4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister lay on the table the applications of those who applied for the position of Commissioner of Land Tax?
– To some applications was attached the condition that the names of the applicants should not be published, but I am willing to place all the others on the table.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister confirm the press report that only one tender was received for the Vancouver mail service? If so, as the question now resolves itself into one of route, is he prepared to advise the Canadian Government that no route will be acceptable to the Commonwealth which does not include Melbourne and Brisbane as ports of call?
– The Government has been informed that only one tender has been received, but further information is expected to-day, and will, when available, be given to honorable members.
” SPOILS TO THE VICTORS”.
– The following paragraph appears in to-day’s Age under the heading “ Spoils to the Victors; a Labour Supporter’s Complaint”: -
In a discussion at the meeting of the North Melbourne branch of thePolitical Labour Council on Monday evening it was denied that at the recent deputation to the Minister for Home Affairs any suggestion bad been made that preference for employment should be given to members of the Labour party, and it was stated that the deputation merely protested against preference being given to their opponents. The secretary (Mr. Carter) said he thought it was only a fair proposition that preference should be given to members of the Labour party. Those who took a prominent part in Labour politics or industrial matters were never very much in favour with private employers. Those who were members of Wages Boards, for instance, were frequently boycotted and allowed to walk about destitute without any help being extended to them by those in power. During 21 years’ honorary service to the Labour cause he had never received a political favour from members of the
Parliamentary Labour party. When out of work twelve months ago he had registered for work in connexion with the undergrounding of the telephone wires, but he had never received a call, although he knew, as a matter of fact, that men who had done nothing for the Labour cause and had registered after him had been employed. It seemed to him that they were useful at election times, but after that their whole existence appeared to be forgotten.
I ask the Acting Prime Minister if Labour supporters are being victimised by the present Labour Government as stated above.
– I have no knowledge of the facts mentioned.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House whether the Commonwealth has sole control of the catchment areas of the rivers and creeks in the proposed Federal Capital territory ?
– No; but we are in friendly negotiations, and I think that everything is going to be right now. The Christians are in power over there.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Clerical Overtime - Postal Assistants - Wireless Telegraphy
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Has he yet taken any steps in the direction of paying clerical officers in his Department overtime wages due to them?
– Yes. The Public Service Commissioner’s certificate has been obtained, and I understand the Acting Treasurer has approved of payment being made forthwith. Instructions will consequently be issued to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, in the matter by to-day’s mail.
asked the Postmaster - General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is he satisfied that the Commonwealth has been protected (by conditions of contracts) from any claims for infringement of patent rights which may arise through the carrying out of the present contracts for the installationof less telegraphy in Australia?
– Yes. Clause 15 of the Specification in this case reads as follows : -
Indemnity. - The contractor shall indemnify the Postmaster-General against any claims for infringement of patent rights which may be made against him by reason of the. use of the apparatus or plant provided by the contractors.
Motion (by Mr. Batchelor) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an
Act relating to the emigration from Australia of young persons and aboriginal natives.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 3 - “ The Commissioner “ means the Commissioner of Taxes.
Clause 4 -
There shall be a Commissioner of Taxes. . .
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “Taxes,” insert “Land Tax.” .
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
I propose to ask the Committee to agree to all the amendments of the Senate, a good many of which are merely formal, while others will facilitate administration, and some fulfil promises made by me in this Chamber. As to the first two, we think it advisable, to prevent confusion, to change the name of the office of Commissioner from Commissioner of Taxes to Comsioner of Land Tax.
– As the amendments have only just been put before honorable members, I shall be glad if the AttorneyGeneral will draw attention to any alterations of policy for which they provide. I have gone through most of them, and find them to be chiefly formal, and to, in some respects, improve the drafting.
– The Committee may accept my assurance that the amendments are what I have stated them to be. The insertion of a new clause making provision for the annual presentation to Parliament of a report on the working of the Act is an amendment to which there can be no objection. The amendment of clause11 by the omission of the words “ after the 30th day of June, but” was proposed because it was thought that they might be construed as words of limitation, and injuriously affect persons who sold or agreed to sell before that date. The first amendment in clause 12 deals with building societies which are not registered under the Building Societies Act, but which are registered under a State Act. The Senate has also inserted a new paragraph exempting - a building owned and occupied by a masonic society of by a club or association of members of a trade or profession not carried on for pecuniary profit.
In clause 17 the Senate has deleted the reference to assessment registers. In practice it would lead to quite unnecessary work, and on the suggestion of an official who has had long experience, it was decided to make the amendment. Of course, it is purely a machinery amendment. In clause 24 the Senate has inserted a definition of “tenant for life.” The technical meaning of the term might exclude a number of persons who were virtually tenants for life, and therefore the following definition was inserted in another place: - (2.) In this section”tenant of life” in cludes -
That amendment will, I feel sure, meet with the approval of my honorable friends on the other side, and satisfy some of the abjections which have been’ urged to the clause in its original form. In clause 27 the Senate has inserted after “ who” the words “or whose predecessor in title” to meet an objection which might be urged to the position. In the same clause the Senate has inserted after “ made” the words “or agreed to be made ‘ ‘ in reference to agreements to sell, and made a consequential amendment. In clause 28 it has been made perfectly clear by the Senate that the land tax does not apply to land which is leased from the Crown for mining purposes. The amendments in clause 29 are all of a verbal character, making it quite clear that an agreement for a lease is the same as a lease for the purpose of the provision. In clause 32 the Senate has deleted the words “ by reason of joint occupation or otherwise,” because we struck out the joint occupiers’ clause, and those words became superfluous, and substituted the words “ for any reason,” because persons might be joint owners for some other reason. The Senate has amended the trustee clause - that is clause 32 - so that the definition of a trustee and his liabilities is strictly in accordance with the amended absentee clause. We had left the verbiage of the trustee clause in accordance with the old definition of an absentee. After clause 32 the Senate has inserted a new clause dealing with the case of an annuity to which my attention was called by a representative of Tasmania. The amendment in clause 39 is an alteration in reference to joint ownership which’ was called for. In clause 64 the word “ roll “ is left out and the word “ assessment “ retained. Where the amendments are not purely machinery they are distinct improvements on the measure from the stand-point of both administration and criticism.
Motion agreed to.
Amendments in clause 8 agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. - After clause 8 insert the following new clause : - “ 8a. - (1.) The Commissioner shall furnish to the Treasurer anually, for presentation to the Parliament, a ‘report on the working of this Act. (2.) In the report the Commissioner shall draw attention to any breaches or evasions of this Act which have come under his notice.”
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I think that there is a later provision on which I suggested to the Attorney-General that where there are releases from the land tax owing to exceptional circumstances the Commissioner should in his report refer to them. I suppose that the annual report which he will be called upon to make under this amendment will cover such cases. I presume they will not be dealt with in a special report. I have not had time to look up the matter. I feel sure that honorable members generally would not like too much publicity to be given to such cases. It might be rather hard on some unfortunate persons who were relieved from the obligation to pay the tax to have their names specially published. I have simply made these remarks in the hope that the Commissioner of Land Tax will give his attention to the matter afterwards.
Motion agreed to.
Amendment in clause11 agreed to.
Clause 12. - (Land exempted from tax.)
Verbal amendment agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. - Paragraph g, after subparagraph 2, insert the following new sub paragraph : - (2A.) A building owned and occupied by a masonic society or by a club or association of members of a trade or profession, not carried on for pecuniary profit.
– Can the Attorney-General explain what clubs or associations this amendment is intended to apply to? It includes the words “members of a trade or profession not carried on for pecuniary profit.” Is it desired to exclude a general club of a social nature?
– I can give the honorable and learned gentleman an illustration of a club which will be included under the amendment. It includes, for instance, the Commercial Travellers’ Club, or the Softgoods Association’s Club. But if the honorable and learned member refers to a club like the Australian Club, I do not think that it will be included.
– The members of a trade or profession can form a club and get the exemption. That is the only way in which, apparently, the provision is intended to apply.
– I desire to obtain a little more information regarding this amendment. There are clubs, I believe, whose names would imply that their members belong to certain professions or trades, but they are not exclusive. If a club adopted a name such as the Mechanics’ Club, and its members included all classes of persons, it would be excluded from the operation of the tax, but a club without a designation of the kind would be taxable. I do not suppose that it is intended to exempt social clubs such as we have in the principal cities. But take the case of, say, the Workmen’s Club at Mildura. Will that be exempt?
– That will not be taxed in any circumstances, because it has no taxable land.
– It may have hereafter. I think that we should have a little more information as to what is intended.
– I presume that the Attorney-General has made “ assurance doubly sure.” Under the terms of this amendment persons might do all kinds of things. When we were discussing whether co-operative societies should be exempt or not, a number of honorable members who belong to large squatting societies said that they would very soon turn them into co-operative societies if it would bring an exemption from the land tax. I hope that the Attorney-General has looked into the matter very carefully, so that under no part of this amendment will there be a chance for such persons to evade the tax.
.- The Acting Prime Minister has pointed out that a club like the Commercial Travellers’ Club, which presumably consists of members of a trade or profession, will be exempted from the land tax by this amendment. But he must know, as well as I do, that the club includes a large number of men who do not follow the calling of a commercial traveller, and who are not specially interested in commercial matters. I am not objecting for a moment to the exemption of that club. What I want to know is why, if it is to be exempted, we should not also exempt a club like the Athenaeum Club, in Sydney, which is composed largely of professional men, such as lawyers and doctors ? I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will see the advisability of placing that club in the same category as the Commercial Travellers’ Club.
– I think it will be.
– No; the AttorneyGeneral has said that it will not be.
– I think the measure says that it shall be.
– I shall be obliged if the Attorney-General will explain that point to me.
.- On the first reading it struck me that it was a mistake to specify too much in the provision. It starts by specifying a masonic society. There may be many other societies of a similar character, and so why should we use the word “ masonic “ ? It would be much better if we simply used the words “ occupied by a society or club or association, not carried on for pecuniary profit.” We should know then exactly how we stood; but when one society is enumerated it acts as a limitation as regards others. I cannot see why an ordinary club under a Licensed Victuallers Act should not be entitled to claim an exemption under the terms of the amendment as it stands. On the merits, as well as on the letter, I think that they would be entitled to make an application, although there may be some limitation through the use of the words “ trade or profession.”
– That cuts it down distinctly.
– If that is so, it is rather invidious to exempt Commercial Travellers’ Clubs and not other clubs.
– Is it not too wide?
– If the words I suggested were used, there would be no unnecessary distinction by name between classes of clubs ; and if they are all equal in point of merit, I do not see why those general words should not be used.
– I think that there is something in what the honorable member for Angas has said, and, with the consent of the Committee, I shall submit my motion in an amended form.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the word “masonic.”
– Does the Attorney-General intend to include Commercial Travellers’ Clubs under the operation of the land tax, or to exempt them?
– To exempt them.
– Why ? The Commercial Travellers’ Clubs in the various States are organizations of men who are accumulating property right and left.
– Not for pecuniary gain.
– Yes, and they are doing well. In whom is the property vested ?
– It is intended for benefit purposes. It is like a benefit society.
– I have looked through the rules of the Commercial Travellers’ Clubs and other clubs, and I am perfectly satisfied that they are not carried on for pecuniary profit. The object of this Bill is not to smash up the Commercial Travellers’ Club, but to make land available, and get revenue. What appealed to me was that we ought not to treat a club occupying land in Collins-street differently from a club anywhere else, whether it be a workingmen’s club, or any other kind of club. All clubs ought to be treated alike. When the honorable member for Angas mentioned the word “masonic” I said I desired to exclude masonic societies, but not any more than other societies. As the clause is now, it is very questionable whether the members of a workmen’s club would be regarded as members of a trade or a profession. I should say they would not, but a very strict interpretation might be otherwise.
.- The Commercial Travellers’ Club in Sydney let a portion of the premises to tenants ; but, while a large hotel proprietor in the same city will have to pay the land tax, this club, at which drinks are supplied, will be exempt.
– Only the site on which the club stands is exempt.
– Why should a club be exempt any more than an hotel at which the public are supplied ? The Union Club, the Athenæum Club, and all the clubs in Sydney compete with the hotels, though the clubs, as a rule, have very little bedroom accommodation, and are used more for social intercourse.
– This clause and the proposed amendment appear to me rather dangerous, and are worthy of some consideration. There is a good deal in what the honorable member for East Sydney says ; andI should like to know whether the Minister intends to relieve social and other clubs from this taxation.If that is the intention. I do not know that much harm will result ; but if a loophole be left premises may be turned into clubs for the purpose of evading taxation. It would not be fair to exempt the Commercial Travellers’ Clubs when other clubs are not exempt.
– That is what I say.
– The definition ought to be stricter; and if only a certain class of clubs is meant, that should be made clear. As the clause is at present, the interpretation may be either too wide or too narrow. For instance, the Athenaeum Club in Sydney, or the Athenæum Club in Melbourne, has quite as much right to exemption as have the Commercial Travellers’ Clubs. There are clubs which have become wealthy by reason of their membership, and have invested money m the purchase of land for buildings, and these investments really earn pecuniary profit. There ought to be no invidious distinctions.
– This amendment exempts the site on which a club building is erected; and, therefore, if a Commercial Travellers’ Club has invested money in land elsewhere, the amendment will only attach to the site of the club, and not to the other land. It is perfectly right that all social clubs, not carried on for pecuniary profit, should be treated alike. After all, we are not here to interfere with the social enjoyments of the people, but to endeavour to obtain revenue, and to throw open land to the people. The clause, as amended, will place all land on the same footing ; andI quite agree with the honorable member for Hume that Commercial Travellers’ Clubs should not be treated differently from such clubs as the Athenæum. It may be that the members of a Commercial Travellers’ Club, as a rule, follow a different line of life from that followed by the majority of the members of the Athenæum, but that is not always true ; besides, in the sense that the Commercial Travellers’ Club is there for the members, they should enjoy exactly the same privileges as the members of the Athenæum.
– The AttorneyGeneral says that the land on which the buildings stand will be exempt; but what if a. private individual owns the land, and it is rented by the club?
– Clause 13 provides that the exemption shall be limited to the owners specified, and shall not extend to any other person who is the owner of any estate or interest in the land. If any other person, therefore, owns the land on which a club is situated he will have to pay the tax. We are now dealing with cases where the land is held by what are practically co-operative bodies, who own the clubs ; and, whether rich or poor, they should be treated in exactly the same way. If the land is let, the owner will have to pay the tax whether the lands be occupied by a club or a factory.
. -The question is whether the words carry out the general impression expressed by the Attorney-General to the honorable member for Hume; and, in my opinion, they do not. I agree with those two honorable gentlemen that - apart from Masonic Clubs, which are of a different kind altogether - if one class of social club has to pay the lax, all should pay. I do not think that any distinction should be made between a club like a Commercial Travellers’ Club and the Athenæum Club or the Melbourne Club. For my part, I am not convinced that these clubs should be free from taxation, because, as the honorable member for East Sydney - with whom I seldom agree - has said, they are organizations for the accommodation and convenience of their members, and supply requirements which otherwise could be supplied at the large hotels. Masonic Clubs are on a totally different footing from Mutual Insurance companies and Friendly Societies - though the word “ club “ may apply to both, they are absolutely unlike. A private club is a private hotel to which members only are admitted ; and why a first-class hotel, which is run for profit, should pay, and a club should not, while both supply similar conveniences, I cannot understand. I am not going to advocate the payment of taxation by clubs, but they certainly ought to pay taxation if other similar institutions, to which the general public are admitted, pay. This clause does not exempt Commercial Travellers’ Clubs. The amendment provides for “ a building owned and occupied by a Masonic Society “ - that, I understand, is exempt - “or by a club or association of members of a trade or profession, not carried on for pecuniary profit.” Although it might very well be argued that that would include Commercial Travellers’ Clubs, it is very doubtful whether they could be held to be covered ; certainly, the clause would not cover a club like the Athenæum, the Melbourne, or the Australian Club, because they are not confined to a particular profession. In these clubs one may meet doctors, merchants, squatters, brokers, and every conceivable sort of person.
– Land sharks !
– Land sharks, and even members of Parliament are admitted if they are respectable. The definition, as it stands, might cover Commercial Travellers’ Clubs, but, in my opinion, it would not give exemption to a club like the Athenaeum or the Melbourne; and I contend that the Commercial Travellers’ Club ought to come within the same category as all other clubs. If the words are intended to exempt all clubs they must be altered, and if they are intended to include all clubs they must still be altered, so as to remove any doubt in the case of Commercial Travellers’ Clubs.
– The AttorneyGeneral proposes to strike out the words “members of a trade or profession.”
– Then it might very reasonably be argued that all clubs should be exempt; and it is for us to determine why clubs should be exempt. I am generally credited with strong class feeling, especially in regard to the class to which I belong.
– What class is that?
– The superior class ? .
– The class that is admitted to clubs ! A club, as I said before, is merely a meeting house for people who desire a sort of rendezvous, where they may take meals, have a bedroom, write letters, enjoy social intercourse, and so forth, all of which they could obtain at a first-class hotel. I repeat, then, that I do not see why the public, who use the large hotels, should indirectly pay a land tax, while members of clubs, who, perhaps, seldom use hotels, should make no contribution. The Attorney-General ought to be asked to amend the clause so as to provide that the tax shall be paid by all clubs or by none.
– It is not very often that the honorable member for Parkes and myself advocate exactly the same course, especially in regard to land taxation. I am entirely opposed to the exemption of clubs from taxation. I do not wish to repeat what the honorable member for Parkes has so well said, but T cannot understand why Menzie’s Hotel in Bourke-street should be taxed whilst the Melbourne Club in Collins-street is exempt. The second property is, I believe, more valuable than the first.
– Apply that argument to a church? Why should a church be exempt?
– A church is not carried on for pecuniary profit.
– Neither is a club.
– I should say that the Melbourne Club occupies one of the finest sites of this city, and why it should be exempt from taxation I do not know. I think it both unfair and inequitable to exempt clubs, and therefore I shall oppose their inclusion in the list of exemptions. Instead of this measure being an entirely equitable one, as it ought to be, we are making it a Bill that will operate inequitably and unjustly under certain circumstances.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ or by a.”
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ of members of a trade or profession.”
.- An opportunity is now afforded the honorable member for Maribyrnong to move to strike out the word “ club “ so as to put to the test the point that he has raised. I agree with him that the Bill will work inequitably if certain clubs are ‘ exempted from taxation. I know of clubs which occupy leased land. Consequently, a piece of land which is used wholly and solely for club purposes will not be exempt from taxation whilst other clubs will be exempt. We will suppose that John Jones owns land that is leased for club purposes. Although, perhaps, for thirty .or forty years to come it will be used for no other purposes, it will be taxed. On the other side of the road there may happen to be another club occupying a piece of freehold land. That land will, perhaps, also be used for club purposes for thirty or forty years to come. But because the club happens to have bought the land, it will pay no taxation. Of course, a club is in an entirely different category from a church.I am not prepared to impose any restrictions upon land used for religious purposes. Let the various denominations continue to have perfect freedom to carry on their work. But it is scarcely fair to say that a club occupies the same place in the community as does a church. Only certain persons are permitted to become members of clubs. By reason of their membership, they obtain certain privileges which are not available to the general public. I quite understand the necessity for having a number of exemptions ; but, after all, the majority of clubs, though not carried on for pecuniary profit in the strict acceptation of the term, are distinctly carried on for the convenience of their members. I happen to be a manner of three different clubs. My membership of them is certainly an advantage to me. Certain other persons are debarred from entering them, because they do not happen to possess some peculiar qualification for membership. Clubs are not public institutions, but they are institutions which are conducted for the advantage of their members, and to the exclusion of the public generally. It appears to me that under the Bill as proposed to be amended, we are about to exempt certain persons from the land tax because they own land which is used for particular purposes, whilst we are taxing other persons whose land is used for precisely similar purposes.
– 1 am at a loss to know the meaning of the criticism directed against this amendment. The honorable member for Adelaide has said that although clubs are not carried on strictly for pecuniary profit, nevertheless, their members derive certain advantages from them. Of course they do. A man who joins a Labour League gets certain advantages. So does a man who joins a friendly society or a reading club. There are, as honorable members know, clubs which are open to everybody who can pay the entrance fee and secure election. There are other clubs that are more strictly conducted. But take any ordinary club to which the honorable member and myself could obtain admission. We may say practically that, provided that we can pay the entrance fee and the subscription, we can become members, and secure all the advantages. Surely there is a difference, between pecuniary profit derived from carrying on a business and the advantage one derives from belonging to a club. The honorable member for Adelaide seems to forget that there are other institutions which are exempted under clause 12. For instance, there is the Caulfield race-course. The honorable member has used pathetic words in pointing out the difference between a church and a club, but he has said nothing about the exemption of a race-course.
– We can all go to a cemetery, but we cannot all go to the Union Club in Sydney.
– We all have our little bit to do here before we go to any cemetery. In speaking of a race-course, I .am referring to a place which is more familiar to us through the events of last week than cemeteries are. Iri one sense a race-course may be said to be carried on for pecuniary profit. The clause also exempts educational institutions which are not carried 011 for pecuniary profit, but what does that mean ? A child has to pay his fees to such an institution, and the schoolmaster and his staff derive advantages from those fees. Yet we exempt educational institutions, and quite rightly. We also exempt public libraries and museums, public re-“ creation grounds, public gardens, land owned in trust for charitable or educational purposes, and land owned by building societies. All these exemptions are perfectly right. It is equally right to exempt clubs carried on by trades and professions. But the moment it is proposed to exempt an ordinary club the proposal appears to be all wrong in the opinion of some honorable members.
– Which part of the Bill exempts Flemington race-course?
– The race-course is a public recreation ground. Is it not so?
– Perhaps the honorable member thinks that it is a public tribulation ground ?
– Public tribulation grounds are not mentioned in the Bill.
– Whether race-courses are recreation or tribulation grounds depends upon one’s point of view and one’s experience. In any case they are exempt. To limit the .exemption to the owner of land used for club purposes is also quite right. A club cannot be saddled with the amount of taxation paid by the lessor of its premises. Therefore all clubs are on the same footing, whether they own the land on which their buildings are erected or rent it from another person. The tax cannot be passed on to them by virtue of-, the provisions of this Bill. Therefore all clubs are treated exactly the same, whether they own the land or not. Tt is perfectly fair that they should be, and, so far as I can see, they will be treated alike under the Senate’s amendment, without respect to what they are doing, provided only that they are not carried on for pecuniary profit.
– 1 desire to move the omission of the word “club” from the Senate’s amendment.
– The best way will be to vote against the Senate’s amendment.
– If we did we should be voting against other things besides clubs. I should be glad if the Attorney-General would temporarily withdraw his amendment to allow me to move.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– Nearly all the clubs, particularly the Commercial Travellers’ Club, enter into competition with other people who are called upon to pay the tax. Some honorable members have said that clubs are simply meant for the convenience of their members. I am not sure that they are limited even to members, because members have a great many friends who have the right of entry to a number of. clubs. For instance, nearly every storekeeper in Victoria has, I believe, the right to stay at the Commercial Travellers’ Club when visiting the city. Every storekeeper who stays there has to pay so much for his accommodation. If the club were not open to him he would have to go to a coffee palace or hotel. The proprietors of hotels and coffee palaces would be called upon to pay tax under the Bill, but it is proposed to exempt the club. The honorable member for Richmond, in an interjection, attributed to. me the statement that I considered that the taxation under this Bill was excessive.
– The honorable member said so.
– I might have said so inadvertently in a hurry, but I was endeavouring to quote what other people had said. I was pointing out, for instance, that the proprietor of Menzies’ Hotel might consider that the tax is excessive, and ask why should others who are in competition with him be exempt. I am sorry the AttorneyGeneral does not see his way to accept my proposal, because those who own these very valuable city sites - and are well able to pay the tax - should be called upon to pay it in conjunction with others on whose land hotels are erected. In order to make clubs, as well as hotel proprietors,- pay the tax, I move-
That the amendment be amended bv leaving out the word “ club.”
– I propose to support the proposition of die Government. I have not a great deal of sympathy with some clubs, which may be very exclusive j but we cannot differentiate, and none of the clubs that I know of are carried on for pecuniary profit. They are meeting places for the exchange of those little social courtesies which help to make life pleasant. I wish to make my position clear, particularly as regards an interjection that I made when the honorable member for . Adelaide was speaking. The only direct argument raised by the honorable member against the Senate’s amendment was that it would work out inequitably, as the land, if owned by a club, would be exempt, but, if leased by a club, would not be exempt. I interjected that the same argument would apply in the case of any other exempt bodies, such as churches or charitable institutions. The honorable member misunderstood my interjection, and endeavoured to explain to me the difference between a club and a church or charitable institution. I never suggested that they were similar, nor did I advocate that clubs should be exempt because churches and charitable institutions were. What I meant to convey was that every argument that could be used showing that this provision might work out inequitably, because leased lands would not be exempt, would apply to every body exempted under the Bill. The argument of anomaly does not apply more to this particular provision than to any other. The honorable member for Maribyrnong says that clubs come into competition with other people, and the honorable member for Parkes asked why we should exempt clubs if we do not exempt hotels. All clubs are nol hotels, although some may approach near to them, and I admit that some are even worse, but it is not by exceptions that the rule will be proved in this case. Speaking generally, clubs cannot be compared with hotels. Hotels are carried on absolutely for the private profit of the individuals running them, and clubs are very different. ‘ A friendly society comes into competition with a number of people.
– What is the difference between a club owning a property and a company owning a property?
– One difference is that a company carries on its undertaking for the private profit of the individuals composing it. If a club is carried on for pecuniary profit it will notbe given the exemption. There is no reason why we should tax clubs which are not carried on for pecuniary profit. The objects of the tax are to get revenue from those who are holding land for pecuniary profit, and to settle people on the land. I have not much sympathy with some clubs, but I believe the majority are carried on for good purposes, although I have had no time to become a member of any of them.
– The proposal to exempt clubs needs to be looked at very carefully. Only clubs of fairly large dimensions will be liable to land taxation. Let me take the Commercial Travellers’ Club as typical of a class. It is organized for the benefit of a section of the community, who, under present commercial conditions, perform very useful functions. It is not run for profit. It is conducted for endowments, and the giving of a number of benefits to those connected with the commercial travellers. It is a great convenience to its members, and to all those who are entitled by its rules to enter it. Would it not be a great hardship to impose a tax on a body of that character? The honorable member for Maribyrnong says that it competes against hotels and other private establishments, but we need not be seriously troubled about that. At show time and race time in this and other big cities the private people referred to lay themselves out to loot the public with both hands, and do it with remarkable satisfaction to themselves. A House of this character, consisting of honorable members, many of whom are away from their homes, and who have to put up with that sort of thing whether we like it or not, can pretty well judge from experience what the public have to suffer. Another consideration arises from the value of co-operation and the tendency for it to spread. Unless I am greatly mistaken, other clubs of a similar character to that of the Commercial Travellers will be formed as time goes on. What is the danger of exempting such organizations? They are carried on for mutual help, for good-fellowship, and for alleviating the misfortunes that befall their members. They have endowments for widows and children. Is there any analogy between them and proprietary clubs or hotels? Have they anything in common with those who run their businesses to make money, and double their rates to make more when they find the public in a tight corner? Those, forsooth, are the people in whom we are invited to be deeply interested this morning, instead of in co-operative clubs run for the benefitof their members, and for those who have the good fortune to be acquainted with them. I intend to vote for exempting clubs, and shall not break my heart if we get, in every capital city of Australia, ten more of the character I have described.
.- I wish to make it clear that I have no objection to clubs or their exemption from taxation, particularly as I happen to be a member of several of them, but this is the place where we ought to debate these matters, and view them from all sides. I am sorry that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has seen fit to drag in the widows and orphans. During his many and honorable years in Parliament I have not often heard him do so, but on this occasion he seems to have got light down to the Fusion level in suggesting that certain institutions are run for the benefit of widows and orphans, by means of endowments, and making a pathetic appeal to us to expand our hearts and let all clubs rush through, and be exempt. As club members, according to him, are of such a generous disposition, why not say that they shall all be exempt from taxation in other directions, simply because they happen to he members of these wonderfully philanthropicbodies? A club may grant a scholarship here and there, or give assistance to the relatives of deceased members, but I see no reason why they should be exempt from this taxation because they do what ordinary citizens would do in similar circumstances. It must not be forgotten that many clubs are in competition with those engaged in the recognised legal occupation of hotelkeeping. I am sorry if the honorable member for Hindmarsh should have fallen into the hands of some of the sharks who charge double rates for accommodation at Cup time, but it is news to me to hear that the honorable member has been classed as a young man from the country who might easily be imposed upon. I have known him for over twenty years, and have never known any one to get the advantage of him in that time. I remind honorable members that the trend of all recent legislation has been to put clubs on the same footing as hotelkeepers in respect of licensing fees and hours of closing, for instance. In South Australia clubs are obliged to close at the same time as hotels, and in all recent legislation there is a recognition of the fact that they are in competition with the hotelkeeper. Hotelkeepers look after the widows and orphans of persons who have been engaged in their trade very well. I can call to mind some striking instances of generosity on their part in this connexion. Though I speak as a temperance man, I recognise that, after all, the hotelkeeper is engaged in a legalized means of earning a living. If a young man from the country like the honorable member for Hindmarsh goes into a club, though he may not be charged double rates for accommodation, it is possible that he may be taken clown at cards or billiards, or in some other way. I see no reason why we should exempt from this taxation institutions that are carrying on practically the same business as that which is carried on by private individuals and companies who would be taxed under this Bill. With reference to what has been said by the honorable member for Corangamite, I should like to say that his interjection during my previous speech created a certain impression in my mind, and I replied accordingly. I regret very much that I should have misunderstood the honorable member. The Attorney-General, in reply to my observations, asked why, as we have permitted exemptions in other cases, we should not continue them, but everything depends upon the character of the society or institution owning the land which we are asked to exempt from this taxation. It is not a very forcible argument to suggest that because lands held by a church or educational institution are exempt we should also exempt lands held by clubs.
– I said a race-course.
– The honorable gentleman says that we have exempted racecourses, but I should like him to say what part of this clause exempts racecourses. His reference probably is to the words in paragraph g of sub-clause 6, “ a public garden, public recreation ground, or public reserve.” It may be that the Attorney-General is of the opinion that under the expression “ public recreation ground “ race-courses will be exempt from taxation. If so, I beg to differ from the honorable gentleman. I do not think that they will be exempt.
– We cannot call a place at which a charge is made for admission “ a public recreation ground.”
– That is just what I intended to say. It cost the AttorneyGeneral half-a-guinea the other day to secure admission to a race-course, and a few shillings more to go into the saddling paddock to admire his fancy. After paying to be allowed to enter upon this “ public recreation ground,” the honorable gentleman lost his pocket-book. I venture to suggest that if he attempts to put his interpretation of the words “public recreation ground “ into practical operation, and with a few innocent friends and a couple of bats, stumps, and a cricket ball attempts this afternoon to play cricket on the Flemington race-course, he will lose more than his pocket-book. He will lose his liberty.
– He will be run out.
– No, the honorable gentleman will be run in. At all events, he would be removed from the race-course, and that clearly shows that it cannot be regarded as a public recreation ground. It is absurd for the honorable gentleman to suggest that race-courses would be included under the designation of public recreation grounds, and so would be exempt from taxation under this Bill.
Question - That the word “club,” pro posed to be left out, stand part of the amendment (Mr. Fenton’s motion) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ of members of a trade or profession.”
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Amendments in clauses 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 32, 39 and 64, and inserting new clause 32A agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th November, vide page 5784) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
.- Will the Minister give the Committee some idea as to the date on which the proclamation will be issued?
.- In view of the contention that the Bill should be brought into operation on 1st January next, does not the Minister propose to insert in this clause the date on which it shall come into force ?
– I should be glad if the Committee would agree to the clause as it stands. The Treasurer in his Budget statement intimated that he was anxious that the Bill should come into operation as early as possible, and mentioned 1st May next as the date on which the proclamation would probably be issued. That date was fixed, not by him, but by me, for I desired to have time to make the necessary provision for the new system. As honorable members are aware, there is a good deal of congestion of business in the Sydney General Post Office and elsewhere, and I fixed upon1st May next mainly with the idea of time being allowed to make all necessary arrangements. I ask that the clause be allowed to remain as it is so that, if possible, the Bill may be brought into operation before 1st May next. I may say at once that I do not intend to fix upon 13th April as the date of the commencement of the Act ; but I promise that it shall not be later than 1st May. I shall be delighted to bring the Bill into operation as soon as possible.
.- I admit at once that the Minister is in afar better position than we are to view this matter from the practical side of Departmental experience. But has he taken into account the argument pressed by several honorable members as to the doubtful legality or fairness of continuing after 1st January next the differentiation that will still obtain between the various States? I had only an opportunity of hearing a portion of that argument, and therefore do no more than call attention to it. Has the Minister obtained the best assurance of his advisers as to the earliest date on which they at present consider it possible to introduce the new system without more than the inevitable dislocation of business that may be expected to follow at first so great a change. If they are unanimous, that fact is strongly in the Postmaster-General’s favour ; if they are divided in opinion, he might give the matter more consideration. The honorable gentleman mentions 1st May next as the probable date of the issue of the proclamation.
– That was the date mentioned in the Budget statement.
– Quite so. But surely the arrangements must be very backward if it will take four months from 1st January next, plus the remaining seven weeks of the present year, to prepare for the new system. I assume that efforts have already been made to prepare the way for some months.
– I have refrained from fixing 1st May next in the Bill itself, because I hope to bring the new system into operation before that date.
– On present information, what does the Minister think is the earliest date?
– I am not in a position to say, but the measure will be proclaimed as soon as possible.
– Then I shall not press the honorable gentleman for the day.
– What is to stop the issue of the proclamation at an early date?
– Only the stress which the Minister anticipates the great increase in business will occasion. Is there any other reason ?
– In the opinion of the Minister, the increase in the volume of business will be so great that the Department will require six or seven months to prepare for the new system. As against the opinion of expert officers, my own is worth nothing ; but, since the reform will mean an alteration, not in the character, but only in the volume of business - since no extra stress will be put on the officers of the Department, save in dealing with parcels of greater bulk, and distributing a greater number of letters - I do not think it should or can take anything like so long to prepare the way for so very simple a matter.
. -The experience of New Zealand should be an excellent guide to the Minister. Sir Joseph Ward informed me that as the result of the introduction of the system of penny postage there the postal revenue was considerably increased, and that ‘within three years it was greater than it had been under the twopenny rate. The PostmasterGeneral should be able to ascertain what increased work the reform involved there, and, comparing it with Australia, make provision accordingly. I urge him to make this alteration as quickly as possible.
-i promise that.
– The varying postal rates in the different States have given rise to great friction, and it is time that a uniform system was brought about. Victoria introduced the penny postage system shortly before the establishment of Federation, but the other States did not do so, and, for revenue purposes, the old arrangement was continued. After the lapse of a very brief period, I do not think that the revenue of the Postal Department will suffer as the result of the introduction of a system of penny postage. If the PostmasterGeneral can see his way to issue the proclamation at an early date, he will confer a great boon upon the people of Australia.
– Has the Postmaster-General obtained an estimate of the number of additional letters which will be posted in consequence of the reduction in the postal rate? Taking the matter by and large, my own opinion is that the Department will be somewhat relieved from the stand-point of the quantity of matter which it will be required to handle. It will most certainly be relieved if the rates upon magazines and newspapers are increased in the way that is proposed under this Bill.
– We do not propose , to touch newspaper rates. A magazine is. not a newspaper.
– But under the definition clause, a magazine includes newspapers.
– That refers to newspapers printed outside of Australia.
– I venture to say that, in the matter of bulk and weight, the magazines and newspapers which are printed outside of Australia, and which will be affected by the increased rates, will compensate for the additional bulk and weight of the letters passing through the post as the result of penny postage. I do not think that the proposed reform will throw such a strain on the Department as the PostmasterGeneral anticipates. If it does, it is an admission that the Department is very much understaffed. It is supposed to maintain a staff sufficient to cope with any sudden rush of business such as occurs, for example, at Christmas time. There are certain periods in the year when booms are experienced by the Department, and which supply the test of its capacity. The Department is supposed to be staffed up to the special requirements of these occasions. I do not think that anything is likely to occur from the beginning of next year which will throw on the Department such a strain as is now thrown upon it at certain periods. It would be unfair to States other than Victoria if they were not permitted to participate in the advantages conferred by penny postage as from the beginning of next year. I therefore move -
That the words “ a day to be fixed by proclamation “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the first day of January,1911.”
That is the date upon which the new system ought to be introduced, even though it may involve the Department in a little inconvenience.
– I was rather pleased to hear the PostmasterGeneral say that he had decided to issue the proclamation bringing this Bill into operation, not on the 13th April, but on All Fools’ Day - that is, the 1st April. The deputy leader of the Opposition has submitted an amendment to the effect that the proclamation be issued on the 1st January of next year. Had he proposed to make the date the1st January, 1920, I would have supported him.
– Will the honorable member vote for the imposition of a 2d. rate upon all letters in Victoria?
Mr.MATHEWS.- Yes; and if I thought that the proposal would command any support, I would move it.
– Move it, then.
– It is quite possible that I may do so. I am quite prepared to place Victoria in the same category as other States in the matter of the supply of postal facilities.
– The honorable member should move in that direction.
– But it is quite evident to me that there is a servile majority in this Chamber who are determined that the proclamation shall issue as soon as possible, irrespective of the financial stress which it may occasion to the Commonwealth. If I were an Oppositionist, I should hail this Bill with delight. It was my intention to submit an amendment upon the clause which is now under consideration. But I have no desire to score off those with whom I am associated politically. Consequently, I shall refrain from proposing a very pertinent amendment, which would probably have caused honorable members upon this side of the Chamber a considerable amount of embarrassment.
– What amendment is it?
– The honorable member will understand presently. Had the clause provided that the proclamation shall issue when every employe in the Postal Department is in receipt of 8s. per day, and after the claims of those who have been required to work overtime have been satisfied, I would have supported it. But the proclamation is to issue only when certain arrangements can be made by the Department, and when certain financial balancing has been done. I think that the deputy leader of the Opposition is justified in proposing the amendment which he has submitted. Indeed, he would have been warranted in moving that the Act should become operative from1st July last. But, bad as are members of the Opposition, they doubtless have some sympathy with the Government, seeing that the latter have brought forward this Bill, to which they, their predecessors, wished to give effect. I trust that the Postmaster-General will see his way to extend the period within which the proclamation will issue until such time as all postal employes are receiving a fair remuneration for their services. I intend to move that the proclamation shall issue on1st January, 1920. That will provide us with a fair opportunity for financing this reform, instead of which we are now asked to launch it in a haphazard way. In another ten years I believe that we shall be ripe for penny postage. The principal States will then have a larger population than they have to-day, and by that time penny postage may pay.
– Does the honorable member think that the PostmasterGeneral should postpone the wearing of his halo until 1920?
– Yes. The leader of the Opposition probably considers that he is doing the right thing. But if his party were in power, I doubt whether he would be so eager for the issue of this proclamation. I feel sure that then, instead of appealing for a reduction of the period within which it shall issue, he would be asking for an extension of that period. I have no desire to delay the passing of the Bill, but I sincerely trust that the Postmaster-General will give due consideration to my suggestion that the introduction of penny postage shall be deferred until 1920. I do not mind meeting the honorable gentleman half way, if necessary, by agreeing to defer it until 1915. In fact, I should not object to tossing him to see whether the Bill should not be made operative in 1912.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports commenced his oration in a mysteriously threatening manner. Had not the accident of politics cast him on the Ministerial side of the Chamber, he would, it seems, have taken action fraught with tremendous consequence to the Government. But his argument struck me as illogical. He said that he desired that penny postage should come into effect only after every employé of the Department was receiving 8s. a day or more, and payment for all overtime, and he added that he trusted that it would not come into operation until1st January, 1920. These two statements would seem to show that he hopes that the departmental employés will not receive the wages he mentioned and overtime until1st January, 1920, although, of course, I know that he would be the last to propose anything so supremely unpopular.
The introduction of penny postage should not be confused with the question of fair wages and “conditions.
– The amendment is simply an alteration of date.
– As you, sir, allowed another honorable member to urge as a reason why the reform should not come into effect on a certain, date, that the departmental wages and conditions should first be improved, I claim the right to show that we are not concerned with that matter when discussing the proposal before us. A slight loss may be incurred at the outset by making penny postage universal throughout the Commonwealth, but the increase of business and revenue will soon more than cover the consequent increase in expenditure.
– That is the experience of other countries.
– Yes. It may be difficult to say what will be the effect of the change in sparsely populated districts, but as to the centres of population we have the experience of the civilized world to guide us.
– What has happened regarding the telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney is an object lesson.
– I understand from my honorable friend that that line, which at first threatened to show a loss, now more than pays for itself.
The position of the Minister, that the increase of business which will result from the proposed change cannot be provided - for within less than four or five months, is untenable. The increase will not be anything like so great as is that which occurs every year at the Christmas season, which is met by the employment of extra hands. I do not know whether his attitude is due to the advice received from his officers, or to financial considerations. Perhaps he wishes to have as much money as possible at his disposal during the present financial year.
I hope that the unfair conditions which prevail in the Department will be remedied, and that very shortly ; but they are not affected by the proposed change. If the amendment be not accepted, the Commonwealth will be giving and paying for a penny service to Victoria which the other States will not enjoy, whereas all the States should be treated alike.
– I recognise that the change should be made as soon as possible.
– In that case, it is unnecessary to -delay it for four or five months. So long an interval is not needed to enable arrangements to be made for handling the slight increase of business which will come about.
– It will be a big increase.
-There is penny postage now in all the large centres of population, so that the increase will not be very large. A Department seeking to establish a reputation for procrastination and delay might ask for five months in which to make arrangements for dealing with this increase, but one possessing any organizing capacity would not ask for such a delay.
– There was no delay in connexion with the telephone ukase.
– That is so.
– That was a business arrangement.
– So is this.- The honorable member in his own business would not take four or five months to provide for an increase in orders; he would do it in a few days. It is an insult to the Department to pretend that it cannot prepare for the proposed change within less than that’ time.
– I should like the honorable member for Parramatta to withdraw his amendment to give me an opportunity to move one.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That, after the word “ on,” the words “ the first January, 1915, provided that until that date the rate of postage in the State of Victoria shall be as in other States,” be inserted.
I have been told that this proposal is unconstitutional. If so, the sooner the Government provides for another referendum the better, so that Victoria shall not gain at the expense of any other State.
– Legislation by referendum?
– The Constitution can only be altered by means of a referendum. I do not know whether the honorable member can conceive of a more expeditious form, but if he can J am willing to avail myself of it. At present, however, I am restricted to the existing machinery.
– By the words “ as in other States,” does the honorable member mean “in South Australia” or “as in New South Wales “?
– I am quite willing to make the postage twopence per half ounce throughout Victoria.
– That does not alter the position as regards other States, because New South Wales, for instance, has a penny rate in many places.
– I admit that the honorable gentleman has scored a point, and I shall have to be more definite. I shall substitute the words “ as in the State of New South Wales.”
– Then the honorable member will have a penny rate for South Melbourne and a twopenny rate for the country in Victoria.
– I confess that the Postmaster-General has scored another point. I am very thankful, however, that he has drawn my attention to the matter, because I can assure the Committee that I have no desire to make persons in the countrypay more than persons in the towns. I believe that the former will lose, instead of gain, bythe introduction of penny postage, and that is one of my principal objections to the measure. I ask leave to submit my amendment in this form -
That after the word “ on,” line1, the following words be inserted : - the first day of January,1915, provided that until that date the rate of postage shall be twopence throughout Australia.”
Amendment amended accordingly.
.- I realize that there may be someconstitutional difficulty about extending the time to the date which has been indicated by the Postmaster-General. But, recognising that the measure could not have been brought forward earlier, and that it would be a serious blunder on the part of the Department to initiate this reform before it was ready, I consider that the lesser of the two evils will be to postpone its introduction until the departmental machinery is ready. The telephone rates were reduced hurriedly, without any preparation or consideration of what was involved departmentally, and that experience ought to be quite sufficient to warn any honorable member who wishes well of the postal service. I can readily understand honorable members on the other side urging expedition in the matter. I can also understand the honorable member for Wentworth talking of the small additional assistance which will be required to carry out the service under the new conditions, because he speaks from a purely metropolitan stand-point, and does not seem to realize the many difficulties which must arise from the change. Every mail contractor took his contract under the conditions existing at the time, and with a knowledge of the average weight of the mail matter to be carried. If penny postage be introduced at once, and the anticipated increase in the volume of business be realized, every mail contractor will have a claim on the Department for extra payment for’ the additional load which he is called on to carry. It is not merely a question of the handling of the mail matter, but a question of the dislocation of the service which will be involved, not only in the Central Offices, but throughout Australia. I do not know whether the Postmaster-General has considered how the great distributing centres in country districts will be affected, but that is an aspect which will have to be looked at. Every mailman who finds that his burden is becoming heavier will have a legitimate claim to be met by the Department if equity is to be dealt out. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that the lesser of the two evils will be to defer the introduction of the reform, in justice to himself, until he is assured that the Department can meet all the changes which will be inevitable. With regard to the date, I recognise that he may not be able to initiate the reform on the1st May. It would be all right if it were a perfect service, with an adequate staff, and no flagrant anomalies. But, apart from the question of penny postage, the Department is in such a state as to demand the attention of the Minister,not only for weeks, but for months, in order to bring about an effective service. The necessity for taking time to consider what is involved in the proposed change, and to initiate it with as little disability and friction as possible, is a matter to which the Minister, in justice to himself, must give very close attention indeed. Had it not been for the constitutional obligation I should have opposed the Bill. I recognise that the constitutional obligation forces me to choose the lesser of the two evils. One question is, “ Shall we make the rate uniform as indicated by the Minister?” Another question is, “ Shall we raise the rate to a higher standard?”
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that aspect of the question.
– I am leading up to the point which is before the Chair.
– No ; we are dealing with the issue of the proclamation.
– Yes j and that involves the wisdom of initiating the reform at a certain date. The reform must be reviewed if we are to understand what is to be initiated at that date. The next point is : “Shall we leave the system as it is? “ That would involve the anomaly of some States having to make good the deficiencies in other States - a serious injustice which we are not warranted in imposing. A rate of twopence all over Australia is, to my mind, an excessive one to meet the requirements of the case. Therefore, the wisest course to adopt is to delay the introduction of the reform as far as practicable, even at the risk of violating the Constitution temporarily, in order that it may be brought in with as little friction and trouble as possible in the Department. In my judgment, the Minister has not an easy task to introduce penny postage, without bringing a storm round his Department. He will need to investigate with extreme care all the ramifications of the present system if he wishes to avoid that trouble which inevitably comes from immature action on the part of the administrator of a great Department. I can assure my honorable friend that any criticism I offer is based on a desire to secure a service which will do credit to us and its administrators. I am extremely anxious to, as far as is practicable, avoid anything which might reflect discredit upon them, or suggest that their anxiety to bring about the changes which they deem essential indicate an incompetence to comprehend the responsibilities involved in legislation of this character. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will not take notice either of the constitutional objections which are urged by the other side, or of the intimation by the honorable member for Parramatta that, in his judgment, the introduction of this great reform would not involve any serious readjustment of the service. When the honorable member spoke in that way, he evidently had not considered that the anticipated increase in the volume of business, if realized, will affect the administration of the Department in all its ramifications, involve extra expense, and place additional burdens upon every member of the staff. Unless the Postmaster-General is very careful about the way he proceeds, he mav evoKe from the service another cry of sweat ing and underpaying, which will make past cries pale into insignificance. I trust that he will give some consideration to the suggestions I have made.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
.- I hope the Committee will reject the amendment, and accept that foreshadowed by the honorable member for Parramatta. At our present stage of prosperity and development, the Postmaster-General should have the courage to proclaim this Bill on the 1st January. The history of penny postage in all progressive countries is that it has resulted in an immediate and enormous expansion of business. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in his comprehensive speech, full of valuable information, when he introduced his Postal Rates Bill in 1907, showed that most of the leading countries of the world had already penny postage. In New Zealand, in the three or four years following the reform, the business increased by about 75 per cent., and in Victoria a similar charge resulted in an increase of 32 per cent., while in South Australia, where the old rates are maintained, the increase in the same period was only 7 per cent. This shows that there would be no risk whatever in making an immediate proclamation under this measure. When I was travelling in New Zealand last year I felt that, in comparison with the Dominion, Australia occupied a very humiliating position. In New Zealand, parcels can be sent to Great Britain at very little over half the cost of sending similar mail matter from the Dominion to Australia.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the parcels post.
– I am only anxious to show the desirability of an early proclamation, so that we in Australia may have the advantages enjoyed in other countries of a similar character. Even if this Bill passes, the rates in Australia will still be in excess of those prevailing in New Zealand ; but I hope that, when the measure becomes law, steps will be taken to bring our rates into line with the determination of the Postal Conference at Rome, and with the rates prevailing in New Zealand. Under the Bill it is proposed to carry letters in Australia at id. per half ounce, while in New Zealand the rate is id. for four ounces, and to oversea and British Dominions id. for every ounce. It is proposed here to make post-cards id., whereas in New Zealand the rate is Jd., while for commercial papers, patterns, samples, and so forth, the New Zealand rate is d. for two ounces, as compared with id. for a similar weight under the Bill. Yet, on the authority of Sir Joseph Ward, we know that the low rates in New Zealand resulted in an increase of business, as I have already shown., of 75 per cent. I may add, in passing, that our charges for telegrams and so” forth are similarly high as compared with those in the Dominion. In view of the almost complete unanimity of this Chamber in regard to the advantages of penny postage, I trust that the proclamation will be issued at an early date. I have had experience of a territory of 300 or 409 miles between two States, with a postage rate of id. on the one side, and a rate of 2d. on the other ; and doubtless the Postmaster-General could also speak, from his knowledge of his own constituency, of the confusion, irritation, and injustice arising from such a state of affairs. We cannot but appreciate the solicitude shown by honorable members like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Maribyrnong, respecting country interests; but, so far as my knowledge goes, the people in the country do not desire any such retrograde step as that represented by a 2d. postage rate. As I said last night, I do not believe for a moment that country interests will suffer by an early proclamation of the reduced rates. I .suggest, however, that in the Department the construction and administrative work should be separated.
– How could they be separated?
– It ought to be the simplest work for the Postmaster-General to make the separation, which would mean the speedy carrying out of the public works necessary to meet country requirements. The Government ought to go into the money market and raise a loan for construction works, which would be as surely reproductive as any in the country at the present time. It would then be possible out of the ordinary revenue to mete out justice to the employes, and extend ordinary postal facilities commensurate with the growing exigencies of our commerce.
. - Owing to absence- on important public business in my constituency this is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate the Postmaster-General on the intro duction of this Bill ; and I now express ni> pleasure at seeing such a progressive proposal submitted in the first session under a Labour Government. I trust that the Postmaster-General will adhere to his decision to make haste slowly, because this is a matter requiring the most earnest consideration. I can imagine some desiring to rush matters, so as to place the PostmasterGeneral in an awkward position. I was rather amused when I heard the honorable member for Parramatta advocating the early introduction of a measure to facilitate the “ progress of the country,” and so forth, because it reminded me very much of a. lady in a hobble skirt trying to catch a tram. That honorable member, from his long political experience, knows that it is not possible to put a measure of -this kind into full working order within a few days ; and I think the PostmasterGeneral is acting very -wisely in delaying the proclamation until April next. I cannot at all agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. In my opinion, merchants will not derive such a vast benefit as has been suggested from penny postage, but the advantage will be to consumers and workers generally throughout the Commonwealth. We all know that merchants charge all postage and other expenses to the goods sold, and the charge re- acts on the workers every time. It cannot be supposed for a moment that there could be such a combination amongst the merchants of the Commonwealth as the honorable member would appear to assume. Penny postage will, I think, be of much advantage to the working classes, many of whom are obliged to live away from their wives and families, and have to communicate frequently with them. In every progressive country throughout the world this Tate of postage has paid well, although similar arguments to those we have heard this morning have been urged against the system. In New Zealand, for instance, when the reform was advocated, people were told of the disasters that must result to the revenue; and these arguments were used by persons who might have been supposed to have common sense. Then, again, similar arguments were used against the reform when it was proposed by Sir Rowland Hill, and against further reforms submitted by Mr. Henniker Heaton. I am glad that we have a progressive Postmaster-General who has the courage of his opinions, as shown in his revised telephone rates. The hon- orable gentleman has already had the courage to make the stamps of each State available throughout the Commonwealth; and this has proved a great boon to the community. The Bill does not affect the payment of the officers of the Department, because, whether the Department pays or not, money will have to be found for fair and reasonable wages for every man in it. The Department is paying well at present. I understand there was a surplus of£100,000 last year. Therefore, if the workers are not being paid a fair and reasonable wage at present it is not the fault of the revenue received, but is due to an unsympathetic Postmaster-General, and I am sure we have now a Postmaster-General who will pay the minimum wage. We have, therefore, nothing to fear in that respect. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports cannot be in earnest in wishing to defer the introduction of penny postage until 19 15. He said 1920 at first, but by that time Australia will have made such progress that I question whether there will be any postal rates at all. It is an absurd idea to employ people to print postage stamps, and keep records of their sales. I am sure that by 1920 we shall have become so enlightened that there will be no postage stamps used in the Commonwealth, and letters will pass free throughout Australia, just as we pass freely along the roads now. We are, perhaps, not sufficiently advanced at present to attempt or even advocate such a measure, but I am sure that by 1920 the people will be wondering that in these days the collection of revenue through the postal Department under the present system was tolerated. I again congratulate the Minister on introducing this progressive measure.
.- It is pleasant to be able to congratulate a Government, which one cannot always support, on introducing a measure of this nature. When it becomes law, it is bound to be of great benefit to the community. The only fault I find with the Government is that they are not proposing to bring the Act into force on1st January next. They ought to do so, and if they did, the majority of members on both sides of the House would be better pleased. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro introduced a similar measure in 1907, I was not able to support him, but I am in full accord with it now, and will give all my assistance in passing it through the House. I fully explained to the electors of Oxley at election time that, although I opposed the Bill three or four years ago, it was my intention this session to support it, knowing that whatever Government was in power would introduce it, the financial position of the Commonwealth’ being so very much better to-day than it was then. I did not support the measure in 1907 because of the large amount of shortage that was sure to have taken place in the revenues of the various States. In that year, the following questions were asked in another place : -
The answers were -
or£120,000 for the nine months ending the 30th June, 1908; but, in view of the experience in Canada, New Zealand, and elsewhere, it is expected that the diminution in revenue will, in three or four years, be fully recovered consequent upon the growth of correspondence.
Having consideration for the States with smaller populations, I could not see my way clear at that time to support a system of penny postage, but I feel quite justified in doing so now. A letter can be sent from Great Britain to Australia, 1 oz. in weight, for1d., and the inland postage in the Old Country amounts to1d. for anything up to 4 ozs. All that is proposed in this measure is to make the rate1d. per½ oz. for the whole Commonwealth. I hope the Bill will be passed speedily, and sincerely trust the Postmaster-General will accede to the earnest request of honorable members to bring it into force on1st January, 1911.
.- Whatever may be the fate of the amendment, which I intend to support, I trust that the Postmaster-General will pay little regard to the attempts of some members of the Opposition to cajole him into bringing the Act into operation on1st January next
To hurry the change on and bring it into force at once would mean a great deal of extra work for the short staff at present at the Minister’s disposal. I think everybody will admit that the Postal Department is undermanned, and, in many cases, underpaid. Increments that have been owing for years have not been paid, and to impose extra duties on the postal officials in the circumstances would be cruel in the extreme. I cannot understand any one advocating it. The Postal Commission, in clause 138 of their report, say -
It was estimated about four years ago by the Accountant to the Central Executive that the introduction of a Commonwealth penny postage would result in a loss of ^265,000 per annum. Your Commissioners consider that if penny postage were applied throughout the Commonwealth at the present time, a further loss of about ^120,000 per annum would be incurred, amounting to a total loss of about ^385,000 per annum.
Other estimates lead one to believe that the amount of loss will reach fully .£500,000.
The universally accepted view is that the revenue will decrease on the introduction of reduced rates, but that the deficiency is more than made up in a few years by the largely increased volume of business resulting from reduced rates.
That seems to counteract some of the ideas promulgated by honorable members in this debate ; but after all it is only an estimate, and while I am prepared to pay due regard to the conclusions arrived at by the Commission after taking evidence, I am not inclined to accept everything they say as final. The kernel of the whole clause is in the final paragraph -
Your Commissioners consider that when the other services of the Department are placed on a self-supporting basis, and allowance is made for the increased business that will accrue from the reduced postage rates, the Commonwealth Government would be justified in making this reduction.
Every honorable member who has objected to this measure being hurriedly brought into effect has pointed to the fact that the postal employes are not fairly treated. It is of no use to say that the Bill does not affect them, because the two things are inseparably joined. If a scheme resulting in a direct loss is adopted, where will the money be obtained to pay the postal employes their arrears ? I am sure the Committee will not tamely submit to these proposals being carried without a definite promise that a new state of affairs will be brought about in the Postal Department. The honorable member for Denison, speaking largely and finely regarding the com- mercial element, said that they made the worker pay for the postage all the time. Do honorable members seriously believe that if the postage is reduced to id. throughout Australia the workers will be given the benefit? The commercial community will make no reduction in their charges for their goods. Nothing of the sort happened in Victoria when penny postage was introduced; in fact, prices have been going up for many years. The honorable member for Wimmera said he did not anticipate that country services would suffer; but some years ago, when the honorable member for EdenMonaro was dilating upon the wonderful benefits that would accrue to the Commonwealth by the introduction of penny postage, the following notable interjection was made by Mr. McLean, the then member for Gippsland -
How can the Minister account for the fact that some postal services which were in existence for a quarter of a century before penny postage was introduced in Victoria were afterwards discontinued ?
I commend that to the honorable member for Wimmera and others who have been saying that there will be no reduction in country services. I am not prepared to say that the cutting off of the services referred to in Victoria was due to the introduction of penny postage, but it shows that we must’ be careful. I trust that before the measure is finally passed we shall have an absolute and emphatic pledge from the Minister that many of the recommendations of the Royal Commission will be, as far as practicable, carried into effect during the recess, and that other recomendations that need legislative action will be brought forward as early as possible in the coming session.
– I cannot regard the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports as being any sort of favour whatever.
– And it is conditional on having twopenny postage all round in Australia.
– It is proposed by the honorable member that we should revert in every State to a condition of affairs which has been wholly abandoned in one State and abandoned in every metropolitan area in the others.
I am not quite certain that the amendment is in order, because a reversion to the twopenny rate would certainly impose an additional burden on the taxpayers. I am sure, Mr. Chairman, that if you had to place a twopenny stamp on all your letters, you would regard it as a very serious burden. I dp not wish to press this point, for I desire to see the amendment pushed to adivision in order that we may learn how many reactionaries there are in the Committee.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is taking a step that will not help any section of the community. There may be behind his proposal a sort of meretricious appeal to sentiment when he links up this question with that of fair wages and conditions in the Department, but, as a matter of fact, no such linking up can properly take place. The. question of fair wages and conditions of labour in the Department should be dealt with by the Administration. The responsibility rests upon the Government to see that the service is placed in a proper position at the earliest possible moment, irrespective of whether or not we have penny postage, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will do his best to meet that position.
– If we throw away £400,000 of revenue, how can we improve the conditions of the service?
– The honorable member says that when we refuse to take a tax out of the pockets of the people we are throwing away money. One would think that the people of Australia insisted upon giving us every penny that we take from them by way of taxation. Myhonorable friends, in seeking to go back a decade or two, are, for the first time in the history of this Parliament since I have been a member of it, initiating an pstrich-like policy - they are burying their heads in the sands of time, and hoping that no one will see what they are doing. I say, without fear of contradiction, that those who oppose penny postage are proving conclusively that they cannot move with the times, and that even when a great reform is proposed, they must take advantage of it to air in this place of holy calm some of the most frothy ebullitions of platform enthusiasm on the eve of a classhatred election. This question stands absolutely apart from that of fair wages and conditions of labour in the Department.
– And better facilities?
– And better facilities.I trust the Postmaster-General and the Government perhaps a little more than do the sorters of Sydney, to have the conditions of employment put right at the earliest moment.
– They trust the Government all right.
– I have a recollection of a sweeping statement in regard to the PostmasterGeneral, made,I think, by the secretary of the Sorters Union.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
-I admit that it is not quite relevant.
– I should not object.
– The statement has been given a certain amount of publicity, so that it is too late for the honorable member now to object to it.
I hope that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will not become frightened of his amendment, that he will stand to his guns, and will be found in the chamber, and not out of it, when a division is taken. I trust that he will press it to a definite conclusion, because I am anxious to learn how many honorable members are prepared to follow him in this onslaught upon a much-needed and desired reform in the postal service of Australia.
.- Despite the eloquent speech by the honorable member for Wentworth, we cannot separate this proposal from the fact that those in charge of the semi-official postoffices throughout Australia are paid a starvation wage.
– Whose fault is that?
-The fault of the Government in office from time to time. The Labour party have either been in power, or have sat behind the Government for the time being, during almost the whole of the life of the Federation, and, therefore, they must take a fullshareof the responsibility.
– They have always advocated a minimum wage.
– The honorable member for Denison has seen a list of semi-official offices in connexion with which there are telephones requiring constant attendance, post-office savings banks, and a business involving the passing of a considerable sum of moneythrough the hands of those incharge. These officials have also to pay old-age pensions,and for discharging all these duties they receive the magnificent salary of £40 a year or less. We are now deliberately proposing to surrender revenue to the extent of about £400,000 per annum, and if that is done, we can have little hopeof any improvement in connexion with the service. The plea has always been that the Department is not a paying concern, and that those in charge of semi-official offices cannot, therefore, be paid a higher remuneration. Whilst I am sure that we are all anxious that every postal employé in our city offices shall receive a fair wage, let us extend that principle throughout the service, and see that those in charge of semi-official offices, who are doing work equally as important as that of postal employés in our cities, receive a reasonable allowance. The present state of affairs is a disgrace to the Federation.
– It was worse before Federation.
– That does; not remove from us the responsibility of seeing that these officials are fairly paid. Honorable members must admit that sweating is being carried on by the Department in connexion with semi-official post-offices. Then, again, the Department refuses to construct a telephone line in a country district unless the local residents guarantee it against loss. If we throw away this revenue, we shall have no assurance that this condition of affairs will be remedied. Heads of Departments are against the reform that I advocate - the abolition of the guarantee system and the payment of a living wage to those in charge of semiofficial offices - and by surrendering this revenue we shall render it impossible to secure these reforms for many years. Much as I desire penny postage and a uniform postal system throughout the Commonwealth, I am not prepared to support the surrender of revenue to the extent of about £400,000 per annum, whilst I know that the Commonwealth is being deprived of a necessity in the shape of effective telephonic communication, and whilst the Department is deliberately sweating a very important branch of the service.
.- I have never experienced greater difficulty in making up my mind on a question than I have in regard to this matter. The sentimental aspect of this proposal is deserving of some consideration, but its financial side appeals to me even more strongly. All our Socialistic enterprises should be business concerns. If we adopt communism - a system in which every one can share - well and good ; but if our Socialistic enterprises are to be purely Socialistic, they must be placed upon a sound business footing. It is interesting to observe that the individualists and anti- Socialists opposite heartily support this Bill. Is it because they believe it will not be a financial success, and that later on they will be able to point to the Postmaster-General’s Department, as they did a few months ago, as a great Socialistic institution which is an absolute failure ?
– Are they looking for a shocking example?
– The Opposition press are in the habit of referring to the Post and Telegraph Department as a shocking example of Socialism. Are we going to make it a more shocking example by the premature introduction of penny postage? I am prepared to advocate any communistic proposal, provided that all can share in it; but no one would propose that the people out back should contribute to the upkeep of the Melbourne public gardens, although they are open to all, and an example of communism. Their upkeep is provided for by a general rate levied on the citizens of Melbourne; but it would be absurd to propose that the residents of country districts in Queensland or other States should contribute to their maintenance.
-What about the Brisbane Art Gallery?
– I shall come to that later. Honorable members seem confused as to the distinctions between Socialism, Communism, and Individualism. Our opponents, although they style themselves individualists, are always ready to milk the public cow when they can get Socialistic benefits for a particular class.
– What class ?
– The class which agitated for the Pacific cable, and, having got it, continued to do business with the Eastern Extension Company. The greater part of my correspondence with the pioneers of Capricornia, a division embracing 39,000 square miles, asks me to endeavour to obtain postal facilities and telegraph communication for outlying districts, but when I put the requests before the Department, I am nearly always informed that the revenue to be obtained from the service would not be sufficient.
– That is the whole point.
– No, it is not; and my objection to the Bill is that, if there is too little revenue now, there will be still less when the uniform rate for letters is1d. This great national party must pay attention to questions of finance. It seems a little too hopeful just now as to its future financial position. I do not think that it would do any harm to postpone for twelve months the proposed change of rates. We shall have an expenditure of £400,000 in connexion with the Northern Territory, a loss of between £400,000 and £500,000 under this Bill, and a defence expenditure of £2,000,000.
– How would the postponement of the matter help?
– We shall get £3,000,000 from the land tax.
– A year’s postponement would enable -us to know whether the forecast of the honorable member for Denison i* correct. We shall know what our revenue is likely to be. The man in the country who sends away a letter a week would benefit by the proposed change to the extent of only 4s. 4d. per annum, but the city business man would probably save £1,000 per annum. Should our postal revenue not equal the expenditure, the general taxpayer would have to make good the deficiency.
– Who is the general taxpayer?
– The working classes. They pay most of the indirect taxation.
– Let us have a uniform rate.
– We cannot have a uniform rate, because a previous PostmasterGeneral, in the desire to help his friends, established penny postage throughout Victoria. The big city business men will, if the rate for country letters be reduced, flood the continent with circulars, and thus compete unfairly with country storekeepers. It is not our. intention to increase the population of our enormously large cities, but that will be an indirect effect of the Bill. The present High Commissioner, speaking about the proposal of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to introduce penny postage, said that it was the business men who would reap the greatest advantage from the change. Our desire should be to increase settlement in the country. We should endeavour to establish inland towns which will be seats of culture and comfort. No doubt we could balance matters if we charged the big newspaper proprietors- a fair price for the services we render them. At present, although we charge only Jd. for ten ounces of newspaper matter, carrying the Daily Telegraph or the Argus for that price, I could not send the Bible which I hold in my hand through the post for less than 4d., although it weighs only 16 ounces. Are honorable members prepared to ask the big newspaper proprietors to pay a reasonable price for the carriage of newspapers? A member of the editorial staff of a Sydney newspaper once told me that the reduction in the telegraph rates saved £1,000 a year, and “the postal concessions must be worth several thousand pounds per annum to the newspaper proprietors. Let me draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to some of the statements that we allow to pass through the post at the rate of Jd. for ten ounces. In the train this morning, on looking through the Argus-
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to deal with that matter on the schedule.
– If you object to me dealing with it now, I shall defer my remarks on the subject until then. We all profess sympathy with the pioneers, who are doing more for the Empire than most of the newspapers which circulate such nonsense. The people out back, sometimes do not receive a mail once a month; and how are we, with the immense expenditure facing us to provide the facilities they ought to have? Should we not try to help those people before we increase the postal facilities of the people in the big cities? Do honorable members realize the disadvantages under which the people in the outlying parts suffer, even in the one matter of the education of their children? In the country some children are in danger of receiving no education at all, unless itinerant school teachers, who are being brought into use in Queensland, are able to visit them at intervals. I suggest that the Minister should postpone the proclamation, say, for twelve months. We do not know but what we may experience a drought, and a bad season or two in the next few years. This Socialistic enterprise of the Post Office, which we are so anxious to make an example of what Socialism can do for the public, will be proved a failure if this proposal be carried into effect. In the first place, there will be a deficiency to be made up ; and the people in the country will not get the facilities they ought to have, and may declare that it would be far better, as the honorable member for Parkes suggested last night, to turn the Department over to private enterprise. The poorer paid servants in the Post Office will not be able to get their rightful increments, nor remuneration for overtime ; and this must result in dissatisfaction, discord, and disappointment, which will not be counterbalanced by the possible happiness of the
Postmaster-General in introducing what he regards as a great reform. If we had the population of France, Germany, or the Old Country we could doubtless introduce penny postage with advantage, but, as a matter of fact, in all this immense territory there are only 4,500,000 people, mostly concentrated in the capitals. I have great difficulty in making up my mind on this matter; but I was greatly influenced by- what the honorable member for Gwydir said. That gentleman, as a member of the Postal Commission, has been engaged taking evidence for nearly two years; and he and his colleagues recommend that the Department should be placed on a business footing before penny postage is instituted within the States.
– Does the honorable member for Capricornia represent a border constituency ?
– What relevancy has that question? I may point out to the PostmasterGeneral that the Department charges 4d. to carry a Bible, and yet carries 10 ounces of ridiculous rags of newspapers for½d ! The Postmaster-General would suffer no discredit if he consented to a postponement of the change for twelve months, because people would give him credit for his efforts, and for recognising that, in view of our great financial responsibilities, it is better to go slowly.
– The honorable member for Capricornia talks very airily about postponing the proclamation ; but section 99 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall not by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue give preference to any one State or part of a State. We could not, therefore, have a postponement without contravening that very express prohibition.
– Who would take action?
– I should think that any State which suffered a disability under the discrimination would be quite justified in taking action. The rates must either be raised all round or lowered all round; and though the Postmaster-General said that the former course is unthinkable, some of his followers do not find it so, for they have actually proposed that it should be adopted. Those honorable members see the difficulty there is under the Constitution, and are perfectly logical in proposing a general increase to 2d. until 1 915. I think we may leave the honorable member for Capricornia to his doleful lucubrations, and in the meantime he may be able to make up his mind on a question which he confesses is puzzling to him. I should now like to address” myself to the “ Henniker Heaton “ of the Chamber, the honorable member for Denison, who, in every speech hemakes, informs us how close and intimate his knowledge of the subject is. I do not know whether we ought not to apply that to the honorable member for Gwydir, who has made such close investigation of all these problems. That honorable member has, however, made some considerable re-adjustments in his position; because I have a distinct recollection that he did not always take up his present attitude. That is by the way, because, as sensible men, we all make re-adjustments from time to time. In my opinion, the honorable member, in showing the effect which penny postage will have on the outlying parts of Australia, furnished data for the deduction that the change will not be so sudden and revolutionary as he appears to imagine. My own impression is that there will be very little change for the first month or two, if only for the reason that it will be some time before people in the outlying parts become aware that there is such a thing as penny postage. I fancy it will be only when they go to post one of their very rare letters that they will find that the rate is not now 2d.
– They do not write letters for amusement !
– I do not suppose they would write any more or less whether the rate be1d. or 2d. The Postal Department ought to be quite ready for this change, the great authority of the honorable member for Denison notwithstanding. May I remind , that honorable member that he is a supporter of a Government, who informed us in the Governor-General’s speech about five months ago, that they intended to introduce this very reform - that was the deliberate intention of a party which has the requisite power to place such a measure on the statute-book. If they have not been preparing for this change during the last five months, the omission affords ground for a vote of censure on the Department. How much longer are we to wait? By the1st January, six months will have passed since the Government declared their intention to give effect to penny postage, and yet the honorable member for Denison asks that the change be postponed for another three months, in order that the Department may accommodate itself to it. What is the real reason why some honorable members on the other side oppose the proposal, and others support it?
– Because we have independent minds.
– The honorable member told us that he had no mind at all on the subject. He is on the fence, and he does not know which way to get down. His independence of mind means indecision of mind on this question. The honorable member says that he is torn with conflicting emotions as to whether he ought to vote for penny postage or twopenny postage. Honorable members are not furthering the object - the betterment of the conditions of the employes of the Department - which they profess so earnestly to desire to achieve, by associating the question of their remuneration with the question of penny postage.
– We cannot separate them, when the Department say they have no money to pay more.
– I decline to believe that the matter of revenue has necessarily to do with the remuneration of the employes. Does the Public Service Commissioner consult the revenues of the country in valuing the labour of these men? He is supposed to award them a remuneration commensurate with the work undertaken.
– What about those not in the service?
– The honorable member is thinking about the few people concerned in contract offices, and unofficial post-offices generally. He is making a. grave mistake in associating the remuneration of those people with the reform we have now in contemplation. The two things have little to do with each other. The Public Service Commissioner, who has authority to regulate and value the services of the employés of the Department, is not concerned with the earnings of the postoffices, or the revenue returns of the Commonwealth.
– The Department says exactly the opposite.
– The honorable member is quite right in regard to the payments of those in unofficial post-offices, and I am with him in trying to ameliorate their wretched conditions : but that question is not affected by this Bill.
– The Public Service Commissions assures me that the remuneration is based on work.
– Yes, and not on the returns of revenue. At some offices which do not earn£100 a year the men in charge are paid£200 a year. These are important postal and telegraphic centres, and the return of revenue from them has nothing to do with the salaries paid to those in charge of them.
– Isthere a case where an office is not earning £100, and the principal officer receives £300?
– I have one in my electorate.
– It would be a scandalous thing if it were allowed to continue.
– The one to whichI allude is an important telegraphic junction station; it does not earn much revenue. There is another at Mount Victoria, which, again, is a duplex telegraph station.
– That is an altogether different matter.
– At any rate, it establishes my point that the revenue return of these offices has nothing to do with fixing the salaries of the officials there.
– Does the honorable member say that that condition applies to the whole service?
– I do not; but it applies to all those men in the Department who are supposed to be so sweated. It applies to sorters, telegraphists, and all the others at work in these large offices. Their work is valued by the Commissioner, and on that basis alone their salary is supposed to be assessed. If honorable members are going to set up the notion that the Department is to be run absolutely in the interests of the employés, I think they will get their answer from the public. The public will say that these reforms ought not to be in any way conditioned by the condition of the employés ; at the same time, I believe they earnestly desire that every one of the employés shouldreceive a salary commensurate with the work performed, irrespective of what the revenue of an office may be.. Honorable members are, therefore, arguing on a wrong basis, and doing the employés no good whatever, by trying to block a reform of this kind because somebody in the Department is not getting as much salary as they think he ought to get.
– Does the honorable member say that the employes are fairly treated to day?
– Have I said any’ such thing?
– The honorable member has said what is tantamount to it.
– I cannot help the deductions which the honorable member’s brain leads him to make. There is no accounting for the vagaries of his thoughts. I am showing that the honorable member ought not to mix up the wages of the employes in the Department with a reform of this kind.
– They cannot be separated.
– They must be. The remuneration and conditions of the employes can be dealt with when the Estimates are reached. I shall then be with the honorable member in doing everything J can to ameliorate some of the conditions which I know to be operative in the postoffices in Australia. In the meantime let us consider this matter by itself, and on its merits. It is time to bring this reform about, and the Constitution directs that there must be uniformity of rates. To ask that uniformity of postage be postponed for twelve months is to suggest that Parliament should ignore the Constitution in order that, those who make the request may make up their minds on which side of the fence they will come down.
– I am amazed that there should be the slightest hesitation on the part of honorable members at this stage of Australian history in regard to the introduction of penny postage. The movement throughout the world for many years past has been towards penny postage, with universal penny postage ultimately in view.
– The proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is to make the rate 2d.
– That is why I am opposed to it. At the same time I hope the Postmaster-General will give himself sufficient time to prepare, not only the staff, but the buildings for the increased work that is certain to follow from penny postage. Wherever the reform has been introduced it has resulted in an enormous increase of business. If penny postage is brought in too early in Australia the principal post-offices, which are already overcrowded, will he still further taxed, and their unsuitability and insanitary condition will be enormously accentuated. None of the post-offices in the cities are now thoroughly equipped, to deal with the present volume of business. The accommodation in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane is altogether inadequate. A few months ago I asked the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the early introduction of penny postage, he would take steps to see that increased accommodation was provided. His answer was that, when it was decided that penny postage should be introduced, the matter would receive attention. That answer suggested the case of “ Thank you foi nothing.” A decided increase in the “staff, as well as an expansion of the accommodation in the buildings, will be necessary to cope with the enormous increase in work that is certain to follow the introduction of penny postage. While it will be to the credit of the Postmaster-General that penny postage was established in Australia during his -term of office, it will be very much to his discredit if arrangements are not made to cope with the increased business. It seems to be beyond the ability of the postal officials to cope, either in buildings or staff, with the present normal development in the business of the Department, and what I dread is, not that the Department will be unable to introduce penny postage within a reasonable time, but that they will not give themselves sufficient time to equip themselves for the change. I hope the Postmaster-General will make the necessary arrangement to deal with the extra business without loss of time, and yet without undue haste. I cannot understand, in view of the movement for cheaper facilities all over the world, any honorable member in this House proposing to level up the postage rates in Australia. That would be a retrograde step which ought not to be considered, or even advocated. I am also opposed to the suggestion to have a differential rate between the States. Some honorable members seem to have too great a tendency to consider a big question of this sort as it affects individual States, and with the imaginary lines of demarcation between the States always before their eves. It would be a grand thing if there could be hung in this chamber a map of Australia with all the State boundaries utterly obliterated, so th-nt members would forget that they belonged to different States and re member only that they all belonged to Australia, and that the matters under consideration were Australian.
– Another Nationalist !
– I am a Nationalist, out and out.- At the same time I find no difficulty in believing that within proper spheres of action the States have rights which should be protected and conserved. In matters of this sort State boundaries should be forgotten. When the question of providing’ cheaper and better postal facilities is taken into consideration, the position of the people in the out- back districts ought not to be” overlooked. They write fewer letters, perhaps, than do city residents, but they are deserving of whatever additional facilities can be provided and of special consideration in the matter of rates. I have never thought it fair that people who live within a certain radius of the General Post Office in each of our State capitals should receive special consideration in the matter of postal rates. The opposite principle should operate, and those who enjoy all the advantages of residence in cities or towns should, if necessary, bear an additional burden in order to make it easier for the people out back to secure better services at the very lowest cost. There should operate, in our minds, the truly fraternal feeling of Nationalism. I am anxious that the penny postage system should be brought into force as early as possible, so that every man and woman in Australia may realize that we are a united people, and that whether our circumstances place us in large centres of population or in sparsely settled districts, we are all treated alike in a matter of such national concern. I hope yet to see similar facilities extended in respect to telephone and telegraph services, and I shall give my support to such a proposition whenever it is made. I am not going to discuss the question of the effect of this Bill on the salaries of postal officials. If I doubted the statement made by the Treasurer and the Postmaster-General - both of whom have repeatedly declared that the deficit which it is estimated will at first result from the adoption of this reform will in no way affect the payments of the men in the service - I should not hesitate to oppose the Bill.
– If I thought that it would affect them I should myself oppose it.
– I believe that the honorable member would. On the introduction of penny postage I hope that we shall take care that there shall be no differential treatment of the people in the several States. It is necessary that atten tion should at once be given to the work of so arranging the accommodation at our post-offices and so re-organizing the postal staffs that we shall be able to go forward with what I believe will be a splendid increase of business and a reform which must tend to the success of the country.
– I do not think that those who have opposed my amendment have touched the question at issue. My reason for desiring that the introduction of this reform shall be delayed is that I wish the Government to have an opportunity to secure the finances of the Department. For years the cry has been, whenever a request for additional postal facilities has been made, “ Unfortunately no funds are available.”
– Does the honorable member know of any business where everything that is asked for is granted?
– No, I do not; but the honorable member must be aware of the fact that we were told some time ago that it would involve an expenditure of £2,000,000 to raise the Department to a proper standard of efficiency.
– We have a larger sum on the Estimates this year, in respect of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities, than has ever previously been provided.
– That is quite possible ; but I know that I have been endeavouring in vain for some time to induce the Department to rid itself of an insanitary post-office in my electorate. I am aware that provision has been made for a new site, but I do not know that I am much further forward than I was at the start.
– It is a disgrace to the Department.
– The post-office at South Melbourne is a disgrace to the Department.
– There is money on the Estimates for the South Melbourne Postoffice.
– But the passing of this Bill will not help to build a new postoffice. We are told that an expenditure of £2,000,000 is necessary to place the Department on a satisfactory basis; and yet the_ Minister asks us to sanction a reform which will mean a loss of revenue amounting to about £400,000 per annum. His attitude reminds me of an incident of my early days. I once joined some friends who went out shooting, and on one of our party being bitten by a snake, we were told by a fencer in the neighbourhood that we should go to a house near by where some “ snake juice “ was obtainable. When I went to’ the house, I discovered, that the so-called “snake juice” was. whisky. Thelady of the house said. that the price of the bottle was 2s. 3d., and. when I said that we should have to pay half-a-crown for a bottle of that size in Melbourne, she replied, “ We can. sell it under cost. It is the quantity that pays.” The Government are proposing that letters shall be carried under cost, in. order to make the Department pay. I know that the numbers are up, that the Australian HennikerHeaton has spoken, and that my amendment will be lost ; but I cannot help pointing out that the honorable member for Brisbane has made a most serious indictment against the Bill in urging that the Minister has made no provision for the increased business.
– What time has he had?
– If he had anything to go upon, surely he ought to have made some provision for the enormous increase in business that must take place.
– The honorable member admits, then, that there will be an increase in business?
– No; I am merely using the argument of those who support the Bill. I could take honorable members to post-offices in Melbourne and its suburbs where men are working in grievously restricted areas. It is only because of the good feeling existing between the postmasters and their staffs, and the fact that the postmasters keep themselves well in touch with their men, that they are able to carry on. We are told that the volume of business will be increased with the adoption of this reform ; but the South Melbourne Post-office is incapable of dealing with more business.
– Penny postage is already in force in Victoria.
– But, as the result of its adoption throughout Australia, more letters will have to be handled by the South Melbourne Post-office officials, as well as by other men in the service. The accommodation at the South Melbourne office is insufficient to enable the staff to deal with a greater volume of business. There is no chance of enlarging the present building, and I suppose that the Minister proposes to meet the difficulty by increasing the size of the letter-carriers’ bags. It is said that this question has nothing to do with that of the wages and conditions of employment in the Department. I would remind the Com mittee that when a request is made that the status of a post-office shall be raised, so that the officer in charge of it may receive a higher salary, the Department at once prepares a return showing the number of letters handled, the telegraph messages received and transmitted, and the extent of its money-order business and telephone work. All these facts are taken into consideration ; and, therefore, it cannot be denied that the question of labour conditions is involved with that now before us.
– It seems to me that the honorable member is raising all this dust because he cannot get something for South Melbourne.
– I am not smallminded. The honorable’ member should look to himself.
– The honorable member has been speaking of South Melbourne for the last fifteen minutes.
– I know that the honorable member is speaking only in a jocular vein. Since in the past it has been found impossible to provide the £2,000,000 necessary to place the Department on a proper business footing, how will it be possible to secure the necessary funds if, with the introduction of this system, we lose revenue to the extent of £400,000 per annum?
.- I had no intention of speaking until I heard the honorable member for Melbourne Ports base what I conceive to be an utterly fallacious argument on the condition of the Department in Victoria. The honorable member says that the business of some of the post-offices in and around Melbourne is in a very congested state, and that if this Bill be carried, it will so increase business
– Do not put into my mouth words that I did not use. I said that others declared that this reform would lead to increased business.
– I understood the honorable member to say that penny postage would so increase business that the conditions of the post-offices to which he referred would be still more disadvantageous. He ignores the fact that penny postage has been in operation in Victoria for upwards of ten years, and that consequently this Bill cannot affect the conditions of employment in the Department in this State.
– The honorable member must be easily satisfied. The present payments to postal employés satisfies the honorable member ?
– I am discussing the question, not of payment, but of whether the present accommodation in our postoffices is sufficient to enable them to deal with the increased business. The honorable member says that penny postage will increase the work of post-offices in Victoria; and I point out in reply that, since penny postage has been in existence for ten years in this State, this Bill will not have such an effect as has been suggested upon the business of the Department in Victoria. A good deal of the subjectmatter of this debate seems to arise from the idea that our public Departments are somewhat antagonistic to each other. The PostmasterGeneral has told us that the Treasurer has promised to finance the operations of his Department, and I accept that statement in good faith.
– Where is the money comingfrom?
– That is not my concern. The Postmaster-General would not nave made the statement had not the Treasurer given him the undertaking referred to. It is sufficient for me to know that the Postmaster-General will be provided with enough money to pay his officers fair rates of remuneration, and to provide the facilities for communication which the public demand. Many of those now in charge of semi-official offices are underpaid.
– I agree with the honorable member, but that will be altered before Parliament meets again.
– That is a most satisfactory statement, and if Government supporters have faith in the Minister they should accept it. If they have not faith in him, they should put him out of office. Whenever I feel that he is on solid ground, I shall support him. We have been told by our sad-faced friend, the honorable member for Capricornia,that the Post Office is a Socialistic enterprise. Undoubtedly it has been carried on under Government control for many years, and if we admit, for the sake of argument, that it is a Socialistic enterprise - I do not say that it necessarily is - it is instructive to find that it creates more dissatisfaction among its employés and its customers than any private business concern in the Commonwealth. If Socialism has failed in an enterprise so favorably circumstanced for Government control, what hope is there of successfully applying the principles of Socialism to all the agencies for the distribution and exchange of commodities throughout Australia ?
– I ask the honorable member not to go into that matter.
– Then I shall only add that it is gratifying to have the admission of Socialistic members that this Socialistic enterprise has been a failure. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, as a Victorian representative, should not object to extend to the other States a privilege which his State has so long enjoyed.
.- I am pleased that the Government have decided to introduce penny postage throughout Australia. In South Australia one cannot send a letter across the street for less then 2d. I do not know why the honorable member for Melbourne Ports wishes to prevent the other States from enjoying a privilege which Victoria has long enjoyed.
– I am prepared to apply to Victoria the rates prevailing in the other States.
– That would be a step backwards. I do not think that there will be any great loss of revenue from the proposed change; the experience of other parts of the world justifies us in thinking that in a little while there will be no loss at all. If I thought that the change would necessitate the reduction of salaries and allowances, and the curtailment of services, I should vote against it, but I do not think that it will do that, and I am firmly of opinion that it will greatly benefit the people at large.
– I represent a country constituency myself.
– I was glad to hear the honorable gentleman say that he would increase the salaries of underpaid officials.
– Before Parliament meets again, the semi-official office will have practically disappeared.
– Perhaps the Minister is not aware that some of his officers have not had a holiday for four years. It is impossible for some of them to get away unless substitutes are specially appointed ; but relieving officers might very well be provided to meet these cases. I know of two instances, the offices being not far from Mount Gambier, in which no holiday has been enjoyed for a long while, and there are other cases of the kind in my electorate. The appointment of one relieving officer would give all these persons holidays. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that whenever an increase of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic conveniences is asked for, the question is put by the
Department, “Will it pay?” It is, of course, impossible that every new service should pay from the start. Three years ago nothing could convince the Department that Pinnaroo would go ahead by leaps and bounds.
– A great deal of money is being spent every year on new services.
– The country gets it back again, and without these services, and railway communication, development will not take place. The Postmaster- General has a great deal to do with the settlement of the country.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports told us that postal officials are now so hard worked that they cannot deal with any increase of business. I believe that they are hard worked and hard working, but it is to their credit that the transmission of letters is so certain as it is. I believe that in South Australia not one letter in 50,000 goes astray. I know that a letter has come to me after travelling all round the Commonwealth.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Mathews’ amendment) - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 40
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That after the word “on” the words “the first day of January, 1912,” be inserted.
The honorable member for Parramatta asserted that I had admitted “ sitting on the fence ‘ ‘ in regard to this question, but what I really said was that I found it difficult to make up my mind. In any case, the suggestion about “sitting on the fence” does not come well from the honorable member, who, a few years ago, got off the Socialistic fence on the individualistic side, and, later-
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I hope the PostmasterGeneral will accept the amendment. He must realize that he will be groping in the dark if this Bill is brought into operation within the next few weeks, because he has no means of knowing from whence the money is to come to make up a deficit of £400,000. I am sure the honorable gentleman does not desire to compel the working classes and their families to make up that deficit by means of indirect taxation. We are committed to new Protection ; and any deficiency in the postal service must be made up from a Revenue Tariff, which is abhorrent to every true Australian, because it means that our industries must suffer to that extent. In the course of the next twelve months, the PostmasterGeneral will learn what revenue is derivable from the land tax, and to what extent our receipts are diminished in consequence of new Protection. We know that if our Tariff is protective, the revenue through the Customs must decrease.
– Are we not strong enough to impose direct taxation?
– What particular class of direct taxation does the honorable gentleman mean? I think we lost our opportunity when we made the tax on the large estates so low; and we shall have to have the battle over again. If the PostmasterGeneral has in his mind some scheme of direct taxation, we and the country ought to know what it is. Honorable members opposite, who represent the great financial institutions, and what we sometimes describe as the capitalistic class, would be interested to know that it is proposed to call upon them to make up the deficit.
. -I hope the amendment will be accepted, because no member of the Ministry can give us any idea of what the revenue from the land tax will be.The first estimate was £500,000, but that was increased to £1,000,000, and, later, to £3,000,000; and the postponement of the introduction of penny postage would afford time for the first returns from the tax to come in. More important still, the Postmaster- General would be afforded an opportunity to introduce certain other reforms which some honorable members, at any rate, are of opinion should be brought about before we throw away such a large portion of our revenue. It has been shown that some of the officials in the Department are miserably underpaid, and that the service in some districts is absurdly inadequate.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Higgs’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 38
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Joseph Cook) put -
That after the word “on” the words “the first day of January, 191 1,” be inserted.
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section six of the Principal Act is amended -
by adding thereto the following subsection : - “ (2.) The rates of postage for the postal articles set out in the first column of Part II. of the First Schedule and posted within the Commonwealth for delivery therein shall be as set out in the second column of that Part.”
.- In keeping with my remarks last evening, I move -
That after the word “within,” line 6, the words “ any State of “ be inserted.
I have given my adhesion to the original proposition reluctantly, and only becauseof constitutional obligations; but I am not bound by any constitutional provisions to recognise Inter-State penny postage. Having gone as far as the Constitution requires, I am not prepared to go any further. My amendment will provide for penny postage within any State, but not Inter-State. I propose this limitation as there is so much need for money in the Department now, and very large sums will be required in the near future to put it on a sound business footing.
– If the amendment were carried it would mean that we should have penny postage within each of the States, but twopenny postage as between the States. I am opposed to such a proposition, because I am confident that if it were adopted pressure would immediately be brought to bear upon honorable members, and especially upon the representatives of border constituencies, to make pennypostage universal throughout Australia. We might as well make the reform complete to-day as be called upon a little later on to do so. The anomalies of such a system would be so great that I do not think we should be able to withstand the demand for their removal. In this connexion, I desire to make the following quotation from a speech made by the honorable member for Gwydir in this House in1906. Speaking on the Budget, he said -
I do not altogether agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Bland with regard to the proposal of the Government to establish penny postage throughout the Commonwealth and with other countries which are prepared to reciprocate. We must keep step with the march of progress, so far as postal communication is concerned. The postal system is one of the main arteries along which the blood of commerce flows. Through its medium, also, we are enabled to communicate with our friends, no matter how far away they may be, and it is important that we should make this means of communication as effective, and, at the same time, as economical as possible. Some say that the revenue which it is proposed to sacrifice in this way could be more profitably used in other directions. I believe, however, that we must sooner or later fall into line with other countries in regard topenny postage, and that there is notime like the present to take action. If we allow the reform to stand over until our expenditure absorbs the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, to which we are entitled, there will be a strong disinclination on the part of this Parliament to concede it. Unless we avail ourselves of the present opportunity to effect it, the reform may be postponed foryears. I am not satisfied that the extension of penny postage throughout the Commonwealthwill involve an annual loss of £209,000 per annum. Even if at the outset it does so, I feel assured that the number of letters transmitted through the Post Office will be so increased as to return eventually a larger revenue than that estimated.
With those views I am fully in accord, and I should be sorry if the amendment were carried. I feel that I could not make a more effective statement than that which I have just quoted in advocacy of the system of penny postage throughout the Commonwealth.
.- I am sure that the Postmaster-General will raise no objection to some one digging up the fervid utterances with which he was wont to charm his audiences when he stood for election to this Parliament. As he has adopted a somewhat similar course in regard to another honorable member, it would be a just retribution to remind him of the eloquence with which he declaimed on the anomalies of the Postal Department and the vigour with which he denounced the injustice done to thousands of employés in the Service, whose grievances, he urged, should be removed at the earliest possible moment. It would be a just retribution to remind him of the eloquence with which he talked of the necessity of having at the head of the Department some one who would grapple with these problems at the earliest moment, and do justice all round. No doubt, if we chose to do so, we could quote him far more extensively in this respect than he himself has quoted the honorable member for Gwydir.
– Quote away.
– Let us have a division. We do not want to hear what either Webster or Thomas said.
– If the honorable member does not wish to do so, then I would remind him that there are three doorways through which he may leave the chamber, and that if they are not big enough he can climb over the gallery. I had no desire to hear the PostmasterGeneral quote the honorable member for Gwydir, but since he was allowed to do so without objection by the honorable member for Corangamite, it seems to me that the honorable member might extend the same courtesy to me. There seems to be a violent objection to the existence of anomalies in regard to the posting of Inter-State letters, but there does not seem to be quite the same violent desire to remove anomalies in other directions, which ought to be removed before those said to exist in connexion with thepostal rates are remedied.
– Why did not the honorable member vote as he spoke?
– 1 placed on record my opposition to the Bill, and I am now taking exception to the methods adopted by the Postmaster-General in the peculiar circumstances that exist. Unfortunately, we have not been informed that anomalies relating to employes in the Service are about to be removed. I could read to the Committee sheaves of complaints, none of which can be refuted, and not one of which has been redressed, although . the requirements for their redress are more urgent than are the requirements for penny postage. The honorable member for Gwydir’s amendment will provide for the uniformity which some persons allege is necessary under the Constitution, although they have not produced any proof in support of their contention. Under it we should have penny postage in each of the States, whilst the twopenny rate would still be retained in respect of Inter-State letters. No doubt representatives of border districts would complain, and properly complain, of such a .system, and, in the circumstances, I can understand the Postmaster-General saying that it would only be a question of time when the anomaly would be removed. The Bill would have been passed without one word, much .less a vote, of objection if there had been a clear intimation that other anomalies which exist in the postal service would be carefully considered; but there is a regrettable silence when difficulties which can be, and ought to be, removed are enumerated. The fact that we are not able to drag from the Ministry any intimation of what they intend to do in regard to those difficulties is responsible for the opposition that has been advanced to this Bill. It is estimated that the reduction of Inter-State postal rates will mean a loss of revenue amounting to about £75,000 a year. That sum could well be used in other directions, and the moment it was so used the Postmaster-General could submit a proposal for Inter- State penny postage in the certain knowledge that it would not be opposed. I shall vote for the amendment, in order that loss of revenue may be avoided, for I believe the money could well be used in meeting demands that have been made for years. The reduction of the Inter-State rate will benefit an extremely limited number, and the advantages of such a proposition are more sentimental than real.
– I wish to ascertain whether the honorable member for Gwydir has fully realized the effect of his amendment? 1 take it that next year the Commonwealth will assume control of the Northern Territory, and, in that event, this amendment would expressly exclude local residents from the operation of the Bill.
– Until it is proclaimed Federal Territory, it must remain portion of the State of South Australia.
– Wie anticipate that it will be taken over in a short time, and will then become Federal Territory. If the honorable member for Gwydir wishes to secure uniformity, surely he would not exclude residents of the Northern Territory from the operation of this Bill?
.- The point raised by the honorable member for Laanecoorie does not call for a lengthy reply. Under the agreement for the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth, provision can be made for meeting such an exigency as that to which he has referred. In any event, the matter is only a small one, for the population of the Northern Territory is a mere bagatelle.
– We hope that it will not always be so. ,
– I have not such a high opinion of the Territory as have some honorable members. I am grateful to the Postmaster-General for having quoted from a speech that I made some time ago a passage which he thinks is at variance with my present attitude. He had evidently not studied what he read, or he would not have made the quotation. Apparently, too, he has nothing of his own to say, and cannot give the Committee light and leading. What I said on a former occasion is consistent with my attitude now. At that time the Commonwealth was returning lo the States annually hundreds of thousands of pounds of surplus revenue. I agree that universal penny postage is desh able. We must keep step with the march of civilization, and cheap postage has an educational and civilizing influence^ and advances trade and industry; but the circumstances that exist now are not those which existed a few years back. We have now a fixed revenue, and know definitely what the change would cost. While the affairs of the Post Office were in a muddled’ condition prior to the Commission’s inquiry, it was impossible to ascertain even approximately what the . change would cost. Now, we know that it would involve us in a certain loss. The proper time for making this change was early in the history of Federation, when the Commonwealth had surplus revenue. Had it been made then matters would have righted themselves by now. No doubt some honorable members will say, “ Why quarrel over a small amount like £75,000 a year; what is that to 0 Parliament which is prepared to spend millions?” Mv position is that the expenditure of £75,000 in rectifying injustice will make the service contented, while the withholding of it will mean the continuance of the present discontent. The saving which could be made by adopting my proposal would allow justice to be done to those whose present position is not creditable to the Government or to Parliament. I have gone as far as 1 feel justified in going to meet the constitutional obligation upon us to impose uniform rates. Beyond that I am not prepared to sacrifice revenue which is needed to adjust anomalies. The recommendations of the Postal Commission are so indexed that any honorable member can make himself acquainted with them, and, with the evidence on which they are based, in a very short time ; and those who do so will find that Parliament will not be justified in reducing revenue to provide penny postage between State and State. The PostmasterGeneral throughout his career has been noted for the persistency with which he has searched the archives for speeches whose quotation might damage his opponents, but the quotation of a former speech of mine has supported rather than weakened my position. It shows that I had foresight such as has not been displayed in the administration of the Department. Obviously the quotation was riot produced on the spur of the moment, the Minister had it ready in advance. His action would not have been creditable even had the quotation been to my disadvantage, but it is still more discreditable in view of the fact that it was wrongly applied. I have no feeling in the matter, but when I am struck T naturally say what I think. I have moved the amendment in the interests of those who are underpaid and overworked. As the honorable member for Adelaide pointed out, the discussion of the measure would have been a very brief one had the Minister told us what he intended to do to remedy injustice. He has not done that, but has contented himself with digging into the records of past speeches to obtain quotations with which to injure Ministerial supporters.
.- I admit the injustices under which the employes of the Postal Department labour, and if I thought that the temporary blocking of this measure would assist to remedy them, I should join those who are opposing it. It .has been stated that there is not sufficient revenue to remedy the existing grievances, whose existence the Department seems loth to admit, because a week or two ago, in reply to a question which I asked, the Postmaster-General seemed to justify the payment to adults of less than £1x0 a year.
– That grievance has been remedied.
– Yes, but not by the Postmaster-General. It has not been contended by the Department that they cannot find funds to remedy the existing industrial grievances. They deny the existence of grievances. I cannot see that the postponement of the proposed reform will hasten the remedying of grievances.
Speaking generally, it is a mistake to perpetuate imaginary lines of division like the State boundaries. A p’erson travelling from State to State finds no natural divisions, and cannot tell when he leaves one State and enters another. The people of the Commonwealth should all be treated alike. Those living in certain districts should not be penalized as they would be if the amendment were carried.
– No one will be penalized ; there will be penny postage within each State.
– Those living on the State borders would be at a disadvantage. It would not be just to allow a Sydney resident to send his letters 500 miles for id., and to make a resident of Wallangarra pay 2d. to send a letter to Glen Innes. Why should a person be able to send a letter from Albury to Sydney, over 300 miles, for id., and Be charged 2d. for sending it to Wodonga, which is less than 3 miles distant from Albury? This is the National Parliament, and we should deal with all the electors alike. As the carry- ing of the amendment would not in any way advance the interests of the departmental officials, and would assist to perpetuate artificial boundaries which serve no good purpose, I shall vote against it.
.- I shall support the amendment. I am “after” any money that will contribute to bring about a better state of affairs in the service.
– Why make the border people pay?
– We might just as well have somebody complaining that it costs1d. to send a letter from Melbourne to South Melbourne, while it costs no more to send a letter from Melbourne to Croajingolong. The man who was sending the letter to South Melbourne might contend that he ought only to pay a farthing; and, after all, it is only a matter of distance. The imaginary boundaries of the States have existed all along ; and it will not make one iota of difference to the States if there is continued the charge made since the inception of Federation.
– Why preserve the State boundaries ?
– They are only imaginary.
– I think they are very real !
– According to the report of the Postal Commission, it will require £2,500,000 to put the Department on a reasonable and proper footing. Of that sum£132,000 is estimated as required to provide increased remuneration for the services of those already employed, and of other employés whom it may be necessary to engage to carry on the work. If we keep the£75,000 of estimated loss within the coffers of the Commonwealth, we shall, at any rate, have so much towards the£132,000. I do not know whether importunity on my part, and on the part of other honorable members, in regard to the disgraceful state of affairs in the service; will have any effect on the official mind; but I hope it will, and that, before the session closes, we shall have an elaborate statement as to the policy of the Government in reference to the suggestions of the Postal Commission. Honorable members may dig out of Hansard and other periodicals statements made by honorable members at some time or other; but, if anybody is inclined to rake up anything I have said, and quote it against me next session, it will not have the slightest effect on me. Even supposing the construction placed on the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir by the Postmaster-General be correct, it does not affect the present position of the former, for the simple reason that, if we are never to change our opinions, in the light of events, we are not a progressive people. I could hardly conceive of the honorable member for Gwydir voting for keeping the£75,000 in the pockets of the people when he has found out, after investigation, that the postal service is being treated in the fashion it is. I intend to support the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Webster’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 29
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
The First Schedule to (he Principal Act is amended -
by inserting therein before the word “ Newspapers “ the words “ Part I.”, and
.- The rate on books is1d. for four ounces; and the reason given for the low charge of½d. for ten ounces on newspapers is that it is desired to encourage the spread of education and a love of literature. I do not see how the distribution of some newspapers can encourage a love of literature, unless people become so disgusted at what appears that they are driven to read books. IfI desire to send this Bible I have in my hand through the post, I have to pay4d. ; but if I desire to send twenty ounces of the Argus I have to pay only1d.
– Are we to have a special rate for Bibles?
– My desire is to give books the same advantages as are enjoyed by newspapers. The Argus displays this motto at the head of the leader column-
I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and, therefore, the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list.
But the very first words of the leading article which follows contain a positive lie, Listen - “ Sleep no more : Macbeth does murder sleep “ - debate no more : the Labour Party has murdered debate.
That is a positive falsehood, following immediately on the statement that the newspaper is “ demanded of conscience to speak the truth.” It is further stated -
The Senate is only a pleasant club where fledgling Labour politicians may draw £600 a year and vote as the caucus directs.
That is another lie.
– What has the Argus to do with us?
– This; that we are putting it, and other journals like it, through the post at½d. for 10 ounces, while people who wanted to send the Bible through the post would have to pay1d. for 4 ounces. We assist the gamblers, including the Argus, which gives the betting odds. Let me give honorable members a sample of the literature that we send through the post at½d. per 10 ounces -
Last year in the same race Alawa and Trafalgar fought out the finish, and Alawa, flogged home byR. Lewis, won by the narrowest of margins.On Saturday he repeated the performance, this time with Myles Connell in the saddle. The big horse finished in the truest possible style, with his tongue hanging farout of the side ofhis mouth, and intent onlyon reaching the winning-post first.
I turn over and find five or six columns devoted to the rape meeting, and the betting odds given in several places. I need not read the advertisements concerning quack medicines, which, I suppose, in the opinion pf the editor of the Argus, come under the heading of literature. Honorable members must see that there is something wrong, or they cannot have a proper sense of proportion. Why put these powerful, wealthy newspapers through the post at.½d. per 10 ounces, and charge good literature1d. for 4 ounces?
– Why not declare it a monopoly, and nationalize it?
– The honorable member for Parkes, who has written a book on Liberty, would have to pay at the rate of 1d. per 4 ounces to send his work through the post. That rate is charged for the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Longfellow, Tennyson, Mark Twain, Ruskin, and Carlyle, while this stuff, which is mostly advertisement, is sent through the post at½d. for 10 ounces. Is this not because Members of Parliament are candidates for their positions every three years, and are afraid of the big morning journals?
– No. They could not treat us worse than they do.
– Some of us are not afraid of them; but some reason prompts honorable members to allow newspapers to go through the post at that low figure. That is where the loss of revenue comes in. Tons of them are put into the Post Office and have to be sorted anddelivered by the carriers every day. It is time that Members of Parliament, including statesmen, like the honorable member for Parkes, authors, and orators, stood up and refused to subsidize these powerful journals, which are really killing the country newspapers. They have made it impossible for the poor country pressman, with his old Albion press, to make a living. Nearly every one of us is more or less affected by what appears in the morning press. As a matter of fact, we are afraid of the newspapers, and when asked to put them through at a low rate, we agree to do so. We talk about the pioneer out back, but we charge him1d. per½ ounce for his letters, while we allow the newspaper man to get his newspapers through at½d. for 10 ounces. That is not a fair proposition. We charge the big daily newspaper½d. for what we charge the pioneer out back 1s. 8d. The talk about the spread of education and literature, which is used as an argument to assist the newspapers, is very far-fetched. The honorable member for Darling has lent me a copy of a newspaper circulated in Sydney, called the Sun. It consists mostly of advertisements, for which, as a rule, these papers receive very high rates. It contains a lot of pictures of surf bathers, and if honorable members are interested in the female form divine, they may, perhaps, get some of these publications, of which about forty copies can be sent through the post for1d. The Sydney Morning Herald sometimes brings out a twenty-four page issue, of which sixteen pages will be advertisements. The honorable member for East Sydney tells me that last Saturday the Sydney Morning Herald contained seventeen pages of advertisements, four pages of clippings, and three pages of original matter. We have in Australia artists who can hardly get a living, and good journalists who are half paid and unable to get sufficient employment. Yet those big journals are subsidized in this way by the Government, although they consist mostly of advertisements, a good many of which are paid for at 6d. per line or 6s. per inch. Do honorable members think that the newspapers would give the people the benefit of such postal facilities as were obtained by the manager of the Sydney Morning Herald and the manager of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and other managers of newspapers, waiting upon the doorstep of the Postmaster-General in the past and persuading him, probably threatening him to withdraw their support, if these concessions were not given? Pressmen as a rule are democratic. Their very occupation makes them so, but the men who own the papers, or their largest shareholders, would not give any concession to the public. If they can get thousands of pounds out of a Socialistic Postal Department, they will do so and increase their dividends without giving the general public any advantage. We ought to help the Australian author, like Steele Rudd, Henry Lawson, Albert Dorrington, and a number of others, to circulate their books throughout the Commonwealth. They ought to be placed on the same footing as newspapers. There is no doubt that in the morning newspapers there is a good deal of good literature. Men nowadays write articles which are worthy of a place in any bound volume, but a great deal of what appears in the papers is twaddle, and much of what appears in the Argus is of the bitterest, most vitriolic, and partisan character. They are availing themselves of the great Socialistic Post Office to malign and misrepresent those who believe in socialistic enterprises. I do not say that the man who writes a book should be given any advantage over them, but they should all be put on the same footing. Surely the man who writes and publishes a book ought to be able to send it through the Post Office at as low a rate as is charged for a magazine? A number of the magazines published nowadays contain fiction which is a positive disgrace to modern times - filthy stuff which is poisoning the minds of people. Why should they go through the post at the low rate proposed, while the man who writes a book is charged1d. for 4 ounces?
– Does the honorable member oppose the distribution of Truth through the Post Office?
– No doubt every newspaper fulfils a certain function in the community. I do not agree with a great deal that appears in Truth, but whatever may be thought about its proprietor or about the editors who run his journals, it is prepared to say things which ought to be said and which none of the “ respectable “ journals are game to say on account of society influence. I would not like my children to read the average copy of Truth, but on many occasions it performs a public duty which other newspapers, like the great journal that says it is demanded of conscience to speak the truth, are not game to discharge. It is unfortunate that honorable members are so anxious to pass this Bill without modification, but I sincerely hope they will see the reasonableness of my proposal to take books out of the line in the schedule and insert a special line, “ Books, ½d. per 8 ounces.” That is the same charge as is made on magazines, reviews, serials, and similar publications. Why should a magazine with a paper cover be sent through the post at½d. for 8 ounces, while a book bound in morocco is charged 1d. for 4 ounces? Where is the sense of proportion in that arrangement? I know that the present Postmaster-General was not the originator of the discrepancy that exists between the postal rates on books and magazines; but I should like to know why it was decided that a magazine with a paper cover should be carried through the post at the rate of½d. for 8 ounces or part of 8 ounces, whilst magazines bound in book form with cardboard covers, are charged at the rate of½d. for 2 ounces or part of 2 ounces. I presume that the system is part of the legacy of past wrongdoing. I should be glad to have an explanation.
.- I wish to call the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to the fact that the schedule provides that Hansard, “ published by the authority of the Commonwealth or of a State,” shall be carried at the rate of½d. for 12 ounces or part of 12 ounces, and that in some of the States - in South Australia, for instance - Hansard is published by a newspaper proprietary. The question might arise as to whether a newspaper containing the official Hansard report in that State should be carried at the rate of½d. for 12 ounces or part of12 ounces.
– A newspaper up to 10 ounces in weight is carried at the present time for½d. We are not altering the newspaper rates.
– If that is so, well and good; but as the schedule stands, it suggests the incongruity that a claim could be made that a newspaper should be carried at the Hansard rate, although two- fifths of its contents consisted of purely news matter.
.- In view of the remarks made by the honorable member for Capricornia, I would remind the Committee that I stated yesterday that I had no objection to the postal rates charged in respect of newspapers; but thought that there should be some definition of what constitutes a newspaper. That is necessary to protect the revenue. I suggested that a newspaper, not less than onehalf of which consisted of news matter, should be carried at the lowest rate, and that as the proportion of advertising matter increased, a corresponding increase should be made in the rates.I am glad to see that in the schedule preference is given to magazines and books printed in Australia. That is in keeping with our general policy. We ought to give every encouragement to Australian writers, and make the cost of circulating Australian literature as low as possible. Many people living in rural districts have to send to town for their books ; and they are called upon to pay the cost of postage. Hence the postage on books becomes an important matter. I should like books printed and published in Australia to be brought under the magazine rate.
– I shall accept that suggestion.
– It may, perhaps, not be generally known that a number of Australian writers are practically forced to have their works published in the Old Country. That is not desirable. Australian publishers should be encouraged, and we should try to secure the local publication of books by Australian writers. Several publishers are doing their best to build up a big business ; and some of their publications are widely read. In every case, the postage is a big item, since it has to be paid by the buyer. I am glad that the Postmaster-General proposes to accept my suggestion, and I think that it will satisfy the honorable member for Capricornia. I wish to know whether the PostmasterGeneral intends to have a definition of the word “newspaper” in order to meet the objection that I raised last night in regard to the transmission through the post at newspaper rates of prints which, in mme cases, are not really newspapers, but mere advertising catalogues. I desire to encourage the circulation of real newspapers, and I think that the bulk rate, as compared with the package rate, is very reasonable. Perhaps, at a later stage, the Postmaster-.General, by regulation or otherwise, will deal with the point that I have raised.
– It is difficult to define exactly what is a newspaper. A great deal of trouble has been experienced in the matter, and it has been found that prints that might be described as “ squibs “ are sometimes sent through the post at newspaper rates, although they are not newspapers in the true sense of the word. We have not attempted to deal with newspapers in this Bill, but we shall deal with the question as a separate matter.
– Will the Government also deal with catalogues in This promised legislation ?
– We shall take them into consideration and deal with them. In accordance with the promise that I gave the honorable member for Darling a few moments ago, I shall propose several amendments in the schedule. I move, first of ail-
That the words “ and books “ be left out.
.- I am heartily in accord with the proposal of the Postmaster-General to encourage the circulation of books printed and published in Australia. The honorable gentleman stated that he proposed later en to take action with a view of preventing what he described as “ squibs “ being sent through the post at newspaper rates. Within the last few days I have had brought under my notice a decision given by the Deputy Postmaster-General in regard to the registration of a newspaper publication which was sought to be registered for transmission through the post as a newspaper on no other evidence than a statement appearing upon its face that it was sold for a penny. There are some journals having a large circulation, and to which a number of people contribute, which are of a very informative character. They are designed to disseminate public information, and although they are not large publications they are very valuable. I trust that, in every case where it can be proved that these publications are legitimate newspapers, they will be registered as such for transmission through the Post Office at newspaper rates.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Thomas) proposed -
That the following new line be inserted, “ Books published and printed outside Australia, £d. per 2 ozs. or part of 2 ozs.”
.- I appreciate the desire of the PostmasterGeneral .to encourage Australian printers and publishers, but think that that can best be done by means of a protective duty.
– There is no reason why we should not attempt to encourage them in this way.
– Very well.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Thomas; proposed -
That after the word “Magazines” the words “and Books” be inserted.
– I should be glad if the Postmaster-General would adhere to his original proposal to insert a new line providing that books printed and published in Australia shall he carried at the rate of Jd. for 8 oz. or part of 8 oz.
– I will do that.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Thomas), agreed to -
That the following words be inserted - “Books published and printed in Australia, id. per 8 oz. or part of 8 oz.”
– How will the Department know that any particular book sent through the post was published and printed in Australia?
– It can open any package.
– Books are generally wrapped up for the post in such a way that it would be impossible without opening the package to say what they were.
– We can prescribe that the packages shall be such as will permit of inspection.
– Or that the contents shall be specified on the wrapper.
– The Department can exercise a similar check to that which it imposes upon the improper inclosing of communications within newspapers. I understand that now and again newspapers are opened.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
Sitting suspended from 6.20 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is “ a Bill for an Act to provide for the provisional government of the Territory for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth.” After many years of waiting, the Commonwealth is able now to come into its own kingdom, and to provide provisionally for the government of the Federal Territory. We do not intend to interfere with, in any shape, form, or manner, except to a very limited degree, the laws of New South Wales now affecting the Territory. We are going to adopt all those laws which are good according to our Christian light, and to abandon those which’ we think bad. Clause 1 sets out the short title of the measure. Clause 2 provides that the Bill shall commence to take effect concurrently with the Seat of Government Acceptance Act. The object of clause 3-
– The detailed discussion of the clauses should be reserved until the Committee stage has been reached; the honorable member must confine his remarks now to the general principles of the Bill.
– As this is merely a short machinery Bill, which we wish to get through to-night, if possible, I thought that it might save debate, and, indeed, obviate discussion in Committee, to explain the effect of each clause. The intention of clause 3 is to take advantage of the New South Wales laws already affecting the Territory, so long as they suit our purpose, but certain Acts, whose titles are set out at length in the schedule, will not continue in force after the passing of the measure. Laws continuing in force by virtue of section 6 of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 will, subject to any ordinance made by the GovernorGeneral, have effect as if they were laws of the Territory. Am I not allowed, Mr. Speaker, to quote the clauses?
– That is a new rule.
– The second-reading debate must be confined to the discussion of the general principles of a measure. WereI to allow the Minister to deal with each clause separately, I should have to extend the same privilege to every honorable member who follows him, with the result that we might have at this stage a discussion which should take place in Committee.
– The Federal Territory is now comprised within the Yarrowlumla and Queanbeyan shires, whose councils’ have jurisdiction over it for the purposes of local government.
– Is that to be continued ?
– No. The authority of these councils is put an end to by the Bill, and the Commonwealth takes power to provide for the local government of the Territory. Trouble might arise were local government matters in the hands of a council part of whose area was Commonwealth territory and the other part State territory.
– Will the Commonwealth be able to strike a rate in the Federal Territory?
– It will be able to do anything it likes there.
– The Local Government Loans Act is to be repealed. Are there any municipal liabilities in connexion with the Territory which the Commonwealth will take over?
– No. The New South Wales Government have ceded to us an area of land for which we shall not have to pay anything, but we propose to resume that portion of the Territory which is now in private hands. The intention is that the Territory shall be governed entirely by the Commonwealth.
– By a Star Chamber procedure?
– Ultimately there will be a municipal authority established there?
– Eventually the Territory will be governed much as the district of Columbia is governed.
– Will the Land Tax Assessment Bill have effect in the Territory?
– The private land in the Territory is to be resumed at its value in 1908, and we are having it valued now. Of course, the present owners will have to pay taxes until such time as we buy them out. This Bill does not provide for the resumption of private land ; it is only a machinery Bill for the government of 900 square miles of territory, or as much more as we can get as a catchment area. We are conducting friendly negotiations; and as there is a good, Christian, democratic Government in power in New South Wales, there is no doubt we shall get justice. The Commonwealth will have every power in respect of this Territory that the United States has at Washington.
– The New South Wales Government, of which the Minister speaks so highly, has refused to give a freehold to anybody.
– That is in relation to their own people. I hope honorable members will bear in mind that we have to deal with the same people and the same pockets, though the great mistake is often made of regarding the Commonwealth community as distinct from the State community.
– Is the idea to repeal all the Local Government Acts, and substitute Commonwealth Ordinances?
– We simply propose to repeal all the local government laws which, in our opinion, are not in harmony with good, Christian government.
– Will the Commonwealth pass Ordinances before this Bill comes into force ?
– All I desire is to make it plain that our purpose is to continue in force all the good laws of New South Wales for the government of the Territory.
– I am talking of the local municipal government.
– When is the Minister going to sort out the laws?
– We are sorting them out now, as the schedule shows.
– The Commonwealth laws will override the Statelaws, if there is any inconsistency.
– If the present local government laws are repealed, will new local government laws or Ordinances be substituted ?
– The local government laws will prevail, except those which are bad.
– But this Bill repeals all the Local Government Acts.
– We propose to repeal only the Local Government Acts that do not conform with the ideas of the Commonwealth regarding the Territory ; but in every other sense we shall be under New
South Wales laws. We are taking powers which will enable us, whenever it suits us, to declare, by Ordinance, laws to govern the Territory according to the ideas of the Commonwealth.
– Is it proposed to repeal the present Local Government Acts?
– Not necessarily all; we are repealing only the bad local government laws.
– But it is proposed to repeal the whole of the Local Government Acts.
– What other Local Government Acts are there besides those of 1906 and 1908?
– There are the Industrial Disputes Acts of 1908 and 1909, for which will be substituted the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Certain Acts are to be repealed ; but, at the same time, we shall declare, by Ordinance, what is necessary for the government of the Territory. We shall still be within the jurisdiction of the Courts of New South Wales if we so desire. In any case, the idea now is to put ourselves in a position to govern this Territory, and to start as soon as possible to provide the Federal Capital for which we have waited so many years.
– There must be some form of local government.
– We have power, by ordinance, to make any laws we desire.
– Is it proposed to have an eighth Parliament there?
– Or to place the Territory in charge of a Commissioner?
– Honorable members seem to have an idea that we are dealing with a Territory somewhere outside Australia.
– Are we, in the first instance, to have a Commissioner?
– All these matters will be attended to when we get possession. They did not start with a Commissioner a hundred years ago at Washington. This is simply a machinery Bill to enable us to govern the Territory according to the ideas of a civilized community.
– What civilized community ?
– The majority of this House. Under the Bill, the GovernorGeneral has power to make Ordinancesf or the government of the Territory ; and, with that power, the place being too small to justify a separate governing institution, it would be ridiculous to adopt any other methods than those laid down in the Bill.
– Will the Commonwealth assume the municipal debts?
– I hope not.
– Then, who is to pay the municipal creditors if the municipalities are abolished?
– I did not know that the Commonwealth was to become a benevolent institution and go about paying people’s debts. I assume that when we take possession, if people can make out a good case, we shall do justice to them.
– The Bill does not abolish local government, but only repeals the Local Government Acts?
– We are repealing only those Acts which do not conform with what we think are civilized ideas of government.
– Are the Local Government Acts not in conformity with civilized ideas?
– If it suits the Commonwealth to adopt any of the Local Government Acts, it will be easy to do so by Ordinance.
– But this Bill repeals the whole of the Acts.
– We are repealing only those portions which civilized reason declares to be antagonistic to progress. I thought that honorable members from New South Wales would have been most anxious to get this Bill through ; but it would appear that they have some- feeling in the matter, and have tomahawks in their hands.
– Will the effect of the Bill not be that the Minister of Home Affairs will really govern the Territory?
– I do not know of any other man better qualified for the work. If I have that pleasure for a time, the honorable member will see a new Eden there. However, I desire to get this Bill passed to-night; and I shall not take up further time. This Territory which we have picked out as the nation’s Seat of Government ought, in due time, to be a great city. Honorable members who have been there must have noticed the satisfactory character of the geographical surroundings. When I viewed the site from the hill where the Military College will be placed, it seemed to me that Moses, thousands of years ago, as he gazed down on the promised land, saw no more beautiful panoramic view than I did.. Further, the site of the Federal city, like that of Rome, is located on seven hills, and must remind travellers of that ancient Italian city which .was the capital of the world’s civilization. I shall not say that such will be the case with the Federal city; but I believe it will be the capital for many centuries of civilization in this southern hemisphere. Although Rome was the capital of a great civilization in those days, it did not, from its seven hills, govern an area greater or grander than the area that will be governed from these impressive hills of Yass-Canberra. History shows that the big nations eat up the little nations. As with fish, so with nations. Most of the big nations come to their end by inflicting wrong and injustice upon their citizens. I trust that that will not be the end of our nation. We can learn many lessons from the ancient civilizations, and especially from the great Roman nation. Rome, the widow of two civilizations, the pagan and the’ Christian, perished because she forgot justice and inflicted injustice. She loved her sons and daughters perhaps too well at one time, but she neglected them at last, missed justice, and went down. I hope her fate will be a lesson to this great Commonwealth. At midnight the owl can be heard hooting in the Colosseum 3nd the Forum, giving voice to desolation. At midday the wolf can be seen prowling in the “ palace where the Emperor Augustus collected the wealth, the wit, the beauty and the wisdom of a conquered world. The owl and wolf interpret the .voice of bygone centuries, repeating to this and all subsequent ages the fact, that, though evil combination conspire and unite with evil combination, the wicked shall not prosper.
.- I am very glad that at last a Bill has been introduced for the government of the Federal Territory. I hope the Minister will see it through, in accordance with the promise he has given to-night, and see that the Federal city is established in the territory on what he has now described as a magnificent site, although not long ago he held a very different view. I congratulate him on having taken the opportunity to look at Yass-Canberra, which was so strongly advocated by many members in this Chamber, and am pleased that, having now some knowledge of the place, he has been able to change his views regarding it. I have at different times urged upon the Government the necessity of introducing and carrying through a measure of this character with a view to having the Federal city established at the earliest possible moment so that this Parliament might be able to meet in a home of its own. I am glad we are advancing another stage towards the accomplishment of that object. The Minister of Home Affairs, at different times, and particularly on one occasion, toldme in answer to my questions that the introduction of this Bill was delayed because it was surrounded with a complexity of legal technicalities. I think the Minister, during the course of his speech to-night, found himself in consequence of various questions put to him surrounded with a further complexity of legal technicalities. I venture to say that the questions addressed to him have been answered by him in a way hardly satisfactory to his questioners. However, the Bill is now introduced, and it will be a source of gratification to the people of New South Wales to learn that, of the vast number of laws passed by the Legislature of that State, and spoken against so strongly from time to time, but more particularly during the last few months, when the State elections were going on, only some half-dozen are deemed by Ministers to be bad. I, as a citizen of New South Wales, regard that as a matter of congratulation, and am glad to have the Minister of Home Affairs, representing a Labour Government, giving us that indorsement of the general good character of the laws passed in our State. In regard to the territory itself, there will be no need immediately to expend any large sum of money in purchasing private lands. A large proportion of the land will, under the Constitution, pass over to the Federal Government free of cost as Crown lands, and all the private land that it will be necessary to purchase in the immediate future will he that comprised within the area surveyed for the city site, and such other portions as may be required for special purposes. No doubt as other propositions which have been put forward by the present Administration are realized, other lands will be required, but there need be no large immediate expenditure in that direction. I am glad that at last we are within measurable distance of the issue of the second proclamation, which will transfer this territory to the Commonwealth. Now that other difficulties are out of the way, I hope the Government will issue it as soon as this Bill is passed, so that before many years are over this Parliament will meet in its own home in the Federal Territory. I trust, to indorse the Minister’s concluding remarks, that from that centre the various Legislatures which will meet there to govern Australia will issue laws that will deal out justice, not to any class or section, but to the community as a whole.
– I think we ought to congratulate the Minister in charge of the Bill on the very clear and lucid statement that he has made in connexion with the Federal Territory this evening.
– What harm has he done the honorable member?
– I do not know that he, or any other member of the House, has done me any harm, but, in spite of the very valuable information that we have heard to-night from him, I question whether there is any part of Australia about which a greater number of the members of this House know so little as about this Territory. Why is there a conspiracy of silence on the part of the Government on the matter ? About two months agowe had a debate on the question of the Capital site, and the Government then promised to bring down a map for the information of honorable members. I can quite understand that the honorable member for Illawarra, and others who have sat in previous Parliaments, are fairly familiar with this country. I certainly hope they are, but the Government ought to realize that there are members in this House who have not previously held a seat here, and that all the information we have been able to obtain has been gathered by us simply as citizens of Australia, or in some instances as members of State Parliaments.
– The honorable member was very silent about the Northern Territory.
– I was anxious to give the House all the information in my possession about that matter, but the honorable member occupied the attention of the House so closely that it was difficult for any one else to get a speech in edgewise. The Government have, on this occasion, brought down a map which, I am sure, has enlightened us very much. They ought to tell us where we can borrow a pair of steps and a pair of spectacles with which to inspect it. I do not know of a more bluffing map that could possibly be laid before honorable members. What information can the average member gather from it? It is to me remarkable to think that we are legislating regarding a part of Australia about which a number of members know nothing, and that all the information that we are given consists of a map of that character. If other parts of Australia were being dealt with, the Government would have had maps issued long ago. Even if there were nothing in the Federal Government offices that would give us this information, is there nothing in the New South Wales Government offices? Are the New South Wales Government so unfriendly that they will not supply information, or even furnish a map, to this Parliament? It Is easy to see that the Government are acting upon the well-known principle that the less that is said about a measure the better. Undoubtedly, that has been their policy in regard to the Federal Territory. We ought certainly to have some rough idea in our minds of the nature of the country about which we are legislating. We have not got it, and no excuse is offered. Evidently the Government do not intend to give the House any information, and have been simply bluffing us. Why was not a description of the country furnished ? What,for instance, is the nature of the country between Jervis Bay and the proposed Capital site, and what possibilities are there of constructing a railway to the coast? We ought, indeed, to have a topographical map of the land.
– We ought to have had a topographical map of the Northern Territory.
– Why this irritation on the part of New South Wales members? Surely they have everything they want. They have practically obtained the site that was fixed in Sydney. All the Federal Governments have been devotedly loyal to the New South Wales Government, and yet New South Wales members are irritated because I am asking for information, in order that I may obtain some rough idea of the country to be taken over. The sooner the Government remedy this defect the better. It can be done easily enough, and if there were any necessity to move for a vote in connexion with the Western Australian railway, or even for opening up part of the Northern Territory, the Government would find a map quickly enough to guide the House. But. nothing of the sort is done in regard to the important step of taking over a territory which is to contain the Seat of Government. I do not say that it is so, but it is very strong, presumptive evidence that the Government have got such a remarkably bad territory, and such a bad spot fixed for the Capital site, that they are ashamed to let the light in upon it.
– This is merely a Bill to provide for the government of the Territory which we have agreed to take over.
– I am not discussing the measure at present. I hold thai it is not fair to ask the House to discuss a Bill of this character until it has before it more information as to the nature of the country to be governed.
– A map would not assist us to understand this Bill.
– There are honorable members who could form some idea of the character of the country from a topographical map, even if the honorable member could not do so. There can be no great objection to the Bill itself. The House has apparently made up its mind that the Capital shall be established at Yass-Canberra, and it is very desirable to provide for the provisional government of the Territory. I adhere, however, to my contention that the only reason for the absence of information concerning the character of the country is that this is a job, and a put-up job, and the Government arc ashamed of it.
-The honorable member must withdraw those remarks.
– I withdraw them, sir, if they are out of order, for I do not wish to transgress the Standing Orders. When we are anxious to go in a given direction, of which we are not ashamed, we are all prepared to allow as much light as possible to be thrown on our proposal. There is, however, presumptive evidence that those who support the selection of Yass-Canberra have such a bad case that they are ashamed of it, and think that the more they can cover it up the better. I shall not offer any objection 10 the second reading of the Bill, and have no desire at this stage of the session to make a long speech. I earnestly ask the Government, however, as a matter of fairness, to supply us with more information. New South Wales has what it wants, and admitting both the wants and the power of the Government, I still ask for a little more information. We ought to know something about the country concerning which we are asked to legislate, and I hope that I shall not have to refer again to this necessity.
– One wonders where the honorable member has been during the last few years when he asks for information concerning the Federal Capital site. He has just told us, in effect, that for many years he has not been taking the slightest interest in Federal affairs. If he had he would have known all about Yass- Canberra. Certainly he would have known from some of his colleagues everything concerning its bad qualities.
– It is an unsightly site.
– The honorable member knows all about it.
– I know a good deal about it.
– And I venture to say that there is not an honorable member opposite who is not fully acquainted with all the bad and good features of the site. If there has been a conspiracy of silence it has been a conspiracy of silence in at least six or seven languages. The language of practically every country has been exhausted on one side or the other in connexion with this matter. The honorable member for Hindmarsh asks for a map. Did he ask for a map, showing a contour survey of the proposed Northern Territory railway when that matter was before us a week or two ago? Did he ask for particulars of the soil and of the waterways of that great stretch of country which he was so anxious that the Commonwealth should take over?
– There is neither soil nor water-ways to be taken over in connexion with the Northern Territory.
– On the contrary, I think there are both. At all events, the honorable member for Hindmarsh did not ask for a map in connexion with the consideration of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill. In fact, his only statement was, “You must keep faith with the Government of South Australia, and acquire the Territory as quickly as possible.” I have heard the Yass- Canberra site described, more particularly from the Government side of the
House, as a waterless country. I have heard its soil described as barren, and incapable of producing enough to feed a bandicoot. I have heard its water-ways described as stinking water-holes. Surely the honorable member for Hindmarsh must have been asleep all these years, since he has heard none of these lurid descriptions of the Federal Territory as given by some of his confrères.
– He wants to know the truth about it.
– If he desires to learn the truth concerning the Federal Territory, he should read a speech that was delivered in this Chamber a year or two ago by Mr. J. C. Watson, who was then the leader of his party. Mr. Watson made a fine speech in defence of this Territory - a speech in which he showed all its possibilities as a sitefor the Federal Capital, dealt with its waterways, and showed them to be ample ; and analyzed its soil, and proved its fertility. There was not a point relating to the whole topography of the country which he did not clearly bring out in that splendid utterance. If the honorable member is anxious for information on this point he will find it in the chronicles of this Parliament for the last few years. He will find that this House is well informed as to every attribute of the Territory. There is, therefore, no necessity for the honorable member to indulge in a tirade as to the ignorance of honorable members. No one, save the honorable member, is ignorant of the features of the Capital Site. The honorable member for Maribyrnong interjected while the honorable member for Hindmarsh was speaking, “ Scandal.” He knows the Territory, he says, and is prepared to judge it offhand. I shouldlike to ask whether he has visited the Territory. Has he seen it? How has he gathered his information?
– We have had no opportunity to visit it.
– This Parliament has had every opportunity to acquaint itself with the natural features of the country during the many years throughout which it has been the subject of debate in this Chamber. It is not fair to raise all these preliminaries once more, just as the negotiations are approaching completion, and especially after the magnificent and statesmanlike speech made by the Minister in charge of the Bill - a speech which should settle the matter once and for all time. I suppose that before the debate is over we shall hear a good deal more about this Territory. I have been curious to learn what has been said of other capitals planted in other days in some such circumstances as those that now confront us. I happened to glance yesterday at a book which the honorable member for Darling Downs had obtained from the Library, and found that it accurately set forth some of the objections to the removal of the capital of the United States of America from New York to Washington. They are so apropos of the present occasion that I invite the House to listen to the following short statement of some of the criticism which was then offered -
In the New York Daily Advertiser, a newspaper of that day, under date of February 24th, 1789, appeared a communication from Baltimore, which was as follows : - “ There are already subscribed for the erecting of buildings in this town for the use of Congress, twenty thousand pounds. When we reflect on the present state of population in the United States, nothing can be more preposterous and absurd than the idea of fixing the seat of Congress in a village, or the raising a new city in a wilderness for their residence.”
– History is repeating itself.
– I agree with the honorable member - “ Before we give in to such fancies, we should consider whether we have such a surplus of people and trade as is necessary for the erection and maintenance of a new city. If we have not, the new city must necessarily draw from our present towns their wealth, trade, and people to compose its greatness. I believe no considerate man will venture to say that a new city can be established by any other means than by attracting the wealth, ‘trade, and inhabitants of the old ones; or that it is consistent with the interests of the United States to adopt a measure so pregnant with injury and desolation….. “ “ Scandal,” says the honorable member for Maribyrnong - “ The following piece of doggerel from one of the papers of the day exhibits the feeling which pervaded the many communications with which the city papers were then flooded, in relation to the removal of the Government from New York, where the Council had gone to considerable expense in fitting up the City Hall for the reception of Congress…..”
Then follows the doggerel which appeared in one of the newspapers of the day.
– Will the honorable member read it?
– I intend to do so. The quotation continues -
“THE WAITING-GIRL IN NEW YORK, TO HER FRIEND IN PHILADELPHIA.”
” Well, Nanny, I am sorry to say, since you writ us
The Congress and court have determined to quit us.
And for us, my Dear Nanny, we’re much in a pet,
And hundreds of houses will be to be let.
Our streets, that were quite in a way to look clever,
Will now be neglected, and nasty as ever.
Again, we must fret at the Dutchified gutters,
And pebble-stone pavements, which wear out our trotters.
My master looks dull and his spirits are sinking;
From morning till night he is smoking and thinking,
Laments the expense of destroying the fort,
And says your great people are all of a sort.
He hopes and he prays they may die in a stall,
If they leave us in debt for Federal Hall.
In fact, he would rather saw limber, or dig,
Than see them removing to Connogocheague,
Where the houses and kitchens are yet to be framed
The trees to be felled and the streets to be named.”
One can imagine oneself sitting down in that old time capital of New York and listening to diatribes against the taking of the Congress to the wilderness, such as we have heard here for many years. It is too late in the day once more to raise this controversy. It is certainly too late in the day to begin to ask for information concerning the site. An Act has been passed authorizing the taking over of the Territory, and all that remains now is to carry our intentions into effect. I congratulate the Minister on the opportunity that is presented to him to take the first steps towards establishing a local habitation and a name for the Federal Parliament of Australia. The sooner we get away from here the better, so that we may have a Federal environment far removed from disturbing provincial influences.
– It is provincialism that will take us there.
– I hope that no provincialism will be displayed in the consideration of this Bill. I hope that we shall soon have a city worthy of the Capital of Australia, and one to which we shall be proud to go to transact the business of the Commonwealth - a city, I repeat, away from the disturbing provincial influences which, so to speak, dog our steps here and elsewhere, and will continue to do so whilst we are under the influence from time to time of a provincial press. We have every reason to be grateful for the hospitality which has been extended to us until now by the State of Victoria. We are grateful to the people of this State, and would be less than men if we did not acknowledge all that has been done to make us comfortable here.. But we have no abiding city here - we seek a city rather on the plains of Canberra. There I hope soon to see our Legislative halls, with their towers rising into the blue infinite.
– What about the seven hills?
– I live near a district called Seven Hills. It is in my electorate j but I do not desire that the Capital shall be located even there. My desire is that it shall be established at YassCanberra. I wish to see reared there structures which will be simple, though adequate, in construction, and based upon a plan that will eventually give us a habitation worthy of the great Legislature of Australia. I shall offer no objection to the Bill. The one question which concerns us at present is whether or not we shall be able to control the Territory by mere ordinances, or whether we shall require some distinct legislation to take the place of that mass of State legislation which this Bill repeals, so far as the Territory is concerned. I take it, however, that that point has been carefully considered.
– We shall require further legislation later on.
– Yes. After all, this Bill is to provide only for the provincial government of the Territory, and as such, I take no objection to it. I congratulate the Minister, and hope that we shall soon see the Federal Capital an accomplished fact.
– I am rather pleased that in this measure we have an opportunity to repeal, so far as the Federal territory is concerned, what the Minister of Home Affairs has described as some of the bad legislation of New South Wales. We shall be able to prevent the occurrence in the Federal Territory of some of those peculiar crimes which were manufactured by the late Government of New South Wales. Just as an actor has several “ last nights,” so I intend to make one more “last appeal” to honorable members to assist me in preventing the perpetration of one of the greatest crimes of the century. Complaint has been made that we have no contour map of the Territory. The blue, snake-like line on the map exhibited in this Chamber shows what is called the Molonglo River, and, perhaps, gives a correct idea of the width ot the water-course. On the two occasions on which I visited the Territory there was very little water in the bed of the creek. The water-course itself, however, is so broad that it suggests that occasionally very heavy rains fall, and a wide channel is necessary to carry off the storm water.
– It is rumoured that the creek is not running now.
– It was not running during either of my visits. It is proposed to dam the Molonglo to make an ornamental lake, but I cannot conceive of an ornamental sheet of water being made in that way. If the Federal Capital is to become anything but a village, the site chosen is not the proper place for it. It was selected largely because the Commonwealth was promised access to the sea at Jervis Bay. I have not seen Jervis Bay, and, therefore, have no opinion to offer respecting it ; but I should like to read what has been ‘ said about it by Sir J. H. Carruthers, ar one time Premier of New South Wales.
– I submit that the Bill is one for the provisional government of the Territory, not a measure for the taking over of any particular area, and, consequently, the merits of the site which has been chosen are not now a proper subject for discussion. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that you should rule that the debate should relate wholly to the question how this Territory which has been taken over should be governed ; the merits and demerits of the site are not now in question.
– I rule that everything connected with the Federal Territory is open to discussion, and that it is not possible for me on this motion to confine honorable members in the manner suggested.
– Had you ruled against me, sir, I should have deferred my remarks to an occasion when the honorable member could not have prevented me from making them. This is a Bill to provide for the provisional government of the Federal Territory, but I intend to show that we’ could not provide for the government of a territory such as has been selected. Sir J. H. Carruthers fought hard to get this Parliament to choose the site which has now been selected, and I wish to read his opinion of Jervis Bay, through which it is said it will have access to the sea.
– Is this the passage the honorable member read on a former occasion?
– I have not read it before.
– lt has been read a dozen times.
- Sir J. H. Carruthers says -
I look upon a railway to Jervis Bay as a mere visionary idea.
– The surveyors’ reports were not in when that statement was made.
– It was made in 1910.
– The surveyors’ reports were in last year.
– Sir J. H. Carruthers continues - and this is a nasty cut at the Commonwealth Parliament -
But, still, if the Federal Government, like a child, wants a toy in its early days to play with, let it have it.
The Federal Territory which we have acquired is merely a toy. Sir J. H. Carruthers speaks of it with his tongue in his cheek, and makes fun of us as children. He continues -
I know the country between Canberra and Jervis Bay, and I say there is not the remotest chance of a railway going to Jervis Bay as long as Sydney exists, and as long as there is a railway from Queanbeyan to Sydney. The mountain country between Sydney and Katoomba is mere child’s play compared with the country lying between Canberra and Jervis Bay. The ravines that would have to be crossed have many a time prevented the embarkation of capital in private enterprises in that part of the Stale. There are large coal-fields there, and a wealth of mineral deposit which has never been exploited Dr opened up because the cost of engineering works and the construction, even of tramways, would be prohibitive. The settlers in that district when they want to take their wool to a port never go to Jervis Bay. Their port is Bateman’s Bay, and that is the natural outlet of the Federal Territory. That is proved by the fact that even now the teams carry the wool from parts of Queanbeyan and Bungendore for shipment into the Illawarra steamers. If the Federal Government wanted a Federal port, and had a practical knowledge of the country, it would probably have selected -what is the most beautiful bay in New South Wales that ls, Bateman’s Bay. ‘
He says that if we had had practical knowledge we should have chosen Bateman’s Bay. Surely our officers should have advised us properly?
– Will the honorable member read the report of one of the officers?
– If Sir J. H. Carruthers is correct - and he speaks from long experience - the best port has not been selected. Jervis Bay is a place to which we cannot get access. He goes on to say -
A railway to Jervis Bay would be just as practicable as the opening up of the communication with the people of Mars. I congratulate the Government in having made this offer in a reasonable spirit in the hope of inducing the Federal Government to bring this much-vexed question to a happy and successful conclusion.
– For how long has the honorable member regarded Sir J. H. Carruthers as an authority ?
– I admit that I discount a great deal of what he says. I am rather inclined to think, however, that when he was speaking on that occasion he had nothing to gain. I hope, Mr. Speaker, you will bear witness that whatever other honorable members may be doing, I am not suggesting any ulterior motives on the part of Sir J. H. Carruthers, because I think he had, as I say, nothing to gain in condemning a site he really wanted us to accept, it being probably thought that, once there, we should not be able to get out again. His remarks only bear out what has been said many rimes, namely, that the politicians and people of Sydney desired the Federal Capital to be fixed at YassCanberra, thinking that once we are there, we should have to remain. It is very evident that there is a desire to prevent access to the sea from the Capital, and to have power to refuse to carry us on the State railways.
– That is, driving everything to Sydney 1
– That road, I believe, will always be open. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that once the Capital is fixed, there will be no outlet except by way of the metropolis.
– We could not go to a better place !
– I do not say anything against Sydney as a town, but I certainly do not share the view of Sydney representatives on both sides that that city is Australia. Their attitude reminds us of the prominent politician who, at one time, wished to call the city “ Australia.” so as to secure the advertisement which must follow. I am pleased that the Government propose to have laws that are in unison with the ideas of honorable members on this side, and are for the benefit of the people as a whole. When we reach the Committee stage, I intend to move an amendment so as to afford another opportunity to honorable members to change the site.
.- I interposed simply to appeal to honorable members to address themselves to the subject in a somewhat more novel way than that adopted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I shall not ask the honorable member how to address myself to a question !
– When the honorable member said that on this occasion he was making his last public appearance as an entertainer, it struck me that he was rather overstating the case. However entertaining this sort of attack on the merits of the site may have been in the initial stages - however wild it may have been in the extreme uses to which history and truth were put - the time has gone for such tactics, and honorable members should now simply discuss what laws shall govern the territory we have undertaken to manage. If honorable members wish merely to take up time, they have ample opportunity to discuss all the laws passed by New South Wales; but it is not necessary to drag out all the old and often-refuted calumnies against the site.
– The truth cannot be told too often !
– I think my honorable friend errs in the other direction with regard to this site. We have just listened to a long quotation from a statement by Sir J. H. Carruthers, which the honorable member asked us to believe belittles the merits of YassCanberra. There is nothing further from the truth, because the statement was merely to the effect that it would be difficult to build a railway to the sea.
– He said it would be impossible.
– The honorable member has such a slavish admiration for Sir Joseph Carruthers that he is prepared to accept his mere ipse dixit in a matter on which he is no authority, and to disregard all the expert advice in the Commonwealth !
– The statement has been corroborated by hundreds.
– The honorable member is again taking liberties with his subject. The surveyors who were employed by the Federal Government to sift the question in the interests of the Commonwealth, have reported that there is no difficulty involved in the construction of the line.
– That is not the question before the House.
– I agree ; but it is highly necessary that only the truth should be applied to the settling of great public questions, and purely on that account, I waste these few moments in once more refuting a calumny.
– Is Sir Joseph Carruthers no authority on the question?
– He is certainly no authority on surveying.
I think honorable members might well devote the time to the discussion of the real question before us. We have no desire, surely, to keep up a farce that all of us appreciate at its full value, by continuing to say things about the Territory that we do not believe. The most obvious feature of the Federal Capital debates has been the wildness of the charges made against this site - statements wild to the verge of absurdity.
– The honorable member’s idea is that there is no truth on either side ?
– I say that there has been exaggeration with regard to all the sites submitted to Parliament, and the wildest has been with regard to Yass-Canberra, fostered and fomented by the self-interested press of Melbourne, who desire to retain the Capital in Melbourne.
– That is one of the wild statements made in the debates !
– One might almost think that I had attacked the Age, so virulently does the honorable member for Gippsland come to the rescue of the Melbourne press. I referred to the press in the abstract, and lot to his particular patron.
If this Bill has any failing at all, it is that it does not make provision for the enforcing of the laws which are to apply to the Territory. That, to my mind, is the only omission ; but I do not regard it as one of any seriousness, because the Territory is not closely settled.
– What about clause 9?
– Clause 9 empowers certain Courts, over which we have no jurisdiction, to interpret the laws, if the Courts see fit; but, while I do not anticipate any such event, if the Courts do not see fit, then there is an omission in the Bill. 1 should have preferred to see power taken to meet any difficulty of the sort.
-Section 6 of the principal Act, which is referred to in clause 3, meets the case.
– On looking at that section, I think it does meet the case, because it vests the powers of the Governor ‘of the State in the Governor-General.
I hope the Bill will be passed, because we now have got the Territory, and all we require is to pass this Bill, so that the citizens there may not be outlawed, or left beyond the pale of the law.
– The Territory has “ got “ us - we have not “ got the Territory.”
– Then I think the Territory has a very valuable possession in the honorable member. We must pass some such measure as this, unless we desire to completely stultify ourselves. The time has gone for firework displays against this site, the merits of which are becoming more apparent every day. The Minister of Home Affairs himself, who used to attack this selection virulently, is now amongst its warmest supporters, and every person who visits the place returns a convert. This Bill, however, has nothing to do with the scenic beauty or otherwise of the site j and I appeal to honorable members to give the residents of the Territory the privileges of the law.
.- This is no occasion for long speeches on the merits of Yass-Canberra ; and I do not know that any honorable member receives seriously the allegations made against the selection. I ask honorable members, before they make up their minds in regard to any of the extraordinary statements made, to take the trouble to read the reports which are now available within this chamber.
– Which? The first, or the varied reports afterwards?
– I mean all the reports on any particular branch of the subject. For instance, in regard to the practicability of the construction of a railway to Jervis Bay, there is no need for us to go for an opinion to a Sydney lawyer like Sir Joseph Carruthers, who knows nothing about surveying. We have on the records of this House the reports of the surveyors who have gone over the Territory,
– They were sent back to make a second report, the first being adverse.
– The honorable member can find nothing to bear out that statement. This is the report of Mr. Surveyor Kennedy, who went over the same line that Mr. Surveyor Scrivener went over from YassCanberra.
– Mr. Scrivener gave two reports.
– Not upon the subject of railway construction from Canberra to Jervis Bay. So far from there being all those engineering difficulties to which Sir Joseph Carruthers referred - and I should say that Sir Joseph Carruthers was the very last man in whom the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would put any confidence on any other question - the reports show that we have before us a simple and easy engineering proposition. The following is the minute of Mr. William Hutchison, Chief Engineer of Railway and Tramway Construction, on the rst September last year -
I have the honour to state that I gave Mr. Surveyor Kennedy instructions to carefully examine the country between Jervis Bay and the proposed Federal Capital Site at Canberra with regard to the location of a railway at Canberra, and I forward herewith his report.
It will be seen that he agrees generally with the route selected by Mr. Surveyor Scrivener, and reports that a comparatively easy line can be obtained by commencing on the Goulburn to Cooma line, about 26 miles on the Sydney side of Queanbeyan, and thence descending to Jervis Bay.
The approximate length of the line would be 96 miles.
The details of Mr. Kennedy’s report bear out those statements. There are no bridges of any great size to be constructed, no great waterways to be crossed and no great earthworks required. That is the report of disinterested officers.
– They traverse about 120 miles to go about 84 miles.
– That is only the honorable member’s statement. The surveyor says that the approximate length of the line 5s about 96 miles.
– Plus 20 miles.
– That is already laid down. I suppose we shall hear the usual attack made upon the water supply of the district. I only ask any one who has doubts about it to read the latest reports on the subject, not by interested politicians or by Sir Joseph Carruthers, but by independent experts.
– No report has yet proved that there will be sufficient water power for the city.
– It is admitted on every hand that we shall not be able to get a supply of water power, but we say that there is a better supply of drinking water there than either Melbourne or Sydney has.
– By lifting it 800 feet.
– There is no need to lift it 800 feet. Even by a gravitation scheme at Yass-Canberra we should be very much nearer our city site than in the case of the supply of either Sydney or Melbourne. As to power, we shall simply have to struggle along without it, as Melbourne, Sydney, London, and nearly all the other great cities have managed to do. The report of the Government Meteorologist of 13th September of this year is conclusive upon the question of the rainfall and water supply of the Territory. I congratulate the Government upon having brought down the Bill, and trust that those who feel that they must register their opposition to it will do so as briefly as possible. I congratulate the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on the comparative brevity of his speech. We certainly highly appreciate the fact that he has not made to-night another of the long speeches that he has delivered on previous occasions. I hope that this measure will be treated as other measures are now being treated in view of the early close of the session, and that no more time will be occupied than is absolutely necessary to fully and freely discuss it.
– - I recognise, although I was never very much in favour of a bush Capital, that a time must come when, an Acceptance Act having been passed, debate upon the general merits of sites should be curtailed. The stand I always took was that New South Wales made a mistake in asking that the Capital should be in the country, or in not insisting - when it had got a grant as the larger and, perhaps, the parent State of most, although not all, of these Colonies - on what seemed to be the policy of its politicians in 1900, and what was the policy of Mr. Reid and of the Daily Telegraph, and many other organizations, of sticking to a large centre of population as the true site of the Capital of a great Federal Commonwealth. We found Berlin, a great city, the centre of a great federation ; Vienna, the natural and the actual capital of another system of federation; and all the unitary systems, except the States of America, which, unfortunately, took the cue from Washington, taking as their capitals large centres of population, commerce, culture, and general intercourse, which, to some extent, modify the eccentricities and angularities of politicians, and are to that extent helpful to the Commonwealth. We found Rome the capital of Italy, notwithstanding the efforts of Cavour to make Florence the political capital, and Berne, of Switzerland, founded in 1848, notwithstanding the attempts to have a bush capital, and, in fact, for a time they did have an ambulatory capital. Yet we are driven to follow the somewhat fatuous idea of the Americans. In that country it was a case of log-rolling, when they’ founded for the first time in human history a bush capital as the centre of a great federation.
– Canada did the same.
– It did, but under a unitary, and not a federal, system, and owing to the squabbles of three out of the four political organizations that were then welded into a unitary system. They had a long struggle against the idea of a bush capital at Ottawa. It was only because the late Queen was asked to become the arbitrator between the three large cities, and the matter was left to her absolute discretion, that Ottawa was selected. In face of that fact, it was subsequently rejected by Parliament. Sir John MacDonald then said he would resign if Her Majesty’s choice was not respected, and the result was that Ottawa was agreed to. As a matter of fact, it was not a bush capital like Washington, but a fairly large country centre. The history of Washington and its absolute unsuitability as a general centre for America, was gone into in 1901, at the time of the Washington Centenary, and if that is looked up, or some of the writers on Ottawa, such as Goldwin Smith, are consulted, it will be found that these places are not such great successes as the capitals of Federations as some people think. From 1803, when Congress first met in Washington, until 1859, there was a recurring agitation to abandon it. Even ir 1 86 1 it was not a federal success, but the Titanic struggle of the war of secession practically welded the American people into such a national unit that Washington became the fashionable centre for the development of the national ideal. I do not at all impugn what has been done in regard to Yass-Canberra. I voted for it because, on the best evidence then before me, it seemed to be a fairly suitable site, although I confess that I have had at times since then qualms of conscience on the point, owing to the divergent testimony as to the relative merits of the various sites. We, in the last Government, did our duty last year in acceding to the reasonable demand of the New South Wales Government that some finality should be reached in regard to the locality of the Federal Capital, and it seems that the present Government are only doing their duty in bringing in this Bill. Under section 6 of the Act of last year, the laws in force in the Territory at the time the proclamation is issued are to remain in force so far as applicable. That, of course, includes the laws of the Commonwealth. Some doubt has been privately expressed to me whether the ordinary laws of the Commonwealth, such as our taxation laws, will apply to the Territory. I at first referred to section 5 of the Constitution, which defines the Commonwealth as including the Territory, and consequently, under that, the laws of the Commonwealth would be in force in the Territory ; but for greater caution we provided last year, in section 6 of the Seat of Government Act, that all laws in force in the Territory immediately before the proclaimed day shall, so far as applicable, continue in force until other provision is made. That will keep the ordinary Commonwealth laws in force in the Territory, so far as we have rot altered them. Then we have provided for the State laws being continued, so far as applicable, and so far as they are not inconsistent with the laws of the Commonwealth. Some are not applicable, and are repealed in the schedule. It is necessary, also, to make special provision for another class of laws that would not apply to the Territory, although they are Federal laws, because they are derived from the InterState power. They are contained in clauses 5 to 8, and are such laws as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which, being based upon industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of a State, would not, perhaps, apply within the Territory. As there will be no local Arbitration Act, since we are repealing the New South Wales one, we have to keep the Commonwealth Act, based upon Inter-State disputes, in force within the Territory for the purpose of its local disputes. What I regard as our absolute power enables us to do that, and so other laws, based upon our commerce power, have to be expressly declared to be applicable within the Territory as if they were absolutely State laws. There are provisions in the Bill declaring that the State laws which we preserve are preserved as laws of the Territory ; that is, they will be administered by our Executive unless we provide by Ordinance that the Executive of the State may administer them. One of the clauses of the Bill provides that we may declare that the State administration may continue. Doubt has been expressed as to whether, when we re peal certain State laws, such as the Local Government Act, there will not be a gap, uncovered by any system of administration. I do not think that that will happen if the Government act wisely. The measure need not come into operation until Ordinances have been proposed for the administration of the Territory to take the place of the laws repealed in the schedule. Before the proclamation bringing the measure into force is issued, the Ordinances can be got ready, so that they may be substituted for the State Acts. There may be some doubt as to whether we can authorize the Governor- General to make Ordinances. It is taken for granted that we have absolute power over territory taken over, and I think that we have, but I do not say absolutely that we have. There was a long controversy on the point in America, and it was decided that the power was absolute in respect to territories which had never formed part of States, and, after a series of cases, it was declared that the same rule applied to the district of Columbia, which, of course, formed part of the original States. In America the powers to make Ordinances respecting territories were held to be as absolute as our power to make Ordinances regarding Papua was assumed to be. Whether we have the same power in respect of a piece of territory which formed part of New South Wales, and lies wholly within its boundaries, is open to the shadow of a doubt, but were I in the position of the Minister I should risk it. It may be said that we have no right to make a partial devolution of our exclusive legislative power. That has not been done in connexion with the government of Columbia, which has been handed over to Commissioners, who act as a municipal body, and constitute a subordinate Legislature. Whether we can give to the Executive, which under our Constitution is not a legislative body, the full law-making power until we exercise it ourselves, may be open to doubt, but I do not think that the doubt is a very serious one. It has been held by the Privy Council that the powers within the category of the Constitution are plenary and complete, just as are those of the Imperial Parliament, which, of course, are inexhaustible.
– It is wonderful what one can do if he tries.
– I should not say that of Ministers always, though I know that they try. Whether, as there is under the Constitution a division- of the spheres of the Executive, the Judiciary, and the Parlia- ment, we can give the power to the GovernorGeneral to make Ordinances, may be open to a little doubt; but were I in the position of the Minister I should propose what he has proposed, because we seem to be under the stress of inevitable necessity.
– Is not what is proposed a sort of government by regulation?
– We have power to govern by regulation. The High Court decided in the case of Ah Way that we have power to delegate to the Executive - in that instance the Customs Department - by Act of Parliament, the power to prohibit imports at any time. It was decided regarding India that the power to impose taxation could be delegated, but only in the sense that the policy must be declared, and the Executive may bring it into force. We are not doing that here. What seems to have been overlooked is that no provision is made for taking over the debts of the shire councils whose area forms part of the Federal Territory. In international law, when a territory is taken over, even by conquest, its debts are generally assumed by the new authority, which is not obliged to recognise the bonds of the old Government, but generally does so. If, by an unfortunate and almost inconceivable chance, the allegiance of Australia were changed, it would not necessarily follow that its liabilities would be acknowledged.
– Is not the assumption of the liabilities of local governing bodies, if any, a necessary part of the Bill ?
– Not of this, but of the preceding measure, which was introduced rather hurriedly, because the session was drawing to a close. The English Act 24 and 25 Vic, chapter 24, I think, which may be in force here, provided incidentally for the apportionment of debts in connexion with disputed or alteration of boundaries. Where a territory is added, or there is a subdivision, the apportionment of “debts is provided for. My impression is that the liabilities of the Territory will be transferred to the Commonwealth, and it is possible that there may have to be apportionment, because the municipality of Queanbeyan may be partly within the Territory and partly without it.
– It is wholly without it.
– In any case, these matters should be adjusted easily with the State.
– I hope that we shall not have a repetition of the wilful misrepresentation of the site to which we have been treated on previous occasions, and that honorable members will realize that We have reached a stage when practical progress should be made towards the realization of the desire of the majority that the Commonwealth’ Parliament shall meet in the Federal Capital at the earliest possible moment. The honorable member for Hindmarsh complained that he had no information about the Territory. As a new member, he may not be acquainted with the numerous reports, statements, and other information which _have been laid before this and previous Parliaments. Voluminous documents, accompanied with maps, have been printed, to say nothing of innumerable photographs, lithographs, and descriptive pamphlets, and have been accessible to him ever since he has been a member. That he has neglected to study or even interest himself in them is hardly a justification for his statement that members generally are without information about the Territory. Most of the members have visited the area and others who have not have endeavoured to acquaint themselves as well as they could regarding it. Of course, members like the honorable member foi Melbourne Ports will never be reconciled to a removal from Melbourne, and they will seize upon any and every pretext for delay. One member has declared - and I think the statement was repeated by another - that no contour map is available, and, therefore, information which we should have is lacking. But in the Department of Home Affairs is to be seen a contour map which contains the most minute particulars regarding the physical features of the Territory, and it is such that, if sent to any part of the world, it would give any architect or engineer the fullest technical information necessary for the drawing out of plans for a city. A rough ( model of the site is also prepared, and & more complete model is now being made, showing the country in actual miniature.
– Will letterpress accompany it?
– I presume so. The contour map is a most elaborate and minute compilation, and reflects the greatest credit upon all concerned in its production. It would be impossible to get li finer piece of work of the kind in any part of the world. As to the possibility of making a railway from the Federal Capital to Jervis Bay, the surveyor who was sent over the intervening country to report to the Commonwealth Government, described it as being the easiest for railway construction to be found on our eastern sea-board. He says that there are no engineering or other difficulties, and that one of the easiest grades can be obtained.
– That is why a start would have to be made 26 miles from the proposed site of the city, I suppose?
– 1 am speaking of the reports of those who are more competent to form an opinion than is either the honorable member for Gippsland or myself. I put their reports against the quotation made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, giving the lay opinion of Sir Joseph Carruthers, who had never visited that part of the country. The district has been carefully surveyed, on behalf of the Commonwealth, by one of the most experienced men in the service of the State, and his report is that to which I have just referred. He has no self-interests to serve, and his professional reputation is at stake. His report is entirely favorable to the country from the point of view of railway construction. I have not got it with me, and so am unable to quote from it, though I have, I think, quoted from it previously ; but I was rather surprised that the honorable member for Werriwa, who had a copy, did not read the whole of it, as it is both short and conclusive.
– And a start has to be made 26 miles away from the city.
– The detour is a mere detail. Those who favour Dalgety forget that the railway from that site to the sea-board would run something near 50 miles out of a direct line to the coast.
– That is incorrect.
– I may not have given the exact number of miles, but the map shows that an immense detour would have to be made.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect.
– There is no getting away from the facts, for the maps speak for themselves. I do not’ wish to delay the House, but I thought it only right that a statement that no contour surveys of the Territory had been made should not be allowed to pass uncontradicted.
– Notwithstanding the contention of honorable members opposite that the
Capital Site question does not enter into the discussion of this Bill, I propose to avail myself of this opportunity to enter onCe more my emphatic protest against any action being taken that will tend to more firmly establish the selection of YassCanberra as the site of the Capital of the Commonwealth. When the Minister of Home Affairs was expatiating on the merits of Yass-Canberra, and comparing its surroundings with the Seven Hills of Rome, 1 could not help contrasting his views on this occasion with those which he expressed when he told another Parliament that a crow would be in danger of dying from thirst if it visited the district without carrying a water-bag with it.
– That was before I had seen the country.
– I sympathized with the Minister a few days ago when he described himself as an animated rubber stamp, and was deploring the fact that he was not a free ruler in his Department. This, however, is a question on which he should be a free agent, yet he refuses to take up an independent attitude. I do not desire to dwell upon that aspect of the question, but I wish to enter my protest, as I shall on every conceivable opportunity, against either the expenditure of public money upon the site, or any action that may tend finally to establish Yass-Canberra as the Federal Capital. The honorable member for Parramatta objected to the criticism of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that the soil of Yass-Canberra was barren, and the water supply inadequate. I have here a report concerning those matters which should be interesting, especially to those honorable members who are endeavouring to push forward the New South Wales aspect of this very important question.
– The National aspect.
– I regret that the honorable member deserts his national principles when he is called upon to discuss this matter. Mr. J. H. Sheaffe, District Surveyor in the Lands Department of New South Wales, in reporting on the character of the soil in the Yass-Canberra district, stated that he found that, out of 129,000 acres in the Cotter catchment alone, no less than 108,000 acres wereworth only from 2s. 6d. to 5s. per acre.
– Is that the freehold value?
– I presume that it is. This represents about 89 per cent. of the total area.
– What a wilderness it must be!
– Yes. Mr. Sheaffe reported, further, that there were 37,000 acres of what is called vacant land, worth 2s. 6d. per acre, and 61,000 acres which are held under annual, occupation, improvement, and scrub leases, worth from 4s. to 5s. per acre. When, therefore,the honorable member for Melbourne Ports described the country as “ barren,” he used only a mild term of classification. Objection was also taken by the honorable member for Parramatta to the statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports regarding the water supply of YassCanberra. I have here a report which furnishes a valuable guide as to the estimated water supply of the proposed city. I refer to a report by the Board of Advice, consisting of Messrs. Owen, Miller, Vernon, and Scrivener, all of whom, I believe, are New South Welshmen.
– Two are Commonwealth, and two are State, officers.
– They have, at all events, an intimate knowledge of the subject.
Mr. Anstey. - And that is more than those who are interjecting have.
– Several representatives of New South Wales have not visited the site. The report sets forth that-
To meet the combined demands the full development of the Cotter would (so far as available data indicates during years of low rainfall, such as 1908) provide for a population of 50,000 a sufficient water supply for domestic and civic purposes - for electric transmission of energy for lighting, and for city power and street tramways ; but from the information available it cannot be determined whether or not a scheme combining a gravitation water supply and a power installation could be laid down at a cost that would be economical.
– What does that prove?
– It shows that, in the opinion of these experts, the water supply is not sufficient for the requirements of a city exceeding 50,000 inhabitants. Since Washington has a population of some 350,000-
– The Minister is an authority on American matters, and T therefore accept his statement that Washington has a population of 400,000.
It would not be too much to expect that the Capital of this great Commonwealth should have a population reaching those dimensions ; but can we ever hope for such a population if it is established at YassCanberra, in view of this report that the water supply would not be adequate for the requirements of a city exceeding 50,000 ? In view of this report, and that showing that the land within the Territory is worth only from 2s. 6d. to 5s. per acre, I ask those who favour this site whether they can hope, even in the distant future, to have established at Yass- Canberra a city that will meet the National aspirations of the people? Such a city, notwithstanding the glowing pictures drawn for us by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, is absolutely impossible. We also have two reports by Mr. Scrivener, both of which are adverse to this site. It is well known that when Mr. Scrivener submitted a second report which was not congenial to the Government of New South Wales, room was made for another officer who would prepare a report more in keeping with the feeling of the State Parliament at the time. I wish to express the sentiments of indignation meetings that have been held in several parts of my electorate, and at which resolutions have been passed condemning the Government for fixing upon Yass-Canberra as the site of the Federal Capital without the consent of the people. The Government and the Minister cannot shut their eyes to the fact that there is a strong feeling in Victoria, and, I believe, throughout Australia, against the selection of Yass-Canberra; and I do not believe that the representatives of New South Wales express the sentiments or feelings of the people of that State on this question. What was the trump card played by Mr. Wade at the recent State elections? Did he not tell the people that this selection of Yass-Canberra was in danger from the Fisher Government? If there had been any strong local feeling in favour of that site, the McGowen Government would not be in power to-day. I know that everywhere I went in New South Wales on behalf of certain candidates, I found just as strong a feeling against the selection as there is in Victoria.
– Does the honorable member say that Mr. McGowen is against the YassCanberra selection?
– The people of New South Wales were told that all Mr. McGowen said about Yass-Canberra was moonshine, and that he intended to upset the choice if he were returned to power.
– They were afraid to take a referendum on the question in New South Wales !
– I should like to see a referendum taken there, because I have no fear as to the result. There is no mode of appeal that is more in accord with democratic principle ; and I regret that the party to which I belong are adverse to such a mode of settling the question. At the presentmoment the Commonwealth is faced with great expenditure in the near future. Only to-day we passed the Postal Rates Bill, which, we are told on the authority of the Postmaster-General, will resultin the loss of some , £500,000 ; and then, in addition, millions will be required for a transcontinental railway, and the taking over of the Northern Territory.
– The Federal Capital is the only good business proposition we are making !
– Is it a good business proposition to fix the Fede- ral Capital on half-a-crown-an-acre land? I know that the Minister of Home Affairs believes that there are many infinitely better sites in New South Wales. Does the Minister deny that Tooma would be far preferable? At any rate, that is the opinion that has been expressed, even by ardent advocates of Yass-Canberra.
– Yass-Canberra only got one vote when the ballot was taken in this House !
– YassCanberra was selected by a trick - by an act of political jugglery !
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it, but it is hard to find words to adequately describe such political trickery.
– Order !
– I withdraw the words, and will not refer to the matter again, because I could not describe the event in any other terms. I know that the gentleman responsible for the choice in the way adopted is not at present a member of this Chamber ; but it is a matter of history. AsI was saying, we are faced with the expenditure of millions ; and I refuse to vote for expenditure on objects of which I am not fully cognisant. Like other new members.I have not had an opportunity of judging the merits or demerits of Yass-
Canberra. The honorable member for Parramatta told us that we could have visited the place; but how was that possible, considering that since the beginning of the session we have been sitting thirteen and fourteen hours a day? In my opinion it would have been fair to postpone the consideration of this measure until we new members could have inspected the site ; and I cannot see what objection the Government could raise to our ascertaining the facts of the case for ourselves. I object to almost every circumstance in connexion with the selection of Yass-Canberra. In the first place, the selection was wrongly made, and, in the second place, we were asked to vote money in a way equally wrong. I regret to have to oppose the party with which I am associated, but I shall always claim, and exercise, my right as a free agent, outside the party platform ; and I must express my utter disapproval of a measure which will more firmly establish the Capital on a site which will reflect no credit on either this or future generations.
– I sympathize with the Minister in being compelled to follow his predecessors along the well-worn rut of precedent, and in finding himself occasionally wallowing in the morass of vested interests.; Itis a pity that he, like the honorable member for Indi, is not perfectly free, or does not feel himself perfectly free, to express his own opinions on this proposition. When he was a free agent, he delighted the House and the country with his descriptions of a territory he believed to be utterly unsuitable. It is a matter for sincere regret that those of us who felt with him then, are now deprived of the inestimable assistance of his marvellous powers of description. The honorable gentleman has gone over to the other side ; and to-day he took us to the Seven Hills of Rome. On a previous occasion he treated us to a description of Paris as the most beautiful modern city, and of Athens as the home of classical lore and learning; indeed, I am not quite sure that he did not introduce us to “ Peebles for pleasure.” The honorable gentleman has not exhausted his powers, as I say, for to-day he took us to the sacred city on the banks of the Tiber, and endeavoured, with marvellous eloquence, to make us believe that Yass-Canberra, in the future, is going to rival, and even outclass, that ancient city. It is a pity indeed that he is so completely trammelled by his environment, and that ne finds it absolutely necessary to cast into the other scale all those sympathies which would have been of such benefit to us at this juncture. We realize that his loss is a great one. The honorable gentleman has found that the dead hand to which he has so often alluded has hit hun in the political solar plexus, and I sincerely and deeply regret that he is now in danger of being counted out. The only thing that can possibly save him will be the self-sacrifice of members like myself, who are prepared lo discuss this question a:- long as our physical condition will permit, in the hope that the Minister may at length return to the true fold, and find himself unimpeded by those considerations which at present are so fatally powerful. With regard to the Federal city - which is to be built, if the Minister has his way, upon that very unsuitable site that he has described in language which, unfortunately foi him. remains in print - T should have thought that one coming from America, and who has spent a large part of his life in that very up-to-date and prosperous country - a country ihe inhabitants of which have over and over again shown their marvellous capacity for taking advantage of every opportunity that comes in their way - would have been to some extent affected by the history of Washington. The territory of Washington was conceded under conditions with which we are perfectly familiar. The present territory is not possessed of the proportions which it originally had, because a portion of the site was afterwards re-ceded to the State which so generously granted it to the United States of America. Washington is, however, a city which. notwithstanding great natural advantages, still lags behind as compared with other great cities in the United States of ‘ America. The city is remarkable for the fact that it has progressed very little indeed during the long years during which the great Republic of which it is the capital has been advancing by leaps and bounds. The Minister has told us with a certain amount of pride that the population of Washington is 400,000. If the population of Yass-Canberra is to increase at the same rate that that of Washington has increased relatively to the enormous advance of the population of the United States, we may expect within the next two or three hundred years to have 100,000, or perhaps twice that number, of inhabitants there. Washington to-day is a source of great disappointment to a number of the people of the United States, who would like, when visiting the capital of their country, to recognise in it an example to other countries of the world. They would like to have an opportunity of observing there conditions somewhat commensurate with the progress of die rest of the nation. But they have been bitterly disappointed in that respect. Yet here we have the Minister of Home Affairs, who has had personal opportunities which have been denied to me and to others, of seeing how greatly the United States has progressed, and of recognising the mistake made in building the capital city upon the banks of the Potomac, bringing before this House a proposal, which offers a very much smaller chance of success than did Washington when it was first projected. A great deal has been said about our system of party government, and no more crushing indictment could be levelled against that system than that furnished by ihe attitude of the Minister at the present time. If there is one thing about which the honorable gentleman has been more emphatic than any other, it is that he would not be bound by the past ; that he was determined, to strike out a line for himself. Surely it would have been more in consonance with that frequently-uttered statement of his, if he had come down to this House with a Bill which, instead of forging another link in the chain which is going to bind us to this unsuitable project, would have liberated us from the effects of the catastrophe which, I fear, is only too rapidly approaching. However, the Minister is apparently determined to show, by working against natural forces, that he is not to be affected by the teachings of history. Had he been willing to learn from the reports which have been presented to this Parliament from time to time, he would, I am sure, have found some means of escape from what, after all, even now, is not an absolutely necessary action on our part. The tendency of modern aggregations of population is to seek out spots for settlement which will furnish opportunities for future comfort, as well as for future personal welfare. What is wanted nowadays is a place where people will be able to enjoy everything that modern civilization can give to them, at the lowest possible cost, and where, at the same time, they may be able to attract others to join them, in order that the accumulated wealth of an augmented population may be a means whereby they may secure to themselves additional advantages. But here the Minister and the Government are throwing altogether on one side the conveniences which, to other people and in other places, seem so pre-eminently desirable. We are, I” fear, about to make a gigantic error, which will be a source of grief, trouble, and sorrow to the people of this Commonwealth in the future, as well as being pregnant with national disappointment. What the people of Australia desired, when erecting this great national organization here, was that it should be surrounded by every possible agency which would give it the means of developing along those lines which would secure “ the greatest good to the greater number.” But the Government are proceeding against . that principle in asking, not only those who are to legislate, but also the officials who have to conduct work under the direction of the Legislature in the future, to go to what is virtually a desert - a place which under the best conditions is, we are assured, liable to fairly severe droughts. They are going to erect this city in a district which will be least attractive to those who would otherwise wish to settle near the Federal Capital. If we want a Federal city which will be in something like proportion to the future of the Commonwealth, we must select a site in such a place as will give a means of subsistence to a large number of people. We must have good land upon which the people can be settled. We can expect little or nothing of that character in the area now selected. It ‘ would have been better if some of those ironbound plains, where it is known that at any rate minerals exist, had been selected, but we have no warrant for believing that anything of a marketable character can be raised within this area.
– What has that to do with making laws for the government of the Territory ? The Territory has already been taken over.
– It has a good deal to do with it. lt is very easy to connect SuCh a thing as the iron industry with a provision for applying industrial laws to the Territory, and to show that it is useless to bring before the House a Bill which makes provision for certain laws to operate, when there is no chance of their ever being put into effect there. We are not doing our duty to those who sent us here if we set the seal by any act of ours upon the selection of an unsuitable site.
– Has the honorable member ever been there?
– I have seen a good deal of that country. During the last few weeks I had the opportunity of speaking to a gentleman who lived there for many years. He has no interest in the question, and he assured me that he considers that in the whole of New South Wales a more unsuitable area could not have been found than that chosen by this Parliament. He was a resident of the district, but found it impossible to make a living there. He had to leave it on account of the unproductivity of the soil and the frequent droughts. A great deal has been said about the contour maps which have been issued from time to time. We have a map now in the chamber on a scale of 400 feet to the inch, and I would ask any one to look at the River Molonglo as depicted on it. In many portions it goes considerably over an inch in width, and not even the most enthusiastic advocate of the site has ever claimed that that river is over 400 feet wide.
– That is not all water.
– What is it, then? A very significant feature of the map is a legend in small print - “ Unrevised proof.” We can therefore accept the map with the saving clause that it is only an unrevised proof. Most maps are a de lusion and a snare to the ordinary observer. Perhaps an expert engineer would know that when a portion of a map was coloured to represent water only a portion of it was supposed to be taken as the actual waterway. We have had various computations respecting the flow of the river, but I have already been told in the House to-night that in some parts it is actually not running. Just at the end of the winter, after most plenteous rains in New South Wales, the flow of this co-called river is stopped. What then can we expect at the end of the summer? Only the scantiest information has been furnished with regard to the site. We have had far too many second thoughts expressed to us by various officers with respect to it. In the early days, when the area was first under consideration, it was thought very little of. It only came into prominence owing to the action of Mr. J. C. Watson in booming it in this House, and he managed to secure a majority in favour of it as against other sites. The reports which came in on the first occasion regarding it have been so modified since that those in favour of the site are able to point to all sorts of considerations and statements and measurements which they contend support their view. The Minister has vouchsafed very little information ‘to the House about it,but that cannot be wondered at seeing that he has staring him in the face in cold print his previous speech upon the site. An appeal has been made to the provincial feeling of honorable members, and I join with those who say that that provincial feeling should not have anything like the consideration which unfortunately some honorable members are prepared to give it. The honorable member for Indi, however, gave us some information with regard to the local feeling in New South Wales, that is of some value at this juncture. I have had the opportunity of going backwards and forwards to New South Wales, and my own observation and knowledge are that what the honorable member stated is substantially correct. Outside Sydney itself there is either an entire disinclination on the part of New South Wales people to talk about the Capital Site, or the people are opposed to the site selected.
-Is not the honorable member opposed to leaving Melbourne?
– I am prepared to leave Melbourne to-morrow, and, if the honorable member had any knowledge of the votes which I have recorded here, he would know that on every occasion upon which this question has beenbefore the House I have declined to vote for the selection of the nearest site to Melbourne.
– One cannot ascertain the feeling of New South Wales at Albury.
– I am quite aware of that. I did not approve of the selection of Albury, because I regarded it as an unsuitable site. I ask leave to continue my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the amendments upon its amendments made by the House of Representatives.
– In moving
That the House do now adojurn,
I wish to ask honorable members to assist the Government in putting through the Seat of Government (Administration) Bill as early as possible to-morrow.
.- Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, lay upon the table of the Library, in the near future, a copy of the form of the Confidential Report which is annually supplied to head-quarters by the Regimental Commanders of the Imperial Forces, so that honorable members may realize how efficiency amongst officers is maintained in the Imperial service?
– I will have a conversation with the Minister of Defence in regard to the request which has been preferred by the honorable member, and I do not anticipate that he will offer any objection to laying upon the table of the Library any information which is not of a confidential character, and which will enable honorable members to see how efficiency is maintained in the Imperial Forces.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at. 10.45p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101109_reps_4_59/>.