting that we should not interfere, I remind honorable members, as the mover reminded them just now, that the -King is our King as we’ll as King of the people of England ; and I think we have a special right to interfere if we choose in a matter of this kind, even a greater right than we had in those cases to which reference has been made. I for one sincerely trust that the House will carry this motion, and without much debate.
.- Like the honorable member for Hume, I must compliment the honorable member for Coolgardie on the excellent temper he displayed in his address, and on the indication throughout that, if the motion, while retaining its substance, can be improved in phraseology or reduced in compass, he will have no reasonable objection. I take it that the object of the honorable member’s motion is to express, through their representatives, the general if not universal sense of the people of a Commonwealth in which, happily, for the affairs of civil life, there are’ no distinctions of creed, that the time has come for the omission from an oath, in which the essential relations of Crown and subject are stated, of terms unnecessarily and directly offensive to about twelve millions of British subjects throughout the Empire. The terms of the declaration, it must be remembered, were framed at a time when men had not yet learned the real elements of religious toleration; when it was thought, or alleged - for some nt the statesmen of those days were by no means models of sincerity - that ihe Protestant succession was in danger ; when British liberty - that liberty which was extolled, and justly extolled, for its breadth by the Frenchman, DeLolme, and by Curran, as being commensurate with and inseparable from British soil - was still, as Burke said, for many, a liberty of penalties, a liberty of incapacities, a liberty made up of exclusion and proscription. Why, in those days, as the honorable member has shown by his reference to the Acts, not only the Crown, but the Catholic subjects of the Crown, were obliged to renounce the Pope in his religious and socalled political capacity. But, as the adage says, “ times change, and we change with them.” The spirit of intolerance which once, perhaps, in varying degrees, was displayed by mistaken zealots of every creed, is not the spirit of our days. There may, perhaps, be a remnant still left untouched by the finer temper of our time; for the political organism, like the human body, moves to perfection by degrees, and for a time retains some elements not quite in harmony with the surroundings of a better age. But we now know and recognise in our laws and institutions - in all except one - the oath in which the reciprocal duties of the people and the Crown are expressed - that the worth of a man, as subject and citizen, does not depend on the accident of his birth or creed ; that all subjects alike, no matter at what altar they may worship, have loyally observed the provisions of the Act of William and Mary, which binds the people, through their representatives, to stand by, maintain, and defend, the line, being Protestant, of the succession to the Crown. We must remember, also, that the oath,’ in its essence, is intended to give formal expression to the duties which the Sovereign owes. his subjects, and which exist without the oath - that, in fact, as I think Blackstone points out, the object is simply “ to govern according to law, to execute judgment in mercy, and to maintain the established religion.” The oath binds the Sovereign to maintain, until altered according to law, the Protestant Church in England, and the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, and to himself profess the tenets of the English Church ; but conformity to the principles, not too fluctuating for definition, of the established religion, is best assured by affirmation, not by negation ; by as, in the case of the Presbyterian Church, the method of definition, not abjuration; by confession of the essential doctrines of one Church, not by protestation of the assumed principles, or wrongly imputed practices, of another. It would, of course, be unbecoming in rae. and, in fact, impertinent, for a moment to suggest the feelings in this matter of the present dignified occupant of the Throne; but one must recognise the united force of prestige and heredity, and we know that among the many kingbecoming graces which endeared the last Sovereign to his people were his universal sympathy and splendid toleration. We must’ also remember - and I refer to this in no invidious sense - that the religious faith which is subjected to obloquy under a misapprehension or perversion of its real significance was the faith of England for nearly a thousand years- the faith of the founder of that Abbey in which the Kings and Queens of England, Catholic and Protestant alike, are buried - that Imperial mausoleum in which so many tombs and epitaphs speak of the illustrious dead, once of different creeds but now of common certitude, who made England what it is; those sceptred sovereigns of the mind who still rule our spirits from their urns. It is impossible for even the dullest and most commonplace of us to take up his Shakespeare without feeling that he has passed again into the atmosphere of that Christianity which Augustine gave to Britain, or remembering the many generations of Englishmen who have passed to their last account as adherents of that ancient Church. However much we may honestly differ as to its tenets, the Catholic Church has at least some historic claims upon our filial instincts of reverence and respect. I feel that this House will, like the honorable member, approach this subject free from those narrow prejudices which are so alien .to the Christian spirit, and be guided only by the consciousness that the terms of the declaration are out of keeping with the finer spirit of this age, and really unworthy of a people whose character, on the whole, is, I believe, as frank and generous as their love of justice is proverbial and inspiring.
– Whatever view may be taken of the terms of the motion, I venture to say that there are very few earnest sensible people but will agree that its purport and true object is enlightened, and in keeping with the spirit of the present age.
The oath, as it stands at present, and which, if not amended, may be administered to the present King, contains words which I, at least, do not think necessary or agree with. No one could listen to the speech of the honorable member for Angas without feeling that, happily, the discussion of this matter can take place in these days without arousing those bitternesses and preconceptions under the influence of which people used to discuss questions of this nature. We can let reason hold sway without intolerance of any kind. I say quite frankly, and I am speaking without having consulted with my colleagues on the question at all, that I hope that not another Sovereign will be asked to subscribe to the oath as it was presented to his late Majesty King Edward VII. WhileI should have preferred the matter to be brought forward in another form, the honorable member who submitted it, iri a temperate speech reviewing the whole historical position, has, I think, done himself and his subject justice. There is one slight amendment I should like to suggest in the form of the motion, so as to define the position accurately. That is, in paragraph 3, to insert the word “ Roman “before the words “ Catholic subjects.”
– I have no objection.
– I think that amendment, would make it more clear and definite. In my view, this question stands apart from any other about which the Parliament of a self-governing Dominion might make representations to the Crown. In this case the King in taking the oath affects every subject of the British Empire. They are all either protected by it, or reflected on by it, * and we in Australia have no power over the election of members to the Houses of the British Parliament, which alone can alter the form of the oath to be submitted to the King. Further, those people who are living outside, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and who are aggrieved, have only two ways in which they can properly approach the Throne. One is by petition, and when they do petition they can only do so effectively through the representative of the Crown in their part of the Empire. The other way is to bring the matter before their Parliament, submit a motion for the approval of one or other of the Houses, and ask that it be sent to His Majesty as the deliberate determination of the elected representatives of the people. The honorable member for Coolgardie has chosen the latter course, and I venture to say that it is a course to which no person in the community can reasonably take exception. I do not agree with him that the matter is on all-fours with any other action taken by this Parliament in dealing with Empire questions. We may not be affected directly by even the most important matter of Home Rule. That may be considered to be a local matter, but this question concerns His Majesty’s subjects who are reflected upon in every other part of the Empire, and the method adopted by the honorable member is one of the only two ways open to them by which to approach the Throne. I find, on looking through the historical records of the Commonwealth, that this is not the only occasion on which the question has been raised. On 7th June, 1901, Cardinal Moran sent what I consider a very temperatelyworded letter to the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, asking him to convey, through the proper channel, to His Majesty’s Ministers in Great Britain, a protest against the form of the oath about to be administered to the late King. Sir Edmund Barton replied’ that he approved, as the Leader of the Government, of the transmission of that protest, and added -
I have pleasure in informing you that Ministers sympathize with the proposal for a revision of the language of the Coronation oath. They understand that it is the intention of His Majesty’s Government to take action for this purpose, and they have expressed their hope that it may be taken.’
That is practically ten years ago. Since then an even more enlightened public opinion has prevailed in Great Britain and in the oversea Dominions, and I hope that another twelve months will not pass before the request made now, and previously, by a distinguished leader of religious thought in this community, is granted, and the form of declaration amended in such a way as to receive the approval of those who complain. I have read with -the greatest pleasure the proposed amendment of the oath to be submitted to the King, which has received the support of a very large majority in the House of Commons. I feel sure that none of us will be worse, but that many will feel better, if the decision of the House of Commons is concurred in by the House of Lords, and the amendment made in November next. I am happy to find that a question of this kind can now be discussed in this Parliament in such a temperate manner. We are indebted to the honorable member for Angas for his earnest, fervent, and fair statement of the case. We ought to remember that some of the most distinguished citizens of the Empire, who hold the faith referred to, have their feelings quite unnecessarily outraged by the statements which are contained in the official oath in its present form. The honorable member for Angas referred to the Presbyterian oath, which contains none of the objectionable features of this oath, and no one suggests that any institution in Scotland is in danger because of their elimination. I have a whole list of oaths here, not one of which is so drastic as the oath as it stands at present.
– Can the Prime Minister read the form of oath that is proposed to be substituted?
– Unfortunately, although passed by the House of Commons, the exact terms are not yet available here. It is practically an oath to be taken by the King that he will maintain the Protestant religion. The Oath in regard to the Church of Scotland, taken by the late King at his first Council on the 23rd January, 1901, was as follows -
I, Edward VII., King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, do faithfully promise and swear that I shall inviolably maintain and preserve the settlement of the true Protestant religion, with the government, worship, discipline, rights, and privileges of the Church of Scotland as established by the laws made there in prosecution of the Claim of Right, and particularly by an Act intituled “ An Act for securing the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government,” and by the Acts passed in the Palliament of both Kingdoms for union of the two Kingdoms.
I shall be pleased if the tone “which has so far characterized the debate is maintained, and if any little effort on our part makes towards the settlement of this question, so important is it to millions of His Majesty’s subjects. The motion is correctly drafted, in my opinion, because in paragraph 1 we have the general reference - -
That since full freedom of religious belief and practice obtains throughout the Empire, the British Sovereign should not be called on to make any Declaration offensive to the religious convictions of any section of Your Majesty’s subjects.
That deals with all branches of religious thought and belief, whilst the succeeding paragraph particularizes, and rightly particularizes, the subject-matter of complaint. I hope to see the day when religious intolerance will be even less than it now is, and I join with the honorable member for Angas in the belief that we have outlived the feelings of the people who drew up the oath to the terms of which “exception is taken. If ever there was a time when the taking of such an oath was necessary that time has entirely passed away, and passed away to the advantage of His Majesty and his subjects.
.- The speech made by the honorable member for Coolgardie in introducing this motion was so pregnant with prudence, discretion, and close reasoning that I cannot help feeling that more justice would have been done to this Assembly if we had been given time to properly digest it. The honorable member, I think, was never heard to better advantage. That may have been because he took the course, which, in the circumstances, he was wise in taking, of practically preparing every word of his address. He was followed by the honorable member for Angas in the most eloquent speech to which this House has ever listened. Then the Prime Minister, who. as the leader of the Australian people, in a political sense, is best entitled to a hearing, made a speech in which he accorded his hearty approbation to the main purpose which the honorable member for Coolgardie Iws in mind. My only regret is that the Prime Minister, being so heartily in accord with the honorable member, should not have seen fit himself to draft the motion as submitted in order that we might realize that some party of persons was speaking with authority for the Australian people. For my own part, my main difficulty always in this House is to try to keep myself to voicing what I know to be the opinions of those who sent me here, and in dealing with this question, I find myself in some difficulty, in that it is hard to arrive at the opinions of the people upon it, when we have never had an opportunity to submit it to them. I do not say that that should necessarily debar us from considering this motion now ; but it ought certainly to necessitate our considering most carefully every word of it. One of the first statements which the honorable member for Coolgardie made, was that his whole anxiety was to avoid giving unnecessary offence to “ His Majesty’s loyal Catholic subjects.” He carefully disclaimed any intention of interfering, in any sense or form, with the Protestant succession; but if one examines this motion carefully, one finds that there .are possibilities of trouble in this connexion, however unintentionally those possibilities may have arisen in the wording of it. For instance, in paragraph 1 will be found die statement that no British Sovereign should be called upon to make “ any declaration offensive to the religious convictions of any section of His Majesty’s subjects.” Now, could it not be held, not by the honorable member himself, or by others who have spoken, but by some section of His Majesty’s subjects, that any declaration by His Majesty affirming his solemn undertaking not to belong to any other religion than that which is the law of the land in the Mother Country would be a declaration offensive to their religious susceptibilities? There is just such a possibility, and I mention it as showing that the honorable member was very wise and open-minded when he expressed his readiness to recast his motion so that, while carrying his main purpose, it would suit the temper of the House. The Prime Minister, likewise, appeared to wish to make the intention clearer by altering another paragraph. I am not so much concerned with that; but I do think that if the will of the mover of this motion be not to afford us time - say a week - to consider very carefully all that has been said this afternoon, and I can see by the smile on the face of the honorable member for Coolgardie that he is not tolerant of that view, then we might affirm the intention of the House - for I presume that the intention of the Government is obviously the intention of the majority of this House- as briefly, clearly, and unmistakably as possible. Tlie motion - if we are to accept the explanation of the mover - has two purposes, the first that the Protestant succession should not be endangered ; the second, that the feelingsof the King’s Catholic subjects should not be outraged. Might I suggest to the honorable member for Coolgardie, that he should amend his motion by omitting all the words after the word “ should “ in line 14, and amending it to read - . . We, Your Majesty’s loyal and dutiful subjects, the Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, desire most earnestly in our own name and on behalf of the People of Australia, to express our un. swerving loyalty and devotion to Your Majesty’s Person and Government, and to respectfully represent -
That since full freedom of religious belief and practice obtains throughout the Empire, the British Sovereign should be called on to make only such Royal Declaration as shall insure the true intention of the enactments securing the Protestant succession and the maintenance of the same.
My honorable friend will see that, by the use of the word “ only “-
– That opens up the whole question.
– It opens up nothing. On the contrary, the word ‘ ‘ only 1 ‘ confines the motion to the expression of our desire to redress what a majority of honorable members consider a wrong, and at the same time secures the existence of the present state of affairs regarding the Protestant succession in this Empire. The amendment which I suggest will cause the motion to serve all the purposes of the honorable member for Coolgardie, and make his determination clearer that in no sense is the Protestant succession to be aimed at.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Imperial Government can be trusted to do the right thing? The motion is only a general expression of opinion. The honorable member wishes to go further, and to specify what should be done.
– No: it is the honorable member who specifies what should be done. While he declares that his objects are as I have worded them, his motion offers a loophole for trouble, paragraph 1 declaring that-
The British Sovereign should not be called on to make any Declaration offensive to the religious convictions of any section of Your Majesty’s subjects.
The Prime Minister of England dealt with this matter when it came before the House of Commons. This is the Coronation Oath contained in the Bill now before that body -
I do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful member of the Protestant Reformed Church, by law established in England, and will, according to the true content of the enactments securing the Protestant succession, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my power according to law.
That the Sovereign of the United Kingdom should be called upon by Parliament to subscribe to that declaration might be held to be “ offensive to the religious convictions “ of a section of his subjects.
– Only by a great stretch of imagination.
– In religious controversies imaginations are sometimes stretched to almost unthinkable lengths. Our main object should be to avoid giving rise to keen sectarian differences. The carrying of a motion of this kind is fraught with the very serious danger of calling into existence the sectarian bitterness which, on its face, it purports to allay.
– I hope that it will not.
– I hope so, too. I trust that its proposer will make clear the terms of his motion. The House has been seriously influenced by the temperate speeches of supporters of the motion; but after all, the speeches of honorable members practically go no further than the four walls of this chamber. What will carry are the actual words of the motion. We should express in the clearest and most unmistakable terms we can apply the spirit of the speech which the mover addressed to the House. Unless we do so, I fear that in passing the motion we shall take a step which may be regarded as seriously at variance with the opinions of the people of this great Continent. None of us has had an opportunity to consult his constituents on this subject, so that we must all speak with the utmost diffidence regarding their views. But I think that probably a proposal to abolish the Protestant succession would not commend itself to those who sent us here.
– The motion does .not even suggest the abolition of the Protestant succession.
– Not only did the mover say that the motion is not intended to suggest the abolition of the Protestant succession, but he also claimed that he has no desire to interfere with it. But the terms of his motion are not so clear, and I have suggested a modification of it, which will do all that he asks without giving any person outside this chamber the opportunity to cavil at his proposal as going further than his speech would lead us to believe he intends to go. I commend my proposal to the earnest consideration of honorable members. I do not know that we should be asked to pass a motion of this kind after one day’s discussion. There is no great urgency. The House of Commons has already passed a Bill doing what the honorable member for Coolgardie asks.
– Only the first reading of that Bill has been carried ; the second reading has been postponed until November.
– That being so, what harm will be done if we take a week to consider a matter which is of some interest to those who have sent us here?
– The honorable member has had a fortnight in which to consider it.
– The mere words of a formal motion of this character are not clothed with argument. The honorable member for Coolgardie might have addressed himself to the motion in a thousand different tones. He chose the most reasonable and temperate mode of address, and that most likely to secure the passing of the motion. He took infinite trouble in preparing his arguments, and, therefore, we should have time to consider them. That is a fair and legitimate request.
– Does not the honorable member think that, this form having been adopted by the Canadian Legislature, we are warranted in adopting it?
– I have not heard any member of this Parliament lay down die principle that, because the Parliament of some other part of the British Dominions, or of some other country, has expressed its views in a particular way, we should express our views in the same way. If we can put our views in clearer and more concise language, we shall do credit to ourselves, and safeguard our action from misconception outside. The motion was submitted so temperately that to assume that some of its words may be misread may seem almost like picking holes in it. But it may be misread. Honorable members have only to examine it apart from the glamour of the speeches which have been made in support of it to find that that is so, and they will do themselves and the country no good if they pass a motion capable of creating sectarian strife. We should consider the matter wholly on its merits, as persons of liberal thought, and not do anything which will render us liable to the charge that we are exceeding the powers with which we have been clothed.
– Does the honorable member believe that the sense of this motion is in accordance with the sense of that carried in the House of Commons?
– This motion transcends that carried in the House of Commons. I crave indulgence for repeating myself, because I seem to be the only person who has offered a word of caution.
– Hear, hear ! What about the Leader of the Opposition and the deputy Leader?
– This is not a party question.
– The motion declares that the British Sovereign should not be called upon to make “ any declaration offensive to the religious convictions of any section of His Majesty’s subjects.” Let us suppose that a new religion has been called into existence, termed the Aztec religion, and let us assume that the Aztecs desire that the King* shall adopt their religion. The Aztecs would regard it as “ offensive “ if the King had to subscribe to a declaration that he must belong to some other religious denomination. It is conceivable: that such things may happen. We alii know the twists of religious controversy,, and it is quite possible that this particular twist may follow the adoption of the motion in its present form. I implore my honorable friend to reconsider the exact wording of the motion, and to endeavour to bring it more into conformity with the spirit which he exhibited in submitting it.
– Does the honorable member think that the motion isbased upon liberty and justice?
– The speech in which it was introduced by the honorable member for Coolgardie was based upon liberty and justice. But the amendment which I suggest is equally based upon those principles. My amendment emphasizes what the speech of the honorable member for Coolgardie emphasized, but what his motion does not emphasize, namely, that this House has no desire to interfere in any way with the Protestant succession in the Empire.
– The honorable member is merely asked to explain his explanation.
– I hope that my honorable friend will never be required to do that. I should like him to explain his interjection ; but I am afraid that he would occupy too much time in doing so. I have no wish to trespass further upon the patience of the House. I merely desire to afford the mover of the motion time to consider what I have put before him. If, out of hand, he professes himself opposed to my suggestion, I do not understand his attitude. I occupy a rather difficult position just now, because, under our Standing Orders, I shall be prevented from again addressing myself to this question.
– The honorable member is doing very well.
– I wish I could say the same of my honorable friend, for, although he has only to submit a motion to insure its acceptance by the Government, he has presented this proposal to them from a considerable distance. He reminds me cf the alien sun of some hidden constellation, infinitely distant, his brightness dimmed in the abyss of unfathomable space. There was a time when he scintillated on the front Treasury Bench-
– May I say that I expressed my views on this question ten years ago?
– I have this to say to the Prime Minister, that he never seems able to change his opinion.
– I have always hated bigotry.
– So does every honorable member of this House. My desire is merely to prevent a recrudescence of bigotry in the Commonwealth. If a certain section of the community interpret this motion to mean that the King’s Coronation oath shall contain no reference to religion, the Protestant sections of this people will claim that this Parliament has transcended its powers without asking them for their authority to do so. That is the -point which I wish to make; and I would urge my tolerant friends to translate into -actual words the spirit of their speeches in support of this motion. In conclusion, T welcome the “ desire of my honorable friends to assist the Mother Country in her embarrassing position. I take it that this “motion merely marks the first of a whole host of similar endeavours on their part, and on the part of the Commonwealth “Parliament, to go to her aid, not only in her hours of embarrassment, but in her hours of need. I am sure that my honorable friends will not only interest themselves in the terms of the oath which the Sovereign of England is required to take, but that they will do all they can to strengthen the power upon which that -sovereignty rests.
– The sovereignty of England - where is that?
– I forgot that my honorable friend hails from North of the Tweed.
– The honorable member is a Little Englander.
– I am not going to bandy -words with the honorable member as to whether a certain part of the United Kingdom, which is mainly inhabited by American millionaires-
– Well, the mover of the motion is apparently determined not to accept my suggestion voluntarily, so, in order to’ afford honorable members an opportunity for discussing this subject, I move -
That the word “ not,” line 14, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ be called on to make only such Royal declaration as shall insure the true intent of the enactments securing the Protestant succession and the maintenance of the same.”
– Although I am a member of the Church of England, I feel that the declaration which the Sovereign is required to make at his coronation contains matter which ought to be objectionable to the members of any religious body. I cannot see any objection to the motion in its present form, because the text of the oath itself will have to be prescribed by the Imperial Parliament. That body will decide the form of oath to be adopted, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will safeguard the Protestant succession. Therefore it does not seem to me that that question is really before the’ House. What we are asked to deal with is an objectionable feature of the Coronation oath, I feel that any person upon reading that oath with a knowledge of the tolerance exhibited by Britishers - a tolerance of which they are justly proud - must recognise that it does an injustice to a large section of our fellow countrymen. The Chinaman may have his Joss house in Victoria, and the Mahommedan his temple, and when any person from this country enters an Eastern temple he either removes his boots or covers them, so as to respect the religious beliefs of the people who worship there. Whyshould not we, living as we do in a Christian community, respect the feelings of our fellow Christians ? I cannot understand why any sectarianism should be introduced into this debate. To my mind, the question is simply one of toleration and fair play to those who meet us day after day in this House, and in every business avocation in which we are concerned. One sits on a Board of Directors with a man, or one meets a fellow member in this House, and one does not ask what his religious belief is. We consider the man himself, and form an opinion about him from his quality as a man. I trust that, for all time to come, that will be the feeling prevailing amongst British subjects.
– If you want to borrow a pound from a man, you do not ask what his religion is !
– No; but he may ask what yours is ! The adoption of this motion simply means that we, as loyal subjects of the King, suggest to the Imperial Parliament, as we have no power in the matter ourselves, that an alteration of the Coronation declaration should be made. We desire to strengthen the hands of those in England who are favorable to an amendment, and to show them what is the feeling of the Australian people. The
Canadian Parliament has adopted the same course, and I have no doubt that, if the Legislature of South Africa were asked to do a similar thing, it would consent. To take this course indicates that we take an interest in matters which are of concern to the whole Empire. It is true that we were, elected to this Parliament to deal with questions concerning Australia; but I take it the question now before us concerns every . man who has an interest in the British Empire. If the Coronation oath were offensive to Mahommedans, or Hebrews, or people of any other religious persuasion, I should take the same view as I do in regard to our Roman Catholic fellow citizens.. I am not actuated by a feeling favorable to one religion or another, but by motives of fair play. The temperate speeches made by the mover, by the honorable member for Angas, and by the Prime Minister were most convincing. I was especially glad to hear the Prime Minister, because it is well that the head of the Government should furnish the House with his opinion as early as possible. I do not look upon this as a party question. We should not take sides in such a matter. I should like to see the motion adopted without a division, so that we might let it go forth that we, as a community, wish to respect the feelings of those who have been reared in a different religion from most of us, but who worship the one Almighty, though in accordance with different forms.
– 1 rise to support the motion. It is a singular coincidence that we should be dealing with this subject in the State of Victoria, when it was the member for Victoria in the Canadian Legislature who moved a similar resolution a few years ago. I feel satisfied that if the honorable member for Wentworth, who has proposed an amendment, had read the terms of the Canadian resolution, he would have recognised that the motion submitted by the honorable member for Coolgardie is, almost sentence for sentence, couched in similar terms. I propose to read the Canadian resolution, and I submit it as a splendid example ‘ of the spirit of toleration pervading the Parliament of the great Dominion to the north of the United States. I feel sure .that those in Great Britain who are promoting the amendment of the Coronation oath will welcome a resolution from this House, as the expression of opinion from Canada was welcomed. The member for Victoria in the Canadian House of Commons moved, on ist March, 1901 -
That an humble address be presented to His Most Gracious Majesty the King, as follows : - “ Most Gracious Majesty. - Your Majesty’s most faithful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave most humbly to represent “ : -
That is almost word for word with the terms of the motion before us, which reads - “ May it please Your Majesty. - We, Your Majesty’s loyal and most dutiful subjects, the members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, desire most earnestly in our own name, and on behalf of the people of Australia, to express our unswerving loyalty .and devotion to Your Majesty’s person and Government, and to respectfully represent . . . .”
The Canadian resolution went on to say -
That as a token of the civil and religious liberties, and of the equality of rights guaranteed to all British subjects in the Canadian Confederation, as well as under the British Constitution, the British Sovereign should not be called to make any declaration offensive to the religious belief of any subject of the British Crown.
In the present motion we have the following words used : -
That, since full freedom of religious belief and practice obtains throughout the Empire, the British Sovereign should not be called upon to make any declaration offensive to the religious convictions of any section of Your Majesty’s subjects.
The language of the motion is rather more terse than that used in Canada, but it carries the same meaning. The Canadian resolution went on to say -
That by virtue of the Act of Settlement of 16S9, the British Sovereign, on the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament, or at the Coronation, is called upon to make the following declaration : -
Our motion says -
That the Act of Settlement passed in the year 16S9, requires the Sovereign, at the Coronation, or on the first day of meeting of the first Parliament after accession, to make the following declaration : -
Then the Canadian resolution quoted the exact words of the Coronation declaration,, which are as follows - “ I do solemnly and sincerely, in the presenceof God, profess, testify, and declare that I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper there is not any transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever; and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other saint, and the sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous ; and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration, and each and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me as they are commonly understood by English.
Protestants, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever, and without any dispensation already granted me for this purpose by the Pope or* any other authority or person whatsoever, and without any hope of such dispensation from any person or authority whatsoever, or without thinking that I amor can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration or any part thereof, although the Pope or any other person or persons or power whatsoever should dispense with or annul the same, or declare that it was null and void from the beginning.”
The motion before us also quotes the exact words of the declaration. The Canadian resolution concluded with the following expression of opinion -
That such declaration is offensive to the convictions of all Roman Catholics.
That the staunch loyalty of Your Majesty’s Roman Catholic subjects in Canada and throughout British possessions should exempt them from any offensive reference to the religion by their Sovereign.
That, in the opinion of this House, the above-mentioned Act of Settlement should be amended by abolishing the said declaration.
That also is very similar to the language used in the latter part of the motion before the House, except for alterations made for purposes of greater terseness. That great statesman who stands out in Canadian affairs, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, said in the debate -
The object of this motion does not at all affect the Protestant succession or the supremacy of the State Church in England or the Protestant religion.
If the honorable member for Wentworth were present, I think he would be prepared to accept the views of a man of the status of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. That gentleman went on to say -
There are two oaths to be taken by the King. In 1688, after the accession of William and Mary, the following form of oath was prescribed by Parliament, in a Statute passed the very year of the revolution, in 1688. The Sovereigns William and Mary took the following oath : - “The Bishop or Archbishop shall say -
Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this Kingdom of England and the dominions thereby belonging according to the Statutes in Parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same.
The King and Queen shall say - “ I solemnly promise so to do.”
Archbishop or Bishop -
Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law ? “
I need not go any further.
No citizen of the Empire, no matter what his religious belief, could raise any objection to that oath as administered to William and Mary. Later on, Sir Wilfrid Laurier said, referring to the same oath -
The motion of my honorable friend does not in any way propose to do away with that oath. If the motion of my honorable friend were to carry in this House, and if it were to be accepted by the Parliament of Great Britain, the Sovereign would still be forced to take the oath which I have now read.
That is to say, that, even if the British Parliament accepted and adopted the resolution carried by the Canadian Parliament, or the resolution now submitted in this House, under the law of England, the King would still be obliged to take the oath which I have just quoted. Sir Wilfrid Laurier also said -
In 1689 another Statute was passed, which extended to the King a Statute which had been for some time on the statute-book, and which was to apply to the subjects of the King. In the reign of Charles the Second, in 1677, a Statute had been passed which compelled all the members of the House of Lords, all the members of the House of Commons, and all the servants of the Crown, that is to say, all those who hold commissions under the Crown must take the following oath. I will recite it in order to make it clear, though it is familiar to all the members of this House, because it is the very oath that is embodied in the motion of my honorable friend from Victoria.
I have already quoted the terms of that oath, and it is referred to in sub-clause 2 of the motion moved by the honorable member for Coolgardie. It is unnecessary that I should repeat it; but Sir Wilfrid Laurier repeated it in the Canadian House of Commons, in order to add strength to his argument. This was an oath which was originally applied only to subjects of the King; and it has since been abolished, so far as concerns every subject of the King in the great British Empire. It is now only the King who is asked to take this oath, which is not demanded of the least of his subjects. With respect to the origin of this oath, I claim the attention of honorable members while I again quote Sir Wilfrid Laurier -
This oath is contained in the Statute entitled, “ An Act for the effectual preserving the King’s person and Government by disabling Papists from sitting in either House of Parliament.” In 1689 this Statute was extended to the King.
The passage of time has so proved the illogical character of this oath, that no citizen of the Empire is now called upon to make it. I have no doubt that the British House of Commons will be willing to receive this resolution from Australia, where the people possess a wider franchise, based upon justice, than exists in any other country in the world to-day, as they accepted the resolution passed by the Canadian Parliament, as a suggestion for the removal of the last remnant of an unjust law passed in times, the shadow of which rests only upon England. I shall not labour the question. In view of the clear and concise terms in which the mover of the motion submitted it, the few rugged sentences of that fine fighter, the honorable member for Hume, who was privileged to second it, a privilege which I should gladly have availed myself of, and the eloquent address of the honorable member for Angas, which raised the level of debate in this House, I hope the amendment will be set aside, and that the motion, which is in unison, and almost identical with the motion carried in the Canadian Parliament, will be agreed to, and will be sent to the Old Country to add to the influence of the Canadian motion. I have visited almost every Possession of the Empire; and I, knowing something of the vast varieties of religion practised within its bounds, and that there are something like 300 registered religions in the city of London alone, have never harboured a thought, uttered a word, or raised a finger against any human being on the ground of his religion. No form of religion can exist Upon this earth unless the Creator himself permit. If there be diversity of religious thought, it must be because the Creator permits it. Surely we may expect that the British House of Commons will be willing to accept a suggestion in this matter from a Parliament which represents the highest form of democratic government, and relieve a man of the wide thought and culture of the present Sovereign of Great Britain and Emperor of India, of the obligation to utter - in audible tones, in accordance with the Act - words which must give offence to many of his subjects. Surely it would please his great predecessor, that dead King whose spirit has hardly yet passed beyond our ken, and he would rejoice if his son should not be asked to do what he regretted having to do. If the House passes the motion, it will be preserved in our archives, and will never, I hope, have to be repeated in any portion of His Majesty’s Dominions. I feel sure that the Imperial Government will so change the present form of the declaration, that it will contain words which cannot offend a single human being made in God’s glorious likeness, no matter what his religious belief may be.
.- I feel the very greatest diffidence in addressing myself to the motion now before the House. I highly commend the terms of extreme moderation which have characterized the debate from its inception. We all know that we are treading on delicate ground. We understand how these questions affect different phases of thought existing among the people of the Commonwealth. We know the light in which many regard them, and, for this reason, we cannot be too careful, or exercise too great a discretion in a matter of this description. To my mind, the terms of the motion are calculated, to a certain extent, to bring about the very results we desire to avoid. As the honorable member for Wentworth pointed out, honorable members who have spoken in favour of the motion as it stands have declared that they have not the slightest intention, good, bad, or indifferent, of interfering with the Protestant succession in the British Empire. That being so, the motion should, in my opinion, make the intention perfectly plain and clear, as could be done, whilst securing the very end the honorable member for Coolgardie has in view, namely, the removal from the Imperial statute-book of any section of a declaration which touches the religious susceptibilities of any of our people. I feel sure that every one has the fullest possible sympathy with devout Roman Catholics, who feel that the words which are placed on the lips of our Sovereign at the Coronation encroach on their religiousbeliefs and feelings. At the same time, as this is a Protestant Empire, and Protestantism is in itself the guarantee of our religious beliefs and complete freedom in regard to them, I think that whatever declaration be made by the Sovereign should fully declare that he is and will remain of the Protestant faith. For this reason I cannot accept the motion in its present form; it does not express on behalf of this House the opinion that the Sovereign should state distinctly that he is Protestant and will so remain. I shall, therefore, support the amendment in preference to the motion ; but I hope the honorable member for Coolgardie will see his way to meet honorable members by framing his proposal on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Wentworth. It would be the greatest pity for this House to be divided on a matter of this, sort ; and, as I have already indicated, we can so word our message as to prevent division and avoid the possible raising of a bitter sectarian spirit amongst the people on behalf of whom we are called upon to legislate.
– I have no desire to postpone this question, but, on the contrary, I am prepared to vote at once, and to vote against the motion in its present form. I have to express the fullest approval of the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Coolgardie, and to compliment him on the temperate and well-thought-out address in which he submitted the proposal ; also to express my great admiration of the noble sentiments underlying the excellent speech of the honorable member for Angas. I dare say the honorable member for Coolgardie has a difficulty in reconciling the fullest approval of the reasons given tor the motion, with a declaration of my determination to vote against it; but I take up my present position, because I think the motion is not in the form best calculated to secure the unanimous approval of honorable members. The motion is framed in a way to satisfy to the very fullest one section of the community, and to dissatisfy lo the utmost another section ; and for that reason I intend to oppose it. At the same time I will go as far as he who goes furthest in expressing condemnation of the form of oath the law imposes on our gracious Sovereign. I should like to read, though it is somewhat lengthy, a letter written by the Bishop of Carlisle to the London Times on 17th May last, as follows : -
I think I may truthfully say that I am a thorough-going anti-Papalist. I disbelieve every distinctive doctrine of the Roman Church which separates it from the Reformed Church of England. Papal infallibility is to me an incredible delusion and the claims of the Papacy to ecclesiastical jurisdiction over these realms an offence of the gravest kind. But it is for these very reasons that I deplore the statutory obligation laid on the Sovereign to make at his first meeting with his Parliament a Declaration which, however true in itself, is in its form contrary to the highest interests of truth. It is my Protestantism which compels me lo protest against this Declaration.
The Declaration is so fashioned as to defeat its own aims. The great aim of the Declaration is to prevent Papalism from gaining a firm foothold in the Dominions of the King. But history and experience alike testify that nothing more strongly conduces to the success of a cause than unfair treatment. Under ill-treatment even a bad cause is apt to appear good. Harshness evokes sympathy. If persecution stops short nf extermination, it is the best of all nourishments to that which is persecuted. Spit upon falsehood, and falsehood thrives on the spittle. Insult error, and error gains by the insult; whereas generosity is deadly to it. Many vicious pleas have won favour simply owing to the indignities piled on their advocates. As injustice is an enemy of justice, so toleration is a friend of truth. The Scriptural faith, strong in its own truthfulness,’ can afford to despise the rotten bulwarks of intolerance and insult. They deform its beauty and retard its growth. It is just because I am jealous of the noble grandeur of Protestant principles and Protestant truth that I earnestly desire the withdrawal of this Declaration in its present form ; it being not only a stain on our statutes and a blemish on the charities of the Gospel, but also, by its gratuitous offensiveness, a help to the errors it condemns and an ally to the adversary it dreads. ls there not also glaring impropriety and insufferable hardship in forcing on the Sovereign’s lips language which makes Christian courtesy shudder, and which” must ‘be detestable and pain-giving to millions of his most true and loyal subjects? Such language cannot but inflict sharp misery on an honorable and sympathetic Sovereign, who needs no such appendix to the Bill of Rights and his Coronation oath to conserve his loyalty to the Protestant succession ; while if there should ever arise a Sovereign subtle and dishonorable, the Declaration would be entirely futile. The Declaration is needless to honour and worthless to dishonour. Again, is it not an absurdity, and worse, to have Roman Catholic Prime Ministers in the Colonies and Roman Catholic Ministers of Stale at home, and then to require their Sovereign Lord to denounce as idolatrous their most cherished convictions? Is it fair in us to treat Roman Catholics, who at any rate are Christians, with a measure of theological bitterness which we do not mete out to Mahomedan and other non-Christian fellow-subjects? The King is not, and cannot be, as a private person in these matters. As his subjects of every creed are bound to him by dutiful and devoted allegiance, so is he bound to them by a Royal and Imperial considerateness. In our insularity we are apt to forget the King’s vast Dominions beyond the seas and his Sovereign relation to them as well as to us - a relation scarcely in existence when this Declaration was framed and in reference to which it is a glaring anachronism.
That statement is on all-fours with, and even more strongly put than, the arguments of the honorable member for Coolgardie. I indorse every word that the Bishop “of Carlisle has written here, and yet I will not support the motion in its present form. I do not have to wait for any directions from outside, and am prepared to give my vote this afternoon. My reason for taking that attitude towards the motion is that if His Eminence Cardinal Moran, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in this community, had been desirous of addressing the British Crown on this subject, he would have drawn out a motion word for word with this, and a House of this character, representing, as it does, and must, various sections of the community, should not adopt a form of petition of the nature which I declare this to be.
We can uphold our notions of liberalism, abhor all kinds of intolerance, express our opinion fearlessly as to what should be done in these days of advancement to remove anachronisms wherever they appear, but we do not want to use this; House as the engine of any sectarian body in this community in such a way as to give offence to any other numerous portion of the people. While telling the honorable member that I agree with every reason he advanced/ reading him this letter of the Bishop of Carlisle, and saying from my heart that I believe in every word in it, I yet suggest to the honorable member that he should agree to some such modification of the motion as will give an outcome which we can safely say expresses the spirit of the people of Australia, and not the spirit of a section only. If the honorable member is prepared to accept it, I am willing to move that the motion be referred at once to a Select Committee, appointed in any way the honorable member likes, to draft such a petition or memorial to the Crown as will adequately express what I feel sure is the common opinion of the House - a detestation of the present form of oath, and a desire, that it should be taken off the statutebook of Great Britain, and the King allowed to take a form of oath, similar to that already proposed by the British Prime Minister - an oath designed to preserve the Protestant succession, and yet leaving no room for cavil on account of its offensiveness to any section of the community. That would be quite sufficient for us to do. It is not desirable for us to be always interfering in these matters. I know the honorable member for Coolgardie takes a very different view from me on that question,’ but if we can interfere this week, and occupy a Jot of time on this discussion, there are not wanting other subjects to engage our attention. I entertain very definite opinions as to what should be done with the House of Lords at Home, and as a member of the Empire I could claim the right to bring forward a motion urging the Government to introduce measures to reform that body. So we could go on from week to week occupying our time with these British or Imperial questions, which we had better leave alone when we can do no good with them. When we were dealing with the South African question, we were dealing with a subject that came closely home to us - a question of policy that affected us very largely. So it might happen with a number of other things, but in this question, while we can feel, and act under that feeling, that the form of the oath is disgraceful and unnecessarily insulting to a section of the community, we ought not to be taking measures for presenting memorials to the Government or the Crown when we know definitely that, whichever way we act, it is already a foregone conclusion that the British Government will very shortly, on its own initiative, amend the terms of the oath in the direction which the common sense of this House hopes for. If, on the other hand, it is felt thai we should send some such memorial Home, and if the honorable member for Coolgardie is clear that he is not beating the drum ecclesiastical, but simply wishes to uphold the principles of liberty and good sense, he will agree to the appointment of a Committee from all sides, and representing all opinions in the House, so that we may have sent Home an address which will represent the common sense and the intellectual conceptions of freedom and toleration of the general body of the people, instead of a motion which, by its very nature, seems to emanate from only one section of the community.
.- This is one of those motions which are always bound to cause trouble when brought into a legislative assembly, and yet it is, I suppose, unavoidable. It represents one of those responsibilities which, being a portion of the Empire, we must take. The honorable member who moved the motion, and those who have spoken in favour of it, have used very eloquent terms which have been approved by honorable members opposite ; but, no matter what language was used, there would be somebody in the House likely to raise the sectarian cry. Even if the proposition of the honorable member for North Sydney, to refer the matter to a Select Committee., were adopted, somebody would be found in the House endeavouring to make political capital out of it. The danger of introducing a motion of this kind is shown by the silence of honorable members who, on other questions, are like greyhounds straining in the leash. They are silent because they know what the discussion of such a motion means. It is like the discussion of the Home Rule motion. I voted for that, and honorable members will be surprised to know that, in 1906, I was penalized in my State as a Senate candidate for voting for it, and penalized also because it was said that I voted against it.
– Order ! The honorable member must not deal with that question.
– I submit that I am in Order, as the right of any member to introduce a motion of this kind has been questioned; and other motions which have been brought forward in the House have been referred to as a reason why the honorable member for Coolgardie should be allowed to have this matter debated.
– The honorable member will be quite in order in referring to other motions; but not in order in debating them.
– I am simply showing the House what occurred to me as a representative through having voted for one of these motions.
– “ What happened to Higgs?”
– I think that the honorable member is wondering what will happen to him if he speaks to this motion.
– I was a member of a Government which communicated its views on this question nearly ten years ago.
– Then I “withdraw what I said. I am prepared to vote on any question that may be brought before the House having to do with the happiness, well-being and contentment of the people, and I am ready to vote for the motion as it stands. I certainly cannot read into it that which the honorable member for Wentworth professes to see. The honorable member said that he desired a week to consider it, but I think that it must have taken him more than a week to discover in this motion anything indicating that those who support it wish to place a Roman Catholic upon the throne. He professes to see such a desire in the words setting forth that His Majesty - should not be called upon to make any declaration offensive to the religious convictions of any section of Your Majesty’s subjects, but I find it impossible to read into them such a meaning. If the honorable member means what he says, if it is not his desire to raise any sectarian trouble in Australia, . than he will withdraw the amendment, for if it be put those who vote against it will be deemed by a certain section of the community to be in favour of placing a Roman Catholic on the throne. That is not the question at issue, and it should not enter into this discussion, but since the honorable member has raised it, I presume that he intends to press his amendment to a division.
– When did he raise that question ?
– He raised it by moving to leave out all the words after the word “ should “ in line 14 with a view to insert words to the effect that the King should be called upon to make only such a declaration as shall insure the true intention of the enactments securing the Protestant succession and the maintenance of the same. To carry such an amendment would be in effect to negative the motion moved by the honorable member for Coolgardie.
– The honorable member outlined such an amendment, but he moved first of all merely to omit the word “ not “ in line 14. That is the amendment now before the Chair.
– In order to meet the wishes of the honorable member for North Sydney and to cut the ground from under the feet of representatives like the honorable member for Wentworth, I would be prepared to support an amendment to leave out the words ‘ 1 not be called on to make any declaration offensive to the religious convictions of any section of Your Majesty’s subjects “ and to insert in lieu thereof the words “ not be called on to make the declaration set forth in paragraph 2.” Judging from what he has said that should meet the wishes of the honorable member for North Sydney, and I give notice that as soon as the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth shall have been dealt with I shall propose an amendment in the terms I have indicated. That simple amendment ought to meet the wishes of all parties. There are certain verbal alterations that I should also like to make to the motion ; but I do not suppose that the honorable member for Coolgardie would be prepared to accept them, and as they may be regarded as unimportant, I shall, not take up the time of the House by moving them.
– Would they alter the sense of the motion, or are they merely, verbal ?
– I have no wish to alter the sense of the motion, which, I take it, is that we desire to express our opinion that the declaration which the King is called upon to make is objectionable. The honorable member for Coolgardie proposes that “ An humble Address be presented to His Majesty,” and my contention is that the King has nothing whatever to do with the matter; he cannot alter the declaration, or make or amend any law. That being so, the petition should be addressed to “ Mr. Speaker and the Members of the House of Commons/’ and should come from “the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.” Another amendment which ought to be made has relationto the statement in the motion that the! House of Representatives speaks “on behalf of the People of Australia.” The House of Representatives, “ in Parliament assembled,” could hardly do that. We must not forget that there is another branch of this Legislature, although the motion seems to ignore the Senate.
– The form is that employed in all previous Addresses adopted by this House.
– The honorable member proposes to use the words -
We, Your Majesty’s loyal and dutiful subjects, the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, desire most earnestly in our own name, and on behalf of the People of Australia ….
– The honorable member does not say that we do not represent the people of -Australia?
– The House of Representatives cannot of itself speak “ on behalf of the People of Australia,” because there is in existence another branch of the Legislature. Passing away from these details, may I say that I am interested in noticing the failure of certain honorable members to raise their voices in protest) against the King being called upon to make a declaration of any kind, since I have heard some of them object to the Labour party signing a pledge to advocate a certain programme. I should prefer - and the position would be met very well in this way - to see the King called upon simply to sign a declaration or to take an oath such as we have to take on entering Parliament. I invite honorable members to mark the difference between the oath that the King is required to take and that to which we have to subscribe. The Australian oath of allegiance is this -
I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George V. his heirs and successors according to law.
Our form of affirmation is -
I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm th.u I will bc faithful and bear true allegiance- to His Majesty King George V. his heirs and successors according to law.
I might notice in passing that the man who takes the oath is not asked to “solemnly and sincerely ‘ ‘ swear, while the man who makes an affirmation is required to “solemnly and sincerely “ affirm.. Hon orable members who contrast the simple forms of declaration which I have just read with the Coronation Oath will see the reasonableness of the proposal of the honorable member for Coolgardie. I do not know whether I shall be in order in moving an amendment now.
– The honorable member had better move it at a later stage.
.- This subject has been brought before the House in a manner to which no exception can be taken. It is a matter for congratulation that the tone and temper of the discussion on both sides has been so calm, fair, even-minded, and judicial. I was greatly impressed with the manner in which the objects of the motion were put forward by the honorable member for Coolgardie, and supported by the honorable member for Angas. I agree with them that the survival of certain parts of the historical declaration in the Coronation Oath to which attention has been drawn can hardly be justified in the light of modern thought and modern liberalism, and is unnecessary under modern forms of government. But with the greatest respect for the mover of the motion, I can hardly vote for it as it stands, and I hope, therefore, that he will see his way to agree to an amendment in form which, while not interfering with his proposal to eliminate certain objectionable, or, as he terms them, “offensive” portions of the King’s declaration, will leave what is to remain clear, certain, and beyond challenge. The honorable member has declared that he does not wish to impair or to abolish the principle of the Protestant succession recognised in the Act of Settlement. But, as the motion is drawn, it asks us to suggest the elimination of certain words without indicating what form the oath or declaration shall take after the elimination has been made. In that lies the weakness of the proposal. There ought to be no doubt as to what is to remain after the proposed elimination has been made.
– We should go too far were we to suggest what form the declaration should take.
– If it is our right to suggest elimination, it is equally our right to suggest an amended or modified form of declaration. We have knowledge of the oath or form of declaration provided for in the Bill submitted to the House of Commons by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the 30th June last, and 1 am prepared to support this motion if it affirms the principle of that declaration, which has been supported by Mr. Balfour and a large majority in the House of Commons. Of course, the matter has not been finally dealt with, because the second reading of the measure has been postponed until November next. Apparently, however, the two great parties in the House of Commons concur as to the form which the oath :ir declaration shall take. The Sovereign is to be required to declare his adhesion to the Protestant religion and to the Protestant succession. It would meet my views if paragraph 4 of the motion were made to read -
This House is therefore of opinion that the declaration required by the Act of Settlement -should be amended as proposed by the Bill int reduced into the House of Commons by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the 30th day of June, 1910.
If those words are introduced, we shall know, not only .what words it is proposed to eliminate from the Coronation Oath, but also what words it is thought should take their place. I do not feel justified in supporting a proposal merely for the elimination of words. There should be no misunderstanding as to our meaning. The motion as it stands is open to the objection taken by the honorable member for Wentworth that there is no absolute certainty as :t:o what is to remain after the proposed elimination has been made. Our object in suggesting the elimination is not made plain. As reasonable and loyal subjects we may fairly concur in suggesting the elimination of antiquated expressions which have lost their historical force and significance. The words which are objected to may have been of tremendous import to the framers of the Act of Settlement, but the need for them has passed away. Stiil the fundamental principle of that measure, the affirmation of the Protestant succession, must be maintained in any form of oath or declaration made by the Sovereign. The honorable member for Coolgardie admits that he does not wish to interfere with the Protestant succession. That statement clears the way for a proper enunciation of our views. If the honorable member agrees to the amendment which I have indicated, he will secure a much larger support for his motion, and’ will carry it in a form in which it will be least objectionable to the people of the country. I hope at a later stage to move the amendment which I have outlined.
.- I listened with a very great deal of pleasure to the able address delivered by the hon orable member for Coolgardie; and I was exceedingly pleased with the distinct terms in which he avowed that he had no desire to interfere in any way with the Protestant succession. In view of that statement, I fail to agree with the honorable member for Capricornia that the adoption of a motion of this character will inevitably lead to trouble. I believe that there is amongst us a sufficient spirit of religious tolerance to enable this House, as a deliberative assembly, and the great mass of the people of this country, to arrive at a settlement of this question without serious trouble or friction. I seconded the amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth because it appears to me that the motion expresses what we do not desire to convey, and fails to express what we do wish to convey. Undoubtedly, the amendment which has been submitted by the honorable member for Bendigo, would, in a large measure, fit the case. Still, I think that the amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth would, if adopted, prove equally effective. It is idle for this House to affirm a resolution unless it feels satisfied that it has the great majority of the people behind it. To adopt the proposal of the honorable member for Coolgardie in its original form, might be perfectly satisfactory to one section of the community, but utterly unsatisfactory to another section. If we intend to place upon record a motion of this character, we must express in it what we really desire. My own view is that we should absolutely fail to do this unless some reference were made in it to the Protestant succession. It is for that reason that the amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth should commend itself to the honorable member for Coolgardie. 1 am inclined lo think that the latter would best serve his own purpose if he consented to an adjournment of the debate. The question is an important one - perhaps more important than it appears to be upon the surface. The very fact that we are all prepared to discuss it in a deliberative frame of mind, should indicate to him that we are anxious to come into line so that the motion shall express cur real sentiments. Quite a number of appeals have been made to the honorable member to agree to an adjournment of the discussion, and I should like him to consent to that course of action. So far as sectarianism is concerned, my own opinion is that the less we have of it the better. 1 am very sorry that it has been imported into politics. But that is a fact. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any way of surmounting this difficulty. It is because we recognise that sectarianism is an evil, that we should be extremely careful in any step we may take, not to engender a suspicion which, instead of allaying that evil, would go far to aggravate it.
.- I think that the honorable member for Coolgardie should be congratulated upon having chosen a very opportune time to bring this matter before the House. We are all interested in the Coronation of King George V., and we all agree with the honorable member that the feature which he wishes to remove from the Coronation Oath is objectionable, not only to Roman Catholics, but to many others who do not belong to that faith. I am unable to see any force in the suggestion that a decision upon this matter should be postponed. It has been before the House for several weeks, and it is a question upon which honorable members can experience no difficulty in making up their minds. I listened with considerable interest to the speech delivered this afternoon by the honorable member for North Sydney, who is usually logical; and I was surprised to find that, for once, he took up a very illogical position. He protested very vigorously against any interference by the Commonwealth Parliament in a matter of this kind, contending that it ought to be left to the Imperial Parliament. Yet, immediately afterwards, he threw out a suggestion which goes even further than does the proposal of the honorable member for Coolgardie, namely, that we should identify ourselves with the question to the extent of appointing a Committee to report upon it ; that we should await its decision, and then perhaps have another debate upon the subject. If we adopted his suggestion, those who fear the importation of sectarianism into a matter of this kind, would be only getting out of the frying pan into the fire. A plain, straightforward proposal is before the House, and one with which it can easily deal upon its merits. I am not one of those who believe that neither this Parliament nor any State Parliament has a right to discuss a matter which particularly affects the people of the United Kingdom. On the contrary, I think that this motion marks a step in the right direction - the direction of securing more intercommunication between the Imperial Parliament and the Parliaments which have sprung from that great mother. I would welcome a discussion in the British House of Commons on many questions which are primarily of Australian importance, but which are, to some extent, of interest even to the people of the Old Land. I would like, for instance, a debate to take place in the House of Commons upon our defence proposals. Further, I would welcome suggestions from that august body upon the subject of immigration. There are many other matters upon which an interchange of opinion between ourselves and the British Houses of Parliament would be both interesting and profitable. Therefore I have no hesitation whatever in dealing with the question before us, and I intend to give a vote in support of the motion, though I think that the suggestion of the honorable member for Bendigo is one which the mover might very well take into consideration. As an eminent constitutional authority, the honorable member has made a suggestion which it would be safe to follow, namely, that we should indicate our preference for the form of oath now proposed by the British Government. I take it that that form of oath is universally welcomed by the Roman Catholics of Great Britain. If that be so, I venture to think that the honorable member for Coolgardie would be strengthening, not weakening, his case by adopting the suggestion. At any rate, 1 fail to see anything in the motion that threatens, either directly or indirectly, the Protestant succession. I cannot read anything of that nature into the proposed address. It says emphatically that all that is aimed at is the elimination of words reflecting upon the religious principles of over 12,000,000 of His Majesty’s most loyal and devoted subjects. It leaves the matter of the Protestant succession severely alone. I cannot see that in adopting such a motion we are in any way imperilling the Protestant complexion of the British Constitution. I shall support the motion, and if an opportunity occurs I shall also vote for such an amendment as the honorable member for Bendigo has indicated.
.- I also desire to pay a tribute to the temperate manner in which the mover submitted his motion, and to the eloquent speech made by the honorable member for Angas. I am glad that the whole debate has been conducted in such a moderate tone. I may state at once that the words indicated in the motion as forming part of the declaration that has to be made by the Sovereign on formally ascending the Throne are not such as ought to be permitted to remain, inasmuch as they must necessarily be objectionable to the religious susceptibilities of a large section of the people of the Empire. Nevertheless I am of opinion that the motion aims at too much. This Parliament has a perfect right to express an opinion upon the subject ; but I scarcely think that we are justified in indicating the particular form of oath that should be taken by the Sovereign. That is a matter which should be left entirely to the Imperial Parliament. It would, therefore, be advisable to simplify the motion considerably. As it stands, the motion not only asks that the declaration should be amended by the elimination of certain objectionable words, but also seeks to prescribe the particular words that should be omitted. In my view, the oath taken by the Sovereign on ascending the Throne should be purely affirmative of his intention to maintain the Protestant religion and the laws of the realm, and it should make no reference whatever to any form of religious belief. Almost all creeds are entertained within the limits of the British Dominions. Just as any legislation which this Parliament passes should simply enunciate the principles and particulars with regard to which we desire a law to be made, so I believe that the oath taken by the Sovereign should merely affirm the principles upon which the British Constitution rests, without casting any reflection upon the faith of any section of His Majesty’s subjects. It is for that very reason that I think that the motion does not take sufficiently broad ground. Whilst 1 agree with every word that has been said by the honorable member for Coolgardie, still I consider that we as a House are not justified in indicating what particular form of oath should be taken by His Majesty, but should content ourselves with affirming our belief that any oath taken by the King should affirm simply the maintenance of the Protestant religion as by law established. If we passed a resolution to that effect no one could assert that we were impinging upon the powers which rest ultimately with the Imperial Parliament. I do not intend to say exactly what amendment should be made. I am not wedded to any particular form of phraseology. But if the honorable member for Coolgardie would consent to an amendment on the lines I have indicated, I believe that the House would adopt the motion unanimously. The honorable member would have abundantly accomplished the main object which he has in view in securing such an expression of opinion. The honorable gentleman has said that his only object is the removal from the declaration of certain words that are objectionable to the Roman Catholic subjects of the Empire, and he does not in any way desire to interfere with the affirmative part of it, designed to maintain the Protestant faith. I think that if the course I suggest were adopted we should preserve that spirit of tolerance towards people of all religious beliefs, in which, as a free and libertyloving people, we rejoice.
.- May I say just a few words with a view of shortening the debate? I am prepared to accept the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Bendigo, although it seems to go further than the necessities of the case require. The object of my motion is merely to request the elimination from the declaration of words which are offensive. It was no part of my intention to suggest to the Imperial Government or Parliament the form which the new Royal declaration should take. However, I think we might say, as the honorable member for Bendigo wishes us to do, that the new declaration proposed by the Prime Minister of Great Britain is acceptable to this House.
-Proposed by the Prime Minister, and approved by both parties in the Imperial Parliament. That is the strong point.
– Just so. I thank the honorable gentleman for the reminder. I believe it is approved by all parties in the Imperial Parliament, and that makes the way clear for the adoption of the amendment. I wish to thank honorable members who have refrained from protracting this debate, as it is only through their forbearance that we shall be enabled to adopt the motion this afternoon.
.- I am sure the House appreciates not only the way in which the honorable member for Coolgardie introduced his motion, but the open and ready mind he has shown throughout the debate to if possible meet the wishes of the House and secure the expression of a unanimous opinion on this important subject. I think the honorable member has done good service in the cause of toleration in having brought forward his motion in such a way that the discussion of it will reveal to the people of Australia that we in this House do not view with any degree of favour anything that savours of intolerance or injustice, or desire that anything should be done to cast the slightest slur upon the religion of any British subject. I am glad that the honorable member has accepted the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bendigo. I do not think it is open to the objection that has been suggested. It has been said that this House ought not to interfere because this is an Imperial question. With due deference to those who hold that view, I say that the general policy we should adopt upon Imperial questions may be very definitely stated. If a matter is Imperial, from, its very nature, we as a part of the Empire, are entitled to a voice in its discussion. But if a matter raised is one which affects solely the administration of any part of the British Dominions, we ought not to interfere, as we should be outside our jurisdiction in doing so. When an issue is raised upon a matter which may materially affect the well-being of any portion of the Empire, but has an Imperial aspect, it is one on which this House is entitled to speak. We, as members of the British Empire, are called upon to take the oath of allegiance to our Sovereign in our official positions, and it would be a bad thing for the Empire as a whole’ if we laid down the doctrine that anything; concerning the Sovereign does not concern the Empire. The more we realize that the Sovereign is the Sovereign of the Empire, the better it will be for the Empire. In this particular matter we desire,, in the most respectful language possible, merely to express the opinion that in this portion of the Empire there are Roman Catholics who deeply cherish the principles of their religion. We realize that his religion should be most sacred to every human being, that it is his and not that of other people, and that so far as it is his, it is the subject of his conscience, it is something which every one of us should respect no matter how we may differ from him in his belief. That is all we propose to ‘ declare in justice to British subjects throughout the Empire. Speaking on behalf of this part of the Empire,, we say that we do not desire the retention of anything in the declaration in the nature of a slur upon the religious doctrines held by any of the citizens of the Empire. We are perfectly justified in that. When we come to another ques- tion, that of the Protestant succession, the mover of the motion has very properly said that he does not raise that question at all, and accepts the position settled by law. He is prepared, as he said just now, to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Bendigo, which merely approves of the new declaration in the form proposed as follows : -
I do solemnly and sincerely, in the presenceot God, profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful member of the Protestant Reformed Church as by law established in England, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments securing the Protestant succession, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my power according to law.
We are, in effect, saying that so far aswe are concerned, that eliminates the objectionable .features of the existingdeclaration, and on that account is preferable to us. We know that at the present time this form of the declaration commands the assent of the leading parties in the British House of Commons. I give merely my own opinion, but I think I am not overstating the matter when I say that if as the result of the representations of deputations the British House of Commons should consider it necessary to modify the declaration as now suggested while keeping to the substance of the law as at present enacted in England, no objection could be urged against such a modification. All that is urged is that in any modification of the existing declaration which is adopted in accordance with the law, respect will be observed for the religious beliefs of all subjects of the Empire. I think the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo is preferable tothat moved by the honorable member for Wentworth. I hope that the latter honorable member will see his way to withdraw the amendment he has moved, because I think he will admit that he desired only to accomplish what would be accomplished by the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bendigo, whereas the form of amendment he proposed would not carry out the same object without giving rise to misunderstandings. It is better that we should agree to a motion which will carry out the idea in all our minds to do justice to all classes of religious belief in the Commonwealth of Australia.
Amendment (bv Mr. Fisher) agreed to-
That the word “ Roman “ be inserted before the word “Catholic” in paragraph 3.
Amendment (bv Sir John Quick) agreed to- ‘
That ail the words after the word amended,” paragraph 4. be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - t: in the manner indicated in the form of Oath embodied in the Bill submitted to the House of Commons by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 30th June, 1910.”
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. JENSEN (Bass) r.v3i]- - I move-
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the State of Tasmania be granted a sum of Twenty-five thousand pounds yearly by the Commonwealth for a period of nine years lo recoup the said State for the loss sustained in Customs leakage since the advent of Federation.
I realize, as a citizen of the Commonwealth and a resident of Tasmania, that, for the past nine years and a half, that State has suffered, through the Customs, an injustice which was never intended by the Constitution. The geographical position of Tasmania makes it very hard for that State to reap the benefits which the other States reap from Customs and Excise. It is separated from the mainland, and there is a system of trade with New South Wales and Victoria which practically makes the island State a province of the two larger States. At the Federal Convention it was urged that if any State, in consequence of Federation, and through no fault of its own, suffered an injustice in this connexion, it should have the right to approach the Commonwealth Parliament with a view to redress. The representatives of Tasmania at the Convention pointed out that in consequence of its geographical position, and limited population, with no chance of a quick increase, such as lay in the future for the other States, there might be a leakage caused by Inter-State trade; and Sir George Reid, who was then Premier of New South Wales, went so far as to say that, if the Constitution were accepted, he would be prepared to grant Tasmania ^30,000 or ,?40,000 annually. We know that the position of Western Australia was taken into consideration, and that the Convention unanimously agreed that that State was entitled to special terms. The late Sir Edward Braddon, in the course of the Convention, reminded Sir George Reid of his promise ; and on this point I should like to quote from the official report of the Federal Convention of 1898, Vol. 1, p. 1118 : -
Mr. REID, (New South Wales). So much has been said upon this question that I will content myself with simply expressing my earnest hope that these words will not be inserted in the Constitution. As I stated in an interjection, _ I cannot conceive that any of these colonies will ever be in such a position that it will be unable to provide for its own difficulties, upon the faith and strength of its own credit.
Sir Edward Braddon. You offered Tasmania ?30,000 or ^40,000.
Mr. REID. That was a personal offer on my own part.
In consequence of that promise held out by the mother State of New South Wales, Federation was brought about; and, in all fairness, Tasmania ought to receive the consideration to which she is entitled.
– Yes, Sir Edward Braddon was very keen on the point, because he saw where Tasmania was going to suffer ; and through his intervention there was inserted the provision known as the “ Braddon blot “ for the protection of the smaller States.
– There were four or five suggestions made, and Sir Edward Braddon’s was the one the Convention could accept.
– Just so. However, I wish it to be clearly understood that from the very time of her entering into the Federation, it was seen that Tasmania would suffer some injustice, and we had a statement from the then Premier of New South! Wales, Sir George Reid, even at that early stage, that he would be willing to give Tasmania ^30,000 or ^40,000 annually. At the same time, it was agreed that there should be consideration given to the State of Western Australia in the shape of somespecified amount.
– Out of our own pockets, though. We were allowed to tax ourselves.
– That may have been so ;. but I hope to convince honorable members that Tasmania is to-day in a position, brought about simply by Federation, that no other State occupies. I have Sir George Reid’s statement in black and white, and it cannot be denied. I propose to rely on it, and to ask the House, in view of it, to come to the rescue of this small State. As a member of the Tasmanian Parliament during the last seven years, I have repeatedly heard our Treasurers, when delivering their financial statements, complain of the loss by what is known as Customs leakage. Mr. Urquhart, the Treasurer of Tasmania in 1907, dwelt specially on that matter in his financial statement, and I shall quote what he said before I sit down. I am prepared, as a citizen of Tasmania, to state positively that there is a system of leakage, going on which no Customs official can detect. I can prove that during the past fortnight one man came from Tasmania to Melbourne on a visit and purchased at a tailor’s £20 worth of clothing made from imported material on which Victoria received the Customs duty. That material went to Tasmania, and will be worn there, but Tasmania gets no credit whatever. 1 was delighted last night to hear the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members on his side express sympathy with Tasmania, and I believe that this motion will’ receive a certain amount of assistance at their hands. It was argued by those who; went through the electorates to bring about Federation at the first referendum that Tasmania would benefit under Federation on account of her large water power, her openings for manufacturing industries, her geographical position, and cheapness of fuel. Instead of that, year by year she has become worse off. When she entered Federation in 1901, the direct State taxation was 13s. per head. It is now 27s. per head, an increase of over 100 per cent., all im-‘ posed to enable the State Government to square the ledger.
– Now it is to have direct taxation by the Commonwealth as well.
– That is so. Tasmania has an income tax with an exemption of only £80, the lowest, I think, In the world. I believe the lowest exemption in the Commonwealth outside Tasmania is ^200, while some States exempt up to ,£300. In our State the poorest of the workers have been taxed since the advent of Federation in order that the State may pay its way.Prior to Federation Tasmania derived from Customs duties double what it now receives from the Commonwealth. I shall quote figures from the Commonwealth Statistician to show the slight increase of direct taxation in other States, and to prove that Tasmania has had to tax herself four times as much as any other State in order to pay her way. We have had to pay what is know;n as an ability tax, and other forms of taxation, which take money directly out of die pockets of the people. Other States have benefited under Federation.” New South Wales is going ahead by leaps and bounds at the expense of her partners in the Federation, as I shall show by statistics. That being so, I contend, with the other representatives of Tasmania, that our State has a right to approach Parliament for a vote, not in the form of charity, but as an act of justice. I should refuse, and so would every other Tasmanian representative, to ask for it as a charity vote. We have been instructed to come here and asb for justice, not charity, and the five honorable members representing Tasmania in this House are united on this point.
– It is about the only thing they are united upon.
– At any rate; we have no bad feeling towards one another, and I hope we never shall have.
– This question, with those honorable members, is like our railway with us.
– The representatives of Tasmania hope to do justice to Western Australia when that measure comes before them.
– It is the eternal lack of pence that unites public men.
– That is so. It was generally thought, by the inhabitants of Tasmania, and especially by its leading public men who preached Federation to that State, that it would hold its own as part of the Commonwealth. We cannot but admit, however, that Tasmania, instead of holding its own under Federation, is suffering, and suffering to such a degree that it cannot put up much _longer with the present situation. We feel that to attempt to do so without appealing to this House would be to drive out of the State every young man who can see that better opportunities await him in other States, and, what is worse for us, that he can live there without having to pay so much direct taxation. If that can be clearly proved, as I hope all the representatives of Tasmania in this House will attempt to do, then we ought to secure redress. We have the sympathy and support, I believe, of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member can get a majority on this side of the House; but what does the caucus say?
– The interests of our State are above those of any caucus.
– This is not a caucus matter. I am relying on every member of the House for justice to Tasmania, and have never appealed to the Labour party, as a party, to assist me. I have not opened my lips in the caucus in regard to this matter; and I feel that if I were to buttonhole honorable members there, and refrain from approaching members sitting in all parts of the House, I should not be doing right. The Commonwealth could easily afford to give Tasmania the full amount for which I ask, and the payment of which would extend over a period of nine years. We have suffered from a Customs leakage. There is going on, between Sydney and Melbourne, a system of trade with Tasmania which would surprise honorable members if they lived in the island State. Since the advent of Federation, we have been besieged with commercial travellers from the mainland. We have now five commercial travellers to every one that visited us prior to Federation, and in most instances, they represent retail establishments.
– Then’ Tasmania is no longer the land of Sunday afternoon?
– No. We have in Tasmania a glorious little State ; but I admit that it has been badly governed in the past, owing to the want of a Labour party in the State Parliament. At all events, it could have been better governed, although I give the present Premier of Tasmania, and his predecessors, credit for looking after the wants, of that State in this regard. Year after year, they have brought this matter under the notice of the State Parliament; and it has been generally, admitted that a Customs leakage, to the extent of about .£25,000 per annum, has been going on since Federation. The State Treasurers have said that it is difficult to estimate the actual loss.
– When was that statement made?
– In every financial statement put before the State Parliament. We have had in Tasmania an ex-Treasurer of the Commonwealth who has admitted in this House that he is satisfied that there is a Customs leakage; and the Leader of the Opposition has also expressed the opinion that Tasmania has not been treated as well as it might have been, and that it suffered from Customs leakage.
– From Federation generally.
– I agree that it has suffered as the result of Federation.
– Then I have two claims to put forward. First of all, we have suffered through Federation, as the
Minister of Trade and Customs has pointed out; and that being so, I would remind honorable members of a section in the Constitution which gives this Parliament authority to assist the State in such circumstances. Such assistance would be, not a matter of charity, but the just due of the State. I propose now to quote from the financial statement delivered in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, in respect of the year 1908-9, by the Hon. D. C. Urquhart, who was then State Treasurer -
I have already drawn the attention of honorable members to the loss suffered by Tasmania in not receiving credit for the Customs collected on dutiable goods by exporting States. Most of the importations into the State come in as of Australian manufacture. In many cases the raw material has been imported by the manufacturing States, and duty has been paid and accredited by the Federal authorities to that State. It is almost impossible to trace the particular items when made up into goods for export. The Inter-State trade is year by year increasing, and with a corresponding loss to us. Every effort has been made by the Premier to obtain reparation. The Premiers of the two large States recognise the facts, and have upon more than one occasion expressed willingness to give consideration to the subject. The Premier is in Melbourne, and intends to reach finality if it is possible ; but the result of his efforts can only be known after this statement is printed.
I have before me, also, a statement made by Sir Elliot Lewis, Premier of Tasmania -
It. has been generally admitted that Tasmania has year by year since the. imposition of a uniform Tariff lost severely through not receiving credit for Mie Customs collected by other States upon dutiable goods which subsequently find their way into this State.
That is our trouble.
– But it cannot recur under the proposed new arrangement. “
– Certainly not; because we shall then be working on a per capita basis. I wish it to be clearly understood, however, that I am asking for this allowance of ,£225,000, not in respect of the future, but solely on account of our past losses. Every representative of Tasmania in this House is quite satisfied with the agreement entered into by the Premier of Tasmania with the ex-Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. We loyally stand by that agreement, being satisfied with a distribution of 25s. per capita. We shall have no complaint against the system of distribution which is to come into force on the 1 st January next. We do not want special’ consideration for the future, because we feel that we are getting a fair deal. That we shall be fairly treated in the future is shown by the figures which have been submitted by the Prime Minister, who says that Tasmania will benefit under the proposed arrangement perhaps more than any other State. But during the nine and a half years of Federation Tasmania has lost so much revenue that she has had to increase the taxation upon her citizens by over 100 per cent. We have lost revenue through the operation of Inter-State trade. We do not blame the Customs Department. They are not responsible for what has occurred. The loss has come about in this way. In the past I have come to Melbourne and spent perhaps £50 on goods, which I have taken back to Tasmania. Victoria has got the credit for having imported those goods, nothing being credited on their account to Tasmania. Other citizensof Tasmania have acted similarly, and thus the State has lost revenue. It may be argued that, while the citizens of Tasmania have spent money in Melbourne and Sydney on purchases for which their State gets no credit, the people of Victoria and New South Wales have done the same thing in Tasmania. That is not so. There are no cities in Tasmania like Sydney and Melbourne. Citizens of Tasmania who have saved £40 or £50 naturally come to the mainland for a holiday, and spend their money here, often taking back large quantities of goods.’ I know that this House desires to deal honorably with Tasmania, but I hope that it will also deal generously with us. People from New South Wales and Victoria visiting Tasmania do not purchase largely there, because the retail establishments of Sydney and Melbourne have larger turnovers, and can consequently sell more cheaply than can those of Hobart and Launceston. Since Federation, there are fewer warehousemen in Tasmania than we had before, and warehouses are empty in both Hobart and Launceston. Retailers who formerly bought from local importers now buy in Melbourne or Sydney. In the year 1899-1900 Tasmania’s Customs collections amounted to nearly £450,000, and the average sum returned to her since Federation, as her share of the Customs and Excise revenue, has been only £230,000, including Inter-State adjustments. The Inter-State adjustments have amounted, in the case of New South Wales, to 6 or 7 per cent. of the total return to the State; and, in the case of Victoria, to 8 per cent. The adjustments have been as high as 10, 15 and 20 per cent. in connexion with the other States; but in connexion with Tasmania they have amounted to practically 40 per cent. of the total return.
– To 47 per cent., according to the latest figures.
– Then I am under the mark. The fact that over 40 per cent. of the total return to Tasmania is made in connexion with Inter-State certificates shows how largely that State imports from the States on the mainland. Our position is that, while we have got credit for much of our importation from the mainland, there is a great deal for which we have not been credited. The Premier of Tasmania said -
It has been generally admitted that Tasmania has year by year, since the imposition of a uniform Tariff, lost severely through not receiving credit for the Customs collected by other States upon dutiable goods which subsequently find their way into this State. Much of the importations into this State come in as of Australian manufacture. In many cases the raw material has been imported by the manufacturing State, and duty has been paid in and credited to that State, and the proper credit has not been given to this State when the manufactured goods have been transferred here. Purchases are made on the mainland of goods upon which duty has been paid, and when such goods are brought to Tasmania we have not been credited with duty which has been paid on such goods. The system of Inter-State certificates has proved only partly effective for the purpose for which it was designed. In the absence of proper data, it is difficult, if not impossible, to estimate accurately the loss which Tasmania has suffered annually through this leakage. It must, however, have been not less than £40,000, and it has probably been more. The Inter-State import trade from other States to Tasmania has increased in a much greater proportion than the import trade from oversea countries. It increased between the years 1896- 1900 and the year 1908 from £1,060,000 to £2,514,000, or from £6 8s.1d. per inhabitant to £13 18s. 1 id., while the oversea import trade increased from £550,000 to £837,000, or from £3 6s. 5d. per inhabitant to £4 2s.1d. During the same period the export trade of Tasmania to oversea countries has increased from £783,000 to £2,084,000, or from £4 14s. 7d. per inhabitant to £11 9s. 5d., while the Inter-State export trade has only increased from £1,263,000 to £1,940,000, or from £7 12s. 7d. to £10 13s. 7d.
Many efforts have been made by my predecessors in office to secure the removal or abatement of the injustice inflicted upon Tasmania through the admitted leakage, but, so far, without avail. It is on the ground of the loss that Tasmania has suffered in the past in this respect that I put forward a further plea that justice should be done to her in the future.
It was at one time expected that with the advantages of water-power and climate that Tasmania can offer the advent of Federation would bring about a rapid development ‘in the manufacturing industry in this State. The contrary has been the result. Our smaller factories, carrying on business with a limited capital, have been unable to compete with the larger factories on the mainland carrying on business with greater capital, and being closer to the centres of larger bodies of consumers. There is also, I am led to believe, a certain amount of “ dumping “ going on in Tasmania. That is to say, the manufacturers of the mainland are sending over their surplus manufactures and stocks and selling them at a lower price in Tasmania than on the mainland, with a view, apparently, of capturing the markets of this State, and so compelling our factories to close down altogether or to reduce the number of hands employed. The boot and shoe business may be mentioned as a case in point. In 1905, 332 persons were employed in this trade, while in 190S the number had decreased to 252.
The merchants are making a similar complaint that their business is being gradually diverted to the cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
The increase in the Inter-State import trade from other States to Tasmania since Federation, which has been already referred to, is very largely due to the causes just mentioned. The advantages which accrued from having open ports throughout the Commonwealth for our potatoes, fruit, and timber are not overlooked. At the same time. Tasmania has been a sufferer from the manufacturing and business standpoint, while the manufacturers, merchants, and others on the mainland have benefited largely at our expense.
I have endeavoured to analyze the figures set forth in the accompanying tables and collected from the Commonwealth Year Book in an impartial manner, and to explain the difficulties against which the people of Tasmania have to contend as the result of Federation. In a Commonwealth such as ours the principle of equality amongst the inhabitants of all parts should be aimed at. So far from equality being introduced by Federation, the greatest disparity has been brought about, and in this disparity Tasmania has been the sufferer. I make the request for special consideration on the plea of justice, and submit that the Federal Government and Parliament should, in addition to any per capita grant that may be made to the States as a whole, make a special grant to the State of Tasmania out of Customs and Excise revenues of ^225,000, which would only be equivalent to 2½d. per head of the whole population of the Commonwealth.
Mr. R. M. Johnston, the Government Statistician of Tasmania, writes -
Ali a general rule history shows that the larger the population of several federating States of the same stage of civilization the larger is the corresponding cost of government in the aggregate, concomitant with the smaller cost per head of population.
It logically follows that in any true Federation of States for the sake of common interests the smaller States must, even on the basis of per head of population, entail a greater sacrifice than that entailed by the greater or more advanced States.
This view is also clearly borne out by the experience of the six Australian States in the years prior and subsequent to Federation.
Prior to Federation the States with the” lesser population were forced, even with the greatest economy, to resort to a higher Customs .and Excise Tariff to obtain the necessary revenue to carry on local State government functions.
The States with the larger populations, as shown in the following table, could more efficiently carry on the local governmental functions with a much smaller Customs and Excise tariff.
It is not necessary to refer to other countries. The varying conditions of area, population, and natural resources of the six States of Australia affords sufficient evidence to prove that cost of government per head of population for a similar range of services or functions tends to lessen per head of population, or rather per taxpayer, with every increase in population. In this way it is shown to be in harmony with the generalizations of great statesmen and of statistical experts, viz. : - That in any wisely governed State the annual rate of progress of population naturally tends to exceed the annual rate of increase in the cost of government, even where the latter increase is accompanied by greater strength and efficiency.
He goes on to show the amount derived from direct taxation by the States during 1 899- 1 900 - the year immediately preceding Federation - and that collected from the same source during 1905-6. He points out that during the year immediately preceding the establishment of the Commonwealth, New South Wales raised in direct taxation ,£881,693, or 13s. per head; Victoria, £888,061, or 14s. 1 id. per head; Queensland, ,£374,600, or 15s. 4d. per head; South Australia, £259,297, or 14s. 6d. per head ; Western Australia, £121,920, or 13s. 9d. per head; Tasmania, £111,515, or 12s. lod. per head.. The amount of- direct taxation in the States in the year 1905-6 - that-is, five years after the advent of Federation - was : New South Wales, £1,297,776, or per head 17s. 7d. ; Victoria, ,£1,073,186, or per head 17s. 9CI. ; Queensland, .£494,165, or per head 18s. pel. ; South Australia, ,£369,756, or per head 19s. ; Western Australia, £260,609, or per head ,£1 os. 6d. ; Tasmania, £248.799, or per head £1 7s. 9d. Sothat the amount of direct taxation levied by the State Government in Tasmania, which in the year 1900 was 12s. lod. per head, had, five years after Federation, increased to £1 7s. gd. per head, or over 3.00 per cent. The increase of direct taxation during the first five years of Federation was : In New South Wales, 4s. 7dper head; in Victoria, 2s. 10d. per head; in Queensland, 3s. 5c!. per head ; in SouthAustralia, 5s. 2d. per head ; in Western Australia, 6s. 9d. per head ; in Tasmania, 14s. 1 id. per head. Those figures go to prove conclusively the force of the argument used at the Federal Convention : that the three smaller States in the Union would suffer the greatest loss under Federation. The figures show that the States of South-
Australia. Western Australia, and Tasmania have had to increase their direct taxation to the greatest extent. But the increase in Tasmania is greater than that in any other State. She increased her direct taxation by 14s. nd. per head, whilst the State nearest to her in the list is Western Australia, with an increase of 6s. ad. per head. When facts like these are brought; under the notice of the House, I trust that honorable members will attach no weight to what the Minister of Trade and Customs may say in opposition to our contention. No doubt he will present the departmental case in the best way he can. I presume he will depend largely on figures with regard to Inter-State trade, especially as affecting Tasmania. He will show that Tasmania has had all that she is entitled to get. But we should take into consideration the financial position of the citizens of the; State as affected by the taxation levied upon them. Naturally the increase of direct taxation has evoked a certain amount of disapproval on the part of the public. I was almost saying that the State Government has been met with curses from the inhabitants in consequence of the increased imposts. If Tasmania were receiving through Customs and Excise anything approaching the amount which she received prior to Federation, there would have been no necessity to increase the direct taxation. But whereas prior to Federation the Government was deriving £400,000 a year from Customs and Excise duties, we are now getting only about ,£250,000 per annum. Yet the people of Tasmania complain that it costs them at least as much to live now as it did prior to Federation, excepting the price of tea and kerosene. The whole trouble has been brought about by the Inter-State leakage. No doubt it can be argued that the people have brought about the trouble themselves by not declaring to the Customs officials the extent of their trading transactions with the mainland. If persons importing goods into Tasmania had asked for Inter-State certificates, no doubt they would have been granted. Prior to Federation a passenger entering Tasmania had his portmanteau examined, and in thousands of instances passengers were required to pay duty on the stuff they imported. As I have not concluded my argument, I ask the leave of the House to continue my speech on another occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 t0 ?.45 p ,
Telephone Rates - Country Postoffices : Residential Accommodation - Contract Post Officers - Appointment of Commonwealth Officer as State Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman : Salaries.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply - put.
.- I desire to avail myself of this motion to direct the attention of the Government, and particularly of the Postmaster-General, to the question of the proposed new telephone rates. I desire at the outset to say that, although on this motion I might have moved an amendment inviting the opinion of the House upon the question, I do not propose to do so at the present juncture, because I prefer that the question should be left open to full debate and discussion, and that the Minister should be free to avail himself of all information and every means of inquiry. It is of no use to bring the matter suddenly to a crisis, or to take action precipitately which the honorable gentleman might be justified in regarding as adverse or unfriendly. My object is, in the interests of telephone subscribers and the public generally, to impress upon the Government that they should not proceed too hastily merely because they were identified with the original introduction of regulation 7a. I desire that they should avail themselves of every opportunity to consider the cost of the telephone services, and thoroughly investigate the whole question, in order that they may be in a position if possible to justify the proposed charges.
– It is about time the Post master-General had an opportunity to say a word in reply to the attacks made upon him in connexion with this matter.
– I should be glad to hear the honorable gentleman, but if I resume my seat now I shall not be able to speak again on this motion. I do not propose now to cover ground previously traversed, but to bring under the PostmasterGeneral’s notice additional information and facts which he might feel justified in considering and investigating. If the Minister would prefer to precede me, I am quite willing to give way to him.
– We wish to get on with other business.
– I do not expect the Postmaster-General to give a final answer to-night, but to agree to consider the additional information 1 intend to give and to hold his hand in the meantime. There are two principal objections which I have to the introduction of the new regulations at the present stage. The first is that it is by no means clear that the three grades of ground rent charges proposed, ,£4, £3 10s., and £3, according to the population in a given network, are based upon a proper distribution of capital expenditure.. The second objection is that it is premature to introduce a general or universal system of toll rate charges in view of the fact that the Department is not at the present time equipped with the necessary apparatus or mechanical appliances for recording the tolls to be credited to the Department and debited to the subscribers. On the first question, namely, as to what ought to be the minimum charges assuming we have a general toll rate, no doubt that depends on the result of an inquiry as to the capital expenditure on the telephone system and how much might reasonably be charged in consequence under that heading. To show the complexity of that subject and the necessity for caution, I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to the following facts disclosed in the report of the Accountants’ Committee. 1 remind the honorable gentleman and the House that up to the present the Accountants’ Committee has merely investigated the condition of the telephone accounts in the State of Victoria. They show that in the last year on record, 1908-9, there was a loss in the metropolitan area of Victoria of £7,495, and a loss in the whole of the State of .£7,788. In the preceding year there was a gain. The loss referred to in the metropolitan area, that is to say, in Melbourne, distributed amongst the 12,438 subscribers within the area, would amount to very nearly 12s. 5d. per subscriber, or per line. There has also been a slight loss on the whole in the country areas of Victoria. It amounted in 1908-9- to ,£1,430 8s. rod., and that distributed amongst the country subscribers would leave a debit against them of only 6s. 8d. per line or per subscriber. The difference between the loss per line or per subscriber in the metropolitan and country areas respectively suggests the proposition that if the loss so ascertained and reported upon by the Accountants’ Committee is to be made good, it should be distributed pro rata amongst the various subscribers within the various networks and that there should not be an equal distribution of the whole of the loss among the whole of the subscribers. It remains to be seen whether that course has been followed. The net loss in the country exchanges of Victoria is only half the alleged net loss in the metropolitan area of the State, and we require some information to show that the loss in both areas has been equitably distributed amongst the various classes and groups of subscribers, and that no group has been unfairly charged. All subscribers say that if it is demonstrated that an increase of telephone rates is necessary in order to make the Post and Telegraph Department pay, they are willing to contribute in accordance with the necessities of the case. But the general complaint is that, up to the present, no balance-sheet has been submitted showing the total loss on the whole of the Federal telephone system. The figures available, which I have quoted this evening, have reference only to Victoria; we have no reliable figures as to the great State of New South Wales, and merely rough estimates or guesses in regard to any of the other States. In the case of Victoria we have accurate accountants’ reports and statements, on which we can rely. I have always been given to understand that the capital expenditure in New South Wales was much less than in Victoria, and, if that be so, and the inquiries of the Telephone Committee establish the fact, the Federal telephone rates ought to be based on and calculated according to the average of all the States, and not on the average results in any one particular State. In other words, a Federal system of rates ought to be built up on Federal information. But even on the figures that are available, it is by no means clear that the ground rents, which were formulated by the present Postmaster-General in March, 1908, before the appointment of the Telephone Committee, can be justified in the light of their investigations, which show the exact amount of capital cost and capital expenditure. We have had presented to us, not only the report of the Telephone Committee to assist us in the consideration of the question, but also supplementary reports by Mr. John Hesketh, the Commonwealth Electrical Engineer, who is a gentleman of considerable experience and great ability. His valuable reports and appendices are very useful to us, and for them we may be grateful. I have endeavoured, in the absence of any official or departmental estimates as to the possible increased revenue from the new charges, to make some calculations or approximations. I here point out that, although we have these voluminous reports and appendices, we have no balance-sheets, so to speak, showing the possible increased revenue under the new charges in the various States. There are materials with the assistance of which some rough estimate may be made, and I have utilized these for my purpose. I should like to submit to the Postmaster-General some of the results of my investigations to show what appears to be the increased burdens which will have to be borne by some of the subscribers, and the increased revenue which the Commonwealth will derive under the new proposals. Starting with the proposition that the net loss on the Victorian system amounted to £7,788 in 1908-9, the problem is whether the new rates will make up that loss, or whether they will yield any considerable amount in excess of it. If there is reasonable evidence that the proposed new rates will yield revenue largely in excess of the loss, I think the Postmaster-General ought to look into the figures. My only object is to draw attention to figures which, in my opinion, seem to suggest, dealing with Victoria alone, that the new rates will yield more revenue than is necessary under the circumstances, and, consequently, prove a heavy and excessive burden on the subscribers. Mr. Hesketh, in appendix F of the report, gives an analysis of calls by subscribers in various exchanges in Victoria. It is a record of calls made by subscribers under measured service regulations 7 and 7. a, and I invite attention to that fact. The calls daily have been ascertained from returns of actual traffic for 181 days, from j st November, 1909, to the 30th April, 1910. Here we have some official data. In one column is shown the number of calls, in another the number of subscribers, and in a third the various percentages. Then appendix G gives the annual charges to the subscribers making varying numbers ot’ calls under regulations 7 and 7a. Both these appendices deal with measured rate subscribers ; and I have prepared a table showing the increased rates that will be paid by various groups of such subscribers. I have not covered the whole field from one call to fifty calls per day, but have dealt with a number of typical calls, and have had calculations made to see what will be the increased burden on the subscribers, and what will be the result on the revenue in the aggregate of those calls. Appendix F shows that there were 2,132 subscribers who averaged two calls per day, and each of these will have to pay, under the Thomas rates, as compared with the Chapman rates, an increased fee of 10s. 5d. per year, amounting, in the aggregate, to £1,110 8s. 4d. There were 2,113 subscribers who, on the average, made three calls per day, and they will have to pay, under the Thomas rates, an increased fee of £1 5s. 8d. per annum, or an aggregate of £2,711 13s. 8d.
– Are these Victorian figures only?
– These are all Victorian figures, which are the only data we have. I am sorry to have to give details, but I cannot prove the case without them. There were 1,489 subscribers who average four calls per day, and these will have to pay an increased fee of £2 os. 10d. per year, or in the aggregate £3,040 os. rod. There were 88 n subscribers recorded as averaging five calls per day, and these would have to pay an increased rate of £2 16s. id. each per annum, or in the aggregate an increase of £2,470 9s. 5d. per annum. At six calls per day, the average number of subscribers was 589, the increased rate for each is £3 3-s. 4d., and the increase in the aggregate £1,865 3s. 4d. per annum. At seven calls per day the number of subscribers was 339, increased rate each £3 3s. 4d., increase in the aggregate £1,073 10s.. At eight calls per day the number of subscribers was 183, individual increase £3 3s. 4d., and the increase in the aggregate £579 10s. At nine calls per clay the number of subscribers was 142, individual increase £3 3s. 4d., and the aggregate increase £449 13s. 4<i. At ten calls per day the number of subscribers was 87, increase in each case £3 3s. 4d., and the increase in the aggregate £275 ros. To shorten the return I jump now from ten to fifteen calls per day, with seventeen subscribers, the increase to each £3 3s. 4d., and the aggregate increase £53 16s. 8d. Jumping again to twenty calls per day, the number of subscribers is 8, the increase to each £3 12s. 4d., and the increase in the aggregate £28 18s. 8d. At twenty-five calls the average number of subscribers is one, and the increase £4 5s. At thirty calls the average is one, and the increase is £4 17s. 8d. At forty calls the average is one, and the increase £6 3s. id. At fifty calls the average is one, and th6 increase £7 8s. 4d. The total number of subscribers whose records have been watched and taken is 7,983, and honorable members will be startled to learn that the increased revenue amounts to £13.675 5s. 3d. per annum. This is in the State of Victoria alone, where, according to the Telephone Accounts Committee, the loss on the whole system last year amounted only to £7,788.
– They will be able to pay better wages and give shorter hours.
– That may be a very nice suggestion, but it is not apropos. The Postmaster-General is endeavouring, and I am trying to help him, to work out this knotty problem, in order to ascertain whether it is advisable to make the rates so high as is proposed. According to the figures which I have quoted, in order to meet a loss of £7,788 last year in the State pf Victoria, the increased revenue from the limited number of metropolitan subscribers whose cases I have taken will be £13,675 5s. 3d. I have been informed that this table applies only to 7,983 subscribers for the metropolitan network, as against about 15,000 for the whole of Victoria. In the same proportion the increased revenue from the whole 15,000 would be no less than .£25,695 14s. 4d. ner annum. It is an enormous sum, and it may fairly be claimed from the figures and information available that the rates proposed are excessive and unnecessary to meet the loss demonstrated to exist in Victoria, last year. The Postmaster-General admits that he does not want to run the telephone system for the purpose of making a profit over and above working expenses, but wishes to make it simply a reasonably payable concern. If that be so, it remains for him to show how the increased charges can be justified. I am not in a position to say what the result would be in New South Wales if a strict actuarial investigation were made upon the same lines as have been followed in Victoria. I was told by the Department that it is believed that the capital expenditure per line in New South Wales is not so great as in Victoria. I accept that as a fair approximate statement. For instance, I was informed that it was roughly estimated that about ,£39 per head was required to make the telephone system of the metropolitan area of Victoria thoroughly up-to-date and workable, whereas in New South Wales the actual expenditure was only about £30 per head.
– Both arrived at from the same data ?
– I do not know. I had to accept mere rough statements.
– Will the report show?
– I have no doubt the Chairman of the Postal Commission, when he submits his report, will be able to give more information than I can, because ray opportunities for investigation were limited. I appointed the Telephone Accounts Committee for that work. They did it well and truly, honestly and courageously, and their conclusions are unchallengeable, because they went down to bedrock.
– Are they?
– I believe the balancesheets included in the return are absolutely unchallengeable. One member of the Committee was a Federal officer of high standing. I am sure no honorable member would waver in his faith in such a gentleman as Mr. Percy Whitton, formerly of the Commonwealth Audit Office, and now Collector of Customs for Victoria, a gentleman of great experience and ability as accountant and auditor.
– And removed from where he was an expert to where he knew nothing !
– He was thought worthy of promotion. He is a most valuable man, and his transfer is a great loss to the Audit Office. I only hope it will be a gain to the Customs Department. His signature to these reports is a guarantee that they represent no mere outside view, but a strictly departmental, Audit Office, view, which ought not to be open to serious criticism. The balance-sheets, therefore, may be accepted with a certain degree of finality. I hope that the Minister will look into the Committee’s recommendations. They give advice as to improved methods of keeping accounts which I would most earnestly ask my honorable friend to look into, and to utilize, if he sees his way clear, for the benefit of the Department. Without anticipating what may be reported to this House, I am of opinion that, when the results of the Postal Commission are submitted, it will be found that there has been a most imperfect method of keeping accounts in the post-offices and other branches of the Department throughout the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, we have data with reference to Victoria to go upon, which is sufficient to command the attention of the Postmaster-General; and to justify him in giving to this question even closer attention than he has given, in order to ascertain whether these rates are justifiable, not merely from a Victorian, but from a Commonwealth, stand-point. I do not see why the Commonwealth Parliament should tolerate any regulation likely to harshly treat any of the subscribers.
– Hear, hear !
– I am sure that the Postmaster-General does not wish to treat them harshly. There are no less than 70,000 subscribers to the telephone exchanges of the Commonwealth, and they represent a great source of income.
– No; at present they represent a loss.
– There is no proof of loss in any State save Victoria.
– The Victorian service is showing a loss at present.
– And I am showing that the honorable member proposes to substitute regulations which will more than cover that loss.
– The subscribers here are no benefit to the Department at present.
– It is idle to deal lightly with this aspect of the matter. We accept the finding that there has been a loss in respect of the Victorian branch of the telephone service ; but for one year only. In preceding years, under Federation, there was a profit of no less than £142,000, apart altogether from the results prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth. Surely, therefore, my honorable friend is not justified in asserting that the telephone subscribers of Victoria have been no gain to the revenue.
– Some of the men have been sweated while working in the service.
– The honorable member has been in the House long enough to have endeavoured to champion their rights, if they were entitled to any increase of salary. He is not an idle, but a watchful, man.
– I do not accuse the honorable member of having been the cause of this sweating. I know that he was not.
– And I do not think that any honorable member of the House is responsible for it. There has been no serious attack upon the Postal Estimates since the passing of the Act providing for the payment of a minimum rate of wage. The remuneration of the officers of the Department is settled by the Public Service Commissioner; but his recommendations are open to review in this House, so that I think it is unkind to suggest that the profits made in the telephone service of Victoria have been the result of sweating. They may have been the result of high charges and an abounding revenue. The losses which have occurred in the last year, as recorded by the Telephone AccountsCommittee, have arisen, no doubt, from the fact that there has been a tendency for the £9 fixed rate subscribers to transfer to the Chapman rate. That has been a source of loss. Whether that tendency to transfer from the £9 and £5 fixed rates has ceased or is still going on remains to be discovered. I admit that the Department would be right in resorting to any action which might be necessary in order to lessen that tendency to a loss of revenue; but, in supporting any increased charge, we must feel some degree of confidence that we are not proposing to charge too much. Telephone subscribers say that they are willing to submit to any increased charges that are demonstrated to be necessary and demanded by the requirements of the Public Service. I, therefore, submit these figures to the earnest consideration of the PostmasterGeneral, in order that he may ascertain whether some modification of a temporary character cannot be made.
– The honorable member, when Postmaster-General, only suggested a difference of10s. in the rates.
– I was told that that would mean a loss of revenue to the extent of nearly £20,000 ; so that it is an important- matter.
– And the honorable member was not game to go on with his proposal.
– It was decided by the Cabinet that the matter should be investigated. I considered that my predecessor’s rates were excessive, and not justified by any ascertained facts ; but I was prepared to go to some extent in that direction, or, in the alternative, to submit the whole question to investigation. The Government thought it would be unwise to accept my tentative suggestion; and held that we had better investigate the whole system.
– There is no occasion to suggest that we were influenced by an improper motive. We were not. Our desire was to obtain a solid basis for a sound scheme.
– Hear, hear !
– My honorable friend is still exulting in his “ grim satisfaction.”
– Well, the honorable member admits that there is only a difference of £20.000 between us.
– That estimate was a mere guess. In dealing with the taxpayers - in dealing with business people - no scheme of telephone rates based upon cost should be launched upon the public without reasonable justification. That covers the first ground upon which I invite criticism, namely, that there has been no justification for the proposed increase. I come now to the second ground upon which I invite further consideration, and that relates to the mode of recording calls. This scheme depends upon the universal introduction of a call recorder. It is based upon a minimum fixed rate, together with a charge of so much per call. That means that, instead of there being, as at present, two classes or groups of telephone subscribers in Australia, there will be only one class or group, namely, toll-raters. Some time ago, a report was submitted to the House dealing with the two large States, New South Wales and Victoria ; and it showed that in New South Wales there were 8,438 toll-raters and 16,000 measured-rate subscribers. In Victoria there are 5,725 flat-rate subscribers and 11.819 measured-rate subscribers: in Queensland the flat-rate subscribers number 2,251, and the measuredrate subscribers 4,436 ; in South Australia the numbers are respectively 1,147 anc 2,934; in Western Australia, 1,671 and 3.433; and in Tasmania. 961 and 1,097. Altogether there are over 20,000 flat-rate subscribers. Under the new regulations, the calls of these subscribers, which are not now recorded, will have to be recorded, and the work of recording the calls of the measuredrate subscribers is at present more than the Department can properly and efficiently cope with. What, then., will happen when the calls of the 20,000 flat-rate subscribers have also to be recorded? It is safe to predict that confusion and chaos will reign.
– My officers tell me that all the calls can be properly recorded.
– According to the report of the Committee of Accountants, the means for recording calls at the disposal of the Department are inadequate and imperfect. The work is done in one of two ways, but in both cases everything depends on the capacity, smartness, alertness, and accuracy of the attendants. The principal method of recording is for the attendants to enter on cards the number of each subscriber calling. At one time it was the practice to also mark down the number of the subscriber being called. It was thought that that insured greater accuracy, and provided facilities for testing the records. But now merely the numbers of the “calling” subscribers are recorded. Under this system, both the subscribers and the Department may be unfairly dealt with. Attendants may forget, or, in the rush of business, neglect, to put down the numbers of subscribers calling. Later they may recollect the neglect, and put down numbers from memory.
– Under the flat-rate systern there is no record at all.
– A record is not needed, because flat-rate subscribers are charged a lump sum. The Department may lose through the failure of the attendants to keep true records, while subscribers may lose through mistakes in die recording. The second method of recording is employed merely to a limited extent, and only in connexion with the common-battery system. The work is done by the pressing of buttons. This gives a mechanical record, which is absolute and indelible, and more reliable than the card method. No doubt it will be gradually extended, but at the present time it is not greatly used. But it. too, is open to the criticism that everything depends on the attention and alertness of the attendants. The introduction of the tol! system would be more justifiable could an automatic system of recording be secured. According to the report of the accountants, it seems possible that some piece of mechanism may be -invented which will record automatically cT.ch call when a connexion is established between two subscribers. I do not know that this system is being perfected, but the accountants say that there is some system of the kind, and they believe that it is capable of improvement and extension. When it can be brought into general use,’ the toll system will be more justifiable. For the reasons I have given, I ask the Postmaster- General to stay his hand for the present. He should look into the figures, and give Parliament and the public the fullest information. No honorable member is interested in reducing the revenue of the Department, but each of us wishes to be able to make it clear to his constituents that the new rates are not higher than the service requires.
.- I understood that the honorable member for Bendigo intended to ask the Government to set apart time for the thorough discussion of this matter. I do not think he has done sp; but, as I have taken a great interest in the subject from the beginning, I should like to say a few words before the PostmasterGeneral replies. This is not, in the strict sense of the term, a political question.
– The newspapers have tried to make it so.
-The Government are called upon to supply a telephone service to about 70,000 subscribers. It is the business of the Department to give a good service to these subscribers, and to manage the business well and economically, in the interests of the whole community. I maintain that we shall never have effective management under our present system of political administration. In the nine years for which the Commonwealth has controlled the telephone system, there have been nine Ministers at the head of the Department. I would like to ask the Postmaster- General how it is possible to run a business of this intricate character successfully, if a change in its management is to be effected every year? Could any commercial enterprise be satisfactorily conducted upon such lines ? Could a shop or a farm or a station be managed successfully in that way? I hold that in this country, where the management of great business concerns is in the hands of the Government, those concerns ought to be controlled by a board consisting of two Commissioners and the Minister of the day. Under such circumstances it would be the duty of the Minister to see that effect was given to the policy of the country.
– The Commissioners would do all the work, I should not mind that.
– Under such a system, the Minister and the public would be relieved of a great deal of trouble and expense, and we should also get continuity of policy. We all know that the PostmasterGeneral has been in the saddle for only a brief period, although he previously filled the same office for a period of about six months. Prior to that he was like the remainder of us in that he used the telephone only occasionally. How is it possible for any ordinary individual to do justice to the requirements of the position, especially when he has the irritating work of politics to attend to? We shall never conduct our Government enterprises successfully until they are managed by a per manent board, assisted by the Minister for the time being. If we are ever to get efficient telephone management we shall get it only in that way. During the past nineyears we have had nine managers of the Postal Department, all of whom have been, anxious to indelibly inscribe their namesupon the scroll of fame. We have had the Chapman telephone rates, we are threatened with the Thomas rates, and I do not know how many more rates we shall get. I do not suppose that the Ministry anticipate that the Thomas rates will be changed! for some considerable time. But I feel sure that if we appeal to the Minister in a proper spirit, he will delay the introduction of the proposed new rates, especially in view of the arguments which have been advanced against them to-night. If those rates would confer any benefit upon the small telephone user theposition would be understandable. But they will not. There are two points upon which we all agree, namely, that the 70,000- telephone subscribers must be charged a sufficient fee to make the Department pay. They cannot expect the general public to pay for them. The man who has a telephone in his house cannot expect his neighbour, who has not one, to pay a share of the cost of that instrument. In the second place we all agree that the individual who uses his telephone a great deal, ought - if it be commercially possible - to pay more to the Department than the man who does not use it so frequently. But if it costs more to ascertain what the big user ought to be charged than the telephone is worth to the small user, we ought to retain the flat rate. If we had an automatic method of recording the calls of subscribers the position would be different.
– There are thousands of pounds’ worth of machinery in the Melbourne Telephone Exchange - machinery which was introduced by my predecessor - to enable that to be done.
– I understand that the method of checking calls adopted in the exchange is for the operator, after a subscriber has rung up, to press a button and thus record the call. But suppose that the operator is in a bad temper, could he not record ten calls?
– And suppose that the operator dies before he has recorded the call - what then?
– That is a contingency which is unlikely to arise. Anybody who has had experience of a meter of any sort - which is a purely mechanical device - knows how irritating it is. A gas or water muter is singularly annoying.But if, in addition, the human element is to be introduced, life will become almost unbearable. We cannot call the existing system of recording calls an automatic one, because it is liable to error, and until we have a truly automatic system, the enormous expense incurred in recording them will far outweigh any advantages to be derived from the adoption of the toll system. Under the proposed new rates the only individuals who will benefit will be those who make only one call per day, and they constitute a very small proportion of the telephone subscribers. liveryother subscriber will have to pay an increased charge. The man who will be subjected to enormous inconvenience and expense under those rates will be the tradesman. As a rule he is not a rich man, but he makes it a practice to ring up all his customers in the morning for their orders, and thus he uses the telephone a great deal. Under the new rates he will be compelled to increase the price of meat and of bread-
– It is cheaper for him to use the telephone than to run a cart?
– Very much cheaper. Why not give these persons a chance? 1 do not agree with the departmental view of this question. The Department evidently desires the telephone to be used as little as possible. It seems to aim at securing the silence of the grave in respect of the use of that instrument.
– That is it.
– I like to see the telephones well used. The honorable member for Bendigo showed that in Victoria the suggested change would bring in an extra revenue of about £25,695 per annum. That is an enormous sum; but I am afraid that the cost of the extra labour required to record the enormous number of calls is likely to do more than mop up the extra revenue. I am also afraid that when the new system is introduced there will be a great mess in the Department. A vast amount of extra work will be thrown on the officers, who already have as much to do as they can possibly get through. Immediately after the recent railway accident at Richmond station, the” telephone exchanges were so much overworked that people found it difficult to ring up their homes.
– It is impossible to guard against extra demands of that kind.
– I am not saying that it is possible. My point is that the present system demands all the energies of the staff employed without throwing any additional work upon them. The employes will be unable to do their work unless the load is lightened.
– Does not the honorable member think that it will be?
– Probably the Minister means that the work of the staff will be lightened because a number of subscribers will have their telephones cut off.
– Does the honorable member really think that that is what I meant?
– Probably the honorable gentleman meant that the work of the staff will be lightened because the number of useless and frivolous conversations will be fewer.
– Why did not the honorable member say that that was what I meant ?
– I was going to put the matter in both ways if the Minister had given me time ; but he is getting into such an undemocratic state of mind thatI am inclined to believe that we are living under an autocracy so far as he is concerned. He is thegreat Czar of all the telephones !I am really afraid of hearing his voice over the wire when I ring anybody up. Personally I am of opinion that the telephone system ought to be managed by a Commission or Board.
– Hear, hear !
– The Minister could be a member of the Board to supervize the political aspect of affairs. The telephones ought to be made to pay.
– Hear, hear !
– Those persons who make the largest number of calls should pay a higher rate than those who use the telephone to a lesser degree, if such a system could be emplyed.
– It is being done all over the world.
– I think that the flat-rate system prevails in Sweden, and in a great many other countries.
– Was the flat-rate system in use in India when the honorable member was there?
– I do not remember seeing a telephone in India. In London they have a very good system which is as near to an automatic self-registering system as any I have heard of. A person desiring to use the telephone rings up the operator at the exchange. When the operator has connected the person with the number he desires to get he states that the connexion has been made, and the person ringing up puts a penny in the slot.
– We have the pennyintheslot machines all over Melbourne.
– That is a very good system.
– Is it employed in private houses in London?
– In a good many private houses, I think, but certainly in offices.
– Oh !
– I know a firm in London that has a penny-in-the-slot machine and a number of pennies are kept available to be used when required. What 1 am afraid of is that under the toll-rate system here a person will make a call which will be recorded against him, even if he is unable to converse with the person to whom he wishes to talk. It will be unfair if the call is recorded and no conversation ensues. I do not wish to labour the matter further, but I think that it requires the greatest possible consideration. The telephone system is a very important modern civilizing convenience. If we want people to live in the country we must try to remove the feeling of isolation which prevails. It is a great thing for people living on a farm to be able to ring up and have a chat with his friends at a neighboring farm in the evening. This is one of the most important conveniences we can have from an Australian point of view. Any one who has been in the bush knows what isolation means, and how difficult it is to get people - particularly women - to live there. But it makes all the difference if they can have a talk with their friends over the telephone in the evening. From that point of view alone, the Minister ought to see that the telephones are made as cheap as possible, particularly in the country districts.
– I trust that I may be permitted for a few minutes to deal with the history of this question. When we entered into Federation the Commonwealth, as honorable members are aware, took over the Post and Telegraph Department, which had charge of mails, telephones and telegraphs. At that time in every part of Australia we had what was called the flat rate for telephones. That is to say, a certain amount ofmoney was paid by each subscriber, who was permitted to have an unlimited number of calls. The charge varied. In Adelaide the rate was then, as it is now, £10 per subscriber; in Sydney and Melbourne,£9 ; in Brisbane, £6. I forget the charges made in Hobart and Perth, but they also differed from the others. In Adelaide ten years ago - as is also the case today - there is a smaller network of lines than in Melbourne or Sydney; yet the Adelaide subscriber has to pay more for his telephone. From the time of my first entry into this Parliament I opposed the flat rate. I was one of the first - in fact, I think I was the first - member of this House to protest against it. I pointed out that the flat rate was unjust to subscribers ; that whilst it gave a great advantage to those who used the telephone to an enormous extent, it was unfair to those who used it in a limited degree. For some little time I believe that I was the only, member of this House to advocate the toll system.
– What date was that?
– I am referring to the first Parliament. I am prepared to admit that I advocated the system with stammering tongue at first. The honorable member for Gwydir entered this Housein the second Parliament, and he became a very powerful advocate of the toll system. Some time afterwards Mr. Hesketh, the Electrical Engineer of the Department, was asked - not by me, or by a Labour Government, but by the Ministry then inoffice - to make a tour of the world, and especially to inquire into the various telephone systems. When he came back he presented what was, in my opinion, a very valuable report - it was laid upon the table of the House - in which he advocated most strongly the adoption of the toll system. The outcome of the advocacy of that system in this House, supported by Mr. Hesketh’s report, was that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who was then PostmasterGeneral, proposed to institute the system. Immediately there was a hueandcry throughout the country on the part of the telephone subscribers. The honorable member, however, persevered in spite of that opposition. But at length it was announced that the Postmaster-General intended to allow any person who was then a subscriber to remain on the flat rate if he so desired, but that all new subscribers were to come under the toll system. It was also announced that subscribers, instead of paying£9 on the flat rate, were to pay £5, and to have the 2,000 free calls per annum. Immediately the PostmasterGeneral made that announcement, and it was understood that the large users of the telephone were to remain under the flat rate, the “ agitation ceased. The toil system was established, and small users and all new subscribers came under it. There was no outcry then by the large users of the telephone on behalf of the small users, because they were to be spared.
– Was not the toll system cheaper for the small users?
– It was cheaper than a flat rate of £9, I will admit ; but, at the same time, it was the toll system. The great opposition to-day is to the toll system, and the excuse for it is that the calls cannot be accurately recorded. It is said that wis should have a flat rate, and not a toll rate. Why? Because I wish to bring the big man, as well as the small man, under the toll rate. That is the reason for the opposition to the toll system to-day. Immediately Mr. Austin Chapman, as Post.masterGeneral, announced that the big man might remain under the flat rate, the opposition ceased.
– The honorable gentleman is putting up the price to the small men now.
– I shall deal with that directly. I do not hesitate to admit that I am putting up the price to the small man as compared with the rates under the Chapman scheme, but if Mr. Austin Chapman, as Postmaster- General, had gone on, as I believe he ought to have done at the time, and insisted that the big man should come under the toll system as well as the small user, it would have been more equitable. I say this is a fact; it is history, that immediately the Government of the day announced that the big man need not come under the toll system, and might remain under the flat-rate system, the opposition to the toll system ceased. What happened then? The big man who was a flat-rater was given a choice. I ask honorable members to consider what the Department did in favour of a few fellows outside. The subscriber who was on the flat rate was given the opportunity, if he so desired, to come under the toll’ rates fixed by Mr. Austin Chapman. He immediately figured the matter out as a business man, to ascertain whether it would be cheaper for him to remain under the £9 flat rate or come under the toll system-. If he found that it would be cheaper for him to remain under the flat rate, he naturally did so. New subscribers came automatically under the toll system, but 6,000 subscribers who were under the flat-rate system found that it would be cheaper for them to leave the £9 flat- rate system and come under the toll system of £5, with 2,000 free calls, and consequently did so. Was this fair- to the Department? Dealing with the matter as a Minister ought to deal with it, and considering the interests of the Department as well as of the public, I ask whether it was fair to the Department to say to a telephone subscriber, “ If it suits you, you may remain on the £9 flat rate, but if you find that it would be cheaper to come under the £5 rate, with 2,000 free calls, you are at liberty to do so.” Why should such a choice have been given to subscribers making fifty or a hundred calls a day? Why were they.net compelled to come under the £5 rate, with 2,000 free calls? If, for instance, it was fair that I, starting in business on a certain day in 1907, should come under the ,£5 rate, with 2,000 free rings, how could it be said that it was fair that those making fifty or 100 calls a day need not come under the ,£5 rate, with 2,000 free rings? As honorable members are aware, I was on a previous occasion Postmaster-General for a short period. I had always advocated the toll system. It is a system approved by the telephone experts of the world. I do not profess to be a telephone expert. This is not merely a fad with me. It is a system which is the outcome of the best advice of the telephone experts of the world. I felt it to be my duty, as a member of the Government, to try to introduce a system which I had advocated as a private member. If an honorable member, as a private member of this House, advocates a certain thing here, and asks Ministers to do it, when he becomes a Minister himself it is certainly his duty to endeavour to carry out that in which he believed as a private member. I did so. We were not in office for very long when we were dismissed, and the honorable member for Bendigo became PostmasterGeneral. He was not very long in office before deputations waited on him. The big man was there on behalf of the small user. It was the small user about whom he was so anxious. He was not particularly anxious about the small user whilst he was himself permitted to remain under the £9 flat rate. But by regulation 7A he, forsooth, was also brought under the toll rate, and then, all of a sudden, he was found to be extremely anxious about the small user.
– The honorable member is imputing a lot of motives to-night.
– This is history. These are facts. Deputations waited upon the honorable member for Bendigo, and that honorable gentleman said, “ I will not do away with the regulations altogether ; I shall suspend their operation for a time; :<nd, in order that I may get the requisite and necessary information, I shall appoint two accountants, outside the Department altogether, lc supply the figures and facts which a long-suffering public have been so anxious to have, and which have been denied them by a cruel Department.” These two accountants were appointed a committee of investigation, and they have produced a report. 1 ask honorable members to consider that report. The result of their investigation is that they admit that during the last two years there has been a loss, and an increasing loss - though it is not very big, I admit, and I am prepared to accept their figures - in the telephone service in Victoria. This is by the way. The honorable member for Bendigo says that no figures of a definite character are available outside Victoria; but I ask this House not to forget the fact that the honorable member, for Bendigo asked these two accountants to prepare a set of charges for Australia after they had- made an inquiry into the position of Victoria alone. We have here the report of the Accountants’ Committee, in which they give Parliament and the country a scheme of charges, in compliance with directions from the ex-Postmaster-General, based upon figures only for Victoria. That is what was done, and in the circumstances it cannot be considered a very great crime for me to do what the Accountants’ Committee did under the direction of the honorable member for Bendigo. I do not particularly object to the report of the. Accountants’ Committee. They say that for the first nine years a profit of £142,000 was made. 1 shall not go into this phase of the question at the present time, because I am having a report prepared by my departmental accountants on the matter. But a charge, if I may call it so, has been made by Mr. Hesketh, the Chief Electrical Engineer, whom I have asked to reply to the reports, that the Accountants’ Committee have omitted a great deal of work that was done in the time referred to, and which they should have included. There is one item which the members of the Committee themselves admit they have not included.
That item is the tunnels, which cost £50,000. In their report the accountants say that they have not dealt with die tunnels and they give the reason; at the same lime, the fact remains that we have spent that sum on them.
– Do net the accountants say that the profit of £142,000 could be applied to cover the cost of the tunnels ?
– Then where is the profit?
– That would still leave a profit.
– That is one item. Again, if honorable members look at the report they will find that the metropolitan telephone system of Victoria was taken over at £86,000, the value of the system in the whole of the State being £98,000, or £100,000 in round figures. This was a depreciated and out-of-date service, taken over by the Commonwealth at the valuation of the transferred properties ; and the departmental officers say that in the accountants’ report there is no legitimate account rendered of the money that has been spent in order to make the service a proper one.
– They charge interest and depreciation.
– The accountants have dealt with the service as representing £100,000 when it ought to have been a great deal more. However, we will let that pass, and simply deal with that part of the accountants’ report on which we are all agreed, namely, that during the last two years the loss in Victoria has been an increasing one, about £6,000 in one year, and about £7,000 in the next. Under the present system there was a dead loss of £7,000 odd; and newspapers and some people have been saying that the accountants give the toll system: as the cause of this loss.. But it is only fair to myself to make it known that the accountants do not give that as the cause. In their report they say : -
Undoubtedly, the rates proposed under the regulation of 19th March, 1909 - which are those of the celebrated 7A regulation - if they had been allowed to come into comp’ete force, would have had the effect of considerably improving the position. This regulation, we may remark, imposed a reduced fixed rental, but allowed no free’ calls.
I wish honorable’ members to follow me for a minute or two -
The choice would appear to be between adopting a policy such as was embodied in the regulation to which we have alluded, known as 7A, or a return to the flat rate wholly.
According to the accountants, therefore, we have either to adopt regulation 7 a or return absolutely to the fiat rate system. The present system, according to the accountants, must go - that is obvious from their report.
– By the present system the Minister means the Chapman system?
– That system under which the big man paid only £9 per annum and other subscribers £5 per annum, with 2,000 free calls.
– The great bulk are flat rate subscribers.
– Net in number.
– But in money.
– In money I should say they undoubtedly are, or they would have gone under the other rate. The late Government gave the subscribers the choice of either one or the ether system, and the big men chose the flat system, while the smaller subscribers adopted the toll system. However, the accountants, who were appointed by the ex-Postmaster-General, have condemned the present system, and, as I say, it obviously must go. Is it not a fact that the accountants said the present system ought to be abolished ?
– Certainly they did.
– And I am here to say that the system must go, so far as I am concerned j first, because it means the flat rate, and. secondly, because it is losing revenue. 1 do not hesitate to say here that I am not prepared, nor will I ever be prepared, to go to the Treasurer of this country and ask him for one single penny in order to make up any loss on the network of telephones in the metropolis or in any good sized city, though I am prepared to ask the Treasurer for money for telephone services in the back country.
– The Minister is not asked to go to the Treasurer for money for :ih° metropolitan network.
– So far so good ; I am glad we are in agreement as to that. The honorable member for Bendigo the other day asked me to deal with this matter calmly and judicially ; and I am trying to do so. The honorable member also said that one of the bad points of the toll system was that it cost more to record the calls than the calls were worth.
– I quoted that passage from the Committee’s report.
– I admit that; but the honorable member did net explain the passage, and I am now going to do so. What do the Committee say? They tell us in their report that in order to record the calls in Victoria it costs ,£6,303 in round figures, and that the Department receives in respect of those calls £6.000. That looks bad on the face of it, does it not?
– I think the revenue is only ,£2,000.
– The figure of ^2,000 will suit my argument just as well, though I think it is £6,000. The Chapman rates allow each subscriber to have 2,000 free calls, and, consequently, before one single halfpenny can be received from a subscriber, there have to be recorded 2,001 calls.
– But that subscriber is paying £5 a year for his telephone.
– Do not let us mix up the two things.
– But that is the point.
– It is net the point. Does the honorable member mean to tell me that the accountants are such fools as to say that the .£6,000 or the £2,000 is all we receive for the ground rents? The accountants were dealing with the calls, not with the ground rent. There are in Victoria 11,000 subscribers under the toll system, everyone of whom is entitled, under the Chapman rates, to 2,000 free calls. Consequently, it is possible for them to record 22,000,000 calls without our receiving a single halfpenny in return. Of course, the whole! of those 22,000,000 calls were not recorded, because all the subscribers did not exhaust their six rings per day, but it is possible for the Department to have to pay £6,300 to record those 22,000,000 calls and not receive a halfpenny. The only reason why we received £6,000, as I say, or £2,000, as the honorable member for Bendigo says, in return, was that a number of people exceeded 2,000 free rings each, but it was quite possible for us to have paid the £6,300 for recording all these calls without getting even £2,000 in return. Under my system we should have received ,£45,000 for those 22,000,000 calls, if everybody rang up his six calls per day.
– All ‘those who went under the tell rate were those who were mak« ing less than 2,000 calls a year.
– Decidedly. It practically meant that a large number ot peo. pie were given the flat rate for ,£5 instead of £9 ner annum. If a man rings up as often as he desires to, and does net exhaust his 2,000 free calls, it is practically a flat rate to him. As the honorable member for .Bendigo wanted me to deal with this question fairly, judicially, and calmly, it would have been only right for him to put that side of the case.
– I did not discuss that
– Of course not, but the honorable member pointed out what the accountants said was the loss on recording calls, and a point was made of that in the newspapers.
– I made no point of it.
– The honorable member for Fawkner made a point of the enormous cast of recording calls. I am prepared to admit that, if every call was charged for from the jump, as it will be under regulation 7 a, when it comes into force on 1 st September, and if then it cost £6,300 to record the calls, and we received in return only £2,000, or even £6,000, it is obvious that the toll system would have to go. Throughout Australia there ire 40,000 people under what is called the measured rate system, entitled to 2,000 free calls each. It is, therefore, possible for them to make 80,000,000 calls, and for us to have to record them without our getting a single penny as the outcome of those calls, apart, of course, “from the ground rent. If honorable members opposite cannot see that, I can tell them that I had the pleasure of meeting today a large number of Melbourne business men at the old Exchange, and when I put that aspect of the case to them they saw it in a moment.-
– I am not advocating free calls.
– No, but I want to pui the honorable member right on two or three little points which he did not put cor.rectly
– I did not deal with that question from an argumentative standpoint.
– In speaking on the Address-in-Reply, the honorable member laid stress on the assertion that it cost more to record the calls than they were worth, and the honorable member for Fawkner dealt with the same aspect of the ques-. tion. That was the outcome of the statement appearing in the accountants’ report. The accountants were perfectly right in showing that, with every subscriber using 2,000 free calls, it would cost more to re cord the calls than they were worth. The present system has to go because of that, and also because of its great injustice in permitting old subscribers to remain upon the flat rate, while compelling all new subscribers to come under the measured rate. I was anxious to get hold of some subscribers who had started as business men after the Chapman rates came into force, and who were now paying more than £9 per annum. I looked at the telephone list submitted to me, and rang up a business man in this town who at present is paying about £20 a year. I said, “ I shall not mention your name- unless you give rr.e permission, but I want to give to the public the names of a few business men who have been forced to come under the Chapman system, because they started business or obtained a telephone only after a certain date, and are paying more than other business men who, under the flat rate, are using the telephone forty or fifty times a day. 1 see by the list submitted to me that you are one of those.” He telephoned back, “ I have not the slightest objection to your using my name, but it is only fair to tell you that we voluntarily came under the Chapman rate. We figured it out and found, as business men, according to the way in which we were using the telephone then, that it would be cheaper for us to come under the £5 charge, with 2.000 free rings, than to remain under the £9 flat rate. Our business, however, has gone ahead by leaps ai;d bounds since then, and to-day we are paying from £20 lb £22 .per annum, instead cf £9, which we should have been paying if we had remained on the fl.it rate. But we have no r n 11C. of complaint in any way, as we made the change voluntarily.’’ There is an injustice in the present system which forces a man starting business to-day to come under the measured rate, and will compel him in a few years, if his business increases, to’ pay a great deal more than a business man alongside him, who is using his telephone under the old flat rate far more extensively. No one can be found to defend the present rates. According to the Telephone Accounts Committee there are only two courses open to us - either to go back to regulation 7 a, or to adopt the flat-rate system altogether.
– Not 7 a, but the policy of 7a.
– That is to say, no free calls, whether the ground rent be £3 10s. or £4> and the honorable member for Bendigo admits that there is only a question of ^20.000 between us. The Telephone Accounts Committee say that we ought to adopt the flat rate system, and at the request of the honorable member for Bendigo they submitted a scale of charges as far »hack as the 15th February last. That scale of charges was, I presume, in the hands of the ex-Postmaster-General two months before the last general election, but it was :not given to the world, and nothing was said about it. The Committee proposed, briefly, that all business subscribers should pay from £7 103. up to j£io per annum, according to the number of subscribers in the network with which they were connected, and that all private subscribers - persons living in private residences - should pay £5 per- annum. I ask the special attention of honorable members-to this matter, because we are dealing now with the position of the small man in the metropolitan area. Ninety per cent, of the subscribers in the metropolitan network who are under the Chapman rates to-day would pay more under the accountants’ scale of charges than they would under mine. I hope that honorable members will bear that fact in mind. I am not at all surprised that some people were not prepared to advocate those charges. Then, again, 96 per cent, of the business men in Ballarat who come under regulation 7 would pay’ more under the accountants’ scale than they would under the Thomas rate of charges, whilst 96 per cent, of the business men connected with the Bendigo exchange, and working to-day under the Chapman rates, would pay more under the accountants’ scale of charges than they would under regulation’ 7 a,
– How does the honorable member determine what proportion of the subscribers are business men?
– Every business man connected with the telephone system is under regulation 7, and his calls are recorded. That has been done for the last year or two, and it does not require any involved arithmetical process to determine what’ they would have . to pay if their calls were recorded under regulation 7a.
– What I wish to know is the basis on which the Department determines who are business men amongst the subscribers to the service.
– Any subscriber who wishes to have recorded in the Telephone Directory his business or occupation is regarded as a business man, whilst those whose names appear in the Directory without a description of their occupation are treated as private subscribers. The Telephone Accounts Committee have differentiated between private and business people. Theyrecommended that business men be charged .£10, £9, .or j£& per annum, according to the network with which they are connected ; and that throughout Australia all private subscribers, irrespective of the network with which they are connected, should pay the one rate of £5 per annum. That is a very brilliant idea. There are nearly 15,000 subscribers connected with the Sydney exchange, so that, if the recommendation of the Telephone Accounts Committee were adopted, a private subscriber in any of the suburbs of Sydney could, on payment of £5 per annum, have at his command, night and day, 15,000 subscribers.
– It is an exaggeration to say that a private subscriber connected with the Sydney telephone exchange would have at his command 15.000 subscribers night and day. What man would be rung up for twenty-four hours continuously ?
– I say that there are 15.000 subscribers whom such a man could ring up at any time of the day or night.
– But no man could call up 15.000 subscribers in a day
– The honorable member is hopeless.
– The honorable member gives an illustration which does net apply. It is a hopeless exaggeration.
– Very well. I shall not attempt to convince the honorable member. I wish to point out, however, that there are some exchanges to which there are ‘ only twenty-three subscribers, and in connexion with which there is not an all-night service. In some cases a subscriber cannot be rung up between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8- a.m., yet the Telephone -Accounts Committee recommended that such subscribers should also be charged £5, the same rate as they proposed in respect of men connected with a metropolitan exchange possessing an allnight service. This is such a brilliant idea that I can well understand why the honorable and learned member for Bendigo did not advocate it when Postmaster-General, although it was submitted to him two months before the last general ‘ election. Some honorable members have said that private subscribers should not be charged as much as business men, and the honorable member for Parramatta gave it as a reason for charging business men more than private individuals that a business man. might make £5 as the result of a call on a telephone, whereas private individuals used their telephones merely for social purposes - for inquiringabout the health of friends, and the like. That is a strange argument. While a business man might make £5 as the result of a telephone call, he might equally well lose £5 ; and if the Department ought to charge him more because he might make money, it shouldcharge him less because he might lose. It must be remembered, however, that business men are benefited by the large number of private subscribers belonging to an exchange. Without them his telephone would be of little use to him. Consequently it would be fair to charge business men a little more than private subscribers, and I have endeavored to arrange the rates on that basis. According to the figures of the Department, the capital cost of each telephone in Victoria is £39. The Committee of Accountants estimated the capital costat £30.97, or practically £31. That estimate, however, was made for a system under which subscribers were charged a fixed rate if within a mile of the exchange. Under a regulation issued in Mr. Mauger’s time subscribers two miles from an exchange were allowed to connect without extra charge. Then, again, the earlier subscribers were given only an earth circuit, which is less costly than, and not so effective as, a metallic circuit with a return wire. Practically, therefore, under the earlier arrangement each subscriber used only a mile of wire, whereas now many subscribers use four miles of wire, taking into account both the outward and return line for a distance of two miles. These considerations show that the departmental estimate of capital cost is not extreme. The honorable member for Fawkner says that the telephone system should be made to pay, and told us that he is willing that it should pay. We all pay in the last resort, when we cannot get something for nothing. In fixing the new rates, it was calculated that we might fairly charge3½ per cent. interest on the assumed capital cost of £39, or£17s. 4d. a year. Treating the service commercially, something had also to be allowed for depreciation. For this, we allowed 5 per cent., which is rather low, the rate in other places being considerably higher. That came to £119s. a year. As a subscriber should not have something for nothing, it is only fair that a sinking fund should be provided for. Allowing 3.5 per cent. to wipe off the cost in twenty years, we charged £1 7s. 7d. on that head. We found, too, that the work ing cost in the metropolitan area during 1908 was £4 15s. per subscriber. This covered the cost of attendance and everyday expenses, such as the sending out of fitters to test an instrument, or to replace a broken insulator. These charges total £9 8s.11d. A number of honorable members from both sides of the Chamber have asked me, “ Cannot you reduce the ground rent, charging a halfpenny for every call?” With that suggestion I have great sympathy. If any one cares to look up my earlier speeches on this subject, he will find that, when a private member, I advocated that subscribers should be required to pay only£1,30s.,or£2 by way of entrance fee, and so much per call. Before I had the honour of becoming PostmasterGeneral I discussed this question with Sir Robert Scott on more than one occasion, and he assured me that such rates were impossible. I had been in the Department only a few days when I had to abandon-
– Your dream.
– My dream. I had to abandon it because, from the figures which were presented to me, I was amazed to learn of the small extent to which a large number of subscribers use the telephone.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral mean the subscribers?
– Yes. In the entire area embraced by Melbourne and its suburbs 1 2 per cent. of the subscribers in private houses do not use the telephone more than once a day, and nearly 20 per cent. do not use it more than twice a day. When the Department instals a telephone in a private dwelling it has no guarantee that the subscriber will use it even once a day. It is true that he does not have the instrument installed for mere amusement sake, but for the purpose of using it. Nevertheless, the fact remains that nearly 20 per cent. of cur telephone subscribers in private houses do not use their instruments more than twice a day. That being so, if the figures which I have presented are anything like accurate, honorable members will see that before a telephone can pay the Department it must produce a yearly revenue of £9 8s.11d. It must also be recollected that the character of the message transmitted through the instrument makes no difference whatever to the Department. The same cost is involved in recording a call irrespective of whether the subscriber makes a profit of £5 by the message which he transmits, or whether he merely inquires after the health of his mother-in-law. The same attendance is required in each case, and the same service is rendered. In order to be equitable, therefore, we ought to impose such charges as will guarantee from each telephone an annual return of at least£9 8s. 11d. But if we did that, the small private subscriber would cease to use the telephone, and thus the business man would be handicapped, because his instrument would be of very little use to him. Consequently, I said, “ I will charge what I think is a reasonable ground rent, namely, £4.” Honorable members will see from the figures that I have submitted that if the Department levies a charge of a halfpenny per call it will make a profit upon every ring. The revenue necessary to make up the difference between the ground rent of £4 per annum and the £9 8s.11d. must be collected upon the calls which are made. Now suppose that the big user were to come to me and say, “ I admit the accuracy of all your figures, and I think it is only fair that I should pay the Department at least £9 8s.11d. per annum, but after it has charged me that amount it ought to reduce the price of the calls, not to one-third of a penny, but to their actual cost, which may be one-sixteenth or even one twenty-fourth of a penny.” I say that the adoption of such a principle might be absolutely just to the big user. But in order to give effect to that principle, it would be necessary to increase the ground rent to the small user, and thus the big user would be penalized because his telephone would be of very little use to him. Consequently, in the regulation which I have issued, I have laid it down that a charge of a half-penny per call will be made up to 2,000 calls half-yearly, and that for each call in excess of that number one- third of a penny must be paid. The little profit which the Department will thus make on each ringwill enable it to say to the small subscriber, “ You may have the instrument installed in your home for a ground rent of £4 per annum.”
– As to the number of calls which the Postmaster-General has just quoted, are those permitted under the halfyearly rates?
– That is the principle which I have laid down, and I do not care whether the period over which it operates is three months or six months or nine months. It will pay the big user of the telephone to contribute a little towards the cost of the instrument of the small user. I was discussing this question with a member of the Victorian Parliament one day when he remarked, “ I will admit that the baker, the greengrocer, and the butcher ring up my house every day for orders.” It is to their advantage that he has a telephone installed in his home. If he had not, they would have to send their carts round for his orders. Consequently, it pays the business man to contribute to the Department a little more than in equity ought to be demanded of him. These are, broadly speaking, the lines upon which I have proceeded.
– What is the estimated life of a telephone?
– I really cannot say. Within twelve months an invention may render it out of date.
– I would like to know how the £9 8s. 11d. is made up.
– I have already given that information to the House. It will appear in Hansard, and I feel that I am already wearying honorable members. I would like to point out, however, that under the existing rates the revenue for measured service subscribers in Melbourne averages only £5 13s. 7d. per annum. Of course, there are quite a number of subscribers who pay £9 per annum, so that the average all round would be higher than £513s.7d. I am sorry that I have not the exact average from subscribers in the figures which have been supplied to me.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral speaking of the average for the whole of Australia ?
– No. I am dealing with Melbourne and its suburbs, merely by way of illustration. I have not the figures for States other than Victoria.I could get them, but to supply them to the House would occupy hours.
– How does the PostmasterGeneral make up the cost of each, line in Melbourne? I was informed that inclusive of interest and depreciation, it amounts to only £81s. 3d, per annum.
– For the sake of argument, I am prepared to accept the figures of the honorable member himself. There is a revenue of £8 per telephone, on the basis of a ground rent of £4, and½d. per call up to 2,000 half-yearly, and then one-third of1d. If the honorable member’s figures be correct, under regulation 7 a we shall still be out of pocket to. the extent of1s. 3d. per telephone. If my figures are correct, and I give £9 8s. ird., and the honorable member gives £g is. 3d.-
– How does the Minister get £9 8s. 1 id. ?
– Well, how does the honorable member get £8 is. 3d. ? I will, if he wishes, accept his estimate of £8 is. 3d., because, even on that basis, as the estimate which I have before me shows that the revenue under regulation 7 a would be £8 per telephone, we should lie short to the extent of is. 3d. per telephone
– How does that agree with the Minister’s statement that he is not going to ask the Treasurer, to make up a loss on the telephone service?
– I am hoping that the results will be a little better than I anticipate. Again, the accountants claim that it would be impossible to record the calls. In answer to that statement, it is only fair to say this : We have departmental officers to whom we pay fair salaries. These officers all assure me that it is possible to record the calls. Now, these accountants may be admirable in their own line of business ; but I say that if we, as -a Department, employ a number of officers in connexion with our telephone service, if we have a highly-skilled and trained expert as electrical engineer, and these gentlemen assure me, as Minister, that the record of calls can be made, then, either we ought to accept their assurance, or else to dismiss them and put the accountants in charge. One thing or the other we should do. To show how much these accountants know about telephoning, let me point out that they suggest the possibility of the toll system eventually supplanting the flat-rate system; but they argue that we ought not to bring in the «ew system at once, but that for six or twelve months we should take a record of calls, and base our toll rates upon the result. But if it is a physical impossibility to make a record of the calls, how in the mme of Heaven can we obtain the record which the accountants recommend that we should get? They suggest, on the one hand, that we should take a record for six or twelve months, and on the other hand, they state that it is physically impossible to take a record at all.
– They first say that the thing cannot be done, and then say that ve should do it.
– Tho accountants ask us to do what they themselves declare to be a physical impossibility. But, even if a record were taken for six or nine months, we could not base our toll rates on the result, because, immediately you substitute the toll system for the flat-rate system, there is a drop in the number of calls. If a subscriber has to pay Jd. for every call, he will not allow persons to use his telephone as they like. There will be an enormous difference. People in Melbourne and Sydney are already making preparations for the use of their telephones on a different system. They are seeing to it that their office boys shall not ring up people on the telephone as they do now. They are providing that only properlyauthorized persons shall use the instrument. Therefore, the recommendation of the accountants in this respect would be useless. The honorable member for Gwydir, in a very temperate speech, has argued that we might have delayed the institution of this change of system until the Postal Commission had presented its report. Other honorable members, who are not so keenly interested in the Postal Commission, have supported the same view. It is strange, indeed, how anxious “ people are for delay when any one wishes to bring about some little reform. Every excuse for delay is used. I have a good deal of sympathy for the members of a Commission who ask that something which is under their purview shall not be done until their report is presented. But, in the first place, I reply that the new regulation was originally instituted twelve months ago. We are now merely reviving a suspended regulation. In the second place, I do not know what the Postal Commission intend to recommend in relation to this subject. Possibly, they will recommend the adoption of the toll system. If they do not, I say at once that I do not care for fifty Postal Commissions - I shall still be in favour of the toll system, because it is the outcome of the experience of the world, I cannot, however, for one moment, imagine that the Commission will recommend the adoption of any other system; although they may show that we can base the toll system on cheaper rates than I am asking the subscribers to pay. I shall be delighted, indeed, if the Commission can see their way to make a recommendation to that effect. No one would be happier than I to reduce the rates under the toll system _ if it were possible to do so. But if the” toll system is to be instituted, it makes very little difference whether it is commenced to-day or in a month’s time. The principle is the main thing. Details can easily be altered. One reason why 1 think it necessary to revive regulation 7A is this : The advice of the legal fraternity now comes into the question ; and I am informed that should regulation 7A be altered to the extent of the omission of a comma, I could not bring every subscriber under its scope in one day. When the exPostmasterGeneral dealt with this question, he did not abolish regulation 7A; he merely suspended it. Seeing that it has only been suspended, I am in the position that, if f do not alter it, I can bring it into force in one day, bring every subscriber under its operation, and clear the atmosphere. And if it should be shown later that it is desirable to reduce the charges, it would be the easiest thing in the world for any PostmasterGeneral, instead of making a charge of £4, to fix a rate of only £3 10s.
– It would be easy to lower, but hard to raise the rates.
– Precisely. By reviving regulation 7A on the 1st September, I shall bring all telephone subscribers under the toll system ; and we shall have had six months’ experience of the working of the system before we begin to collect the tolls. Every one who pays £4 instead of £5 ground rent, will be paying, in original cost, j£i less under my system than he had to pay under past systems ; and it will be six months before we begin to collect anything for the calls. It would be the easiest thing in the world, at the end of six months, if it were found that under the rates fixed by regulation 7A we were charging subscribers 10s. more than we need charge them, to reduce the charges by that amount. I may inform the House that the ex-Postmaster-General submitted a scheme which I believe was still-born. He introduced it in Cabinet, and it was laid on the table of the House ; and there was a difference of only 10s. between the rates he proposed and those which I have fixed. If, then, at the end of six months from the 1st September next, it is shown that the people have been unduly charged for this service, and that we are raising money which we should not raise in this way, it will be the easiest thing in the world for the Postmaster-General to say, for instance, that he now .finds it possible to refund 10s. to each subscriber, I say that I should be happy indeed if that could be done ; but I am afraid that I shall be unable to do it.
– :Will the Minister say whether private subscribers who have paid the flat rate of £5 to the end of the year will come under the toll rate?
– Yes; every one but those included in regulation 34 will come under the toll rate on the 1st September next.
– Will those who desire to withdraw get a refund ?
– If they desire to cease to be subscribers, they can get a refund. We have passed a regulation that if any one desires to give up his telephone on the 1st September, he can do so, and a definite regulation has been passed to enable the Treasurer to pay him a refund. If there u a great and burning desire on the part of people to give up their telephones, we have made ample provision to meet that desire. I do not, however, think that it will tax the Treasurer very much to find the money necessary to pay refunds.
– Will the Minister say how many desire to withdraw their applications for telephones?
– People have, come to me and complained that for three months they have been kept waiting for their telephones, and - have asked when they are going to get them. But, so far, 1 have not come across one person who has’ definitely said that he is going to withdraw his application for a telephone. I should like to point out that the charges I am proposing are lower than those which are recommended by the officers of the Department. The charges I am submitting are those of the departmental officers, modified by myself against their advice. I do not wish to shelter myself behind any departmental officer; I accept complete responsibility in the matter. The only difference between the officers of the Department and myself is that they think I am charging too little, and that the rate which I have fixed at £4 should be £5. I take full responsibility for saying that it shall be £4. The honorable member for Bendigo, in speaking the other evening, was good enough to say that I should give some free calls in connexion with these proposals of mine. It is the easiest thing in the world to give free calls. All that you have to do is to raise the ground rent a little. If I raise the ground rent to the extent of I can give 480 free calls. That would be better for the Department, but not so good for the subscriber. It would be’ better for the Department that a subscriber should pay £5 and be given 480 free calls, than’ that he should pay only £4 and be given no free calls.
– Why not split the difference, and give 200 tree calls?
– I am net in favour of any free calls. Personally, 1 would not allow a single free call. First of all. there is a principle in the matter ; and, secondly, while I believe that the telephone should he made an instrument of great convenience to business people as well as to the occupants of private houses, I do net think we should do anything to induce people to use the telephone merely for the sake of using it. What I mean by that is this : Private enterprise engaged in the telephone business, quite legitimately, desires to make a profit from it. If I took an interest in a telephone company, I should wish to make 5 or 7 or 10 per cent, on my. investment if I could. Private telephone companies raise the ground rent a little, and iri ve a number of free rings, fly raising the ground rent, they are assured of a certain income, and by giving a number of free rings, they induce people to use the telephone. If, for instance, they allow 750 free rings, a subscriber will say, “ I have 750 free rings, and whether I use them or not, I have paid for them.” The result is that he will avail himself of the free rings. There is a tendency, under such a system, for people to use the telephone freely; they get into the habit of using it, and make a more extensive use of it than is absolutely necessary. If we were out merely to make money to see how much we could make out of this branch of the Department, it would be a very good thing to give free calls. But 1 think it is bad political economy for people to spend a id. on a telephone call unnecessarily. I am sorry I have detained the House for so long ; but the question has been discussed a little lately, and I confess that I have been somewhat surprised by what has occurred. The Government have submitted a GovernorGeneral’s Speech, in which they announced their intention to introduce a land tax, which 1 believe and hope will be one of the stiffest land taxes anywhere in the world; a Defence Bill, on the outcome of which may depend, possibly, the national life of Australia; a Federal note issue; and a few other little trifles;’ but all these are, in the opinion of the Opposition, of no consequence when compared with at telephone rate. The importance of a telephone rate seems to overshadow all thesethings; and, after all, I remind honorable; members again, that there is a difference of only 10s. between the rates I propose,, and those which were proposed by the honorable member for Bendigo. To summarize briefly, it seems to me that the present position and charges are indefensibleNobody is prepared to defend thepresent system. The flat rate must give way to the measured system. A few days ago I had the privilege of showing a number of friends the new machinery in the telephone branch, and amongst those present was Mr. Hogg, President of the Chamber of Manufactures, who was good enough to express his opinion publicly on what he saw. I should not repeat what he said to me privately, but he subsequently made practically the same remarks, to a representative of the Herald newspaper. When Mr. Hogg saw the elaborate and costly machinery provided to record the calls, he turned to me and said, “ Mr. Thomas, you have won. I see here thousands and tens of thousands of pounds* worth of machinery introduced, not by you, but by your predecessors, in order to record calls, and it is evident that the whole business has been built up on the toll system. As a business man, I could not ask you to throw all this machinery into the scrapheapwithout, at least, giving it a trial. It is a question of charges, and these may be high, but there can be no question as bertween the toll system and the flat system -r the flat rate must go in favour of the measured rate.” I go so far as to claim that: no responsible Minister has ever submitter.? to this House charges more fair than those I now propose. I have endeavoured tc» make the charges the lowest possible. I am not anxious to make a profit out of thetelephones, but they must be made to pay. Had I desired merely to obtain a fleeting popularity, T could have come to this Houseand declared that a rate of £3 10s. was sufficient, but I venture to say that I have guarded the interests of the subscribers as far as possible. A great public trust has been committed to my charge, and I an* confident that, if these rates are in force for a time, they will prove that that trusthas not been betrayed, but that the balancehas been held fairly and evenly as between the Department, the subscribers, and ‘thegeneral public.
– The Postmaster-General and the honorable member for Bendigo have given <us much information on a matter in which the people of this great country are closely -interested. The discussion has largely centered on the cost of the telephones, and on ;the rates that will be charged at the metropolitan exchanges; and I should have been glad had the Minister favoured us with his reasons for maintaining the same rates in the country.
– The ground rent is £1 less in the country.
– The accountants, in their report, suggest that the population basis should be on a different scale from that approved by the Minister. According to the regulations which are to come into force the cost in a population of 1,000 to 10,000 within a radius of 5 miles, for an exclusive service, will be, in addition to all charges, £3, for a twoparty service £2 103., tor a three-party service £2, and so on, until we reach a population of from 10,000 to over 100,000. I should like to know from the PostmasterGeneral whether, in the case of a population of from 1,000 to 10,000, there will be a 5-miies radius, seeing that, under the present condition, there is a 2-miles radius. Has the radius been extended ? If so, the charges require further consideration. For :some considerable time past there have been complaints as to the inefficiency of the service. It has been the ambition of even “Postmaster-General to improve the service;, :and this evening we have been told of some nf the difficulties that are met with in this connexion, particularly the difficulty created bv the condition the telephone and telegraph services were in when transferred to the Commonwealth. At that time the appliances were obsolete, and quite incapable nf coping with the growing business; and consequently a large expenditure has been necessitated in every branch of the service. “The people, first of all, require an efficient service ; and if that can be provided, it may minimize very largely the complaints made as to the charges. Although the increased charges are to be: levied as from 1st September next, we are informed, on the best authority, that it will not be possible to give an efficient service for some years - that there are neither the men nor the appliances to give an efficient service for, at :any rate, two years. It is said that this Department should be run to a considerable extent-on business lines, and I think “that we must admit that that is so, although we know that the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services should play a large part in the development of the country, in so far as facilities of the kind induce people to settle, not only in the smaller towns, but in t’:e scattered districts. The Department cannot be conducted on sentiment alone, but must have introduced into it a large business element. The Postmaster-General has gone to considerable trouble this evening to shew that, on some basis satisfactory to himself, the proposed high charges are necessary. In the case of a private person who performs a public service, the charges are fixed on the capital cost and on the-cost of maintenance ; but I venture to say that, however fair the charges may be which the PostmasterGeneral has fixed for the erection of telephone lines in the metropolitan areas - though I doubt their fairness very much - I take great exception to their application to the country exchanges. I have been able to get a number of exchanges established in my electorate, and I am sure that the Department could not give me an accurate statement as to the cost in any one instance. Those who have the supervision cannot devote the whole of their time to particular works, and are, therefore, unable to differentiate as to the cost of their separate services. That position is indorsed by the Accountants’ Committee. In the first page or two of their report they show how impossible it is to find out what these charges were, as no accounts had been kept, nobody seemed to know what the capital cost had been; nobody could tell what it had cost to deliver material in certain places, or the ‘ cost of the material itself. I could not understand any business firm undertaking to recommend a scale of charges, which must be based first on the capital cost, allowing interest and sinking fund upon that, and then on the services rendered, in a condition of affairs such as I have described. On the fourth page the accountants say, speaking of a number of account books in the Department, that from none of them was it possible to learn, by inspection, either the cost of installing or maintaining the system as a whole, or any particular part of it. They add that it was clear that any statements previously made regarding either cost or profit or loss could have had “ no proper accounting basis to justify them.” Thm specify what books should be kept, including one to show the capital value of each exchange or network, and another for its working; and add that such books are noticeable by their complete absence alike in the General Post Office and the Central Office. On the face of it, I fail to see where the figures can be got to show what the capital cost of the different networks has been. The Postmaster-General has used certain figures to prove that each subscriber’s telephone costs the Department for installing and maintenance *£g 8s. 1 id. per year, In many of the exchanges, I venture to say, it does not cost half that.
– I was talking of Melbourne.
– I am speaking of the charges which apply to all parts of Australia.
– There will net be enough rings from those places. I am charging, only £3 ground rent.
– Yes , £3 for ground rent, and in addition there are the charges for calls. There is no justification for charging a ground rent of £3 in country networks. The ground rent should be based on interest and sinking fund on the capital cost, and the maintenance charge should include the cost of upkeep and services rendered. The £3 a year capitalized at a reasonable interest represents far more than the capital cost of telephones in country districts. Further, the charges made, and the costs laid down for the metropolitan areas, are much in excess of those in country districts. In many country places the trees for the poles’ grow in sight of the exchange, whereas in metropolitan areas they have to be carted hundreds of miles. The cost of poles is one of the most serious items, and the cost of wire is very slight in comparison. Consequently the capital cost in the metropolitan area is not at all on the same basis as in country exchanges, and the £3 charge is altogether excessive. The same applies to the rate to be charged for the rings. Under the existing rates we are charged £4 in country exchanges and allowed 2,000 free calls in a year.
– There are very few subscribers in the country who ring up 2,000 times.
– So much the more reason why the charges should be less.
– So they are. I am charging £1 less to start with.
– But to get the same service for which we are now paying £4 it will cost us under the new rates, at jd. per call, about £8 3s. 4d. per annum, or an increase of over 100 per cent. Either the telephone branch of the Department has been run at a hopeless less in the past, or the new charges are unjustifiably excessive.
– Under the new arrangement the ground rent is £3, and the charge for 2,003 calls would be £4 33. 4d.
– Even then the total cost would be £-j 3s. 4d., as against £4, or an increase of over 75 per cent., which shows that there must have been something radically wrong previously, and that the Telephone Branch has been in a hopeless case, or else that the new charges are excessive. I contend that the Minister has not shown satisfactory reasons for the new rates. His calculations as to the capital cost and maintenance have not been as fair as we might expect; and while basing many of his arguments on the accountants’ report, he has net shown us why he has adopted his own charges instead of those which the accountants recommend. If the accountants were right in one case they ought to be right in the other. I am sure that the honorable member is still open to reason, and I should like him to further consider more particularly the rates as they apply to small exchanges. He has referred to some exchanges where there are not more than twenty-five subscribers, and pointed cut that those people are net getting the same service or privileges as subscribers in the metropolitan area, who can ring up something like 13,000 subscribers. That is quite true ; and therefore, seeing that the Cap-t:, cost cannot be nearly so great, because the material is on the ground, he should not charge us nearly as much as he does people with larger privileges. He might give further consideration to the accountants’ scheme of classifying the exchanges, and grading the charges according to the number of subscribers. The accountants start with networks of from 1 to 100 subscribers, and go on from 100 to 300 subscribers, and from 300 to t.200. to 3,500, and to 7,500, and so on. The Postmaster-General might well include in his regulation charges which, would cover the different exchanges on a similar basis. I hope we shall have another opportunity, on the Estimates, of dealing with the matter, and that then the report of the Postal Commission will be available. The debate this evening has been confined to telephone exchanges only, and to the rates which the Postmaster-General has fixed.
I ask the honorable gentleman to consider whether it is not possible to do something for the class of people to whom he and others have referred this evening, in urging that telephones should be carried to the homes of country residents? The honorable member for Fawkner expressed the hope that there was a time coming when every farmer would be able to have a yarn over the telephone with his nextdoor neighbour. I can only say that there will have to be a material change in the present position before that luxury will be possible to our farming community.
– Under the new scaleof charges, a farmer will be able to obtain a telephone for £1 per annum less than was possible before.
– I fail to find any proof of that statement in a letter which I have received this evening from the Department, and I think that I am as competent to speak about country telephone services as is any honorable member.
– What does the honorable member say is the cost per mile of constructing a country telephone line?
– I did not mention that matter.
– I thought the honorable member said that he knew a great deal about country telephone lines?
– So I do; but this is not the time to deal with the question which the honorable member has raised. I have intimated that when the Estimates are before us, I shall have something to say about that and other matters, and I am asking the Postmaster-General, in the meantime, to consider whether it is not possible to relax the arbitrary rules under which country people desiring a telephone line have not only to guarantee the Department against loss, but to contribute very often to the cost of construction and maintenance for over a period of seven years. Could not these conditions be so relaxed as to give people living in country districts a reasonable opportunity to secure this convenience, which is admitted by every one to be almost a necessity? For nearly four years, I have been trying - asI believe other honorable members have been - to secure the construction of lines in districts where people are living in the bush miles away from a country town. In one of these places, in connexion with . which I have been asking for a telephone line for over three years, and where the people have been prepared to guarantee the Department against loss, I am told that in one week no less than three journeys through the bush, where there is no roadway, had to be made in order to secure the services of a doctor. Yet we are supposed to be studying the interests of the people doing pioneering work ; and we bear some honorable members talking glibly about farmers being able to chat with each other over the telephone wires ! I regret to say that the Department has not shown any sympathy with” country residents in this respect. It has not taken up a reasonable attitude. Its terms havebeen most arbitrary, and the conditions most unrelenting.
– They are worse than ever they were.
– I think so.
-But they will be a great deal worse if we do not make the city exchanges pay.
-I think the honorable member will acquit me of having said anythingabout the city exchanges. I have been devoting most, if not all, of my time to an appeal for country exchanges. As showing how unrelenting are the terms fixed by the Department, I should like to mention a case where the revenue derived from a line has exceeded the amount guaranteed, and where the Department, when asked to return the deposit lodged by the guarantors,has refused to do so, because the seven years’ period has not elapsed. It is holding the unused balance, and will not return it to the guarantors, although it has been in their hands for three or four years. The men concerned want the money badly.
– That is a shame.
– The statement is absolutely true. I think that the Postmaster-General ought to be prepared to accept suggestions from any part of the House ; and I believe that he will be in sympathy with country people. I do not think that any honorable member desires that the last sixpence shall be ground out of any one. What this House desires the
Postmaster-General to do is, first of all, to insure to the people of Australia an efficient and workable service. I shall expect him, subject to that condition, to fix such terms as will show to the people of the country that he is working upon business principles. He should fix rates that will pay the Government for the money expended, and provide a reasonable return for the services rendered. But if we are going to increase rates without giving a corresponding increase in the service rendered, we cannot expect the people to believe that we are doing what we claim. I hope that, first of all, we shall be able to obtain some data to work upon in regard to the cost of these lines. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will take up a new position, and will see that it is possible, on the completion of an exchange in any district, to show what that exchange cost. No previous Postmaster-General has been able to say what any one network has cost; and, consequently, it has no: been possible to determine what is a fair rate to charge subscribers. That is one reason why we are entitled to ask for information from the Department, and to say, without putting the onus of responsibility upon any one person, that charges shall not be imposed for which good reasons cannot be given. Rates should not be increased if the Department cannot give good business reasons tor its action, based on the cost of construction and maintenance, and the supply of stores. Unless we can depend upon having actual facts to guide us in determining what the rates should be, those responsible should give up the responsibility that rests upon them, and allow other people to take their place.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General to take into consideration the question of residences attached to country post-offices. In Queensland, recently, there have been built in small country townships postoffices to which no residences are attached. In some instances, married men have been appointed to the charge of these offices, and have found that there is absolutely no accommodation for them. I understand that there is to be a conference of officers with respect to the matter ; and, as the Department is continuing to erect new postoffices without providing any residential accommodation, I ask that the conference shall be convened as soon as possible, in order that this vexed question may be settled. I desire, also, ‘ to refer briefly to the position of men in charge of con- tract post-offices. Many of these men have served the Department well for years ; but, on their offices being converted into official post-offices, they have been thrown out of their positions. I do not say that they, should, of right, be entitled to enter the Public Service; but I should like the Prime Minister to endeavour to devise some means whereby such men, after a certain period of service, shall Be able to qualify, by passing ah examination, for admission to it. The only other point to which I desire to refer relates to the Department of the Attorney-General. I saw in the press, a few days ago, a statement to the effect that one of our very best officers had been appointed to the position of Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman in one of the States. 1 have always held that a fair salary should be paid to all our officers, high and low. It is to be regretted that highly efficient officers in our service who, by reason of the very nature of their work, can become proficient only after some years of service, should not be paid salaries that will secure their services to us. The parliamentary draftsman who has left us was a particularly efficient officer ; but the salary he was receiving evidently was not such as would induce him to remain with us. He was specially qualified for the particular work that he had to do. lt is ali very well to say that we can obtain outside an equally good man for the work ; but while that is possibly so, the fact cannot be denied that it will take two or three years’ experience in the Department to secure for us the same efficiency. I say this, not at the suggestion of any officer, nor as a result of consultation with any of them, but as the result of my practical experience of the working cf the Department. To retain the services of the best men, we must pay salaries equivalent to the work done. .1 hope the Prime Minister will bring this matter under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner.
– I shall bring under the notice of the Commissioner the three matters which have been referred to.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100721_reps_4_55/>.