4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended, in order to enable all steps to be taken to obtain Supply, and to pass a Supply Bill through all ha stages without delay.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs what steps he proposes to take to ascertain the cause of the discrepancy . between the enrolments in New South Wales and the official statistics regarding the adult population of the State. If his investigations do not produce a satisfactory explanation, what does he propose to do?
– The Commonwealth Statistician and the Chief Electoral Officer have been instructed to go into the whole matter, and I hope to be able to give an answer shortly.
– I wish to know if there is a complete up-to-date electoral roll for New South Wales? If so, will the Minister of Home Affairs make it available to honorable members?
– I cannot say that the roll is completely up-to-date, because we are waiting for the redistribution of the divisions to complete our electoral preparations, but it is as up-to-date as it can be made until the redistribution has been settled.
– Is it true, as reported, that the High Commissioner proposes to visit Australia very shortly? If so, is his visit to be of a private nature, or is it to be made at the invitation of the Government ?
– This is the first I have heard on the subject.
– Has the High Commissioner’s report for this year been received? If so, will the Minister lay it on the table?
– It has not yet been received.
– In view of the promise made by the Prime Minister to- the honorable member for Bass’ last night, that he would ask the Library Committee to consider whether the Hobart Mercury, because of a letter published in a recent issue, should be removed from the Parliamentary files, I ask the right honorable gentleman if he will take similar action in regard to the Victorian Labor Call and all other newspapers containing similarly objectionable matter ?
– I read the letter referred to by the honorable member . for
Bass, and stated last night that I thought it of such a character that the Library Committee should be invited to consider . whether, if it had been wilfully published, the Mercury should not be removed from the Parliamentary files. I would make the same statement regarding any other publication containing similar language.
– The right honorable gentleman was not present at an early hour this morning when I read from the Labor Call of the 18th April last an article” which, in my opinion, is scurrilous, its statements being quite as bad as any in the letter referred to by the honorable member for Bass can be.
– Read the part objected to. One word in the letter referred to by the honorable member for Bass was enough.
– I read the article early this morning, but for the information of the Prime Minister I shall re-read a paragraph headed “ Sexual laxity “ -
The most cursory examination of the figures bearing upon this question reveals a most startling state of sexual laxity in our midst, and we learn that the so-called sacrament of marriage is based upon flagrant immorality and loose sexual relations, which the church and clergy sanctify and indorse.
– That is an expression of opinion.
– So was the statement in the’ Mercury.
– The honorable member for Illawarra should ask a- definite question, which the Prime Minister can answer.
– In view of the statement just read, will the Prime Minister take action in regard to the tabor Call similar to that which he has promised to take in regard to the Hobart Mercury, and submit for the consideration of the Library Committee the advisability of removing the newspaper from the Parliamentary files ?
– If the honorable member thinks that the article is in the same category as the letter which appeared in the Mercury, I shall bring the matter before the Library Committee, but I arn not of his opinion.
– It is fifty times worse;
– Does the Prime Minister indorse the. statements of the paragraph read by the honorable member for Illawarra ?
– Certainly not. That is quite another matter.
– It is with some reluctance that I ask this question, but I do so because the honorable member for Illawarra has endeavoured to reflect on the Labour party-
– What was the object of the honorable member for Bass?
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he knows any Labour newspaper which has applied to women of Australia the epithet contained in the Hobart Mercury? In that newspaper they were referred to as “ debased sluts.”
– I hope that honorable members will not discuss this’ unsavoury subject. To attempt to make political capital out of it is beneath the dignity of the House.
– What was the honorable member for Bass doing yesterday? That is exactly what he received your plaudits for doing.
Revision of Tariff : Preferential Trade : Fiscal Policy of Opposition : Prohibited Articles
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs read a report of a speech in which Mr. Watt, Pre:mier and Treasurer of Victoria, stated that the present financial friction and the tightness of the money market are due to the want of a better Protective policy? Is there any possibility of our having an opportunity of dealing with the Tariff in this session, or in a new session to be held after Christmas ?
– I have observed that statement of Mr. Watt, who apparently likes to look after our business sooner than his own. Regarding a Tariff session, I stated some time ago that there was no likelihood of the Tariff being reopened this session.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House whether any further advance has been made in the negotiations with Canada for reciprocal trade relations?
– The last communication which was announced to the House some time ago was to the effect that we had stated distinctly the items or classes of exports on which, we desired the best Tariff treatment in Canada, and that when they were asked to state the items on which they desired preferential treatment, the communication was referred to their Minister, Mr. Foster, who had gone to London to attend the Imperial Conference. He has stated that he will be in Australia in March or April, when he will discuss this question. That is, how the matter stands at present. We have stated our items, but they have not stated theirs.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs take into consideration the advisability of asking that all goods which are introduced into Australia under the preferential Tariff shall be accompanied by a statement that the said goods were produced or manufactured at union rates of wages ?
– All that they are required to do in the present form of declaration is to state where the goods have been manufactured. If goods are manufactured here, we can decide upon the industrial conditions, but if goods are manufactured oversea, we have no power, I think, to impose that condition in any preferential treatment.
– I think that we could.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs noticed that the candidates of the Opposition for the Senate are advocating Protection in Victoria and Freetrade in New South Wales?
– I have not observed that, but I would not be surprised if they were doing so.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the importation of a number of alleged medical preparations has been prohibited during. the past twelve months?
– The answers to the questions are -
Land Settlement and Irrigation
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs inform theHouse what stage he has reached in connexion with the preparation of the plans for the building of- the Federal Capital? Arethe plans in any forward state of preparation?
– The officers are up there now.
– I know that the officers are there ; but what arethey doing ?
– Well, they are hustling.
– That isvery informative, very illuminating.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
Wireless Telegraphy : Official Post Offices : Tasmanian Mail Contract
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House whether the wireless installation at Thursday Island is yet completed, and, if so, when will it be ready for receiving and transmitting public messages?
– I shall tell my honorable friend to-morrow.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished Ihe following information : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When will the Tasmanian mail contract and correspondence thereon be available to members ?
Mr. THOMAS (for Mr. Frazer).- The papers will be made available to honor- ‘ able members at the earliest possible date. The contract is now being prepared by the Crown Solicitor.
– I wish to ask the Prime
Minister whether, seeing that a Conference has taken place between the Premier of New South Wales and himself, he has any definite information to lay before this House regarding the Liverpool Manoeuvre Area?
– The arrangement is as definite as words can make it. I think that an agreement between the Governments will soon be completed.
Mudgee and Aberdeen
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Wales, an estate called Blairmore has been subdivided, and at public auction up to£40 per acre was refused for portions thereof?
– The Commissioner of Land Tax has furnished the following replies : -
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following papers : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at-
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia - For Railway purposes.
Liverpool, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Parkeston, Western Australia - For Railway purposes.
Papua Act - Regulations amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 194.
Sugar Industry : Regulations : Bounty and Excise : Coloured Labour Legislation : Colonial Sugar Refining Company. - Post and Telegraph Department : Construction Branch. - Northern Territory Administration : Expenditure: Settlement by Socialists. - Imperial Trade Commission : Statistics of Commonwealth Resources. - Late Letter Fees at Railway Stations. - Ministers’ Travelling Allowances. - Referenda : Ministerial Policy. - Electoral Rolls : Queensland. - Ipswich Post Office Clock. - Meat and Butter Prices. - Speech by Minister of Home Affairs. - Payment of Municipal Rates. - Werriwa Election : Use of old Electoral Roll. - Bounty on Wool Tops. - Redistribution Proposals. - Immigration : Land Settlement. - Chief Electoral Officer. - Commonwealth Statistician. - “ All Red “ Cable Route. - Pacific Cable. - Rifle Clubs. - Retirement of Warrant Officers and Sergeant-Ma jors. - Governor-General’s Residence in Sydney. - Government Motor Cars. - Consolidation of High Court Rules. - Northern Territory Land Ordinance.
Resolution of Committee of Supply adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That towards making good the supply granted ta His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1913, a sum not exceeding £2,252,661 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
.- I do not desire to occupy the time of the Committee at great length, but I must confess that I was very disappointed last night with the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister in regard to the question raised by the honorable member for Darling Downs as to the position of the sugar-growers at the present time. I was very much surprised that the right honorable gentleman should have announced, as the definite policy of the Government, that nothing whatever is to be done to assist the growers of sugar at the present juncture. As this subject has already been debated at great length in the House, it is not necessary to recapitulate the whole of the disabilities under which the growers of sugar are labouring. Honorable members must be well aware of the state of affairs existing, and no one is in a better position to judge of the peculiar disabilities under which the growers are labouring than is the Prime Minister himself. It is for that reason that I am unable to understand why he is prepared to sit down and do nothing. It must be known, not only to him, but to every representative of the sugar-growers - or, perhaps I should say, of a sugar-growing district, because I think it would be a misnomer to say that certain honorable members represent the growers - that their condition is a very parlous one. It is more than likely that unless something definite is done, this industry, to which we have contributed so much-
– I have heard this tale for the last ten or fifteenyears.
– Perhaps so, but those who come from the sugar-growing districts must know that a good deal of country, which would otherwise have been planted with cane this year, has not been planted. Planting operations have been suspended.
– Mr. Pritchard told them in the Sugar Journal to adopt that course.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has the reports of his own officers to the effect that the sugar-growers find themselves in such a position that it is impossible for them to go on planting. I can only enter my protest against what has been done unless this Parliament is prepared to go further and render, in the meantime, some assistance to the growers. The Prime Minister expressed the opinion last night that it was not reasonable that the superstructure, which we had built up by the operation of the Excise and bounty, should last for ever. The time had come, he said, when we must consider its total abolition. In speaking to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat, when the Sugar Bounty Bill was before us a week or two ago, the right honorable gentleman said that the time was not yet ripe for the abolition of the bounty and Excise. I am strongly of opinion that it is, and that they should be immediately abolished. In advancing reasons why we should not immediately adopt that course, the Prime Minister said last night that we ought to be in a position, first of all, to insure that the industry would still remain white. I strongly hold that view. Having brought the industry into a condition where it is practically controlled by white labour, we should maintain it in that state. But the Prime Minister went on to give as the second reason why he had always advocated this superstructure, as he called it, that, by the operation of the bounty and Excise, the growers received their money, so to speak, in two parts - one part from the Government, and the other from the manufacturers of sugar - with the result that in that way they got more in the aggregate than they would otherwise do. If the Prime Minister holds that view, he is more sanguine than I am. I have heard the honorable member for Capricornia express the same opinion.
– I have lived amongst the cane-growers ; I know them well, and I represent more of them, than the honorable member does.
– I represent something like 900 growers. I have lived for a long time in close proximity to a number of them, and have heard this question discussed by many of them on various occasions. Whilst I know there is a small proportion of the growers who hold the view expressed by the Prime Minister, I do not think that it is the view of. the majority.
– Why not admit that it is not economically sound, but’ that practically it is. The growers never got the same amount before.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– It is a matter of fact.
– The mill owners state emphatically that they deduct from the price that they would otherwise pay for the cane the whole amount that the Government take from them by way of Excise.
– Why do the Colonial Sugar Refining Company pass on the Excise. Do they charge for it twice? What an absurdity.
– No. They have never charged for it twice, and the honorable member must know that, if he has given any thought to the matter. The Colonial
Sugar Refining Company and the other manufacturers of raw sugar - the cooperative as ‘ well as the other millers - state that they do deduct from the price paid to the growers for their cane the amount which they have to pay by way of Excise.
– Where is the evidence of that?
– If the honorable member reads the agreement recently entered into by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company with the growers he will see it set out in black and white-
– With qualifications.
– That on the abolition of the Excise and the bounty they are prepared to add the amount which they now deduct as an additional price on what they are paying the growers to-day.
– But what is the currency of the agreement?
– It is impossible for any company, and it would be impossible even for the Government, if they were conducting the industry, to enter into an agreement to pay a specified price for cane beyond a certain period, because the world’s market for sugar fluctuates sometimes to the extent of £3 and £4. per ton.
– That is another way of saying that you cannot pay away an amount in’ excess of that received for a definite period.
– It is, of course, utterly impossible. The Prime Minister knows the situation just as well as I do.
– Is the honorable member aware that an agreement has been made for ten years?
– Taking the market price as the basis, and arranging for a fluctuating price in accordance with it over the period,- that might be done. We have had ample evidence brought before us of the feeling of the growers of sugar in this matter. They have held meetings and passed resolutions asking this Parliament to abolish bounty and Excise once and for all. The reason for that is that they operate as a tax upon themselves. When the Prime Minister says that the industry must be kept white, I should like to ask whether he or the Attorney-General have seriously considered our power under the Constitution to legislate differentially in regard to the employment of Asiatic labour.
– The honorable member refers to paragraph xxvi. of section 51? The Attorney-General has been considering it.
– I am referring to the power of this Parliament to pass a law to prevent the employment of black labour in growing sugar in New South Wales and Queensland. The honorable member for Angas tells me that he has formed a very strong opinion that we can directly legislate on those lines.
– The honorable member, and the honorable member for Angas, and the country, should know that with a Cabinet of lawyers a previous Government made no use of that power, when it was most essential that they should.
– Our knowledge and experience of the Constitution was not then as extensive as it is to-day. I have no legal knowledge, but I suggest that, in view of the condition in which the sugar industry is to-day, the point I have mentioned should be seriously considered. If we have the power as suggested,. I ask the Prime Minister not to lose a single moment in endeavouring to deal with the^ whole question. We have had to deal with all matters connected with the sugar industry for some considerable time. We should test our power, which, I believe, would be found to be effective, to directly legislate to exclude Asiatics from employment in the sugar industry. There is every reason why we should immediately take steps in that direction, and abolish the Excise and bounty. There is a certain amount of cane being grown by black labour in cases where Asiatics own the land on which the cane is grown. It would no doubt be necessary for this Parliament to take some such step as that contemplated by the Parliament of Queensland, and provide for the compensation of those growers whom we should necessarily deprive of their means of livelihood.
– Is the honorable member aware that there are Asiatic owners who are drawing the bounty?
– Yes, there are.
– Yes, some of them employ white labour, and so draw the bounty.
– That is true; there are one or two such cases, which I had forgotten for the moment-. There are one or two cases in my own district of Asiatics employing white men in the industry and drawing the bounty. The Minister has not by regulation fixed the rates of wages, as we were told by the Prime Minister. He has not the power to fix the rates of wages.
– He has not done so.
– But the Prime Minister said that he had done so.
– I meant to say that it was equivalent to that.
– I have never said that the wages fixed are too high. I had a letter from a large grower in my district, in which he says that he does not object to the rate of wages per se, but that what Parliament has to realize is that the grower is at the present time carrying the whole industry on his back. He says that if that state of affairs is continued, the burden will crush’ him, and if the grower is crushed the industry will be crushed. That is the position, and if we have the power, as I believe, to directly legislate for the exclusion of Asiatics from employment on sugar plantations, we should exercise that power. It would mean the sacrifice of a certain amount of revenue which the sugar-growers are at present providing, and, I have always contended, most unfairly. They should never have been called upon to make this contribution to the Consolidated Revenue, which robs them of the effective Protection on their product to the extent of £1 per ton. The sooner this Parliament realizes the parlous condition of the industry - that cane which would otherwise have been planted this year has not been planted, and that the production next year is likely to be less than the production for this year - the better it will be for Australia and for the sugar-growers.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of an increase in the import duty on sugar?
– That is a matter which, I think, we must leave until the Sugar Commission present their report.
– Why not leave the other matter, also?
– Because, in that respect, we can see for ourselves what is necessary. We have evidence before us of what is taking place in the sugar districts ; if that is not sufficient to enable Parliament to deal with the industry, it ought to be.
I am sorry the Postmaster-General has been absent so much this session. through ill-health, and that, as a consequence, we have not been able’ to deal as fully as we should desire with a number of postal matters. Under the circumstances, I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the perfect state of chaos in the Construction Branch of the Post and Telegraph Department, which has been going from bad to worse for a considerable time. Last session I asked the PostmasterGeneral how many telephone lines in New South Wales were now approved for construction, how many others were under consideration, and how many the Department expected to construct last year. Speaking from memory, the reply given to me was that there were forty-eight telephone lines which the Department expected to construct in the current twelve months, that there were 132 under consideration, and ninety-two actually approved. It must be very evident that if -this state of affairs is permitted to continue, we can never hope to catch up with the demand for telephone lines in country districts; and since that date matters have not improved, but have got steadily worse. A number of the lines which the Department hoped to construct last year are still unconstructed ; that is to say, there are yet 132 under consideration, most of which, I suppose, have been approved since, and there are still ninety-two approved, while the forty-eight have not been constructed.
– If the honorable member is here ten years hence he will find the same thing - that is my experience.
– That may have been the experience of the honorable member, but is such a state of things creditable to the Department or to Parliament? What can the system of management be that allows this branch year after year to drift more and more into chaos? Last session this Parliament . granted to this Department a sum of money that was simply staggering, and, in common with a number of other honorable members, I hoped that there would be some reasonable expedition in the provision of telephone lines. I may here say that, so far as the actual consideration and approval of applications go, I have nothing to complain of. The Department is always willing to consider any fair proposition on its merits, and to approve of lines ; but of what possible use is that to the settlers who are struggling to get those connexions? A great deal of trouble might be obviated if there were anything like ordinary common-sense business methods adopted. There are some seven lines approved in my electorate, some of them in the time of my predecessor, Sir Thomas Ewing, and’ others since I have had the honour to represent the constituency. I hoped sincerely that every one of these lines would be constructed during the present year at least - and I think that such an expectation is only reasonable after the lapse of three years. I have here a report forwarded to me by the Electrical Engineer, Mr. Hesketh, from the Electrical Engineer in Sydney, and in this it is shown that these lines are MurwillumbahCrystal Creek, Kyogle-Ettrick, TabulamTenterfield, Mallanganee-Bonalbo, CasinoCoombell, Acacia Creek-Legume, and MurwillumbahTweed Heads. The report states that the material for the first four lines was called for in February last, and is expected to be soon available - the report does not say when. Then we are told that the material for the other lines is included in the schedule for which tenders closed on the nth September, and as this is not expected to be available until January next, “ all the preliminary action will be taken so that everything may be in readiness for the work to be proceeded with when the material comes to hand.” Is it not fair and reasonable to expect, when Parliament votes huge sums of money for the benefit of the people of Australia, and particularly the people in the country districts, that the Department should lay in a sufficient stock of materials to be able to carry on the works expeditiously, and not rely on a hand-to-mouth policy? What sense is there in ordering material in little dribs and drabs?
– Better manufacture it here.
– The time will, no doubt, come when a great deal of the material will be manufactured here. But I am given to understand by responsible officers that there are only some five or six manufacturers, or, at any rate, only a very limited number, who turn out this particular class of wire, and, further, that owing to the regulations framed by the Government for the guidance of the Department, the officers are hampered in the calling for tenders. It is said that if the officers were given a freer hand a great deal of the difficulty would disappear. I do not know whether that is so; I am simply stating what I have been told.
– If the officers had a freer hand in what ?
– In getting supplies.
– Who stops them?
– I do not know. But from what I am told, there appears to be something inherently wrong in the system.
– Last night I was preceding to deal with one or two matters to which I thought it desirable to direct the attention of the Committee when, unfortunately, through the operation of the new “gag”’ in our Standing Orders-
– I forgot that honorable members opposite were not familiar with the term. For their enlightenment, I may add that I was referring to the new standing order which imposes a time limitation upon speeches. As a result of its. operation, I had to eliminate some remarks which I desired to make last evening. In the first place, I proposed to make a few observations in respect of the Northern Territory. The more I reflect upon the matter the more I am convinced that in that Territory we have a big white elephant, and that the want of a policy on the part of the Government in regard to it is not calculated to inspire confidence in the ability of the party now in power to solve the problem of development. The figures relating to the expenditure to which we are committed in the Territory are assuming alarming proportions. During the years of administration of it by the Fisher Government we have incurred a dead loss of ,£618,408, which is made up as follows : - Interest on loans for the year 1910-11, ,£13,977, for 1911-12, £159,662, and estimated interest for the current year, £131,500, making a total under this heading of £305,139. To this sum must be added contributions to the sinking fund under the South Australian Act. The figures in this connexion are as follows: - For the year 1910-11, £4,600; for 1911-12, £^8,869; estimated contribution for the current year, £8,600, making a total under this heading of £22,069. I think that we ought to have a quorum present. (Quorum formed.) These figures make a total of £327,208. To them must be added the resumption of Treasury ,Bills under the South Australian Act of 1904, in connexion with .which the sum of £273,700 has been paid, and £17,500 by way of interest on account current for the year 1910-11. These amounts make up the total to which I referred at the beginning of my remarks, namely, £618,408. That is the amount of dead loss which we have sustained on three years’ administration. I come now to the question of expenditure. That has amounted during the period I have outlined to £848,431, and is made up as follows : - For the year 1910-11, £325,730; for 1911-12, £248,316; whilst for the current year the estimate is £274,385. Deducting such items as interest on loans, contributions to sinking fund, &c, there still re- . mains an expenditure of £238,000, for which we can show practically nothing. What can be shown in the way of the development of the Territory since it was taken” over by the Commonwealth ? Certainly, we have agreed to a Bill authorizing the survey of a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine River - a railway which will lead to nowhere when it is completed. It will open up no lands for settlement, it will tap no industrial centre, and will serve no useful purpose whatever. It will not give access to cultivable lands, and, even if it did, there is no population to take up such lands. There is nothing in the Government policy which suggests that they have any serious intention of attempting to people this great empty space. Yet one of the main reasons for its transfer to the Commonwealth was that the South Australian Government were unable to finance it, that that State had sunk huge sums of money in an endeavour to deal with it, and was saddled with a heavy annual loss upon it, apart from the large capital expenditure which, it had incurred, and which, in addition to the annual loss on the administration of the Territory, had to be shouldered by the Commonwealth. On these grounds it was urged that it was imperative in the interests of Australia for the Commonwealth to take over the Territory, the Commonwealth alone being in a position to deal with it adequately and promptly. One of the main arguments advanced was that whilst the Territory remained in its then condition it was a constant menace to the safety of Australia, and offered a constant invitation to the landhungry hordes of Asiatics who were our close neighbours in those seas. It was urged that we could not expect to hold it unless the Commonwealth took it over, and started an effective developmental and settlement policy. What has become of that policy ? We have heard nothing in the House of it. So far as we can see, no provision is made for it in anything that has been put before the House, either in the Estimates or the Budget. The place only serves at present, apparently, for the creation of billets, and as a happy hunting ground for a number of people, chiefly defeated Labour candidates and other hangers-on to the party in power. We are gradually getting ,a small army of civil servants up there, who do not appear to be doing anything very special. From all I can learn, the actual work is being done, not by the higher officials, but very > largely by the constabulary and others in subordinate positions, who were already there. Let us examine how a great deal of the expenditure is allotted. Going through various subdivisions, I find that very little, if any, is left for developmental purposes. Salaries, contingencies, and expenses of administration absorb a great deal.
– Order ! The Bill is not yet before the Committee.
– I desired only to point to the character of the expenditure, and not to go into details. So far as I can find, no expenditure is for developmental purposes, but a large amount of the money is involved in various official Departments. About 117 officials have been appointed up there, with probably many more to follow, and what their duties are nobody seems exactly to know; but that their salaries are very high for the work they are doing seems very evident from a glance at the various amounts that make up the totals. It seems to me that this is a haphazard and useless method of procedure. We seem to have in the Territory an army of officials who are really doing no practical good. All the expenditure on the place seems to be for their benefit for the time being, and the only thing that may be regarded by some honorable members as an item in a developmental policy is the establishment of a Socialistic steam laundry, also solely for the benefit of officials. It seems ludicrous that that should be the only tangible thing on which we can lay our hands, unless we refer to one or two embryonic experimental farms or matters of that kind, which do not seem likely to give any good results.
– Is not the whole scheme Socialistic up to the present stage?
– Yes, so far as I can see, it is only a place for officials - people drawing very fair salaries from the Commonwealth Government in a little State community, which has nothing particular to do, but is costing the country a huge sum. It would be much cheaper, so far as the country is concerned, if all those officials were pensioned off, The Government are only fooling with the question, and have not yet informed the House whether they have in their minds any schemes for the development of this important portion of Australia. We are still exposed to the same “risks of invasion from our Asiatic neighbours, which were alleged to be so serious when the Commonwealth was urged to take the Territory over. The want of population there is just as serious a menace to-day as it was then. The whole thing seems to show that the Government have not the capacity for proper organization, or for formulating any developmental scheme for the population and settlement of the country. What steps, for instance, have been taken, in all that large expenditure that we have incurred annually during the last three years for advertising Australia, to make known that there is such a place as the Northern Territory, and that we want settlers for it? We are spending large sums of money in advertising the resources of Australia with the declared object of attracting settlers. I have -not seen, in any of the advertisements, any special reference to this great Territory, or the advantages that it offers as virgin country for the settlement of a rural population, and even of an urban population to supply their wants. No mention seems to have been made of the special advantages which it is supposed to offer to prospective settlers. I have previously made a suggestion - and make it again now, especially to this Government, seeing that they have a declared policy of Socialism - that the Territory offers an unlimited field for the demonstration of what a Socialistic community can really achieve. Here we have a huge empty continent, as large as several countries in Europe put together, There are something like 6,000,000 Socialists in the world. Seeing that at the last Labour Conference it was accepted as a fact that the Labour party was a Socialistic party - that Mr. Watson mentioned the matter, and it was carried without a dissentient voice as far ‘as I can learn, that they believed in the principles of Socialism - here is a fine opportunity for them.
– The honorable member has been arguing that the Northern Territory is a Socialistic affair already.
– It is true that there are 117 officials there, but there are 6,000,000 Socialists yet to be satisfied. Here is the opportunity for which they have been hungering. They want a land where they will be untrammelled by the ordinary conditions of civilization, where Socialistic Governments have not got ahead of them, and made laws especially in favour of the capitalists, as they say. Here they can have a virgin country. Land can be taken up, not by the acre, but by the square mile. There are 6,000,000 Socialists hungering for such an opportunity, and here is a hungry land waiting for them to come and develop it. No’ one need interfere with them. The Commonwealth Government can make a separate State of the Northern Territory, and leave the Socialists to make their own laws from A to Z so that there may be none of those inconveniences of civilization which the Socialists look upon as barriers to the success of their cause. They can have a great divide there. Each man can produce for his own needs. The whole production can be distributed in the interests of the whole community, not for profit, but for the equal benefit of every member of it. Here is an opportunity to show to the rest of the world what a Socialistic settlement can achieve. I ask the Prime Minister and the party sitting behind him why they do not take advantage of the chance now afforded in this Territory which they say is so magnificent?
– Why do not the Government go there themselves?
– Why do they not, indeed? Why, for instance, does not the honorable member for Capricornia go there? Why do not the Government make him Governor-General of the Northern Territory? They could commission him to formulate a scheme, and carry it out. There they could have their caucuses, and their collective meetings, and everything could be done according to the true Socialistic principle, with every man a captain of industry, and the equal of the Governor-General in all things. Why bother any longer about the capitalistic centres, such as Melbourne and Sydney, in which all the old capitalistic barriers exist to mar the progress of their beautiful ideals ? Why fight for them in those places where capitalism is so deeply rooted, when they have before them this magnificent opening untramelled by any of the limitations which the bloated capitalist places in the way of the realization of Socialistic principles ? My suggestion is a serious one. I lay it before the Prime Minister for his considera tion, but he does not seem to take the slightest interest in it. If I were as enthusiastic a Socialist as some of my honorable friends opposite are - the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs, for instance - I should be only too glad to get possession of this Territory, where I might put my schemes into operation. But my experience of our Socialistic friends shows me that they always want “ the other fellow “ to do the pioneering and developmental work. They only want to share after he has made a success of things. They do not want to bear the heat and brunt of the troubles of the early pioneer. They want to come in when the capitalist has preceded them.
– The honorable member was a member of this party once.
– Not when it was a Socialistic party ; but when it was an individualistic and free party. That was in 1901-3. It must be remembered that the late leader of the Labour party, Mr. Watson, on the floor of this House, was very particular to point out that the party did not become Socialistic until the year 1907. I was one of the originators of the Labour party in Australia. I was one of the conveners of the first meeting called for the purpose of forming a Labour party, though we did not call it a Labour party then.
– Does not the honorable member wish that he had “ never seen the ducks “ ?
– The party does not now bear the -slightest resemblance i.o what it was formerly. Our ideal then was freedom.
– What is the ideal of the party now ?
– I do not know that they have any definite ideals now, but their practical methods are restriction, slavery, coercion, intimidation, thevery antithesis of its original ideals. I suppose that is one of the reasons why they are not game to tackle the development of the Northern Territory on Socialistic doctrines. They believe those doctrines to be all very well in theory, and very good things to talk about from the public platforms, especially from the safe vantage point of the snug positions which many of them now enjoy. It is a sure winning card in the majority of cases to appeal to the self-interest and cupidity of those who have nothing else to appeal to. It is very pleasant to those who dream of enjoying wealth without earning it to hear them talk about the great Utopia which is to be developed under Socialism. And some of our friends do very well for themselves by their advocacy of their Socialistic principles without attempting to carry them out in practice. Some of them have come to recognise, notwithstanding all their diatribes against the bloated capitalist, and all their humbugging talk- about the tyranny of capital, that it is a good thing to obtain possession of a little capital on their own account. At any rate, as far as I can learn, some of them are trying to accumulate as much personal capital as they can, and some of the wealthiest men in this House are to be found among the Labour members. They find that they cannot carry on without capital any of the enterprises in which they find it personally profitable to engage. Consequently we find them striving to become capitalists themselves, while denouncing capitalists as the enemies of Labour. Such inconsistency would scarcely be believable, if we had not the evidence before us. .They are gradually learning the lesson that great achievements and developments are impossible without, capital, unless they resort to the most primitive methods of production. But they still continue to denounce capitalists as robbers. They find that if they only tickle the land with a bit of stick the stick is capital, and that they cannot cultivate without capital unless they are prepared to use their fingers - and I do not suppose that they are ready to resort to such primitive methods. I offer the suggestion to the Prime Minister in all seriousness. Here is his opportunity to invite the 6,000,000 Socialists of the world to leave the capitalistic countries in which they live, and go to the great Utopia provided for them in the Northern Territory. They can develop it, and show to the world what can be done as the result of Socialistic effort and combination. There will also be this advantage, that those countries which have not accepted the Socialistic doctrines, and which do not believe in the Socialistic ideals - those countries that still believe that every man has a right to accumulate as much wealth as he can as long as he concedes equal rights to other people to do the same thing - will be able to get rid of their Socialists, and be glad to see them doing well under the conditions in which they profess to believe. The ordinary flow of industry ‘ and capital can then proceed ir» its uninterrupted course as it has “done for centuries, and people can go ahead on individualistic lines, on those lines of freedom which we have been taught by theory and experience to believe are those upon which true progress is to be achieved.
– - I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the question of the Royal Commission which is dealing with the trade of the Empire. He is aware that at the last Imperial Conference it was resolved -
That His Majesty should be approached with a view to the appointment of a Royal Commission representing the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Newfoundland, with a view of investigating and reporting upon the natural resources of each part of the Empire represented at this Conference, the development attained and attainable, and the facilities for the production, manufacture, and distribution; the trade of each part with the other, and with the outside world, the food and raw material requirements of each, and the sources thereof available. To what extent, if any, the trade between each of the different parts has been affected by existing legislation in each, either beneficially or otherwise.
Honorable members know that the Royal Commission has been constituted, and that an Australian representative has been appointed. I urge on the Prime Minister the advisability of doing beforehand all that can be done to facilitate the work of the Commission.
– We have done that; we have appointed the Government Statistician to act for us. and have given him special assistance.
– The Government Statistician will be able to prepare a great deal of statistical information, but I think that more information than he can get will be needed Some years ago the United States appointed a Commission to inquire into the conservation of its. natural resources. That Commission represented both the Federal and State authorities. If the Prime Minister can get- into touch with our State authorities it will be a great help.
– The Commonwealth Statistician will do that.
– In the United States the Conference initiated by . President Roosevelt resolved -
That a joint committee be appointed by the chairman, to consist of six members of State Conservation Commissioners and three members of the National Conservation Commission, whose duty it shall be to prepare and present to the State and National Commissions, and through them to the Governors and the President, a plan for united action by all organizations concerned with the conservation of natural resources.
This resolution was also agreed to -
We also especially urge on ‘ the Congress of the United States the high desirability of maintaining a National Commission’ on the conservation of the resources of the country, empowered to co-operate with State commissions to the end that every sovereign Commonwealth and every section of the country may attain the high degree of prosperity and the sureness of perpetuity naturally arising in the abundant resources, and the vigor, intelligence, and patriotism of our people
– There is a little “high falutin “ in that.
– In our Library there is an inventory of the natural resources of the United States, that country being the first in the history of the world to make such an inventory. Canada followed in the wake of the United States, and under a Statute assented to on the 9th May, 1909, provided for a special Commission, consisting of twenty members appointed by the Governor-General in Council, the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Mines, and the member of each provincial Government charged with the administration of the resources of the provinces being ex officio members. The Conservation of Natural Resources Act, Canada, provides that -
It shall he the duty of the Commission to take into consideration all questions which may be brought to its notice relating to the conservation and better utilization of the natural resources of Canada, to make such inventories, collect and disseminate such information, conduct such investigations inside and outside of Canada, and frame such recommendations as seem conducive to -the accomplishment of that end.
The Canadian Statistician alone would not have been able to get the information which this Commission has been constituted to get. The President of the United States communicated with the Imperial authorities, suggesting that the various nations of the world should make inventories of their respective resources,- and, send representatives to an International Conference. It was pointed out that in many countries important resources upon which the existence of the race depends are becoming exhausted ; for ‘instance, that in the United States, unless stringent action is taken, the supply of timber will cease within a very short time.
– So will our supply.
– The waste of timber in Australia is criminal.
– That is one of the important matters that must’ be looked into. It was also reported that the supplies of iron are being depleted rapidly.
– I doubt that.
– The official report states that-
Our mineral resources are limited in quantity and cannot be increased or reproduced. With the rapidly-increasing rate of consumption the supply will be exhausted while yet thenation is in its infancy unless better methods are devised or substitutes are found. Further investigation is urgently needed in order to improve methods and to develop and apply substitutes.
Reference is also made to the depletion of coal supplies. The matter was brought under the notice of the Commonwealth Government of which I was a member, and with a desire to assist the Imperial Government, and to secure the proper representation of Australia, we approached the States, but their reply, I am sorry to say, was not sympathetic. Still, that is not a reason for declining to consult them now.
– Quite right. We should appeal to them whenever we think we can get a reply.
– Representatives from all parts of the Empire are to visit Australia to investigate the natural resources of the continent. My hope is that our resources will be truly and fully made known.
– I think that they will be.
– My reading convinces me that that cannot be done in a short time. It is most important to us that the Empire should be made aware of our resources. The obtaining and publishing of information about them will lead to their realization by Australians, and to our understanding of the seriousness of wasting them, and in this way a policy may be developed for their conservation, preservation, and proper utilization. I presume that the Commission will take evidence.
– Oh, yes !
– One Commissioner sitting across the sea cannot be expected to do everything. He has to consider, not only the Australian problem, but also the Dominion aspect of the problem, and, further, the international aspects of the Empire elsewhere. If I judge the nature of the duties aright, I believe that our own representatives will be keenly alive to the Australian position, and that a great deal of his time will be so taken up.
– He is a native of this country, and a member of your own profession.
– Quite so; and, judging from that, I fear that a great deal of his time will be so taken up in dealing with the wider aspects that, unless some strong action be taken in Australia to supplement his efforts, so that, as far as possible, on this side of the continent, everything that can be done will be done to present the necessary evidence before the Commission, we shall not get the best results.
– We have anticipated what you refer to by getting all the information from the States and everywhere else.
– From the State Statisticians, I understood the right honorable gentleman to say.
– No, all State documents of that kind regarding the resources of Australia.
– I am glad that the right honorable gentleman has made that statement.
– We are getting every kind of information tabulated and ready, which will give the Commission a guide.
– I ask the right honorable gentleman not to merely depend upon State documents and tables which are already in existence, but to represent strongly to the States the nature of the Commission and its importance to Australia as a whole, and suggest that special attention be directed by them to the different resources which they possess. I shall cite a case in point. When the Iron Bounty Commission was appointed, at the instance of this House, to inquire into the coal and iron resources of Australia, we experienced the greatest difficulty in getting complete and detailed information. We considered some reports and departmental papers, but when we came to investigate our problem we found that that information was inadequate. We found it necessary to go to the individual States and get special documents prepared by the various officers concerned, in order that we might be able to truly realize what the resources of the States were. I believe that when the present Commission’s report on the resources of Australia is presented it will call forth the same admission as was evoked by the publication of the report of the Iron Bounty Commission. Persons outside Australia admitted that they had not the slightest conception of the .enormous deposits of iron ore, or the magnificent deposits of coal that we had in Australia until the facts were tabulated and presented in a consolidated form, by the Commission which sat under the presidency of the late Mr. Kingston
– I think that we have more information than the public know of ; that is the whole point. The value of the Commission will be that it will advertise what is already known to us.
– What I wish to make sure of is that we shall get our full resources properly tabulated. If one asks where he can see a tabulation of the timber resources of Australia, what answer does he get ? The difficulty of getting even that information adequately and properly tabulated is well known.
– There is a very fine report on the timbers of Western Australia. Mr. GROOM.- Yes, on the timbers of one State.
– It covers the whole of the States in a way.
– In a way it does.
– And we have no power to do that.
– It is, as I said, a case for general co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. If they do not assist the Prime Minister in this respect, they will do a wrong not only to Australia,, but to their own people.
– We will ask them; we have already done that.
– I hope that this can be done, and if it is done I think that it will greatly facilitate the work of the Commission, and help it to realize the great ideals, which it has set before us. The Prime Minister is to be congratulated upon the part which he played at the Imperial Conference in connexion with the appointment of the Commission, and the only desire on this side now is to do all that we can to assist him in making it a thoroughly efficient body.
.- Considerable time has been taken in rediscussing the past, the present, and the future of the sugar industry. The Opposition have failed to throw the slightest light, or to evolve any new ideas, on the subject, while, on the other hand, they have repeated and reiterated their former arguments and betrayed an amount of ignorance of the matter which is regrettable, or an amount of political jaundice which is still more regrettable. The position is very clear and distinct to those who are anxious to know the facts. While I have no wish to repeat what I have previously stated, I think it is necessary to point out briefly what appears to me to be the actual position of affairs. Over twelve months ago there was a strike, or a lock-out, amongst the sugar-workers. A year’s notice was then given to the growers that agreements would be required to be entered into for the present season. Wherever agreements have been arrived at between the workers and the growers in regard to the rates of wages, there has been no difficulty, and the regulation which the Minister has promulgated has not, as honorable members opposite admit, settled what the rates of wages are to be, but has simply imposed upon the growers of sugar cane a certain liability, which incidentally deals with the rates of wages. The point I want to get at is that as soon as the sugargrowers are prepared to come to agreements with their workers as to the rates of wages in their districts, as soon as they can secure an award from any industrial authority in the district; the regulation of the Minister will automatically cease to operate.
– What is the misrepresentation of which you complain?
– I shall come to that soon. What is aimed at is that whatever may be considered, rightly or wrongly, fair and reasonable in a district shall operate in regard to this industry. I am not one of those who take a light view of the importance of the sugar industry. Only those who have not visited Queensland or studied the importance of this industry can lightly waive it aside. At the same time, it must be said in regard to not only the sugar industry, but any other industry, that the rates of wages to the employes must be the basis of any consideration as to the right of the industry to exist. What the industry may be able to afford is not by any means the first consideration. Every industry in Australia, we contend, must be established on such a basis as to be able to pay every employ^, whoever and whatever he may be, a sufficient and reasonable remuneration for his services. No honorable member on the other side contends that the rates of wages in the sugar industry are too high. No one has yet stated that the growers themselves object to the rates of wages, and yet the growers are complaining of the regulation, and asking for some relief which, as far as I can see, can only result, not in the present rates being main- tained, but in relief being secured for the workers, whereas my contention is that if the growers were to make common cause with the workers, and secure from those who are reaping the fruits of the industry in an unequal degree, something like a reasonable basis would be found.
– The honorable member assumes that that is so.
– I do not think that any honorable member of the Opposition has yet suggested that that is not so. It is a matter of common acceptance that the industry is quite capable, even at the present time, of paying a much higher remuneration to the sugar-growers and the sugar-workers. Whilst in Brisbane last week I was asked how the growers could protect themselves - how they could secure to themselves a sufficient margin to enable them to pay increased wages. The wages are not too high, yet the growers are unable to pay them. That I frankly admit. I am quite ready to recognise that the return which the growers are receiving for their cane at the present time is not sufficient either to reasonably compensate them for their work or to enable them to pay increased wages to the workers. Then what are they, to do ? In my opinion they should do exactly what the workers do. The sugar- workers say, “ We demand a certain price for our labour ; we insist that we shall obtain a certain return for our exertion, and unless we get’ it you cannot have our labour.” If the sugar-growers had the courage to adopt the same attitude to those for whom they work, and to say to them, “ Unless you give us a fair price for our cane - a price that will enable us to live in reasonable comfort, and pay fair wages - you cannot have our cane,” they would overcome the difficulty. I should like to see the sugar-growers go on strike, and join forces with the workers to devise a means by which the profits could be more reasonably distributed.
– They have gone on strike ; they are not planting.
– They have not gone on strike. But they are trying to create an artificial difficulty by locking out the workers. If they think that they are going to settle this question in that way, they are making a great mistake. If they think that by ruining themselves they are going to ruin the workers, let them -make the experiment. But what is needed, in the interests of both the growers and the workers, is that they should combine against those who are above them, and whom I style the “ crushers “ - a name that is applicable not only to their methods of milling, but to their treatment of those with whom they deal. If they combined against the millers and the refiners, the trouble would be solved without difficulty. The position in regard to the bounty and Excise is also, to my mind, very clear. The Prime Minister has stated the policy, of the Government : that the Excise and bounty, being an artificial superstructure, and designed to be only a temporary expedient, might well be abolished under certain conditions. Honorable members opposite seem to try to throw upon the Government the option of accepting or disregarding the very condition which, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, is the one essential to the abolition of the Excise and bounty. They must realize, however, that the Government and their supporters are naturally somewhat sensitive with regard to that very condition. We cannot overlook the fact that whilst Mr. Denham’, on behalf of the Queensland Government, has expressed his intention to introduce a Bill to prohibit coloured labour in this industry, we have been misled so often by specious promises of reform in this regard that we may be naturally credited with the exercise of reasonable care if we say, in reply, “ Make your move, and then we shall act.”
– Surely the Government can accept the promise in good faith in a matter of this kind.
– I am not willing to take the word of any man in this regard, unless it is absolutely supported by action.
– They are willing to trust the Prime Minister ; surely honorable members opposite can trust Mr. Denham.
-The honorable member overlooks the fact that this is a case of “ black to move and white to win.” Until the black is moved out of the industry, I am not prepared to sanction any proposal that would remove the only barrier we now have against the introduction of coloured labour.
– There is supreme power in the Federal Parliament to deal with coloured races.
– It is rather remarkable that this power, which we are now told is inherent in the Federal Parliament, has only just been discovered, although previous Federal Cabinets have included such eminent lawyers as the honorable member, as well as the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Angas.
– And also the late Mr. C. C. Kingston, as well as Mr. Justice Barton and Mr. Justice Isaacs.
– Quite so; and yet the Opposition have only just discovered that the Federal Parliament has the power to prohibit coloured labour. Mr. Denham evidently does not think we have the power, because he has promised’ to bring in a Bill to prohibit black labour in the industry.
– Why not accept that promise?
– If we brought in such a Bill, honorable members opposite would unanimously declare that it was unconstitutional.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. Any excuse, apparently, rather than relieve the industry.
– The remedy is very simple. If the Government in Queensland brought in a Bill to prohibit the employment of coloured labour in the industry, fits constitutionality could not be questioned. If such a Bill were passed, then from what I have heard of the Prime Minister’s own views in the matter, and I believe that he speaks for the party behind him in this particular, the barriers which we now have in existence, and which have served their purpose, will be quickly removed.
– Will the Prime Minister, on behalf of his party, give us that assurance in the House?
– The Prime Minister has already, in an official communication made through the Treasurer of Queensland, advised the Queensland Government of his attitude, and Mr. Denham has stated what he intends to do. I wish to show that the care with which we are moving in regard to this question of coloured labour is fully justified. The coloured labour party in Australia is by no means dead, although we hear honorable members opposite declaring emphatically that they are in favour of a White Australia.
– The honorable member knows very well that the people of Australia are in favour of the White Australia policy.
– I know as a fact that the black labour party is not yet dead in Australia.
– It is very much alive.
– It is, and I shall make no attempt to hide that fact at the next election.
– The honorable member will only hide what does not suit him.
– The Opposition are getting angry.
– They do not like to be identified with the black labour party.
– We do not like calumny.
– Honorable mem.bers opposite may be quite enthusiastic in their support of the White Australia policy, but they are associated with people and linked up with companies and combinations whose whole interest it is to “ down “ that policy, and to re-introduce coloured labour when they get a chance.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I am not, and I have proof of my statement. During the last few days honorable members have received copies of the Papuan Times, and I have here its issue of nth September last the leading article in which is entitled, “ Will Australia deny us the franchise?” From that article I desire to make two quotations. The first is -
If the Mother of Parliaments, with an unexampled and world-wide experience of Colonial Governments, finds it a wise and just policy to confer the franchise on the Spanish-Carib halfbreeds and negroes of the West Indies and on the mixed Eurasian populations of Cyprus and Malta, it is impossible to believe that the Labour Ministry of the Commonwealth will any longer deprive us of our citizenship in spite of the influential opposition of our Lieutenant-Governor. . . . We claim that we are law-abiding Australians engaged in developing Australian territory, and Commonwealth legislators cannot legitimately deny us all political rights and citizenship.
We cannot, and do not, believe that the Australian Parliament will any longer refuse us these civic rights that we would have undoubtedly obtained if we had remained a Crown Colony.
We therefore confidently appeal to our fellow Australians to grant us this simple act of justice and remove from us the shame and the stigma of being classed along with the natives of Papua as a subject race.
– What is wrong with that?
– That is all right, and the Prime Minister stated yesterday, in reply to the honorable member for Herbert, that the Government are in favour of giving the white residents of Papua a share in the Government of their own Territory.
– As soon as practicable.
– We are all agreed as to that.
– We are. We all accept loyally the principle of no taxation without representation. But danger creeps in, in connexion not only with the sugar industry, but with all means adopted for the development of Australian tropical regions, and we must be very careful about the course we pursue. In this very same newspaper there is an article headed “ A Few Pertinent Questions,” in which the statement is made -
Are we going to let Papua slip under our feet and remain apathetic witnesses of the weakkneed policy of the misguided few who, having been given power, use it to make it subservient to the native race?
Are we going to knuckle under the everincreasing impudence of the Papuan, always fostered by a Government whose aim is to govern this country primarily in his interests? ….
Are we going to carry all the burden, pay all the taxes, be insulted by him, and die in harness while he sits and grows fat, or are we going to make him work and carry his portion of the burden? ….
Why should we work like the devil while he lolls about planning a hunt or a dance? What has he done, or what is he doing, to entitle him to such ease? What have we done to be condemned to pain and toil? Are we suffering from senile decay and infantile paralysis?
We are numerous enough to make our voice heard now if we only pull together and organise to make the few in power see things as we see them. As the local governing machine appears to have lost all sense of equity, let us band together and appeal to the Australian Government. Let us all sign a monster petition asking that the native be taxed to use his land or forfeit it, as in our case. This will be the first step towards equality. A good many more steps will have to be taken before Papua becomes a land of British justice.
What is behind all that? The introduction of coloured labour into Papua to compel the natives to work, whether they will or not, at a rate of wages that is simply a disgrace to any company employing even a native population.
– How can the honorable member charge an Australian party with’ that?
– Very easily. We as a Commonwealth are charged with the proper development of that country, and I am glad to say that our first business there is recognised by the writer of this article. We have primarily to consider the interests of the native.
– We are all agreed as to that ; that has been the policy of every Government.
– Only a few months ago the same party in Papua, who declared that sugar and tropical productions could not be grown successfully without black labour in the northern portions of Australia, wanted to introduce Javanese into Papua, a proposal diametrically opposed to the best interests of the Papuans. I make a quotation here from an issue of the Papuan Times of June last year, which was put into the hands of the Parliamentary party on the day we landed in Papua. I do not know whether what I propose to read was inspired for the occasion, but here is a little piece of poetry which appeared in that issue -
Haul up the white man’s standard, fall in the little band
Of plucky Europeans who suffer in this land. We can’t be taxed for Papuans, who neither toil nor spin;
The Papuans can’t be “lilies,” or be preserved in tin.
The fittest must “ gang forward,” the weakest lag behind,
Despite the ranting bigots and people of that kind.
The coloured races ere this have for the white made room,
And so it ever must be until the crack of doom.
If ever there was an admission of the intention of those planters who are now operating in Papua, as a class - because some individuals there are above this kind of thing - to interfere with the native population, to deal with them harshly, and, if necessary for the accomplishment of their purpose, to introduce other alien races, it is found in the lines -
The coloured races ere this have for the white made room,
And so it ever must be until the crack of doom.
If there was one thing of which I was proud in connexion with the administration of Papua by the present Minister of External Affairs, it was his refusal to permit the introduction of Javanese into Papua. The proposal made would have been only the thin end of the wedge, and, -if agreed to, would have led to such an introduction of an alien population as would have been absolutely disastrous, even to the native population of the Territory. In the issue of 25th September, the Papuan Times goes a step further. There is an article in that issue on the introduction of aliens. It is peculiar that the writer should have used the nom de plume of “ Don Quixote,” because in this case, I think, he will find that he is tilting at windmills. He writes -
For my own part, I would prefer that the requisite coloured labour should be obtained from among our fellow subjects in India, but failing, this it could easily be obtained from Java, a small island with upwards of 33,000,000 of people. . . . Sooner or later it must be done here as this territory advances. We havevast areas awaiting the pioneer, and when thetime comes for him to go forth, the labourermust be available to supply all that is necessary- for cultivation and development……
It is acknowledged on all sides that our labour conditions are anything but satisfactory. Restrictions, cares, pamperings, &c, in connexion* with the natives are quite abnormal, and what the ultimate issue will be under the present regime remains to be seen. Even now if we had two or three good seasons there would be a dearth of labour. There are two courses open - (1) The hut tax, which practically would compel the native to leave his paradisiacal slough, or, in theevent of our legislative philanthropists declining such a course of hardships (2) the introduction of races who will carry out all classes of work and open a new day in the annals of Papuan, industries.
These quotations are sufficient to show that there are still people in Australia, and they are by no means few in number or weak ininfluence, who are determined, at all costs, even to the extent of the abandonmentof the White Australia policy, tointroduce coloured labour from southern Asia. The writer of this article suggeststhe introduction of some of the people of Java, 33,000,000 of whom are withina short distance of our northern coast. I know of no greater danger to the advance of Australia, and certainly no gravermenace to the development of our interests, than to allow Javanese, or even Hindoos, toget a footing in any part of Australian territory. If I am any judge of the temper of the Labour party on this question, any Minister of External Affairs, whowould for a moment listen to any suggestion of the kind from the planters of Papua, or from the planters of NorthernAustralia, would have a -very warm time of it in the party, and probably a very hot time in the House. Therefore, when wesee such suggestions coming from responsible authorities, and when we heaT so many repeated requests for the removal of thebarrier of the Excise and bounty,’ which is the only protection we have against theintroduction of coloured labour, honorablemembers must understand that we are not going to take any steps without carefully ascertaining the probable result. In thepast we have had some very serious experiences in connexion with coloured labour. There are whole pages in the history of Australia alone that are not very much toour credit, in regard to our dealings with the native population. I am particularly -anxious that, whatever the control by Australia of Papua may be in regard to the -development of the possession as a country, there shall, at any rate, be one thing said to our credit, namely, that this Parliament never, by any action, vote or suggestion, -did anything that would hinder or obstruct, or be detrimental to the interests of the Papuan. The Papuan must be our first consideration, as, I think, is absolutely admitted by every man. Those who have visited Papua know that’ the Papuan is teachable, adaptable, clever, and reasonable if he is treated well, and there is no need for the introduction of any other coloured labour into a country that is capable of producing many of the tropical plants now grown in Northern Queensland. When we remember that the Papuan is a mere child -of nature, just emerging from the stone age - that he scarcely knows the meaning or use of a steel tool - and is incapable of understanding our ideas in regard to his control, education, and development, it is necessary to remember the words of Dr. Lawes, than whom none knew better Papua and the Papuan character, when he said that three things were necessary for the development of that country, namely, patience, patience, patience. ‘ ‘ I am quite certain that, if we listen for one moment to those who desire the introduction of cheap labour, or more servile labour, into Papua, we shall be doing to that possession a cruel wrong that will react on us as a nation in the very worst way. I hope honorable members see the connexion between these remarks and the suggestions made in regard to the sugar industry in Queensland. By no action of this Parliament should we make it possible or probable, or even in the least degree to be suspected, that coloured labour will be again introduced to develop the industries of Australia. We “have white men able and willing to do the work. There are hundreds and thousands of people coming into the country who can find nothing to do; and it will take years to profitably absorb those here now. Why there should be this intense desire to bring people here and leave them stranded - to find work, beg or steal as best they may - I am at a loss to understand ; and, under all the circumstances, we ought to exercise the greatest care in dealing with the future of the sugar industry.
– I confess myself quite unable to appreciate the evident feeling of annoyance which the Prime Minister exhibits as member after member rises to address himself to this motion. The right honorable gentleman must know that, when we have granted Supply, we have to a large extent lost control over his actions. It is when we have control of the purse strings that we can most effectively attack him in the interests of the people, and, therefore, I think he stands condemned in the eyes of the Committee for desiring to push through a Supply Bill covering an expenditure of something over ^2,000,000, as he intended to do last night, in the space of three hours. The whole thing is preposterous, and must strike the imagination of honorable members as a dangerous precedent. There are two or three matters of importance to which I desire to refer. I have frequently called attention to the regulation which has been applied to Victoria in regard to charging late letter-fees at railway stations. This does not commend itself to the Department as a matter of urgency ; and yet it is urgent. I have suggested before, and I suggest again, that, if the object of this regulation was to equalize conditions between Victoria and other States, that equalization should have been attained by creating in the other States the conditions that previously prevailed in Victoria. Only this morning I received a letter from Cobram, in my constituency, pointing out the serious inconvenience to which the residents there are subjected bv this regulation; and this case is only typical of that of other towns. This letter asks me to see if anything can be done in the matter, because, owing to the outward mail being made up before the arrival of the inward mail, there is no opportunity to reply to correspondence by return of post. By some attention promptly given the Government could confer considerable advantage on large numbers of people. Unfortunately the Postmaster-General is to-day conspicuous by his absence, as he often is.
– I think the PostmasterGeneral is with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whose absence is equally “conspicuous “ !
– The PostmasterGeneral receives a very big fee to be here to attend to the business of his Department, whereas the Leader of the Opposition is not in such a satisfactory position. The Prime Minister was good enough to make me a promise that he would attend to this matter, but he has not done so yet; and, therefore, I urge on the Minister now leading the House to see that some satisfactory settlement is arrived at in the public interest. Yesterday I raised the question, but the Prime Minister treated it as one not deserving consideration. I asked whether the coming referendum was to be treated purely as a party matter - whether the Prime Minister had confessed to a correspondent of the Argus that that was the attitude of the Government. If ever there was a matter of importance, this . is one. The electors should know whether a big issue which is to be submitted for their decision is submitted by the Government as a party question, or whether it is one which is to be viewed from the stand-point of the interests of the general community.
– If it is a party question, its defeat should be accepted as the defeat of the Government.
– Undoubtedly. The Prime Minister has assented to the proposition of the Argus that it is not a public question, but a party one. By refusing to answer the question which I put to him yesterday, he practically gave his assent to the proposition which was laid down by that journal. Do honorable members perceive how far-reaching is the referendum question? We observe the power which the Minister of Trade and Customs has exercised in regard to the sugar industry. By an edict which he has issued he has arbitrarily fixed the rate of wages to be paid in that industry - a rate which is killing the sugar industry.
– What does the honorable member know about it anyhow?
A lion was once slightly bit by a flea,
It was the flea’s way of saying, “ Take notice of me.”
– Is the honorable member the lion?
– Is the rate of wages to which the honorable member objects too high?
– I am not here to express an opinion upon that question, but the Minister has done something which, under the law, he is not entitled to do.
– I have not.
– The Minister has. The effect of the edict which he has issued has been to stifle the sugar industry, and if the referenda proposals of the Government are carried, he will have power to stifle all other rural industries in the same way. There will be just the shortest possible in terval allowed between the carrying of those proposals and effect being given to the rural workers’ demands. The enormous influence which the granting of these demands would have on the producing industries of Australia simply staggers the imagination. Our wealth is built up by our great producing interests, yet the Government seem determined upon bringing into operation conditions which will make the carrying on of rural industries unprofitable. The honorable member for Brisbane has taken up a most illogical position. He is always infavour of strikes. He was recently amongst the rioters and law-breaking strikers in Brisbane. He is on the side of the lawbreakers every time. He was on the housetops leading them in Brisbane. He is in favour of strikes amongst the workmen who are engaged in the sugar industry, and yet he declares himself in favour of the sugar producers, and anticipated that the sugargrowers would also . go upon strike. It appears that what he commended as the right thing to be done has been done. The growers are not planting sugar cane. The honorable member now says that their action is prompted by a desire to penalize the workmen in the industry. As a matter of fact that is not so. They are not planting sugar cane because the rate of wages and the conditions of employment which have been laid down as applicable to the industry, are such that they cannot comply with them, and consequently they have gone on strike. They say that under such conditions the industry cannot be profitably carried on, and they decline to continue operations solely for the benefit of the workmen.
I come now to another matter which is of importance. Some time ago I moved for the production of a return showing the amounts which have been drawn by Ministers by way of travelling allowances. When that return was presented it contained quite a mass of figures. As will be seen by reference to Hansard of the 19th December, of last year, page 4871, the Prime Minister, in introducing this matter, said -
I wish to intimate to both Houses that the Government think it would be fair for the Prime Minister, while on official visits only, to be allowed 40s. per day, and other Ministers holding portfolios to be allowed 25s. per day when on similar visits.
After a few irrelevancies, the honorable member for Bendigo interjected -
What assurance have we that Ministers might not engage in party business?
To that the Prime Minister replied -
I said on purely official business. If Ministers went on party business, they would, of course, not draw any allowance.
The value of the return produced lies in the fact that it discloses that three Ministers have done the very thing which the Prime Minister said they would not do. It was upon this assurance that the House allowed the proposal to pass. Yet three Ministers have practically taken out of the Treasury a certain sum of money which the House has never consented to them drawing. The Prime Minister has no more interest in the Queensland State elections than has any other citizen of the Commonwealth. He had no official connexion with them whatever. But while the election campaign was in progress,, he visited Queensland. He was in that State from the 9th April to the 29th April. Deducting seven days, which he spent in his own electorate, there were thirteen days during which he was fighting a political battle for his own party in the Queensland State elections. He was fighting on the side of the Queensland Labour party in the election, and, contrary to his declaration and promise to this House, he was drawing his £2 a day while doing so. If I find a man ready to put his hand in my pocket in one way, I am always careful lest he should do it also in another way. The return further discloses that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, was also in Queensland fighting the party battle. He was there for twentythree days, for which he drew every day his 25s. He was giving expression to words that ought never to have been uttered by a responsible Minister of the Crown, and it is a scandal that this money should have been drawn by him. The third Minister who transgressed in this way was the PostmasterGeneral. When the Tasmanian election was on, it became necessary from the point of view of the Government, for Ministers to go there to help the party. The Postmaster-General did so, and gave utterance to words dangerous to the welfare of the community, and especially dangerous coming from a Minister of the Crown. During the time he was doing so, he was drawing his 25s. a day. In spite of the promise of the Prime Minister that if Ministers went on party business they would, of course, not draw any travelling allowance, Ministers did draw the allowance, although they were engaged in party business. There is one other Minister whom I wish to mention. I regret that he also is absent, but none of those to whom I have been referring are in the House to hear me state the facts. As a matter of fact, Ministers are conspicuous by their absence, and ought to be here more frequently than they are to listen to what members of the House have to say. The Minister of .External Affairs was the leader of an expedition that went to the Northern Territory. According to the Prime Minister, the object of the travelling allowance was to cover Ministers’ legitimate travelling expenses.
The Minister of External Affairs was on a trip to the Northern Territory from 8th April to 18th May - forty days. During the whole time he drew his 25s. a day. There was no possibility during that time of his incurring personal travelling expenses. He was on the ship going and coming for a considerable portion of the time, and while in the Territory he was the guest of His Excellency the Administrator,’ Professor Gilruth. The whole of the expenses of members on that trip were paid by the Government. Unless the Minister of External Affairs chose for his own pleasure to put his hand in his pocket and spend money, there was no call for him to spend a single penny to cover his own expenses. They were paid by the Government, and, in those circumstances, a sense of moral responsibility ought to restrain Ministers from taking out of the Treasury money which they have never been called upon to expend, and calling it a reimbursement of travelling expenses. It is an unfair position for any Minister to put himself in. It is unfair to the country, and sets a bad example. Honorable members of this House ought to aim at a high ideal, and set a high and noble example of upright conduct. Whether this is upright conduct or otherwise I leave to the reflection of the Ministers concerned, and trust that in the future, when the Prime Minister, or any other member of the Cabinet, makes a distinct promise, having a direct personal effect upon his pocket, he will in no way violate it, because its violation means a degradation of the high office which these gentlemen hold as Ministers of the Crown.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane a few minutes ago attempted to make some capital out of the White Australia question..
This House, and, in fact, the whole of Australia, decided long ago in favour of a White Australia, and any attempt by any party to revive that cry is simply so much dust being thrown in the eyes of the people.
– Do you believe in coloured labour for the Northern Territorv ?
– I do not believe “in coloured labour for any of our Australian industries, but there are a certain number of coloured people here, and they must necessarily earn a living, particularly in the Territory.
– Would you import coloured labour?
– I do not want to import any coloured people whatever.
– Some of your people do.
– To charge this side of the House, or the sugar-growers of Queensland, with any attempt to introduce coloured labour to carry on the industry, is very unfair. There is no foundation for such an attack, and I could not connect the references of the honorable member for Brisbane to Papua with anything existing in Australia to-day. I am satisfied that the sugar-growers of Queensland are determined to give the White Australia policy a fair trial. It has proved a success up to the present time, and there is no reason why it should not be continued. It was a Liberal Government that brought in the measure in the first instance, and there has been no attempt on the part of any one to introduce coloured labour into the sugar industry since. I very much regret that that important industry is to-day being strangled merely for electioneering purposes, and in an endeavour to keep alive the cry of a White Australia policy, which, as a fact, has never been in danger.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The Labour party must be about bankrupt for election cries, seeing that it is now raising the White Australia bogy. Its insincerity in regard to the White Australia policy has been shown by its refusal to accept the overtures of the Premier of Queensland, who proposed a system which, if carried into effect, would put the sugar industry absolutely under white labour conditions. The protection of Australians from the competition of coloured labour is an urgent matter, because we have as near neighbours the peoples inhabiting Japan, Java, China, and India. They number nearly 850,000,000, and are a menace to us industrially as well as politically.
Our sugar market will be of importance tothem in the near future, and if the Australian sugar industry is strangled, as is likely to happen unless common sense prevails, they will take advantage of the situation.
Coming to another matter, the honorablemember for South Sydney would have the Committee believe that the bounty on wool tops is advantageous to the people of Australia. I am perfectly open-minded on thesubject, and some time ago asked the Minister of Trade and Customs if he had madeinquiries as to the effect of this bounty on our wool industry. He replied that he had,, and I hope that before further action istaken the report or reports furnished to him; in the matter will be made available to honorable members. At first sight the granting of the bounty appears to be opposed to the platform of the Labour party and to the policy of Protection. There has been, a great outcry against the exportation of.’ butter, wool, meat, and other produce,, while local prices are abnormally high, butwe are paying a bounty for the manufacture of wool tops for export. We spend’ £10,000 annually in encouraging this industry, but our woollen manufacturers whomake their own tops get no advantage from it. It is foreign manufacturers who arebenefited by the bounty.
– The honorable member supports the bounty on sugar ?
– We could do without the bounty on sugar if the Excise were abolished. Why should we pay a bounty on wool tops made for export? There are rumours regarding the effect of this bounty about which inquiry should be made. I donot accept them as true, but they may betrue. Our industries should be selfcontained. We can breed and rear sheep,, produce wool, make tops, and manufacture the best cloth in the world, and why should we give a bounty of½d. per lb. on wool tops made to be exported for the benefit of Japanese and other foreign manufacturers ?
– Japan ‘does not : send clothto the Commonwealth. She uses our wool” to manufacture cloth for her own people.
– She sends other manufactures here. There should be artexhaustive inquiry into this matter before the bounty is renewed, and the result should be made available to the House.
– The more exhaustive the inquiry the better it will be for the industry.
– Any industry con.ducted on honest lines must court the fullest inquiry, and I shall be only too pleased if, -after an investigation, we determine to continue the bounty.
The honorable member for Echuca referred to the travelling allowance drawn by Senator McGregor while in Queensland recently, and asked whether he was travelling on Government business. Personally, I saw little of him there, although I kept -a watch on his movements. All his time seemed to be occupied in travelling from one place to another to do electioneering work. He finished up at Ipswich, being present there at what was described as a Labour rally. Mr. Hefferman was the Labour candidate opposing Mr. James Cribb, the Liberal member for Bremer, and Mr. James Blair was the Liberal candidate opposing Mr. Ryatt Maughan, the Labour member for Ipswich. Senator McGregor, trying -to be humorous, said that he “hoped that he would receive when he got on to Newcastle a wire saying that “ Cribb was Blairing among the lost,” or words to that effect. He got a wire at Newcastle, some of the Ipswich people thinking that it would be unkind to disappoint him ; but the result telegraphed was the opposite of his expectations, Mr. Cribb beating his opponent by seventeen votes, and Mr. Blair winning by 250 votes. This was the message sent : “ Ryatt is maughaning, and Heffernan is looking for a Cribb.”
– What rubbish !
– I admit it is rubbish; but it is the business Senator McGregor was engaged in while in Queensland. If Senator McGregor is credited with having travelled in Queensland on Government . business, it is time that we ceased paying travelling allowances for such visits.
The Government, in the Bill which they wish to introduce, ask for Supply for three months, an unprecedented request, the sum which we are asked to provide amounting to ,£2,250,000. Apparently, Ministers wish to strangle criticism. Supply must be granted, but it is unreasonable to ask for three months’ Supply. At the present time grievance day - coming once in three weeks - provides the only opportunity that we have for the ventilation of grievances, -except when Supply is asked for, and on grievance day before the . last the Minister of External Affairs applied the “gag” to the discussion by moving the adjournment of the debate. His notion is also without precedent. Since then the time usually allotted to the consideration of private members’ business has been taken from us, and on the last grievance day - three weeks since - the honorable member for Robertson tried to count out the House when the honorable member for North Sydney was speaking on a very important question affecting military matters. It appears, therefore, that there has been on the part of the Government a determined attempt at every opportunity to block criticism from this side of the House. They now bring down a Bill providing for three months’ supply, and say, in effect, to the Opposition, “ You must dispose of it in about four hours. That will close your mouths absolutely for another three months so far as grievances are concerned.” We do not feel inclined^ however, to take these things sitting down. It is not very often, that I address myself to a matter of this kind, but the occasion justifies my action, and when my rights are trampled on or interfered with, I shall be found to be just about as hot a man as there is in the House. I regret that the Minister of Home Affairs is not present, because I desire to criticise certain action on his part. If he did not know how to “run the earth “ before he reached the important position he now occupies he is learning fairly fast, if not exactly how to run the earth at least how to’ fool people, and make them believe that he is running the earth. Recently I endeavoured to obtain from him some information. I do not, as a rule, ask questions to serve as mere political placards, nor with a desire to harass Ministers. I do not think that any Minister will accuse me of having asked questions for mere party purposes. When I’ address a question to a Minister, it is with a desire to obtain information, and it was because I desired to obtain information from the Minister of Home Affairs with regard to the Electoral Act that I recently put to him three questions, the first of which was -
I invite honorable members to .note the Minister’s answer to that question, and to see how he tried to avoid giving a straight- out reply. His answer to the question was -
Less than 4^ per cent, of the cards are outstanding.
I did not ask how many ‘cards were outstanding. As a matter of fact, I know that in Queensland - and I wish the people of Queensland to get this information - the old rolls were used in compiling the new rolls, with the result that on the latter today there are the names of about 13,000 persons who have never signed an electoral claim card. My object in asking this question was to ascertain whether they would be entitled to vote, and the second question that I put to the Minister was -
The Minister’s reply was -
They will be entitled to vote unless their names are removed from the rolls under the provisions of Part VII. of the Electoral Act as a result of the investigation by the Commonwealth electoral officer, which is now proceeding.
If the Act requires that in order to qualify as an elector a person must sign an electoral claim card the position is that those who have not signed such cards are not qualified, and that if they vote either at their own polling-booths, or as absentees their votes will be challenged.
– If a man’s name is on the roll he cannot be deprived of his vote.
– If he had not signed an electoral claim card and voted as an absentee it would be found that there was no claim card with which his signature could be compared, and his vote would, therefore, lapse. The next question that I put to the Minister was -
The Minister replied -
Qualified persons at whose habitation cards were left, or to whom cards were delivered or sent by post when the new rolls were being prepared, rendered themselves liable to prosecution under the regulations (Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 82). if they failed to complete and return the cards.
I think that it is the duty, of the Government to try to make people conversant with the Bills introduced and passed by them. I do not suggest for one moment that we as citizens have not individual responsibilities. We are supposed to have at our fingers’ ends the laws of the country; but, unfortunately, everyone does not know that, and although we are not, in duty bound to do so, we should, at least, recognise some moral obligation to make people acquainted with their responsibilities in this regard. If, as- I understand, the Act distinctly providesthat every person who does not send in an application for an electoral claim card isliable to a penalty not exceeding £2, and the Minister, through his officers, simply transfers the names from the old rolls to the new, what will be the position ? Persons looking at the new roll, and seeing, their names appearing on them will come to the conclusion that everything is all right,, when, as a matter of fact, everything is alt wrong. That was the information that I1 sought to extract from the Minister, andwhich he tried to avoid giving me by quibbling in this way.
– That is notmuch of a grievance, is it?
– I am rather surprised to hear the honorable member saythat the fact that something like 13,000- residents of Queensland may in this way be liable to a penalty of £2 each is not: much of a grievance. If it is not a grievance to the honorable member, it is a grievance to the people whom I am tryingto protect against an unscrupulous Government, when we shall find by and by prosecuting them for not complying with theprovisions of the Act.
– “ Unscrupulous ‘”’ is; a. rather severe term.
– Perhaps a. nicerword might be used if the Government felt offended by the application of that which I used.
– They do not take any noticeof the honorable member.
– They do not seem totake notice of anything save some cry such as the White Australia cry which they think will win them votes. Thereis another matter to which I desire to refer. Some time ago I received a telegram from the council clerk at Ipswich asking me to obtain from theMinister of Home Affairs permission for the council to try some lighting experiments in connexion with the Ipswich postoffice clock. When I saw the Minister hedid not know exactly whether or not the matter came within his control, and he advised me to see the Postmaster-General. I did so. The Postmaster-General treated1 me with every courtesy, and on 17 th July last wrote to me saying that the Department was quite agreeable to the experiments being made, provided that the- council undertook all responsibility. On 9th August last, however, I received the following letter from the Secretary to the Postmaster-General’s Department : -
Sir. - With reference to the letter from this office of the 17th ultimo, relative to the desire of the town clerk, Ipswich, Queensland, that permission be given for the making of a few experiments as regards the lighting of the post office clock at that place, I beg to inform you that the Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, who was advised of the action taken by this office in the matter, now advises as follows in regard hereto, viz. : -
The matter has already been brought under the notice of this Department through the Commonwealth Works Registrar, Brisbane. A telegram was sent to the town clerk, Ipswich, on the 19th July, authorizing him to make experiments with the lighting, subject to the satisfaction of the State Public Works Department, with whom he has been placed in touch.
The Minister of Home Affairs says that he is not overworked, and I believe, judging from this, that he is not. When I first interviewed him, he told me, as I have said, to see the Postmaster-General. The Postmaster- General granted me the necessary permission, and then the Department of Home Affairs telegraphed to the town clerk at Ipswich granting the council permission to proceed with experiments two days after I had already wired him to that effect.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I address myself to the Committee as a very peaceful member. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat told us, in the course of his remarks, that when he found his rights trampled upon, he was one of the hottest members of the House. I am of the size that knows discretion. I have the nature of a true Christian, and the remarks that I propose to address to the Committee will be offered by me in a spirit of humility and entirely as a peacemaker.
It has struck me that it is. necessary that we should understand exactly the Administration to whom we are granting Supply. I find that there are possibilities of a rift in the lute so far as my honorable friends opposite are concerned. I find, for instance, sitting opposite to me the Honorary Minister, whose skill in debate, especially where the facts are not commonly understood, is admitted in this chamber. I usually see also on the opposite benches the Minister of Home Affairs, whose skill in debate is not so recognised, although a’s a phrase-maker he occupies a very high position, and his works, I understand, are very well worth watching. If we grant this , £3,000,000 in the present circumstances, there is some possibility of . there being a trifling disagreement between my honorable friends to whom I have just referred. I have here a report of a speech made in the Masonic Hall, Yarraville, by the Minister of Home Affairs, which seems to reflect in a most unfortunate way on the Honorary Minister. I invite the attention of honorable members of the Labour party to it, so that when they hold their next conclave - I understand that it is out of order to say “ caucus “ - they will be able to deal with the Minister of Home Affairs for being so disrespectful to the Honorary Minister. The report of this speech is headed, “ Mr. O’Malley on Mr. Roberts,” and it reads -
If there is one thing the Labour party is noted for it is business.
– That is what merchants in my constituency are saying.
– Dues the honorable member agree with the Minister of Home Affairs? By the way, are those merchants doing business with the Labour party ?
– I do not know, but I do not think they are.
– I should hate to think of all the “ fat “ men saying that the Labour party are good for business.
– One of them said at a public meeting that we were doing something.
– The Labour party ought to be doing, I should not say “ time,” because I am referring to the party in its collective capacity, and not individually. The Minister of Home Affairs went on to say -
We are great workers, and not talkers.
What a noble thing it is to work, and what a contemptible thing it is to talk ! Then he said-
We have only one good talker in the Labour party, and that is our friend, Brother Roberts.
– He was misreported.
– Oh, of course.
– I was alongside the Minister at the time, and he said the Honorary Minister was an “orator.”
– What I have read is a very serious reflection for one Minister to pass on his colleague. So far as the spoils of office are concerned, the profits are “ whacked up “ amongst those with portfolios. Is it a fair thing that the Honorary Minister should be paid nothing, because he is said to be only a talker and not a worker ? It is not a fair way to deal with the honorable gentleman, and I take up the cudgels for him, for, no doubt, on a question affecting his personal merits, he will be as bashful as only he can be on occasions. It is not a fair statement to make of a colleague, who, though he may be only an “ orator,” is not useless to his party on occasions when the facts are not generally known.
I hope that the Government, before the session concludes, will find it possible to do tardy justice to the municipalities of Australia. I have a motion on the noticepaper dealing with this question, and shall, therefore, not touch on the details now, but merely say that the principle is now receiving ready recognition throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, that the Government should pay for services received from the municipalities. If there is not time to do this work this session, let us begin early next year, because, in the interests of sound finance, as well as fair dealing, every Government agency should be credited with its proper income and debited with its proper expenditure.
– The honorable member must not follow that question.
– I only hope, as I say, that the Government will do tardy justice to the municipalities, and so wipe off this slur on the credit and probity of the Commonwealth.
I should now like to refer to a little matter on which I have spoken on a previous occasion, though only in the most sensitive and feeling way. It will be remembered that, during the Werriwa byelection, the Minister of , Home Affairs gave some instructions in regard to the use of the old roll at Crookwell. I do not wish to make party capital out of the matter, or suggest that the honorable member recognised that the work of his Department in collecting the new rolls was inefficient and in a hopeless tangle, and that, therefore, it was better to use the old roll. But I do desire him to give some explanation whv he should personally step in and direct his officers to use a roll which, under the law, should not be used, in preference to the roll on which his Department had been busy for some months.
– Not to use it in preference, but merely to insure that every one on the roll should be able to vote:
– Is that not an admission of incompetency in regard to the collection of the new rolls? It must be that the Minister recognised that all the names which should nave been collected have not been collected. Generally speaking, the Minister of Home Affairs has to bear most of the kicks to which his party are justly entitled.
– Does he not earn them?
– I think that the kicks ought to “be more spread out amongst his colleagues. The Minister of Home Affairs does openly what others are doing secretly. For instance, he came in for a good deal of abuse about preference to unionists.
– Why abuse the Minister because he does things openly?
– I say that the Minister ought not to bear the blame for all those things which the party do secretly. We found out that what he did openly had been done secretly by his colleagues for months previously. The action was either good or bad - I do not wish to traverse it at the present time. If it was good, or if it was bad; - as every man will say it was who does not belong to the aristocracy of Labour - the Minister was not solely responsible; he only made himself the standard-bearer of the principle. A number of his colleagues had begun to find that there was something seriously wrong, with the health of the Minister of Home Affairs, and seemed to deplore the necessity for his resigning his portfolio. I rejoice to know, however, that he was never in a better state of health than he was then, and is now, and that his brain was never more acute or active than when he made himself the standard-bearer of preference to unionists in the Government Service, and so, incidentally, made it compulsory that he should retain his place in the Cabinet. I do not always attack the Minister of Home Affairs, because I recognise that he, on occasions, displays the good quality of openness and candour. His efforts at secrecy resemble those of a whale in an aquarium - however he may try to hide himself we must see some part of him. The Minister of Home Affairs should tell us what grounds he had for believing that the new roll was so defective that it was necessary to use the old roll.
I also ask him, as a Minister and1 a man who would scorn to be an “ animated rubber stamp,” and who demands that his secretaries and servants shall follow implicitly his counsel and orders, why it was he was bluffed off his course by some subordinate official? It was ordered by him that the old roll should be used, but some official said “ No “ ; and, for some reason, the roll was not used, and the subordinate got his way, and the Minister was - well, snubbed.
– Was the honorable member not sorry?
– No; but I think the Minister ought to explain.
– Did I not explain it here one day?
– I never heard it explained here, and I am anxious to hear an explanation, because I think it would throw some light on the preparation of the new rolls. It is no use our having rolls if we have not implicit confidence in them.
I should also like to know from the Minister when the various redistribution proposals are to be placed before Parliament. The time is getting so short that, if many more proposals are thrown out, we shall have almost the certainty before us of having to face the electors with vastly differing electorates. We shall not have one vote one value.
– There is not one vote one value under the new distribution, by a long way.
– The new distribution is much nearer to that ideal than was the old distribution. I have 47,000 electors in my electorate, and it would obviously be very unfair to ask them to vote for merely one member, when some other electorate, with, perhaps, some 20,000 voters, will have a member to itself. We owe it to the principle of Democracy to rectify our electorates at the earliest possible moment.
– I think the arrangement should always have been one vote one value.
– I agree with the honorable member. I do not hold that country electorates should have more voters than city electorates. We do not legislate for inanimate matter, but for flesh and blood; but the heresy is creeping into the Chamber, and we should put our foot down. A vote is a vote, from whatever part of Australia it comes. Let us hope that this Parliament is not going to inherit the jealousies of towns versus country that have disfigured State Parliaments in the past. I hope the Minister of Home Affairs will see that the amendments of the electoral boundaries are put before us at an early date.
– They ought to be in any day now.
– We ought to know when they are coming before us. We have had one or two divisions that looked like catch divisions, and that is not good for thehonour and good name of the Parliament. These matters ought to be settled apart from any personal consideration of honorable members.
.- The position I put forward last night in respect to the land available was to some extent challenged, so I took the trouble to inquire this morning of the Lands Department of Victoria, and found that in addition to large areas of Crown lands which might be obtained on application, the Department has 450 allotments available under the Closer Settlement Act.
– A lot of it is land that people will not take.
– Any excuse is better than none, and I presume that is the best excuse that can be put forward. Those 450 allotments are open to local residents or immigrants. It is not to be supposed that the Victorian Government are going to provide thousands of allotments of land for people, and have them on their hands.
– Is that a specimen down at Geelong?
– I am quite willing to admit that any land bought for closer settlement purposes in any part of Australia is certain, owing to the variable quality of the soil, to contain a certain number of allotments that will not be very attractive to people. These allotments, however, are spread over various parts of Victoria, and the great bulk of them are eminently suitable for the purposes for which they are offered. Some of them are in areas as low as 20 acres in the middle of good irrigation districts.
– I saw the cattle in slings at Wangaratta the other day, because they could not stand up.
– If we make a complaint against the Government that they are not helping to bring people to Australia to settle on the land, we are immediately confronted by the other side with the statement that there is no land available, and directly we bring forward figures to show that 450 allotments are available in various parts of Victoria under the Closer Settlement Act, we are met with the excuse, which apparently is the best that can be offered, that the allotments are no good.
– It is the truth.
– Probably the members on the other side of the House have not inspected them. From the inquiries I made at the Lands Department, and from my knowledge of some of the districts, I have no hesitation in saying that the majority of the allotments are eminently fit for the purposes for which they were obtained by the Government. We have, in addition, large areas of Crown lands which the Government are waiting to make available.
– They have been waiting a long time.
– They have not been. As fast as the Government are able to get applicants for Crown lands along the Murray River they are making them available.
– Why are they not putting immigrants on them ?
– All I can say is that the land is made available for the applicants, so far as the Government are able to get applications. We know that there always is a difficulty in every country in inducing people to leave the excitements of city life and brave the difficulties of early pioneering settlement. We have that difficulty to face, not only in connexion with a large number of the immigrants that come to Australia, but especially with many of our own residents.
– These are blocks left after the eyes have been picked out.
– Many of them are in irrigation districts, where the land varies very little in quality, and is fit for closer settlement. All that we require is that people should go on to them.
– How many are there in the Swan Hill district?
– I am not discussing any particular district. The honorable member knows something about the Swan Hill district, and so do I, but I doubt if he knows very much about any other district. It is an exceptional district, with a very limited irrigation area. When the honorable member chose a block, he went to the Swan Hill district, into what I consider to be one of the very best irrigation centres in Victoria. So good is it, and so limited the area, that the whole of the land there was snapped up as soon as it was made available.
We are falling behind in the race for population as against Canada. The Argus, about six months ago, published a very interesting table showing the immigration to Canada, and comparing the progress of the United States with Australia in the matter of the increase of population. In a hundred years the population of the United States grew from 8,000,000 to 91,000,000, largely through immigration from Europe, but to-day, it is stated, “ The influx of immigrants into Canada is greater in proportion to the population than ever it has been during all that century of remarkable progress in the Republic. The tide has set towards the Dominion. During the fiscal year ended March, 1910, no fewer than 208,000 settlers arrived. Of these, 59,700 came from Great Britain, 45,000 from the Continent of Europe, and 103,000 from the United States.” We saw recently some remarkable figures in respect of the growth of the population in Canada. The gain in that country during the last ten years has been about 2,000,000; and 1,250,000 have migrated to and settled in the western portion of the Dominion. Our increase for a similar period has been less than half that number. It was stated last night by the honorable member for South Sydney that there was a prospect of an increase of population in Australia this year of about a quarter of a million. I can only discover that we have, so far this year, obtained about 70,000 to 75,000 immigrants, and in view of - the limited shipping accommodation the probability is that if we gain 100,000 people for the whole of Australia this year it is all that we shall do. Now is the golden time for the present Government to act. After many years of representation in Great Britain, and often very slender advertising on the part of the Commonwealth and the States, we have now reached a period when the eyes of the British emigrant are turned towards Australia. I believe that a certain improvement could be made in the direction of the class of immigrant that is coming to, Australia from Great Britain. A more searching scrutiny and investigation should be made into the character of the persons who are desirous of coming to this continent. If any complaint is to be made, as was made last night by one of the Honorary Ministers, to the effect that a large number of immigrants coming to Australia are physically unfit and not desirable, the fault lies at the door of the present Government. If they had taken in hand the work of selecting the immigrants in Great Britain, and also providing shipping accommodation, as was their bounden duty, the Commonwealth would have controlled the whole of the immigration policy of Australia. The Government, however, being pledged against any form of immigration which would enter into competition with the local labour market, have not only neglected their duty in regard to the selection of the class of immigrants most fitted to develop the resources of this continent, but have failed lamentably and inexcusably to provide the necessary shipping accommodation to enable those people to come to Australia. That is accommodation which can be provided only bv the Commonwealth Government.
I regret that the Minister of Home Affairs is not present to make a statement as to the intention of his Department with regard to the status of the Chief Electoral Officer for Victoria, and the Commonwealth Statistician. It is high time that those two officers were raised to a judicial status that would make them free from the influence of Ministers, and also of Parliament. A bi-monthly digest of the statistical data of Australia is being issued in connexion with the pamphlet circulated by the Minister of Home Affairs to give members information regarding the progress of public works in the Commonwealth. I fail to see the relevancy of that mass of data to a plain schedule of works. Some very pertinent questions were asked in regard to this matter by the honorable member for Richmond a little while ago. The Minister of Home Affairs is using the public money to publish data, supposed to be compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, in order to bolster up the policy of the present Government. It is time this misapplication of public money was ended. The pamphlet is supposed to be an impartial, plain business document, detailing the stages reached by our public works from month to month, but in the same publication is a large mass of tabulated information, and also a list of Bills passed by the present Government, and replies to various criticisms - all supposed to be compiled as judicial documents with the approval of the Commonwealth Statistician - the sinister as well as the ostensible object of which is to bolster up the policy of the Government. Public money should not be used for that partial and political purpose, and the sooner we raise the Commonwealth Statistician to a judicial status, in order that he may resist any pressure brought to bear upon him by the Minister in charge of his Department, the better it will be for the safeguarding of the public money. It is also time the Government brought down a proposal to raise the Chief Electoral Officer to a similar judicial position, making him completely independent of Parliament, as are the Public Service Commissioner and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Of recent years this House has passed a most reprehensible form of legislation, taking away the postal vote from women who are unable to go to the poll - from the men and women who are unable to reach the polling booth because they are ill, or too old and feeble to go there. We have not had a word of guidance as to the operation of this provision, and the only person able to make a reliable statement on the subject, free from party bias, is the Chief Electoral Officer. But he is under the control of the Minister of Home Affairs, and has not been asked to report on the subject to Parliament, so that honorable members cannot ascertain his opinion. If his office were raised to an independent status, like that of the Public Service Commissioner, and it were the duty of the occupant to periodically furnish Parliament with a review of the working of the electoral law, so that we might provide the best means for conducting elections, it would greatly facilitate legislation, and enable us to create the most efficient machinery possible.
I draw attention to the absence of a definite statement in regard to an all-red cable and telegraph line of communication between Australia and the United Kingdom. The Pacific Cable Board controls a cable stretching from Brisbane to Vancouver, and the overland telegraph line across the Dominion of Canada ; it remains to provide an independent cable across the Atlantic.
– The British Government opposed that, although the Australian and New Zealand Governments desire it. Parliament has been told so time and again.
– We have not been told so. When the honorable gentleman was Postmaster-General he gave us definite information regarding the “ all-red “ service, and worked hard to divert business legitimately to it; but since he left that Department we have had no proper information.
– The New Zealand and Australian Governments are in favour of an independent cable across the Atlantic. The Canadian Government is luke-warra on the subject, and the British Government is opposed to the proposal.
– I do not think that the wishes of Australia have been sufficiently pressed upon the British Government by this Government. At the last Imperial Conference, the Minister of Defence succeeded in getting carried a resolution committing the parties concerned to the principle of an “ all-red “ route from Great Britain to Australia.
– Not State-owned.
– The principle was affirmed that it should be State-owned, if the cable rates on the Atlantic lines were not sufficiently reduced.
– The British PostmasterGeneral was against a resolution in favour of a State-owned line across the Atlantic. He said that he would do his best to bring about a reduction of message rates, and if those rates were not reduced sufficiently he would be willing to discuss a proposal for a State-owned cable.
– He would be in favour of having a State-owned cable.
– I do not think he went as far as that. He was non-committal on the proposal that there should be a Stateowned line
– I wish now to refer to another matter which has already been discussed, but which is of so much importance that I should be recreant to my duty if I did not bring it under notice on every possible occasion, that is, the neglect of the great rifle club movement. It is very unsatisfactory that, whilst our defence expenditure has increased from about £1,000,000 at .the inception of Federation to about £5,000,000, the rifle clubs of the Commonwealth, which, in 1905, numbered 770, in 1911-12 numbered only 1,120, the full strength of their members having increased in that time from 37,000 to 50,000. The greatest increase in our defence expenditure has occurred since 1908, when the rifle club membership was 57,000, and it is now only 50,000. It is surprising that this House, which contains so many representatives from country districts, who know the value of rifle clubs as an auxiliary to the main defence force, and the need of skilled marksmen, should permit the neglect of which I complain. We know how readily the bulk of the adult population of the country districts would support the rifle club movement if reasonable encouragement were given to it by the Minister of Defence in providing and equipping ranges where required, and in giving free ammunition. If Australia had a large number of skilled marksmen, it would go a long way to remove the stigma of ineffectiveness from our land defence. Were the rifle clubs encouraged, and made an integral part of our land defences, their membership would increase by leaps and bounds, and we should soon have three times as many effective riflemen as we have now. But it seems to be impossible to galvanize this Government into action in the matter. However much the Minister of Defence may have devoted his time to the other branches of the Defence Force, he has neglected the rifle clubs, leaving them to the mercy of his Department. Although the Defence Department is the biggest spending Department of the Commonwealth, it is not represented in this House by its Ministerial head; so that members cannot get any direct reply to their questions, and find it impossible to secure a redress of grievances. I hope that even at the eleventh hour this matter may be rectified.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane this morning said that the trouble in the sugar industry is due entirely to the exorbitant profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. He advanced the questionable contention that we should have nothing to do with an industry which could not give a fair remuneration to all connected with it. He went on to say that the growers of sugarcane do not get enough for their produce, and that ‘the wage-earners are insufficiently paid, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s shareholders taking all the profits. His contention is the sort of statement that goes with the crowd, but it will not bear examination. However, I ask whether he or those who repeat statements similar to his have ever set about ascertaining the actual profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company on its Australian business, and the effect of distributing those profits among the cane-growers and wageearners. I find that the total profits of the company last year amounted to- £228,357.
– Has not the company’s stock been watered from time totime ?
– That has nothing to do with the argument I am now presenting. My case is that if the whole of the profits of the company were distributed among the cane-growers and wage-earners connected with the industry, their position would not be materially improved. According to the last Budget figures, the cane-growers number 5,561, and if £20, which is not a very large amount, were given to each of them out of the company’s profits, the sum of £111,220 would be absorbed. If the balance were divided amongst the 31,554 workers, apart from the growers, who are engaged in the industry, it would allow them £3 14s. per annum each. If each grower were allowed a little less than 10s. per week more, and the wage-earners were granted about rs. 6d. per week more than they now receive, the whole of the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would be in that way disposed of without materially affecting the position of any one else. On these figures, it was sheer nonsense for the honorable member for Brisbane to talk as he did today. After all, supposing that the-profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are too large - I do not know whether they are, but we shall be able to judge when we receive the Sugar Commission’s report-!- -
– Does the honorable member think we shall ever get the report of the Commission?
– If the Government had not taken such great care to appoint what was neither more nor less than a packed jury, they would have had a report long ago.
– They asked for a Commission, and now they object to answer the Commission’s questions.
– The point that I wish to emphasize is that, if the whole of the profits of the company were divided amongst the growers and workers in the industry, they would not materially alter their position. Allowing fair interest on the actual capital invested by the company, which runs into very large figures indeed, we could not deduct from the total amount of profit which they make more than about £70,000 to £80,000, and that, split up amongst all those engaged in the industry, is neither here nor there. Therefore, whatever is wrong, the members of the Government must look somewhere else for the actual cause of the trouble. I have been asked many times to give some definite evidence of the fact that I have stated here over and over again, that the Excise is paid by the grower, and also for definite evidence of the fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the other millers have agreed, if at any time the Excise and bounty are abolished, to pay an additional amount per ton to the growers. I have just received, through the courtesy of the Farmers’ Association, of Hambledon, a copy of a memorandum of agreement made between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and Frederick Charles Patrick Curlewis, of North Hambledon, sugar-farmer, who has a farm of 80 acres, which is a registered area for bounty purposes. The agreement -is duly signed by Mr. Curlewis, and by Mr. Knox, on behalf’ of the company, and in the schedule of payments it is set out that the farmer can be paid either a definite rate per ton for each year, or that he can receive payment on the percentage of obtainable cane sugar. It is further provided, under Scheme “ B,” that-
If the existing import duty of £6 per ton be retained and the Excise duty be reduced by £1 6s. 8d. per ton in each of the years 1911, 1912, and 1913, there will be paid on delivery, in addition to the payments provided for in Schemes A and B - in 1911, 3s. 4d. per ton of cane; in 1912, 6s. 8d. per ton of cane; and in 1913, ros. per ton of cane.
It has also been questioned whether the payments . were ever made on the percentage of obtainable sugar. I have here the actual schedule, which I shall read, so that there will be in Hansard definite evidence on the subject. In Schedule “ A “ the value per ton on the percentage of obtainable cane sugar is set out as follows -
Six per cent., nil. ; 7 per cent., 2s. ; 8 per cent., 4s. ; 9 per cent., 6s. ; 10 per cent., 8s. ; 11 per cent., 10s. ; 12 per cent., us. 90.; 13 per cent., 13s. 3d. ; 14 per cent., 14s. gd. ; 15 per cent., 15s. 9d. ; 16 per cent., 16s. gd. ; 17 per cent., 17s. gd. ; and 18 per cent., 18s. gd.
Then it is stated, in Scheme “ B,” to which I have already referred, that where the number of tons of cane used to make 1 ton of sugar, according to Excise returns, is 10 tons, the value per ton is ns. ; 9 tons, 12s. 9d. ; 8 tons, 15s. ; and 7 tons, 17s. per ton. We have here, therefore, definite evidence of the facts that I have stated in this House over and over again, and which have been challenged just as often as I have mentioned them. I had not this agreement before, but it is now open for inspection by any honorable member who desires to see it.
– Is there no condition that a duty of £10 per ton shall remain on beet sugar ?
– No ; I see in it no reference to beet sugar, but there is the statement of the company that they are willing to pay these additional rates.
– It is not worth the paper it is printed on.
– My opinion is that it is worth a great deal. I have no desire to labour the question, but unless the Ministry choose to take it into consideration, and deal with it at once, the results are going to be very serious. Growers cannot carry on under existing conditions. There are two or three courses open to the Government. They may, first of all, equalize the bounty and Excise. That would assist the growers materially at the present time if the Government did not wish to touch the other legislation. I believe that the Government have the power under paragraph xxvi of section 51 of the Constitution to pass legislation excluding black labour from the sugar industry. If they do not choose to exercise that power, but prefer to rely upon the promise made byMr. Denham, well and good, but they should take immediate action in one direction or the other.
There is one other matter to which I desire to refer, and that is the statement made recently by the Minister of Trade and Customs, when he was asked by an honorable member on the Government side of the House to supply a comparative statement of the prices at which meat and butter were sold in Australia and in the Old Country. I do not know who supplied the Minister with the figures, and for my purpose it does not matter by whom they were supplied ; but the statement read by the Minister is only one more addition to the many instances afforded in this Chamber of - I was going to say the absolute ignorance of the persons on whom the Minister relies, to deal with these questions
– Does the honorable member say that the figures are wrong?
– I do not say that they are wrong, but I do say that they could not possibly have been more misleading than they are. What is more, if they had not been challenged in this House they would have led to a most erroneous impression. No one who had any knowledge of the industry, unless he deliberately intended to produce a wrong impression, would have selected the months covered by the return. The Minister has either to acknowledge that the persons who supplied him with the figures knew nothing whatever about them-
– Oh, but he does.
– Or that he deliberately intended to mislead.
– He did not.
– Then, I cannot understand the figures. I intend to deal with that section of the statement which relates, to butter, because that is a subject of which I know something. I know nothing of the conditions that govern the meat industry, but the Minister selected for the purpose of his statement the six months of the year during which we practically do not export any butter.
– I did not select any months.
– The Minister was asked to give a statement showing the comparative prices of meat and butter hereand in the Old Country. These prices were calculated at a time when there waspractically no butter exported. I have received a letter from a representative of the Gippsland and Northern Co-operative Selling Company, enclosing some very useful figures, which I should like to place before the Committee as showing that the comparison of which I complain is a very unfair one. My correspondent gives me the actual figures of one typical factory. He says -
The last few shipments arrived at a time whenthe market was depressed, owing to the threatened industrial troubles which came later, and’ you will notice that the prices are under Melbourne parity. The factory gained by sending their butter to London over £800 more than if they had sold in Melbourne. Furthermore, if the butter had not been shipped, but sold on the Melbourne market, the additional butter would have had a depressing influence here; also, if the London market towards the end of the season had remained normal, the factory’s profit on the butter sent Home would have been well over£1,000.
We have to remember that the season was a phenomenal one, and the butter market slumped in London very suddenly owing tothe strike -
We really think that very little butter left Australia in March. As a matter of fact, nonewent from Victoria after 28th March, and thefigures giving this information are embodied in. another list attached. It will not be a difficult matter for you to ascertain from each of the- Superintendents of Exports representing Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia,, the date when their States stopped shipping.
You will notice from the list we are giving you that the quantity shipped from Victoria to the United Kingdom for March was very little, only totalling 630 tons, so that, as far as we can see, no Australian butter has been landing in London for some months now. It is possible that during the month of May London buyers purchased on the weak market which was prevailing at that time (prices then being about 106s. to 108s.) and cold stored, with the idea of making a profit, and this is the butter that is now being disposed of.
Anybody who knows anything whatever about the conditions of the butter industry will understand that the butter sold in London during our winter has been stored, after arriving, perhaps, months before - it is not butter that has been shipped during the winter months, when practically there is none shipped. I have here the actual shipments from Victoria right through the season starting on 12th September, showing the number of cases, the London price, and the local price. The following are the figures up to 10th October -
The local price kept at 119s. up to the 26th October, when the London price was 128s. Right through November the London price varied from 128s. to 135s., while the local price never rose above 114s. 4d. Through December the London price was 130s. and 131s., and the local price 119s. In January the London price was 131s. in the first week, 130s. in the second week, 126s. in the third week, and 125s. in the fourth week, while the local price was 119s. in the first two weeks, and 123s. 8d. afterwards. In February, the date of the very last shipments, the London price was 126s., and the local price 123s. 8d.
– How much did it cost to send the butter to London?
– It cost £6 19s. 6d. per ton more to sell butter in London than in Melbourne. Taking the London and local prices over the period embraced in the return to which I have referred there were only three or four shipments on which the London prices did not show a profit to the factory. It stands to reason that no factory will knowingly ship butter to London when it is known that a loss will be made.
– It may be done to get a higher price locally.
– It is only done when there is reason to suppose that the London price will be above the local price; otherwise, the butter is stored here and sold during the winter months. These are matters of common knowledge in the trade ; and yet the Minister quoted prices when we are not shipping any butter, and during the period which the Minister selected to give the comparative prices here and in London, although the price here is governed entirely by local supplies and conditions, he compared the local trade with the few boxes of butter - a mere bagatelle - sent during the winter months and sold in London. Such a comparison is sheer nonsense ; and nobody would make it who had any desire to do a fair thing by the industry. I should like to know who is responsible for the figures. If it be the man on whom the Minister relies for all his information, we can thoroughly understand why it is that we can never get any satisfaction. The man is either an utter ignoramus, or he deliberately intends to mislead the country in regard to the position.
– I do not wonder at some time being taken over Supply Bills, because they represent the only opportunity left to honorable members to ventilate questions outside the ordinary Government programme. The Government have not only decided to take away the time previously devoted to private members’’ business, but are calling upon us to sit early and late. Under the circumstances it is excusable if honorable members take whatever opportunities present themselves for ventilating questions in which they are personally and particularly interested. I should like to call the attention of the Honorary Minister to some very hard cases in the Defence Department. There are quite a number of warrant officers and sergeant-majors who, almost every day, are expecting their marching orders, owing to the fact that they have reached the age limit. These men have grown old in the service ; and, I suppose, the cases brought under my notice in New South Wales are representative of similar cases in the other States. One of the men I have in my mind has twenty-eight years’ service in the Australian Forces, or forty-five years altogether, including his Imperial service; a second has thirty years’ service; a third twenty-seven years’ service; a fourth twenty-two years’ service; and a fifth twenty-nine years’ service. Under theregulations these men will shortly be asked’ to retire, and they will have to go out into the world without a penny. I should like the Minister to see if he cannot obviate this trouble in some shape or form. These men have never received more than a living wage, and a very bare living wage at that ; indeed, the highest pay given is very small in view of the responsibility and the work done. In every other defence service in the world, so far as I know, there is some sort of retiring allowance; and it seems to me that the Government ought to take steps, and quickly, to alter the present condition of affairs, because, otherwise, we cannot hope for an efficient army. We are face to face with a very serious problem. We turn out a number of these men year by year; and if we take it that there are something like twenty-five in New South Wales, we see that this means quite a large number throughout the Commonwealth who are thrown out on a cold and cruel world in their old age. I suppose, of course, that some of these men will be kept on j and I -confess that I hope they will. I ‘ never could bring myself to believe that it is right to turn these men out without any prospects in their old age; and I trust the cases I have mentioned will be brought under the notice of the authorities with a view to softening the blow. If it means that some technicality of the Department has to be violated, I think the House would be glad to be behind the Minister in condoning anything of the kind. These men ought to be treated justly and kindly. One has had fifty-one years’ service, including his Imperial service; and he is one of the finest old men I know. I see that the Pacific Cable Board have published their balance-sheet again this year. Various items are set out, including one of £30,000 a year for renewal; but I see no mention of interest. I should like to ask the Postmaster-General if it would be possible for us to learn whether that cable is becoming payable or not. My own impression is that something ought to be done, very seriously and earnestly, to induce the British Government to come to reason about the cable on the Atlantic side. I have not heard yet whether anything was done at the late Imperial Conference.
– A resolution was submitted there by Senator Pearce, in favour of nationalizing the Atlantic Cable, but it was turned down on account of the opposition of the Imperial Government.
– I should not let the matter rest. That modicum be tween the price now charged and what it would cost us to run the thing would turn this into a paying proposition. I arn not so anxious about making it a paying proposition as about increasing its utility. I have long thought that whenever the Government could save a little money, it could be very well utilized in increasing the facilities given by the Pacific Cable. T do not see why it should not be possible to get a column of closely-printed news day by day over a cable of that kind. It would lead to a little more competition with the other cable, and, therefore, to more efficient service, although I think the service is efficient enough now ; but our isolation ought to lead us to multiply to the fullest extent possible every means of bringing us into closer daily touch with the great affairs of the world outside.
– I think you will find that they do charge interest, as well as the £30,000 for renewal. The cable is really not losing. They have gone out of their way, in asking for £30,000 for renewal, to add to the cost of running it.
– But I understand that the life of a cable is about twenty years.
– It is about thirty years. By the way they are financing it now ; they are paying all expenses, and will have enough money to get a new cable at the end of thirty years. We are not only paying for the cable, but are paying for a new cable for posterity, which, I think, is absurd.
– But at the end of thirty years the present cable will be worn out, and the original debt will remain.
– No; at the end of thirty yeaTs there will be no debt, and there will also be money enough to buy a new cable.
– If the item for renewal does not include interest or sinking fund, then the original debt remains. Either there must be an item for interest and a sinking fund to wipe out the original debt, or it is all included in the £30,000 a year for renewal or amortization. No one could tell from the statement I saw published this morning, actually what is being done. It is only a single cable, after all, and may go wrong any day. if the teredo finds a weak spot in it, it is good-bye to your cable. Another peculiar difficulty is that the Pacific Cable is in deeper water and on more difficult ground than any other. I remember the reports I used to get many years ago from the engineers in New South Wales who were opposed to it. They said it was so deep, and so risky to have only one cable, that I was advised strongly to have nothing to do with it; but I pushed on in spite of the expert opinion of those days.
– Do I understand that while you were Postmaster-General you agreed to the Pacific Cable?
– When ‘ I was Postmaster-General the thing took shape.
– I confess I did not know that. Of course, I accept the honorable member’s word, but I thought it was during Mr. Crick’s. time.
– The honorable member must have in his mind Mr. Crick’s arrangement with the Eastern Extension Company for a decrease in the cost of the messages. Mr. Crick also made an arrangement about the terminal charges, which I should have been chary of making. The Eastern Extension Company would never give us a decrease in the rates until the Pacific Cable materialized, and then they rushed in at once with a is. 6d. reduction.
– A bit . of Socialism brought that about.
– I have always been in favour of that sort of Socialism. In the early days of this Parliament I tabled a motion in favour of the Empire owning all its cables, for defence purposes among other things. It was on the paper for one or two years, but I could never get to discuss it. I worked wholeheartedly to get the Pacific Cable going; but we could not make any headway until we induced Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, at Home, to cast his weight into the scale, and then we got it, and a consequent reduction of charges over the Eastern Extension Company’s line. I see the honorable member for Adelaide smiling. I do not wonder, because the. South Australian representatives fought like Trojans to get every bit of advantage for the Eastern Extension Company.
– We ought to mention Sir Sandford Fleming, if names are being<mentioned.
– Quite so. He was the originator of the whole scheme. I take a keen interest in the Pacific Cable, because of .the battle we had to get it going, and the undoubted advantages that came, both then and since, to cable users throughout Australia. All I want the Minister to do is to see that the balance-sheet is put on the table, so that we may see exactly how the undertaking comes out. I should liketo deal with the Sydney Government House matter, but the Prime Minister is not here.. I cannot acquit him of blame in this regard. The State Government have acted with ineffable meanness over the wholequestion, even from’ a business stand-point.. We are paying New South Wales now £150,000 a year, at least, for interest on. transferred properties alone. One would think the State Government would throw, a little matter like the interest on Government House in. Whatever view we may take, the Government of New South Wales cannot be commended for what has happened. On the contrary, itsaction is to be strongly reprobated. But this Government should take stepsto see that the Governor-General is ableto continue to reside in Sydney during; the remainder of his term of office. TheState Government, having turned him out of Government House, Sydney, this Government should see that he does not: suffer. This is the more important, because the people of New South Wales are not behind its Government, and if the State were polled to-morrow the electorswould say that the Ministry misrepresentsthem on this question. The Commonwealth Government as well as the StateGovernment stands for the people, and itshould say that during the term of office of the present Governor-General, at any rate, no change should be made regarding his residence in Sydney. What, after all,, is per cent, per annum on the cost of Government House, Sydney? That sum, should not have stood in the way of an agreement. The Imperial authoritiestreated us very differently in another connexion. When we decided to build aFleet Unit, consequent upon which theAustralian Squadron was to be withdrawn, from our shores, the Imperial Government said, “ We have £1,000,000 worth of property at Garden Island, in Sydney Harbor; you can take that.” There wasno condition attached to the offer except that the property was to be used for the maintenance of our Fleet Unit. Therefore, we should not stand at a trifle in. connexion with the housing of the GovernorGeneral, who represents the King, and is chosen for us by the Imperial Executive.
There is an apparent show of reason in the contention that one State must not betreated differently from another, but there- is not much in the argument when examined. In the first place, the GovernorGeneral has always hitherto had a residence in New South Wales.
– Because the State placed Government House, Sydney, at the disposal of the Commonwealth for that purpose.
– At the beginning of Federation there was a great controversy as to whether the GovernorGeneral would not require a permanent residence in Sydney, that city being in the State where the Seat of Government was to be located. It was because that view was strongly held to, as well as because Government House, Sydney, was placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth, that the Governor-General was provided with a residence there.
– The equitable treatment of all the States must weigh with the Commonwealth Government.
– If the matter is to be dealt with on a purely business basis, there are several things to be taken into consideration. For instance, New South Wales contributes to the Commonwealth revenue more per head than any other State, with the exception, perhaps, of Western Australia. Then, she has a population equal to per cent, of the total population of the Commonwealth, and it is safe to say that she provides at least 38 per cent, of the total revenue of the Commonwealth. In the last year of the bookkeeping system, New South Wales was the only State which was at a disadvantage. On the basis of that year she receives , £450,000 less than is due to her on a per capita basis, while all the other States receive more, Victoria making a profit of £120,000 or£130,000. These facts must be considered when an equitable hard cash arrangement is talked of.
– Whatever consideration is given to the arguments in regard to population, there must be some principle observed.
– There has not been much regard to principle so far. This Government is not entirely without blame. Had I been a member of it, I should have had more respect for the wishes of the people of New South Wales than for those of its rulers, who were acting churlishly. I do not blame this Government altogether, but they bungled the negotiations.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Too much fuss has been made about the Government House question. I was a member of the Senate when the question first cropped up, and’ know that many eminent men then expressed the opinion that it was not right to provide two residences for the GovernorGeneral. That was the view expressed by Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Higgins, among others.
– They are both Victorians.
– The honorable member for Angas, who is a South -Australian, held the same opinion, and so did many others. Honorable members opposite are desirous that the Governor-General shall have two residences, because he is not a Labour man, but, should the people of Australia ever elect to that high position ‘ a man sympathizing with the Labour policy, they would not merely object to him having two residences, but would wish to make him pay his own rent. When there was a possibility of a Labour member being chosen President of the Senate, it was proposed to reduce the salary attaching to the office, but honorable senators generally were willing to increase it if one of their own party continued in the position. The honorable member for Parramatta says that the Government of New South Wales does not represent the public opinion of that State, but, in my view, it represents the public opinion of Australia. The idea of having two residences, each containing about 120 rooms, for one Governor-General !
– It means an expenditure of from £10,000 to£12,000 in wages.
– A similar argument has been used in regard to the Royal Family, which costs about . £500,000 a year. It is said, “ Look at the money spent on fine dresses, flowers, champagne, &c. What a fine time that gives to the shopkeepers.” I believe that it is contended that the visit of the Governor-General to Sydney is of great benefit to the poulterers of that city, where youcannot get a fowl for less than 4s. 6d. or 5s. during his term of residence there. If the Governor-General is provided with a residence in Sydney, he should also have one at Brisbane, another at Rockhampton, and another at Townsville; and I am pleased that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is placing a branch office of the bank in the capital of each of the three great divisions of Queensland. Let us have a residence for the GovernorGeneral in every big city in the Commonwealth, so that the absurdity of the present proposal may be exposed. The contention that the Governor-General should have a residence in Sydney is merely pandering to the jealousy of a certain few people of that city, who think that it is of great advantage to the people of Melbourne to have the Governor-General residing here, and that their city would take a back seat if he did not visit it. The original arrangement grew out of the jealousy between New South Wales and Victoria, which is fast passing away, and now remains only in the minds of those politicians who years ago used to wrangle about the virtues of the two States. I hope that honorable members will cease to beat the big drum about this question. I trust that they will cease suggesting disloyalty on the part of Messrs. McGowen, Holman and other members of the New South Wales Government merely because they wish to set apart that magnificent building, Government House, Sydney, for public purposes. The people of Sydney have too few public spaces and public buildings; and I sincerely trust that honorable members of the Opposition will refrain from suggesting any further that, because Messrs. McGowen, Holman, Beeby, and other members of the democratic Labour Government of New South Wales propose to set apart Government House, Sydney, for the use of the people, that they are wanting in loyalty. The honorable member for Illawarra has been beating that particular drum -for the last two days. I do not think that he paid the GovernorGeneral a very high compliment when he suggested that His Excellency went to Sydney and did certain work which this Government was not prepared to do. He made that the text of his speech, and the newspapers, strange to say, gave him an extraordinarily full report, elevating a petty question of this kind to the level of a matter of great national concern. The Labour Government of New South Wales represents public opinion, and is, in my judgment, perfectly loyal to the interests of the people of Australia. If ever’ Australia were in danger, the New South Wales Labour party and its supporters, who were challenged by the honorable member for Illawarra and others, and who have been held up to the public view as being disloyal, would be the first to’ take up arms in its defence. That is the best test of loyalty. Loyalty is not put to the test when we are making after-dinner speeches, waving flags and wrapping the Union Jack around us. The time to show our loyalty is when we have to fight for our country; and the Labour party and their supporters will be the first to shoulder the rifle when that day comes.
– It would be a poor look-out for the country if that duty were left to the Opposition.
– Some of them would take up the rifle, whilst others have passed the stage at which they are able to do so. Their stomachs are with good capon lin’d.
– They might stop more bullets because of that.
– They certainly stop a lot of poultry. Those who are making such a song of the alleged ^disloyalty of the Labour party of New South Wales might have been physically fit at one time to do something in defence of their country, but they are not to-day, and it ill-becomes them to talk of disloyalty on the part of our party. I shall not refer further to this subject save to inform honorable members that a glance at the statistics will show that the cost of Government House, Melbourne, and Government House, Sydney, is really enormous. The expenditure, I think, is unnecessary. I am looking forward to the time when we shall have appointed as Governor-General of Australia a man with Australian sympathies. I am looking forward to the time when it will be deemed quite proper for the Governor-General to be approached at certain times of the year by any good citizen, and for him to shake hands with him just as the people can shake hands with the President of the United States of America. The very people who are making this outcry in Sydney are those who desire that the Governor-General shall reside there in order that they may have entry to Government House. I desire a different state of affairs in Australia. If I were not a member of Parliament, I should not so to speak, “ get a look in “ at Government House. The idea of maintaining these institutions in Australia is that they shall be kept for a certain select few - for the rich or the friends of the rich. Such a view sets up a wrong standard of excellence and erroneous ideas in the community. It leads people to spend a lot of money in trying to keep up a position which they cannot properly maintain, and I therefore object to my honorable friends of the Opposition raising this outcry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Ordered : -
That Mr. Thomas and Mr. Roberts do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and read a first and second time.
In Committee :
Clauses1 to 4 agreed to.
.- On division 11, “Prime Minister, . £9,759,” I desire to move an amendment in order to bring forward a matter which I think requires the consideration of the Committee. I shall introduce it by reading the following paragraph that I saw a day or two ago in a Melbourne newspaper -
Mr. Fisher’s justification for the purchase of another motor car by his Government is that a man receiving over £500 a year should not have to spend his time in tram cars and cabs when getting about the city or suburbs. With only -one car available for general use that was compulsory, and it is urged, for the benefit of -doubters, that the new car has been obtained with the sole object of expediting the business of the Commonwealth. The suggestion that it -might be used for other purposes is resented.
I was a good deal surprised when I read this paragraph. I was astonished, in the first place, to learn that the Government were proposing to employ the money of the electors to provide a third Ministerial motor car ; and I was surprised at the suggestion conveyed by the remarks of the Prime Minister, as reported in the paragraph, that these cars were intended solely for the use of officials employed by the Commonwealth in order that they might be enabled to move from place to place with more rapidity than had been the case. The business of the Commonwealth was carried on for ten years without it being found necessary to employ motor cars or anyother luxurious means of locomotion. Shortly after this Government came into office, however, we had, first of all, one motor car purchased; in a little while a second was secured, and we are now to have a third. It appears to me that it is only a matter of time when each Minister will have a motor car for his own use, and probably two or three, in addition, to provide “joy rides” - that, I believe, is the correct term - for friends and supporters of the. Labour movement.
– It is time they had some luxuries.
– The Government evidently think that they have a right to luxuries at the expense of the electors, and as this is about the last opportunity that we shall have of considering and challenging this action on their part,. I think it well to take advantage of it. I intend to give the Committee an opportunity to say whether this luxury for Ministers is one for which the country ought to pay. We all know very well that these cars are not used exclusively by Commonwealth officials. As a matter of fact, they are used to a much greater extent by members of the Government. So far as my experience goes, it is very rarely, indeed, that I have seen any officials using the cars, with the exception of the magnificently-clad chauffeur, who has, I presume, to attend at the behest of Ministers, and wait on their convenience generally.
– Millionaires opposite have their own cars.
– I see no reason why Ministers should not also have their own cars. They are paid at a rate which ought to enable them’ to have motors - not, perhaps, of the magnificent dimensions of those at present employed, but sufficiently modest to escape the condemnation of many of their supporters. I cannot understand why this Government did not avail themselves of the opportunity- presented of proving their democratic tastes, and their desire to show the people who support them that they are not anxious to spend money unnecessarily on luxuries for themselves. Just imagine what a very great advantage it would have been to the Labour movement for Ministers to have been seen, careering up Bourke-street to their duties in Parliament, on the democratic bicycle, perhaps, on a very hot day, the perspiration dropping from their Ministerial noses, and their portfolios, like the Minstrel boy’s harp, slung behind”. Instead of that, however, we have Ministers sitting in luxurious motor cars supplied by the country, the said cars driven by luxuriously dressed chauffeurs - also, I suppose, supplied by the country - with luxurious rugs on their knees, presumably bought out of the money of the electors. We all have the advantage of railway passes, which enable us to travel on the railways, and Ministers could use those passes if it pleased them to do. so. They have other methods of locomotion if they are anxious to get about their duties. If they desire to do something in a hurry, which requires a journey in a vehicle, there is no earthly reason why they should not ring up for a taxi, or even an ordinary car, and have it at their -disposal just as soon as the Ministerial car could be brought round. The only difference is, of course, that the cost of taxi-cabs would probably appear in detail; whereas, once the Ministerial car is provided, there is an end to general criticism by Parliament as to the expenditure. The same remarks apply even to the officials. I cannot see that the running about of either officials or of Ministers is of such a continuous nature as to justify the use of three motor cars. I feel certain, from my own experience, that a good deal of the travelling of those motor cars is of a kind that the country has no right whatever to pay for.
– Does that apply to the Victorian Government cars?
– It applies to the cars I am now discussing. It is no argument whatever to remind me that State Governments may have motor cars, and use them. There are many duties performed by State Ministers that necessitate their taking somewhat long journeys frequently into the country ; but such duties do not have to be performed by Federal Ministers.
– I think the honorable member is wrong.
– Apart from that altogether, were we not told ad nauseam, before the Labour party reached the Treasury bench, that the Labour movement was intended to regenerate humanity, purify politics, raise the level of public life, and give us all round a condition of affairs’ that was aspired to by- political idealists? There were many who supported the Labour movement in the belief that it was to be the introduction of higher and better things in public life. I did so myself for many years, and only surrendered the position very unwillingly, indeed. Now that the Labour Government are in power, I think it has been proved that a great deal of that fine talk was only intended for the purpose of beguiling the electors, and directing their votes towards Labour candidates. The party has certainly succeeded in beguiling many, but I believe that the other process of disillusionment is now taking place; and circumstances such as I have indicated are the best proof of the whited sepulchre that the
Labour movement really means. I have not kept a very close eye on the working, of the Ministerial motor cars, but it has been my chance to see them used on different occasions, not by Ministers, and not for public duties. I saw one of the carson one occasion loaded up with ladies,, evidently shaping for a nice trip into thecountry ; and, on another occasion, I saw a car, when Parliament was not sitting,, used by a Minister for shopping purposes. I take it that those chance instances which, have happened to come under my own observation quite accidentally, are an indication that those cars are not used altogether and entirely in the service of thecountry, but that they are there for a variety of purposes, one being to supply Ministers with a luxurious method of getting to and from their homes. I fail tosee that it is the duty of this Parliament, or Government, or of the electors, to provide motor cars to enable Ministers todrive between their offices and their homes. I take it that they have the same right as we ordinary members have topay their way about in this respect, without taking more than the privilege we have in the way of a gold pass to travel on the’ State railways. I feel quite sure that the cases I have mentioned represent many other occasions when these cars have been utilized, not for the purposes of government - not for furthering the welfare of the country, or in order that somejourneys may be more rapidly performed than otherwise they would be- but simply because they are found to be very convenient in a variety of ways for those Ministers, who, perhaps, have not that keen conscience in the employment of public moneys that many of them on the public platform profess to have. The expenditure, perhaps, involves an odd thousand or two only, but the principle is a very important one, and for that alone I am contending. The provision of these motor cars amounts to a misuse of the public funds, and, as an indication that the Committee does not approve of such expenditure, I move -
That the Division, “ The Department of the Prime Minister, £9,759,” be reduced by £1.
– It has been truly said that those who are the most bitter in public life are those who have left, or “ ratted “ on a .party, and joined some other party.
– They know too much about the party they have left.
– We have very clear evidence, this afternoon, of the truth of that statement, and I am very glad indeed that this matter has been raised, not by an ordinary member of the Opposition, but by one who has “ ratted “ from the party on which he is now endeavouring to cast a slur. No one, except in bitterness, would deny that in these days it is necessary, not only in the country’s business, but in ordinary business, that motor vehicles should be used. It is all a matter of saving time. There were no cars available for the Federal Government ; and some time ago .one was purchased and placed at the disposal of the Prime Minister’s Department. This car, when it was not required by the Prime Minister for public business, was at the disposal of the other members of the Government when engaged on public business. Then the Minister of Defence found that, in travelling about on business connected > with the saddle and harness factory, the cordite factory, and other Commonwealth institutions, much of his time was taken up in using and waiting for tram cars; and it was felt that his time, if he was at all fit for the position, ought not to be wasted. A car was, therefore, provided for the Minister of Defence in order that he might more expeditiously get about on his work of supervision.
– I suppose there are no taxi-cabs or motors to be had for hire?
– Yes, there are; but I venture to say that if these public vehicles were hired, the cost at the end of the week would prove more than that of the Ministerial car. That car is used almost exclusively by the Minister of Defence, although, when he does not require it, it is at the disposal of other Ministers. The Minister of Defence has stated, in private conversation, that this car has enabled him to do one more day’s work a week than previously. The first car that was purchased for the Prime Minister’s Department was put to such constant and “ hard use that it has practically broken down, so that, practically, there are now only two cars at work.
– There ought to be five cars instead of three.
– I do not know that, but I do know that motor cars are necessary ; and no one would have raised any objection except the honorable member for Perth, who1 has done so simply for poli tical purposes - simply in order to have a dig at the party with which he was once connected. We all know the reason why he left that party.
– Order 1 The item before the Chair is the reduction of the vote.
– T have said all I desire to say.
.- Some time ago, the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court of Victoria consolidated the whole of the rules of the High Court. He did it entirely in his own time, but I understand that the remuneration paid is quite inadequate, being much less than was offered by a private firm for the work. I believe this gentleman .did the work very well, and to the satisfaction of the Justices of the High Court. In addition, the Prothonotary has done a good deal of honorary work for the Commonwealth. I see the Attorney-General is not present, but I should like to ask that the matter be reviewed again, with a view to some slight additional remuneration being given.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Attorney-General.
.- The Committee is entitled to some information from the Minister as to what he intends to do with the Ordinance that was before the House some time ago regarding the disposal of land under the leasehold system in the Northern Territory. The question seems to have been put very much into the background, but I understand that the Ordinance has all the force of law until rejected by the House, and that, however strongly the House may object to the perpetualleasing system, applications for land may be made and granted. Some honorable members seem to be under the impression that the question of leasehold versus freehold was settled by this House when the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill was passed, but the Ordinance to which I have just referred was made under the Northern Territory Administration Act, section 11 of which is as follows -
No Crown lands in the Territory shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this Act.
It was, therefore, the present Government that settled the question of leasehold tenure for land in the Territory when introducing that Act, but, so far as the Northern Territory Acceptance Act is concerned, the.
House is free to make any laws with respect to land that it considers desirable.
– The Ordinance was submitted to this House, and a discussion took place on it. No vote was taken, but I accepted the discussion as practically meaning that a majority of the House was against some of its main principles.
– But it is still in force.
– It is in force, but I have issued instructions to the Administrator that no leases shall be granted under it, and none will be granted under it. A new Ordinance is now being prepared, and I hope that before the month is out it will be placed on the table . of the House, and an opportunity given for its discussion. No leases will be granted until a vote has been taken on it. There is no delay in the matter, so far as the Northern Territory is concerned, because for, perhaps, two or three months it will be impossible to allocate any leases. It will be necessary to have the landsurveyed and advertised, and so on. The work is going on in the Territory, but no leases, either agricultural or pastoral, will be issued until the new Ordinance is placed on the table of the House, and opportunity has been given to the House to deal with-it.
– Why an Ordinance? I thought the Minister withdrew the Ordinance to consider whether he would not proceed by an ordinary Land Bill in the usual way. Why should there be a Land Ordinance for that huge Territory ? Ordinances are generally associated with some . forms of government with which responsible Governments are not familiar. They are usually associated with the government of an inferior by a superior representative body. I could understand the Minister proceeding by Ordinance in the case of Papua, where they have not representative institutions, but the Northern Territory is part of our own Commonwealth.
– They have not got as many representative -institutions as Papua has.
– Perhaps not yet, but the Minister hopes to give them some shortly. Surely he is not going to treat this as an -outside territory? It is part of Australia, and is only called a Territory because we have not yet named it a State. It is really as much a State as any other, although not so populated. It is under our own laws, and will be regulated by our own conditions, and ultimately by the same representative principle as any other part of Australia. Why, therefore, perpetuate the Ordinance principle? I strongly urge the Minister to bring down a proper Land Bill.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, and passed through its remaining stages.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– In moving -
That the Housedo now adjourn,
I wish to state that the first business tomorrow will be the consideration of the proposed redistribution of electorates in Queensland and. Western Australia.
– What has become of the scheme for New South Wales?
– The Minister has not yet got the report.
– I presume the official time has not yet expired since the distribution was posted.
– That time has expired.
– Then the Commissioners have to consider any representations that are made to them. I understand that the report is not yet to hand.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121009_reps_4_66/>.