4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Some time ago, I spoke to the Minister of Home Affairs about the low rate of pay given to painters and decorators employed by the Department. I ask him if he can fix the rate at 10s. a day, or some such amount?
– The honorable member did speak to me about the matter, and, in view of the precarious nature of the calling of the men referred to, and of the fact that the rate of wage mentioned is paid in many of the States, the Government have decided to adopt it. It will not involve a very large additional expenditure-.
Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company
– The Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company has a clausein its friendly society rules, which, to my mind, contravenes our Conciliation and Arbitration Act, because it prevents the company’s employes from taking advantage of the provisions of that measure. Will the Attorney-General look into the matter to see whether the company prevents its employes from doing what all other employes in Australia can do?
– My attention has been called to a clause in the rules of a benefit society promoted by the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company, which says that a member of the society shall forfeit its benefits if he joins a trade union. If the word’s “ trade union “ mean and include associations for registration under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the clause might be regarded as an inducement or threat to prevent persons from availing themselves of its provisions.. But I incline to the opinion that if any person who had been refused any benefits of the society proceeded against the fund in the Courts, he could recover. Therefore, to that extent, the provision is null and void.
– Have steps been taken to arrange for the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Commonwealth of Australia, which occurs next year?
– The honorable member has brought this subject up before. It has not been considered by the Government, but Ministers are willing to consider if, and will be glad to receive any suggestions which the honorable member may have to offer.
– Has the Cabinet yet considered the advisability of appointing a Commission, or making inquiry in some other way, to ascertain the advisability of placing an export duty upon ores which could, and should, be treated in Australia?
– The Government have not yet come to a decision in the matter, but Ministers hope to do so shortly, and are not unwilling to have such inquiry made as may be necessary to inform them on the subject, because no decision can be come to until a full knowledge of the facts has been obtained. The advisability of making such provision for an inquiry as may be necessary will receive immediate attention.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Social Insurance - Report by the Commonwealth Statistician.
Ordered to be printed.
Papua - Despatch from Administrator of Papua relating to Native Labour in the Territory.
Papua. - Ordinances of 1910. - No. IX. - Customs.
Postmaster-General’s Department. - Statement showing Business transacted and details of Receipts and Expenditure in respect of Post Offices in the Commonwealth,1909.
Census and Statistics Act -
Population and Vital Statistics - Bulletin No. aa. - Quarter ended 30th June, 1910.
Shipping and Oversea Migration 1909.
Trade, Shipping Migration, and Finance. - Bulletins -
No. 43, July, 1910.
No. 44, August, 1910.
Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue, 1909.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Bundaberg, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
asked the Acting Prime Minister -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence - With reference to the following regulations recently issued: - “ Section VIII.- Industrial Disputes. “ 92A. No member of the Permanent
Naval Forces shall be ordered or required to do any workor to act in the place of civilians who have refused to work because of some dispute as to wages, hours, or conditions of labour, unless and until the matter has been referred to the Minister, and his consent to the Permanent Naval Forces doing such work as has been obtained.” - “ Permanent Forces - Industrial Disputes. “ 198A. No member of the Permanent
Military Forces shall be ordered or required to do any work, or to act in the place of civilians who have refused to work because of some dispute as to wages, hours, or conditions of labour, unless and until the matter has been referred to the Minister, and his consent to the Permanent Military Forces doing such work has been obtained.” -
– Under the new scheme of defence, regulations for war will be promulgated if, and when, necessary, and will take the place of those suitable only in time of peace. It is not anticipated that the circumstances contemplated’ by regulation 92a and 1 98a would exist in time of war.
asked the Attorney-General -
– These questions are properly outside the scope of matters upon which Ministerial information can be obtained. The personal opinion of the AttorneyGeneral is sought upon difficult questions of law, involving the interpretation and validity of certain Commonwealth Statutes. The practice laid down by AttorneyGeneral Isaacs in a similar case, and the well-established parliamentary practice, is opposed to the personal views of the AttorneyGeneral being given on such questions. I would refer the honorable member to Hansard, 2nd August, 1905, page 469, and 31st July, 1907, page 1181; May’s
Parliamentary Practice (10th Edition), page 237 ; Bourinot’s Parliamentary Procedure (3rd Edition), page 435.
– On Wednesday last, the honorable member for Maribyrnong asked the following questions : -
The desired information will be found in the following table : -
Sorters’ Hours - Overtime, Clerical Division - Wireless Telegraphy, Papua, Sydney, and Fremantle - Telefunken System - Private Telephone Lines - Hamilton and Coleraine Telephone - Telephone Revenue
asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions - the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, has furnished the information in respect of numbers1, 2, 5 and 6 - are as follow -
Seventeen from 4.30 p.m. to 4.50 p.m.
Sixty from 4.40 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Forty from 5 p.m. to 5.20 p.m.
Ten from 5.10 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.
First Shift. - 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.;11 a.m. till 1.30 p.m. ; 2.30 p.m. till 8 p.m., with a break of twenty minutes between 4.30 and 5.30 p.m., and from 8.30 till rr p.m.; and 11.30 p.m., according as they require to catch their last conveyance home.
Second Shift. - 9 a.m. till 1.30 p.m., and onward similarly to first shift.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostPostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that it was generally understood that the first wireless telegraphic installation to be established would be that between Cape York or Thursday Island and Papua, what, if any, steps are being taken to establish such installation?
– Tenders, closing at noon on the 14th March,1911, for the installation of wireless telegraphy stations at Thursday Island and on the coast of Papua were invited in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 5th instant.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
In the Zeitschrift fur Schwachstromtechnik for April, 1910, is a report that the Nauen station was in constant communication with a steamer during the whole of the journey from Hamburg to West Africa up to a distance of 6,660 kilometres, or, say, 4,100 miles, in which Were included high mountain ranges.
In the same journal for April,1910, is a report or communication over 2,000 miles from ship to ship with an ordinary ship installation of two killowatt capacity.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, has furnished the following information in reply to the honorable member’s questions : -
– On the 17th instant, the honorable member for Wannon asked the following questions : -
The following are the answers : -
On the 1 6th instant, the honorable member for Cowper, on behalf of the honorable member for Mernda, asked the following questions : -
Whether he will furnish a return showing -
The actual revenue received from subscribers to telephone networks for the years ended 30th June, 1909, and 30th June, 1910, respectively?
The estimated revenue which will be received for the year ending 30th June, 1911, which included two months (July and August) at the flat rate? [The particulars relating to each State to be shown separately.]
The following are the replies : -
Division 14A (Northern Territory), £18,750.
– Before the matters dealt with in the Supplementary Estimates for the year 1910-11 are considered in detail, I wish to make an announcement regarding several matters of importance. The Estimates before the Committee are, with the exception of the liabilities entirely contingent on the taking over of the Northern Territory, for comparatively trifling amounts. I shall leave to my colleague, the Acting Treasurer, the business of dealing with them. The first matter to which I desire to direct the attention of honorable members is the Imperial Conference to be held next May. It is proposed by the Government to suggest the following subjects as suitable for discussion : -
That this Conference, recognising the importance of promoting fuller development of commercial intercourse within the Empire, strongly urges that every effort should be made to bring about co-operation in commercial relations and matters of mutual interest.
That it is advisable, in the interests both of the United Kingdom and of the British Dominions beyond the seas, that efforts in favour of British manufactured goods and British shipping should be supported as far as is practicable.
That it is desirable that the attention of the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the Colonies should be called to the present state of the Navigation laws in the Empire and in other countries, with a view to secure uniformity of treatment to British shipping, to prevent unfair competition with British ships by foreign subsidized ships, to secure to British ships equal trading advantages with foreign ships, to secure the employment of British seamen on British ships, and to raise the status and improve the conditions of seamen employed on such ships.
That it is desirable, so far as circumstances permit, to secure greater uniformity in the company laws of the Empire.
That, so far as consistent with the law and conditions obtaining therein, each part of the British Empire should make provision to facilitate the naturalization of persons who have been admitted to naturalization in any other part of the Empire.
That it is regretted that the Dominions were not consulted prior to the acceptance by the British delegates of the terms of the Declaration of London.
That it is not desirable that Great Britain should adopt the inclusion in Article 24 of foodstuffs, in view of the fact that so large a part of the trade of the Empire is in those articles.
That it is not desirable that Great Britain should adopt the provisions of Articles 48-54, permitting the destruction of neutral vessels.
That the resolution of the Conference of 1907, which was in the following terms, be reaffirmed : - “That it is desirable to encourage British emigrants to proceed to British Colonies rather than foreign countries.” “That the Imperial Government be requested to co-operate with any Colonies desiring immigrants in assisting suitable persons to emigrate.” “That the Secretary of State for the Colonies be requested to nominate representatives of the Dominions to the committee of the Emigrants’ Information Office.”
The Law of Conspiracy.
That the members of this Conference recom mend to their respective Governments the desirableness of submitting measures to Parliament for the prevention of acts of conspiracy to defeat or evade the laws of any other part of the Empire.
That the Imperial Government make similar representations to the Governments of India and the Crown Colonies.
Nationalization of the Atlantic Cable.
That this Conference strongly recommends the nationalization of the Atlantic Cable, in order to cheapen and render more effective telegraphic communication between Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, by thus acquiring complete control of the telegraphic and cable lines along the “ All-Red Route.”
– I presume one Atlantic cable .
Coinage and Measures.
That with a view to facilitating trade and com merce throughout the Empire, the consideration of the advisableness pf recommending a reform of the present units of weights, measures, and coins ought to engage the earnest attention of this Conference.
I shall say nothing by way of amplification of those subjects, but should occasion arise I shall be very glad to explain why they have been suggested and our attitude in regard to them.
I come now to another matter which must engage the attention of the House at once. Some time ago there was received from the Colonial Office a communication asking what the attitude of the Government would be in regard to a delegation from the Parliaments of the oversea Dominions to the Coronation, and stating that a number of members of the British Parliament were actively interesting themselves in a project to offer hospitality to members of the over sea Parliaments during the Coronation week. The Government sent back a reply that they were favorable to such a suggestion. Subsequent despatches have been received, but owing to the crisis in British politics and the approaching dissolution, no formal or official invitation, nor further details, so far as this private hospitality is 1 concerned, have been received. Last week a despatch was received saying that the matter would have to stand over until after the general election, which takes place some time next month. It is, of course, to be understood that there is not the slightest reason to doubt that the formal invitation will come, and that it will go at least to the point indicated in the preliminary despatches. The Government, regarding this particular form of representation as peculiarly appropriate to Australia and the Commonwealth at the Coronation, as a very happy method whereby Australia can be represented by her public men, have cordially approved the project, and are submitting to the Committee in these Estimates an item of , £2,500, which will cover the steamer fares of eighteen members of this Parliament. The extent to which the Government intend to go in the matter is limited to providing members with their steamer fares to Great Britain and back, leaving it to them and to the British Government and private citizens in the United Kingdom to make whatever arrangements may be thought proper for their entertainment.
Upon the broad question of a visit to Great Britain of a delegation of members of the Australian Parliament, I think the project is not only one that may be entertained, but an admirable one. No better method could be devised for promoting, not only what are known as Imperial interests, but the best interests of civilization and progress, than to afford public men and representative citizens an opportunity of seeing other countries for themselves and affording the citizens of those countries an opportunity of seeing face to face the kind of men who are engaged in carrying on the business of the world beyond the seas. The spirit underlying the entente cordiale ought surely not to be confined to France and Great Britain, but should spread to all the peoples of the earth. The greatest benefits have flown from exchange visits from delegations of members of the French and English Parliaments. And quite recently delegations representative of British and German industrialism exchanged visits to the verygreat and lasting benefit of both countries and of the world’s peace.
The more there are of these visits, the better will it be fpr humanity. No more effective way could be assured of preventing those hideous blunders that have caused war and bloodshed than that the men of. every nation should know each other better.
This delegation of Australian citizens is an infinitely better way to represent Australia than a regiment of soldiers, and the Government heartily approve of this method of affording the public men of Australia an opportunity to see Great Britain, and the people of Great Britain an opportunity of seeing the kind of men that govern Australia, and of hearing their views. I commend the matter to the Committee in the hope that it may receive their unanimous approval.
It would be obviously impossible to do anything more than to approve the proposal in a general way, leaving the selection of members until the formal invitation comes to hand, which doubtless will be very shortly. We simply ask that Parliament shall ratify and approve the project, and that members shall then take such steps as are necessary to give effect to it. The manner in which the various parties are to be represented has, or will be, amicably arranged, and every party in this Parliament will be represented upon a satisfactory footing. I shall be glad to supply any further information at my disposal in regard to this or the other matter to which I have referred.
There is only one other item respecting which I ask for an expression of opinion on the part of the Committee. It does not appear on the Estimates, but it relates to two members of this House - the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne. It is within the knowledge of the Committee that those honorable members, some two or three elections ago, were involved in considerable expenditure by reason of petitions being lodged against their return. Under circumstances to which they did not contribute, they suffered very serious pecuniary loss, and this Parliament voted to each of them a sum of £100 to meet the expenses so incurred. The actual expenditure to which they were put, however, was very much greater, and we invite the Committee to express an opinion upon the intention of the Government to pay to the honorable member for Melbourne a sum of ^100, and to the honorable member for Riverina /[i$o. The following is the list of legal expenses, &c, paid to members in connexion with voided elections during the life of the Federation: - Senator Vardon, £673 17s. id.; R. P. Blundell, £230; J. V. O’Loughlin, ^278 4s. sd. ; A. C. Palmer, ,£551 16s. od. ; T. Kennedy, £373 12s. od. ; R. 0. Blackwood, ^231 12s. nd. ; Sir M. McEacharn, ^194 i2s. sd. j W. R. N. Maloney, £100; J. M. Chanter, ,£100. It will be readily seen that the honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Riverina have not been very favorably treated, and that what is proposed to be done in their case has not only been done in previous cases of the kind, but has been marked by far more generous and elaborate treatment. I hope that there will be approval of the intention of the Government in this regard.
.- Without adopting the order followed by the Acting Prime Minister, I come at once to the simplest question, that relating to the invitation received from oversea. I had an opportunity of seeing the despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, conveying the invitation, which is supported by the greatest officials in England - the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Lord Chancellor, and the Speaker of the House of Commons. Whatever formal addition may be made, this invitation, in its broad and general character, is already complete, and only likely to be modified in matters of detail. Having regard, not only to the general advantages likely, if not certain, to flow from more intimate relations of this kind between representatives of the various Dominions of the Empire and the representatives of the Mother Country, but also specially to the circumstance, which should be in the forefront of our reflections, that the occasion is the crowning of His Majesty,. I am sure that the invitation will meet with a cordial acceptance.
The Coronation is a great and memorable ceremony, which, without interruption for nearly a thousand years, has marked the people’s acceptance of their new Sovereign. It is, in the first place, the greatest of our national gatherings, and is also international in the recognition it receives. In these circumstances, as loyal subjects of the Crown, it appears to me that we should have no hesitation in accepting the invitation. I feel sure that not only the Parliament but the people of the Commonwealth to whom this compliment is really paid, through their representatives, will realize that a most cordial and immediate acceptance was the only possible rejoinder to such a courteous invitation. The offer of hospitality as a further instance of individual kindness and of the feeling that obtains in the great capital of Great Britain, is very welcome. Except in its personal relation, however, it is a comparatively minor matter compared with the great occasion about to be celebrated, and the fact that this is the first time that the representative Assemblies of the British peoples oversea have been recognised. This is the first occasion on which all the Parliaments have been invited to be present, through their deputies, at such an event. As it marks, therefore, another stage in the unfolding of our ties and relationships - ties of kinship, affection, and loyalty by which the Empire is held together, I hope that the invitation will receive a cordial reception from the Committee.
The further proposal of the Government to relieve those who are selected of the cost of their transit to and from this country is, at the outset, to be considered in the light of the fact that, with the Dominion of New Zealand, Australia is separated by the whole breadth of the globe from the Mother Country, and that the cost of transit thither is high. If the representation is to be national it must not depend upon the length of the purse of the members who may be selected. The proposal of the Government is designed to place on a footing of equality any members of this Parliament who may be chosen. The invitation may be looked upon as general, and any honorable members who think fit to present themselves will have their official character recognised. But the special delegation which will go to England in the name of this Parliament ought to be such, if it is to be national, as to permit of the acceptance of the invitation by members, who, for the simple reason that they could not afford it, might otherwise be obliged to decline. This, as a democratic proposal, has my support, and will, I believe, obtain the support of all the members of the House. The sentiments of the Opposition will now be fairly clear, and without further delay I pass to the great series of topics which the Acting Prime Minister said would be submitted at a meeting next year that, also, has a great Imperial signification.
This is the fourth occasion on which, not the specially selected delegates of this Parliament, but the Ministers, who officially represent the whole of Australia, will have an opportunity to meet face to face their fellow Ministers from the other Dominions, His Majesty’s Government, and, incidentally, also the leaders of the different parties of the Mother Country. It offers all the advantages that can be urged in support of the acceptance of the invitation of hospitality, ceremonial, and distinction to which” I have alluded, but over and above that affords a periodical recognition of the standing that the oversea Dominions have acquired, will retain, and should extend, since by ils means they obtain official recognition and an official voice in many matters decided on the other side of the world, either by the Government of Great Britain, or by the great Departments under them. Separated as we are from the Mother Country by half the globe, how can we expect that the full weight of the considerations that may be urged in regard to Australian interests can penetrate to British statesmen closely occupied, constantly overburdened with the cares of the worldwide power to which we belong, unless we send Home, from time to time, those who have been chosen by the people of these Dominions to be His Majesty’s advisers responsible for the affairs of this continent? I attach the highest expectations to the forthcoming, as well as to future, assemblages of this Conference of the Prime Ministers of the Dominions under the Crown.
Until the first meeting, in 1887, we ranked only as dependencies, and practically communicated only by despatches. Occasional individual visits remained individual, if not private. There was no recognition of the fact that British people whose homes were oversea, and an increasing proportion of whom are born every year ‘on distant soil, were entitled to Imperial citizenship. In fact, even after 1887, when an auspicious commencement was made,’ two or three Conferences passed with only a few specific exercises of power; something short of
Imperial legislation ; but something a good deal more than mere resolutions. Although the last meeting, unfortunately, was also less fruitful than it might have been in actual achievement, it marked a distinct advance. Never before was such weight attached to such a gathering. Never before were so many great questions exhaustively-considered. Never before was so strong an impetus given to the further development of this great institution.
I heard with much interest the Acting Prime Minister’s list of the proposals to be submitted to the Conference; and, having heard it, substantially concur with each and all. One, although it came under indirect consideration at previous Conferences, has not, so far as I am aware, been given an official place in the submissions of any Government. It is the proposal that acts of conspiracy against the laws of any part of the Empire shall be prohibited or punished by joint action; and that idea I cordially support. It is an essential of Empire that its several legislative bodies, in a matter of this kind, shall, to the utmost possible extent, recognise the validity of any policy adopted by their kindred when it has been definitely expressed in legislation. I am glad that Ministers have pushed this issue into an important place on this occasion.
– The importance of it is shown in the administration concerning stowaways, and so forth.
– Yes ; that and similar matters were sufficient to bring the need under notice. All the other propositions, so far as I could follow them, are, in one form or another, familiar. I refrain at this stage of the session from giving them the treatment they deserve; and content myself, so far as my personal commendation is worth anything, by indorsing each and all as worthy of support.
At the same time, I extremely regret that it is on the last day of the session we are asked to consider issues essentially Australian, but which, at the same time, have an Imperial scope, and often a world-wide influence. It is greatly to be regretted that Ministers did not share the advantage of a general debate, extending over two or three sittings, on the most vital of these proposals, in order that they might have spoken in Conference with that confidence in the support of Parliament that I am sure they will receive.
But in order to save time, I pass, with that general indorsement, to a few of the matters which were under consideration at the last or preceding Conferences. These, though no reference was made to them by the Attorney-General, I assume are likely to be dealt with at the coming Conference. For instance, the honorable gentleman did not mention either trade marks or patents, and the desirability of some uniformity of legislation affecting them.
– I am inclined to think that the position in regard to these matters is fairly satisfactory.
– But there are sure to be developments. Since the last Conference, we ourselves have been legislating with, I suppose, other oversea Dominions ; and the question of how far we are acting in unison is almost sure to emerge. I feel sure that Ministers will be prepared to deal with the matter, which is one of growing importance.
– I shall be glad to add trade marks and patents law to the questions to be considered ; but my information is to the effect that we are now fully in accord.
– Ministers cannot know what may be sprung on them, and I suggest that they go well prepared by a preliminary glance at some of the fresh legislation in other parts of the world.
There is another matter which, though it may seem trifling, is of considerable moment. Many of our arguments on economic questions are vitiated by the fact that the statistics of the Empire are prepared on different methods in the different Dominions ; they do not refer to the same periods, and some articles are not under the same headings or sub-headings, so that, generally, it requires a considerable expenditure of time to disentangle the facts in regard to the industrial operations and development of the Empire as a whole.
– I do not think there is uniformity even amongst the States of Australia.
– The point is to make the systems as uniform as possible, and in many matters even a merely formal uniformity is very valuable for statistical and other purposes.
Ministers propose, and wisely, to do as their predecessors did, and support the obtaining of an Atlantic cable. They speak of nationalization; but even that is a procedure on which honorable members are not likely to display much antagonism, if such a step be necessary. It may be possible to obtain all the advantages of the cable without nationalization ; but that is a question into which one cannot enter now.
At previous Conferences, the encouragement of better steam-ship and mail communication has been pressed ; and in connexion with the contract which Ministers have been considering, and in which Canada and New Zealand are interested with ourselves, that question is sure to arise. I hope that Ministers will be prepared for a forward policy in this regard.
One matter iri which I should have expected the Attorney-General to take an ardent interest, but to which he made no reference, is the establishment of a single Imperial Court of Final Appeal. I again suppress a good deal of argument in order to save time ; but am sure the Attorney-General’ recognises, from a legal point of view, that there are many advantages to the Empire in such a Court. The status of the Dominions oversea I have always regarded as of the utmost importance; hence the Court of Final Appeal that is good enough for the British people ought to be good enough for us. If the Court of Appeal that is given to us, however eminent it may be - and it has been immensely improved in the last few years - is not good enough for the citizens of the British Isles, it is not good enough for us ; and, therefore, I hope that the question will be again urged at the forthcoming Conference.
– The honorable member means, of course, appeal on those matters now referable to the Privy Council ?
– Exactly. As I say, the present Court has been greatly improved chiefly in order to avoid this very issue, which, however, ought not to be put aside. All our appeals should go to the House of Lords, which is the highest tribunal for the British Isles; and, therefore, should be the highest tribunal for the Dominions oversea.
– Does the honorable member contemplate supplementing such a Court by oversea Dominion Judges?
– I have always favoured such a course. With the growth of litigation, even the small proportion of business which would find its way oversea would be quite sufficient to require the presence of, at least, one Australian, one Canadian, and one South African Judge.
– I shall be glad to add such a suggestion to the list.
– I am expressing my own strong view when I express the hope that the Court to which I allude will be made a thoroughly Imperial tribunal.
A great deal could be said in support of most of the proposals on the list, but I* must not be tempted. Let me say, however, that each and every one has an additional value - greater in one sense, to use an Hibernianism, than its own original value, since every one of these proposals makes for an enhancement of the status of the Dominions oversea. Until that status is established we shall knock, and knock in vain, for a recognition by the average man of the value and importance to the Empire of the Dominions overseas. The creation of this Conference was a great stride, and another stride was made when the Conference was required to meet at least once in every four years. But it is not sufficient that this should remain a mere advisory Conference. Its powers require to grow with the needs and the emergencies of the Empire. These needs and emergencies every year make greater demands for Imperial action and often for united action by all Dominions oversea.
That united action is only to be obtained when, instead of a Conference separated by breaks of four years, continuity and character are given to its policy by providing a means of keeping up the work, following up its suggestions, and giving effect to its resolutions. The work of one Conference should be reviewed at the succeeding one, and all further necessary steps authorized to give full effect to the resolutions passed. By that means, and that only, can we clothe this Conference with the powers that rightly belong to it, making it a thoroughly Imperial body, representative of our race in every part of the world, without trenching on the local Governments of the Dominions or on the sphere of the British Government. We shall bring all together in effective action on that increasing number of great questions in which the interests of the Empire are mainly identical, in some of. which action is called for by all Dominions, as well as by the Mother Country.
Of course, the first and greatest of these questions is that of defence, especially defence by sea. All the seas of the world are one, and our naval forces, though they may be scattered over the globe, must be one in training, strategy, and aim; while there must be such unity amongst the land forces as will enable each part to support the whole. I need not urge these considerations on the Acting Prime Minister, and do not mention them for that purpose. My desire is that the honorable gentleman, or his colleagues who may go to London, shall know that, in enhancing the status of the Dominions oversea, by widening the bounds and functions of the Imperial Conference, the whole Parliament of Australia is behind them. These are not party questions; the Prime Minister and his colleagues should speak out with the consciousness that the people of the Commonwealth are with them.
– Would the honorable member mind saying what reason he has for supposing that the people of Australia desire an Imperial High Court when they sent Home a Constitution which did not provide for such a Court?
– The honorable member is in error; the Constitution, as sent Home, retained a conditional right of appeal to the existing Court, but I am now speaking of the Court which is the final Court “of Appeal to the people of the British Islands, and which. I contend, ought to be the final Court of Appeal for us.
– British citizens will not help Australians to get their cases tried. ‘
– This is the last day of the session, and, in spite of the temptation which these most important matters present, I do not desire to delay honorable members longer than is absolutely necessary. I wish to allude simply to two. or three principal considerations, Imperial in extent and character, which demand the regular meetings of this Conference.
Every year increases the need for a central Imperial body, on .which all the selfgoverning Dominions are represented, and have an effective voice. Its binding decisions being arrived at, not by the counting of votes, but through the unanimity reached by inquiry, argument, and mutual concession, are then ripe for indorsement by the Parliaments which represent their peoples, lt is by means of an Imperial Conference, and in no other way, that the peoples oversea can obtain a voice in Imperial affairs, which are their own affairs, as they are affected by interests or actions within or without the Empire. By means of the Conference we have now, at least, some voice in the councils of the Empire. Every gain of power or influence through the Conference is a gain of status. A time is within my memory when these colonies were not distinguished from Crown colonies, regarded as territories to be taken care of in a generous maternal fashion, and were not expected’ to possess difficulties or problems which could not be settled by the capable and brilliant men who then, as now, constituted the Colonial Office which controlled them. But we are now undertaking to think and act somewhat for ourselves.
Therefore, 1 hope that Ministers will attach the greatest importance to the proposition almost carried last year, that we should not remain associated in the same Department or with the same officials as the Crown Colonies. They are necessarily more under control, and subject, for their own good, to advice and dictation which we cannot receive except in another fashion, and of whose acceptance we must be the ultimate judges. In doing any practical work which may be proposed, Ministers will have our hearty support. Every means of adding to the effectiveness of the Conference raises our status and authority, and puts us more on a level with our fellowcitizens in the Mother Land when dealing with affairs of mutual interest. Of these, as already remarked, Imperial defence is first; but there are many others.
The Conference also performs most important functions as the Intelligence Department for the Empire. At present there are only temporary arrangements for this highly necessary work, though it is excellently carried out within the means allowed. To be successful the whole effort must be made Imperial. As yet there are too few practical links between us. In the enjoyment and use of our selfgoverning powers we have to decide for ourselves in a great number of matters. Consequently, the Conference and the officers under it, should be entirely independent of the Crown Colony Department, so that our self-governing powers and authorities will always be recognised. Only in this way shall we at last take our place in the councils of the Empire, enabling Imperial action to be taken with the support of all the self-governing people of the Empire. Our wishes were acceded to in a modified degree by a subdivision of the Department, to which I took, and still take, exception as unsatisfactory. The self-governing communities are entitled to be associated with a Department which will never forget that we are self-governing, and that its relations with us are not of a dictatorial character.
– Would it not be better to have at the head of the Department a man who knows something about the oversea Dominions?
– We urged that those who have a voice in dealing with our affairs departmentally should know something of our circumstances, and last year we had the visit of that brilliant and attractive official, Sir Charles Lucas, who was accompanied by Mr. Pearson. They appeared to enjoy their visit, and returned with much information evidently new to them. The practice should be extended in the future. That visit was a direct response to the appeal made in 1907 for a better understanding of the Dominions by the Department which has so much to do with them.
– Therefore something was achieved.
– Yes, in that and in other directions. I have been long enough in State and Federal politics to know the unfruitfulness of formal correspondence by despatches with persons at the other end of the world, who, notwithstanding the best intentions, have a mere book knowledge of our facts and circumstances, and are not able to assess the value of the considerations presented to them.
– What is the High Commissioner for?
– Now that the High Commissioner has been appointed, the Government can send a great deal of information through him, not only to officials, but also direct to the ear of the Secretary of State.
– And he thoroughly understands our circumstances.
– Yes, and is able to furnish explanations. Sir George Reid has been taking full advantage of the opportunities offered to him. Of course, 99 per cent, of his work is known only to Ministers. We do not know what tasks they set him, nor what successes are achieved, but the results are being shown in a better handling of our interests.
While each of the issues mentioned by the Minister is important, I could name many which were not specified by him, such as Defence, which must come up for reconsideration in connexion with the coordination of the Forces of the Dominions and the Mother Country. In particular, a great number of practical, naval questions must arise now that we have war vessels of our own. It has taken a number of years to get them, but I trust that the Western Australians, who are now giving them so frank and cordial a welcome, realize that in doing so they represent the Commonwealth, which, including this Parliament, shares their enthusiasm, feeling with them that a new stage of our national growth is completed.
Old members of the House know how long we have been fighting for naval defence, how difficult it was to obtain a vote of money, and how, when obtained, it was shackled with conditions which prevented our taking action. Yet we made good progress so as to be ready for action. We had an officer in London, under the advice of the Admiralty engaged in selecting the type of vessel, and having plans drawn.
– To what officer does the honorable member refer ?
– Commander Clarkson was sent Home in connexion with the establishment of a small-arms factory, and instructed afterwards to interest himself in preparing for the construction of the destroyers that are now arriving. Captain Creswell and one or two other officers were also in England at various times. Although we did the preliminary work, the money was locked up until my honorable friends opposite were in a position to .convert our plans into actual vessels. After some difficulties as to the construction and inspection, which seem to have been overcome, these vessels were able to take to the sea. Happily, they are now in our own waters.
Defence is a question that should never be made one of party consideration. The whole of Australia rejoices at the arrival of our destroyers, and anticipates the addition of others, according to the plan settled by Colonel Foxton with the Admiralty last year. Every one realizes that defence must be provided for on the water as well as on land, if the Commonwealth is to be retained for the flag.
Speaking generally, I hope that Ministers will not forget to impress upon their colleagues at the Conference that Australia, in spite of herself, is being forced into a foreign policy of her own because foreign interests and risks surround us on every side. A Pacific policy we must have. It cost us a long fight to obtain the very unsatisfactory share in the control of the New Hebrides which we now have. That may ripen into something better. Our first steps in Papua, commenced long ago, were frustrated and partly defeated by official neglect on the other side of the world. Malaysia denotes an enormous, prosperous, fertile, and productive region in the hands of civilized powers, and capable of being transferred from one to another, with consequences which may be of the utmost moment to us.
– Why not have a representative of the British Government in Australia ?
– That proposal may be worthy of consideration, and offers a tempting bait, which I must not take, because I do not wish to deprive others of an opportunity of discussing these matters. We are not seeking foreign politics, and I wish that we had no occasion to give a thought to them.
– We should confine ourselves to our own business.
– Exactly ; but we dare not shut our eyes and ears. They affect our business more and more. We must be observant, like every other nation, providing buffers to prevent shocks, and placing intervals between us and danger centres. Despatches sent from Australia are necessarily ineffectual at times, when they go to a Foreign Secretary, dealing every day with diplomatic communications affecting the welfare, not of tens of thousands, but of tens of millions. When a despatch comes from Australia, relating, perhaps, to almost uninhabited islands, separated by thousands of miles of sea from centres of white population, it must seem that it cannot possess the same urgency as one affecting interests in Europe or Asia. To-day, so far as armaments and trade are concerned, the world is one. All oceans are united, and all peoples brought close together, unfortunately under conditions of rivalry, and often of mutual suspicion. Let Ministers impress upon the Foreign Office in London that there are Pacific problems in which the Australian interest is inexpressible; which, though they may not be made the subject of public debate, should be perpetually and consistently considered, particularly by the Naval and Military autho rities, and those charged with the foreign affairs of the Empire.
I have dealt with the need for equality of status ; I have mentioned, casually, the need for a new department for the affairs of the selfgoverning communities, and for continuity from Conference to Conference, so that the Dominions and the Mother Country may be kept in touch on all matters affecting them by correspondence, public and confidential, having at their service in London a Department or Imperial Secretariat devoted to this particular purpose, in which there shall be Australian officers to represent Australia, and other officers to represent the other Dominions. This should be maintained at our own cost, under the Prime Minister, so far as it is necessary to be under any British Minister, not tied to any Department, but following out the directions and executing the projects of the oversea Dominions, providing us with the necessary departmental action and communication with any other portions of the Empire, or other nations that may be affected. That was the ideal of 1907. It ought to be given effect to in
I hope to see my honorable friends come back crowned with laurels, and able to add fresh laurels to them in Australia for having assisted in this development of our power and sphere of influence, our authority, and our right to be heard on all ques- . tions directly affecting Australia. We are entitled to claim this now that we are assuming the responsibilities of our position, not simply asking the Mother Country as hitherto to bear the responsibility. We are stepping into the arena, assuming our own share of her responsibilities, and, therefore, fully entitled to the consideration of our views. Ministers’ have before them an immense opportunity.
I mention with much disappointment that I notice no express allusion’ to the development of preferential trade between the Dominions, and, so far as possible, with the Mother Country also. This project ought to be susceptible of further development, and certainly of greater encouragement, on this occasion, than on the last.
Then, one of the minor, but practical, results of the meeting of the Conference was the obtaining of our own silver coinage, with the resulting profit of £150,000 this year, to increase as we proceed. It does not look very much, but it will provide this year the cost, not only of all the Conferences yet held, but of all that we shall hold for the next twenty years, and for the Imperial Secretariat too. It is high time we were taking into account the advantages which we can obtain by closer relations within the Empire in regard to our laws and other matters of business concern. One of the best investments that this country can make is in multiplying relations of this kind.
Again, it is only by this means that we can obtain the authority which is our due. I am not speaking so much from the point of view of present population as with regard to our future potentialities of progress and development. Australia is to be thought of, not as a country with a population of four or five millions, but as a country ‘of potentially forty or fifty million inhabitants, who then will be able to account for themselves. If we are to realize those possibilities, it must be by consulting with our brethren in New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada, joining together, so that the Mother Country may be better advised of what her children overseas are doing, wishing, and aiming at, and the policy of the whole Empire guided by a sufficient recognition of the due claims of each and every part.
We are proud of our Imperial citizenship. The Empire includes peoples who belong to none of the four races of the British Isles, and with every generation it includes those who, though sprung from those races, living upon local soils, possess a local patriotism of their own. Our debt and our promise is to be, and can be, recognised. We of the British race, sharing its authority, its influence, and its power, receive to-day greater liberties than any other people enjoy, and are still’ steadily enlarging and enriching them. It is for us to create a consciousness and a force of Union, so that all our peoples meeting at the mother’s hearth may feel themselves as much associated with her Empire as they are themselves, joining each other in the task of developing those portions of the earth remitted to our care. These are the issues which make this Conference with the outer Dominions what it ought to be - the voice of the Empire. You may say the Mother Country needs no buttressing from us. That is a mistake. It does need it,, and never more than to-day - more year by year. But, while the race remains one within itself, under its ideals of free government and progress, it will also retain our fellow citizens with other ancestries by ties apart from the ties of blood. It is the British brood which is the British Empire. On it the Empire was built, which is now uniting to itself peoples originally hostile, who will make citizens as loyal and valuable as any of ourselves. To this task of amity in brotherhood these Conferences, more than any other agency we yet possess, may contribute enormously; and let me wish the Government success, and trust that the whole Parliament will lend them every support when we welcome them back after making another and long stride towards that complete unity of all our peoples, one in feeling, and one in political principle, establishing the Empire as an increasing power for civilization and peace.
. -We have listened to a very interesting address from the Leader of the Opposition, If there is one subject more than another on which he is entitled to speak it is this. I was with him in Great Britain,, and it was then manifest to every one no one could possibly uphold our position better or more brilliantly than he did. The subjects to which he has referred are familiar to me, because a great many of them were dealt with at the Conference at which we were present. I was glad to hear him refer specifically to the question of the Secretariat. I regard that as a great necessity if we are to have continuity in connexion with the Imperial Conferences that -are held every three or four years. Without it, and without information being obtained for the various Governments, very little is ready at the time the delegates go to Great Britain to meet the public men of the Empire, and they find themselves to a great extent unacquainted with the subjects that have to be discussed. Before I went to England with the honorable member for Ballarat, I had but little knowledge of the work that had to be done, but the knowledge that I obtained while with him in England extended my ideas very materially. T recognised more than T had ever done before that the statesmen of Great Britain are dealing with an Empire, whilst we are dealing only with one of its parts, although a main part, I therefore think that they should have more knowledge than they havenow of the requirements of the Empire at large. The matter of dealing with the oversea Dominions should not be left in the hands of those men in England who are administering the Crown Colonies, which are dealt with in a way that the selfgoverning parts of the Empire -would not like or permit. It is necessary that the Secretariat should be kept entirely distinct from the present Colonial administration of England. I feel that the sum of money required to give a number of the public men of Australia and the public men of other parts of the world an opportunity to intermingle and exchange ideas is trifling in comparison with the great advantages to be derived. As the Acting Prime Minister said to-day, it is very much better to spend a small sum of money on such meetings than to meet one another with troops in a hostile way. Nothing will more quickly bring about friendly relations between nations than the intermingling of their public men, and, further than that, the intermingling of the men of Great Britain with the public men of. the various parts of the Empire will bring about a state of mutual knowledge and respect that must be for good, and cannot be for evil. I approach the discussion of the questions for submission to the Imperial Conference with some degree of hesitation and timidity. I listened to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition with reference to the appointment of a Court of Appeal for the whole Empire. I do not know how that can be brought about, because, as long as I can remember, great dissatisfaction has always been felt at the action in many respects of the Privy Council. That has been because the Privy Council is composed o£ men who do not know the requirements of the oversea Dominions of the Empire. Unless such a Court as the honorable member suggests is composed of men taken from the Benches of the various parts of the Empire, having a knowledge of the wants of the countries they represent, it cannot give decisions that will be as satisfactory to us as the decisions that are given by our own High Court. In a matter of that kind we have first to do what is best for ourselves, but I quite admit the force of the contention that there should be some kind of Court on which Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand are represented, and which would be empowered -to give decisions on all matters affecting the Dominions. I do not agree with all that the honorable member for Ballarat has said, but I go with him to the extent that I have indicated. A growing Empire, like that of Great Britain, is an influence for peace or for war, but mainly for peace. It is so extensive and scattered that it is imposible to say exactly how or where we may be attacked. We are differently situated from any other nation. We are not concentrated in one part of the world, but have to be prepared to defend ourselves at all points of the compass. It is therefore necessary that every self-governing Dominion should establish, as far as it can, its own defence, as we are establishing ours now. Local defence of that character will be of great and practical assistance if ever the Empire is attacked. I must congratulate the Government on developing that policy. I say “ developing,” because it is necessary to remind the House that the Leader of the Opposition had it in his mind a long time ago to have a local naval force. I think he intended to propose the obtaining of three or four ships, but it has been reserved for the present Government to develop the idea and put it into practical effect. The vessels that have just reached Fremantle are the first instalment of what will prove, with the naval power of Great Britain behind us, an effective defence for Australia. . When it is known that we have established a Navy of our own ; that we have re-organized our forces and are taking other steps to place our defences on a sound footing, our enemies will be disposed to take advice before they attack us. There can be no doubt that if we were to allow this great empty continent to remain as it is and to take no reasonable precautions for its defence we might be called upon at any time to fight, and fight hard, for its possession. I think, therefore, that the Ministry are to be commended, despite what is said by their detractors - arid they have many - for their vigorous action in proceeding to provide the nucleus of a navy for Australia. I wish now to. refer to the proposal that the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne shall be reimbursed some of the expenses which they suffered by reason of voided elections. The Deakin Administration, of which I was a member, dealt with the claim, but to only a partial extent. My contention is that when aa honorable member, owing to the fault of a Commonwealth electoral officer, is put to the expense of defending an election petition, or of a second contest, the Government should reimburse his expenses. I know that in both these cases, and particularly in the case of the honorable member for Riverina, the whole trouble was due to the fault of an electoral officer, whose blunder led to the honorable member having to incur an expenditure of something like £700. The honorable member for Melbourne also suffered very considerable loss. We passed an item to partly compensate them, but it was far below the amount of their just claims. It was thought advisable, although I did not share the belief, that the legal minds of the Ministry, should determine what should be paid, what claims should be allowed, and what claims should be disallowed, and the result was that a great many items were struck out. I regret that the list is not before the Committee, because an inspection of it would show honorable members that many items that ought to have been retained were struck out. The claim made by the honorable member for Riverina was reduced by £400 or £500, and that made by the honorable member for Melbourne was also considerably reduced. I do not know why there should have been any objection to reimbursing them the actual costs to which they were put owing to the fault of Commonwealth electoral officers. I know that I should feel much aggrieved and injured if, through no fault of my own, I were called upon to pay £700 or £800 in order to regain my seat, The honorable member for Riverina lost more than his actual expenses out of pocket. Prior to the election which gave rise to the trouble he held office as Chairman of Committees, and there is no doubt that his temporary absence from this House, pending the legal proceedings and the second election which resulted in his return, led to his loss of that position. I am glad that this provision is to be made for both these honorable members, and feel sure that the Acting Prime Minister, upon investigating the claims that were sent in to the Department, will be prepared to make still further provision for them. In New South Wales, for many years, compensation was refused by the Parkes Government in certain cases of this kind, but as soon as I took office, and had the opportunity, I saw that full compensation was paid in the three or four cases that arose. Those who had suffered in this way were reimbursed the full amount of their expenses, and that course should be adopted by us. I think that, instead of granting the honorable member for Riverina this sum of ^150, we should grant him £200 or £300. Even then he would not be recouped his loss. The same remark will apply to the position of the honorable member for Melbourne, and I fail to see why mere technicalities should be allowed to prevail in a matter of this kind. We ought to be prepared to do that which is just. Why should these honorable members be a penny out of pocket?
– I agree with the honorable member. I am informed that, in both cases, it was conclusively proved that the trouble was due to the acts of public officials.
– That is the basis of my argument. In the case of the honorable member for Riverina, the official concerned was warned by telegram that he must not declare the poll, since he had made a mistake of something like 100 votes in compiling the returns. He refused, however, to take warning.
– It was reported to him by one of his own officers.
– I understand that that is so. We protect other people, and we ought to protect ourselves. Many a man, rather than put up a fight and risk serious monetary loss, is content to suffer an injustice. I objected to the substitution of the High Court for the Elections and Qualifications Committee, believing that every step taken in it would involve expense. Under the old system, election petitions were dealt with by the Committee, at very trifling cost. The only other question to which I desire to refer relates to the forthcoming Imperial Conference. I think that special reference should be made at that Conference to the Suez Canal dues, in which we are particularly interested. Great Britain holds a monopoly of the shares, and a very high percentage is paid upon them. I am informed that some Governments do not allow the vessels of their country to pay these dues, but bear the ‘COSt themselves. Such a system would make our intercourse with Great Britain cheaper than it is at present, and I hope that the point will not be lost sight of at the Conference. That assembly of representatives of the Dominions of the Empire is a very august body, and it is disposed to deal only in the most tentative way with most of the matters which come before it. The present Leader of the Opposition fought hard for the Dominion Secretariat, and had to contend with the opposition of all the officials. Their desire was to remain in the old groove, and they, did not wish to see established a distinct Department to deal with the oversea Dominions. I hope, however, that that scheme will be brought to a head at the forthcoming meeting. I was under the impression that it had been actually carried out, and that the position was better than it appears to be. There can be no doubt that that special Department should have forwarded by this time details of all the matters to be submitted to the Conference. If Ministers knew before they left Australia what were the questions to be discussed, they would be able to go to the Conference armed with papers and other documents which would fit them to deal thoroughly with the matters to be submitted, and to cast an intelligent vote upon them. I shall not detain the Committee longer, as this is the last day of the session, but I felt constrained to deal with these questions, and especially to refer to the action of the Leader of the Opposition, who, I think, will always be remembered for the part that he played in the last Imperial Conference.
Mr.GLYNN (Angas) [11.38].- The Acting Prime Minister mentioned, among other matters to be discussed at the Imperial Conference, the questions of naturalization, the Declaration of London, and certain matters of appeal, on which I desire only to make one or two observations. The Declaration of London was submitted for the consideration of the late Government. I am not quite sure that a final decision was arrived at, but, as AttorneyGeneral, I collaborated with Mr. Garran, and we drew up a memorandum on what, probably, would be the effect on Australia of the resolutions come to in 1908 at the Conference in London. The chief point that affected us was the right of merchant vessels to change their character and. become ships of war within a certain time of or during hostilities. Our seas now are practically clear of British menofwar. I think it was mentioned at the time that there was scarcely a British cruiser between Vancouver and Cape Horn, or Cape Horn and the West Indies - that there was not a single British battleship in the” Pacific within the region of Australian influence. It is a vital matter that the views of Germany and Austria in regard to the conversion of merchant vessels into vessels of war should at least be considered from the Australian point of view before a final decision is arrived at. The Attorney-General implied that we had been ignoredon the point; but on reconsideration he will find, I think, that there was a memorandum sent in reply to a communication from the Imperial Government with a view to having the opinions of Australia to some extent considered. The question of naturalization is also important, and I was glad to see, about ten days ago, a cable to the effect that a memorandum had been sent to the Imperial Government suggesting a method for attaining uniformity throughout the Empire. That suggestion is likely to be adopted, or, at all events, favorably considered, by the Imperial Government; and the question is whether and on what lines an Imperial Act could be passed that would not affect local autonomy. Occasionally the Imperial Government does not attach sufficient importance to the colonial view in this matter., We cannot allow equal rights to naturalborn and naturalized subjects, because the colour question affects us. It is on these points that, doubtless, the representatives of Australia, with their knowledge of local conditions, will have to press to some extent the Australian view. As regards some of the propositions, it would be as well to consider the views of the nations concerned in some of the international adjustments to be discussed. I recommend the AttorneyGeneral to take into account, in connexion with the Declaration of London, the view of Germany, as published in a letter written to the English press by. Professor Brentano, of Bavaria, within the last two or three months. There is, weare told, the possibility of some Anglo-German agreement ; and the views held by Professor Brentano and others on the policy of Germany in adding to her fleet, are considered. It is pointed out that about 50 per cent, of the people of Germany depend on commerce and trade as compared with a very small proportion thirty or forty years ago; and the questions at issue in 1908. which led to the Declaration of London, affect the question of the increase of the German fleet. There is, for instance, the right of destruction of an enemy’s goods at sea, and the extension of contraband and other technical matters, which the Declaration of London is supposed to refer to some extent to the proposed international naval tribunal. It is only right that our representatives should, as far as possible, inform themselves of the point of view of friendly nations in these matters, so that whatever resolution is come to shall be in the light of all the circumstances. In regard to the Appeal Court, a memorandum has been sent to the Imperial Government in reply to a communication to the self-governing Colonies on the question of uniformity. The chief matter dealt with was the uniformity of method of approaching the Imperial tribunal, rather than the unification of the two appellate tribunals, the House of Lords and the Privy Council. In that memorandum the Australian conditions are shown not to be quite identical with those of the other parts of the Empire, owing to the existence of our High Court. I shall not refer to these proposals further ; but I thought it advisable to direct attention to what was presented, at all events, to the late Government for consideration.
.- I do not wish to fall into the habit of complaining, but I must express my regret that a fuller opportunity is not, presented for the discussion of these important questions. We are gradually being drawn into an Imperial Federation, which, if the plan succeeds, will destroy, to some extent, local selfgovernment in Australia. There is just ground for comment on the late hour at which we are asked to consider these matters. Very early in the session I asked that honorable members should have made known to them the subjects to be discussed at the Imperial Conference, and, two or three months later, I asked a question on the subject. On both occasions I was told that ample opportunity would be given to honorable members for discussion ; and yet, on the last day of the session, at an earlier hour than usual - some honorable members not being aware of the change in the hour of meeting - the AttorneyGeneral lays the subjects before us. I asked the honorable gentleman to allow me to see the list, but I find that he has handed the document over to the Hansard staff. Under the circumstances, what opportunity is there for discussion? The members of the British House of Commons and House of Lords are likely to be led away by the eloquence of the honorable member for Ballarat. That gentleman can at any time make a most eloquent oration on any subject, but his orations are nothing but words. The other day, I came across the following very interesting little poem -
Alf. does like to get his old chin whiskers waggin’ !
A reel nice bloke ‘e is, but, Lord, ‘e’s never finished maggin’!
E’d rather stand an’ make a speech than sit an’ eat his dinner!
E’d rather ‘itch up to a star than ‘itch up to a winner.
I never seen him loaded up like you, or me, or Snowy ;
But, all the same, old Alfie D. gets rolling tight as Chloe ;
E don’t get it at Murphy’s pub - the stuff ‘e drinks ain’t likker ;
Th’ dictionary ‘olds th’ stuff on which old Alf. gets shikker.
Yes, ‘e gets drunk on words, does Alf. - ‘e talks till ‘e goes balmy!
I often wonder why the ‘ell ‘e never joined the Army ;
E’d talk a captain blind, ‘e would, an’ draw a crowd together
Around the big drum and the flag in any sorter weather !
E sorter mesmerises yer with talk of death an’ ruin,
An’ keeps yer wonderin’ what th’ Labour party ave been doin’.
Old Alf. don’t talk like you an’ me - ‘is style is flash and flary ;
In fact it’s ‘ardly talk at all - it’s blowed up diction-ary!
Yer reely can’t ‘elp likin’ Alf. - ‘e’s smart, there’s no denyin’ ;
But sometimes ‘e gets on yer nerves. You know it’s no use tryin’
To do the blanky work and listen to a cobber shoutin’ !
An’ there are days when I could say : “ F’r God’s sake, Alf., stop spoutin’ !
Say what yer mean, and get t’ work. We’ll give yer half a minit!
Talk plain and let the d- d speech slide - there isn’t nothin’ in it
That can’t be said in ‘arf a mo. ; so stop your jawbones creakin’,
An’ let us ‘ave it straight for once ! Get to it, now, Alf. Deakin!”
But, lumme, poor old Alf. would die if you talked that way to ‘im!
E wants th’ middle of th’ floor and nothin’ else will do ‘im.
E wants to mesmerise th’ ‘Ouse and ‘ear chaps say, ‘ That’s Deakin !
Australia’s home-made orator ! You listen to im speakin’ !
E ‘as that silver tongue of ‘is an’ wants yer admiration,
An’ so, instead of sense, you’ve got to ‘ear a recitation !
Reel blanky South-street style Alf. is - ‘e’s never done competin’ ;
Of course, it is the Nation’s tune that ‘e is always beatin’ !
I reckon poor old Alf.’s done in his chance of ever walkin’
Right at the bloomin’ ‘ead of things through everlastin’ talkin’ ;
E’s let too many jobs get cold while ‘e was off recitin’
An’ soarin’ with ‘is silver tongue, and generally skitin’ ;
You’ll ‘ear blokes speakin’ well of Alf. from York round to the Leeuwin;
But ev’ry time ‘e seems to fail when there is somethin’ doin’.
E’s clever, but ‘e don’t see things that’s plain to a beginner;
Because ‘e’d rather make a speech than sit and eat his dinner.
That describes Alfred Deakin, poet, orator, Leader of the Opposition, and honorable member for Ballarat. 1 sincerely hope that the representatives at the Conference will read that set of verses, which, although in humorous vein, and in language not quite classical, contain a very accurate description of the honorable gentleman. He appears to endeavour to take the role of Alfred the Great, who,we remember, succeeded in uniting all the diverse interests and contending factions in the England of his time, and in making a nation of Britons. But “ Alfred the Great “ of our own time seems to think that it is possible to unite this “ far-flung Empire” of ours - to use the words of the Acting Prime Minister - under an Imperial body sitting in London. I think that the honorable member for Ballarat is quite wrong; and my fear is that, owing to this Conference, our local self-government may be taken away. The honorable member speaks of an Imperial High Court; but what is the greatest cause of dissension in Australia at the present time? We cannot arrange a method of settling differences between our employes and certain sections of employers. We try our best to frame laws so that the workers shall have fair rates of wages, and the employers fair protection from outside competition; but certain employers take the question to Court, and the boot-trade, and other unions, have spent thousands of pounds in unsuccessful endeavours to get redress from our own Judiciary. Yet the honorable member for Ballarat suggests that we should have an Imperial tribunal, although I am convinced that that would only mean that the man with the large bank balance would be able to drag employes over 16,000 miles of waterin order that disputes might be settled in London. Is that in keeping with Democracy? Will it strengthen the Empire? As a matter of fact, what is the average attitude towards Courts of justice at the present day?If we desire justice, is a Court not the last place we go to? In order to avoid litigation, people will suffer both loss and indignity. Yet the honorable member for Ballarat suggests that our representatives at the imperial Conference should declare that, in the opinion of this continent, there should be an Imperial High Court. That is an entirely wrong view of public opinion in Australia. I am sorry that the time at my disposal will not allow me to discuss the various questions fully ; but I think that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General might go to this Conference with a Labour programme in their hands, and say, “ My Lord Chancellor and Gentlemen, this is the programme of the people of Australia.” It is true that it is not the programme of all the people, but it is the programme of the majority as determined by the last election. If Ministers diverge from it, they will make a mistake.If they say, “ We are in favour of an Imperial High Court,” they will do wrong, because that is not the desire of those connected with the Labour party, orof the supporters of the party generally. The only programme which our representatives can put before the Conference in stating the opinions of the people of Australia is this -
Maintenance of a White Australia.
New Protection - Amendment of Constitution to ensure effective Federal legislation for New Protection and Arbitration.
Nationalization of Monopolies - if necessary, amendment of Constitution to provide for same.
Graduated Land Tax - Graduated tax on all estates over £5,000 in value on an unimproved basis.
Citizen Defence Force, with compulsory military training, and Australian-owned and controlled Navy.
Commonwealth Bank of Issue, Deposit, Exchange, and Reserve, with non-political management.
Restriction of Public Borrowing.
Navigation Laws to provide - (a) for the protection of Australian shipping against unfair competition ; (b) registration of all vessels engaged in the coastal trade; (c) the efficient manning of vessels;(d) the proper supply of life saving and other equipments; (e) the regulation of hours and conditions of work ; (f) proper accommodation for passengers and seamen; (g) proper loading gear and inspection of same ; (h) compulsory insurance of crews by shipowners against accident or death.
Arbitration Act Amendment, to provide for Preference to Unionists and exclusion of the legal profession, with provision for the inclusion of all State Government employes.
Old-age and Invalid Pensions.
General Insurance Department, with nonpolitical management.
Civil Equality of Men and Women.
Naval and Military expenditure to be allotted from proceeds of direct taxation.
Initiative and Referendum.
That is a programme of which any nation might be proud. In my view, the Leader of the Opposition should also be allowed to attend the Conference, perhaps not with the right to vote, but with the right to say to what extent he thought that Ministers were voicing the true opinions of the people. If attention was drawn to any of the planks of the programme which I have read, he should be allowed to say, ‘ ‘ That has not the support of the people,” if he so believes.
There is not time now to thoroughly discuss these matters ; but the people will not be accurately represented unless the subjects mentioned in the Labour platform I have read are put before the Conference. I am afraid that questions of naval and military defence are assuming such proportions that our defence expenditure may become a drag upon us, and by burdening the country with taxation, prevent us from achieving the emancipation of the workers, and carrying out the experiments which the people desire. If that happens, the public may say, “ The Labour party has failed. We were better off under the old party.” According to Mr. Asquith, the world’s expenditure on military and naval expense has, within the last twenty years, grown from ^£200,000,000 to £500,000,000 per annum, and the rate of expenditure has increased since the Boer war. During the war, the British seized two German vessels, the Hertzog and the Bundesrath, thought to’ be carrying arms and ammunition, and searched them. The case was brought up an the Reichstag, and it was urged that Germany should protect herself against such indignities - that she must have a navy. Whenever Germany decides to build a battleship, the proposal is called attention to in the House of Commons by those who think that she is trying to destroy our supremacy at sea, and it is urged that . we must build four Dreadnoughts whenever she builds two. Thus, the masses are becoming overburdened with taxation, which brings starvation in its train. Those who govern the British Empire, Germany, (and other countries, are capitalists, who exploit the races of the world to gain huge profits of which they have no , legitimate means of disposing, so that they -entertain each other at freak dinners, cost ing thousands of pounds, notwithstanding that’ the money could be much better spent in giving relief to many a starving family. We ought to tell the representatives at the Imperial Conference that, while Australia is ready to train its youth for the defence of the country, she desires international arbitration for the settlement of international disputes. Honorable members ask how it can be done. . Not long since an International Arbitration Court decided a dispute between Great Britain and America relating to the North Atlantic fishery, which had lasted for 120 years. I am glad that the relations between Great Britain and Germany are improving, as are those with America. During the Boer War the British flag was turned to the wall in the halls of the Parliament” at Washington. I see no reason why there should not be treaties between Great Britain and the other nations of the world, providing for international arbitration. There has been a treaty with Portugal lasting for five and a half centuries, by which the two countries bound themselves to stand by one another, and to allow no dispute to separate them. International arbitration will come about by degrees, but an attempt should be made to provide for it at once. lt was not fair for the tall Mall Gazette to twit the leaders of the Labour party in Great Britain with the fact that we in Australia had agreed to forego the subsidy of £250,000, which that country was prepared to pay for the upkeep of our Navy. The electors agreed to that because they wished to control the Navy, not because/they are in favour of an aggressive war policy such as seems to be desired by those controlling the Imperial Navy.
– No one has a right to use the fact that we are training our citizens to defend themselves to neutralize the efforts of. the British Labour party to secure international peace. They are doing all they can, by the holding of meetings and the delivering of lectures, to secure a better feeling with the workers of France and other continental countries, and to bring about the reduction of armaments, whose construction and maintenance must be at the expense of the workers on farm, or in mine, in workshop or office.
.- No doubt the majority of honorable members are in favour of international arbitration, and opposed to the increase of armaments, which is now taking place, hoping that the time predicted by the poet will shortly come-
When the war drum throbs no longer, and the battle flag is furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the federation of the world.
If the armament of the world could be reduced, it would greatly lessen the burden of taxation, and improve the conditions of the people; but I take exception to the statement that Great Britain’s action during the Boer War is responsible for the increase in armaments. We have on various occasions heard the honorable member for Capricornia declare that he is a Republican. Only the night before last he again declared himself a Republican, and it seems to be natural for a man who so classes himself to make such disparaging remarks about the great Empire to which we belong as we have heard from the honorable member this morning.
– Is the honorable member in favour of hereditary members of Parliament ?
– No more than I am in favour of the honorable member having a seat in this House for the rest of his life. I strongly object to accusations being made against the rulers of the great Empire to which we belong, and which has done so much for us, such as have been made by the honorable member this morning. I also take exception to the honorable member’s comments on the proposal of the honorable member for Ballarat for the” creation of an Imperial Court of Appeal. The contention of the honorable member for Ballarat was that what was good enough for the British Isles was good enough for us, and that what was not good enough for the British Isles was not good enough for us. Under our Constitution the final right of appeal to the Privy Council in certain matters is preserved, but what the honorable member for Ballarat was advocating as a final Court of Appeal for the oversea Dominions was not the Privy Council, but the highest Court of Appeal in Great Britain - the House of Lords. I support the honorable member for Ballarat in his advocacy of that idea, but the honorable member for Capricornia claimed that one of the great disadvantages under which the workers of Australia were suffering was their inability to get their appeals in connexion with in dustrial disputes heard and decided. He then accused the honorable member for Ballarat of advocating the setting up of another Court of Appeal in England to place even more difficulties in the way of the workers getting their disputes settled than exist at present. I fail to understand how the honorable member for Capricornia could gather any such intention from the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat. Let me tell him, and those associated with him, that, by means of the legislation they have been passing in relation to industrial matters this session, they themselves have been putting far greater difficulties in the way of the settlement of industrial disputes. I strongly object to the honorable member’s misconstruction, which was perhaps unintentional, of the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat. I know as well as does the honorable member for Capricornia that one of the difficulties under which our workers, particularly those of New South Wales, have been labouring for years, has been their inability to get the disputes that have occurred between their employers and themselves expeditiously settled. In Newcastle and other places we have had disputes that have extended over some years. I think I am right in saying that one dispute has been going on for a period of two years.
– In Newcastle for six years.
– That shows there has been a great difficulty in getting these matters settled ; but by the legislation passed this session, under which the workers of Australia will be brought, we are to have everything centralized at the Seat of Government, instead of disputes in the various industries scattered over this vast continent being decided by local tribunals. If a delay of six years occurs under the local system of dealing with disputes, what sort of delays will occur when the tribunals are all centralized and administered from the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth ?
– The delay in New South Wales was due to the action of the Government who were opposing the men.
– It was nothing of the sort. Every reasonable man must see that the centralization at the Seat of Government of everything in relation to industrial matters, will bring about far greater delays than have been experienced in the past. I certainly do not gather from the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat that the Imperial Court of ultimate appeal which he advocated- was to be established for any of the purposes which the honorable member for Capricornia has attributed to it. That Court of final appeal of the Empire in the House of Lords will be for the purpose of settling and making uniform, as far as possible, decisions affecting Empire matters. I had an interview with the Minister of Trade and Customs this morning regarding the Commerce Act regulations which were laid on the table of the House yesterday, and also understand the Acting Prime Minister has made a statement to the Leader of the Opposition on that subject. As one who has strongly opposed these regulations, I must say that I recognise the concession which has been made by the Minister of Trade and Customs to those engaged in the co-operative movement with regard to what are known as second and third grades in relation to the butter industry. I recognise also the further concession which has been made by the Minister in not proposing to bring these regulations into operation until July next, so that they shall not interfere with the present export season. I wish now to ask the Acting Prime Minister if he will make a public announcement to the same effect, in order that all those interested in the trade, both here and in other parts of the world, may have a direct intimation as to the intentions of the Government.
£12.24]. - In response to the request of the honorable member for Illawarra, I desire to state that it is not the intention of the Minister of Trade and Customs or the Government to bring into force that part of the Commerce Act regulations which deals with the grading and other arrangements in connexion , with the export of butter until the. expiry of this season. The regulations in that regard will not take effect until, say, the 1st day of July, 19H.
– We have heard a good deal this morning about international arbitration, but how far off must that be .in view of the fact that any attempt to bring about arbitration in our own limited area is frustrated, and distorted by. the action of certain sections of the community who are determined that arbitration shall not be effective in Australia?. I must again draw, the attention of the Committee to the ^action of employers in our community who, by every means within their power, lawful or unlawful, take advantage of the men whom they employ, and prevent them from availing themselves of the benefits of the arbitration law now on our statute-book. I refer particularly to the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company. It would seem as though I had some spite against them, but I have no such personal feeling. They have carried* me backwards and forwards on their trams without accident ever since the Melbourne tramway, system was begun. They have in their employ as fine a body of men as is found in the world. The men are always careful of the safety of the passengers. Occasionally a man who is thoughtless or weary may make a mistake, but on the whole they give every assistance, and take every care of the passengers. Yet they have to fight year by year for fair and just conditions, and are thwarted by the action of those dictatorial Czars who rule the company, and who are determined to prevent the men from organizing in order to avail themselves -of the benefits of the. Commonwealth Arbitration Act. I know that many men lost money in the Tramway Company by buying shares at an inflated. value; but the men who hold the shares of the company’ to-day are men who have amassed fortunes, - -aha yet they are unwilling to concede even a little of the vast sums that they have, in order to give better conditions and better wages to those in their employ. They recently threatened their men in every way possible to prevent them from availing themselves of our arbitration laws, and I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will direct his Law Officers to look into the matter, and will make up his mind to fight these people, who are determined to use their strength in order to . down those who have to earn their living in their employment. . ,1 observe a sum of £34,000 on the Supplementary Estimates .for the purchase of a site, and the erection- of a Treasury building in Melbourne. I assure, the Acting Prime Minister that in what I am going to say there is absolutely nothing provincial. I do not think the Government have gone far enough in this proposal. I am convinced that there are not sufficient conveniences in Sydney for the exercise’ of the functions of the Commonwealth in that’ State. Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth also have few conveniences of the sort, and Tasmania has ‘ less. I recognise, with the honorable member for Illawarra, that provision will have to be made in the different State capitals in the not far. distant future for the establishment of Federal Departments, there to carry out necessary Commonwealth work when this Parliament has moved to the permanent Seat of Government. Since we are now providing for a new Treasury building in Melbourne, does not the Minister think that he is making a mistake in failing to obtain a vote large enough to permit of the erection of a building capable of housing all the Federal Departments? I believe that an additional £10,000 would enable such a structure to «be erected. At present, our several Departments are scattered all over the city, and the bringing of them together under one roof would be a great public convenience. Perhaps the people of New South Wales may think that in making this proposal I am actuated by a desire to delay as long as possible the establishment of the Federal Capital at Yass-Canberra. I have no such desire. Whilst I fought the Capital Site proposals to” the last ditch, I have now accepted the decision of this House, and hope that, within a few years, we shall be meeting at YassCanberra, I believe that my suggestion in regard to the new building would lead to great economy as well as convenience, and I hope that consideration will be given to it. I would suggest that the proposed vote of ,£27,000 be regarded only as an instalment, and that the Government consider the desirableness of asking, next year, for a further vote to permit of a larger building being erected. It is well that we should Have in each of the State capitals a substantial building, which will serve to remind the people of what the Federation really means. Great foreign corporations trading in Australia have recognised the desirableness of erecting in the principal cities substantial structures, which will serve to show the people their bona fides, and I believe that we might very well adopt the same course to remind the people that we have federated.
– Does not the honorable member think that Victoria knows that we have Federation without needing anything to remind her of it?
– Victoria has had a better opportunity than has any other State of recognising what Federation’ has done for Australia. Doubtless, the meeting of the National Parliament in Melbourne has served to engender a more truly Federal spirit here than .exists -in any other State. We hear of people anxious to come to Australia who are practically unable to secure accommodation on board ship, and I feel sure that, as the result of the legislation we have passed, this year, we shall have teeming millions in Australia within the next twenty years. Such being the case, Federation must be more strongly represented in the different States than it now is. We should erect buildings capable of housing all our Federal officers, and I do not think that I am asking too much when J claim that in the capital of the second State in the Commonwealth there should be erected a Federal building that will meet the needs of our several Departments, and that is absolutely essential for the’ proper conduct of their business.
– I quite recognise and appreciate the spirit in which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has brought forward his proposal in regard to the erection of Federal offices in Melbourne, and I may be permitted to say that it is in no spirit of parochialism that .the Government have decided to limit the expenditure to the extent indicated. Let me state briefly the exact position. The site is covered by an expenditure of £7,000, and the building by . an expenditure of .£27,000. The plans have been so drawn, however, that an annexe to the building can be put up at any time, so as to provide accommodation for the whole of the Federal staff that will remain in Melbourne. They provide for a building, which, when completed, will comprise five stories, and I think that is just such an- edifice as the honorable member has in mind. The only reason why it is not proposed to complete the building now is that no useful purpose would be served by doing so. We should gain nothing by the expenditure, for the accommodation is not immediately required. The building relates to the Prime Minister’s own Department. Before leaving for South Africa, he expressed certain opinions, and we have felt loth during his absence to deal with a matter which is one falling clearly within his Department, rather than one of general policy. Nothing, however, will be lost by the delay. We have carefully arranged that the plans will permit of the larger building being completed later if that be deemed expedient and necessary, without the expenditure of one penny more than would be necessary if the full design were immediately carried out.
As to the other matter to which the honorable member has referred, I understood him to say that the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company are doing all they can, either by inducements or threats, to prevent persons in their employ from registering under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That they cannot, and will not be permitted to do. The law cannot be so utterly futile as to permit the enforcement of any contract which has the effect of preventing citizens availing themselves of those rights and privileges which the law has created for their benefit. Therefore, the rule whereby the 1,200 tramway men, who are members of a benefit society, are threatened, as it were, that, if they join this association, they will lose their accrued and accruing benefits as members of that society is, in my opinion - and I give it for what it is worth - absolutely null and void. But, in my opinion, any person who works for the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company may join an association- I wish to be precise - formed for the purpose of registering under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, without any fear as to the consequences under any rule of the Tramway Benefit Society. He may do that, because, first of all, it is a policy of the law that it will not recognise contracts made between individuals, for the purpose of breaking or evading the law of the land, to the extent of enforcing them in any Court. Secondly, the rule, which ought to be strictly construed, refers to a trade union: A body formed for the purpose of registering under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act, however, ls not, or need not be, a trade union, but an association, under the Act. Therefore, I think that all these men in the employ referred to may safely register without fear of any consequences in an association other than a Trades Union - formed for the purpose of registering under the Federal Arbitration Act.
The honorable member for Capricornia has alluded to international arbitration as a proper subject for discussion at the Imperial Conference: I regret exceedingly that, owing to the manner in which my notes and I myself arrived this morning, I omitted to read the resolution drafted in connexion with that matter. It is as follows : -
That this Conference recommends in the most emphatic possible manner the acceptance by all civilized nations of the principle of reference of international disputes to and settlement by a properly constituted tribunal.
The Government are heartily in favour of international arbitration; and it is a proposal of first importance that will be discussed with a view to its adoption by all the civilized nations of the earth.
. -I disagree entirely with the attempt of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to draw an analogy between international arbitration and the Industrial Arbitration Courts in Australia. If an effective International Arbitration Court be established, its awards may be enforced by all the Governments of the nations; whereas, as we have seen in New South Wales, the men, who have. the numerical strength, accept the decisions of the Industrial Arbitration Court when those decisions are in their favour, but when otherwise defeat the operation of the Act. That occurred in connexion with the Broken Hill strike.
– The honorable member is completely wrong; it was the other way round.
– As a matter of fact, the awards of the Industrial Arbitration Court in New South Wales have not been accepted as final, and the system, instead of being regarded by the men as a blessing, is anathema.
– Not at all ; there are Wages Boards and not an Arbitration Court in New South Wales.
– The men refused to comply with the awards of the Arbitration Court, and Wages Boards were substituted.
– The opponents of Labour did that, and not the men.
– The men by force of numbers brought about the change.
– The honorable member is completely wrong.
– We desire industrial peace, and to abolish those conditions which make for the undoing instead of the welfare of mankind. At any rate, it is ob-“ vious that whether the tribunal be a Wages Board or an Arbitration Court, its decisions are resisted when they are not favorable to the men. ‘ That has occurred in the past, and will. occur in the future; and, therefore, the analogy drawn by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is entirely valueless.
.- When speaking yesterday in connexion with the reimbursement of the costs in the Harvester cases, 1 said I had always been of the opinion that, when any person was involved in litigation through the mistakes of officials, or the passing of laws that proved to be invalid, they should be recouped their expenses out of the public purse. I therefore cordially support, the payment of a sum of money to the honorable member for Riverina, and the honorable member for Melbourne, in connexion with the expense to which they were put in the legal proceedings of 1904; and I agree that the amount set down is altogether too small, in view of the sums paid to other litigants under similar circumstances. These honorable members were the pioneers in this kind of litigation; and their troubles were due entirely to the fault of electoral officials. Most of the troubles were in connexion with absentee voters, and others in connexion with postal votes. In the case of- the honorable member for Riverina, and also in the other case, the objection was taken that absentee voters were given a blank sheet instead of a paper containing the names of the candidates, and on that ground the High Court declared that the votes were invalid. In the case of the honorable member for Riverina and also in the case of the honorable member for Melbourne, objection was taken in reference to the applications for postal votes on the ground that they had not been witnessed by the proper officials. The Chief Justice pointed out that the voters had attempted to exercise their right in perfect good faith, but, because of the erroneous instructions of the chief electoral officer to the returning officers the mistake was made. I cannot understand why this restitution has not been made long ago, and, as I say, I think the vote ought to be larger under the circumstances.
– I desire to add a word of appeal to the Government to make the vote larger. This is not a matter of sympathy, but of justice ; and, in view of the amounts paid in other cases, the Government would be perfectly justified in proposing a more substantial donation. The position is ex tremely hard on the two honorable members in question; and it is about time that they were reimbursed. .
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta)
CI2-55]- - I am heartily in sympathy with the proposal to make some recompense to these honorable members. It is but the barest justice to treat them as we have treated nearly all others placed in a similar position, and give them a reasonable amount to reimburse them for the expense to which they were put owing to the fault of our officials. Any of us may be placed in a similar position to-morrow ; and I confess that if I had to fight a second election under such circumstances, I should feel that I was suffering a great injustice. I should like to know whether the Government have considered my suggestion as to providing a secretary for the Leader of the Opposition. A salary of .£300 or ,£400 a year has been voted ever since this Parliament came into existence for a private secretary for the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who, with all respect to him, has not a tithe of the work performed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The amount suggested in the case of the honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Melbourne was that which appeared to the Government to be reasonable; but, of course, if honorable members express a general opinion that the amount should be increased, the Government will very favorably consider such a suggestion. I am heartily in sympathy with the idea that some clerical assistance should be given to His Majesty’s Opposition, which is just as much a recognised factor in government as the Government itself. Without committing the Government as to the extent of the assistance, I think the suggestion is quite reasonable, and it will be considered favorably by the Government during recess.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– These Estimates mark a departure : the assumption of new functions by this Parliament ; and I call attention to the fact that the first thing proposed in connexion with the administration of the Northern Territory is the conversion of ^273, 00a of Treasury-bills, which fall due immediately. The Government propose to redeem them out of revenue.
– I am afraid that we shall not be able tokeep that up.
– I do not think that the £1,000,000 which is expected from the Land Tax will, with the other sources of revenue, provide enough to meet the expenditure of the year, seeing that it is to be £4,250,000, or nearly 60 per cent. in excess of last year. Of course, we are having prosperous seasons, but the fact confirms a criticism that I have often made of our Socialistic friends, that they have no other political economy than the lavish expenditure of public money.
– We shall be pretty safe, so long as we can keep our expenditure within the limits of the year’s revenue.
– Yes, but what about those who have to foot the bill ; the taxpayers, who have not been much considered by the Commonwealth, and whose burdens increase year by year? During the past ten years our taxation has been increased by £1 per head of the population, or , £5 per family, and we are now adding to it at the rate of at least 10s. per head of the population. The State Parliaments are also increasing taxation. In Tasmania a land tax of2½d., as well as income taxation is proposed, and in Victoria a flat rate land tax of fd. with an exemption of £500 only. The taxpayer has -
Land taxes to the right of him,
Land taxes to the left of him,
Land taxes in front of him.
– And prosperity all round him.
– I hope that the prosperity will continue. The danger is that it may decline, while the charges remain fixed. There is now such a tide of prosperity as we have never had before, but we should not forget that periods of depression must come. There will be lean years, and we shall not be safe in regarding the fat years as normal. If we do, we shall have a rude awakening in the near future.
– We must spend money if we are to do anything.
– Any one can impose taxation and spend money. My honorable friends are trying to get the people to believe that taxation is a privilege, rather than a burden ; the watchwords of retrenchment and reform have gone out of date.
– Does the honorable member say that the works we propose to carry out are unnecessary?
– Some of them are.
– Does the honorable member think, that it is necessary to spend £500,000 in providing for penny postage?
– If money is to be ladled out, we might as well get the advantage of penny postage.
– Is that the best the honorable member can say for the proposal ?
– I should like to know what the honorable member has to say for it, seeing that he used to denounce it so fiercely.
– Circumstances alter cases.
– The circumstance that the honorable member for Boothby is now a Minister, no doubt alters his opinion on this subject.
– I always opposed the introduction of penny postage until the Commonwealth could shoulder the burden.
– The honorable member and his leader always denounced it as a class proposal.
– I still say that it is.
– So do I. It is merely giving a bonus to the merchants.
– That is what Ministers used to say. Now they taunt me with not supplying sufficiently good arguments for it. It is well to call attention to the expenditure of the Government when it is proposed that money obtained by taxation shall be used to redeem loans not incurred by the Commonwealth, but taken over from South Australia.
– We must either redeem the loans in that way, or borrow to do so.
– While we are redeeming loans borrowed by South Australia, the Government of the State is borrowing , £7,000,000 more.
– We cannot object to that.
– Is not the Labour movement one all over Australia?
– It has won nearly all over Australia.
– The Commonwealth is remaining out of the money market only to enable the Labour Government in South Australia to borrow more easily. While the Commonwealth Labour party denounces borrowing, the State Labour party is borrowing £7,000,000.
– Only for the redemption of loans.
– The bulk is for new railways.
– The honorable member is only showing that the States will do all the borrowing that we want.
– Is the honorable member content to take a second place in this matter?
– Yes, so far as borrowing is concerned.
– He is the one great sinner in Australia in respect to public borrowing.
– Did he ever borrow?
– He kept a Government going for three years on one vote. We heard a great deal about Tom Slattery doing splendidly, but it was really the honorable member who was doing so well. I suppose these obligations will have to be undertaken, and I am only anxious to get from the Government a statement as to whether this is to be the policy in connexion with future redemptions.
– Not necessarily.
– Is this indicative of a policy, or merely an incident in and by itself?
– It is an exceptional case.
– I have yet to team that we are in duty bound to take over the State debts and pay for them out qf the revenues of the country. I should think even the Labour party’s nonborrowing ideas would not lead them to the adoption of that as a general policy. Concerning the Imperial delegation, I have one criticism to offer. It was a very peculiar proceeding for the Acting Prime Minister to come to the House with a typewritten list of subjects for consideration at the Imperial Conference, and run through them as if he were a Chairman of Committees trying to get votes through in the speediest manner possible. I could not hear him, much less follow him, half the time, and the honorable member, without one word of comment, read the list as an expression of the opinion of this Parliament. That proceeding was a farce. Those subjects will not represent the matured deliberation of the House. The present Government will go to London as no Government have gone to London before. They will not be free, as other Governments have been, at the Imperial Conference, because they go bound by shackles imposed on them by their own Inter- State Conference.
– So far as the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister in the House to-day is concerned, no member of the Labour party knows anything more about it than the honorable member does.
– I quite believe that. My point is that the whole House does not know anything about the subjects, and could not even hear them being read. They were slipped through in a way that I have never seen adopted before. Clause 1 6 of the resolutions adopted at the Brisbane Labour Conference, by which I take it the Government are bound, is as follows -
That all Australian delegates to future Imperial or Colonial Conferences be given definite instructions on specific subjects by the Federal Parliament, and that they shall not deal with nor pledge the Commonwealth upon any subjects not previously dealt with by the Federal Parliament.
No one can say that specific instructions are being given to the Government by this Parliament. The second part of the clause means that if, at the Imperial Conference, resolutions are submitted from any other part of the Empire that do not happen to be the same as those read out to-day by the Acting Prime Minister, the Australian delegates will not be permitted to deal with them. That must mean that they are not allowed even to discuss them.
– It is quite right that they should not be allowed to pledge the Commonwealth on them.
– The expression used is “ Shall not deal with nor pledge the Commonwealth upon any subjects.” I take it, therefore, that they will be debarred even from the discussion of anything not contained within the ambit of the propositions read this morning by the Acting Prime Minister. Those propositions will not even be specific instructions, because the House knows nothing about them, but I take it that our delegates will not be allowed at the Imperial Conference to deal with anything outside them.
– They will, then.
– Here is a break-away already.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that we shall not be able to discuss matters not set forth in our list?
– The Australian delegates will be precluded by the Brisbane Conference resolution from discussing, to say nothing of pledging the Commonwealth upon any subject of Imperial concern that may arise at the Conference in London. They are pledged to do nothing except as they are instructed by this House, and therefore I take it that they will be ata disadvantage in that respect. Either they will have to break away from the resolution of the Brisbane Conference, or they will be precluded from doing what every other delegate at the Conference will be permitted to do.
– I am not prepared to say to what extent that resolution will go, but if there is anything the honorable member suggests as a proper subject for discussion at the Conference it can be added to the list.
– My point is that if delegates from any other portion of the Empire suggest something outside the ambit of the propositionssubmitted by the Government this morning, the Australian delegates will not be permitted to deal with them.
– I think the Brisbane resolution goes to the extent of meaning some binding declaration by a delegate. I feel sure that it does not forbid a delegate to discuss a subject.
– The honorable member cannot discuss a subject without dealing with it.
– The phraseology of the resolution may be unfortunate, but I am sure it does not mean what the honorable member says it means.
– It is quite clear that the Inter-State Caucus, in attempting to tie up some other party, has tied up its own party on this occasion. However, my object in rising was mainly to call attention to the way in which the expenditure of the Commonwealth is leaping up year by year, and to suggest that it is about time we began to husband our resources instead of launching out on new expenditure. We should prepare for the lean years that will inevitably follow, when our revenues will not be so overflowing or, abundant. I hope that may be some years hence, but I fear it may not be very far off. It is just when things are at the flood-tide of prosperity, as they are now, that we need to remember that there have been lean years before in Australia, and that there may be lean years again. In the meantime we are taxing, and the States are taxing: In every State additional taxation is piling up, and today the total revenues of Australia are about £45,000,000 per annum, although included in that sum are the receipts from services which, of course, are not revenue in the sense of taxation. Things are inflated in every way, and there seems to be every prospect of their being inflated still further. We shall see as we proceed what the Socialism of the Labour Governments is going to cost this country. At present it is costing them £1 per head more than it cost them nine years ago. I do not wonder at the people outside, with the cost of everything rising every day, feeling the pinch, or their lot becoming harder to bear. It seems to me that there is no way out of it but that they will suffer still further disabilities in that respect, no matter how much the Government may try, by their temporary and trumpery expedients, to get things out of the fix in which they now are.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta has just stated that since the Socialistic Governments came into existence the people have been called upon to pay more taxation than they have done previously. He also said that during the last nine years taxation in Australia had been raised by , £1 per head. Surely the honorable member does not ask the public to believe that the Labour Governments in the Commonwealth and States are responsible for that increase?
– I did not suggest that.
– That is the only inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s remarks. The honorable member and his party have been governing the Commonwealth for most of that period, and if the rate of taxation has increased they should take the responsibility and not endeavour to pass it on to the shoulders of others who are in no way entitled to carry it. The honorable member also seems to be greatly perturbed in regard to the government of the Northern Territory. The House was on the whole fairly unanimous that the Commonwealth should take the Territory over, and it has now been taken over, but the honorable member has become somewhat alarmed because the Government are able to meet the expenditure of £400,000 odd in connexion with the Territory for the half-year without borrowing.. The people of the Commonwealth will be glad to know that we have shouldered this responsibility, and that at present, at all events, we can see our way to finance it. According to the honorable member there could be no cause of complaint if we were going to borrow the money, but to my mind it speaks volumes for the present Government that they are able to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth at this period, and also to find this large amount. Instead of condemning them I think we ought to congratulate them. -I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of External Affairs to an item relating to the gold-fields of the Northern Territory, which, to me, is of more concern than is the question of finance raised by the honorable member. I should like an explanation as to the items of £800 for salaries, and .£8,500 in respect of con.tingences for gold-fields and mining. Does it mean that the South Australian Government has been spending money in prospecting the Territory?
– They have been boring for coal and so forth.
– I am glad to hear that the money is merely for prospecting work; I hope that the Minister will, if he finds it necessary, on the reports submitted to him, increase this amount in order that the Territory may be thoroughly explored. The discovery of minerals in payable quantities would do much to speedily settle the Territory. No one can say what are its mineral possibilities, and I hope that the Minister, if he thinks it necessary, will not hesitate to ask the House for an additional amount so that the country may be carefully prospected. If the prospector goes ahead of the proposed transcontinental railway, and discovers payable fields he will have done something that will help to make the line a payable one.
.- On the notice-paper for to-day I placed some questions regarding the Defence Department, which, in the interests of Australian defence, required an answer in Parliament. Mr. Speaker, however, thought differently, and I have, therefore, to take this opportunity to obtain an answer. The questions related to the new regulations dealing with Government action in the case, of a strike on the part of civilians assisting in military operations. The regulations provide that where a strike occurs the matter shall be immediately referred to the Minister, and no action taken by the military authorities pending his decision. I asked a number of questions, the first of which was -
Will these regulations remain in force in time of war?
I asked further -
What regulation declares their suspension in time of war?
Those two questions Mr. Speaker permitted to appear, but a further question, which was really the crux of the whole matter, Mr. Speaker refused to allow. That question reads -
If any civilian or civilians engaged in time of war on transport or other services strikes for higher pay or better conditions, will not these regulations require the suspension of operations on the part of Australia pending the reference of the matter to the Minister?
The question is of supreme importance. If the Ministry have a constitutional right to override these regulations without consulting Parliament in time of war, well and good ; but if not, these regulations which, really, have been drafted for peace purposes, will, in time of war, perhaps, act as a very serious bar to the efficient operations of the Defence Forces.
– Everything goes -in time of war.
– I know that this Parliament, if called together, would immediately abolish these things in time of war, but I think I was entitled to ask the third question. I feel that I have been denied a privilege attaching to my position.
– I suggest that the honorable member make a statement when Mr. Speaker is in the chair.
– I shall do that, at your suggestion, sir, and next session I propose to test this matter. The present occupant of the chair is the first Speaker in the history of this Parliament who has taken such an action in regard to members’ questions. In previous Parliaments, if Mr. Speaker thought that a question was not a right one to ask, he referred it to the member concerned, saying : “ This question I do not think is in accordance with the Standing Orders. Can you amend it?” That was the right course to adopt, but, under the existing regime, the wording of a question is altered without consulting the member who has given notice of it, and he is advertised to the country as asking a question which has really been altered without his consent.
– It is time the honorable member recognised the new regime.
– I am willing to make all allowances. No power of censorship residing in Mr. Speaker should, however, permit him to put into the mouth of an honorable member words that he does not want to utter. It is no pleasure to me to have to refer to this matter, because I am on friendly terms with Mr. Speaker. It is not a personal view that I take of this action.
– It is not a personal view that is taken on either side.
– Certainly not.
– Then why . speak about “the new regime”?
– Mr. Speaker, so far as I know, has introduced a new system. I use the word regime in its technical sense, andI do not think the action taken is one that the House is prepared to support.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the matter further.
– I shall not do so. I have brought the matter to the attention of the Committee, and I trust that the Minister will see that these regulations are limited in their application entirely to time of peace, so that they will not lead to friction, delay, and stagnation in the Australian Defence Forces when they are called upon to defend this country in the serious eventualities of war.
– I was not aware that the honorable member had asked a question other than those which appeared on the notice-paper this morning, and with which alone the Department was acquainted.
– Hear, hear !
-In the replies to the questions put by the honorable member as they appeared on the notice-paper, I stated that it was not anticipated that the circumstances contemplated by regulations 92a and 198A would exist in time of war.
– The Minister will have to meet the possibility.
– Proposals will be promulgated when necessary. I wish now to refer to the main question of finance touched upon by the honorable member for Parramatta. The Government recognise the expansion of our obligations, and realize that serious consideration will have to be given to them. The late stage of the session at which the Bill providing for the acceptance of the Northern Territory was passed, and the absence of a comprehensive scheme of finance to meet responsibilities cast upon us under the Act by which we take control, brought us face to face with a serious problem. I am now happy to say, however, that if the revenue Estimates of the various Departments, as foreshadowed in the Budget speech, are maintained, and our estimated return of , £1,000,000 from the land tax be fulfilled, the Commonwealth Government hope to be able to discharge their obligations in regard to the Northern Territory, and still get through satisfactorily to the end of the financial year.
– I believe that the overland telegraph line which stretches across the Northern Territory has been taken over by the Federal Parliament, and is being paid for. In other words, we are taking over the whole cost of construction.
– It was taken over some time ago in connexion with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– We have taken it over, and are liquidating South Australia’s debt in connexion with it.
– Just as we have taken over certain works in other States.
– No ; the position is entirely different. We have taken over properties from the other States, and have not paid for them, or attempted to liquidate the responsibilities in connexion Svith them. We have taken over this line, and are paying South Australia for it, although, as a matter of fact, we have taken over all the telegraph lines of the other States and have not paid a penny for them. During the last ten years we have taken over works representing a capital expenditure of about £6,500,000, and interest amounting, roughly, to about £1, 400,000. That has accumulated since the establishment of Federation, and the Government of New South Wales are now claiming, with perfect fairness, I think, that we shall pay interest on the cost of the works that we have taken over until a settlement shall have been effected. We have allowed the States to go on paying interest on debts which really belong to us.
– We have returned to the States , £6,000,000 to which they are not entitled.
– That has nothing to do with the question. We are now proposing to take over, in the overland telegraph line, the most costly work in the Northern Territory.
– And the most profitable telegraph in Australia.
– That is not the point ; we take over the whole of the lines, profitable or unprofitable. We propose to take over this line and pay for it, while for ten years we have allowed the interest to accumulate on similar works in the other States.
– We are not paying for the overland telegraph under this Bill.
– We are paying for it under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act. The Constitution distinctly states that all transferred property shall be paid for; and I believe that the Government of New South Wales are threatening to enter an action for payment. Ever since I entered Parliament I have been entreating the various Governments to settle the question of transferred properties, which ought to have been paid for while we had the large amounts of surplus revenue which we have been returning to the States. The arrangement has been most unbusiness-like from the start. We have given the States millions of surplus, and arranged to pay them 25s. a head for ten years, and we have taken over properties valued at £6,500,000, which will now have to be paid for out of our present revenue. The Commonwealth will not have a leg to stand on in the event of any action by the New South Wales or other State Government demanding payment for those properties. I emphatically protest against the manner in which the Budget and the Estimates have been dealt with. The estimated expenditure is 40 per cent. or 50 per cent. more than that of any other Budget amounting to nearly £17,000,000; and yet we have disposed of it in a practically continuous sitting of forty-eight hours, and expect the Senate, which is a Chamber of review, to deal with it in an hour and a-half . That is neither more nor less than a prostitution of public business ; and I hope that, in the future, the Budget and Estimates will be dealt with reasonably early in the session. The position in this House is a burlesque on finance, and in another place it is a still greater burlesque.
.- The honorable member for Franklin, apparently, contemplates a dual payment for the overland telegraph line. He thinks that, under the Constitution, we shall have to pay for it as a transferred property, and also pay for it under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act.
– The trouble is that, under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, we have to pay for the telegraph line now, whereas the other transferred properties may be paid for hereafter.
– South Australia is in a precisely similar position to that of all the other States in regard to the transferred properties, the Northern Territory being an exception which is dealt with in a particular measure. The honorable member would scarcely suggest that the payment for the telegraph line should be deferred until the other transferred properties are paid for?
– We should have paid for the other transferred properties years ago.
– Quite so; and, presumably, successive Parliaments, or the State authorities, have been at fault. I know that in South Australia, when the Jenkins Ministry was in office, difficulties were thrown in the way of the Federal authorities in such a manner as to call forth objection from many State members, and to prejudicially affect Commonwealthinterests; and it is possible that other State authorities may have acted similarly. I doubt whether the present Government would seriously entertain any proposal to defer the payment for the overland teelgraph line. I offer my congratulations to the Government on the fact that they are able to finance the Northern Territory with the estimated revenue. Every member, whether in favour of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act or not, knows that the indebtedness of £3,000,000 will have to beredeemed in the ordinary way, and not out of revenue. Something like £300,000 worth of Treasury-bills fall due within the next six months, and another large amount in the course of next year; and, I suppose, it is inevitable that the Government will have to obtain, at any rate, temporary accommodation. The statement made to-day in this connexion is very pleasing news-; and it seems to me that the Government in each successive year ought to be able to meet the redemption of the bills either by a liberal advance or permission to secure temporary accommodation.
.- I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to a paragraph in a circular which has been sent by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company to members of this House. The paragraph is as follows : -
Some nineteen letters patent have been granted to the Marconi Company by the Government of Australia, covering the whole history of the invention of practical wireless. No system of wireless telegraphy operated by any foreign company can therefore be installed in Australia without infringement of the above Marconi patents, and we shall look to the Federal Government for the payment of our royalties on this account, even though cheaper foreign-made apparatus is put in to establish the Australian wireless service. We have every confidence, however, that right will be done us in this respect by the Federal Government when the time comes to settle the royalty question, as we have yet to learn of the British community or Government that would seize an invention that has proved itself of such world-wide public and national utility, as the Marconi system, without regard for the rights of the inventors and for the upholding of its own patent laws, even though the foreign-made apparatus is offered at a very low price, and which has the questionable advantage of being similar in design to that used by foreign Governments and Navies.
The Wireless Telegraph Act of 1905 contains the following section -
The Postmaster-General shall have the exclusive privilege of establishing, erecting, maintaining, and using stations and appliances for the purpose of -
transmitting messages by wireless telegraphy within Australia, and receiving messages so transmitted; and
transmitting messages by wireless tele graphy from Australia to any place or ship outside Australia; and
receiving in Australia messages transmitted by wireless telegraphy from any place or ship outside Australia.
I should like to know whether, in view of that section, the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company have any patent rights in Australia, or whether this is not an attempt on the part of the company to influence this Parliament to adopt their system? I shall not enter into the merits of the Marconi system, as compared with the Telefunken system. The latter, however, it seems to me, is a good system; and, perhaps, it would not be a bad thing if we could help to break down the practical monopoly now possessed by the Marconi Company. Has the Postmaster-General made any inquiry as to whether the patent rights claimed by the Marconi Company have any justification in law ? If not, will the honorable gentleman do so, with a view to saving trouble and expense, especially in view of the fact that we desire to multiply wireless stations on a coast which, in many places, is of a dangerous character.
.- I do not think that the Commonwealth Government, any more than a private individual, would attempt to use a patented invention of which it had not secured the proprietary rights, but it has a monopoly of the right to transmit wireless telegraph messages through the ether of space. When the contract for the erection of wireless telegraph stations was framed, it was provided that the successful tenderer might use any mechanical or scientific means for transmitting and receiving messages, subject to the guarantee that he possessed the patent rights of it, and placed them at the disposal of the Commonwealth. I believe that a bond of £4,000 is demanded to guarantee the Commonwealth against the invasion of proprietary rights. Another stipulation was - it was inserted at the suggestion of the Admiralty - that preference should be given to a system whose instruments would produce what was described as a musical note, and that, too, was complied with. We are not called on to decide what may be the proprietary rights of the Marconi or any other company, but we have stipulated that we shall be given the proprietary fights of any system installed-.
– There seems to be no evidence that the Marconi system is superior to the Telefunken system.
– The departmental officers reported that the Telefunken system was equal to, if not better than, the Marconi system. . As Minister, I was obliged to accept the advice of experts in whom I had absolute and implicit confidence.
– Is £4,000 likely to cover the damages which would be claimed for an infringement of patent rights?
-The officers of the Department evidently considered the amount adequate. I understand that the delay in carrying out the contract is due to an alteration of site. My acceptance of the tender was made only a few days prior to my retirement from office. It was then intended that the station should be established at South Head, and, of course, the tenderers could not be compelled to erect their installation at any other site than that upon which they had agreed with us to erect it. The South Head site, however, was thought to be too exposed to attack, and another site at Pennant Hills, a little distance inland, was chosen by the Department.
– Could not new tenders be invited ?
– It is questionable whether the indorsement of the word “ accepted,” made on one of the tenders by the Minister, does not constitute a contract, though that is a matter for the Attorney-
General. In the case of some tenders, a formal acceptance must be made. So far as the infringement of patent rights is concerned, I think that the Department is properly safeguarded.
– I shall put the representations of the honorable member for Wimmera before my colleagues, and he may rest assured that we shall see that things are done properly.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 16 (Miscellaneous), £6,000, agreed to. .
Department of Home Affairs
Division 29 (Miscellaneous), £40,000, agreed to.
Division 58(Universal training), £3,200, agreed to.
Additions, New Works and Buildings
Divisions 1 and 4 (Department of Home Affairs), £55,375;and division 11 (Department of Defence), , £5,800, agreed to.
Resolutions reported and adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
.- I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether he will bear in mind the case of John Orme, a native of Victoria, who has complained of unfair treatment received in South Africa. The matter has been represented to the Prime Minister by me and by other honorable members, and by the Premier of Victoria. We desire that the man’s grievances may be represented to the Home authorities.
.-I shall put the matter before the Minister of Defence. I understand that an investigation into the case has been made, but I am not sure that a decision has been arrived at. However, I shall ascertain the position of affairs, and let the honorable member know.
– I think the Minister will find that the assurance has been given that the case will be represented to the War Office bv the Minister.
– The Premier of Victoria wrote me a note, and honorable members waited on me in a deputation. I have already stated that when opportunity offered inquiry would be made, and that I should be very glad to make joint representations with the Premier of Victoria to the Home authorities on the subject.
– At the Imperial Conference an opportunity will offer of making personal representations to the Home authorities.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolutions of Supply adopted.
That Mr. Frazer and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Frazer, and passed through all its stages.
Bill presented by Mr. Frazer, and read a first and second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
.- Has any serious delay occurred in the arrival of the machinery for the Lithgow Small Arms Factory from the American contractors ?
– I believe there was a little difficulty at the factory, but I understand that when the Minister visited it recently he was able to get such an understanding that there is every prospect of our proceeding with the manufacture of rifles very early in the new year.
– Is that as early as the Government expected?
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Frazer) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- As the completion and early activity of the Small Arms Factory is of the greatest importance; I hope the Minister will see that the contract is fulfilled in every respect, and that the contractors are not permitted to cause any delay whatever. It is a matter of the utmost urgency to Australia to have the factory equipped and working as early as possible.
– I assure the honorable member for Ballarat that the Minister, who went to Lithgow to ascertain on the spot how matters were progressing, is interesting himself in the work as much as a man can possibly do, and is very desirous of giving effect to what is the wish of all honorable members, and I believe, of the whole of the people of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Postal Rates Bill.
Seat of Government (Administration) Bill.
Post and Telegraph Bill.
Northern Territory (Administration) Bill.
Australian Industries Preservation Bill.
Naval Defence Bill.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Acting
Prime Minister and Attorney-General) [3.27]. - Before we deal with private members’ business, I desire to suggest a temporary suspension of the sitting in order that we may more exactly discover the state of business. With that end in view, I ask honorable members to come outside - an invitation which during my long parliamentary experience I have never before seriously tendered.
Sitting suspended from 3.28 to 4.35 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That the remaining Orders of the Day, Government business, be postponed until the next day of sitting.
– By leave, I desire to make a statement with regard to general business, standing in the name of private members.
– In regard to the notices of motion standing in the names of private members, it must be obvious that, unless some arrangement be made between those responsible for them, those whose notices of motion stand first on the list will have the preference, and that those coming later will suffer. I make no proposition myself. Honorable members must make whatever arrangements they please.
– Could we not vote without debate on the several matters?
– It is for honorable members themselves to decide. I understand that Government business may reach us very shortly from another place, and that honorable members desire to get away at the earliest possible moment. I would suggest - but the matter must rest entirely with the honorable members concernedthat those having notices of motion on the business-paper should be content to make a short statement in submitting them, and that, without debate, a vote should be taken in each case.In that way, all the notices of motion would be disposed of.
.- May I be permitted to say that I agree with what the Acting Prime Minister has said, but to point out that his suggestion could hardly be adopted in regard to Order of the Day No. 12 - Banking Companies’ Reserve Liabilities Bill - which has come down from the Senate, and of which I am in charge.
– I suggest that other business be treated in the way I have indicated. We shall offer no opposition.
– I am in the same position as the honorable member for Illawarra.
.- I move -
Whereas the area of Queensland (668,497 square miles) is twenty-five and a half (28½) times the size of Tasmania, a State of the Commonwealth; and more than seven times the size of Victoria, also a State of the Commonwealth ;
And whereas the said area of Queensland comprises a large and varied quantity of good agricultural, pastoral, and mineral lands well distributed throughout the Northern, Central, and Southern divisions;
And whereas the population of the three said divisions of Queensland is estimated to be -
And whereas when Queensland was made a separate colony and granted responsible government on the 10th December,1859; - 50 years agothe population of the whole of Queensland was only 28,000 persons;
And whereas the people of Northern and Central Queensland, numbering nearly 200,000 persons, are as intelligent, well-educated, andlawabiding as their Australian fellow-citizens, in other portions of the Commonwealth -
Be it resolved -
While I have every sympathy with those who desire to return to their homes, I feel that I owe a duty to my constituents, who sent me here with a mandate to ask this House to. grant them a separate Parliament. When the time set apart for the consideration of private members’ business was appropriated by the Government, we were distinctly promised that two days should be given over to its discussion at the end of the session. There is no objection to any honorable member leaving who wishes to return to his home, but I am sure a sufficient number of honorable members are prepared to remain to listen to the arguments in favour of or against the several motions to be submitted, and to keep a House until tomorrow afternoon. The movement in Central and Northern Queensland for local Government, or, as it used to be called, separation, commenced as far back as i860. It has ebbed and flowed just as Federation did; but I do not think that it will be a failure. Local government will have to come in some form or other. It may possibly emerge from Unification, or it may come from the operation of sections of the Constitution that were deliberately inserted <by the framers of that great document. I would propose that we proceed under section 124, which provides -
A new State may be formed by separation of territory from a State, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof, and a new State may be formed by the union of two or more States or parts of States, but only with the consent of the Parliaments of the States affected.
The honorable member for Herbert interjects that we have no power. I would remind him that we could tell the State Parliaments that, as soon as they are willing to give their consent, we are prepared to grant local government and a local Parliament to any portion of this Commonwealth which contains a fair number of people, and which covers, possibly, a considerable area. If the State Parliament refused to give central Queensland and northern Queensland local government, I venture to think that the electors of Australia, who will demand a proper development of this great Commonwealth of ours, would fall into line behind the supporters of the honorable member for Herbert in his claim for Unification. The State Parliaments must choose between Unification or the exercise of the constitutional provisions for the creation of new States. This vast continent, covering an area of 3,000,000 square miles, has, in my opinion, been kept back by the fact that we have only six States, and that the strong influences at ‘work in the capital cities have been of such a character as to prevent the proper development of the country. I would invite honorable members to look at the position of the United States of America. One hundred and twenty-five years ago - about the time when the eastern portion of Australia was annexed by the British - the United States of America had a population of some 3,000,000, and comprised thirteen States. To-day it consists of forty-six States, with a population of between 80,000,000 and 100,000,000. I submit that the only reason for its great progress is that there has always been a willingness to grant local government.
– But not by the division of any of the old States.
– And not by Unification.
– I am not an advocate of Unification. The progress of the United States of America has been brought about, not by Unification, but by the willingness of the Government, whenever a given number of people have demanded local government, to accede to that demand. What other explanation can there be for the fact that, whilst, during a period of 120 years, the population of the United States of America has grown from 3,000,000 to over 80,000,000, this vast continent, after being occupied by the British for a similar period, can show a population of only 4,250,000? Is it not true that the influences at work in the great cities of Australia are so strong that trade and commerce is centred in them, to the starvation and arrested development of the country towns?.
– None of the - original States forming the American Union have been subdivided, though new territories have been added.
– My desire is that the existing States of our Union may be subdivided when the people demand it, just as New South Wales was by the separation of Victoria and Queensland.
– Could not that be provided for by the referendum ?
– It may have to come to that, if the Parliaments of the States refuse to recognise the movement for further local1 government. The honorable member for Herbert has a scheme for cutting up the States into provinces, to be ruled by coun- cils, but I think that -we have no right, as Federal members, to exaggerate our importance at the expense of the State members. My proposal follows the line of least resistance, while that of the honorable member would have every State member against it, and rightly so. . Has this Parliament proved itself capable of satisfactorily governing our great Commonwealth?
Let me refer to some of the disabilities under which the central division of Queensland labours. Recently the member representing Rockhampton had to go to Brisbane to urge the Railway Commissioners to make an alteration in the railway yards, the merchants of Rockhampton being under considerable disabilities because of the inadequate accommodation there. Then the people of Rockhampton cannot get decent train accommodation for the journey from Brisbane to Rockhampton. Before the tramway systems of North and South Rockhampton can be connected, the authorities at Brisbane must be appealed to. For years the central district has been waiting for a line to Alton Downs. As an instance of the impossibility of satisfactorily governing this great territory from Melbourne, let me read the following letter which I recently received from the Acting Secretary to the Postmaster-General -
With reference to the letter recently presented by you from the Town Clerk, Gladstone, Queensland, respecting the desire that permission be granted for the erection of a town fire bell on the piece of land between the Post Office, Gladstone, and the Queensland National Bank, I have to inform you that the Postmaster-General has already looked into this matter, and regrets that he is unable to vary the previous decision in connexion therewith, viz., that it is not advisable to grant the permission asked for in this case.
Imagine the absurdity of dealing with such a trivial matter in Melbourne, and at such a distance from Gladstone.
– Yet the honorable member is prepared to control all our industrial affairs from the Seat of Government.
– We are not trying to take over the whole control of industrial affairs. What we desire is the creation of a Court to which the workers and wage-earners of the Commonwealth may appeal, if they cannot obtain redress of their grievances from local tribunals. The Queensland Minister of Agriculture, although he has been in office for two years, has not yet been able to visit Rockhampton, because of his multifarious duties in connexion with the administration of the affairs of southern
Queensland. Recently the Premier of Queensland refused to advance money foi the erection of sugar mills in the Rockhampton and Central districts, which the people of those districts would readily do if they had local government. The holding of wool sales in Rockhampton is desired, but although the best wool in the world is grown in the country west of the city, and the total exports in 1909 were valued at ,£3,117,058, it has all to be taken to Brisbane to be sold. To emphasize what I have said about the impossibility of satisfactorily governing a territory from a centre situated at a great distance from it, let me read the following evidence given in 1895 before the Royal Commission of inquiry into the affairs of the Northern Territory.’ The Honorable John L. Parsons is reported to have attributed the non-success of the Northern Territory Administration to -
The impossibility of the Government and Parliament of a small Colony necessarily preoccupied with the affairs of the Colony, and for the most part unacquainted with the conditions and requirements of a tropical region, to successfully legislate for and administer a tropical’ Colony 2,000 miles distant.
The Honorable J. C. F.. Johnson, M.P., Minister of Education and Minister for the Northern Territory, gave the following evidence -
You spoke just now of mismanagement, which from first to last you say has characterized the affairs of the Territory. How would you describe that mismanagement? To carelessness? - I have already said that distance from the Seat of Government was the chief cause ; that is, distance and ignorance of its requirements.
Mr. George Bright, of the Herbert River, gave the following reason for non-success -
One drawback has been, and a very serious one all along - the distance between the Seat of Government and the base of operations.
While some honorable members are desirous of increasing the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, we have not yet exercised what powers we have in respect of company law, there being six different Company Acts in Australia, as well as six sets of divorce laws. We have done nothing for the consolidation of the public debt, for the establishment of a national bank, for the setting up of an Inter- State Commission, or for reforming our system of weights and measures. The exercise of the powers which we already have will provide us with work for twenty-five years to come ; and after that, we shall have a good deal , to do in passing amending legislation. Almost every year amending Bills are brought forward. If the Commonwealth Parliament acquired sole control of legislative power, there would at once be an agitation for devolution such as is now taking place in the United Kingdom.
– What about South Africa ?
– To my mind, South Africa is lost to Democracy for many years to come. Under its new Constitution, the Senate contains eight nominees of the GovernorGeneral, who hold office for ten years, and the Legislatures of Cape Colony, Transvaal, and Orange River each elect eight senators, holding office for a like period. No dissolution will affect the position of the Government’s nominees; and as a chain must be judged by its weakest link, so the Constitution of South Africa must be judged by its conservative part, which is the constitution of the Senate. What chance will the Democracy have of getting reforms passed through that body? The senators of the United States are elected by the State Legislatures; but there is now a movement for their direct election by the people. The House of Commons, with its 650 members or more, finds it impossible to deal with all the business coming before it; and there is an agitation in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, for the establishment of local Parliaments, which, without doubt, will come about. I do not propose to create for the government of Central Queensland a Parliament of two Houses. We might, in this matter, well follow the example of some of the Canadian Provinces, which have only a Legislative Assembly, and, in place of an expensive Governor and Government House, appoint some intelligent citizen, who has served his country well, to perform the necessary duties of Governor, at a salary of £1,000 or £1,200 a year, as in Canada.
It is impossible to deal with the question properly at this stage of the session; but it is of the highest importance. If Australia is to be developed properly, there will be, before many years have passed, an agitation either for the proposal embodied in this motion, or for the proposal of the honorable member for Herbert. There must be either Unification or the creation of new States, in the terms of the Constitution. The influences of the big capitals are too great, and the only way to get people to settle and develop the country, is to create new centres of activity. Look at the areas of our
States and New Zealand, as given in the following table -
Honorable members who think that they can bring about Unification should go up to the Botanical Gardens, where they will see a tree with a tablet on it to the following effect: - “This is the tree under which the first meeting was held in Victoria to obtain separation.” In’ Queensland, until quite recently, Separation Day was kept as a public holiday, to celebrate the breaking loose of Queensland from the Sydney Government of the time. The disabilities under which the people laboured years ago will not be forgotten.
Mr. E: D. J. Breslin, member of the Legislative Assembly for Port Curtis, writing to me in March last in favour of the separation movement, said -
This is the only course by which we can hope to secure the proper advancement of Central Queensland.
Mr. T. J. Ryan, member of the Legislative Assembly for Barcoo ; Mr. W. F. Hardacre, member of the Legislative Assembly for Leichhardt; and Mr. James Crawford, member of the Legislative Assembly for Fitzroy, favour the movement; and Mr. Kidston, the Premier of Queensland, has also supported it. In the course of an interview with a Brisbane Daily Mail representative, he said that -
It would be much better for Queensland if the country was divided into three States, as it would assist in developmental work considerably. Certainly it might endanger to a certain extent the extreme north becoming a . black labour country; but that had nothing to do with the great question of closer government. It was Federation that had given the separation movements its death-blow. He recognised some disadvantages that would result from the subdivision of the State ; but that would be overbalanced by the tremendous advantages to the new States in the way of increased power, and closer interest in the development of their territory. Those acquainted with local conditions in Central and Northern Queensland well knew that to be a fact. Separation would do no harm to the south. Their trading relations with the north would not- be materially affected, in his opinion. Notwithstanding Federation, Queensland’s destiny should ultimately be three great States, if not four, and in spite of all the difficulties, probably events would shape in that direction. It would not be by any means difficult to re-arrange the political boundaries of all Australia in a way that would give twice the number of States so that general trade and political interests would be more akin than at present.
I could quote opinions from the Rockhampton Daily Record, which has most strongly supported the movement for separation, and from the Daily Mercury, of Mackay, which, in a leading article, under date 4th June, 1 9 10, said -
When the separation question again comes before the people - and it must be revived some time - the promoters should strenuously endeavour to keep it outside the region of party politics. A question of’ such high importance should not be made the sport of parties. . . . The undeveloped condition of Queensland is unquestionably directly due to the size of the territory. Ministers have no time for districts with little political influence. In Queensland the centre of attraction is the South, where a large majority of the people reside. The people have votes, and votes have to be considered. The intentions of Ministers may be and are good enough as a general rule, but the district with ten thousand votes must always command more attention and be helped along more rapidly than a district wilh but one thousand votes. North Queensland would move with giant strides compared with the present rate of progression were the people intrusted with the management of their own affairs, hence the growing demand for separation.
In the official pamphlet which the Queensland Government issue to attract immigrants to Australia, the following passages appear -
Queensland has been most aptly described as possessing the territory of an Empire and the population of a town. It may be asked, why this separate description of Central Queensland? It is a sufficient answer to say that the country is too large, its three great divisions of Southern, Central, and Northern are so different, from a climatic point of view and in their natural features and resources, as to demand separate descriptions in order to know Queensland as a whole.
There is perhaps no part of the world where such practical advantages of climate can be secured as in Central Queensland ; its summer heat is tolerable, and its winter is simply perfect.
In Central Queensland Rockhampton is the chief port, besides which there are Gladstone and St, Lawrence. In addition to these, there are all along the coast good anchorages and shelters for vessels, many of the islands off the mainland affording capital shelter against wind and sea.
I hope, during next session, to have an opportunity to go into this question more fully, and then it will be my duty, as well as my pleasure, to attempt to get the movement carried into fruition. Some people say the question is dead, but that is a common method of attacking a proposition. It was said that Federation was dead, but, if honorable members go back through the records, they will find that a proposal to federate Australia was made fifty years ago. Dr. Lang, in 1852, advocated “ a great Federation of all the Colonies of Australia.” In 1857, Wentworth sought to create” a Federal Assembly, but his draft enabling Bill was unacceptable to the British Government of the day. Federal union was in a fair way towards realization when the advent of the Cowper Administration destroyed all chance of attaining it, owing to the antagonism of Mr. Cowper arid Mr. James Martin. In 1867, a Federal Bill, passed by the New South Wales Parliament, was shelved by the British Government. By means of Intercolonial Conferences during the years 1863 to 1880, some degree of uniformity in legislation and a measure of concerted administration were realized. The Federal movement was revived in 1885, 1891, and 1897, until, finally, the great National Convention, of which this Federation is the outcome, was held. There is no reason why, if sincere and earnest men take up the question of the creation of new States, we should not succeed just as the. Federalists ultimately succeeded. . I earnestly commend the proposition to the House. I ask the House to give the people of Australia the promise that, if they can get from the existing State Parliaments their consent to the creation of new States, the National Parliament will be willing immediately to give them a Constitution.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mathews) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the sale of intoxicating liquors should be prohibited within the precincts of this House.
I recognise that the position in which we find ourselves at present is quite unsuitable for the reasonable discussion of the motion. As I have already spoken on the subject, I do not propose to speak to it again to-day, but shall content myself with formally moving it, believing that, if carried, it would redound to the credit of this Parliament, and be a great step towards securing higher ideals, and a better condition of things, not only in this Parliament, but throughout the civilized world, because of the example that would thus be set.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chanter) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House at its risingadjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
It is expected that, by that time, the legislation which requires the GovernorGeneral’s assent will have been completed ; and, consequently, honorable members need not attend on that day. This is the usual way in which the business of the session is wound up.
.- I move -
A motion somewhat similar has been passed by the Senate and cabled to England. I may explain that that latter part of the motion commencing, “In matters of defence and Imperial concern,” was inserted at the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition. We may think that we in Australia have advanced very quickly in regard to the question of women’s suffrage; but, when I inform honorable members of what has happened in the Grand Duchy of Finland, they will realize that we have lagged behind. In 1897, the first petition in favour of women’s suffrage was presented to the Czar; in 1904, active work was begun; and in 1906, the Act was signed. There were elected eighteen female members in a House of 200 members; and in the present House, there are twenty- six female members. The striking fact, however, is that, when the limited franchise was extended, the number of voters increased from 10,000 to 1,500,000; and, never in the history of the world was there a revolution so great. The Leader of the Opposition promised to second the motion, but he is unavoidably absent; and I must ask some member of the Opposition to support me.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
This Bill is down for its second reading, and I regret that, under the circumstances, I shall have to ask for a postponement until Wednesday next. I should like to know, however, in what position this Bill will be left. According to the Standing Orders, if a Government measure is not dealt with at the close of a session, it may be made an Order of the Day in the succeeding session.
– If it reaches a. certain stage.
– I desire to know, from the Speaker, whether, next session, I shall have to commence de novo, or whether the Bill can be taken up at the stage at which it is now left?
– I understand the Bill will be in the same position as a Government measure, under similar circumstances.
– That is not quite sufficient. I desire to know whether I can name a day next session when we may resume the consideration of the Bill ?
– As with any other Bill, its reinstatement will require a motion.
Debate resumed from 6th October (vide page 4231) on motion by Mr. Fuller -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The words “Joint Stock Banking Company” and “ Company “ in this Act mean any company consisting of seven or more members. . . .
.- I do not know whether honorable members have had an opportunity to examine this Bill, but its title suggests that it is one of great importance, and I think that the honorable member in charge of it might well consent at this stage to progress being reported. Surely he does not wish to push the Bill through in the dying hours of the session. I know that amongst honorable members who are absent there are several who wish to discuss its provisions.
.- I have no desire to take advantage of the condition of the Committee, but I would point out that the Bill has been before the Senate for two years, and that it has been on the business-paper of this House for some weeks. In moving that it be read a second time, I gave a full explanation of its provisions. It is of only a permissive character. Under it shareholders in an institution who desire to set apart portion of their profits to form a fund to meet any possible contingency will be able to do so. If, for instance, they are entitled to a dividend of 10 per cent., then by resolution passed at a general meeting representing not less than three-fourths of the shareholders in the company they may set aside, say, 3 per cent., to provide a fund-
– Is that not possible under the law at present?
– No. This is a permissive, and not a compulsory measure. It merely gives permission to shareholders to do what I have said. We all remember what happened during the great banking crisis, when shareholders were called upon to pay up to meet the liabilities of various banks, and a large number were unable to do so. Under this Bill a fund could be built up, not out of the profits of the depositors or the general public, but out of the profits of the shareholders, to meet any such occurrence as the banking crisis of 1893. I do not wish to press it, but as the Bill is one designed really to safeguard the public, I think that it might well be passed.
– Without expressing any decided opinion upon this measure, I wish to say that Senator Walker, who is responsible for its introduction, is a man who, I am sure, would not ask the House to agree to anything of an improper character. He has always been, as honorable members know, opposed to the party to which we belong, but he is a man whose probity and general character are such as to preclude the possibility that he would endeavour to foist legislation of a questionable character on the House. I have looked through the Bill, and see nothing in it that is objectionable. Its scope is generally limited, and its object is entirely good. I think that the Committee might accept the assurances of the honorable senator who introduced it in another place, and its sponsor in this House, that it is one to which we may agree. I shall certainly vote for it.
– Notwithstanding the assurance given by the Attorney -General and the honorable member forIllawarra, I do not feel disposed to support a measure that I have not been able to scrutinize.
– It has been before the House for weeks.
– When it was before us on a former occasion we engagedin only a preliminary skirmish. Several honorable members who are desirous of discussing this measure left for Sydney this afternoon, believing; in common with others, that most of the business standing in the names of private members would lapse. I listened to speeches made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and several others on the motion for the second reading, in which some serious objections were offered to what we are told is a harmless little Bill. I am sure that the honorable member forIllawarra and Senator Walker have the best of intentions in desiring that this Bill shall become law, but I do not feel inclined to agree to it. In view of the salaries which many banking institutions pay, and the embargoes which they place upon their clerks, who are doing important work, I think that we might well seriously consider the position. Some of our banking companies call upon their employes, 1 am told, to sign an agreement that until they are in receipt of a certain salary they shall not take unto themselves a wife. That is unfair. I know one of the most reputable men in Melbourne at the present time who, as an employe of a bank, had to sign such an agreement. Unknown to the authorities of the bank, however, he broke it, and married. Fortunately for himself he was able to obtain employment of a like character, and is today engaged in one of the large commercial houses of the city. He is now rearing a family, and is one of the best and kindest fathers in the community. Had he remained with that bank he would have been prevented for some time from entering into that state of life on which every man who has reached a marriageable age should embark. I am not going to confer benefits upon any of those institutions that do not confer reasonable benefits upon their employes.
– The honorable member would not confer a benefit on any of them by supporting this Bill.
– That sounds well, but I am sure that in like circumstances the honorable member would take up the stand that I am taking to-day. The fact that this Bill was before the Senate for two years is not to my mind an argument in favour of our passing it at the eleventh hour, practically without discussion. I did not think it likely that this measure would be again discussed this session, and I shall vote against it. It contains only twelve clauses, but they are of abnormal length, and are so worded as to make their meaning very difficult of comprehension to a layman. I am not speaking in my own interests.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– I have really not had time to read the clause, but I see that it provides that a company may consist of seven or more members. An association of seven individuals might more fairly be called a syndicate than a company. I was led to believe that the Bill would confer a benefit on a great number.
– What I said was that it provides a safeguard in times of crisis.
– A company might consist of 700 shareholders, or even more. In any case, the banks are only asking to be allowed to deal in a certain way with money which is their own.
– It frequently happens that a company is formed of a number of shareholders, of whom one, perhaps, holds 10,000, and the others only a share each. Where one shareholder holds a greater number of shares than is possessed by the other shareholders, he can dominate the concern.
– No one shareholder can be frozen out. I had it tried on me, but without success.
– The honorable member possesses considerable experience of financial matters, but he must be aware that one man often holds enough shares to dominate a concern.
– The Bill deals with jointstock companies.
– In some parts of the world they evidently do not care much about the joint-stock system of banking, because they carry on banking under a different system, the co-operative system being in vogue. in many places. Although we have been told that no harm will come to the community by the passing of the measure, I do not feel inclined, after some of the speeches I have heard, to vote for it, and with the object of defeating the clause, I move -
That the words “and ‘Company’” be left, out.
– I object to the attitude of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who says that because certain members have not considered it worth while to remain until the business of the session has been finished, we should not deal with this measure. I stayed here to allow the House to finish its business, and the fact that others have not chosen to do the same does not seem to me a good reason for not doing what we have to do. My appointments in Sydney to-morrow are as important as those of the members who have left, but I put the business of the country before my private affairs. The honorable member’s objection to the Bill seems to spring from an unreasoning prejudice to banking institutions, because their conduct of business does not suit him. I certainly disapprove very strongly of some of the methods of banking institutions; in many cases they do not treat their officials properly, but that is not a reason for voting against a sensible proposal. So long as banking institutions are allowed to exist under the law, they must be treated with respect, and must not be prevented from taking action which will benefit, not only their shareholders, but also those who do business with them. The Bill merely gives them permission to create funds with money taken out of their profits, to enable them to tide over a crisis.
– It merely enables them to protect themselves against the liabilities of their uncalled capital.
– Surely they have a right to provide for meeting those liabilities, if they like to do so by the establishment of a fund with contributions from profits. While the Bill will not cure all the evils which we may find in our present banking system, it will have the effect of improving the stability of the banks, as it will at least make sure of the uncalled capital being available.
. - I hardly think that it would be fair to proceed further with a Bill of this importance at this stage of the session, and therefore I ask the honorable member for Illawarra to agree to the reporting ot progress. I should take a different view of the matter if this were the last session of this Parliament, but the Bill is now in Committee, and can be restored to the noticepaper at the same stage next session. The Bill deals with the question of banking from a new stand-point, and requires careful consideration; and I put it in all fairness to the honorable member, that he should not expect us to pass it into law at this stage of a very heavy session. I sympathize with the honorable member, because the strain of the session’s work has not treated private members fairly. I have always had great respect for private members who go beyond the debating society abstract resolution stage, and show their bona fides by bringing in a Bill. This measure was introduced in another place by one of its ablest members. I do not think there can be any doubt that the honorable senator in question is one of the most prominent men in New South Wales in regard to the question of banking, and I am prepared to say that there is a great deal to be said in favour of his measure. Only one or two honorable members had an opportunity to debate it in this Chamber on the second reading ; and, on all the grounds I have mentioned, I urge the honorable member to consider that he cannot lose anything by agreeing to report progress. I am inclined to think that next session there will be more time for private members’ business. It is unthinkable that the break-neck speed of this session should be adopted as a regular practice in the conduct of the business of the Commonwealth Parliament ; and, in the circumstances, a. delay of six months for the further consideration of an important measure of this kind will do no harm. I believe the more the measure is discussed, the better chance the honorable member will have of getting it through. One of the difficulties this afternoon is that, owing to the time that has elapsed since it was last debated, honorable members have somewhat lost touch with it, and are not in the humour to do justice to it, or to its author, Senator Walker, who undoubedly put a great amount of time and thought into it. The honorable member for Illawarra would not be doing justice to the cause he has at heart by pressing the measure in the present circumstances ; and .1 trust that he will accept my advice.
.- I have no desire to push the measure on at a stage of the session when honorable members feel that they are not able to deal with it properly. I am completely satisfied of the advantage that the measure will be to the institutions with which it deals, not from a shareholder’s point of view, but from the point of view of the depositors and the general public. I arn convinced that when it is considered properly, even by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, its merits will be recognised, and that it will be passed. I do not wish to go at length into the statements of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, because I am sure that, on reflection, he. will be prepared to withdraw about three-fourths of them. The measure will do. so much good that, if it had been introduced by myself, I should be prepared to ask the House to make it, not permissive, but compulsory, so as to make all these banking institutions set apart a portion of their profits in order to create funds to meet demands at times of crisis. I very much appreciate the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie. It is no fault of ours that we are left here, while a number of other honorable members have gone away. I wish the Bill to be dealt with on its merits, and am so satisfied of its fairness, that I am prepared, in the circumstances, to allow it to stand over until next session, so that no honorable member will have the slighest ground for complaint as to the manner in which it has been dealt with.
Debate resumed from 29th September (vide page 3942) on motion by Mr. Higgs -
That a Royal Commission, Parliamentary, or otherwise, be appointed to inquire into the Sugar Industry of Australia, such Commission to consist, if practicable, of at least one representative of each of the following interests : -1, The General Public; 2, the Wageearners; 3, the Growers; 4, the Millers; 5, the Refiners.
Upon which Mr. Greene had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ such Commission to consist, if practicable, of at least one representative of each of the following interests “ be omitted from the motion, and that the words “ and that such inquiry shall cover the interests of “ be inserted in place thereof, and that the words “and to report prior to 1st July,1911,” be added to the motion.
– The Government have given, and are still giving, considerable attention to this subject. At present we are not prepared to agree to the appointment of a Royal Commission, but inquiries are being made, departmentally and Ministerially. If they prove later on, or if the honorable member can make such representations as to show, that a Commission is necessary, we shall be prepared to grant it.
.- I very much regret to hear the AttorneyGeneral’s statement that the Government have decided not to appoint a Commission. The whole sugar industry has been crying out for it. The honorable member for Capricornia put a very good case before the House. I do not agree with all he said when moving the motion; but another reason for an investigation lies in the fact that a good deal of misunderstanding exists with regard to the sugar industry. No other Australian industry is so little understood by members of this Parliament ; and I trust the House will instruct the Government to appoint the Commission now asked for. I have a good deal of matter to lay before the House, but at this stage of this long session, the sooner we go to a vote the better. There has been a good deal of discussion, and there is a great deal of misunderstanding, in regard to the position of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I do not think that any company or person interested in the sugar industry would welcome an inquiry more than that company would do.
– Is it fairto put the question to a vote in a House like this?
– It is hardly fair that we should be forced into that position ; but the motion is so important, and concerns the interests of so many people, that we might even risk being defeated on it this evening. If the Government do appoint a Royal Commission, I hope they will not, on any consideration, act on a suggestion made in the press not many days ago, and make Dr. Maxwell a member. It would be most unsatisfactory to all interested in the sugar industry in Queensland, or any other part of Australia, if Dr. Maxwell were allowed to act as a Commissioner. I shall not discuss the matter, but I trust the vote of the House will indorse the motion of the honorable member for Capricornia.
Motion (by Mr. Carr) proposed -
That the debate be adjourned.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8.25 p.m.
Bill returned from Senate without request.
Bill returned from Senate without request.
Bill returned from Senate without request.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the Bill, as amended by the House of Representatives at its request.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Close of the Session.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
There remains now nothing for the Government to do but to wish honorable members a pleasant interval after a very arduous and lengthy session. It will be unnecessary for honorable members to attend on Wednesday next, as it is proposed to issue a proclamation before then proroguing Parliament. It is a source of great pleasure to the Government that so much work, involving the gravest and most important issues, should have been done without any bitter party strife, or straining of personal relations to a point that would have made matters unpleasant and progress almost impossible. It is a source of very great satisfaction to the Government, and the members of our party, that what has been done has been accomplished without resort to any of those methods that are at the disposal of majorities, and without any feeling. Although, we have heard a great many orations by enthusiastic, and too enthusiastic, gentlemen, the echoes of which are still ringing in our somewhat aching and bemuddled heads - I speak, of course, in an impersonal sense - and although we wished, when they were speaking, that they had been born dumb, or had been sent later on to a dumb asylum, still we wish them, in common with every one else, the best of good fortune. I have now the pleasing duty to declare that the fact that we have done so much business in this way is very largely due to the courtesy of the Leader of the Opposition. Whilst always exercising his right to oppose those measures which have been introduced by this party, and to declare the points of clear difference that exist between us, he has invariably given us - and I speak particularly for myself - the greatest possible assistance, and has enabled us to do what has been done in the pleasantest manner possible. I regret that he is not present that I might thank him personally ; but am sure that he will accept from me, in this way, the heartiest assurance of goodwill and gratitude for what he has done. I wish honorable members a pleasant holiday, and hope that they may return “next session with a fresh stock of health and energy to face the very serious responsibilities that will then await us.
.- In the absence of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the duty devolves upon me, at the wish of honorable members on this side of the House, to express to the Acting Prime Minister our appreciation of what he has said in regard to the way in which the Leader of the Opposition has dealt with the various measures submitted by the Government. The courtesy exhibited by my honorable leader in dealing with Government measures has been most generously recognised by the Acting Prime Minister. Whilst we have had strenuous times, and party feeling occasionally has run high - whilst we do not share the view of honorable members opposite that many of the measures passed this session will have a good effect on the prosperity of Australia - yet we have merely discharged our duty as an Opposition in criticising the Government’s proposals, and it must be a source of satisfaction to us to know that we are able to meet this evening and heartily wish each other Godspeed. I trust that we shall have a pleasant recess, and that when we meet again next session, the good feeling that has characterized our proceedings will continue. On behalf of the Opposition, I cordially reciprocate what has been said by the Acting Prime Minister. However we may differ regarding the legislation which has been passed, we hope for the best results for. the people and for this great Commonwealth, of which we are so proud as an integral part of the British Empire.
– Through an oversight, I omitted to offer my very sincere thanks to the officers of the House for the manner in which they have aided us, under most trying circumstances, to carry on the business of the country. We owe them a great deal, and I shall not say more than is strictly true in declaring that I know of no Legislature which is more efficiently served than is this. I include, of course, the Hansard Staff, whose labours have been most severe, yet whose work has been so satisfactory as to leave no room for criticism, but to give fresh opportunities for admiration and gratitude. We are very sensible of the courteous and efficient discharge of their duties which we owe to the messengers. From top to bottom, in the various departments of service, all have done their work in a manner deserving of the greatest praise. As for yourself, Mr. Speaker, following, as you did, after a short interregnum, a most distinguished man, who rightly obtained a reputation which placed him among the greatest of Australian Speakers, you have had a trying role to fill; but, if you will permit me to say so, you have filled it to perfection. You have exercised your high functions in a manner strictly impartial, have won the respect of the House, and have commanded its attention. The tone that you have established, and the order on which you have insisted, has happily kept debate within the comparatively narrow limits necessary for the proper transaction of business. Those who know how easy it is for bodies such as this to get out of hand appreciate to the full the manner in which you have controlled our deliberations. To the Chairman of Committees, who, under you, presides over the debates in Committee, there falls a task hardly less difficult than yours , but the manner in which he has carried out his duties has been thoroughly satisfactory to honorable members. When I have looked at him during the many hours of the sitting, which began, was it days or years ago, and ended early this morning, I was surprised to see with what dignity he maintained his equanimity in the face of much provocation, and kept rigidly to the task in front of him, notwithstanding almost irresistible invitations to make observationshardly calculated to smooth the asperities of debate. I hope that we may long continue to benefit by his services’. I wish you, Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, honorable members, and the officers, every good fortune.
. -I greatly appreciate the kind remarks of the Acting Prime Minister. It has been, indeed, a strenuous session ; and I am very glad to hear the acknowledgment on all hands that I have performed my duties in a way that has met with approval. I hope that I shall be able to act in the future as I have done in the past. I am deeply in debted to the gentlemen who sit on my right hand and my left for the assistance which they have given to me. They have been, at all times, able and ready to give me that help and instruction which a new occupant of the chair requires. I join with the Acting Prime Minister in expressing the hope that we may all meet again next year, having enjoyed a well-earned recess, and with our strength thoroughly recuperated.
– Before putting the question, I wish to express, on behalf of the officers, fheir sincere thanks for the remarks of the Acting Prime Minister, and the honorable member for Illawarra as representing the Opposition, in appreciation of the manner in which they have carried out their duties. As they come under my immediate supervision, I have had an even better opportunity than those honorable members of proving their worth ; and, knowing exactly what they have to do, I assure the House that, notwithstanding the very trying nature of the session, during which we have sat for a larger number of hours this year than any other Parliament in Australia, I have never heard a word of complaint from any one of them. Those with whom I come into more direct contact, the Clerks at the table, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, and the Librarian, are ready at all times to do their utmost to serve the Parliament in their various capacities, and they are ably and willingly assisted by the staffs which they, control. As for myself, although 1 was new to the Speakership, I was not elected to the position before I had acquired some little knowledge of procedure. I held the post of Chairman of Committees for some four years, and had had a long parliamentary experience before Federation was established. I highly appreciate the remarks of the Acting Prime Minister, and trust that no act of mine in the future will mar the very pleasant feeling to which expression has been given this evening. I hope we shall all return again in the best of health, and with that renewed vigour which will be necessary to cope with what, to judge by what I have heard during the debates of this session, will be another strenuous session. I trust that the Prime Minister, before the House re-assembles, will take into consideration the health of the officers, that the morning sittings will certainly be abolished, and that we shall have reasonable hours of meeting and sitting. I again wish honorable members a pleasant recess.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101125_reps_4_59/>.