4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assentto the following Bills reported -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill.
– Has the Prime Minister any objection to tabling the correspondence sent to him by Mr. Denham in respect of the sugar industry, and the proposals made regarding it by the Queensland Treasurer?
– No. I lay a copy of the letter upon the table.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs; upon notice -
In view of the reply given by the Minister for Trade and Customs to the member for Herbert to the effect that “ be had admitted all along that there was no power to issue regulations fixing the wages in the sugar industry,” does be still insist that bounty will be withheld unless the rates of wages and conditions of employment prescribed by the order recently issued by him are paid and complied with, or does he intend to put the farmers to the expense and delay of forcing the growers to test a case in the High Court?
– I must refer the honorable member to my reply on the 4th September last, when he made a similar inquiry.
Government House, Sydney- Moorak Estate
– Are the negotiations between this Government and the Government of New South Wales regarding the’ occupation of Government House, Sydney, by the Governor-General, at an end?Is it a fact that upon the conclusion of the present visit of Lord Denman, the GovernorGeneral will no longer be able to occupy that building?
– I think that the negotiations are very nearly at an end, but I await a further communication from New South
Wales. Immediately it has been received, the papers will be laid on the table.
– Is it a fact, as reported in the daily press, that the Government have purchased the Moorak estate in South Australia as a residence for the GovernorGeneral, or has the whole estate, including the magnificent house, been purchased simply for use as a rifle range?
– We have purchased the estate for military purposes, but there will be’ no objection to the GovernorGeneral going there.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General if he will kindly peruse a sub-leader published in the DailyPost newspaper, Hobart, on Saturday, 7th instant, with reference to the conditions of labour and hours worked by the lettercarriers at Hobart. I also wish to ask the Minister if he will kindly have inquiry made; with the view of remedying such undesirable conditions of labour as are alleged in the aforesaid article to exist in the postoffice named.
– I shall peruse the article; and if an undesirable state of affairs is found to exist at Hobart, and can be remedied by Ministerial action, I shall do my best to put an end to it.
– Has the Prime Minister read the letter of the Rev. Professor Adam published in last Saturday’s Age; and, if so, has he not come to the conclusion that what the Council of Churches really wants is the handling of the maternity allowance, so that it may be distributed by the churches?
-I am under the disadvantage of not having read the letter.
– Will the Prime Minister obtain from the New Zealand Government copies of the evidence and report of the New . Zealand Commission on the cost of living?
– The Government of New Zealand will be asked to supply copies. The document seems a very valuable one.
– Did the Prime Minister read the. statement in yesterday’s newspapers that the Labour Government of Western Australia have become squatters? Among the new leases taken up is one held by the Premier, comprising an area of 316,000 acres.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect this with the business of the House?
– I read the paragraph. I am not the Mr. Fisher mentioned in it.
– Some days ago the honorable member for Wannon asked whether, as reported in the press, a magistrate in Western Australia had ordered a couple of cadets to be flogged. I have been informed by the Minister of Defence that the Military Commandant at Perth has telegraphed -
No such military action was taken, but understand similar action was taken against two boys for throwing stones in public thoroughfare. Newspaper reports only information possessed here.
– In view of the possibility of a general election this year, will the Minister of Home Affairs say when the House is to be called upon to deal with the new scheme for the redistribution of the Queensland Divisions?
– I trust that there will be no election this year, although there must be one next year. Everything will be fixed up shortly now.
– Is it the intention of the Government to encourage the manufacture of wood pulp by offering a bounty, or in some other way?
– The matter is now under consideration.
– If in order, I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he has a statement to make about the political situation ?
– The honorable member is not in order.
Sale of Alcoholic Liquors
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are : -
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Sugar Industry - Communication, dated 5th September, 1912, from the Premier of Queensland, with regard to proposed abolition of Excise and Bounty in respect of the Sugar Industry.
Papua - Ordinance of 1912 - No. 8. - Supplementary Appropriation of 1911-12, No. 4.
Defence Act - Military Forces - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 170.
– I move -
That on each sitting day, until otherwise ordered, Government Business shall take precedence of General Business.
It is with some regret that I feel that it is incumbent upon me to ask private members to forego their right to the time which is allotted for the consideration of private business.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that he could put this motion off for another month?
– To do that would be to delay public business. The Government will do their best to provide an opportunity for discussion before the close of the session. As honorable members know, there is a comprehensive Navigation Bill which we intend to pass, irrespective of how long it may take. Again, important referenda questions, and a number of small, but important Bills, have to come before the House. But, even with this addition of time, it may be necessary to ask the House to sit on extra days. If I may be allowed to make the suggestion, I think it may become necessary to fix a time limit for the discussion on the second reading of some of our larger measures, so as to facilitate business in that way as far as possible.
– A further closure?
– No. We desire discussion, but I do think that the time has arrived when this; motion should be moved, and I hope that honorable members will concur in it.
– I should say that this is probably the earliest date on which such a motion has been moved in the history of this House, and it is applied indiscriminately in the case of a number of questions which have been brought practically to an issue, and which might be settled, so far as the House is concerned, in a comparatively short time. I should have anticipated that the Prime Minister would have selected motions such as that to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has just referred, which has been debated for several days, and ought to be capable of being brought to a speedy decision. If that were done, in a comparatively short space of time we could at least come abreast of several of the practical questions which have been submitted by private members, some of which are likely to attract great interest outside. The proposal, for instance, which has been well threshed out in relation to the question of moisture in butter, is a strictly practical issue of immense importance to a great section of the farmers in this country. Although the motion, if carried, might not accomplish much, yet it would be a guide to dairymen as well as an indication of what the opinion of this Parliament is, and what they may possibly look forward to. I do not propose to detail the instances in which, almost without further debate, the House might record its decision before allowing these debated issues to be swept into oblivion. In regard ‘to the indefinite undertaking of the Government to afford an opportunity for discussion some time towards the close of the session, we know what that means by sad experience.
– We have had two years’ experience of that.
– Yes; it means a hurry and a congestion - inadequate time to deal even with a few questions, and a confused and unsatisfactory ending. An undoubted pressure is already placed upon the Government and the whole of Parliament, and will be felt with increasing weight as the session proceeds. There are a number of questions which we cannot hope to touch, and yet upon which it is very desirable that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion. I feel perfectly satisfied that, unless the Government set apart, say, a week somewhere towards the close of the session, upon conditions to be accepted by honorable members, there will not be the slightest chance of our - I will not say clearing this congested paper - but of even dealing with matters sifted out from the rest because of their special interest and importance. If the Prime
Minister at a later stage could see his way to take that step I believe the House would cordially accept it.
– Why not have a special session after Christmas, if members are agreeable, for private members’ business only ?
– That may be necessary, for other business also. Time devoted to the process as indicated would clear the paper of a number of serious questions which ought to be disposed of before we return to the electors. I was sorry to hear an allusion by the Prime Minister to the possible necessity of imposing further re,strictions upon debate. That question will have to be very carefully handled.
– It will be clue to an arrangement.
– An arrangement would afford an opportunity for mutual concessions, and in such a case we should, of course, be only too happy to co-operate with the Prime’ Minister. ‘lt is not desired that speeches should be multiplied or prolonged. What we aim at is to be able to tell the electors that the House, so far as it could in. the time at its disposal, considered and recorded its opinion upon a great variety of issues besides those embodied in legislation. Each of us should be prepared to go lo the country supported, so to speak, in regard to proposals outside the scope of the ordinary business by the votes we have given in regard to these questions- Left as unfinished debates, they impress no one, and achieve nothing. They do not in any way contribute to clearing the situation if the electors are inclined to be critical of the work we have done outside that allotted to us by the Government of the day. This proposition comes at an extremely early hour this session. The hour when it does come is always inconvenient, but this year it is not only inconvenient, but astonishingly early. I trust, therefore, that the Prime Minister will live up to the spirit of his remarks to-day by making an opportunity at a later stage of the session enabling us to vote upon a number of issues placed upon the notice-paper by private members.
.- I am extremely sorry that in my position as a supporter of the Government I can not vote against them on this motion.
– Do they not give you a. free hand even on this?
– The honorable memberknows that if you are supporting a Government, you are supporting a Government,. and that is all about it. I hope the Prime Minister means a little more than he meant last session when he said he would give private members who had business on the paper an opportunity of placing their views before the House. He said that last year,’ when robbing us of private members’ day, and when we neared the close of the session he said to me, for example, “ I hope the honorable member will not move that motion.” In my amiability I gave way, and did not move it. I bring it forward this year, and put it on the business-paper, and the honorable member says, “ We cannot allow you to discuss that question now, but will give you an opportunity later in the session.” There will be a dozen of us in the same position. My motion regarding proposed new States may seem to some honorable members at the present stage to involve a question that is not within the region of practical politics, but it will force itself before many years upon the attention of this assembly. It is of far move importance than some of the Government business. The Naval and Military Decoration’s Bill, for example, which finds a place on the business-paper, might well be replaced by my motion. My amendment to the honorable member for Wentworth’s motion concerning the payment of rates by the Commonwealth to municipalities, refers to the payment of a due and proper allowance to aldermen for their services. That question is of greater importance to the people of Australia than many persons imagine. I hope the Prime Minister means what he says when he declares he will give honorable members an opportunity of bringing their motions before ‘the House and debating them. I, for one, am quite willing to come back here in the new year for a short session of, say, a month, to deal with’ them.
– My word, you can come back by yourself.
– There are more members of this House prepared to do the work of Parliament in a proper manner by coming back in the early part of next year than the honorable member who Has interrupted in that ungracious way realizes.
– We shall be glad to come back after the elections.
– I think the elections might be postponed until June. We might as well postpone the evil hour as long as we can. and if the elections were held at the latter end of June there would be quite time for us to have a short session, say, in February, if not in the middle of January, to transact this business. I do not blame the Government for trying to take private members’ time in one way, because there is a lot of important business to be done; but I hope the Prime Minister will give us an opportunity at no distant date of discussing these questions. If I see signs of the honorable member being placed in such a position that he will have to appeal to me not to bring forward my motion, I shall have to avail myself of some method within the Standing Orders of discussing the question I have brought before the Chamber.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) [3.27J. - I have never known a proposal of this kind to be brought forward so early in the session. It is a customary motion at a later stage, when the business of the session is about to be wound up, but this session, before any serious work has been begun, or, at any rate, finished, the Government are asking private members to give up their time so that Government business may proceed. What is the use of passing a motion at the beginning of a session allowing private members time to discuss their business, if, before any of that business is disposed of, the time is taken away from them? It seems to be a farcical proceeding from beginning to end. Either the Government are trying to fool the House, or they have an attack of, what may be called, the political jumps. I have never seen any Government back and fill and play fast and loose with the business of the House as the present Government have done ever since they have been in office, particularly during the present session. It is about time they made up their minds concerning the business that has to go through, and its conduct. The Government should know what they intend to do before they ask honorable members to sacrifice time which the Government themselves gave them at the beginning of the session. So far as I know not a single item of private members’ business has been finalized yet. Only one private member’s matter has been fully and freely discussed, and that is the question of Defence pensions. That question, of all others, has been dodged by the Government throughout the session. It has been brought on for consideration on three different occasions, and in each instance the Honorary Minister, in order to evade coming to an issue upon that very important matter, has moved the adjournment of the debate. The possibility of debating it further, to say nothing of arriving at a’ decision upon it, is now to go by the board. If this is not making a farce of legislation I should like to know what is.
Let us look now at the Government business which is said to be of overwhelming importance. The Prime Minister has referred to the Navigation Bill, which, after being before another place for two years-
– Five years.
– I am speaking of the work of this Government with all its reforming zeal ; its huge majority ; its absolute command of the House ; its limitation of speeches, and the “ gags “ of various descriptions which it has applied ever since it has been in office. With all these aids to the despatch of business, the Navigation Bill is still at the secondreading stage. Could anything tend to the destruction of measures more than the way in which this Bill has been played with? Its second reading was moved by the Minister of Trade and Customs on 16th July last, and there has not yet been any serious second-reading debate upon it.
– Sit down, and let us get to work upon it.
– I might just as well waste a little time as the Government are doing so. Since they do not mind frivolling away the time of the House, I suppose I need not be so particular about conserving it. I shall sit down in a few moments if honorable members do not interrupt me. Meantime, I wish to say plainly that the Government themselves are responsible for the failure to expedite business. I have never seen a Government make such a hash of its business as they have done this session. Why, for instance, has not the Navigation Bill been proceeded with? It has been brought on for consideration, and laid aside in order that some other proposal may be discussed.
– The honorable member likes variety.
– Yes ; but I hope we are not to suffer the penalty of these vagaries on the part of the Government. Let us have variety, if honorable members like it, but let the Government stand up to their own variety show, and not ask us to take the responsibility for it. I feel with the Minister of Home Affairs, that fie has been “ running his own circus “ this session. The Government, as a whole, indeed, have been running their own circus, and various proposals on the business-paper have been so moved about as to make up a political variety show, the like of which I have not seen in my parliamentary experience. The Navigation Bill furnishes a case in point. It is brought on for consideration, discussed a little while, and then put back to makeway for some other proposal of an infinitely inferior character. The Navigation Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that could come before us. Why, therefore, has it had to give place to such measures as we have been considering practically ever since the session began, and which we bid fair to be considering much longer, having regard to the rate at which business is being disposed of by the Government? It is time that the consideration of the Navigation Bill reached finality. Now, forsooth, we are told by the Prime Minister that the debate on that great and important piece of legislation, not only affecting Australia, but profoundly affecting our relations with oversea peoples and oversea commerce, is to be subjected, probably, to a further restriction. The right honorable gentleman has told us. to-day that he will have to fix a time within which the second-reading debate shall be concluded. Have we not had enough limitation of speeches proposed by the Government? Are they finding out that the standing order which imposes a limitation on speeches does not, after all, limit speeches, or if it does, that it is not necessarily limiting the total amount of debate that can take place upon a question ? Is this an acknowledgment of the failure of a famous piece of their legislation, which occupied our attention for a week ? The Government are proving the inutility of the standing order by stating that they must impose a further limitation, of debate in connexion with the consideration of the Navigation Bill.
Another question that has been discussed upon the motion of a private member relates to the percentage of moisture to be allowed in butter for export purposes. That is of great importance to a rural industry.
– Then there is the motion relating to the signing of articles in the press.
– Quite so. Is that proposal, which has to do with electioneering methods, to be set aside ? I understood that the Bill was to be taken to a final conclusion to-day ; but we find that it is to be set aside, without any reason being given. We read to-day in the newspapers that the whole business-paper has been manipulated afresh by the Prime Minister, and we find that the Navigation Bill is to make its re-appearance. If ever a measure has been chopped and changed and bandied about the Navigation Bill has. The same may be said of two or three other measures. They are brought before the House, and, having been debated for a time, have to give way to other proposals, or are withdrawn by the Government, to be remoulded and reshaped. What is needed to expedite the despatch of business is a little dose of the old-time responsible method which is so much ridiculed nowadays, and the departure from which is bringing about all the troubles with which we have to do. What have we been doing all this session? First of all we dealt with the standing order providing for the limitation of speeches.
– Is the honorable member getting back to that again?
– I, so far, have taken no exception to it.
– Tedious repetition.
– The supercilious little man from Corangamite jerks out an irrelevant statement. Every one knows that he is the only man in the House who does not repeat himself. Indeed, he is not allowed by the Caucus to do so. We hear of him only occasionally, and he makes the most of his time. His remaining speeches are made by way of interjections, while he is busily engaged at his desk in doing something else. Then there is the Minister of External Affairs by him, who generally sits in the chamber with a newspaper in front of him - a newspaper which, we are told,he never reads. It is said that he uses it as a screen, and does not read at all.
– Order ! Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the motion ?
– I think that the attitude of the Ministers towards the House is a reason why private members’ time should not be given up to them, unless we can be sure that when we surrender it the time is not going to be frittered away as Government time has been so far during the session.
We were engaged for some time in dealing with a Land Ordinance for the Northern Territory. That has disappeared towards the bottom of the businesspaper. ‘ What is to become of it I do not know. Some accident seems to have happened to it. We do not know whether we are to deal with this precious Ordinance again, or whether we are to have a Land Bill for the Northern Territory. More time has been wasted over that. No, I will not say that the time has been wasted, because it is not waste of time to unearth, these undemocratic, sinister proposals which are sought to be imposed upon a free Parliament by men-
– The honorable member is going beyond the limits of the motion.
-I am showing reasons why the time of the session, so far, has not been properly occupied.
– The honorable member is discussing aquestion which is on the business-paper.
– Yes, sir, because here we have a proposal to deal with that business, and I think I am entitled to discuss the way in which business has been proceeding so far.
– The honorable member will be in order in doing that, but not. in going beyond.
– I do not wish to go an atom beyond those limits.
Then we have had the Works Estimates. One of the reasons for the long delay in dealing with them and the Budget was the fact that for the first time, I think, in the history of this Parliament information was not forthcoming in regard to works to be executed, nor concerning the Budget, which was thrown before the House with scarcely any explanation. No one had ever seen a Budget of the kind delivered before until this Treasurer put before honorable members statements prepared for him by clerks in his office, and upon which there was not even the pretence of an original comment. We have to get information before we vote millions of the people’s money. I venture to say that the Works Estimates would have been put through in a quarter of the time if there had been furnished the necessary departmental explanations. But, instead of that, we had nothing but a blank wall facing us, and an absolute refusal to furnish information concerning the way in which the people’s money was to be spent. These are the things which have taken up time during this session. I, for one, think that the Government ought not to ask private members to surrender their time, unless they give guarantees that the business of the House is to proceed continuously, in order, and regularly, and not be played with and chopped about as business has been during this session. I hope that the Prime Minister will be as good as his word when he says that he will furnish sufficient time for the consideration of some of the matters of urgency standing in the name of private members. Many of the proposals of the kind on this paper are infinitely more important than Government business is. They have to do with larger and more important questions - with questions much more directly affecting the internal economy of this country, if I may use that expression. I trust that we may be afforded an opportunity of dealing with this very important business. I also hope sincerely that the Government are going to take a tug at themselves, and present their measures to the House in an intelligent form, so as to enable us to discuss them succinctly and carefully. In that way the business of the country will be done, and we shall be able to look forward to that evil day to which the honorable member for Capricornia has alluded.
– No day is evil.
– The honorable member for Capricornia thinks thatt he day of the next election will be evil. He must have been thinking of his own side, because I do not know any one over here who regards the next election as an evil day.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the question.
– Then I will say no more.
.- Unlike the honorable member for Capricornia, I intend to vote against this motion. The honorable member who has justresumed his seat has given a good example of the way in which time can be wasted.
– I rise to order.
– The honorable member for Parramatta himself said that he might as well waste a little more time. I called him. to order when he said it.
– I did not say so, Mr. Speaker.
– I say that I agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. If private members are permitted to submit motions they are worthy of consideration. Many of the motions standing in the names of private members are of paramount importance.
– Can the honorable member mention one?
– The question of moisture in butter affects rural industries to an important degree. The butter industry is one of the foundations of Australia’s wealth, and the motion is one of the most important questions that we can discuss. Then we have the question of military pensions. The debate on that matter has almost reached finality, and the least the Government can do is to afford an opportunity for a vote to be taken.Another important question, although it may be one of sentiment, is the proposed abolition of kilts of the Scottish regiments. When a deputation interviewed the Minister of Defence, about four weeks ago, he distinctly stated that if an opinion were expressed in this House in favour of the retention of the kilts, he would retain them, and recall his former order. It will, therefore, be seen that if the House had an opportunity of discussing the question, and came to a unanimous determination to retain the kilts, they would not be abolished. For these reasons, I intend to oppose the motion.
.- I consider that the importance to the country of the motions standing in the names of private members is only equalled by the desire of the Government to prevent them being decided upon. The honorable member for lndi, a few moments ago, interjected, “ Can any one mention a single motion of importance standing in the name of a private member?” I am astonished that the honorable member’ should not have read the list for himself. Take, for instance, the question of dealing with one of the greatest assets Australia has - the waters of the Murray. It is a matter of small importance to the electors ofIndi that the question of water conservation in connexion with our greatest river system should be allowed to lapse in this House because it is not convenient to the Government that they should be asked to deal with the urgent question of pensions to the Military Forces. In the same way, the honorable member for Boothby has a motion on the paper expressing the opinion that Federal officers should be instructed to prepare a report concerning thenatural resources of the Commonwealth, and the best methods of conserving the same. While I should like to see more definite terms introduced into the motion, nevertheless, with such a direction, the Government could not fail to do an immense amount of good. In the first place, the inquiry itself would direct the attention of the people of Australia to the fact that we are, and have been for the last few years, living like squanderers in unexampled prosperity. Such a report would let the people of Australia know what our natural resources are, and the best way to conserve them. Why does the Government not desire an inquiry ? Do they think that one of the first recommendations would be that we must have a good Government to conserve our natural resources? Of course, no such insinuation was suggested by the honorable member for Boothby, but still his motion is one of considerable importance. There is another motion, the effect of which, if carried, would be to make more solvent the Australian Bank and to make more secure the Australian paper currency. I refer to the motion in my own name to amend existing Commonwealth legislation in order to place the Commonwealth note issue under the control of the Commonwealth Bank; that is to say, to make a bank, that has to consider what exchange is required by the commerce-
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– Is not the importance of the question sufficient reason why it should not be closured?
– It is not sufficient reason for the honorable member to discuss it on this motion.
– I take it that some other person will be in order in discussing the importance of this particular proposal. Then we have a motion with reference to pensions for the Defence Forces. It is infinitely to be deplored that the Government did not give the House an opportunity to come to a conclusion on this question. The motion has been adjourned several times ; I think on one occasion the mover voted against the adjournment. The Government, or a section of the Government, are strenuously opposed to this principle of extending common justice to the members of the Defence Forces, and because of this - because, apparently, a section of the Government supporters are strong enough in another place to make their will felt - we are asked now to forego what opportunity is left in the remaining months of the session to definitely decide whether or not members of the Military Forces arc to be granted pensions, and, in that way, placed on an equal footing with members of the Naval Forces. There is a motion of great importance in regard to the
Commonwealth paying for municipal service rendered to Commonwealth Departments. This motion could have been carried on the first day it was proposed ; but it was “ talked out “ and adjourned, and now we are to be denied the opportunity to take a division.
– The honorable member talked my motion out.
– My motion and other motions to which 1 have referred are all in the direction of extending fair dealing and liberty. On the other hand, the honorable member for Melbourne proposed to deny pressmen the liberty to conduct their profession as they themselves think fit, regarding, apparently, the necessity to provide an article with a name as of such paramount importance that the liberty of the journalistic profession should be further whittled away. There is a motion on the paper in regard to the butter trade. The honorable member for Indi, however, cannot see any motion of sufficient importance to take up time, although in his electorate there are a number of farmers; who regard this as one of the most urgent matters possible.
– The honorable ‘ member is misrepresenting the honorable member for Indi. He did not say there were not matters of importance amongst private member’s business.
– The honorable member for Corangamite looks up from writing letters appealing to his supporters, in order to contradict a statement known to be correct by every honorable member who has had his ears open.
– I was sitting here, and T did not hear the honorable member for Indi say what he is stated to have said.
– There are none so deaf as those who will not hear. The honorable member for Indi asked the honorable member for Corio whether there was a private motion on the business-paper “ worth anything “ - I think that was his phrase - and the honorable member for Corio immediately had a little party meeting with his friend the honorable member for Calare, with the object, no doubt, of producing evidence that there were vitally important matters on the list. The result was the discovery of the proposal in regard to military pensions, and one or two other matters I do not at this moment remember.
The honorable member for Wilmot has a motion on the paper in favour of the Commonwealth taking over the inspection and control of produce passing from State to State. I have recently seen in the public press complaints about the unfair way in which produce is prevented from going from one State into another, owing to a sort of artificial Inter-State Protection, which the Constitution specifically forbids. Is that not an important matter? If we are to have artificial restrictions raised, surely the people of Australia are entitled ‘to have a say in the matter, and thus prevent a further increase in the cost of living, for which the legislation of honorable members opposite has been so largely responsible in years past.
Then there is a very brilliant suggestion by an honorable member opposite, who proposes to move, only a few weeks hence, a motion to the following effect -
That, in order to absorb and train the unemployed, and with a view to a better settlement of citizens on the land, it is desirable to establish co-operative village settlements in the Northern Territory, Papua, the Federal Capital area, and, with the co-operation of the St:ite Governments, in the States of the Commonwealth.
Why should the honorable member not have an opportunity to exemplify his zeal for the unemployed, and his high opinion of their qualifications, by submitting his proposal to send all those gentlemen to the Northern Territory to form co-operative village settlements and other useful undertakings of a similar nature? Why cannot we, on this side, have an opportunity to go into the question of Socialistic settlement, in order to prove, out of the mouth of history, what arrant failures all such settlements have been in years past, and our desire that the unemployed of Australia should not be subjected to the wicked hardship of being asked to undertake intrinsically impossible undertakings in so inhospitable a country as the Northern Territory of the Commonwealth?
The honorable member for Echuca has a motion which ought to be given a chance of settlement.
– The honorable member ought to deal with the letter of the Leader of the Opposition in this morning’s Age.
– I should be quite willing to do so if it were in order. The honorable member for Capricornia is always trying to lead me off the track when the Speaker is looking up points of order in order to deal with him on future occasions.
The motion of the honorable member for Echuca deals with a matter of” importance that ought to be decided, and an injunction thus given to the Government in regard to their future conduct. On the 3rd October the honorable member proposes to move a motion to the effect that the public moneys of the Commonwealth should net be used by Cabinet Ministers, salaried or honorary - I like the word “honorary” - for travelling allowances while they are engaged in political contests connected with either Federal or State elections, and that “ any such expenditures are a breach of trust.” I cordially agree with the honorable member for Echuca that such practices would be a breach of trust. Why are the Government afraid to allow the motion to come before the House and be decided ? Is it to prevent their own actions being inquired into, and their future actions in any way restricted, that private members’ business is to be sacrificed in the unreasonable way proposed?
The honorable member for Barker has a motion on the paper to secure the retention of the kilt for Scottish regiments. I am satisfied that we had a majority the other day in favour of that motion. With the exception of, perhaps, one or two, every Irishman in the chamber is an enthusiastic supporter of the retention of the kilt. I should like to know whether the Government are afraid that if the honorable member for Barker were to move his motion in proper and appropriate costume, he would be able to secure sufficient support to enable him to carry it ; for we know that the honorable member, in his national costume, would present a picture of what the Scottish soldier should be.
I wish to urge upon honorable members who place the interests of the country above the exigencies of party government, or the desire of Ministers to avoid the decision in this Parliament of questions of great importance, not to regard this matter as a party question. I hope they will vote upon it as they feel they ought, and not as Ministers might wish them to vote. In all matters outside the party’s programme we are assured that honorable members opposite are entirely free to register their opinions as they think fit, and I now call upon them to support the claims of private members to have their motions considered, and npt to make themselves tools of the Government in the way proposed by the Prime Minister.
Dr. MALONEY (Melbourne) [4.3J.- It has often been my painful duty to protest against motions to take away private- members’ time. I agree with (he Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition that this is a very early stage of the session for the introduction of such a motion. I do not deny the right pf the Government to submit it, nor do I say that I shall not give them my support, but I think there is a way out of the difficulty. Some years ago I suggested in the State Parliament of Victoria that a night, to be called “ Division Night,” should be set apart, upon which divisions might be taken upon all private motions on the business-paper. If that course were followed, every honorable member putting a motion on the paper would be assured that a division would be taken upon it. Honorable members would thus obtain expressions of opinion upon which, if they thought it desirable, they might, in a future session, introduce Bills to give effect to the views they had promulgated. The motion which I have on the paper dealing with the signing of articles in the press is one the carrying of which, I think, every literary man in Australia would welcome. There are numbers of writers whose names appear above or under their articles in various newspapers published in the Commonwealth; so that the practice which I desire to see adopted is being followed, to some extent, at the present time, in spite of the objection of the editorial “ We “ of the larger newspapers. I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, who, in the absence of the Prime Minister, is in charge of the House, to bring my suggestion under the notice of the head of the Government. Honorable members, who, like myself, do not desire to waste the time of the House, will, no doubt, be satisfied if they are given an opportunity to secure a vote upon the motions they have placed upon the paper. I shall be content if a majority are found to be opposed to my motion, and I may try again next session, because 1 intend to come back here for the next Parliament, in spite of the honorable member for Wentworth, who - whether with an arrière pensée or not I do not know - succeeded in talking my motion out. I hope that the suggestion I have made will be accepted by the Prime Minister.
– Suppose the House wishes to debate the motion?
– Honorable members will agree that I might have had a division upon my motion last session ; but if I had insisted upon my right, I. should have placed the Leader of my party in an awkward position, because there was, at the time, no quorum present, and a number of other matters following my motion required to be dealt with. It would have been very ill-mannered on my part to have pressed my motion to a division on that occasion ; but I was strongly tempted to do so; and I now give fair warning that, if an opportunity presents itself this session, I shall press the motion to a division. As I waived my right, as a private member, on the last day of last session at the request of the Prime Minister, I now ask that I shall be given an opportunity to secure a division upon a motion which, I think, meets with the approval of the best literary men in Australia.
.- I resent the moving of this motion at so early a period of the session. I feel that it will interfere very seriously with the comparatively few privileges which are extended to private members to ventilate matters which appear to them to be of considerable public importance. I enter my protest against the carrying of this motion, because I have on the business-paper a motion which I regard as of very great importance indeed, because of the grave principle involved in it. Whilst the Prime Minister has been good enough to say that he will endeavour to give ‘honorable members an opportunity, towards the end of the session, to ventilate the various questions raised by the motions they have on the paper, experience teaches those who have been in Parliament for some years that such opportunities are never satisfactory. They are given at a time when honorable members are tired, and wish to get away to their homes, a.nd the results are always disappointing, from a private member’s point of view. The motion on the paper in my name is the outcome of a previous motion which I moved for a return of the expenditure of certain moneys under the name of travelling allowances of Ministers of the Crown. That return was, in due time, furnished.
– The honorable member must not discuss the return.
– I am endeavouring to give reasons why this motion should not be carried, because of the importance of the motion I have on the business-paper.
– The honorable member must not anticipate the discussion of any motion on the business-paper.
– That makes it somewhat difficult for me to deal with the motion as I desire. I shall now discuss the matter in a more general way. The motion to which I referred involves the personal honour of Ministers.
– The honorable member is going beyond the question before the Chair.
– It seems impossible to show why this motion should not be carried, unless I am able to insist upon the importance of the motion to which I have referred.
– The honorable member may not debate that motion.
– I am not attempting to do so. My point is that, if the motion now before us is carried, it will not be possible for me to move my motion, whose merits I am sorry that I cannot discuss, because they are very great. The motion of which I have given notice is one which ought to be debated for this reason-
– The honorable member may not discuss a matter not now before the House.
– I wish only to draw attention to the fact that there is this motion on the notice-paper, and that the carrying of the motion under discussion would preclude the moving of it. While my motion may remain on the businesspaper, to all intents and purposes it will be wiped off, because I shall not have an opportunity to move it.
– To what notice does the honorable member refer?
– The motion of which I have given notice for the 3rd October is worded as follows -
That, in the opinion of this House, the public moneys of the Commonwealth should not be used by Cabinet Ministers, salaried or honorary, for travelling allowances while they are engaged in political contests connected with either Federal or State elections, and that any such expenditures are a breach of trust.
I should have an opportunity of moving and voting for that motion, to show that I am opposed to the practice with which it deals. The carrying of the motion now under discussion would prevent honorable members from proving their readiness to support the great principle that no Government is entitled to filch from the public Exchequer of the Commonwealth-
– I have on several occasions called the honorable member to order for discussing the motion of which he has given notice, but he is deliberately disobeying my ruling, and the statement which he has just made is one which he must withdraw and apologize for.
– I recognise that I was out of order in using the term “ filch from the public Exchequer,” and as it is a rather strong one, I express some measure of regret for having used it. The motion of which 1 have given notice is of prime importance, and should not be shut out by the carrying of that now before the Chair. In view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I move - *
That the following words be added : - “ Except notice of motion set down by Mr. Palmer for October 3.”
– I second the amendment fro forma.
– The other day an honorable member seconded a motion fro forma, and I took it that he would vote for it, but he voted against it, having seconded it merely for the sake of enabling it to be discussed. If that is what the honorable member is doing in this instance, he is out of order.
– I shall vote for the amendment, but I do not wish to be deprived of my right to speak to the. motion.
– If the honorable member speaks now, he must confine himself to the amendment.
– I do not wish to do that, and, therefore, shall not second the amendment.
.- I have set down a motion for the 10th October, which, I think, the House should, consider. I chose that date because I thought that honorable members would then> have an opportunity to discuss the matter. Most honorable members will be of the opinion that my motion deals with a veryimportant subject. It reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is undesirable that the distinctive uniform - Kilts - in the Scottish Regiment should be abolished inconnexion with the Military Forces of Australia.
You, sir, have ruled that a motion on the business-paper cannot be discussed, but I wish, to ask the Government for the opportunity to deal with my motion on some subsequent occasion, if only for a few minutes. I have gone to a lot of troubleto get information on the subject-matter of the motion, and, if I am allowed to move it, I shall be able to point out that the kilted regiments have performed feats that no other regiments could carry through.
– I have been a member of this Parliament, and the Parliament of Victoria, for a. period covering ten years, but I have never yet known a private member to carry a motion which he had put on the businesspaper.
– I could inform the honorable member of a case.
– I apologize to the honorable member. I forgot that a motion which he brought before this House was carried. But one swallow ‘does not make a summer, and the carrying of one private member’s motion cannot be held to justify the expenditure of time involved in the consideration of private members’ business. I brought before the Parliament of Victoria an important motion dealing with ancient lights, and days were devoted to its discussion, it being finally talked out, though it was brought forward again and passed after I had left the State arena. There is, however, one way in which the motions by private members have a certain amount of usefulness. They bring matters before the public, and discussion takes place. Sometimes the Government take up a matter which has been brought forward in this manner, and it then becomes really a question of practical importance to the country. That is the only object of private members wasting their time in this way. If matters which are brought forward are considered to be important, a certain amount of public feeling is aroused, and then they are taken up by the Opposition or the Government and brought into the fighting line. But it is rather early in the session, I think, for the Government to take this very drastic step. I consider that if we intend to consume such an enormous amount of the country’s time as we have done in discussing private members’ business, we ought to adopt a better system. My suggestion would be that before a private member could in this way take up the public time he should get the consent of a certain number of honorable members. If an honorable member wishes to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a question he has to get a certain number of honorable members to indorse the action which he proposes to take. I think that a private member ought to get the indorsement of a considerable number of members before he can “ off his own bat,” as it were, bring forward a matter which he may think of considerable importance. He should get the indorsement of, say, twenty members, so as to make it an important matter, because the time of the House is of great moment to the public. The method of dealing with the business of the country seems to me to be that matters are taken very gently and easily in the first part of the session; in fact, private members are welcomed then in taking up the time 1 of the House, while measures are being prepared for the Government - and during the last three or four days of the session there is a fearful rush, when matters are illconsidered at all-night sittings, and, of course, hasty legislation is passed. I think that the Government might see whether they could not bring down at the beginning of a session every Bill which they wished to put through during the session. We could then pick out the Bills to which we desired to give serious attention, and look into them thoroughly. Take, for instance, the Navigation Bill. It is an enormous measure. I do not suppose that, besides myself, there are half-a-dozen members who have carefully read it. And yet it is now coming right on top of us. There are other Bills which are promised later, and which I do not believe are even prepared. If I had the honour of being Prime Minister, I should insist upon my Ministers having every Bill properly prepared before the session was started, so that honorable members might have the measures in hand, and be able to give full time to their consideration. That course would, I believe, do away with a great deal of the hasty legislation which is the curse of this country. We all know that frequently a measure gets before the Law Courts almost immediately after it has been passed, and nobody understands what it means. This is due to the fact that the drafting has to be done on the spur of the moment, and the measure rushed through Parliament. In this way measures vitally affecting the community are most illconsidered. Of course, we have to follow the old system of running Parliament until a better system can be adopted. I should like to see my suggestion carried out. Private members’ business has an advantage in calling prominent attention to various matters which, after a while, may become of such importance that the Government may take them up. That is the only recommendation I have ever seen for private members having the right to take up the time of the House, which is the time of the country ; but I have never known this motion to be brought forward so very early in a session. There is always the usual promise that, later, private members will have plenty of time. I have heard that promise, I am sure, in every
Parliament in which I have sat, but I have never known private members to get any time after it was given. We shall just see what will happen this time. There is not the slightest doubt that this is the most reasonable Opposition that has ever sat in a Parliament.
– It is more than reasonable.
– Yes. We have never had a Government that has been treated so leniently and justly.
– And generously.
– Yes, judging by the honorable member, who is renowned for the mild way in which he “ deals it out “ to the Government. I think that the passing of this motion might be delayed a little while, and more discussion given to the very important matters in the charge of private members, because we shall have the same old scramble at the finish. I do not think that the Government have their measures prepared. Is the Bill for the baby bonus ready?
– All in good time.
– I think that the good time ought to be now, so that we can consider the measures. What has become of the Parliamentary Witnesses Bill?
– If the Opposition will stop talking we shall show them that we have all the Bills ready.
– We like to have the measures a little time before we are called upon to deal with them. Mr. Roberts. - The more you keep talking the more you delay these Bills coming forward.
– We have to keep talking a little in order to allow the Opposition to get the hang of the measures, Otherwise they would be rushed through in a most unseemly way. I realize that my protest will be of very little avail, but I make it for what it is worth. I hope that what I have said will have some effect upon Ministers, and that in the future they will bring their Bills down at a stage which will allow plenty of time for consideration.
– Surely you cannot object that we did not bring down the Navigation Bill in good time?
– No; but honorable members have not had time yet to pay serious attention to the measure.
– Not even to that?
– There are other Bills on the notice-paper. I have not yet seen the Trade Marks Bill. I think that Ministers must really be ashamed of the way in which we are expected to criticise measures which are simply placed in our hands on the spur of the moment.
– We do not see most of them until they are put on the table.
– No; as a rule the second-reading speech is in full blast before we are able to get a copy of the Bill. I hope that if Ministers seriously want to conserve the time of Parliament they will take my remarks into consideration, because in that way they will save far more time than they will by taking away the little time which private members have at their disposal.
Mr. THOMAS BROWN (Calare) [4 3°J- - I propose to support the motion, although I have on the business-paper a motion that I should very much like’ to have discussed, relating to the charging of rent to public servants. That is, I think, a question of considerable importance. At the same time I recognise that we have been sitting here for the last three months, and are only on preliminary work. If we are to get down to the main work of the session, we must get away from a lot of these abstract matters that we have been considering, and deal more with the concrete matters that the Government have in hand. In the ordinary course of a session, we do not have much more than three months in which to do that particular work. I do not propose to belittle the importance of private members’ business, but it must be recognised that it is riot in the same category with Government measures. Under our system of party government, the Executive is the authority which has to determine the business to be done by Parliament. On members of the Executive rests the duty and responsibility of formulating legislation and presenting it to the House, and through the House to the country. The motions submitted by private members fulfil a very useful function in directing notice to new subjects as they come along, bringing them before the House, and having them discussed. The main purpose of those motions is to educate the House, as it were, by having certain subjects discussed ; and, that being so, I disagree entirely with the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne that they should be simply stated and voted upon. I should not care to vote on a number of those motions until I had studied them, and heard views for and against them. I should then feel in a very much better position to pass an opinion upon them. The main function of private members’ motions is to bring the subject-matter under the notice of Parliament and have it discussed ; but, after all, they are not legislation. They simply affirm principles ; and, even if they reach the stage of being voted on and affirmed by the House, it frequently happens that no further action is taken. In nine cases out of ten, they must form the subject of legislation or administrative action on the part of the Government after the House has dealt with them. A fair amount of time has already been allotted to private members’ business, and it is time we got down to the serious work of the session for the remaining months at our disposal. I quite agree that Bills should not be tabled and rushed through Committee ; but I would point out that the Navigation Bill, which is the first on the notice-paper, has been six or seven years before Parliament, and is large and important enough to occupy a whole session. It has been the subject of a Commission, and some of our representatives even went to the Old World to gather information to assist the House in dealing with it. It has run the gauntlet of the Senate, and it now comes to us. It contains a large number of clauses dealing with many matters of vital concern to the shipping industry and to the general public. If the House were to devote itself from now till the end of the session to the serious consideration of that one measure, it would do immensely more good for the country generally than would the discussion of the abstract questions standing on the notice-paper in the names of private members
– I am not at all surprised that the Prime Minister has moved this motion today, because it is in keeping with the general character of the Government’s proposals to deprive the members ofthis House of their privileges as representatives of the people. Furthermore, it is on all-fours with the general trend of the policy of the Government in invading the freedom and liberty of the people at every possible point. I should have been rather surprised if the Prime Minister had not brought a motion of this kind forward early in the session. Indeed, I am astonished that he did not bring it in earlier still. We all recognise that that is not in accordance with ordinary parliamentary procedure in this chamber; but it would be strictly in keeping with the idea that seems to have possessed the members of the Government that the people and the people’s representatives have no rights, and that they themselves, representing, as they do, the smallest section of the community, are the only persons who have any rights at all to be considered.
– - This motion affects members on this side of the House equally as much as on that.
– I spoke of members of the Government, not members of the House. The members of the Government seem to think that they alone have any rights in this House. So far as the Government are concerned, a private member is allowed to speak only as an act of courtesy.
– Hear, hear ! An act of grace.
– The Minister of External Affairs himself declares that private members, so far as the Government are concerned, are permitted to speak only as an act of grace. Let me point out that private members derive their rights, not from any Government, but from the people outside. There is not a private member in this House who has not as full a right to speak on the floor of this chamber as has any member of the Government.
– The late Government did not think so, because they used to “ gag” us.
– When the members of the Government were on this side of the House, none were more jealous of their rights as private members than they; but now they want to take advantage of their occupancy of Ministerial office to deprive other honorable members of their rights as representatives of the people. Of course, by consent of both sides of the House, after a strenuous session, when there has been a long programme of business, and it is desired to bring the session to a close, it is customary for a Prime Minister to bring forward a motion of this character late in a session, and then private members on both sides of the House usually recognise that it is fair to give up their time, in order to allow the Government more time to deal with the measures that they have on the business-paper. The Prime Minister, however, now brings down a proposal early in the session to curtail the right of private members to discuss motions, which, as representatives of the people, they have a perfect right to put on the business-paper, and to debate upon the day of the week which is set apart at the beginning of the session as the special day on which their business shall take precedence of Government business. I would remind honorable members that one of the reasons put forward for suddenly seizing hold of a motion to put a time limit on the speeches of honorable members was that, among other things, it would do away with protracted sittings, and give more time for the consideration of private members’ business; but, so far from that being the case, we now have a proposal brought down, at an earlier period than in any previous session of the Federal Parliament, for cutting away the right of private members to deal with the business they have on the notice-paper. In addition to that, the Prime Minister indicated that he would make a further proposal to extend the sitting hours of the House. He probably proposes shortly to take away from honorable members the time which they usually occupy now in dealing with their correspondence, in studying measures, and generally in preparing themselves to deal with the business of the House. Then, again, he threw out a hint that proposals would probably be made to still further restrict the small measure of time which honorable members are allowed under the Standing Orders to devote to the discussion of lousiness. This at once shows how the House has been cajoled into agreeing to the time limit amendment of the Standing Orders passed only a few short weeks ago. Where are all these abridgements of rights and privileges to end? We shall have seriously to consider presently whether we have a Parliament at all - whether we have any rights as private members, and whether we are entitled to discuss, criticise, or examine Bills submitted by the Government. If we are to follow these proposals to their logical conclusion, we shall have ultimately to sit here and vote as mere automata deprived of all rights of discussion. Where is this invasion of our rights to end ? I am sure that it is not to end here. Our rights and liberties, as representatives of the people, have been invaded already to an extent that I should not have thought possible in a Parliament of free men. The popular idea is that Parliament is a place in which the fullest and freest expression of opinion may take place.
– Is that what the honorable member thought a year or two ago when he voted to “ gag “ us whilst we were in Opposition?
– 1 have always held that opinion, and my actions have always been consistent with it.
– Yet the honorable member voted for the “ gag.”
– I never voted for the, “gag”; I always opposed it. I would rather put up with the abuse of an existing privilege on the part of certain honorable members than cast a vote to wipe out the privilege.
– What did the honorable member do? Did he walk out of the House rather than vote?
– The honorable member may look up Hansard for himself. I have always stood up for liberty of speech, and have always been opposed to limitations being placed upon the legitimate privileges of honorable members in regard to the presentation of their views. When the standing order providing for the application of what is popularly known as the “gag” was first introduced and discussed in this House, I was one of those sitting in Opposition who fought for practically a whole week against it. Whenever there has been an attempt to curtail the privileges of honorable members, I have, so far as my memory serves me, consistently opposed it. Even when the honorable member for Gwydir made his nine hours’ speech, the present Opposition, who were then in power and had a majority, did not attempt to apply the “gag.”
– The honorable member voted for the application of the “gag” the first time it was proposed. His name appears in the division list published in Hansard
– I do not think so. At all events, I shall want to see the division list for myself ; and if the honorable member will give me the reference, I shall see to what it referred. Whatever justification there may be for seeking to curtail the debate on a question after it has been thoroughly discussed-
– This is a “ clean bowlout.”
– Let the honorable member bowl it out.
– The honorable member deliberately contradicted me a moment ago.
– Order !
– Here is the division list.
– Order ! The Honorary Minister must not interject.
– That refers to another matter, not to the adoption of the “gag” in the Standing Orders. There is no justification at present for a motion of the kind we are now discussing. No debate has been unduly protracted. There has been no attempt to waste the time of the House; we have not had any nine hours’ speeches, nor have we had obstruction of any kind. As a matter of fact, honorable members of the Opposition have refrained from speaking when they have had a right to do so, and in many cases have not occupied the full time allowed them under the Standing Orders. The trouble, so far as the Opposition is concerned, is that we are too complaisant. We are too affable. We know the trouble that befell Captain Barley in Beauty and the Barge as the result of his having too much affability, and I am afraid that advantage is being taken of us because there is too much affability on our part. We give way too much to the Government, and instead of appreciating our actions they take advantage of us every time. They bring forward this motion at this early stage of the session in order to prevent honorable members enjoying even the curtailed privileges still left to them. I venture to say that there is not one proposal standing in the name of a private member which is not of the utmost importance to the public. For instance, here is a motion by the honorable member for New England, by which he proposes to send all the unemployed to the Northern Territory. It is a question of development. We cannot discuss that. Yet, involved in it is, to a large extent, the policy of peopling the Territory. There is another motion in the name of the honorable member for Barker, with reference to the determination of the Minister of Defence to abolish the kilts. As a result of the deputation to the Minister, a promise was given that if the House expressed an opinion against abolishing them, the Government would abide by the decision. But under this’ motion, the House is debarred from expressing an opinion. We shall never reach the honorable member’s motion. Consequently, the Minister of Defence will be able to say, “ I said that I would allow the House to decide the matter, and would abide by its decision, but the House has not decided it, and I will take my own course.” I notice one or two motions affecting the administration of the Government themselves. These matters of administration cannot be challenged by private members for the same reason - because, if this motion is carried, the motions on the business-paper attacking administration, and some of the practices that have been resorted to, cannot be discussed. There is also a motion affecting one of the vital principles of the Labour movement. It involves the application of the eight-hours principle to the work of Parliament, and touches, not only honorable members, but officers and employes generally. So that we shall not even be able to deal with a motion which affects part of the Labour policy. Some motions stand in the names of honorable members occupying seats on the Ministerial side. There is one submitted by the honorable member for Capricornia, in which the whole question of delegating governmental authority to a new Government, which he proposes to form in the State of Queensland, forms part and parcel, of the proposal. The House is not to be allowed to give an expression of opinion on that large question. Other important matters are also covered by motions. In fact, looking through the business-paper, I do not see a single motion standing in the name of a private member which ought not to be debated and determined upon. The majority of these motions are of paramount importance compared with many matters of Government business which have been brought forward this session. They certainly are of equal importance with any matters that the Government intend to bring forward. The Prime Minister has said that an opportunity will be given later in the session to deal with these motions. What sort of opportunity is to be given? We know how the Prime Minister has redeemed his promises in the past, and we can expect nothing else in the future. What has happened before will happen again. Probably on the last day of the session, when most honorable members are preparing to catch their trains, and when many have gone home, the Prime Minister will afford an opportunity, not to have these motions discussed, but simply to be voted upon, without any opportunity being afforded to explain, or examine, or criticise them. We shall simply be allowed to give a vote like so many automata. Such votes could just as well be given by wooden figures, which, on pressing a button, would emit some sort of noise to express approval or otherwise. That is not treating members of Parliament fairly, and it is not treating ‘ the Opposition courteously. There is no justification at present for making this inroad upon the rights and privileges of the members of this House. At the same time, I can quite understand this policy as forming part of the scheme of the Government to suppress criticism as far as possible, and to prevent the people’s will from being expressed in this House through their direct representatives. It is another one of those attacks upon democratic government which this Government is repeatedly making. There is no doubt whatever that this movement on the part of the Ministry will be followed by other movements for curtailing the rights and privileges of honorable members. I, for one, am going to vote against the motion, and shall insist upon a division, in order to record our protest.
– Let the motion go on the voices.
– No ; I want to see who those honorable members are who, at this “early stage of the session, are willing to deprive private members of their parliamentary rights.
– The late Government did the same thing only five days later in the session.
– The Minister of External Affairs will have an opportunity when I sit down of answering what 1 have said. At the time to which he refers, Parliament met a month earlier. I hope he will get up, and show some justification for this proposal of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister himself has shown none. He did not attempt to indicate that there was any necessity for the proposal. He simply got up in his usual autocratic style and said, “ I propose that this shall be done”; and the Caucus people behind him, of course, follow him. No doubt this step was originated in the Caucus, and the Prime Minister is simply acting as its mouth-piece in carrying out orders received.
– When the motion “ That the question be now put” was moved, the honorable member voted for it.
– That is a different thing altogether.
– The honorable member said he never “voted for the “ gag.”
– I did not vote for putting the closure motion in the Standing Orders. I am not going to allow honorable members opposite to misrepresent me deliberately without contradicting the misrepresentation.
– The honorable member will have to correct his proof.
– My reply will go in alongside the misrepresentation, and will destroy the effect of the interjection. I shall not allow honorable members to put interjections into my speech without at once dealing with those interjections, when they are intended to create a false impression on the minds of those who may happen to read Hansard. There is no doubt that, if later on in the session, the Prime Minister had submitted this motion, and honorable members saw that the necessities of public business demanded the sacrifice of some of their privileges, they would have been perfectly willing to give way and assist the Government to that extent. But when the motion is submitted at this early period of the session - when this innovation is proposed without any apparent justification, and when members have not exceeded any reasonable limits of time in their speeches - it is not fair to the House that the Prime Minister should intervene in the way proposed.
-. - The honorable member for Lang has distinctly and repeatedly said, in reply to interjections, that he has never voted for the application of the “gag-“
– I did not say that I did not vote for the application of the “ gag,” but that I did not vote for the “ gag.”
– Further, I asked the honorable member if he had walked out of the House when the Government of which he was a loyal supporter attempted to apply the “gag.” and his reply was: “Hansard will show you.” The honorable member did not care to commit himself to the statement that he had walked out of the House, and I was not able to say the number of times he had voted for the application of the gag. I was well aware that he was not amongst those who had voted against its application ; and there, for the moment, the matter rested. Hansard, of 7th September, 1909, page 3098, shows the first time the application of the “gag” was moved - and this by a private member, and not by a Minister desiring to further business - the honorable member supported the motion. The honorable member’s name is found amongst those who were in favour of preventing free speech, and, as he terms it, crippling the privileges of honorable members - in fact, stopping honorable members from voicing their opinions.
– Did the Honorary Minister not vote for the “ gag” ?
– No; I was not then in the House. Then, if we turn to Hansard, of 15th September, 1909, page 3502, we see that the honorable member for Lang again voted for the application of the “ gag,” and, a little later on the same day, as shown on page 3504, he voted once more in the same direction. Yet, a moment or two ago, he deliberately denied the statement that he had voted to apply the “ gag” to honorable members. It is characteristic of honorable members opposite to do things which they may afterwards, or at the time, know to be reprehensible, and, when charged with their sins, to deliberately deny them. These are the sort of statements they make to people in the country, who have no time to give attention to the details of politics - the sort of thing they say to the afternoon meetings of the Women’s National League. They make statements of the most alarming character, which very often will bear no more investigation than do the statements of the honorable member a few moments ago.
– I was never at a meeting of the Women’s National League in my life.
– It has been asserted by honorable members opposite that this motion is moved too early, and that there is no need for it - that it is moved earlier this year than ever previously in the history of all Parliaments. In September, 1909, when the Fusion Government were in all their “gagging” glory, an identically similar motion was submitted. This year the motion is submitted on the 10th of the month, and in 1909 it was submitted on the 15th - a difference of only five days, and it was supported and voted for by the honorable member for Lang. But to listen to honorable members opposite, one would think that the motion now before us is something altogether novel - something alarming, such as has never been proposed previously. As a matter of fact, precisely similar motions are submitted almost every year in this and other Parliaments. The
Leader of the Opposition, as Prime Minister, on 15th September, 1909, when submitting the motion to which I have referred, told the House that in the previous session a similar motion had been moved two months and a half, and, in the session before that, two months after the assembling of Parliament. Thus we have their own leader confounding honorable members opposite - telling them that their remarks of to-day will not bear investigation, because they are not in. accordance with fact. Despite the protestations of the honorable member for Lang, we find that he supported a motion to apply the “ gag” on the very motion submitted in 1909 to take away private members’ time. Thus the honorable member assisted in preventing members from even protesting against the motion. Under the circumstances, what ought to be done with the honorable member? I leave it to others to fix the punishment that ought to be meted out to him. I desire to emphasize the fact that the motion to-day is in keeping with motions of a similar character that are moved every year just about this time; it may be a few days earlier or a few days later, but that depends entirely on the business on the noticepaper. At present the business before us is of such magnitude and importance as to amply justify a motion of the kind.
– Give us a chance to settle the defence pensions question.
– I presume that the Prime Minister will make a statement as to that. There are many Bills of magnitude and importance remaining to be passed this session. I trust that, in the circumstances, despite the little opposition which has been raised, and which is characteristic of all Oppositions on such occasions, the motion will be permitted to pass. I believe that the honorable member for Franklin, when supporting a Government three years ago, voted for a similar motion.
– I think not. 1 think I have voted against similar motions ever since I have been a member of the House.
– I am pleased to hear the honorable member say so. No doubt the honorable member for Franklin will agree with me that the present motion is justified in the circumstances.
– Is the honorable member appealing to the honorable, member for Franklin as the Leader on this side,?
– No, I am not; but, with all respect to the honorable member for Ballarat, if we are justified in paying any attention to political straws that are floating in the atmosphere, the leadership of the Opposition is in question at the present time.
– Order !
– I am sorry that I was led away by an interjection which should not have been made. I hope that, in all the circumstances, the motion will be agreed to.
– No justification whatever has been suggested for the passing of this motion at the present time. Ministers are themselves entirely responsible for the condition in which the business-paper is found to-day. Owing to their failure to conduct the business of this Parliament properly, the Senate has had to adjourn for a month, because there was nothing for it to do. Many of the measures blocking the business-paper in this House should have been introduced in the Senate, and we might then have had the business of Parliament proceeding simultaneously in both Houses. Year after year work is rushed through in this House towards the close of the session, and members of the Senate are called upon to pass measures without having time to give them proper consideration.
– I find that the honorable member did vote for a motion similar to this three years ago.
– i voted, i think, for the application of the “ gag “ to the debate on that motion. °
– The honorable member voted for the motion.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s statement; but I thought that I had always opposed similar motions. Private members’ business has never before been treated in the way in which it has been treated by the present Government. In the last two years, at one time the Prime Minister, and at another the Acting Prime Minister, gave a deliberate promise that ample opportunity would be given honorable members to discuss private members’ business. The Government fulfilled that, promise by bringing forward the whole of the private members’ business on the paper on the last day of the session, when those in charge of it had to agree that the House should vote “ Yes” or No “ upon their motions, or refuse to proceed with them. a novel procedure has been adopted this year. Honorable members opposite have objected to the application of the “gag”; but I say that the Government have applied the “gag” to private members’ business this session in a most objectionable form. Whenever a motion has come on which they dared not face, or did not care to see carried, some private member has been judiciously selected to move the adjournment of the debate. In this way, on several occasions, the “ gag “ has been applied to private members’ motions in. the most underhand way in which it could be applied. Rightly or wrongly, I am the person responsible for the limitation which has been imposed upon the speeches of honorable members. When I submitted my motion to that end, I did so in the belief that, by limiting the time of speeches, ample opportunity would be afforded for the discussion of every motion put before the House, whether by the Government or by a private member. If the Government had conducted the business of the House properly, two or three important motions now on the businesspaper would have been decided by this time. I take the motion proposing pensions for the Defence Forces. Has it not been the action of the Government that has prevented that motion being carried to a conclusion? Have they not, Thursday after Thursday, when the motion came on for discussion, played the part of “ oyster,” refused to commit themselves upon it, or accept the challenge of honorable members to give the House a lead in so important a matter? Some private member on the Ministerial side has always been found to move the adjournment of the debate. We had a revolt on the subject the other evening, when five or six of the Government supporters voted against them on the proposal to adjourn the debate.
– Only tour.
– There ought to have been six, as that number would have been sufficient to prevent the adjournment of the debate, since it- was carried by a majority of only two. The present position is one which Ministers have deliberately brought about by refusing to allow the House to come to a decision upon private members’ business. There is no need for this motion at present, because we have practically up till Christmas to complete the business of the House. Ministers have themselves to blame for the state of chaos into which we are drifting, as they should have provided the Senate with work which now appears on the business-paper of this House. If this motion is carried, private members will be deliberately giving up- the only opportunity they have of testing the feeling of the House on the motions they have put upon the paper. I take, for example, the motion to disallow the Northern Territory Land Ordinance. If that motion had not been tabled by a private member, I venture to say that the most farcical proposal for land legislation ever made would have become the law of the land. The motion was debated here night after night, and we should have come to a decision upon it. There was only one faithful soul in all the Israel of the Ministerial benches who ventured to express approval of that Land Ordinance. The overwhelming opinion of honorable members on both sides was against it ; and now the motion to disallow it is to go into limbo, with the other private business on the paper.
– No. We are giving Government time to that matter.
– if we pass this motion, we shall be placed in a position in which we ought not to be placed. Private members will have to go “ cap in hand “ to the Government for time to deal with their motions which the Government can grant or not, at their discretion. I hope that the motion will not be carried, and, at any rate, that there will be a division taken upon it. If honorable members behind the Government were sitting on this side, no one would be more vigorous than “they in defence of the privileges which they are now so generously surrendering. If the honorable member for Adelaide sat upon this side, his voice would be one of the loudest against the surrender of this right of private members.
– If I were on the other side, honorable members opposite would be afraid to let me speak, and would “ gag “ me.
– If the honorable member deserved “ gagging “ as much as members of the Ministerial party deserved it in the last Parliament, I have’ not the slightest doubt that he would be “ gagged.” When they were in Opposition, the members of the Labour party declared, in this Chamber and outside, that it was their deliberate intention to prevent the transaction of business in Parliament. I am not an advocate of the “ gag “ ; it is the- members of the Labour party who are responsible for the standing order providing for its application. Mr. Speaker was, I be lieve, the only member of the party who refused to vote for that standing order. The then Opposition, of which I was a member, strongly protested against it, and, in consequence, the sitting in which it was discussed was the longest on record in Australia. The whole weight of the Labour party was thrown into the scale in favour of the standing order, and ‘ it is the members of that party who are responsible for it.
– I supported it.
– Yes, and the honorable member has always expressed himself in favour of the application of the “ gag “ whenever there seems to be a disposition to prevent the passing of business. The Labour party, however, are afraid to try the “gag.” But this Government is achieving its ends in a much more insidious way. When the “ gag “ is applied, those who apply it must do so openly, and take the responsibility of their action; but this Government, instead of applying the “ gag “ to the discussion of private business, puts up supporters to move adjournments, to prevent divisions on which the vote would go against them. The arrangement of business on the noticepaper is evidence of the inability of Ministers to control the proceedings of Parliament. Never before in our history has there been such an exhibition of feebleness. The Senate possesses powers equal to our own, except in respect to money Bills, but it has had to go into recess for a month because no business has been provided for it. The Navigation Bill was made a “stop-gap there for two sessions, as it is being made a stop-gap here; but now that it has come to us, the Senate has no work to do. The Government should have introduced into that Chamber several of the measures which are to be introduced here, so that the work of the session could be proceeded with in the two Chambers simultaneously. I hope that the House will protest against the attempt to take from private members the time allotted to the discussion of their business, to enable Ministers to shirk questions which they are afraid to face. Thursday after Thursday they have deliberately wasted time, sparring for wind, to prevent a division on the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports regarding Defence pensions. The honorable member has asked the Acting Minister of Defence to say what the position of Ministers is in regard to his proposal ; but the Government is afraid to do that, and therefore the Prime Minister now proposes to take from private members the time in which their business can be discussed. I hope that his idle promise will be accepted at its full worth, in view of the experience of two previous sessions. Honorable members must bear in mind that by carrying the motion they will virtually wipe all private business from the noticepaper. Among the important matters set down for consideration by private members is the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to which I have already referred. There is also the motion of the honorable member for Richmond dealing with the moisture in export butter. Whenever questions affecting our great primary interests are brought forward, they get very little sympathy from honorable members opposite. This motion deals with a matter of vital interest to thousands engaged in dairying throughout Australia. Then the honorable member for Wentworth has raised the important question of whether municipal rates on Federal buildings shall be paid by the Commonwealth. This is a question on which the House should be afforded an opportunity to express its opinion. But Ministers are taking away the only opportunity which is afforded honorable members to express an opinion on that and other important subjects. I believe that if the business of the House were properly conducted, there is more than ample time in which to do all the work which Ministers have submitted. There is not a Minister or a supporter of the Government who can get up and say that we on this side have shown any factious opposition during any period of this session.
– Oh !
– You knowingly wasted weeks of time.
– It is very strange, indeed, to hear two Ministers say that there has been a waste of time. Now, who caused the waste of time over the Lands Ordinance for the Northern Territory?
– Three weeks were lost on a silly no-confidence motion, because we did not send up soldiers to shoot the unionists in Brisbane.
– They wanted us to shoot down citizens in Queensland.
– That is as true as most things which the Minister says.
– We shall use that on the platform.
– The Minister of External Affairs will get all the platform work which he wants. Let him take up a little paragraph which appeared in the newspapers the other day, where the Amalgamated Miners Association, who rule him, and to whom he must go cap in hand to get a selection before he dare stand as a candidate for this House-
– Order !
– Better go to the Amalgamated Miners Association than to the Women’s National League.
– Order ! I appeal to honorable members to discontinue these continual interjections. I do not see how it is possible, in the circumstances, for the honorable member to proceed with his speech.
– I was about to say that the cadets had to be scratched out of a procession on Hospital Sunday, in Broken Hill, because the Amalgamated Miners Association threatened to boycott the institution of Hospital Sunday unless they were withdrawn.
– That is better than the Women’s National League.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the matter before the House.
– I regret, sir, that I was drawn off by the interjection of the Minister. I urge honorable members to remember that they are invited to surrender the right to get a division on every important private motion which is now on the notice-paper, and to show their approval of the manner in which the Government have conducted the proceedings of the House and the Senate, which alone is responsible for the state of affairs of which the Prime Minister complains.
– I desire, sir, to make a personal explanation. During my speech, a few moments ago, I was referring to the fact that I had not been a party to introducing here the principle of the limitation of speeches, otherwise the “gag.”
– You did not say any such thing.
– I appeal to the Minister of External Affairs not to continue his interjections.
– My remarks may have been, perhaps, not quite clear, sir, because you will recollect that I was subjected to a considerable amount of persistent interruption on the part of three or four Ministers, and others sitting on the opposite ‘bench, who may have misunderstood my intention. The Minister then got up and replied, and he quoted from Hansard where, in a division, I had been one who put in force the standing order - four years after the time to which I was referring, and that was the introduction of the “ gag “ into the Standing Orders.
– Oh !
– We cannot hear what the honorable member is saying, sir.
– I was referring to the introduction of the principle of the “ gag “ in this House, and I said I had voted against the “gag,” referring to the time when what is known as the closure was introduced. I have referred to Hansard, and find that it was introduced on the 23rd November, 1905. That 1 opposed the introduction of the “ gag “ into the Standing Orders can be seen by reference to the series of amendments and divisions.
– I rise to order, sir. The honorable member for Parramatta is laughing at the honorable member for Lang.
– The honorable member for South Sydney is distinctly out of order. When an honorable member rises to a point or order, he should be serious, and have some question to put before the Chair. If the honorable member persists in doing this, I shall have to take some other course.
– I only drew your attention to the fact, sir.
– I find that what I said was perfectly correct.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond a personal explanation.
– I have been misrepresented in this matter, sir. On turning to Hansard of the 23rd November, 1905, I find that there was a series of divisions, and that I actually moved an amendment to destroy the drastic character of the proposed “ gag.” I moved to insert in the Prime Minister’s motion the following words -
The Prime Minister in charge of the business or the leader or deputy-leader of the Opposi tion after a member addressing the Chair has exceeded the limit of one hour’s speech, ‘ That the member speaking be no longer heard ‘ ; but such motion shall not be put unless in the opinion of the Speaker - or if the House is in Committee of the Whole the Chairman of Committeesthe member speaking at the time of the interruption of such motion was guilty of tedious repetition or deliberate obstruction of business.
I find that I consistently voted for every amendment to destroy the character of the “ gag,” and voted in the final division against it.
– But how does that excuse you for voting for the “ gag “ ?
– I did not vote for the “ gag.”
– You voted to apply it.
– That is a different thing altogether, and it occurred four years later.
.- I have no desire to delay the business of the House. I merely rise for the purpose of putting in a plea with the Prime Minister and the Government generally in regard to two important motions which have been on the notice-paper for a considerable time, and which affect one of the most important industries in this country. In my opinion, the introduction of a motion of this kind is not the way in which to get on with business. In regard to private business generally, I think that those who have had much experience in parliamentary life will recognise that very often, from motions submitted by private members, have sprung very large legislative measures, which have been passed, and very beneficially affected a large number of the members of the community. The Prime Minister, in moving this motion, gave no reason why it should be carried.
– He never does.
– He never does. It is only on a par with his treatment of every resolution or Bill which he has ever submitted to this House.
– Did he not give as a reason that he wanted the Navigation Bill to become law?
– The whole public of Australia know that the Navigation Bill, however important it may be, has simply been made the plaything of the other House for the last two or three years, and is brought down here now to be treated, I presume, in the same way, as an excuse for not dealing with other important matters.-
Let me contrast the attitude of the Prime Minister to-day with his attitude in 1909. In that year, when the Fusion Government were in office, and the honorable member for Ballarat, the then Prime Minister, moved a motion similar to that now before the House, the present Prime Minister said -
On the contrary, the business of the Government has been deliberately delayed. Every Government endeavours to belittle the importance of private members’ business without justification.
Vet here is the present Prime Minister, without” the slightest justification and without submitting a single argument to the House, attempting to belittle the important matters now standing on the notice-paper in the names of private members ! The honorable member for Lang referred to one very important motion affecting the Minister of External Affairs. I happen to be the mover in that matter, and I think the House generally recognise its importance, but I understand that the Government propose to treat it apart from private members’ business altogether. The Prime Minister, in 1909, said further -
It is a fallacious idea that private members’ business does no good. Quite the opposite is the fact, and in all the Parliaments of the world we find that nearly every reform has been initiated as private business.
If honorable members compare the business of the Government now on the noticepaper with the propositions standing in the names of private members, they must agree with me that the latter are of vast importance. I wish to refer particularly to one 01 two of them. In the earlier part of this session, I think on the first business day, I submitted a proposition relating to the dairying industry. One matter affected by that motion has been recently dealt with by the High Court, which declared ultra vires certain regulations introduced by the Minister of Trade and Customs that were found to be working disastrously to the industry, in the opinion of a large number of people well qualified to judge. That portion of my motion, therefore, to a large extent goes by the board, but it contained another important feature, as I am sure the honorable member for Maribyrnong will agree. I hope the honorable member for Maribyrnong will not feel that I included him in the interjection I made when the honorable member for Lang was speaking, because I recognise how worthily and honorably the honorable member has been associated in the past with the industry, and how well he has worked to forward the interests of the very large number of producers who are engaged in dairying in Australia. I recognise his services in these regards, not only through having met him, but also through what I have learned from those who have been intimately associated with him in the great co-operative movement in Victoria. I, therefore, hope he will not think for a moment that I referred in any way to him in the interjection I made as applying generally to the other side of the House. What I wished to have done by the proposition standing in my name on the business- paper was the appointment by the Government, through the High Commissioner in England, of a body to make the fullest inquiry into the working of the Commerce Act.
-The honorable member is now discussing a motion which is on the notice-paper. He is not in order in doing so.
– I shall not attempt to transgress your ruling, sir. All I wished to intimate, without going into its merits, was the importance of that proposition to the large number of people engaged in the dairying industry. Millions of pounds are involved in the industry, and I did hope that the House would be given an opportunity o£ expressing an opinion on my motion, or that it would result in the Government taking action. Before submitting the motion, I had hoped that in consequence of the representations made by the Minister, both here and in England, something would be done. However, the matter will now apparently have to stand on one side, and although it really meanshundreds of thousands of pounds io the people engaged in the dairying industry of Australia, the House will be given no opportunity of expressing an opinion on it, and I presume 110 action will be taken by the Government in connexion with it. There also stands in the name of the honorable member for Richmond a motion dealing with the question of the amount of moisture in butter. Those who listened to the discussion on this subject, and more particularly to the able explanation by the honorable member who introduced it, must have realized its great importance to the people engaged in the industry, and the large amount of money which it means to them, and through them to the Commonwealth generally. But apparently it also will have to go by the board in consequence of the Prime Minister’s proposition. I wish specially to refer to the proposition for pensions for the Defence Force standing in the name of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. On each occasion that this matter has come before the House the anxiety of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to get away from having any definite opinion expressed on it by the House has been very evident. It is a well-known fact, and the members of the Military Forces make no secret of it, that the present Government and their supporters received, not only in Sydney, but in Melbourne and other parts of Australia, practically the whole vote of the forces, in consequence of the. promises made by them in connexion with this matter of pensions.
– The honorable member is now going into details, which he must not do.
– I am just pointing out the facts. The conclusion I was going to draw from them was that the Government, because, I presume, it does not suit their book, do not wish the House to express a definite opinion on the question of pensions for the Defence Force, and we therefore found the Minister representing the Minister of Defence the other day putting up one of his supporters to move the adjournment of the debate in order to prevent the House coming to a decision on the matter.
– The honorable member is not in order in making that statement.
– It is totally inaccurate.
– I do not wish to make any statement which is at all unfair, but that is absolutely what happened.
– That is what the honorable member thinks; but he is quite wrong.
– That, at all events, is the position. There are other motions of very great importance standing on the business-paper in the name of private members. Take, for instance, that in the name of the honorable member for Wentworth, for a grant, in lieu of rates, to municipalities. That is not a new proposal; it was on the business-paper when I held office as Minister for Home Affairs.
– How did the honorable member deal with it?
– I brought it to a stage at which this Government can now deal definitely with it. The Minister of External Affairs smiles, but I may say at once that he and other honorable members like myself had not the slightest idea at the time of the amount which the Federal Government would have to pay every year if that motion were carried. Before we could agree or disagree with it, it was necessary that we should find out exactly what the proposition would cost.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the question before the Chair.
– I did not intend to digress, but have been drawnaside by the Minister of External Affairs.
– Did the honorable member when in office do anything definite in regard to that matter?
– The Government of which I was a member was not in a position to do so, for we did not ascertain what the grant would amount to until a few days before we left office. In consequence of the instructions that we issued, a table was prepared which shows exactly what would be the annual payment, so that the present Government are in a position to deal definitely with it. I object to the application of the “ gag “ in this way to private members’ business. A standing order has been agreed to under which a time-limit is placed on the speeches of honorable members, and, save in two or three cases, I do not think we have actually availed ourselves of the full time we are entitled to occupy under that standing order. On one occasion I did avail myself of the whole of the time allotted to me, but although I had not said all that I had intended to say, I did not ask leave to continue my remarks, because I was anxious that the Minister of External Affairs should have full opportunity to answer me, and that other honorable members should be able to participate in the debate. I hope that this motion will not be carried, and that honorable members supporting the Government, some of whom have important motions standing in their names, will join with us in opposing it. I refer particularly to the honorable member for Capricornia.
– Should we get any better treatment from the Opposition if they were over here?
– At present we are objecting to the treatment we are receiving at the hands of the Government. I have been quoting views expressed by the Prime Minister himself in regard to private members’ business.
– But he has a continuity of policy.
– Undoubtedly. He says that previous Governments have been in the habit of belittling private members’ business without any sufficient reason for doing so, and certainly in that respect he may claim continuity of policy, since he has given no satisfactory reason for submitting the motion now before us. I am not concerned with the differences of opinion that have arisen between the honorable member for Lang, the Honorary Minister, and the Minister of External Affairs with regard to what was or was not done in connexion with the application of the “ gag.” I believe, however, that a Government having a majority behind them should apply the “ gag “ if they think it necessary to do so, in order to carry on the business of the House. I have always wondered why honorable members opposite when they believed, rightly or wrongly, that business was being obstructed, did not bring into operation the standing order which was introduced by them.
Several Ministerial Members. - Not by us.
– I well remember Mr. Watson, who was then Leader of the Labour party, telling the Government of the day that they would not be worthy of the name of a Government if they allowed the then Opposition to carry on as they were doing. The “ gag “ Standing Orders were introduced at his instance, and, in my opinion, they were properly introduced. A Government is not worthy of the name unless it keeps Control of the business of the House, and is prepared, if necessary, to use all the rules of the House to enable it to retain possession of that business.
– The honorable member will not catch any fish on that hook.
– I am not seeking any.
– Honorable members opposite are really praying for the “ gag “ to be applied to them.
– No; I never hesitated to apply it when I thought it necessary to do so. When in office I had the privilege of moving the application of the “gag” on several occasions, whilst I was in charge of important measures, and if I held office again, and felt that it was necessary, in order to push on with business, to apply the “ gag,” I should not hesitate to do so if I had a majority behind me. I think that is the proper stand to take up. I regret that the Prime Minister has thought fit to move this motion. I had hoped that at least two propositions standing in the names of private members - one proposed by myself, and the other put forward by the honorable member for Richmond - would have been allowed to reach finality this session. Those motions affect one of the biggest industries in Australia, and I had hoped that as the result of the decision of the House in regard to them, the Government would have taken such action as would tend to advance the interests of not only those engaged in the industry itself, but the Commonwealth generally. The notice of motion placed on the business-paper by the honorable member for Barker -
That in the opinion of this House it is undesirable that the distinctive uniform - kilts - in the Scottish Regiment should be abolished in connexion with the Military Forces of Australia - is also of great importance. As one who has a good deal of Scottish blood in his veins, I feel that we should have been afforded an opportunity to deal with that motion. It affects a very considerable number of the most patriotic citizens of the Commonwealth, who feel very strongly on the question. If this motion is carried, however, we shall not be able to deal with it this session. The Government will be able to say, when the time for explanation comes, that no resolution was arrived at in connexion with the matter. Another important motion is that standing in the name of the honorable member for Wakefield, who desires that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the cost of day work as against work by public tender in connexion with the work of the several Departments of the Public Service. In consequence of certain statements which have been made, and of the absolute refusal of the Government to furnish reports from officers who were responsible for certain works, it must be agreed that it is most important to obtain an expression of opinion from honorable members on this subject.
– Persecute the navvy !
– It is not a question of persecuting the navvy. Honorable members on this side are just as keen for the welfare of the navvy as is the honorable member for Capricornia. But we wish to see that the money of the taxpayers is spent to the very best advantage, and therefore an inquiry as to the respective merits of day work and contract work is necessary.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that matter.
– I merely wish to refer to it as a very important subject upon which we ought to obtain an expression of opinion. Then there is the motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Richmond regarding the Tobacco Trust. For a long time past many honorable members opposite have declared themselves strongly in connexion with trusts in Australia. They should be anxious to support the motion of the honorable member for Richmond.
– Why was he not present to move it the other day?
– I feel sure that the honorable member for Capricornia does not know that the honorable member for Richmond has been through rather a serious operation. We are very glad to see him in his place to-day, but that was the reason why he was not present to move the motion when it was called on. I presume, however, that the Prime Minister’s proposal will be carried. I regret it exceedingly. I feel sure that the result will not be beneficial in regard to the saving of time. The Government will find that many honorable members resent treatment of this sort, and in all probability will make use of the Standing Orders in such a way that the Government will not effect such a saving of time as they hope. Probably there will be an extension of time devoted to other business, whereas if private members had had a fair deal they would have taken a more reasonable view regarding Government business. I personally resent this action of the Government. There are one or two matters in which I am interested which have already been discussed at considerable length, and there is no reason in the world why a vote should not be taken upon them in a few minutes. Practically everything has been said that could be said about them. “ The Government are not showing the consideration that is due to us. I resent this treatment. I have done my best to bring these matters forward, but the
Government have shown no disposition to help the people who are engaged in a great industry. Whatever results, the blame must be on the shoulders of the Government, who have prevented a decision being come to.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. A few moments ago the honorable member for Lang made an explanation with reference to an expression used in his speech. About ten or fifteen minutes previously an interjection was made by myself which the honorable member said had regard to a period some five years ago, when the standing order for the application of the “gag” was adopted. As a matter of fact, my interjection had relation to the time when, some three years ago, the “ gag “ was systematically applied.
– My speech had no reference to that.
– The honorable member, in his explanation, created the impression that my subsequent remarks had misrepresented him. I have here the Hansard report of what took place at that particular moment.
– What particular moment?
– A few moments ago.
– How did the honorable member get that report, when I have not got it.
– It is the practice to get such extracts from the reports.
– Without the consent of the honorable member who has made the speech ?
– Then I shall be able to get reports of some of the Honorary Minister’s speeches directly. I should not have dreamed of doing so without first obtaining his consent.
– I. shall be delighted to give my consent. I know it is the practice to get such extracts, because a few days ago the honorable member for Parramatta obtained an extract from something I had said, and quoted it subsequently in a personal explanation to the House. ‘The report of the remarks of the honorable member for Lang seems to bear out my contention.
– A Hansard report of what took place a few moments ago?
– It is the report taken by the Hansard staff of what occurred at the moment, and is as follows: -
– The popular idea is -
– I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether it is a proper proceeding for an honorable member to obtain the Hansard report of a speech which has just been delivered without the permission of the honorable member who has delivered the speech. I know that very often honorable members are desirous of obtaining reports before Hansard is issued ; but, in such cases, the permission of the honorable members, the reports of whose speeches are desired, is always obtained. It appears now, from what is said by the Honorary Minister, that he has in his hand the Hansard report of what has just been said by the honorable member for Lang, and that, further, on a previous occasion the honorable member for Parramatta received, in a similar way, a report of a speech delivered by the Honorary Minister himself. I do not take exception to what the” Honorary Minister has done, but 1 should like to know whether it is in accordance with the usual practice. Time after time, I myself should have liked the Hansard report of what has been said by an honorable member ; but I never thought of asking for it without first obtaining the permission of the honorable member. If it is the rule that any of us may go to the Hansard staff and obtain reports of speeches without obtaining the permission of honorable members who have delivered them, it would be as well that we should know the fact.
– I must say I was rather surprised when I heard that the Honorary Minister had such a report in his hand, and proposed to read it. It is the first time during my term of office that, to my knowledge, such a thing has occurred. I understand, however, from responsible officers, that, prior to my being Speaker, it was the practice to permit isolated sentences to be supplied out of speeches just delivered ; but, as I “say, this is the first time such a practice has come under my notice. I understood the Honorary Minister to say that such a thing had been done recently, but I knew nothing about it. The Hansard staff, I understand, has been following the practice laid down by one of my predecessors, Sir Frederick Holder; but I may say that I, personally, disapprove of it.
– It is a most discourteous proceeding.
– Order ! Had I been consulted, I should not have allowed the extract to be supplied; and I desire it to be distinctly understood that, so long as I retain my present position, unless the House otherwise orders, such extracts will not, in future, be supplied to honorable members.
– Permit me to say that I was not aware of the practice until a few weeks ago, when, half-an-hour or so after I had spoken, the honorable member for Parramatta, in a personal explanation, read an extract from the Hansard report of what I had said.
– Did the. honorable member for Parramatta not appeal to Hansard while the Honorary Minister was speaking ?
– There is no difference whatever between the proceeding now and the proceeding then. When I was speaking a few weeks ago, the honorable member for Parramatta disagreed with me; and, as I have said, read, during a personal explanation, an extract from the Hansard report of my remarks.
– Did the honorable member for Parramatta not appeal to Hansard while the Honorary Minister was speaking?
– I appealed to Hansard while the honorable member for Lang was speaking.
– Not audibly ; but I saw the honorable member do so.
– Then the honorable member ought to be satisfied. A copy of the report of my remarks was given to the honorable member for Parramatta, who read it to the House almost immediately afterwards. The practice then being new to me, I spoke to the Hansard staff about it, and was informed that it was usual; and to-day I took a precisely similar course when my remarks were called into question.
– What is wrong with the practice, anyhow?
– Do the Opposition object to the Honorary Minister reading the extract ?
– If this practice is to be followed, the Hansard staff will have to be doubled.
– I shall, of course, accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and apply it to the present case. So long as all honorable members stand on precisely lbc same footing, there can be no ground for dissatisfaction.
– The Honorary Minister could, at least, have asked my permission.
– I adopted the method which was followed by the honorable member for Parramatta; and, therefore, no blame attaches to me.
– I asked for the extract at the time.
– And so did I.
– Not audibly.
– Oh, “ audibly “ !
– It makes all the difference.
– Order !
– As Mr. Speaker has decided against the practice, I shall accept his ruling, and refrain from reading the extract in my possession.
– The Opposition are afraid to have it read?
– Do the Opposition object to having it read?
– Order ! Will the Minister of External Affairs cease his interjections ?
– I shall not take the view that the Opposition object to having the extract read.
– I do not object.
– I do not take that view, but prefer to abide by the ruling of the Speaker, quite apart from whether he directs me to apply it at the present moment or not. 1 merely desire to say that, according to my recollection, the remarks of the honorable member for Lang were to the effect that he referred particularly to the application of the “ gag “ about three years ago; as a matter of fact, my question to him by interjection was, “ Are you referring to the application of the ‘ gag ‘ a year or two ago?” Under the circumstances, I was justified in quoting Hansard of a year or two ago in order to prove that the honorable member did vote for the application of the “gag,” and, further, that he voted for its application on a precisely similar motion to that now before us.
– I desire to make the matter quite clear to the House. The Honorary Minister has informed us that a week or two ago an extract from a speech by him was obtained in this way, and read to the House by the honorable member for Parramatta. The Chief of the Hansard staff informs me that that was so, and the practice followed was that sanctioned by my predecessor, Sir Frederick Holder. So far as I am concerned, I should not haveallowed that extract to be supplied to the honorable member for Parramatta ; and for the future no honorable member will beable to obtain such extracts, unless with the consent of the honorable member from whose speech the extracts are desired. I think that is a very fair position to take up, because, if an honorable member has no objection to his speech being quoted in> that way, I do not see why I should interfere. There is another matter to which I desire to refer. There is a practice, when honorable members desire to refer to any given speech in Harsard, to ask the members of the Hansard staff to give them some idea where it may be found. The Hansard staff is heavily worked, with every moment of their time taken up ; and though, of course, they like to oblige honorable members, and give the information desired, they are very often thus taken away from important duties. This makes the work of the staff much more onerous than it otherwise would be ; and I must ask honorable members to discontinue that practice also..
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I understand’ that my name has been referred to, and a reference made to an extract which I got from Hansard a little while ago in connexion with some point at issue between the Honorary Minister and myself. What happened, so far as I can recollect, was that I appealed at the moment to Hansard in support of my statement; and I believe that the Honorary Minister at the same time said “ Yes, appeal to Hansard.” We both made an appeal to Hansard on that occasion.
– That is what the honorable member for Lang said, “ Appeal to Hansard.”
– No ; it was a different thing altogether.
– When both of us appealed to Hansard fo have a matter cleared up, I saw no harm in the Hansard reporter being asked to be the arbiter as to the accuracy of a certain statement.
– I desire to make a further personal explanation bearing ‘ upon what the Honorary Minister has just said. I admit at once, as I did before, that it is quite possible that I may not have made myself clear at the time owing to some confusion in my mind in trying to follow the persistent interjections of Ministers, and at the same time preserve the continuity of my speech. I may, as any. one might in such circumstances, have said something which conveyed a meaning entirely different from what I intended. That is my explanation of the incident. My statements had reference to the proposal of the Labour party to introduce the “gag” into the Standing Orders, and did not refer to the particular matters to which the Honorary Minister has referred.
.- If there is one thing which the honorable member for Adelaide has proved in his speech on this motion, it is the fact that a very stubborn fight was put up in 1909 by the then Opposition against a motion of a similar character to that now before the House. The honorable gentleman has referred to the application of the “ gag “ on that occasion ; but I wish to remind him that it was not until 10.40 p.m. that action was taken by the Government of the day to force the motion through by the application of the “gag.” This motion completely refutes the contentions of the Government when asking the people some time ago to give this Parliament extended powers. The Attorney-General said that if the Referenda proposals were not accepted there would be no work for this Parliament to do. We are now only in the middle of the last session of the present Parliament, and we are informed that our business-paper is so full that private members must be deprived of the few hours which are at present allotted to them in each week for the consideration of business they have on the paper. I enter a most emphatic protest against the curtailment of private members’ time at this stage of the session. It is a pity that so many important motions standing in the names of private members should be slaughtered in this way. When a similar motion was submitted last session, honorable members were told by the Prime Minister that they would be given ample opportunity to discuss the motions appearing on the paper in their names. But what did we find? I think it was the 20th December before private members’ business was called upon. Honorable members were preparing to go away for the Christmas vacation, and it was found necessary to discharge many of the private members’ motions from the paper. If this motion is passed, we shall have the same experience this session. I am disposed to believe that there are some questions involved in the motions appearing on the paper in the names of private members on which the Government are afraid to take the opinion of the House. The Minister of Trade and Customs told us that on the motion concerning the moisture in export butter, and the motion in the name of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports proposing the granting of pensions to the Defence Forces, the Government were prepared to be directed by the decision of the House. I regret to find now that we shall have no opportunity until, perhaps, the last few days of the session to express an opinion on these important questions ; and it will then be _ too late for the Government to take action in connexion with them. We could hardly expect them to act upon a decision by this House when they are about to appeal to the country for a renewal of the confidence of the people. I strongly protest against this motion, and I move -
That after the word “That” the words “on and after 3rd October” be inserted.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.4.5 p.m.
.- Honorable members may think that I should be the last to object to the taking by the Government of the time hitherto devoted to the business of private members, and it was interjected this afternoon that 1 had been absent on two occasions when private members’ business was under consideration; but, in fairness to myself, I should say that that was my misfortune, and not my fault. The Honorary Minister, following the methods which he usually adopts when addressing himself to any question, did not treat the subject fairly, and in great measure misrepresented the position. He told us that the honorable member for Ballarat, when Prime Minister, had moved a motion to the same effect as that now under discussion, and, in supporting it, had said -
Last session a similar motion was moved two and a half, and in the preceding session two, months after the assembling of Parliament.
But the Honorary Minister neglected to add that his present leader met that statement with the following explanation: -
I was surprised at the Prime Minister’s reference to what was done last session. He knew that the circumstances then were exceptional. To enable the nation to fittingly welcome theAmerican Fleet, the Government were granted, in the preceding session, Supply for the months of July, August, and September, and Parliament did not re-assemble until the middle of the last-named month, with the intention of concluding its business before Christmas; therefore the illustration, which will go into Hansard, was absolutely misleading.
The Honorary Minister quoted the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat in support of the position this Ministry are taking, despite that qualification of them by the present Prime Minister. I protest most strongly against this proposal of the Government, seeing that there are now on the notice-paper in charge of private members several motions of an important character, upon which, I think, all who desired to speak have expressed their opinion, and there only needs a vote of the House to decide the issue. It is essential that there should be an expression of opinion, by way of division, on the regulations imposed by the Minister of Trade and Customs on the dairying industry. Had the desire been to embarrass the Minister, the motion could have been moved that the regulations be disagreed with; but I purposely avoided that course, and gave notice, as early in the session as I could, of a differentlyworded motion, which is now being debated, and upon which the Minister has said he is willing that a vote should be taken. It cannot be said that the Opposition have wasted time this session, although every question has been fully debated. If it be said that the no-confidence debate was a waste of time, I would point out that Ministerial supporters occupied as much time during that discussion as did members of the Opposition ; and that, after the members of the Opposition had finished, three Ministerialists kept the debate going. From the beginning of the session the Opposition have assisted the Government in the conduct of business; and it is only fair that Ministers should enable the House to express its opinion in regard to several important questions which have been brought forward by private members. I believe that, were a vote taken, the regulations which the Minister has imposed on the dairying industry would be declared not to be in its best interests. Those regulations affect the pockets of a very large section of the producers. If honorable members realized how many persons were affected, they would see the need for an expression of opinion by the House in regard to the regulations. The honorable member for Moreton has submitted what I believe to be a very reasonable compromise. He has asked that the Government should defer taking this step until the 3rd October. That is a request which I think ought to commend itself to Ministers as a very reasonable one. It may be that a number of honorable members on the Ministerial side are not immediately interested in a number of the questions which have been brought forward by private members, but nevertheless I would remind them that a time may come when they will have on the noticepaper motions in which they are very keenly interested. In these circumstances I think that I may fairly claim their consideration on this occasion. On referring to Hansard, I find that nearly every member of the Ministry when they were sitting in Opposition protested most strongly on the last occasion when a similar motion was proposed. There was very good reason for the action which was taken by the Government of the day. The Opposition had consistently and persistently obstructed the business of the House from the very beginning of the session. That charge cannot be laid against the present Opposition. We have not wasted ‘any time. On the contrary, we have endeavoured to assist the Government in the conduct of its business. It is not as if the notice-paper were overloaded with business. The Senate recently adjourned for a month, simply because the Government had no business to submit. Comparatively speaking, there is very little Government business on the notice-paper, and a great many of the important questions which honorable members have brought forward for discussion are simply waiting for decision by the House. I wish to emphasize what has been said by the honorable member for Franklin, and that is that in regard to a number of these questions there has been from the Ministerial side a very evident desire to evade an expression of opinion by honorable members. Time after time, without extending the courtesy of asking the author of the motion for leave to move the adjournment of the debate, the Government have put up either a private member or a Minister to move the adjournment of the debate, simply to avoid Ae taking of a vote on that occasion. That is a very obnoxious application of the “ gag,” and it is not treating honorable members or the House fairly. Seeing that the Minister of Trade and Customs has stated that he is perfectly willing mat the House should express its’ opinion on the motions dealing with the dairying industry, and intimated his intention of complying with its will, I think that we should be given an opportunity of taking a vote on that subject. I appeal to the Ministry to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton.
– I wish to register a protest against the proposal to wipe out the private members’ business on the notice-paper. I have a motion which has been discussed on two occasions this session, and which, in my opinion, is of the highest importance to the future of this country. There does not seem to ice to be an opportunity of getting its subject-matter discussed in any other way during the session. We know that on many occasions when we have been approaching the end of the session private members’ business has had to be’ wiped off the notice-paper, but before we are half-way through this session the Government propose to deprive honorable members of a privilege which they are entitled to expect at their hands, and which, in my opinion, there is no justification for taking away. If it is going to be the practice to take away the time allotted for the consideration of very valuable motions, in my opinion the placing of private members’ motions on the notice-paper for discussion should be abolished. We have not had one clear-cut decision on any proposal which has been submitted by a private member this session. We have on the notice-paper nearly a score of motions dealing with subjects of the highest importance; some of them being as important as the Government business. Yet without the slightest justification, and before the session has half rup its course, the House is asked to wipe the whole of this important business off the notice-paper. If we assent to this proposal we may ultimately lose one of our privileges as private members, when the whole of the time of the House will be devoted to the consideration of Government business, and there will be no possibility of an honorable member getting a.i expression of opinion respecting the merits of a public question except at the instance of the Government in the ordinary way. A very valuable privilege has been reserved to private members, but even as matters stand the Government have almost a. monopoly of the time of the House. It might facilitate Government business during this session to take the course proposed, but if we allow this privilege of private members to be taken away in’ this relentless fashion at a very early stage of the session, probably next session the Government may come down with a proposal to wipe it out altogether.
– It will be a new Parliament.
– But this motion, if carried to-night, may be taken by the Government as a precedent and a justification for coming down early next session with a proposal to set aside the right of private members to introduce questions for discussion and decision.
– The Government have always done this.
– I cannot recall an occasion when it has been done at this stage of the session.
– It was done earlier in 1907 and 1908.
– Yes, when the House met in May.
– The last Government took this step five days later in the session.
– In 1909 the Government had a very good reason for taking this action. when they did, because we had an Opposition here that would not allow business of any kind to go through. That Government had, unfortunately, in order to compel important measures to go through the House, to take the most drastic steps that any Government in the history of the Commonwealth has had to resort to, but this was made necessary by the obstructive tactics of the Opposition during that session. This session the discussion that has taken place on many public questions has been in the interests of the Government, because it has enabled the Government, who have brought clown their measures in the crudest possible fashion, so to improve them as to make them acceptable to at least a section of the community, if not to the whole of it. I rose simply to protest against the privilege of private members’ business being taken away at this early stage of the session, and these valuable motions, that are now awaiting discussion and decision, being prevented from securing at least an expression of opinion from the members of the House.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Sinclair’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16th August (vide page 2320), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
. -I do not think it can be claimed that this measure is by any means new to the Parliament. While it may be said that it has not previously engaged the attention of the House of Representatives, the fact cannot be overlooked that it has been before the Senate during the life of the last two or three Parliaments, and that it has received very close attention at its hands. Although we may not be so familiar with its provisions as we should be if it had been be fore us during a previous session, I take it that, affecting, as it does very closely, the whole maritime world of Australia, it must be fairly familiar to those who earn their livelihood in maritime pursuits, and upon whose conditions of employment it must have a very important bearing. It has also received close attention at the hands of the Ship-owners Federation of Australia. Of that I do not complain. Considering the amount of capital invested in the shipping industry of Australia, it is only natural that the shipowners should take a very keen and lively interest in this measure, and in the circumstances it cannot be said that it is one concerning which we have little cognisance. Prior to Federation, legislation in relation to navigation was in the hands of the State Parliaments, and some of them framed navigation laws with a considerable amount of success. Owing to the fact, however that they had to deal with conditions operating not in any one State alone, but throughout Australia,they found themselves more or less trammelled by reason of their State limitations, and there has been of late a demand on the part of the whole seafaring population of the Commonwealth for an amendment of the navigation laws. Some of the States have amended their navigation laws since the celebrated amendment of the Merchant Shipping Act made when the Right Honorable Mr. Chamberlain was President of the British Board of Trade. The honorable member for Kooyong has already reviewed thehistory of the navigation laws of the Mother Country. Before the Act of 1894 was passed, the navigation laws of the Old Country were the source of much dissatisfaction. The original Act was passed, I believe, about 1854, and although it was amended from time to time, all legislation in this direction, until the passing of the Act of 1894, was in the interests of the ship-owners alone. For obvious reasons this was so. It mattered little which party happened to be in power. Vested interests were fairly represented in both parties, and both were deeply concerned with the vested interests of the shipping community.
– The Act of 1894 was a consolidating measure. The advanced legislation was passed later.
– The law was consolidated in 1894, and brought largely uptodate. Whatever may be the faults with which Mr. Chamberlain may be charged, his amendment of the British shipping law and the Workmen’s Liability Act are two measures that will always stand out prominently in connexion with his political career. While some of the States passed amending Navigation Bills based on the Chamberlain Act, others, like South Australia, preferred to leave the work for the Federal Parliament, believing that a Commonwealth Act would be such as would meet the whole of the requirements ‘of Australia. In dealing with a measure of this kind it is difficult to do more than refer to its chief characteristics. At the outset I express the hope that it will not be dealt with on party lines. I recognise, however, that differences of opinion are bound to occur between the Government side of the House and the Opposition. The Opposition may possibly look at this measure - and I do not say this with any desire to be offensive - more from the point of view of the ship-owners than honorable members cn this side of the House may be disposed to do.
– There are some honorable members on this side of the House who will not consider the shipping monopoly very much.
– In dealing with this measure I think we may very well leave out of consideration the shipping monopoly. It would be a matter for regret if it were dragged into our consideration of the Navigation Bill. I take it that, we are anxious to pass such legislation as will afford fair scope for the employment of capital in the shipping industry, and give a fair return on that capital, while at the same time insuring to seafaring men - to ships’ crews - working conditions that are fair and just. There is no reason why both parties to the contract should not have justice done them by Parliament.
– The travelling public require some consideration.
– The travelling public must expect to pay a fair price for a fair service. They have no right to expect to travel on the high seas at a price which is not remunerative to the ship-owner, and does not permit him to pay fair wages. I trust that Parliament will insist on maintaining the integrity of the Australian commercial fleet. What I mean by that is that we should do our best to insist that the Australian coastal trade shall, as far as possible, be maintained for the Australian ship-owner. The standard of wages and comfort set up in Australia is probably higher than that pertaining anywhere else in the world. We desire to maintain that standard. It will, no doubt, be objected that we must do nothing to prejudice British shipping. Great Britain earns ^90,000,000 a year in shipping freights, and no one grudges her that profitable trade. But, in order to maintain our Australian standard, we must preserve our coastal trade for the Australian ship-owner. Possibly there will be friction between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government in connexion with this matter. It is obvious that the British Government claim that this is a measure which must be reserved for the King’s consent, which means that His Majesty will act upon the advice of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade, in the interests of British shipowners, will recognise that they cannot compete for our coastal trade if they have to observe on their ships the standards of wages and comfort by which the Australian ship-owner is, to some extent, trammelled in competition. We must take a very firm and determined attitude in insisting that we shall have control of the whole of the conditions under which our maritime trade is conducted. We must claim the same right as the United States have claimed for -years, and as Germany claims. British ships can trade from port to port in the United States, but they cannot pick up cargo and passengers along the American coast. I find no fault with the Americans for that. I consider that a Government are not doing their duty to their own people if they neglect to protect their own carrying trade. In regard to oversea trade, I admit that we should be trenching on dangerous ground if we tried to insist upon the same principle.
– Does the honorable member take the ground that we should exclude British ships from our coasting trade ?
– I do not think’ that we should exclude them, but we should put British ships on the same footing as our own. If they wish to pick up cargo along our coast, and come into competition with our ship-owners, we must lay upon them some disability, in order to put them on a level with our ship-owners in the matter of competition. We on this side of the House are supposed to look at the question purely from the point of view of working men. I do not confine my attention to that aspect. We expect . the members of the
Ship-owners Federation to pay reasonable wages, and to concede reasonable travelling conditions to the public. They have a right to recoup themselves by increased charges, and it is our duty to protect them. We can only do so by insisting that the British Government shall recognise our just claims in this matter, and that we shall be at liberty to impose disabilities on oversea vessels to bring them on a level with our shipowners in the matter of competition. I shall, doubtless, be told by honorable members opposite that the British Government will never permit anything of that sort to be done; that they will not be prepared to allow disabilities to be laid on British shipping. AH that I have to say is, that, in my opinion, it is absolutely essential that this Parliament shall take a very firm attitude. There is no necessity for us to assume an offensive attitude. We certainly should not go out of our way to be offensive in the firmness of our action. The honorable member for Parkes has reminded us that the Board of Trade, in, a memorandum, state that they have had the advice >f their solicitor, who has recommended that the policy to which I am referring should not be allowed. I am not particularly interested in the advice of the solicitor to the Board of Trade, or, for a matter of that, in the advice of the lawyers whom the Commonwealth Government may consult. Lawyers all the world over will give differing opinions. But if the British Government realize that in Australia there is a firm feeling that we should maintain this right in our hands, I have faith enough in British statesmanship to feel sure that they will recognise the principle ; and I am satisfied that they will be more likely to recognise it if we, on our part, are very determined that the line of action which I have indicated shall be taken. I understand the policy of the British Government in regard to the oversea Dominions to be that they do not desire to interfere in our affairs, but to leave us to govern ourselves according to our own judgment, they being satisfied with our attachment to the one common Empire. I am certain that the statesmanship of Britain will realize, and ultimately recognise, the position that we are taking up; but it is desirable that, on the part of the people and Parliament of Australia, there should be no misunderstanding. We ought to be firm and dignified in our demand for legislation of this character to be sanctioned by those who advise His Majesty. In my opinion, this is one of the most important phases of the measure. Honorable members, after a casual look at the Bill, may be staggered at its length; but there is noneed for any uneasiness on this account. There are only about seven or eight fundamental principles to cause any considerable debate, the remainder consisting mostly of machinery clauses. Until I had the honour to occupy a seat in this House, I was under the impression that the Government did not push on with this Bill because they felt it to be a sham, which would not be of much value when passed. In any case, I question very much whether, when we have passed the measure, the High Court will not, within a month, tear it into shreds. The Commonwealth has power to deal with navigation which extends beyond the bounds of any State; and this, of course, means that, while we have power over shipping companies, so far as their vessels trading in Inter-State waters are concerned, we have no more power than has the American Senate over the vessels which trade within a State. For instance, the whole of the shipping which trades between Point Macdonnell, on the one hand, and the Western Australian boundary, on the other, will be beyond the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, and, of course, this same principle applies to other States.
– More than half the shipping registered in Sydney does not go beyond New South Wales waters.
– And the principle will apply there. The basis of our Constitution is the reverse of that of most Federal Constitutions of the last half century; as little as possible is given to the Central Government, and as much as possible retained in the hands of the States ; as a matter of fact, the Constitution gives us only power enough to play “ tinker’s dog “ to the States. Under the circumstances, what will the High Court do with a measure of this character? The High Court has always acted on the principle that the greater power is retained by the States and the lesser power given to the Commonwealth ; and honorable members may guess the result. That has been my opinion for some years past, and it forms the reason why I doubted the sincerity of the Government in relation to a measure which could only land them in a muddle. I hope that the people of Australia will give the Federal Legislature the power that it should have, and thus do away with such a monstrosity in “the twentieth century as a Consti- tution which cannot apply to navigation throughout Australia. If we had read of such a position in a novel - if we had been told that public men of the nineteenth century had deliberately built up a Constitution of this kind - we should have regarded it as pure romance.
– It would be said that they had followed the great nation of America.
– It is no great compliment to the people of Australia to say that they have followed the example of our American cousins, who built up a Constitution on the nightmare of George III. If the Americans had had to build their Constitution fifty years later, it would have taken different shape. With all the astuteness, ability, and statesmanship of a Federal Convention, where the cloven hoof of Labour was not allowed to enter, we have only a sham and a farce so far as navigation is concerned. The Minister in charge of the Bill may think I am giving him a lively time; but I do not blame the Government for introducing the Bill. It is just as well that the people should see what their Constitution is ; and nothing will enable them to do that more clearly than a Bill of this character, which may prove, under the circumstances, futile.
– Is this Bill going to be futile?
– If my argument is of any value, we have no power over the shipping within a State.
– Then, does not the honorable member think that this Bill should forthwith be referred to the High Court ?
– I am surprised at such an interjection from a lawyer ; if some of my lay friends had made it I could have understood them. What is the first principle of a judicial tribunal ? If a hypothetical case is put before a Court, the Judge says at once, “ I do not sit here for the purpose of advising as to what may happen if the world comes to an end, but only to adjudicate on particular facts.
– That is not so ; the honorable member must remember that a special Act was passed-
– By this Government.
– Yes; a special Act was passed enabling us to refer Bills forthwith to the High Court.
– We did pass such an Act, but I did not believe that the measure would be of any value when I voted for it. I am sure that the honorable member for Ballarat does not believe it is worth the paper on which it is printed.
– Yes, I do.
– Why not?
– For the reason I have given, that the Judges will not adjudicate on hypothetical cases.
– Quite right, unless there is special legislation provided to enable them to do so.
– Unless” Their Majesties “ think it worth while they will take no notice of it, and I stake my opinion that “ Their Majesties “ will not think it worth while to give any decision until an actual case is brought before them. I do not regard the Justices of the High Court as divine, or believe that they are half as important as some persons would have us believe; but I know, as a layman, that, though we might pile up hypothetical cases all day long, they would not deal with them. I am prepared to set my judgment as a layman on that point against that of the honorable member for Kooyong as a lawyer.
– The honorable member is quite right, so far as the general law is concerned; but we passed a special Act enabling Acts of this Parliament to be referred to the High Court.
– What notice does the High Court take of our Acts? It tears them up, and throws them under the table. It does not take the view of them that we do. As a supporter of the Government, I considered it my duty to vote with them on the measure referred to. They may have better opportunities for arriving at a judgment than I have, but that does not prevent me from still backing my own judgment. Although I did not agree with the Government in the matter, I was willing to leave the responsibility for the Act upon their shoulders. That is the second point worthy of serious consideration, and honorable members need not be surprised if it works out in the way I think it will I do not believe the Government or those who framed this Bill realize the difficulty into which they have fallen in dealing with’ a very important section of Australian shipping. I do not know how to accurately describe the vessels to which I refer, but for my own convenience I shall describe them as the “mosquito fleet” of Australia. I refer to vessels of small tonnage, from 100 tons up to 500 tons.
Such vessels are to be found trading in the waters of every State in Australia. They trade in the gulfs of my own State, in Sydney Harbor, the northern coast of New South Wales, and also in Queensland waters. In this Bill the Government have seen fit to bring them under a control they are not anxious to be brought under. I consider that the Government have made a very grave mistake in not recognising the claims to consideration of the people interested in these small craft. Our British brothers in their legislation, and the Board of Trade in their administration, have done better in dealing with such vessels than is proposed in this Bill. What they have done is really to ignore these small vessels altogether. ‘ They allow certificates for captains, mates, and so forth, for the navigation of the British Channel. I wish to refer specially to engineers. The British Government and the Board of Trade, so far as engineers are concerned, recognise only first and s second class engineers. The Board of Trade does not require a vessel of 100 tons that does not carry passengers to carry a certificated engineer at all. These small vessels if carrying cargo can knock about the British Channel, on the British and German coasts, from Cape Finisterre to the Elbe, without a certificated engineer. If the vessels carry passengers they must carry a certificated engineer. If we could begin again I believe it would be a good deal better for us to follow similar lines, but we cannot do so because the various State Parliaments have recognised what are called “ third class engineers.” These third class engineer certificates are not recognised by the Board of Trade, who will have nothing to do with them.
– They are recognised on the American coast.
-The honorable member, is referring to American certificates. I am talking, about Australian certificates for third class engineers. These certificates are granted by the Marine Boards under the control of the various State Governments, and men holding them are placed in charge of small steamers in Sydney Harbor, at the Outer Harbor at Port Adelaide, and in the same way at Brisbane. What they naturally ask for is that their present status shall be retained. I think that is only a reasonable claim, but they also ask that their class shall be maintained, and that those following them and holding the same class of certificate shall have the right to get their living in a similar manner. That is admitted very largely in this measure, but there is a certain restriction imposed to which attention should be called. It is dealt with in the schedule which provides for men holding certificates for river and bay steamers trading between places 20 miles apart. I do not know who advised the Government to place such a restriction in this schedule. Whoever he was, though he may know something about the four walls of an office, he can never have seen a small steamer in his life. A certificate for a navigable river for a distance of 20 miles would be absurd. We have not many rivers, in Australia, but what we have are considerably longer than 20 miles. Of what use would such a certificate be on the Murray ? The recommendation of the Navigation Commission is sensible and clear. It is set out on page 2i, and is as follows : -
Your Commissioners, therefore, recommend that in addition to the Board of Trade certificates, which it is not proposed to interfere with, provision be made for a certificate of two grades, to be termed a “ Coastal Certificate “ ; and also for a Harbor and River Engineer’s Certificate. The Coastal Certificate should be divided into two classes - (1) for boats up to 65 n.h.p., and
I am surprised that the Government has not followed that recommendation. Notwithstanding its conservative regard for the interests of shipping, the British Government allows its mosquito fleet to trade right down to Cape Finisterre, and I see no reason why we should be less liberal in this matter. I hope that in Committee an amendment will be accepted removing this class from the disabilities which the Bill now imposes on it. Every Parliament legislates in face of the difficulty that it is not commencing at the beginning. It has to recognise existing conditions. When providing for a higher standard than has been the rule, it is necessary to recognise the claims of those whose abilities have been acknowledged under the old system. That has always been the practice of the States. When, for instance, it was determined that persons wishing to become masters of vessels should have to prove their competence under examination, it was resolved that the old shipmasters who had been carrying out their work for years to the satisfaction of their employers and of the public, should be given servitude certificates. In this matter, a mileage limitation would be ridiculous.
– Clause 21 provides that all uncancelled and unexpired certificates of competency shall be continued.
– The matter with which I am dealing is governed by the schedule. I do not think that that clause deals with engineers.
– The word “ officers “ is defined to mean masters, mates and engineers.
– It is not desirable that we should pass a measure which contradicts itself as this does, and I hope that in Committee honorable members will acknowledge that the Bill requires considerable amendment. The honorable member for Parkes strongly criticised some of its clauses, and especially those dealing with the manning of vessels. I have already dealt with the high standard of living, and the high rates of wages now in existence on the Australian coast, and I think that it is not unreasonable that the cubic space provided for in the Bill should be set apart for the accommodation of sailors, firemen and engineers. Difficulty may be caused by the fact that some of the vessels on the coast do not provide this accommodation, but this may be got over in Committee. It is useless to apply old maxims of political economy in dealing with matters of this kind. The Bill provides that the number of firemen to be carried on a steamer shall be in proportion to the consumption of coal. Honorable members may be aware that some steamers are harder to stoke than others; but the requirement to which I have just referred is eminently fair. We have a right to look after the interests of the firemen and others employed in the stokeholds. Stoking is by no means a pleasant occupation, and it is only fair and reasonable, I think, that conditions of this character should be embodied in the Navigation Bill, to protect the stokers, not against all ship-owners, but against the ship-owner who is anxious not to do a fair thing, who is a strict political economist, and belongs to a fast disappearing school. Honorable members know very well the standard which these people set up, and which the honorable member for Parkes still seems to champion - that men seeking employment from others were just commodities in the market to be treated in much the same way as coal, potatoes, bacon, and meat, the law of supply and demand settling the whole matter. That wonderful gospel is disappearing. It never was a science; it was personified selfishness, and did more to demoralize the people of the last century than did any doctrine I know of. Certainly it has been taught in universities. The Oxford University, in company with other universities, has championed this principle of political economyIn fact, we might claim of Oxford that it has Romanized the Anglican Church, and tried to make political economy popular ; but there is one pleasant fact, and that is that political economy is fast disappearing from the minds of all intelligent persons. When we are dealing with a Navigation Bill or anything else, we have to recognise that we are dealing with human beings. We have a right to deal with our fellowmen in such ways as will .be fair and satisfactory to them. For a bundle of empirical theories, which is called a science, to find its way into a Parliament of this character, is most surprising. I think that the sooner we hear less of this so-called science the better. It is a gospel of selfishness, and has done more to demoralize people who speak the English language during the last sixty years than anything which I can call to mind from my reading of history. I would not have referred to this matter to-night only that it is the real indictment against this Bill. What is the cry ? It is that we are raising the standard of comfort and the scale of wages so high amongst the engineers, firemen, and sailors that we are making the cost so expensive that the ship-owners cannot earn a profit. I do not think that the poor ship-owner has suffered so much as he makes out. I do not think that in the past he has done anything dishonest. He has merely taken advantage of his opportunities according to the strict rules of political economy. He has done the best he could for himself. The ship-owners say that they have been losing money. Now, have they lost money ? Some honorable members, like myself, were here thirty or forty years ago. What were the shipping fleets of Australia thirty years ago? Were they smaller then than they are to-day ? Yes. Whence has come the increased capital which has been put into the fleets. Those fleets have been built up out of the profits. I do not want honorable members to think that I am jealous of the ship-owners or reflecting upon them. I merely say that as business men they have done remarkably well. They have done well for years, but it does not become them to turn round when we are asking for only a little more for the crews, and to say that we are asking too much. I do not think that we are asking too much. I believe that we are asking for a fair thing. It is quite according to human nature that the ship-owners should prefer to bark before they are hurt for fear that they may be hurt. That may be their policy. But up to the present time neither a State Parliament nor the Federal Parliament has done anything to injure the shipping industry in Australia, and the Ship-owners Federation know that as well as I do. The legislation which has been passed may have irritated them. What is the great complaint which can be brought against all legislation? It is that it is new. One of the important facts of human nature is that we are all Conservatives. Although we may talk about being Liberal or Radical, there is not a more conservative people than those who speak the English language. They want to carry on their trade, to follow their customs, to do as they have done before, and if you say to any - man, “ My friend, you must not do that ; you must go on another track,” he will say, “ What right have you to interfere with me?” Why have many of the working people objected to a number of the alterations and reforms which have been effected ? Because they interfered with the groove in which they were. It is just the same with the merchant. Half the noise which he makes about the legislation which is passed is not because it is injurious to him, but because we are rubbing him out of the groove in which he has been travelling.
– Good job, too, I think.
– In many instances. I believe that many business men and big enterprises have reason to be grateful for the fact that Parliaments have shaken them out of the groove in which they have been working, because, in the long run, they have not lost by the shaking up.. There is no cause for our being alarmed at the complaint that has been brought forward that legislation of this character is aimed against their interests, that it is aimed to ruin them. It will have no such tendency. Possibly it might be well to modify some of the clauses of this Bill, so far as air space is concerned, in relation to existing ships which are in fairly good condition. When a shipowner knows that in the future he will not get a licence for a ship under the Common wealth Government unless he has conformed to the principles of the law, I do not think that he will have any reasonable ground for complaint. In his speech on the Bill the honorable member for Perth urged the Government and the Parliament to take into consideration the necessity for the control and the more systematic inspection of shipping, and especially the control of shipping in course of construction. I think that he made out a very strong case. I am not referring to any particular shipping company. I do not think that the fleet of the shipping company which had the misfortune to lose two vessels could be singled out as different from any other fleets which are trading in Australian waters. I think the misfortune that befell that company was simply due to the fact that two of their vessels happened to meet with exceptionally bad weather, and not to their fleet being in any way defective in construction, as compared with the fleets of other companies. I doubt whether we are prepared, at the present time, to go into the matter of laying down principles with regard to the construction of vessels in the future, whether by examination or by the appointment of a Board. That seems to me to be too large a contract for the Commonwealth Parliament ; but some provision might be made in this Bill for us to act in conjunction with the British authorities > or to try to influence them to take the matter up seriously, because it is the opinion of many laymen that a great number of vessels now afloat are not too safe on account of the heavy top hamper that they carry. This, again, is a very difficult matter for us to legislate upon, because we must remember that if the public demand a particular article, somebody will always be found to construct it for them, unless Parliament imposes a penalty that will prevent him from so doing. I question whether it would be possible foi us to impose penalties of that character in a case of this sort, because they would be evaded on every occasion. For another reason, it might not be necessary for us to act in that way, and that is because of this inherent fact in human nature that, after people have paid the penalty for patronizing a dangerous article, the public cease to use it, and that in itself constitutes a check on its manufacture. There is a mania at the present time for first class steamer accommodation. People think a steamer should not be what it was years ago, but that it should be an up-to-date floating hotel, and go at light- ning speed. Experience during the last two years has shown that it is impossible to carry out those conditions with safety to the travelling public. The travelling public demanded the article, and have been getting it ; and in some instances they have paid the penalty. I think the check will be applied in that direction rather than in the appointment of Boards of control to regulate construction. It appears to me that if we undertook work of that character, we should be undertaking something which a Parliament is not the most suitable body to tackle, and our efforts would, in the very nature of things, be unsatisfactory for that reason. I, therefore, do not think there is anything to be gained by placing in a Bill of this character machinery to regulate the matter with which I have just been dealing. In conclusion, I would call the attention of the House to the necessity for this Parliament determining, to the utmost of its power, to maintain its right to control the carrying trade round the coast of Australia. lt would be as well for us, I think, to forget for the time what the High Court may do in dealing with the measure when it is passed. If the Bill could be separated into parts, one part applicable to Inter- State navigation, and the other part, to State navigation, there might then be a chance of our getting a portion of the Bill recognised by the High Court; but I hope that, in any case, we shall assert the right of this Parliament to which I have just referred. That, I think, we have a perfect right to do, because, although we are a part of the British Empire, we are an oversea Dominion governing ourselves, and we should exercise al) the rights conferred on us by our own independence that it is possible for us to assert, compatible with our union with the other parts of the Empire.
– I regard this Bill as one of the most important that has yet been introduced in the Federal Parliament. I think that many of the provisions safeguarding those who go down to the sea in ships, and providing for their comfort and protection, will, in Committee, receive very generous recognition from all sides of the House. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat started off by stating that he could leave the Shipping Federation out of his calculations, as the members on this side of the House would be prepared to study their interests more than the interests of others. Personally, however, I regard the Shipping Federation of Australia as, perhaps, the greatest monopoly in Australia ; and I believe the whole basis of this Bill i-; to still further strengthen and buttress that monopoly, and, wherever the monopoly does not exist already, to make it a sure and certain chain round the whole Australian coast. The honorable member said, “ The Shipping Federation -are satisfied with the Bill, and we are satisfied with it.” Presumably he was speaking on behalf of the Seamen’s Union and other unions. This is just one of those measures which are embraced in the new Protection, and which consider only two factors, instead of three. The Shipping Federation say to the Labour unions, “ What will you give us, and we will betray the public to you?” and the Labour unions jump at the chance, and say to the Shipping Monopoly, “ What will you give us, and we will hand the public over to you?” The unions say to the Shipping Federation, “ We will grant you an entire monopoly over the whole seacarrying trade of Australia”; and the Shipping Federation say, in return, “ We will give you such rates of pay and wages as your unions may demand.” But there is a third factor in this, and that is the public of Australia. Where do they come in under this arrangement? I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that the shipping companies of Australia have done well. Like him, also, I am prepared to look upon their success as a portion of the success of Australia; but when, by a measure such as this, you say to them, “ We will prevent all competition on the coast of Australia,” you are placing the whole of the public of Australia absolutely at the mercy of your shipping companies, your trusts, and your combines. This Bill is based very largely, in fact almost wholly, on the shipping law of America. That law has, it is true, given the whole of the coastal trade to America ; but it has given the whole of it practically into the hands of one of the greatest monopolies in the shipping world ; and, consequently, has given practically the whole of the oversea trade of America to foreign flags. That is one aspect of this case which we ought to consider. Prior to the passing of her Shipping Act, the United States of America had 66 per cent, of her oversea trade. The vessels which cleared for the United States- - entered, is practically the same - for the year ended June, 191 1, represented a total tonnage of 32,683,684 tons, of which Great Britain represented a tonnage of 21,159,250 tons; Germany, 3,822,632 tons; and Norway, 2,495,144 tons. Of the total foreign trade conducted in vessels in 1910-11, only 8.7 per cent, in value was carried in American ships, whereas, in 1859, the proportion carried by such vessels was 66.9 per cent. Of the 42,437,147 tons of goods carried last year, only 9,7531463 tons were shipped under the American flag. “What the effect of this condition of commerce is going to be on the United States in her first great war with a European nation has yet to be seen; but, reading between the lines, we know that it was the position of her foreign trade that made her, a few months ago, accept the Japanese Treaty, under which emigrants from Japan landing in the United States have only to carry the passport of the Japanese Government. What will be the effect of this Bill on those States of the Commonwealth that now depend very largely on British and foreign ships trading on her coastline? Take, for instance, the position of Tasmania, whose shipping and sea communication is the very life’s blood of her commerce. The position of that State, shut off as it is from the mainland, is not to be taken into account. The passage of a Bill such as this is going to strike a deadly blow at Tasmania. She has been seeking for years to build up with England an export trade in fruit. Unassisted by either the State or the Federal Government, the fruit-growers there have built up that trade by chartering vessels to call at Tasmanian ports at stated periods of the year. Those vessels do a certain amount of trade along the Australian coast, and the earnings which they make in that way enable them to carry fruit at prices which, although still constituting a heavy handicap on the grower, have been brought down to something like reasonable rates. If we are going to deprive that shipping of the right to make earnings in the Australian trade, it will have to increase its direct freights to make good the loss so sustained. During the summer months some of the finest vessels coming to Australia run down from Sydney to Hobart, and carry a very large number of Inter-State passengers. Are we going to say to the people of Australia, “ We shall not allow you to travel by these vessels ; we shall compel you to travel in the Australianowned steamers,” which are infinitely in- ferior in every way, and which, during the summer months, cannot provide sufficient passenger accommodation to meet the demands of the travelling public? Then, again, are we going to compel the whole of the people living north of Cairns - the residents of the Gulf country and Thursday Island1 - to travel by that wretched old dug-out the Warrego, which, I believe, is the only subsidized Australian-owned boat engaging in that trade, whilst splendid vessels belonging to outside companies are calling at the northern ports, and giving the people a service which the Australian shipping companies have refused? If there is one part of Australia with which this Parliament ought to deal generously, it is the practically empty north, the white population of which, we all regret to find, is steadily decreasing. The travelling facilities which they at present enjoy, and the little encouragement they receive, are not sufficient to induce them to remain there. If we take away from them the services provided by outside companies - if we compel them to travel by the only Australian-owned steamer, the only subsidized boat in the service - we shall make residence in the far north still more difficult. We shall, in that way, surround it with still greater hardships than are associated with it to-day, and, instead of settling that part of Australia, we shall still further deplete it of its population. Then, again, many of us have received requests from residents of Papua, who point out that the Bill, as it stands, will strike a death-blow at settlement there. It will throw them into the hands of the monopoly which exists in respect of certain parts of Australia at which foreign-owned vessels do not touch. In dealing with this Bill, we must get right away from the idea that there are only two factors to be considered. The Shipping Federation is entitled to consideration, and so are the seamen ; but do not let us forget that the whole of the people of Australia are intensely interested in this Bill. It strikes at the very root of commerce. It is based on a law which has created, and always will create, monopoly, and which will always hand over the public to two great factors - the Shipping Federation, as represented here, and the great organized’ trades unions. The moment we give the Shipping Federation a monopoly, and they get into alliance with trade unions, the result will be disastrous to the people, and especially to the great primary industries of
Australia. It is the great primary industries of Australia that are going to be struck by this Bill.
– The honorable member’s reference is a most absurd one. There is no alliance.
– By shutting out competition we shall throw the people body and soul into the hands of the Shipping Combine. So long as the combines and trusts pay their thirty pieces of silver to the trade unions, there are honorable members of this House who will be prepared to accept the bargain.
– That is a most wretchedly incorrect statement.
– Will the Honorary Minister deny that there is a Shipping Combine working on the coast to-day?
– No. But I deny that there is any alliance between the combines and the unions. The honorable member knows that there is no such thing.
– This Bill is based on such an alliance, and so is the whole system of new Protection.
– Is the honorable member opposed to new Protection?
– i am.
– Then the honorable member is opposed to workmen receiving a reasonable wage?
– That “ gag “ may do very well in the honorable member’s electorate, but it will carry no weight with an intelligent audience like that of this House. The effect of this Bill will be, i submit, to add still further to that great monopoly against which some of us have been fighting for very many years. i repeat that there is a Shipping Combine in Australia.
– A very powerful one.
– It is powerful; and by taking away the only vestige of competition we are going to make this Combine all-powerful and absolutely secure in its position. We can frame whatever legislation we like, but the only thing which will break down trusts and combines is the letting in of the honest breath of competition. I have dealt with that aspect of the case because it is really the fundamental basis of this Bill. If the Bill is not to give Australian shippers an entire monopoly of the Coastal trade it means nothing. The honorable member for Hindmarsh says that the greater portion of the Bill will be disallowed by the Board of Trade, whilst the balance will be ruled unconstitutional by the High Court, and that, therefore, we need not trouble about it. But I say that we should not deliberately pass legislation if we know it to be unconstitutional. I shall not pursue that aspect of the case. If the Bill passes it must take its course of being held constitutional or otherwise. We must deal with broad principles ; and I believe that the inevitable effect of this measure will be to create a huge monopoly’ in Australia which will press excessively heavily upon the island State of Tasmania, that is entirely dependent upon shipping. for its intercourse with other parts of Australia. Another aspect which should secure serious attention is the effect of the Bill upon settlement in the far north. To compel the people in the whole of the country north of Cairns to travel by the wretched little boat which is the only subsidized vessel on the coast, when splendid vessels are calling at the ports and travelling along the seaboard, seems to me to be the height of stupidity, and will do more to prevent settlement in the north than anything which we can do to encourage it in other directions will counterbalance. There are one or two provisions of the Bill which demand serious consideration. I believe that the clauses which have for their object the bettering of the conditions of seamen will pass unanimously. It is unnecessary for me to deal with them further. But we are making a serious mistake in the way we propose to deal with the punishment to be awarded under certain conditions. Take the case of seamen on the high seas. The punishment for insubordination or wilful disobedience of any lawful commands is one month’s imprisonment, or the forfeiture of ten days’ wages. Under this Bill we allow a seaman to allocate half his wages to be drawn on shore, so that practically he may have very little to levy upon. Imagine what may happen. A man may be at the wheel or occupying some other important post on the ship. He may refuse to do his duty. Before another man can be summoned to take his place the vessel may be jeopardized or absolutely wrecked. The punishment is the forfeiture of. ten days’ pay. Again, the punishment for continued wilful disobedience to lawful commands and continued wilful refusal of duty, is three months’ imprisonment or the forfeiture of accrued wages. Continued wilful disobedience to lawful commands or continued refusal of duty amounts to mutiny pure and simple.
– Does the honorable member think that a seaman should be shot?
– No; i do not.
But less than a fortnight ago the honorable member for Denison and other honorable members opposite voted for a measure which would sentence a man to be imprisoned for two years for refusing to give such evidence as a Royal Commission may declare to be essential to its inquiry. Whilst the honorable member would send mat man to gaol for two years, a seaman who creates a mutiny on board ship, and practically takes possession of her, is to be let off with a much lighter punishment. There you have two cases in which the comparison of punishment is positively absurd. I would not advocate going to extremes in punishment. All my sympathies are in the other direction. But we are playing with the thing when we say that for rank mutiny and wilful and continuous . disobedience to orders, a seaman is to be let off with the forfeiture of his accrued wages, when he may have no wages accruing at all. The distinction made between sending a man to gaol for two years for being, perhaps, a little bit insolent to a member of a Royal Commission, and the punishment of a seaman for mutiny, is simply absurd. Another provision of the Bill is manifestly unjust. In Part VIII. it is provided that the GovernorGeneral may proclaim certain ports for compulsory pilotage, but that no pilot shall be responsible for more than ,£100 worth of damage, whilst the Commonwealth Government shall not be responsible at all. When a pilot meets a ship outside the heads the captain is compelled to surrender the vessel to his charge. The pilot, through incompetency, or through any other cause, may pile that ship .up on the rocks, and the owner has no remedy against him beyond £100, whilst the Commonwealth, which employs the pilot, is wholly irresponsible for its servant, in that respect differing entirely from any other employer. But there is an even more absurd and cruelly unjust provision than that. If a ship is lying in Hobson’s Bay, and a pilot bringing up another vessel, rams her and wrecks her, the owner of the ship on which the pilot is has to foot the entire bill. A more grossly unjust provision was never proposed to a Parliament. The ship-owner is compelled to surrender his ship to the pilot ; if the pilot wrecks her the ship-owner gets nothing; if he runs down another ship and wrecks her, the unfortunate owner of the ship which has the pilot on board has to sustain the entire loss, not alone of his own ship, but also the other vessel. I hope that when this Bill gets into Commit tee the common fairness of honorable members will impel them to refuse to pass such a provision as that. . T hold that the Government should occupy in this matter exactly the same position as a private employer. If they employ a pilot who is incompetent, or fails in his duty, the employer should bear the same responsibility as an ordinary employer in respect of any employe” who commits any act causing damage to others whilst in the execution of his duty. The provision to which- 1 have called attention, seems to me to be so manifestly unfair that I cannot understand any Government proposing it, and I hope that, now that attention has been drawn to the matter, it will receive reconsideration. The whole Bill bristles with absurdities, but perhaps the greatest absurdity of all is that in connexion with the river trade. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has pointed out that certificates are to be granted for a 20-mile run, beyond which it will be impossible for a. captain’ or engineer to take a boat. Bad as that is, there is a manifestly more absurd and unjust provision in regard to river and bay boats, which provides that all sailing ships under 15 tons shall carry not less than one able-bodied seaman. The honorable member for Denison, like myself, knows that there are literally hundreds of craft running from Hobart to the Huon River, all of which will come under this definition’. Let me take the case of a farmer, who has a small boat, of 5 to 10 tons, and who, with his son, carries the timber cut by the family to Hobart from the river I have mentioned. This clause will mean that the owner of the boat, who is the man that grows the timber, will have to dismiss his own boy and substitute an able-bodied seaman. We know that in a town like Hobart there drift many rated able-bodied seamen, who may have been dismissed for drunkenness or insubordination, and who, in short, are absolute “ wasters.” I do not wish to be understood as applying this description to seamen generally, but there are such men about, in whose favour the farmer-owner of a boat would have to dismiss his boy. Personally, I should say that for those river boats and ketches the deep-sea sailor is, perhaps, the most dangerous man who could be employed. We know that the small boats under 100 tons on the coast of England have produced, perhaps, the best seamen in the world; and similar boats running between Hobart and the Huon can boast of some of the finest sailors in the Southern Hemisphere. To prove this, we have only to look at these men in their regatta competitions. It takes a deep-sea sailor a considerable time to get rid of his deep-sea legs, and to understand the small boats.
– Only a few weeks, unless he is a mere steam-boat sailor.
– More than a few weeks. I am now speaking of vessels of 5 to 10 tons ; and I ask honorable members whether they think that the present hands should be dismissed simply because they have not the A.B. rating. The deep-sea sailor is passing away, unfortunately, and the majority of men who get their ratings to-day in Australian waters are neither more nor less than steamer deck hands. A man, after he has done his deck work for three years, will say to the captain, on getting his discharge, “ I think I have given every satisfaction, and I ought to have an A.B. rating.”
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I am stating what is taking place in Australian waters.
– A captain cannot discharge a man except in the capacity in which the man was taken on.
– In that there is no injustice, because the A.B. rating, so far as deep-sea sailing is concerned, is very rapidly becoming a thing of the past in Australia.
– The honorable member is quite mistaken.
– In order to get an A.B. rating there must be three years’ service on deep water; two years on the coast or between State and State, and one year on deep water will get the rating. To compare such men with the boatmen who are used to the river boats is an absurdity ; and it is nothing less than cruelty to say that the river boatmen shall give up their calling. The Bill provides that every boat under 15 tons must carry at least one A.B., and every boat exceeding 15 tons, and up to 50 tons, must carry one A.B. and one ordinary seaman.
– It is a perfect farce !
– The Bill teems with farces. The measure was used only as a stop-gap in the Senate. It was introduced first in 1904, and the Western Australian senators refused to pass it until the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway was agreed upon. The coastal monopoly which the Bill created was unsatisfactory to Western Australian senators until the Parliament consented to the construction of the railway, which, so far as land carriage is concerned, will place Western Australia in the same position as that of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. The Western Australian senators acted wisely, and well within their rights, when they refused to allow their State to be sacrificed ; and I ask the representatives of the western State to refuse to allow the sacrifice of Tasmania, which is now in a position similar to that in which their own State then was. Tasmania has no communication with the mainland except by sea; and we have for years been suffering from an insufficiency of trade accommodation. There has been a combination at work which has proved disastrous to our State, though we have been told that, if this combination proves prejudicial, we shall have a Government steamer. When I was in the north I saw two Government steamers, one belonging to the Federal Government and one belonging to Queensland. One, the Merrie England, can get up a speed of 6 knots in fair weather ; and the other, the John Douglas, can go just as fast as the wind and tide will take her. The Merrie England belongs to the Federal Government, and the John Douglas to the State Government of Queensland ; and if any honorable member can produce two more antiquated dug-outs on the coast of Australia, I shall take back everything I have said. One has only to see the Merrie England under steam, and the John Douglas under drift, to know what we may expect from a State-owned service in Australia.
– What clause was the honorable member referring to just now when he spoke of 15 -ton coasting boats?
– The matter is referred to in the schedule. I am glad that the Honorary Minister is taking an interest in this matter, because I am quite certain that if this Bill is passed the provision to which I have referred will be fought as vigorously as possible. The men concerned will not stand so deliberate a wrong. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has said that the passing of this Bill will do much to convert the people to the necessity of giving the Commonwealth power to deal with these matters. I say that the passing of such a provision as that to which I have referred will be quite enough for me to stump Tasmania from one end to another to urge the people to vote against giving such powers to the
Federal Parliament if that is the way in which they are to be used. The Government in this Bill propose to deprive men of their means of livelihood, make them step out of their boats, and give their places to any foreigner who may be dumped down in their ports. _ If this is a specimen of the way in which the Commonwealth Parliament is to legislate should more extended powers be given to it, I am prepared to say, “ Thank God it has no more power than it has at present, and I hope it never will have.” This is. a perfect abuse of power. It is a monstrous provision to include in any Bill, and I cannot believe that the Government can have given the matter careful consideration. The Government in framing this measure have cut out a good many clauses from the American Shipping Act; a few from one Act and a few from another, and have gone one or two or ten better than the proposals in the Bill as originally introduced by the honorable member for Kooyong. They have in this way produced a hotch-potch which no member of this House is prepared to defend. We get such support of it as we have just had from the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The honorable member says that the Shipping Federation is satisfied with it ; that honorable members opposite are satisfied with it ; that they are prepared to tell the Board of Trade that we will stand upon our dignity and deal with our own coastal trade. But he then says that he does not believe we will be permitted to do so ; and that when the Board of Trade and the High Court have done with it, there will be nothing left of it. So far as many of its provisions are concerned, I say that the less there is left of it the better. I warn honorable members opposite to consider what they are doing. It is, no doubt, a highsounding phrase to say that we must have Australian shipping for Australian people. It sounds well to say that only shipping companies that will comply with our rates and conditions shall have the right to trade on our coasts; but the passing of this Bill will throw the whole of the Australian trade into the hands of the Australian Shipping Ring. It seems to me that so long as those who are in the Ring are prepared to pay certain rates of wages, and give certain conditions to their employes, there is a majority in this House prepared to hand over the whole of the primary producers and the general public of Australia to their tender mercy. I wish honorable members opposite to consider that outside the Shipping Federation and the Seamen’s Union there is the bulk of the people of Australia to be considered. I represent people engaged in the fruit-growing industry. Unless they can ship a very large proportion of their fruit to England, it must rot in their orchards, or be thrown as food to pigs. They have built up the fruit export trade by their own energy. They have never asked the Federal Government for anything, except to be left alone. They have never asked the State Government for anything. They have been hampered considerably by the Commerce Act, but I must do the present Minister of Trade and Customs the justice of saying that he has in some respects lightened their burdens under that Act. The living of these people depends upon cheap transit of their fruit to England. The past season has been a very disastrous one for them. After having slaved hard all the year round, many men have practically had no return for their labour; and it is a grievous injustice to these men to say that they shall’ be further hampered andi restricted in their industry by taking away the earnings of the ships that have been engaged in the Australian fruit export trade. ‘Under this Bill, there will be built up a huge monopoly which will suck the very life blood from the people of my State, who are largely dependent on commerce by sea. We shall be hampering enormously the primary producer by making him pay increased freights and charges. We have to bear in mind more than the objections to particular clauses of this Bill. There is the broad question of how far this House is prepared to legalise a monopoly. Bypassing this measure we shall be throwing the whole of the shipping in Australianwaters into Australian bottoms. No man could to-day, for love or money, ship a thousand cases of apples from Hobart to Brisbane direct.
– Does the honorable member say that that cannot be done today ?
– Yes; there must be transhipment at Sydney. No man could ship 500 cases of fruit from Hobart to Brisbane direct to-day.
– -Does the honorable member mind saying why ?
– Because there is not enough trade.
– No. The Minister of Trade and Customs knows as well’ as I do that it is because there is a. monopoly, and because the Shipping Ring have parcelled off the waters of Australia and have said, “ Such waters belong to one company, and such to another, and so long as you do not trade in our waters we shall not trade in yours.”
– Will the honorable member help us to put a stop to that ?
– Does not that mean that there is in existence already, such a monopoly as the honorable member says the passing of this Bill will bring into existence ?
– i say that such a monopoly is in existence, and that the passing of this Bill will make it impossible for us to escape from it. There is under existing conditions a chance occasionally of transporting fruit from one port to another of the Commonwealth by boats that do not belong to the Ring. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports asks whether I shall be prepared to help honorable members opposite in putting a stop to this monopoly. I have been urging the Government ever since they have been in office to get a move on them to put a stop to this kind of thing.
– Yet the honorable member is against the referenda proposals.
– The Government have now the power to stop this monopoly, and why do they not use it? This cry about the referenda proposals is only so much clap-trap. Honorable members opposite say, “ Give us increased powers, and we shall deal with these monopolies.” You cannot lash them into dealing with the monopolies which are grinning in their faces to-day. You will never get them to do that while there is this unholy combination of the trade unions with shipping companies and the Coal Vend.
– Give us the power.
– You . have the power, but you dare not use it.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question ?
– I am speaking of the Shipping Monopoly, which this Bill will intensify, and which it will prevent us from grappling with. We have power to deal with the existing monopolies, but cannot get the Government to interfere. On behalf of Tasmania, and of the northern coasts of Australia, which are the two places which will suffer most disastrously
– What about Western Australia? [its]
– Western Australia will have railway connexion with the eastern States.
– Some time in the near future. Money has been voted for the work, and it is being undertaken. The present position of Western Australia may’ be bad enough ; and I shall be prepared to help the right honorable member to mitigate its difficulties. It is the weak, small State of Tasmania, and the practically empty north, that will suffer most from the Bill. Therefore, I ask honorable members to consider seriously, not only the matters which have been referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and others, but the broad question, “ Are we prepared to hand over the shipping of Australia to combines, which will levy such charges and impose such conditions as they may choose?” If we do that, we shall once more sacrifice the .primary producers to those two great monopolies, the Shipping Ring and the trade unions.
Debate (on motion by Sir John For rest) adjourned.
Leader of the Opposition - Divisions in Liberal Party - Labour Party - Arbitration Court - Postal Officials-
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
.-! ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he has anything to say about the political situation ?
– In the honorable member’s ear.
– The* matter is of sufficient public importance to justify the honorable member in letting us know whether the Fusion has taken action to compel him to resign the presidentship of the People’s Liberal party. When the Address-in-Reply was being discussed, he said, speaking on the Tariff question, that we must have a Tariff Board which would take into consideration all applications for Tariff reform and increased duties. The Board was to inquire into the various mechanical and chemical processes which operate in connexion with certain industries, and, having come to a decision, was to make a report to Parliament, so that Protectionists and Free Traders alike would know when to give Protection, and how much to give. That was the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition until a few days ago; but it appears not to have been the attitude of the People’s Liberal party, of which he was President.
– Who is the Leader of the Opposition?
– Apparently there are four leaders of the Opposition, or Fusion, party - the honorable members for Swan, Parramatta, Ballarat, and Flinders.
– I have heard the party called a quadruped; but this is the first time that it has been suggested that it has four heads.
– The People’s Liberal party held a meeting the other day, and decided, on the motion of Mr. Mauger, that there should be an immediate revision of the Tariff. The resolution reads -
That the newly-elected executive be instructed to take immediate steps to secure the passing into law on as early a date as possible a thoroughly effective scientific Tariff Act.
Apparently, at the same meeting, the honorable member for Ballarat resigned from the position of President of the party. It is due to the House and the country that the honorable member should ‘tell us whether the Fusion, of which he is leader, instructed him to retire. I do not see why he should not be allowed, in this free country, to be President of the People’s Liberal party if he so desires. He has told us, in a letter published in the Melbourne Age, that he is entirely in accord with the resolution, part of which I have ‘just read. That being so, why has he resigned from the position of President? There is another question which I should like to ask. How could the fourth leader of the Fusion - the honorable member for Flinders - have the audacity to go to the Murrumbeena branch of the People’s Liberal party, and make a speech of which I ought to give the exact words? He was, by the way, received with much applause.
– According to which newspaper ?
– According to the Melbourne Argus. The honorable gentleman is reported to have said -
Since I received the invitation to address you matters of slight difference have arisen between some of the leagues in connexion with the election for the Senate. I am not going to enter upon that, because it is not part of my duty as a member of Parliament to do so. I only desire -
This was said, no doubt, in the honorable member’s most impressive manner, and his most sonorous voice - to express the earnest hope that all you here to-night will use your utmost endeavours, your tact, and even your generosity, to prevent our party from being broken up into two or three sections at the time we have to face the electors.
How did the honorable member come to say that? The member of Parliament who is responsible for all the trouble in Victoria at the present time is the honorable member for Flinders. When the Fusion party, to all intents and purposes, appeared to be a solid party, he exposed them, by referring to the fact that they had no policy.
– Which party?
– The so-called Liberal party - the Conservative party ; the Free Traders ; the Protectionists ; the Singletaxers ; the Republicans, like my honorable friend opposite. «
– You have a queer breed on your side.
– The honorable member for Flinders said that they had arrived at a policy by eliminating, everything which was likely to cause trouble, and the result was “a gelatinous compound fit only as food for infants.” He was the man who caused all the trouble. The moment that he made that statement honorable members opposite started in their various leagues to disown the first programme, and finally they have split up into fragments. After causing all the trouble the honorable member goes up to this place. Really, sir, it reminds us of a coloured lay preacher in America, who, after accusing his congregation of stealing chickens, and starting them to fight, hoped that the coloured brothers and sisters would keep the peace. The honorable member goes up there, and asks them, to use all their forbearance, all their endeavours, and even their generosity, in trying to keep the party together.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing ; but I thought that if there were any honorable members on this side who were getting at all alarmed or anxious about what would happen at the next election this would give them the utmost encouragement to believe that we shall come back with a majority which will enable us to carry out the very comprehensive, important, far-reaching, and advantageous programme that the party has in hand.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to some very serious allegations which appear to have been made in the Arbitration Court in Sydney yesterday, apparently casting grave reflections upon the administration of the Post Office, and to ask whether he has been or will be properly represented in the inquiry so as to watch the proceedings. According to the Age of to-day there is an appeal made to the Arbitration Court on behalf of the postal electricians. During the course of the evidence a complaint was made that certain employes were not paid for the overtime they had worked, even according to a certain departmental regulation.
– That is nothing strange.
– I do not propose to discuss the merits of the case now, but merely wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the necessity of being represented at the inquiry. I find that Mr. W. Clemens appeared for the Public Service Commissioner, but it does not appear that the Postmaster-General has a representative there to watch the interests of the Department, apart from the Commissioner.
– Mr. Hesketh is there.
– No; there is no statement that any one is representing the Minister. Under the Act the PostmasterGeneral has the right to be represented, and the reason I am inquiring why he is not represented is that when this question of overtime was raised, and the interpretation of the regulation was discussed, Mr. Clemens, the representative of the Commissioner, said, “ I have no personal knowledge of this case, and cannot possibly deal with it now.”
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to discuss the matter.
– Do you know that while you were Postmaster-General I introduced a deputation which complained that 37,000 hours’ overtime had not been paid for?
– Order !
– This is a question pending before the Arbitration Court.
– In these circumstances, do you think that you ought to refer to it?
– I think that the Minister ought to be represented, because the Commissioner’s representative says that he knows nothing about it.
– The Minister is represented at the inquiry.
– I should like to know who his representative is?
– Mr. Hesketh.
– It does not appear from this report that the Minister is represented. I should like to know whether he was a party to this reference, and whether he is watching the proceedings to see who is to blame for the nonadministration of the regulation relating to overtime? ‘ Because, according to the present-
– Order ! The honorable member is now entering into a discussion, and I ask him not to do so.
– This is a matter of great public importance, sir, and Parliament is entitled to be represented.
– The honorable member is quite’ in order in proceeding on that line, but he must not go beyond that.
– I want to know if “ Parliament is represented at the inquiry, and whether the Minister will see who is responsible for the failure to carry out the regulation as to overtime?
.- It would be cruel to refuse so skittish a member as the honorable gentleman, who represents a district very properly called Capricornia, and whose caprine gambols I would be the last to interfere with. It is impossible not to feel flattered by the attention which he has been good enough to devote to my humble self, and the resignation of an official position in connexion with the People’s Liberal party, which, in other circumstances, might have caused me a good deal of regret. But I wish to remind the honorable membe1 that it is more than twelve months since I requested the members of that party to relieve me of the responsibilities of office, for, although these had been reduced to a minimum by their kindly consideration, they yet proved too many for my inadequate strength and capacity. That was agreed to be done. But, in consequence of the non-completion of the proposal for a union with the People’s party, at the request of the People’s Liberal party I consented to remain its nominal head ; that is to say, I was to be relieved of ail duties except that .of sharing in special consultations, which have been rare. They were good enough to continue that consideration up to the recent meeting. Then it became necessary, in fairness to them, that I should resign the position in which I had not for two years been able to discharge more than a fraction of the duties. In these circumstances, if the parting was painful, the honorable member, I am sure, will understand how necessary it was to make it at the present juncture.
He was also in error in assuming that it was because of the failure to amalgamate these two particular leagues that there were some changes in this State in our relations. That is not so. There were then the same three leagues that are in existence to-day.
– The trinity/”-
– And the fact that this particular trinity is not always in unity made it desirable that, as a member of the Parliamentary party here, acting with my colleagues, the three leagues should each maintain a direct and independent relation with our party. That furnished an additional reason, comparatively recent, for retirement. My resignation, in fact, goes back for more than twelve months.
– Then the Protectionist plank had nothing to do with it?
– No. The honorable member has mentioned Protection, but, unfortunately, he has reversed the order of affairs. My resignation had been accepted, and my successor had been appointed, before the resolutions were passed, including the resolution relating to Protection to which the honorable member referred. I did not see it until next day. That was all subsequent to my retirement, under the new president and the new committee.
– Does the Fusion accept the Protectionist plank?
– The honorable member will find that clear when the election takes place.
– I have no intention of getting into this quarrel, although why my honorable friends over there should try to sow dissension in our ranks I do not pretend to know. Would it not be well if they knew themselves exactly where they are on the subject of Protection ? I read in my paper this morning in the train that the manufacturers of Melbourne go nap on the Minister of Trade and Customs. They are sure he is all right, but there are some others in the Caucus and in the Ministry who will not let him do what he desires to do. They believe he would give them all the Protection they want, but they say it is these other political demons in the Cabinet that prevent him from doing what is right.
Then there is the question of pensions for the Military Forces. The honorable and jocund member for Melbourne Ports has been struggling all through this session with a scheme for that purpose. Everybody knows how deadly in earnest he is; but as soon as ever he gets the question before the House, the Honorary Minister is just as prompt to see that he does not deal with it, and to prevent every one of the members of the Military Forces from getting a pension such as they desire, and such as this member would have them placed in possession of at the earliest possible moment. Speaking again of this matter of Protection, the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Maribyrnong have delivered halfadozen speeches this session deploring the fact that there is to be no Tariff revision. There has not been a scintilla of it since the session began, and we have been told emphatically by the Minister that there is to be none during the life of this Parliament. They are there, and find no trouble in staying in the same Caucus with a man who tells them that they cannot have discussed what appears to be the most important thing in the whole political arena in Victoria at the present time. He tells them that they shall not have any Protection, and they find not the slightest difficulty in sitting in the same Caucus, and getting along very well and amicably together. There are other questions which tear the Caucus asunder; but somehow or other, at every meeting they get hold of the threads and pieces and make some sort of patchwork that enables them to present a beautiful coverlet to the House. Here they are, chiding other people, when they themselves are rent in twain. From stem to stem they are rent all to pieces with differences of opinion, but they find no difficulty in holding together ; they belong to the Caucus, and the Caucus covers all this multitude of political sins and inconsistencies. It makes them so far believe that there is no inconsistency, that they are even here putting their spokesman up to chide other people about their little differences of opinion.
– This is sheer jealousy.
– I believe the honorable member is quite right. Of all convenient things in politics I believe the Labour Caucus is the most convenient.
– We sink all our petty differences in the interests of the country.
– They are petty differences, are they ? The man who will not give them another stiver of Protection, and the man who says they ought to have prohibition, have only a petty difference. One of them said the other day that he would strip every revenue duty out of the Tariff, and give prohibition on every article that could bear a protective duty. He would destroy the whole revenue derived from the Tariff; but he finds no difficulty in stopping in the Caucus that raises ^14,000,000 of revenue, notwithstanding that the industries of Victoria are supposed to be languishing. Honorable members opposite find no difficulty in their Caucus in covering up all these widely torn dissensions and rifts ; and now we are told by the Honorary Minister, who is laughing consumedly about it, that these are only petty differences.
I see another member, the honorable member for Brisbane, smiling at me. lt is not so long since he went to Parramatta and told the people there that they ought to back the Labour party if they wanted temperance reform. Around him there - are other honorable members who say. “ You publicans should back us if you want us to look after your interests.” These are petty differences, covered by the Caucus veil. I suggest to the honorable member for Capricornia that when the Labour party have solved and composed these little differences of their own, and when he has taken the beam out of his own eye, he may then see the little mote in the eye of his fellows across the chamber.
I want to ask the Socialistic Minister of the Socialistic Post Office when overtime is to cease in his Department. I believe in one branch of it they are working overtime till 10 o’clock at night, and have been doing it for months and months.
– Yes; you left me a nice job there.
– We did not leave it to the honorable member. It was his colleague, the Henniker Heaton of this Ministry, who went in to set the Department right, and left a bigger mess behind him than he found, and the honorable member has not cleared it away yet. The officers in that branch are working till 10 o’clock at night to catch up with their work. The Government appointed special accountants to give them better systems over there, and the result is that the men are working till 10 o’clock at night. Nothing more disgraceful has been seen than what is transpiring in the Post Office under the regime of this Government, who were going to give them reasonably decent conditions to work under.
– Yes, I admit that we are trying to unravel a dirty tangle in that Sydney office.
– And the more they try to unravel it the more tangled it becomes.
– You cannot create unrest in the Post Office in that way.
– I cannot create unrest ! My honorable friends opposite have monopolized that patent long ago.
– The honorable member has not yet explained, as the honorable member for Capricornia’ asked him to do, the position in regard to these three parties.
– Who is going to be boss - the Women’s National League?
– I do not know what is happening in Victoria. I hope the honorable member will forgive me if I suggest that there are enough troubles in my own State.
– I will lay the honorable member two to one that the ladies win.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has been constantly interjecting. I ask him to discontinue.
– He wants now to gamble in the House. I invite the attention of the honorable member for Brisbane to his gambling colleague. I ask the Postmaster-General, in all seriousness, to look into this matter of overtime. He sent a telegram some time ago, I believe, directing that overtime was to cease. He took that action ‘after we had called attention to the matter in the House ; but, I understand that overtime is again in full blast. The sooner an end is put to it, the better for the credit of the Department.
– If the honorable member will help us to pass the Estimates, we shall be able, very likely, to put on a few more hands.
– The Estimates ought to be put through at the earliest possible moment, so that anything relating to the work of the Department may be proceeded with. We have already been told by the Prime Minister, however, that we are not to deal with them until substantial progress has been made with other business. The Minister, therefore, had better appeal to his own chief, and not to me, to help him to pass the Estimates. He can have the Estimates by next week end, if he likes to go on with them now.
– The honorable member says that we can pass them by that time?
– I do not think there would be any difficulty in getting them through by that time, unless honorable members opposite wanted to do all the talking.
– The honorable member is only “thinking” now that they can be dealt with by the end of next week.
– If the matter is left to us, we will undertake to pass the Estimates very nearly, at least, by that time. There is no desire for delay on our part ; the delay is on the part of the Ministerial side of the House. Meanwhile, I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he put down this overtime, which is no credit to the Department that is supposed to have been working for a long time under new conditions. If this is a sample of the “ new arrangements,” the Government had better revert to the old ones, for, apparently, they were better than those now prevailing. They certainly did not involve all the overtime now being worked in the Postal Department.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs a statement published in the Adelaide Advertiser, of 4th instant, which, if true, is deserving of investigation in the interests ofthe public and; if false, should be shown to be false for the protection of the Customs officers concerned. The paragraph, which is headed in very big type, “ Complaint against the Customs,” “ Alleged dissatisfaction in Fremantle,” reads as follows : -
For a considerable time past the manner in which the Customs Department is being administered in this State has given cause for extreme dissatisfaction. Not only are the members of the staff dissatisfied, but importers and Customs agents complain bitterly of delays in clearing their goods, owing to the undermanned service. It is alleged that unsympathetic administration has resulted in a reign of terror. Errors in the description of goods are imputed to criminal motives, and merchants allege that when tendering an explanation they are treated with extreme discourtesy and boorishness by the administrative head. Owing to the scarcity of examining officers, merchants, it is stated, have had to wait two and three days before having their invoices attended to. These delays are still further aggravated owing to the fact that the officers are afraid to accept any responsibility, the slightest error by an officer being visited by a severe reprimand. The result is that the Department is at present in a state of chaos, and the officers are on the verge of open revolt. Merchants and officers alike are unanimous that an independent board of inquiry should be appointed to deal with the whole question.
I ask the Minister not to rest content with the statement of the officers at present at Fremantle, but to appoint an independent Board to inquire into this complaint. The Minister should send an officer from the eastern States to inquire into it, and give the people concerned redress if it is found that there are grievances which require to be redressed. I most earnestly suggest to the Minister that he should go thoroughly into this complaint.
– I shall be pleased to have an inquiry as suggested by the honorable member regarding the statement made in the newspaper, but I may say at once that a Board of Inquiry will not be appointed. I have already gone into the matter, and have had reports furnished in regard to it. I believe that the man in charge is doing good work. It is, perhaps, because he is a little more strict than others have been that these complaints are made ; but he is doing good work.
– He is fair.
– He is perfectly fair, and is protecting the revenue of the Commonwealth.
– In answer to the honorable member for Bendigo, I wish to say that as Mr. Justice Higgins is now dealing with the case of the Postal Electricians Union, I do not intend to refer either to its merits or demerits.
– Hear, hear ! I did not suggest that the honorable member should.
– As to the question of representation, the Commissioner is represented by Mr. Clemens, and the PostmasterGeneral by Mr. Hesketh. In regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Parramatta, I recognise that there is a difficulty in connexion with the Accounts Branch of the Sydney Post Office. Overtime is being worked by officers in that branch, and every effort is Being made to bring the accounts of the Sydney office into order. Consideration will be givento the officers if they are required to work beyond the ordinary time.
– I wish to remind honorable members that we meet on Thursday at 10.30 a.m., and that we shall adjourn before luncheon. The ceremony of turning the first sod in connexion with the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway will take place at Port Augusta on the 14th inst., and I should like honorable members who intend to be present, or who have decided not to go over, to acquaint us as soon as convenient of their intentions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120910_reps_4_66/>.