4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs read the following statement, which appeared in yesterday’s Age.-
Mr. Worrall said that the Federal Parliament was evidently standing behind Mr. . Thomas. Yet if Mr. Gooey divorced his wife, and had children by a white wife, he would be rewarded by a£5 bonus. If Mrs. Gooey’s infant had come into the world with a union label round its neck it might have received preference from Mr. O’Malley.
Has the Minister any reply to make to that statement?
– I have read the paragraph, and I know the Rev. Henry Worrall. I think that he is a man beneath contempt.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs lay on the table of the Library the papers connected with the framing of the recent regulations fixing rates for the sugar industry in Queensland ?
On the 8th inst., the honorable member for Corangamite asked these questions -
The replies to inquiries which were then being made have now been received, and are as follow : -
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs make available to honorable members copies of the official report of the judgment of the High Court regarding the grading of butter, when he receives it?
– I have not yet seen the report, and shall not make a promise regarding it until I have seen it.
– Has the Prime Minister any definite statement tomake regarding the arrangements come to with the Government of New South Wales as to the rent to be paid for Government House, Sydney, and the conditions of tenure?
– I am sorry that I have not; but as soon as I am in a position to make a statement, I shall do so.
– A few days ago, the honorable member for North Sydney asked the following questions : -
An interim reply was given ; but the specific answers are as follow : -
– Can the Minister of’ Home Affairs give the House or myself any information in regard to when the work of constructing the transAustralian railway will be begun at Kalgoorlie?
– Next week, Colonel Miller, the Secretary to the Department, and the Chief Engineer are leaving for Western Australia to make arrangements to start the work at Kalgoorlie.
Savings Bank Regulation
– The Commonwealth Savings Bank has a regulation under which it disclaims responsibilities for forgeries. Will the Prime Minister, in order to protect the Bank’s depositors, take into consideration the desirability of adopting the Collier system, so far as deposit and withdrawal forms are concerned ? For his information, I hand him copies of the forms used under that system.
– I have already stated that the regulation, if found to work harshly, will be altered, but that it is in accordance with the regulations of nearly all the other Government Savings Banks.
Mr.W. ELLIOT JOHNSON. - Following on the question of the honorable member for Corio, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether this regulation is not in direct contravention of the resolution of Parliament to strike out the no-liability clause in the Bill?
– I have answered this question before. I think not.
– I think it is.
– I desire to know from the Prime Minister whether the money that has been deposited in the Savings Bank is available for loans to the outside public?
– I know as much about what is being done with this money as does the honorable member himself. The Governor of the Bank conducts the business of the Bank in his own way until “ pulled up “ by the Auditor-General.
– Did the Governor of the Bank consult the AttorneyGeneral before issuing this regulation? It seems to me important that we should know whether the Crown Law authorities approved of the regulation.
– The regulation was issued in the ordinary way, and the Government are responsible for it.
– That is no answer ; why not give a plain answer to a plain question ?
– In view of the answer just given by the Minister of Home Affairs to the honorable member for Swan, to the effect that Colonel Miller and the Chief Engineer are about to proceed to Western Australia in connexion with the construction of the trans-Australian railway, I should like to know whether Colonel Miller, as Chairman of the Commission appointed by the Minister to inquire into the Federal Capital designs, will deal with this latter matter before he departs, or whether it is to stand over for some time?
– Colonel Miller is leaving for the Federal Territory this week. When he returns, he will proceed to Western Australia, and, later on, will take up his residence altogether in the Federal Territory.
– I respectfully suggest to the Minister that he has not given an answer to my question. I desire to know whether the Commission appointed by himself to deal with the Federal Capital designs is going to deal with them before Colonel Miller leaves for Western Australia, or whether the plans will have to stand over until other matters are dealt with ?
– I have just told the honorable member that the Commission is going to the Federal Territory this week.
– Is it going to deal with the designs?
– When the Commission returns next week, Colonel Miller will go to Western Australia, but, in the meantime, everything is going on at the Federal Capital - nothing has been stopped.
– Once again I suggest that the Minister of Home Affairs has not answered my question, although he has made two attempts to do so.
– If a Minister does not desire to answer a question, I know of no power to compel him to do so.
– As a fact, the Minister of Home Affairs has not attempted to answer, but has gone all around the question. I now ask him whether it is his intention to instruct the Commission, which he has appointed, to deal definitely with the designs for the Federal Capital, and to bring in a report thereon prior to Colonel Miller’s departure for Western Australia?
– I cannot say whether the report will be presented before Colonel Miller goes to Western Australia.
– Is the Commission going to deal with it?
– The Commission is at it to-day ; it has already had a sitting about the plans.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question suggested by a paragraph in yesterday’s Age, reporting a speech by Mr. John Curtain, secretary to the Wood Workers Union. The conclusion of that paragraph is in these words -
If they did loaf it was to their credit, because every man who made a joblast longer helped to reduce the time between that job and the next.
I ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether that is the ethics observed by the unionists who are by preference engaged by the public Departments of the Commonwealth?
– That is not the ethics. The ethics of the Home Affairs Department is that the men must give nine “ bobs’ “ worth of work every day for the nine “ bob “ they get.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs observed in this morning’s newspapers that the former manager of the Singer Sewing Machine Company was in receipt of a salary of£4,000 a year, with £2 a day expenses ; and, if so, what does the Minister think about it?
– A practice has grown up of asking a number of questions based on paragraphs in the newspapers. All parliamentary authorities point out that questions ought not to be asked on mere rumours that appear in the public press. However,. I have followed the practice of the House, and never intervened in the asking of these questions ; but the practice seems likely to grow ; and, sooner or later, will have to be stopped. The question of the honorable member for Capricornia, and the question ofthe honorable member for Echuca emphasize the position to which I am now referring. Neither question has anything to do with the business of the House. I must ask honorable members not to continue to ask such questions.
– I desire to know whether the Minister of External Affairs, who represents the Postmaster-General, will ask that honorable gentleman to delay the issue of the regulation in regard to the postal fees at railway stations until time has been given for further representations to be made on the matter ?
– The honorable member asks me if I am prepared to ask the PostmasterGeneral to delay the issue of this regulation. I am not prepared to do so, because I am in favour of the regulation.
– I desire, in response to a question which was asked some time ago, to lay upon the table of the House a paper giving information regarding appointments to the Naval and Military Forces.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice - 1.Is it not possible to make Karrakatta Rifle
Range absolutely safe by the erection of sv simple stop-butt, as is done at the Port Melbourne Rifle Range, with complete immunity/ from accident?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence,. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Under the Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1890 three months’ notice of intention to resume has to be given where land is required for public purposes. When land is required for other purposes one year’s notice has to be given, unless lessee consents in writing to dispense with such notice. Any improvements made by the lessee on the land resumed during the term of his lease shall be valued, and the lessee shall be compensated in the following manner, viz. : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, 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 -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1, How many claims under the Seamen’s Compensation Act have been brought under the notice of the Minister? 2, How much has been paid in compensation? 3, Will the Minister place on the table of the House an annual report as to the claims and amount paid under the Act?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The expenditure during the past two years (1st July,1910 - 30th June, 1912), on construction and equipment of new vessels for the Royal Australian Navy has been . £1,607,999. (Being paid out of money voted for Fleet Unit - Act No. 18 of 1910 and ordinary appropriations.)
but the requirements of the next three years cannot be definitely laid down at the present moment, and it will be necessary to provide adepreciation fund as suggested by Admiral Henderson.
This is exclusive of cost of manning and upkeep of harbor training establishments and naval bases.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
When acknowledgment cards are returned through the post-office, no claim for transfer or change of enrolment being lodged -
Will the Department takeany and what action under Part VII. of the Electoral Act to have the name removed from the rolls?
At what date?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence - Appointments of Officers to the Permanent Naval and Military Forces for the period of two years ended 30th June, 1912 - Return showing names, positions, and salaries.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Military Forces-
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory -Rules 1912, No. 165.
Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 164.
Lands Acquisition Act - Lund acquired under, at Port Augusta - For Commonwealth purposes.
Public Service Act - Department of Trade and Customs - Promotion of G. E. Hudson as Chief Surveyor, 2nd Class, Central Staff.
Public Service Act - Postmaster-General’s Department, Accounts Branch, New South Wales - Promotions of -
Sugar Industry of Australia - Report by Dr. Maxwell upon the Conditions of (dated 6th January, 1910).
Consideration of Senate’s message resumed from 16th August(vide page 2327).
Clause 8 (Amendment of section 135).
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Omit paragraphs d and e and insert . . .
Senate’s Message. - Amendment made, except as to paragraph d 10.
On which Mr. Roberts had moved -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- I hope that the Honorary Minister will explain to honorable members what will be the effect of the Senate’s amendment if it be amended in the way that he has proposed. I understand that he wishes us to agree to the amendment ofthe other Chamber, and to excise paragraph10. I desire to point out what will be the effect of carrying his proposal. Under section 135 of the Principal Act as it is amended by this Bill, a cadet who fails to render the personal service required of him will be guilty of an offence, and may be fined up to £100. Honorable members will recognise that we have eliminated the minimum penalty of £5. To my mind, it is rather dangerous to strike out the minimum penalty without reducing the maximum, because by so doing very great latitude will be allowed to the Courts.
– The offender may be fined a less sum.
– I quite realize that. But it is always better that we should give directions to the Court rather than that we should have to forward a request to the Attorneys-General of the States asking them to issue instructions to the magistrates as to what shall be the amount of the fine inflicted, or whether a fine shall be imposed or not - a request which was very properly resented by the Attorney-General of South Australia. Then, if a youth does not fulfil the obligations of section 135, or if he fails to attend a compulsory drill, or commits a breach of discipline whilst on parade, he will be liable to a very severe penalty under the Act as.it is proposed to amend it. I wonder what constitutes a breach of discipline? I saw a very excellent review of 5,000 young fellows in Adelaide the other day, and I was exceedingly gratified at the evidence of the discipline to which they had been subjected. They did their work very well; but, with that nimbleness of mind which even politicians display on occasions, they at one stage threw up their hats with joy in saluting. It was like a display of pitch and toss on a very large scale. I understand that that was a breach of discipline.
– Then probably it will be for the future.
– No; it is accepted throughout the British Empire in similar circumstances.
– I am glad to hear it. It is not defined what a breach of discipline is. All I say is that, for the future, we are adding to the list of offences something that may subject a boy to a penalty under section 135, and also to something else. I want to know what that something else is. At present, if the Senate’s amendment of the amendment is not carried, the penalty, if not paid, may be recovered under subsection 10 in any of the State Courts. If the penalty is not paid, and cannot be levied by distress upon the goods, what happens? I throw out the suggestion to the drafting department to consider the matter, because imprisonment does not generally follow unless there is no distress available to recover the penalty. But, as you cannot get distress in the case of a youth, the result would be, in all cases, arrest for non-payment of the penalty. I suppose that is the experience of the Defence Department. At any rate, it seems to be the effect of saying that the method of levying the fine that is imposed in section 135 is to be that prescribed by the State law - that is, the law of the State in which the penalty is imposed - and the rule is, I believe, that where you cannot get it by levying upon the goods you may ask for a period of imprisonment. That period may vary in the different States. In some States, I understand, the periods of incarceration are prescribed in proportion to the amount of the fine. In others a fairly liberal discretion is allowed to the magistrate as to the period for which he will send to gaol a person who has not paid up. There, again, I hope the drafting department know what they are doing, because we may have a diversity of sentence under the diversity of State laws. Although this is one law for the Commonwealth, there may be in one State a bigger penalty of imprisonment than is possible in another, with consequent grudging and dissatisfaction.
– Is that another argument for unification?
– I am afraid the time has not yet come for the proposal which the honorable member foreshadowed last year.
– Then, under this amending Bill, is there power to send a boy to gaol ?
– I think so; but we have changed the name. What do the Govern-‘ ment intend by striking out subsection 10,. which enables the penalty to be recovered as a debt, with consequent imprisonment if the debt is not paid ? It seems to me that what will be done then is to send the lad to a Government institution - a fortress or institution, or gaol, if you like to call it so. He may be sent to a prescribed place for not conforming to the rule as regards drill in the first place. Subsection 4 of section 135 says-
In addition to any penalty imposed … the Court may, if it thinks fit, commit the offender to confinement in the custody of any prescribed authority;
Sub-section 7 refers to the possibility of escape from the prescribed authority, and says that if a boy escapes he may be rearrested and sent back to the “ institution or place.” “ Prescribed authority,” therefore, means a place, and “ prescribed” means, not by regulations under the Act, but by the military authorities, and we cannot check them. It is set forth that “ prescribed “ means “ prescribed by this Act.” It therefore does not mean “ prescribed by regulations under the Act,” and I think the Acts Interpretation Act says that, unless the contrary intention appears, the word “prescribed” may mean by regulation. In saying that, I am speaking from memory. The matter then, if the place- is not fixed by regulation, is left absolutely to the ipse dixit of the military authorities, who have generally a very high idea of their authority in matters of discipline. I speak with the greatest respect of them, but the old tradition of military discipline was that the best way to makea boy’s spirit was to break it. I do not: think that is the modern one.
– That will not carry in Australia.
– I hope it will not, but we want to be cautious.
– It will not do here.
– No. We are trusting here to an appeal to the moral instincts of the youth, and I hope we shall continue to do so. What occurs, then, is that he may be sent to one of these institutions. That may be a gaol. The military authorities may prescribe anything they like. After >being there for sufficient time to make him go through the course of drill which he has neglected - this is not expressly stated in any of the Acts, although it is apparently the intention - he may be re-arrested for non-payment of the penalty. I want to know if that is the Minister’s intention, because it certainly is the effect of the drafting. In other words, he may be sent first, not for non-payment of the penalty, but for not complying with the obligations of section 135 as regards drill, to a prescribed institution. After he comes out - as we are abolishing the possibility of recovering by the ordinary process of arrest for distress, and of sending him to an ordinary gaol - he may, the penalty being still unpaid, be re-arrested and sent back, under this amendment, to a prescribed institution. The next question is, for how long? Subsection 8 says, “ For such time, not exceeding the time for which the Court could, tout for this sub-section, have committed the person to gaol in default of payment of the pecuniary penalty imposed, as the Court thinks fit.” When first arrested for disobedience of the mandate to do drill, he is to be kept for sufficient time to train him ; but, when re-arrested for non-payment of the penalty, the limit of his incarceration is as prescribed by the State law. The Government, therefore, are knocking out the name of “ prison,” but are restoring it under the name of “fortress” or “institution,” and may keep him there as long as the State law allows.
– Where does the word “ fortress “ occur?
– It is not in the Bill, of course.
– You should not put in the Bill words that are not there.
– I said the lad could be sent to an institution or place, which may be a fortress.
– The State Parliament may hang a man, but they do not necessarily do it.
– It is our duty to protect the public against the possibility of domination by any authority.
– It is not your duty to put in the Act words which are not there.
– I am simply putting inferences into the Act. I said that authority “ is defined by sub-section 7 of section 135, as meaning “ institution” or “ place.” That institution may be a fortress.
– And it may be a parlour.
– Am I not entitled to say what it may be ?
– You are putting an unnecessarily harsh interpretation upon it.
– The Minister is becoming more correct in his language, at length. I did not say that it was in the Act. I say that it is a legitimate inference from the Act. I used the word fortress, because, as a matter of fact, in Switzerland, I believe, and in Germany, it is to fortresses that people who commit breaches of military law are usually sent. What I want to know is, what the Minister desires to accomplish by this amendment? Whether it is desirable to have these various periods of imprisonment cumulative upon imprisonment for not fulfilling the requisite drill is questionable. I only want information, and I believe that the inference which I have drawn is, on the whole, correct.
– I do not understand our method of procedure in cases of this kind. If ever there was a Bill which ought to be considered in Committee this is one, and why it should be dealt with in the House I do not know, unless the reason be to save a little time. Eventually I do not think it will. lt is much better to come face to face with difficulties that arise- and settle them, than to consider them at arms’ length as we are compelled to do in a set debate in the House. I regret that I was hot present to take part in the debate on the subject on Friday. The more I look into this matter the more it seems to me that honorable members who imagine that by these means they will escape from severe, penalties to a lighter form of punishment will find that they have merely rushed out of the frying-pan into the fire. Under this Bill there will still be power to immure lads in military places. An interesting inquiry is raised as to what constitutes a gaol. The very essence of a gaol is that it is a place where persons are deprived of liberty. Nowadays, when we apply humanitarian methods to the punishment of criminals, the essential point in connexion with a gaol is that in it a person is deprived of freedom, and from that point of view a boy will be just as much in gaol when placed in a military place of detention as he would be if sent to one of the regular gaols of the country. I admit that the surroundings will be better, and that, perhaps, is a great consideration. But consider what we are doing when we submit these lads to the care of permanent officers of the Military Forces, who will draft stringent regulations providing for the sternest and strictest discipline within the walls of the places where the boys are detained. It occurs to me that with the minimum fine struck out the punishment of the lads will be very much more severe than it was by means of the infliction of a nominal fine by a magistrate. So that honorable members who imagine that they are going to get the boys out of trouble by this amendment are making a woeful mistake. They are doing nothing of the kind. They are simply putting the boys under military regulations. Unless the whole of the penalties are to be revised, it seems to me that it would be very much better to leave them as they are. after taking out the minimum fine. For instance, I would leave a magistrate to fine an offender from as little as is. up to £100.
– What would the honorable member do if a cadet refused to pay the fine?
– I would do what the Bill prescribes, commit the offender to the custody of the military authorities. All that we are taking out of the Bill is the power first of all to inflict the present fine, and next to enforce the fine bv garnishee. It will still be enforceable bv distress. It will still be a debt owing. Is distress to be levied on a boy of fourteen or fifteen years of age? I do not think that the Government would get much by levying distress on lads. At present, the trouble falls on the fathers, and that is the reason for the alteration proposed. The fathers are crying our. But remember that, while you are letting off the boy who can only pay is., and, in all probability, would be fined no more than is. by a magistrate, you are also letting off the boy who could afford to pay £100.
– The offenders must all be treated alike, whatever their rank in society may be.
– That is what the criminal law provides to-day. Equal justice does not necessarily consist in equal treatment.
– If a person steals a loaf of bread, he may get twelve months, while a man who defrauds the Customs of £10,000 may get three months.
– Quite so. Circumstances do enter into the infliction of punishment for offences. A magistrate takes into account the circumstances of an offender. He exercises some discretion, and does not treat all alike. But we are now making it practically certain that all will be treated alike, supposing all to be equally recalcitrant. The boy who is fined £100 under the new proposal may refuse to pay, and can be treated in precisely the same way as the boy whose circumstances would be met by the fine of is. If any one imagines for a moment that any wilt be allowed to escape by the mere elimination of the power to garnishee, they are making a very serious mistake. It practically means that we are giving up the civil power for the purpose of punishment, and resorting to military methods and regulations. Since we have removed civil interference with the boys, and have turned them over to the military authorities, we may depend upon it that those authorities will insist very sternly on the requisite number of drills being performed, and that the boys shall do what the law says that it is their duty to do. I see no escape from real penalties under the new proposal, and I am not sure that the former method of punishment would not, in the long run, have been better for the boys, and better even for their parents than the method which will be left in the terms of the amendment. Every day during which a boy who is at work is detained in barracks will be a loss to his parents. That being so, no one is going to escape by this means.
– How would the honorable member get over the difficulty?
– It seems to me that, having removed the minimum amount fixed in the Bill, and left it to the discretion of the magistrates, who, on hearing all the circumstances of the case, may impose a fine of £100 or 1s., we have gone as far as we can in regard to leniency to the boys.
– That is precisely what will be the result of cutting out this provision.
– That is not so, since there is now no power left to enforce the fines. In the absence of any such power a boy will be committed to a place of military detention, and may be made to do his drill under very stern conditions. Honorable members know now exactly what is likely to take place by adopting the Minister’s proposal, and I should like the honorable gentleman to tell us why the Government in this ca_e are setting aside the advice of their own Minister of Defence? According to the newspapers, when this matter came before the Senate the other day, the Minister of Defence voted against the striking out of this civil process. We now find the rest of the Government apparently supporting that which he voted against. Notwithstanding what the opinion of the House may be they actually propose the acceptance of a proposal which the Minister of Defence voted against in another place. We ought to hear from the Minister whether they are taking this step as a compromise - whether they have counted heads in this Chamber, and know that they cannot do anything more, and whether, on the whole, they think that in view of the coming elections it is wise to appear to be relaxing these Spartan methods. The Minister must take the responsibility for whatever happens in connexion with this Bill, but it seems to me . that there will still be penalties, no longer in reserve, but in actual operation. Honorable members will have to make up their minds whether they would rather trust the civil authorities to impose on the boys penalties in the shape of fines that are recoverable, and in the majority of cases do not need to he accompanied by any order as to imprisonment, rather than accept a provision under which boys will be committed to the control of the Spartan military authorities.
.- I do not quite realize the exact scope and purpose of this measure. T can understand that it is the desire of Ministers, with the exception of the Minister responsible for the defence of Australia, to meet an agitation which has recently been expressed in this House and to the country against the imposition of penalties for non-attendance of drills. But it is rather astonis.hing that the Minister who is responsible for the defence of Australia should resist in the interests of his Department the proposals now made, and that the Minister representing the Minister of Defence in this Chamber should be prepared to accept them. It is also extraordinary, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta, that once these proposals pass, the only alternative to civil action will be military action. It possibly has been realized by the Minister of _ Defence, since these proposals were submitted in another place, that he will still have that power - that while appearing to make this concession to those who desire votes more earnestly than the defence of Australia, he will have all the time up his sleeve this power to enforce his will in places of military detention. We should have information as to what the Ministry are relying upon when they make this volte face. We are entitled to know why it is they now think that the interests of the Defence Department are secured, when in the Senate last week they thought they were endangered, by these proposals. The Ministry will have to give up posing as the guarantors of Australian defence if they collapse so readily at the mere sign of opposition on the part of one or two members of this House. I confess I do not realize what these proposals are, and that I would have preferred to have them submitted in Committee.
– Is that why the honorable member is talking - because he does not understand these proposals?
– I do not understand them because they are drafted in a very peculiar way. I should like the Minister’s attention - if the position he is at present occupying will permit him seriously to think of matters connected with the Defence Department - to that section of these proposals in which it is provided that places of detention are to be “ as prescribed.” The most intelligent member of this House - even the Honorary Minister himself - cannot tell us what is going to be “ prescribed “ by the honorable gentleman in another place who differs from him as to the merits of these proposals. We do not know what are going to be prescribed as places of mi 1 i ta rv detention. Are we not entitled to know how the difficulty is to be got over of the Defence Department having places within its control in certain localities such as in Melbourne or Sydney, whilst it has no similar places wi:hin its control over the vast bulk of the area of
Australia? I should like to ask this distinguished student of military affairs exactly what is to be prescribed.
– It might be a bar-parlour.
– Here is another danger to the youth of Australia.
– That is “ de-barred.”
– Things are to be prescribed - perhaps medicinally; but, seriously, I hope that the Minister will tax his intelligence’ or his ingenuity to give us the information to which we are entitled.
– He cannot ; he has already spoken.
– He could tell us by interjection what is proposed to be prescribed.
– He never interjects !
– Except when it suits him, I am sure that the Minister could give us the information if he desired to do so. It is a rather odd way of legislating.
– We are facing to-day quite a different proposition from that which we thought we were facing last week.
– Exactly. Apparently what has been pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta has been realized by the Minister of Defence, and it more or less reconciles him to giving this sop to the Australian electors. He recognises that he will still have the power conferred by the original Act to commit defaulters to places of military detention. It is difficult for the Minister to enter completely into the confidence of his colleague in another place, because the responsible Minister of Defence occupies a somewhat unenviable position. He holds one view of the importance of this subject one day, and then, apparently, permits his irresponsible representative in this Chamber to suggest and indorse quite another view. Perhaps the best way in which to secure an explanation of what is going to be prescribed would be to submit an amendmentupon the motion. I hope this is not going to be merely a sop to anxious parents. Let it be honest, whatever else it is. To get an explanation, I move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the Senate’s amendment be taken into consideration in Committee.”
– I should like the Honorary Minister to take advantage of the amendment to explain the matter to which reference has been made.
– I shall.
– Then I shall resume my seat at once.
– It is possible that the honorable member for Wentworth may seek to withdraw his amendment in a few moments. I hope he will. I have no desire to reply to those features of the last two speeches to which we have listened, which were of a distinctly political character, and in which references were made which should be regretted. If those responsible for them know how to express regret-
– The honorable gentleman should be more explicit.
– The honorable gentleman’s statement sounds very like a political reference.
– Order !
– I should like to say, if it is possible for you, sir, to maintain order on the other side, that I regret very much the references to gaols and fortresses. I shall not go so far as to say that they were wild or purposeful, but they are regrettable, nevertheless. We do not happen to have a fortress in Australia yet of a character in which we could detain any of our lads, nor is there any justification whatever for the use of such terms. It is possible, of course, to make a place a fortress, and to prescribe that offending lads shall be detained therein. But there are thousands of possibilities in this life, some of which, I hope, will never become realities.
– The honorable gentleman’s remarks have nothing to do with the case.
– I am very glad to find that the honorable member for Angas agrees that the references to gaols and fortresses have nothing to do with the case. In reply to the statement made by the honorable member as to whether, by the use of the word “prescribed,” we might not be making provision to commit lads to the care of austere military authorities who would dominate our civil life to such an extent as almost to bring about a national catastrophe, I may inform him that, by the issue of a regulation, any place can be prescribed as a place in which lads can be detained, and all regulations are subject to the approval of this Parliament. There are regulations in existence at the present time, copies of which have been sent to every honorable member, defining what are places of detention. That has been possible under the existing Act, which has been in force for nearly two years. We have pre scribed places of detention, but up to the present no fortress has been materialized, or anything of the harsh character suggested by some honorable members opposite.
– Have any boys been detained up to the present?
– Yes, in the places prescribed.
– Does the honorable gentleman mind telling us what places these are?
– I shall tell the honorable gentleman, but I think I am justified in replying to the remarks which have been made by some honorable members opposite.
– I should be delighted if the honorable gentleman would reply to them.
– I am coming to the honorable member for Wentworth last, because he was the last speaker, though his precociousness possibly leads him to believe that he should be referred to first. I feel called upon to reply to these remarks, because I fear that, in the circumstances, they might be used to create alarm or dread in the minds of the cadets, when our desire is to create in their minds enthusiasm for their work.
– Has the honorable gentleman a copy of the regulation defining the places of detention?
– I do not carry copies of the regulations about with me, but the honorable gentleman will find that under section 124 of the existing Act, the GovernorGeneral may make regulations prescribing all matters “ which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed.”
– My point was that when we say “ prescribed “ it means “ prescribed by this Act.”
– “ Prescribed by this Act “ means prescribed by regulation.
– There is a doubt about that.
– I am referring honorable members opposite to the section of the existing Act which, up to the present, has governed all matters of this description. They have been prescribed by regulations, and all regulations may be reviewed by this Parliament. The place of detention at the present moment is into the custody of the officer for the area in which the lad resides. Up to the present time it has taken the form, and that is the proposal for the future, of merely sending the lad to the custody, within reasonable limits each day, of the Area Officer.
– But the Area Officer will not then be able to deal with the bpy except under regulation.
– The Area Officer will then put the boy through the number of hours drill of which he is deficient, which is all the custody, and all the penalty up to the present time.
– Suppose that the boy still says, “ I will not drill “?
– In the event of the boy saying, on the second occasion, that he will not drill, naturally he will have to be taken before the Court again, and he will then incur the possibility of a heavier penalty in the shape of extra drill.
-Which, again, cannot be enforced.
– And he will then incur the penalty of defying the order of the Court, which is a more serious thing than refusing to obey the order of the Area Officer. I am doubtful whether, in the circumstances, any lad will take it upon himself to defy, not merely the military authority, but the order of the Court.
– But suppose that he does ?
– In that event there is the possibility of a further penalty, as is customary when the order of a Court is defied by anybody in the country.
– What will that penalty be - the imposition of a fine?
– It may be whatever the particular penalty of that State is.
– Suppose that it is a fine of£10, how will it be enforced?
– So far as the military authority is concerned, it is not proposed that the fine shall be imposed on a lad if he obeys the order of the Court. If he is still recalcitrant, he must be taken before the Court again, and subjected to the additional penalty, which may be a fine. If the honorable gentleman will look up the principal Act, he will find, in sub-section 2 of section 135, a provision, which, perhaps, has been overlooked by some honorable members.
– You will be thrown on the State law for the recovery of the penalty.
– Not necessarily ; only in the case of a boy defying the order of the Court.
– Suppose that he is fined £50, for the enforcement of the penalty, you will be thrown back upon the State law.
– Not necessarily.
– You will take advantage of the State law.
– In the event of the boy defying the order of the Court, that is a possibility ; but, in addition to that, the honorable gentleman will see that subsection 2 of section 135 of the Act provides that-
Any penalty under this section may be recovered summarily on the information or complaint of a prescribed officer.
Under that section, it seems to me, it will be possible to recover the penalty.
– No ; it means that you can proceed by information, and get a judgment ; but you will be left to the State law for the execution of the judgment.
– Sub-section 1 of section 135, as proposedto be amended, reads -
Every person who in any year, without lawful excuse, evades or fails to render the personal service required by this Part shall be guilty of an offence, and shall, in addition to the liability under section one hundred and thirty-three of this Act, be liable to a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds.
That penalty is recoverable summarily.
– What does that mean ?
– By the ordinary process of the Court.
– That is on a complaint, and the imposition of a fine.
– Unquestionably. The power still lies with the authorities to recover the penalty by that particular method. The honorable member for Parramatta appears to have got into a jocular mood. That is somewhat unfair. If he sees that this particular provision was in the Bill which he put through the House, and if he now sees the jocular aspect of it, it is regrettable that he did not see it at that time.
– The Minister is taking part of the thing out, and leaving part in.
– The honorable gentleman is again mistaken. When he put the Bill through the House, it did not contain the provision to which the Senate has taken exception. It never has been in the Act. It was only submitted to this House on Thursday last.
– Why was it submitted at all ? Because the honorable gentleman thought it necessary, evidently.
– It was thought necessary that there should be what may be termed a second string to the bow.
– And at the first political breath you take it all away.
– There was no political breath one way or the other. The Senate has objected to this provision being put in. In reply to the honorable gentleman who sought to make political capital, I would say that it is not uncommon for a Minister-
– I rise to order. Is the Honorary Minister in order in suggesting that the remarks I offered in the course of this debate were for the purpose of making political capital, and not for the purpose of exciting information? If his reply is disadvantageous to his side, that certainly is not my fault.
– As the honorable member for Wentworth takes exception to the words as offensive, perhaps the Honorary Minister will withdraw them.
– Certainly, sir. The honorable gentleman is hypersensitive. If we are to be confined in reply to the honorable gentleman, we shall have to confine him in certain directions, and make his language different from what it is.
– Is that a threat of duress, Mr. Speaker?
– I withdraw the words. It is not unusual for a Minister in one branch of the Legislature to support a provision, and for the other branch to object to it, and it is not uncommon, in the circumstances, for the Ministry in the other branch to say, after consultation, “ Well, the Senate - or the House of Representatives, as the case may be - has made the particular amendment. We will accept the amendment, notwithstanding the fact that our representative in the other House disagreed with it when it was being objected to there.”
– Has the Minister said so?
– I have moved here that the amendment of the Senate be accepted, after consultation with the Minister of Defence.
– And the Caucus.
– After counting noses.
– We accept the responsibility of accepting the amendment. In reply to the impertinence of the honorable member for Richmond, the Caucus has not considered the subject in any way, and in reply to the additional impertinence of the honorable member for Wentworth, noses have not been counted.
– Is it an impertinence to say that the Caucus has an opinion on this matter?
– No. It is no more an impertinence to say that the Caucus of the Labour party has an opinion on this matter than it is to say that the Caucus of the honorable gentleman has an opinion on any matter, if it has an opinion, although it seemed to have an opinion when it brought the honorable member for Flinders to book for daring to speak the truth.
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to address himself to the question before the Chair.
– I submit first to honorable gentlemen on the other side who are desirous of having information that the provision to which the Senate has objected is not a part of the Act. It has never been in force. It was merely brought to light here on Thursday last.
– With what object?
– It was put in the Bill because it was thought that, as confinement in gaol had been entirely eliminated from the Act, it might be necessary to have a second string to the bow, and that, in certain circumstances, where a youth was particularly recalcitrant, recovery other than by reference to a Court of summary jurisdiction might be an advantage.
– That is by making the fine a civil debt?
– Is that what the honorable gentleman objects to now?
– The Senate has objected to it, and I have asked the House to meet its objection. I hope that the position is clear. So far as the prescribed authority is concerned, that is in existence. The youth will go to an Area Officer, who will put him through the ordinary drill of which he is deficient. In my opinion, the Act will not be weakened by the omission of the proposed subsection. It may remove what, perhaps, in the minds of some persons would be regarded as an unnecessarily harsh feature, but one which I hope will never be required. We do not desire that our lads shall be subjected to imprisonment, or to any penalty, but it is our wish that they shall be trained for the effective defence of their country should occasion arise for calling upon their services. This system of training is entirely new in Australia, and I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo, that at its commencement it must be administered with the utmost discretion and leniency, compatible with effectiveness, and that its success must not be endangered by insisting upon harsh features.
– I am as desirous as any one that compulsory military training shall be something more than a sham, and we ought to be able to devise a method by which the youths who have to be drilled can be prevented from snapping their fingers at the authorities. The Minister has occupied two positions in regard to this matter. He originally proposed the provision which he now asks us to allow the Senate to strike out, for which, I take it, he had good reasons, and he now seems to have good reasons for acquiescing in its being struck out.
– The matter is not of sufficient importance to justify a dispute between the two Houses.
– The Minister has amply described the provision as a second string to the bow. I am inclined to think that it will be better not to pass it into law. Sub-clauses 8 and 9 provide that cadet defaulters shall be brought before the State Courts, which may commit them to the custody of the prescribed authority. It may happen that the magistrates of one State will be able to commit for much longer periods than the magistrates of another State. The youths of one State may find that defaulters are committed to the charge of the prescribed authority for a month, and, in another State, that they are committed only for a week. This might give rise to a good deal of difficulty, and therefore it would be well for the Government to provide a definite period of commitment, to prevent differential treatment. No doubt the provision under discussion gives the offence which is made punishable a quasi-criminal appearance which is not desirable, but if youths are handed over to a “ prescribed authority “ they may find that a much worse punishment. Again, the prescribed authority may in one State be a man taking a moderate and rational view of the offence, and ready to adopt persuasive methods to induce defaulters to do their duty, and in another State the prescribed authority may be a man of a very drastic turn of mind, who will act roughly.
– Then he would not be fit for his position.
– The point is that he will be occupying the position. The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of a story of a man who was visited in gaol by another, who said, on hearing his case, “ My dear fellow, they cannot put you in gaol for that “ ; to which the reply was, “ But I am in gaol.” The Government should prevent differential administration by adopting definite provisions. There might, for instance, be a limit to the period of commitment. The Minister has told us - I do not know whether the statement is final - that the prescribed officer will be the Area Officer. I am surprised that one occupying a higher position has not been chosen. Area Officers are young men receiving only £150 a year, and giving only part of their time to their work, and some of them may not be of the calibre and experience that one would wish to find in the authority to whom defaulting lads are to be committed for training. Even if we acquiesce in the Senate’s amendment of our amendment, the Government will not escape the odium of being responsible for the imprisonment of boys. If a boy is handed over to somebody who stands in the relation of a court-martial towards him, I can promise the Government, from my knowledge of human nature, that they will incur more odium from practically imprisoning the boy in the control of such a person, than they would by any other process.
– This provision was established with the principle of training.
– But it has not been exercised to anything like the extent it will have to be if the figures put before us in the last few weeks are going to be normal.
– There was an alternative, and a better one, that has been taken away.
– The Government said there were two alternatives, and one has been taken away; but if the Government think, that in taking one “ string “ away, they are leaving another that will be less objectionable, they make, I think, a great mistake. No doubt, the
Government must take the odium, just as honorable members on this side would if they were in office.
– Perhaps I used the wrong phrase when I talked about “two strings “; this is scarcely taking one string away, but merely saying that we will add a second string that has not been in existence.
– But the Senate has removed a provision in the Bill as it left this House, and, candidly, I quite approve of removing anything in the shape of a quasi-criminal provision; we ought not to associate any spirit of that kind with our military system. But the “ string” that is left will be more drastic in many ways. It will not have that quasicriminal odium about it, which the word “offence” conveys; but it will prove very unpopular with those people who do not wish to do their duty. I am not putting that forward as a reason for removing the provision, but only as a reason which the Government ought to take into serious consideration. I suggest that in a matter of this sort the question to be determined ought to be relegated to some person in a superior position to that of an Area Officer, who is a layman and may be a farmer, storekeeper, medical man or lawyer. I quite sympathize with the desire of the Senate to remove this clause ; but I think that the limit of the period during which the boy is handed over should be the same throughout Australia, and that the officer, into whose charge he is given, ought to be some one in a permanent position who is thoroughly imbued with the military spirit. I do not mean that the officer should be imbued with the military spirit in the sense of wishing to dictate in an arbitrary way ; but that he should be some one of sufficient experience to have grown out of that exceedingly militant attitude which we find in young soldiers before they have reached the more mature positions. Where there are hundreds of boys, as in the metropolitan areas, who have to be dealt with, it would be absurd to throw the onus of practically acting the part of a court-martial on an Area Officer with £150 a year, and perhaps only a few years’ experience. Perhaps the Minister will reconsider the suggestion thrown out in his own speech that this duty should be relegated to a permanent officer.
.- I think it would have been better to consider these amendments in Committee, when we should have fuller opportunities to hear the Minister’s explanation of their effect.
– The amendments were not designedly considered in the House, but no opposition was anticipated.
– When I addressed myself to the amendments on Friday, I was under the impression, from what I had heard before coming into the House, that it was proposed to limit the power of the magistrate, or practically to take away his power, to impose a fine ; otherwise I should not have felt so anxious as I really did. I then said that if the amendment were agreed to, the action of the Government would be paralyzed, and the Act would probably break down. I find, however, that I was under a misapprehension; that the principal amendment was the elimination of the clause in the amending Bill providing that the pecuniary 1penalty when imposed would be a simple debt. Had I thoroughly realized and understood the nature of the proposed amendment, I should not, as I have said, been so anxious. In view of the explanation given by the Minister I feel that, although it would have, been better to adhere to the Bill as originally introduced, still, under the circumstances, the additional provision in the amendment that the offender may be detained, will to some extent meet the requirements of the case, and help to give additional moral as well as legal force to the authorities. Under the circumstances, I am prepared to support the proposal of the Senate.
.- The Minister has, I think, adopted the interpretation I put on the Act. I said that I had some doubt, owing to the drafting, as to whether the institution must be prescribed by regulation. The Bill sets out that “prescribed” means prescribed by the Act, whereas the Acts Interpretation Act says that “ prescribed “ means prescribed by the Act or regulation; but I think that section 135 meets the point put by the Minister. I understand that if a penalty be imposed upon a boy, he may be committed to “ any prescribed institution or place,” because the authorities will arrest him only for the purpose of sending him to an institution or place. That is what subsection 5 of section 135 provides. For how long may he be committed to “any prescribed institution or place “ ? I really do not know whether the amendment means that he may be kept there for the period required to make his training, or for the time that the Court might have committed him to gaol but for this proposed sub-section.
– May it not mean that he may be detained until the debt has been paid ?
– I do not think that it means that. I do not believe that the Court has unlimited power in regard to the period over which his incarceration shall extend, because that is subject to two conditions - one, the time necessary to make up the requisite statutory training, and the other the period to which the Court would have been empowered to send him to gaolbut for this proposed sub-section. This provision is an amendment of section 135 of the principal Act, which’ provides that -
Any person committed to the custody of a prescribed authority in pursuance of this section may be detained by that authority at any prescribed institution or place, and while so detained shall be subject to the regulations governing that institution or place, and to training and discipline as prescribed.
Proposed sub-section 8 will be incorporated with that section. Every time, therefore, that a youth is arrested, he will be committed to “ a prescribed authority “ under proposed sub-section 8 if he fails to pay the fine, whilst under sub-section 5 of section 135 every time he is arrested he will have to be trained. Is that what is intended ?
– Under this proposalwe shall increase the number of occasions upon which a lad may be arrested.
– He will only be arrested when he refuses point-blank to conform to the required conditions.
– He may be arrested for a breach of discipline.
– I will have to be a very severe breach before action is taken.
– But every time that he commits a breach of discipline he may be arrested, and every time he is arrested he will have to undergo a period of training, although he may have previously put in the requisite number of days. It seems to me that the proposal is rather a drastic one.
.- As the Honorary Minister has made the explanation which I desired, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: (Consideration resumed from ist August, vide page 1587), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That the first item of the Estimates, under division 1, “The Parliament,” namely, “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- The Budget, being our national balance-sheet, one looks to it in order to discover a financial foundation and plans for. the future. Among its items it touches, and is touched by every phase and feature of our national life. By one means or another, it represents, so far as any one aspect can, practically the whole of our aims and our proceedings, with their successes or their failures. In some degree, and in some way, everything that matters in the Commonwealth finds a place in the Budget. Upon this occasion it is possible for me to deal only with the largest questions of policy outlined in it, and even in their case we must do so in the briefest fashion, since we have consented to a reduction of the time which individual members may occupy. One must content himself with glancing at the totals, and confine himself to the most cursory survey of some of these questions which require to be generally, but, in a sense, completely, dealt with, if this Parliament is to fulfil its duty either to itself or to the electors.
As it is obviously impossible for any one member to essay this task - the proportions and developments of the Commonwealth now rendering that impossible in a single speech - it follows that one must make a selection. So far as I am concerned, that selection will be made with a view to throwing light upon some of the issues which appear to be of the utmost moment at the present time. I regret to say that nothing more is possible in Parliament, and nothing like as much is possible outside of it. In point of fact, any general public interest in the Budget, so far as it finds voice or expression, is limited to the record of a few casual and transient impressions ; after a cursory notice, hosts of important and practical issues are quietly put out of sight. Among the many which fail to obtain from the public, as a whole, or from their representatives, the close attention which they really deserve, the Budget takes first place - that is to say, first place in its grouping of a host of vital matters apt to be slurred over, to be passed lightly by. In point of fact, a Budget- such as we have before us, if traced throughout its various consequences and ramifications, might not unprofitably occupy the critical acumen of our members for a whole session of Parliament. It is not only the massed information which it contains. It is not only the great variety of interests which political legislation and governmental action are affecting. It is not merely because its studies, to be complete, involve some review of the past, as well as a forecast of the future. It is simply owing to the enormous number of matters with which the Commonwealth is now associated or occupied, that pass before us when we endeavour to sum up, although on the financial side only, the work of recent years and the promise of those that are to come.
I regret to say that the cry most echoed at these stages is to get things done; when to get them done means to have them done without discussion. Hence that control which the earliest Parliaments known to our nation made the principal cause of their existence, and the source of their strength - the exercise of their judgment, criticism, and, ultimately, their control of all the affairs of the nation - is, perhaps insensibly, but quite rapidly, passing beyond our reach, and, apparently, beyond the demand of those whom we represent. Nothing like the scrutiny needed is given to our accounts, either on the simply financialside, or on their more immediate relations to the matters with which they deal. Selfgovernment in this Chamber is passing away. I also fear that our control through the chief Department of finance - the Treasury - is passing also. We are content with gross totals, which have their value and their necessary place, but throw little light upon many _ problems which we have to confront. While all are willing to admit that finance is the key of the whole position of Parliament and government at any given time, and that finance must be considered in connexion with every movement, whether of development or retrogression, the fact that all’ things must be, in a degree, dealt with according to their financial effect appears to be steadily drifting out of sight.
The Budget of the year presenting us with . a comprehensive survey of the whole range of our engagements, not merely from the financial, but from the public aspect, which requires to be grasped in order to explain the present and interpret the future, is no longer attempted. A change in its character has, even within my own ex- perience, become more and more marked in the Parliaments of Australia, and, possibly, in other Legislatures elsewhere. We have cause to regret it, unless the old method is replaced by some other effective means of bringing the people into close touch with the actual cost of the work that they are authorizing, coupled with a criticism of that cost and its results, as well as a forecast of what these will be if pursued further. At present Parliament and the people appear to be quite content to sit still and allow the National Government, in its motor car, to make off with the finances, with but the briefest of expositions. I venture to repeat a suggestion that is not new; that, especially in these circumstances, and in this country, a real Committee of Finance is earnestly called for. That would be a Committee, representing the whole House, which, without attempting to review the whole of the finances, and certainly without any intention of supplanting Parliament, the control of Parliament, or even its criticism in any degree, would scrutinize the finances in respect to their method and manner of presentment, ascertain the checks and counter-checks which ought to be applied, and discover how far they are or are not fulfilling the purpose for which they were designed.
– You would not take Ministerial control away, would you?
– Certainly not, neither the Ministerial nor the Parliamentary. The Committee of Finance, from which I must pass without explaining its full functions, would inquire, investigate and report to the Minister and to Parliament, chiefly upon methods, and, where necessary, upon their results. It would be not only a guarantee to this House, but a support to the administration of the Treasury, one of our greatest and most important Departments.
At the very outset, I must indicate some obvious errors of commission and omission, many of them inherited, and, so far as I know, none of them original, which have been adopted and allowed to obtain in the Commonwealth Budget, if not in those of all the State Legislatures. They existed there when I knew those bodies better. In order to relieve myself from the suspicion of making a direct or indirect attack upon the present administration of the Treasury in the preparation of the Budget-papers, I repeat that the present system is mainly inherited. But the man ner in which the case is presented to us at present leaves a very great deal to be desired.
In my earliest recollections, a Budget invariably contained a statement of national policy, with a great deal of explanatory exposition and references to other masses of material. There came within its scope practically the whole of the important events and incidents of our national life - past, present, and, by way of forecast, future. Consequently, in those days a Budget speech was an organic whole. Although it rested to a great degree upon derived matter, there was a continuous admixture of comment and explanation upon the bare facts. So that, in the end, the House and the country obtained through the Treasurer a general financial view of the whole situation, and, incidentally, of many questions of which the immediate financial effect may not have been large. The parts were severally related, and made a connected story. It was a review, art interpretation, and a prediction. As such it formed a very important incident in the parliamentary and public history of the year. Nowadays the Budget is drifting more and more into a mere recapitulation of details, with almost an entire absence of the study of principles, or even of the situation. It is a collection of a great number of miscellaneous facts. It is no longer, in any sense, as it used to be in almost every case, a turning point in the history of the session, and a very important stage of parliamentary procedure. What Parliament should require, and what it ought to obtain, is a constructive synthesis and a systematic grouping in the Budget of information which would enable this House to be as well informed as it could expect to be upon our circumstances and projects. The need for that instruction has been gradually dropping out of sight, and has been practically ignored during the last three years. Take the present Budgetspeech! Here the Prime Minister has pushed the partial practice of previous times to its completion. Of the pages of Hansard in which that speech is reported verbatim, twelve pageswere simply read. Only three pages were not read, and those dwelt lightly on the six important topics with which they dealt. There was no comprehensive review of the whole situation, no general survey, no attempt at relation, which would assist us to disentangle the details. Consequently, it was purely a skeleton Budget. It certainly was not a complete Budget. In that respect it reflected the features of the two previous Budgets.
The twelve pages read contained a number of useful and necessary details, which would have been much more serviceable if placed at our disposal by the simple practice of distributing them in print prior to the delivery of the Budget-speech. As it was, they were mere materials, and overloaded the fragment of a speech. Our great difficulty is, amongst the facts laid before us, to ascertain the real position of the country in any particular. Our perplexities arise from the following of precedents which have been retained and added to with that conservatism which seems to be inherent in -every Department. They were taken over when the first Commonwealth Departments were established.
– I have discarded a great number of the old papers, and introduced new ones.
– Exactly; but, even as the Budget stands, I venture to say that, valuable and informing as are many Budgetpapers, there is enormous room for improvement. What we are given is nothing like what we desire, or what a Budget might be made. A Committee of Finance would give us a good deal of help in that regard. What we want in a Budget, if we can obtain it, is a statement of principles, of policy, of results, and of forecasts. To give us that, the Treasurer should be relieved of that burden under which he has had to stagger for three successive sessions - the burden of a number of facts and details, which would be better placed in the hands of honorable members in print at an earlier hour of the day. All that the Treasurer should be called upon to do should be to make a systematic, connected, and explanatory statement of the finances of the Commonwealth.
– It would be a great help to me if I could follow that course.
– It would, and I am making the suggestion in the interests df the Treasurer, and of future Treasurers. We should have a broad exposition, which could be easily understood by any average citizen, whereas what we get now is a mass of facts which, I am afraid, very few people even read.. It should present a complete view of the national situation, as far as it is materialized in finance. I venture to add that if any
Treasurer, instead of making an extempore Budget-speech, after having placed the printed material in the hands of honorable members, proceeded to read a written speech dealing with the principal questions involved in the material circulated, without constant reference to details, he would be absolutely justified in taking that course.
– That is the course followed in some State Parliaments now.
– It is, and it is a practice which has many advantages from the point of view of the Minister who is rev sponsible for makingthe Budget-speech of the year.
By way of test - and it is the only test that I could think of - I set myself the task of looking over the report of the Budget-speech in Hansard, asking myself where I ought to look for a statement of our financial position in regard to Defence. This is one of the most vital matters affecting this country, of special importance at the present juncture owing to the attention it is receiving and the sums of money expended in connexion with it. I said to myself, “ For the sake of a test, let me take the Budget-speech and the Budget-papers, to obtain an up-to-date account of our present position in Defence.”
I find that in the second paragraph of the Prime Minister’s Budgetspeech he made a reference to a sum transferred for future expenditure to the Construction of Fleet Fund. In the third paragraph there is another allusion to a sum transferred for the Construction of Fleet Fund. In the opposite column there is an amount included in last year’s revenue, being the balance of the Defence Trust Fund Account. Following that again, there are some special appropriations referring mainly to the Fleet. Turning over the leaf, I find two pages of figures and tables. In the first table is an account of the revenue derived from Defence, naturally a small amount. Then we come to the Naval Agreement and its cost. On the top of the next column of the same page - 1574 - is a table of expenditure not including the amount under the Naval Agreement. After that, we find a series of thirty-six items relating to Defence, from the construction of the Fleet to miniature rifle-ranges for cadets.
– That was a detailed statement.
– It was absolutely necessary to have it ; but I am doubting the wisdom of expecting the Prime Minister to read the statement in his Budget-speech when it could have been placed in the hands of honorable members ready printed.
Turning to the next page, I find that it is devoted to many aspects of Defence. No less than two and a half pages of Hansard are required. At a guess, I should say that at least thirty or forty different branches are here touched upon. They are not arranged in any order. The officers of the Treasury have apparently simply shuffled them in some way of their own ; but there is no grouping, and the only connexion between them is that they all relate to aspects of Defence. So much for the references to this, subject in the Budgetspeech. For the purpose of further light, I turn next to the Budget-papers, to find out from them how much the ordinary citizen could learn about Defence. On pages 4-5 there is information under the heading “ The Consolidated Revenue Fund for the Commonwealth.” On the one side there are three items, and on the other two - five items altogether. Those show all the years from 1907-8 up to the present year, together with its estimate. Then on page 8, under “ Revenue,” Defence again makes its appearance, in no less than four different places. On page11, under “ Comparison of estimated and actual net revenue,” we find two amounts. On page 12 we find special charges for Defence in one block, and there is another item relating to the same subject on page 13. For what reason they are separated it would puzzle any one to understand. At page 24 I find items relating to the Naval Agreement, to the Fleet Unit, to savings£25,000, and an increased expenditure of£1, 400,000. At pages 27 and 28 the Department of Defence comes into its place with other Departments, and again at page 29, where there are three or four entries, together with a series of items, extending to page 30, dealing with the Fleet estimate for each year. On page31 we have the cost of the Naval Agreement. On page 32 there are two more items relating to defence, while at page 33 we have the beginning of a long table, which extends over pages 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and half-way down page 39. On the next page, under “ Details of Expenditure,” there is another entry to defence; on page 42 there are two series of items; on page 50, comparisons as to receipts and expenditure; at page 62, an analysis of defence expenditure, and at page 64 a complete statement of the original estimate and the actual cost of the Fleet Unit. Now I ask honorable members if our almost slavish obedience to precedent has not landed us in an almost indefensible position, when a student of defence, who wished to form a matured opinion or to confirm his judgment as to any matter affecting defence, would require to turn to all these pages to collect items that ought to have been segregated, classified, and placed together. Had that been done, honorable members would have had at once in their hands, so far as it could be given, the financial key to the whole situation.
– I would ask the honorable member how it would be possible, for example, to show on one page the percentage of expenditure on defence per head of population, grouped with all other items relating to defence.
– There could be no objection to the placing of one item in more than one position; but surely, as a matter of common sense, the whole of the information relating to every aspect of the Defence Department should have been collected.
– The aggregate expenditure on defence is shown on one page.
– Quite so. But the student has to go through the whole of the Budget-papers to make sure to discover the items.
– He can find the whole amount stated on one page, while details are shown on other pages.
– But assuredly the course adopted makes the work of the student more tedious than it would be if all these items were grouped together, as the Treasurer himself could group them, if he gave a few days’ attention to the work. As a matter of fact, the right honorable gentleman has plenty of officers whose business it ought to be to do that. We are following a stereotyped form of preparing the Budgetpapers, and are suffering in consequence a lack of interest due to the difficulty of obtaining a grip of questions which ought to be within easy reach of every thoughtful man and woman? The Budget-papers have been carefully prepared, and are very elaborate. You can find almost everything and anything somewhere if you take the pains.
– The honorable member’s trouble is that nothing has been omitted.
– No; my trouble is that the details are not classified and placed in simple connexion with each other so that he who runs may read.
My criticism relates to all other subjects as well as Defence. It is difficult to get any one to inquire into political matters in ordinary circumstances, and the present method of distributing the details prevents them from looking into political questions of which all ought to be masters in a general way. The consequence of this system is that the delivery of the Budget, instead of being the chief event of the session, exercises little effect. There is scanty public interest in it, and debate can do little to revive or restore it. Yet a Budget balance-sheet for the year before us can be fathomed with comparative ease. Any questions that would be likely to arise in the mind of the average citizen outside can be answered without much difficulty by proper compilations. Why should he be puzzled?
His first inquiry would probably relate to the general state of the Treasury, which for the last three years has been in the happy condition known as “overflowing,” and he would perhaps ask for a simple explanation of the finances. If he looked, he ought to be able to see at once that the chief factor in the entire transformation of the financial situation that has occurred during the last three years has been the coming into operation of the Financial Agreement drawn up at the Conference of Commonwealth representatives with the State Premiers. This, in the exact terms then agreed upon by us so far as the present term of years is concerned, is now in operation. Under that agreement, the Braddon section was set aside, and an entirely different distribution directed, under which the States obtain 25s. per head of the population yearly, while the Commonwealth takes the balance. The result of that alteration is that in the last three years, out of £42,000,000 collected from Customs, the States have obtained £17,000,000, instead of the £31,500,000 which they would have obtained prior to the Financial Agreement ; whereas the Commonwealth has obtained £25,000,000, instead of the £10,500,000 with which it would have had to be content. In order to obtain the first grip of the present posi tion, we have only to turn to these flourishing figures, which furnish an immediate answer to the question.
The next query that the maninthestreet very likely puts is, “ How has that revenue been disposed of by the Commonwealth?” The answer is that, taking even the expenditure for 1909- 10, the last year prior to the coming into force of the Financial Agreement, and multiplying it by three, we find that under the new system the Commonwealth during the three years just closing will have expended on defence £8,000,000 more than it would have expended if it had adhered to the expenditure of that year. I take 1909-10 as being the nearest, and also the highest prior year, and therefore the fairest for comparison. But, even allowing for that, the circumstances of the Commonwealth have permitted us to expend out of revenue £8,000,000 more during the three years, including the present financial year, than would have been expended in the three previous years under the Braddon clause.
Then, again, the Postal Department, following up large grants that we made in previous years, has secured still larger grants, so that £5,000,000 extra have been expended in works connected with it. In respect to the Northern Territory, which is a new expenditure, we also find provision to the amount of about £1,000,000. I do not propose to follow these calculations further. They represent, in rough outline, the simple questions and answers showing the extent of the change since the coming into operation of the Financial Agreement of 1909-10. The Government have also imposed a land tax, which in the time mentioned has yielded them £4,000,000. In our hands that would have been a land tax of a different character.
– None at all.
– The honorable member is a bad prophet. In addition, the note tax has enabled the Treasurer to acquire a comfortable loan of about
– The earnings of which have gone into the Trust Fund.
– Of course. For the time being the operation of this legislation has given the Treasurer a loan of £5,000,000, most of which has been placed out at interest.
– Would that have taken a different form also?
– In both respects there is distinct room for improvements, which I have every reason to believe would have been given effect to. The amount received from the coinage of silver is due, of course, to the action of the previous Government, but it comes in as a welcome little item of about £120,000 a year.
The next criticism of the man in the street will probably be, “ But under this satisfactory state of affairs, has not abundant provision been made for public works?” The answer is, “ Undoubtedly.” Has not what might be termed the surplus been set aside in temporary Trust Funds for public purposes? The answer is that it has. Up to the present year there have been appropriations in Trust Funds that have been of considerable service, and will be of service this year. But with a prescience for the future which perhaps does it credit, the Government has taken care that none of these funds shall be available beyond the present year. They are all allocated to be spent in one direction or another, and it is certain that, by the 30th June next, there will not be a copper left in the Commonwealth cupboard for any successors to the present Government. That indicates a prudential treatment of available funds. Possibly the object is that if fresh levies require to be made owing to unfavorable seasons or other causes, it will he necessary that they should be made by the party on this side, and an increase of the public burden may then be pointed to as a necessary consequence of Liberal finance.
– The honorable gentleman need not trouble about that.
– Then why take such careful precautions against the possibilities of the future? Ministers have revelled in the fruits of the Financial Agreement. They have been able to enter upon relatively lavish expenditure, but at no time, and under no proposal, and by no Act, have they in any way reduced the burden of the taxpayersof Australia. They have thriven, flourished, and received largely ; they have spent what they received freely; but they have in no direction diminished the burden which the taxpayers of Australia have been and are carrying. On the contrary, indirectly and incidentally they have added to it. They have not even maintained the protection we had at the Customs House. We have not seen any consideration shown in regard to the States. The treasure which we have been enjoying was not discovered by any happy accident.The great bulk of it, as
I have said, flows directly from the operation of our Financial Agreement, but our fellow citizens and constituents share in its benefits only so far as current expenditure affects them directly or indirectly.
– The honorable gentleman might make a reference to the introduction of penny postage, so that he may make no error when he says the taxpayers have been relieved of no taxation.
– Penny postage, I might inform the Prime Minister, was a proposition which was submitted to this House, and for which preparations were made by previous Governments.
– And the present Government pirated it after denouncing it.
– I do not say that the present Government were not fully entitled to act upon it.
– An amount of £470,000 is involved.
– I always had doubts of that estimate. It may be right, and I hope it is.
– It is not mine.
– I am aware of that. The amount is a mere estimate, at all events, and therefore I did not deal with it.
The situation is clear. There has been much more fuel for the Commonwealth Government’s motor, and just so much less for those of the Governments of the different States. What the people of Australia have to realize is that, so to speak, the game has been a game within ourselves, a transfer from one to another - a transfer from the six States to the Commonwealth, in no way increasing the wealth of Australia. Of course, it immensely increased the wealth and opportunities of the present Government. That is a point which my honorable friends do not appear to realize.
– That is due to the Financial Agreement.
– The honorable gentleman wanted it placed in the Constitution.
– Until the people of Australia altered it, as they all but accepted it in that particular case. It wanted but a very small percentage of the voters of Australia to obtain its sanction, and I venture to think many of them are sorry now that they did not give their sanction. However, that is beside the issue.
But the condition of our people has not improved during these times of high Commonwealth prosperity. If anything, they have suffered. Although the question of the fiscal policy has been brought up each session, instead of revising it, as I have urged in every session, and as I did on the Address-in-Reply in this session, nothing has been done in that regard. The important thing to remember is that by universal assent of honorable members opposite, and, I think, by general assent, it is recognised that there have been continuous rises in prices in Australia, as well as. in other parts of the world. The rises in prices and the rises in wages in Australia having increased the cost of living and the cost of earning, they have been diminishing the small margin of Protection which the manufacturers and farmers of Australia enjoyed. The result has been, in many cases in Australia, to bring us into an active and serious competition of importations from abroad with what our people are or were producing or manufacturing.
– What does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say to this?
– What every citizen of the country will say, irrespective of his fiscal opinion, is that that statement is true; and that the necessary consequence is that the margin given by Protectionist duties - most of them affording only partial Protection from the commencement - has necessarily been reduced by the increased prices and cost of living throughout the Commonwealth. The importer from abroad has been placed in a position of advantage, and the revenue of the Commonwealth has been swollen, while the producers and manufacturers of Australia have been suffering.
– The honorable gentleman has just said that there has been a rise in the cost of living in places outside of Australia.
– Yes, in different countries, and to different extents. But in .capturing a market a good deal is spent by the long-headed men in other countries with which we do business.
This other side of the picture requires to be taken into account. The public are more than a little puzzled why we have not a large surplus to distribute. They are a little puzzled to understand what the present flourishing state of the Federal finances is costing them as citizens of the States and the Commonwealth. Their position is, perhaps, best illustrated by a glance at the Customs returns, in which we find a good deal calling for reflection. It will be remembered that the Tariff we have is that of 1908, and the circumstances under which it was framed and passed will be fresh in the minds of most of the honorable members present, and must be familiar in other ways to the remainder. It is well known that 1908 was particularly a time of close and harsh economies in every direction in the Public Service. We were endeavouring to prepare for the payment of old-age pensions, putting away money for the purpose ; we were making some preliminary preparations for defence, putting away money for the purpose; and, in addition, we had demands from the Post Office and elsewhere which could not be denied, and yet could not be fully met. The consequence was that a Tariff was shaped which was not a protectionist Tariff, except to a minor degree and in particular portions. A number of duties which are nothing but, and never were anything but, revenue duties, were imposed, and the greater portion of the protectionist duties were so far diverted from their main object as to be made revenue producing, though supposed to be protectionist as well. Broadly speaking, it was as much a revenue Tariff as, if not more than, it was a Protectionist Tariff. It was the best which we could obtain then.
Now, as a revenue Tariff, it possessed features which made it particularly distasteful to honorable members who are now sitting on the Ministerial side. It will be remembered that in 1909-10, the present Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition, having been previously Prime Minister for the first time. He spoke at that date on this question, not only as the late Prime Minister and Treasurer, but as the head of his own party. What he stated on the 25th August, 1909, is to be found in Hansard, at page 2569. Here is his summary of the situation when the Tariff of 1908 was just coming into force -
Taxation on the necessaries of life, speaking generally and according to absolute fact, falls most heavily on the toiling masses who have larger families, and who, themselves and their families, consume proportionately * a larger amount of dutiable goods than the wealthy do.
– So they do to-day.
– Yes; these are the revenue duties to which I was referring. Alluding to the Prime Minister, the right honorable gentleman proceeded to say -
He must know that he cannot have a large Customs revenue and have effective protection also. If he relies on raising his revenue by indirect taxation in order to carry out the agreement -
That is the agreement to pay 25s. per head to the States - he must absolutely have abandoned Protection.
This statement was made in 1909 when the operation of the Tariff of the previous year was beginning to be perceived. In the same debate, on page 2567, the Prime Minister said -
The Statesman’s Year Book informs us that in the United Kingdom the average return from the Tariff per head is £i gs. 8d. ; in Canada, £1 19s. 2d. ; in Australia, £2 6s. lod.
Mr. Dugald Thomson interjected here, “ That is for the year 1906-7,” to which the present Prime Minister replied -
Quite so ; but the honorable member will agree with me that it is a very fair average
Which in no well-known governed country - even a wealthy country - the people should be asked to exceed.
That was and is the right honorable gentleman’s opinion - 46s. lod. per head was his maximum. I have pointed out some of the factors which have been operating to reduce in effect the Tariff of 1908, but 1908 surpassed 1906-7.
Now, it is being broadly asserted at the present time by those who are entitled to speak, that the increases of wages granted by the Wages Boards throughout Australia, or in connexion wilh the decisions of the Arbitration Court, are nullifying such protectionist duties as we have. Look at the taxation per head of population as measured by the revenue duties to which I have been alluding. In 1906-7 it amounted to 47s. ; by 1910-11 it had risen to nearly 59s. ; while in 1911-12 it had risen to 64s. 6d. per head. ^14,500,000 was the net receipt.
– That is from Customs and Excise.
– Yes ; but the bulk of the Customs revenue is derived from duties which are either wholly or chiefly revenue duties.
– It is about time that we looked into the matter.
– The estimate for next year is practically the same. Two-thirds of the duties in the present Tariff are authoritatively stated to be in effect revenue duties, though some say a good many more. As revenue duties, they become taxes on trade.
– I would like to know who the authority is.
– What does the Minister say the proportion is?
– I am not saying anything ; but I would like to know the honorable gentleman’s authority.
– The honorable gentler man himself does not know what it is.
– I know as much as any one here does.
– If that be so, why does not the Minister say what it is? I shall take his figure, whatever it is. I only want it for the purpose of argument.
– Who is the honorable gentleman’s authority?
– I have not my authority here. I have taken the proportion from current statements. I have heard it stated in this House.
– It is absolute rubbish.
– What proportion does the Minister say?
– I will not say anything.
– My opinion is that a great deal more than two-thirds of our Customs duties are revenue duties to a far larger extent than they are protectionist duties ; and I am quite sure that not a third of the duties are effective protectionist duties as contrasted with revenue duties.
– That is a very severe condemnation of the Tariff which the honorable gentleman put on.
– No; let the Minister refresh his memory by reading the debates and seeing the Tariff we asked compared with the Tariff .we got. He will find that I am right.
– The honorable member means that two-thirds of the Customs returns are derived from revenue duties.
– What he said was that two-thirds of the Customs duties are revenue producing.
– What is the difference? Two-thirds of the Customs taxation is received from revenue duties. That is what I meant, as my argument shows. The Prime Minister, after he had been at the head of the Treasury Department, said, as spokesman for his party, that no well-governed country should be taxed more than 47 s. per head from all sources; but this country is being taxed 64s. 6d. per head. There has been no development of the bounty system to replace protective duties,’ such bounties as are being paid being dribbled out ineffectively. The effect of the protective duties is entirely different from that of the revenue duties. Whenever sufficient protection is given, these more than pay for themselves by increasing the national welfare, and should not be taken into account in this calculation. That is why I put onethird of them aside, though they are only partially protectionist. I prefer to speak of the Customs revenue, as, not 64s. 6d. per head, but 43s. per head of population, that being the proportionate return from revenue duties, the two-thirds to which I have referred. There are not many families in this country with only one child.
– Five is the average family.
– Yes; but I prefer to understate the case. A burden of 43s. in Customs taxation alone, for every man, woman, and child in a family even of only three or four is sufficiently heavy. The total taxation retained by the present Government for three years is far in excess of what the Leader of the Labour party said should be the maximum.
Complaints about the great increase in the cost of living come frequently from the other side, and we are entitled to ask how much of it is due to this heavy burden of Customs taxation. During the last three years honorable members opposite have had abundant opportunities to readjust the Tariff, to relieve the people of this .burden. That would have been something just and wise. They should also have revised the duties intended to operate protectively ; but instead of doing so have remained content to draw from revenue duties aTone a sum practically as large as that their leader named in 1909 as sufficient to draw from all sources of taxation. The taxation of the Commonwealth from all sources in 1901-2 was 45s. 6d. per head of population; but to-day it is 72s. 10d. per head; so that this is fast becoming one of the most highly-taxed countries in the world of its grade of civilization. Our Federal taxation has increased 27s. 5d., and the State taxation 8s., a total of 35s. 5d. per head. Yet honorable members opposite profess to be surprised at the growing cost of living. Mr. Braddon, the President of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, and the editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, apparently by independent calculation, have both estimated the taxation of New South Wales at £5 per head of population.
– Then they do not know what they are talking about. They must have included the cost of services such as railways.
– The taxation per head is even greater if municipal taxation is added.
– According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the Commonwealth taxation is : From Customs and Excise, £3 14s. ; and from land taxation, 8s. 6d. per head; the State taxation in stamp duties is 13s. 3d. ; in land and income tax, 7s. 9d. ; in licences, is. 6d. ; a total of £S 5s- ; but it is explained that, as some Customs duties are paid on goods consumed in other States, it would be more correct to fix the amount at £$.
– The sugar Excise is not a tax.
– No services are included in that estimate. The Prime Minister said that if the revenue was permitted to go above 47s. per head, Protection was absolutely abandoned. It is now evident, on the confession of the Prime Minister, that Protection has been abandoned by this Government. The taxpayers’ load, instead of being diminished, has been increased. A wiser policy would have prevented this, and fostered Australian industries.
Again, nothing is more important, or so important, as our future finance; nothing will ultimately come home so directly to our own people. The taxpayers must first recognise that the recent shifting of the burden from the Commonwealth to the States has given the people no help ; there is no change in the circumstances of Australia as a whole; the only change is in State revenues.
Now there was, and is, and has been from the first, an opportunity for achieving a national end, which at the same time would be extremely beneficial to every part of Australia; which, I regret to say, remains neglected. I speak of the handling of the State debts. The movement and negotiations for the nationalization of the State debts proceeded for many years. I still look on this, as I always have, as the keystone of our finance. When, as early as 1905, a former member of this House, Mr. Knox, moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate this question, I cordially supported the proposal, saying -
It is not too much to say that if there is one problem with respect to which the Commonwealth Government should welcome every opportunity to obtain further knowledge, research, and consideration, it is the very proposal with which this Commonwealth will be called upon to deal.
– That Committee was not appointed. I supported it.
– Unfortunately, it was not appointed. When later, in 1907, I had the honour of officially visiting London, I took the opportunity of placing myself in immediate relation with the directors of the Bank of England, and one or two leading financial authorities. With the directors of the Bank of England I had the opportunity to discuss the whole question which we were busily shaping, with a view to action.
My inquiries were, in a sense, anticipated by a visit which the right honorable member for Swan had paid, at his own expense, to England in the preceding year, when he discussed the same subject with the leaders of the money market. When, in 1907, the right honorable member for Swan attended the Premiers’ Conference in Brisbane, he was prepared to lay, and did lay, before that Conference our four proposals. I have not time to read them, but, as an indication of their nature, quote from a statement of the right honorable member, who pointed out, as an inducement to their acceptance, that-
By the time the whole of the State debts were redeemed or converted into Commonwealth stock, it would mean a saving to the States of ?26,000,000. That would be the saving if the whole was pooled and allowed to accumulate. If, on the other hand, the amounts were paid over to the States as they were made, it would mean a saving of?15,000,000 in about fifty years, when the last loan now in existence would come to an end.
We then endeavoured to shape a Council of Finance, on which both Commonwealth and States should be represented, charged with the responsibility of adjusting all proposed Australian loans, vvhether Commonwealth or State. In order to avoid competition in the London market, we intended, by mutual aid, to reduce the cost of flotation and improve our position as much as possible. In 1909 I succeeded in obtaining from the Conference of Premiers in Melbourne a resolution authorizing a joint investigation into the conditions and methods of our co-operations prior to the acceptance of some such proposal, which should prove acceptable after full examination. The present Prime Minister himself made his first statement on this subject on the 19th October, 1905, in a debate on the proposal by Mr. Knox for a Select Committee. On that occasion he asked his colleagues and the House -
Why not face the question now? I have no confidence in the suggestion that the matter should be referred to a committee of experts, because, in my view, it is wholly a political matter, which must ultimately be submitted to the electors and determined by Parliament.
– Hear, hear !
– Further on, the right honorable gentleman said -
The question is an urgent one, and it is desirable that it should be dealt with, but a Select Committee will do very little in regard to it during the present session.
– Hear, hear !
– I now desire to quote . the right honorable gentleman as the spokesman and leader of his party. He said at the Premiers’ Conference, Hobart
– I said I had a horror of a seventh borrower.
Mr. Peake. ; I will point out that the more the Federal Parliament may leave the borrowing out of their policy the more it will throw it on the States.
– I quite appreciate the position of the States. I touched lightly upon the question of debts. I think if the debts were taken over it would be a great help to Australia, and as I have already said two or three times, I view with horror another borrower in Australia, and at present there is no agreement as regards the taking over the debts. I have never been able to consult any authority which does not say that the Commonwealth handling of the debts would be far cheaper than the States continuing to handle them -
Speaking as the Leader of the Opposition in 1909, the right honorable gentleman, on 1st August, alluding to the taking over of the debts, said it was - a matter of the gravest moment to the people.
In the same month, a little later, he said we could -
Within three-quarters of a century wipe out both principal and interest without exacting the contribution of a penny from the people to a fund for that purpose.
On the 7th December, still as Leader of the Opposition, he said -
The money of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth can be saved only by means of a national scheme for the consolidation of the State debts, and which will enable the States to borrow through some authority that may be set up.
– Hear, hear !
– That is a very definite statement of the Prime Minister.
– I also said that I would support an amendment to enable the Commonwealth to deal with the debts. That was on the proposal for the constitutional amendment.
– That was said in the constitutional amendment debate, and not when we were particularly discussing the State debts.. Having quoted the Prime Minister as Leader of the Opposition, I should now like to draw a contrast between his utterances for the Labour party then and his utterances as Prime Minister.
– Angels could do no more than I am doing at present !
– I do not observe them in immediate attendance on the right honorable gentleman. On the 4th July, in the first Governor-General’s Speech of this Government, we were told -
The question of consolidating the debts of the States becoming more urgent as time passes, it is hoped an early opportunity will present itself to enable all necessary steps being taken to deal with this question.
– Hear, hear ! It is coming !
– Yes ; no doubt a “ good time is coming.” On the 7th September, 1910, the Prime Minister said -
I predict that in the lifetime of some persons now living the Commonwealth will be able, by paying into a sinking fund the difference between the credit of the States and that of the Commonwealth, to pay off the principal and the interest without raising a penny of revenue. That may seem optimistic, but that is my firm belief.
I am not going to dispute the Prime Minister’s forecast. When he, on the same occasion, said -
Every inquiry will be made regarding this question, and next session the Government will endeavour to submit a scheme to Parliament - he was speaking in 1910, pledging his intentions for 191 1. But in 191 1 we saw in the Governor-General’s Speech -
Mv advisers regret that no settlement of the question of the consolidation of State debts has been arrived at. The matter continues to engage the most serious consideration of the Government.
There the matter is still. On the 26th October, the Prime Minister said -
I have made every proper inquiry that could be made, and I regret to say that, in my opinion, the time is not opportune to attempt to force this question. . . . The difficulties that present themselves at the present time are insuperable - a fact that we all regret.
Why or how the difficulties are insuperable we are not told.
– The States will not touch the matter, and we have no power to enforce it.
– They were inclined to touch it on the lines that we laid down.
– I am ready to entertain a proposal any day, and they know it.
– In 1912, therefore, we are back at the exact position we occupied in 1910. It is hoped “ that an early opportunity* will present itself for settling the question of the consolidation of the State debts,” and that is all.
– The Opposition will not refrain from embarrassing the Government on every occasion.
– The Opposition have never embarrassed the Government in this matter. No proposal would have been more welcomed by all true Federalists than one to consolidate the State debts, so as to place future borrowing on a practical and economic basis. With the changes that are now taking place in the money markets of the world, it is quite possible that, in the near future, we shall be forced to take a step that we might have taken much more advantageously three or four years ago. In 1 9 10 I pointed out with regret that the Governor-General’s Speech contained no reference at all to the transfer of the State debts, insisting that “ this subject presents one of the finest potentialities in the possession of this Parliament.”
– Is the honorable member prepared to take over the State debts in the absence of some arrangement with the States in regard to future borrowing?
– If the honorable member will only read the proposals which I presented to the Conference of Premiers at Brisbane, together with the amendments submitted at a succeeding Conference, he will thoroughly understand my position.
– All of which have been laughed at by the States.
– They have not been laughed at. They were carefully considered in a practical way on two occasions.
– They have been jettisoned.
– There may be other grounds for that.
No Government, and no party, ever had such opportunities in this connexion as the present Government and the party behind them. They have been free from financial difficulties. They have been dealing with the States at a time when the latter were in sore need of financial assistance, in consequence of their having been deprived of much of the revenue which they received in former years. Moreover, in the first instance, there were no less than four out of seven Governments in Australia of the same political complexion and character as the Commonwealth Government, so that four out of seven Governments were, as far as we know, adopting a similar attitude towards this ques- tion. They are still three out of the seven. They have still the same opportunities. The Government have enjoyed these golden opportunities, but, unfortunately, there is no evidence that they have really brought their special influence to bear on the State Governments with a view to bringing about a national solution of this problem. Had the Liberal party been in office, they would not have been content with the negotiations which have proceeded. They would have pressed for Conferences, which would have brought out into the light of day any influences opposed to the settlement of this all-important question.
Just as we have made no progress in that all-important regard, so we have made none in the extension of the policy of reciprocity. So far as the Mother Country is concerned, nothing has been added to what we carried when we were in office. There has been no extension of the agreement into which we entered with South Africa. Owing to the untimely death of the all-powerful Prime Minister, Mr. Seddon, the agreement into which he had entered with us, and which I believe the New Zealand Parliament would have ratified them, seeing that it had the force of his influence and party behind it, was, unfortunately, lost. With Canada no progress has been made. Even the Vancouver contract is in a highly unsatisfactory position at the present time.
– It is non-existent. The mails are carried at poundage rates.
– Last year the Minister of Defence pointed out that the Vancouver contract was in such a hopeless tangle that he would not attempt to explain it. So far as reciprocal trade relations are concerned, therefore, and its most promising outlets, we have only a record of neglect or failure.
Turning to a question in which the Minister of External Affairs may be more interested, let me point out that no progress whatever has been made in the matter of regulating and encouraging immigration. As long ago as 1.906 a resolution was carried at a Premiers’ Conference which was held in Sydney, generally favorable to the principle embodied in the proposals laid before it for the promotion of immigration. The details of the scheme were to form the subject of future consideration. That we entered upon, and we were exchanging correspondence when the Ministry of which I had the honour to be the head came to an untimely end. In a letter which I wrote to the Premier of New South Wales in 1908 I stated -
The Commonwealth Government is prepared to adapt its general scheme so as to satisfy to the full the requirements of the States for immigrants, but we necessarily require a definite understanding with them as to those requirements, in order, first, to submit our Estimates to Parliament, and next to avoid making any representations to intending settlers which cannot be fulfilled.
– What .was the reply to that communication?
– The States were generally favorable to it. That letter was written in August, 1908, and shortly afterwards we went into retirement.
– Nothing definite was obtained.
– Yes. The Minister of External Affairs has all the correspondence under his own control, and therefore he need not ask me any questions regarding it. Since then nothing effective has been done.
– More immigrants are coming to Australia now than ever came before.
– That is so; but it is wholly due to State expenditure and State initiative.
– It is due to the good legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– The Minister of External Affairs means that it is the result of the operation of the land tax. Now anybody who chooses to look at the actual returns relating to the cutting up of estates consequent upon the operation of the land tax, who takes into consideration the subdivisions which have been effected amongst families and partners, will find that there is practically no margin left for immigration at all. If immigrants were seeking land they would have no opportunity of finding it, if they were dependent upon the effect of that tax.
– Why did not these immigrants come to Australia when the honorable member was in office ?
– My land tax would have been framed on a different and more effective plan. It was only at the beginning of the present year that the Minister fell in badly by commenting upon a statement in the Times. On that occasion he said -
The Commonwealth was ready at all times to co-operate with the States, but until that cooperation was sought the Commonwealth could not interfere.
Thereupon he was immediately reminded by the Chief Secretary of Victoria that -
So far we have not had the slightest assistance from the Commonwealth. We have appealed to them to co-operate with the States, but there has been no response. As a result every State is having to act on its own and secure immigrants as best it can by its own efforts.
A colleague of the Minister, Senator Findley, equally rash, announced that the introduction of the Federal land tax was “ primarily to encourage people to these shores, and to provide them with land.” Had he forgotten that one-third of the Federal land tax is paid on city properties, and that only two-thirds operates on country properties, under the restrictions I have already mentioned ? “ The Commonwealth was quite prepared to cooperate with the States,” said Senator Findley three months later than the Minister. That was the same old song over again, in the teeth of the resolution of the Premiers’ Conference of 1912, embodying a practical proposal to the effect that the Commonwealth Government be asked to provide 25,000 assisted passages for immigrants. The Minister of External Affairs knows the rest, and knows, also, the reply he sent, to the effect that this would cost approximately £150,000 a year, and that “ it would not be wise to introduce a divided control into the matter, as such a course wouldbe only productive of difficulty.” How could the control be more or worse divided than it is at present, when it is divided amongst the States, the Commonwealth taking no part and exercising no supervision? I cannot imagine a worse division. The grant of £150,000 per annum could have been tried, at all events for one year, in order to test it by results, especially in times such as the Government have enjoyed with their overflowing Treasury, and, compared with what was ours, their relatively inexhaustible resources.
– We should have been accused of extravagance by the honorable member for Flinders.
– Here the Minister is casting aside a golden chance of putting to the test the question of whether immigration can be obtained to the extent desired by the exercise of Commonwealth powers. Under present conditions, every vessel the States have been able toobtain has been overcrowded, and, day by day, we have cablegrams from the Mother Country saying that numbers of immigrants are offering themselves - evidently desirable im migrants, who have passed the tests, and are willing to settle in Australia - but cannot find ships to carry them. This shows that the States accurately foresaw the situation, and that the Minister did not, or would not, foresee it. We are now lacking and losing, because he had not the courage to make the experiment even for one year, a period which would have tested its working powers.
– And Australians haveto walk the streets to make room for immigrants.
– I have read resolutions to that effect, passed by bodies which seem to think they have an interest in limiting, and that it is possible to limit, the numbers of those who live by their labour. They seem to imagine that this country can thrive or even exist with its present population for a garrison. That appears to be the most short-sighted view possible to take of a country circumstanced as Australia is to-day.
– The honorable member for Illawarra complained to-day because some one was being imported for the Postal Department.
– Because a man of equal ability was available locally. Those anti-immigration resolutions are carried by men who, if they realized their true interests, would see that without a multiplication of the population of Australia, not only can we not occupy the country, but we cannot even maintain it under the excellent conditions which will accrue if we take anything like full advantage even of the resources near at hand. We cannot hope to cope with all that exist for generations yet.
Let me now refer to the Minister’s misguided efforts in relation to the Northern Territory, so far as concerns the development of its agricultural resources. What we needed was that Ministers, when they first took office, should establish a Federal Department of Agriculture, the chief direct responsibility of which would naturally have been to deal with the Northern Territory. It would, also, have been in touch with every Department of Agriculture in the States, and, co-operating with them, would have brought to bear on our problems in this relation a great deal more knowledge, properly focussed and directed, than we at present possess. In this way it would have enabled the Northern Territory to be better dealt with, and probably with less expense, than in present circumstances. That opportunity still remains to the
Minister. As he has proved quite willing to endow the Northern Territory with all that was deemed necessary in other regards, why not establish the one body that can link up all the Agricultural Departments of Australia and induce them, for their own benefit, to join in their common task? In that way only will the resources of Australia, and the people who are coming here, receive the opportunities to which they are entitled. In the last resort, everything depends upon the extent to which we make use of our natural resources. Everything depends, too, upon our strength-, upon the number of people we bring here, or entourage to come here, in order that they may take their share in the developing and peopling of this country.
– And its defence.
– Of course, in its defence. We will stand only at the base of our national structure. Our social structure would be improved by these additions to our ranks, but our national structure cannot hope to exist without them. It would be a sorry day for Australia if any future Parliament of the Commonwealth had to recognise that the time foi multiplying its population had passed that suitable settlers <:ould no longer be attracted to us. Such a verdict would be the most fateful that could possibly be given against this country.
Amongst the conditions making against us, and rendering it more difficult to attract population, and certainly more difficult for those who are here to provide for themselves as adequately as they should, is the heavy taxation imposed upon us by merely revenue duties. They increase the cost of living and the burden of every working man and woman in this community. .
– You yourself put on all those duties.
– Remember how mutilated they were, even from the first draft that we submitted.
– I think your present deputy leader was the chief mutilator.
– I pass now to another national body, the absence of which has already been seriously felt in this country, and will be felt more deeply in each succeeding year, although in this regard we have a promise that something will be undertaken. The first Bill for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission was introduced by us in 1901 ; the last, a very much amended and extended measure, was brought in during 1909. Unfortunately, the pressure of work in getting through any business in the closing hours of that session rendered it impossible to secure its passage.
– There was no time to fill all the billets !
– There was no design or intention to take advantage of that opportunity until after a general election had taken place. The Bill would have been passed for all that, had time permitted. Since then, not a year has passed in which I have not urged upon the attention of the Government the all-important functions of this body, and pressed them to make it a special feature of their policy. The Prime Minister is in favour of it now, but in 19 10, in reply to my appeal, he merely said that he regretted the absence of a proposal to create an Inter-State Commission, and that was all. In 191 1 he was a backslider, stating that ‘ ‘ the appointment of the Inter- State Commission is not a question of such urgency as to call for serious comment.” After that it seemed of very little use to bring the subject under notice again. Therefore, it is with amazement, as well as with delight, that I find that the Government propose to bring forward a Bill for the establishment of the Commission. It should be a special feature of their policy. But in this regard recent appointments made to responsible positions in Australia have rather destroyed confidence with respect to the possible choice that might be made. I have no need to mention instances, or the exercise of patronage. They are perfectly well understood. But I will say that no action should be taken to appoint an Inter-State Commission until not only Parliament, but the country, has given its sanction, after we have agreed to the terms and conditions under which it is to be established. We have yet to learn what those terms and conditions are.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I think I could finish within twenty minutes after the usual adjournment.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the honorable member have leave to continue his speech ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– The honorable member may continue.
– I am obliged to honorable members for their courtesy. As my period has been overdrawn, I will not pursue one or two other questions on which I had made notes. There are plenty of honorable members on this side capable of dealing with the many omissions from the Budget statement, as well as errors of commission.
Sitting suspended pom 6.25 to 7.45 p.m.
– Our financial outlook deserves far more attention than it receives. Incidentally, 1 may say that I never knew it to be less considered than it has been during the current Parliament. All our expectations are more or less subject to impressions of what may prove temporary conditions. So far as we can faithfully interpret the indications given by recent events, however, they point, I fear, to a conclusion of the period of almost unqualified good seasons which we have enjoyed, assisted by local causes, and in part to those operating over far larger areas than the Commonwealth. The fact is that today money is dearer than it has been for the last three or four years, and such symptoms of change as are visible point in an upward, rather than a downward, direction. This may not seriously affect the Estimates that have been circulated by the Government, which have been deliberately understated in this as in previous years - a course to which I take no exception, since I understand it to proceed from a desire to err on the side of safety.
Nevertheless, evidence is multiplying on every hand that we cannot expect money to be as plentiful as it has been for the last four or five years. The touch of drought, from which a considerable portion of southeastern Australia has suffered, is likely to cost more than was at first anticipated. It has seriously depreciated some export values. At present the crops are larger than was anticipated; but their actual yield depends upon the rainfall. In point of fact, the latest estimate made by those concerned in agricultural products is that, in New South Wales, already there are indications of a shortage of wheat to the extent of about 1. 100,000 bushels on all the obvious factors open to calculation. Then, again, the rise in the price of meat has commanded attention everywhere. Sales are less, and prices are high, because a considerable draft has been made upon available resources for the purpose of re-stocking those portions of the interior that were affected by the recent drought. There, again, is certain to be a decrease in the wool-clip, on account of the large number of sheep that perished in parts affected by drought, although, on the other hand, it ispossible that prices for wool may be higher. We have a scarcity of labour, we have a higher outlay that is unavoidable, and we have the taxation to which i have already referred. We have, also, the effect of several factors in nullifying the Protectionist margin that remained under j a number of duties in the last Tariff.
Taking all these factors together, although, there is no reason for alarm, it is obvious that, in our present circumstances, we already have evidence of the necessity for: moderating our expectations below those ii» which we should have indulged some eight or nine months ago. Whilst that is a very important factor, it is not the only one requiring to be taken, into consideration. For instance, a glance at our national trade, unfortunately, appears to support the sameanticipations. In 1910-11 our importswere of the value of £62,500,000, but exports of our own produce were of the value of £67,750,000, which gave us, on the balance of trade, an advantage in round figures of £5,000,000. No doubt that £5,000,000 may have been, all of it, due for payment to creditors across the sea, but, at all events, the balance of trade stood to that extent in our favour. In 1911-t.2, however, the imports under our unfortunate Tariff rose to £71,000,000, whilst our exports sank to £66,500,000,. or £4,500,000 below the value of our imports. This year, so far as those informed can’ judge, is likely to result in an> excess of imports, while it is very doubtful if any increase will be shown in exports. On the two years I have mentioned thebalance of trade went against us to theextent of £10,000,000. That in itself is worthy of some consideration.
As symptomatic it is even a little more serious. We have heavy commitments abroadstill to deal with, and the “trade balance against Australia is not an encouraging factor. A banker has been good enough to take out for me the operations of fourof the leading banks of Australia during the last twelve months. These show that during that period they have received from one source and another £5,000,000 in deposits, but they, had made advances to the extent of £10,000,000. That ratiocannot long be maintained. We have to bear in mind the difference of £10,000,000 between imports and exports to which I have already referred ; and there is another stand-point from which these changes are- regarded. They have importance everywhere, and have a double meaning in Australia. In 1911-12 the shipments of gold from Australia amounted in value to no less than ,£14,000,000, or £9,400,000 in excess of the shipments in 1 910-11. That is explicable in part, and only in part, by the heavy imports to which I have already alluded, increasing, and, apparently, ever increasing. Our output over sea, at all events, appears to be decreasing. Moreover the gold exported in that last year was actually in excess of its production in Australia. All the gold raised in Australia in that year did not equal the gold exported. These again are signs which point to a hardening market. The stream of tendency at present appears to be making for dear money. I have obtained from another source a comparative statement showing the exports of gold coin during the first seven months “of the last three years. The comparison is confined to the first seven months of each year, since only seven months of the current year have expired. This affords us yet another line of indication. In the first seven months of 19 10 the gold coin exported by the banks amounted to £2.500,000; in the first seven months of 191 1 it increased to £4,128,000, and during the same period in 1912 it rose to £8.170,000. This is a very striking and suggestive increase. I shall not attempt to assess how much the note issue taking the place of the gold currency has had to do with these figures.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that a shipment of gold is a mon* serious matter than a shipment of other goods ?
– Possibly it is, because of the serious position which may follow. A movement of gold from this country, which would throw us more and more upon a paper currency, presents possibilities which business men desire to avoid. I have directed attention to the singular fact that in one year we sent away more gold than we produced in that year.
– In other years we sent*away less.
– We have, as a rule, sent away less. I. do not unduly stress these figures, and draw no conclusion from them, except that while prudence and foresight are always necessary, they are more than ever required when a series of different circumstances appear to demand caution.
I admit that there is a hardeningtendency in money outside of Australia altogether. I am not implying that it is limited to Australia. Money is getting dearer everywhere, but there is no country offering better opportunities for the employment of money than Australia, and no country which is more dependent for its progress in many directions upon ils employment. I have learned with some surprise, again from an authoritative source, that the interest payable, almost wholly to Great Britain, on State debts, by State banking institutions, wool and other large companies doing business beyond Australia, which ‘ have English backing, amounts to no less a sum than £17,000,000 a year. The operation of these great factors seems worthy of attention. I have looked through I do not know how many more pages of figures than those to which I have made allusion, picking out only these few salient items by* way of illustration.
I say at once that nothing could be more unwise than to use any phrase regarding them which should give the slightest indication of any special alarm on the part of Australia. At the same time, no thoughtful person, having regard to the uncertainty even of the present season in Australia, so far as it has gone could consider these facts, so far as they affect Australian finance, without feeling that it is time to adopt a very cautious outlook wherever possible; and to make ourselves safe against any possible storm from abroad or elsewhere.
That consideration leads me to the question as to how far the Commonwealth Bank may be considered a factor in this regard. I doubt if, as yet, it can be con- “ sidered a factor at all. But when dealing with State debts, to which I have alluded at some length, this bank is an agency excellently fitted for the work. I should have had much more admiration for the plan of the Commonwealth Bank it’ it had been based wholly upon, and confined wholly to, national operations Of that character. I have always thought that there was room for a bank for this purpose. I have said for years past that we should have some institution which should take the place of the Bank of England, with necessary alterations to meet our altered circumstances. What I have now to say in that regard is that, under these circumstances, the bank would have been created in such a fashion as to arouse no hostility or ill-feeling on the part of other governing organizations in Australia. I use that long phrase because to speak of them as the States seems inevitably to suggest that they are outside and foreign to ourselves as a Commonwealth, whereas the fact is that the State Legislatures, Governments, and Public Services are engaged in the same work of administering Australia as we are. We can only be effective while we are united. The States can become effective only if allowed to do their work, according to the independent views of their electors, their legislators, and others charged with -responsibility. I trace a good deal of the difficulty of the present, and a good deal of our apprehension with regard to the future, to the unfortunate fact that by the policy pursued in the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, especially its Savings branch, in the imposition of the land tax, in handling immigration, in cutting down their revenues in 1910, and in other matters of national importance, there has been occasioned an almost wholly unnecessary internecine conflict. This has placed a very great and serious obstacle in the way of our dealing with the State debts and other questions of that kind, in which the co-operation of the States would Se invaluable.
– The honorable gentleman thinks that we did not pander to them sufficiently ; that we should have been more subservient to the States?
– That is exactly the opposite of what I (am saying. We must pursue our own independent course, but regard the Commonwealth as a whole, and we should continue to do so; but, in connexion with matters in which the whole of the people are concerned as citizens of the States as well as of the Commonwealth, it would have been perfectly easy to recognise both obligations without the least sacrifice of national honour and principle, but with a great strengthening of our national organization and action. That has been my firm conviction, and I reiterate it here. When the Prime Minister finds himself dissatisfied with the results of his efforts in regard to the taking over of the State debts and other matters, I venture to say that a great many obstacles in his way are of his own raising. He might have established the Commonwealth Bank without offence or injury to any of the States. He might have imposed a land tax no less productive than the present, but so framed as to leave State land taxation a free field within its own proper sphere. He might have taken his fair part in adding to our citizens from, the Mother Country. So, in other matters, besides pinpricks, a want of national action between the parties interested has sown difficulties in our path, and will continue to do so. When it is said that the Commonwealth, as a Commonwealth, has nothing to fear from these conflicts, I might agree, if the Commonwealth could be separated from Australia, and wrapped up in its own fortunes. If, whether well-advised or illadvised, antagonism is created between bodies of our own citizens, so far as we are responsible for it, we shall, surely, see cause to regret it.
– I think I went to the extreme limits in my attempts at co-operation with the State Governments.
– Possibly the honorable gentleman did; but, from what I know, I have not been able to form the same view. It must be recognised that local organizations cannot but look forward with apprehension to the proposals which, are to be repeated at another referendum, varying only in particulars, as we are given to understand, from the great endeavour of 191 1 to practically obliterate the States. Here, again, every State is being unnecessarily antagonized by the inclusion amongst these objects of some which could have been accomplished better, or at least as well, by co-operative action on the part of the Federal and State Governments. At all events, our differences on many points might have been minimized, and an approach might have been made much easier if a less haughty and dictatorial tone had been adopted towards the States generally in regard to the sweeping changes proposed in their forms of government. Australia is young yet, and it would be better for us, even though we should run the risk of a slight retardation, to postpone for a short time concessions which some believe to be necessary rather than to have taken action so as to range against us a very strong body of public opinion. This is now making its resistance felt in a variety of ways, weakening the true spirit of Australia, with its sense of national unity and readiness to * sacrifice much for national ends.
But I draw hurriedly to a conclusion. Our Federal Union was based, in the first instance, on the confidence of the people, and requires to be retained by as much judgment, discrimination, caution, and friendliness of approach to the States them- selves and their subordinate organizations as is possible. I do not think that anything near what was possible, probable, or desirable has been done. Thus we do not enter into our larger labours with the impetus and unity around us that we expected to obtain. I regret that nothing has been done towards reciprocity, immigration, and other matters to which I have alluded.
This Budget, from my point of view, is bad, because it is based upon burdensome taxation, and prolongs that burdensome taxation long after it has been justified. In three years nothing has been done to improve the position of Australian industries to prepare a national policy of finance and development embracing all the interests of Australia. The great task of the State debts is still untouched. Never have there been such opportunities before, and it may be long before they recur. The motto appears to have been to tax the goods the gods provide, and to take care to spend the proceeds. I am not here to challenge the general purpose of the Government expenditure, or to raise questions of economy. All these matters will arise, so far as they can arise at all, in connexion with another line of argument by other speakers. The argument I have thought it desirable to attempt is based on the broadest lines; and, whether mistaken or not - any one of us may be easily mistaken - is national in all intents and purposes. I have no ambition for Australia, and neither hope nor faith in our future, except so far as the Australian citizens are content to rally to the support of the Governments they have created. I say deliberately, “ the Governments which they have created,” excluding none. I must confess, if a choice between them has to be made in the future, that many of us will be strongly biased by our sense of the value of national unity to throw our weight into this scale. But whatever is done ought to be led up to in a conciliatory and patriotic mood. That could have been done; it ought still to be done. I disclaim and distrust any proposition submitted by any party which makes for the severance of our citizens, which destroys our sense of a common country, with common aims, and common principles. I trust yet to see Australians rally to our Federal standards, irrespective of minor local issues. When we have learned to thoroughly sift our national from our domestic and local issues, we may place absolute power over purely national issues in the National
Government. Then wherever greater efficiency can be gained by local Governments, as it can be in a great number of instances in this huge country, so sparsely populated, and of which the development must be based upon the best local foundation and upon practical interests, advantage should be taken of them. It must never be forgotten that Australia, in the. last resort, rests on the intelligence, the judgment, the courage, and the spirit of the whole of its people. We should, therefore, antagonize none, but welcome all under a common standard, to uphold their States under a National Government supreme, but never tvrannical.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat, has made one of his characteristic speeches. It was characteristic in that he generalized on every one of the subjects contained in the Budget, and particularized on none.
– I am afraid that you have not read the Budget, then. I left out a number of points very reluctantly.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has not dealt with the Budget effectively. I take it that the discussion on the Budget of the country is, perhaps, one of the most important discussions in which Parliament can be engaged. I wish to congratulate the Treasury Department upon having produced what I believe is the largest Budget that Australia has yet known, and produced it at the time when they did. I think, taking into consideration the size of the Budget, and the date of its presentation, it establishes a record. It is an old saying that” finance is government, and government is finance,” and that a Government which cannot stand to be criticised on its finance cannot stand to be criticised on anything. The most important part of the criticism from an Opposition should be devoted to the financing of the Government, and if this is not sound the Government is notfit to retain its place on the Treasury bench, no matter what its legislation may be. Seeing that the ladies and gentlemen, outside the chamber, who support honorable members opposite have, for the last twelve or eighteen months, been scouring the country with charges of extravagance against the Government, it was surely the duty of their leader to point to one item of their expenditure which is extravagant ; to point to one item in the Budget which he, if in office, would not have incurred. When he was interviewed on the Budget, two days after it was delivered, by a Melbourne newspaper, he made this comment : “ Taking a general view “ - he always takes a general view, never a particular view ; he does not itemize or specialize - “of the taxation disclosed, and the proposed expenditure, it is a heavy and unwarrantable burden.” One would have expected that in this debate the honorable member would show where the burden was unwarranted, what item of expenditure there was no warrant for, and in what way he would relieve the taxpayers if he came back to the Treasury bench. That is what we ask that the Opposition should do in all fairness. To-day the honorable member repeated, to some extent, his statement when he referred to lavish expenditure. I took the opportunity, in his electorate, to make n prophesy, and it was that, notwithstanding all his talk about an unwarrantable burden upon the people, when he came to discuss the Budget in Parliament he would not point to one item of expenditure to which he objected, and I venture to say that honorable members will agree that my prophesy has been fulfilled. The honorable member for Parramatta, too’, had a word to say on the Budget to the press. He said, “ The Budget is more political than financial. It has been constructed with an eye on the approaching elections.” What does that mean ? The Leader of the Opposition told us, in the beginning of his speech to-day, that where the Budget failed was that it did not announce any policy - was not political. But the honorable member for Parramatta said recently that it was political.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– Well, to give the exactstatement, the honorable member said it “ was more political than financial, that it had been constructed with an eye on the approaching elections.” What does that mean ? It means that the people, who are beginning to discern the facts of the case, and to see the sound financing of the gentlemen who occupy the Treasury bench, will be inclined to support them at the com”ing election. In what way has the Budget been framed? It is a mere statement of the financial position, and, naturally, I agree with the honorable member that it will have an effect upon the electors at the next election. Anybody who understands the’ financing of a country realizes that a
Government which can turn a deficit into a surplus, and a borrowing policy into a lending policy, is not going to meet with very harsh treatment at the hands of the electors.
– You have now a debt of £6,000,000. .
– Had the honorable gentleman been working in the interests of the people, he would have incurred that kind of debt. His speech may be described as vague generalities. At the outset he stated that the Government seemed anxious to get things done without discussion. Yet the debate on the Works Estimates was longer than on any previous occasion, and a whole day was occupied at the report stage, which establishes a record. The charge against the Government is that it seems anxious to get things done.
– I did not say the Government.
– The honorable member has led a party, and is more culpable than any one else for talking about things without doing them.
– The honorable member has not made one correct quotation.
– I took down the honorable member’s words. He makes a statement, and denies it immediately afterwards. The honorable member advocated the creation of a committee of finance. That might be a good thing to do; but whatever honorable members opposite discuss, they suggest the appointment of a committee to scrutinize the proposals of this Government. Why did they not appoint these committees during the ten years that they had the opportunity to do so? The burden of the criticism of the honorable member for Ballarat was that he does not like the arrangement of the Budget, and that it is difficult to find in it this, that, and the other item of information. He told us how many places a certain item was to be found in, and on how many pages it appeared. I have not had much experience in the examination of Budgets, but .1 know that, in comparison with previous Budgets, including even the last, this is the clearest presentation of the financial position of Australia that I have seen. We were told that in this matter we are only following old stereotyped forms, inherited from the Opposition. Why waste a halfhour’ in dealing with the matter if that is so? The honorable gentleman spoke of the Tariff, and of the State debts, and charged ais with having shown no consideration to the States, and with not having diminished taxation. We have been told that the expenditure of the Government has been lavish, and that taxation is burdensome. But the right honorable member for Swan, who was Treasurer of the Fusion Government, stated when the Works Estimates were being discussed that.” in building up this great Australia we could profitably spend much more “ than it was proposed to spend ; and complained bitterly that, ^£86,000 having been voted for a particular work, only £37,000 had been spent. “Why was not the other £49,000 spent?” he asked. If this Government is extravagant, how does it come about that the Treasurer last year did not spend all the money voted by Parliament? There was hardly a proposed vote in the Works Estimates which honorable members opposite, and some on this side, would not have increased. In Victoria the main charge against the Government is its expenditure on the Federal Capital ; but the supporters of the honorable member for Ballarat would spend much more on the Capital. On the 19th June, the honorable member for Lang said that the expenditure on the Federal Capital is “ shamefully small.”
– So it is.
– The honorable member for Lang said, “ 1 should have been willing to spend £3,000,000.” He is the Opposition whip, and would have preferred an expenditure of £3,000,000 to an expenditure of £60,000. The honorable ^member for Parramatta, speaking on the subject, complained that “ although £22,000,000 is to be spent this year, only a paltry £110,000 is for the Federal Capital. “ These are the gentlemen who -charge this Government with extravagance. The revenue for the past year was £20,500,000, its chief items being Customs and Excise, £13,250,000; Post Office, £4,000,000; and Land Tax, £1.400,000. The expenditure is set down at £20,000,000 ; but, strictly speaking, the Commonwealth did not spend more than £14,000,000. The remaining £6,000,000 was handed to the States, for which the Commonwealth is merely the tax collector. We spent about £5,000,000 on Defence, about £4,000,000 on the Post Office, and about £2,200,000 on Old-age and Invalid Pensions.
– To what extent would honorable gentlemen opposite reduce that expenditure ?
– I shall come to that. The honorable member for Ballarat made the startling statement that two-thirds of the revenue from Customs comes from revenue duties, a staggering remark from one who was at the head of the Government which introduced the Tariff. No one regrets more than I do the swelling imports of Australia; but the honorable member for Darling Downs, in a pamphlet entitled Nation Building, giving the record of the Deakin Government, referred to the Tariff as “ scientific and all comprehensive,” language worthy of his leader.
– So the Tariff was at the time.
– Bad as the Tariff was, and is, the honorable member would have made it worse, had he had his way.
– Nearly all the recommendations of the Tariff Commission were accepted.
– The Leader of the Opposition complained that the Tariff had been mutilated by Parliament. H’ad not the honorable member for Bendigo a hand in the mutilation? I ask the Leader of the Opposition to tell us who mutilated his Tariff? Was it not- the gentlemen with whom he is at present associated, such as the honorable member for Lang, the honorable member for Parramatta, the honor able member for Illawarra, and others? When the Leader of the Opposition was gi’ ing us a Protectionist lecture this afternoon, it drove the honorable member for Parramatta out of the chamber - he could noc stand it. We all know how the honorable member for Ballarat described the honorable member for Parramatta and his party as the wreckage of the Free Trade party and the wreckage of parties with whom he could never associate. It, therefore, comes very ill from the honorable member for Ballarat to complain about the mutilation of his Tariff when we see with whom he is at present associated. I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether, if the present duties are revenue duties, he would wipe them out were he to come back to power? Would he take the burden off the shoulders of the taxpayers?
– Would the honorable member remove the revenue duties? ,
– Yes; I would give my vote to remove every revenue duty in the Tariff at the present time. I have always been an advocate for Free Trade in those articles that we do not produce here, and for effective Protective duties on the articles we do. If the honorable member for Ballarat would remove the revenue duties, what duties would he put on in their place? Is he an advocate of direct ‘taxation? The honorable member is silent ; he will afford the House and the country no information as to where he would obtain revenue. The natural corollary of his remarks, if he is logical, is that he would impose more direct taxation, or would reduce the expenditure. If the latter, what items of expenditure shown in the Budget would he eliminate? Would he reduce the expenditure on defence? Would he abolish old-age pensions, as suggested by some of his colleagues? Would he repeal the humanitarian legislation of this Government? Would- he remove the telegraphic and telephonic facilities that have been afforded to the people? What items in the Budget would he remove, or what? class of direct taxation would he impose? I find that in 1908-9 the Customs revenue was £8,600,000, while in 1909-10 it was £9,500,000, so that in the last year of the Fusion Government the revenue increased nearly £1,000,000. Was there any suggestion then made to amend the Tariff? Did the honorable member for Ballarat dare to suggest an amendment of the Tariff when he had the opportunity and a strong majority? Was he advocating an effective Protectionist Tariff when he went to support the candidature of that ultra Free Trader Mr. Conroy in Werriwa? I have been an uncompromising Protectionist all my life, and I regret that it has been necessary for the Tariff to be partially sunk at any period in Australia’s history. We can say, however, that there are gentlemen on this side who are prepared to give up the Free Trade principles that they have held for years, if they are given power under the Constitution to associate new Protection with the Tariff. Are honorable members opposite prepared to make a similar definite statement to the country ? Are they prepared to back up the statement made by their leader in a memorandum issued by the Attorney-General of his own Government, that Protection was not complete unless it carried with it the protection of the wageearners, or words to that effect? T venture to say that the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable member for Lang, and other Free Traders opposite are more opposed to the new Protection than they are to the old Protection. This Go- vernment have stated that, given power under the Constitution to protect the manufacturer, the wage-earner, and the consumer, they will give all the Protection necessary to the people of the country.
– Even to prohibition ?
– Even to prohibition, yes. Before leaving the question of the Tariff, I desire to compliment the Department of Trade and Customs on their economy in collecting the revenue, for I find that, while in 1909-10 the cost was £2 6s. sd. per. cent., it amounted in 1911-12 to only £1 ‘ 18s. per cent., showing a saving of 8s. 5d. per cent. I come now to the question of defence. Honorable members opposite are very fluent when talking about the growing expenditure; and there is no doubt that the present Government have spent more money than any other Government on defence - millions more. But have the Government wasted the money? It is not the size of the expenditure that the people have to consider; it is how the money has been expended. Has the money been expended in the direction that the people have desired ? It is an idle sort of argument to say that somany millions were expended under the Liberal Governments, and that the Labour Government are spending so many more millions. If a business has a turnover of £1,000 a year, and the expenditure is £900, showing a profit of £100, and a new manager is introduced, who, on a turnover of £10,000 a year, expends £9,000, showing a profit of £1,000, what would be the use of the old manager urging that the new one should be discharged because under him the expenditure had grown? Such a proposition would be laughed at. If we cart show the people, as we can, that we are giving them something that they never had before - facilities through the post-office such as they never before enjoyed, and that we are laying the foundation of an effective defence scheme, which was talked about for ten years, but in regard to which nothing was done-
– Does the honorable member say that nothing was done for defence before this Government came into power?
– -I thank the honorable member for the question, because it givesme an opportunity to emphasize the statement that, in regard to defence, nothing practical or effective was previously done. Unless the defence of the country is madeeffective, it is better not to spend any money at all, because there can only be waste. There are some things that we can do partially, but defence is not one of them. I am not speaking as an enthusiast for militarism, because I have always been an opponent of it ; if I had my way I should put those who cause wars in the first firing line to receive the first shots. But we must not be foolish; we must either have an effective defence or none at all. I leave it to the common sense of the honorable member for Wimmera to say whether there was anything worthy of the name previously done in the matter of defence. From 1901 to 1910 - all years of Liberalism with the exception of very brief periods - there was spent £9,500,000 on defence; whereas from 1910 to the end of the current financial year in 1913, the present Government will have expended £12,500,000, or £3,000,000 more in three years than the Liberal Governments spent in nine years.
– The honorable member forgets the altered conditions.
– I forget nothing.
– Why call them Liberals ?
– There was a time, I know, when the gentlemen who sat on the Treasury bench had some claim to be called Liberals, but that time has long gone by. I ask whether any honorable member opposite would propose to reduce the expenditure on defence? Yet that is the item -which has grown abnormally, and upon which our expenditure has increased by leaps and bounds. There is no doubt that honorable members opposite would have raised that money in a different manner. How ? By borrowing. Did they not pass an Act authorizing the Fusion Government to borrow £3,500,000 for the construction of a Fleet Unit - a policy unheard of in connexion with defence matters. I say that the only sound policy is to provide for the defence of the country out of revenue. I come now to another item upon which our expenditure bulks very largely, namely, that of new works. I find that, during the years 1908-9 and 1909-10, the Fusion Government expended £1,500,000 upon this item, whereas the Labour Government, during the two years they have held office, have expended £6,000,000 upon it, or four times as much. Are these new works required? Will any honorable member stand up and say that unnecessary works have been carried out in his electorate? Is there an honorable member who does not want twice as many works put in hand ? I know that I do. If the Treasurer listened to all the appeals which are made to him for the construction of new works, the expenditure upon them, would not be £6, 000,000, but £60,000,000. If my honorable friends opposite would borrow for defence purposes, with how much more alacrity would they borrow for the construction of new works which are a permanent asset. Had they been so disposed, the present Government could have remitted taxation, and could: have built these new works out of borrowed money. Had they followed that course, their bill for interest and sinking fund this year would have been £250,000 instead of £6,000,000 during the past two years. But the £6,000,000 would have been expended nevertheless, and the debt would have been handed down to posterity. It is not long since the honorable member for Mernda advocated borrowing in order to get rid of responsibility. That was the attitude of Micawber, who, when money became due, used to write out an I.O.U. and say, “Thank God, that is done with.” That is the way in which the Fusion Government would finance the country. During the past two years the present Ministry have provided money for defence purposes, and have expended £6,000,000 on new works without borrowing a single penny. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to immigration, and declared that the Government were not doing anything to encourage it. He affirmed that the Commonwealth had had a splendid offer from the States, which the Minister of External Affairs had not accepted. That offer was that the Commonwealth should expend £150,000 a year to bring immigrants to Australia for the State Governments. The latter were to do the rest. The honorable member for Ballarat affirmed that in 1906 he had a conference with the States in regard to this matter, and that they agreed to provide the land and employment if the Commonwealth would supply the immigrants. He subsequently declared that, as the States had not guaranteed to furnish the land and employment, he could not do anything in the matter. But in 1906, when he was contesting Ballarat, he said the Commonwealth would provide the immigrants and the State Governments would furnish the land and employment. That kind of promise reminds me of the young couple who were about to be married. They had not much to live upon, and the young lady accordingly suggested that they should subsist on bread and water. The prospective bridegroom replied, “ All right. You forage round and get the bread, and I will provide the water.” That is exactly the position which was taken up by the honorable member. He said to the States, “ You provide the bread in the form of the land and employment, and the Commonwealth will provide the water in the shape of immigrants.” What is the position to-day? Thousands of immigrants are arriving in this country without any land or employment having been provided for them. The honorable member, in endeavouring to discount the operation of the land tax, told us that the subdivision of large estates which had been effected was merely an imaginary kind of subdivision. He said that these estates, when subdivided, had been rushed byneighbours. Evidently there is a land hunger here, and yet he would spend £150,000 a year on immigration. The policy of the present Ministry is, however, absolutely sound. The Labour party have never declared against immigration, but they have affirmed that land and employment should be provided before immigrants are brought here. From the report of the Land Tax Commissioner, I learn that last year the land tax realized £1,360,000, or £3,800 less than the amount collected from it during the previous year, and that the estimated revenue from it during the current financial year is £1,300,000, or £60,000 less than the revenue of the preceding year. According to the Commissioner, about £22,000,000 worth of land was sold during the first year of the operation of the tax. We do not know how much was sold last year. There is a significant statement in the report of this officer in regard to which I should like further details. He states that, on examining the contracts of sale presented to him, for the purpose of proving that those who presented them should escape payment of the tax, he found that, in anticipation of its imposition, very large sales of land had been effected. There is not the slightest doubt that, up to the very last day available to them, a number of land-owners almost broke their necks in their endeavours to get rid of their land. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the note issue as the “note tax.” He also described it as a.” loan.” Other hon.orable members opposite have spoken of it as “the first Commonwealth loan.” They really ought not to make such remarks, because if it had not been for a sturdy band of Labourites in the early days of Federation, the Commonwealth would then have been committed to a borrowing policy. Later they passed a Naval Loan Act for £3,500,000, and one of the first actions of the present Government was to repeal it ; yet we are now told that the Government have imposed the first loan upon Australia. Our objection to a borrowing policy is not purely on abstract principles. It is not an academic objection. We object to borrowing as a general policy, because under it we have to pay money out of the Treasury into the pockets of private individuals, the bulk of whom live abroad. But what is this so-called loan, about which the honorable member talks? It is money which we owe to our own people, and for which we pay no interest. I venture to say that the honorable member for Ballarat would be floating loans of that kind all his life if he could. I have not the slightest objection to taking all the money that people like to give me on the same terms. Honorable members opposite have worked themselves into a state of frenzy on the ground that we have been taking from the people of Australia a forced loan without giving them any interest. That is true ; but who are we ? We are the people. The Government ate the people. The Parliament is the people, and that means that the people are taking the money from themselves. But what did this system supersede? What policy went before it - a policy which the honorable member for Ballarat and his colleagues would have retained, and did retain all the time they were in power? It was a policy whereby a few banking institutions took the same sum of money from the people without paying them interest, and did not return the profits to the people as we do, but gave them to a few private shareholders. The net profit from the note issue, after paying all expenses, for the year just closed was £140,000. In addition to that, the sum of ,£40,000 was earned in that financial year, but not collected, making a total net profit for the twelve months of £180,000. We are constantly hearing of what the States used to get. They obtained £90,000 per annum from their note tax. We have therefore doubled their profit, with the same people, out of the note issue. If that is a loan, I am a borrower every time. If it is a borrowing policy, it is a good policy ; but it is very unlike the borrowing policy with which the honorable member for Ballarat had something to do when in State politics, and very unlike the borrowing policy which has hitherto been pursued bv the Governments of the different States of Australia. Has the note issue done anything more than make a profit of £180,000 for the Commonwealth? It has given the people a safer and sounder issue, and it has done more. It has led to the investment of most of the money with the State Governments, enabling them, on behalf of their people, who are our people also, to borrow on better terms, generally speaking, than they did before. As a proof of that statement, let me make a comparison. In May, 1909, Victoria borrowed £1,500,000 from private sources at 3! per cent, at £98. The flotation expenses of the loan were £36,200. In 1911 the same State borrowed £1,000,000 from the CommonwealthGovernment, also at 3J per cent, at £98. The money was handed over to them almost immediately, and their flotation expenses were absolutely nothing. If it cost £36,000 in flotation expenses to borrow £1,500,000 in 3909, it should have cost at least £24,000 to borrow £1,000,000 in 19H. There is ,£24,000 saved to the Victorian people because the Commonwealth Government issued notes in 1910, and I have no doubt that a similar amount in proportion has been saved to the other State Governments. The honorable member for Ballarat made what he believed to be a strong charge against the Government for not having taken over and consolidated the State debts. One would imagine that never previously in the history of Federation was there an opportunity to take them over. Some honorable gentlemen opposite excuse themselves by saying, “ We never had the power before the State Debts Referendum was taken in 1910.” Prior to that referendum they had the power to take over £200,000,000 worth of State debts, and that is a very decent little start. The referendum taken in 1910 gave power only to take over the remaining £50,000,000. Why have not the State debts been taken over before this? The fault lies at the door of the State Governments. They have never come up to the mark ; but when the Braddon section was expiring, and the financial agreement was being entered into -with the State Premiers by honorable members opposite, and the whole question of the future financial arrangements between States and Commonwealth was being opened up, that was the time to put the screw on and say, “ You shall come to terms on the State debts question.” But what terms did honorable members opposite make? The honorable member for Ballarat said the question of taking over and consolidating the State debts was the essence of the contract, but he threw that aside in the secret caucus with the Premiers. What conditions do we want ? We do not ask for power to prevent the States borrowing in the future ; but we do ask that before the Commonwealth take over the burden of the State debts they shall have the power to say “ No State Government shall go on the money market and compete with us when we are redeeming their debts.” The argument in favour of the consolidation of the State debts is always that, by having one borrower with the whole of Australia behind it, and no competition between the different States, we shall be able to borrow money cheaper. That is the common argument in any economics - where there is more competition the price is higher; where there is less competition the price is lower. It is estimated by financial experts that we should save at least I per cent., and some go so far as to say per cent. It would be a considerable saving to the people of this country. The Prime Minister has declared over and over again that he is open to negotiate with the States at any time. It rests entirely with the State Governments to come up to the mark, saying, “ We will hand over our responsibilities ; you take over our State debts, and redeem them as they fall due, and we shall agree not to go on the money market in competition with you.” The .Commonwealth Government could then deal with all the debts and arrange all future borrowings. The honorable member for Ballarat has some sympathy with the question of State debts, because in dealing with it he was dealing with a very old friend. When one looks at the problem, and knows that the State Governments owe’ about £270.000,000, or about £59 per head of the population, one censes to wonder that the Federal Government are not enthusiastic over a borrowing policy. From 1 890 to 1 900, a period of ten years, the State of Victoria doubled its national debt. The sum of £25,000,000 was borrowed in that time. During six of those years the honorable member for Ballarat was in office in one capacity or another, and the Government with which he was associated was responsible for adding to the debt of Victoria to the tune of about £20,000,000.
That was the period when things were booming in Victoria. Some people are afraid that a similar boom is taking place now, but I would remind them that a boom established on borrowed money is established on an unsound foundation, whereas prosperity established on a financial policy, such as the present Government have pursued, is on a safe basis. That boom, begun by the borrowing policy of the State Governments, was helped on by the booming policy of any number of gentlemen who supported the State Governments of the day, and led to the crisis of 1893. We never want to see a repetition of that in Australia. There was one most amusing incident in the honorable member’s speech. He said, “ Had we remained in power, we should have arranged for a conference, and that would have brought this matter into the light of day.” Why, the last conference they had on the matter was held in the dungeon ! It was secret, with no light of day about it, and we were informed that even the blottingpads were destroyed. Now we are told, like a death-bed repentance, that if the honorable gentlemen opposite were permitted to return to the Treasury bench they would have a conference and bring things out into the light of day. We were informed by the honorable member for Ballarat that the present Government had not diminished taxation. Will he diminish taxation if he returns to power? In the first place, that is a most inaccurate statement on his part, because the present Government provided for penny postage, which diminished taxation to the people of Australia, according to the official return, by no less a sum than £470,000.
– Is that taxation, then ? What rot !
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection. I was about to come to the point he has raised. When honorable members opposite criticise the financial position of the Commonwealth, they take the total revenue, divide it by the population, and say that the taxation is so much per head. They include Public Services.
– Who does that?
– The honorable, member has done so on more than one occasion. He quoted the taxation per head in a criticism of this very Budget, and included the Public Service. The organizers of the Opposition party go round the country and say to the. electors “ Look at the expenditure ! Look at the amount of your money that is being taken out of your pockets in taxation. ! “ I will give an illustration of this so-called taxation which the people have had to pay since the present Government came into office. Take the Post Office. The revenue for the two years 1908-9 and 1909-10 was £7,100,000. During the last two years the revenuehas been £7,700,000. That shows an. increase of £600,000. According to honorable members opposite that amount of over half-a-million is an extra burden of taxation upon the people. But go to the people themselves, and ask them whether it is a burden. Go to those living in the bush, who pay 6d. to use a telephone, and ask them whether they consider that a burden which saves them many a journey on horseback of 40 or 50 miles. Ask the horse whether it is a burden ! Let me take, by way of illustration, a paragraph published in the Age a few weeks ago -
One of the healthiest increases in revenue that has marked the Postal administration since Federation occurred during last month. The month’s Postal revenue from the whole Commonwealth was ^323,843, an increase of £45,843 over the total for the corresponding month in 1911.
That is, I suppose, one of the burdens which the people have to bear. The more we increase services for the people the greater will be the revenue and the more the expenditure. Consequently the more per head will be the alleged taxation upon the people. But I venture the opinion that the electors want a great deal more of this kind of burden imposed upon them. They are continually asking for extended services. Honorable members opposite have been asking for them. We were told by the honorable member for Ballarat that no consideration had been shown to the States. What consideration would he have shown that has not been manifested by the present Government? What does he mean? He told us that the extra money which the present Government has had to handle has been taken from the States. That is not absolutely correct. What is the position of the States in relation to Commonwealth finance? They receive £6,000,000 per annum from the Federal Government under the 25s. per head agreement. In addition to that the Commonwealth has taken over the control of old-age pensions, which amounts to a saving of over £2,000,000 to the States. We are also paying interest on transferred properties. If you total these sums you will see that the amount of money that we pay, taken together with the pensions which we have undertaken to the relief of some of the States, leaves them in as good a position in relation to the Commonwealth as they were before the Financial Agreement was effected. It is true that £2,000,000 -less is being handed over to them than they received before, but against that has to be balanced the £2,000,000 for pensions which the Commonwealth now pays.
– The honorable member is romancing.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is an authority on romance. Some of his utterances read like Deadwood Dicks. The honorable member for Ballarat speaks of the Financial Agreement as though it had imposed a burden on the States, and was most unjust to them. Yet in the same breath he denied that it was oppressive, since it was, line for line, the very agreement which was consented to by the Premiers in secret conference - the agreement with which the State Governments were so enamoured that they wanted :it to be embodied in the Constitution, so that it might remain there for all time. “The present Government guaranteed them the agreement for ten years; and, lo, we have shown no consideration to the States ! In relation to old-age pensions, the Commonwealth Government is at present paying to 90,000 people, equal to the combined populations of Ballarat and Bendigo. We are paying £2,148,000 per annum, and we propose to add to that responsibility to the extent of ,£200, 000 by refusing to deduct from the old-age pensioners an amount for the homes in which they live. Some honorable members opposite do not believe in this policy. They advocate a contributory system. I believe that the honorable member for Parkes is very sweet on compulsory insurance, or something of that description. I claim that our Federal pensions scheme is a contributory system, and is equivalent to -compulsory insurance. Although many of those who receive pensions to-day have not contributed much to the fund from which they draw, those who in a few years will -receive pensions will have contributed considerably. Those who are now receiving pensions, though they may not have contributed directly to the whole amount they receive, have nevertheless been pioneers of -this country, and are entitled, in the evening of their days, to what they are receiving. Look at our pensions system from the in surance point of view. The people contribute to the fund out of which the money is paid. When the objection is raised, “ You do not pay the pension to all,” I admit that the logical outcome of a pensions scheme would be that every one should get the pension who contributed to it. But it is . not wrong in principle if we pay only to those who are in need. How many honorable members belong to friendly societies? They contribute to the funds ot these institutions, and are glad to thank God that they never draw anything out of them. How many miners contribute to the accident funds of their societies? Yet many of them are thankful that they are not compelled, through accidents, to draw money out. Let those who do not require old-age pensions thank God that in all probability they will never see the day when they shall need to do so. But let us not sneer at those who do enjoy the pensions granted by the Government, and congratulate ourselves that the Commonwealth has adopted a policy of so humanitarian a character. I notice that the honorable member for Ballarat had nothing to say about the proposed maternity allowance. I am glad that he had not. I arn very pleased that he has too much selfrespect to be led into the kind of criticism that the ladies - so-called - and the gentlemen - so-called - who form the Women’s National League and the People’s party have indulged in, and that has been reported in the daily press day after day. What- is the amount proposed for this allowance? It is ,£400,000, or is. 8jd. per head - a sum less than the amount of the bounty on sugar. In other words, we propose to do something to provide for the future of the motherhood and the childhood of our country by granting an amount of money less than we give to the producers of an article of common consumption. And that, let it be remembered, is only one of the bounties that we pay. The expenditure on defence and defence works amounts to £1 3s. lId. per head, whilst this maternity allowance, as I have said, comes to only is. 8£d. What, then, becomes of the outcry about excessive expenditure in this direction? This Government is being charged with extravagance. The honorable member for Ballarat took up that charge, talking about the huge burden, the lavish outlay, the unwarrantable expenditure, and so forth. He and his supporters will go through the country from- now until the general election and talk about the size of the Budget, the amount of money expended, and the taxation. Well, I challenge any honorable member opposite to get up in his place and point to one item that he would reduce. If the Opposition think that we are spending money in any direction in which we ought not to expend it, is it not fair that they should tell us of it in this House in a plain and straightforward manner? That is a duty which they owe to the country, to the Parliament, and to their own party. Speaking for myself, if I found that they could point out any extravagance on the part of this Government, I would support them in having that extravagance removed. But these general charges - -these vague generalities - about the extent of our expenditure certainly do not contribute to the better management of the affairs of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Parramatta, .id one of his recent speeches in this House, urged that we needed to expend more on the Public Service, and, together with the honorable member for Lang, the honorable member for Illawarra, and the, honorable member for Wentworth, expressed a desire for a larger expenditure on the Federal Capital. Then, again, the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Franklin have asked that more money should be expended on quarantine; whilst the honorable member for Parramatta, whose name seems to appear in connexion with every demand for an increased expenditure, the honorable member for North Sydney, and others have talked in this House about the need for paying Area Officers and other military men higher salaries. The Leader of the Opposition himself has declared that we should have spent £150,000 on immigration, yet his supporters tell us that we contemplate a waste of money when we propose to expend £400,000 on the maternity allowance, or on what, so to speak, is the best kind of immigration. Honorable members on all sides have been asking for more expenditure in connexion with the Postal Department. In the face of all these demands, can it be said that there is any foundation for the charge of extravagance? Is there anything wrong about this Budget? Have the Government been lacking in their duty in any respect? The speech delivered to-day by the Leader of the Opposition constitutes the greatest compliment that could be paid to the Government. The fact that, after indulging for two hours in generalities, he sat down without pointing to the waste of a penny, really represents the greatest compliment that the Government have received during their twoyears of administration. To sum up, the position is that when this Government took its place on the Treasury bench, there was a deficit of ,£451,284; that after it had been in office for a year it was able to show a surplus of £1,837,175; whilst the Budget statement now under discussion shows, in respect of the financial year just closed, a credit balance of £2,261,541. In addition to that, there is not a debt that we owe to any one save ourselves. We, instead of the banks, owe to the people the money that we have taken from t’hem by means of the note issue. We have borrowed for publicworks from a trust fund established by the Government upon the issue of its notes. In. other words, we have taken money from one pocket and put it into another. We have not to pay a penny to any one outside the Commonwealth, and we have not incurred any debts. It is true that we havesome obligations. We have, for instance,, to pay interest on the transferred properties,, and we have also to pay some debts taken over in connexion with the transfer of theNorthern Territory. But no debt has been incurred by the Government itself. Instead of borrowing, we have adopted a lending policy. Out of the note issue fund we have lent £5,685,000, whilst in respect of other trust accounts established by means, of surplus moneys and economical administration, the Government have been able toinvest £i.- 723, 557. The total amount lent or invested is £7,408,577, and the annualinterest on this invested money is £252,124,. or over a quarter of a million. When the Treasurer was delivering his Budget statement, the honorable member for Parramatta interjected, “You have become money lenders.” This, however, is the first Government that has had money tolend, and we would sooner be moneylenders than borrowers of money, as theOpposition were when in office. We havebeen asked how we are going to meet someof the expenditure to which we are committed. I would point out that a sum of about £2,000,000 has been invested at short call, and will fall into the hands of the Treasurer within the coming year, so that if he desires to carry out any big public undertaking, and requires funds, hecan lend this money to himself as Treasurer, or to other Departments of the Commonwealth that require it, with the result that the interest will be paid out of onepocket and put into another. To con- elude this brief review of the financial position, and of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition, I would say that honorable members ‘ought not, and they should advise their supporters outside that they ought not, to indulge in any statements even for political purposes that are calculated to bring the credit of the country into disrepute. Members of a National Parliament should consider that the credit of its country is the most important thing which the representatives of the people have to conserve. Statements to the effect that the country is going over a precipice, that there is wild extravagance, that there is a time of reckoning coming - all of which are made for political purposes, with an eye on the coming contest - are uttered by unpatriotic men and women, and should not be encouraged by honorable members occupying responsible positions in a Parliament such as this. So satisfied am I with the finances of this country that I hope that the Treasury will always be in its present financial position. I am satisfied, after a careful examination of the Budget, in which I have brought to bear some little business training, that, if the affairs of the Commonwealth are always as well and as safely handled as they are, and have been, by the present Treasurer, the future of Australia must indeed be a very bright one.
– The Treasurer did not quite fulfil the promise that he made, twelve months ago, when he said that he would be very surprised if he did not deliver his Budget statement in July of this year.
– I did not desire to beat the right honorable member.
– But he did deliver it on the 1st August. I feel sure that his occupancy of the position of Treasurer will have caused him to alter the opinion that he seems to have entertained a couple of years ago in regard to the time within which the financial statement should be made. He must appreciate now the difficulties in the way of framing a Budget statement within a month of the close of the financial year. I regret that he did not take a little longer to prepare his statement, for I am convinced that the second week in August is the earliest date at which the Budget statement, with the accompanying papers necessary to give in the clearest manner the information we desire, can be submitted to the House. I hope, therefore, that some arrangement will be made bywhich the Treasurer will not be so hurried in the future as he must have been on this occasion. 1 say quite unreservedly that I do not think that it is in the interests of the House that the Budget should be unduly hurried for the purpose of having it delivered only a week earlier.
The statement that the Treasurer was able to place before us must have been considered very satisfactory, so far as the revenue was concerned. During the last four years the revenue of the Commonwealth has been increasing very considerably. In 1909-10 it amounted to £15,540,669; in 1910-n to £18,806,237 ; in 1911-12 to £20,546,361 ; and the revenue estimated for the current financial year is £20,422,000, or £124,361 less than the revenue actually received last year. Under the system adopted by the present Government, the increase in the expenditure has also been very great. In 1909-10 it amounted to £16,244,571; in 1910-11 to £i6,5i7i778; in 1911-12 to £20,121,995 ; and the estimate for the current year is £22,683,541.
– That includes the pay ments to the States.
– Of course, the total expenditure includes the amounts paid1 to the States. As honorable members are aware, the balance of revenue over expenditure goes to the Trust Fund. The surplus is put away carefully each year in the Trust Fund with two objects. The first of these, I take it, is to deprive the States of it, under section 94 of the Constitution,, and the second that it may be available for future expenditure.
– The States get 25s. per head of population under theFinancial Agreement.
– I suppose thehonorable member is aware that that is not with their consent, and that there is noagreement. They were forced to accept what was offered.
– The right honorablegentleman tried hard to get it carried’.
– I expected that remark ; but there is nothing in it. Therewas no limit as to time under the arrangement we made with the State Premiers, but the existing arrangement is only for tenyears, and that was made- without the concurrence of the States. They were nob asked to consent to the present arrangement. There is, therefore, a considerable difference between the two positions.
– We asked the people to give their consent to it. We promised them that the arrangement should continue for ten years.
– I deny that, absolutely. In the State I represent, Labour candidates, on behalf of the Labour party, pledged that party to continue the agreement for twenty-five years, and that helped them to secure their election. The balance of revenue over expenditure on the 30th June of last year was £2,261,541. That amount is to be used by the Government to make revenue and expenditure equal for the current year. It will be noticed that, whilst the estimated revenuefor this year is less than the revenue actually received last year by £124,361, the estimated expenditure for the current year is greaterthan the expenditure of last year by £2,561,546. This goes to prove my statement, that surplus moneys are placed in the TrustFund, to be used for the expenditure of the current year.
Looking through the Estimates one can see at once that the expenditure is rapidly increasing. Owing to a number of circumstances, a very large revenue is coming into the hands of the Government, and they are lavishly spending it. Without going into details, I may say that an increased expenditure is proposed in all but one of the Departments. In the Prime Minister’s Department the increase amounts to £11,853inthe Treasury to£747,075;in the Postmaster-General’s Department the increase proposed is £51,726; in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, £5,857 ; in the External Affairs Department,£80.435 ; in the Home Affairs Department, £11,738; and in the Defence Department there is an estimated increased expenditure of £1.358,325. In these seven Departments there is proposed an enormous increase upon the expenditure of last year to the amount of no less than £2,267,009. The total estimated expenditure for the Defence Department for the current year is £5,438,364. Although the total increase of expenditure on the administration side of the Post and Telegraph Department for the current year is estimated at £341,926, I am sorry to say that for the works and buildings side of this Department there is a decrease proposed on the expenditure of last year of £290,200. As representatives of the people of Australia, we all naturally take a great in terest in the Post and Telegraph Department, and especially in the construction of works throughout the Commonwealth to extend postal and telegraphic facilities. In the circumstances, it came as a surprise to me to find so large an expenditure proposed in connexion with the administration side of this Department, and £290,200 less set down for the works and buildings side of the Department. There is something wrong there, because if there is one Department which should have had special attention devoted to it in the way of large expenditure it is the Post and Telegraph Department.
In regard to old-age and invalid pensions, I notice that the Treasurer has followed a plan which I think is not a good one. He does not include in the expenditure upon old-age pensions the cost of the administration of the Department, which this year is set down at £43,875. This amount is placed under the ordinary departmental expenditure of the Treasury, and is not charged against the expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions, as I think it should be. It is only’ a matter of account, but it would be better to show the total cost of the system.
– Then we should not charge the Post Office, the Home Affairs, and other Departments, so much for administration ?
– The old-age and invalid pensions system is carried out under a special Act, and it might have been administered by a special Department. It is more economically administered as it is ; but the charge for administration should be included in the expenditure.
– I think that when it is shownseparately, it is all right.
– I regret to say that I do not think it is. I wish to point out to honorable members that the provision on the Estimates for old-age and invalid pensions is £2,405,000. It might naturally be supposed, if we did not look closely into the matter, that that amount was to be provided by the Treasurer during this year; but, as a matter of fact, he has already in hand - stowed away in the Trust Account - £1, 064, 7 1 2, so that all that is to be charged against the revenue for this year is £1,340,288. That is not made very clear in the Estimates, and the first opinion we gathered, certainly the one that I first gathered, was that the charge against the revenue for this year was£2,405,000. In the same way we gather, at first sight. that .£1,306,829 is provided on the Estimates for the construction of the Fleet, while only -Qi 10,000 is charged against the revenue tor the year. The balance, namely, £1,196,829, is in the Trust Account. This matter was not even referred to by the Treasurer in his Budget.
– Oh, yes; I said that I had taken in the surplus credits.
– Yes ; but the right honorable gentleman did not say that only £110,000 is chargeable against the revenue for this year on account of the construction of the Fleet. 1 should like to point out, too, that the expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions is increasing at the rate of about £250,000 a year, lt has done so, at any rate, for the past two years.
In regard to the expenditure on the Northern Territory, we have undertaken a serious responsibility, as, no, doubt, honorable members have noticed. The estimated revenue is only £48,000, whereas the expenditure is £478,857 ; so that this year the Treasurer anticipates a deficit of £430,857. The annual deficit when we took over the Territory was £166,883; but this year it is estimated at £430,857.
– Do you want the Government to stand still, and do nothing?
– That is far from my desire. I want to get something for the expenditure. 1 wish to know that the Government are going to do something with the Territory. Up to the present time I am not aware that they have done anything except to make some appointments. I really think that, by this time, the Government should have had a definite policy in regard to this immense Territory. It is nearly two years since we took it over, but no progress has yet been made with its development. What is the use of providing a small sum for a railway survey to the Katherine River? We ought to have had reports on that country long ago. I think that the Government have made a great mistake in not employing persons who have a knowledge of this country to furnish reports, rather than send persons who have never been, perhaps, in tropical Australia, and have no knowledge of the country. In South Australia there must be a good many persons - surveyors and others, especially the former - who have been in this country and have a good knowledge of it. We could have got as much information out of them, even without visiting the country, as those who are there now will acquire in a period of several years. We might have secured the valuable services of persons who already know the country and could report further, rather than have given these appointments to broken-down politicians and others who have never been there, and who will take years before they acquire any knowledge of the country, even if they ar* competent to do the work.
– These people dc not seem to have advised South Australia very wisely in the matter.
– A very unnecessary and ungenerous remark, as it is well known that South Australia had not the money to do the work. There must be a number of able men who were employed by South Australia all over this country, and who could give us most valuable information, lt seems to me that those who are not acquainted with the country have been selected for these posts rather than the experienced men who served South Australia in the Northern Territory, and have an intimate knowledge of it. An honorable member said, “ Do you want to leave the Territory alone and do nothing with it ?” My reply is, ‘ ‘ Certainly not.” I want a policy enunciated by the Government. 1 wish them to take the responsibility of the position and to tell us whether they propose to connect this country by railway with Oodnadatta in South Australia and with the Queensland border ; because unless it is worth these connexions it cannot be a great financial asset to the Commonwealth in our time, at any rate. 1 think that if more care had been taken, and more knowledge and experience shown in dealing with the matter, we would have had reports already.
– I am afraid that the wrong men are dealing with it.
– I think that the men who have been sent up there have everything to learn, whereas there are plenty of experienced persons in Australia who could have rendered good service, and’ whose reports we might have had in our hands at the present time. I am not at all in favour of leaving this country undeveloped. I believe in opening it up. But the first thing we have to do is not to make a railway survey from Pine Creek* to the Katherine River, but to make a railway survey from Pine Creek to the border of Queensland, and a railway survey from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta in South Australia. Let us show that we are worthy to have control of this country, and do not let us go on as we are, doing nothing. I do not know whether we shall get anything done. Probably the Government are afraid to say what they intend to do until they see whether they get a continuance of power from the people. Boldness based on knowledge and experience is the only plan for developing a great country. We ought to have been at work already in regard to this matter. I think it is absolutely trifling with the position to have no surveys of these railways which we know must be built if we are to do anything with the country. We ought to have had the surveys half made by this time, so as to let us know, at any rate, what the outlook ‘is. In less than a year a trial survey was made over 1,100 miles of country from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and we ought to have had the railway surveys I have outlined half finished by this time.
– That was after nine years of trifling.
– That is just about as unworthy as the statements which the honorable member generally makes. lt is not correct. He seems to forget that he is in a position of responsibility, and not the free lance he was formerly, when he was accustomed to interjecting anything. He seems to have alongside him a bag of venom to squirt out here, there, and everywhere.
– I think that the venom is coming from you
– Not at all. The honorable gentleman cannot sit still and be courteous. He seems to desire to say something which is offensive or irritating.
– Of course, if the truth irritates you, I regret it.
– It really does not irritate me, but the honorable gentleman ought not to do it. In regard to the Northern Territory, the Government ought to have had a policy by this time. They have no policy and no enterprise. “Doing nothing “ is considered “ a policy,” and “marking time” is considered “enterprise.” I again say that the Government has shown neither initiative, enterprise, nor knowledge in dealing with this immense Territory
No credit has been given to the last Government, in which I had the privilege of being a Minister, for the construction of the Fleet, hut it must not be torgotten that we ordered the Dreadnought
Australia. When she comes out, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we gave instructions for her building.
– And proposed to borrow £3,500,000 to pay for her.
– Had the Braddon provision continued to operate, this Government would have had to borrow, too. lt is proposed to spend on the Fleet this year £1,306,829, of which only £110,000 is to be charged to revenue, the balance of £1,196,829 being safely stowed away in the Trust Fund, lt was not even mentioned in the Budget, nor did the Treasurer mention that he had done that. In the Trust Fund there is £89,776 for small arms ammuntion. No doubt the accounts are properly kept, and everything is mentioned somewhere, but it requires almost a ferret’s ability to discover all the items.
The receipts from the land tax this year are estimated at a sum less than those received last year and the year before. During 1910-11, .£1,370,345 was received, and during 1911-12, £1,366,454, but the revenue estimated for this year is only £1,300,000. When the bursting up so much desired by honorable members opposite has been completed, there will be no further revenue from this source. The Government, by the end of this year, will have received £4,036,799 from land taxation, the money having been paid primarily by about 14,000 taxpayers. No doubt some of them have passed on the tax, but a great many of them have not been able to do so. The expenditure on our Fleet up to the present time has amounted to about £4,250,000, so that the payers of the land tax have virtually built the Fleet.
– The last Government was frightened to tax them.
– We were certainly not in favour of a levy upon a few. persons. To take ,£4,000,000 from fewer than 14,000 persons in three years is to make a levy, not to impose a tax. Honorable members opposite talk about “ our Fleet,” but it is the 14,000 land-owners of Australia who. have paid for the Fleet. I wish to point out that, whereas the expenditure of the Land Tax Department was last year £56,609, this year it is to be £81,625, an increase of 45 per cent. This may be capable ot explanation, and I shall be glad if the Treasurer will give his attention to it.
Honorable members who have so much to say about what this Government has done seem to forget the facts, and leave a wrong impression in the minds of those who are ignorant of them. They say that they have spent much more than their predecessors, ignoring the fact that the Braddon section was in operation when the last Government was in power, and that this Government improperly curtailed its operation by six months.
– Was not that the honorable member’s proposition?
– No. We came to a mutual agreement with the States. This Government, however, promised the States a twenty-five years’ term - at least, that promise was made, on behalf of the party, in Western Australia - and gave them only ten years. We must remember the immense increase of revenue that the Commonwealth has received, owing to the expiration of the Braddon section. In the first year, 1910-n, the Commonwealth by this change received £4>336>775 ; »n r9r2, the amount was £4,967,577 ; and it is estimated that for the current year the amount will be £4,628,250. We have here £13,932,402, which, under the Braddon section, would have gone to the States, but which, under the new arrangement, forced on the States by this Government, has gone into the coffers of the Commonwealth. The Government will have received by the end of this year additional revenue to that available to their predecessors of about £18,000,000 owing to the expiration of the Braddon section and the imposition of the land tax. Why should the Government talk about spending more money than previous Governments did when they have received practically £14,000,000, exclusive of the land tax, more than the previous Governments received under the operation of that section ?
– Would the right honorable member have spent this money if he had received it?
– I should have attempted to do so, and, I hope, wisely ; I am not prepared to say that we should have spent it in the same way as have the present Government.
Then, further, in three years out of the last four, there have been surpluses. There were surpluses before the present Government came into office, and there have been greater surpluses since; and the total to the end of this year is £2,917,690, excess of revenue over expenditure.
– Is that after deducting the deficit during the right honorable gentleman’s term as Treasurer?
– It is all surplus; that deficit was paid in the next year. These are actual surpluses in cash which have gone into Trust Funds. But I have always been of opinion that this money belongs to the States, though I believe there is a High Court judgment which permits it to be retained by the Commonwealth. The effect of that judgment is, I understand, that the Government may appropriate large sums of money for future use, and call that appropriation expenditure for the year. I was one who assisted to’ frame the Constitution, and I know very well that the intention was that the Commonwealth should be entitled to spend all it received, less the share of Customs and Excise revenue to be paid to the States, but that, if there was any surplus, it had to go” back to the States. That is provided for in section 94 of the Constitution, which sets forth that all the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth shall be paid to the States monthly. That is in perpetuity, and is the law of the Constitution; and the arrangement was carried out almost to the time when the Braddon section expired. But some subtle and astute lawyer, on this side of the House. 1 believe - though I think he never received any credit for it - conceived the idea that the Government could appropriate this money, even to the extent of millions, for old-age pensions or any other purpose, and call it expenditure for the year. I was opposed to that arrangement, but to my astonishment the High Court decided that it was legally permissible. While this decision gives the Commonwealth the power to thus appropriate even £20,000,000 for future use, it is, in my opinion, a moral wrong and an injustice to the States. The words of the section are quite plain, and they express the intention of those who framed the Constitution.
– The High Court has decided that the Government may appropriate such moneys.
– But that is no reason why the Government should do so, even if they have the power. I have shown how not only this Government, but a previous Government of which T am glad to say I was not a member, evaded the intention of the Constitution, and placed these balances to Trust Funds.
For instance, if I were to let a valuable estate to a friend on the condition that he was to pay me a rental, and that he could spend the whole of the remainder of the income in improving it, but that any balance unspent was to be paid to me, what would be said of a man who evaded the terms, and put the unspent money away for future use ? That is really the position under section 94 of the Constitution ; and by this evasion the States have been deprived - I shall not use a stronger word - of £2,917,690 which, in my opinion, rightfully belongs to them. There is no doubt as to what was the intention of the Constitution, however inconvenient it may be to observe it.
I would like to say a few words about the Commonwealth Savings Bank. What good or advantage is being conferred upon the people of Australia by the establishment of that institution? For many years we have had State Savings Banks in operation, and we have heard no complaints as to their management. What reason was there for subjecting the people of the States to the expense of erecting new offices, seeing that no gain will be derived by their citizens who are also Commonwealth citizens? The State Savings Banks catered for the public requirements. There was no demand for a change, andI cannot understand why there should have been any interference on the part of the Federal authority. To my mind, the establishment of the Commonwealth Savings Bank involves a wanton waste of public money, as there was no public want to be supplied.
I come now to the sugar industry, which we have been endeavouring to assist for so many years. I have no hesitation in saying that that industry has been hampered, and very much injured, by the Labour party. The continuance of the bounty system is proving harmful in its operation, and. in my judgment, both bounty and Excise should now be discontinued. Where have they led us? They have led us into an invasion of the arena of State control. At the present time we find ourselves mixed up in the industrial life of Queensland. We are a Federation - not a unified Government - and the control of industries in a State has nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth. Yet we find the Commonwealth making the bonus on this industry an excuse for invading the State arena by fixing the wages which shall be paid in that industry.
Amongst his multifarious duties the Minister of Trade and Customs has now to determine what wages shall be paid in the tropics in an industry with which the Commonwealth should have nothing whatever to do. Section 90 of the Constitution, which confers upon this Parliament exclusive power to grant bounties, was never intended to be used in that way. Indeed, I question very much whether the action of the Government in this connexion is constitutional. I doubt whether they have any right to use the power which is vested in them under the section which I have quoted as a means to control wages and other industrial conditions. It involves an entry into the very heart of the control of the industrial life of the State.
– I think that the right honorable member was a member of the first Government at whose instigation the bounty was granted.
– The bounty system was the result of a desire on the part of this Parliament to expedite the deportation of the coloured labour which was employed in the sugar industry. But we know that the Kanakas have been repatriated long ago, and in consequence the necessity for the bounty and Excise on that account has ceased. I say that the Government have no right under the Constitution to interfere with the internal industrial business of a State.
Dismissing the period prior to 1906, we have since had six years’ experience in Queensland and New South Wales of the white labour and bounty system, and I am very sorry to say that it has not worked as well as was expected. For some reason or other, we have never yet been able to grow sufficient sugar for our own requirements, and it is alleged that, even if we did produce a surplus, we could not export it at remunerative prices. In 1906 there were 23,753 white men engaged in the industry in Queensland, and 5,653 in New South Wales, a total of 29,406. Six years afterwards there were only 21,994 white persons engaged in the industry in Queensland, and 3,537 in New South Wales, a total of 25.531 . It would seem, therefore, that there are 3,875 less white persons engaged in the industry now than there were six years previously. Thatis hardly understandable. There are also 1,418 coloured workers employed in it. I find, too, that, whilst in 1906 the area under cultivation was 154,735 acres, in 1912 it was only 135,148 acres, or 19,587 acres less. I hope that somebody will explain these figures. Then, whilst in 19 10 we produced by white labour 209,342 tons of sugar, in 1911 our production amounted to only 176,503 tons, and this year it is estimated at only 134,034 tons. In 1910 the bounty paid upon the production of sugar grown by white labour was £630,208, in 191 1 it was £541,259, and this year it is estimated at £401,400. I hope honorable members will not think that I am saying this with a desire to injure the industry. I am not. I visited these sugar-cane districts some years ago, and have always been very sympathetic with these enterprising people. It is a great industry, and wants encouragement and assistance ; but we are not going the right way to work in hampering it as we are doing. I hope the Minister of Trade and Customs will be able to give some satisfactory explanation. If he does no one will be more gratified than I shall be; but the fact remains that the Commonwealth control of this great industry has not increased the number of workers or the output of sugar. Comparing 1906 with 1911, the figures show 3,835 less white workers, and the production of sugar, by both white and black labour, as having fallen from 205,676 tons to 187,761 tons.
– A lot of ground that was used for sugar-growing on the northern rivers in New South Wales has been taken up for dairying.
– Perhaps dairying pays better, and there is not so much political interference with it. It is estimated that for the financial year 1912-13, Excise will be paid on only 109,000 tons of Australian-grown sugar, as against 187,168 tons last year, and that 123,565 tons of sugar will be imported, as against 40,760 tons imported last year. That is a curious thing.
– Is that where the Treasurer is getting an increase of revenue from ?
– That is some part of it. This state of affairs, as shown by the Treasury returns in the Budget, is not satisfactory. Personally. I hope there is some good explanation of it, because, after all the trouble we have had, we have a right to expect the industry to be flourishing.
There is a Commission sitting; but I do not think we shall get anything out of that. In the first place, it has been almost discredited by being composed of a lot of partisans. Leaving out the Judge, I am in- formed that there is only one man on it who is not a Labour partisan, and, in the circumstances, the report of one independent expert would be far better than anything we are likely to get from a Commission composed in that way. We do not appoint politicians or partisans on one side or the other to report on our naval and military services. We get the most experienced man available, and in regard to an industry like this, we should get the judgment of some one with great knowledge of the question, and free from all political bias or influence. We do not want political partisans who have been writing for years on one side of the question to tell us what we ought to do. We should not be justified in taking any notice of a report coming from a tainted source of that character. If a man is a partisan either on one side orthe other, his report is of no use to us. We want some one who is uninfluenced by party considerations, who has ability and knowledge, and who will give us the benefit of his experience. A fetish is made of Commissions, but I do not believe that Commissions, as a rule, do much real good. They certainly do not in regard to matters of this sort, which are really questions for experts requiring a great deal of knowledge in regard to the climate and local conditions, and the production of the article.
I think the sugar industry is not progressing as it should do. The consumers of Australia are paying about £1,000,000 more for their sugar than they would do if we did not grow any sugar in Australia, unless we had a revenue duty on sugar. Leaving that possibility out of the question, the consumers are paying an immense amount of money, and will do so willingly, so long as the success of a great industry is assured. If we can see that possibility ahead, I do not believe any one will grudge the money ; but I am very much opposed to the industry being made use of for political purposes, and hampered with altogether unnecessary regulations and restrictions. It wants to be left alone now, to go on just as wheat- growing, dairying, or any other soil production are allowed to go on. We do not want political interference to hamper growers as to the wages they will have to pay, or the conditions under which thev shall carry on their industry. Those matters should be left to the Arbitration Courts or Wages Boards, or whatever tribunals are constituted for the purpose in the States and not be at the whim or fancy or dictation of a Commonwealth Minister sitting in Melbourne, who has no power or right under the Constitution to interfere in any local industrial matter. Other industries which produce from the soil have not to submit to these hampering restrictions.. Personally, I think the reason why the Excise and bounty are continued is solely for political purposes, so that the Government may keep complete control over the sugar industry, and have every one connected with it under their thumb. The Government like to be able to say to the sugar-cane growers that unless they do this or that they will not receive the bounty. I should give them no bounty, and charge them no Excise, but let them carry on their industry the same as other people do other industries, protecting them against undue outside competition by an import duty. The policy of the Government, however, is to interfere with and harass not only these, but all other producers, and get them in the stocks.
– You do not understand our policy, if you say that.
– It seems to me to be so, or the Government would not make regulations and conditions in Melbourne to apply to undertakings in tropical Australia, in regard to which they have had little or no experience. They should certainly not attempt to fix the rates of wages to be paid and conditions of employment to be offered by people up there, and thus invade the industrial arena under the control of the States.
– They were fixed by a Government of which you were a member.
– We did it in order to try and make the industry a white man’s industry, but that object no longer exists, and the policy that was then thought necessary no longer exists. I can see no reason why it has not been changed long ago, except that the Labour party want to retain control of the industry for political purposes, so as to get the producer in the stocks, and not allow him to manage his own business in his own way.
The same thing is going on in regard to the pearling industry. People here are a long way away from where the industry is carried on, and do not see much of it, but they pretend to think that for persons to gain their livelihood on the sea, and come ashore now and again, without being allowed to remain permanently in the country, is an invasion of the White Australia policy. A Commission has been appointed to deal with the pearling industry.
– I thought the honorable gentleman would have been a member of it. But perhaps he would not engage in such a farce. Persons appointed to advise in regard to a difficult and dangerous industry should know something about it. But apparently, in the opinion of this Government, any one will do, as long as he is a member of Parliament. He must be a partisan on one side or the other. I am reminded of the lines of Byron -
A man must serve his time to every trade
Save censure; critics all are ready made.
Apparently members of Commissions are all “ready made.” I was told to-day as a fact that one of the largest pearling proprietors had taken his boats away to Java. He has left us altogether. We do not want to bring about that kind of thing. We want the industry to flourish in our waters. Having no knowledge or experience, however, the Government are groping like blind men, and are calling in the inexperienced to guide them. If the Government want assistance, why do they not appoint a good man, who understands the industry, to collect information? There would be some sense in that.
– What about the honorable member for Franklin?
– I do not suppose that he is an expert on pearling; but he will be of some use, because he will do his best to prevent a report being brought in that would lead to erroneous conclusions and might for a time smash up the industry altogether. I would advise that an expert should be appointed if information is required. But these industries ought to be left alone to the utmost possible extent.
– Would the honorable member say that a Judge should not try a boot-making case unless he had learnt bootmaking?
– I say that men who have never seen pearl shelling carried on in their lives should not be appointed to inquire into this industry, which has nothing to do with our White Australia policy. The sea belongs to the whole world, and is open for the whole world to work upon.
I now come to the public debt of this country.It is an extraordinary thing, after all we heard about taking over the State debts from the Prime Minister when he was in opposition, that he did not say a single word about it in the Budget-speech. The debt of Australia amounts to £270,000,000. Of that sum, £191,000,000 is held in London, and £79,000,000 is held in Australia. It is very satisfactory that so large a proportion of the debt should be held in Australia. We pay in interest £9.500,000 every year. A consideration which is very dangerous, and requires to be looked into, is that this year £11,000,000 of debt matures. About £10,000,000 of it is New South Wales debt. Next year £10,000,000 will mature; during 1914, £3,000,000; 1915, £21,000,000;1916, £14,000,000; 1917, £12,000,000;1918, £15,000.000; 1919, £14,000,000;1920, £16,000,000; 1921, £14,000,000. That is to say that, within the next ten years, £130,000,000 will become due. Nevertheless, we seem to go along rejoicing, and think nothing of it. We seem to pay no heed to this sword of Damocles which is hanging over our heads. It was expected that the Commonwealth would be a stronger financial power in London than any individual State could be, and the Treasurer when in opposition said on one occasion that he had a horror of a seventh borrower in Australia. He has become a seventh borrower himself. As far as I know, he is making no effort to consolidate the debts. He has done something, though. He has not been idle. He has done his best to alienate the financial institutions, and bv so doing has probably made consolidation more difficult. That is something to have accomplished, but it is something disadvantageous and injurious to Australia. I remember that when I was in London a few years ago I was told at the Imperial Treasury that the great conversion scheme of Mr. Goschen could not have been carried out without the assistance of the financial institutions. Bonds were taken up by the existing holders, and only a very small amount of cash was required to pay people who did not want to take them up. The scheme was carried through with the assistance of the financial institutions, and without them would have been impossible. Shall we be able to convert our debts without the assistance of the financial institutions both here and in London, and is the Treasurer acting wisely in unnecessarily alienating the financial institutions, and by coming to loggerheads with them? I do not think so. The Prime Minister, when in opposition, told us what an immense advantage it would be for the Commonwealth to take over the debts of the States. But since he came into office he seems to have forgotten all about the subject, and has done nothing. When we come into power, as I hope we shall one of these days, we shall have a great deal of mischief to undo. We shall have to regain the financial confidence which has been lost. We shall have to settle the unrest that has been going on. We shall have totry to remove the financial fear - almost panic - that exists in the country at the present time. Who is there who will embark in any new industry at present? People are afraid to do so. There is plenty of money in Australia, but people are afraid to undertake industries now for fear that they will be interfered with and hampered in every direction.
– A company is about to spend £2,000,000 on iron works in New castle.
– I am veryglad to hear it. Probably the people know nothing about honorable members opposite.
– I think the proprietary company are pretty able business men.
– They may think they will get a big contract.
– They have not got one yet.
– I hope they will soon make a start.
On 20th September, 1906, when Treasurer, I presented to this House a statement showing the amount of saving to the year 1952 - when the whole of the existing public debts will have matured - assuming that the Commonwealth can float loans at a ¼ per cent. less interest than the States, and that such¼ per cent. be accumulated at 3 per cent. per annum compound interest. The total of such savings so accumulated from the several dates of maturity of existing loans up to 1952, would amount, it was then stated by me, in the case of New South Wales, to £9,419,823; Victoria, £6,106,725; Queensland, £4,365,320; South Australia,£3,572,993; Western Australia, £1,966,940; and Tasmania, £1, 335,472; or a total of £26,767,273. That was the saving which I estimated would be made if we could float loans at only a¼ per cent. less interest than is paid by the States, and I think that £26,767,273 is worth looking after. It may not be generally known that at the present time 3 per cent. stock, with a currency of twenty-one years, is £9 per cent. better in London than in New South Wales. That is to say, at the current London price of 2½ per cent. consols, namely, £75 15s., at the rate of 3 per cent., with a currency of twenty -one years, would be £103, whereas the New South Wales price of 3½ per cent. stock, namely, £97 12s. 6d., at the rate of 3 per cent., with the same currency of twentyone years, would be £94, or a difference of £9.
– We have never stood on a parity with British consols.
– No; but it is some of this £9 per cent. that we hope to secure by consolidating the debts. I should like to point out that our loan liabilities are looming closely ahead. In the first place, the money which, in respect of the note issue, has been borrowed from the public “for a piece of paper,” will not last for ever. I take no exception to the note issue. As a matter of fact, I had something of the kind in view ; but the money that has been obtained in this way will not last for ever. Then, again, the construction of railways in the Northern Territory - if railways are going to be built, and if they are not the Government might as well give up the country - will cost us at least £10,000,000, whilst the estimated expenditure on the transAustralian railway is £4,000,000. I always said that the cost of building that railway would be £3,000,000; but judging by the way in which the Government are carrying on the work, and in view of all the troubles they are likely to encounter in connexion with the construction of the line, I think that it will cost more. I have no wish to say anything against day labour. As a matter of fact, I carried out the Fremantle harbor works and the Coolgardie water supply scheme, two great undertakings, by day labour, but in those cases the supervision was close, whereas, in carrying this railway through immense stretches of unoccupied country, close and economical supervision will be far more difficult.
– The estimated cost is over £4,000,000 with wages at 8s. a day.
– The last estimate of the engineer is a little less than £4,000,000. Then, again, we have already borrowed £8,000,000. The naval bases, which the honorable member for Mernda estimates will cost £15,000,000, are put down by me as likely to cost £12,000,000. whilst I allow for an expenditure of £2,000,000 on the Federal Capital. That gives us a total of £36,000,000, the interest of which, with sinking fund, will amount to £1,500,000 a year.
– But when will these liabilities arise - within a week?
– They will arise very soon if we are to go ahead. We are already committed to an expenditure of about £4,000,000 on the trans-Australian railway, and we have borrowed £8,000,000. Then, again, I assume that the Government intend to proceed with the naval bases, whilst we should certainly embark next year on the construction of the Northern Territory railways. The £36,000,000 to which I have referred does not include £6,000,000 for defence and £3,000,000 for old-age pensions, which is charged against the revenue every year. These are liabilities looming closely ahead, in. addition to the £270,000,000 representing the public debt of Australia, the interest bill in respect of which amounts to £9,500,000 per annum.
In conclusion, I should like to say that the present Government have been very fortunate. They have come into a goodly heritage. They have reaped where they have not sown. Seeing that they have fallen on good times, they should not be ungenerous. They should at least be fair, and err, if at all, on the side of generosity. As it is, everything that we did has been appropriated by them as their own. They claim credit for having initiated the naval and military policy, although we introduced and passed both Bills giving effect to that policy, and ordered the first Dreadnought. We took that step, although, in those days, we had little money. The Braddon section was still in operation, and our resources were very scanty. Then, again, the old-age pension system was established by the present Leader of the Opposition. I was not then a member of his Government, but he passed it with the assistance of the whole House. There was no division of opinion, and the Bill to provide for old-age pensions was passed in one sitting. In view of the attitude that we took up, I do not think it should be said that we did nothing towards establishing that system. Then, again, we introduced penny postage which was opposed by the Labour party, and I dare say that the present Minister of External Affairs voted against the Bill that we brought down.
– I did not.
– The Deakin Government, at all events, felt that it could not carry the Bill, and, therefore, did not proceed with it, although I, as Treasurer, had made provision for the system for which it provided. Notwithstanding our scanty revenue, we intended to provide for penny postage, but it was reserved for our honorable friends opposite, on coming into power, after having opposed it previously, to adopt our Bill, and to take the whole credit for the introduction of the system, never even mentioning our previous action or assistance. I congratulate them upon having passed it. I voted for the institution of penny postage, believing that a cheap means of postage was one of the best things that could be given to any country. Again, we reduced the telegraphic rates. These were great progressive schemes, undertaken at a time when funds were low and finance was difficult. We also made provision on the Estimates for wireless telegraphy. We did not make rapid progress- in introducing’ the system, but the same may be said of our successors. We likewise made the agreement for taking over the Northern Territory.
– We took it over.
-But the Deakin Administration made the agreement, and supported the present Government in taking it over. It is a great undertaking, involving a great burden, and if it is not successful a great deal of its non-success will be due to the want of courage and enterprise on the part of those who are controlling it. Again, I would remind honorable members that we all worked for the building of the transAustralian railway. I believe that my colleagues will say that it was always part of their policy, and was never omitted from the Governor-General’s Speech.
– Who carried the Bill ?
– Honorable members opposite, with our full support, carried it; but We carried out the survey for them, and made everything ready. It is like a man who clears his ground, ploughs his land, and puts in the seed, and then others come along, turn him out, and reap the crop. That is just about what honorable members opposite have done in regard to this and so many other matters.
– The survey is being considerably improved.
– I should like to point out to the Minister of Home Affairs that in the case of railway surveys in my own State, which were much more precise, it was usual to name a margin of 10 or 15 miles for deviations on either side of a trial survey for the permanent survey. The surveyors did 7 miles a day in the trial survey for the transcontinental line. It is often found possible, by making deviations in a permanent survey, to save many thousands of pounds in the cost of construction of a railway. So there is nothing in the honorable gentleman’s interjection.
I have been referring to measures which were ours, and which have been appropriated by honorable members opposite, and have compared their action to that of a man who turned another man out of his wellcultivated field, and claimed the crop ashis own, without giving him even thanks for what he had done. There is, however; a part of their policy for which we, on this side, have no desire to take credit. It includes a land tax, or rather a forced levy, by which over £4,000,000 has been raised in three years from 14,000 persons.
– Honorable members opposite will take credit for that later on.
– No; my honorable friends can have that forced levy for themselves. Then there is the Commonwealth Bank, and the attack which has been made on the State Savings Banks. They are entitled to that.
– At the Premiers’ Conference the right honorable gentleman said that a Commonwealth Savings Bank would be a very good thing.
– I am not prepared to go into that now. I said that such a bank might be established, but I did not sayI proposed to establish it.
– The right honorable gentleman said that it ought to be established.
– I assure the Honorary. Minister that he is in error. I have never disapproved of the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank, but I would have established it in a different way from that adopted by the Government. I should have taken over one or two of the strongest existing banks, and have placed the Commonwealth Bank in the same position to the Government as the Bank of England is to the British Government - doing Government business, and acting as the friend and adviser of the Government, as the hank of England does in its relations with the Imperial Government. Then we have the policy of preference to unionists, and the deprivation of the sick and infirm of the right to vote by post, and honorable members opposite are welcome to that. Further, there has been no attempt made by the Government to reduce taxation. They are taking from the pockets of the people £4 1 os. per head, when the taxation was only £$ 13s. per head at the time they assumed office. They also have the odium of not doing anything to assist immigration, and we do not desire to have any part in that. There is another thing which they should be given the credit for, or rather odium of. They have succeeded in destroying public financial confidence, so that persons are to-day afraid to invest in any new enterprise. T give the party opposite the credit, or rather the odium, for that.
– Does the right honorable gentleman really believe that?
– I do believe it. I know that people are afraid to go into any industrial enterprise.
– That is the “stinking fish “ cry.
– It is regrettable to have to say it, but honorable members opposite are responsible for it.
– It is a bad thing in one’s own country to decry it.
– The only cure for it is that the honorable member and his colleagues should cease to control this fair land - then we shall get a better state of affairs. If the people are satisfied to permit a party who do these things to remain in power, they should, at any rate, be fully informed of what they are doing.
In conclusion, I may say that the policy of the Labour party seems to be to extract as much money as possible from the poor, as well as the rich; to hamper the people in their enterprise and their daily lives; to harass and interfere with every employer, and make his life a burden to’ him; to refrain from any attempt to reduce taxation ; to increase the cost of living, and blame the employer for it; to give preference to unionists and favoritism to a class ; to support the maxim of “spoils to the victors”; and to institute a reign of terror to nil opposed to them.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120820_reps_4_65/>.