4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The House met at 2.30 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General .
The Clerk read the proclamation.
Mr. Speaker took the chair, and lead prayers.
The Usher of the Black Rod,being announced, was admitted, and delivered the message that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber.
Mr. Speaker and honorable members attended accordingly, and having returned: -
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received a return to the writ issued for the electoral division of Werriwa, for the election of a member to serve in the place of David Robert Hall, Esquire, resigned, indorsed with a. certificate of the election of Benjamin Holland Bennett, Esquire
Mr. Bennett made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral division of Werriwa.
– During, the recess, I received through the Governor- General a letter from Lady Northcote, forwarded by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, acknowledging, the resolution of this House condoling with her on the death of Lord Northcote. Her letter is as follows : -
Eastwell Park, Ashford, Kent,
December 4, 191 1.
Dear Mr. Speaker,
May I ask you to convey to the House my heartfelt thanks for the message of condolence which has been transmitted to me on behalf of the’ Members.
I highly value the terms in which the Representatives of the Commonwealth . have kindly placed on record their appreciation of my husband.
To many memories of goodwill shown to Lord Northcote and myself by the people of Australia I shall now add a grateful recollection “of their sympathy with me in my time of sorrow.
I remain, dear Mr. Speaker,
Alice S. Northcote. .
Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to standing order 25, laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Bamford, Mr. Chanter, Mr. Fowler, Mr. W. Elliot Johnson, and Dr. Maloney to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Mr. HIGGS presented a petition from adult white persons residing or having interests in Papua, praying for adult suffrage and trial by jury for all indictable charges, and for an amendment of the constitution of the Legislative Council of Papua.
Petition received and read.
MINISTERS laid on the table the following papers: -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council -
Financial Year 1910-11, dated - 26th April, 1912.
Financial Year 1911-12, dated - 14th February, 20th March, 27th March, 3rd April, 18th April, 26th April, 8th May, 15th May.
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for1911 respecting contract immigrants admitted or refused admission into the Commonwealth, &c.
Census and Statistics Act -
Regulations’ (provisional) -
Labour and Industrial Statistics - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 12.
Return of Trade Union Statistics - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 31.
Returns of retail prices by shopkeepers - Statutory Rules 1912, No, 38.
Bulletins, &c. -
Population and Vital Statistics -
No. 27. Quarter ended 30th June, 191 1.
Shipping and Oversea Migration, 1910.
Trade, Shipping, Migration, and Finance -
No. 56. - August, 1911.
No. 57. - September, 191 1.
No. 58. - October, 1911.
Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue, 1910. Defence - Australian Army Medical Corps - Annual Repott of the Director-General for the year ending 30th June, 1911.
Defence Act - Regulations, Amended, &c. (Provisional) -
Factories - Government - Conduct and Management, &c, under section 63 - Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 87, 90.
Military College - Statutory Rules, 1912, No. 86.
Universal Training - Statutory Rules1911, No. 212 ; 1912, Nos. 7, 10, 16, 20, 42, 47. 72. 88, 89,100.
Military Forces -
Regulations - Statutory Rules,1911, No. 213;1912,Nos.6, 19, 23. 28, 30, 37, 43, 48, 61, 82, 91.
Financial and Allowance Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1911, No. 211;1912, Nos. 8, 9, 11, 14, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24, 25, 29, 36. 39, 40, 41, 44, 49, 50, 58, 59, 73, 74, 77, 81, 98,99, 103, 104.
Naval Defence Act - Naval Forces - Financial and Allowance Regulations, Amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 210; 1912, Nos. 2, 3, 18, 34,83.
Electoral Act -
Reports, with maps, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the States of Victoria and Western Australia into Electoral Divisions.
Electoral Act and Referendum Constitution Alteration Act - .
Regulations (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 68.
Electoral Act and Tasmanian Electoral Act - Regulations (Provisional) relating to joint Electoral Rolls. - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 67.
Immigration Restriction Act -
Return showing, for 191 1 -
Persons refused admission to the Com monwealth.
Persons who passed the dictation test.
Persons admitted without being asked to pass the dictation test.
Departures of coloured persons from the Commonwealth.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under at -
Bittern (Morradoo), Victoria - For Commonwealth purposes.
Bittern (Morradoo, &c.), Victoria - For Commonwealth purposes.
Caulfield, Victoria - For Commonwealth purposes.
Delungra, New South Wales - As a site for a post-office.
Fort Largs, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Guildford, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Haymarket, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes.
Hamilton, Victoria - For defence purposes. Jervis Bay, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes.
Kilkivan, Queensland - For Commonwealth purposes’.
Kyogle, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes.
North Botany, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes.
Penguin, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Pialligo, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes.
Rylstone, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes.
Selwyn, Queensland - For Commonwealth purposes.
Stockton, New South Wales - For defence purposes.
West Terrace, South Australia - For postal purposes.
Yarraville, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Yatala (Hundred of), South Australia -
As a site for a Post Office.
As a site for a Wireless Telegraph Station.
Meteorology Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Meteorological Publications -
Statutory Rules 19 12, No. 13.
Statutory Rules 1912, No.84.
Naturalization Act -
Return of number of persons to whom certificates of naturalization were granted, 1911.
Northern Territory -
Ordinances of1911 -
No. 14 - Lands Acquisition.
No. 15 - Interpretation, No. 2.
No. 16 - Aboriginals.
Ordinances of 1912 -
No. 1 - Native Birds Protection.
No. 2 - District Council Assessment.
No. 3 - Crown Lands.
No. 4 - Supreme Court.
Ordinances of 191 1 -
No. 20 - Liquor.
No. 22 - Supplementary Appropriation, 1910- 11, No. 7.
No. 28 - Plants’ Diseases.
No. 29 - Liquor, No. 2.
No. 30 - Supplementary Appropriation, 1911- 12, No. 1.
Pearl, Pearl-shell, and Beche-de-mer.
Ordinances of 1912 -
Public Service Act -
Appointments, Promotions, &c. -
Department of Prime Minister -
Department of Treasury -
J.B. Cook - Stamp Printer, promotion to 2nd Class.
Regulations Amended -
No. 228 - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 1.
No. 104 - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 32.
Nos. 114-116A - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 33-
No. 48 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 51.
No. 158A - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 52.
No. 163A (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 54.
No. 157’ (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 55.
No. 168 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 56.
Nos. 40, 89, 105-108A - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 57.
Nos. 144-5, 257-61 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 57.
Nos. 60-65 (Provisional)’ - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 62.
No. 57 - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 63.
No. 168 (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 80.
No. 157 - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 101.
Nos. 40, 89, 105-108A, 144-5, . 257-61 -
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 102.
No. 163A - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 106.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act -
Transfer of Moneys (dated 13th March,
Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinance of 1911 -
No. 3- Rates (No. 2).
Ordinance of1912 -
No. 1- Traffic.
No. 2 - Rates.
-laid on the table : - .
Auditor-General’s Report and Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the financial year ended 30th June, 1911.
Ordered to be printed.
Correspondence re date for the Werriwa election.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay upon the table of the House the- correspondence relating to the request made by the Queensland Government to the Government of the Commonwealth for the aid of the military in connexion with the recent strike at Brisbane?
– Certainly. I shall be pleased to place on the table every paper relating to the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister also lay on the table of the House a copy of the telegram sent to Mr. Coyne, M.L.A., Chairman of the Strike Committee, and his reply to that telegram?
– I have already said that I shall be pleased to lay all the papers on the table of the House.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether your attention has been drawn to the fact that bound copies of Hansard have not yet been received by honorable members, and, further, whether you will be good enough to inform the House of the reason for the delay.
– I received my set of volumes last week.
– I understand that a rush of work at the Government Printing Office prevented the distribution of bound copies of Hansard until a day or two ago.
I received my own set of volumes three or four days since, and I understand that the volumes are now being distributed amongst honorable members generally.
Woollen Mills - Liverpool Military Manoeuvre Area - Representative Team of Cadets - Building of Cruiser
– I wish to ask the Honorary Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether the Government have yet determined upon a site for the Commonwealth Woollen Mills?
– No. The English expert, appointed by the Government has visited all the States, and has inspected practically all the sites where it was thought the mills might be erected. He is now preparing a report for submission to the Minister.
– In view of the request made by the municipality of Wollongong and others that Port Kembla, which is looked upon by many as the best site offering should be inspected, will the Honorary Minister promise that the Government expert, before his report is finally drawn up, will visit that site amongst others?
– I shall submit the request to the Minister of Defence. I was under the impression that the expert had visited practically every town in Australia.
– He has not been to Port Kembla..
– The request will be submitted to the Minister of Defence.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether, in view of his statement that the investigations of the expert into sites for the Federal Woollen Factory have been concluded, he will see that the promise made by the Department, in an official letter, that the town of Maryborough, in Victoria, would be inspected/ is kept, before the official decision is made.
– I have no doubt that if an official promise was made to that effect it will be kept. The expert visited a large number of towns throughout the Commonwealth, and if honorable members continue to ask that he shall visit other towns it will be practically impossible for him to complete his report within two or three years. The matter will be submitted to the Minister, and I have no doubt that every official promise will be fully kept.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether a definite decision has yet been arrived at with regard to the Liverpool Military Manoeuvre Area?
– Unfortunately no final decision has yet been arrived at, but the matter will be dealt with finally very shortly.
– I should like to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence why it was that the cadets in the Northern Rivers District of New South Wales were not allowed to compete in connexion with the selection of a representative team sent from Australia.
– I am not aware that the cadets were barred in any way. If the honorable member will kindly give notice of the question I shall obtain the information.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether the statement as reported in this morning’s newspapers is correct, that the Government has definitely agreed with the New South Wales Government respecting the construction of the cruiser, and whether a period of twenty-two months for its completion has been arranged?
– The Minister of Defence informs me that 0 contract has been signed for the construction of the cruiser; but if the honorable gentleman requires particulars, I shall be glad if he will give notice, when the whole of the facts will be made available.
– Will the Prime Minister send a cablegram to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom congratulating him on his effort to do an act of justice to tlie British people by bringing in a Bill to provide for one man one vote?
– I think that Mr. Asquith will feel that the action of the honorable member in asking this question is, in itself, a sufficient compliment to him, and that nothing more is necessary unless it be to send him a copy of the Australian Act.
– I will send him a copy.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to convey to the House and the country that his appreciation of the attitude of the Prime Minister of Great Britain extends also to the failure to grant the suffrage to the women of Great Britain?
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether any contract has yet been entered into for the supply of sleepers for the transcontinental railway ?
– We have let no contracts except for the supply of 10.000 sleepers, required for the sidings.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state whether it is his intention to call for other tenders for the supply of sleepers?
– All the tenders have been received, but we can do nothing until we have arrived at an agreement with the Government of South Australia in regard to the land question.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister what are the real causes of the delay in starting the construction of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, and what steps are likely to be taken to remove the deadlock which appears to have occurred ?
– The South Australian Government have not complied with the terms’ of our own Act, and we cannot proceed until an agreement has been arrived at. I have every hope that an early and amicable settlement of the difficulty will be made.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister if it is not a fact that the Government of South Australia have complied with the Act passed by the Parliament of South Australia in December last, and are not in a position, therefore, to comply with the request of the Federal Government until an amending Bill has been passed ?
– The honorable member is in error if he thinks so. The Federal Government will take a statement from the Government of South Australia that they will concede the same terms as were granted by Western Australia, in accordance with The Act under which we must begin to construct the line. We will accept their promise if they agree to amend their Act.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the section of the Act to which he refers as not having been observed by the State of South Australia is section 3 of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act of last year, which makes the construction of the railway conditional upon the grant of whatever Crown lands are, in the opinion of the Federal
Minister, necessary, and whether the State has ever accepted the condition that the Federal Minister should decide the extentof the lands to be granted.
– The honorable member’s statement as to the section of the Act is correct. The Government of Western Australia cheerfully accepted that condition, and we must interpret the Act as conveying the intention of this Parliament.
– There is no breach ‘of contract.
– There is a want of agreement; but no word of mine will do anything to estrange the good relations which exist between this Government and the Government of South Australia. We hope that the matter will be amicably settled in a few days.
– I wish to put a question concerning the privileges of the members of thf House. I understand that the House will protect its members in the discharge of their duty ; and I wish to know whether you, Mr. Speaker, have observed that the Opposition have held a secret caucus meeting, and have called upon a member of this House to explain his conduct. What has happened to that member I do not know, but he is not present to-day. Will you, sir, make inquiries to ascertain whether anything has happened to him as the result of that secret caucus ?
– It is not in keeping with the- dignity of this Chamber that honorable members should ask questions of a frivolous nature, and I take the honorable member’s question to be of that character.
– Particularly as it is all based on misstatement.
– I was. going to follow up my question by asking a further one, but honorable members opposite are so disorderly that they will not allow me to make a due expression of regret for having offended.
– I wish’ to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether any plans for the Federal Capital site have been finally approved ; and, if so, when he proposes to take practical steps to begin the building of the Capital.
– We have selected three, plans, but we have not finally decided whether the three will be knocked into one, or the one into three.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs consent to lay on the table of the House the papers relating to the appointment of Mr. Ryland as Administrator of Lands in the Northern Territory ?
– I have no objection at all.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs produce his telegraphic correspondence with the Chief Electoral Officer, New South Wales? I understand that the old roll, in addition to the new roll, was used in the Werriwa by-election. The telegram to which I refer was, I think, from Crookwell.
– The old roll was not used.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question bearing upon this very matter. I should like to know when we may expect the rolls scheme to be carried through, and why it is being delayed out of all reason? Rolls elsewhere have bee’n completed, but those in New South Wales seem not to have been begun yet.
– There was delay at first, for some time, when we did not have the use of the police. Lately, the use of the police has been given, and we hope shortly to have the rolls ready.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether any decision has been arrived at by the Government to abolish the payment of rent by postmasters.
– No such decision has been arrived at.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs, in view of a statement which has appeared in the press regarding a measure of discontent expressed by the Government employes ‘in Papua, whether the salaries paid to those employes are under the control of the
Federal Government; and, if so, whether he proposes any large increase, or will exercise some measure of control, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth already contributes largely to the deficit which is annually incurred in the administration of that dependency.
– I should be very glad to answer the honorable member’s question if I understood it; but I do not understand what it means.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
– I have to inform the House that, at the summons of His Excellency the Governor-General. I attended the Senate Chamber, where His Excellency was pleased to deliver his opening speech, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy. I presume it will not be necessary for me to read it (vide page 5).
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That a Committee, consisting of Mr. . Bennett’ and Mr. Parker Moloney, be appointed to pre-‘ pare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech de-‘ livered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to’ both Houses of the Parliament.
That the Committee’ do report this day.
The Committee, having re-entered the chamber, presented the proposed AddressinReply, “which was read by the Clerk, as follows : -
Mayit please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I move -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
In submitting this motion, I desire to say, first of all, that I am deeply sensible of the great honour done me, in asking me to perform the duty on this occasion. I feel the honour all the more, inasmuch as it seconds that bestowed on me by the electors of Australia, who have transferred me from a humble position in life to that of a legislator for the Australian Commonwealth. I feel the honour the more, because of the fact that I represent here a vote totalling eight more than that which was accorded my predecessor at the election in 1910. The honour is appreciated by me the more highly, in view of the fact that at the election of 1910 the Werriwa poll represented 75.06 per cent, of the electorate, thus establishing a record for the whole of New South Wales. Not only did the vote cast for me exceed that given to my predecessor, but at the recent election the votes cast throughout the constituency represented 76 per cent, of those enrolled. I take that, not only as indicative of the great interest taken in the contest, but as giving ground for a fair claim that the vote demonstrates to the country that Werriwa spoke as strongly as it could speak in favour of me as the Labour candidate, and in favour of the policy of the Ministry of the day. As to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General, I take it generally that honorable members on all sides of the House agree that it is one fully worthy of the occasion, meriting the earnest attention” of a deliberative assembly of this character. It is a Speech far-reaching, allembracing, and all -important; and no matter how opinions may differ as to the various proposals to be placed before us, our feelings, I think, will be in unison in the respect to which I have referred, namely, that it is a Speech which may fairly claim the attention of the Australian Legislature. I should like now to touch briefly on the first portion of His Excellency’s remarks. There is no room for difference of opinion regarding his reference to the bountiful rains which have recently fallen throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
– Thanks to the Labour party !
– It is a coincidence that in New South Wales the rain commenced to fall on the very day that the official announcement of the result of :the Werriwa election was made. A fortnight ago we were apprehensive of the future, and desired anxiously the breaking of a drought which threatened to destroy the prosperity that we were enjoying. Much as human minds and human hands may do, they are helpless without the assistance of a greater power. Our laws may help or mar the progress of the country, but they must be ineffective for good without the blessing of seasonable rains. The GovernorGeneral points out that the general pro sperity of Australia is indicated by the great increase in the revenue of the Commonwealth from Customs and Excise, land taxation, and postal and telegraph services. Whatever may be our political opinions, we must be glad of a prosperity that not merely benefits individuals and the Governments of the States, but also affords resources wherewith the great works for which this Parliament must be responsible may be carried out. I am informed that, for the nine months ending 31st March last, the total revenue of the Commonwealth was £14,298,981, as against £12,992,215 for the corresponding period of the last financial year, an increase of £1,306,766. On these figures we may fairly assume that the actual revenue of the current financial year will exceed the estimate given by the Treasurer in making his last Budget speech. I take it that Parliament having determined that there shall be a. Commonwealth bank, all honorable members desire that the institution may be a success, and may realize the ideals and anticipations of those who proposed its establishment. All must be glad that the Government has obtained the services of a gentleman held in the highest esteem by financial authorities. There was comment upon the delay in appointing the Governor of the Bank, but it was far better that there should be delay than that any but the best possible man available should be obtained for such an important position. Honorable members must hail with delight the announcement in the Speech that the Australian Notes Act is working satisfactorily. The value of the notes in circulation at the end of last month was £9,512,151, and there was held in the Treasury sovereigns to the value of £4,305,215. Although the Act requires the Treasurer to keep a gold reserve of only 25 per cent., that reserve is now between 40 and 50 per cent, of the value of the note issue. In some quarters the alarm has been raised that the banks may, by an understanding between themselves, collect as many notes as they can get, and then make a demand simultaneously for their payment.
– They are welcome to send five lorry loads of notes to the Treasury.
– I do not think that the suggestion is seriously considered by honorable members, because the impracticability of it is patent, and our financial institutions are not so insane as to attack the financial stability of the country when by doing so they would shake their own.
For them to take such, action as is spoken of would be like a boomerang shot, hitting the thrower instead of the mark aimed at. I come now to that unique proposal, the provision of maternity grants. In making it, the Ministry set an example to the world, and the principles on which it is based will receive general indorsement, irrespective of political opinion. We know what a boon and blessing the grants will be in that time of stress and trial in which children are born, and the humanitarian spirit which prompted the Government to provide relief when it is most needed must be universally applauded. These grants may be termed grants for the encouragement of immigration, because they encourage the increase of those immigrants who are the best we can have - the babies of the people of the country. The grants will be available to rich and poor alike, without distinction of class or creed. They will thus be in no way charitable doles, but the right of every mother, whatever her social position. The need for some measure of this kind is indicated by the fact that last year Australia lost 9,000 infants under the age of twelve months, many of whom died from preventible causes. If 50 per cent, of the lives that would otherwise be lost can be saved by this humanitarian legislation, it will do well indeed. The proposal is a completing link in a chain of legislation forged by Australia, in regard to which she leads the world, based as it is on the principle that the State’s duty is from the cradle to the grave to look after those citizens who cannot look after themselves. The announcement that the Government intend to resubmit during the present session proposals for the regulation of trusts, combines, and monopolies will naturally excite great controversy. As one fresh from the field of battle, I hail this determination with satisfaction. During my electoral campaign I lost no opportunity to place before the people my views -on the referenda, and assured the electors that I was in accord with the action of the Government in submitting the referenda for their approval.
– And the honorable member was returned !
– Yes. My return is an indication that the electors of Werriwa will support the referenda proposals when they are next asked to vote upon them. When, a year ago, the Werriwa vote was antagonistic to the referenda proposals, it was claimed by our opponents to be an in dication that Werriwa rejected the referenda, and did not wish to be represented by a Labour candidate. Now by their vote the electors have shown that they indorse the policy of the Labour Ministry of the day by sending a representative to support it, and that they are prepared to accept the referenda. What has occurred in the Werriwa electorate will occur throughout Australia. When the referenda vote was taken the public was apathetic, and did not fully realize the importance of the issues placed before it. In view of the small proportion of those voting, and the general apathy of the community at the time, the Government are justified in again submitting the issue, and there is evidence that the people are prepared to reconsider the matter. Recent occurrences show that it is absolutely necessary that the powers of the Parliament shall be widened to effectively deal with monopolies and combines. We are told in the Speech that, although the decisions in the proceedings taken against the shipping and coal combines were in favour of the Government, finality has not been reached, because an appeal to the High Court has been lodged. Under the present law, convictions cannot be secured without endless litigation and enormous expense. The Government are justified, therefore, in asking the country to give Parliament the powers which were asked for some twelve months ago, in order that the processes for dealing with trusts and combines acting in restraint of trade and to the detriment of the public welfare may be simplified. Another question to which I desire to make reference, because it is always an allimportant one, is that of defence. The speeches we have heard of late at all events indicate that there is no difference of opinion on any side of the House as to the policy that is now being pursued by the Ministry of the day. All appear to recognise that, in establishing a system of universal training, and providing for an Australian Navy, we have taken a right course of action. In the working of such an all-embracing law as that relating to defence, weaknesses and omissions that need to be remedied are sure to be discovered, and His Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s Speech indicates that it is the intention of the Ministry to give Parliament an opportunity to consider an amending Bill to remove the defects which the operation of the Defence Act has laid bare. We shall all hail with delight, in connexion with this question of defence, the amicable arrangement that has been made with New South Wales for the surrender of certain territory at Jervis Bay, under conditions which will give the Commonwealth absolute control, and make it the supreme master of the area in question. It is most satisfactory to know that such an agreement’ has been made, and that its conditions absolutely secure the position of the Commonwealth, which, in all such matters, ought to be the dominant power. His Excellency, in the course of his Speech, made reference also to the Northern Territory. I am sure we were all pleased with the statement that the Government have appointed an Administrator, a Judge, and the head of a Government Department for the Northern Territory. We must welcome also the announcement that provision is being made for the reception .of settlers there. We cannot reach that ideal which we hoped to attain when we took over the Territory from South Australia, unless extensive works are carried out to make it a proper habitat for the white races, and it is therefore gratifying to know that, during the recess, the- Government have been carrying out works ‘ that will lead to the proper development of that important part of the territory of the Commonwealth. Honorable members, I am sure, will applaud the stand taken up by the Ministry in determining that there shall be no admission of indented black labour into the Northern Territory. The suggestion has been made in certain quarters that the Government should weaken in its White Australian policy to the extent of admitting indented coloured labour into the Territory ; but that suggestion is not likely to be received with favour by the present Ministry. I am sure that the House generally will, by its indorsement of this action, show that it is determined to maintain, at least so far as the Northern Territory is concerned, the principle of a White Australia: I shall not detain the House any further by dealing with other matters to which reference is made in His Excellency’s Speech, but before resuming my seat I desire to thank honorable members generally for the cordial reception they have given me, and the kindly feeling they have manifested towards me on the occasion of this, my first speech in the House. I recognised that, as a young member, I had to place myself in the hands of Honorable members, and particularly of honorable members of the Opposition, and I desire to thank them most sincerely for having enabled me to make my initial speech in this House under conditions of the most favorable character.
– In rising to second the motion so ably moved by the honorable member for Werriwa, I desire to acknowledge the compliment that the Ministry have extended to me in allotting this duty to me, and I wish also to congratulate the mover of the motion on his splendid victory at the recent by-election. Apart from the satisfactory result of the election itself, the victory secured by the Labour party conveys another lesson which is of special importance at the present juncture. It had been said for the previous twelve months that the rejection of the referenda proposals by a majority of over 4,000 votes in the electorate of Werriwa did not augur very well for the success of the Labour candidate at the next election, but the contest just brought to a successful issue there bears out in every way the opinion that has always been expressed by honorable members on this side of the House, that the result of the referenda vote could not be taken as an index of the opinions of the people of Australia. Coming to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I wish to congratulate the Government on the very suitable appointment they have made to the governorship of the Commonwealth Bank. I think we shall all admit that in Mr. Miller we have, as Governor, the right man in the right place, and I believe I can say also that the appointment is a very fitting conclusion to the series of arrangements in connexion with the establishment of the bank. The establishment of the Commonwealth Bank alone would have justified the existence of the Labour Government. Everywhere I have gone, and I claim to represent one of the most important farming constituencies in Victoria, I have heard the most widespread approval of the action of the Ministry m establishing this bank. I have never yet met a man on the land who was prepared to say that he had anything for which to thank a private banking institution. The experience of most people, and especially those who have settled on the land, is that the private banking institutions generally get hold of their deeds, and treat them verywell in prosperous times, but that when a bad season comes their way, the banks not only drive them into a corner, but bayonet them when they get them there.
– And even then they are not as bad as are some of the private financiers.
– Quite so. In the Commonwealth Bank we shall have an institutionthat will supply a long-felt want in this country. The private banks of Australia hold to-day£55,000,000 of the people’s money in the form of current accounts, on which they pay no interest, but for keeping which accounts they actually make a charge. The banks have been carrying on their business upon credit, or, in other words, upon public confidence ; and, taking all these facts into consideration, we must recognise that it is about time that the people had an opportunity, seeing that they supply, not only the business, but the stockintrade, to establish their own bank, and to do* their own banking business. It is also satisfactory to learn from His- Excellency’s Speech that the Australian Note Issue has been such a pronounced success. I do not think that there are many honorable members, even of the Opposition, who will dispute the fact that the Australian Note Issue Act has been a decided success. It is consoling to find that honorable members opposite now practically agree that the issue is calculated to be a success.
Mr.W. Elliot Johnson. - Who told the honorable member that we are agreed as to that ?
– I have not heard any objections coming lately from the Opposition.
– The note issue is so successful that the Opposition will be claiming credit later on for having introduced it.
– The right . honorable member for Swan did say, towards the close of last session, that the Act was on all-fours with a Bill that he had drafted when in office. The opposition to the note issue now comes principally from meetings organized in the country by members of the so-called People’s party and the Australian Women’s National League. It is quite a common occurrence to hear at such meetings alarming -stories as to what would happen if the banks were to present their notes at the Treasury . and to demand gold for them.
– What would happen ?
– They would get gold for their notes.
– They would. Let us picture the banks clamouring for gold for the notes held by them.
At the present time, there are 40 tons of gold in the Treasury.
– More than that.
– If the banks claimed gold for all their notes, we should have the picture of forty lorries, each capable of carrying a ton, conveying this; gold away from the Treasury; but before they had left the Treasury grounds, the Government could come down on the banks for the amounts standing with them to. the credit of the Commonwealth ; so that the bank officials, in order to meet our demands, would have to head the lorries once more towards the Treasury. I do not think any doubt exists in the mind of any one except certain irresponsible organizers outside as to the safety of the note issue. In His Excellency’s Speech, reference is made to the marked effect which the Land Tax has had in increasing immigration and land settlement, and that statement is borne out by a paragraph in the Land Tax Commissioner’s report, in which he estimates that, since the institution of the Federal Land Tax, £22,000,000 worth of large estates have been made available for settlement purposes.
– At what price?
– The honorable member will find the facts set out in the report. Many men have been desirous, for years past, of going on the land, but have been forced out of the country during the last twenty-five years because of their inability to obtain the land they require. The present position affords a very interesting and favorable contrast to our experience in Australia before the passing, of the Federal Land Tax. I am particularly glad to know that the tax has done such good work in the direction of promoting immigration. The opponents of our party have, at all times, said, that we, as a party, are opposed to immigration. I think I can say, not only for myself, but for every member of the party with whichI have the honour to be- associated, that we believe that in Australia there is room for twenty or thirty millions of people.
– Of the right sort.
– Of the right sort; but that, before we should encourage and attempt to settle these millions here, it is the duty of the State Governments, which have the control of the land, to inaugurate a vigorous land policy, although not on the lines which they are following at the present time, by giving preference to immigrants. Personally I would oppose in every way every attempt to bring immigrants here before land is made available for all our own people who are able and willing to go upon it. If we are going to have charity in regard to the lands of Australia, I contend that charity should begin at home, and that something should be done to settle our own people on. the land before bringing others here, perhaps to walk the streets of our cities and be left to fill the ranks of the unemployed.
– Where is that preferential treatment taking place?
– It exists in this State. Until every mother’s son in this country who is able and willing to go upon the land has his wants supplied, I believe it would be a right attitude for a Federal Government to take up to discourage others from coming here. I think much more effective work will be done, and a much better regulation will come into vogue, than that adopted by the State Governments, after the institution of the new scheme mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, to provide a maternity allowance for the mothers of children born in the Commonwealth. In this regard it is only necessary to call attention to the alarming statement that 9,000 of the children of the Commonwealth die every year under the age of twelve months to prove conclusively that the first year is a very critical time in a child’s life. Statements that have been published in the press lately do not reflect a great deal of credit on those who have made them. They refer to the proposed action of the Government as a low-down, contemptible scheme. In this they show a callous indifference to the checking of the nation’s growth, evidenced by the fact that 9,000 children die each year in the Commonwealth under the age of twelve months.
– Will the proposed grant stop that mortality?
– At that critical time in a child’s life, it is going, at all events, to do something tangible in the way of saving many of those infants of which the Commonwealth is now yearly robbed. It was to be expected that reference would be made to the re-submission of the referenda proposals. Looking back over the work of the last two sessions, and looking to the work as outlined in the Governor- General’s Speech, it is abundantly clear that unless fresh powers are given to the National Parliament there will be very little left for it to do. In travelling over my electorate and other electorates, I find a general regret expressed by people that they did not have more time to consider on their merits the proposals that were submitted to them twelve months ago. The AttorneyGeneral told the House on one occasion that he had proof that £100,000 was paid by the monopolies of Australia in order to defeat the referenda, and it was said in the press an’d elsewhere that there were no monopolies in Australia. Our opponents asserted that, as there were no monopolies in Australia, the powers asked for should not be given to the. Commonwealth Parliament.
– Who. made that statement?
– It was used in the press and on the platform. The honorable member must have seen it published in the newspapers ; but I should like to ask how many of the people of Australia could safely be told to-morrow that there are no monopolies in this country. One monopoly in particular showed their appreciation of the rejection of the referenda and their thanks to the people for having saved them on that occasion by putting up the price of sugar by £3 .12s. 6d. a ton. In a very little while they got back in that way the amount that they put into the fund to defeat the referenda. We have instances every day, and I am sure that honorable members opposite have instances in their own electorates, of the effect of monopolies. In the fruit season, I find that the pigs are allowed into the orchards to eat the apples and other fruit. When I ask the fruit-growers why they do not send their fruit to the cities, where it should bring enormous prices, they tell me that if they do so they do not get enough to pay them for the boxes and the freight. A statement was published in the metropolitan press a little while ago to the effect that, in Melbourne, there is a selfish combine of middlemen standing between the fruit-grower and the consumer, and making, in the fruit season, profits as high as 450 per cent. In regard to the Shipping Combine, a few weeks ago a responsible Minister in the State Parliament, whose candour we must admire, told the producers in the country that the space on the boats had been taken for the last twelve months, and would, for the next two years, be farmed out to the producers who wish to send their products abroad. That statement should have considerable weight with the producers when the referendum proposals are again submitted to them. It has been the practice of honorable members opposite, when they have introduced a proposal and have found it unpopular, to shelve or pigeon-hole it j but I am pleased to belong to a party who, believing that these proposals are the right ones, will have the courage to attach their names to them in twelve months’ time, and be prepared to sink or swim with them in the interests of the National well-being. I also congratulate the Ministry on their proposals for the development of the Northern Territory. That is a question about which honorable members on the opposite side of the House have been talking, to my knowledge, for ten or twelve years, and it is pleasing to know that, although nothing was done all that time by them, something has been done now by the present Government, who have been in power for only a brief two years, towards settling that great country. The Northern Territory is the back door of Australia, and, while it was left open, as it was in the past, it was a menace to the effective defence of these shores. I should like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Government, and particularly the Minister of Defence, on the success of his schemes to provide an effective system of defence. I think it will be admitted by both sides of the House, and I believe it is freely admitted by men of every frame of political thought, that the defence scheme of the Government meets the requirements of this country in every way.
– The scheme of this Government !
– Yes. I notice that honorable members opposite generally like to share the credit of anything that has been attended with success. I should like to contrast the bold and effective policy undertaken by this Government to provide a suitable defence for Australia with the policy of the ex-Minister of Defence, who, according to a published report, stated in the Sydney Town Hall that he pinned his faith to an increase in the naval subsidy. It is satisfactory to note that the reorganization of our land forces, under our system of compulsory military training, appears to have the entire approval of the great majority of the people of Australia. I find wherever I go that at least 95 per cent, of the people approve of the compulsory military training, which to-day is doing so much to discipline the young fel- lows of the country, keeping them off the streets, providing and insuring for them a better manhood than otherwise would be the case.
– A system initiated by the present Opposition.
– I told the House what the scheme of the present Opposition was, and quoted the words of the ex-Minister of Defence to prove what I said. I think the best tribute that could be paid to the defence scheme of the present Government came from the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was reported in the press a few days ago as expressing the. hope that the other Dominions beyond the seas would follow the lead of Australia. 1 would particularly tell the Minister of Home Affairs that I hope he will keep down the expenditure on the Federal Capital during the next twelve months to about the same amount as during the past two years, if he cannot make it less. I continually hear it said at their meetings, by organizers for the other side, that the Government are lavishing millions on the bush Capital, as they call it.
– Should not the Government be honest enough to keep a compact?
– While we are abused by honorable members opposite for not spending more on the Federal Capital, we are blamed by their supporters outside for spending too much on it. Nightly, their organizers are telling the people in my electorate that the Government are lavishing millions upon it. In order to answer that assertion, I intend to quote figures to show the amount expended on the Capital site during the past two years. In the first year, ^4,292 was spent, and in the two years there has been spent altogether ^60,236. Seeing that the sum of ^60,236 is all that has been expended, I do not think it is fair for opponents outside, in order to make political capital, to accuse the Government of spending millions.
– The expenditure is shamefully small.
– The honorable member for Lang says that the expenditure is “ shamefully small “ ; and in that remark we have an index of what would have been spent if the late Government had remained in power.
– I should have been willing to spend ^3,000,020.
– All I can say is that, as in the past, so in the future, my vote would not go towards the expenditure of another farthing on the Federal Capital ; but the expenditure there has been is about the smallest that could have been made on a proposal to which we were committed by honorable members opposite. I notice that there is no reference in the Governor- General’s Speech to the Tariff, and I do not know that it is customary to make any mention of that subject in a speech of the kind. I hope, however, that, at a very early stage of the session, something will be done to give the industries of Australia more effective Protection than they have enjoyed during the past two years. Of course, I know that the Tariff is a non-party question, and I shall be prepared, with the assistance of honorable members on both sides, to fight to the very last ditch, in order to make our present Tariff more effective in the interests of the industries of this country.
– Has the honorable member thrown new Protection overboard?
– I am one of those who have always said that we cannot have the new Protection without the old, and that position I still maintain. We are told by organizations outside, in which honorable members opposite are interested, that the present Government must be got rid of; but it would be very interesting to have a comparison of the work and the policy of the Government during the last two sessions with the policy of honorable members opposite - that policy which a few nights ago was referred to by the honorable member for Flinders in words tothis effect-
All the bones had been carefully removed, and nothing left but a kind of gelatinous compound, political food for infants and invalids, warranted not to cause the slightest inconvenience to the weakest digestion. . . . Unless they arrived at some clear and definite programme, he did not know whether it would not be just as well for Australia if the Labour party were to be victorious at the next elections.
– Is there no more? Read on.
– If the honorable member pleases. The honorable member for Flinders went on to say -
Unless they could arrive at something the people could grasp and understand as a definite, clear, and progressive policy, and not a vague tissue of generalities, it might in the long run be best for Australia if the Labour party had another three years’ tenure of office.
I should like to compare the work of the last two sessions and the work outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech, with the predictions made by honorable members opposite and their friends two years ago, before the present Government came into power. In my electorate the people were told - and this is typical of what was told the people all over Australia - that if a Labour Government came into power the farmers would, amongst other things, find their lands nationalized, export duties placed on wheat and other primary products ; and, last, but not least, as insisted upon at ladies’ afternoon tea meetings, that the marriage tie would be torn asunder. Had any of these predictions been fulfilled, I should not find myself here to-day seconding . the adoption of an Address-in-Reply ; I should be ashamed to associate myself with a party that could be guilty of such legislation. Seeing, however, that none of these forecasts have been realized, we on this side have a right to expect that those who have maligned the Labour party in so shameful a fashion will be prepared to apologize for their slanders. The opponents of the Labour party in my electorate spend threefourths of their time in abusing the present Government. They appear to forget altogether about their own policy, but that is not surprising, seeing that really they have no policy of their own. A typical scarecrow which is held up in farming communities throughout Australia is the threat that, if the present Government is not got rid of, farmers will be called upon to pay 12s. a day– indeed, some predictions go as high as £1 a day - to their farm hands for six and eight hours’ work. When it is pointed out - and this is a fact which cannot be denied - that if wages are raised in the farming or any other industry, it must be as the result of a decision of a Judge sitting as a Court or Board, altogether outside the power of Parliament, our opponents have no answer ; they are left absolutely without any effective ammunition, and their chief bogy vanishes. W.e on this side invite the fullest criticism of our policy; all we ask is’that we may be fought on fair lines and judged on our policy alone, and not on matters over which we have no’ control. During the last two years the present Government have been spending over£150,000 more than the previous Government in providing telephonic, telegraphic, and mail services in the backblocks and country constituencies generally; and in the course of the last three months I have challenged opponents to point to one thing the present Government have done to injure any man on the land or elsewhere. When the policy of the present Government is considered and criticised on fair lines, we must come to the conclusion that their record will stand as a monument to a party which has had the courage to redeem its pledges to the people, and has done well for every man, woman, and child in Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Deakin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) ‘agreed to -
That, until otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at 3 o’clock on each Tuesday afternoon, and at half-past z o’clock on each Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, and at half-past 10 o’clock on each Friday morning.
House adjourned at 4.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 June 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120619_reps_4_64/>.