4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Yesterday I presented a petition from Mr. Herbert Clarke, praying that the House would take steps to recompense him for the loss to which he was compelled to submit, viz., £500, in connexion with the purchase of land from him by the Commonwealth. In order that the honorable member for Coolgardie may have an opportunity to refer to the matter, I move-
That the petition be printed.
.- In reference to the petition which was presented to the House yesterday by the honorable member for Melbourne, signed by Mr. Herbert Clarke, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Do I understand that the honorable member is making a personal explanation ?’
– Yes, and also speaking to the motion.
– The question is”That the petition be printed,” and I do not think that the honorable member on that motion can go into any matter outside the actual printing of the document. He may make a personal explanation.
– I take it that an honorable member may refer to any matter contained in the petition and to offer such comment thereon as may influence the decision of the House as to whether the document shall or shall not be printed. I do not know that any one can divine what I am going to refer to at the present moment. I rose to make what is practically a personal explanation, arid I hope that I shall not be unnecessarily interrupted in doing so.
– Order; I had no intention of interrupting the honorable member, but I must maintain the Standing Orders. The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the petition itself save in regard to the motion that it be printed. I understand, however, that he desires to make a personal explanation, and he will be quite in order in doing so.
– I hope that I am sufficiently acquainted with the Standing Orders to be able to keep within them without any reminders. I propose to make a personal explanation, and repeat that I wish to be allowed to do so without any unnecessary interruption. The petitioner,I understand, prays that the House will grant him . £500, being the difference between the amount he received for a piece of land purchased from him by the Government and the sum which he claims that an officer of the Government agreed to give him for it. The purchase was effected by the Department of Home Affairs during the time that I had the honour to be Minister. The transaction has an interesting history, which is worth telling, if only for the light it throws on the methods up to that time pursued in the acquisition of land for public purposes. As the petition is virtually an appeal to this House against my decision,I feel relieved from any obligation to preserve reticence ; and it is due to the House and the public, on all grounds, that the facts on which Mr.
Clarke relies should be fully stated. Although I have not had recent recourse to the departmental files, my recollection of the case is quite clear, and I think my statement of it will be found tobe substantially accurate.
Mr. Clarke was the owner of a piece of land in aTea about the size of this chamber, located near the General Postoffice, and approachable by a lane which emerges into Little Bourke-street. Some time in 1908 a fire demolished a warehouse which stood upon the land, leaving only a portion of the outer walls standing. Shortly after the fire, as Mr. Clarke was unable to rebuild, the Victorian Deputy Postmaster-General discovered that this land would be of great utility to the Department in connexion with some extensions then contemplated. He authorized an official to inspect the land and make a valuation, which was done, the value being set down at ,£2,000. Correspondence ensued, and I believe that this official did make what was tantamount to an offer of ,£2,000 for the land. At any rate, Mr. Clarke treated it as an offer, and I was shown a letter from a former legal member of this House and an exCabinet Minister, in which the opinion was expressed that this was as far as the Government could go in making a bargain until Parliament ratified the purchase by passing the item on the Estimates. The £2,000 duly appeared on the Estimates as presented to the House by the then Deakin Administration ; and Mr. Clarke, evidently well pleased with the terms, regarded the bargain as practically clinched, and merely wanting a cheque from the Treasurer to complete it.
This was the stage at which the case had arrived when it came before me. 1 found, first of all, that the InspectorGeneral of Works had reported against the purchase of this allotment as entirely unnecessary. But the Postal Department resented a Home Affairs official constituting himself a judge of what was or was not necessary for the proper conduct of postal business; and though I referred the papers back twice for reconsideration, the Postmaster-General adhered to his deputy’s view that the land must be acquired. That left me no. option. But I had then to consider the extraordinary action of a subordinate postal official, not an expert in city land values, not connected with the Department charged with the acquisition of land, nor authorized in any way by that Department, in attempting to commit the Government to the payment of £2,000 for this pockethandkerchief allotment. My comments on this aspect of the case will be found indorsed on the papers, and need not be repeated here.
When the Department of Home Affairs was forced to make this purchase, I decided to make a personal inspection of the land, and did so in company with the InspectorGeneral of Public Works. The visit satisfied me that the postal official’s valuation was excessive, and ought to be entirely discarded. The opinion which I formed appears to have become known to Mr. Clarke and his agent, and apparently gave them a great deal of concern, for they haunted the offices of the Department almost daily. As the negotiations proceeded, I discovered -that Mr. Clarke and his agent had very influential friends, some, of whom found time to call on me, and others to write in his behalf. The agent was a gentleman named Fraser, who contended with some vehemence that the action of the postal official placed the Government under a legal obligation to pay the full amount. I disputed that position, and eventually forwarded the papers to the Crown Solicitor, who supported my contention that there was no legal- obligation on the Government to pay the £2,000, as originally agreed by the postal official j and therefore I refused to pay it. In order, however, that no injustice should be done, either to the Government or Mr. Clarke, I asked two firms of valuators of high repute ‘ in Melbourne to make a special and independent valuation of the land. They did so, and both fixed upon valuations considerably below that of the postal official. At this time Mr. Clarke was representing that he was being pressed by the banks, and I dealt with him with far more consideration than I should have done in other circumstances. . Guided by the independent valuations of the two firms to which I have referred, I offered him £1,400 for the block. Mr. Clarke, however, continued to negotiate’ for a higher price, and eventually I agreed that if he removed the remains of the standing walls, and cleared the ground entirely of débris, I would give him £1,500, an offer which he promptly accepted. The net result of my interference was that the Government saved £500 on the transaction.
Some time after the sale had taken place, and when I thought that the transaction was concluded, a most extraordinary claim was made upon the Department by the agent, whose contention was distinctly original. He urged that, since the Government had paid for the land only £1,500, instead of , £2,000, the price fixed by the postal official, it should give him commission on the , £500 which it had saved. As a business proposition - apart altogether from the well-known legal principle that an agent is not entitled to a commission from a buyer and seller in respect of the same transaction - I was unable to accept that view, and rejected the claim. I believe that the agenthas since been in active pursuit of a more sympathetic Minister, with what result I do not know.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Questions without Notice : “ Hansard “ Record.
– I wish to bring under your notice, Mr. Speaker, a procedure relating to the proceedings of the House, as published in Hansard. which is new to me, and scarcely known I believe to the majority of honorable members, and which, in the circumstances, perhaps I had better bring forward as a question of privilege. The practice has obtained that where a question, without notice, is asked, and the Minister to whom it is addressed requests that notice shall be given, no record is made in Hansard of either the question or the formal reply. Yesterday I asked a question in which a very large number of people were vitally interested, and for which an immediate reply was requested. A reply was not forthcoming, and, on receiving the Hansard slip this morning, I was surprised to find that there was no record of the question or of the Minister’s answer.I do not know, sir, whether you are aware of this practice, or, if so, whether you indorse it; but I wish to bring it under your notice, and that of the House, in order that it may be considered whether or not it is desirable that a record should be kept of questions that are formally asked, and of which Ministers request that notice shall be given.
– I shall consider the matter.
– I hope the House will have an opportunity of dealing with the matter before you finally dispose of it, sir..
– Can the Prime Minister yet give me the information for which I asked the other day in regard to the insurance of the Australian war-ships when on their way out to the Commonwealth ?
– I have ascertained that the High Commissioner has been asked to arrange for their insurance.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs supply the House with the names of the French Judge and the Prosecutor of the Condominium Court which has been appointed in the New Hebrides, and also state whether they can speak English?
– I shall be happy to supply the honorable member with the information for which he asks.
– What are the names of the officials?
– I cannot supply them off-hand, and would therefore ask that notice of the question be given. .
Telegraph Line : Brisbane to Sydney - Telephone Communication, Perth to Bunbury - Telephone Subscribers
– Will the Postmaster. General inform me whether any, and, if so, what, steps are being taken to improve the efficiency of the telegraph service between Sydney and Brisbane?
– A new telegraph line is being constructed between Sydney and Brisbane. The whole of the line from Brisbane to Wallangarra has been completed, as well as the sections from Sydney to Ardglen, a distance of 225 miles, and from Wallangarra to Moonbi, a distance of 199 miles. The section from Moonbi to Ardglen, a distance of 68 miles, is now in course of construction.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether provision has been made on the Estimates for the establishment of telephone communication between Perth and Bunbury? The omission to construct such a line is one of the most exceptional, for Bunbury is the port of a great timber country, and is only 120 miles distant from Perth.
– If the honorable member will give me notice of his question, I shall try to supply him with the information.
I was recently asked a question in regard to the number of persons who have discontinued their subscriptions to the telephone service on account of the passing of Regulation7a; I have now the information, which is as follows : -
Although forty subscribers in Victoria have discontinued their subscriptions since the framing of the regulation, sixty-two fresh applications to be connected with the Exchange have been made since the 1st inst.
– In regard to the information which the PostmasterGeneral has just furnished the House, I wish to ask him whether he regards the fact that people are not discontinuing their telephones as proof that the monopoly is being wisely exercised?
– I should be glad if the honorable member would give notice of his question.
Transport of Mounted Troops
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to the desirability of securing uniformity in the railway gauges of Australia for Defence purposes, could the Minister supply the following information : -
If he has not the above information, will he endeavour to secure it?
– My colleague, the Minister of Defence, advises me as follows : - 1. (a) To transport 30,000 troops and material (15 mounted brigades) from Melbourne to Brisbane would require -
Between Melbourne and Wodonga, 315 trains.
Between Wodonga and Wallangarra, 375 trains.
Between Wallangarra and Brisbane, 450 trains.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I am advised by my colleague, the Minister of Defence, as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he, in the future, treat old-age pensioners who are admitted into District Hospitals in a similar manner to that in which they are treated when received into Benevolent Asylums and Salvation Army Homes, by paying them the full amount of their pensions?
– Under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, pensions are not payable to inmates of Hospitals or Benevolent Asylums which receive aid from the Government. Salvation Army Homes do not receive such aid, and accordingly inmates are not debarred from receiving pensions.
asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he cause to be printed and circulated, without delay, the official gauge-readings of the Cotter River up to the 7th September; also the calculation of the Government Meteorologist (Mr. Hunt) as to the annual rainfall over the catchment area of the Cotter?
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What is the cause of delay between the Federal Government and the Government of New South Wales in regard to the settlement of the manoeuvre area at Liverpool, New South Wales?
– The matter is awaiting receipt from the Premier of New South Wales of particulars of the value of the privately-owned lands to be acquired within the proposed manoeuvre area, so that the Commonwealth may know the extent of its liability for rent of same. The Premier is being urged to expedite action.
– I regret to have to submit a motion disagreeing with your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I wish it to be clearly understood that it is submitted in no antagonismto yourself. The course you laid down yesterday was, in my opinion, quite new so far as this House is concerned ; and the only means of discussing and decidingits propriety is by means of a motion of this kind. I move -
That this House dissents from the ruling of Mr. Speaker that an Order of the Day on the business paper in debate should be adjourned by the original mover without further debate.
According to a comparatively new standing order there is no doubt that a debate must be adjourned without debate on the motion for its adjournment, but the matter yesterday was not the adjournment of a debate. When private members’ business was called on there was only a short time left of that allotted to it; and in order to prevent the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane lapsing it was decided to fix its consideration for another day. The business paper shows that the debate had to be resumed by the honorable member for Riverina ; and we know that to a certain extent, if not wholly, a motion when submitted, is taken out of the hands of the original mover and becomes the property of the House. However, yesterday, when the business was called on, the original mover of the motion moved that its consideration be adjourned till a future date; and it seemed to me that the honorable member for Riverina was thus prevented from continuing the debate had he so desired. There might be a motion on the notice-paper on which an honorable member from a distance might desire to speak and he might attend at this House specially to do so ; but under such a ruling as that given yesterday it would be possible for the original mover to block any honorable member whom he might regard as hostile to his proposal. It will be seen that the occurrence of yesterday is in no way analogous to the adjournment of a debate. According to the standing order dealing with the adjournment of a debate-
– I rise to order. The honorable member is moving a dissent from your ruling, Mr. Speaker, which was not seconded at the sitting yesterday. Standing order 287 says -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the House, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.
This motion was not seconded yesterday.
– I think it was.
– I can find no record of any honorable member having seconded it.
– I seconded it.
– There is no record of any seconder in the records of the House. Of course, I shall immediately withdraw my point of order if the honorable member for Franklin says he seconded the motion.
– I did second it.
– Then I apologize to the honorable member for Hume for having been misled by the records.
– I think it is rather late in the day, in any case, to submit such a point of order. In May, at page 261, on the question of the postponement of an Order of the Day, there appears -
The right to move an Order of the Day, to a certain extent, belongs to the House at large, and is not vested solely in the member who has charge of the order.
This shows that the original mover of a motion, having already spoken, has no further status, and I quote this to support my contention that the practice laid down yesterday is new and should, therefore, be discussed and a decision arrived at for our guidance.
– I rise to order. The terms of the motion now submitted are not the terms on which you, sir, ruled yesterday.
– That is not a point of order.
– It is. The proposal on which the Speaker ruled yesterday was totally different. The Speaker ruled that we could not debate the fixing of an Order of the Day for a future date; and the honorable member for Hume takes quite a different point, and one that has no reference to what occurred yesterday. After the adjournment of the debate had been decided on, the honorable member for Brisbane moved that the motion be postponed to a future date. On that I rose to protest, and, thereupon, you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that no discussion could take place.
– I know whatI did perfectly well !
– I submit that to discuss a proposal of the kind now submitted would be entirely out of order, and unfair to Mr. Speaker and myself.
– The objectionI now submit was written down by myself yesterday, and read from the chair by Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member is wrong, as the records will show.
– I submit that the honorable member for Hume is quite in order. According to the Standing Orders, he had to place in writing his disagreement with the ruling, and he did so. The argument of the honorable member for Parramatta might be used against the motion now submitted by the honorable member for Hume, but the latter is, I hold, quite at liberty to frame his proposal in his own terms. If those terms are not acceptable to the House, so much the worse for the motion.
– The objection taken by the honorable member for Parramatta is quite right. I did not rule on the question now submitted by the honorable member for Hume - that question never arose. The point on which I gave my decision yesterday was whether any debate could take place on the fixing of the date to which an Order of the Day was proposed to be postponed. There is a difference of opinion on the point, and that is the point at issue. I would much rather, now that the question has been raised, that our procedure should be definitely settled.
– I have no objection if the Speaker will allow us to also debate the matter which arose yesterday.
– If the honorable member for Hume will so frame his motion as to deal with the point I have indicated, I am sure the House would give its consent to its amendment. At present there is no standing order or other authority to guide me in the matter, and I have taken on myself to give, according to my own view, a decision with which the House may disagree. Under all the circumstances, I would much prefer that the House should definitely fix the practice to be followed. Does the honorable member for Hume desire to amend his motion in the way suggested ?
– I do not desire to amend my motion. I know what was decided. The view I take is that the original mover of a motion cannot, as was done yesterday, postpone a motion of his own accord, when the resumption of the debate stands in the name of another honorable member.
– The view of the honorable member for Parramatta is perfectly correct. At the same time, I am quite in accord with the honorable member for Hume upon the point to which he now refers.
– Then I am quite satisfied.
– But the point raised by the honorable member for Hume is not the point I desire to have settled, nor is it the point which arose yesterday. The question yesterday was whether honorable members could debate the fixing of an Order of the Day for some future date. In the ordinary course of events the honorable member for Riverina should have risen and asked leave to continue his speech. Then the debate would have been adjourned, the mover of the motion being left to fix the date for its resumption. Had the point referred to by the honorable member for Hume been raised yesterday, I should have ruled on it in the way the honorable member thinks I ought to rule.
– You, Mr. Speaker, seem to grant all that I am contending for. But, at the same time, I think I was right in the view I took. The honorable member for Riverina, who was sitting behind me, whispered that he should have continued the debate, and I agreed with him, holding that the House had charge of the Order of the Day. No honorable member has a right to take an Order of the Day out of the possession of the House, unless with its consent.
– But we did not debate that matter.
– The Speaker stopped me from debating a matter that should be, and indeed was, in the hands of the House, and in the charge of the honorable member for Riverina, if he had desired to speak. That is the point I desire to have decided. If, however, the Speaker says that I am right in the position I take up, I am quite satisfied, and quite agreeable to have the motion amended so that there may be a debate on the other question.
– Are the two points not bound up together?
– I think so.
– Does the honorable member agree to have his motion so amended that the House can settle the question to which I have referred?
– Certainly, if you wish.
– I do not know that the honorable member could object to have the motion amended, since it is the property of the House. I suggest that the following addition to the motion be made -
And, further, the decision of Mr. Speaker that debate could not take place on the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane that an Order of the Day be postponed until a future day.
– I understand that I am not mistaken in thinking that you, Mr. Speaker, do not disapprove of the terms in which I have expressed dissent from your ruling.
– The Standing Orders speak of the House doing this or that, and when the House does a thing it is generally on the motion of the member who last addressed himself to it. There appears to be no standing order directly bearing on this matter. You, Mr, Speaker, very properly pointed out yesterday that if a motion for fixing the date of the resumption of a debate could be debated after the adjournment had been agreed to the discussion might be equivalent to the discussion which might have taken place had the adjournment not been moved. You are not empowered to correct bad Standing Orders. Your duty is to apply and interpret the Standing Orders in a reasonable way, but not to correct Standing Orders which seem to be bad. That is the function of the Standing Orders Committee. As no standing order provides for the point raised yesterday, the inference must be in favour of the contention that honorable members are not deprived of the right of discussion. No inconvenience could arise from the course of action suggested in opposition to your decision which might not arise in regard to any standing order defective in its terms or in its drafting, or in regard to cases where there is no standing order to govern our procedure. But let us consider what might happen under the contrary interpretation, namely, that a check should be imposed on discussion. Suppose that yester day a motion had been moved for the postponement of the debate until next Sundays -
– The question could not have been put.
- Mr. Speaker could not refuse to put it.
– A point of order could have been raised.
-It could not havebeen sustained. The motion to postpone further consideration to another day gives the onlyopportunity which the House has to protest against that very insidious procedure- the defeat of business by process of delay. That is what occurred yesterday. I rose to protest against the postponement as defeating the purpose which the honorable member had in view, and submitted that the debate could not take place on any other occasion. Were a member to protest during a second-reading debate that the measure was not being proceeded with as it should be, and that the member in charge of it, although appearing to try to push it through, was really defeating it by permitting tedious delays
– The honorable member is not in order in casting reflections on the honorable member for Brisbane.
– I am not doing so.
– The honorable member is pursuing a line of conduct which is not permissible. He is reflecting on the honorable member for Brisbane, and suggesting that the honorable member is not in earnest regarding his motion, but is endeavouring by repeated postponements to defeat it by delay.
– I ask the honorable member for Parramatta not to do that.
– You should not ask me not to do it, sir, because I am not doing it, and I do not intend to do it. I am putting a purely supposititious case, without reference to the honorable member for Brisbane. I submit, however, that I may refer to what happened yesterday, and my action then. I rose to protest against the postponement of the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane. It was that which caused your intervention, Mr. Speaker, with a ruling to the effect that the motion for fixing the further consideration for a future day could not be debated. The honorable member moved a certain motion some time ago.
– The honorable member may not discuss that.
– The whole trouble has arisen because of that motion. May I not traverse the motion which has brought about the present position?
– The honorable member must deal with the point before the Chair.
– My contention is that it is only on a motion for postponement that we can protest against the defeat of a proposal by delay. A relevant discussion on the point could not take place on any other motion. Were I to try to discuss such a point on the second reading of a Bill, my remarks would be declared irrelevant, as having nothing to do with the principles of the measure. Were I to raise such a question during the discussion of any other Order of the Day or motion, they would be similarly irrelevant. I defy any one to point out another occasion than a motion for adjournment to a certain day on which this question can be debated. Should the Standing Orders Committee consider the matter, it might be able to form a rule to deal with the case, but at present there is no opportunity other than is given by a motion for postponement for discussing and protesting against the most insidious process of defeating a proposal by repeatedly postponing its consideration until it drops off the business-paper at the end of the session. The procedure to which I object has been followed from time immemorial, it being a common thing for a proposal to be defeated by repeated postponements. The Standing Orders must, either directly or by implication, provide means for protesting against such an insidious proceeding.
– A protest could be made by voting against the motion for adjournment.
– Is that all the Parliament is for, merely to vote? Such an arrangement might suit a caucus very well, but it will not suit a free Parliament.
– If the honorable member objected to the postponement, he could have voted against it.
– I object to registering a vote against it, because when it comes up for discussion there are one or two amendments to be moved.
– Does the honorable member say that a motion for the postponement of discussion can be amended by any honorable member ? Were I to move the postponement of an Order of the Day to Monday, could another honorable member move that the postponement be to Tuesday?
– Yes; because the motion would be the property of the House. I suggest that the motion now before us might very well be withdrawn.
– I am willing to agree to that.
– That would be a sensible course to take, because it would allow the whole matter to be looked into carefully by Mr. Speaker and the Standing Orders Committee. The position which we have been discussing having arisen, something should be done to provide against its recurrence, otherwise proposals brought before the House by private members may be postponed ad infinitum, and defeated by the mere process of delay, reminding one of the lines,
To promise, pause, prepare, postpone,
And end by leaving things alone.
If we are in earnest about a matter, we should deal with it, and not get credit by putting a motion on the business-paper with which we have no intention of dealing.
– That is most unjust.
– I am speaking generally.
– The honorable memberhas hinted that the honorable member for Brisbane has no desire to proceed with his motion.
– If the honorable member wishes me to say anything about the honorable member for Brisbane, I tell him that, in my judgment, he has lost the only chance of the session for dealing with his motion.
– That is a most improper and outrageous statement.
– It is not. The Prime Minister, and not the honorable member for Brisbane, who is a young member, is responsible for what has been done.
– I have repeatedly asked the honorable member for Parramatta not to discuss the action taken regarding the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to call to order honorable members who are making insinuations by inter jections. When interrupted I was speaking generally. My point is that there is no opportunity for protesting against an attempt to defeat proposals by delay except on a motion for postponement. I move the amendment which I have already suggested.
– I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that the best way out of the tangle would be to withdraw the motion which has been made. The view taken by the honorable member for Hume is the same as that taken by Mr. Speaker.
– Mr. Speaker ruled the honorable member for Hume to be out of order.
– A misapprehension of the view of the honorable member for Hume arose because he had one thing in his mind, while most honorable members yesterday were thinking of the decision of Mr. Speaker that a motion fixing an order for the resumed debate for a certain date could not be debated, but must be voted on yea or nay after another motion had been moved, to adjourn the debate and agreed to. The honorable member for Hume was informed by the honorable member for Riverina that he was in possession of the Chair when the resumption of the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane should take place, and, therefore, had a right to speak on it when called upon. Mr. Speaker agrees with that view.
– He ruled me out of order all the same.
– Not on that point. He ruled the honorable member out of order under a misapprehension. That is evident from what he has stated to-day.
– No, the honorable member for Hume was under a misapprehension.
– There may have been a double misapprehension. Mr. Speaker and the honorable member for Hume take the same view on the motion of the latter, and. therefore, that need not be further discussed. The other point is the material one, and Mr. Speaker has intimated that he would like it to be settled.I submit that the motion before us cannot be altered to permit of its Being settled satisfactorily, and that therefore it would be better to withdraw it, and allow the matter to be discussed by the Standing Orders Committee, or dealt with in some other way by the House. I do not wish to discuss the main question now, although 1 have my own views about it. The motion of the honorable member for Hume is this -
That this House dissents from the ruling of Mr. Speaker that an Order of the Day on the business-paper, in debate, should be adjourned by the original mover without further debate.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has carefully brought in the motion of the honorable member for Brisbane by very cunning political tactics.
Mr.FISHER.- I do not think that the honorable member for Brisbane will be injured. The honorable member for Cook has moved as an amendement the addition of these words -
And further, the decision of the Speaker that debate could not take place on the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane that an Order of the Day be postponed until a future day.
We cannot decide the point that has arisen by dealing with the motion and amendment which I have read.I submit that, on a motion to provide for the discussion of a ruling, an amendment cannot be moved bringing in a new question. This is not of any party interest, but affects the privileges of the House as a whole. Therefore, any rule that we may adopt, or any decisionthat we may approve, should be carefully considered, because it will bind all honorable members. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Parramatta should not be agreed to. I believe that the honorable member for Hume agrees that the other matter referred to by Mr. Speaker should be decided on its merits apart from the question which he raised. Obviously there can be no objection to a Minister or a private member in charge of a motion or a Bill moving to fix the day upon which the adjourned debate shall be resumed. The only question is whether that motion to fix the date is open to debate and to amendment. I appeal to honorable members to allow the matter to stand over now. A suitable opportunity will be given to both sides to have the question brought before the House.
– What about the main question involved in the motion moved by the honorable member for Brisbane?
– That does not arise.
– It is up to the Prime Minister to afford the House an opportunity to deal with it.
– I am not going to be drawn into the discussion of personal matters. I have already said, on behalf of the Government, that private members having motions on the business paper will be afforded an opportunity to have them discussed and decided before the end of the session.
– I support the proposal made by the Prime Minister, and do not think that it is quite fair to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to come to a decision upon a matter affecting the rights and privileges of the House which can be more satisfactorily dealt with by the Standing Orders Committee itself. Instead of suggesting, as the Prime Minister did, that the point should remain in abeyance until it is raised again-
– That was only an alternative suggestion.
– It would be better for the Standing Orders Committee to deal with the matter at once, so as to avoid a recurrence of the difficulty. With regard to the main point involved, it seems to be perfectly clear that under the Standing Orders the honorable member for Riverina had a right to rise in his place to continue the debate. Standing order 289 provides that-
The member, upon whose motion any debate shall be adjourned by the House, shall be entitled to pre-audience on the resumption of the debate.
It is perfectly clear the honorable member for Riverina, having obtained the adjournment, had a right to continue the debate. It was known, however, that there was very little time available for private members’ business, and it was therefore desired that honorable members should have an opportunity to move to postpone the consideration of motions standing in their names. Under the practice which has always prevailed, you were right, Mr. Speaker, in allowing the honorable member for Brisbane to mention the date to which he desired his motion to be postponed. He named a date, and the question then arose as to whether the House hadthe right to discuss the date proposed to be fixed for the resumption of the debate. Some time ago we framed a series of Standing Orders intended to deal with what are known as dilatory motions. For instance, in the middle of a debate an honorable member might move “ that the debate be adjourned.” and we framed
Standing Orders to meet motions of that kind, designed to prevent a debate being continued in due form. The only question is whether a motion to fix a date for the resumption of an adjourned debate could be regarded as a dilatory motion.
– I skated lightly over that point.
– I mention it only that the Standing Orders Committee may consider it. On one occasion, when the Judiciary Bill was being discussed in this House, the honorable member for Parramatta, who was then Leader of the Opposition, moved “ that the debate be now adjourned.” The House agreed to that motion, and the honorable member for Hume then moved that the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for a later hour. For two hours a debate on that motion proceeded.
– Was there not an amendment ?
– Yes; the honorable member for Parramatta moved an amendment that the debate be resumed after the Tariff had been disposed of. On that occasion, Speaker Holder, as I have just pointed out, allowed the motion for the resumption of the debate at a later hour to be discussed. The matter is one which the Standing Orders Committee should take into consideration. The Prime Minister might submit a formal resolution that the Standing Orders Committee deal with the question immediately.
– I shall ask Mr. Speaker to convene a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee.
– That ought to be sufficient.
.- In addition to the ruling given by the late Speaker Holder, to which the honorable member for Darling Downs has just referred, I desire to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to another ruling given by him on the 9th April, 1908, and reported in Hansard, Vol. XLV., page 10427. The honorable member for Parramatta rose to discuss a motion that a debate which was then proceeding be adjourned, and Mr. Crouch, who was then the honorable member for Corio, asked whether a motion for the adjournment of a debate could be discussed. Mr. Speaker Holder said -
There are two questions put to the House. The first - That the debate be now adjourned - determines whether it shall or shall not be adjourned, and then comes the question - That the adjourned debate be an Order of the Day for a certain date - which gives to the House the right to alter the date proposed for the resumption of the discussion.
No objection was taken to that ruling. On the other occasion to which the honorable member for Darling Downs has referred, there was a great deal of feeling in the House, and had there been any idea that such a ruling was wrong, I am satisfied that action would have been taken to move that it be dissented from. That ruling was followed at a later date, and no objection was taken to it. It is hardly necessary, therefore, in view of these two rulings, to frame a new standing order on the point, but if an amendment of the standing order is necessary to meet the case, the Standing Orders Committee should have no difficulty in coming to a decision as to what is desirable.
– This appears to be a question which concerns you, Mr. Speaker, quite as much as it does the House. The most important feature of it is that we ought to know how we stand with regard to the future procedure, since we have two different rulings. My recollection of what took place yesterday is that when it was proposed to postpone a certain motion, the honorable member for Parramatta wished to say something in the nature of debate and that you ruled him out of order. The honorable member for Hume, recollecting, no doubt, many decisions of a contrary character, rose to debate the question, and you ruled that he could not do so. You were then reminded of the fact that on a previous occasion you had given a different ruling. You admitted that you had, but you said that you had come to the conclusion that you had been wrong. The two precedents quoted by the honorable member for Gippsland show that your former ruling was right, and your latter one wrong, but whichever is right, there is no doubt that on two occasions the honorable member for Parramatta has been allowed in this House to debate a motion fixing the date upon which the discussion of a substantive motion shall be resumed. I take it from the precedents quoted just now that Speaker Holder considered that, on a motion for the adjournment of a debate, there were two questions involved - not only the abstract question of the adjournment of the debate, but that of the date to which it should be adjourned. He treated them as separate questions. As a matter of fact, by your last decision, Mr.
Speaker, you prevented a debate taking place on either of those questions, because, before the honorable member for Parramatta had had time to say what he wished to do in regard to the postponement of the principal motion, you ruled that there could be no debate on the question, which involved not only the adjournment of the debate itself, but the particular date to which it should be adjourned. I do not think it matters much what the procedure is, although the ruling quoted by the honorable member for Gippsland is certainly most useful. To again quote the maxim laid down by one of England’s most eminent Judges, it is more important that the law should be certain than that it should be right. As long as we know where we are, we shall know what to do in the future. If you hold that your ruling is better than that given by Speaker Holder, we shall all know that a motion for the adjournment of a debate, or for the postponement of business to a certain date, cannot be discussed. If, on the other hand, you follow the precedent quoted by the honorable member for Gippsland, we shall all know that if we cannot debate the abstract proposition we can debate the question of the date upon which the debate is to be resumed. Having given the matter due consideration, you should lay down some rule, of an unmistakable character, which the House may constantly have before it, as a guide to our rights of debate.
. -With regard to the general question, I would point out, without any intimate knowledge of Parliamentary procedure in this regard, that the general practice is to allow a debate on a motion for the adjournment of the debate, and not to allow a debate on a. motion fixing the date to which the debate shall be adjourned.
– It is the other way round.
– -If honorable members would listen to me, they would be able to follow my argument. It seems to me - and I speak again as one having no intimate knowledge of parliamentary procedure - that it is a fair thing that a private member, in charge of a motion, should be prepared, and should be allowed, to take risks in postponing that motion to any particular date that he thinks will be suitable for its discussion. When a motion to fix the date on which a debate shall be resumed is debated, and amended, then the House itself must take the responsibility, if the motion is adjourned to a particular date on which it cannot be proceeded with, and, therefore, never reaches finality. If, on the other hand, as the result of the date fixed by the private member in charge of the motion no finality is reached, that honorable member himself must accept the responsibility. He takes the risk, and, therefore, carries the blame.
– Does not the honorable member think that honorable members generally are interested in the question of the date upon which an adjourned debate shall be resumed?
– Certainly. But if the House takes away from the private member concerned the responsibility of fixing the date when the debate shall be resumed, then it takes upon itself the responsibility of having the principal motion finally dealt with.
– Once a motion is submitted to the House it becomes the property of the House.
– The practice invariably followed, since I have been a member of this House, is for Mr. Speaker to allow an honorable member, in whose name a motion stands on the businesspaper, to mention the date to which he desires the motion to be postponed. In this particuar case, it will, be remembered that, owing to the all-night sitting on Wednesday, we decided to abandon yesterday morning’s sitting., and met at 3 p.m., instead of 10.30 a.m. At 3.28 p.m., there were but two minutes available for the consideration of private members’ business, and the Prime Minister, very kindly, suggested that as there would not be time to discuss my motion, it should be adjourned, and honorable members, having notices of motion on the business-paper for that day, given an opportunity to postpone their further consideration, and so to prevent their lapsing. I consulted with the honorable member for Riverina, who had the right to resume the debate on my motion, told him of the Prime Minister’s suggestion, mentioned the date to which I proposed the debate should be adjourned, and was informed by him that that would suit him splendidly. Later on, as there was no time for discussing the motion. Irose to move that it be an Order of the Day for a certain date. According to the practice that has been followed, to my knowledge, throughout this session, I had a right to do that, and to fix the date.
– Did not Mr. Speaker say this morning that you had not?
– Mr. Speaker has said that there is nothing in the Standing Orders covering that point. The honorable member for Hume was under a distinct misapprehension, and, until the practice is altered, by the framing of a new standing order, I shall maintain that private members, . in whose names motions stand upon the business-paper, have the right to say to what date the further consideration of those motions shall be postponed. Coming to the main question, I wish to refer to a remark made by the honorable member for Parramatta. I do not care whether he insinuates that I am sincere, or insincere, in submitting my motion to the House, for, as a matter of fact, I believe that if it were carried to a division he would vote for it. I protest, however, against his statement that my action in postponing the motion was practically to defeat it by delaying it.
– The honorable member was running a big risk.
– And I was prepared to take it.
– We are trying to stop the honorable member for Brisbane from taking risks with his motion.
– The honorable member infers that I am seeking to defeat my own motion by continually postponing it ; and against that inference I protest. The honorable member has had sufficiently long parliamentary experience to know that private members are practically the sport of circumstances; and it is not so much a matter of what honorable members like as of what they are compelled to accept. Yesterday there was nothing else possible but to postpone my motion to a later day.
– On the contrary, I say that something else was possible.
– I have the promise of the Prime Minister, which has been repeated, that an opportunity will be given to private members. I contend that members in charge of motions should take the risk of fixing the date to which they should be postponed; otherwise private members would be relieved of all responsibility in the matter.
– The whole trouble has arisen from the fact that, when the Federal Parliament was started, we adopted the South Australian Standing Orders, which are admittedly the most faulty and weakest in all the States. The second trouble arose from the introduction of the bludgeon or “ gag “ standing order, passed under perfectly unjustifiable circumstances. In the middle of an important debate, the Prime Minister of the time sought an adjournment, and introduced new Standing Orders, containing a very strict “ gag “ proposal, intended to prevent what I admit had grown into an abuse. Under the new standing order no motion for the adjournment of a debate could be debated; and, in my opinion, there is really no difference in principle between the point raised by the honorable member for Hume and that raised by the honorable member for Parramatta. The honorable member for Brisbane, who is supported by the ruling of the Speaker, takes the view that the mover of a motion accepts complete responsibility for it, and that, to some extent, it is his individual property. I contend, however, that the moment a motion has been moved it passes entirely beyond the control of the honorable member, and becomes the absolute property of the House. Other members may be quite as much interested in the motion as is the original mover ; indeed, it is possible that they may be a great deal more interested ; and, if we accept the view as laid down, it will be quite possible for an honorable member to forestall others by postponing a motion time after time until the end of the session, seeing that under the Standing Orders no second motion dealing with the same subject can be accepted. Practically, it would be possible to debar our dealing with any question outside the Government programme.
– I think the honorable member is straining the position.
– Not at all. The honorable member for Brisbane knows how my vote will go on the original motion when it is considered.
– Has what I suggest not been the general practice?
– No; the suggestion made by the honorable member is one that would probably be acted on by a member who really desired to prevent a motion coming to a final issue. If the ruling of the Speaker is to guide us, the whole procedure may be taken out of the power of the House. It is a ruling which lakes away from honorable members a privilege which I hope we shall not surrender.
– In justice to the honorable member for Brisbane, I have to say that he did me the courtesy to consult me as to the date, before he asked the House for the postponement.
– I was not aware of that fact.
– The practice followed in this House is without precedent or warrant, and contains such an element of danger that an alteration of the Standing Orders is necessary. The Standing Orders simply deal with the adjournment of a debate, and do not apply to the fixing of the date when the debate shall be resumed. Once a motion is submitted, it becomes the property of the House, and, in the case of an adjournment of the debate, it passes into the immediate charge of the honorable member who moved the adjournment. To that honorable member it must be left to suggest the date for its resumption; but, of course, he would, in order to meet the demands of courtesy, consult the mover on the subject. The Standing Orders should be so framed and amended that the honorable member who moves the adjournment of the debate shall fix the date.
– That would never do.
– What standing order is there under which any one could interfere with an honorable member in that position? Yesterday I had charge of the motion at the particular time-
– But the honorable member’s right expired at half-past 3 o ‘ clock.
– Not so. It would have been quite possible for me to ask leave to resume my remarks at a particular date; just as it would be possible for me to ask leave to resume my present remarks to-morrow.
– But one member could object.
– Quite so ; I am only pointing out that the arrival of half-past 3 o’clock would not debar me altogether. There must be sequence in the business, and in the natural order of things no honorable member would attempt to take advantage of such circumstances as arose yesterday;
– Does the honorable member claim that he had a right to fix the date of the adjournment?
– No; that is a matter for the House. Had I been called on yesterday to resume the debate, I could, after consultation with the original mover, have asked the House to agree to a date I mentioned.
– The whole difficulty arose through the Prime Minister interrupting, and taking charge of private business.
– That may be; I know the Prime Minister did attempt to make provision for the resumption of debate on this and other motions on a particular date, but was prevented by the objection of one honorable member. With all respect, I do hot think the decision given yesterday is in keeping with the Standing Orders. There is a clear difference between the adjournment of a debate and the fixing of a date for the resumption of the debate; and I hope the Standing Orders Committee will deal with the matter, so that honorable members may know their exact position.
.- It is not necessary, in my opinion, to have new Standing Orders. It strikes me that the Standing Orders which we have already have’ only to be viewed with common sense in order to insure the course suggested by the honorable member for Parramatta being followed. The Speaker is charged with responsibilities, not only towards individual members, but towards the House as a whole; not only is he bound to consider the rights of speech of individual members, but also the right of the whole House to proceed with its business. In other words, the Speaker has to hold the scales of justice evenly, as between the rights of individuals and the undoubted rights of the whole House. The Speaker’s ruling, I think, in this case has been arrived at by a too keen anxiety for those rights. He has, apparently, said to himself, “ If I allow the debate to take place as to the day to which the debate shall be adjourned, obstructive debate may ensue by persons moving amendment after amendment, naming each of the 364 remaining days of the year.” If the Speaker held such a view, as a natural corollary he would take the action complained of, to prevent any such amendments being moved. But, in doing so, he would overlook a very vital fact in connexion with the Standing Orders. The rights of the House are safeguarded against the intrusion of individuals by the standing order relating to the closure. The latter has been deliberately introduced in order to prevent any individual, or set of individuals, abusing the forms of the House and the liberty of speech, so as to unduly protract debate, and prevent other business being brought on. In view of the closure or’der, the Speaker need not be exercised in this instance in his mind in regard to the rights of the whole House. We must obviously interpret our Standing Orders in a broad and sensible spirit. If we interpret them in the way Mr. Speaker interpreted them yesterday, it becomes transparent that any honorable member could, by merely postponing business again and again, prevent it ever reaching to fruition. He might be a strong enemy of the business he has been pretending to further, and act as I have suggested merely in order to prevent other honorable members taking charge of the same business and pressing it to a conclusion.
– That is too thin !
– I am sorry the honorable member should feel outraged the moment I begin to talk on general principles. I am not saying that the honorable member for Brisbane is an enemy of the proposal he has introduced. That honorable member said that, as a private member, he is the sport of circumstances. Though I do not think he is a sport of circumstances, or any other sort of sport, in this particular matter the honorable member is not so much to blame as is the Prime Minister.
– Will the honorable member address himself to the question?
– I admit that I was drawn away by an interjection. It is somewhat difficult for the honorable member for Brisbane, who says he is the “ sport of circumstances,” to defend his “right” to indefinitely postpone a motion which he is overwhelmingly interested in having passed. Yet the honorable member explained to the House that he thought that the member in charge of private business should have the right of saying to what date its further consideration should be postponed ! If a member had that right he might move for a postponement to a date when Parliament would not be in session, and thus prevent the question at issue from being brought forward by any one else.
– That could not be done without the consent of the House.
– If a member abuses his privileges, and acts in such a way as to prevent the discussion of matters of public interest, another member should have the right to intervene by proposing an earlier date for the resumption of the consideration of a motion than that which had been proposed by the member in charge of it.
– The House as a whole has the right to finally decide the date of the resumption of a discussion.
– No one disputes that.
– The honorable member for Riverina has proposed a course the adoption of which would be inimical to the rights of private members. He suggests that the member who secures the right to resume the debate when a postponed motion is next called on should have the right of fixing the date for its further consideration. If that were the rule, members who were opposed to proposals would endeavour to move the adjournment of the debate on them to get the right to fix a date for the resumption of the discussion which would prevent the matter being brought on again. Having regard to the fact that the Standing Orders safeguard the right of the majority to proceed with business, obstruction being provided against by means of the closure, the proper procedure seems to be to leave to honorable members generally the obligation of saying when a discussion shall be resumed, should a disposition be shown by the member in charge of the business to exceed his privilege by endeavouring to bring about unnecessary delay. While it may be well not to permit discussion on an ordinary motion of adjournment, to baulk obstructive tactics there should be full discussion permitted on a proposal to fix the resumption of a debate for a certain date, to prevent postponement which maydestroy all opportunity for arriving at a settlement of the main question.
.- The debate has been interesting, but indecisive. I therefore wish to move as an amendment -
That the question be referred to the Standing Orders Committee, with a request for its recommendation at its earliest convenience.
I appreciate your desire, Mr. Speaker, to preserve the rights of private members, which, I take it, prompted you to refuse to allow debate on the motion to fix a date for the resumption of a discussion. Only a few hours in the week are at the disposal of private members, and if discussion .were allowed on a motion to fix the date for the resumption of a motion of a private member which had been adjourned, it would be possible for those wishing to obstruct or delay the consideration of other motions to move 364 amendments, or to make lengthy speeches, which would gain their end. I think it is generally admitted that the private member should have the right to fix the date for the resumption of the discussion of the matter which he has brought forward, and that private members’ time should not be taken up with obstructive debates on motions for fixing the dates of adjournment. But if dissent is not made from your ruling yesterday, Mr. Speaker, honorable members will have no right to discuss the motion of the Prime Minister for fixing the date of the resumption of the discussion of an Order of the Day. The action of the honorable member for Brisbane in moving that the resumption of the debate on his motion take place on 22nd September was similar to that of the Prime Minister in moving at- the commencement of the session that the House shall meet on certain days at certain hours, and transact its business in a certain order.
– The motions to which the honorable member refers are moved after notice has been given.
– That is so. As a rule those motions are passed without discussion, though debate can take place upon them. They are similar to the motion of a private member to fix a future date for the resumption of the discussion of a motion of which he has charge. While it seems right to prevent a debate, or any long debate, on private members’ motions, it would be wrong to curtail debate on the Government motion to which I have referred. The Standing Orders are framed, not in the interest of the majority, which can always make its will felt, but for the protection of the minority.
– And for the facilitation, of business.
– Yes. Standing order 257 allows a member to speak on any question, but that right is limited by a number of other standing orders, which provide that certain motions may not be debated. The motion for the resumption of a discussion on a future date is not mentioned. Therefore it is necessary that the Standing Orders Committee should take the matter into consideration and make a recommendation to the House.
– I cannot accept the amendment now, because there is already an amendment before the Chair which prevents it from being moved.
– I think that it is obvious that the best thing to do would be to withdraw both motion and amendment, on the understanding that the subject would be considered by the Standing Orders Committee. ThisParliament, although it has been in existence for nearly ten years, has not yet adopted permanent standing orders. It istime that we did so, and if an opportunitywere afforded, we could deal with this matter among others. The motion and. amendment do not meet the case, and it would be unfortunate to have them put tothe House, because they cannot bring about an expression of opinion that will settlethe main point at issue. There was a certain amount of misunderstanding yesterday. No doubt the desire of the PrimeMinister to allow those who had privatebusiness on the paper to postpone its consideration led to the honorable member for Riverina not being called on to speak. Had he been called on, and asked leave tocontinue his remarks, there would havebeen no opportunity for the moving of anamendment. The Prime Minister stated, at the conclusion of Wednesday’s sitting, that he would move the adjournment of the House until 3 p.m. yesterday, in orderto give to private members half-ari-hour for the postponement and adjustment of their business.
– An announcement was made, but no understanding was cometo.
– There has been a good, deal of unfairness in the suggestion that, the honorable member in charge of the motion which is the cause of all this discussion desires to delay its consideration. . Since Federation took place it has been the practice to leave to the mover of a motion the fixing of the date for the resumption of its adjourned discussion. Themotion that the debate be adjourned to a certain date is always put to the House by Mr. Speaker, and the House can refuse toagree to it, though that has never happened, nor is it likely to happen. The Government does not ask the House to decide when its business shall be dealt with, but were the House to decide that businessshould be taken in a certain order, or on acertain date, against the will of Ministers, that would determine the fate of the Government. A private member should havethe same control of his business as Ministers have of theirs. If a private memberis not allowed to fix the date for the resumption of the discussion on the motionwhich he has moved, he is prevented from fixing a suitable date, and may find his business blocked by other business. Of course, the House has the final decision on all these questions. We must assume that every private member is in earnest in bringing forward motions. It has been suggested that it is necessary to guard ourselves against attempts to prevent the discussion of questions by the moving of motions and the indefinite postponement of them, and that is a point which the Standing Orders Committee might well consider before submitting recommendations to the House. I think that the fixing of the date for the resumption of the discussion of private business must ordinarily be left in the hands of its mover, otherwise the opponents of a proposal, or members who did not wish to vote aye or nay on it, could combine and fix a date when the congestion of the business-paper would prevent further discussion. All these points are entitled to consideration. So far, the principle upon which we have acted has worked satisfactorily, but the matter is one with which the Standing Orders Committee should deal. I hope that the honorable member for Hume and the honorable member for Parramatta will agree to withdraw their motion and amendment, upon the understanding that the matter, will be dealt with by the Standing Orders Committee. It is unnecessary to submit a formal motion referring it to the Committee. There are other phases of this question that might reasonably be touched upon, but as I do not wish to prolong the debate I shall not refer to them.
– I think it is perfectly clear that the honorable member for Riverina yesterday had the right either to resume the debate on the principal motion, or to ask leave to continue his remarks at a later date. The honorable member for Brisbane moved to fix the date on which the adjourned debate should be resumed, and it has been the invariable practice in this House for the Presiding Officer to refer to the mover of a motion to determine the date to which it should be adjourned. It is likewise clear that under the Standing Orders there can be no discussion on a motion for the adjournment of a debate. We have a standing order governing that point, and it seems to me that to allow a discussion on a motion to fix the date upon which a debate shall be resumed would be to stultify that standing order. It is reasonable to assume that an honorable member who gives notice of a motion does so in all sincerity, and that he ‘ is the best judge of the date on which the debate upon it ought to be resumed.
– Suppose the date which he proposes is not suitable to the honorable member who has secured the adjournment.
– An honorable member who had secured the adjournment of the debate could not complain. Every honorable member has in that respect to take acertain risk. I am inclined to think that your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that there canbe no discussion on the motion to fix the date upon which an adjourned debate may be resumed is clearly consistent with the standing order, which provides that there shall be no debate on a motion for the adjournment of a debate.
.- Some of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Grey are quite reactionary, and suggest a course of procedure quite out of consonance with the true purpose of a deliberative assembly. The fullest opportunity should be givenat all times for the consideration of every question submitted to the House. The honorable member, however, seems to be under the impression that the purposes of Democracy can be best served by “ gagging “ honorable members. He said that the object of the standing order which prohibits a discussion on a motion to adjourn a debate would be nullified if that principle were not observed in respect of a motion to fix the date of the resumption of the adjourned debate. Obviously, the two mattersare entirely distinct. A motion for the adjournment of a debate is a matter upon which every honorable member can straightaway make up his mind. No amount of persuasion is likely to affect his judgment in that regard, nor is he any wiser at the end of a two-hours’ debate on the question than he was when the motion was originally proposed. Therefore, it is clearly logical and reasonable that there should be no discussion on a motion for the adjournment of a debate. The other question, however, is: essentially different. The honorable member for Brisbane selected a date on which he desired the consideration of his motion to be resumed. That, however, was not a matter entirely for the honorable member himself to determine. Certainly his wishes ought to be regarded, because, presumably, having studied the business-paper, he knows the date most favorable for carrying the question to a division. But honorable members generally have their individual rights in the arrangement of the business-paper. In many cases the mover of a motion might select for its future consideration a date that would not be suitable to those who desired to discuss it. It might be inconvenient to half-a-dozen honorable members j and it is more in keeping with the true purpose of Parliament that the interests of six or eight honorable members, rather than the convenience of one, should be consulted. There is no reason why we should depart from the procedure hitherto followed in this House, under which honorable members generally have the right to consider whether the date fixed by the mover of a motion for its further consideration is suitable. We ought not to surrender lightly any of our privileges. I regret, however, to observe in this new Parliament a tendency on the part of the Chair to unduly restrict honorable members; to anticipate what they are going to say, and to assume that they are going to violate the Standing Orders.
– Sometimes I do not know where I am in this Parliament.
– I think the honorable member ought to be called to order more frequently than he is. He takes up more of the time of the House than does any other honorable member.
– Indeed, I do not.
– While the honorable member undoubtedly gives the House at times very valuable information, and is always entertaining - especially when he lets himself go - I do not think he can complain of not having been allowed due latitude. I repeat that instead of narrowing down our rights and privileges, the authority of the Chair should be exercised to maintain them in all their original force. I think, without any disrespect to the Chair, that we ought to adhere to the practice that has hitherto prevailed in this House, which allows honorable members generally to consider, when a question of this kind is proposed, whether the date named by the mover of the motion for its further consideration, is suitable. Surely that is the proper course to follow. No individual member of the House should fie privileged to bring up a question at a time that is unsuitable to the House generally. I have only to add that there seems to be springing up a new departure in regard to Mr. Speaker occasionally leaving the Chair. I have not noticed such a practice in previous Parliaments in similar circumstances, and while I have no objection to h I think that when Mr. Speaker does leave the Chair, and the Deputy Speaker takes his place, the fact should be recorded in Hansard, or in our Votes and Proceedings. A decision might’ be given by the Chair, and honorable members, in reading that decision in Hansard later on, would have no means of ascertaining whether it had been given by Mr. Speaker or his deputy. When Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair, as he has a right to do, and is succeeded by the Deputy Speaker - although such a thing did not take place under like conditions in this House for nearly nine years-
– I am sorry to rise to a point of order. The honorable member is not in order in debating what is an entirely new subject.
– It is unnecessary for the honorable member to raise that point of order, for I have finished. My suggestion is that when Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair, and his place is filled by the Deputy Speaker, a record of the change should be made.
– As has already been pointed out, there is reason to believe that you, Mr. Speaker; were under some misapprehension last night; but whether that is so or not, the fact remains that I was not allowed to speak. You now agree with me that I should have been allowed to do so. The other question at issue is somewhat different. I do not think the question of the date to which business is to be adjourned is one that need be discussed at any length. But I know to my cost that Speaker Holder, on one or two occasions, when we were dealing with the Tariff, held that such a question might be debated, and that the honorable member for Parramatta took full advantage of that ruling. It is very injudicious to curb the privileges of the House by a slavish regard for precedent, and that is one reason why I took exception to your ruling. I do not wish to waste time, and I shall certainly vote against the motion moved by the honorable member for Brisbane; but the point that I wish to make is that, unless a privilege is abused, it ought not to be unnecessarily curtailed. Under the Standing Orders, the Ministry can stop any abuse of a privilege by moving the application of the closure.
– Who is to determine when a privilege is being abused.
– There has been hitherto no difficulty in that regard.
– There has been.
– I have taken more abuse from the honorable member than from any one else. Some years ago, there was a great abuse of the Standing Orders, and we therefore framed Standing Orders providing, amongst other things, that a motion for the adjournment of the debate could not be discussed.
– But the remedy which the honorable member suggests as to the application of the closure would be worse than the abuse.
– I think not. As you have said, Mr. Speaker, that you think your previous ruling was wrong, the whole matter might reasonably be left to the Standing Orders Committee. I do not know what you are prepared to do, but I am ready, with the consent of the House, to withdraw my motion in order that the matter may be dealt with by the Standing Orders Committee. I shall be quite satisfied if you refer it to that Committee, and when it submits a proposal to the House in regard to this question, we shall be able to debate and vote upon it. I do not wish to do anything in opposition to you, and, as I have gained the point that I took last night, I am quite willing to withdraw my motion. A question of this kind should not be decided off-hand, but should be given calm and deliberate consideration.
– The object of the standing order which prohibits debate on a motion for the adjournment of a debate is to prevent obstructive discussion. When that standing order was introduced, we were having interminable debates on motion to adjourn debates, that the Speaker or Chairman leave the chair, and so forth; and it was necessary to take drastic steps. I regard the rule as highly desirable, and if it is to be effective, it would be futile to permit the whole question to be re-opened on a motion to fix a date for the resumption of a debate. In the past, discussions on motions to adjourn debates have lasted hours, and even days, and unless the standing order is read as it has been interpreted, we shall be only playing with the matter. As a rule, the member in charge of a motion takes care to select a date that will in no way endanger the proposal. Of course, if an honorable member is not acting fairly by the House, and is only desirous to obtain a little kudos by keeping some motion on the notice-paper, the position is different, and some means ought to be devised to meet the occasion. I quite agree with the ruling of the Speaker, because, otherwise, as I say, the whole meaning of the standing order would be nullified.
– Has there ever been abuse of the privilege of debating the question of the day to be fixed?
– I do not know ; but there have been cases of members placing notices of motion on the paper and leavingthem there during the whole of the session with no desire to have them decided. That is a most unfair proceeding, and ought to be prevented.
– I agree that the best course would be to withdraw the motion instead of forcing us to a division on a question of which no notice was given to honorable members. When the Standing Orders are to be dealt with notice is always given ; and when, as in this case, dissent from the Speaker’s ruling is involved, the question cannot be dealt with on its merits unless honorable members have due notice. There is a vast difference between a motion for the adjournment of a debate and a motion to fix a date on which the debate shall be resumed. In the latter case honorable members are strictly confined to the suitability or otherwise of the date mentioned ; whereas a motion for the adjournment of the debate opens up the whole question dealt with in the debate itself. Our Standing Orders are very similar to the Decalogue; they largely lay down things which shall not be done, and anything not specifically mentioned is regarded as being within the power of honorable members. If it had been desired that the question of fixing the date for the resumption of a debate should not be the subject to debate, it would have been so provided in the Standing Orders, but, as we know, the point is not dealt with. The fixing of the date may virtually affect the rights and privileges of a large number of members. To quote an extreme instance, an honorable member who desired to trifle with the question might suggest a Sunday, or the 30th February, or any time or date when it would be impossible to deal with the matter ; and surely it should be possible for honorable members to object to such a proposal. If it be decided that the fixing of the date can only be decided on division, the rights of members will be absolutely taken away. They are placed in the position of either accepting the date mentioned or rejecting it, and, if the latter, the matter is disposed of finally, there being no provision for reopening the question. If opportunity were left to substitute another day, members would be in a postion to do something effective, whereas an adverse vote would virtually wipe the motion off the notice-paper.
Sitting suspended from I to 2. 1 5 p.m.
– It is desirable that any definite conclusion arrived at by the House - with Mr. Speaker, of course, it is a matter of discretion - should te upon notice, and after opportunity has been presented to honorable members to thoroughly thresh out the question, apart from all other considerations. Under the circumstances, I urge the honorable member for Hume to withdraw his motion. This will mean that Mr. Speaker’s ruling . will stand until otherwise ordered by the Standing Orders Committee, and the House.
– What does the honorable member mean by “stand”?
– I mean that the Speaker’s decision will stand as a ruling. This will get us out of the difficulty, and will give the Standing Orders Committee time to consider the matter.
– In view of the expression of opinion this morning, and the words just uttered by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I have no objection, with the concurrence of the mover of the amendment, to withdraw the motion. It is certainly desirable that the matter should have due consideration.
– T shall be very glad to withdraw the amendment.
– I should like, before putting the question to the House, to refer to one remark made this morning, to which, I think, it is necessary for me to reply, seeing that, in my opinion at any rate, it partakes of a personal character. The honorable member for Coolgardie said that a practice has been growing up in this House, of which he gave an instance, of the Speaker occasionally leaving the chair, and asking the Deputy Speaker to preside in his ab sence. This, the honorable member said, he had never before seen done in this House. I may point out that the Standing Orders provide for a Deputy Speaker, and when I was Chairman of Committees, I repeatedly acted for Sir Frederick Holder, and since I became Speaker, I have twice, I think, asked the Deputy Speaker to act for me. When the Prime Minister decided, through the House, that we should sit from half-past 10 o’clock in the morning, I felt that it would be physically impossible for me to remain here for twelve hours. I might be able to do so for one or two weeks, but, ultimately, I should find myself unable to continue. Under the circumstances, I acquainted the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Poynton, with the fact that, for two or three hours on each of the long days, I should call upon him to take my place, and that practice I intend to follow so long as the present hours of sitting are observed. The honorable member for Coolgardie urged that some reference to the vacation of the chair by the Speaker should be made in
Hansard, but I have to point out that that is always done. When I acted temporarily for Sir Frederick Holder - and, I believe, tihough I am not sure, that I similarly acted for the honorable member for Laanecoorie, when he was Speaker - Hansard always used the words “Mr. Deputy Speaker” when reporting any statement from, or decision by, the Chair. I am sorry to have to refer to these matters, but I felt their reference to be, though I do not know that it was so intended, a personal reflection on myself, and I thought it well to clear up the matter. Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the amendment and the motion be withdrawn?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Amendment and motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I expressly stated this morning that it was not to be expected that the Speaker should occupy the chair during the long hours which the House may determine to sit. My request was not that the fact of the Speaker leaving the chair should be reported in Hansard - at least, if I made that request, I did so inadvertently - but that it should be recorded in the
Votes and Proceedings. I can only say that I have charged my memory in respect of the time I have been in this House, and I cannot recall an occasion when the late Sir Frederick Holder vacated the chair, except during a “ stone- wall “ or on Friday afternoons, when he desired to catch the train to Adelaide, and the House had not risen in time to permit him to do so.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6th September (vide page 2620), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Deakin had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted : - “ the form of land tax outlined by the Prime Minister, and provided for in this Bill, is unjust in its incidence and an abuse of Federal powers.”
Mr. HANS IRVINE (Grampians) [2.22). - I have listened to this debate with great interest, first, as an Australian representing, to some extent, the producing interests, and also as one who has always believed in land taxation. But the land taxation that I have advocated on the platform and elsewhere has always been without exemptions, for which, in a country like Australia”, there is no necessity. We are not a nation of paupers, but are, or should be, prepared to bear the burden of taxation according to our means, whether the areas we own be large or small. Is this to be considered a national tax or a class tax ? To me it appears to be the latter ; and in a democratic community like this there should be no such taxation. There is no necessity or urgency for thismeasure, and in Committee the Prime Minister and his supporters ought to agree to considerable amendment of their proposals;. This, taxation is so unjust in its incidence and so unfair to people who have, many of them, assumed burdens they are ill-fitted to bear, that it will mean ruin to. the primary producers. In reality the object seems to be to place financial shackles on those who” have been industrious, in opening the way for settlement, and developing the producing industries of the Commonwealth. In a Bill, passed a little while ago, preference to. unionists was provided ; and the Bill now before us is so drastic and far-reach ing that it must, in my opinion, result in retarding our national growth and development. We have been told by the supporters of the Government, and quite openly by the Attorney-General, that this is to lie considered a bursting up tax, with a view to getting rid of the large land-owner by forcing him to sell his property in an adverse market. If the measure be passed as submitted, it will operate retrospectively as from 30th June last, and no opportunity will, therefore, be given to landholders to get out in time, as would have been the case if the Bill had dated from 30th June next.
– I am sure the honorable member, after residing for so many years in Australia, does not regard the people on the land as fools. Would they not themselves turn the land to its best use? The other day the honorable member for Hunter said that he wished the land applied to its full use value. But the best merino wool is grown many miles from either trunk or branch railways.
– There never will be railways in the back country so long as it is occupied by big estates.
– In many parts of Riverina the construction of railways is not warranted at present, because the returns would not pay for axle grease. You cannot get rid of droughts by constructing railways. Under liberal laws, settlement will gradually extend, and railways will follow it. The proposed tax is unjust, and will bear unfairly upon those who have made Australia. Are our land-owners fools that they should neglect to put their land to the best use? In Victoria you find settlement wherever it is possible, and the railways follow it. I think that Governments act wisely when they push out railways into every good district to tap sources of supply. In New Zealand the land tax yields ^604,900 annually, and, as Victoria produces more hay, wheat, oats, and butter than the Dominion, and beats her in everything but the production of meat, I think that the proposed land tax would extort nearly ^1.000,000 from Victorian land-holders alone. Melbourne men: arc lending money to persons in’ New Zealand at from 6 to 6i per cent. Yesterday I heard that £70,000 had been asked for by the trustees of a New Zealand estate. New Zealand’ has been practically dominated by the Labour Socialistic party, which has tried to set an example to the world by its liberal legislation, though this has not always succeeded.
– There has not been a Liberal Government in power in New Zealand.
– New Zealand land legislation has always been liberal, and money sent to the Dominion from Melbourne earns 6 to6½ per cent. interest. Do honorable members wish to prevent our progress and make money dear in Australia? The supporters of the Government say that it is impossible to get land in Australia, but they must know that that is false. Two deputations have waited on the Prime Minister to supply him with facts concerning the application of the proposed tax. The principal speakers offered to produce for the inspection of any responsible officer of the Treasury, or any certified acountant in the city of Melbourne, balance-sheets and statements to support their contentions. What could be fairer than that ? The Bill fails to recognise the responsibility of men who have mortgaged their estates in the interests of their children. Are these men to be commercially strangled ? I shall give three instances of the way in which the proposed tax will affect large estates, and if what I say is doubted, I shall be willing to produce balance-sheets. One estate is situated in the Wannon and Grampians divisions, and contains between 30,000 and 40,000 acres. It is owned by a family, and is not all in one parcel, although there are about 20,000 acres in one parcel. Most of the land is more than 20 miles from the nearest railway station. As a wheat-grower, I know that that is too far for a waggon and team of horses to go and return in a day. To make this land suitable for wheat-growing it must be connected by railway with a port. Unfortunately, the railway systems of all the States are too much centralized. In Victoria the railways have been designed to bring everything to Melbourne, in New South Wales everything is dragged to Sydney, and in South Australia everything goes to Adelaide. The Wimmera traffic should go to Warrnambool or Geelong. Decentralization would benefit Australia, and would prevent congestion in the capitals. During the last five years the land I speak of has produced 3s. 3d. net per acre. It is being applied to its best use. Its un improved value is estimated at £4 per acre. If the proposed tax is imposed, small as well as rich men will suffer, because land will depreciate in value. As a business man, and a land-owner who works his properties, I estimate that the depreciation will be not less than 20 per cent. I appeal to honorable members opposite, if they will not act justly to the larger capitalists, who have worked their way from the bottom to the top rung of the ladder, and whom we are said to represent, and who will suffer from the mistake they made at the recent elections through ignorance, apathy, or indifference, to remember the interests of those who placed them in power. How is the value of land to be estimated? My method is to take the gross returns for three years, or its net returns for seven years if it is far back, or its net returns for five years if it is near a railway, and has a good rainfall, after deducting cost of working. Ripon County has the best wheat yield in Australia. Its average rainfall annually is about 23 inches, an its wheat production 20 bushels to the acre. The tax will interfere with those who cannot afford to spend £7, £8, or £9 an acre for land. I know of dozens of cases in which men who ten years ago were only ploughmen in the Wannon and Grampians divisions are today wealthy, and they have made their money honestly. The estate to which I have referred, which is put to its best use in view of its position, produces a return of 3¼ per cent. When a railway is brought nearer to it, the return will be multiplied fourfold. The Commonwealth tax on the estate will be £2,340, while it already pays £380 in State land tax, and £340 as the shire rates, so its whole taxation will amount to £3,060: Its return at 3s. 3d. per acre is £4,875, showing an apparent net profit of £1,815. But when the present owners bought it they paid £60,000 off the purchase price. In any case, they must be allowed interest on the money which they have invested, which, if calculated at 4 per cent., and deducted from the apparent net profit, would leave a debit of £585. This tax is unnecessary and uncalled for. We have no mandate from the people to impose it. My division is populated largely by farmers, miners, and workers generally, and everywhere during the electoral campaign I stated that the tax was not required, and that the right to levy direct taxation was conceded to the Commonwealth only to meet a crisis, and was not intended to be exercised under ordinary circumstances. The Commonwealth has paramount powers regarding indirect taxation, and it is now proposed to exhaust a source of revenue which should not be used except in time of war or grave national peril. It is as if a man who was living extravagantly should, finding the interest on his investments insufficient to meet his expenditure, nibble at the principal, which, of course, in time would disappear. The taxation of land values should be left to the States. Should they prove incapable of managing their own affairs, it will be for the Commonwealth to step in. Honorable members opposite seem to have decided, not in this Chamber, but elsewhere, what their methods shall be. I have been told that those who are behind the tax are the twenty-two members who are said to represent the Australian Workers’ Association, which decided the preference to unionists question. If that be so, it is so much the worse for the Commonwealth, because it means legislation for a class, and not for the whole community. Then, in Riverina, there is a freehold property of 110,000 acres, valued at 30s. an acre.
– Who owns it?
– The name will be given to the Treasurer or any responsible officer whom he may suggest. Many land-owners have mortgages on their properties, and do not like the fact to be generally known.
– The honorable member should not refer to these cases if he will not give names.
– The secretary to the Pastoralists Association is prepared to submit balance-sheets, figures, and names to any member of the Ministry, or any responsible officer who may be suggested. Iam not indulging in mere beating of the air. but am stating stern, solid facts in regard to the position of men who will be ruined if this oppressive tax be imposed. In Riverina, I repeat, there is a property of about110, 000 acres, valued at 30s. per acre, or . £165,000 in all, the average net income from which for twenty years has been £2,350.
– Where is it?
– The honorable member ought to have a little more common sense, and more consideration for the public credit. He ought not to expect me to supply names. People do not want all their business made public.
– Will the honorable member say in what part of the Riverina it is situate ?
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. The proposed tax on this estate will amount of £3,218, and the net annual income from it for twenty years has been £2,350.
– It must be a very badly managed estate.
-It is far distant from a railway line, and is suited only to wool-growing. The proposed tax on the property will be equal to 136 per cent., or 27s. 2d. in the £1. That means ruination to the owner. I ask honorable members to seriously consider these statements. I ought not to be asked for names when I say that I am prepared to produce balancesheets in confirmation of my statements. In the electorates of Corangamite or Wannon there is an estate not far from Hamilton for which £71,000 was paid a little over three years ago.
– Where does the unearned increment come in?
-Previous owners obtained it.
– Perhaps the present owners paid too much for it.
-Even if they did, thatis their business TheState land tax on that estate amountsto £385 12s., or 13 per cent., and the shire rates to £159 19s., which is equal to 5½ per cent., or a total of18½ per cent. The taxation proposed by the Commonwealth under this Bill will amount to a further 22 per cent., or a total of 40½ per cent.
– Is that the Koonongwootong Estate?
– It is not.I will give the honorable member, privately, the name of the estate to which I refer, as well as the name of the owners. They do not object to their names being made public, but without the consent of the owners in the case of the Riverina estate to which 1 referred, I could not supply the honorable member for Riverina with their names. They will be supplied, however, by some one else to the Prime Minister or a responsible officer, if desired. I ask honorable members opposite to consider this question from an Australian, and not from a party, point of view. Do they wish to harass the small man? They must know that they cannot harass the big man without hurting the little one. Surely they do not desire to check enterprise. Surely they desire that the country shall progress. I am satisfied that they have great ideals before them, but they will not realize them by imposing class taxation. With government by the people for the people, they should not wish to impose class taxation. We are not a nation of paupers, and the small man can afford to pay his fair share of taxation just as well as the rich man can. Under this Bill, however, the incidence of taxation will be most unjust. Twenty or thirty cases, of hardship were brought under the notice of the Prime Minister and the ‘ AttorneyGeneral by a deputation which waited upon him a day or two ago, and the balancesheets submitted were verified by certified accountants in several of the States. I have heard it said at different times that the one object of the Government in introducing this Bill is to bring about the subdivision of large estates, because there are no lands available for the people.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member surely must be ignorant of the fact that there are millions of acres available to those who are prepared to do what their forefathers did, and to go into the backblocks. Men cannot expect to be wetnursed all their lives. They should be preparedto do what I and other honorable members on this side of the House have done. They should be ready to go out and endeavour to carve out fortunes for themselves. We find, however, that many men wish to live in the towns, or to be supplied with land in the neighbourhood of their homes. I speak with a considerable amount of knowledge of the lands of the Commonwealth, and more particularly of those of Western Australia, where some people say the land is of very little value for agricultural purposes. We haveheard the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Fremantle speak, however, in very favorable terms of the cultivated lands of that State, and I indorse all they have said from personal knowledge.
-Does the honorable member desire men to leave his own State to take up land in Western Australia?
– Land in Victoria is high in price for the man who wishes to work his way up in the world. In the division of Wannon, within the last three years, land has been sold at £5 18s. per acre, and readily purchased, although with bad seasons some of those who purchased would probably have been unable to pay for it. The man sold his land on very easy terms, accepting a deposit of one-twentieth of the purchase money, and not asking for any progress payment for a period of two years. Some of this land, the first season after it had been disposed of, yielded 30 bushels of wheat to the acre, and that wheat was sold at 4s. per bushel, so that in the one season the owners got off the land more than the actual purchase price. Then, again, we have the Credit Foncier system in operation. Do honorable members opposite ask for better terms? If they do, they must be gluttons.
– The honorable member said just now that the price of land in Victoria was too high.
– I said that the average land in Victoria was too dear. But if men are prepared to go out and carve their way in the world, there is plenty of land available for them at £8 and £9 per acre. With good seasons such as we have had since 1903, land so purchased could be paid for within three to five years out of the produce obtained from it. Honorable members could not ask for anything better. Their fathers did not have a better chance.
-Their fathers were able to get the land for £1 an acre and less.
– What has the honorable member done ? He has been here for twenty or thirty years, I suppose, and I should like to know whether he has built up a fortune for himself by going into the wilderness and engaging in pioneering work ?
-I did pioneering work, and that is more than the honorable member has ever done.
– When I was in Perth five or six weeks ago, I asked the Surveyor-General what Crown lands were available there, and was assured that there were 60,000,000 acres within the rainfall belt, 16,000,000 acres of which were supposed to , be in the dairying and fruitgrowing belt, and 44,000,000 acres in the wheatgrowing belt, I speak with some knowledge of the country, because I have been all over that part of Western Australia where wheat is produced. I have made inquiries there for the benefit of the people of this State, and it has always been my desire to place at the disposal of others the information I have ascertained. I am glad to say that within the last five years men from my own electorate have settled in Western’ ‘Australia, and have done well. Others are following them, and since my return from Perth, between 20,000 and 30,000 acres, some 60 or 70 miles away from Geraldton, have been taken up by Victorian farmers upon my recommendation. I have pointed out to them that land is obtainable in Western Australia at 10s. per acre, on twenty years’ terms, that no interest is charged, that the Government make a free gift of 160 acres, and that the Agricultural Bank will stand by a settler to the extent of £800 in helping him to find implements and stock. Could more liberal terms be desired ? The Labour party, however, by introducing drastic land taxation of this character, are really retarding settlement, and are preventing capitalists from engaging in developmental industries. I appeal to those of the Labour party who are not fanatics with respect to land taxation to consider this question from the point of view of the poor man who has a desire to become wealthy. It must be the ambition of every man to improve his condition, for the sake not only of himself, but of “his children. The Government of Western Australia have recognised that desire - and I speak of that State because I have interests there as well as in other parts nf the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member has done well.
– Yes, and I have Worked and paid for my interests.
– Give some one else a chance.
– There _ is a chance for every man who is honest, industrious, and energetic. Honorable members opposite must have been failures, or they would not be Labour politicians.
– Do not get angry.
– I am not; but surely one is not to submit to abuse. I appeal to the Labour party to mould their legislation in the interests of the workers, whom they are supposed to represent, but who, in my opinion, they are misrepresenting in proposing taxation of this kind.. The preference to unionists clause in the Conciliation and: Arbitration Bill was considerably modified in Committee, but the Government are now proposing to place financial shackles on the energetic and industrious who desire to improve their condition. Surely reason and common sense must prevail. Surely the Government will realize what a great future there is in store for us. The Labour party ought to be the first to hold out their arms to men and women from the other side, when they know that there are in one State alone 60,000,000 acres available for settlement. Victoria is far more densely settled than any of the other States, and will bring in more revenue from land taxation if the Bill be passed as introduced than the whole of New Zealand does to-day. The Prime Minister was told the other day that the revenue derived from Collins-street properties alone under this Bill would amount to ^40,000 per annum.
– Poor people !
– The Labour party’s legislation will make the poor poorer and the rich richer. I do not wish to see that brought about. In a country like Australia there should be no class hatred, and class taxation should not be introduced by a Democratic Government - a Government supposed to be representative of the masses. I am an Australian, and believe in and love Australia. I have seen most countries, but am proud to say that I have never visited another land which offers the same opportunities for labour. But labour and capital must work in harmony. We must not pass legislation calculated to create ill-feeling, and to cause people to button up their pockets, and thus retard industry and progress. I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to consider carefully the representations made by the deputation which interviewed them a day or two ago. I can vouch for the statements that were then submitted to them. In many of the instances referred to I have seen the balancesheets on which reliance was placed, and have some of them in my possession at the present time. As to the case in which a challenge was thrown out by the honorable member for Riverina, the actual facts can be supplied by the Secretary to the Association; who ^collected . them, and ‘the balance-sheet will be submitted to a responsible officer.
– It is very easy to fake a balance-sheet.
– Do not talk like an ignorant man, who knows nothing of finance or commerce. The honorable member talks like a “bush-whacker,” who knows nothing about civilization.
– I shall tell the Honorable member by-and-by how some of these statements are faked.
– I should like to bring under the notice of the Government and their supporters what this tax actually means by comparing it with what is known as the Lloyd George land tax in England. That tax means a maximum of50d. per centum, or 4s. 2d. in the £100, or½d. in the £1. The maximum tax proposed under this Bill, however, will amount to £1 13s. 6¾d. per £100.
An Honorable Member. - Is that all?
– Listen to the voice of inexperience. If the tax were doubled it would not satisfy some honorable members opposite, although it would mean financial and economic ruin to this country. We have to legislate on just lines for the well-being of the community as a whole. I ask honorable members to compare this tax with that proposed by Lloyd George, and in Committee to endeavour so to modify the provisions of the Bill that it will be unjust to no one.
.- The honorable member for Grampians has treated the House to a lecture which I think is altogether undeserved. His speech may have been a good one or a bad one, according to the point of view from which it is looked at, but whenever an honorable member dared to interject, he became at once personally offensive.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
– Was the honorable member offended because he was called a “ bushwhacker “ ?
– Not at all. The honorable member for Grampians said that I had not been a pioneer. I do not hesitate to say that I have done pioneering work in the like of which he has never engaged. I went into the bush of Victoria and reclaimed land. The honorable member has never done that.
– I have.
– The honorable mem ber obtained land after others had put their hard graft into it. Then he comes along and says, “ Why do not the present generation do what their fathers did ? Why don’t they set out as pioneers ? “ My answer is that the present generation have not the opportunity to do what their fathers did, and that they never will have such an opportunity. I speak thus as an older native of Australia than is the honorable member for Grampians, and as one who knows a little of the history of land transactions in this State and New South Wales. I intend to place before the House a few facts as to how some of the so-called pioneers acquired their land, which may not be very palatable to honorable members of the Opposition. How did the pioneers acquire the land? That is a question that has been altogether forgotten.
– I was not speaking of those pioneers.
– But I am, and I challenge the honorable member to disprove my statement. According to the ordinary courtesies of political life, when this deputation of pastoralists, who are my constituents whether they like it or not, arranged to wait on the Prime Minister, they should have approached me and asked me to introduce them. Why should I be kept in ignorance of their wishes ? I ought to have had an opportunity, not only of introducing the deputation, but of either speaking or withholding remarks. Why all this secrecy? After the deputation had been introduced to the Prime Minister, the statement went forth that not one or two but a large number of the land-holders in Riverina would be absolutely ruined if this Bill became law. Balance-sheets were placed before the Prime Minister, and certain statements made, but in no cases were even the names or location of the property made public. I unhesitatingly challenge the statement that in the Riverina there is a large number of land-owners who will not be able to pay the tax.
– Are there any?
– There may be ; there are exceptions to every rule ; but, as the Prime Minister told the deputation, exceptional cases would be fairly considered on their merits. The public ought not to be led away by assertions without proof.
– I offered every proof of my statement.
– The honorable member simply made assertions, and he gave the whole case away when, in speaking of Victoria, he said that the people had to leave the State for Western Australia and elsewhere because the price of land was too high for them.
– Yes, for the class who want land for nothing.
– Does the honorable member remember the time in the pre- Berry days when the cry rang out all over Victoria. “ We want land”? I do not know whether the honorable member was one of the landholders of that time, but I may tell him that there never has been anything else except legislation in their favour. All that has been done has been in favour of the class who have the land, and who, by all political means, would keep every one else out. The honorable member speaks about pioneering and wheat-growing, and to a certain extent I agree with him. He spoke of land worth or £9 an acre devoted to grazing, and only returning , 3¼ per cent.
– I said the unimproved value was estimated to be£4.
– Well, accepting£4, the honorable member contended that the land was being put to its best use. He argued that if they grew wheat the owners would have to travel 20 miles to a railway, but I tell him that in my constituency there are people who possess very little land, and who yet have to travel 50 miles to a railway with their wheat.
– They would be better off in Western Australia.
– I have no desire to refer to Western Australia or any other State. Children have been born and reared to farming pursuits in each of the States, and it is to their welfare and benefit to obtain land as near their parental homes as possible, so that they may receive advice and assistance in a variety of ways.
– Where is that state of things to be found in Australia?
– If there is not that state of things, it is in consequence of the large landed estates which it is the object of this legislation to unlock.
– People leave one State because greater advantages are offered in another.
– The honorable member was not born at the period of which I am speaking. Does the honorable member for Grampians recollect the term “ Macpherson plaid”? That referred to the class who have manipulated the best lands of Victoria in such a way as to shut out any other persons.
– That is what the lease-holders are doing all over Australia, and yet they are not touched by this Bill.
– I am not speaking of lease-holders, but of the “ pioneers “ referred to by the honorable member for Grampians. Can the honorable member recollect the Macpherson Act, the Duffy Act, the Grant Act, and the Casey Act? Does he recollect when there was almost a revolution in Victoria, when it was made possible for the people to get some land only by the dethronement of the class party, and the bringing into power of the Liberal party? When the great land-owners found they could no longer exercise complete control over land legislation, they crowded into New South Wales, and tried to take command there. I have had to suffer, and I have seen hundreds and thousands of others suffer, in consequence of the manner in which land has been acquired and held ; and I take leave to doubt the statement that the owners of hundreds and thousands of freehold acres in the Riverina will be absolutely ruined if this tax is imposed.
– It is quite true.
– I have been a resident of the Riverina for the past thirty-five years, and I think my knowledge of the district must be quite equal, if not superior, to that of the honorable member, who only pays the district an occasional visit.
– The honorable member is returned for the district.
– Yes, in spite of every form of opposition.
– Perhaps it was because the honorable member knew too much that he was not asked to accompany the deputation the other day.
– I think there was another reason. One courtesy is always observed amongst members of Parliament; one member never interferes except to assist in another member’s constituency, and it is always right that the representative should introduce a deputation, even though the members of the deputation are not amongst his supporters.
– I was not present at that deputation.
– It was not a Riverina deputation, but an Australian deputation.
– It was a deputation from the Pastoralists Union of Southern Riverina.
– That was the deputation that I accompanied - that represented the property-owners and the vested interests of all Australia.
– I know whatI am talking about. The honorable member for Grampians proclaimed himself in favour of a land tax without exemptions. It would seem, therefore, that, although the poor man has to leave Victoria owing to the price of land, the honorable member is quite willing to impose on him a still further burden.
– Does the honorable member believe in letting off the big leaseholders ?
– I believe in a living allowance, and in exempting that living allowance from taxation, as will be the case under the graduated land tax now proposed.
– Is the honorable member in favour of. Letting off the leaseholders? They are among the richest men in Australia.
– That is not a matter to enter into at the present time, seeing that the Bill deals mainly with freeholds.
– Why not discuss land monopoly, whatever form it may take ?
– In the case of the freeholders, the Crown has, very unwisely, parted with every right to the land except the right of taxation, and handed it over in fee-simple to a certain section of people.
– The Crown can resume the land if they pay a fair thing.
– That is one of the evils that has been forced on the State, and it opens up another question, to be dealt with at the proper time. The honorable member for Grampians said that this tax would mean ruin to the producers, and arrest development. Arrest the development of what? I say, with some little pride, that if there is a garden in Australia, as will be demonstrated in the future, it is the Riverina. There is no finer soil or climate, and the great Giver of all good things has bestowed upon the district an abundant supply of water, which, with one or two exceptions - the honorable member for Fawkner notably - the land-owners absolutely refuse to utilize. Who, therefore, is arresting development ?
– There is, unfortunately, quite a number of caterpillars up there just at present.
– Yes, and there are caterpillars of another sort who have eaten so into the root of the chief plant as to destroy its productiveness. The Riverina has been crushed by class legislation, and the domination of the land-holders. Now and then a reserve is thrown open, and the anxiety of the farmers’ sons to obtain a piece of land is then shown.
– That is a gamble.
– An area of land 2,000 or 3,000 acres in extent divided into several portions is thrown open in the midst of thousands of acres of freehold. and the law of the land declares that it shall be allotted by ballot.
– The people go for the money, and not for the land.
– The honorable member evidently does not know this class of men, who do not care whether the land be worth a shilling or £20 to them; all they desire is an area on which to make a living. In Riverina, during the last few years, large quantities of land have been bought and sold purely for speculative purposes. Syndicate after syndicate has bought up estates, and in some cases has unloaded them on the State- Government, thus throwing, a burden, as ever, on the unfortunate poor man. I have been in business in the Riverina. for years, and I declare that for every block of land thrown open there are hundreds of applications, though only one can be successful.
– It is a capital investment - that is why they go in for it.
– I should like to name a few places, but I desire it to be clearly understood that, though originally these properties have been improperly acquired, no discredit whatever attaches to the present holders, or a majority of them. I am concerned now with the manner in which land was originally acquired.
– But it is the present holders, not the original purchasers, who will have to pay the proposed tax.
– I admit that ; but in some cases they are prepared to pay it, because, since they purchased the land, its value has increased by 300 and 400 per cent. Recently the Crown resumed 50,000 acres at £4 an acre which had been originally purchased for less than£1 an acre.
– A long while ago, perhaps.
– No ; comparatively recently.
– To what extent had the land been improved?
– Under the New South Wales law the land had to be improved to the extent of£1 an acre ; but in many instances the inspector’s valuation of improvements was determined largely by the fact that the holder of the land had great influence, and perhaps sat in the halls of Legislature.
– Then the officials were dishonest?
– In many cases. I am not speaking of the present time. I believe that the administration is now as honest as we could hope it to be. But those who know the history df land legislation in New South Wales are aware that the administration of the Lands Department was at one time rotten to the core, officers, and even Ministers, being in league with those who were filching the lands from the people.
– What was Parliament doing? I understand that the honorable member was in the State Parliament for a great many years. Why did he not draw attention to this state of affairs?
– If the honorable member will refer to the State Hansard, he will find that there was no greater champion than I of the rights of the people to the land of the country. I have given my life to that cause. It is for that reason that I have earned the undying hostility in Riverina of the class which, monopolizes the lands. Before I left the State Parliament, I had obtained for the people all the Crown land available in my electorate. But I have never attempted to do injustice. In some cases, land was acquired from the Crown improperly; though those who now hold it should be dealt with justly. The late Sir John Robertson, whose name has only to be mentioned to secure the respect of even political opponents, passed what he thought a most liberal Act, to assist persons without means to take up land. Had that Act been administered as he intended, it “would have been one of the best in Australia. But members of the class who now say that we on this side are passing class legislation so manipulated the administration as to defeat the objects of that legislation, and deprive poor persons of ths opportunity to get land. The Act provided for the taking up of land in blocks, each of which was divided into four sections. An application fee of 5s. per acre had to be paid in respect to one of these sections, and nothing more for three years, when payment of 5 per cent, could be made, to continue indefinitely, or the land could be purchased outright at the maximum price of £1 per acre. The remaining three sections were reserved, so that the holder could take them when he had complied with the conditions on the first section. The Canadian and American land laws, and I believe those of Western Australia, contain somewhat similar provisions. The one section was said to be free selected, and in regard to the remaining three the selector had what was termed a pre-emptive lease. But the land monopolists, by virtue of volunteer land orders, and LLP. orders - the letters standing for the words “ I intend to improve “ - acquired possession of land here and there, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred made the position of the selectors untenable.” The law was defeated in another way. At the present time applications for land may be lodged at any time, and aredealt with after a reasonable interval ; but at one time they could be lodged only ora Thursdays after gazettal, while Wednesday was the day set apart for auctions of Crown lands. The result was that often if land was applied for on a Thursday, it would be bought at auction on the following Wednesday, before the application for selection could be dealt with. Let me mention what happened at Perricoota station. I am not afraid to mention names, though, as I said before, my remarks do not concern the present holders of the land.
– It is the present holders who will have to pay the land tax.
– -They are well able to do so, as I shall prove. I am dealing with these matters to show that we on this side are right in fighting in the’ interests of the people. I had been a resident of the Riverina for only a few years when the events which I am about to relate occurred. On Perricoota station 16,000 acres were gazetted as available for selection on a certain Thursday. The holders of the station ascertained how many bond fide applicants there would be for the land, and then brought by special train from Victoria men whom they had collected all over the State, to whom they gave the deposit money with which to lodge dummy applications, so that there were ten or twelve dummies for every bond fide applicant. I am speaking of what I know, because I saw what took place. I wondered at the reason for the sudden access of population to the town of Moama, and noticed that the men brought up by the special train were taken to a hotel, and next morning marched like soldiers to the Lands Office. The Lands officer was in league with those who wished to rob the people of their lands, and would have succeeded had it not been for my subsequent action. I charged him with it at the time. I went with the crowd to the Lands Office. Usually the door was opened at 10 o’clock for the transaction of business, and the law gave precedence to applications in the order in which they were; received. The men who had been brought from Victoria were ranged in front of the door so as to block the bond fide applicants. Could villainy go further? The Lands officer at 10 o’clock admitted the dummies of the squatter, and then closed the door again in the face of the bona fide poor men who wanted the land. An hour or so afterwards these unfortunates, sons of farmers born in the district, who wished to make homes near their parents’ holdings, were told by the land agent that they were too late, as all the land available had been applied for. The whole area of 16,000 acres which had been available, and which is within 20 miles of Moama and railway communication, with God’s gift, the Murray River, flowing past it, had been applied for. The application money was paid for in cheques drawn by the station. But just before the closing of the office at 4 o’clock, the squatter’s men were marched in again and taken from the hotel to the Lands Office. There each man - I was present - marched to the counter and said to the land agent, “ I have altered my mind, and do not wish to take up land. Please return me my deposit.” In every case the money was returned, amounting in all to nearly £5,000, and went back to the squatter. I was not then in political life, but I communicated the facts to the Minister and prepared a petition, which was signed by those who were infuriated at the projected robbery. This was forwarded to Sydney. On the following Wednesday an application was made by the station owner to purchase the land at the upset price of £1 an acre. One of the then holders, who is now deceased, had his cheque-book in his hand, and the land agent had submitted the first block, when a boy, clad in the uniform of the Postal Department, came into the room, and handed to the latter a telegram from the Minister, withdrawing the 16,000 acres from sale, and calling on him to report himself at once in Sydney. Subsequently he was given a week to restore to the Crown the -£5,000 which had /been improperly returned to the squatter, or take the risk of going to a place where -the comforts are not very great. Another -way in which the law is set at nought was -.this. Solicitors, to their discredit be it said, were employed to threaten intending applicants for land. These applicants were told that if they went on the land they would be ruined by means of actions for trespass. I have known this to be done. When a selector has been away from home, leaving his wife and family on the selection, the station proprietor has sent a team of bullocks and chains, and has demolished his home.
– I should think that the honorable member has made this speech before.
– Not in this House, though I have stated the facts in New South Wales, with the result that the 16,000 acres which it was attempted to take from the people are now in the hands of bond fide farmers.
– What connexion have these facts with the proposal of the Government to impose a land tax?
– I was not a member of the deputation which waited on the Prime Minister, and to which the honorable member for Grampians referred ; and I have challenged him to give particulars relating to the cases which he has mentioned. I put these facts before the House in order that the public may know how some of our so-called pioneers acquired their land, the price at which they obtained it, and its actual value to-day. The increase in values has resulted, not from their efforts, but from the expenditure of public moneys, and they will still be able to pay this tax, and remain very wealthy.
– What about the people who have, purchased more recently?
– I am speaking of them, I hope, with proper respect, and I have separated them from those who obtained their lands in the early days. I know of an estate covering about 700,000 acres in a certain district which is worth 300 per cent, more than it was on the day that it last changed hands. That increased value did not result from the efforts of the purchasers, but rather from the expenditure of public money. This land, purchased at about ;£i per acre, is now of the value of £4 per acre ; and 50,00* acres were unloaded recently at that price to the Crown. The owners, therefore, should be well able to pay this tax. The honorable member for Grampians said that we were trying to arrest development. What does the development of the country mean, if not an effort to increase its productivity? If there is one part more than another that it is possible to develop it is where we have good soil, a splendid climate, and an abundant water supply. I know of a property so situated where an attempt was made some years ago to utilize the water available. It changed hands, however, and since then nothing has been done in the way of irrigation, although that property has a frontage of about 400 miles to the river Murray. On the Victorian side of the river, where class legislation was broken down to a large extent some years ago, and an opportunity given to the small man to get on the land, the country has developed. A small man on the Victorian side of the river is obtaining from 100 acres as much as a man on the other side is securing from 10,000 acres. The small man has irrigated his land, while the other has not. Let us settle the people on the beautiful lands along the Murray, where irrigation may be resorted to, and the productivity of the country will bs largely increased.
– And population will increase.
– Certainly. “ The honorable member for Grampians falls into the error so common amongst his party of urging that we have no right to impose land taxation, since that is a function properly belonging to the States. Have not the people been crying out for the last thirty years for an opportunity to get on the land, and have they not been prevented from settling upon it by the action of a certain class in the Legislative Council ? What was attempted in this State? One section of the State Parliament approved of a measure designed to increase settlement, whilst the other section disapproved of it, and made it impossible for land to be resumed. Is not that the case in almost every State? What has enhanced the value of the land but the expenditure of the people’s money. At the present time in New South Wales millions are being expended oh the Barren Jack and other great water schemes, the channels connected with which will run, not through Crown lands, but through land that has already been alienated and given to people, some of whom sit in the Legislative Council, and defy any one to interfere with them. And yet we are told by our opponents that this is class legislation. Would the Labour party ever dream of putting their hands into the pockets of the people and distributing millions for the benefit of one or two? Our. desire is to benefit the whole community. All these great national works should be for the benefit of the community, and not a shilling should have been spent in connexion with them before every surrounding acre affected by them had been” resumed. Reference has been made by the honorable member for Grampians to the Western District of Victoria, where, I am informed, there is some of the finest agricultural land to be found in Australia. The railways in the district, however, are not paying, because the owners of those rich lands are devoting them to sheep farming when they should be closely settled.
– Settlement has decreased there within the last thirty years.
– That statement will apply to many counties in Victoria and New South Wales. The original settlers on the best land between the Mumimbidgee and the Murray were driven oft like dingoes. They were treated as the aboriginals were by the very class who how hurl against us the charge that we are engaging in class legislation. Is it our duty to think only of ourselves? No; we must if need be sacrifice ourselves. Our duty is not to the few, but to the many. Our duty is to go into the slums of our great cities, and to endeavour to elevate the degraded lives that we find there. We must remove them to a better atmosphere, and where should we take, them but into the country where healthy conditions prevail ? At the present time we cannot do that, because the man with the large estate says, “ Hands off ! This belongs to me, and you must not trespass upon it.” Yet we are denounced because on behalf of the people we dare to say in reply, “You have acquired this land honestly or dishonestly, and since you are holding more than your fair share of God’s gift to the whole of the people you must pay more_ in the shape of taxation.” There can be no other conclusion. There are vested interests in properties of Various kinds. There is the property accumulated by individual effort and energy, and there is wealth accumulated by speculation in mining on the Stock Exchange, and so forth. If there is any justification - I do not say there is - for a person being allowed to hold property without interference, it is in the case where it ha’; been created by his own individual energy We cannot apply that argument to land, because land is the gift of God Almighty to every living thing. Everything born into the world has the right to sustenance from the land ; arid if we allow a monopoly of it we transgress God’s law, as well as the law of man.. 1° am astonished that any Riverina land-holder should be found to declare that he is obtaining a return of only per cent. What are such people doing with their rich lands to obtain so small a return ? I know that in some cases the land-owner enters into an arrangement with the poor man who has been unsuccessful at the ballot, to bring his horses and plant, plough the land, sow the seed, and reap it, and in return for the use of the land, take half the profit. To my own knowledge, in many cases, that half profit has amounted to oyer 30s. an acre. The average yield of wheat for the last thirty odd years in theRiverina has been 13 bushels per acre, and, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Grampians says, there are people growing wheat successfully 50 miles from the railway. I notice that no one seems to have the courage to deny any of the statements I am making. With the further application of water the lands in theRiverina could almost treble their production. The honorable member for Wimmera knows how hundreds of miles of this land is held.
– I know that most of the land in the Wimmera is held and cultivated by farmers who were formerly labourers.
– I am not speaking of the Wimmera, but appealing to my friend’s knowledge of the Riverina, where hundreds of miles of beautiful land by the Murray is devoted to sheep. I have also known cases where land has been let to Chinamen for growing tomatoes, at a rent of£20 an acre.
– It seems incredible!
– There is not only one instance, but several.
– At Bathurst Chinamen pay a rental of£30 an acre to grow cabbages, and make a profit.
– It has been asserted that the land in the Riverina is being put to its best use, but, putting the River Murray out of consideration, and depending entirely on the natural rainfall, there is land there which, with modern scientific methods, could be made to yield a profit of £2 10s. to £3 an acre. If the owners of the lands there, by means of this tax, can be made to use their holdings more profitably, and obtain a return of from 50 per cent. to 100 per cent., we shall be doing good to them, and to the people at large. At this hour of the afternoon I ask leave to continue my remarks on Tuesday next,
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 4.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100909_reps_4_57/>.