5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the House, before it enters upon business, to agree to a motion having reference to the life and work of the late Sir William Lyne. We may well pause in our contentions to pay this last tribute to one who has passed beyond the veil, and who for so long took so prominent a part in the public affairs of the community. Sir William Lyne devoted practically the whole of his life to the service of his country. However much some of us may have differed from him on political questions, we all, I am sure, recognise the great value of his life’s work to the people. ‘ His was a strenuous career from its beginning to its close. The deceased gentleman was associated with many of the public movements of Australia, and with many interests affecting the welfare of the people. Few have lived a life so strenuously devoted to the good of the public, whose cause Sir William Lyne had always at heart. I knew him for many years, and although we were usually on opposite sides in Parliament, I at all times recognised the patriotism of his labours, and the kindly feeling and good fellowship which influenced all his public actions. I never remember a wrong word passing between us in our private relations. For thirty-three years Sir William Lyne served the people in Parliament, and during the whole of that time he represented the one constituency. Among the offices he held were these: In the Government of New South Wales he was Secretary for Public Works, and afterwards Premier. He was a member of the Federal Convention, and in the first Federal Ministry held the portfolio of Minister of Home Affairs. Under the Commonwealth he was also Acting Minister of Defence, Minister of Trade and Customs, and Treasurer, and he was a Commonwealth delegate to the Imperial and Navigation Conferences of 1907. This list of offices suggests but an outline of his many distinguished services to the people, and it is well that we should mention them now that he has passed to where “beyond these voices there is peace.” I move-
That this House places upon record its high appreciation of the great public services rendered by the late Sir William Lyne, and ten ders its sincere sympathy to the bereaved widow and family of one who devoted so many years of his life to the promotion of the welfare of the people of Australia.
– He was a big Australian.
.- Speaking for all the members of the Opposition, I concur in the action taken by the Prime Minister. The late Sir William J. Lyne was a man big of heart, and generous to a fault. His public services were rendered with the one aim and object of securing the welfare of the people of his native country. He has fallen by the way, and, because of illness, his membership of this Chamber ceased prior to his demise. He was a man who never deserted a friend. During a personal acquaintance with him extending oyer about fourteen years, I never heard him reflect on an opponent. He was a brave fighter, hitting hard when his opponent was in front of him, but generous to his foes behind their backs. Australia can ill afford to lose such men. He has gone, and I agree with the Prime Minister that it is right to convey our sympathy to those who were nearest and dearest to him, who, no doubt, have in large measure the sympathy of the people of Australia. If it be not trespassing beyond the motion, I ask members and the country whether the time has not come when Australia should give more thought to the dependents of those who have given their whole lives to the service of the public; whether, when veterans like the late Sir William Lyne fall in the service of the country, their dependents should not be protected by the country, because of the position in which they have been placed by reason of the sacrifices made on the public behalf at their expense. This question may or may not be a popular one to raise, but it is the dutyof this young nation, which,I hope, will one day become a great nation, to see that the dependents of those who render good service to the country shall not in the end be in a worse position than they would have been in had the efforts of their breadwinners been devoted to private instead of to public affairs. Some may consider this suggestion unnecessary, but in making it I am voicing the sentiments of my heart as well as obeying the dictates of my mind. I believe that the time will come when Parliament will say that no man shall suffer because of services rendered by him to his country. The widow and dependents of the late Sir William Lyne will be able to say that they were associated with a citizen of Australia whose name will live long in (he memory of the people, and whose services in helping to build up the great nation of Australia have been, and will be, of a permanent character.
– I take this to be a fitting occasion on which to implant in the records of the House a little of what was done by the great man who has just fallen by the way. While Premier of New South Wales, the late Sir William Lyne was instrumental in the passing of over 160 Acts of Parliament within a period of eighteen months, and I say unhesitatingly, after a study of the work of the Premiers of the several States, that I know of no leader of a. Government who, within so short a space of time, was able to bring forward, and to carry, so many Acts beneficial to human beings, as he did. The record which I propose to make of the deceased gentleman’s work is one that I trust young Australians will turn to if, . in the future, they should by chance study the pages of Hansard. Act No. 32 of 1899 provided for the abolition of the Marine Board of New South Wales, and for the establishment of a Department of Navigation and Courts of Marine Inquiry. Ask any sailor passing in and out of the port of Sydney, and he will tell von whatsplendid benefits seafaring men have obtained from that legislation. In the same year, Sir William Lyne, as Premier of New South Wales, passed
Act No. 44 - a law to regulate mining for gold and other minerals. Any miner will tell honorable members of the benefits that have accrued to the worker from that legislation. Again, in 1900, he introduced and carried a Bill providing for the resumption and purchase of public wharfs in Sydney Harbor. Any citizen of Sydney will speak of the good that has resulted from that law. Then, again, the deceased gentleman amended the Sydney Corporation Act in such a way as to make Sydney the most democratically governed city, not only in any country under the British flag, but in any European country. Under Act No. 55 the deceased gentleman provided that all wages payable in New South Wales should be paid in cash, thereby removing an abuse of which every honorable member knows. Another piece of humane legislation was Act No. 56, by which he determined the size and weight of baskets used in discharging coal ships. Honorable members well know how many brave hearts failed because of the overloading to which they were previously subjected. By Act No. 72 the deceased, as Premier of New South Wales, provided for an easier method of appeal on the part of railway employes. That also was an act of justice to a large body of workmen. Then, again, he passed Act No. 74, which provided for the payment of oldage pensions in New South Wales. No better piece of legislation was ever introduced in any State. The deceased gentleman was also responsible for Act No. 81, providing for early closing. These are but a few of the 160 Bills introduced and carried by the deceased gentleman, from 14th September, 1899, to 27th March, 1901 - a record that should stimulate every politician when he takes high office, and satisfy him that the more the legislation introduced by him pertains to the benefit of the human race the more is he likely to be remembered by the people. When in a previous Parliament I gave the deceased gentleman my seat in the Ministerial corner, our friendship was cemented, and I always looked up to him as a son should look towards a father. A truer friend never took part in politics, nor, as my leader has said, has there ever been a braver fighter. He was a hard hitter when facing an opponent, but, as soon as the political war was over, his kindly and courteous nature again prevailed. One of the greatest of the English-speaking race,he was with us but a few weeks ago, and I could have wished that he had died with his harness upon his back. That, however, was not to be. I think it was only because of the ill-health that came upon him that he was not in harness when the end came. There was one incident in connexion with this Parliament of which he spoke to me with some bitterness. I refer to the occasion when one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, suddenly collapsed, and one of the scribes, who writes under an alias, was cruel enough to attack him, as well as others in this House, in connexion with it. He resented most strongly that attack, more particularly when he learned the identity of the man - a man who would not dare to say to his face that which he wrote under cover of anonymity. I wish to add my word of praise at a time when we are lamenting the passing of this great spirit, and when the time comes for us to pass through the shadows, may he, and all men like him, whose hearts when on earth were pulsing for humanity, be there to welcome us.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
President - Postal Electricians’ Award
– Iwish to ask the Prime Minister what action, if any, he proposes to take in regard to Mr. Justice Higgins, President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. In explanation of my question, I desire to state that the Prime Minister is reported to have said, at the monthly meeting of the Chamber of Manufactures, held in Melbourne on 28th July last, that he had been told on good authority that Mr. Justice Higgins had lately given such an award in relation to an industry that it would take 99 per cent. of the gross receipts to satisfy the wagesand conditions.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot proceed on those lines.
– Then I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to take any action regarding the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court?
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to apologize to the President of the Arbitration Court for the remarks made by him at a meeting of the Chamber of Manufactures?
– Order ! The honorable member must not ask a question of that nature.
– I wish to say that I made no remarks for which an apology is needed - certainly none which reflected on the President of the Court.
– In view of the delay in the postal electricians approaching the Arbitration Court, and also the delay in placing the award on the table of the House after it was made, I desire to ask the Prime Minister if he will consider the desirability of paying those men the wages awarded as from the 1st July, 1912?
– I should like the honorable member to give notice of the question. I may say, however, that I hope to lay the award on the table of the House to-morrow.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he can indicate when there will be made available the rolling-stock necessary in order that rails may be laid on the earthworks which are now completed on the Kalgoorlie section of the TransAustralian Railway?
– I hope to be able to have that matter satisfactorily settled in a few days. I made a statement in the press yesterday with regard to it; but I do not think it is judicious at this stage to place the position of the Government in connexion with these delayed contracts quite clearly.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question with regard to the printing of amending regulations. From time to time honorable members receive regulations setting forth that certain words are omitted from an existing regulation and other words substituted; but it is a big task, when so many regulations are issued, to hunt up the original in each case in order to ascertain what the amendment means. Will the Prime
Minister see that a regulation, when amended, is printed completely, so that we may know the bearing of the alteration?
– I shall be very glad to make inquiries to see if something can be done in the direction indicated.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he will lay on the table of the Library all the papers in connexion with the transfer and the working of the Port AugustaOodnadatta Railway ?
– I shall be pleased to do so when the matter is completed. The actual details of the new agreement have been decided upon, but the agreement itself is not yet actually settled.
– Following the question of the honorable member for Barrier. I should like to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs if he will also make available all the papers in connexion with the Oodnadatta agreement, from the start to the present time ?
– In view of the large file of papers, I suggest, for the convenience of the Department, that it would be better to have it laid on the table of the Library, if that will suit the convenience of the honorable member.
– Is it a fact, as rumoured, that it is the intention of the Department of Trade and Customs to repeal the regulation which limits the size of corn sacks to 200 lbs. ?
– There is absolutely no truth in the statement. Two proclamations were in existence dealing with the subject, and these proclamations were not uniform. One dealt with sacks of 200 lbs., including the weight of the bag, and the other with sacks of 200 lbs., plus the weight of the bag, referring, respectively, to importation and exportation. It was felt that uniformity was desirable, as these regulations gave rise to difficulties; and a new proclamation will prescribe a weight of 200 lbs., including the weight of the sack, as better in the interests of the workers and all concerned.
– Are we to understand from the Prime Minister that, notwithstanding the fact that he is officially the Minister of Home Affairs, all questions connected with the Department are to bc addressed to the Assistant Minister ?
– I propose to leave at any rate the bulk of these matters to my colleague who is in charge of the Department in my absence. I find that it would be impossible for me to give this great Department the attention it deserves, and at the same time do justice to the position of Prime Minister.
– How does the Prime Minister propose that we shall discriminate as to the questions to be addressed to himself and those to be addressed to the Assistant Minister 1
– I suggest that honorable members address all questions to the Honorary Minister for the time being, and I think I have indicated this much more than once.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence lay on the table all the papers affecting the closing of the Karrakatta rifle range?
– I shall lay the question before my colleague and give an answer to-morrow.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General whether the following statement, which appeared in the Argus of the 9th July, is correct: -
Mr. W. H. Irvine, K.C., Federal AttorneyGeneral, has consented to fill the vacancy on the Board of the Royal Bank of Australia Limited caused by the death of Sir Samuel Gil lott
– The statement is true, Mr. Speaker.
– I should like to know from the Attorney-General when Mr. George Swinburne resigned his various positions as director, chairman of directors, and so forth, of the various institutions with which he is connected. Did Mr. Swinburne resign before he wassworn in as Inter-State Commissioner?
– I understand that that is so, but I have not made any inquiries about the matter. I shall inquire and get the desired information.
– In connexion with the investigation as to dual voting, will the Minister in charge of the Electoral Department see that a list of the names of the persons who are said to have so voted, and the places where such voting is said to have occurred, is printed along with the other information to be submitted ?
– I do not quite grasp the question of the honorable member, who, in the first place, suggested that grave reflections had been made on those persons. Do I understand him now to desire that the names of the persons who appear to have voted twice shall be printed ?
– I wish the information made public.
– I do not propose to print the names of those persons in the way suggested by the honorable member.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that the forty-five persons who are alleged to have voted twice in the Cook electorate, include quite a number of prominent business people who are Liberal supporters ?
– I have not had occasion . to scrutinise the list in question as carefully as the honorable member has done.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whethelie is aware that every one of the twentysix dual voters in the Maranoa election was either a squatter or a station manager, and whether he will cause proceedings to be taken against these gentlemen ?
– Unfortunately, the inquiry that has just terminated does not afford us any guide as to the persons who actually used the names of other persons to enable them to vote twice. I can only say that the Department will bc very glad to receive the aid of the honorable member in its endeavour to ascertain the identity of the offenders.
– Inasmuch as it has been publicly charged in connexion with the Dalley election that the occupants of the Balmain cemetery voted for me, will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs make special inquiry into the conduct of that election with a view to determining what persons did vote in the way that has been described ?
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister what action the Government intend to take as a result of the inquiry which they instituted into the alleged irregularities at the recent general election ?
– I hope that my honorable friend will be made aware of the Government’s intentions in due course when our proposals for the rectification of evils which arise under the present Electoral Act are put before the House.
– Perhaps I did not make my question quite clear to the Prime Minister. I am not concerned with the intentions of the Government in respect of electoral alterations. The fact is that they instituted an inquiry into alleged irregularities. They have the report of their own officers in regard to that inquiry, and I ask what action they intend to take as the result of that report?
– The Government are not yet in possession of the report.
– Why, it was laid on the table this afternoon by the Honorary Minister. I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral, whether he has seen the report which has been submitted by the Electoral Department concerning the alleged duplication of votes at the recent elections, and whether it is his intention to take action against any of the persons who are alleged to have voted more than once?
– As I intimated to the Prime Minister when he was on his feet, the report from the Chief Electoral Officer only reached my hands this afternoon. I have not yet had an opportunity of even glancing over it. As to the other portion of the honorable member’s question, a very serious responsibility arises in regard to myself as AttorneyGeneral. If it can be discovered what persons used the names of certain voters wrongly, it will, of course, become my duty, and that of the Home Affairs Department, to take every step to bring those persons to justice. But it must be remembered that a mere statement as to the number of duplications, and as to the names involved in those duplications, affords us no guide as to the persons who actually voted more than once.
We cannot ascertain who those persons are until further inquiries have been made.
– And further inquiries will be made?
– Further inquiries will be made wherever possible with a view to determining what persons wrongly exercised a vote.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he is aware that the official returns show that no more cases of dual voting occurred at the last election than occur in ordinary elections ? ls it not a fact that about two or three such cases per 1,000 occur in all Commonwealth elections ? I am as desirous as any one can .be that this matter should be thoroughly investigated ; but I think it should now be admitted that the Australian people are as honest as are any other people in the world.
– The question of personation has not been investigated at all. As the Leader of the Opposition will no doubt remember, I stated, when this matter was previously referred to, that this particular inquiry was only a part, and a very small part, of the investigations which any Government must necessarily undertake when serious allegations of this kind have been made. I pointed out, also, that the Government have no knowledge as to whether even duplication existed to any considerable extent. All that has been done, and this has been with the assent of honorable members on both sides, has been merely to ascertain the number of cases in which the names of persons appearing on the rolls have been wrongfully used for apparently illegal purposes by persons unknown. In addition, there must be an investigation to enable us to find out who used the names which have been used more than once; but, until we get that information, I shall be unable to place it before the House.
– The honorable gentleman is aware that ordinary clerical errors are held to be sufficient to account for the duplications that have been disclosed.
– The electoral officers assure me that, in connexion with every election, a number of clerical errors take place, but they have not yet given me any assurance that the number of duplications disclosed in connexion with the last elections either do or do not exceed the average. On this subject, the opinion of the expert officers of the Department will he placed before the House as soon as possible. I wish, however, to say that the conclusion of this investigation will still leave open the great source of trouble which may arise in the swelling of the rolls and the recording of additional votes in consequence.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, when he is in possession of the report of the Chief Electoral Officer in connexion with the matter to which he has just now referred, he will lay it upon the table and see that it is printed ?
– I wish to ask the Attorney-General whether the reports he has received in connexion with the charges made concerning the elections, indicate that the alleged duplication of votes was greater than at any previous election, taking into consideration the increased number of electors who voted ?
– I am unable to answer the honorable member’s question. I am inclined to think that it will be impossible, even for the officers of the Department, to answer it fully, because, although scrutinies have been made in connexion with particular disputed elections, so far as I know, no scrutiny for this particular purpose, covering the whole of the Commonwealth, has ever before been made. Some estimates have been made by the electoral officers of the average of duplications, and I shall endeavour to obtain these estimates. I should explain, in reference to the answer I gave to the Leader of the Opposition a few minutes ago, that I am afraid I was in error in stating that the particular document which was handed to me this afternoon immediately before the House met, by the Chief Electoral Officer, deals with the matters upon which inquiries have been made, but as soon as the report referred to can be obtained I shall lay it upon the table of the House.
– I should like to say that the Opposition will be quite satisfied if the honorable gentleman will lay before the House all the information he can obtain on the subject at the earliest possible moment. The matter is one which concerns Australia, and not solely the party on this side of the House.
Colonel RYRIE.- I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that the Returning Officer at Cooma issued instructions to his Deputy Returning Officer that he was not to employ station-owners, overseers, or managers as poll clerks, or in any other position, in connexion with the recent election ?
– I am not aware that the Returning Officer issued that instruction, but I think it is only fair to say, since reference has been made to a particular officer, that if he did so he acted under Ministerial instructions during the last regime
– How does the honorable gentleman know that?
– Because I have seen the instruction.
– I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether he proposes to recognise the extra services rendered by the Returning Officers in regard to the electoral inquiry ?
– We have taken steps to do that already.
– I would like to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs if he’ will lay the instruction to which he refers on. the table?
– I shall be very happy to do so, and also the correspondence leading up to it, if the honorable member would like it.
– Yes, the whole thing.
– I would like to ask the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether it is not a fact that no Minister can intervene with respect to instructions when an election is in progress, and whether that authority is not vested absolutely in the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth?
– I am not concerned with what a Minister can or cannot do, but I have a tremendous admiration for my predecessor.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government propose to purchase, rent, or resume Government House, Sydney, for the use of the Governor-General, or whether they intend to provide any residence in that city for him ?
– Not just at present.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether anything has been done by the Government in reference to Government House, Sydney ? I understand that the honorable member for EdenMonaro has forwarded a communication in respect to the matter, and that he has not received any reply to it.
– Nothing has been done beyond talking the matter over with the Premier of New South Wales, who declines in any way to re-open it.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he is negotiating with the State Premiers with a view to putting an end to the duplication of 1,700 savings banks throughout Australia ?
– I have been looking into the matter, and have been conferring with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank upon it. I propose to enter into communication with the Premiers of the States, but have not yet done so.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the rumour which has been circulated in Melbourne to the effect that the services of Mr. Henry Chinn, the supervising engineer of the Kalgoorlie section of the trans-Australian line, have been dispensed with, is correct?
– It is true.
– Quite recently the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs made public some letters and minutes in relation to the leasing of land at Keswick, in South Australia. In order that honorable members may be placed in possession of all the facts, I ask the Minister whether he will lay on the table of the House the whole of the papers dealing with the matter?
– I shall lay the whole of the papers on the table of the Library tomorrow.
– I would like to ask the Minister of Trade aud Customs whether it is a fact that there is information in the Customs Department showing that a number of Australian indus tries are languishing through the want of a re-adjustment of the Tariff to adequately protect them, and, if so, whether the Government propose to take early action to see that those industries receive proper attention ?
– As the honorable member’s question involves a matter of policy, I shall ask him to postpone it until after the Prime Minister’s announcement.
Fitzroy Dock - Naval College: Quarters - H.M.A.S. “ Australia
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether he will lay on the table of the House the report which caused the sudden shutting down of the Fitzroy Dock, and the throwing of a number of men out of employment, because of an alarm in connexion with alleged unsafe boilers?
– If the honorable member will give notice of his question for tomorrow, I shall take means to supply an answer to it.
– Following upon the question asked by the honorable member for South Sydney, I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if he will place on the table of the Library the report of Mr. Julius as to the condition of the boilers in the Cockatoo Island Dock ?
– I shall ask the Minister of Defence if he will lay the papers on the table.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is : A number of men were put off between March and May last owing to the completion of the first section of the road work. Road construction then had to cease owing to the Commonwealth not having acquired the land over which the next section of the road had to pass. The land has now been acquired, and the Department is commencing the construction of the remainder of the road, and an increase in employment will result therefrom. It is intended to complete the work expeditiously and economically.
– I would like to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether he will lay on the table all papers in connexion with the proposed erection of certain quarters at Jervis Bay?
– I shall be happy to lay them on the table of the Library.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Refusal to Answer Questions.
.- I desire to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance-
– The honorable member was good enough to furnish me with a copy of the motion which stated that he proposed “ to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent importance, namely, the refusal of the Prime Minister to answer certain questions which he particularised “; but I would point out that under standing order 21 it is laid down that no business except of a formal character shall be entered upon before the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Opening Speech has been adopted. The subject-matter to which the honorable member’s motion re fers has not even any relation to the business before the House. Under that standing order I do not think that it will be competent at this stage to move a motion for adjournment which will raise the right of debate, and which, therefore, cannot be said to be business of a formal character.
– I do not wish at this stage to enter upon any discussion on your ruling, sir; but as the Standing Orders specially provide that if five members rise in their places to support an honorable member wishing to move such a motion, neither the Speaker nor any one else has any discretion in the matter; it is purely within the leave of the House. That has always been the ruling. I merely enter this protest now because, sooner or later, it is a matter that will have to be dealt with.
– A question of privilege may arise at any time.
– The Speaker has given a ruling. It is a ruling to be obeyed.
– I have a perfect right to ask a question of the Speaker without any interruptions from the AttorneyGeneral. Even the Prime Minister interjects. Is the Prime Minister to run the Speaker?
– Order !
– The honorable member is trying to do so.
– I would like to ask, sir; if you. rule definitely that no matter can be brought forward until the AddressinReply is dealt with?
– I have no option under the standing order but to rule that no business except business of a formal character can be transacted before the Address-in-Reply is adopted. Under that standing order it seems to me that at this stage a motion of this kind cannot be entertained.
– I would much rather the honorable member who is desirous of moving this motion would withdraw it. I do not know what the motion is, but I think it is rather the wrong time to move it; and I would rather you, sir, would withdraw the statement you have made than allow us to get into a wrangle at this stage which would not be a good thing for us. Certainly, it is not the correct thing for us to allow the matter to go.
– I spoke to the honorable member who handed in the motion, and pointed out the objection to it under the standing order ; and I told him I thought it would be very inadvisable to bring forward a motion of that kind until the Address-in-Reply was adopted. If the honorable member would see his way clear to withdraw his motion for the present it would be the best course.
– In view of your ruling, sir, I take it I have to withdraw it.
Several Honorable Members. - No.
– I take it the ruling is that the motion I have now moved cannot be moved because it is informal.
– If the honorable member will withdraw the motion he can do away with the necessity for giving a ruling; but if he insists on proceeding I have no option but to give the ruling that at the present stage, under the Standing Orders, I cannot accept the motion.
– The point is important. A privilege Bill may be introduced, discussed, and passed, and sent to the Crown before there is any grant of Supply. That is a privilege that belongs to this Chamber and every other deliberative Chamber under responsible government.
– What about a Supply Bill?
– Leave that out for the present. I ask whether the House has not the right to intervene between the Crown and Supply on any subject of importance that concerns it in its representative and responsible character; but if this ruling is correct we cannot intervene with anything until the Address-in-Reply is completed.
– “Under the Standing Orders we cannot proceed in this way unless the standing order is suspended. The standing order distinctly says that only business of a formal character can be taken before the Address-in-Reply has been adopted. The proposed motion cannot be said to be “ business of a formal character,” nor is the question of privilege involved.
– I would like to ask whether or not the statement of policy the Prime Minister has intimated he proposes to deliver here can be taken prior to the Address-in-Reply?
– I have had no official intimation of any such proposal. Consequently I do not propose to give a ruling on a matter that is not before me.
– May I ask, if that ruling is to be accepted, whether it would be possible for the Treasurer to introduce a Supply Bill before the debate on the Address-in-Reply is concluded ?
– I do not propose to answer that question at the present stage, because the issue suggested has not arisen. It is not the custom for the Speaker to give decisions in anticipation of questions which may or may not arise.
– Do I understand, sir, that you have ruled my motion out of order ?
– If the honorable member persists with it, I shall have no option but to do so; but I have suggested to him a certain course.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker; I withdraw the motion.
– I promised, when the House was good enough to grant the Government a month’s adjournment, to put the House in exactly the same position as it would have occupied had a full Governor-General’s Speech been addressed to Parliament, and a debate upon it had proceeded at once. In accordance with that promise, I now ask the leave of the House to make a statement of policy before the debate on the Address-in-Reply is proceeded with.
– The question is that the Prime Minister have leave to make a statement of policy.
– Suppose any honorable member objects; would you, Mr. Speaker, have to rule that the Prime Minister could not make his statement?
– Very well, then; I shall not object.
– In granting the permission to the Prime Minister, which I think every honorable member is desirous of giving, I should like to know whether the same privilege will be accorded to any other honorable member if he desires to say anything?
-If honorable members opposite are going to quibble about the matter, I shall have to take another course, and lay the document on the table of the House, and circulate it.
– Take your own course, then !
– Then I lay this paper on the table of the House, and shall move that it be printed, and considered in connexion with the Address-in-Reply.
– The Prime Minister has already asked leave to make a statement.
– I withdraw that request. I lay this document on the table of the House, and move -
That the paper be printed and be taken into consideration with the proposed AddressinReply.
That will get over the difficulty. I am going to circulate the paper at once.
– I do not know whether the whole matter is now open for discussion. We seem to be in an unfortunate position. Here is a matter of vital importance to the whole country. Every one wants to know what the policy of the Government is. I want to know. Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is, apparently, that it would be improper to discuss the matter at the present time.
– This is practically a correlative formal motion - that the paper be printed, and taken into consideration in connexion with the Address-in-Reply to facilitate discussion of that matter.
– It is more than formal.
– The subject-matter of the paper can only be debated on the Address-in-Reply according to the limited terms of the motion itself. To discuss the contents of the document would be to anticipate the discussion which is specially provided for in the motion.
– If the matter is only formal, I do not understand the procedure. The question is that the paper be printed.
– This is the way the Opposition are going to do the business of the country, is it?
– No, it is the slippery way the Prime Minister is trying to get out of an obligation.
– The Government have had an adjournment of several weeks, and the Prime Minister has now laid a paper upon the table. This paper is supposed to be of great and vital im portance to the people of this country. It discloses for the first time the policy of honorable members opposite - or their alleged policy. In placing it before us, as the Prime Minister has done, without comment-
– The opportunity for which was refused.
– The honorable member states that which is untrue.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Kennedy has stated that what the Prime Minister said was untrue. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable member for Kennedy to withdraw that remark.
– An unruly exSpeaker!
– The Prime Minister interjected when he had no right to do so. It was very unruly conduct on his part. But, under the circumstances, seeing that he is so graceful about the matter, I desire to withdraw the remark objected to. The Prime Minister must not, however, interject things as he has been in the habit of doing.
– No objection to the remark was made by the Prime Minister.
– The objection was made by the honorable member who has been chosen as Whip of the party opposite, and who ought to be less talkative than any other honorable member on his own side. The Prime Minister, as I said before, has laid upon the table a paper containing the policy that has been arranged amongst honorable members opposite during the past five weeks. That policy has now taken tangible form. The document is issued as a sort of manifesto to the people of this country. I do not know whether it is vital to the country or not; but we are told that the laying of the paper upon the table is merely a formal matter of no particular importance to honorable members opposite. We have had a ruling that no business of any importance, apart from the AddressinReply, can be discussed at this stage. I am not justified in saying whether the paper is important or not. I have not read it, and do not know what it contains. But I am quite justified in assuming that it is of no importance, because, under Mr. Speaker’s ruling, if it were important I could not discuss it.
– Talk sense!
– I must warn the Whip of the Ministerial party that he must not interject insulting remarks to honorable members on this side. If the honorable member is going to say insulting things, he will have insulting things said to him in reply.
– Order !
– It is all very well to call me to order; but why not rule the honorable member for Richmond out of order ? The honorable member seems to think that it is part and parcel of his duty to insult honorable members on this side.
– I have not insulted any one, and the honorable member knows it.
– The honorable member says what is not true.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark. 1 have several times called for order. I must ask honorable members to assist me in maintaining the Standing Orders. It is grossly disorderly for honorable members to persist in disorder, and I again request them to maintain the authority of the Chair. The honorable member for Kennedy said that a statement of the honorable member for Richmond was untrue. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
– I think, sir, it is part and parcel of the honorable member’s duty to withdraw his statement first.
– Order 1
– I withdraw the remark now, and ask the honorable member to withdraw his statement concerning myself.
– If the honorable member for Richmond said anything of an insulting character to the honorable member for Kennedy, it is his duty to withdraw the remark.
– If anything I said is insulting to the honorable member for Kennedy, and he will tell me what it is, I will willingly withdraw it.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the remark unconditionally.
– If I am told what I have to withdraw I will withdraw it.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Kennedy considers that something the honorable member has said is hurtful to his feelings, or insulting, it should, as a matter of course, be withdrawn.
– Well, I withdraw the remark without knowing what it is.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member did not withdraw the remark unconditionally.
– What did he say?
– Never mind what he said.
– Mr. Speaker, I withdraw unconditionally what I do not know.
– I think that the insult is more now than ever it was, and I want the honorable member to be required to withdraw the remark.
– Surely he has a right to know which words you take exception to ?
– Never mind what they < are.
– Mr. Speaker, will you ask the honorable member for Kennedy to state the words to which he takes objection ?
Honorable Members. - Withdraw the remark.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the words.
– I have withdrawn absolutely and unconditionally anything I have said which is offensive to the honorable member for Kennedy.
– It has taken the honorable member a long while to do it.
– Order !
– The Prime Minister must not think-
– Order ! Will the honorable member resume his seat?
Mr. Joseph Cook__ It seems to me that he has taken possession of the House.
– Order ! The honorable member for Kennedy has occupied the Chair, and, in redemption of his promise to the House at its first assembling, I rely upon getting his assistance. I ask him to obey the ruling of the Chair, and comply with the Standing Orders.
– I can assure the Speaker that he will get all the assistance I can possibly give him.
– I thank the honorable member.
– I want to know, sir, whether we can discuss the document which has just been laid upon the table?
– I would remind the honorable member that the motion itself provides for the discussion of the document with the Address-in-Reply. The only question now is whether the House is agreeable to that course being adopted. The motion is all that is before the Chair at present.
– I ask, sir, for a definite ruling as to whether we can discuss this matter)
– The only matter which the honorable member can discuss is whether the paper shall be printed and taken into consideration with the proposed Address-in-Reply. On this motion, he cannot discuss the AddressinReply.
– I understand now, sir, that we are at liberty to discuss the whole of this paper.
– No. The honorable member is only at liberty to discuss whether the paper shall be printed and taken into consideration with the proposed Address-in-Reply. Beyond that, he is not at liberty to proceed.
.- I do not propose to discuss the merits of the statements contained in this paper, but desire to place on record what appears to me to be the situation in respect thereto. We were given to understand, when the House was asked to adjourn five weeks ago to allow Ministers time to put their policy into a presentable form, that, on its re-assembling, the Prime Minister would make a statement to the House in respect to their policy, practically putting us in a position similar to that in which we would have been had the Ministry been ready with a policy to put in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, as is customary. On this occasion, the Prime Minister came down with a policy ready, and alleged that he was prepared to make a statement in accordance with the promise he gave to honorable members, and practically to the country. He asked for leave to make a statement, and leave was cheerfully granted by every honorable member on this side.
– Oh !
– There were a couple of interjections. My honorable friend will remember that when he sat on this side he was the most persistent and insistent interjector that this Parliament had ever known. Interjections then came fast and furious from him, and surely he ought not in present circumstances to take exception to an occasional interjection from those now in Opposition.
– What do you want me to do ?
– I am afraid that the honorable member will not do what I want him to do. I would like him to be straight in politics.
– Order !
– I rise to order.
– Oh, jump up !
– Mr. Speaker, I ask you to call upon the honorable member for Adelaide to withdraw that insulting observation.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the observation.
– Yes, sir, I withdraw what the honorable gentleman has asked me to withdraw. A couple of interjections of a harmless character were made, and then because of them the honorable gentleman saw fit to withdraw from his obligation to the House.
– I rise to order. The only question before the Chair is the printing of a document, and the consideration of it in connexion with the proposed Address-in-Reply, and the honorable member is not in order, I contend, in traversing my conduct in any way.
– I have already ruled that nothing beyond the terms of this motion can be discussed.
-No doubt the honorable gentleman, would like to close my mouth. I am not discussing what is contained in this paper, sir. Surely, on this motion I have a right to give my objections to the printing of it. Is that permissible ? If that is acceptable to the Prime Minister I may proceed perhaps.
– You say that we must not interject.
– Sometimes the honorable gentleman may reply to my questions, sometimes he may dodge them.
– Order 1
– I was going to say that because of two interjections the Prime Minister has withdrawn from his obligation. He refused to make a statement, and he laid upon the table a paper for honorable members to see if they so desire. I simply wished to place these facts on record, so that we may be able to review them if we so desire in the future, and point out once again that the honorable gentleman, without a shadow of reasonable excuse, has slipped from an obligation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Clerk laid upon the table a copy of an election petition received by him from the District Registrar of the High Court, at Perth, under section 202 of the Electoral Act, viz. : Petition of William Noah Hedges against the return of Reginald John Burchell as member for the electoral division of Fremantle in the State of Western Australia.
.- I move-
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech to both Houses of Parliament be agreed to by this House : -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
At the beginning, I wish to acknowledge my appreciation of the privilege afforded to me by this opportunity to address this Chamber for the first time. I assure honorable members that so long as I have a seat in this House I shall endeavour to maintain the best traditions of parliamentary government, and the honour and privileges of this the first Legislative Chamber of the Commonwealth. I regard my selection by the Government to move the Address as a compliment to the rural constituencies of Australia, which gave the Government party such splendid support at the last election. Indi is essentially a rural constituency. In the last Parliament it was represented by a member whose political views were not those that I hold, and during the recent electoral campaign stupendous efforts were made by the party now in Opposition to retain the seat, but those efforts were unavailing. Like many other rural constituencies - like every rural constituency in this State of Victoria - Indi supported the party now in office. The results of the general election can hardly be regarded as satisfactory by either of the great parties which have striven for the confidence of the people. The position of the present Administration is almost without parallel, in the history of constitutional government, and certainly in the government of the Commonwealth. The composition of the two Chambers is such that the Government does not occupy the position which its Ministers would like it to occupy in proposing legislation for the good of the country. Three years ago, the party which is now in Opposition was returned with solid majorities in both Chambers, and the last Government was therefore in a position of legislative and administrative capacity such as no previous Government of the Commonwealth had occupied. With this advantage, Ministers proceeded to put the party platform into effect by legislative enactments, and their method of administration of the great Departments of State. After three years of office, they appealed to the country, and the electors showed that they were not in sympathy with their policy. In support of this statement, let me remind the House that the party lately in power pledged itself to the proposed amendments of the Constitution on which the electors were consulted by referendum, and that the country voted against each of its six proposals. The last Government began its legislation by laying hands on the electoral law, and, by drastically amending that law, converted it into a machine best suited to the political purposes of the party. It abolished a system of voting which was of distinct advantage to a great many of the most deserving of the electors.
– Does the honorable member know that his Prime Minister said that the absentee voting system was as good as the system of which he speaks?
– Had I more experience, I would deal in another way with these highly intelligent and statesmanlike interjections, but being a new member, I crave the indulgence of honorable members in addressing the Chamber. The last Government introduced an absentee voting system which, as I told the electors during the recent campaign, and as I repeat now, opened the way to the gravest abuses of the electoral law. The reason given for the abolition of the postal vote was, I understand, that, following upon the election before last, there were ten or twelve successful prosecutions for breaches of the provisions of the electoral law relating to the postal voting system. But a recent departmental inquiry, which, in my opinion, touches only the fringe of possible electoral abuses, and therefore gives but little indication of the extent of these abuses, shows that at the last election there were 3,000 or 4,000 instances of duplicate voting, and I believe that a large number of these duplications were due to the absentee voting system which was substituted for the postal voting system. I look forward, therefore, with a good deal of interest to the attitude of the present Opposition in regard to the amendments or modifications of the absentee voting system which may be proposed by the Government. The party opposite, which, I understand, claims for itself exclusively the virtue of consistency, will, no doubt, assist the Government in bringing into operation these necessary and desirable changes in our electoral law. I congratulate the Government on putting before the House, as their first business, this question of the amendment of the electoral law, for, in view of the possibility of an early appeal to the constituencies, it is desirable that every preparation should be made, and that we should have a thoroughly satisfactory system of electoral registration and properly-prepared rolls. In addition to these requirements, I would also impress upon the Government the desirability of bringing before the House, when submitting these proposals, some scheme to insure that no candidate will be returned to Parliament unless he represents the views of the majority of the electors recording their votes in the constituency for which he stands. It is true that there is at present a clear line of demarcation between the two parties, and the result at the last election shows that the so-called independent candidate is not wanted. But it is quite possible, by the entry into the field of campaign of two or more candidates holding similar views, to have a split vote on the one side, and to have an electorate represented by a member whose views are not in accord with those of a majority of the electors. I would urge that the Government, in submitting these proposals, should also put before Parliament some system of preferential voting, so that whoever is returned as the representative of a constituency shall represent the views of the majority of the electors recording their votes. In the course of my appeal to the electors, as well as on other occasions, I strongly advocated the adoption of a system of preferential voting, and I intend to do so in this House when the question of electoral reform comes up for consideration. In this connexion, there is another matter to which I should like to refer. I trust that the Ministry will see their way to remove the unwarranted restrictions that were placed upon the freedom of the press by a recent amendment of the electoral law. I think we shall all agree that a strong, virile press makes for the welfare of the people.
– The press is pretty strong !
– It may be desirable at times that the press should be strong; but I think that we in Australia can feel proud of our press, on the whole, and that we should not submit it to such undesirable restrictions as were imposed by the recent amendment of the electoral law. I would now invite for a few moments the attention of the House to the attitude of the Government towards employment in the Public Service. In their statement of policy, the Government have intimated that competency and merit shall be the sole basis of employment and preferment in connexion with the public works of the Commonwealth. I am glad that they have already intimated that they do not propose to give to any section of the community preference at the expense of another section. This is an exceedingly important matter, for it is highly desirable that every member of the community - every elector - should have the same right to enter the Public Service, or to an engagement under the Commonwealth, without being compelled for that purpose to ally himself with the views of any party. I observe that it is also proposed to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration. My experience during the last campaign was that there was in this connexion the grossest misrepresentation on the part of those in opposition to our party. A large body of members of the late Cabinet were campaigning in my constituency, and it was put to the electors in the first instance that the Liberal party was responsible for the arbitration laws in their present form. An attempt was made to make the rural producers, more particularly, believe that the demands of the Rural Workers Union were being made through the Arbitration Court in consequence of the legislation of the Liberal party. When that misrepresentation was exposed, another position was taken up. It was then said, in connexion with those demands, “ Oh, well, they will not come into operation.” I am assured by electors in my own constituency that they were frequently informed that the demands made by the Rural Workers Union would not come into operation. When, however, those demands assumed definite shape, by means of the log that was subsequently circulated, the electors in my constituency were informed that they were really in the nature of claims, and . would not come into operation through the Court in any way. Then, that statement having been explained away, it was said, “ Well, even if the demands do come into operation, the rural producers, in being called upon to meet them, will be no worse off than they were before.” I see that the Government have declared their intention of exempting the rural workers from the operation of the Act, believing that the conditions of their employment ought to be left to the States. Electors in my constituency have been told during the last few weeks that they would see how far the Liberal party were sincere during the recent campaign in their opposition to the demands being made through the Arbitration Court - that they would find that there would be no amendment of the law at the instance of the Liberal party.
– The Liberal party had not the courage to place in their policy such an amendment of the law.
– I am glad to see that the Government have given this question a prominent place in the statement of policy now submitted to the House. I venture to say that if, for reasons beyond their control, they should not be able to carry an amendment of the law in the direction indicated, and it should be necessary to appeal to the country on the question, they will have behind them the solid support of every rural constituency in Australia. I observe a declaration of the intention of the Government to maintain the accepted protective policy of the country. That, of itself, might almost be regarded as the reiteration of a truism. The real question is what is necessary to make Protection efficient in Australia. We are committed definitely to the policy of Protection, and the question that remains is what is necessary to make it efficient. In this connexion, I might refer to the appointment of the InterState Commission, and take the opportunity to congratulate the Government on having made the appointments so early. I feel sure the House will be quite in accord with the action of the Government in appointing this very necessary Commission. The -personnel of the Commission has given satisfaction to me, in view of the feeling that has been growing up - I do not say whether rightly or wrongly - amongst the members of the community, that appointments and preferment to the high offices of the Commonwealth could only be obtained by those associated with the public life of the Commonwealth, or with political parties. In these appointments, however, the Government have shown their determination to go outside political life altogether, and to select those whom it considers most suitable and competent to fill high offices in the Commonwealth service. This, of itself, must give satisfaction. Within the last few days I noticed a statement in the press, attributed to the Prime Minister, to the effect that the first business of the Inter-State Commission would be the revision of the Tariff. I observe, also, in the statement circulated to-day, an intimation to the effect that, in the meantime, any existing anomalies will be dealt with. The question of the Tariff is an exceedingly important one to the people of Australia; and it must be admitted that there are glaring anomalies which seriously affect employment, and which mean, as a result, huge importations of foreign goods made by cheap labour, to the detriment of our own people, and a corresponding necessity to remit abroad large sums in gold that are required for our own purposes, especially in view of the stringency of the money market. This being so, I impress on the Government, pending inquiry by the InterState Commission, the necessity to take in hand at an early date the consideration of this important question. During my election campaign I strongly advocated efficient Protection ; and,’ as I come into this House a strong adherent of that policy, I hope that, pending action by the Inter-State Commission, the Government will take the necessary steps to deal with the more urgent and pressing defects. From what I understand is the constitution of this House, there is, I think, a majority on both sides committed to the policy of Protection ; and if those members of the Opposition who, during the last part of the election campaign, announced themselves as professed Protectionists are sincere in their desire for that policy, they will give every assistance in removing the existing anomalies. I find, also, a reference to the intention of the Government to control trusts and combines which operate to the detriment of the public. This was a very prominent question during the election campaign; and I am glad to see the Government expressing their determination to ( control combines that are injurious to trade. If necessary we shall, no doubt, see the antitrust law, which the late Government permitted to remain a dead letter, put into operation in order to give effect to this determination of the Government. . The proposals in regard to reciprocal trade, referred to in the statement, will certainly be welcomed by the rural producers. Any extension of our oversea markets as an outlet for our products must be in the interests of our primary producers. Our wool, wheat, butter, and other primary products are of enormous value to the people of Australia. They are our main sources of wealth; and any steps that can be taken for, or any encouragement that can be given to, the extension of trade, with a view to the opening up of over-sea markets, will certainly be welcomed, not only by the trading community, but by the primary producers of Australia. The farmers of the northern part of Victoria and the Riverina will welcome the early settlement of the important question of the waters of the Murray River and its tributaries. On this side, the interests of the Murray valley are well represented, under the new constitution of the House, and I feel sure that the Government will get every support and assistance from honorable members in the settlement of this very vexed question. It is most desirable that the extensive areas which are suitable for closer settlement, and which only await the supply of water, shall be made available to the people who are ready to use them. Therefore, water conservation works and the construction of locks and weirs will be welcomed, at any rate, by honorable members who are interested in those parts of the continent. Speaking of the development of Australia, I should like to refer to the Northern Territory. That part of Australia sadly needs developing, and I see amongst the Government proposals one which indicates that a Land Bill will be shortly prepared and submitted dealing with this important Ter ritory. In that Bill, provision is to be made that settlers in that portion of Australia shall receive their freehold. This proposal should certainly be welcomed by all the people who are interested in the development of the country; and, in addition to the opening up of the Territory by the construction of railway lines and other public works, I hope that the Government will see their way, in this Bill, to make proper provision for that develop ment, in the first instance, by pastoral enterprise Our general experience in Australia has been that where the pastoralist first goes and opens up the country, the agriculturist soon follows, if the conditions of climate and soil are suitable. If, in the first instance, people are sent to the Northern Territory for the purpose of pastoral development, we may hope that development in agriculture and in other directions will soon follow. The question of immigration, in view of our need of population, is an exceedingly important one. In the absence of an adequate population it is not possible either to settle the lands of Australia or to defend it from foreign aggression. During the three years of office of the late Government no satisfactory steps were taken to give effect to an immigration policy, although a number of immigrants have been brought to bur shores under the auspices of the States. I note with pleasure, therefore, that the present Ministry propose to take control of the selection of emigrants in Great Britain and other European countries, and afterwards to hand them over to the States, who will make provision for their settlement upon the land upon their arrival here. If only a desirable class of emigrants is selected by the Commonwealth authorities on the other side of the world, we shall be in a better position to attract persons to our shores than we have been under the divided method of selection which has hitherto obtained, and under which the States took charge at both ends. Only by attracting people to Australia can we hope adequately to develop it and to defend it from aggression. To my mind, the question of defence is one of the greatest importance. The Government recognise that the position in the Pacific is daily becoming more serious, and I observe with pleasure that it is intended that immediate attention shall be given to that aspect of the matter. Our system of defence, both naval and military, should be developed in every way and that end can best be accomplished by attracting people to our shores. I notice; too, that the Government propose to encourage in every way the formation of rifle clubs. These are of great importance, particularly in our country districts, and I hope that special provision will be made to provide them with “ranges, in order that their members may be able to practise rifle shooting. I know of cases in my own constituency where rifle clubs have been in existence for very many years - certainly ever since the inception of the Commonwealth - but up till to-day they have not been able to secure permanent rifle ranges. In some instances they boast 1 00 or more members, and, in addition, there are a large number of cadets as well as members of other branches of the Forces available - persons who must necessarily take part in rifle shooting - and yet no step has been taken to provide them with permanent rifle . ranges. As a matter of fact, the gravest obstacles have been placed in their way. I trust that the Government will take the first opportunity of providing our country districts with proper ranges. I also observe that the Ministry intend to place the public works of the Commonwealth on a much more satisfactory footing. Hitherto we have had a divided authority dealing with these works. Such a system cannot be satisfactory to the people. We want to secure economy of expenditure with satisfactory results, and by the creation of a Public Works Department I believe that a good deal will be done towards reaching that end. These public works are of enormous .magnitude. They will cover the expenditure of the chief portion of the revenue of the Commonwealth for many years, and it is, therefore, important that they should be dealt with in the best possible way, having due regard to the public interest. The proposal of the Government to submit all these great works to competition under the contract system will be an immense gain to the people. I wish now to refer to the proposal of the Ministry to control the expenditure of public moneys in a much more satisfactory way than has hitherto been done. Speaking as one who lacks political experience, I understand that the details of expenditure in our various Departments are not dealt with by the House in the manner that they should be. The Government, I gather, propose to appoint a Committee of Public Accounts, which will keep both Parliament and the country in touch with these matters. I think, too, that the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board will mark a step in the right direction. These changes will not involve the country in any additional expenditure, but they will constitute a distinct gain to the people in the matter of the control of expenditure. From the statement of the Prime Minister which has been circulated, I gather that the Government propose to deal with the enormous and unnecessary expenditure that has been incurred by reason of the duplication of our Savings Banks throughout the Commonwealth. Only this afternoon a question was submitted to the Prime Minister under this heading, and I am glad that the statement which is contained in the circular to which I have alluded, affords that question a complete answer. The people of Australia do not require a duplication of our Savings Banks. The State Savings Banks were doing their work extremely well before the Commonwealth intervened. They were collecting the savings of the people, and were using them for the purpose of developing our resources, so that the entry of the Commonwealth Savings Bank into the field of banking was quite unnecessary. When the Ministry are dealing with the alteration of the law relating to the gold reserves of the Commonwealth Bank, I hope they will afford the House an- opportunity to consider proposals which, I think, would enable that bank to discharge important functions in connexion with the conversion and consolidation of our State debts. I think that the Commonwealth Bank might be made a much more useful institution than it is. No doubt when this matter is being discussed we shall be able to express our views upon that aspect of it. I come now to some very important matters regarding the proposal of the Government to establish a system of national insurance throughout Australia. Some such system has been in operation in different countries in Europe - particularly in Germany and Great Britain - and if the Ministry only introduce a system which will operate on the lines they have indicated they will certainly render great service to those who are entitled to benefit under that system. Under such a system of national insurance, provision can also be made for putting the maternity grant upon a proper footing. The late Government took to themselves great credit for the introduction of that grant. In my opinion, a great many persons have taken advantage of it who were not entitled to it. Under a proper system of national insurance, only those who are fairly entitled to participate in such a grant would be eligible to receive it. The Government also intend to deal with Old-age Pensions. Upon this question the grossest misrepresentations were indulged in by the supporters of the Opposition during the recent election. For days and weeks prior to. the election I was asked by numbers of old-age pensioners whether it was a fact that if the Liberal party were returned to power they intended to abolish old-age pensions. I assured them that the party which had introduced that system would certainly not abolish it, and that in voting for Liberal candidates they need not entertain the slightest fear that they would lose their pensions. It was everywhere said that the return to power of the Liberal party would mean the last of oldage pensions. The answer to that statement supplied by the Government to-day is that, instead of abolishing oldage pensions, they propose to make them more serviceable to those who receive them. It is unnecessary for me to deal at greater length with the special matters to which I have referred, but there are many other matters included in the statement submitted by the Prime Minister which will deserve the very close and careful consideration of honorable members. For months past it has been a cry used by our opponents that the party on this side has no policy. Perhaps today they are disillusionized. I venture to say that when they read the statement submitted by the Prime Minister they must come to the conclusion that the object of the Liberal party now in power is to govern this country in the interests of the people as a whole. Their desire is not to set one section of the people against another, or to create industrial strife and unrest, but to deal with the great national problems confronting us in a way that will be becoming and in accordance with the duty of representatives of the Commonwealth in this and the other Chamber of this Parliament. If honorable members opposite desire to deal with the great national problems before the country we may expect that in this House they will give the Government every assistance in carrying out their policy. I hope that there will not, because of the state of parties, be any wrangling or quarrelling in this Chamber ve hen these questions are being dealt with. I hope that all parties will approach their consideration in a national spirit, and with a view to furthering the interests of the country in every way. Speaking for myself, I can say that in dealing with these great problems the Government can rely upon the most generous and loyal support. If they are unable, by reason of the state of parties and the action of the party opposite to deal with these national problems in the way they propose, it may become necessary to leave their settlement to the arbitration of the people. If the spirit displayed be such as to indicate that it is impossible for the Government to carry on the affairs of the country in a way becoming a Parliament such as this, I hope that an appeal will be made to the country at the very earliest moment. Perhaps my willingness to appeal to the country is due to my inexperience of political matters, but I may express a hope that if it should become necessary to ‘again appeal to the electors, the result will be the reconstitution of this Parliament in both Chambers in such a way that the government of the country may be conducted in one without serious opposition in the other. It has been suggested that the existing constitution of the other Chamber may be made use of to block legislation assented to by this. I trust that that will not be so. I hope that the other Chamber will see its way to assist in the carrying of legislation necessary for the country. If it should not do so, and an appeal to the country should become necessary, I trust that the Government will take an opportunity to clear the political atmosphere by letting the whole of the members of this Parliament go to the country at the same time. I hope that the result of the appeal, if made, will give satisfaction, and that honorable members on both sides, and especially those in Opposition, will be found ready to assist the Government in facing the great national problems before them, and in carrying legislation necessary for the good of the Commonwealth.
– Perhaps it would be well for me before stating the question, and in order to avoid the necessity of interrupting honorable members who are new to the House, to mention the fact that it is not the practice of the House or in order to refer to anything done in the other Chamber of the Legislature.
.- I have very great pleasure, from many points of view, in seconding the motion which has been moved by the honorable member for Indi. It is quite true that I am a novice in Federal politics, but I am not expecting to receive any special consideration on that account. I am perfectly satisfied that if I give expression to views which are not in accordance with the views of my - honorable friends on the left of the Speaker, they will very quickly indicate their objection to the remarks I make. If they do not do so the omission will be a lesson to me in deportment which I have not received in any other part of the Commonwealth. I wish to compliment the honorable member for Indi upon the way in which he has dealt with the different items referred to in the paper distributed to honorable members as an expression of the views of the Government. I do not propose to occupy the time of the House to the same extent, but I shall refer to one or two matters which appear to me to be of some importance. First of all, so far as I have any criticism to offer with respect to the electoral law, it relates not so much to the law itself as to its administration in the past. At question time reference was made to instructions issued that gentlemen following certain occupations were not to be engaged in any office under the electoral law. I am speaking now for the man on the land, and it is right that the House and the country should realize that we have altogether set aside the silly line of demarcation as between areas that has often been raised in the past. We do not recognise to-day, in our State at any rate, and I do not think in any other part of the Commonwealth, such a thing as a large holder or a small holder. We are thoroughly united in our opposition to policies which we consider are totally inimical, not only to our own particular calling, but to the Commonwealth at large. From that I wish to say that, so far as my support goes, it will be very definitely given to the Minister when he brings in, as I hope he will, a Bill to do away with any preference or favoritism in the Public Service. I prefer to see a measure brought in to do away with the non-continuity of policy that may arise under different Administrations when they come into power. If we are to have one Minister bringing in preference to unionists on the one hand, and, a very short time after, another Minister doing away with it, then the whole of the people of the Commonwealth will begin to wonder where they are. The sooner we have a proposition that will produce continuity of administration the better it will be.
– Continuity of power.
– There will be far greater difficulty in bringing in an amending Bill than in getting a particular Minister to bring in a regulation. I think it a very wise provision whereby it is intended to restore the definition in the Arbitration Act excluding the rural worker from the operation of an industrial Court.
– He is too well off.
– I know there are certain remarks I shall hear. There are gags trotted out from Cape York to the south, such as “ Two well off,” or “ Out for cheap labour,” and that sort of thing; but I would draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that to-day, in the rural districts of Australia, in a great many instances, we are paying more than the claim set out in the log of the Rural Workers Union. And I want further to say that those wages were paid months before that log appeared in print.
– Then what is wrong about the log ?
– If any honorable member thinks he is going to bring trade union conditions to bear on the rural industry, the sooner he goes to a phrenologist, and has his bumps read, the better.
– You will get many a bump.
– I expect them. If I do not get bumps I know that I am not getting under the skin as I want to get. It would be very wise to repeal that portion of the Arbitration Act whereby the rural workers of the Commonwealth are subjected to provisions of that kind. I have nothing whatever to say about trade union conditions in manufacturing centres, and so forth, because we know that, whatever the conditions may be, they are always passed on to the unfortunate consumer ; but when we are dealing with a rural industry, where the price, if it is raised, has to be borne out of the small profits of the producer, it means placing the industry in great jeopardy, and probably stopping the wheels of progress in that direction. I wish to refer for a few moments to one or two items affecting the military aspects of our defence. I am pleased to notice that increased assistance is intended to be offered to rifle clubs.
– You have a very good rifle club over there.
– I hope it shall not be said that we are going to descend to personalities. I am very pleased to see that assistance is to be given to rifle clubs, a branch of defence that has not been as satisfactorily attended to in the past as I would have liked. One matter to which I would like to draw the attention of the Minister of Defence is the need for advancing the horse-breeding requirements for remounts and gunners’ horses. It is a matter that we should take into serious consideration. I believe that in the very near future we shall require 20,000 remounts a year. As far as I can see, we have foreign buyers in our markets who are depleting the Commonwealth of our best sorts, so that it will be a difficult matter for us, in time of need, to supply, in a hurry, what is necessary to move our troops from place to place. I think encouragement should be given in some way or other to men in the country to supply the right breed of horse. I am glad to see we are going to deal with the Northern Territory in a rational way. I say “ In a rational way,” because I want to give my friends in the Opposition every credit for the attempts they have made; but I think they were very short-sighted. If, under the extraordinarily easy terras upon which they were offering the land in the Northern Territory under leasehold conditions, they thought they were going to attract the right sort of men, they must be woefully disappointed to-day. Under the leasehold system, no finer or fairer terms could be offered ; but I did not hear of any wild rush of our young men to take advantage of those terms.
-Four hundred applied for forty blocks.
– If the honorable member wants to understand what is going on in the Northern Territory, let him ask his respected chief to give him a copy of Brady’s report. It would enlighten him. The proposition of the Government receives my hearty support. In dealing with the agricultural possibilities there, the settlers should have a generous living area, and they should have the right to the freehold some time during their occupation. If any gentlemen wish to go there and take up grazing areas of hundreds of square miles, by all means let them have the leasehold ; but where men have to go into green country and toil and moil in agricultural propositions, there should be a clause in their agreements or contracts allowing them, at some time in their lives, to know that it is their own land. I am pleased to see that provision will shortly be made for that. Now, with regard to the policy of cooperation with the States, and the utilization of the waters of the Murray, I reciprocate what my friend the honorable member for Indi has said. The electorate I represent is just across the Murray from his; in fact, we have just satisfactorily cleaned up the whole of the Murray valley, and I am satisfied we can come to some agreement whereby the magnificent volume of water in that valley, instead of going to waste, will add the productiveness we so much desire to see.
– There is no more important question before Australia.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. I am glad to see that proposals are to be submitted to deal speedily with that matter. My reference to it leads naturally to the paragraph which informs us that proposals are to be submitted with a view to encouraging immigration. I do hope that, for the future, no political qualifications are to be attached to any man who chooses to come to this country as an immigrant. I say deliberately that no Minister or. Government officer has any more right to ask a man who comes to Australia whether he is a unionist or a non-unionist than whether he is a Jew or a Gentile. If we are to have political agents in ports abroad to put the tar brand upon a man who desires to emigrate to this country, it will certainly be a bad thing for us. In regard to the proposals affecting the duplication of Savings Banks, I have only to express the hope that the Treasurer will cause inquiries to be made to see whether the wretched overlapping in Savings Bank business as between the States and the Commonwealth cannot be speedily relieved. It seems to me that the present state of things has caused a large amount of money to be withdrawn from circulation. The State Savings Banks have had to spend a considerable portion of their capital in housing their staffs, and providing for the carrying on of business which is conducted in competition with the Commonwealth Savings Bank. That is money taken out of circulation. What has occurred has added in some degree to the tightness of the money market, which has been so horribly inconvenient to the country. If we can do away with this unfortunate state of things, I am perfectly certain that it will be for the benefit of the Commonwealth. As to the Opposition, I hope that they will not attempt to do anything that will militate against the progress of this great country. On the contrary, I am satisfied that, according to their lights, they are acting in the belief that their policy will uphold the interests of Australia, and tend to make it one of the great States of the world. I trust that they will, as far as they can, without violating their principles, assist the Government in power in anything which tends to the progress of the country. I have much pleasure in seconding the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fisher) adjourned.
Motions (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday in each week, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business; and that on each Thursday until half-past six o’clock, until otherwise ordered, general business shall take precedence of Government business.
That on Thursday in each week, until otherwise ordered, general business shall be called on in the following order, viz. : - On one Thursday - Notices of Motion ; Orders of the Day. On the alternate Thursday - Orders of the Day ; Notices of Motion.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Elections and Referendums, 31st May, 1913 - Schedule showing result of official inquiry under regulations, giving number of electors marked as voting more than once, &c.
Fruit Industry - Royal Commission’s progress and minority report.
Ordered to be printed.
Audit Act -
Transfers of amounts approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council, financial year 1912-13 - dated 23rd July, 1913.
Treasury regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 139 (provisional), 154, 174.
Customs Act - Export of goods in sacks - Proclamation limiting weight.
Designs Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1913, No.173.
High Commissioner’s third annual report - year 1912.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Report of Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways for period of eighteen months, ending 30th June, 1913.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Federal Territory - land acquired under and leased to J. R. E. Hyles, J. S. Robertson, F. W. Hyles, A. McDonald.
Leases of lands in the Federal Territory - approval granted -
Land acquired under at -
Albion, Queensland - for defence purposes.
Ayr, Queensland - for defence purposes.
Blackstone, Queensland - for defence purposes.
Boulder, Western Australia - for defence purposes.
Canberra - Federal Territory - for Federal Capital purposes.
Echuca, Victoria - for defence purposes.
Flinders Island, Tasmania - for postal purposes.
Geeveston, Tasmania - for defence purposes.
Marrickville, New South Wales - for defence purposes.
Junction Park, Queensland - for defence purposes.
Pomona, Queensland - for postal purposes.
Queanbeyan, Federal Territory - for Federal Capital purposes.
Ultima, Victoria - for postal purposes.
Woomelang, Victoria - for postal purposes.
Land Tax Assessment Act -
Remissions of penalty granted during year 1912-13.
Northern Territory Crown Lands Act (South Australia) -
Berinka, plan showing proposed hundred of.
Northern Territory - Crown Lands Ordinance - Regulations amended. - Dated 15th May, 1913 ; dated nth July, 1913.
Papua - Ordinances of,1912 -
No. 14. - Infants.
No.15. - Insanity.
No. 16. - Trustees and executors.
No. 46. - Registration of births, deaths, and marriages.
No. 48. - Insolvency.
Ordinance of 1913.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 156 (provisional), 176-9, 193 (provisional), 195, 208 (provisional).
Public Service Act - Appointments, promotions, &c-
Attorney-General’s Department -
Postmaster-General’s Department -
Trade and Customs -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 209, 216, 217.
Sessional Committees - Works at
Quarantine - Immigration - Small-pox in New South Wales.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do. now adjourn.
.- I should like to ask the Prime Minister when he will bring forward a motion constituting the House Committee, the Library Committee, and other Sessional Committees ?
– I hope to do so tomorrow.
– It is an urgent matter.
– I desire to inquire of the Minister of Home Affairs what action has been taken with regard to providing medical attendance for the men engaged on works at Jervis Bay? I should also like to know from the Treasurer whether his attention has been directed to the statement that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has underwritten a loan of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works to the extent of £300,000 at 4 per cent. ; and, if so, whether he will take such steps as will enable the same facilities to be granted to the farmers of this country who require advances? Some honorable members opposite choose to sneer at the farmers, but they do not adopt that attitude at election time.
.- I certainly do not sneer at the farmers.
– The honorable member does not seem to be in favour of my suggestion.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question regarding quarantine. I understand that a ship-load of immigrants has just arrived in Hobson’s Bay, and that quite a number of those on board are afflicted with measles. I am informed that measles is a disease even more deadly than small-pox. What I wish to know is whether, when immigrants are quarantined, the Commonwealth defrays the expense, or whether it is borne by the State chiefly responsible for bringing these folks to our shores? In what position are the immigrants placed, and what steps do the Government propose to take in order that this contagious disease may be prevented from spreading amongst the inhabitants of Australia?
.- I should like to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he knows what bathing accommodation was provided for the immigrants on the ship alluded to by the honorable member for Maribyrnong? As the Minister knows, immigrant ships are not required by the Board of Trade regulations to provide even one hot bath. In view of the vast number of deaths from measles, as compared with the comparatively small number from small-pox, I urge that the Minister should take steps to induce the Board of Trade to make better provision for the health of those who intend to become Australian citizens.
.- I wish to know whether the Prime Minister, or the Minister of Trade and Customs, has any statement to make in regard to the small-pox scare in New South Wales? I can assure the Government that it is causing a serious amount of loss to the business people of Sydney. It is a matter that should be altogether above party considerations. The workers are losing money because they cannot attend to their work. I ask the Minister of Customs to take some steps to end this business by isolating the contacts, and allowing the rest of the public to go free. It is a very serious matter, indeed, to the people of New South Wales.
– The doctors are doing all right.
– I do not wish to insinuate that the doctors are acting from any pecuniary motive. I ask the Prime Minister, or the Minister of Trade and Customs, to make a statement on the subject to-morrow, and try to put an end to what is injuring every class of the community.
.- I regret that I have to rise again to call the attention of the House to the administration of the Quarantine Act in New South Wales. When I sat on the other side of the House I said that I would never do anything from this side which would belittle Australia, or tend to its injury. This afternoon I intend to justify the words which I then uttered from the other side. On the 5th July last, the Minister of Trade and Customs issued a proclamation quarantining the area within a radius of 15 miles of the Sydney Post Office. If the proclamation meant -anything at all it meant that the portion of New South Wales embraced within the quarantine area was not fit for other inhabitants of the State to enter. I was on my way to Melbourne when I received the first intimation that the proclamation had been issued. I arrived here on Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock, when, of course, it was impossible to see the Minister. But on the 7th July I waited upon him, with the view of trying to induce him to modify, if not to revoke, the proclamation. I am well satisfied to-day with the justice of the course I then took, because I claim that small-pox, which is a dirt disease, has not been proved to exist in the metropolis of New South Wales. When I interviewed the Minister here he treated me in what I regarded as a cold-blooded manner. He seemed to look upon my complaint as a mere frivolous matter. He appeared to regard the issue of the proclamation as an ordinary official duty. It was issued in such a manner as to satisfy me that he did not give a moment’s consideration to what he was asked to do. Up to the present time we have had no intimation from the medical men that there has been a case of true small-pox in the quarantine area. What they have admitted is that there have been some cases of a mild form of small-pox. I venture to say, if the proclamation had been issued by any other Government, the press of New South Wales would not have put the headlines they have to their reports; to my mind they have displayed an animus. When I brought this question before the House more than a month ago, I tried to impress upon honorable members that there was no possibility of any danger except in the quarantine area. I pointed out that there was no possibility of the spread of small-pox, because Sydney has natural opportunities for drainage. Both the Water and Sewerage Board, and the property-owners in and around Sydney, have spent millions of money for the purpose of keeping this area as free as possible from any form of contagious disease. It is many years since they instituted a proper system of underground sewerage, with efficient ventilation, and sanitary inspectors to call upon inhabitants to take necessary steps to prevent the spread of a dreadful disease like small-pox. I tell the honorable member for North Sydney, the honorable member for Wentworth, and the honorable member for Parkes that had the Government proposed that those electorates should be placed under quarantine, no members of this House would have been found more determined than themselves in resisting the proposal to put a stigma upon people such as was done by the issue of the proclamation on the 5th July. The honorable member for Wentworth, for example, would have used strong language in expressing the . indignation he felt at a proposal to quarantine his constituency. Do honorable members on the other side realize the stigma which the proclamation has cast upon Australia ? Travellers in every portion of the world will think twice before they take steps to come to Australia, owing to the reported breaking out of this disease. Is there no one opposite who is prepared to stand up and defend Australia from the stigma?
Are they content to sit quietly in their places and give me no assistance in my efforts to get an unjustifiable stigma removed? Only last week, in Sydney, I interviewed the Minister of Trade and Customs, who exhibited the same cold indifference to what is going on. I do not think that he realizes what he has done. There is one thing for which I can claim credit, and that is that in consequence of my first interview with the Minister he took steps to alleviate a good deal of the hardship which otherwise he would have inflicted upon the general public. I give him credit for that. But this Administration is doing nothing to destroy the disease germs where there has been an outbreak. Nothing has been done to cleanse the premises from which persons supposed to be suffering with small-pox have been taken. The only action of the authorities is to remove suspected cases and the contacts to the quarantine ground at North Head. The contacts are enjoying themselves well enough in quarantine. I have seen many letters which make that clear. In one of these, a youth of fourteen wrote to his father, “ Dad, we are having great times in the quarantine area. I have got nothing the matter with me, and the only trouble is to dodge the doctor to prevent him from sending me home.” In another case that I know of, a lady was taken to the quarantine-ground because one of her children had a speck on its forehead, the doctors disagreeing as to whether it was small-pox. She wrote to her ‘husband saying, “Don’t worry about us.” That good lady is receiving two bottles of stout a day, and is having the best time of her life in quarantine. Honorable members may laugh, but the stigma cast on Australia is no laughing matter. Although it behoves .a Minister of the Crown to have regard to the opinions of his professional advisers, he should show discretion and business capacity in dealing with questions of public interest, and when he has not sufficient knowledge of a subject to be able to deal with it properly, he should educate himself upon it. A Minister should not take so serious a step as the putting of any part of Australia into quarantine without convincing himself of the necessity for it. Sydney is the cleanest and healthiest city in Australia, and, indeed, in the world. Small-pox broke out there in 1881, and between that year and the present time millions of pounds have been spent in pre venting the recurrence of an outbreak. What the Minister should have done was, not to quarantine the whole city of Sydney and the surrounding country for a distance of 15 miles, but to quarantine the small areas within which the disease has shown itself. That was done when the State authorities had to deal with the bubonic plague. Small areas in which cases of plague occurred were quarantined and cleansed, and then the inhabitants were free to go about again as usual. In my humble opinion, as in the opinion of many others who have seen some of the patients, those who are suffering at the present time would not, under ordinary circumstances, be sent to the quarantine station. T have seen several of the cases, having made it my business, when I heard of any one being ordered to quarantine, to see the patients; and, in my opinion, none of those cases would, under ordinary circumstances, be sent to quarantine. It is a serious thing to have 1,000 persons taken from their homes and quarantined merely for a whim. The scare would not have lasted fourteen days had not the Government had the press behind it. It is unfortunate for Australia that this is a press-ridden Government, Ministers having to do exactly what the papers tell them to do. It is the newspaper proprietors who at present are the real rulers of the country. That is shown by the action of the Government in quarantining Sydney and its suburbs. As I have said, all the contacts now in quarantine are having a glorious time, which is as it should be; but the quarantining of Sydney is a serious thing for the shipping trade of Australia, and for every business, trade, and calling in Sydney, or having relations with Sydney. The Government, too, is answerable for the death of persons through hasty vaccination. I do not accuse Ministers of murder. but I submit that Mr. Furness, of Paddington, is a man who would have been alive to-day had he not been vaccinated. He was, for fifteen years, in private employment without having a day’s sickness, and played in a football match only nine days before his vaccination. But on the eighth day after vaccination he had to go home, where he lay down on a sofa, and was soon no more. When I went to see the body, I found that one side of it was for some distance as black as my hat. One arm, for a distance of 14 or 15 inches, was quite black. The doctors declared that he had had some kidney trouble. Possibly that may be so; but I am satisfied that that man, as well as another man who died at Surrey Hills, would today be living with his wife and children had he not been hastily vaccinated. Of course, we have absolutely no control over the medical profession. I do not say that vaccination is a good thing, or that it is a bad thing; but, in my opinion, any person, whether male or female, who has reached a certain age, should not be vaccinated without a medical examination. There may not be risk in vaccinating children, but a number of adults are not fit subjects for vaccination ; and when such persons are vaccinated, the result is their untimely death. No one desires that. I hope that my speech will cause the press to discontinue the scare headlines which appear in the newspapers day after day. I do not know whether it is merely a coincidence, but every day, in the Sydney newspapers, we see the heading, “The Small-pox Scare,” and alongside it the heading, “ Prime Minister’s Speech.” Many persons have been made quite nervous by these headlines, although the scare is absolutely unnecessary. I trust that the newspapers will in future show more discretion in the reporting of cases, and make surer of their facts than they have done hitherto. I certainly hope that they will not refer to cases of small-pox where small-pox does not exist. As one of the representatives of Sydney, I shall stand up for the residents of that city and its surroundings, although others are not prepared to do so. I have the courage to appeal to the Government to try to put a stop to the unnecessary injustice that has been inflicted, and to reduce the area that has been placed in quarantine. If I do nothing more as a representative of New South Wales than secure a reduction of the quarantine area, I shall have conferred some benefit on the people who are suffering, and shall likewise have assisted in removing as early as possible the stigma that has been cast upon Australia. Those who, like myself, follow, or have followed, the occupation of a sanitary engineer, know that small-pox is a preventible disease, and that, given a proper system of sanitation, there is no cause for alarm even if there is an outbreak. I feel strongly on this matter. I have done my best, but without success, to induce the Minister to take action to remedy the grievance under which the people of Sydney are labouring. The honorable gentleman seems to be quite cold and indifferent to our representations in this regard, and to deal with them just as he would deal with some “ six and eightpenny “ question of law on which he was asked to give an opinion. I trust that the Government will take warning from what has happened in connexion with the smallpox outbreak, and that before they act upon the report of even “an experienced officer they will exercise what ability they have to avoid injustice. They should certainly refrain from any hasty action that is likely to give rise to an injustice. I know of no greater injustice than has been inflicted upon the people of Australia, and more particularly the people of Sydney, in the uncalled for, and quite unnecessary, quarantining of 30 miles of the best city in the world.
– I do not propose to traverse the efforts of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat to make party capital out of a calamity that is confronting Australia. But, as one of the representatives of Sydney, I believe that the electors of Wentworth will support their member in placing as highest amongst the public responsibilities that any Government can have, the health, well-being, and, indeed, the life of the country we are sent here to govern. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has asked a question with regard to the appointment of a doctor at the Naval College at Jervis Bay. The honorable member brought this matter under my notice a few days ago, and his representations have already borne such fruit that the initial steps are now being taken to have the position filled without any delay. It is not only urgently necessary, in the interests of the men concerned in that detached settlement, that a doctor should reside amongst them, but, owing to the Acts under which we have to administer such camps, it is also necessary in the interests of the revenue, and of Commonwealth purposes generally, that we should have a medical officer there. The appointment, therefore, will be filled immediately. Another representation which the honorable member made with regard to the position in which married people in that camp found themselves, owing to the absence of a school, has already been remedied, as a schoolmistress has been appointed within the last day or two to attend to the education of the children in the camp.
.- I was very strongly impressed by the statement made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro that the Commonwealth Bank had advanced £300,000 to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works at an extremely low rate of interest, namely, 4 per cent. I did not think that the Commonwealth Bank was established to assist the big cities of Australia, or to make profits for people trading with London, the great metropolis of the world. What I did understand was that one of the great objects in view in creating the Bank was that it might help pioneers and settlers to open up the country by lending them cheap money. When the Commonwealth Bank was established, the State Savings Bank of New South Wales was doing excellent business. We had in operation there Settlers’ Boards and a Closer Settlement Act, and the State Bank loaned settlers the money necessary to enable them to develop the country. But the Commonwealth Bank has absorbed the money that was being used in that way, and, instead of helping to develop the country along these proper lines, we find it lending large amounts, such as this particular sum of £300,000.. at low rates of interest to city institutions like the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. I would remind the House that only last year the country underwent one of the most disastrous droughts imaginable. New South Wales alone lost about 6,000,000 sheep and 200,000 cattle as the result of this visitation, and there are to-day many settlers - tenants of the Crown - who are compelled to allow their properties to go unstocked because they cannot obtain advances from the banks. With them it is a question, not of obtaining money at a low rate of interest, but of borrowing it at any price. We find that the country is being starved, as it were, by the Commonwealth Bank, whereas the big cities of the Commonwealth are able to obtain from it loans at an extremely low rate of interest. The attention of the Government should be devoted to this matter, and an adjustment should be made in the right direction.
.- I should not have risen but for the endeavour by the honorable member for EdenMonaro to make political capital at the expense of this side of the House. I have a great admiration for his knowledge of political warfare, but think that he can possibly win his seat without endeavouring to do an injustice to our party. When he addressed to the Treasurer a question with regard to a loan of £300,000 made by the Commonwealth Bank to the Board of Works, and implied that the Bank did not assist the farmers–
– But the Commonwealth Bank has not lent the money to the Board of Works. The loan was simply underwritten by the Bank.
– The Bank made a success of the loan for the Board of Works. We farmers must have consideration, or we shall want to know the reason why.
– Order !
– “We farmers!” Oh! “ The farmer.” Where is he? The poor farmer !
– I ask the honorable member for Maranoa to maintain order.
– When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was referring to the action of the Commonwealth Bank in underwriting the loan - an action which means lending the money if it is not lent by others - he suggested that the Labour party was sneering at his effort on behalf of the farmer. It is a common practice on the part of some honorable members opposite to endeavour, in the same way, to make political capital. As a matter of fact, every representative of a Federal constituency, with the exception, perhaps, of a city electorate like that of Melbourne or Sydney, must have a considerable knowledge of the farmer’s difficulties. He must know of his difficulties, in the first instance, in obtaining land, his difficulties in cultivating his land, and, having cultivated it, the difficulties he encounters in seeking to obtain a fair price for his products. Honorable members know that there are many farmers like the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, many commission agents and lawyers - Collins-street farmers, who attend Farmers’ Conventions
– And farm the farmers !
– And, as the honorable member says, “ Farm the farmers “ - and who very often mislead the farmers. They try to impress on the farmer that his enemy is the man who works for him. They always oppose legislation having for its object the obtaining of cheap land for the farmer. I need only refer to their antipathy to the Commonwealth land tax, which has done something in some parts of Australia to get for the farmers cheaper land than they could get before. If my honorable friends opposite question that statement, I refer them to what was said by the honorable member for the Grampians, when he informed his constituents that the land tax had resulted in the depreciation of land values to the extent of 30s. per acre.
The real enemy of the farmer is not the labourer who works for him, nor the Labour party, who are endeavouring to get for the labourer a fair rate of wages; the real enemies of the farmer are those people who prevent him getting a fair price for his produce. Some day the farmers, when they become a little better educated politically - when there is a daily press which will give them our views on the situation - will commence to forsake honorable members who indulge in the clap-trap put forward here to-day by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
No doubt it will look very well in the press to-morrow, and in Hansard, that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Calare, have to-day advocated- the cause of the farmer in the Federal Parliament, and have denounced the Commonwealth Bank for underwriting a loan of £300,000 to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. Farmers who do not know the facts will doubtless say, “ What energetic gentlemen”; but if those honorable members had the interests of the farmers at heart, all they had to do was to walk down to any branch of the Commonwealth Bank, or to the head office in New South Wales, in order to ascertain that the bank is prepared to, and does, lend farmers money on good security.
.- Honorable members are much indebted to the honorable member for EdenMonaro for bringing this matter forward, and, doubtless, also indebted to the honorable member for Capricornia for the information that the Commonwealth
Bank is prepared to lend farmers money at 4 per cent. Money is extremely hard to get at the present time; and, if the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works has been able to obtain £300,000 on the terms mentioned, they have done very good business.
– Surely it ought to fix the rate of interest!
– I hope so. I hope the Treasurer, with his long experience of Australian affairs, will look into the matter. The Governor of theCommonwealth Bank is appointed for seven years at a salary of £4,000 per annum without any chance of being discharged; and, if he can see his way clear to lend £300,000 at 4 per cent., he will have a good many applications from the farmers of Australia, especially after what we have heard in the House to-day.
– In reply to the honorable member for Maribyrnong as to quarantine, I have to point out that under the Act all expenses charged and payable to the Commonwealth are fixed as a charge on the vessels. The other matter to which the honorable member referred has, for the first time, been brought under my notice, and that, together with the question raised by the honorable member for Melbourne, will be looked into. It is true, as the honorable member for East Sydney says, that on two occasions, he and other honorable members have strongly represented to me the advisability of abolishing, or, failing that, of limiting the radius fixed around Sydney. However much I appreciate the honorable member’s opinion on a scientific matter such as whether or not the disease in New South Wales is true smallpox, I have of necessity to be guided by what seems to represent the whole medical opinion of Australia so far as that opinion has been expressed.
– The Minister could not do otherwise !
– Quite so. There is naturally no desire on the part of the Government to impose unnecessary restrictions on Sydney ; and I can assure honorable members that, at the earliest possible date, when I am advised by those competent to advise me, that there is no longer necessity for the regulations, no one will be better pleased than myself to remove them. The public health is our first consideration.
– The public health of the people of Australia was not considered in fixing the 15 miles radius when the people of New South Wales were allowed to wander about as they pleased.
– We dealt with the Inter-State aspect of the question only.
– The Government backed down from their position as soon as the press made an attack.
– The regulations were deliberately framed before they were communicated to the press. The first intimation that the press had was when the regulations were published, and the regulations are still in force to-day, without the slightest modification or alteration.
– The Minister himself said that they were not intended as they were taken.
– What I said in the House was-
– Not in the House, but in an interview.
– I am afraid the honorable member is wrong. What I said was that, apparently, a message had gone to Sydney which conveyed the impression that the whole of Sydney had been absolutely quarantined, and that impression was incorrect. What happened was that a 15 miles radius round about Sydney was proclaimed a quarantine area.
– That is the whole of Sydney.
– That is the whole of Sydney; and the necessities of the case compelled us to make that the quarantine area. As I said at the time, this was necessary in order to enable us to regulate the Inter-State traffic; and the regulations as originally framed are continued. I also stated at the time that, while preserving, the public health and enforcing all reasonable safeguards, the Government desired to consider as much as possible the convenience of the travelling public. During the last week or so, in enforcing the regulations, we have ascertained that there has been a certain amount of inconvenience owing to the fact that persons who have been successfully vaccinated, and have passed the fourteen days’ period, have been called upon to practically go through the same process several times in obtaining certificates. 1 asked that the matter should be inquired into, and this week we shall issue an instruction under which persons who have been successfully vaccinated will be able to secure exemption certificates which will permit them to move freely from Sydney to Melbourne, or from Sydney to Brisbane, without being called upon to submit to a harassing regulation.
– Will that apply throughout Australia ?
– Yes. When I was in Sydney I personally inspected the procedure which was gone through by persons travelling. I did the same thing in Victoria in order that I might get a first-hand knowledge of it; and it did seem to me that persons who had been successfully vaccinated might be granted an exemption in that respect. During the present week we shall have framed and issued an exemption certificate which will have effect throughout Australia, on the following basis -
Successful vaccination done fourteen days prior to the date of application for a certificate.
Proved immunity demonstrated as a result of three unsuccessful vaccinations, or in the case of successful vaccination ten years old and two unsuccessful vaccinations.
The effect of this will be to permit the travelling public who have fully complied with the conditions laid down in the regulations to obtain what might be called travellers’ certificates - the possession of which will obviate the necessity for continually reporting themselves to the health authorities.
– Does the Minister know that the present skin eruption in Sydney will last until December?
– I am not going to say that I know anything about the future development of any disease. I am not in a position to prophesy. The honorable member passed some severe strictures upon the administration within the State of New South Wales. The control of disease in Sydney is a matter which is entirely dealt with by the health authorities of that city. Of course, the Commonwealth is co-operating with them to the fullest extent. I am not aware that there is an)’ truth in the complaints which the honorable member has made. My information is that the Sydney health authorities are taking every precaution to localize this disease, and finally to exterminate it.
– Dr. Paton has told you that there is no necessity for doing what has been done.
– Some reference has been made to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank having underwritten a loan to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. I was not consulted about the matter, and if what is alleged has been done after consultation with the Treasury, it must have been done before I came into office.
– Why should the Governor of the Bank consult the Treasurer? He occupies an independent position.
– I think he does j and if he has underwritten a loan as has been mentioned, he has probably had to find the most of it.
– No; he had to find only £50,000.
– The honorable member knows more about the matter than I do. The Governor of the Bank possesses powers which enable him to incur tremendous liabilities for which the Commonwealth is responsible. I have not heard that the regulations of the Commonwealth Bank provide particularly for the lending of money to farmers.
– Of course they do. The Treasurer cannot have read the Act.
– No ordinary bank will lend money to farmers on such advantageous terms as will the State Agricultural Banks. I know something about Agricultural Banks. I know that in Western Australia the Agricultural Bank has lent money to farmers for the development of the country on terms which were very liberal, and I also know that in making such loans some risk is incurred, which I think is justifiable. But the ordinary banking institutions do hot do that sort of business. I do not think for a moment that the Commonwealth Bank or any ordinary banking institution would undertake the same class of business as is undertaken, for instance, by the Agricultural Bank of Western Australia, which has the best record of any Agricultural Bank in the Commonwealth .
– The honorable member does not think that the Commonwealth should have lent the money?
– In my opinion the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has too much power. Those who are responsible for the government of the country, and for the liabilities undertaken, ought, in my opinion, to be consulted as to the incurring of liabilities for which the Commonwealth is responsible.
.- I am sure there is not an honorable member of this House who expected the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, who ought to be the defender of the position occupied by Mr. Denison Miller, Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, to attack him in the way that he has done.
– I never mentioned his name.
– Nothing more unbecoming, Mr. Speaker-
– Shut up! This is a piece of impertinence.
– The honorable member must, withdraw that remark.
– I rise to a point of order. While the honorable member for Wide Bay was speaking the Treasurer interjected, “ Shut up! This is a piece of impertinence.” I call attention to the remark, and ask that it should be withdrawn.
– I have already ordered the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, but I say that the statement of the honorable member was very rude.
– Nothing more unbecoming, more unfair, and ungenerous has ever emanated from any member of this Parliament than the attack of the Treasurer, who ought to be the protector of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. It was the honorable member’s duty to see that Mr. Miller is not attacked by any honorable member, because he has been appointed by Statute to an independent position. My own friends know that they did not agree with me in making his position an independent one, but they can now see the wisdom of doing so. It is extraordinary that we should find the Treasurer of all men attacking the administration of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
– I merely said that the Act gives him too much power.
– And the Treasurer made his attack without knowledge. He admitted it. He said, “J know nothing about what he has been doing, but I know that he has too much power, and. I know that he cannot do so-and-so as well as other people can do it.” Whether the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is doing business other than Savings Bank business
– I did not mention Savings Bank business. I spoke of the Agricultural Land Banks.
– Exactly ; and the money which they lend is collected from the people by the Savings Banks of the States. From my own knowledge I know that that is so. Not only has the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank made loan investments with semi-public bodies, but I believe that he has lent money to the State Government of South Australia. Is there anything wrong in that ? He has lent money to farmers. If the Treasurer had taken advantage of the opportunity to read the official reports of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, he would have discovered that he has not only made investments in various ways, but has, so far as practicable, made those investments in the different States in proportion to the money received by the bank in those States. Is it because be has been successful that we have heard this outrageous statement made here on the first day of the meeting of this Parliament ? We hear now that he is to be attacked. The principle of the Commonwealth Bank is to be attacked, and also the man who controls it. Happily, we are in a position to say of Mr. Denison Miller, that he was not selected from the Labour party. God pity him if he had been. Whatever his ability, it would not have protected him. Had he had the slightest sympathy with the Labour party, the press, the Government, and the whole of honorable members on the other side would have hounded him out of his office, in spite of everything, when they had the power.
– Why should they?
– There is no reason why they should do so, except it be their political animus and wilful bias. The Treasurer says that he has too much power, and that he is acting wrongly.
– No, I did not say that he is acting wrongly. The honorable gentleman should not misrepresent me. He has gome responsibility as Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr. Denison Miller, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, does not need my defence.
– Then the honorable gentleman should not defend him.
– He has been attacked here by the one Minister who ought to have defended him. He has been challenged, and has been charged as unfit for his office, and the Treasurer has said that he has too much power.
– Is that attacking him!
– I am dealing with the Treasurer.
– The honorable gentleman should not misrepresent me. I said that the Act gave him too much power.
– The Treasurer was attacking the Act, and not the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
– If the Treasurer will get up and say that that is so, I shall Bay no more. I take objection quite as much to the manner in which he made his statement as to the words which the honorable gentleman used. He has been awaiting an opportunity of this kind.
– Not at all.
– The people of Australia can rely upon this - that we have got a good man. We pay Him a large salary, and I believe he has done well. I believe he will be able to do better in the f uture. But he cannot do well, . and no man could do his best for Australia in the high, honorable, and responsible position which the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank holds, unless he can rely at least upon ordinary courtesy from honorable gentlemen occupying Ministerial positions, and especially from the Minister under whose Department he has to work.
– It is good to hear this tirade from the Leader of the Opposition.
– What does the honorable gentleman know about it? He has not Been in the chamber.
– If honorable members are going on like this, Ishall not say “ a bloom in’ word.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 August 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130812_reps_5_70/>.