5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Some time ago I asked the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs whether, in view of the fact that the Government Statistician of New South Wales has issued the State’s statistics in a publication the size of a pocket-book, he would consult the Commonwealth Statistician with a view to the publication of Commonwealth statistics in a similar form. I think that honorable members generally approve of the suggestion. I ask the honorable gentleman if he has spoken to the Commonwealth Statistician, and, if so, whether the publication which I suggest is to be brought out!
– I saw the Commonwealth Statistician after the question was asked, and that officer is now considering what statistics should be given in a publication of the nature suggested.
Photographsof Patients - Sydney Quarantine
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the photographs which have been shown to some honorable members of patients suffering from small-pox were taken during the present epidemic, or whether they were taken during the epidemic of 1883?
– As the Prime Minister stated, they were taken during the present epidemic, and were photographs of typical cases of different forms of the disease. If the honorable member would like to see them, I can also show him -two or three photographs of the same kind that were handed to me last Saturday week.
– Having regard to the fact that there has been no loss of life in connexion with the alleged small-pox epidemic, and that the disease is practically dying out, will the Government take into consideration the wisdom of lifting, within an early date, the embargo that has placed Sydney in such an unfortunate position ?
– I hope that it will not.
– -There will be a row all over Australia if it does.
– The fact that the disease has been particularly mild in character has been taken, into consideration, but in view of the experience of other countries, particularly of the United States of America, it is premature to’ pronounce finally respecting it. We are glad that the attacks have hitherto been mild. It has been noticed that recently’ the cases have diminished, and I assure the honorable member that as soon as they have fallen off to such an extent that the medical authorities consider it safe in the interests of the public health of Australia at large to lift the quaran-tine, it will be lifted.
– Seeing that during the small-pox epidemic in Sydney only one contact has been isolated . to every eight patients placed in quarantine, will the Minister of Trade and Customs consider the advisableness of urging the State Government to isolate all contacts, and so help to prevent the spread of the disease 1
– The responsibility in this regard rests with the State Board of Health, which is administering the. law within its own area; but I shall certainly bring the honorable member’s remarks before that body.
– Will the Treasurer try to make the first instalment of the £400,000 which is to be paid to Tasmania £30,000 instead of £5,000?
– I propose to give notice of a motion to ask leave to bring in a Bill dealing with the matter.
Postal Vote - Maternity Allowance
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to take any action in regard to the representations made to him by the Women’s Political Association in regard to the postal vote; which the members of the association protest against as likely to be manipulated, and whether he proposes to appoint women inspectors in connexion with the administration of the maternity allowance?
– I hope that my honorable friend will be a little patient. I have not yet had time to look- into these matters.
– I ask the Postmaster-General if it is not possible, before the signing of the contract for the conveyance of the Tasmanian mails, to insist on one of the vessels that carry the mails going into Stanley once a week both ways. Stanley is a very important port, but is almost isolated because of the want of railway communication?
– The honorable member spoke to me on this subject the other day, but having made inquiries, I find that we cannot arrange for any of the vessels calling at Stanley without interfering with the service to Launceston. Some means may be discovered later for dealing with Stanley by itself.
– The honorable member for Cook asked the other day whether it was true that objections had been lodged to the enrolment of nearly 300 names for the Mascot subdivision of the Cook division,’ and, if so, what routine had been followed in dealing with the objections. The Chief Electoral Officer reports -
It would appear that 260 names have , been objected to by the Electoral Registrar for the subdivision of Mascot, on the ground that the persons concerned are no longer resident in the division of Cook.
Action has been taken under the provisions of sections 69 and 70 of the Electoral Act, and I am assured by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of New South Wales that the requirements of the law are being carefully observed.
The procedure in relation to objections is briefly set forth in the following memorandum : -
An objection is lodged with the Divisional Returning Officer by the Electoral Registrar in the form provided in Regulation iia (2). If the name of the elector is objected to on the ground of non-residence, the objection is not deemed to be good, unless it alleges that the person objected to does not live in the division, and has not- so lived for at least one’ month, or it alleges that the person objected to does not live in the division, and has obtained enrolment for another division. On receipt of an objection, the Divisional Returning .Officer, if satisfied that the ground of objection stated is a good ground of objection, is required to forthwith issue a notice of objection in the prescribed form to the person objected to, by posting it to the last-known place of abode of that person, or, if that is not known, then to the place of living appearing on the roll.
The person objected to may answer the objection orally or in writing, On receipt of the answer of the person objected to, or after the expiration of twenty days from the posting of the notice, the Returning Officer is required to determine the objection, and if it appears that the person objected to is not qualified or entitled to be enrolled on the roll, to direct that his name be removed. Any elector feeling himself aggrieved by the action of the Divisional Returning^ Officer may appeal to a Court of summary jurisdiction for an order directing that his name be restored to the roll.
In practice there is rarely, if ever, any necessity for an appeal to a Court.
The honorable member for Darwin asked me a question similar to that of the honorable member for Cook, but relating to the Darwin division, and in regard to it the Returning Officer reports that -
Eight hundred and sixty-nine objections have been lodged in respect of the division of Darwin since the last elections, and that 406 of these objections related to the Zeehan subdivision, and 151 to the Queenstown subdivision.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer in what form, if any, he has obtained the permission of the States to make a deduction from the payments of the moneys due to them for a sinking fund on the transferred national debts. If he has not obtained that permission, how does he propose to acquire the right to make the deduction ?
– The honorable member will be able to see the Bill as soon as it is introduced. The proposed arrangement is so obviously to the advantage of the States that it is not likely to be dissented from.
– There appears in this morning’s issue of the Age a lengthy article outlining the provisions of the Bill to be introduced to provide for the taking over of the State debts. Will the Treasurer say whether he inspired that article, or if he is in any way responsible for the suggestions it contains?
– I can only say that the Bill will be presented to the House as soon as possible, and that the honorable member will then be able to see it.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question which I previously asked, and which I was evidently unable to make him understand-
– Order ! The honorable member’s question has been answered, and he cannot ask the same question again.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether the suggestions in this morning’s press as to the State Debts Bill, to be introduced later on, may be taken as a proper estimate of the provisions of that measure ? Information on the subject would greatly assist honorable members in preparing for the debate ou the Bill.
– I have not read the article carefully, but, so far as it is based on the information contained in my Budget statement, I have no doubt that it is accurate. I am not in any way responsible for the article itself.
-Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs state whether up-to-date rolls for any constituency or any State are available to any organization?
– So far as I know, organizations are on the same footing as the general public in regard to such matters. Any member of the general public can see in a registrar’s office what my honorable friend calls an up-to-date roll. So far as my knowledge goes that is the position all over Australia.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs been drawn to an advertisement in today’s issues of the Argus and the Age, calling upon the electors not to be disfranchised, and intimating that uptodate rolls may be inspected at the office of the Constitutional Union? In view of his statement that certified copies of the rolls are available only at the offices of the registrars, how is it possible for these people to advertise that such rolls may be inspected at their office?
-I am not responsible for any advertisement published by any organization. I presume, however, that these persons have acquired the information from the registrars exactly as any other member of the community could do, if he so cared.
– Is the Honorary Minister aware that the Government stipulate a fixed amount to provide for the cost of building rifle butts for rifle clubs, and that such amount is quite inadequate for the erection of butts in difficult parts of the country? If so, will he see that more lenient treatment is given to those who are meeting that difficulty?
– My honorable colleague, the Minister of Defence, is, as the honorable member is aware, in Sydney this week, attending the celebrations in connexion with the advent of the Fleet. If he will place his question on the noticepaper I shall endeavour to obtain a reply from my colleague as early as possible.
– In view of the statement made by the Premier and Treasurer of South Australia, that it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to grant £1,000,000 towards the locking of the Murray, I would ask the Treasurer if he has made provision for such an undertaking on this year’s Estimates ?
– I have not.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs inform the House whether any compromise has yet been arranged between the Federal Government and the Marconi. Company in regard to the wireless case.
– No compromise has been arranged.
– Having regard to the great difficulty in the way of hospitals obtaining a sufficient supply of radium for the treatment of cancer and other diseases, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will take into consideration the granting of financial assistance to some institution or institutions in order that this very valuable agent in the treatment of cancer and other diseases may be obtained.
– This is a matter of the greatest and gravest importance, and I shall be glad to take it into consideration.
– Can the Prime Mininster inform the House who was responsible for the funereal-like surroundings of the reception of the Australian Fleet in Sydney on Saturday last?
– I dissent altogether from the view that the proceedings were in any way funereal-like or melancholy in any shape or form. I believe that such a suggestion has been made in the Age. I would suggest a Cockle’s pill or something of the sort.
– Referring to the arrival of the Fleet in Sydney on Saturday last, is the Prime Minister aware that the motor boats of Sydney Harbor, numbering now between 2,000 and 3,000, were prohibited from, sounding their whistles in the manner usual on occasion’s of jubilation, and, if so, who issued that order ?
– I do not know who issued the order. All that I know is that I witnessed a very impressive and dignified spectacle.
– So dignified that I think it was. like a funeral.
– My honorable friend, I suppose, was not there ?
– Yes, I was looking on from a height, and could see everything.
– But the honorable member was not on the actual scene ?
– I was within 300 or 400 yards of the whole scene.
– I do not know whether such an order was issued, but I certainly should have liked to hear the motor boats sounding a welcome in their usual way.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether it is a fact that orders were given by the Defence authorities that the band on (board the Flagship should not play during the progress of the Fleet up the harbor ?
– I do not know anything about it.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he obtain from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank information for the House with regard to -
The amount of money loaned by the bank?
The security of such loans?
The amount of money earned by the bank in the loans referred to ?
– In answer to the honorable member’s questions, the following information has been supplied by the Governor of the bank -
.-I wish to raise a question of privilege which, I understand, may be raised at any time. I wish to ask you, sir, whether you have looked at question No. 2 appearing on the business-paper for to-day. It appears to me that it contains a gross reflection upon the members of the party on this side of the House. The question refers to the enrolment of names by the use of dummy cards, and the second paragraph reads -
Is it a fact that those names were entered on the rolls by the electoral officials on the authority of the Fisher Government?
I should like to know whether you think such a question should appear on the paper?
– Question No. 2 referred to by the honorable member was not submitted to me before its appearance on the business-paper. I shall look into the matter, and if there is anything objectionable in it, the question will be amended.
– It says, in effect, that the Fisher Government instructed the officials to put in a lot of dummy cards.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Judge. 3and4.Theconstructionoftheawardwas,I believe,consideredbythePublicServiceCom- missioner.Iwasnotconsultedastotheaction taken,andwhenIwasinterviewedbythePre- sidentandSecretaryoftheUnion,Iadvised themtoapplytotheJudgeoftheArbitration Courttobotainhisdirectionastotheaward, andthiscoursehasbeentaken.
I promised to carry out the decision as irom the date when the award came into force.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Defence Act - Regulations amended (Provisional) -
Military College - “
Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 248, 249.
Military Forces - (Regulations) - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 246. (Financial and Allowance) - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 244.
Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 245.
Public Service Act - Appointment of A. C. Brown, N. L. Shiels, and D. J. Wilkie, as Assistant Examiners, Class F, Professional Division, Patents and Trade Marks Branch, AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
Telegraphsa nd Telephones Special Works Account Act - Transfers of Moneys (dated 17th September, 1913).
Debate resumed from 30th. September (vide page 1612), on motion by Mr. Kelly -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- During the earlier stages of this debate I had no intention to take part in it, and I should not have done so were it not for various statements which have been made by honorable members opposite in discussing the matter. I have no doubt that the report of the debate will be of considerable interest to the public. Some of the statements made require consideration, and it would be well that the House and the country should be seized of the facts. Many questions of importance are dealt with in the Bill, which is calculated to extend the franchise to a great many of the citizens of the Commonwealth. That being so, one can only marvel at some of the statements which have been made by honorable members opposite. I was particularly struck with some remarks made by the honorable member for Maranoa. Amongst other things, the honorable member told us that he had been personally responsible for irregularities in the conduct of the electoral law in Queensland. He admitted what he called “ the soft impeachment,” but I regard it as a dastardly crime for any man in this House, or’ out of it, to tamper in any way with the conduct of the electoral law.
– He said he was not a member at the time.
– That does not matter. Such a man should not be a member of Parliament. I maintain that when a man becomes a member of this House he must continue to be responsible for any irregularities he may have committed previously.
– Hear, hear! The honorable member should have followed the example of the honorable member for Gippsland, and should have denied the newspaper reports.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member- for Adelaide say “Hear, hear I” He would do well to bear the matter in mind, as it may require consideration, from him later on. I am sorry the honorable member for Maranoa is not present, because it is possible that he misstated the case against himself; but, quoting from the report of his speech in Hansard, at page 1596, I find that what he said was -
I have lived long in the State in which postal voting originated and I have seen some peculiar things done under it. I plead guilty to the soft impeachment of having done some myself.
At that stage I interjected the word “ Consciously!” and the honorable member for Maranoa went on to say -
Yes. I found out how the voter was going to vote, and if he did not vote as I wanted, his vote did not go in.
– I understand the honorable member was a justice of the peace.
– Yes, the honorablemember was evidently acting as a justice of the peace at the time. We need not wonder if a gentleman of his calibre should denounce the justices of the peace of Australia. It is evident that there are some honorable members opposite who> see nothing objectionable in the honorablemember’s action. One naturally wonders what happened to the honorable member when he got into the party room above - the “ Caucus,” as we know it.
– What does the honorable member know about it?
– I want to know whether honorable members opposite are prepared to support such a dastardly act, or whether they took the honorable member for Maranoa to task in connexion with it? ‘I maintain that the honorable member’s admission constitutes one of the worst statements ever made by a responsible individual - the admission that he had collected the votes of electors and had afterwards deliberately destroyed them, simply because they were not recorded in the way that he desired them to be recorded.
– What about the honorable member’s misstatements concerning the
Fisher Government ? What about his lies in reference to £4,000,000, which he said was unaccounted for ? .
– The honorable member has left his frock coat at home, but that does not make any difference. He is still responsible for his utterances. Let him have regard to the statements of honorable members upon his own side of the House.
– Did Ministerial supporters take the honorable member to task for his misstatements?
– When the honorable member for Gwydir has adopted a more reasonable attitude it will be possible for me to proceed. Presumably he has just returned from the festivities in Sydney, and under the influence of vaccine he has become quite hilarious. It is all very well for -honorable members opposite to endeavour to drown my utterances, because they are directed against the dastardly statement made last week, that they have in their party a man who has been guilty, not once, but often, of absolutely destroying the votes of the people after they have been cast- thus defying the law - simply because, those votes were not recorded in the way that he desired them to be recorded. Surely no more serious admission could be made. I well recollect that during the recent election campaign my opponent openly declared that he had been told of a Labour man who carried about fifty or sixty ballot-papers in his pocket. At the time I challenged the accuracy of his statement, and demanded to know who the Labour man was. But we have it now on his own admission that it was the honorable member for Maranoa. I say that his action calls for the condemnation of an entire community. When this matter is re-submitted to the electors of Maranoa I have no doubt that they will take it into serious consideration.
– Ha, ha !
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Yarra to laugh. Undoubtedly, he represents a majority of the electors in his constituency. So, too, does the honorable member for Maranoa. But if the electors of Maranoa were told that their representative is a reflex of their own personal integrity and honour, the statement would not be very welcome to them. When the honorable member for Adelaide was addressing the House, he made a great fuss because it is proposed to close the rolls one month before the issue of the writs, and contended that, as a result, considerable injustice’ would be done. I am very sorry that the Minister of External Affairs was not able this afternoon to supply an answer to the important questions which have been placed upon the business-paper by the honorable member for Echuca.
– Does the honorable member approve of them ?
– I most heartily approve of an exhaustive inquiry being made into their truth or otherwise. Should it transpire that they are founded on truth, the late Government will have been guilty of a crime.
– What if they are not true?
– Nevertheless, they ought to be answered. In another place, charges have been made which, so far as I can gather, have not been answered.
– They were fully answered. When they were first given utterance to they were a foul libel by the Minister.
– Order ! The honorable member for Adelaide was disorderly in interjecting, and his interjection was, moreover, of an objectionable character. I must, therefore, ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I regret that such statements should be made.
– I have withdrawn it, and the honorable member had bettor leave it alone.
– I am referring to actual facts as I find them.
– Does the honorable member say that they are facts?
– As far as I am able to learn, no answer has been given to the charges made as to irregularities in the conduct of the recent elections.
– We challenged honorable members opposite to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate those charges. Why did they not do it?
– It is not the duty of a responsible Government to hand over their functions to Royal Commissions. This Government will, I hope, accept full responsibility for their actions. We have had too much in the way of banding over the duties of government to Commissions. In my opinion, Royal Commissions aremerely a means of shelving matters. No doubt, honorable members opposite areanxious to shelve this important question.
But the one desire of the Government, I believe, is- to fight the next election, and all future elections, on lines which will be creditable to them and to the community.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is discussing the advisableness of appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into alleged electoral abuses, and as the honorable member for Moreton has a notice of motion upon the business-paper relating to the same matter, I submit that he is anticipating discussion upon that motion, and is therefore out of order.
– If the honorable member is going into the question of the appointment of a Royal Commission in connexion with the subject of a notice of motion upon the business-paper, his remarks are not in order.
– Under your ruling, sir, if a number of notices of motions were placed upon the business-paper, and Bills were subsequently introduced dealing with the subject-matter of those motions’, we would be prevented from debating such motions. I contend that the honorable member is quite in order, and I submit that he is not anticipating discussion upon the motion of the honorable member for Moreton.
– The honorable, member would not be in order in. discussing the appointment of a Royal Commission which is the subject of a notice of motion on the business-paper for another day. He may make passing reference to it, but he cannot go into the matter of the desirability of appointing such a Royal Commission.
– I had no intention of transgressing the rules of the House, and had it not been for an interjection from an honorable member opposite, I would not have touched on the matter of a Royal Commission. I had made no note of it. I maintain, however, that we have a responsible Government, and that it should not hand over matters to Royal Commissions in order to avoid responsibility.
Before the interjection, I was dealing with the question of clean rolls, which -we hear so much about. The present roll may be clean, but, in view of certain questions to be asked in the House, there is doubt about it, so far as New South Wales is concerned. From honorable members opposite we hear a great deal about honorable members of the Ministerial party traversing the country and making statements, but the other night three honorable members of the Opposition were down at Prahran, and one of them made a statement there which concludes in this way -
It would be quite easy for the Registrar to write out a card and lose it, and the person objected to would then know nothing about it.
I hardly know whether any honorable gentleman would accept the responsibility of making that statement. It is certainly a serious reflection on the Registrars. I would never utter a statement of that kind; I have never done so during my campaign nor at other times; I would not care to be responsible for such an utterance. The honorable member for Adelaide is apparently prepared to treat it as a joke; but it is casting a serious reflection on officers of the Government, upon whom we have to depend for everything we undertake in regard to the wheels of government.
– I am not smiling at that as a joke. I am smiling at you as a frightful joke.
– I was not a joke to honorable members opposite, so far as Gippsland was concerned.
– We never had the seat.
– Arid I shall not be a joke to the honorable member for Adelaide in a few years to come, as he will probably find out. We are much indebted to honorable members opposite for the statements they make from time to time. There are many to which we must give serious and proper consideration, and they will receive it when we go before our constituents again, on which occasion, I venture to say, a much stronger vote will be recorded in favour of Ministerial candidates. We have ‘heard a great deal about the card system. So far as I am able to judge, it is a system that might be a very good one in the hands of competent men and a responsible Government; but, from the debate in another place, it is evident that it is open to very grave considerations. For instance, we are told that, so far as Victoria is concerned, there were 30,000 cards in the Dead Letter Office. I am now referring to the cards the Electoral Department returned to the electors, showing that claim cards had been received and were receiving attention. Some 30,000 of these cards were in the
Dead Letter Office in Victoria. I am not imputing motives; I am simply pointing out the weakness of the card system. If it is possible for 30,000 of these cards to find their way to the Dead Letter Office, then 30J000 names are appearing on the rolls with wrong addresses given, or they belong to deceased persons.
– Presumably the names were knocked off in due course.
– Presumably they were not. I give the Electoral Department credit for doing their level best to maintain a good roll under the system laid down for them. I know that in some places quite a number of objections were prepared, but they were never sent in, because we understood clearly that we had to prove, not only that electors were not in the subdivisions for which they were supposed to be enrolled, but also that they were not in the divisions. To do that was impossible. It is quite impossible under the present system to submit -objections to those names.
– Do you think the names ought to be taken off if the persons are in the division?
– If the right addresses are not given, the names ought to be removed and put on again with the right addresses. That is a clear and definite proposition. I shall be no party to any steps taken to remove people from the rolls indiscriminately - no member on the Ministerial side is anxious for anything of the kind; but all honorable members should object to names remaining on the rolls for more than one division or more than one subdivision, which is evidently the case at present.
– You seem to be more concerned about taking names off than putting them on.
– On the contrary, I am more concerned about putting them on. If my honorable friend would direct his attention to the matter of putting names on the roll he would be doing his country a greater service than he is doing now. We have every reason to believe that there are names on the roll for more than one subdivision. Indeed, we had a bald statement in the House the. other evening from the member for Maranoa that he proposed to tell his electors to get on the roll for every shearing1 shed into which they came.
– “ If,” he said; if certain tilings happened.
– After hearing such . an admission from the honorable member for Maranoa we can understand quite readily how it is that there is such a large inflation of the rolls. We cannot say that the honorable member has already done so, but presumably he has advised his electors to adopt this course hitherto.
– You have no right to distort the words of the honorable member for Maranoa.
– The honorable member inferred it, and we are justified in taking the inference, but if it is an incorrect inference, then the honorable member can correct it. I do not impute motives, but we have been openly told that the honorable member intends to do these things, and I presume that they have been done before. It is apparent from the arguments of honorable members opposite that they are prepared to throw considerable enthusiasm into the preparations for the next campaign. They are prepared to inflate rolls to a greater degree than they have already been inflated.
– Give us an illustration of inflation.
– I am referring to a remark made by the honorable member for Maranoa. He has told us that he intends to do certain things, and I presume that he will carry out his intention.
The honorable member for Adelaide said -
The four great corner stones on which it is proposed to erect this safe retreat for electoral thieves, are deprivation of electoral rights, curtailment of political power, violation of the secrecy of the ballot-box, and opening up avenues for fraud.
Surely in the light of revelations that have been made in another place, when it was shown that rolls were inflated to the ex-tent of some 80,000 names, we ought not to allow the present system to continue. I can well undersand that honorable members opposite want no alteration. But we, as Liberals, see the necessity of correcting the electoral law. It ought to be the duty and desire of every member of this House to see to it that the electoral law of the Commonwealth is the most perfect and the most stringent- of all our enactments.
– There has not been a particle of evidence to show that rolls were inflated.
– We are desirous of one thing, and one only, namely, that the electors shall control the Commonwealth*
It ought to be the desire of honorable members opposite to assist us. No one wishes to remove from the roll names which are legitimately there.
– The honorable member for Grampians has said that he would reduce the Commonwealth roll to the limits of the ratepayers’ roll.
– I am convinced that the Government and their supporters have but one desire, and that is that the ‘electoral system shall be made perfect. The honorable member for Adelaide admitted that the present system is not perfect. He ought to be anxious, therefore, to help us to improve it. No argument has been advanced from the Ministerial side which can justify the Opposition in preventing this Bill from going into Committee. I am convinced that the Government desire that it shall be submitted to legitimate criticism. If suitable amendments are proposed, they will be considered. It has been expressly stated by the Attorney-General that when the measure gets into Committee - it is to be a Committee of this House, in the proper sense of the term - there is to be no attempt to prevent legitimate discussion. No doubt, the Bill is not as perfect as some would desire. If it does not express all we want, the Government will be willing to listen to reason, the object being to secure means whereby the will- of the Democracy of this country shall be perfectly registered.
– Does the honorable member believe in the signing of the butt of the ballot-paper?
– There is certainly nothing in the Bill which is designed to destroy the secrecy of the ballot. I maintain that the proposal for numbering ballot-papers is a proper and legitimate thing. Probably the honorable member wants people to be voting fraudulently.
– Order ! The honorable member must not cast such a reflection upon another honorable member.
– I had no intention to do so, and I withdraw the remark. It is a right and proper thing to have a method by which a vote that has been improperly cast can be traced. No vote ought to be counted that is not legitimately given. We do not desire that a voter shall put his name on a ballot-paper bo that it can be seen, but we desire a method of tracing votes in the event of an election being challenged. The proposal to number ballot-papers is, I think, a proper one.
– Why not brand the voters ?
– There are some honorable members opposite who would be properly treated if they were branded. I observe that section 71 of the Queensland Electoral Act lays it down that the number of the elector on the roll shall be placed upon the face of the ballot-paper, and that the corner of the paper shall - be turned down and gummed. What is to prevent honorable members opposite, if they so desire, proposing an amendment to that effect ? I venture to say that the Government would give it serious consideration. All that we ask is that the Electoral Act shall not afford opportunities for fraud. Whether frauds have been committed in the past or not, the opportunities should not be there. Here wo have an Act of a State, which has evidently given satisfaction. Apparently,, there is no intention to repeal this provision in it. I am aware that the Queensland Electoral Act is being amended, but not in this respect. A proposal is being made to restore the postal vote, which we, as a Liberal party, are pledged to restore throughout the Commonwealth. That is a perfectly proper thing for us to undertake in view of the; campaign pledges which we gave. We are responsible to our electors in that respect: Of course, we have never signed written pledges, as honorable members opposite have done, but we have pledged our honour to our constituents, and as men of honour we shall at all times endeavour to carry out what we have undertaken. There is another point which has led to a considerable amount of argument. The honorable member for Adelaide in the course of his speech said -
The Government know that by doing away with Saturday as polling day they will deprive thousands of useful workers- clerks, shop assistants, labourers, mechanics, and artisans- of: the right to exercise the franchise.
I maintain that the Liberal Government,, when they introduced the Bill, knew nothing of the kind. It does not provide that the general elections shall not be held on Saturday. The only thing it declares is that the elections can beheld on any day of the week, and that day need not necessarily be Saturday..
Personally, I have no objection to Satur- . day being appointed for the purpose, provided that there is no interference with the cessation of work on Sunday. That is my objection to the selection of Saturday as polling day, and that is the only objection I lodge. I deplore, and I think that every one on this side regrets, the continual inroads which are being made upon the cessation of work, as far as possible, on the Sabbath.
– At the last elections there was no work done on the Sabbath.
– The honorable member ought to know perfectly well that there was. At all events, if he does not know that, he must be one of the innocents. I know of presiding officers, whose names I could give if necessary, who were directed to hand their ballot-boxes to the District Returning Officer at the earliest possible moment. Now, the earliest possible moment was on Sunday, because in the district I have the honour to represent the greater number of the polling booths are situated in mountainous country, where it would be positively dangerous formen to travel in with ballotboxes after 8 o’clock at night. The honorable member for Illawarra must know that quite well. When instructions were issued by the Labour Government that the presiding officers were to hurry in with the ballot-boxes at the earliest possible moment, it meant that those officers had to travel distances of 10, 20, or 25 miles on Sunday. That is an inroad upon the sanctity of the Sabbath which ought not to be permitted, and that is why I, for one, am anxious that the elections should be held on another clay. The honorable member for Barrier, I venture to say, is not prepared to agree that the workof the electoral officers should be carried out on Sunday, as was done on the occasion of the last elections.
– There is a wonderful lot of saints in this House.
– A little rivalry will not be amiss. I take up my stand on this question, and welcome the statement made by the honorable member for Darwin the other night. ‘ ‘ In my opinion,” he said in his speech, “ every invasion of the Sabbath means another step to its final destruction.” Surely honorable members will do well to reflect upon a statement of that kind, which is recorded in Hansard/
– He is about the only prominent man in Tasmania who fights Tattersall’s.
– This important question of Sunday work deserves grave consideration. It is a matter affecting not only shop assistants and clerks, but many other persons. We wish every one of these persons to have an opportunity of recording a. vote. I interjected the other day that it might be possible to have a half-holiday on polling day. That, I think, is a very reasonable proposition. We have also to remember that, whilst a few persons would be disqualified by the abolition of Saturday as a polling day, there are always some persons who are disfranchised. In the Commonwealth, too, there are one or two classes to whom it is a distinct and open slap in the face to be asked to undertake any work on Saturday. I refer to the Seventh Day Adventists.
– They do not believe in voting at all.
– But they do vote.
– Some of them do not.
– Many of them regard it as a sacred duty that they should vote, and they stand in open revolt against anything which prevents them from doing so, that is, by holding the elections on their Sunday. They have conscientious scruples, and are distinctly entitled to hold them. Their opinion ought to receive consideration. In the Commonwealth, there are only 2,500 Seventh-Day Adventists, comprising, approximately, about 2,000 voters. But there is also another large section of the community, which numbers nearly 10,000, and that is the Hebrew section.
– They devote most of their time on Saturday to the race-course.
– The honorable member is making a reflection on the Hebrews which I am not prepared to indorse.
– You have only to go to the race-course to see them.
– I maintain that in the Hebrew section of the community there are honorable men, who stand just as strongly for their Sunday as I stand for mine. I resent any invasion of my Sunday, and, if I were a Hebrew, I would resent a statement of the kind just made quite as warmly as I would resent any other reflection. I do not think that any honorable member of this House- has a right, under cover of privilege, to cast a reflection upon the Hebrew section of the community, considering that they are 10,000 strong.
– Is it not a fact that they are much in evidence on the racecourse every Saturday?
– Probably the honorable member frequents the race-course; I do not.
– Where, do you do your betting?
– Let us look at this matter in a serious way, which apparently honorable members opposite are not prepared to do. The two sections of the community I have just mentioned comprise, approximately, 12,000 voters. Do honorable members on the other side say that these persons, have no right to any consideration in this matter? Are they not law-abiding citizens of the community? Are they not taxpayers of the Commonwealth? Are they not citizens, just the same as we are; and should we not extend to them consideration? I venture to think that we should. I trust that the Government will maintain this privilege, and recognise that there is no absolute necessity to have the polling on Saturday, notwithstanding the fact that it is permissible under the measure. . We say that it can take place on any day in the week.
– Your argument is altogether against the fixing of Saturday.
– My argument is against the fixing of Saturday as polling day for the reason that it means an invasion of the Sabbath.
– You say that you are not proposing to alter the polling day from Saturday.
– I say that, under this measure’ the selection of Saturday is optional.
– South Australia” has had Saturday polling for years, and we have had no complaints about it.
– Is South Australia the only spot on the earth ? Quite recently, Sydney has been in prominence. The interjection furnishes no reason why our ‘Electoral Act should follow the direct wording of the Electoral Act of South Australia. Why nob quote the Queensland Act, and say that, because it provides for the numbering of the ballot-papers, the Electoral Act of -everyother State in the Commonwealth should contain a similar provision? If the argument of the honorable member holds good on the one hand, it holds good on the other. If he holds up South Australia as a model community, we can also hold up Queensland in that light. This question of Saturday voting, I maintain, demands very serious consideration. I hope that I have made my attitude most clear. I have no objection to Saturday voting so long as it is clearly understood, and the Government gives definite directions, that there shall be no escape from the cessation of work at half -past 11 o’clock on Saturday night, resuming, if you like, at half-past 1 o’clock on Monday morning. It is not right to ask a Returning Officer to work the whole of Sunday, or to direct telegraph operators and others, as was done at the last elections, to clear the lines on Sunday, because it is an invasion of the day of rest, and is, as the honorable member for Darwin, said, “another step to its final destruction,” a thing which every one of us would deeply deplore.
– Every cablegram for Monday’s newspapers comes through on Sunday.
– If private persona do wrong, this Parliament should not add to the wrong-doing. We should remember that it is our duty to set an example for the community to follow. The Bill in general will have my hearty support. No measure of this kind can be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. As the honorable member for Indi has pointed out, there are electoral reforms which many of us would support for which provision is not made. I should like to see preferential voting provided for, because I am a strong believer in that system, and I consider that it would put an end to many of the present electoral difficulties.
– Would the honorable member support an amendment having for its object the introduction of that system ?
– The Government have announced that if honorable members opposite allow the Bill to get into Committee, every provision will be considered on its merits. So far as I . have followed the debate - and I have listened closely to everything that has been said - I know of no justification for materially amending the Bill; certainly none for rejecting it as some honorable members opposite have threatened. While the measure is not a perfect one, it is an advance towards the full realization of a democratic ideal, and we should, therefore, get it into Committee as soon as possible, to enable the fullest and freest consideration to be given to its details. I trust that the electoral law which will thus be evolved will be a credit to the Parliament, and of great value to the country.
.- It will be freely admitted that no question engaging the attention of a Parliament can be of greater importance than a proposal affecting the exercise of the franchise by the people. The discussion of an electoral Bill recalls memories of history, and during the debate my mind has wandered back to the days of Runnimede and Magna Charta, and has followed the fights that have taken place since those times for a freer franchise. The history of the Governments of the civilized countries of the world is the history of the franchise, and especially is that so in connexion with British communities. Many stirring scenes have arisen in the course of this struggle. This is not the only Parliament that to-day is considering electoral matters. We can refer with a smile, and with some regret, to the suffragette campaign in Great Britain; and a week or two ago we read of the working men of Belgium calling for a general strike to emphasize their dissatisfaction with the franchise of their country. It is most important that we should try to obtain the most perfect system possible for the exercise of the franchise. Throughout history there have been two political parties, clearly separated and defined, in respect to the franchise. The Conservative party in legislation and administration has always tried to restrict the franchise, and opposed to it has been a party whose desire has been to make the franchise as unrestricted as possible. Those two parties” are represented in Australia to-day. The party to which I have the honour to belong has, in Parliament and out of Parliament, contended for the freest franchise possible.
– It was this party that gave the country adult franchise.
– The honorable member must think that we on this side have short memories. The history of
British legislation shows that Liberal Governments have always advocated a wider franchise, and sometimes, when they have been displaced by the Conservatives, these latter have been forced by public opinion to carry out the reforms of the Liberals. That is. what happened here. Before Federation, the Labour party in the Parliaments of the States continually advocated the widening of the franchise, and had to contend against the party to which we are now opposed, and which has been in office practically ever since the union of the States. But our opponents were compelled to give effect to our proposals in this matter. Those now seated on the Government benches are the heirs and lineal descendants of theopponents of the franchise; they sit in the place of those who always objected to its extension.
– The honorable member is the lineal descendant of Scotch savages, yet he is a pretty decent fellow.
– That shows that I have improved. And honorable gentlemen opposite have also improved. They would not stand by the statements of their predecessors of even twenty years ago. The honorable member for Henty has advanced beyond the opinions which he held then, and his descendants will advance still more. But we on this side lay the flattering unction to our souls that our opponents are picking up our ideas as they come along, and that, therefore, we have hope for their ultimate salvation. The Government party is now giving its adherence to principles which we have consistently advocated for years, although we have been condemned and insulted for holding them. It was refreshing to hear the honorable member for Gippsland say that the Government and their supporters wish to have as perfect an electoral system as possible, and that the Bill is a step in the right direction. We welcome every attempt to extend and improve thefranchise and our electoral administration, but we must not be blamed too much if we look with suspicion on proposals coming from the other side, because every electoral reform that has been made has had to be forced from those whom the followers of the Government represent.
– Honorable members opposite took away the vote from the sick.
– I shall make reference to that. When this Parliament opened, Ministers made such wild and extravagant statements regarding the conduct of the elections, exhausting their vocabulary of insult and innuendo, that I was anxious to know what action they would take. In the programme which they put before us, this statement occurs -
The existing electoral law has not been found to work satisfactorily. The rolls have been unduly inflated, so much so that the Commonwealth Statistician has reported that, on 31st May last, the number of persons on the electoral rolls was largely in excess of the whole number of persons eligible for enrolment in the Commonwealth. The purification of the rolls is being proceeded with, and every endeavour is being made to insure their accuracy.
I admit that the existing electoral law has not been found to work satisfactorily, but no such law that has been, or will be, invented will be found to work satisfactorily. To imagine that electoral machinery can be framed by human agency which will give absolute satisfaction to every one is absurd, and the statement which I have read shows the incapacity of the Government to understand the position. Ministers talk about the roll being unduly inflated, but they have had their answer from the Commonwealth Statistician, who has said that it is none of his business to compare the census statistics with the electoral roll.
– He gave other information to Parliament.
– He told us that, according to the census returns, there was a certain number of adults in Australia on a certain date, and we learn from another source that on that date there was a certain number of electors enrolled; but the Commonwealth Statistician has not instituted a comparison between the census statistics and the enrolment.
– Is it not a fact that there are on the roll the names of more persons than there are adults in the Commonwealth ?
– The honorable member is not unintelligent, and, on reflection, will see that that must always be so if every adult in the community is to be enrolled. Does the Government propose to bring that about by saying that the Iroll is unduly inflated and must be purified, and proceeding to purify it by wiping off names in a wholesale fashion if The present system of taking names off the roll is most unfair. The present Bill requires considerable modification in this regard. The method pursued by the present Government suggests that they desire to purify the rolls by removing from them as many names as they dare, with the object of making the rolls just as convenient as they themselves would like them to be. In the Ministerial memorandum, we are told, further, that an effort will be made to secure an efficient - electoral law by introducing a Bill - to restore the postal vote, to modify the provisions in respect to absent voting- and so forth. There is only one sentence in the memorandum for which I have a distinct liking, and which I am prepared to support in every way. It is the statement that -
An effort will be made to have one roll for both Commonwealth and State electoral purposes.
That is a most commendable ideal, but we are yet a long way from its realization. In order to have a satisfactory system of the kind, we must have, first of all, a franchise for all the States similar to that operating in respect of the Commonwealth Parliament. It is true that we have in all the States adult suffrage, but in Queensland, for example, it takes twelve months to get on the rolls. If an elector moves from one street to another in the one electorate, months elapse before he is able to get his name on the State roll, whilst if he removes from one electorate to another, nearly two years elapse before he secures enrolment in respect of his new place of residence. A considerable saving in money, trouble, and difficulty could be secured by means of a uniform roll for the Commonwealth and States. I am aware that this is not a new proposal - that Commonwealth officers in years past have. tried to induce the State electoral officers to adopt the suggestion, and that in one State this has been done, and is being carried on without any friction. If the Government could induce the State Governments to provide for a uniform roll and a uniform method of voting, a great saving would be effected.
– It is very difficult because of the varying boundaries.
– The difficulties are not insuperable. A commendable improvement would be the adoption of a similar system of voting for Commonwealth and State elections. I notice, by the way, that the Electoral Bill now before the Queensland Parliament provides for the adoption of the Commonwealth system of voting - by placing a cross in the’ square opposite the name of the candidate for whom it is desired to vote, instead of scratching out the name. The extravagant, unwarranted, and unworthy statements made by members of the present Government in regard to alleged duplicate voting have been given a clear and sufficient answer in the memorandum issued, on 13th August last, by Mr. Oldham, the Chief Electoral Officer. Ministers ransacked every Department, and made inquiries in every possible direction - sometimes, I think, with questionable taste - as tothe alleged duplications. They made their statements, and then tried to get proof of them, instead of adopting the honorable course of obtaining proof before making their charges. They have failed absolutely to prove a single statement mads by them in regard to this matter. Not one statement made by an honorable member opposite, beginningwiththe Prime Minister himself, with regard to duplicate voting at the last general election has been substantiated. I trembled for the good name of Australia when I heard the statements made by Ministers. I wondered if it were true that the men and women of Australia had been so false to their citizenship as to attempt to impersonate and to duplicate their votes to anything like the extent alleged. The difficulty that we on this side of the House have to contend with is to induce people to vote not twice, but once. If we could have them rushing to the polls to record their votes, we should be saved great expense and much difficulty. Honorable members opposite were, of course, referring only to our supporters when they suggested that many electors had voted, not only once, but regularly and often. In one case it was said that an elector had voted nineteen times. When people are out to make extravagant statements, a little extra does not count for much. I suppose that honorable members opposite act on the principle that, when telling a lie, they might as well tell a good one. At all events, these duplication charges have been disproved.
– What is a “ good “ lie ?
– The statement that there was duplicate voting to any extent whatever was a good lie.
– What would the honorable member call a “bad “ lie?
– Honorable members on the Government side of the House are better authorities on the subject than 1 am.
– I have my doubts about that.
– Judging by the statements made by honorable members opposite, after the last general election, they have served their apprenticeship very well. This Bill, since its appearance in this House, has been remarkable in many ways. I had intended to make some very plain statements regarding the methods of its introduction, but I notice that the Honorary Minister, who moved the second reading in a most unseemly and undignified fashion, has been more careful in his conduct since we passed some rather severe strictures upon him. I am prepared, therefore, to let the matter go, more especially as he is not present. Before alluding to this matter on a previous occasion, I informed him that I intended to attack him, so that he was present to hear my complaint. I shall let it go on this occasion, but I do not think I shall forget for many a day the exhibition given by the Honorary Minister in introducing this Bill to the House. A strange feature of this debate was the silence, until perhaps the end of last week, of the supporters of the Government with regard to the Bill. It is refreshing to hear them talk of their freedom, their independence, and their liberty to express themselves as they please, but it was painfully evident during the earlier stages of this discussion that not one of them was at” liberty to make a single statement in regard to the Bill.
– To whom, was it evident ?
– To me; I am speaking for myself.
– The honorable member must have been particularly dense upon that occasion.
– Let me show the extent of my density. The Prime Minister said that he intended to offer a few remarks, and to take a long time in doing so, but, after speaking for about five minutes, he “took the sulks,” and safe down.
– The Opposition howled him down .
– That is not correct. The Prime Minister, true to the method usually adopted by him on the public platform, as well as in this House, deliberately laid himself out to invite, interjections, and then complained when he got them.
– He is the most persistent interjector in the House.
– Quite so. Since taking office as Prime Minister, he has found it impossible to forsake his early habit in that regard.
– The last honorable member to speak was a new member, and yet he got as many interjections as did the Prime Minister.
– That is not the point I wish to make. Honorable members opposite constantly sneer at us, saying that we are Caucus bound ; that we have no right to express other than the one opinion, and that we must all vote in the one way. I am not going to discuss the truth or otherwise of that statement. Honorable members opposite may revel to their heart’s content in such an idea; it will not affect the facts. But I would rather have my mind made up in consultation with my mates, and have a voice in the shaping of a Bill in this House, than be like honorable members opposite, who have to accept this Bill in the form brought down by the Ministry, and have no voice with regard to its provisions. I am prepared to say that not one honorable member opposite, apart from the Ministry, has had any voice in framing this Bill. They have to swallow it as it is introduced, to speak when they are told, and to be quiet when they are ordered to be so. When a member of their party, like the honorable member for Werriwa, kicks over the traces, he has the Whip and the Honorary Minister waiting upon him, and sometimes the Prime Minister pulling him down. Later on, after the Ministerial Caucus, he returns to the House and remains very quiet for a time.
– Order ! Will the honorable member discuss the Bill?
– One wonders where their boasted freedom is. This is a Bill, we are told, to enable the electors ‘ to control the Commonwealth “ ; a “ forward step “; a Bill to insure “ that the electoral system shall be as perfect as possible”; a “step in the right direction “ ; and so forth. To me, however, this is a Bill having two prominent features - the first, to make it easy for people to vote without going to the poll; and the second, to make it harder for the people to vote if they go to a polling booth.. That, to my mind, is in itself sufficient to condemn it. The basis of the exercise of the franchise in any country is that it shall be as easy as possible for the electors to vote at the polling booths, and that every encouragement and facility shall be given them to do so. This Bill, however, will have quite the opposite effect. The Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone, whose life and conduct I commend to my honorable friends opposite, once said that the science of all good government was to make it easy to do right and hard to do wrong. This Bill is a direct negation of that great Liberal principle, because its effect will be to make it hard for the people to do that which we want them to do - if we are going to have purity, honesty, and correctness in connexion with our elections - and easy for them to do wrong if we desire to have clean rolls and pure methods of voting. One wonders what this Government would do if it had a majority behind it. As it is, it has no majority. I decline to believe that any one has the right to speak of the Speaker of this House as constituting the Government’s majority.. I decline to follow the Prime Minister’s degradation of the Speakership.
– Order !
– Here we have a Government without a majority bringing down a Bill, extending all sorts of privileges to people who will not go to the poll although they may be able to do so, and making it as hard as possible for those who do go to record their votes. What would they do if they had a majority of ten or twelve behind them, or a majority strong enough to ‘ ‘ gag ‘ ‘ us and to force the Bill through? TheGovernment say, in effect, “ The Billshows what we would do if we had the power, and what we are prevented from doing because we have not a sufficient majority.”
– No majority could “ gag “ the honorable member.
– As to that, I may say that I gave my undivided opposition to the proposal that the present time limit should be placed on speeches, and that I am against any limitation whatever. I propose now to refer in detail to a few of the outstanding features of the Bill. The first thing to which I take particular exception is the provision for the appointment of officers.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the details of the Bill’. That can only be done in Committee. He may refer to the Bill generally.
– It is provided in the Bill that the Chief Electoral Officer shall have the power to appoint officers as he pleases when and where necessary. I suppose that some provision of the kind must be made. As we can never hope to have a sufficient number of permanent officers to conduct our elections, temporary appointments must be made; but the power to make such appointments must be regarded with suspicion, and must be exercised only with great care. If there was anything which during the last elections was unworthy and regrettable, it was the quality of the officers who were temporarily appointed to carry them out. I have said it before, and regret to have to repeat the statement, that officers who were acting as presiding officers at many of the booths in Brisbane at the last Federal election were absolutely incapable of performing the duties of their office.
– The honorable member’s party appointed them.
– They did not. That was the work of the Divisional- Returning Officer.
– He was appointed under the late Government.
– No, he was not. He has occupied the position for years. I have no complaint to make against him. He did the best he could, and that is why. I say there should be some more definite provision covering the appointment of temporary officials. I contend that at least every presiding officer should be a permanent official of the Commonwealth. I should like to extend such a principle and provide that every person employed in a polling booth, whether as presiding officer or poll clerk, should bo a perma- nent officer of the Commonwealth.
– We should be out of the frying pan into the fire if that course were followed.
– I do not think so. I am willing to admit that many of the public servants of the Commonwealth- hold strong political opinions. They are quite entitled to do so. I have not the slightest objection to a public servant holding strong political opinions, and having the utmost freedom to express them. Why should he not ? As a citizen of the Commonwealth, he has his responsibilities, and he should be able to give the freest expression also to his rights.
– The houorable member would find it very difficult to carry out his view in country districts.
– I admit that the supply of officers would be very limited in country districts, but wherever we have them we should use them. Why should we not have a Commonwealth holiday on election day, and then draft men from the Professional, Clerical, and General Divisions of the different Departments into the polling booths, and so have our elections conducted by our own permanent officials? I should be prepared to go further, and if we establish the principle of uniform rolls for the Commonwealth and the States, and the adoption of uniform methods at Commonwealth and State elections, we should be able to command the services of not only Commonwealth public servants, but of State public servants, in the conduct of elections . - Many of them, I know, are opposed to myself and my friends in politics, just as many are opposed to our honorable friends opposite, but the very fact that they would not be persons in temporary employment, and that their positions in the Public Service might be affected by complaints made of their conduct in connexion with the elections would be a sufficient safeguard. I should prefer to trust myself to a public servant opposed to me rather than to a temporary official.
– We now use State officials very largely in the country districts.
– We use them where we can get them; but I am contending for an extension of that ‘practice; and, by the means I suggest, we should be able to secure better organized and much fairer elections’. There is one provision of this measure to- which I take very great exception, and I promise honorable members opposite that, when the’ Bill is in Committee, I shall have a few words to say about it. I refer to the suggestion with regard to the redistribution of seats. I go so far as tosay that the present system of appointing three officials to redistribute- the seats for each State, and then to’ refer their proposed1 redistribution, to Parliament, is the most unsatisfactory system which could be adopted, unless- the matter were left entirely to the Government. To give such a task to a District Court Judge, or a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State, would be to degrade the impartial position which a Judge is supposed to occupy. It is not a judicial matter, or a matter of law, or of. right or wrong. It is a mere matter of calculation; and, to my mind, the only man in the Commonwealth to whom this work can be satisfactorily and safely intrusted is the Commonwealth Statistician. In conjunction with the State Statisticians, he knows exactly the number of people in the Commonwealth, where they reside, what they do, and all about them. These officers have to deal with the census and statistics, and they alone possess the knowledge to enable them to arrive at a true system for the redistribution of the electorates.
– The Commonwealth Statistician has not such a knowledge of the physical features of the country as the Surveyor-General of a State has.
– That suggestion only makes one feel amused. Who imagines for a moment that the present electoral boundaries have any necessary relation to the physical features of the country? Generally speaking, from the way in which our electoral boundaries wind themselves in and out through the streets of a city, and along the high roads in country places, one is led to believe that the conditions of community of interest and means of communication are entirely forgotten. There must be a certain quota of electors included in each electorate, and in endeavouring to secure that, it would appear that the Commissioners intrusted with the task of redistributing the electorates forget the other and important conditions laid down.
– They must not forget them. The law does not allow them to forget them.
– The Prime Minister has told us that actions speak louder than words. I can give honorable members an illustration from Queensland. If they will look at an electoral map of Queensland, they will find a railway line running west from Rockhampton for 400 miles, and the electoral boundaries cut across that line at one point, run north for some miles, and then back across the line 30 or 40 miles further on. If the question of the community of interest were taken into consideration, the people living along that line on both sidesshould be included in one district;, but there is evidence from the redistribution adopted that this condition has never been taken . into account. What we require in our electoral divisionsis a reasonable equality in the number of voters included in each, and then that thepeople of each division shall have a community of interest, and may be expected to vote on similar lines. The Commonwealth Statistician is, in my opinion, the only person in the Commonwealth towhom this work can be satisfactorily intrusted. Then I hold the opinion that the redistribution should not be referred to Parliament at all. I do not think that Parliament is competent to decide whether a proposed redistribution is right or wrong. I ‘am strengthened in my belief by a recollection of the unworthy scenes which took place in this House when the last proposed redistributions of seats were accepted and rejected. With all due respect, I say that honorable members view a proposed redistribution from only one stand-point. We are only human beings after all, and we naturally consider such a proposal from our own political point of view. I do not think that the members of this or any other House are the best judges as to whether a proposed redistribution of seats, in which they are particularly interested, is correct or not. We want the matter placed in the hands of a man who is detached, uninterested, and above suspicion, and the redistribution he proposes should be accepted as final, and without any reference whatever to Parliament. I have now a word or two to say about the postal vote. Some honorable members on this side have expressed a considerable regard for the postal vote, but I have no regard whatever for it. I do not consider that any system that relieves a voter from the obligation of going to a polling booth i’~ record his vote is commendable. Every such invitation to a voter to disregard that obligation is a compromise. Tt is the practice in every country in the world to establish booths at certain places convenient and accessible to electors, at which they may record their votes, and the experience of all history goes to prove that every departure from that practice is fraught with danger and difficulty. The very fact that we have to hedge round such expedients with restrictions, and guard and protect the methods of giving effect to them, is an admission that it is a dangerous thing to do. The postal vote is, perhaps, the most dangerous of all these expedients. In connexion with this matter we are walking with experience. We know quite well where we are going. If this were a new and untried experiment, one might be inclined to look with more favour on it. But after the experience of the postal vote we have already had in Australia, one wonders that there should be any party, professing a desire for the purity of elections and a perfect electoral system, prepared to stand by such a thing as the postal vote. Queensland has been quoted in this connexion quite freely, because Queensland has had her experience of the system. I shall read two extracts in regard to it. When Mr. Hawthorn, who was then Home Secretary, was moving in the Queensland Parliament for the abolition of the postal vote, after it had been in operation at two elections in Queensland, he said - lt has been found in practice that the provisions for the postal vote are of such a nature that fraud is made easy. It is known that there was considerable abuse of the provisions during the last election, and it was therefore suggested that the best way to deal with the postal vote is to wipe it out altogether. Personally, I know the system was abused, and that it was open to great abuse.
The then Premier, Mr. Kidston, was even more emphatic on the same subject. He said -
Every one of us knows that the way in which the postal vote was carried out in many cases made it, to all intents and purposes, open voting. To all intents and purposes, if we continue our Electoral Act with this blemish in it, we abolish the protection of the ballot as far as men are concerned, and certainly as far as the majority of women are concerned. I consider it is the duty of the House to wipe out the postal vote root and branch, and wipe it out at once.
And it was wiped out, as honorable members know. The present Government of Queensland has had the courage, and daring to reintroduce it, and it will be carried because they have a majority, and with the aid of their servile majority they will be able to force their measure through Parliament. In our own experience of the postal vote, I am sure that we have all acquired a knowledge of its abuse. There is not a member of this House who is prepared to say that the postal votes recorded at the Federal elections in 1910 were above suspicion. As Mr. Hawthorn, the Chief Secretary of Queensland, says, the system is open to gross abuse, and makes fraud easy. I know ladies who recorded postal votes at the elections held in 1910, and who, upon polling day, were walking about the streets of Brisbane. These ladies had not been ill, nor had they even been threatened with illness. But is there an honorable member of this House who would be prepared to lay an information against a woman in such circumstances and endeavour to get her mulcted in a fine of £50 ? The very suggestion is monstrous. I would rather see the postal vote abused fifty times than take action of that sort.
– Could not we take the postal vote away from such persons?
– I certainly think that some penalty should attach to persons who do not vote, as well as to persons who vote by fraud. We are all quite aware of the violations of the law which occurred at the Federal elections in 1910, when the postal voting system was operative. Why, then, do the present Government desire to reintroduce it? On that occasion there were over 7,000 postal ballot-papers issued in Brisbane, but only about 6,000 of these were forwarded to the returning officer. Puzzle - find the other 1,000. The honorable member for Gippsland, with a great assumption of virtue, pretended to wax indignant over the candid admission of the honorable member for Maranoa, that if he knew a postal vote had been recorded in a way that he did not desire it to be recorded, he would not forward it to the Returning Officer for the electoral division. I have the greatest reason for believing that at the elections to which I have already referred, numerous postal votes were recorded which did not reach the Returning Officers.
– In one constituency alone there were 500 postal votes burned.
– In Brisbane there were a thousand postal votes which did not reach the Returning Officer. In addition, postal voting papers were forwarded to the Returning Officer which had not been signed by electors, but which had been witnessed by justices of the peace. If honorable members opposite are . open to conviction in this matter, the very fact that under the postal voting system temporary agents have to be employed - agents who are paid by one political party or the other - to collect these votes, ought to be sufficient to convince them of its defects. The business of these agents is not to protect the voter, but to find out how he is voting and collect only those votes which will count in favour of the party which is employing them. Yet we are told that this Bill will provide us with a perfect electoral system. I have no hesitation in saying that immediately we offer, facilities to persons to vote away from a polling booth we open the door to abuse.
– Then the honorable member would do away with the absent vote ?
– Absent voters are required to vote at a polling booth, and to sign a declaration in the presence of the presiding officer.
– But suppose that they go to booths where they are not known?
– They have to sign a declaration before a presiding officer, and they have to vote at a polling booth. Absent voters are not the only persons who are unknown to the presiding officers.
– Suppose false names are placed upon the rolls, how would the honorable member get over that difficulty?
– I am discussing the postal voting system at present. I am prepared to go a long way in offering facilities to electors to vote. A suggestion has been made that there should be only one polling booth for each electoral division.
– That was tried in connexion with the first Federal elections, and it broke down.
– Every honorable member who visited a polling booth at the last elections must have witnessed congestion, discomfort, and delay -because of the crowds who desired to vote. In the very nature of things there must be a crush of electors at certain hours of the day. ‘ If only one polling booth were established in each electoral division, it would require to be of such a size that it would break down of its own weight. We have adopted the principle of establishing a number of polling booths in each electoral division, and I am in favour of extending that principle wherever possible. I go so far as to say that we ought to establish polling booths in our hospitals, on the trains, and on the steamers. Let us give the people every possible facility for voting. But let us insist that they shall go to a cer tified polling booth, and there record! their votes in the presence of a competent, and responsible officer.
– Shall we not have to go- back to the system of electoral rights?
– I do not think, so. That system broke down in operation. The honorable member need not. expect his party to go much further back, than they are going in this Bill. The Labour party, on the other hand, do not. intend to revert to these effete and discredited methods. We are now in a position’ to insist that every man and woman shall: not only get his or her name upon therolls - and I thoroughly agree with compulsory enrolment - but that they shall go to a polling booth and there recordtheir votes as free men and women. No system of voting away from a polling booth will give us that guarantee. Thisbrings me to another remarkable proposal of the Government - that which requiresvoters to sign their names to the butts of” their ballot-papers. I have already referred to the delays which occur at polling booths by reason of the congestion’ which takes place at certain hours of theday.
– By establishing three orfour more booths in each electoral division, that difficulty could be overcome,
– The proposal of the Government to require electors to> sign their names on the butts of their ballot-papers will mean the employment, of, at least, 5,000 additional presiding officers and poll clerks. One wonders, whose fertile brain evolved this brilliant idea. Of course, we must assume that it was evolved in the Cabinet, because the Liberal Caucus does not deal with measures. The Government bring down their Bills, and honorable members opposite have no say as to what their provisions shall be.
– Some honorable members opposite say just the reverse. Whichstatement is correct?
– What hand had’ the honorable member in framing thisBill ? Will he vote on -every occasion ashe chooses? No. He will- vote as hisleader directs.
– On this side of the Housewe have the right of criticism.
– Then honorablemembers opposite seldom exercise that, right.
– The honorable member is not game to support some of the proposals which I brought forward.
– The fact that the honorable member brought them forward is one of the many reasons why I ought not to support them.
– The honorable member is not accustomed to intelligence.
– I decline to reply to a remark of that kind . I repeat that one wonders whose fertile brain evolved this brilliant idea of getting electors to sign their names on the butts of their ballotpapers. In the country, I find that the people do not know whether to regard this proposal seriously or as a joke. I propose to offer a few suggestions to the Assistant Minister ‘ of Home Affairs. If we are going to do the thing at all, we ought to do it well. If the identification of the voter is to be established-
– Brand him.
– I do not like that idea, although the honorable member for Gippsland believes in.it. But now that the art of photography has reached such an advanced stage, there is no reason why there should not be at each polling booth an ordinary camera or a cinematograph camera. If the cinematograph were kept going during the hours of polling, the film could afterwards be unrolled, and the persons who voted could be identified. Of course, it is possible that some honorable members might assume a disguise in order to baffle identification. For instance, the honorable member for Werriwa might enter the polling booth minus his moustache, in which case we would not be able to identify him. Seeing that the Department of External Affairs has a very well equipped cinematograph apparatus at its disposal, I would like to know whether the Minister of External Affairs will consent to it being used in the way I suggest ?
– I am afraid that the persons exhibited would find a ground of objection from the point of view of personal appearance.
– Their objection on that ground would be less than their objection to sign their names to the butts of their ballot-papers. This, however, does not exhaust the suggestions which I have to offer. Why should not the fingerprints of electors be taken? I saw in a magazine recently some very interesting specimens of the handprints of certain gentlemen on the other side of the world, and I noticed that the writer of the article stated that there is a wonderful diversity in the handprints of individuals. It would be quite an easy matter to use sensitized ballot-papers, and to require each elector to place his hand on his ballot-paper. Then .he could afterwards be easily identified. Another suggestion which I have to offer is that, immediately upon entering a polling booth, an elector should be required to take an oath, or make an affirmation, that he is John Smith, or Alfred Conroy, as the case may be.
– Why should he not burn a match ?
– In Conroy’s case, he would cut off a rooster’s head.
– I am glad that honorable members laugh at these suggestions, because they are just about as stupid as is that of the Honorary Minister. He reminds me of Lord Beaconsfield’s reference to the ‘ ‘ Legislative freaks of aminor colleague.” A more freakish proposal than the signing of butts has never been suggested in a reasonable assembly. What is the object of it? It is to find out how certain persons have voted. The Labour party in every State of the Commonwealth has had to fight all along for the secrecy of the ballot, which is one of the greatest privileges an individual can have.
– The honorable member for Dampier showed that this proposal is merely the adaptation of one brought foward by your own party,’ and already in existence.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out that in the present Queensland Act thereis a provision for the number of the voter being written on the corner of the paper and gummed down, but the fact that it is gummed down is ho protection tothe voter. Electors realize the advantage df the Commonwealth system of voting. We have all had people come to us to ask, ‘ ‘ Is the vote secret ? . Will they find out how I vote?” It is regrettable to admit that even in free Australia there are citizens who are afraid that the way in which they vote will become known. It shows that we have not. yet got away from the feudalism or serfdom that was so unfortunate a feature of our electoral history in the past. Ministers admit that this provision is introduced so that in a Court of Disputed Returns votes may be traced. There were several disputed elections after the late elections in Queensland, and ballot-paper after, ballot-paper was opened, the gummed corner was uncovered, and it was ascertained how certain men and women had voted. Of course, I admit this is ons method of finding out fraudulent voting, and whether a man has voted under the right number or under the right name; and if fraudulent voting was being carried on to any extent, or if the duplication of voting was a serious thing, we should need to do something to try to prevent it, and to try to get at the people doing it - the present system provides no facilities for tracing votes - but I have already shown that double voting and impersonation is a very feeble thing - the Chief Electoral Officer having shown that it is practically non-existent. Why, then, go to the trouble of complicating an election and penalizing two and a half million voters because a thousand persons attempt to duplicate their votes? In regard to that same duplication, it cannot be proved that any vote at the last election was a duplication. I have heard it repeatedly stated all round the Chamber that each vote could be accounted for without any suggestion that there were duplicate votes. Each could be attributed, for instance, to the incapacity of the Returning Officer, to marking off the wrong man and to similarity of names in close proximity, the father, for instance, being crossed off when the son voted, and not being allowed to vote when he came in to do so. The honorable member for Gippsland, with a remarkable assumption of virtue, very considerately treated us to a lecture on Sabbatarianism.
– Of all men in the House !
– I wonder if honorable members have forgotten that it was an honorable member on the Ministerial side who suggested that Sunday should be polling day. When the honorable member for South Sydney was speaking he advocated Saturday as a suitable day, because it was a half-holiday, and -the honorable member for Moreton interjected that Sunday was a whole holiday. Later on, when there was some talk -as to whether the ballot-papers had been counted on Sunday, the honorable member for South Sydney said -
The Minister who had control of the late elections, when telegrams arrived from all parts of Australia asking whether the counting of votes would be continued on the Sunday, said “No; Sunday must be respected, so far as our party are concerned.’1 So there were no votes counted on the Sunday.
– Surely you do not wish us to believe that.
– Does the honorable member doubt the late Minister of Home Affairs?
– I know nearly all the votes were counted on the Sunday, and that is my objection to Saturday polling.
There were no votes, as I stated then, counted in Brisbane on Sunday, nor in Oxley. I know the reason for it. The Minister had issued an order that there was to be no counting on Sunday. The honorable member for Gippsland argues that officers in the country were told to get the boxes in as quickly as possible, and that they interpreted this instruction to mean that the work had to be done on Sunday.
– And they did it on Sunday.
– There was no need for it. In the New England district a number of ballot-boxes were stored in a room over Sunday, and there was. a fire, and the ballot-boxes were burnt. But they came in on the Saturday night. The presiding officer who interpreted his instructions to mean that he had to travel with his ballot-boxes on Sunday could just as easily, and more legitimately, have interpreted them to mean that he had to leave with his ballot-boxes on the Saturday night. He had no more reason to carry his boxes on the Sunday than on the Saturday night. When I made inquiries as to when they were going to count the votes for Brisbane, I was delighted to be told by the Returning Officer that there were definite instructions that nothing was to be done on the Sunday. He asked me about counting the votes on the Saturday night, but I said that, so far as I was concerned, he could lock up the ballot-boxes on the Saturday night and not look at them until Monday morning.
.- Allow me to congratulate the Attorney-General on the way in which he has explained this Bill. He was preceded by two Ministers, but we learned nothing concerning the measure from either of them. It was left to the Attorney-General to explain the
Bill in detail. When the Liberal party framed their policy, some months ago, I think the Attorney-General made use of the words that the policy framed was only fit food for political infants. He must have had this measure in mind; he must have considered this Bill was only fit for political infants, and on that account the Honorary Minister was given the Bill to introduce. I do not say an electoral measure should not be a party question. The Bill before us is a measure to suit one party only. We have been told in the Chamber and outside, and through the press, that there were gross irregularities throughout the Commonwealth at the late elections. We have challenged that statement, and have asked, time and again, that an inquiry be held to deal with the allegations made by honorable members opposite and by the press supporting the Liberal party, but, so far, we have not been informed as to where any irregularities took place. A report has been issued by the Commonwealth Chief Electoral Officer, and we find that the total number of irregularities that took place was about “ 5,000, or about three-quarters of a vote to each polling booth in the Commonwealth. This report speaks well for the way in which the election was conducted, considering the great rush there was at some polling booths. My own electorate is a great week-end resort for Sydney people, and they so greatly monopolized the. polling booths in my electorate to record absent votes that hundreds of my constituents were turned away. They did not have the opportunity of recording their votes, because they could not give the time to wait to do so. These are things we can, perhaps, cavil at, but they are due to the electoral machinery. There were not enough facilities given to the electors to record their votes. More officers should have been appointed. Honorable members on the Ministerial side say that they are free to express their individual opinions in regard to this measure; but out of fifteen new members, representing constituencies in New South Wales and Victoria, only three have given their views to the House. Each of them has criticised the Bill to some degree, saying that when the measure gets into Committee he is prepared to move amendments. However, no amendments have so far been foreshadowed by these honorable members. We can draw inferences of what they will do from the manner in which they conduct their selections when they are selecting candidates to run for State or Federal elections. Quite recently, many Liberal selections have been made in New South Wales, and every defeated candidate at a selection ballot has, through the press and on the public platform, denounced the way in which the selections were conducted. At a Liberal selection ballot conducted in Ryde, a new electorate under the recent Redistribution of Seats Act of New South Wales, there were 5,000 odd ballot-papers issued, and this was the report submitted to the Liberal Electorates Council -
The report of the executive stated that, in accordance with the resolution adopted at the meeting of the Conference oil 20th August, in connexion with several alleged irregularities, it conducted an inquiry and found that 5,030 ballot-papers were printed, 4,252 were posted to members, 2 were cancelled, and 776 were in the hands of the Returning Officer. The number received at the count was 3,342, the Returning Officer had received 53, said to have been delivered at the Liberal rooms by the postal officials since the count, 34 had been returned as undelivered, and 87 had been received since the count. The number unaccounted for was 823. The whole of the signatures to votes recorded had been carefully checked with the branch rolls, and they found 68 signed ballot-slips bearing names which were not on any of the branch lists, and to whom ballot-papers were not posted. They, had received statutory declarations from persons who declared that they had received ballot-papers and posted them in sufficient time. None of those names were amongst those who voted.
Then in regard to Mosman, another State electorate, the Sydney correspondent of the Melbourne Herald sent over the following message on the 20th of last month -
Grave allegations of wrongful practices have been made in connexion with the selection of a Liberal candidate for the Mosman electorate.
There are six candidates for selection, and thecontest is being conducted with vigour. It is alleged that the butts of fourteen receipt books belonging to the League are missing, and that some of them have found their way into thehands of candidates. These butts give the names: and addresses of electors enrolled. Packing is. said to be rife, and it is stated that the membership fees for many hundreds of persons havebeen paid by the candidates. The ordinary League membership of 200 has been suddenly increased to 4,000.
Take Burwood, in the same State. Somelittle time ago nominations were called’ for, it being intended to select a candidate for the State election. A gentleman-‘ named Thompson was set up against thesitting member, Mr. Henley, who stated! that canvassers had been going from door to door getting, for the Liberal League, the names of people who were not Liberals at all. This was done, he said, for the purpose of outvoting him in the ballot. In the Glebe selection there were four candidates. A gentleman named Bohsman was selected, and a gentleman who was defeated said that a great number of people were placed on the roll of the Liberal League for the electorate who lived outside its boundaries. Their votes were recorded for the selected candidate. In Newtown the same thing took place. Similar occurrences are happening in nearly very electorate. If the rolls of the Liberal Leagues are being packed in this way, surely we may infer that the people who are adopting that practice are responsible for the packing of the rolls in the State of New South Wales, and throughout the Commonwealth - if any such thing took place. I am not making audi a charge, but I do say that before people make charges of the kind against the party to which I have the honour to belong, or any other party, they should see to it that their own house is set in order. Various statements have been made concerning irregularities that took place. It is said that there was rollstuffing, double voting, and various other things. But we find that out of 5”, 000 odd alleged instances of double voting at the last election over 80 per cent, were pure clerical errors. If anything of a gross character did take place-,, however, why do not the Government initiate an inquiry, and bring the guilty persons to book ? Why do they not take them before the Police Court, and have them punished? They do not do so, because, if they did, they would find that they were hitting some of their own supporters. I am laying no charge of double voting. Personally, I believe there was none of it, or very little. I find that since the last election my opponent, Mr. Fuller, has been addressing various tea meetings throughout Illawarra, and has made certain charges against some person or persons in connexion with the election. He has said that if he had known what took place he would have had the election upset. He makes no definite statement as to the persons who did the things of which he complains, but he states that they were done, and leaves the inference that they were done either by myself or by the officers who conducted the election, or probably by some of my committee. He takes good care, however, not to locate the alleged irregularity. He goes a few miles away from the place where the occurrences are said to have happened, where there are no newspapers, and where few electors live. He addressed a meeting at Kiama, and said not a word about electoral irregularities there. But he afterwards went to Albion Park, and made the following statement -
At the late election a certain thing happened at Kiama, which, had he only known sooner, would have given him the opportunity of demanding another election. Had such a thing not happened, he felt sure that he would have been returned hy a good majority. One thing was certain, and that was that the Liberals had done nothing underhand or mean in connexion with the late election. During his whole political career he could say that his name had not been connected with” anything of a shady nature. The Illawarra electorate, that he had represented for twelve years, was not the Illawarra of today, owing to the cutting-up of the electorate by” the late Government, but he was still the undefeated candidate of the old constituency. At Cawley camp, 2,000 votes were recorded by men who had no interest in the district.
I say that, in using those words, Mr. Fuller was either making a direct charge against me of having done something, wrong at Kiama, or else he was launching, an allegation against the Deputy Returning Officer who conducted the election in the district. I can state positively that I carried out that election in as clean a manner as it was possible for any man to conduct a contest. I spent no money in any other way than the- law permitted. When I entered upon the campaign I had very little money to spend. There was, as far as I know, no bribery or corruption, or anything of that character. As to the Returning Officer, his conduct was above reproach. Yet Mr. Fuller made the statement that at the Cawley camp 2,000 votes were recorded “ of men who had no interest in the district.” He was. referring to men who were constructing the new railway between Waterfall and Otford. But is it true that these men have no interest in the district? Surely they have as much interest as Mr. Fuller or any one else. They are rendering a service to the community in constructing that railway. They earn their living there, and have just as much right to have their names on the roll as Mr. Fuller has, or I have. To say That they all recorded their votes at the election is not true, because in that portion of the constituency only 1,800 votes were recorded altogether, and before these navvies came there the roll contained 1,200 or 1,400 names of miners and other residents. To show how far this Government intend to go, I may mention that the Attorney-General has issued an order authorizing Returning Officers and Registrars to take notice that any names that may be challenged by any organization or any person are to be checked. I know that at the present time a considerable number of those notices is going out, and that large numbers of names have been struck off the rolls. At one post-office in. a large centre of Victoria hundreds of notices are going out every day. I know of a person who took the form sent to him to the Registrar, and asked the reason why it was forwarded. The Registrar, taking up a large bundle of the notices, said, “ These are going out tomorrow, and a large number of others are to follow.” These were the names of people who had voted at the last election. When asked the reason why they were being challenged, the Registrar said that it was on account of the non-delivery of the referenda pamphlets issued by the late Government. The pamphlets were sent to every elector in the Commonwealth, and he alleged that those to whom they were not delivered were being struck off the rolls. During the election campaign, I called at many post-offices in small places where letters are not delivered at all. People have to go to the post-office for their own letters and papers. I found stacks of the pamphlets which had not been delivered. But the people to whom they were addressed were still in the locality, and recorded their votes at the election. If it be true that, on account of the non-delivery of those pamphlets, names are being struck off the rolls, the Government are doing a gross injustice to large numbers of people.
– The honorable member knows that the statement is not true.
– I am not saying that it is true. ‘ I am stating that this is what an Electoral Registrar said.
– Why attach any importance to the statement?
– Because it was made by an official. There certainly is a movement on foot to strike names off the rolls. I have directed attention to Mr. Puller’s statement that at one place in Illawarra there were 2,000 people who had no in terest in the district. But is that a reason why their names should be struck off the roll? The organizer for the Liberal party at Illawarra at the last election has made this statement -
The good ship Illawarra has met with a slight accident, and her old and trusty captain is on the retired list for a few months. After a long and successful voyage she ran aground when within 106 leagues of port, scuttled by 1,200- mutinous stowaways, who came aboard at Cawley, and now they are sailing her with holes patched up on what promises to be a very stormy sea. But her crew is still safe, and we will soon have Captain Fuller aboard again. We will put new planks in, and the Admiral of the Fleet, the Hon. Joseph Cook, will take good care to see that no stowaways again get a chance of disabling her.
What does that statement mean? It means that the Liberals are relying upon the present Administration to strike those 1,260 names off the rolls in order that when the polling day does come round their owners shall not have the privilege of doing what they did at the last general election.
– Not necessarily.
– Here is the statement of a Liberal organizer.
– And if the names are properly on the roll, they willremain there.
– The names will not remain on the roll; they are being improperly got off. To-day there are thousands of names being struck off the roll. For my part I shall see that none of the names in my electorate is struck off.”
– If the names are improperly on the roll they will be removed. Mr. BURNS.- Who is to say whether any names are improperly on the roll or not - a Liberal organizer?
– The Electoral Officer.
– Do you say that the names of these persons should be on two rolls?
– They are not on two rolls. Let the name of a person be struck off the roll of the district which he has left. I am not going to say that there are no cases of duplication. I am prepared to admit that there may be a few cases. We all know that men shift, from one place to another. They realize that, after they leave a locality, the chance is that their names will be struck, off the roll. They are aware that Liberal, organizers are always alert, and ready to have the names of any Labour voters struck off at any opportunity.
– Are there no organizers besides Liberal organizers going round?
– Not at that game.
– I am glad to hear that.
– We have heard a lot of talk about the inflation of the rolls. I find that at the present time we have 2,700,060 names on the rolls, and that at the last general election 2,033,251 persons voted, while 726,965 persons did not vote at all. If there had been more people voting than were enrolled I could have understood all this talk about the inflation of the rolls. The Commonwealth Statistician has stated that there were more people enrolled than there were accounted for at the last census. In. Australia there is a tremendous number of persons who never have an opportunity to see a census-paper. Take a man who is travelling from one place to another, and who, when a census is taken, probably is not residing at any place. He may be carrying his swag, travelling from one shearing shed to another. He is not reached at all, and, of course, we get no record of his being a resident of the Commonwealth. There are thousands of such persons in Australia. Yet their first care when they get a job anywhere is to see that their names are put on the roll of the electorate in which they reside. This talk of inflation of the rolls is’ a myth. I will not say that there are not a few cases of persons whose names may be duplicated, but I do say that there is not much in the statements which have been made about the duplication of eighty odd thousand.
– That is only in one State. There are 175,000 duplicated names, according to the Statistician.
– And the Department will not allow us to have the Electoral Officer’s report.
– I should like the Department to produce the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on this question; and, if it were produced, I venture to say the statements which are being circulated to-day would be found to be absolutely groundless. The first objection we on this side have to this measure is to the provision requiring a voter to sign the butt of his ballot-paper. We all know why that provision is made.
– We know what the result will be, anyhow.
– Yes; and we know perfectly well that the provision will be the means of keeping a large number of persons from the poll. The percentage of persons who vote is becoming greater every year. At the first Federal general election, for instance, the percentage of voters was just under 50 per cent. ; at the second Federal election it was just under 60 per cent. ; while at the last Federal election it reached. over 70 per cent. And so it will go on, until in the near future, I suppose, we shall have 80 or 90 per cent, of the persons entitled to vote exercising the franchise. I hail that prospect with delight. I hail the time when every elector in the Commonwealth will be induced to exercise the franchise, and we shall have 96 or 98, or even 100, per cent, of the persons enrolled recording a vote.
– That is a thing which the Liberal party do not want.
– Exactly. Now this provision has a twofold object. Indeed, it is a two-edged tool. Firstly, it will do away with the secrecy of the ballot; it will prevent timid persons from coming along to the polling booth, because they will be afraid that if they do vote it will become known whom they voted for. Secondly, the provision will retard the progress of the poll. When I went to Tasmania first, about fourteen years ago, a margin was provided opposite the name of every person on the electoral roll. An elector, before he received a ballot-paper, had to sign the roll. What was the re-, suit of that provision? The progress of voting was found to be so slow that the provision had to be knocked out. It was found that thousands of persons who went along to vote were disfranchised owing to the slow way in which the ballot proceeded. The provision in this Bill, I repeat, will prevent timid persons from entering a polling booth, and it will prevent other persons from voting owing;to the slowness with which the ballot will be conducted. Of course, the Liberal party know that that will suit their purpose very well, because when we had less than 50 per cent, of the electors on the rolls voting, the Liberals in this House, as well as in the State Parliaments, were in a large majority; but as the percentage of persons voting increased, so did the number of Liberals returned decrease all along the line.
– Then, how was it that at the last general elections the Liberal party was returned to power with the largest percentage of votes ever recorded in the Commonwealth ?
– Does the honorable member call it being “returned to power “ to be dependant upon a casting vote? If he does, he is welcome to the position. It was the States where the lowest percentage of voting took place that gave the Liberal party their majority. Where the percentage of voting was greatest - that is, in Western Australia, Queensland, and South Australia - there we got our largest majorities. Another provision in this Bill I take exception to is that which does away with the deposit of 5s. when an objection is lodged to a name on an electoral roll. I understand that, by an instruction of their own, the Government have suspended that provision, quite contrary to the law. I believe that if a person sends iu to a Returning Officer or an Electoral Registrar, an objection to a person’s name being left on the roll, the officer sends out a notice to the person so challenged asking him to furnish the Department with information as to whether his name should be retained or otherwise. How many letters go astray in the Commonwealth every year ? How many of the persons whose names are challenged are away on holiday, probably for a month or six weeks? It is stated in this notice that if, within a period of twenty-one days, a person who is challenged has not furnished the desired information, his name will be struck off the roll. Such persons will find, when they go to the polling booth next time to vote, that their names have been struck off the roll owing to their having .been away from home when the delivery of the notice took place. Again, how many letters are mislaid? Through the miscarriage of a letter - because it was not received by the person to whom it was addressed - his name will be struck off the roll, and through no fault of his own.
– You are romancing.
– No. Honorable members on the other side talk a lot about giving to every qualified person in the Commonwealth the opportunity of exercising the franchise. At the same time,
We have a Ministry who have the audacity to issue an instruction of the character I have described, and,’ instead of having inflated rolls, instead of having too many names on the rolls, as stated to-day, there will be too few names by many thousands. The provision for the deposit of 5s. with an objection to a name on the roll ought to be retained. I, for one, intend to vote for its retention. Before any person should have the right to lodge an objection, let him show his bona fides by depositing 5s. with the Electoral Registrar. If the challenge of a name is worth making, it is worth a deposit of 5s. If an objection is found to be frivolous, the objector will lose the money as the Act directs ; but if an objection is not found to be frivolous, the money will be handed back, so that an objector will really have nothing to fear. The requirement of the deposit is a reasonable safeguard against any improper practice. I have been taking part in elections for a number of years, and I know that in Queensland and Tasmania the names of hundreds of persons were challenged and struck off the rolls. The provision requiring the payment of a deposit was enacted in order to give persons the right of having their names kept on the roll, ‘ so that when they attended to exercise the franchise no obstacles would be placed in their way. A great deal has been said about the postal vote and its proposed restoration. I have had some experience of the operation of the postal voting system, having been in Queensland during two elections in -which the system was used under the State law. At one of those elections 1,600 postal votes were cast in an electorate in which 10,000 were enrolled, and at the other 2,700 applications for postal votes were made where there were 9,730 on the roll. In 1908, the Philp Government was in power in Queensland, and to give the Liberal party opportunities for collecting postal votes, it appointed 300 justices of the peace, twenty of them being for the Charters Towers district. During the 1907 election, when 1,600 postal votes were cast, the Electoral League, which was the Liberal League, had ‘twenty justices of the peace working for it, but for the next election the Philp Government made the league a present of twenty more, so that it then had forty justices of the peace organizing and canvassing for it.
Colonel Ryrie. - How many had the Australian Workers Union ?
– I think I was the only one.
– We had seven justices of the peace, as against forty on the Liberal side.
– The present Labour Government of New South Wales has appointed 1,700 justices of the peace.
– Mostly Liberals. In my electorate not one Labour man has been made a justice of the peace. ‘ That shows that the Labour Government is not partisan. The Philp Government, on the eve of an election, appointed 300 justices of the peace for Queensland for the specific purpose of collecting postal votes in the interests of one party. Nearly every justice of the peace is appointed on the recommendation of the member of Parliament for the electorate in which he resides. If we re-introduce the postal voting system, the State Governments will again appoint justices of the peace on the eve of a Federal election. The Liberal party is desirous of getting justices of the peace appointed so that it can send them out as paid canvassers, four of the State Governments being Liberal. In the interests of the Liberal party these Governments would appoint innumerable justices of the peace, making every canvasser and organizer connected with the Liberal movement a justice of ‘ the peace for the collection of postal votes, just as the Philp Government did in 1908. The postal voting system- is open to corruption. There are thousands of justices of the peace in the Commonwealth, the whereabouts of many not being known, because of changes in their places of residence. The names of such justices of the peace could be used by unscrupulous persons in connexion with the witnessing of postal votes, and how would it be possible to ascertain that a name so used had been used improperly, or to find out who had used it improperly? If I were conducting an election, and wished to resort to fraud, I could do it very easily under the postal voting system that it is” now proposed to introduce.
– Could not there be a resort to fraud under the present law ? .
– Not so easily as under the proposed law. Now every person has to go to the ballot-box to vote, and has to make personal application for a ballotpaper. Under the postal voting system the elector does not go to the ballot-box, but a justice of the peace and a canvasser go to his or her house, witnessing the signature of the voter, and collecting the vote. In all probability tho person who votes by post knows neither the canvasser nor the justice of the peace who witnesses the signature. In 1907 we made an inquiry into what was done during the election, and innumerable statements were made to us as to what had taken place, but we found it very difficult to get sworn declarations, because most of the persons by whom the statements were made were women whose husbands were working in the mines, and who were unwilling to sacrifice their husbands’ livelihood by making sworn declarations as to what had occurred. But this is one sworn declaration that we got. It was taken on the 18th May, 1907-
I, Maria Sorensen, of Charters Towers, in the State of Queensland, married woman, being duly sworn, make oath and say as follows : -
I am an elector duly enrolled for the electoral district of Charters Towers, and numbered 8750 on the roll for the said district.
On or about the 2nd day of May, 1907, one John McLaren, a justice of the peace for the State of Queensland, in company with one James McKergow, called at my house, with an application for a postal ballot certificate, which they requested me to sign, in order that I might vote at the then ensuing parliamentary election for the State of. Queensland.
I am unable’ to write, and my hand was guided in signing the said application by the said James McKergow, and my signature attested by the said John McLaren.
On the said 2nd day of May, 1907, in the manner aforesaid, I recorded my vote, and signed the postal ballot, certificate, my hand being guided in writing the names of the candidates for whom I voted, and in signing my name, by the said James McKergow, and my signature to the said postal ballot certificate being witnessed by the said* John McLaren.
AfterI had voted, the certificate was not handed back to me at all, but was retained by the said John McLaren. .
I did not request either the said John McLaren or the said James McKergow to post the said vote, neither did I provide the postage stamp, as provided by law, and which, to the best of my belief, was supplied by the said John McLaren.
All the above facts and circumstances are “within my own knowledge, save such as are deposed to from information only, and my means of knowledge and sources of information appear on the face of this my affidavit.
Maria x Sorensen. mark.
– Does the honorable member think that McLaren would supply the stamp?
– If he did not supply the stamp he has a cause of action against this woman for making a false declaration. I do not say that he supplied the stamp at his own expense, but I say that the Electoral Association of Charters Towers supplied stamps in this way. In that election there were 2,700 applications for (postal ballot-papers, but when the postal vote was counted over, 130 of these were missing, and those who destroyed postal ballot-papers under the Queensland Act would do the same thing again under the “Commonwealth Act, were the postal voting system to be reintroduced. There were 20,000 postal ballot-papers issued in Queensland, and over 3,000 were missing when the postal votes came to be counted. It is safe to say that a big percentage of them were cast for Labour candidates. and that it was not considered desirable that they should be counted. The lady whose declaration I have read says that her hand was guided when she wrote the names of the candidates. The canvassers who collected postal votes made it their business to find out how the electors voted, by using a clean piece of blotting paper for each postal vote.
– They used to carry bundles of blotting paper-
-Yes. They had one bag for blotting paper and another for postal ballot-papers.
– Many ballot-papers were stolen.
Colonel Ryrie. - Queensland seems to be a terrible place.
– I refer to what has taken place in Queensland because the honorable member for Gippsland said that the present Queensland Government is reintroducing the postal voting system. It is doing so because Ministers recognise that something is necessary to safeguard their interests after the big majority that the Labour party got at the recent Federal election, and they think that their interests would be safeguarded only by the re-adoption of the postal voting system. Although I oppose the provision in the Bill for the re-establishment of the postal voting system in Commonwealth elections, I would hail with delight any safe system for extending the franchise to sick persons unable to go to the polling booth.
-. - The honorable member did not say that on the platform.
– On every platform from which I spoke I denounced the postal voting system that had been used under State and Commonwealth legislation, and justified the action of the Fisher Govern ment in abolishing postal voting in Commonwealth elections. I gained my majority in that way. During the last elections a large number of persons were unable through illness to exercise the franchise, but, on the other hand, a number of people who were not ill were denied that right. If the Liberals are as sincere as they would have us believe in their desire to extend the franchise to the sick, how is it that when the Labour Government in New South Wales introduced an Electoral Bill, under which it was proposed to enable inmates of charitable institutions to vote, members of the Liberal party in the Legislative Council rejected that provision? Inmates of the Waterfall Institution oan exercise the franchise in connexion with Commonwealth elections, but are denied that right at State elections. The Electoral Bill brought forward by the McGowen Government - a Labour Administration - provided for the exercise of the franchise by inmates of charitable institutions in New South Wales, but the Legislative Council, knowing full well that 90 per cent, of those people would vote Labour, struck out that provision from the Bill.
Colonel Ryrie. - Do not forget that it was the Liberals who gave the people that institution.
– And they are also- responsible, to a large extent, for men and women being forced to enter such institutions. The vested interests of this country are responsible for a large number of people having to become inmates ‘of such establishments. Many of these’ inmates are men who have been struck down by miner’s phthisis, owing to the bad ventilation of mines, and it is the Liberals in the Legislative Councils of the States who are responsible for the deplorable conditions prevailing in the various mines of the country. I recognise that charitable institutions are doing good work, but the necessity for them should not exist.
Colonel Ryrie. - The honorable member should not slander the Minister for Mines in the Labour Government of New South Wales.
– The honorable member, instead of interjecting, ought to make a speech. I suppose his leader will not allow him to do- so. We can all see the direction in which the hands of the political clock are pointing at the present time. I dare say that the greatest champion of the Liberal party in the Commonwealth to-day is the Argus, which, on the 15th ultimo, published the following statement in regard to the election of a representative of the Yarra Province in the Legislative Council of Victoria -
It is evident, too, that Mr. Edgar is completely out of sympathy wilh the views of the great majority of East Yarra electors. His declaration in favour of the ratepayers’ roll as a franchise for the Council goes to the very root of the matter. A Liberal might represent a Radical constituency like Melbourne West (Mr. Edgar’s old district), and give utterance to that opinion without any very glaring absurdity ; but it is a different thing when such a candidate is seeking the votes of East Yarra electors. There is no desire there to see the Legislative Council democratised out of all possibility of exercising the functions of an effective House of review. The evidence points rather to the existing franchise being too low for that purpose, and those who favour its being further approximated to that of the Legislative Assembly, should consider the lesson taught by the Senate. Australians, of all people, have had their eyes opened to the evils of a parliamentary system that is bicameral in name only. The difference between the ratepayers’ roll and the Assembly roll is so inconsiderable nowadays that, in advocating this change, Mr. Edgar is really asking the electors of East Yarra to place him’ in a position where he may strive virtually to destroy the Chamber which it is to their interest and the interest of the State to keep as strong and effective as possible.
This newspaper - the mouth-piece of the Liberal party - declares that the franchise for the Senate is too liberal.
– The present AttorneyGeneral once suggested an alteration of the franchise for the Senate.
– And many other honorable members opposite have done so. If they had their way, instead of having 2,000,000 names on the rolls, we should have a roll based upon a property qualification. If the Liberal party and their supporters are as sincere as they would have us believe in their desire that every man and woman in the community shall have the right to exercise the franchise, why do they not liberalize the voting qualification for the State Legislative Councils ?
– Ask Mr. Holman.
- Mr. Holman is prepared to take action to-morrow. But, if he were to bring in a Bill making the Legislative Council of New South Wales an elective Chamber, does the honorable member think that the Legislative Council would pass it?
– The honorable member must confine his attention to the question before the Chair. This Bill has nothing to do with the Legislative Council of a State.
– I referred to the matter only by way of illustration. I am sorry if I have transgressed, but I was led away by the interjection of an honorable member opposite. The Liberal party probably would like to bring the franchise for the Senate into line with that for the Legislative Councils of the States. I desire now to refer to the proposal to do away with the provisions of the existing Act requiring that political articles published during an election campaign shall be signed. I do not know that that provision has done any harm. During the last general election the newspapers had full scope to criticise, and availed themselves of it to a very considerable degree. They criticised the late Government, and no obstacles were placed in their way. As has been pointed out, the provision now .proposed to be repealed has given an opportunity to many young writers to display to the public their ability as journalists. I fail to see why a newspaper writer should hesitate to place his or her name to any political article published in the press. I am opposed to this proposed amendment. Without such a provision as that now in operation a candidate could be unfairly attacked, and would not be able to ascertain the name of the person attacking him. It is only fair to the candidate, or to the party to which he belongs, whether it be the Liberal or the Labour party, that the writers of these articles should sign their names. A writer has nothing to fear if he tells the truth, and if his article contains untrue statements, then it ought not to be published. I am reminded of another provision in this Bill which provides that names snail not be added to the rolls within one month of the date of the issue of the writs. Between the middle of April and the date of the issue of the writs for the last general election, some 6,000 names were .added to the roll for my own electorate. Had this provision then operated, all those people would have been disfranchised.
– Not necessarily. They would have secured enrolment a little earlier.
– I think not. Statistics show that from 20,000 to 30,000 persons come of age every month. All these will be disfranchised if the Bill be passed as it stands. Then there are new arrivals to be considered. These must have resided within the Commonwealth for six months in order to secure enrolment, and if the old provision that names may be enrolled up to the date of issue of the writs be allowed to remain, thousands of new arrivals will be given an opportunity to record their votes. If this amendment be made, however, tens of thousands will be disfranchised.
– I think we might as well have a quorum. [Quorum formed.] Many honorable members have discussed the Bill now before us, but honorable members opposite have not favoured us with their arguments in support of it. I understand that this is due to the fact that a Caucus meeting of the party has been held, at which the Honorary Minister and the Prime Minister were soundly thrashed for the manner in which the Bill was introduced, to begin with, and for the way in which it has subsequently been dealt with. I understand further that the Caucus selected the Attorney-General to get up and explain the Bill to the House. I am personally extremely grateful to the honorable gentleman for the information he gave regarding the Bill.
– There is not a single member of the honorable member’s party present to listen to him.
– That is’ quite true. We sent them all out.
– Then I think we should put the question.
– I challenge the Prime Minister to have the question put if he has the courage to do so.
– Is that what the honorable member got up to say?
– No. I amfilling in time until the adjournment for dinner.
– Some one has got hold of the honorable member’s leg, and is pulling it nearly out of joint.
– The honorable member for Calare will find my leg a very tough one to pull. I am told that, in common with other honorable members on the opposite side, who dare not open their lips upon this Bill except by way of interjection, and have not the moral courage to get up and say what they think of it,the honorable member tells his friends outside that it ought never bo have been introduced at all.
– The honorable member is absolutely wrong. I never made such a statement in my life.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I ask leave to conbinue my speech at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- I am very sorry that I have been taken a little unawares. I expected that the Government would do business in a proper manner, and would not try to spring a surprise upon honorable members in this way.
– Not at all.
– The Bill was sprung upon us as a surprise in the first place. This matter has been before the public for some two or three months. I wish to emphasize the fact that it is the outcome of a great blunder on the part of the Minister of Trade and Customs. The honorable gentleman should havecollected a sum of £158,000 by way of Excise duty on a considerable quantity of sugar. There was no occasion whatever to allow that sugar to go out of bond until the Excise duty due upon it had been paid. The Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, made an arrangement with the Premier of Queensland that if the Premier carried legislation in the State Parliament abolishing coloured labour in the sugar industry, he would, on his part, introduce legislation in this Parliament bo repeal the Excise and bounty on sugar. The present Minister of Trade and Customs did not wait to see whether the Queensland Government carried out their part of the contract. All that he required, apparently, was an intimation that certain Bills had been put through the Queensland Parliament. He did not acquaint himself with the provisions of those measures. He took the word of an opponent of our White Australia policy, and immediately proclaimed the abolition of the bounty and Excise on the 25th July last, with the result that £158,000 which should have been paid as Excise -duty on sugar then in bond was allowed to remain in the pockets of some thirty different firms. I direct attention to the .audacity of the Minister’ of Trade and Customs, who, having made this blunder, pretended that it was the duty of the late Government to insert a clause in the repealing legislation to provide that the Excise duty in question should be collected. To have done what the honorable gentleman has suggested would have involved a preamble to the legislation in these terms, ‘ ‘ Whereas it is probable that Mr. Littleton E. Groom will become Minister of Trade and Customs, and will not have the foresight to collect Excise duty on the sugar in bond unless a clause reminding him to do so is inserted, it is necessary that such a clause should be inserted.”
– Honorable, members opposite never thought that their Government would be out of office.
– It is true that we did not, otherwise we might have inserted a clause in our Bill to remind the present Government that it was right and proper to collect Excise duty on the 38,000 tons of sugar in bond at the time of the proclamation. I have on other occasions pointed out that many of our honorable friends opposite received their education at a university, or had eaten so many dinners at the Inns of Court. At one time all that was necessary to enable a man to become a barrister was that he should eat so many dinners at the Inns of Court. I think the AttorneyGeneral had to do a little more to qualify himself. I have pointed out that although our friends possess considerable educational ability, because they have been through a university, apparently they know very little* about the science of government. They require to learn, and they are learning, at very little . cost to themselves, but at very great expense to the people of Australia. One lesson in political economy and the science of government, which it was necessary to give the Minister of Trade and Customs, is going to cost the country £158,000. That is a very expensive lesson, and I believe it is more than the Minister is worth. It will be a long time indeed before the honorable gentleman will be able to pay back in services to the Commonwealth the very high fee which has had to be paid to teach him his duty. The Ministry ought to hand back their salaries for the period that they havebeen in office, in order to compensate in some small measure for this loss. Doesnot the Attorney-General think that that would be a fair thing ? I am sorry that there is not a taxing-master to deal with this matter, because I am sure that he’ would write down the bill of Ministers until this amount had been collected. It is very evident that Ministers know very little about the .science of government. They are learning and learning, at the expense of the country. It would have been far better if the late Ministry had been allowed to retain office until we were able to pay for the wild experiments of the Treasurer and for the blundering of the Minister of Trade and Customs.’ What single act have the Government performed which can commend itself to the people of this country? It is now ‘the 7th October., and Parliament met on 9.th July. What have the Ministry done which can commend itself to the public?
– Changed the postage stamp.
– They have not even done that.
– No. They intended to change it, but when they found that it was not likely to reduce the cost of living, they allowed it to remain. It is all very well for the Treasurer to laugh. He is in a happy position, because he has succeeded in inducing this House to pass an Audit Bill, and he has also delivered his Budget. The Estimates, however, have not yet been approved, and may not be for some days. I am very sorry that I have lost my notes; otherwise I would have made a much more lengthy protest. I did not anticipate that the Bill would be sprung upon us in this sudden fashion. The Minister- of Trade and Customs brought it forward one night, and its second reading was moved on the following day. Then he started to rush it through the House. I do hot think that there is on the statute-book of any country a piece of legislation of such a clumsy character as is this measure. I do not know what the Attorney-General will be able to say to the law students when it is put before them as a sample of Commonwealth legislation. They will probably say, “ If this is all that the brains of the legal profession can produce, surely we ought to experience no difficulty in passing our examinations.” Personally, I think the time has arrived “when greater latitude should be permitted to persons in the matter of appearing before the High Court. I believe that more justice would then be done. Litigants would be able to secure the services of better advocates.
– Does the honorable member think this Bill should be referred to a Select Committee?
– I will deal with that aspect of the matter at a later stage. Clause 2 of the Bill provides that the sugar which was produced between 1st May and 26th July of the present year, and all other sugar which was in bond on the latter date, shall pay Excise duty. Now, all that sugar has passed out of bond, and probably most of it has found its way into the tea-cups of the people of Australia and into confectionery.
– The honorable member thinks that it cannot be traced?
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral’s attention to this point. This Bill seriously declares that all sugar which was produced in Australia between 1st May and 26th July of the present year, and which was in bond on the latter date, shall pay an Excise duty! It attempts to get at the people who took that sugar out of bond. I say that that sugar has been entered for home consumption, and has probably been consumed. The Attorney-General and the Minister of Trade and Customs, on the other hand, say that upon that sugar Excise shall be paid. Mark their marvellous ingenuity. Realizing that this sugar has gone to the four winds of heaven, they provide in another clause that sugar produced since the 26th July shall be deemed to have been in boud prior to that date.
– Deemed by whom?
– By the Government. What a lot -of pretence there is about this matter. What has the AttorneyGeneral to say ? Surely he is not muzzled, like the rest of honorable members opposite? Surely he will defend the legal profession against the stigma which will be placed upon it by this Bill?
– Is the proposal constitutional 1
– That is the point.
– Let me have a chance. I will give honorable members plenty to talk about.
– I shall be pleased to hear the honorable member. I say that no prompting should be permitted in this House. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs will please let the honorable member for Werriwa alone. I draw your attention, sir, to an attempt at tyranny and oppression in this Chamber. It is very wrong that a Minister should attempt to intimidate an honorable member who desires to do his duty. One section in our Constitution declares that a law dealing with taxation shall deal with taxation matters alone. In this instance , a Bill has been introduced to authorize the collection of Excise on sugar which was in bond between 1st May and the 26th July of thepresent year. That is the only matter with which it ought to deal. But this measure reminds me of the legislation which this Parliament enacted in respect of harvesters, and in which an attempt was made to impose certain duties and to regulate the prices of agricultural implements and the conditions of employment in the industry. This Bill, while it professes to be an Excise Tariff measure, attempts to accomplish something which should not be accomplished, under a taxation law. The question which constitutional authorities like the Attorney-General and the Minister of External Affairs have to consider is whether we have a right to pass a law which will not be uniform in its operation ?
– Hear, hear ! That is the danger. This Bill is an invasion of State rights.
– I welcome the honorable member as one who will assist me in emphasizing the incapacity of the Government as a Government. Individually, they have plenty of ability, but collectively they exhibit very great inefficiency, to use even a mild term. I do not know what is the trouble, whether they are too occupied in gagging their supporters, in personally appealing to this one, or in pulling the button of another supporter’s coat - as the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs did just now with the honorable member for Werriwa - to prevent them giving the subjects which come before them proper attention ; but they certainly introduce legislative proposals into this Chamber in a very imperfect form. I need hardly remind honorable members that we have already lost a lot of money upon sugar- I do not know that that will affect the Treasurer very much. The spending of money does not appear to affect him so long as it runs into millions.
– According to the Budgetpapers, the loss sustained upon the sugar which was released from bond without the payment of Excise amounts to £170,000.
– It is very interesting to read the Treasurer’s Budget. He said that, for various reasons, he anticipated a reduction in the Customs and Excise revenue. Was he looking forward to the loss consequent upon the repeal, of the Bounty and Excise Acts? It certainly looks like it. Ministers were apparently hopeful that this matter would pass unnoticed, but when the honorable member for Yarra pointed out the blunder which they had committed, they had to make the best of the position. By reference to page 9 of the Budget-papers it will be seen that the loss through the abolition of the Excise duty on sugar from 25th July, 1913, is estimated at £170,000.
– And we must count interest at 4 per cent, on that.
– On a matter of this kind, I consider myself at liberty to pronounce an opinion as freely as any legal member, because I have been in a Chamber where there were twelve lawyers, and of those twelve lawyers there were six on one side with one view of the Constitution, and six on the other side having a totally opposite view.
– And none of them correct.
– No. The laymenamong them myself - had to construe the law and to give it what we believed to be the correct interpretation. We say that a law should press equally on all members of the community, but here the Government come forward with a proposal under which if one man will not pay they will collect the money from the other fellow. All cane produced after the 26th July is to be deemed to be dutiable, and the Government say they will continue to collect duty on that cane until such time as they receive £170,000; but the sugar dealers, the people who got their sugar out of bond, on the 25th July, may not be willing to pay for the blunders of the Minister of
Trade and Customs and the AttorneyGeneral and the other legal members of the Government.
– Have we any guarantee that these people will not put up the price of sugar when they pay this extra Excise ?
– There is no guarantee that the people who have to pay the Excise under this Bill, this monstrosity of legislation, will not pass on that £4 per ton to the consumer.
– We should have a clause in the Bill to guard against that.
– Is it likely that certain individuals who are being compelled by this blundering Government to pay Excise duty are going to pay it out of their own pockets, and that they will not charge the people of Australia with the duty? I say it is most unlikely. For instance, it is extremely unlikely that the Colonial Sugar Kenning Company, in collusion and in agreement with the other people who fix the price the consumers have to pay for sugar, are going to make any concession to the users of sugar. Honorable members will see, in the list read out the other night by the honorable member for Yarra, the various people who had sugar in bond on the 25th July. There was the Colonial Sugar Refining Company at the head of the list with a very large quantity of sugar in bond, and there were over thirty others. I believe that the Victorian and Queensland State Governments were in the list. There were Burns, Philp and Company, and other dealers.
– Do the Government really know how much was in bond?
– They are only guessing it.
– It may be a guess; it may be that the figures produced are so inaccurate that the Government have not the courage to say that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Burns, Philp and Company, and the other people with sugar in bond at that date should pay the duty. Why do they not put it in the Bill that the people who had sugar in bond at that date should be the people to pay it? Their officials know that these thirty odd firms had sugar in bond on the 25th July. Why not put the names in the Bill? There would be something reasonable about that.
– Something honest.
– Something honest and straightforward. But no, they do not do that. Moreover, they do not carry out the previous practice with regard to Tariff Acts, and commence to collect the duty immediately the Tariff is on the table of the House. On the contrary, they say that this Bill is to come into operation by proclamation. This is another big blunder. I have asked the Minister of Trade and Customs what is the idea underlying this proposition.
– It is no use asking him anything; he knows nothing.
– Or else he is too impolite to give a reply.
– He is consulting with the Attorney-General.
– Judging by their past conduct, we shall get no reply from either. They have agreed to say as little as possible. When I asked the other day why this Bill was not brought into operation immediately on its introduction, the Minister of Trade and Customs said that he had explained it on the second reading; but I have taken the trouble to read his speech, and I can find no explanation in it. I ask now what is the object’ of this proclamation ? Surely the Government are honest in what they say; surely they are truthful when they say they want to collect the duty on the sugar in bond on 25th July. Then why do they not bring the Bill into operation at once, and start to collect the duty? Where is the need for a proclamation?
– They have never yet said that they knew there was any sugar in bond when they made the proclamation under the repealing Acts; in fact, they decline to say it.
– No. I understand the Government knew there was sugar in bond. If they did not say so, they led us to believe that they had confidence in their officers. The honorable member for Wide Bay will remember that the present Minister of Trade and Customs said he had instructed his officers to make a note of what sugar was in bond on that date.
– He said he had sent a telegram.
– I said that on the 25th July a telegram was sent out to all the officers, and the information obtained has been supplied to honorable members.
– We have here a complete departure from all the practice in connexion with Bills concerning Customs and Excise. As honorable members will recollect, the moment that the schedule of any proposed Customs and Excise duties has been laid on the table the duties become law, notwithstanding that was not quite constitutional; and if any amendment was made in Committee reducing a duty, the Government at once ceased to collect that duty to the extent of the reduction. What a monstrous thing it is to say, by proclamation, “ We shall bring in an Excise Bill to collect £4 per ton on sugar.” I hesitate in saying that I can hardly credit the Ministry with such a dishonest action as to adopt, this course with the intention of warning their friends not to bring sugar into home consumption, because they are about to proclaim an Act. A dishonest Ministry could do this : they could not only warn their friends that they were about to proclaim a law to collect £4 per ton Excise duty, but they could also say, “Certain honest people are paying the duty; we will very soon collect the £170,000 we hope and expect to get under this Bill; hold your sugar until we give you a further ‘ tip,’ and then you will not have to pay the £4 Excise duty.” I have not a sufficiently bad opinion of the Government to suggest anything of the kind; but I say it would be possible to do that kind of thing; and something in the nature of an explanation is required from Ministers as to why they are going to wait for a proclamation before declaring a measure of this kind law. In all my experience I have never read of such a ridiculous thing. What would be thought of a system of justice that would operate in this way : Say ten men are accused of trespass, and it is proposed to fine them £5, but the ten men guilty of the trespass disappear, and instructions are given to the police to go out and collect the first ten men they come across and fine them £5? Yet’ that is what this Bill means; otherwise, why do” not the Ministry insert in it the names of the thirty odd people who had sugar in bond at that date ?
– Or who are alleged to have had it.
– I have no doubt the sugar was there, and that it went out. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company have admitted as much. Those intelligent electors of the Commonwealth who have taken the trouble to come here this evening to watch bow the business of the country is carried on will be able to get a very good, idea of what is happening. Here are the Ministry, or some of them. Suddenly they put aside all other business, and pretend it is necessary, as a matter of urgency, to get this Bill through immediately; and yet they are taking no apparent notice of a criticism of the Bill, which, I think, is very well merited, and which, I believe, honorable members of the Opposition will support. Why, in the name of fortune, is it thought necessary to proclaim this measure ? Will the Treasurer explain the matter] He requires i he money, having regard to the vast millions he is going to spend. Why does he borrow money when there is no occasion to borrow at least £170,000? Will he explain the necessity for this ?
– Ask him.
– I have asked him in a polite manner; but the right honorable gentleman sits there like a smiling sphinx. He has accomplished something in having delivered the Budget speech. I do not know where the right honorable gentleman got all his titles - P.O., G.C.M.G., and LL.D.
– That has nothing to tlo with the question before the House.
– T am not saying this to disparage the right honorable gentleman, but from an anxiety to obtain information.
– The honorable member must address himself to the question before the Chair.
– -I am asking the Treasurer for some explanation of the extraordinary proposal contained in this Bill, enabling it to be brought into law by proclamation. One would think that the Government would be anxious to get the money straight away. But no. It is something like the Public Accounts Committee to which the Treasurer referred last week. He says it may not be wanted for years, and I suppose that the Government may not want this money for years. At lea”t two legal members of the Government are present. Will they give us some explanation about the proclamation ? I am sure that the honorable member for Werriwa will stigmatize the Bill in proper terms.
– I shall; though I do not know whether the honorable member will be so pleased when he hears me.
– I am aware that the honorable member takes the view that the imposition of a duty of £4 per ton on sugar - an article used by the general public - amounts to tyranny of the worst kind. We shall be pleased to hear him on the subject now, and on every other occasion when he chooses to assert his rights and break away from Caucus rule. I have watched the AttorneyGeneral for some time, and find it difficult to size him up properly.
– The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to obtain information as to the wisdom and justice of passing a measure of this character, which is going to penalize honest men and protect the swindler - the smuggler. Of course, there is this to be said in extenuation - that the Minister of Trade and Customs allowed goods to be smuggled out of bond without payment of duty. It is not a bit of use for the Minister to say that he had good intentions. As Huxley remarked, the well-meaning man with good intentions is sometimes more dangerous than a tiger with his tail in the air. The Minister, with all his good intentions, was not protecting the public, who can ill afford to 2?ay taxation. The Treasurer said, the other evening, that if we are sincere we must desire to protect all classes of the community, and do justice to all. We cannot do justice to all unless we protect the revenue, because, if the revenue is allowed to be depleted, the amount must be made up by the community. I presume, notwithstanding the Treasurer’s declaration that the maternity allowance will not be paid any longer than he can help, that he professes a desire to succour and aid the poor.
– The maternity allowance has nothing to do with the question before the House.
– If you think over what I said for a moment, Mr. Speaker, you will see that it was only an illustration. I am not arguing as to’ whether we ought or ought not to pay the maternity allowance; I merely say that, notwithstanding the Treasurer’s declaration on that subject, we must give him credit for a desire to protect the poor, and not to impose taxation which they can ill afford. I have no doubt that the AttorneyGeneral does not think much of some of the members of the public. He does not mind if they have to pay to make up this £4 per ton Excise duty. I really find it hard to express myself as strongly as I could wish about this evidence of Ministerial blundering and incapacity. I know that the Attorney-General is regarded by some people in this community as a man with a very stony heart. They call him *’ Iceberg.” Personally, I do not believe that there is anything about him that is like an iceberg, except his solidity. He thinks a great deal.
– I must ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair.
– Why have the Government produced this Bill in such a sudden fashion, postponing the Electoral Bill to make way for it? What has become of the professions of honorable members opposite? Why do they hang up other legislation to bring this Bill into law ?
– The Senate is riot to sit for three weeks.
– That only emphasizes the trick. I am informed that that august body - another place - will not meet for three weeks. Evidently the Minister thought this was a good time to get this Bill through. He thought he could catch us napping. Honorable members had just had dinner; some had, perhaps, eaten more than was good for them, and it seemed a fine chance to slip the measure through. It is hard to discern the motives of the supporters of the Government.
– Order ! I have several times directed attention to the fact that the question before the Chair is: “That this Bill be read a third time.” The honorable member has scarcely said anything about the Bill while he has been speaking, except in a casual way; but has digressed into matters quite foreign to the Bill. I remind him that under the Standing Orders I have power to direct an honorable member to discontinue his speech for continued irrelevancy. I ask him to connect his remarks with the question.
– I am very sorry that you have found it necessary to administer a rebuke to me. The honorable member for Werriwa says that if I sit down he will throw some light on the subject. I have sympathy for him, because I know that the Caucus has gagged most honorable members opposite.
– Will the honorable member address himself to the question ?
– To recapitulate, the point is, first of all, that the Government committed a blunder in allowing this sugar to go out of bond. It is necessary that we should keep before the mind of the people of this country the action of a Government which said that its mission was to restore responsible government. They restored it by allowing £178,000 of revenue to escape. They were not in office a month before they committed that blunder.
– And £100,000 of it went into the pockets of the Sugar Combine.
– The Sugar Combine have very magnanimously - in their joy, I suppose, at having won the referenda campaign, and in having staved off the time when their tricks will be stopped ‘ by an Australian National Government, such as we lately had in power - agreed to pay up the money. That being so, there is no need for this Bill. But we should like to see their cheque. I think that if they had been in earnest they would have sent the cheque to you, Mr. Speaker, to show that the money was ready, and would be paid over as soon as necessary.
– With 4 per cent, interest.
– No, current account interest ; it might be 2 per cent.
– No, three.
– No doubt the honorable member has to pay more for his accommodation than I have. There is also their most offensive conduct in charging the Labour Government with having failed to do something in a Bill. The blunder of that Government, they say, is the justification for the existence of this piece of comedy. That is the next point.
– It would be a comedy but for the fact that we are losing £178,000.
– As my honorable friend lias pointed out, it is a very expensive comedy. I have already drawn attention to the expense, and I regret that you, sir, could not see that my remark in that connexion had something to do with the Bill. It is very expensive, indeed, to pass a measure of this kind in order to teach the Minister of Trade and Customs his duty. That, surely, is within the Standing Orders. One hundred and seventy-eight thousand pounds for a comedy! A lot of comedy can be obtained more cheaply, I think, down town. The general public can see a lot of comedy in the various picture theatres at sixpence a time. My third point is that the people who ought to pay under this measure are those whom the Government are going to allow to escape. Outside the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who say that they are willing to pay, but who have not done so, and whose bona fides, therefore, we may doubt, there ure thirty-nine people who ought to have paid, and whose names ought to appear in the measure. I again, at the risk of tedious repetition, ask what has the Minister of Trade and Customs to say to that point? He is silent, because he has no excuse for not putting the names of those persons in the Bill. Another point is that the Government are going to allow people who ought not to pay to pay for the dishonest ones. What has the Minister or the Attorney-General to say to that?
– There is nothing dishonest in the matter. To gain by the blunder of the Government is not dishonest.
– Perhaps “dishonest” was too strong a term for me to use. It is too strong, no doubt, to say that the people who got sugar out of bond through the Government’s blunder are dishonest because they do not pay, but if we pass the Bill in its present form it is intended to make those people pay who got sugar out of bond. It professes to have that object in view, but I submit that if the people who ought to pay do not pay, to that extent they are dishonest. If certain people who ought to pay under the Bill do not pay, then this brainy Minister of Trade and Customs will come along and say, “ We will continue to collect tho duty from the people who are willing to pay until £178,000 has been collected.”
– One hundred and seventy thousand according to the Treasurer, and £158,000 according to the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– A little discrepancy of that sort does not bother the Government, apparently. I do not know how it will appeal to the Auditor-General; before the Government have done, no doubt they will have many interviews with him. I admit that this Bill imposing a duty on sugar is necessary if passed in a proper way. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Werriwa, when he gets up, will say that all duties of Customs and Excise are wrongful, in their incidence, and in every other way. Of course, sir, you remember, because the honorable member for Lang entered a protest, that we imposed this duty, in the first place, with the view of sending the kanakas back to their islands. You, sir, will excuse me if I indulge in a little reminiscence. I want the honorable member for Werriwa to be fully seized of my statements, so that he may be able to make a complete reply. It is very seldom that he gets an opportunity to speak; it is not often that the Government allow him off the chain, but this is one of those occasions on which they cannot keep him quiet. This measure is part of what is called the White Australia legislation. An Excise duty was put on the people of Australia for the purpose of protecting them in carrying out one of their ideals. I believe in Customs and Excise .duties, and it is for that reason that I agree that such a measure, if properly drafted and put in force immediately it is introduced, is expedient in the interests of the peace, the order, and the good government of the people of Australia. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Werriwa will say that we ought to abolish all duties on sugar, whether import’ or Excise. He would remove all duties, he told us the other night, from fruits and jams. As I shall not get another opportunity of speaking on this measure, I want to anticipate something which he is likely to say, because he told me that he was going to enlighten me. I know what that means - a long, rambling discourse on the benefits of Free Trade. Of course, I do not think for a moment that you, sir, will permit him to indulge in that kind of thing.
– I never said that anybody could enlighten you.
– I hope that the honorable member will not try to be offensive. Really he should not, because, instead of his brain being good grey matter, it is only margarine.
– The Bill before the House deals with sugar.
– There is a point which I had almost overlooked. Anything in the nature of a discursive or disjointed utterance must be put down to the fact that this measure has been sprung upon us this evening. I would have been much more connected in my remarks if I had had my notes here. There is a point which I want to bring under the notice of the AttorneyGeneral.
– What is it?
– I know that I am giving the honorable member a lot of trouble this evening. He will agree with me, I think, that every Bill repealing an Act should contain a clause saying “ the Act is hereby repealed.” For instance, a Bill to repeal a Sugar Excise Act ought to contain a clause that the Sugar Excise Act which was passed at the end of, say, 1912, is hereby repealed. We are departing from the practice. I believe that the departure is such an ungainly one that it will probably be settled in the High Court. That is why I asked the Attorney-General the other evening whether he was quite satisfied that the Bill as drawn is quite constitutional.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am taking the very unusual course of opposing the third reading of a Bill, and I am doing so in order to bring into prominence the manner in which this Bill has been forced upon the House. I could wish that even, from our own side there had been a greater opportunity afforded for discussing the matter, so that it could be made plain to everybody, not only here, but throughout the country, how the action was forced upon us by the legislation of the late Government. In September of last year the honorable member for Wide Bay suggested to the Queensland Government that if they would make certain alterations in their industrial laws in regard to the sugar industry, he would bring in measures to repeal our Excise and Bounty Acts on a date to be fixed by proclamation, and in accordance with his promise, he did bring in two very short Bills. I am sorry to say that we had another example of hurried legislation, because those Bills were rushed through the House without any discussion on the part of the Labour party, and, I regret to say, in the great hurry-scurry of events at the close of the session, without discussion by the members of the then Opposition.
– Your side neglected to perform their duty.
– As I was not a member of the House at that time, I cannot be accused of neglecting my duty. If the honorable member will take the trouble to look up the records, he will find that, in 1902, and again in 1905, I, in common with the honorable member for Angas, and perhaps one or two other honorable members, foresaw the position of affairs in which we would eventually be landed in regard to the sugar industry of Queensland ; that we were spoonfeeding it to an extent which was highly undesirable. I believe that in the Act of 1905 we did get a provision inserted that in 1910 the Excise on sugar should fall by £1, in 1911 by £1, and in 1912 by £1. It is true that the bounty we were giving would have gone; it is true that the Excise would also have gone, just as it will go now. In 1910, the Labour party came into power and suspended the operation of that provision.
– Parliament passed an Act to do that.
– The passing of the Act was, of course, due to the Labour party. I am bound to say that if there is any praise to be given in the matter, it ij due to them. But if there is any blame, as I believe there is, they must accept it. In the Bill of 1910 they had merely continued the Excise and the bounty, but, in 1912, owing to certain representations made to the Premier of Queensland by the honorable member for Wide Bay, the Labour party agreed that if an Industrial Act were passed in Queensland they would repeal both the bounty and the Excise on sugar. To commence with, they were going to give another £1, not to the sugar-growers, but to the mill-owners. This Bill imposes Excise only on sugar delivered for manufacture between the 1st May and the 26th July. Owing to the manner in which the proclamation was issued, some 37,000 tons of sugar, in respect to which bounty was paid, escaped the payment of Excise, which it is desired now to recover. To that I take no exception. But I object to the remission of the Excise after the 26th July, because that means the giving up of revenue to the amount of £4 on every ton of sugar manufactured in Australia. It may be said, inasmuch as the average return from Excise for the last five years has been £713,000, that we are remitting that amount of taxation, and that the community will benefit by a corresponding decrease in the price of sugar. That is not so. We do not produce all the sugar that we use, and sugar has to be imported. On imported sugar a duty of £6 a ton is charged. The consumers, therefore, have not benefited by the remission of the Excise in the slightest degree.
– Who is to blame?
– The last Government, for having repealed the Excise. But I blame this party also for not putting aside the agreement entered into by their predecessors. The last Government could not have expected to remain in office for ever, and had not the right to bind future Parliaments. This Government thought that it was bound by the action of its predecessor, but, in my opinion, it should not have considered itself so bound. I for one would have welcomed the setting aside of the arrangement which has been made, the result of which is that we lose £713,000 a year in revenue.
– Does the honorable member forget that the present Minister of Trade and Customs was very insistent upon this arrangement?
– He is not to be excused for having consented to the arrangement. I cannot understand how any party which claims to have the interest of the people at heart could think that the repeal of the sugar Excise would benefit any one but the sugar milling companies. The least study of the question would have shown that it would not. I regret that there was no discussion when the proposal was brought forward by the last Government. Had there been, it would have been pointed out by some honorable members that the country would lose revenue without benefit to the community. Both bounty and Excise have been abolished. In bounty we were paying £526,000 a year, so that the net loss of revenue, on the basis of the figures for the last five years, is £188,000 a year; but the taxation on the people is £713,000 a year, plus a duty of £2 on each ton of sugar imported; and as the importation amounts to 220,000 tons, the people still have to pay £1,150,000 in taxation without any corresponding relief.
– How does the honorable member prove that the people are still taxed to that amount?
– Although the Excise has been repealed for two and a half months, the price of sugar has nob decreased in the least, which is what was to be expected. When Parliament makes a present to private companies, they cannot be expected to forego their advantage.
– What remedy would the honorable member suggest?
– The only remedy of which I know is the re-imposition of the Excise. To show exactly what has been done, I have taken the figures for 1910 and compared them with those for this year, the two seasons’ being much alike in having favorable conditions. By abolishing the Excise, one company that was paying £115,000 in wages and £226,000 in Excise has been given a present. of £111,000 a year and its wages expenditure. Another company that was paying £12,000 in wages and nearly £46,000 in Excise is getting a present of £33,000 a year, in addition to its expenditure on wages. Another company whose wages were £10,000 a year, and whose Excise payment was £48,000, is getting a present of £38,000 and its wages expenditure. Another company which is paying £7,000 in wages and £32,000 in Excise is getting its wages paid, and is receiving £25,400 a year in addition. Another company, whose wages were £8,200, and whose Excise payment was £19,000, is now having its wages bill met, and is receiving £10,800 in addition. Another company which was paying £5,000 in wages is having its wages bill met, and is getting £12,000 in addition. Another company paying the same sum in wages is getting a present of £17,000, or its wages, plus £12,000 odd; and another, company which was paying £5,000 in wages and £11,600 in Excise is getting its wages returned to it, with an addition of nearly £7,000 per annum. A company which was paying £4,000 in wages and £14,000 in Excise is getting its wages paid and nearly £10,000 in addition. A company which paid £6,800 in wages and £27,500 in Excise is getting the whole of its wages paid, and is receiving about £21,000 in addition.
– Why not give us the names of these mills?
– I do not desire to mention names.
– Unless the honorable member does so, how can we ascertain the correctness of the figures he has given ?
– The names, together with the whole of the figures I have quoted, are to be found in The Queensland Sugar Industry 1913, compiled and issued by the Intelligence Bureau of Queensland. Honorable members of the Labour party thought that in passing their sugar legislation last year they were aiming another blow at capital; but, if I were a capitalist, this is just the sorb of blow I should like to have aimed at me. Under that legislation these millowners will receive an amount sufficient to cover all the wages paid by them, and many thousands in addition. We have taxed the people of the Commonwealth to the extent of £700,000 a year by the Excise Act, and by abolishing it the whole of that money is going to the big sugar mills. Why should the Labour party say that they are opposed to big concerns when they legislate in this way?
– The honorable member should direct his missionary enterprise to his own party.
– I am here to expose such actions, no matter from what side they come. If the honorable member will join with me in putting an end to this sort of thing, I promise him my absolute support. I shall call for a division on this motion in order to mark my disapproval of the legislation to which I have referred. The agreement which the late Ministry made with the Queensland Government was so irrational and onesided that it seems to me no party should ask us to support it. I know that there are amongst honorable members opposite many honorable members, as well as a few on our own side, who find that on political grounds they cannot oppose such measures, but surely, if this be a truly Federal Parliament, we should represent the interests of the Commonwealth, and not those of any particular State.
– Is the honorable member in favour of an Excise duty equal to the import duty in every case?
– In this case, unquestionably.
– And in all others?
– Undoubtedly I am where the benefit is not going to the worker - where the employers are alone reaping the benefit.
– The honorable member wants to destroy this industry.
– No industry requires, to be spoon-fed by other industries. . ;An industry is some undertaking, whether it be agricultural or manufacturing,, the’ value of whose products is in excess of the cost of producing them.
– The honorable member knows that an Excise duty equal to a protective duty imposed in respect of any commodity annuls all the protection.
– Quite so; but surely the honorable member is not going to de-: scribe as Protection what has been done in the case of the sugar industry ? The rational kind of Protection which I have heard men advocate is that which makes good the difference between the rates of wages paid in this country and those prevailing in other lands, but in this case we have a Protection the benefit of which goes, not to the workers engaged in the industry, but to the mill-owners. We are making good, two or three times over, the wages actually paid by these millowners. Surely no industry requires such Protection. The money to provide for this assistance has to be found by people in the other parts of the Commonwealth. There ought to be a combination of representatives of the States other than Queensland to put an end to such a state of affairs as now exists. If- we do not do that, we should advise- the Senate to decline to pass the Bill in its present form. It is the duty of the representatives of the States, other than that directly concerned, to vote against this measure, because of the manner in which it imposes upon the people of the Commonwealth. In order to keep the sugar industry going, the people of the Commonwealth are being taxed to the extent of £1,000,000 a year. Has the honorable member for Wide Bay ever thought that that money, if it were diverted into the Treasury instead of being put into the pockets of the mill-owners, would enable us to borrow £25,000,000 without adding one farthing to the present taxation of the Commonwealth? The figures I have given are surely sufficient to arrest the attention of honorable members. I have no desire to make this a party question, but I cannot help blaming the Labour party for the want of attention which marked their action, in December last, in passing the Bills for the repeal of the Sugar Excise and bounty.
– What about the proclamation issued by the present Government bringing those measures into operation?
– That proclamation involved a loss of £150,000, which is now being collected, but our sugar legislation means an annual loss of £750,000. The House should admit that it has made a big mistake, and go back upon it. We cannot expect the honorable member for Wide Bay, the honorable member for Capricornia and other representatives of the sugar districts to run so counter to the interests of their constituencies as to vote against a proposal which will put thousands of pounds into the pockets of some of their constituents.
– Does not the honorable member vote according to the views of his constituents?
– No ; I vote according to my own convictions, with the result that I keep on getting defeated. If I were a political genius, no doubt I could adapt myself to the opinions of my constituents. As it is, I hope that some day my supporters “will adapt themselves more to my views ; but, in any event, that they will give me credit for acting in their interests, although not always in accordance with their opinions. There is on the business-paper a notice of motion that, in view of the high increase in the cost of living, the amount of the oldage pensions should be increased. Have honorable members ever considered that, without imposing one penny more of taxation - merely by collecting this £1,000,000 a year, and diverting it into the Treasury, instead of allowing it to go into the pockets of the mill-owners - we could increase by 5s. per week every oldage pension now being paid; raise the salaries of the 30,000 employes in the Postal Department by £25 a year, and give to every military officer and every soldier the pension which should be given to them when we encourage them to enter the service. Those’ are the things we ought to do. There has been some talk in this House about giving Tasmania . £900,000. We could do that by giving Tasmania a little less than we have deprived her of by imposing this tax upon sugar in the manner we have done. I have some figures here to show what the various States have paid in Ex cise duty on sugar alone. I take the years 1907-8 and 1908-9. I am leaving out Queensland, because, although that State had to pay as well as the rest, she got back more than she paid in the shape of bounty. In 1907-8, New South Wales paid in sugar Excise duty, £267,000; Victoria, £226,000; South Australia, £64,000; Western Australia, £46,000; and Tasmania, £35,000. In 1908-9, New South Wales paid £250,000; Victoria, £229,000; South Australia, £69,000; Western Australia, £49,000; and Tasmania, £36,000.
– The honorable member should give the figures for Queensland also.
– Queensland paid in the two years respectively £103,000 and £116,000. . I have said that Queensland has been receiving £1,000,000, and in putting the amount at that figure I have allowed for the amount Queensland had to pay in Excise. The amount which Queensland received was over £1,150,000. I have fixed the amount at only £1,000,000, and it will be seen that I gave Queensland very good measure indeed. I do not wish to labour the matter, but I should like honorable members to understand where they are going. ,
– Hear, hear! It would be better for the honorable member to understand the matter before he labours it.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay must see that I have given a full explanation of the matter as it really is.
– Certainly not.
– The honorable gentleman made a statement the other day, but he submitted no facts in support of it. He cannot get away from the fact that the Excise has to be paid. The honorable member has confused it with the bounty, and says that the industry does not cost Australia so much as I claim it does.
– The honorable member desires to do away with the protective duty altogether, or to impose an Excise equal to it, and so nullify the protection.
– The honorable member is correct in stating that, as the duty is not abolished, I would nullify the effect of the protective duty in that way.
– The honorable member would have sugar free?
– Not of Excise, while the duty remains; but I would have the taxation which the consumers have to pay diverted to the Treasury, instead of into the pockets of the growers. The honorable member for Wide Bay would have us believe that no one can exist on the rich lands of Queensland unless he is assisted by the payment of a bounty.
– That is the talk we hear about all protective duties.
– The honorable member told us that he did not believe this work - I cannot call it an industry - would continue without these payments. I absolutely disagree with him. I do not hold with the honorable member that the richer our lands are the more we need to pay to have them occupied. Let me see whether he is correct in his assumption. For this purpose I take the average value of the cane at 15s. per ton.
– It is worth more than that.
– I am aware that 17s. and 18s. lid. per ton has been paid, and one miller told me that he paid 22s. a ton, and as high as 27s. 6d. per ton-
– Without bounty?
– Never ! He was pulling the honorable member’s leg.
– I am sure the honorable member’s figures are wrong; let him ask the honorable member for Richmond.
– The honorable member should not quote any of that man’s figures. “
– He only said that the price had gone as high as that. He gave me a certain percentage of sugar contents, which I found was supported by the statistics. He said that the cane ran as high as 17 per cent, sugar, and cane of that percentage would fetch as high as 30s. per ton with sugar at £9 17s. 6d. per ton.
– There was not 1,000 tons in Australia of 17 per cent, sugar.
– I have taken an average price of 15s. per ton for cane. I see, according to a book published by the Queeusland Government, that for some 70,000 or 80,000 tons as high as 18s. lid. per ton was paid, and I admit that in some cases only 13s., and even 12s., per ton was paid. Taking the average at 15s. per ton, it seems to me that the case against the spoon-feeding of this work is so strong that I cannot understand honorable members representing States other than Queensland supporting this proposal by their votes for a single moment. Does the honorable member for Wide Bay not see that he has placed us in such an extraordinary position as to enable the’ sugar-grower to say, “ I have land that is so rich that unless you permit me to collect a tax from the rest of the people, I cannot exist upon it.” If that be so, the more good land we have in Queensland the worse off Australia must be. That is one of the most extraordinary propositions which could be put before thinking men. In the book issued by the Queensland Government they say, “ The statistical information used in this book has been mainly supplied in advance by the State Government Statistician and the Federal Customs.” We may, therefore, take it for granted that what it contains is correct, and I have been extremely careful to give figures in every case under those contained in this book. When as high as 22s. per ton has been paid for cane, and I quote an average of 15s. per ton, it will be admitted that I am not making the best case I could, but what may be considered a fair case.
– This must be torture to the honorable member for Richmond.
– It should be torture for the honorable member for Gwydir also, when he recollects that the Government whom he supported forced this legislation upon us.
– The honorable member is distinctly in error in saying that this legislation was forced upon Parliament, because every member of both branches of the Legislature voted for it. There was absolute unanimity upon it.
– I accept that, and will withdraw the statement that the legislation was forced upon Parliament, if the honorable member likes.
– Every member of this House, from the Speaker down, asked for it time after time.
– The honorable member does not mean to refer to the present Speaker.
– Yes; in the last Parliament.
– The honorable member cannot do so, because I know the views and opinions of the present Speaker on this subject too well. As Mr. Speaker has no opportunity of giving such statements a denial, we ought not to make any charge against him which is not justified. In order to show the ludicrous position in which the Commonwealth has been placed, I propose to read from the publication to which I have referred a few particulars relating to some of these lands.
– Is the honorable member perfectly correct in his deductions?
– I am quoting absolute facts. The honorable member may have the references to them if he chooses. I find that the crop of one grower, with 120 acres of cane, yielded 4,533 tons. At 15s. per ton, its value, therefore, was £3,399. In other words, this individual received a return at the mills of £28 5s. per acre. Most of us would have thought - had we grown amber-cane, as I have grown scores of acres of it - if we had obtained such a return that we had done uncommonly well. But this Parliament practically said to this grower, “Poor man; you have received only £28 5s. per acre for your crop, and we will therefore make you a present, by way of bounty, of an additional £10 3s. per acre.”
– To help him work the poor land ?
– Exactly. We immediately handed over to him an additional’ £1,359 to help him. I regret to say that under the Sugar Bounty Bill it is proposed to give him still another £391. Another grower, with 92 acres, obtained 2,832 tons of cane, or a return of £23 ls. an acre, the value of his crop being £2,124. We immediately turned round and gave him a bonus of £991, or an additional £10 ls. per acre. There are no other farmers in Australia who receive such large returns from a crop which is merely put in with the plough.
– Has the honorable member an idea of how many acres of cane a man can work?
– Any man would require help in cutting the cane ; but, as hu can get such labour for 5s. a ton, I do not regard it as a formidable item. I sow from 40 to 60 acres of amber-cane every year with one man.
– The honorable member could not work more than 10 acres of sugar-cane.
– I have worked more than that acreage of amber-cane, and I get the same tonnage per acre as does the honorable member. Another grower, with 78 acres I find, obtained 2,642 tons of cane, which returned him £25 8s. per acre, or £1,981. This Parliament imme diately said to him, “Poor man; you have received only 2,642 tons of cane from 78 acres, and we will therefore make you a present of £820.”
– What does it cost to work and harvest an acre of cane?
– The harvesting will depend largely on the tonnage. A man would not cut much more than about 3 tons of cane a day.
– How much does it cost to work and harvest an acre?
– The amount would vary so considerably ‘ that I cannot answer the question. But the crop would not cost more than £1 per acre to put in, and, roughly, 5s. a ton to cut. Another grower, I find, with 11 acres under cane cultivation, obtained a return of £32 16s. an acre. What did we immediately say to him? We said, “Poor fellow, you cannot get along ou this rich ground without our aid, and, therefore, we will give you a bounty of £14 per acre.” Still another grower, with 6 acres, obtained a return of £45 6s. an acre, and under our precious bounty system we gave him an additional £18 per acre.
– The honorable member’s figures are of no value, unless he can tell us the cost of working the land.
– I am showing what the industry costs Australia. Some unfortunate growers, by reason of flood and fire, obtained no return, and, consequently, received no bounty. The Labour party have always cried out, “ We stand for the small farmer. Down with the capitalist. Down with the big man.” Yet I find that one large land-owner obtained £26,000 for his crop, and immediately collected from the people of Australia an additional £10,500 by way of bounty. Under this precious legislation a big company obtained £24,000 for its cane, and we gave it an additional £9,970 as bounty. . Still another company obtained £8,511 for its crop, and collected £3,400 by way of bounty. In another instance £17,040 was obtained for the crop, and an additional £6,800 was collected from the taxpayers of Australia. Are these instances of helping the struggling farmer? To whom is this money going? Undoubtedly to the big men, who are running these big concerns. Let us put aside the pretence that this legislation is in the interests of the poor man. Honorable members have argued that these rich sugar lands cannot be used for any other purpose. But will any honorable member contend that they cannot be worked by white labour within the tropics? Take that portion of Queensland below Rockhampton as an illustration. Surely that is a climate in which white men can unquestionably work, seeing that during the winter so many frosts are experienced there that cane will eventually pass out of cultivation. As the clearing of this land proceeds, it becomes cooler in the winter, and is subject to frosts, so that we are only tempting this gambling spirit by leading the people into thinking that they will always get the enormous crops secured in the year just closed. Fortunately, however, the people of Queensland are beginning to recognise that it is a bit of a gamble, because they are going in for dairying along with the raising of sugar-cane. In fact, the value of butter and cheese produced in the southern part of Queensland last year was one and a half times as great as that of the product of the whole of the sugar industry in Queensland. Again, in poultry and eggs, last year the production was four times the value of that of the sugar industry of Queensland. Yet we are told we can only keep the one industry going at the expense of the people of this community. I can only
Bay it is a highly .objectionable course to pursue, and that we should give it up at once. The Labour party, by their late legislation, have brought us into our present position. If the honorable member for Wide Bay is correct that the sugar industry cannot get on without the bounty, he was justified, from his point of view, in the action he took. Nevertheless, I say that the abolition of the bounty is quite right and proper; but for the period from the 1st May to the 26th July, the Bill before us resuscitates the bounty, and gives a further 2s. 2d. a ton. In other words, it makes a present of £35,000 for this year alone to the sugar-growers, and the result will be that one or two of these firms will draw huge sums. If one firm puts in as much sugar as previously, it will get £3,800, another firm will get £3,200, another firm £2,300, and another one £1,150. So we see again that the bounty is not going to the small man.
– This bounty is only for a short period.
– But see the enormous effect of it. If they have cane in, see what advantage they will take of the position.
– Do you think this course is constitutional ?
– The Attorney-General has pronounced upon it.
– Not yet.
– I would rather have the honorable member’s opinion.
– Order !
– I do not think we have gone the right way about it; but it is difficult to imagine any other way. My trouble is that we are making a present of a further £35,000, for that short period, to men who certainly should not receive it, because the whole of the cane grown and turned into sugar, and affected by this bounty, was grown under the conditions of last year, where no promise was held out to the growers. Therefore, when they were growing and cutting this year they could not expect any more bounty than the £3 they were getting before; but now we seem determined to make it up to them, possibly on the ground that, we are giving it to the other fellow, and1 might as well give it to those who were alittle beforehand. But why not give it to them for previous years? Why fis this time for giving gifts? I think” it is told in the Arabian Nights Entertainments that a man started in the morning and gave so much to beggars. Later in the day he gave double gifts to other beggars. Still later he gave three or four times the original gift to other beggars. Upon this getting noised abroad, the first lot of beggars came and asked why he had given them so small an amount. He replied, “ Because it was my will.” Then they said, he was a beast and a miserable wretch, and they killed him for not giving them the full sum given to the last lot of beggars. Our legislation is proceeding on the same lines. We are allowing these men to actually raise their voices against us and say, “ It is true you gave us 6s. a ton on all our cane, but as you have started to give 8s. to So-and-so, go back and give us 8s.” The House would be doing its duty by rejecting the Bill on the third reading, because there is neither rhyme nor reason for handing an additional £35,000 to these people. The honorable member for Wide Bay did not promise this until the Queensland industrial legislation should come into effect, and none of this sugar was grown under the industrial laws of Queensland, because the Queensland Bill had not then been passed.
– It was grown under the regulations issued by the late Minister of Trade and Customs.
– And those regulations were denounced by honorable members on that side.
– They were made an election cry in Queensland.
– I can only say, in conclusion, that the Liberals have undoubtedly adopted the legislation of the late Government, and carried their Acts into effect; but I am bound to say they have done wrong in so doing. It is equally clear to me that the promise to give up a further £188,000 a year, which is the difference between bounty and Excise, should not have been made. In our party we have declared a truce on the fiscal issue, and it is not right to ask honorable members like myself, who have promised that they would not increase the taxation on the people by a single penny, to support a Bill of this nature, even though the taxation still remains the same. Honorable members can see that the whole of the Excise is not going into the Treasury, but into the pockets of the big companies. Two and a half months ago the Excise was taken off, yet there has not been a drop of a single penny in the price of sugar.
– I said that on the 20th August.
– But the honorable member did not act, and there is double reason for blaming him, if he foresaw this and yet introduced the legislation he did. The only excuse for the House passing an Excise Bill was because it was absolutely ignorant of what it was doing, because in supporting these enormous grants to these’ big companies we support handing over £700,000 a year. I look in vain for an explanation of this; I do not anticipate getting any, except that the public will be confused with talk about bounties which have nothing whatever to do with the point. The real point to consider is that, indirectly, there is nearly £400,000 we have not collected that should have gone to the sugargrowers of Queensland ; but there is a further £713,000 a year, taking the average of the last five years, that the people will still have to pay, except that, instead of paying it into the Treasury, they will be yarded up and compelled to pay it to the sugar companies only. With all their denunciation of capitalists and great combinations, we find them greasing the fatted pig to an extent that has never been done before by this Parliament. Bad as our conduct has been in many respects, we have never greased the fatted pig to the extent of £700,000 a year, as we are doing now. I hope that Labour members will join with me in voting against this Bill. As we deal with Bills in this House we never consider them properly. We sit too much. We should not sit more than two days a week, and then honorable members would have an opportunity of studying the Bills brought before Parliament. But here we are now united together in an admission of common ignorance on an important legislative project which comes before us. I must admit the same ignorance as affects other honorable members, because I am well aware that I have not had sufficient time to give to this subject the study that it deserves from the point of view of the interests of the public. Let us take warning by this and other mistakes in legislation that we have made. Let honorable members have opportunities of making a study of Bills. There is enough common sense, in this House to cause honorable members, when they know that a man! has made a special study of the question to listen to him, as honorable members have been listening to me.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa has again enlightened honorable members as to what he would do with the great sugar industry if he had his way. He has told us quite plainly that there would be no Protection for the industry whatever. That is, at all events, a plain position. But the honorable member spoke in ignorance about this question. He left a false impression on our minds. He spoke of the country having been robbed of money that ought to have fallen to the Treasury. He referred to the action of the Fisher Government in abolishing the sliding scale. I am afraid that he does not know the effect of that. If the sliding scale had been retained it would have placed the white sugar-growers in exactly the same position as the black sugar-growers.
The ignorance of the question in this House was truly amazing at the time when the sliding scale was adopted. We had to let it go to please honorable members. The only protection which the white grower had against the black grower was the bounty, not the Excise. If both bounty and Excise were wiped out there would be no protection to the white grower. Why did we make an agreement with the Queensland Parliament that the Parliament of that State should pass an Act to prevent the growing of sugar by coloured labour? It was in order that coloured labour might not compete with white labour in the industry. Is the honorable member for Werriwa aware that provision was made in this agreement with the Government of Queensland that coloured labour should not be employed in the industry at all?
– Why was that done ?
– It was so trifling to speak of 6 per cent, competing with 94 per cent, that it was not worth mentioning.
– There are between 50,000 and 60,000 coloured aliens in Australia.
– Would they be taken out of other industries to be put into the sugar industry ?
– The sugar industry is peculiarly one which we wish to see developed by white labour. The effect of the honorable member’s argument is that coloured labour, which is available in Australia, should be diverted into this highly protected industry, where it would work in competition with white labour. Is that what he is driving at ? Would he like to see all the cheap coloured labour in Australia going into the sugar industry and driving the white labour out of it?
– White labour is already competing with other industries.
– That may be so, but the cane industry lends itself less to effective competition by white labour against the labour of primitive races than does the labour of any other industry. There is no machinery for cutting the crop. Hand tools have to be used. It is not the same in other agricultural industries, where mechanical devices can be used, and where brains can always get the better of the primitive worker. The honorable member for Werriwa talked largely, lengthily, and loudly about the Excise being given up to the miller. Evidently he has not studied the rudiments of the question. It is true that there is an Excise of £4 per ton on every ton of sugar which goes into the market. The Commonwealth paid back in bounty a sum equal to £3 of that prior to the introduction of this legislation. Therefore, the whole advantage which the Commonwealth had before was the difference of at least £1 per ton, less the expense. At the present time, under the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland, that arrangement is altered. The agreement is embodied in an Act assented to on the 25th July, 1913. I shall quote sections 1 and 2- -
– In other words, it is 2s. 2d. in addition to the present 6s. 6d. and 7s. 6d.
– May I ask the honorable member who paid the 6s. 6d. per ton?
– The Federal Government ; but you have not touched the basic price of sugar.
– I ask the honorable member who paid the 6s. 6d. and the 7s. 6d. to the grower.
– It was 6s., 6s. 6d., and 7s. 6d., according to the district.
– It was 6s., 6s. 6d., 7s., and 7s. 6d,, according to the district. Who paid that money? Did the miller pay it?
– The other people in the Commonwealth.
– Did the miller pay any of that money prior to this Act being passed? Not a penny! Yet the honorable member twaddles away over there as an intelligent member, leaving the impression in the mind of a listener that the millers have been paying that money up to now.
– We have collected the money from the other people of the Commonwealth.
– That point has been dealt with hero again and again. If the honorable member is against a duty on the sea-board, or if he is in favour of an Excise duty equal to the duty on the seaboard, that is a sound principle.
– I am.
– But the honorable member must attack the Government, not the sugar industry. He must bring it forward, not as a policy for one industry, but as a policy for all industries. Why should he attack the sugar industry? Under this agreement, the miller now has to pay to the growers with white labour a sum amounting, in the highest instance, to 9s. 8d. a ton more than he paid before.
– Yes, but do you know that the companies have notified that they are reducing the price to get over that difficulty? The basic price of sugar is lowered.
– Is the honorable member in possession of a fact of that kind?
– I am in possession of information which leads me to believe that it is a certainty. On the 24th June, one honorable member in the Queensland Parliament stated that a reduction of 2s. per ton in cane was announced.
– I have always dreaded it; I have never hesitated to say here and outside that so soon as the large companies got control of the whole of the industry I believed that the growers would be likely to suffer. That is the reason why I regretted that the economic side of the industry had been divorced from the industrial side. In my opinion the Commonwealth Parliament ought to have full control of the economic and industrial sides, but other people think differently. The desire is that the industrial side should be dealt with by the States, and the protective side by the Commonwealth. In my opinion, the people who require most protection will suffer most, but that is another matter. I was not aware that the honorable member for Werriwa knew that there was a danger of that coming about so soon. If that is so, I think he will agree with us that this Parliament ought to have power to appoint a competent tribunal to decide as between the parties what is a fair and reasonable return to each, so that they shall be protected against monopoly or anything of that kind. Will he support that?
– If you put it in the form of collecting an Excise I am with you.
– The honorable member will help those who want to kill the industry.
– That is not the remedy. I ask the honorable member, who speaks of a sense of fairness, to join with honorable members here in seeing that power is given to this Parliament to create a competent tribunal to decide what is a fair and reasonable remuneration to the worker, what is a fair and reasonable payment by the miller for the cane of the grower, what is a fair and reasonable price to be paid by the refiner to the miller for the raw sugar, and what is a fair and reasonable price to be charged to the public for the refined sugar ?
– In my view, that is one of the chief things.
– Will the honorable member support that?
– As far as the latter part goes, I know how to attain that end without any alteration of the Constitution.
– The honorable member, I am sure, is desirous Of doing justice to every member of the community.
– Decidedly so; but I do not think that yours is a proper way to accomplish it.
– Whether it is a proper way or not, it would be an effective way, and I hope that the time is not far distant when it will come about.
– I doubt whether it would be effective.
– I want to put another point to the honorable member. He quoted the large returns from the small cane areas and the great profits which can be made under present conditions. What is the effect of an economic condition like that in any industry? In previous Parliaments I heard the honorable member thunder that where there is a great margin of profit there will be great production. Why is it, I wonder, that we cannot produce enough sugar for our own requirements under these favorable conditions? Why is it that capitalists in this country shun the industry where there is an abundance of good land to be had which, brought into cultivation, will yield these great benefits ? Has the economic law been turned upside down?
– No; they cannot get labour to work the land. Labour is always requisite. Capital is useless without labour.
– Here is a new story. If the honorable member reads the reports coming from the north, he will find that there has been a superabundance of labour during the last two seasons. Labour is waiting this season, large as the crop is, and there was a superabundance of labour last season. The question of labour does not arise at all. The great profits of which the honorable member speaks do not exist in fact, but only in imagination. He might as well quote a great win on the race-course and say that everybody can go to the racecourse and make a fortune. Nobody knows better than he does that such instances are absolutely valueless. He has raised the main issue on this Bill. This is not a Bill dealing with the main issue at all. It is brought in to remedy a blunder of the Government. To this day, neither the Minister of Trade and Customs, nor any other responsible Minister, has stated whether the Government inquired of the Customs officers the state, and conditions as to, the sugar in bond. They have never made a frank statement about that matter, nor do they intend to do so. It would have been the simplest thing in the world for them to discover the position of affairs before they proclaimed the repeal of the Act. When they took that step, Parliament was in session. They had gone for a holiday, ostensibly to look into the maladministration of the previous Government, and it was during that time that they issued the proclamation.
– I am just reading a line of poetry: “Oh, what a row; what a rumpus; what rioting.”
– Exactly ; but there has been no rumpus or row when this matter has been brought under the notice of the Ministry. Only silence, silence, smother it!
– Hear, hear ! “ Mum “ is the word.
– Not even a “mum.” When the Bills were introduced I was not here, though the honorable member for West Sydney was. They were brought on much about this time of night, when there was not likely to be much discussion. I came in afterwards, but I was not consulted. The same thing happened tonight.
– Because the right honorable member agreed the other night to let them go without further debate. ‘
– I did not. I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if I did not say that I would not agree to them going through.
– The night after they would have gone through without debate but for the honorable member for Werriwa.
– I did not agree to putting them through without debate.
– I asked the right honorable member if he would let them go through, and he said “ Yes,” and then the honorable member for Werriwa got up.
– The Prime Minister is creating a false impression if he says that I came to an agreement in the matter; I did not do anything of the sort. But I am willing to facilitate the passing of this measure, because it is necessary to recover revenue.
– The Bills have been in this House for more than a week.
– If the Prime Minister cannot control his followers, he must not blame rue. Is he willing that statements like those of the honorable member for Werriwa should go before the public uncontradicted, creating an impression as false as any that could be made? I am exceedingly sorry that the ignorance on this subject is so appalling. The subject has been a pitfall for many, and will be a pitfall for many more. But the sugar industry is too big to be lightly thrown on the scrap heap, although it is conducted at so great a distance from the Seat of Government that few honorable members are interested in it. If an attempt were being made to wipe out a small city industry by imposing on its output an Excise duty equal to the import duty on the productions of its rivals abroad, Parliament would be stormed with deputations protesting against what was proposed. The honorable member for Werriwa has don-?, good service by attacking the sugar industry, and directing attention “to its importance. It will one day be one of the biggest industries in Australia. The United States of America put a protective duty qf £9 per ton on sugar, although they grow it with cheap coloured labour on good land, whereas here we employ white labour, and insist on a high standard of comfort, and are so near to Fiji, Java, and the Hawaiian Islands, which are in a better position to produce sugar cheaply. The continuance of the sugar industry in Australia would be impossible with white labour without a high protective duty, but once the people understand the true position they will be ready and willing to pay an increased price for sugar, to make the country self-contained in regard to the production of this commodity.
– I am not sorry that the final stage of the consideration of this measure has been reached. If the honorable member for Werriwa had searched the Hansard reports of the debate on the repealing Bills as I have done, he would know that I admitted, by interjection, and afterwards in a speech, that until we could control the industry completely, not only by regulating the wages of the workers, but also by fixing the amounts to be given to the growers of cane and the prices to be charged to the consumers of sugar, the greater part of the extra £1 would probably find its way into the pockets of the refiners. I said that we were giving up whatever control of the industry we had. There were repeated applications from sugar-growers, millers, and refiners, and from representa tives of sugar districts, to the Fisher Ministry to abolish both the Excise and the bounty, and to place the sugar industry in the same position as any other protected industry. When the repeal Bills were under consideration twelve members spoke on the second reading, eight of them being members of the then Opposition, which is the present Ministerial party. In Committee there were four speakers from each side.’ The honorable member for Richmond, who is now Ministerial Whip, made the longest speech in the debate, and the present Minister of Trade and Customs, and the honorable members for Cowper, Moreton, Franklin, Wimmera, Lang - our present Speakerand Parramatta - the present Prime Minister - also spoke, the speeches of the Opposition occupying 166 minutes during the second-reading debate and in Committee, and the speeches on our- side occupying only half the time. Not one member of the then Opposition protested against the proposed legislation.
– Not even the honorable member for Richmond.
– The honorable member for Richmond was most anxious that the sugar industry should be placed in the same position as any other, without being charged Excise or being paid bounty. His particular trouble was the bounty, because it gave to this Parliament control of labour conditions in the industry. Time after time the sugar companies asked for the repeal of the Excise and bounty, in order that they might be placed in the same position as other industries. The evidence given before the Sugar Commission was to that effect. I listened with interest to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Werriwa, but it was a very lame effort on the part of an honorable member who professes to have a burning anxiety to denounce the present Government for its legislation in this regard. If honorable members opposite, when “off the chain,” cannot do better than he did, it matters little whether they remain on or off. His chief trouble seemed to be that the sugar industry was being protected. The honorable member is anxious to wipe out the Protection. This is the only industry with which we have dealt this session, and if I were a representative of Queensland, I should take care to see that the honorable member’s speech was well circulated in order that the people interested in this industry might learn how a representative member of the Liberal party would deal with it.
– Would the honorable member show, at the same time, how the Labour party cultivates the “ fat man “ while it talks against him?
– The honorable member regards me as the arch sinner in respect to this matter, since I introduced the measures providing for the repeal of the Excise and bounty. From a purely party point of view, his speech is a splendid one, and I should like to see it well circulated. When I first raised the question, on 19th August last, I said that I would have allowed the Excise to remain until I had made some arrangement with those who were holding sugar to pay Excise in respect of it. For making such a statement, I was denounced by the present Minister of Trade and Customs. I cannot speak as to the constitutionality of this Bill - that is a matter with which the Attorney-General and the other lawyers in the Ministry will have to deal - but I understand that it is to remain operative until we have collected the £158,000.
– Until the amount certified by the Comptroller-General has been collected.
– The £158,000 or the £170,000?
– There is no £170,000.
– The honorable member has discovered a mare’s nest so far as the £170,000 is concerned.
– Those figures appeared in the honorable member’s Budget statement. .No Excise has been paid this year.
– Eight thousand pounds has been paid.
– But even that amount added to the £158,000 will not make up £170,000.
– The honorable member is referring to two sets of figures.
– My complaint is that the Minister has two sets instead of one.
– There is only the one set.
– What does it matter; let him get on.
– I am anxious to proceed.
– - Will this money be collected from the right people?
– That is the point that I wish to emphasize. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company turns out more than the 25,000 tons of sugar placed against its name, will it be compelled to pay more than some’ other firm which, within the time, turns out less sugar than it had in bond at the time of the repeal of the Excise? Under the Constitution we cannot levy Excise on the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and allow, say, the Millaquin Company to go free. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company turns out more than the quantity , set down against its name, whilst some of the other firms turn out less, what guarantee have we that some of these people will not pay too little, and that others will not escape payment of Excise altogether? It is not permissible to quote newspaper articles commenting on current debates, but I cannot help alluding to two articles which appeared in the Age and the Argus on the day following that on which I first raised this question, and to another article which appeared in the Age last Thursday. When I first brought forward this matter, both these newspapers declared that I had discovered a mare’s nest, and that the mistake, if any, was mine. I have always said that these newspapers would, if they could, cover up any mistake made by honorable members opposite. But it was practically stated last Thursday, in the leading article which appeared in the Age, that every statement I made on 19th August last had been fully borne out by the action of the present Minister of Trade and Customs when introducing this Bill, and that it should be entitled, “ A Bill to cover up the bungle made by the present Ministry “ in forfeiting the £158,000 that should have been collected by way of Excise.
– Who said that?
– That statement was made by the Age last Thursday.
– That, I suppose, settles the matter.
– No ; I do not follow the Age. This, perhaps, was a little lapse on its part - a telling of the truth by accident.
– The honorable member, having left his visiting card, ought to allow the Bill to pass.
– He says that he is dying with anxiety to see it passed.
– And the Government are so anxious to collect this money that their representative -in another place moved last Thursday that the Senate adjourn until the 22nd instant. They are thus allowing the companies concerned to hang on to this money for another fortnight. Are the Government in a hurry to pass this Bill ?
– Then why did they allow the Senate to adjourn for a fortnight? It had plenty of work to go on with It had, for instance, the Audit Bill.
– The honorable member knows that they could not go on with it.
– Why ?
– Because the debate on another matter had not yet finished.
– The debate on the AddressinReply concluded last Thursday; the Government having managed to keep a quorum for a little while.
– I have ceased to take any interest in things up there.
– The Government have so few followers in the Senate that they have ceased to have an interest in its doings. If they were at all anxious to collect this money, they would not have allowed the Senate to adjourn for a fortnight. We on this side have offered no opposition to the Bill. There has been more opposition from one supporter of the Government than has come from this side of the House. Whether the Bill passes to-night or next week is immaterial so far as the collection of this money is concerned, since the Senate will not meet till 22nd October ; but I am anxious that it shall be passed, and that those who have been allowed to retain this money shall be compelled to pay, so that the blunder committed by the present Ministry may be rectified.
.- I would ask the Prime Minister whether he is not prepared to adjourn at this stage?
– No ; let us get this Bill through before we adjourn.
– I point out that there is no need for hurry, because the Senate is not ready to receive the mea sure; but, if the Prime Minister will say that, after this Bill is passed, he will agree to adjourn, we may be prepared to help him.
– The two sugar Bills should be taken together
– What is the honorable gentleman thinking of? The Government aro trying to force through this House important legislation seriously affecting the interests of the people at a pace which must bring about their downfall if it be continued. The Minister of Trade and Customs, in formally moving the third reading of the Bill, treated the House, I will not say with contempt, but with indifference.
– The honorable member would not expect the Minister to say much about the big blunder he made.
– The honorable gentleman might, at least, have confessed that he did wrong; and, if he had done so, the natural sympathy of honorable members on this side would have gone out to him . Why should we be asked to rush this Bill through before we have had time to consider it? The third reading was sprung upon us in a most unusual way. The Government drop one matter and take up another, and expect honorable members to be ready to discuss an important measure at five minutes’ notice. It is not decent for those charged with the government of this country to try to “bulldoze” honorable members with legislation in this manner.
– This is the third reading of the Bill.
– It is a pity that it could not be read oftener than three times. If it had to be read another time, we should, no doubt, have another speech from ohe honorable member for Werriwa to enlighten the people, and especially honorable members on his own side of the House. What is the need for this Bill, anyway? The Minister of Trade and Customs has told us that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the other twenty-nine honest companies concerned in t.he matter, are prepared to “ ante up “ without any legislation at all.
– They have not done so.
– Never mind that; the Government believe that they will, and have 6very confidence in them. The Minister of Trade and Customs said, “ Thank God, I am out of my difficulty, because these people are prepared to pay up without any further legislation!” The honorable gentleman has shown his confidence in them by bringing forward this measure.
– The point is that they have not paid up.
– Will they pay up?
– The honorable member should ask me something easy. I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to say whether he believed these people when they told him that they were willing to pay this money? We do not get a word from the honorable gentleman in reply. He sits there like the Sphinx. If he did believe them, why is he now wasting the time of Parliament? Surely his blunder is bad enough already without making it worse ! - He failed to display the ordinary acumen we have a right to expect in a man holding his responsible position. We know that the honorable gentleman is a lawyer, but it was not necessary for him to rely upon his own marvellous knowledge of the law in this matter. He had the Crown Law officers to refer to. He might have said to them, “ Gentlemen, I do not understand the law, and since you are here to guide me, I want you to tell me what I ought to do before I issue this proclamation, so that I may make no mistake.” Had the honorable gentleman done that, he would not be in the difficult position in which he finds himself to-day; the money of the country would not be held by people who are not entitled to it, and the time of this House would not be wasted in passing unnecessary legislation.
– Is the honorable member wasting time now?
– No, it is the Government who are wasting time. This Bill would not have been needed had it not been for the inexcusable blunder committed by the Government. They were too busy scavenging in the dirt-boxes of the past to discover something which might disparage honorable members on this side to give a thought to their responsibilities in this matter. How much per hour does it cost to discuss a measure of this kind? The Minister of Trade and Customs has already run the risk of sacrificing £158,000 of the people’s money in connexion with this matter. The Treasurer puts the amount at £170,000, and I understand that the Minister of Trade and Customs adds £8,000 on to that.
– Does he allow for interest ?
– Might . I ask the Minister now whether he has made provision for the payment of interest on this money when it is repaid ?
– There is no provision made for interest.
– Will the honorable gentleman accept an amendment in Committee to provide that interest should be paid?
– The Prime Minister might well smile in the glorified position which he now occupies; but this is not a laughing matter. It is the greatest travesty of responsible government ever perpetrated in this country. In my hearing the Attorney-General was appealed to in terms which no decent, warm-hearted man could have failed to respond to, and yet we have not heard a word from him. He was asked to interpret this measure as the responsible officer paid by the people to provide legal information for this House, but he failed to recognise his obligations to the people of this country. When we ask him for his opinion he tells us that he is not bound to give us any legal guidance - that his legal advice is reserved for the Cabinet. It is about time that he took the people of this country into his confidence. It is useless for a man to take his “gilt” and do nothing for it.
– Order !
– Am I not entitled to the guidance of the Attorney-General upon a matter of constitutional law? Have I not a right to ask the honorable gentleman for that knowledge which he is eminently supposed to possess ?
– The honorable member has every right to ask.
– A law of this kind - -
– The honorable member has picked up a copy of the Electoral Bill.
– Never mind. Any stick is good enough to beat the Government with.
– That is right. Any stick is good enough to beat us with.
– But no stick yet grown would pierce the hide of the Government. I ask the Attorney-General to look at this Bill. It is not retrospective, but prospective, legislation which is proposed. The blunder of the Minister of Trade and Customs is to be repaired by proclamation.
– Let us get to bed.
– If the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, who is not often present, is weary of exhibiting some semblance of attention to his duties, he has my sympathy. But I cannot extend much sympathy to the honorable gentleman who walked out of the chamber immediately after he had moved the second reading of the Electoral Bill. Has he read the measure which is now before us? I will guarantee that he does not even know its title. Does the Minister of Trade and Customs expect to recover the Excise duty upon the sugar which was in bond on the 26th July last? Will the people who owned that sugar pay their dues ? Evidently he cannot trust them to do so in the absence of this Bill ? Does he mean to tell me that the measure will make them divulge the amount of Excise duty which they escaped paying? The idea is preposterous. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is allegedly responsible for Ministers holding the positions which they do to-day. If it had not been for the assistance rendered to the Liberal party by that mammoth company this error would never have been committed. Mr. Joseph Cook. - Quite incorrect.
– The proclamation of the repealing Acts would never have been issued without some undertaking being given that the owners of the sugar in bond on 26th July last would pay the Excise due to the Commonwealth. Will the AttorneyGeneral explain the constitutional aspect of this Bill if I resume my seat? Does he contend that under it the Government can recover the money which has been lost?
– We will have a try.
– Then this Bill is merely a try-on, after all. The constitutional adviser of the Government cannot say that under it the Minister will be able to recover this money. He cannot assure us that under its operation the innocent will not suffer. He can only tell us that the Government will ‘ ‘ try ‘ ‘ to recover the money It is about time that we ob tained some more definite statement than that. It is bad enough that the Minister of Trade and Customs should have blundered as he did.
– Is the honorable member endeavouring to shield these trusts ?
– No. I think the idea of the Prime Minister was to try to shield them when his Government neglected to recognise their responsibilities in securing the people of this country from an imposition of this kind.
– We are trying to make them pay.
– The honorable gentleman is trying to correct the blunder.
– Then why not let him do it?
– I am pleased to have a tacit admission from the Treasurer that 1 am right in my calculations. I want to know from the right honorable gentleman why he has £170,000 in his Budget-papers, and the Minister of Trade and Customs says the amount is £158,000 ? But Ministers treat the House with contumely. We cannot get information from them. I have appealed to the AttorneyGeneral, to the Minister of Trade and Customs, and to the Treasurer. I would appeal to the Prime Minister, but he is in such a bad condition to-night, I fear to appeal to him.
– Appeal to the Whip.
– The Whip cannot reply. I never hit a man when he cannot hit back. I have looked at the Whip with sympathy to-night, when people have been talking sugar. I would like to know whether Ministers are in earnest - whether they wish to get any legislation through. Any Ministry bringing forward a Bill like this must be absolutely insincere. If the Minister of Trade and Customs can trust his “ pals,” they will pay this money; so why waste the time of the country over a measure of this kind, especially when the Senate is not sitting for a fortnight ? Surely we can go home now, and resume the discussion on the Bill at some future period, when the Prime Minister has solved the constitutional problem. I am ready to sit down now if the Attorney-General will define the knotty question that has been raised. No doubt if the Minister of External Affairs were here he could do so. He is the man who gets the Attorney-General out of all his difficulties. Wo should be able to find some way out of this without bullocking legislation through the Chamber at such a rate. We had no chance of discussing this Bill on the second reading, and now to-night it is thrown down on the table in a hurry,- and I have not had the opportunity of looking up a lot of matters that I would like to study in regard to this subject. I could not discuss it as it was discussed by the honorable member for Werriwa. To do so I am afraid I should have to be here until 11 o’clock to-morrow morning. It was glorious, however, to hear the honorable member for Werriwa - the only one allowed to speak his mind on the Ministerial side.
– He was only allowed to do so because he- attempted to abuse this side.
– Even then it was good to hear the honorable member. Other honorable members are like dumb, driven cattle.
– I wish -you were dumb.
– No doubt the honorable member envies me. He would like to break his fetters and remove the “gag” placed upon him. He can never justify himself to the sugar-growers. The marvel is that no honorable member on the Ministerial side representing a sugar district dares say anything, while the interests of his constituents are at stake. These sngar men - it is rattier a good description of these honorable members,- because they melt away - are prepared to stand by without saying a word in defence of the growers of sugar; but honorable members on the Opposition side are always ready to champion the people, whether growers of sugar or growers of anything else. What would men in the farming districts say if their representatives were not prepared to speak a word on their behalf f I suppose honorable members on the Ministerial side will be tied up in just the same way when the vital interests of the men on the land are concerned. The honorable member for Lilley is bursting to say something on this subject, but he dare not; he is absolutely tied up. I ask the Prime Minister can - I have leave to continue my remarks at some future Bitting. I ask him not to be hard on me.
– Pass the third reading first.
– If we pass the third reading of this Bill can we go home?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER announced the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending appropriation for the purpose of the following Bills: -
Tasmanian Grant Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
Public Debts Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- What is the business for to-morrow?
– The Bills dealt with by message. At the rate we have been going on we shall, I should say, do nothing else for about a week.
– I did not ask the Prime Minister to tell me what he did not expect to be done. I want to know the order of business 1
– Iam telling the right honorable member as far as I can. I say that, judging from the progress we have been making, there is quite enough to occupy us for a week in what has been foreshadowed to-night.
– That is a reflection upon the Prime Minister’s own conduct of business. I can only ask the question; I cannot demand the information.
– I think it would be convenient to honorable members if, instead of circulating the Estimates and the Budget-papers separately, the two documents were bound in one cover. I make that suggestion to. the Treasurer.
– I do not think that it would be convenient. It has never been the custom.
.- The Leader of the Opposition has asked what the business will be for- to-morrow. I confessthat I am rather surprised at’ a request of that kind being made. I say again that, judging from the progress made to-day, I should say that it will be early enough to ask that question next week. May I remind the right honorable member of this : It was arranged that we should have the two sugar Bills taken together. Hansard shows that there was a distinct agreement that the two were to go together.
– The discussions together.
– That agreement has been repudiated to-night, and I have had to agree to take only one Bill in order to get home at all.
– The discussions were to go together, not the vote on the two together.
– Oh, was that it?
– Is not that what Hansard says?
– What does it say then 1
– I cannot find it just now:
– Find it. I say that there was to be one discussion.
– Why, then, is a new discussion foreshadowed ?
– We have been dealing with third readings. ‘
– Pure, unadulterated obstruction.
– I rise to order.
– The Prime Minister has replied.
– But this is a point of order, and should be dealt with. The Prime Minister has stated that there has been wilful obstruction.
– So there has.
– I ask that that shall be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw that statement. -
– The statement that there has been wilful obstruction?
– It looks like it.
– The honorable member must withdraw the statement without qualification.
– Certainly; I withdraw it.
– The Prime Minister will also withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– I ‘said that there was a distinct agreement to take the two Bills together. The Leader of the Oppo sition now says that it was only an agreement to take the discussions on the two Bills at the one time. I immediately pointedout that if that was the understanding, according to the right honorable member himself, the Opposition had broken the” agreement by severing the two, and insist- . ing upon having another discussion tomorrow ; for that is’ evidently the intention.
– Order! .
– I said that that amounted to obstruction.
– That is the expression that has to be withdrawn.
– Very well ; I withdraw it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131007_REPS_5_71/>.