5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Senate, asking the House to give leave to Mr. Joseph Cook, Sir John Forrest, Mr. King O’Malley, Mr. Anstey, Mr. McGrath, and Mr: Sinclair to attend, if they thought fit, to be examined before the Select. Committee of the Senate on general elections.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the consideration of the message be made an order of the day for to-morrow.
– I suggest to the Prime Minister that we might be able to deal with this matter immediately. The message is a courteous request from one House to the other to allow its members to be examined by a Select Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that a deputation of convalescents at the North Head Quarantine Station, Sydney, has appeared before the authorities, complaining of the insanitary conditions prevailing within the area, and describing the quarters there as absolutely rotten, and not fit for other than blackfellows? Will the Minister cause au investigation to be made immediately, with a view to removing this state of affairs?
– I do not know who are the authorities referred to, but no such representations as are mentioned have reached the Department in Melbourne. I shall cause a telegram to be sent immediately to ascertain the facts, and to ask that, whatever investigations were made, a copy of the report shall be forwarded at once to the central office. When they have been received, I shall at once have inquiries made into them. I had a letter from the Lord Mayor of Sydney, informing me of certain allegations as to the condition of the Quarantine Station, and this morning I telegraphed for specific details, the names of the complainants, and the nature of the complaints, stating that the complaints, when known, would be fully investigated, and investigated immediately. Last week some general statements appeared in a newspaper, but no name was attached to them. I brought them under the notice of the officers in Sydney, with a view to a report being made upon them, and I have received their report, but have not yet had an opportunity to examine it in detail. Generally it shows that the allegations were not sustained. Accompanying the report is a statement by several patients, members of the Public Service, expressing the fullest and most complete satisfaction with all that was done on their behalf when they were confined in the quarantine area.
– Will the Minister lay *he papers on the table of the Library?
– I shall be pleased to let any honorable member see them who desires to do so.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he has noticed that, because of the quarantine proclamation affecting Sydney aud its surrounding country, the passengers by the first excursion train from Sydney to Melbourne, conveying people to witness the Melbourne Cup, have been reduced from <100 to 60. I ask whether, under these circumstances, the Government will suspend the operation of the quarantine for the week, to enable people to come to a carnival here, and to test the efficacy of the quarantine in preventing the spread of small-pox?
– The position has already been stated. Our action will be based on the opinion of those capable of advising us as to the safe course to take.
– I asked the Prime Minister a day or two ago a question to which he could not then reply. Now that harmonious feeling exists throughout this Chamber, I ask him again if it is his intention that the House shall adjourn tomorrow over Tuesday next, which is the day when the great Melbourne Cup will be run?
– The matter is under consideration.
– I wish to know from the Honorary Minister what has been done to provide travelling facilities for cadets at Bendigo? Is anything to be done?
– The matter is under the personal consideration of the Minister of Defence. I shall be happy to bring my honorable friend to the Minister this afternoon to discuss the matter with him.
– Now that the High Commissioner is in Australia, is the Minister of External Affairs considering what steps should be taken to have the Commonwealth properly represented in America, in view of the early opening of the Panama Canal?
– The matter of having Australia represented in connexion with the Panama Exposition is under consideration. This Government has offered to contribute £20,000 towards the expense, and the States have twice been written to, asking if they will co-operate in any way. Replies have been received, and I hope that we shall have a representation worthy of our importance and of the occasion. ‘
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether, before deciding to devote £20,000 to the representation of the Commonwealth at the Panama Exposition, he will take into consideration the action of the United States Government in giving preference to American shipping as against Australian shipping on the west coast of America, and more particularly in regard to the Panama Canal?
– I think that the question of the representation of the Commonwealth at the Exposition is quite independent of other relations with America.
– But this preference is holding up our coal trade.
– The question raised by the honorable member relates more directly to diplomatic relations between the Imperial Government and the Government of the United States of America. Apart from that altogether, and from the interest in American matters that we share with the other parts of the Empire, our relation with the Pacific, I think, as well as our friendship with the United States of America, justifies our taking a separate stand in regard to this matter. I have not allowed the question raised by the honorable member to interfere to any extent with what I may describe as my enthusiasm in regard to the representation of Australia at the Panama Exposition. I am afraid that I did not recognise the full scope of the question put to me by the honorable member for New England a few moments ago. I think that he asked whether steps had been taken to have the Commonwealth permanently represented in the United States of America. That matter is also under consideration, as well as the possibility of establishing some trade representatives in Canada.
– If Ministers are still conducting the business of their Departments in the usual way, I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that employes in his Department are doing painters’ work in respect of which painters are called upon to pass a very rigid examination before being allowed to place their names on the register ? One set of these employes, I understand, is receiving 8s. 5d. per day, while the union rate for painters is lis. per day. Will the honorable gentleman make inquiries and ascertain if there is any infringement of the Wages Board award by the employment of men under the awarded wages?
– Certainly .
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make regarding the political situation ?
– There is no situation for my friends.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. In this morning’s issue of the Age he is reported to have addressed a meeting last night-
– The honorable member will not be in order in founding a question on a newspaper statement, and reading from the newspaper.
– Then as a matter of personal explanation, Mr. Speaker, I desire to state that the Prime Minister is reported in this morning’s issue of the Age to have addressed a meeting held last night under the auspices of the Women’s National League, and in that report we have the following statement : -
At this point a member of the audience shouted - “ You are not the man Andy Fisher is !” “ No,” retorted Mr. Cook : “ I am glad I am not, and to-day he played a dirty political trick.”
Interjector. - What, Andy ?
– Yes, Andy. I say this same Andy played a dirty political trick. That is a strong statement to make, but I am going to prove it. We had “ paired “ men who wanted to go to Mr. Knox’s funeral, and the Opposition took advantage of their absence to force a division. The party would not honor the “ pairs.”
– That was a deliberate lie.
– The report continues -
Interjector. - Was it the Labour party’s whips or Andy ?
– I rise to order. I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the ex-Speaker is accusing me of deliberate lying.
– I did not catch the interjection fully, but understood it to apply to something in a newspaper. I understood the honorable member for Maranoa to be reading a newspaper report, in regard to which he desired to make a personal explanation, since there was something in the report relating to himself.
– There is a lot in it about myself.
– Anything contained in a ‘ newspaper report is outside the cognisance of the House, and cannot be taken notice of. Unless the honorable member is prepared to accept responsibility for the accuracy of the statement, I do not know that he is quite in order in making a personal explanation in reference to it; but I cannot decide that point until he has proceeded further.
Mr. Kelly. - The point of order submitted by the Prime Minister was that the honorable member for Kennedy was not in order in interjecting during the reading of a newspaper report of an utterance said to have been made by the Prime Minister that “ That is a deliberate lie.”
– If the honorable member for Kennedy referred to the Prime Minister-
– I referred to this statement.
– In that case I can take no notice of the. reference. This is something alleged to have happened outside the House. At the same time, I would point out that all interjections are disorderly, and that interjections when made the medium of some offensive reference are particularly disorderly. The honorable member for Maranoa will proceed.
– The newspaper report continues -
Interjector. - Was it the Labour party’s whips or Andy?
– Let us be frank. They were both in it. Mr. Fisher played the trick of taking the business out of our hands, and the rest was done by Mr. Page. But there is this to be said for Mr. Page. After the vote was taken he got up and said he had promised to “ pair “ for Mr. Bruce Smith, who was at the funeral. ‘He could not get him a pair, and when our whips said, “ You. offered to ‘pair’ this man,” Mr. Page said, “ Yes, but I cannot drive my man out.” “What do you think of conduct like that?” asked the Prime Minister.
Interjector. - You cannot blame Andy Fisher for that.
– I say that if Andrew Fisher had behaved as he ought to have done he would have said, “ If nobody else will go out, I will honor my whip’s promise and go out myself.”
Ministerial Members. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite will not be applauding a moment or two hence. I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether this statement is correct ?
– I understood that the honorable member rose to make a personal explanation.
– I wish to clear my honour as a man.
– It has been distinctly laid down, not only by myself, but by previous occupants of the Chair, as well as by other parliamentary authorities, that questions cannot be founded on a mere newspaper statement.
– But this is a question affecting my personal honour.
– The honorable member, after reading a newspaper statement, asked the Prime Minister whether it was correct. The honorable member cannot found a question on a newspaper statement, but he will be in order in making a personal explanation in relation to anything affecting himself if he has been misrepresented.
– The Prime Minister will not deny the accuracy of the report. He is silent, and we are told that silence gives consent. I may say that both the Age and the Ar</us report the Prime Minister in almost similar terms. I shall, therefore, assume that the report is true, and I make this statement deliberately - knowing what I am saying - that what the Prime Minister said at this meeting last night is an absolute falsehood.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in making a statement of that kind. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I am denying the correctness of the statement made by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member’s denial must be in terms that are not contrary to the Standing Orders. I ask him to withdraw his remark.
– I shall withdraw it and say that the statement made by the Prime Minister was grossly incorrect, and that I am positive that he knew it was when he made it.
– Order !
– The truth cannot be spoken in this House.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is not in order in making that statement. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has committed another offence against the Standing Orders in declaring that an honorable member has made a statement which he knows to be grossly incorrect.
– Very well, sir; I will withdraw the remark.
– The Prime Minister has no evidence - no warrant - for the statement.
– He has no evidence whatever to warrant it. The honorable member for Parkes never asked me for a pair, and I never promised him a pair. The only two members to whom I promised pairs were the Treasurer and the honorable member for Kooyong; and I faithfully kept my promise. I went out myself, and at the last moment I asked the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to come out with me because I wanted a pair, and he willingly did so. I only had a few seconds in which to do this.
– And it was under exceptional circumstances.
– Quite so; and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie left the chamber at my bidding. The Assistant Government Whip, the honorable member for Cowper, came into the room between 1 and 2 o’clock, and told me there were several members of his party who were going to the funeral of the late Mr. Knox, and that he supposed “ it would be all right.” I replied that so far as I or my party was concerned we were going to do nothing, and the members he spoke of could go. Our party honorably kept that understanding. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to laugh, but what was the outcome of all this? The Government refused an adjournment of a debate on a financial statement, although every Prime Minister I have known in this House has granted adjournments under similar circumstances.
– The Prime Minister is very touchy, and I must ask him to kindly hold his tongue for once. When the present Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition, the then Treasurer made one of the best financial speeches I have ever heard in the House, and-
– Is this a personal explanation ?
– I have just heard a remark by the honorable member for Adelaide, implying that I am discriminating between one honorable member and another, and I must ask him to withdraw the reflection on the Chair. Further, I think that the honorable member for Maranoa is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that you are somewhat tender to-day.
– The honorable member is again reflecting on the Chair.
– Chair ! You bully !
– I must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that word.
– I withdraw the word; I am sorry.
– I desire to offer my personal regret, and to apologize if you, sir, think that I have said anything which can be construed into a reflection on the Chair, for such was the very furthest from my intention.
– I now come to the question of the pairs. I do not know any one, so far as pairs are concerned in this matter, except the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, another honorable member, whose name I forget, the Treasurer, and the member for Kooyong; and all these are accounted for quite easily. After the division was taken I found out that there were some of our members away, particularly the honorable member for Fremantle, to whom I had promised a pair, and I paired him with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, while I paired the honorable member for West Sydney with the honorable member for Werriwa. Every man that went to’that funeral is accounted for in the pair-book.
– Oh, yes; fixed up after you had played your trick 1
– Here is the pair-book, which speaks for itself - Howe and Livingston, O’Malley and. Rodgers, Page and Forrest, Frazer and Best, Burchell and Chapman - these are in my handwriting - Hughes and Conroy, West and Bruce Smith, Mathews and Boyd, Catts and Sampson. Every member was paired but the honorable member for Corio, and I did not know he was away until I saw the fact stated in the newspaper afterwards. But after the pair-book had been made up, the two Government Whips came and crossed out the pair’ between Catts and Sampson, and West and Bruce Smith, and they inserted West and Kendell.
– Was that without the knowledge of the honorable member?
– No, I was told of it. T did not know that it had been done until I was either going to tea, or coming from tea, when the honorable member for Cowper met me in the lobby, and said he was going to alter the pairs, and I said, “ You can do what you like; they are in the pair-book - strike them out, or do what you like.” So far as I am concerned, 1 did not know the names of any who went to the funeral, with the exception of those whom I have mentioned. Furthermore, no name was ever mentioned to me until a vote was taken, as that of a member whom I should pair.
– I desire to offer a personal explanation. Every one knows that those pairs were arranged, as the honorable member has suggested, after the damage had been done. Honorable members opposite even go to the length of fixing up the pair-book in order to make the pretence-
– I claim your protection, Mr. Speaker, from allegations of that sort.
– I must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that accusation.
– I shall withdraw it, though I submit, with the greatest deference, that you, sir, have nothing to do with the pair-book.
– While it is perfectly true that I have no official cognisance of the pair-book,- still I have official cognisance of the fact that the Prime Minister, lias cast a reflection on another honorable member in relation to something concerning his conduct, as a member of the House.
– What I suggest is that my honorable friend went to the pair-book after the event, and proceeded to pair our live men with his own dead ones. My statement is perfectly correct. The honorable member for Maranoa has said too much about the pair-book to-day.
– I rise to a point of order. I feel very sorry to interrupt the Prime Minister.
– I am sure of that! Mr. McDonald. - Whether the Prime Minister is sure or not, is of no moment. Is the honorable gentleman in order in making a personal explanation in a matter in which he is not personally involved ? It is a question between the Whips, and not one for the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister is allowed to proceed, shall I also be allowed to make a personal explanation in connexion with the matter?
– So far as the Prime Minister is concerned, his name was specifically mentioned in connexion with something that was read out of a newspaper, and which formed the basis of the personal explanation by the honorable member for Maranoa. As the name of the Prime Minister was specifically mentioned in that, I took it that he desired to make some personal explanation, and as the question of pairs is so much involved in the matter, I do not see how I can rightly separate the one matter from the other.
– I am making a personal explanation in reference to some statements of the Opposition Whip. The honorable member asked me if certain statements appearing in the newspaper were substantially correct. I say now that the report is correct, and that the facts are as set out in the press. The honorable member will recollect that in his personal explanation last night he referred by name to the honorable member for Parkes.
– I never did.
– I heard it.
Several Honorable Members interjecting -
– The Prime Minister is entitled to make his statement without interruption. I ask honorable members to refrain from a chorus of interruptions.
– The facts are on record in both of this morning’s papers. The honorable member said that lie tried to get pairs, but could not drive his men out of the Chamber. I ask him is that correct?
– It is not correct.
– Just a moment ago I asked honorable members not to persist in interrupting. I ask honorable members to observe my directions, otherwise
I must reluctantly take another course. Conversations are disorderly when the Speaker is on his feet. I ask honorable members to allow the business to be carried on in accordance with decorum and decency.
– The following passage that I have from the report of yesterday’s proceedings is sufficient for my purpose : -
– You promised to see that pairs would be given.
– I cannot make honorable members go out of the Chamber if they will not do S.
– Did he mention the name of the honorable member for Parkes?.
– Will the honorable member hold his tongue, if he can ? The statement of the honorable member for Maranoa to-day is that he told his opponents that nothing would be done. Something was done.
– By you.
-Honorable members know that there was a gross breach of faith somewhere, and the gross breach of faith took place on the initiative of a Prime Minister.
– Truthful, for once.
– Of an ex-Prime Minister.
Several Honorable Members interjecting -
– The honorable members for Illawarra, Gwydir, and Barrier are out of order.
Air. Thomas interjecting -
– The honorable member for’ Barrier is again out of order. I ask the honorable member to apologize for interrupting immediately after being called to order.
– I apologize to you for in any way coming in conflict with the Chair, but I thought an honorable member could say that another honorable member was telling the truth.
– The honorable member must not misrepresent the position. He was interjecting two or three times when 1 called him to order, and then I had to call him specifically by the name of his electorate, upon which he immediately interjected again. It is not in order for an honorable member immediately he is called to order and asked to apologize for disregarding the directions of the Chair, to apologize and then ask whether it is out of order to tell another honorable member that he is telling the truth. I. ask the honorable member to apologize unreservedly.
– I apologize with pleasure, but I thought lt was strange to be called to order for saying that another honorable member was telling the truth.
– The honorable member was not asked to apologize because of that. It was because he again interjected after he was called to order for interjecting two or three times. Statements whether truthful or otherwise which are couched in offensive terms are not permissible.
– On a point of order, is the Prime Minister in order in making an attack on the Leader of the Opposition under cover of a personal explanation ?
– In the course of making a personal explanation, the Prime Minister would not be in order in making an attack on another honorable member; but the Prime Minister has not proceeded to any greater length than the honorable member for Maranoa, to whom I allowed some latitude, was allowed to go in similar circumstances.
– Then this is a debate.
– Order I I ask all honorable members who have occasion to make personal explanations, to confine themselves as much as possible to their explanations, and leave personalities out of the matter altogether.
– I am unable to leave personalities out of this matter, ‘because personalities are the gravamen of the charge of the honorable member. The honorable member for Maranoa said today, as well as yesterday, that he had promised our Whip that nothing would happen.
– I candidly admit it. Mr. JOSEPH CO’OK.- Then I say something did happen.
– And you were the cause of it.
– Therefore, whoever caused it, there was a breach of faith, and I say that the immediate cause of that breach of faith was the Leader of the Opposition, and that breach of faith occurred most regrettably and unfortunately in connexion with the burial of one of our late members.
– Order ! This matter has got beyond the mere question of personal explanation, and has developed into an acrimonious debate; that cannot be permitted. Personal explanations should be confined merely to making clear something that ‘has not been made clear in connexion with anything that has been said, or to correcting any misrepresentations in regard to anything that may have been said or done. Under cover of making a personal explanation, an honorable member must not make charges or attacks upon another honorable member.
– By way of personal explanation, I may say that there has not been a correct statement made by the Prime Minister regarding myself since he opened his mouth in the Chamber to-day. I knew nothing of the circumstances; it had even escaped my mind that the funeral of the late Mr. Knox was to take place yesterday afternoon. No communication passed between our Whip and myself. The reason why I spoke immediately following the Treasurer is given in the opening sentences of my speech. The carefully prepared statement read by the Treasurer was of such a character that it would have misled a large number of innocent electors if it went out uncommented on in the same newspapers and probably in the same Hansard. Therefore, I attacked the subject immediately, but under grave difficulties, because of my lack of exact information. I dealt with it in half my speech right off, and then -I appealed to the only Minister present, the Minister of Trade and Customs, to be allowed to continue the other half of my speech at some future date. The Minister said he would like to consult the Prime Minister about it. I did not have the slightest doubt that my request would be readily granted, in accordance with the practice of this Parliament. I had no knowledge of any arrangement with regard to pairs. There was not a single member of the Opposition who knew of any arrangement or any conditions whatever, and, in my wildest dreams, I never thought the Prime Minister would object to my continuing my speech on another occasion. For some time after I commenced my speech there was not a single Minister present, but I made no complaint on that score because I thought there might be something important demanding their absence from the Chamber.
– Did you not know why the Treasurer was away?
– I did not know that a single honorable member was going to the funeral. I did not know of it until after the division. The Treasurer, in speaking, did not mention it. I believe there were one or two members to whom he told something, but what that was I do not know. If he did utter anything about it, I did not hear it. It was outside my knowledge. Honorable members can believe me or not. There is not a word of truth in what the Prime Minister has said concerning myself. I am not called upon to traverse the things he has said. It is enough for the people of the Commonwealth, and I believe for my colleagues, to hear me say that there was nothing premeditated in connexion with yesterday’s affair, and that it was accidental.
– Oh, accidental?
– There is temptation to say something regarding the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman thinks every one has a mind like his own.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in regard to the matter of the pair-book. I wish to relate the circumstances of what actually happened. After the division was taken and the House adjourned, I approached the honorable member for Maranoa and asked him to fix up the pairs that were announced. I took the book and wrote the standing pair existing between the honorable member for Barker and the honorable member for Dalley, and . then- proceeded to the two pairs announced in the House by the honorable member for Maranoa immediately after the division, namely, the honorable member for Maranoa with the Treasurer, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie with the honorable member for Kooyong. These two pairs I put into the book. Then I said to the Opposition Whip that I would not recognise any other pairs except “ live “ pairs. The honorable member for Maranoa then proceeded to write in the book a number of pairs, among which were two to which I took particular objection. These were the pairs of the honorable member for Wimmera with the honorable member for Cook, and the honorable member for Parkes with the honorable member for East Sydney. I said that the honorable members for Cook and East Sydney had not been here this week, and that I would not, in the circumstances, accept them as pairs for that particular division. Any one who has knowledge of this particular class of work would never, in the circumstances, dream of accepting those gentlemen as pairs.
– That is a piece of impertinence.
– The particular point where I am concerned is the latter one. I said to the honorable member for Maranoa, “ I will not accept those pairs.” He said, “ You can strike them out, or do what you like with them.” I struck them out.
– I said that.
– Subsequently I admitted that as the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Corio were both absent, so far as I was concerned, I was perfectly willing that those two should be paired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I took part yesterday in an incident that resulted in the defeat of the Ministry, and the Prime Minister has been pleased to refer to that as a breach of faith.
– I rise to order. I do not think that in connexion with the whole of these proceedings I have mentioned the honorable member’s name. I submit, therefore, that he has no right to make a personal explanation.
– I do not know to what the honorable member’s explanation refers. At the present stage, therefore, there is no point of order. I shall first hear what the honorable member has to say.
– It will be too late then.
– I point out to the Prime Minister that the honorable member for Adelaide, even if his name has not been- mentioned directly, has been referred to inferentially, and was, to some extent, directly responsible for the proceedings yesterday, and to that extent is entitled to make a personal explanation iu connexion with the matter.
– Every member is in one sense involved in what occurred yesterday. Do you then rule, sir, that every member is permitted to give his views to-day?
– The honorable member misunderstands my ruling altogether. Tho honorable member was directly concorned in moving the motion for the adjournment of the debate, and, therefore, reference, if not directly, certainly indirectly, has been made to him. He, therefore, stands in a different relation from the majority of honorable members.
– The action which took place yesterday has been characterized by the Prime Minister as a breach of faith.
– On a point of order, I submit that I in no way mentioned the honorable member’s name or connected the honorable member with it.
– That is not a point of order. The honorable member could afterwards have risen and made a personal explanation denying that he had any such intention.
– The incident to which I desire to refer took place yesterday, and has been characterized by the Prime Minister as a gross breach of faith. So far as I am personally concerned, quite apart from any general statement made by the honorable member for- Maranoa on this side relating to pairs, or what would or would not happen, there was no decision arrived at respecting pairs so far as the Government Whip was concerned, because immediately the Leader of the Opposition started to speak yesterday, in reply to the Treasurer, the Government Whip came to me, sat down between the honorable member for Yarra and myself, and informed me that the honorable member for Maranoa, our Whip, could not be found ; that some Government members had gone away to a funeral ; and he asked if I would undertake the duty of pairing on behalf of our Whip, and generally assume the duties of Whip on this side, because he desired pairs for those members of his side who had gone to the funeral. I distinctly declined to undertake any such duty. He asked me if anything would happen. I declined to say whether anything would or would not happen. I did not know of anything that was about to happen, neither was I aware that the Prime Minister would refuse our leader leave to continue his speech on another day. These facts are borne out by what took place at the time. The Government Whip was so anxious to get pairs for members on his side who had gone away that he actually started to argue with me, and had to go to his own side of the House in order that the Leader of the Opposition might be allowed to speak. In those circumstances I had the clearest possible intimation from the Government Whip, firstly, that our Whip was out of the House, and could not be found; and, secondly, that members of his own side had gone away to attend the funeral of one of their late colleagues; thirdly, that he had not paired his members; fourthly, that he wanted pairs for them because they were absent; fifthly, that our members were here to be paired if they so desired; and, sixthly, that I declined to do what he wanted. Yesterday’s occurrence was entirely his fault.
– There is one matter that I omitted to mention; that is, that there was a pair between the honorable members for Henty and Melbourne Ports, which I had forgotten for the moment.
-i-The honorable member did not enter it in the book.
– That is so. I had forgotten it for the moment, as I admitted to the honorable member afterwards. The statement of facts by the honorable member for Adelaide is materially correct. It was the fact that I knew there was a general arrangement as to pairs with the Opposition Whip, and that I could not find him to adjust tlie pairs, that led me to go to the honorable member for Adelaide, and ask him for assistance in fixing matters up. Of the result, every one is aware.
– In view of the fact that the business df the country was yesterday taken out of the hands of the Prime Minister, I ask whether the honorable gentleman proposes to tender his resignation, and, if not, whether he proposes to take a vote of the House to ascertain whether he possesses its confidence.
– The question is not in order. If the Prime Minister had any such notification to make, he would have made it on tlie assembling of the House.
– I wish to raise a question as to the privileges of honorable members.
– A question of privilege cannot arise out of the disallowing of a question.
– With great respect, I claim that the tradition of Parliament is that a Prime’ Minister must resign when tlie business cif the House is taken out of his hands.
– The honorable member is not in order in arguing with the Chair.
– As the Hansard report of the explanation which was given by the honorable member for Maranoa yesterday does not contain tlie name of the honorable member for Parkes, I ask the Prime Minister if he still maintains that he heard tlie honorable member for Maranoa mention that name ?
– Do not worry him.
– Will the honorable member take his leader’s advice, and not worry me.
– Am I to understand that that is the answer to my question?
– I ask the Honorary Prime Minister if he can inform me how soon the election will take place after the Ministry has altered the electoral rolls to allow of corrupt voting ?
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, uponnotice: -
– To fully answer the honorable member’s questions, it is necessary to first obtain an opinion from the Crown Law authorities on a legal point involved. Replies will be given, therefore, at a later date.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK laid upon the table the following paper: -
Public Service Act - Provisional Regulation - (Substituted No. 51). Statutory .Rules 1913, No. 261.
Debate resumed from 2nd October (vide page 1767), on motion by Mr. Atkinson -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Commonwealth should forthwith take over the inspection and effective control of produce passing, from State to State.
.- When I moved the motion, I pointed out that, although its adoption would necessitate slight changes in the machinery now used for the inspection of produce- passing from State to State, the consequences would be of great value to the trading community. If what I propose were adopted, there would be uniformity in the inspection of produce passing from State to State, and a more Federal feeling would exist than is occasionally now found. At the present time, when some disease affecting produce breaks out, unf federal ‘ feeling is occasionally aroused by the uncertainty of the action likely to be taken by the authorities of the States other than that in which the disease has appeared. No one connected with the produce business knows exactly what will be done. When the produce of one State is rejected by another, the consigning State feels that it has been unfairly treated. But if the work of inspection were done by Federal officers, the consignors of produce would know that they were being dealt with by impartial authorities, and the ill-feeling which is now created would be unknown. This subject has often been discussed here during the past six or seven years, and attention has been drawn to the confusion that is frequently created under the present arrangements. For instance, last year, or the year before, some potatoes were shipped from Melbourne to Queensland. Before leaving Melbourne they had been passed by the Victorian inspectors, but on arriving in Queensland they were condemned by the inspectors of that State. They were brought back to Melbourne, and after they had been lying on the wharf for some time, the Victorian inspectors again looked through them, and declared them to be still sound. On a still earlier occasion some potatoes which had been _ rejected at Sydney were returned fo the port of shipment, put into different bags, sent back to Sydney, and on the second occasion accepted. Many cases of this kind have occurred, but their effect is to create unfederal feeling. Trouble is occasioned in connexion with the Inter-State movements of fruit, and of bacon and pork,’ as well as of ordinary produce. The produce traffic between the various States is very large, and as the population of Australia increases, it will grow. The producers are the backbone of the country. Their labour should be encouraged by every legitimate and reasonable means, and their interests, which are the interests of the whole community, should’ be safeguarded in every possible way. Primary production employs a- great deal of labour at all stages in cultivating, harvesting, and handling, and its transport and sale provide business for a great many merchants, and give employment to very many clerks and others. I do not desire to remove safeguards against the spread of diseases. These safeguards will not be removed if my motion is passed, because Federal inspectors will then take the place of State inspectors, and will be as strict as they are to prevent diseased produce from passing from one part of Australia to another. We need sufficient power to enable us to say that when sound produce is sent from one State to another, and is passed by Federal inspectors, it shall be allowed without delay to go on to the markets for which it is intended. It would be no advantage to any one for the Commonwealth to take over the power of inspection if, at the same time, the State authorities could bold back produce for a month, in order to see that it was free from disease.
– The honorable member did not talk in this way during the first referenda campaign. He said then that the States could manage their own affairs.
– 1 had a good deal to say about this matter. Some four or five years ago the honorable member for Darwin, as well as myself and other representatives of Tasmania, frequently brought before the House the question of State inspection laws in connexion with the outbreak of Irish Blight, and “at the Federal elections of 1910, the honorable member for Darwin told the farmers of Tasmania that if the Labour party were returned to power they would put the matter right in three weeks. The Labour party was returned to power, and remained in office for three years. But although the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs promised me that he would do what he could, nothing was done. Then in connexion with the referenda, the honorable member for Darwin told the producers of Tasmania that if they agreed to the proposed amendments of the Constitution, this Parliament would be able to put all these matters right.
– Is this not a matter for the Inter-State Commission ?
– It may be, but I desire before dealing with that matter to complete my reply to the honorable member’s interjection of a few moments ago. I wrote to the Tasmanian newspapers, challenging the statement made by the honorable member for Darwin, and he was unable to show the farmers that the passing of the referenda would benefit them one iota. Although extensive changes would have been made if the referenda had been carried, the position, so far as this particular question is concerned, would have remained practically unaltered. There is a constitutional element involved in the consideration of this question which makes it by no mellis an easy one to cope with. The States Have reserved to them certain police powers, which they exercise chiefly through the medium of Vegetation Diseases Acts, and regulations providing for the inspection of produce. It is right that the States should have these reserve powers vested in them, since they are charged with the safeguard ins; of the health of tlie community, and it is necessary for them to take precautions to prevent a disease crossing their borders. Disease, however, is not a trade and commerce mattei1.
– An article of commerce may be the’ means of introducing a disease.
– If there were danger of a disease being introduced by any particular article of commerce, then the Federal inspectors, under my proposal, would do ‘just what the State inspectors are empowered to do, and would see that the article of commerce was rejected. The actual machinery changes which my proposal involves are very small, but tlie advantages which it would give to the producers of the several States, and through them to the workers and traders alike,, are very substantial. The only interference which I propose with the police powers retained by the States, is that the Federal authority should have power to insure produce being placed on the market :for which it is intended as soon as the Federal inspectors declare it to be sound and wholesome. This, I believe, could be done under the Constitution, as it stands, and for that belief I have good authority. I base it, in the first place, on an 0111111011 given by the present Minister of External Affairs, when he held office as Attorney-General, in 1909, as well as upon statements made by the present Minister of Trade and Customs, and the ex-Minister. Then, again,
I would remind the House that section 92 of the Constitution declares that all Inter-State trade shall be free. In the said opinion of the present Minister of External Affairs upon a regulation passed by South Australia, which excluded certain Inter-State produce, he shows clearly to what extent these police powers are reserved to the States, and how far tlie Commonwealth may go. I believe that we could achieve the object at which I am aiming by an amendment of the Quarantine Act, and without any alteration of the Constitution. Section 112 of the Constitution gives power to the States to pass inspection laws, but it is open to the Commonwealth to annul those laws when it thinks fit. Thus, if a State inspection law were really designed to serve an ulterior purpose - if it were designed to protect local growers from tlie competition of those in another State, just as an import duty would do, it could be annulled by the Commonwealth.
– Even if we took over From the States the inspection of produce, would not the States still have power to make regulations, as they are doing now, in some cases, with regard to the placing of produce in new bags ?
– Or requiring apples to be placed in clean cases?
– I am not here to lay down any hard-and-fast rule. These are matters which would be left to the Commonwealth authorities if my proposal were carried out. . -
– But does, this doubt not show the necessity for” an alteration of the Constitution ?
– I cannot say that it does. The question of whether produce should or should not be placed in new bags or cases is a matter for experts, and I do not propose to deal with it. Such questions can be taken in hand by the authorities when we secure the machinery changes that I advocate. I recognise that the regulation referred to by the honorable member for Ballarat in regard to the use of new bags is a serious one. The price of bags has increased by leaps and bounds during the last few years, whereas the price of potatoes is low, so that producers are heavily handicapped. I can understand the concern displayed by the honorable member for Ballarat for producers of potatoes in his constituency. I have in my electorate a very large area of potato-growing country, and I know that the question is a very serious one for potato farmers.
– Does not the honorable member think that the honorable member for Ballarat should be commended for the move he is making in this matter?
– I do. My desire is that the power to inspect produce shall pass from the State to the Federal authority.
– All inspection powers?
– The inspection of produce passing from State to State.
– All produce?
– All produce, including carcass meat. At the present time, sound, wholesome produce, passing from one State to another, is often rejected as soon as it is landed on the wharfs, whereas it should be allowed to go on to the market to feed the hungry masses, who very often, because of the high prices charged, cannot buy the produce they desire. I am not going to say that there should be only one inspection, and that that should be at the port of shipment or entry. That is a detail which should be left to the experts who would be employed under my scheme. I do not want to make it more dangerous than it is at present for a State to allow produce from another State to enter its territory. I merely desire a small machinery change on which will hinge great advantages for the producers, workers, and traders alike. This, I contend, can be secured under section 112. We have power to annul an unreasonable State inspection law. When Western Australia, for instance, imposed very high inspectional charges, obviously with the object of shutting out certain produce-
-I think New South Wales was as bad.
– I believe that the New South Wales Government took somewhat similar action as against a Queensland product.
– And against Tasmania n apples. The Premier of Tasmania saw me in reference to the matter, when I held office as Minister of Trade and Customs.
– There have been instances of the sort mentioned. Inspection charges have been imposed, not for the purpose of paying the inspectors, but in order to create a heavy duty in favour of the local growers. There must be sufficient control on the part of the
Commonwealth to defy the State authorities, in so far as seeing that produce is permitted to go on the market is concerned, otherwise anything we do can have no practical effect.
– The Constitution provides that if the Federal law conflicts with the State law, the Federal law shall prevail.
– If we make a Federal law that covers the whole of the State regulations, then the latter will be void, but if the regulations are only partially covered, they will continue to operate to some extent. Section 112 of the Constitution leaves the States power to make Inspection laws, but it gives the Commonwealth power to annul those laws when they are unreasonable or used for some ulterior motive, such as I have indicated, because it is not a proper use of the reserved police powers. In Western Australia there were such charges imposed, but, when representations were made, the Government of that State recognised the situation, and modified their regulation.
– But what if the States make the regulations, as health regulations ?
– Surely Commonwealth officers would be able to detect disease in the same way as do the State officers?
– But supposing thatthere are different standards?
– The States have large police powers reserved, and it is a question how far the Commonwealth can go. My contention is that we have power of inspection, and that we should also have control coupled with that power. The present Minister of External Affairs, in his opinion concerning the South Australian regulations, said -
In the Commonwealth Constitution, State inspection laws are implied, sanctioned by section 112, which defines the power of States to levy charges for their enforcement. Reading sections 51 (i) and 92 together, it would appear that in Australia - whether or not a State Act or regulation would be unconstitutional merely because it was a direct regulation of Inter-State commerce - it would, as in the United States, be unconstitutional if it imposed an unnecessary or unreasonable burden on Inter-State commerce. . . . I think that an absolute prohibition of certain kinds of plants (healthy and diseased alike) is an unnecessary burden on Inter-State commerce, and cannot be justified on the ground that it is a precautionary measure against the introduction of disease. - R. Co. v. Huson, 95, U.S., 465; Asbell v. Kansas, 209, U.S., at page 256.
When this opinion is compared with that of other constitutional authorities, such as Quick and Garran, they are all found to come to substantially the same conclusion. In the case of the Railway Go. v. Huson, one of the American States passed a law prohibiting the introduction oi cattle or goods during certain periods of the year, ostensibly for sanitary reasons, but really for State protection purposes. This law was held to be unconstitutional, as an unreasonable burden on trade and commerce, and it was disallowed by the Supreme Court. In Quick and Garran, page 583, we find the following : - ‘
Limits of the police powers. - The right of exclusion is founded on the vital necessity of selfdefence and self-protection. A State could not exclude persons; animals, or merchandise unobjectionable in character, health, and quality, and fit subjects for commerce. - Brimmer v. Rebman, r38 U.S. 78.
From all tlie authorities I have referred to it must be clear that we have very large powers if we will take the trouble to use them; and our Quarantine Act could Be very largely amended. Our legislation in this connexion by no means absorbs all our powers; and I think that with further amendment of the Quarantine Act we. could achieve our object. I have no desire to raise trouble between the Federal and the State authorities, but merely to render what service I can to the producers in a perfectly reasonable way. The producers of Australia are a portion, of the community, and the Federal Parliament and the State Parliaments are merely separate agents of the same principal. It is not the province or duty of those agents to bicker or squabble, because if they do so their principal must suffer. It is the duty of the State and Federal authorities to devise some working means whereby the conditions of the producers and workers throughout tlie country can be improved. The Commonwealth Government ought to take this matter seriously into consideration, and find out exactly how far they can go, and then they should endeavour to come to some amicable arrangement with the States that will be satisfactory to all concerned. I have better hopes than I used to have that some real practical benefit will result from a conference between the States and the Federal authorities. Every year now the agricultural bodies of the various States confer, and are beginning to know one another better. In this way many difficulties are bridged over, and compromises arrived at which could not possibly have been achieved had these agricultural authorities remained apart. Even in the matter of inspection, I believe that, with a little assistance from the Federal authorities, it would be possible to bring about some satisfactory arrangement without unnecessary trouble or harshness cn our part. The InterState Commission will, I think, help us in the matter, because to that body will probably be referred most of these questions. Then we have before us a Bill for the establishment of an Agricultural Bureau ; and this, providing for the assistance of the best experts upon pests and diseases, will prove another agency, the influence of which must work for the benefit of the people. Altogether, I think that the time is now ripe for the Commonwealth to make a move, and to let the States understand that if they do not come together and make some reasonable arrangement to assist the trading and producing interests, the Commonwealth will exercise the powers it undoubtedly has, and see that the goods are allowed to go on the market. Unless some such step is taken no practical benefit would be achieved, so that I hope the Minister of Trade and Customs will give the matter serious consideration. He comes from the State of Queensland, where so many varied products are grown, and he is fully cognisant of the importance of the matter and of the issues involved. I believe, therefore, he will give it most earnest attention. I hope so, at any rate. There are many areas in Australia that should be producing, and should be closely settled, which to-day are not producing, and upon which we find very few people. We should encourage production on these areas. If we do not do so we are not doing our duty. I am satisfied that what is suggested in the motion would be of great assistance in that direction. I hope that before very long the Minister of Trade and Customs will meet the State authorities with a common view to providing a working arrangement for the transfer of produce from State to State. The price of bags touches the producing interests. I should like the Minister to also look into this question. I do not believe, from what I have read, that the present high price is due to a combine, as many of our friends opposite believe.
– Dirty bags are the greatest source of disease you could possibly have.
– I am talking about the high price the producer has to pay.
– The producer passes it on.
– That is news to me. The producer has to take the market value of his produce, and if the market is glutted he has very little opportunity of passing on the price of bags to the consumer.
– When he now gets 30s. a ton for potatoes, how can the producer pass it on?
– I believe that every member of the House is pledged against trusts and combines fleecing the public. If these bags are controlled by a combine it is time the Government did something to protect the producer. If that be the case, I hope the Minister will let us know, and then we can deal with the matter. But I do not think the price of bags is altogether due to a combine - I believe it is due to the poor jute crop, and the very large amount of grain that is grown in Argentine, Australia, India, and other parts. While the jute crop happens to be small, the crop for which the bags are needed happens to be large. The fact that we have a big demand and a small supply has a lot to do with the rise in the price of bags during the last year or two. I believe it has more to do with it than has a combine.
– There has been a steady upward rise all the time.
– I admit that there has been a steady rise, and that that is suspicious. ‘ When we have a steady rise in prices we may have cause to suspect that it is due to a combine, but I do not think there is much evidence collected in Australia to prove that such is the case in regard to bags.
– The control of these bags is in very few hands.
– In that case, it would be an easy matter for the Minister to sift the matter. There is plenty of power in the Constitution to deal with it so far as Australia is concerned.’ If there is not, I believe every member in the House is prepared to give the Minister the requisite power. I hope he will give this matter not only earnest consideration, but immediate attention.
.- I second the motion. I could say a great deal on this question, but time wal not permit. However, I should like to hear an expression of opinion from the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– No one but can appreciate the way in which the honorable member for Wilmot has moved the motion. One had only to listen to his earnest pleading to realize that he has taken action purely out of desire to assist the primary producers in Australia. ‘ But the motion is one that cannot be readily accepted. It is not new to the House. The question came before us in 1910, and was fully discussed. On that occasion the Minister of Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Yarra, pointed out the impracticability of taking over the inspection as has been suggested. My view is exactly the same. It would not be feasible for the Commonwealth - leaving constitutional matters out of question - to take over the control and inspection of all products passing from State to State in Australia. That, however, does not relieve the Commonwealth of its supervising responsibility. It is clearly the intention of the Constitution that there should be a free passage of goods from State to State, and that no State, under the guise of inspection laws, should have the right to prohibit and block that free passage of goods, or make excessive charges so as to prevent it. For instance, in a particular case mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat the other day, and which I promised to look into, I took the necessary action. The duty upon potatoes under the Tariff is ls. per cwt., or £1 per ton. I have made inquiries into the question of inspection charges in respect of potatoes, and find that the fee charged in Western Australia is ls. a bag, as has been stated by the honorable member for Ballarat. Potatoes weigh, approximately, 150 lbs. in the bag, or go fifteen bags to the ton, so that the fee per ton is 15s. The protective duty is £, so that the inspection fee on potatoes imported into Western Australia is three-quarters as high. That is a very high charge indeed. The fee charged iii other States of Australia is only 6d. per ton of fifteen bags. On the face of it, the Western Australian charge of 15s. per ton does not appear to be. a fair charge for ain inspection fee. I have asked the Prime Minister to cause a despatch to be forwarded to Western Australia, with a view to inquiring into the matter, and having tlie question of the reasonableness of this charge investigated. In another case in which we were concerned, in the year 1907. we were furnished with some information with respect to Western Australia as regards the charges which were made in connexion with fruit. Inquiry showed that no uniform scale of fees was adopted. Por instance, on each case of fruit that went into Western Australia, there was a charge of 2s. 6d., in South Australia the charge was 3d., and in Victoria Jd. In New South Wales, Queeusland, and Tasmania, no charge at all was made. Representations; were made to Western Australia and the other States, and ultimately a more common form of action was arrived at, all the other States agreeing to a fee of Jd. a bunch for bananas, and £d. per bushel case for fruit. Western Australia continued to charge 3d. per half -bushel case, and 6d. for a bushel case. I quite admit that, in Western Australia, there might be some justification for higher rates, but there should not be such a great disproportion as in the case of potatoes.
– Does the honorable member know when the 15s. was imposed there ? It might have been when potatoes were 20s. a ton.
– I have not been able to get that information. The charges are such as to necessitate our taking immediate action, and we have accordingly done so. I would remind the honorable member for Wilmot that only this morning I received a deputation from the Inter-State Fruit-growers Conference, who, as a body, have passed a resolution asking for the continuance of the present system of the States doing the inspection for the Com’monwealth. At present the whole of the; system of inspection of fruits and plants generally is based upon State legislation, which begins with the orchards and practically ends with the .place of export, and: that from the other point begins at the port .qf import, if you look at it from the importing State’s point of view. There is a whole set of machinery built upon that, and it would be very difficult for the Commonwealth to intervene now with any advantage. At the same time, it is the duty of the Commonwealth to keep an eye on the general position, to see that the powers of inspection are exercised legitimately, that is, for inspection purposes only, and not for other purposes. I certainly think that, wherever difficulties exist, the Commonwealth can exercise a sort of coordinating power, as it has done in the past, so as to bring the States together in order to facilitate Inter-State trade, while preserving such an amount of inspection as will prevent the- spread of disease. The object of the Commonwealth should be to assist in the repression and extermination of the diseases affecting plant life in Australia. One cannot find fault with the States if they are sometimes a little apprehensive as regards the introduction of diseases from other places, because, when once they are introduced, it is exceedingly hard to eradicate them. That is a case where prevention is certainly better than cure. So far as the States are exercising their powers legitimately for purposes of inspection one cannot make any complaint. I sympathize a good deal with those who desire an examination at the place of export, instead of leaving it to the place of import. It is far better for a man to know his fate at the beginning, instead of paying all the charges for carriage, say, right to Western Australia, only to find that his goods are condemned there. The examination at the port of export may facilitate the entry, provided that the goods are accompanied with a clean certificate. I think that, on the whole, the honorable member for Wilmot has done exceedingly good service in drawing attention to these matters, although we may not be able to see eye to eye with him as regards the methods he has proposed. The matter will be given most careful consideration, and notice will be taken of the various points that he has submitted. Perhaps from a departmental point of view it may be well to hear any views which other honorable members may desire to submit, in order that we may carry on the work of facilitating InterState trade, while, at the same time, preventing the introduction of disease.
.- I am glad that the motion has been brought forward, whether by carrying it we effect anything or not; at any rate, some good will be done by the fact that we are discussing these questions. In fact, through the discussion the other day of the high charge made by the Western Australian Government on potatoes, I am pleased to see that the Government have already taken action. I have no doubt that now the attention of the Western Australian Government has been drawn to the way this charge must affect growers in other parts, and must certainly be detrimental to the consumers in Western Australia, they will accede to the wishes of the Commonwealth Government. I am delighted to see honorable members on the Government side trying to assist us in the work that we are endeavouring to do in promoting the interests of the producers of this country. I can assure them that we welcome their support.
– If the honorable member is referring to his own side he should not say “ we.”
– We are the representatives of the producers of Australia. We are glad to have the assistance of honorable members opposite on this question, but I should like them to go a little further, not only in connexion with the inspection, but ako on the question of bags. The use of second-hand bags is a matter of very great importance to the producers.
– We had better leave that to the experts.
– It is impossible for the potato-grower to deal with this question. It was discussed here in 1910, and I think it was the then honorable member for Bendigo, Sir John Quick, who said that the question would have to be taken to the High Court. It is impossible for the individual grower to do this, and from a financial point of view alone. .1 do not contend that the Federal Government should take it up, but they have influence with the State Governments who belong to the same party.
– Does that remark apply to the present Western Australian Government 1
– We are trying to use our influence in that case, and the question of whether the charge is constitutional or not will probably be tested. As regards the resolution that has been submitted, the honorable member said, in 1910, “ I do not think that we can constitutionally take from the State authorities the right to themselves inspect in the first instance.” According to the honorable member for Wilmot, he now desires to take away from them the right to inspect, and bases his argument upon section .112 of the Constitution. I would point out that, although the Federal Parliament, has the power to annul inspection fees, they can be reimposed by the State Government the next day, and thus the evident intention of the Constitution may be to a large extent defeated.
– If that was done I am afraid the Federal Government would have to take stronger action.
– The powers of the Federal Government are limited by the Constitution, and if a State Government thought fit to reimpose the inspection fees, we should find ourselves practically helpless. This all tends to show the urgent necessity for any alteration of the Constitution, to give us greater powers over trade and commerce. We realize the necessity of having uniformity in connexion with inspection. We do not want to have diseased produce introduced into any State. If there is a disease in Tasmania we, in Victoria, will do the best we can to keep it out.
– You do that here whether the produce is diseased or not. You did it last year with potatoes.
– I have not heard of our doing it, and in any case last year was exceptional. I desire leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted, debate adjourned.
.- I move -
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into all matters pertaining to any contracts and agreements proposed or entered into for the use of powellised and other timbers, with power to inquire and report as to the merits of powellising, and all matters incidental to the proposed use of powellised sleepers and other timber in connexion with the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
The case in regard to this matter was fully placed before the House last year by the ex-member for Fremantle, Mr. Hedges. I am satisfied that all my colleagues from Western Australia will be extremely pleased if, upon investigation, it is proved that by powellising or any other process, we can make karri into a useful timber for underground purposes, because, we have enormous forests of karri. If this timber could be successfully treated We should have a great industry in connexion with it, but we -must remember that if this process does not do all that its supporters claim for it great loss will accrue. Undoubtedly, karri without treatment is not a good timber to place in the ground. It is splendid for carriage building and many other purposes above ground, but it has proved a great failure iia Western Australia as a sleeper timber;. The Great Southern Railway was built with karri sleepers, and almost before the railway was completed the sleepers which had been first put in had to be taken out, and the whole of that line has, been replaced with jarrah sleepers. The only case, so far as I have heard, of any tests made in powellising this timber was when about a chain of karri sleepers were treated by the process at Perth. Some thirty sleepers treated in this way were laid six or seven years ago, and I believe this is looked upon as complete evidence of the efficacy of the process.
-What about the Port Hedland railway?
– That is entirely different country. The reason why the jarrah sleepers were powellised there was because the country was infested with white ant.
– Where was that?
– We constructed a railway 115 miles in length from Port Hedland to Marble Bar, and, knowing that white ants were exceedingly bad in the district to be traversed, we powellised the timber used in its construction.
– Is the honorable member speaking of country north of Geraldton?
– Of country 800 to 1,000 miles north of Geraldton.
– Was the timber used karri or jarrah?
– When was it powellised?
– Three and a half years ago.
– Is it standing well?
– I have not read any special report on it, but the Western Australian Commissioner of Railways told me in conversation that a couple of sleepers which’ had been powellised had been found to have white ante in them. It would not be fair to say that the powellising process is therefore ineffective.
– Oan the honorable member say what it cost to powellise the timber used?
– No. We powellised only a small quantity of timber, and the cost was therefore fairly high.
– Did the Western Australian Government do the powellising?
– Yes. We erected plant at Bunbury for the purpose, and paid a very small royalty. It is strange that on new contracts being entered into a much larger royalty has to be paid by the Commonwealth than was paid by the Western Australian Government.
– What did the Western Australian Government pay?
– Sixpence per hundred super.
– What is the price now ?
– Ninepence, if the work is done by the State, and, I think, 2s. to others. In reading the reports of the debates in the Western Australian Parliament, I have not been able to clearly ascertain the true facts ; but I gather from a statement of the Premier of the State that the Commonwealth will not have to pay at a higher rate than is charged to the State - that is, 9d. per hundred - though it will have to pay £3,750 royalty, whether it treats any timber or not, and royalty must be paid for some five years after the expiry of the patent. I do not wish to condemn the process. If it proves to be a good one it will be very beneficial. But we are taking a great risk in adopting it without proof of its usefulness. The cost of maintaining the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta will be excessive if sleepers laid in remote places have to be renewed by reason of the failure of the powellising process. Besides, it is proposed to construct other railways, such as that running north and south across the continent. Before committing ourselves we should be quite satisfied that the standard sleeper that is used will be effective for its work. We should, therefore, ask for the fullest particulars regarding the powellising system. Western Australia has done a great trade in jarrah sleepers, and jarrah has proved a good timber for sleepers. In Western Australia we use nothing else, and there is no suggestion in the railway reports that powellised sleepers should be used. I understand that Mr. Deane, in a -report on the powellising system, stated that when in Western Australia he travelled over the Denmark line, a small railway, 34 miles in length, constructed in the old days by Millar Brothers, with karri sleepers. He mentioned how well some of the sleepers had stood. But only three or four years ago, after the Government had purchased the line, I approved of the replacing of the karri sleepers with jarrah, and that was done. It is stated on page 7 of the report of the Commissioner of Railways, for the year 1911-12, that the Denmark line has been re-sleepered with jarrah sleepers of the standard size; that fact shows that the Commissioner of Railways had little faith in powellised karri. Reporting on light district railways, and speaking of the necessity for a standard specification, he has written -
Small sleepers give another form of expression to the policy of cheap construction, and the road bed is laid with little ballast, or none at all, and almost devoid of drainage. Yet the State is rich in timber unrivalled for railway sleepers, and ballast is everywhere obtainable within reasonable distances. Leaving speed or convenience out of consideration there can be no question that a well-drained road bed carrying adequately substantial sleepers properly ballasted, and of lasting quality, is the only proposition on which economical maintenance of permanent way can be based.
That statement appears in his report for 1911-12. I have gone through the report published this year, but find no mention in it of proposals for powellising timber for railway construction. The chief evidence submitted in this House in favour of the powellising process was that it had been satisfactorily tested in Western Australia. Seven or eight years ago a chain of powellised karri sleepers was laid in East Perth, in sandy ground, the situation tending to give the sleepers a long life. When examined, some two years ago, these sleepers were found to be in specially good order. That is the only test that has been made of powellised karri in the State.
– Was the place infested with white ants?
– No. As to the white ants in the country that the transcontinental railway will traverse, I would point out that we have the same class of country between Southern Cross and Leonora, and out from Geraldton, but have had no trouble with jarrah sleepers there. Such sleepers used in that country have a life up to twenty and thirty years.
– Without being powellised ?
– Yes. We never dream of powellising them.
– We have had the same experience on the Oodnadatta line.
– A great many jarrah sleepers were used in the construction of that line. I understand that the contract between the Commonwealth Government and the Powellising Company has not yet been signed, but that the Government is committed to it.
– We are bound by the agreement.
– It is a criminal agreement.
– It cannot be repudiated, because the Government of Western Australia has expended large sums on the construction of mills for cutting sleepers, but knowing how karri timber absorbs moisture, and the need for thoroughly seasoning it, I say that it is imperative to place in charge of the powellising some person who has a thorough knowledge of timber, and whose duty it will be to decide what shall be passed.
– Arrangements have been made for that.
– We should have an officer to control the passing of timber that is treated, and to see that the timber that is treated gets the proper solution. I understand that the difficulty is that they do not know what is the proper solution.
– I do not like the process, and do not believe in it. I have my own opinions concerning a good many things that have been done in connexion with it. A good many little things that have occurred do not appeal to me in any sense.
– There can be no difficulty in obtaining the proper solution.
– The question is whether the process is effective. It would be unwise for me now to reflect on the process. My contention is that we need evidence regarding it. I decline to accept the Western Australian test as proof that the process is a good ‘one.
– There is the Port Hedland railway test.
– In that case, the timber used was jarrah, which we know will stand Well against white ants., even without being powellised, though it is occasionally, attacked. I do not think that there :is any country in the world which is so, bad for white ants as is the northern portion of Western Australia. Knowing that, the Government df the day wished to take the most effective means for preserving the sleepers used on the Port Hedland railway. . We knew that jarrah was good timber, but went to extra expense to increase the life of the sleepers by powellising, should the powellising process be able to do that. The result, however, does not amount to proof of the efficacy of the process, the timber treated being jarrah, and having been only three years in the ground. Karri timber is notoriously a bad timber under ground. It has been said that the powellising process has been a :great success in New Zealand. To ascertain the facts, I wired to the Prime Minister of the Dominion, asking whether the process met with approbation there, and ‘whether the Government were satisfied with its results. The reply I received was-r-
Various native timbers powellised for railway. Experience gained not yet sufficient prove efficiency of ;system. Sleepers treated were not satisfactory. No more being treated. Timber used building purposes still sound, but premature for final conclusion.
– The timber treated might be kauri, which is notoriously soft.
– That reply was received to a1 cablegram couched in the following terms : -
Have you received reports or developments relating to powellising railway sleepers? Is powellising satisfactory ?
I merely asked whether the powellising of the native timbers of New Zealand had proved satisfactory. It had been claimed that it was, but the answer that I received from the Prime Minister, Mr. Massey, in clear and decisive language, was that the sleepers treated were not satisfactory, and that no more were being treated. The question of! .the application of the process to timber required for other purposes is quite immaterial, because karri can be used with excellent results above the surface, although when placed in the ground it is unsatisfactory. The experience of the Western Australian Government in connexion with the Great Southern Rail way should convince honorable members that karri timber is no good for sleepers. We have to ask ourselves whether the powellising process is one that we can adopt in connexion with the timber required in the building of all our Commonwealth railways. We are going to construct many more lines, and surely the House should demand further information regarding the success or otherwise of this process. A Select Committee should ‘be appointed to make inquiries into the system in order that we may determine whether we should adopt it in connexion with future work, or cast it out and use only the regular standard sleepers of Australia. I trust that the House will adopt this motion.
.- I shall second this motion for the reason that I am not at all satisfied with the results so far secured, or with the evidence at present available as to the durability of timber subjected to the powellising process. We must not forget that these powellised sleepers are going to cost us about 9d. more than the cost of an ordinary jarrah sleeper landed at either end of the line. There is a further cost to be taken into account, because I am assured that men will not handle powellised timber without extra payment. It is also reported that the arsenic used in the powellising process has a very bad effect on the steel roadways laid upon these sleepers. All these are matters that could be cleared up by a Select Committee. If we are committed to the present contract, it is most important that there should be a clear and definite understanding as to what “ powellising “ really means. There should also be a supervision of the process on behalf of the Commonwealth. The difficulty is, however, to obtain an independent powellising expert, save from the company itself. We need further information as to the time required for the solution to penetrate hardwood of given thicknesses, and we should have a test with an auger by our own experts to make sure that the solution has thoroughly penetrated the timber. There is no doubt that ordinary soft woods, such as flooring boards, can be powellised, and that the life of any timber is extended by subjecting it to this process. But the question is whether a piece of timber 5 inches in thickness can be so penetrated by the solution as to give it an additional life that will make it preferable to unpowellised jarrah. These sleepers might be run into tanks, and taken out so quickly thu the solution would run off them just as water runs off a duck’s back. I am convinced that we have heard a lot of erroneous statements regarding the ravages of white ants in the country to be traversed by the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. I have been over 300 miles of the route, and I would remind the House that unpowellised sleepers were used in the construction of the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and that they have remained in the ground for about thirty years and have stood remarkably well. That fact in itself is a proof that the ravages of the white ants and dry rot have not been experienced in that part of the country. Prom what I can gather, karri, in its natural state, is the worst class of timber that could be put underground. It is more liable than any other timber to dry rot. Tasmanian bluegum has a fairly good life, whilst redgum has an exceptionally good life. There are other hardwoods that are fairly good, but mountain ash is another rotten class of timber.
– The honorable member, in making that statement, cannot know what he is talking about.
– If the honorable member desires any information as to the suitableness of mountain ash for use as railway sleepers, he can obtain it from the Engineer-in-Chief of the Victorian Railways. Karri, like mountain ash, is also quite useless for this purpose, although it is a very fair timber for superstructures. We should have further information in regard to this process. The only tests submitted in the last Parliament were supplied by the Powellising Company itself. That was admitted. I think a Select Committee should be appointed. I regret to learn that there has been a loading of the royalties.
– It has been a “ take-down” from start to finish.
– We have learned from the honorable member for Dampier that the royalties charged in connexion with the powellising of timber for the Hedland railway were much less than those which the Commonwealth is called upon to pay. There seems to be a general impression on the part of the States or the other parties concerned that the Commonwealth is a fit subject for “a take-down.”
– Then the honorable member’s suggestion is that- the Western Australian Government are taking down the Commonwealth ?
– No; I say that the Powellising Company is.
– But the Powellising Company is not contracting with the Commonwealth.
– It is the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee. That argument has been used too often in this Chamber. The price we are called upon to pay is based upon the royalties demanded. The Commonwealth pays the royalties to the State, and the State pays them to the company, which fixes the amount. During the late election campaign I was taken severely to task by some of my Liberal friends because I had the temerity to speak against the use of powellised sleepers. They used that as a whip with which to scourge me.
– And some of the Liberals in other States were scourged in the same way by their opponents.
– The question was raised in the last Parliament on a direct motion of want of confidence in the Government. During the debate on that motion, I said that we should lay down a short piece of roadway with powellised sleepers, and so test the process before committing ourselves to the purchase of a large quantity of such sleepers. I pointed out that if karri sleepers treated in this way proved effective, the great forests of this timber could then be utilized. But because I voted with the Government on that motion of censure, I was charged with having voted for the use of powellised karri sleepers. That was an absolute misrepresentation of the facts. If there had been no question of censure involved - if the motion had been submitted in the ordinary way - the voting upon it would have been very different. I am pleased to support this motion, because I recognise, with the honorable member for Dampier, that we have to consider, not only our present commitments, but the fact that we shall have to build, in the near future, 1,000 miles of roadway in the Northern Territory. The time occupied in making this inquiry would be very short, and the cost would be small. I think the Select Committee should be appointed.
.- I shall support this motion with very great heartiness. Coming, as I do, from Western Australia, 1 have taken a keen interest in this matter from the time that it first appeared on the horizon, and I must confess that ‘the more I make myself acquainted with it, the more incomprehensible does it appear to me. It has been urged against those of us who take up the position- that further light should be thrown on the contracts for the supply of powellised’ timber, that we are hostile to the utilization of our great reserves of karri in Western Australia. Nothing could be further from the truth. Karri, as already stated, is a magnificent timber for the purposes for which it is designed by nature. But, undoubtedly, nature has not intended that it shall be utilized for railway sleepers. On several occasions it has had a set-back all over the world by reason of its having been put to unsuitable uses, and particularly by reason of the; fact that it has been utilized as railway sleepers. These sleepers in a very little while have had to be tom up. In fact, it was hardly necessary to tear them up, .because in many cases they simply crumbled to pieces where they lay, aud had to be replaced by jarrah sleepers. I do not wish to see karri get another “ set-back “ by being used in a rash and quite unnecessary experiment. In view of the undoubted fact that we have in jarrah one pf the finest timbers in the world for sleepers, it passes all understanding why we should resort to the experimental powellised karri, and pay a larger price than for the other timber. An investigation of the whole question is absolutely necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth, and I trust that the motion will be carried.
– I shall vote for the motion, because it is only right that there should be an investigation into the whole matter. The late Government endeavoured to secure all possible knowledge on the subject before letting the contract. I quite agree that the use . of karri had to be abandoned in the early days; but since the discovery of the powellising process it is considered by the experts to be the one timber that holds the dog spikes more firmly than any other. It has been dis covered that powellised jarrah opens up.
– Jarrah is a good timber without powellising.
– In the yards at Kalgoorlie the white ants are devouring the jarrah sleepers right through.
– An odd one or two.
– The honorable member for Darwin will recognise, I think, that those sleepers were badly ‘laid ?
– The honorable member for Perth speaks about an odd one or two, but if an odd man were attacked with disease in this chamber, we should have the matter investigated at once, as was shown by the fuss that was made about the state of the atmosphere here a little while ago. Even if only one sleeper is attacked, the fact justifies the declaration of the experts that jarrah would, in the long run, be eaten up. It was claimed in this House that white ants would not touch jarrah.
– That has never been claimed.
– The claim was made by Mr. Hedges last year, and lie several times moved the adjournment of the House on the question. I postponed the selection of the timber for a long time, and consulted with our own expert, Mr. Deane.
– Mr. Deane is not an expert on timber.
- Mr. Deane is considered to be a very able man; but, of course, we all have our own opinions, and we should not think that those who disagree with us have no brains. If Napoleon were here, I do not suppose we should think alike as to the way in which he fought his battles. I fancy I could have fought them better myself; but that only shows that Napoleon would not agree with me. In Western Australia, there are mighty forests of karri.
– Why does Western Australia not use some of it herself ?
– She is doing so.
– There is not a chain laid down in Western Australia.
– The authorities were not able to get the timber powellised.
– It is years since powellising was started in Western Australia.
– Western Australia has mighty interests, but those interests belong to Australia as a whole; and 1 claim to have, if not a direct interest, an indirect interest as a citizen in that State. In a similar way, I claim to own a bit of the forests of Tasmania, in whose success we are interested.
– Then why was Tasmania not given a contract?
– I was willing; but the circumstances were such that Tasmania could not get a contract. We had an investigation made into the merits of mountain ash; and when Mr. Deane recommended a contract for the supply of that timber I set it aside for a long time for consideration. Later on the contract was again put before me by Mr. Deane, after he had obtained all the knowledge he could from the Victorian Railways people.
– He never got a recommendation of the timber from the Victorian Railways Commissioners or the Engineer-in-Chief.
– One of Mr. Deane’s chief men came from the Victorian Railways, and he and the others recommended the contract to me, and finally I signed it. However, the timber company had made a mistake in making the timber too cheap, and they were very glad to cancel the contract.
– It was a higher price than the jarrah?
– What I wish to point out is that I created in the Home Affairs Department such a system that the Department would run itself without my having to carry everything in my head. It is a great mistake to carry anything in one’s head beyond the immediate affairs of the day.
– The Department went mad over powellised sleepers.
– Not so; the Department had no option in face of the opinions of its experts. There was one contract, the selection of Chinn, that I let, and hell was kicked up here. What I did without experts did not please, neither did my action when I consulted the experts; so that it was difficult to know what to do. The proposed investigation will not affect the contract that has already been let, but will affect- future contracts.
– It is a pity it cannot affect the contract that has been let.
– At that time, if we had attempted to delay the work on the railway we should have had everybody jumping on us.
– Jarrah could have been obtained.
– We did obtain it, and I am told that the white ants are going through it like a dose of jalap through a sick man. No matter what we did, we were said to have done wrong ; and I do not think that the mortal man will ever appear here who will please everybody. The great thing in this world is to please oneself, if you know you are right. After going into the matter most carefully, we let that contract; and I honestly believe that it will prove of great service to Australia.
– We had the experience of New Zealand.
– That was another kind of timber altogether - a soft timber. In Western America soft wood has failed everywhere, whereas treated hardwood has stood for years.
– Where is the proof of that?
– I do not carry all those things around in my head ; but I know that I made inquiries in every direction. In Western America what i3 known as the zinc process has been in use for thirty or forty years, but I was informed that it is a very costly one, though it makes the timber absolutely immune from white ants. But surely my honorable friends will not say that science will prove unable to surmount this difficulty, as it has surmounted them in the case of fruit pests? Our friends opposite put up a hard fight last year, no doubt conscientiously, but without knowledge; and I am hopeful that after the proposed investigation they will, like the sinner at the penitent form, come here and ask for forgiveness.
.- I hope that this motion will be passed. There can be no exception taken to getting information which will probably be of the greatest value to the railway authorities in the future. As the honorable member for Darwin has stated, this motion cannot affect, in itself, the durancy of the present arrangement for the supply of powellised sleepers by the Western Australian
Government We are bound by that agreement, hut we mean to have its terms carefully carried out. We are appointing special officers to see that the sleepers are powellised according to specification, and are effective for our purpose.
– I told Mr. Scaddan that we would do that.
– ls the specification in accordance with the patent process ?
– I can assure my friend that, so far as the Department is concerned, we will do everything to see that the rights of the Commonwealth are in no way compromised. At this juncture I express no opinion as to the powellising process, or the agreement ; but if it is found that the supply of sleepers cannot -be maintained, of course we shall have to consider making other arrangements. The honorable member for Darwin said that there would have been a great uproar if he had not made this arrangement, because, if the railway had not been gone on with, there would have been grave dissatisfaction; but I regard the agreement itself as likely to be a most serious factor in delaying the ultimate construction of the line, because, under the agreement, the final deliveries of powellised sleepers are not due until January, 1916, whereas, under the most favorable circumstances, as rauch as 7 miles a day of plate-laying has been carried out in the United States of America with a track-laying machine such as the Department has provided. Of course, that is merely a record-breaking business, and the survey, the formation work, and the cuttings work are very considerable factors in tie time limit for railway construction purposes; but giving due consideration to a fairly conservative’ estimate of all the difficulties on the transcontinental railway, and allowing for a maximum of a mile a day track-laying at each end in place of the record of 7 miles a day, if we start in earnest with this work, it will probably not be long before we shall find ourselves awaiting the delivery of powellised sleepers. In other words, tire terms of the agreement will determine the speed of the work of construction. I only mention this because the difficulty of powellising heavy timber such a? sleepers is one that should enter into consideration when dealing with the allotment of contracts. Another matter that I can see standing out largely before us is the labour difficulties that will be involved in handling poisoned timber. With the track-layers provided by the previous Administration, we shall be getting away fi om a great deal of the labour difficulty in connexion with the loading and transporting of the timber, but those of my friends who deal in labour matters will intimately realize that the handling of poisoned timber is likely to create a grave labour difficulty.
– They handle thousands of loads of powellised timber at Bunbury every year.
– Does my honorable friend say that there has never been any difficulty at Bunbury?
– Not so “far as I am aware.
– My honorable friend must have known differently.
– The honorable member for Grey says ls. a ton more is charged for handling powellised timber.
– That shows that these difficulties have already arisen; and, as the business becomes extended, rightly or wrongly, such difficulties will occur. They may be unjustly magnified. I do not say that they will not be.
– I do not think there has been any trouble in the Sydney powellising works, and they are the biggest works, I believe.
– No. In Sydney they are dealing with small timber only.
– I do not think there has been any trouble with the employes there.
– I do not know whether they have enlarged the works at Sydney, but some years ago, when I was thinking of investing in a powellising project in Victoria, to guide myself I went over the Sydney works, and I saw that it was a very small plant - I believe the capital is only £25,000. There would not be a tremendous labour difficulty over there on such a small plant. I do not say one word against the powellising process. I think there is something in it.
– The mere fact of dipping timber in boiling water would do it some good.
– And dipping it in arsenic and molasses would do the timber good. I do not say a word against the process.
– Does the Minister know of any ease of injury caused to a worker by handling powellised timber?
– I have not heard of any actual injury, but I know that complaints are occasionally made of injury to workers.
– There was mention of some in a report laid on the table last year concerning New Zealand.
– At any rate, honorable members will see that difficulty is likely to arise. I only touch on it to show the need for some independent and unbiased inquiry into a matter of such great importance. The appointment of a committee would not affect the contract for 1,500,000 sleepers already entered into. Whatever report is brought in by the committee, we are bound by that agreement; we are bound by it in law. Nevertheless, so far as our present obligation is concerned, the Government will take every measure necessary to see that the interests of the Commonwealth are completely safeguarded, so far as we can safeguard them in connexion with this venture.
– I was glad to hear the remark of the Honorary Minister that, even if this select committee be appointed - and, personally, I hope it will - it will not in any way interfere with the agreement now existing between the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth for the supply of powellised karri sleepers. There is one remark indelibly printed on my mind. During the recent campaign I had a great deal to do with the powellising of sleepers, and I frequently used a quotation from some remarks made by the Honorable Frank Wilson, Leader of the Opposition in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, who is recognised in Western Australia as a gentleman who thoroughly understands the timber business. Speaking from memory, he. said that “ He did not agree with the ex-member for Fremantle (Mr. Hedges) and Sir John Forrest in regard to the use of the powellising process, because he knew that powellised karri was a very good timber indeed.” I know these words were used, because I used them repeatedly in quoting from the Western Australian Hansard in reference to this question.
– Are the Western Australian Government using powellised karri sleepers for their railways?
– Yes. As soon as they can get their plant in order they will use powellised karri.
– But are they using them now?
– They have used powellised sleepers on the Port HedlandMarble Bar railway.
– Those are jarrah sleepers.
– That is so.
– I was talking ofkarri.
– So far, the Western Australian Government have not used powellised karri sleepers, except for test purposes. It is interesting to note that the powellising plant erected at Bunbury, in Western Australia, and which powellised nearly all the timber used on the Marble Bar railway for sleepers or for station buildings, was built by a Liberal Government in the State. I am glad they did so, because the tests that were made demonstrated that the powellising process is certainly a good one. Between East Perth and Burswood, on the Southwestern Railway, about fifty powellised karri sleepers were put into the track in a cutting, which, from the nature of the ground owing to springs, is constantly wet. All experts advise that damp ground acts adversely to karri, so that the test which I am now mentioning has a double significance. These powellised karri sleepers were placed in the track in 1906, and, if my memory serves me rightly, they were examined in November, 1912, in the presence of the then Governor of Western Australia, Sir Gerald Strickland, now the Governor of New South Wales. It was found that the powellised sleepers had stood the test of about six years in the worst conditions, and were absolutely sound.
– Why, willow would last six years !
– They were put down under the best conditions - in sandy country.
– The railway is ballasted with ironstone gravel. The honorable member will grant that I know something about the Railway Department in Western Australia.
– But is not the ballast on sandy country?
– Yes. As a representative of Western Australia, I do not wish to decry jarrah, which is certainly a good timber; but in the north -west of Western Australia it was found necessary to employ some preservative to enable the jarrah to withstand the ravages of white ants. Several processes were tried. The bulk of the timber for the Marble Bar railway was powellised, but some of it was treated with Taylor’s White Ant Exterminator, and some with jodelite.
– How did Taylor’s White A nt Exterminator work ?
– Not very well. On account of certain complaints, a number of sleepers were brought down from that railway to Perth for examination, and it was proved that not one of them had been powellised, and that they had been treated by the other preparations. The Honorable W. D. Johnson, Minister for Works in Western Australia, in submitting to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, the other day, the agreement with the Commonwealth, dealt very exhaustively with the different tests that had been made. I do not wish to go into the merits of powellising versus nonpowellising. One could mention many illustrations of the good powellising has done. I simply say that, in my opinion, the powellised karri sleeper is equal to the jarrah sleeper for endurance, and it certainly is a superior sleeper in regard to the holding power of a dog-spike.
– Are you comparing the powellised karri sleeper with the non-powellised or the powellised jarrah sleeper ?
– In my opinion, the powellisedkarri sleeper is equal to the powellised jarrah sleeper, but when we have a long line of railway to manage, the very fact that the karri sleepers will hold the dog-spikes will make a material reduction in the cost of maintenance, because it will not be so necessary to have such a rigid examination. In Western Australia there is a constant shifting of dog-spikes when they are used in jarrah, with the result that the jarrah sleepers have often to be taken out at a shorter period, in some cases after three years, not because the timber has deteriorated in any way, but because it will not hold the dog-spikes. I am satisfied that when the Western, Australian Government have their powellising plant actually at work in the karri area, the supply of powellised sleepers for the transcontinental railway will be all that the Honorary Minister can possibly desire. I hope that the Select
Committee will be appointed, so that we may get at absolutely the bedrock of powellising versus non-powellising, in order that the Commonwealth may have secured to it the best possible timbers for use in connexion with the various railways that they are now constructing, or purpose constructing. It is not my desire to see money squandered in any shape or form, but I believe that, in the powellising process, we have found a means whereby a most valuable asset to the Commonwealth, and to the Western State in particular, has been made profitable and serviceable in connexion with our railway construction.
– On the evidence of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, the Commonwealth has let a contract for a million and a half of sleepers on a test of six years. The utmost evidence that he can give is a test lasting for six years, and because that timber has not decayed he holds that as evidence of the desirability of the Commonwealth going on with the contract for karri sleepers. I am sorry to hear that we are committed to this contract. I tried last year, before we were committed to it, to get a committee of inquiry, but the members who were then sitting on this side of the House, in a majority, refused to grant it. I am very glad that we shall have an inquiry now. I am afraid it will be a serious thing for the Commonwealth if we are committed to the contract.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member has not adduced a scrap of evidence. Not one man will say that karri is suitable for sleepers without the powellising process. I say nothing for or against the powellising process, because there is not a particle of evidence as to its efficacy. We have before us the fact that the State of Western Australia, in which karri grows, Has not a mileof karri sleepers laid within its borders. If the process is so good, and will give such life to the sleepers, how is it the Western Australian Government is not re-laying its own railways with karri?
– It will do so as it becomes necessary.
– If the Western Australian Government believe that this process is so good, how is it they have not adopted karri sleepers? The Commonwealth has made an exceedingly risky bargain. I have here that very admirable publication, the digest of the Home Affairs Department, in which the contracts accepted are set out, and the price of powellised karri delivered at Port Augusta is stated at 7s. 9d. per sleeper. We offered to deliver tested and proved timber from Tasmania, unpowellised, at 5s. 9d. per sleeper. If the powellising process will not give the karri a longer life than that of the known tested blue ginn or stringy-bark of Tasmania - and we have practically all stringybark in our railways, its life running from fourteen and sometimes up to twenty-five years - it is evident that the Commonwealth is deliberately throwing away 2s. per sleeper on every sleeper it proposes to use for the transcontinental railway. The honorable member for Denison will bear me out as to the life of our stringy-bark sleepers.
– There have been sleepers on the main line for twenty-eight years.
– It is a proved timber, and the late Government had an offer to deliver those sleepers at Port Augusta for 5s. 9d. each.
– Was that offer made before they entered into the contract for powellised timber?
– of course, it was; and i urged the late Minister, and late Government, before committing the Commonwealth in this very serious matter, to hold an inquiry into the process. If it is what its advocates claim it to be, if it will lengthen the life of a rotten timber like karri, which, unpowellised, is no better than willow, and the life of which as a railway sleeper would not be more than four or five years untreated, why should not the process add to the life of a reliable timber? A first-class railway sleeper can be obtained in Tasmania, and it is a bad thing for the Commonwealth if we are committed to this contract, because it is not going to be only a first and great loss. I pointed out in the House before that if these sleepers are laid down and prove to be defective it will cost tens of thousands of pounds te take them up while the railway is running and replace them with others. It will be exceedingly serious if we have committed ourselves to an untried process for an acknowledged inferior timber. I hope that when the committee is appointed they will hold a thorough and complete investigation. Whilst the honorable member for Darwin was speaking I interjected that- the Engineer-in-Chief was not an expert. I did not mean to reflect on his capability as an engineer. What I mean was that he is not an expert as far as timber is concerned. I was glad to hear the Minister say that the services of a really good timber expert had been secured.
– Do not treat the Engineer-in-Chief too harshly, or he will want a committee also !
– -All that i say is that the Engineer-in-Chief , from his very training, is not a timber expert, and we could not expect him to be. I have never been able to understand the influences and interests at work to commit the Commonwealth to this contract for the supply of a million and a half sleepers of an acknowledged inferior timber treated with an unproved process. Where the Commonwealth is committing itself to an expenditure of at least £20,000,000 for railway construction, it is of the utmost importance that the question of timber preparation should be thoroughly investigated. Twelve months ago, and two years ago, I urged the then Minister to have works prepared in one or in several States where the known processes for preserving timber should be given a thorough test. I believe that it will save the Commonwealth probably millions . of money before our railways are finished if we can find some known and proved process to materially increase the life of our timber, and protect it from the ravages of pests. The expenditure on sleepers will be continuous, as we are now building a railway from east to west; there is a proposal to start a railway from north to south, and there is the railway from the Federal Capital to Jervis Bay. I urge upon the Minister the importance of his Department taking the matter in hand, making a thorough test of all known systems for the preservation of timber, and securing the best timbers for the different localities. The lives of timbers vary exceedingly. Some timber is much better in damp country than in dry country, while others can successfully resist for a long period wet, swampy country where other timbers would rot away almost at once. One of the most important Departments that we should have now would consist of one or two thoroughly well ‘trained timber men, who have spent their lives in the timber industry. Such men are obtainable in’ practically every State, and it would probably be .necessary to get men who have .had experience in the different States. The question of timber for use on our railways is one of the most important that the Minister will have to consider. I believe it is estimated that on the east to west railway alone it will take over three million sleepers to lay the line down. This will involve an expenditure of practically £1,500,000 on sleepers alone. If we. made a ‘ failure there, and had to take up the whole of them in the early history of the railway, and relay them when the rails are down, it would be a very costly process. I welcome the appointment of a committee. It will do a vast amount pf good, and I hope it will get to work at once and present a report as early as possible. I trust that no further contract for powellised sleepers will be let until an investigation has been made and proof has been afforded of the efficacy of the process.
.- That honorable members may be under no misapprehension’, and that my remarks may not have attached to them more weight than is proper, I begin with the declaration that I atn a director of tlie Victorian Powell Process Company. I make that statement so ‘that honorable members may know exactly from what stand-point I speak. I have no objection whatever to the appointment of a committee to inquire into the Powell process; indeed, I welcome an inquiry. But the gentleman who has moved for the appointment of a committee stated in his speech that he has an antipathy to the process, a statement which, should disqualify him for membership of the committee. Although it is the parliamentary practice to appoint to, and make chairman of, a committee, the member! on whose motion it is - appointed, it would be distinctly unfair to make the honorable member for Dampier chairman, or a member of the committee for which he has moved. The treatment of timbers is a subject -which has received consideration from eminent timber experts and engineers throughout the world, and particularly from railway engineers.
– The honorable member for Franklin says that they know nothing about the subject.
– There are many things that the honorable member for Franklin does not know, and this is one of them. The ex-Minister of Home Affairs, before entering into a contract with the Western Australian Government, took steps to obtain all the reliable information that he could get regarding the Powell process as applied to sleepers.
– The honorable member will, admit that that is not much.
– We did not hear any of it here.
– The information that he got covered a period of six years, and as the invention has not been known for very much longer, it was impossible to get more information.
– The process was in use in England years ago.
– No. This is practically a new process, and those of us who know something about it, believe that it will be the means of placing tlie poor timbers of Australia on as high a plane as the good timbers!
– That is a pretty strong statement.
– It is. If the process does that, every member of the House will welcome it. as increasing the assets of the country. “In Western Australia there are hundreds of thousands of acres of karri, and if the committee makes an inquiry, it will ascertain that the powellising process extracts from timber its sappy matter, and hardens its texture.
– It does not furnish it with new fibre.
– Does the honorable member know any tiling about the process?
– I know a good deal about timbers for fencing purposes.
– The honorable member may know that, and yet know nothing about the powellising process. I do not wish to weary the Committee, but, as the ex-member for Fremantle, in this Chamber, made several attacks on the powellising process, in most cases misrepresenting the facts, it might be well for me to give the House some idea of its nature. The honorable member for Grey, when speaking to the motion, said that he ‘did not know “ whether they were in the habit of dipping the sleepers into- the solution and then taking them out.” The solution is a solution of saccharine matter, consisting of water and molasses mixed, with a percentage of arsenic. As to the risk involved in handling the timber that has been treated, I may mention that the percentage of arsenic is about . 005 per cent. That would not hurt anybody.
– Not even a white ant, I should think.
– The answer to that is that two blocks of the same timber, one treated and the other not, were nailed together, and buried in white ant beds, and after a very few months the unpowellised block was in every case destroyed by the white ants.
– That experiment was made with karri.
– The success of the process does not depend on the nature of the timber used.
– Was that experiment made with karri ?
– Experiments have been made with karri, and with both hard and soft woods. In the experiment to which I refer, the untreated wood was destroyed within a few months, the other remaining sound, for the reason that, when the white ants attempted to eat the arsenic in it, they died. I might mention that the jarrah sleepers that have been stacked at the Kalgoorlie end of the transcontinental railway have already been attacked by white ants.
– They were badly stacked.
– The point is that they have been attacked.
– How long have they been there?
– Only a few months. It is quite possible that, along the 1,063 miles of railway route, there will be a few patches of white-ant country.
– The real question is what life have jarrah sleepers at Kalgoorlie? They are used on the railway there, and, if they were quickly attacked by white ants, they would not be used.
– I do not say a word against jarrah as a timber. In its natural condition it is a better timber than karri.
– Is the treated timber dipped into, or only dressed with, solution?
– The solution is in tanks 36 feet long by 15 feet deep, and the timber is put into the tanks and boiled. The solution boils at a temperature of 214 deg. Fahrenheit, that is, at 2 deg. above the boiling point of water. When the temperature of the solution has been raised to 212 deg., the sap in the timber, which is merely water, evaporates as steam, passing through the solution. When the sap has evaporated, the temperature of the solution is increased to 214 deg., when the solution percolates through the interstices of the timber. The saccharine matter in the solution, which comes from sugar-cane, is akin to timber in its properties, and, being absorbed into the tissues, becomes part and parcel of the treated timber, so that analysis sometimes cannot separate it from that timber.
– How far will the solution penetrate into the timber?
-I shall answer that question by quoting from a report on “ The economic use of the Australian hardwoods,” read by G. A. Julius, B.Sc, M.E., before the Western Australian Institute of Architects, Perth, on the 20th J uly, 1907.
– Is not Mr. Julius the manager of the Powellising Company in Sydney ?
– When this paper was read, Mr. Julius had nothing to do with the company, and has nothing to do now with the Victorian company with which I am associated. I do not know him, and heard of him only in connexion with this paper. I believe that he is consulting engineer to the Sydney company.
– In 1907 he was in the service of the Western Australian Gov ernment.
– The Sydney company is not associated with the Victorian company, and I do not know that a consulting engineer has any direct interest in a company, having merely to advise in an engineering capacity. The paper read by Mr. Julius dealt not merely with the Powell process, but with all the processes for treating timber known to science. Having dealt with one after another, he speaks of the Powell process in this way-
Although soft woods and moderately hard woods that have been treated in England have shown, on test, that the solution penetrated to the very centre of the timbers, even in the case of such resinous woods as pitch pine, balks of which 24 inches square by many feet in length have been treated ; yet, to determine this point definitely with respect to our hardwoods, a number of large sections of our hardest and densest timbers were treated, some green and some dry, amongst them being 5- ft. lengths of 12-in. by 12-in. ironbark.
Upon cutting sections from the centre of these timbers, after toiling, chemical tests showed the presence of the saccharine matter and of the other chemicals carried with it, at the very centre of these sections. Conclusive evidence was thus obtained as to the thorough permeation of the solution throughout the whole of the treated timber, thus satisfying the second of the conditions laid down for the ideal process.
– How long were they boiling ? Some samples were boiling for nearly a week.
– I know nothing about that particular experiment, but, generally, sleepers, telegraph poles, and similar timber are boiled for twelve hours. Those interested in the Powell process wish to run it on business lines. If the process is a useless one, they have no desire to be associated with it. They do not wish to employ it merely to extract money from the Commonwealth or State Governments, or from any one else. The process has satisfied all the tests that have been required of it. That is all that can be said .
– Has it been tried in the Northern Territory ?
– It has.
– And has it proved successful ?
– It has proved successful.
– When was it tried there ?
– Sleepers have been laid down in small quantities on white ant beds in the Northern Territory.
– How many years ago?
– I am not prepared to give answers to all these detailed questions. I am only a director of the Victorian company, and am not acquainted with the circumstances of every trial throughout Australia, but I can secure for the honorable member the information he asks.
– I should like to have it. I wish to be fair, and I was informed this year that the process had not been tried in the Northern Territory.
– Small tests have been made in the Northern Territory and in Western Australia. Powellised jarrah sleepers have been tested on the Port Hedland railway. The question has been raised as to why the Western Australian Government do not utilize these sleepers themselves if they believe in the process. I would point out in reply that they are spending £280,000 - I think my figures are correct - in the erection of works to powellise sleepers for use on their own railways as well as for the Commonwealth. The Western Australian Government are totally dissociated from the Victorian Company. The Victorian company is not interested in the contract for powellised sleepers between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia. It is a matter entirely between the two Governments, and the company with which I am connected will receive no benefit whatsoever from the contract.
– Mr. Gorton will.
– Mr. Gorton is merely an individual. The honorable member for Grey might become a shareholder in a company, but if another member of that company was interested in something, and participated in it, it would not follow that the honorable member was interested in it.
– The honorable member’s company is interested in the contract in this respect: that if, as the result of it, the process is found to be good, the business of the Victorian company will be benefited.
– I do not think it will. The contract let to the Victorian company was practically turned down.
– In respect of the treatment of messmate and mountain ash?
– Mountain ash.
– I do not think the Victorian company wished to go on with it.
– The contract was abandoned by mutual agreement. Having faith in the process, we knew we could do better than we could by supplying sleepers to the Victorian Government.
– Is any difficulty experienced in powellising sleepers owing to the fibre of the wood wrenching apart during the heating process to extract the sap ?
– No. Six thousand have been treated under the close supervision of an inspector, and have been accepted by the Government. The experience of the inspector was, I think, that the sleepers were turned out in perfect condition and they have already been shipped. Returning to the process of treating ordinary timber, let me explain that, after the boiling has taken place, the timber is put into drying-rooms, where, if it is required for cabinet work, it may have to remain for a fortnight before it is fit for the market. It is then thoroughly shrunken. We have, in Melbourne, desks made of ordinary common
New South Wales bluegum, which no one would have dreamt of putting into a cabinet. This timber, after being subjected to the powellising process, was used in making a cabinet six weeks after the tree from which it was taken had been cut down. Yet there is not the sign of a warp or of shrinkage. Any honorable member may see it for himself, and judge how the process deals with inferior timbers.
– But the honorable member would not put a cabinet underground.
– Quite so. But that is not the point. I hope that the select committee, when appointed, will make inquiries based upon the experience that it will be able to draw from various sources, because the statements that have been made in this House, and particularly those by the ex-member for Fremantle, were distinctly biased, and by no means accurate.
– Is there a railway engineer, with a reputation, outside Australia, who is in favour of the process?
– There is. I can give my honorable friend numerous cases. Inquiries were made by the Indian authorities with regard to the use of timbers for sleepers in that country, and reports were asked for with regard to the suitability of Australian and other timbers. Very eminent engineers recommend the application of the process to timbers required for the Indian railways. The Victorian Powellising Company can get whatever orders it wants for the supply of powellised timber for the Indian railways. It has no need to consider the Australian railways in any way whatever.
– Is dry rot a factor in the use of sleepers in India ?
– It is a very serious factor: I have before me a report presented by an Indian Commission, which was appointed to inquire into the supply of sleepers for the Indian railways. In this report, which deals with Australian timbers, we have the statement -
None of the Australian sleepers seen so far are immune from white ant attack, and the extent of such attack on any particular species of wood depends on the proximity or otherwise of other timber preferred by the white ants.
The Committee are of opinion that white ants prefer jarrah sleepers to other species of Australian woods, with the possible exceptions of Tasmanian stringy-bark and bluegum and New South Wales turpentine.
– Is the honorable member aware that it is supposed that karri was foisted on them for jarrah?
– That allegation was made by the ex-member for Fremantle, but my honorable friend will find, upon investigation, that it is not correct. To accept it as correct would be to assume that these experts, who were appointed to make inquiries on behalf of the Indian Government, were such a set of fools that they could not distinguish between jarral and karri.
– Could the honorable member do so without Jesting the two timbers ?
– I do not say that I could, but I am not a timber expert.
– But. the honorable member is chairman of directors of the Victorian company.
– I am not. The report continues -
The destruction of jarrah sleepers, on the North-Western Railway has been very’ serious, and the Committee, after inspection, are of opinion that previous reports on the subject are in no way exaggerated.
The Tasmanian woods above mentioned, in addition to being badly attacked by white ants, were found to be considerably affected by dry rot.
The discussions in this House have centred largely round the question of the use of powellised karri. I wish to dissociate the powellising process from karri timber. The process is applicable to any kind of timber, and will prolong the life of jarrah or karri.
– This House is interested only in the question of powellised karri.
– That is not so. The honorable member for Dampier has moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire and report amongst other things “as to the merits of powellising,” and also “ on all matters incidental to the use of powellised sleepers and other timbers.”
– Quite so; but up to the present the House has been interested only in the question of the use of powellised karri.
– I am dealing with the motion before the Chair, which goes further than that.
– The honorable member says .that the process lengthens the life of all timbers?
– The honorable member for Fremantle claimed that it made the life of karri equal to that of jarrah.
– He said that the life of powellised karri was equal to that of powellised jarrah.
– I said that it equalized the lifeof the timbers.
– I would remind the honorable member for Perth that this motion goes very much further than have all previous discussions on the question in this House. In regard to the question of dogspikes, which; was raised by the honorable member forFremantle, the report of the Indian Commission states that -
With regard to Tasmanian sleepers, however, all the evidence goes to show that they are unsuited to India, either in the dry zones or in the wet zones. In the dry zones they arc found to be very liable to split badly; they are also liable to white-ant attacks and dry rot, whilst enlargement of the spike-holes due to excessive shrinkage of the timber and decay is a serious matter. In the wet zones the most serious defects of the Tasmanian sleepers are tendency to split and rot. In the wet and dry zones the Tasmanian sleepers get very badly cut into at the rail-seat under heavy traffic.
It is also claimed on behalf of the process that it prevents dry rot, a very important consideration in connexion with the use of sleepers of the transcontinental railway.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the appointment of a Select Committee?
– I am.
– Then let us get to a vote.
– In order that a vote may be taken at once I shall not occupy any longer the attention of honorable members. All that I ask is that in selecting the members of the Committee care will be taken to appoint those who will bring to bear on this question an open mind, and who will not set out upon the investigation with a bias.
.- I desire torefer very briefly to a remark made by the honorable member for Henty in regard to myself. I was particularly careful in submitting this motion to avoid making any statement which might be construedas reflecting on the powellising process. I have submitted this motion because I am afraid of the contracts that have been entered into. I am afraid of the process, and I do not think that it is going to be effective. But for that opinion I should not have taken action. My sole desire is that there shall be an investigation, and honorable members may rest assured that I, together with the other members of the Select Committee, I hope, will enter upon the inquiry with an open mind and with a desire to do the best we can for the Commonwealth and for Western Australia and its industries. If the powellising process is a good one, and if those enormous forests, with millions of tons of timber, could be made available for this purpose, I should welcome the fact; but we are in duty bound to make some investigation before we are committed to any further expenditure. I ask leave to add the following words to the motion -
That the following members form the Select Committee : - Mr. Bamford, Mr. Bennett, Mr. McWilliams, Mr. O’Malley, Mr. Poynton, Mr. Sinclair, and the mover, with power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to report the minutes of evidence from time to time.
Leave granted ; motion amended accordingly.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 9th October(vide page 1944), on motion by Mr. Palmer -
That, in order to cheapen the cost of country telephone lines, tenders should be invited for their construction in all districts where a request for same is made, and that the district concerned should be given the advantage of any saving upon the departmental estimate thus secured.
Upon which Mr. Richard Foster had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “a request for same is made” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ practicable.”
.- As the Government are favorable to this motion, I have nothing further to add to what I have already said.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Kelly) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House concur in the following resolution agreed to by the Senate : - “ That in the opinion of the Senate, section 51 of the Constitution Act should be amended to give the Parliament of the Commonwealth power to grant pensions to widows with young children dependent on them ; and that the necessary referendum of the electors of the Commonwealth be taken at the next general election.”
I do not profess, as a layman, to be able to give an opinion as to whether the Constitution, as it stands at present, will allow of pensions being given to widows with children. As only a few minutes are now available for private members’ business, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 637 to 7.1-5 p.m.
Order of the Day read for the resumption of” the debate from the 29th October (vide page 26G3), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
An Order of the Day is a Bill or other matter which the House has ordered to be taken into consideration on a particular day. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, will admit that the debate on the second reading of the Bill having been adjourned, and the resumption of the debate not having been fixed for any particular day, it cannot come on for consideration now. In support of my contention, I desire to quote from the tenth edition of May, as follows: -
The ordinary public business of the House consists of Orders of the Day, i.e., a Bill oi other matter which the House has ordered to be taken into consideration on a particular day ; and notices of motion.
As the resumption of this debate was not fixed for any particular day, it cannot be discussed to-day. To admit of the second reading of the Bill being discussed at this sitting, the Prime Minister should have moved to fix the resumption of the debate for today. Seeing that that was not done, I ask whether it is in order to consider the question, “ That the Bill be now read a second time.”
– The honorable member must confine himself to the point of order.
– The Prime Minister need not try to apply the “ gag “ to me even if he does apply it to his followers. He can “ gag “ them, but he has no power to “gag” me. I see no reason for departing from the Standing Orders. No emergency has arisen. If an emergency has arisen, let the Prime Minister move that the Standing Orders be suspended to permit him to deal with the Loan Bill this evening. Of course, this position would never have, arisen had the Prime Minister taken the advice of that eloquent writer of the Argus, “Ithuriel,” who says that if a Prime Minister desires to be a success he must cultivate urbanity and that serenity of1 mind which refuses to be disturbed by any happening. The Prime Minister proposes to break the Standing Orders, which are provided for the proper conduct of business and in order that everything; may be done decently, and in order.
– You would not obey them the other day.
– We cannot have a law for the Ministerialists and a law for the Opposition. I was put out the other, day, because I would not obey the Standing Orders.
– Order !
– I sincerely hope that we have made the position clear. I do not think you, Mr. Speaker, have any doubt about it, but if you have had I hope we have removed it, and that the practice of the House will be adhered to.
– I wish to speak upon this point of order.
– I am prepared to give a decision if the honorable member is not anxious to speak.
– I wish to say something, though it is quite evident that you, sir, have your decision ready. I am surprised that the Prime Minister, or some one on the Ministerial side, has not spoken. I am not going to make this a party question.
– No; you never do.
– Order !
– Is that the way in which the Prime Minister is going to approach a question which affects every member of the House?
– The honorable member need not take notice of interjections.
– I must take notice of them when they are insulting. This is one of the questions we have to take seriously. If this business can be on the business-paper for to-day, certain of our Standing Orders are wiped out for all time, and there is no need for the Government to fix any particular day upon which a matter shall be settled. We are here to-day, but to-morrow a majority of us may be gone. To-day we are in Opposition, but next day we may be across the chamber, and vice versa. In the circumstances, we have the right to see that the. business of the House is carried on in a way that is fair and just to all parties. I think that the proper course for the Prime Minister to have taken in this case was to have come down and candidly admitted a mistake, and asked for the second reading of the Bill to be restored to the business-paper.
– Hear, hear ! There would be no opposition to that.
– I hope it is not too late for the Government to adopt that course. Any other course is irregular. How do we get Orders of the Day, and why are they required? They are required for the protection of the House, in order that nothing may be hastily rushed through, arid they are fixed for a special day, so that honorable members will know that not a minute before the day for which they are fixed can they’ be dealt with, excepting in a case of grave emergency - say, in the case of war, or some extraordinary thing which needs extraordinary procedure, when it is necessary that the Standing Orders should be put on one side for the protection of the community. If we are dealing with a motion, notice is given that on such-and-such a day it will be moved. When the motion is dealt with, and we wish to give it further consideration, we. adopt this course : that the motion shall be fixed for further consideration on a certain day. Otherwise it lapses. If the honorable member moving the motion is not prepared to go on with it it lapses, and goes by the board. If we wish to kill a Bill, we merely move to drop the word “now “ from the motion, “ That this Bill be now read a second time,” and add the words, “ this day six months,” knowing that the House will not be sitting then. Or we may refuse to fix a day on which it shall be further discussed, and thus the thing is at an end. Had the motion been moved yesterday to fix the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Loan Bill for a certain day, it is quite possible that honorable members may have taken the same course as in regard to the previous vote, and refused to fix a future day.. On that, the Bill would be gone. It is not wise to break down rules. This particular rule is as well known in parliamentary practice as the statement of grievances before Supply. It does not date back several centuries, I admit. The other matter arose really before we had representative or responsible government ; but, as regards this particular practice, it was placed in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, and has been placed in the Standing Orders of Legislative Chambers throughout the world, to prevent any Government from taking advantage of the House at any particular moment it may think fit. Every one can see how necessary it is. We fix the business-paper so as to show the order in which our business will be taken. When a motion or a Bill is placed on the notice-paper as an Order of the Day for to-morrow, every one knows that it is not necessarily to be discussed tomorrow ; but it enables the Government to have ample opportunity of arranging their business in whatever order they think proper. If we pick up to-day’s business-paper, we find that the first Order of the Day is the Loan Bill, which was never made an Order of the Day. Everything must be done by motion. The Norfolk Island Bill, Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, Tasmania Grant Bill, Public Debts Bill, &c, have all been arranged in their order by the Government, but all of them were made an Order of the Day for the next day by a distinct and clear resolution of the House.
– When a debate is adjourned it is always fixed by the House by motion for resumption on a subsequent date.
– Where does the honorable member say that this question should go now ? .
– I say that it has practically lapsed. It should not be on the business-paper at all.
– There is no common sense in that.
– That is not the question.
– Where is your precedent for saying what you are saying?
– The common everyday practice in our own House. Standing order 147 says that an item of business must be made an Order of the Day, and if it is not made an Order of the Day, how can it appear on the businesspaper ?
– It has been made an Order of the Day.
– Was it made an Order of the Day by this House?
– I am glad to have that admission from the honorable member.
– Not yesterday.
– I refer the honorable member to May, 9th edition, pages 244 and 249, or 11th edition, 257-8 and 262. There is nothing that we want to hide in this matter, or should hide. It is a question that affects ‘ every honorable member vitally, because it concerns the conduct of the business of the House. I should not like to express a strong opinion on the law; but it is very questionable after this question has been raised whether, if the Bill was attempted to be put into law, it would be held to be legal. In the circumstances, the proper course to follow is to i ask that the Bill be restored to the notice-paper. The honorable member has only to give notice to-night, go on with another Bill now, and have this’ onn restored to-morrow. The business will then be done in a proper and constitutional way. Otherwise we shall be taking a course which we shall very much regret, and which will be very detrimental to the best interests of the House. In the 10th edition of May the ;matter is put very clearly. It is stated there that the ordinary public business of ‘the House consists of Orders of the Day, ‘that is, a Bill or other matter which the House has ordered to be taken into consideration on a particular day, and notices of motions. The House has given no direction for this Bill to be placed on the paper. There are cases where Bills and motions lapse, and it is necessary for them to be restored to the notice-paper. The practice in this House has been that in the event of a count out the business on which it takes place can only be restored to the paper by a direct and specific motion by one of the Ministers. This motion could be debated. . We amended the standing order afterwards to provide that in the event of a count out the business should be restored to the paper on motion without debate. Previously a lengthy debate ensued, and for that reason Mr. Deakin introduced the new standing order I mentioned. In May, 11th edition, page 263, the revival ‘of Orders of the Day is set out thus -
When an Order of the Day has been read the proceedings thereon may be cut short by the adjournment of the House whilst those proceedings are in course of transaction. An Order of the Day in such a case, or, if when the Order is read no day is appointed for its future consideration, drops oil the notice-paper.
Our first standing order provides -
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by sessional or other orders, resort shall be had to the rules, forms, and practice of the Commons, House of the Representatives, Parliament of Great. Britain and Ireland in force at the time of the adoption of these orders, which shall be followed as far as they can be applied to the proceeding! of the House of Representatives.
Even if our own Standing Orders were silent, which they are not, because standing order 147 clearly lays down what must be done, that provision would apply. It is specifically provided in standing order 147 that-
An Order of the Day is a Bill or other matter which the House has ordered to be taken into consideration on a particular day.
There is a clear distinction in this case - no particular day was fixed for the business, and our contention is that even if our own Standing Orders were silent, which they are not, the procedure which I have quoted from May is that which we must follow. Whatever our personal and political difficulties may be, I appeal to honorable members not to ride roughshod over the Standing Orders. If wo do that, we shall, sooner or later, create a state of chaos.
-I anticipated that this point of order might be raised, and therefore took the precaution of consulting May to ascertain what has been the practice under circumstances similar to those which occurred yesterday; but I have not been able to find a parallel case, either in that or any other parliamentary authority. Standing order 147 says -
An Order of the Day is a Bill or other matter which the House has ordered to be taken into consideration on a particular day.
That standing order does not apply in this case, because’ the motion for the second reading of the Loan Bill was already an Order of the Day for yesterday, and was moved by the Treasurer. What actually happened was this: After the motion, which was an Order of the Day, had been moved, and while it was being discussed, an honorable member moved, “ That the debate be adjourned,” which was carried. But after the adjournment, the customary motion fixing the time or date for the resumption of the debate was not moved. There was not a refusal to make the resumption of the debate an Order of the Day, but there was a failure to do so, apparently through inadvertence; and there is a wide distinction between the two positions. I must have regard to the fact that the debate on the Order of the Day was adjourned without anything further being done. That amounted to an indication by the House that the debate would be resumed at some future time. But, in the face of the fact that the House had not determined when the debate should be resumed, I did not feel prepared to take on myself the responsibility of - saying when it should be resumed, as that is a question for the House itself to determine. There was no direction to the Chair as to the resumption of the debate. With regard to the reference of the honorable member for Kennedy to May’s Practice, in this case proceedings were not in course of transaction, but had been adjourned by vote of the House before the motion to adjourn the House itself was moved. Therefore, when the Clerk of the House called my attention to the peculiar position of affairs, I felt that I had no right to interfere with the business-paper, but should leave it as it was. The House omitted to decide when the debate should be resumed, and that is why I simply directed the Clerk to leave the notice for the resumption of the debate where it was, and to let the House decide for itself as to when the adjourned debate should be proceeded with. With regard to the argument of- the honorable member for Kennedy, I am not able to agree with him that the statement on page 257 of the eleventh edition of May, dealing with the ordinary course of business, applies. As to the revival of Orders of the Day, which is referred to on page 263 of the same work, the reference is to dropped Orders -
When an Order of the Day has been read, the proceedings thereon may be cut short by the adjournment of the House whilst those proceedings are in course of transaction.
– That happened yesterday.
– No; the proceedings were not interrupted when the Order of the Day was read. The interruption was at a later period, when the debate on the Order of the Day was in progress. The Treasurer had moved the second! reading of the Loan Bill, and a discussion had been begun.
– May says, “When an Order of the Day has been read.”
– Yes -
The proceedings thereon may be cut short by the adjournment of the House whilst those proceedings are in course of transaction. An Order of the Day in such a case, or if when the Order is read no day is appointed for its future consideration, drops off the notice-paper, as the House has made no order thereon.
The whole argument is governed by the words, “ When the order has been read.” The proceedings yesterday were not interrupted when the Order of the Day had been read,, but after debate had proceeded on the Order of the Day, and had been adjourned on division. As I have said, I took the ‘ carrying of the motion for the adjournment of the debate as an expression of the intention of the House to continue the debate at some future time, although no particular time for its resumption was fixed. If the House had not desired to continue the debate, the motion would have been moved, “ That the Bill be read this day six months,” or some other motion which would have been equivalent to a motion discharging it from the noticepaper. No such motion was moved, and, therefore, I take it’ that there was no. desire that the Order of the Day should be dropped off the business-paper. In any case, it does not seem to me that the Order of the Day can be regarded as a lapsed motion. The Government is responsible for the order of business on the notice-paper. Unless the House intervenes, I propose to call it on in the ordinary way, but I think a motion, by leave, for resumption would be preferable.
– You have, not ruled, Mr. Speaker, that the motion is out of order, and you have not ruled . that it is in order. Do I understand that some other motion must be moved ? I suggest that the easy and proper way of getting out of the difficulty is for the Prime Minister to move that the Order of the Day be restored to the business-paper. I make these suggestions to assist you, Mr. Speaker, and to assist the whole House. I do not desire to provoke any discussion on this matter, because I shall never be one, when a question seriously affecting the Standing Orders is before us, to take advantage of the circumstances to use them for party or personal advantage. I shall never be one to bring down the discussion of questions of order to the level of party debates. Therefore, in all sincerity, I make this suggestion as to the proper way to deal with the matter. The course that I suggest will relieve Mr. Speaker of his difficulty, and put the House right. It is the duty of the Prime Minister to do that.
– Mr. Speaker does not admit that there is a difficulty.
– I say that the position is unusual.
– Do you, sir, suggest that the motion has gone off the businesspaper altogether?
– Then what is the value of the suggestion of the honorable member for Kennedy? I am willing to take any course that Mr. Speaker may suggest, but I am not prepared to move to restore this motion to the businesspaper, because it has never been off the business-paper, and I do not see how it could go off the business-paper. It is not a motion of which no notice was taken when the Order of the Day was read. I think that the best way out of the difficulty is to move -
That the House proceed forthwith with the second reading of this Bill.
– I second the motion .
– I rise to a point of order. When we depart from our ordinary forms, it is difficult to see where we shall bring up. If the Order of the Day is properly before the House, the Prime Minister, having already spoken, had no right to speak again.
Honorable Members. - He has not already spoken.
– This is not the second reading.
– Then the Order of the Day must be off the paper. Assuming that the Order of the Day is on the paper, and that the motion for the second reading is before the House - I do not know whether it is or not - is the Prime Minister in order in moving “that the second reading be proceeded with forthwith “ ? If the motion for the second reading is rightly before the House, there is no need for the motion that the honorable gentleman has just moved. I appeal to the honorable gentleman to take a reasonable course.
– I support the point of order, and I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to standing order 108, which says -
No member shall, unless it be otherwise speci ally provided by the Standing Orders, make any motion except in pursuance of notice openly given at a previous sitting of the House and duly entered on the notice-paper. How is it possible for the ‘Prime Minister to move this motion of which he has not given notice? There is a regular course of procedure prescribed by our rules, and notice must be given of all motions. If notice were not given, how could members be made acquainted with the business of the House?
– I was about to call the attention of the Prime Minister, when these points of order were raised, to the fact that before he could move any motion for the resumption of the debate it would be necessary to obtain the leave of the House. The proper course to pursue will be to ask the leave of the House to submit a motion.
– I desire to address you, sir, on the point of order, and to make a suggestion. As I understand your ruling, you have declared that this is not a matter calling for your decision. If you will allow me to say so, I think that that is the greatest mistake Mr. Speaker could make. You, sir, occupy your office with the concurrence of the whole House, and if you cannot give a lead, not to the Go-, vernment, but to the House, in an important matter of procedure, who else can be expected to do so ?
– I am .prepared to do so.
– Although I differ from the views to which you have given expression, Mr. Speaker, I desire to say that if you had come to a definite conclusion concerning the procedure to be adopted I should have felt that, no matter what were my own views on the subject, great weight should be given to your ruling, whatever it might be. But I find it impossible to see what may be the outcome of the present position - to foretell what may be the consequences, not in this case, but in future cases where a debate is adjourned, and no further motion is submitted fixing the date for its resumption.
– There is also a legal aspect to this question.
– I shall not deal with that; it can be covered later on. It is sufficient that we proceed in accordance with our Standing Orders. The Standing Orders have been drafted for the guidance of each and every one of us.
– For the protection of us all.
– For the protection of this House. We do not hesitate to suspend honorable members under the Standing Orders.
– Will the right honorable member state under what standing order we can proceed in this connexion?
– If you will allow me to say so, sir, there is no standing order, so far as I know, under which we can -pro- ceed as proposed by the Government. I ask you to say, sir, whether you think this Bill is properly before the House. If you say that it is not properly before the House-
– Mi-. Speaker has said so.
– He has not.
– Mr. Speaker has, and has asked the House to deal with the position.
– I do not wish to repeat what I have already said. Mr. Speaker, I think, rather under-estimated what would be expected of him, and what guidance this House would take from him if he made up his mind and gave us a definite ruling one way or the other. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that for you to leave to the House the important question of the procedure m to be adopted under the Standing Orders was a very dangerous course of action. It may lead to a wrangle. We desire guidance from the Chair, and a distinct and definite expression of opinion from you. It would be a fatal mistake to allow the position to remain as it is. If we do, then it will not be necessary to fix a day for the redumption of the debate on any measure. That is the important point which we have to bear in mind. There could be no n-ore drastic departure from the Standing Orders and from rulings which are so clearly the other way. I think that the Government should at once settle tlie matter. Having made this statement, I wish to say now to the Government - and I think I can speak on behalf of all the members of my party - that we will give them every facility in remedying the overeight that evidently occurred last night. But let it be remedied in a way that will be in accordance with our ‘ Standing Orders. The remedy is to be found in obtaining the leave of the House to submit a motion, bringing us back to the original position which we occupied when the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill was adjourned. The Government could then move that the further consideration of the Bill be taken forthwith. If the House adopts that motion there will be an end to the matter, and the whole trouble will have been overcome without the creation of any new precedent.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay appears to have misunderstood me. The House itself is re sponsible for the tangle in which it finds itself.
– The Leader of the House has got us into it.
– Order 1 The House failed to fix any particular time for the resumption of the debate. It gave no direction to the Chair, and therefore I, as Speaker, directed the Clerk to leave it, unless otherwise directed by the Prime Minister, in the position it occupied when the debate was adjourned. I rule that the Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill is properly on the business-paper, and, unless a motion to disagree with that ruling is submitted, I suggest the debate proceed by leave of the House, and on motion to that effect.
– I am going to speak, not to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, but rather to the question which has just arisen. May I suggest to the House what seems to me to be the common-sense view of the situation. The position in which we find ourselves to-night is unprecedented in the whole history of the Parliament. Mr. Speaker, with all the expert knowledge around him, has taken the course of fixing the Order of the Day in the order in which it appears on the business-paper. It seems to me, therefore, that we might well defer to those who have more experience and more expert knowledge of these matters than we have. If, in the impasse that has arisen, they have decided to do this-
– They have not. They have asked the House to take action.
– I was speaking of the placing of the Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate where it is on the business-paper.
– The Prime Minister did that.
– I did not.
-. - Mr. Speaker said that the honorable member did.
– -No. I said the Government is responsible for the order of business on the notice-paper.
– Mr. Speaker has not said so.
– I rise to a point of order. I understood you to say clearly, Mr. Speaker,, that you found the Order of the Day set down on the business-paper as it is at the present time, and that you did not consider it to be your duty to interfere with it.
– What I intended to convey was that the Clerk of the House called my attention to the peculiar position that had arisen, and asked me what should be done in the circumstances. I told him that the House had given no direction as to what should be done, and, therefore, I, as Speaker-
– And not the Clerk of the House?
– I, as Speaker, instructed the Clerk that I had no authority to interfere with the Order of the Day on the business-paper, that that was a matter for the Government to deal with, and that, therefore, so far as I was concerned ifr would appear on the businesspaper in the place that it occupied when the motion for the adjournment of the debate was carried.
– That is exactly what I have said. The Government fixed the order of business on the paper. You sir, found the Government business listed on the business-paper in the order in which it appears at the present time, and you did not consider it to be your duty to interfere with that order. I invite the attention of honorable members to the fact that the Government have placed this business on the paper in its present order, and that if that can be done in this case it can be done at any time.
– That is a mistake; the Government did not place it there.
– I did not place it there, and all the honorable member’s asseverations that I did, do not alter the fact.
– Take your responsibility.
– I wish that my honorable friend would cease his lecturing.
– The Government fixes the order of its own business.
– I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to this hectoring on the part of the Leader of the Opposition. One would think he was a sort of PooBah here.
– Order I Will the honorable member proceed ?
– This lecturing on the part of the right honorable member does not help matters at all. I do not know what I am to do. I have taken the only course that I can under the circumstances.
– Move that we adjourn until to-morrow. That will get over the difficulty.
– I wish, Mr. Speaker, that you would ask the honorable member for Barrier to restrain himself a little.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat for a moment?
– I shall sit down.
– I desire to point out that these proceedings are quite irregular, but that, owing to the peculiar circumstances of the situation, I have allowed a little more latitude than is usual. Either the debate upon the Order of the Day must be proceeded with at once, or some other course must be taken by direction of the House. J have decided that the Order of the Day is properly on the businesspaper, and unless action be taken to disagree with that ruling, the debate on the Order of the Day must be dealt with in a definite way.
– I regard this, Mr. Speaker, as a very important question, in view of the fact that you cann it see your way clear to give a definite ruling
– Mr. Speaker has just given a definite ruling.
– I have given a definite ruling that the Order of the Day is properly before the House, and it rests with the House to say what it proposes to do with the adjourned debate, or whether it disagrees with that view of the position.
– Can we take it now ?
– May I submit, sir, that the House is master of its own procedure, and that it will take any course it thinks fit, at any time, and in a; proper way?
– By leave, or by moving the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Quite so. It seems to me that if my honorable friends opposite are anxious to get on with the business of the country, we might well agree not to raise any more technicalities in connexion with the unprecedented situation that has arisen. No precedent has been cited, and the circumstances are quite new. To create a precedent can be the only object of all this talk; and, therefore, we ought to proceed with the business down on the notice-paper.
– Ask leave to restore the Bill to the paper, and we will not object.
– I am going to abide by the Speaker’s ruling.
Mr.Fisher. - I presume I may be allowed to refer briefly to the matter raised by the Prime Minister. We are most desirous, apart altogether from the party issues raised by the Prime Minister, to see that the rules, customs, and practices of this Parliament are safeguarded, not only for ourselves, but for future members. The introduction of political matters by the Prime Minister is unfortunate.
– I object to that. I deny that I introduced any political matters.
– All I can say is that I do not agree with your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I shall be delighted, indeed, to facilitate in any way an agreement. I hope that the Prime Minister, the Ministry, and the majority of honorable members will be prepared to agree that the matter be dealt with now, instead of taking extreme steps.
– There is nothing to deal with; we are going to follow the lead of Mr. Speaker.
– Mr. Speaker distinctly asked the Prime Minister to take some action, and the honorable gentleman refused. I appeal to the Prime Minister once again not to take that course, because if he does so, he will force us to place the Speaker in an awkward position, which I, for one, at all events, do not wish to do.
– I do not think so at all.
– I do not care a button whether the Prime Minister thinks so or not. I can assure the honorable gentleman that I am as sincere as any man could be in taking up my present position. We have afforded the Prime Minister every possible facility, and I would not like to move that the Speaker’s ruling be disagreed with, for the reason that I know that this position is not the Speaker’s fault. If it were the Speaker’s fault, and I thought it necessary, I should not hesitate for a moment to move such a motion. There is the one proper and legitimate course for the Prime Minister, as Leader of the House, to follow, in order to bring this Bill properly before the Chamber. The Leader of the Opposition has already stated that he is prepared, on behalf of the party on this side, to allow such a motion as I have suggested to pass without discussion; and the Prime Minister has merely to ask leave to have the Bill restored to the paper.
– What guarantee have I that honorable members opposite will allow such a motion to go without discussion ?
– We have the word of the Leader of the Opposition.
– It does not mean a snap of the finger!
– Thank you!
– It is not an uncommon thing, but quite usual, for a House of Parliament to get intoa tangle, and such a step as I have suggested would not injure the Prime Minister’s dignity in the slightest, although he may think that it would. The House has got into tangles forty times, not only under you, Mr. Speaker, but under myself, and every other Speaker. Indeed, it would be an extraordinary House that did not get into a difficulty of the kind now and again, because people, when they are a little excited, do things that are never intended. We are in a tangle now; and when the , question was brought up, you left it entirely to the House to decide. The Leader of the House has failed to take the course you suggested, and I deeply regret the fact. If you, sir, rule, that the Bill can be debated now, you leave us no other course but to take exception to your ruling, and move that it be disagreed with. That, as I have said, I do not wish to do, because the position that has arisen is not your fault, but the fault of the House. I am not blaming any particular member, and, under the circumstances, I think that the Leader of the House should be the first to get us out of the difficulty.
– May I again point out that this is an unfortunate position that has arisen through an oversight of the House itself. I have already stated that, so far as the business itself is concerned, it is properly on the businesspaper, and should not be dropped off ; but where it should go on the business-paper is not for me to decide, the House having given me no direction on the matter. But if honorable members will allow me to make a suggestion, it is to drop all party heat, and to view the matter in a calm and dispassionate way, altogether free from party issues, as sensible men desirous of getting out of a position into which they have placed themselves. I suggest that the simplest and easiest way would be for the Prime Minister to ask the leave of the House to resume the debate at the point where it was interrupted. This, if agreed to, would get over the difficulty ; but, of course, if there is any objection, it cannot be done.
– I have already moved the motion, and it has been objected to.
– No, no !
– I rose in my place, and moved that this Bill be proceeded with forthwith.
– Will the honorable member excuse me for one moment? Before he can move a motion of that kind lie must have the leave of the House.
– I think it is for you, Mr. Speaker, to ask the leave of the House.
– It is not customary for the Speaker to ask the leave of the House, unless requested by some honorable member who desires to make a statement, or submit a motion.
– When I rose in my place before, I. moved that the House proceed forthwith with the consideration of the Bill.
– That must be preceded by a request for leave of the House.
– Then I wish for the leave of the House; that is all.
– The question is t’‘-f leave be granted to the Prime Minister to submit a motion.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the Mouse do now proceed to resume the debate upon the second reading of the Loan Bill.
– We are indebted to the Treasurer for giving us, in a very able speech, some valuable information in regard to the measure. The right honorable gentleman was brief to an extent, yet, in my opinion, he covered all the requirements of the case ; and I do not think any charge could be made against the Treasurer of not giving us the information necessary for a proper discussion of the measure. I regret, however, that the speech lacked a full explanation of the whole of the situation. What I mean is that the statements of the right honorable gentleman were liable to mislead the country. Let it not be supposed for one moment that I accuse the right honorable gentleman of any attempt to wilfully^ mislead ; but those of long years of familiarity with what is sometimes regarded as a dismal science are prone to present the subject in a manner which may be perfectly intelligible, and easily understood, by others equally proficient in the subject, though not so clear to those not so favorably circumstanced. I am inclined to think, however, that even amongst those who pose so often as great financiers there are humbugs as great as any in the community. There is another method of dealing with financial questions, and that is to present them in such a manner that the ordinary intelligent citizen can grasp their full purport. The Treasurer stated that the Labour Government introduced a borrowing policy, and that they were responsible for borrowing to the extent, in round figures, of £3,000,000. I think it preferable to deal in round figures, which are the more easily grasped, greater detail being difficult of apprehension, certainly by those who read financial speeches. We are asked now to pass a Loan Bill authorizing the borrowing of some £3,080,000; and it is strange to notice how the expenditure of the country is steadily increasing. Not many months ago, we heard a great deal about the necessity of stemming the tide of extravagance that was said to be going on all over the country under the administration of the Fisher Government; and it is truly remarkable to find their successors proposing, practically, to increase the expenditure by something like £5,000,000, the sum of £3.000,000 odd to be provided by means of this Loan Bill. The House and the country must realize that the expenditure on the system of defence that we have launched is likely to increase rather than to diminish as the years go on; indeed, it must increase as the population increases. I wish to point out some curious facts regarding national finance. In the days of Bright, Gladstone, and Disraeli, and men of that stamp, in the “ sixties,” when the National Budget of Great Britain was something like £80,000,000 sterling, the great cry of the Radicals, and of John
Bright in particular, was always a complaint about the great increase of expenditure; but, instead of that expenditure diminishing, I think the expenditure of Great Britain last year amounted to something like £200,000,000. I am afraid that we shall find that as Australia’s population and enterprises increase we shall have to face a similar increase in expenditure, though, at the same time, we shall not be justified in departing from a very vigilant scrutiny of the Estimates as they come down from year to year. I am justified in calling attention to the curious phenomenon of the present party being in office and bringing down this increased expenditure, when they complain so much of the extravagance of their predecessors. The late Government brought down a Loan Bill for something like £3,000,000, and the present Administration are asking for another £3,000,000, which will make the total of £6,000,000. The Treasurer says that the Labour party are responsible for this borrowing. He says that, in addition to the new expenditure for which he is asking sanction, we have a debt of something like £8,000,000 for the Northern Territory, and that there is another £10,000,000, when we take into consideration Cockatoo Island, which has been taken over as a transferred property, and the other properties transferred from the various States, upon which we have to pay interest, which brings the total amount of the debt to £22,000,000. That statement is misleading. The undoubted inference is that the Labour party are responsible for a debt of £22,000,000, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. Let us examine the Treasurer’s statement, and see what it really amounts to. All that the Commonwealth ‘ has actually borrowed is £3,000,000, and we are now asking for power to borrow another £3,000,000. Where does the £8,000,000 for the Northern Territory come in? I understand that £1,000,000 will be required for expenditure in connexion with the railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River; but, independently of that, there is no funded debt of the Commonwealth in connexion with the Northern Territory, though any one reading the Treasurer’s remarks would gather that the Commonwealth has a total funded debt of £22,000,000. What does the £8.000.000 refer to in connexion with the Northern Territory ? The South Aus- tralian Government borrowed to that extent in connexion with the building of a railway from Palmerston to Pine Creek and one from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, and for the development of the Territory, and, at the present time, South Australia is liable for that loan. The loan must be redeemed by South Australia. All the Commonwealth does is year by year to pay interest to South Australia on this amount spent in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory, with the exception of £400,000 that the late Administration wiped- off from the debt attaching to the Northern Territory. That is a statement any one can understand. I do not charge the Treasurer with misleading the people with any intention by so doing. But there are professors of finance who evidently believe that the object of financial statements should be that those in the immediate circle should understand them, but that they should be obscured to the mass of the people. Tallyrand’s maxim, that language is intended to conceal thought, occurs to me. Certainly financial statements are made for the purpose of misleading the public. As to the £10,000,000 in connexion with transferred properties, any one not knowing the fallacy of the argument would imagine that this was a funded debt of £10,000,000 of the Commonwealth. No such thing exists. The Melbourne Post Office was the property of the State of Victoria, but by an arrangement made for the transfer of properties from the States, it became the property of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth pays the Victorian Government interest upon it, which interest goes to meet the debt incurred by Victoria in building the Post Office. That building is simply typical of all the establishments taken over from the various States, and known as transferred properties. That is the extent of the £10,000,000 indebtedness. One of the reasons behind this argument may be that the Government are anxious to create a funded debt of the Commonwealth, seeing that they talked some time ago of some proposal to take over the State debts. If that is their object, well and good ; but they had better say so straightforwardly, and not do it under cover of a proposal like this. The Commonwealth has no funded debt at all. I believe the last Parliament passed an Act to empower the Commonwealth Government to issue inscribed stock if they desired to do so, but they have not done so up to the present.
– Did you suggest that the Commonwealth had not taken over the indebtedness of South Australia with regard to the Northern Territory?
– No ; I do not suggest that. The ordinary man in the street, when you talk about the debt of the Commonwealth being £22,000,000, can come to no other conclusion than that it is a funded debt, and that we have borrowed that much money.
– It is still a debt, whether it is funded or not,
– That is all right, so far as experts in finance are concerned. The ordinary man will come to the conclusion that it is a funded debt, and that is why I object to the statement that the Labour party are responsible for this borrowing. I admit that the Labour party are responsible for the borrowing of £3,000,000, but that is interest-bearing, and the Labour party have never been opposed to borrowing for reproductive works with a sinking fund attached. They are always opposed to reckless borrowing, and to borrowing under certain conditions. For instance, there is no reproductive work about a navy. There is nothing reproductive in connexion with the material in connexion with our Army. If anything, that should be regarded as an insurance fund for the Commonwealth. We get no revenue out of it, and it should be an annual charge on the community.
– Including permanent works connected with the Navy, such as Naval Bases and docks?
– That is a very open question. I should certainly say that, in some instances, they should not be an annual charge upon the community, but there are others where they should. I question whether the machinery that is being used at Cockatoo Island, when the place is purchased and equipped, will not be used for other purposes than in connexion with the dockyard. For that reason it should not be in the same position as a railway, or matters of that character. It should be a charge upon the general community, to be met from year to year as ordinary expenses. I have admitted that the last Administration borrowed £3,000,000, but during the last three years we spent £10,000,000 on postal and other works out of revenue, and the
Commonwealth Royal Navy at present floating in our waters is the absolute property of the Australian people; but it should be remembered that one of the earliest Ministerial acts of the Administration before last was to secure power from Parliament to float a loan of £3,500,000 towards the purchase of a Navy, and that we promptly repealed that Act in the early days of the last Parliament. The Treasurer is very strongly in favour of this policy of borrowing, and practically describes our policy as a stickinthemud policy. The time has arrived for the Commonwealth, and also the Motherland, to realize the fact that there is nothing very original in our method of government, because it is an axiom that those who own the property in the community will get the power in the community. Through the absence of any policy on the part of our producers, and owing to the mania for borrowing that we have inherited from our predecessors, the public of this country, and the public of England, have no property at all. We own certain buildings, but very little revenue-earning property, and until the community does own property of its own it will be continually liable, owing to the past system of government, to the influences of property out of all proportion to what should obtain in any free country. Honorable members opposite remind me of the old saying of the Frenchman, that the first thing an Englishman said was, “ It is a fine morning; let us go out and kill something.” We may well say of the Conservative party of the Commonwealth that their first remark is, “ What a beautiful day it is; let us go out and float a loan.” I can recollect a New South Wales Government being- attacked with great ferocity by the Conservative party in New South Wales on the score of extravagance; but their defence, which I think they were entitled to put forward, was that it was a time of drought, and that it was absolutely essential to- keep things going. I am not here to defend their action, but there is a good deal more to be said in defence of .the Government that would do that under those conditions than can be. said- for a Government which, in the best, of seasons,- and with inflated markets, can ‘ think of nothing but floating a loan. A good deal has been done by the pioneers borrowing money and creating public works, but I am reminded of a very rich man in my own State, to whom the Premier of the day said, “You have done a great deal for South Australia;” and he replied, ‘ But ye ken, South Australia has done a great deal for me.” In the old days borrowed money poured into the various States, and helped to make individuals richer, but was there a corresponding advantage to the community? To-day we have the Treasurer stating that he is providing a sinking fund of h per cent, and certainly, if we do go in for borrowing, we ought to increase our sinking fund. The policy being pursued by the Commonwealth, and by all the States, is resulting in the piling up of a heavy debt, and no attempt is being made to escape from it. Take, for instance, the case of the railways. They are not the, property of the Commonwealth, but the argument will apply with equal force to those that we build. There is no likelihood of a big revenue being derived from the east to west railway for some years. The Commonwealth will have to bear the burden, and there is no necessity for us to shirk our responsibilities. The Treasurer, in his speech last evening, referred to the fact that our railways had earned 4 per cent., but it cannot be denied that for all practical purposes the railways of Australia are not the property of the people of Australia, but the property of the bond-holders of the various State Governments. The sooner we, and the people generally, realize that there is nothing original in a Government which wants more revenue proposing to increase taxation the better. We ought to be intelligent enough to have certain revenues coming in, and by that means to diminish taxation to the community. That policy is not likely to be popular on the other side of the House, but the position is a very simple one. A tremendous amount of income is being earned by some people, which they cannot spend. They re-invest it, and we are getting into existence an army of people whom Bismarck very well described thirty years ago in Germany as doing nothing but “ cut coupons and sign receipts.” It will not be a good thing for Australia to increase this noble army, but that is what the borrowing brigade are anxious to do. They are always crying out for the States to go into the markets to borrow, and always anxious to encourage capital to come into tlie community. Every year nearly £200,000,000 pours intO the Old Country as a tribute in interest from the rest of the world, and every part of the Empire is a tributary; but is it not a reflection on the intelligence of our people that .we have no brains to do anything better than that ? Should we not be in a position to have revenues coming into our own coffers?
– What from ?
– From our railways, for instance.
– Would you borrow for railways ?
– Undoubtedly, under existing conditions.
– Then why complain that the States have borrowed ?
– I am complaining that the States have never attempted to get rid of the debts on their railways, and have them as revenue-earning concerns for themselves.
– Have you any method to prevent the employes from demanding all the profits ?
– That is the sort of bunkum which you hear in a squatters’ club. All over Australia there are men who will tell you that the workers do not earn their wages, but are a lazy lot of vagabonds. You can spot those men in a minute. The majority of them have never done a day’s work in their lives.
– Is not what I have said the position in New South Wales today ?
– I am defending the policy of the late Administration, and referring to the amount of money that we spent upon works out of revenue. I never like to have to quote Germany against Australia or the Mother Country, but I am sorry to say that English-speaking communities are not so quick in understanding many of the questions of government as are the Germans. Let me quote from the 10th edition of Poverty and Riches, by Chiozza Money -
Consider the following extract from the official description of German Taxation, in Blue Book Cd. 4,750.
Honorable members who care to consult the British Blue-Books can obtain the original information, which is interesting, for themselves -
To make any profitable comparison of direct taxation in England and Germany, it is necessary to take into consideration in the case of the latter not merely the Imperial taxes, but also the taxes levied by the Federal States. It is also important to remember that a large portion of the States’ expenditure, in Prussia as much as 47 per cent., is covered by the profits of railways and other industrial undertakings, the State being thus enabled,protanto, to dispense with taxation.
Varying, but usually considerable, proportions of the State revenues of the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Saxony, the Kingdom of Wurtemberg, the six Grand Duchies, the five Duchies, and the seven Principalities - not to mention the free cities - are derived similarly from State undertakings, ranging from railways to forests, and from mines to china factories.
I beg the reader to realize that but for these enormous State natural revenues the Germany of to-day would not be able to build Dread- noughts, or to sustain the greatest army in the world. Successful State Socialism has been the backbone of German finance.
I commend thesefacts to the consideration of honorable members opposite. In the Commonwealth and in the Motherland, they quarrel about Socialism, but in the German Empire, our great rival, they get their revenue largely from Socialistic enterprises ; they do not depend wholly on the taxation of the people. We have not risen to that. Australia is a rich country, and when the debate on the Budget isresumed, I shall speak again of the wealth of the Commonwealth. I shall show that we are not a poverty stricken country, but are rich in resources, and in the industry of our people. I shall show, too, that our people are not idle. The returns as to the wealth of the country prove that. To continue my quotation -
The secret of a big expenditure and the maintenance of the greatest army in the world and the second largest navy in the world by a poorer country than ours, in which (basing ourselves on the official income tax statistics of Prussia), we are able to affirm that one-half of the people are under the income line of £45 a year (17s. 3d. per week).
Germany derives from her Customs duties - believed by ill-informed people here to be the chief feeder of her revenues - about £30,000,000 a year. This may be contrasted with a single item of German State socialistic revenue -
Net profits of the Prussian State railways -
1906,£33,480,000; 1907, £34,323,000; 1908, £31,180,000.
Surely it is worth the gravest consideration here that one-half the State revenues of Prussia, the chief State of the German Empire, is derived from the ownership of railways, forests, mines, and other national undertakings. And there can be little doubt that Germany will soon own and control her power supply.
In Germany they are opposed to a certain form of Socialism, but the country is run on practical business lines. We talk of boards of directors, and those who are responsible for the various Budgets of Australia constitute a board of directors to watch over the inte rests of those who cut coupons and sign receipts. The position has to be faced. When it is said that those with whom I am associated have a mania for borrowing, I say “ No,” except in the last resort. When you borrow, you should get rid of your liabilities, using the money for revenue-producing purposes, thus relieving the community of taxation. That is a sound principle that I have advocated before to-night, but I cannot say that it is original. I have to label it “ Made in Germany “ -
In 1910 the State railways of the entire German Empire will yield a net profit of about £50,000,000, meeting, in effect, the bill for German armaments.
The Treasurer says that we are a stickinthemud party, because we are not in favour of borrowing every fine day. That is the answer that we make to remarks of that character. There is another and a quicker method by means of which we could achieve big revenue earning, but we are not likely to adopt it for possibly a generation or two. This Parliament cannot go in advance of the people’s desires. Like all Parliaments, its intelligence is to be measured by the intelligence of those who created it. I should like to see, not the nationalization of this, that, or the other industry - that does not carry any weight with me - but the nationalization of banking, which is the corner-stone of industry, because it governs the credit of the community. Why were the private bankers opposed to the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank and to the Australian note issue? Because they are shrewd, sensible men, who desire to keep intact the preserves of private interests. What would be gained if banking were nationalized ? We should then have one bank doing all the banking business of the community. That would notmake any difference to business men. They would get advances on securities, as they do now. No bank could make advances without requiring security, because if that were done the bank would fail. But the community, if banking were nationalized, could build all its public works on the turnover of the wage-sheet of a week. When an employer pays his men in notes or in gold, what becomes of the money ? It goes into the banks, and comes out again, and, very likely, will return to his hands. Money circulates in this way through the community, everything being done for the purposes of profit. Everything to-day is produced for what it will fetch in the market. But, under the conditions I suggest, the production would be the cheapest in the world, and no private enterprise could compete against it. You would have very little debt, and as your public works were finished and equipped, they would become revenue-earning. Thus the people would be free from taxation. There would be no interest to pay, except on the Savings Banks’ deposits of the employes. Ultimately this would have a very big effect on the community. It would create a big industrial population, and would diminish the army of those who cut coupons and sign receipts. If honorable members ask whether I am advocating this, my reply is that I am merely stating what can be done. When the people of Australia understand the question, Parliament will turn its attention to it, but the Australian people must first recognise the force of what I say. That will not happen for some years to come, and not while the electors are content to return a Conservative Government to safeguard their interests. Until then we shall have to put up with the system of borrowing, and all that we can do will be to keep down the loans to the lowest possible limit, except for reproductive purposes, and to see that ample sinking funds are established for the redemption of the loans. Honorable members may ask, “Do you expect a return from the expenditure on the east to west railway?” I certainly do not for many years to come. The expense of that railway is a charge the community must bear. Then the Treasurer has told us that, having regard to what is to be appropriated this session, our liability for the Northern Territory amounts to £8,000,000. But that liability had to be incurred, just as the liability for the east to west railway had to be incurred. It is creditable to South Australia that she carried the burden for a number of years, and kept the Northern Territory white. It cannot be said that the people of Queensland kept that State white.
– Nothing was done with the Northern Territory.
– A good deal would have been saved if certain things had not been done in Queensland.
– The people of Queensland opened up a large tract of country.
– Be that as it may, we have incurred this immense liability, and the sooner we can make the Northern Territory reproductive the better it will be for the Commonwealth. It can be made reproductive only by railway development. The new lines in Canada, the United States of America, and even in Russia, have preceded settlement. When I first entered the Parliament of a neighbouring State it was quite a common saying, “ This railway will not pay, and, therefore, we cannot build it.” That idea in regard to railway construction, however, has long since passed out of the minds of Australians, Canadians, and others who have to deal with vast areas of sparsely-populated country. We have to realize that railroads must be built in order to attract settlement, and I do not anticipate any real development of the Northern Territory until it has been opened up by railway construction. It must be opened up. I question whether we have not spent too much upon its administration. I question whether we could not have done without someof the distinguished, learned, and illustrious men whom we have sent up there. We have spent quite enough in this direction, but I hope there will be no difference of opinion as to the need of developing the Territory by railway construction. The Northern Territory line, for which this Bill provides, must be paid for out of loan account, just as we are paying out of loan money for the construction of the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta.
– Should we build from north to south, or start in the south and go northwards?
– We should start from that part of Australia where the climate is such that men will be prepared to work there. If this were a private estate, and we, as trustees, had to open it up, we should immediatelycommence from the south.
– Does the honorable member anticipate that the population of the Northern Territory must come from the south?
– I think we should start from the south, for climatic reasons, and also for the reason that that part of the Territory is closer to a market than is the north. If we did so, and gave those working on the railway an opportunity to settle on the land, we should have a system of pioneering going on from south to north. I ask honorable membersto forget for the moment that I am a representative of South Australia, and to view this question from a purely practical stand-point. The extension of a railway from Fine Creek southwards was bequeathed to the present Administration by the late Government, but I was never strongly in favour of it. Extra expenditure will be incurred in carrying all the material up to Palmerston and taking labour up there. A hundred and one difficulties will have to be overcome which would nob be met with if we started building our railway from the south towards the north.
– Does the honorable member think that cultivation could be carried on for 600 or 700 miles north from Oodnadatta ?
– It could be carried on for a very considerable distance. I am inclined to think that the building of a railway from north to south will be a very expensive undertaking. The question, however, is one for engineers to determine, and we need not dogmatize upon it. If it can be shown that it is cheaper to start from the north and proceed southwards, instead of starting from the south with our railway, then I shall only say that the figures do not work out in the direction that common sense would suggest.
– Does the honorable member think that cultivation could be opened up in the centre of Australia, for the first 600 or 700 miles of line running north from Oodnadatta.
– The Canadian Grand Trunk Railway which is not yet finished-
– I am talking of Australia.
– And I of a similar undertaking in Canada.
– Are the rainfall and country similar?
– The average man knows little about the central portion of Australia. If a visitor from London travelled through some of the States in January, after a bad season, he would say, “ This Australia, about which Australians blow so much, is only a desert.” Another visitor from London, going through our country in spring, would return Home with a different story, and the two men would probably have a fight, because each would think that the other was a liar. Yet the honorable member for Wimmera dogmatizes about a territory of which he knows nothing.
– I simply asked for information.
– And I cannot ‘ give it. I cannot say whether the land is first class or second class.
– So that the honorable member is advocating the building of a railway in a territory about which he knows nothing.
– Because it is imperative that the country should be opened up. No doubt, there are stretches of inferior country which will have to be traversed by a railway in order to open up the good country. But the honors able member’s argument is that until we know all about the resources of a country we should not open it up by means of railway construction.
– There is good country from the Macdonnell Ranges to the Barklay tablelands.
– Even if the country is not. first class farming land, what about its use for pastoral purposes? Then, again, it has great mineral resources which cannot be developed until cheap carriage is secured. Honorable members may think that I am biased because I am a representative of South Australia. As a matter of fact, I am not. I ask them to consider whether, from a practical point of view, we should not open up the Territory, and so relieve ourselves of a great liability. We need to alter our whole system of finance. There is nothing clever in the British or Australian method of meeting expenditure. We simply say, “Our expenditure is increasing; we must impose more taxation.” With the exception of the Postal Department - and I am doubtful whether its revenue will be much in excess of its working expenses before long - none of our services is paying.
– The Postal Department does not pay working expenses now.
– We shall have to look postal matters straight in the face before long. The Postal Department services are a convenience to the public, and the public should pay for them. It must not be regarded as a sort of charitable institution. So far as the Postal Department is concerned, I think the most straightforward course to pursue would be to vote £50,000 or £80,000 to give increased facilities to the pioneers in the back country, and to require other sections of the community to pay for the services which it renders. The postal rates should be in accordance with that principle, and we should not be called upon as a community to make good any deficiency in that direction.
.- The Treasurer asked for leave to introduce this Bill, some three or four weeks ago, after reading his Budget speech, just as he read his speech, in moving the second reading of this Bill yesterday.
– And just as the honorable member’s leader, when Treasurer, always read his financial speeches.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay did not.
– He always read his Budget statement.
– I spoke of the speech which the Treasurer read yesterday, in moving the second reading of the Loan Bill. When the right honorable gentleman moved for leave to introduce this Bill I took exception, as I do to-night, to some of the items in the schedule, on the ground that they are not properly chargeable to loan account. These items relate to tlie purchase of land for post and tele-: graph purposes, and also for defence purposes.
– Senator Pearce has been arguing in another place to-night that we ought to take almost a million more.
– I am responsible to my constituents for what I say, and it is quite possible that Senator Pearce’s remarks will bear an interpretation different from that given to them by the Prime Minister. Another item in this schedule to which I object is that to provide for the construction of conduits for laying wires underground. These three, items total £895,000.
– There is also provision for a manoeuvre area..
– That is included in the item to provide for the purchase of land for defence purposes.
– There is also a mauoeuvre area here.
– There is not, so far as I am concerned. I regret that the Leader of- the Opposition was denied yesterday the opportunity to deal with this Bill as such a measure should be dealt with by an ex-Treasurer.
– The matter has been dealt with over and over again.
– I do not know whether I raise the .ire of the honorable member, but I should be glad if he would allow me to proceed. I have no intention of either curtailing or extending my remarks because of anything that has happened, or may happen. I have a duty to perform to my constituents and myself, and I intend to discharge it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh drew attention to the fact that it is proposed to borrow for postal purposes. It is well known to every honorable member, particularly those who have been here for any length of time, that the Post Office is not paying, and has not for some years paid for itself, and that we are paying into trust funds for the purpose of erecting buildings and giving greater facilities in the country - a policy to which I take no exception. Some three or four months ago, the Postmaster-General, speaking at Toorak, or some other of the southern suburbs, stated that it was intended to appoint commissioners to manage the Post Office; but to-day we have a proposal to borrow for the purpose of the purchase of land for post and telegraph purposes, and for the construction of conduits and putting wires underground.
– The Labour Government borrowed to purchase land for a post office.
– That was for the Perth Post-office, but in our Loan Bill of 1911-12 the works for which loans were intended were specified. Why should the present Government not wait until Postal Commissioners are appointed before proposing loans of this description? Are they abandoning the idea of Postal Commissioners, just as they have abandoned the Electoral Bill and other proposals?
– Have they?
– Well, the Prime Minister came down to-day with a little bit of an apology for his original electoral proposals.
– The money it is proposed to borrow for postal purposes will give a lot of employment.
– But these works could have been paid for out of revenue, just as similar works have always been paid for since the Commonwealth came into existence, with the exception of the Perth Post-office. In the latter case, the land purchased was for other purposes besides those of the Post Office, and we were told by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, who was responsible for the transaction, that it will return a handsome revenue.
– Is it true that there is a public house on that site ?
– There was a public house, but I do not know whether it is there now.
– The honorable member for Indi has several times asked during the course of the debate whether the Labour party are in favour of borrowing for the construction of railways. As I have said, the Loan Bill of 1911 plainly set forth the objects that were in view. There was £1,000,000 for the construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta; £600,000 for the acquisition of land in the Federal Capital Territory; £600,000 for the purchase of land and the erection of buildings in London; £226,000 to redeem Treasury bills issued by the Government of South Australia on account of the Northern Territory; and £34,000 to pay the State of South Australia the amount expended from revenue towards the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta.
– Are the London offices a reproductive work?
– I do not think so, but if we had not those London offices we should have to pay rent for the accommodation of the High Commissioner; and the time will come sooner or later when, like Canada, Australia will have no Agents-General for the separate States, but one representative for the whole country. Further, the London offices will be a great advertisement for Australia, and, in view of our export trade with the Mother Country, who is our principal customer, it is necessary to have representatives, who must, of course, be ] loused.
– The quicker we reorganize the whole thing the better.
– If the honorable member means doing away with the AgentsGeneral I agree with him, but I do not think the States are likely to fall in with that view.
– The London offices will be a good advertisement.
– They will.
– And the honorable member would borrow for advertising?
– I do not say we would be justified in borrowing for advertising, but the High Commissioner is something more than an advertising agent, and the men around him are looking after the interests of Australia. I can point with a little pride to the fact that it was during my term of office as Minister of Trade and Customs that, on my suggestion to the first Fisher Government, a special Customs officer was attached to the High Commissioners’s staff for the purpose of examining invoices in London.
– The honorable member will reconsider that statement.
– Such an appointment was agreed to by the first Fisher Government, and it was. taken up by the Government of which the honorable member for Kooyong was a member.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I can assure the honorable member that the fact is as I have stated.
– It Was I who sent the first man there.
– The Government of which the honorable member was a member adopted the suggestion - it was one of those “ commitments “ honorable members opposite are now so glad to talk about.
– That is not so.
– It is absolutely correct. Although the honorable member was Minister of Trade and Customs for a long time, and we were sending £4,000,000 worth of beef and mutton to the Old Country, no expert was appointed there until I asked the second Fisher Administration to send one; and the honorable member complimented the Labour Government on the action then taken. There is no doubt that the money spent on the High Commissioner’s offices will prove a good investment, seeing that, by this means, the interests of Australia will be watched over; but the Prime Minister was wrong in suggesting that I would borrow for advertising, for I regard the London Offices as something more than an advertisement. In any case, those offices will give Australia a better status than it would have if we were merely renting . premises for our High Commissioner, or if we had our various officers, stationed in -London, scattered all over the city. In the 1911 Loan Bill, as I have said, there was a loan for the purposes of the Northern Territory; and I arn sure honorable members will admit that it was impossible to allow South Australia to practically bear a burden that should be borne by all Australia. That is the reason why the House was practically unanimous in regard to the taking over of the Territory.
– Not in regard to the taking over, but to the terms of the contract.
– /That may be another way of putting the objection to the taking over. In any case, we had to take over the indebtedness as well, and we are now responsible for the interest on the whole of the loans.
– And we have done what South Australia never did, namely, paid the interest out of revenue.
– Yes. Out of revenue we paid a matter of £400,000 for the interest on loans, and for other expenditure on the Northern Territory. In 1911, the second Fisher Government borrowed £2,460,000.
– In borrowing, you are like drunkards. You start tippling at first, and then you go on a burst.
– I can say that at present we have a boom Ministry,’ and that soon there is likely to be a burst. This season, so far as Australia is concerned, will be a record for production.
– You had two or three good years.
– We did not have a season like the present. During 1912, as the* honorable member for Calare has pointed out on more than one occasion, there was a drought, though a small one, in many parts of New South Wales.
– Lord have mercy on the Federal Treasurer, whoever he is, on the first occasion that we have a real drought.
– Yes; that is if we start borrowing now in a record season to do such works as building post-offices, and laying conduits for telephone wires. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that if the post-offices do not pay when we are having prosperous times in Australia, it is time that the rates were altered so as to bring them nearer the paying point. We all know that telephone and telegraph systems get out of date. I remember that, in 1901-2, we were glad to point to a switchboard in
Hobart on the common battery system as being the very latest thing in switchboards. I think that Sir George Turner, in his first Loan Bill, proposed to pay lor some of these works. One or two members of the Labour party supported that proposal, but with those exceptions the Labour party were unanimous in opposing it, and the House turned it down. Now we are reverting to that principle, and borrowing for such works as the construction of conduits for laying telephone wires underground, and for the purchase of the machinery for Cockatoo Island. I admit we are to have a sinking fund at 5 per cent, to repay the money, but from what we have seen of the progress of telephony during the past few years, is there any honorable member who will be bold enough to say that these works will not be out of date long before they are paid for by means of the sinking fund provided?
– At the rate some of the works are carried on they will be out of date before they are finished.
– I have heard it said in connexion with some of the conduits built in the Melbourne suburbs that before they have been finished it has been found that the additional subscribers on the exchanges have rendered it necessary to duplicate the conduits before putting a cable through. I heard this in connexion with the section towards Brighton. In view of- these circumstances, I ask the Ministry to reconsider these items to which I have referred. Some honorable members think we are not justified in borrowing under any consideration, but surely it must be hard to convince oneself that we are justified in borrowing for works that may be out of date in ten years. It is claimed that we are not justified in borrowing for the construction of the Fleet, but while we are paying for the Fleet out of revenue, we are putting other things on the Loan Bill when we should pay for them out of revenue.
– So did you.
– Not such items as those to which I have been referring. I read yesterday in the newspaper about a warboat, built less than twenty years ago, being towed out to- sea to be used as a target.
– There is not a tenyearold warship now.
– Not one of the war-, ships that came to Australia on the occasion of the opening of our first Parliament is reckoned in the world’s fleets to-day. They are practically all scrapped.
– They reckon the life of a warship, as a first-class fighting machine, even if she never fires a shot, at eight years.
– I read in a magazine that it was eight years in the fighting line, and that after sixteen years a boat is on the scrap-heap.
– Look at the strides made in the last two years in regard to wireless telegraphy; yet here we are to spend £475,000 in digging holes in the ground for laying pipes to convey telephone wires, when they may be absolutely obsolete in five years. We are like a man who borrowed to buy a pair of boots, and had them worn out before he had paid off the debt, and then borrowed to have them soled and heeled. There is not an honorable member but will admit that what I am pointing out may be within the range of practical telephony within the next few years.
– I do not think so, but as regards wireless telegraphy, you are quite right.
– Will the honorable member guarantee that the 5 per cent, sinking fund will be sufficient? It was only intended to pay per cent, sinking fund until it was pointed out by the honorable member for Gwydir that the provision would not be sufficient, and the Treasurer had to get another message from the Governor-General to amend his Bill in this regard, and provide for 5 per cent.
– Is it intended to put this Bill through to-night?
– We must do some work.
– I am glad the Government are taking up the position of trying to do something. At the same time I am pleased they did not have the opportunity of bludgeoning the Bill through as they proposed yesterday.
– Are you going home after you have finished your speech; because there are a few of us who wish to have a word?
– The honorable member may get leave for me to continue my remarks.
– I merely wished you not to encourage the Government to shove this Bill through to-night.
– The thing is too big to do that. Take the last Loan Bill of £3,500,000, for the construction of a Fleet Unit, proposed by the present Treasurer. He has a mania for borrowing. He has been connected with every Government, .except the Labour Government, that proposed to borrow.
– He helped you to borrow.
– Because he was fighting for the east to west railway. When he brought down his proposal to borrow £3,500,000 I do not remember that it was rushed through in two or three sittings. Yesterday he gave us a ‘ second edition of the Budget speech, and he dealt with matters a little bombastically, in his own style.
– It was a very good speech.
– It was a good speech, but I think it was, as they say, a little “ over the fence “ when he spoke of a part of Australia as being “ my own State.” As the honorable member for Darwin said the other day, none of us are consulted as to where we will be born.
– I like to hear a man stick up for his own State.
– 1 do not like to hear him say “ my own State.”
– We speak of “ my constituency.”
– I say “ the constituency I represent.” The Treasurer blamed the Federal Labour party for borrowing. He said we were opposed to borrowing, yet we borrowed when we were in office. Of course we did, but the thing was perfectly, open. The proposal was brought forward in a Bill precisely the same as this, although the items were different. If items 4, 5, and 6 were cut out of the Bill now before us, I would take no exception to the measure, because we must complete the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and if we are to do anything with the Northern Territory we must build a railway from Pine Creek to Katherine River and southward, and we must build a railway in Papua; while, if we are going to keep Cockatoo Island dockyard up to date, we must acquire up-to-date machinery to equip it; also, we must build the London office. I take no exception to those items. I believe that, in addition to building rail- ways in the Northern Territory, piers will have to be constructed. A lot of the traffic there will be done by river.
– The expenditure in the Northern Territory will be no good without cold storage.
– We are told now that the proposal for Government freezing works there is unnecessary, though, in my opinion, it is all essential. It would be better to construct those works out of loan money than to leave them to private enterprise.
– What is needed is the abolition of sweating in the Northern Territory by making the climate more bearable.
– The honorable member has the advantage of me in having visited the Territory, but whenever I get the opportunity I shall go there, because I think that members should make themselves acquainted with the Territory, it being proposed to spend such an immense amount of money there. The Treasurer yesterday twitted us with being in favour of borrowing only for certain purposes, but he paraded the fact that some of the States which have elected Labour majorities to Parliament have borrowed largely. The Commonwealth Labour party is not responsible for what is done by State Labour parties, and the Treasurer would not hold himself responsible for all the acts of Liberal members in State Parliaments. In the matter of borrowing, we cannot be too careful. Every item should be scrutinized carefully. Members of this Parliament have come in for adverse criticism because our defence scheme puts the burden of military service, not on the men of the community, but on the youths and boys. That is what we are now doing with regard to our works and buildings. It is now proposed by the Government to spend money, and leave it to posterity to pay the bill. A sinking fund of J per cent, will require sixtytwo years in which to pay off the debt to which it is applied, and by that time we shall no longer be here to answer for our borrowing. Moreover, when proposals are made for spending borrowed money, they are generally dealt with more lightly than proposals for spending revenue, because to increase the expenditure out of revenue means” increased taxation. What has happened with loan expenditure in the States? I have heard that when one State raised a loan of £10,000,000, and a deputation waited on the Premier to ask for a post-office costing £1,000, it would be quietly intimated that there was’ plenty of money, and a couple of thousand would be demanded. The tendency is to spend borrowed money freely. The Government would be well advised to cut out of the Bill proposals which should find no place there. The Prime Minister has stated that there are many unavoidable increases, but he has not told the public that the loan expenditure in 1911- 12 was only 2s. lOAd. per head, and in 1912-13 only 5s. 0£d. per head, while for this year it is 12s. 6 3/4d. per head. Moreover, the years 1911-12 and 1912-13 were not blessed with record seasons, as this year is likely to be. This year the Government is borrowing at a time of prosperity, and is doing what no private person would do. These proposals would be very carefully scrutinized if honorable members were dealing with their own private affairs. The Prime Minister said that the estimated expenditure for this year is only £2,000,000 more than that for last year. He puts the cost of the Fitzroy Dockyard into the ordinary loan expenditure. It should, however, be regarded as a transferred property, like the barracks and forts. Speaking here a few nights ago, the honorable gentleman said - and his remarks were repeated by the Government Whip- that there was an increase of 33 per cent, in the expenditure each year that th 3 Fisher Government was in power, and that this Government had increased the expenditure ‘by only 8 per cent. Those statements are not supported by the Budget figures, but I have ascertained that the total expenditure of 1910-11 was £4 5s. 1 3/4d. per head, defence costing 18s. 9d., and the return to the States amounting to £1 53. In 1911- 12 the expenditure was £4 9s. 11 1/2d. per head, including £1 2s. 8id. for defence. That is not an increase of 33 per cent. The Fisher Government was denounced for extravagance, but it saved £2,600,000, yet the present Government, which was returned on the promise of economy, is proposing to spend all that it can get, including this £2,600,000, and to borrow, in addition, £3,080,000.
– The Government will not be able to spend all that money.
– Of course it will not. This is what the Prime Minister said -
It is quite true that our Estimates are about £4,000,000 more than the actual spendings of last year, but it is very probable that when we have tried our hardest to spend all this money this year, just as they did last year, we shall have more than £1,000,000 unspent.
He is not only increasing the expenditure by 33 per cent, each year - that is taking his figures to be right - but by 8 or 9 per cent, in addition. He proposes to spend an amount equal to what we spent in three years, and to increase that expenditure by 8 and 9 per cent., on his own showing. But what are the actual figures? I have given the figures for 1911-12, as compared with the figures for 1910-11. In 1910-11 the total expenditure per head was £4 5s.1¾d., of which £1 5s. went to the States, a fact which must not be forgotten, while 18s. 9d. went to defence. In 1911-12 the total expenditure was £4 9s.11½d. per head, of which defence took £1 2s. 8½d., being an increase of 3s.11½d. for defence, while the Post Office cost 2s. 10½d. extra per head. So that we had an addition of 6s.10d. Although our actual increase in the total expenditure was only 4s.9¾d. per head, the expenditure on the Post Office and defence alone was 6s.10d. Those two Departments accounted for more than the total increase. In 1911-12 the total expenditure from general revenue, not from loan, was £4 9s.11½d. per head, of which £1 2s. 8½d. went for defence. In 1912-13 the expenditure per head had gone up from £4 9s.11½d. to £4 12s. 6½d., of which £1 0s.10¼d.went to defence. There was an increase of 2s. 7d. per head in the total expenditure. The maternity allowance cost1s. 9d. per head. The Liberals, when they were on this side, denounced the Fisher Ministry for bringing in that proposal, which has been termed the “bangle” bonus by some of them. They said, when they were on this side, and their organization said, that it was going to ruin many of the persons to whom it would be given. It was denounced by many of our benevolent societies in Melbourne. Deputations waited upon the then Prime Minister, asking him to amend the proposal, so that the maternity grant should not be given to certain women. If honorable members opposite believe now what they said on this side, why do they not alter the Maternity Allowance Act? The increase in the total expenditure be tween 1911-12 and 1912-13 was 2s. 7d. per head. To-day, the maternity grant accounts for1s. 9d. of that sum; and the expenditure on the Post Office has increased by1s. 3d. per head; so that, although the increase in the total expenditure was only 2s. 7d. per head, the general expenditure per head was 5d. more, the Post Office accounting for 1s. 3d., and the maternity grant for 1s. 9d.
– Not an increase of 33 per cent.
– I admit that the expenditure on the maternity grant and the Post Office has a right to be counted in the general expenditure, but I have yet to learn that an increase from £4 9s.11½d. to £4 12s. 6½d. per head is an increase of 33 per cent. I candidly admit that an increase of 2s. 7d. on £4 9s.11½d. is not 33 per cent. The increase in the loan expenditure during the same time was only 2s.1d. per head. Taking the increase in the loan expenditure, and the increase in the revenue expenditure, there was not an increase of 33 per cent., as alleged by the Prime Minister.
– I wish that the honorable member for Richmond could reply to you ; he would settle you.
– I should be very pleased to hear the honorable member for Richmond if he is prepared to say that he can show that those figures are wrong. I admit that I am indebted to the honorable member for Wide Bay for the information whichhe himself would have given to-day had he been allowed. It was taken out for him from the Budget-papers of this year, and the Budget-papers of the previous year, to show the hollowness, the sham, and the hypocrisy of the claims of some honorable members on the other side in professing to believe that their expenditure per head has been increased by only 8 or 9 per cent., while our expenditure is alleged to have been increased by 33 per cent, each year. It did not increase that amount as alleged by the Prime Minister in his statement in the press to-day, and in Hansard of last week, as recorded on page 2501.
– What percentage do you make it?
– I shall tell the honorable member in a few minutes what the extra expenditure is each year. To take the expenditure per head of the population is the fairest way, because, as the honorable member will see on referring to page 52 of the Budget-papers, the population is increasing; and, as our poulation is increasing, our expenditure is bound to increase. Our expenditure would show a larger proportionate increase than the amount per head. That is the way one can juggle with figures. The Prime Minister would not take this year to show how much the expenditure had been per head, but he took the gross totals, and, adopting the expenditure for 1909-10 as the basis, said, “ Yes, you increased the expenditure. In 1909-10 the expenditure was only about £7,500,000, while in 1910-11 it had gone up to £16,000,000.” It had, because we started to pay the States about £6,000,000, which our opponents do not take into consideration. We also’ took over from the States the payment of oldage pensions, and other services which previously had not been paid for. During the last three years, when the Fisher Government were on the Treasury Bench, as the honorable member for Gwydir knows, we spent £10,000,000 on public works, whereas, in the preceding three years, when we had Liberal and Fusion Governments, only £2,450,000 was spent in that way. We expended more in public works than did our predecessors; but that is note taken into consideration. You can spend as much as you like on public works. The more we spent, apparently, the worse it would have been for us, . because it would have been counted against us. Every time we erected a country telephone line at great cost, extending the telephone system into the back-blocks, the expenditure was counted against the Fisher Government, because, it was said, we spent so many more hundreds of thousands of pounds. In -my opinion, that expenditure has no right to be counted against us, and it should be analyzed, just as I have had the figures taken out for me, showing the amount of ordinary expenditure per head, the amount spent on the Post Office, and the extra amount spent on defence. It is not right to lump the expenditure, and say, “You spent £16,000,000, whereas, before, only £7,500,000 was spent.” The fact is not taken into consideration that to-day we are spending more on public works. During our three years £10,000,000 was spent, as against £2,250,000 in the previous three years.
Another point which is overlooked in considering the expenditure during the three years of the Fisher Administration is that it was the first Government to pay interest on the transferred properties. What is the position in that regard! While to-day the properties are owned by the people of Australia, previously they were owned by exactly the same people in the various States. Many of the buildings were erected on Crown lands. To-day we pay interest on the value of a property, including the value of the land, as it was, I think, at the beginning of 1910, or when the properties were valued. I do not think it is right that we should be debited with that extra cost. It will be remembered, too, that, during the first eight or nine years of the “Federation, we paid to the States not only the 15s. in the £1 to which they were entitled from the Customs revenue, but, in addition, £6,500,000, which should have been taken as a set-off against the transferred properties. It should have been credited to the Commonwealth that we paid the States more than we need have done. There is another point which it is interesting to note in connexion with the figures given by tlie Prime Minister. According to the expenditure per head from the revenue, the present Government are going to spend less this year. Instead of spending £4 12s. 6d. per head from that source, they intend to spend only £4 7s. 6d. But what do they propose to do ? They intend to take 10s. lOd. per head .out of the accumulated surplus for Fleet construction. If honorable members will turn to the Budget-papers, on page 53 they will see that the Government are taking 10s. lOd. per head, and that, whereas last year we spent £4 14s. 7 1/2d. per head out of revenue for general expenditure, this year the amount per head will be £4 18s. 4d. - an increase, because the Government are taking from the accumulated surplus 10s. lOd. per head towards Fleet construction. The loan expenditure this year will be equal to 12s. 6Jd. per head, and not 5s. 0d.,- as was the case with the last Ministry. For the purpose of his comparison the Prime Minister says, “ Let me take the actual expenditure of the Fisher Administration; not their Estimates.” While he is prepared to take hold of the £2,600,000, and spend it, he is not prepared to give the Fisher Administration credit for saving that money, but he says, ‘ ‘ Let me take their Estimates.” Surely it was a prudent administration that was able to show, at the end of the year, a surplus! In his statement the Prime Minister practically denounces the Fisher Ministry for showing that surplus, although he is glad enough to use it. He says, ‘ ‘ Let me compare our Estimates with theirs.” Let me follow the example of every Treasurer of the Commonwealth,’ from Sir George Turner. I remember how he compared the actual spending of 1901 with the estimated expenditure of 1902. That is the fairest method to adopt - it has been adopted in connexion with all Budgets - and not the new method introduced by the Prime Minister. He says, “ Let me compare our Estimates with theirs.”-
– Like for like.
– This is a new method. Let the honorable gentleman take, as I have taken to-night, the actual expenditure per head. Let him put down the 25s. per head paid to the States, and the amount per head paid for defence. Let him put down the amount per head that is paid in the Postal Department, and the amount per head which is taken out of loan expenditure, and I venture to say that any Budget introduced by the late Prime Minister will compare more than favorably with the Budget and loan proposals which have been submitted by the present Treasurer. I do hope that this Parliament will be very careful in regard to loan expenditure. ‘ There is always a tendency to become extravagant when we have not to provide the money. If the funds with which to pay for the works scheduled in this Bill had to come out of the people’s pockets, greater care would be exercised in the scrutiny of the various items. When the Prime Minister declares that the Estimates presented by the Government are those prepared by their predecessors, he is stating something which is not correct. The Fisher Government never had any Estimates laid before them. I defy any member of the Ministry to point to a single estimate of revenue prepared by the Customs Department while I was presiding over it. If I drafted no estimate of revenue for the greatest producing Department in the Commonwealth - a Department which contributes threefifths or more of our total revenue - is it likely that the late Government ever had an opportunity of considering estimates of revenue and expenditure? As a matter of fact, from the time the honorable member for Wide Bay delivered his policy speech in Maryborough at the end of March,, right up till polling day, Ministers were engaged in electioneering. It was obviously . impossible to consider estimates of revenue and expenditure three months before the close of the financial year. I hope that every item in this Bill will be closely scrutinized, because, when we are dealing with loan moneys, there is a tendency to become extravagant, and it is a regrettable fact that the more we borrow the more pronounced will that tendency become.
– I should like to make an appeal to honorable members to ‘ bring this debate to a close as early as possible. We have been here now for a week, and we have done nothing so far, and next Tuesday will be a holiday.
– Is the Prime Minister speaking upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill?
– I am. I hope, in these circumstances, that honorable members will consent to give us this Bill to-night. It is a reasonable request to make. The position is that we must do some business. We have done scarcely any for the session, and it is about time the House began to take seriously into its consideration the business of the country. In view of the fact that we have done nothing during the week, and that we shall do nothing during a part of next week, owing to holidays, I ask honorable members to give us this Bill to-night.
.- I cannot think that the Prime Minister is serious in the request which he has made. I do not think that any Prime Minister would for a moment dream that the House would allow a Bill of this character to be rushed through when only two speeches have been delivered upon the motion for its second reading. The bigger portion of to-day was occupied in the discussion of a matter which should have been disposed of in five minutes.
– Order !
– I am replying to the observations of the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member should not, and must not, discuss a matter which has been dealt with.
– The Prime Minister stated that no business had been transacted.
– The Prime Minister did not deal with the matter which the honorable member is attempting to discuss.
– But that matter is involved in his remarks. If the honorable gentleman is well advised, he will let us go home. We have had a worrying week. He has given us two or three shocks. If he has any humanity in his composition he will realize the wisdom of adopting the course which I have suggested, instead of arousing antagonism on the part of honorable members upon tins’ side of the Chamber. Before I make a start I wish to ask–
– Is this “stonewalling ‘ ‘ ?
– That is a very unfair remark from the Postmaster-General. Will the Prime Minister consent to the adjournment of the debate?
– I cannot possibly do so. I am not thinking about the time, but about the business.
– This Bill is too important to be rushed through with such haste. When the motion for leave to introduce it was under consideration, we pointed out a serious blemish in it, which the Government have since endeavoured to correct. We emphasized the folly of establishing a sinking fund of½ per cent, in connexion with works of a perishable character. The amendment introduced by the Government to correct that defect does not go far enough, because I hold that the sinking fund which is intended to cover these perishable assets should be provided by the Departments which control them. For. instance, when we borrow money for the construction of telephone conduits, the sinking fund for that work should be provided by the Postal Department. It is extremely regrettable that there is not a man in this House who can define the financial position of the Commonwealth to-day. I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– On a point of order, I submit that that motion cannot be moved by a private member.
– That is so.
– Then I move-
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot do that, as he has already commenced a speech.
– Then I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.] I was making a few observations on this measure whenI found that the Government were so interested in it that there was not a single Minister in the chamber. Apparently, Ministers expect us to allow legislation to go through without any fair discussion, and without reasonable comment. So far, only two speeches have been delivered upon the motion for “the second reading of the Bill. Yet the Prime Minister expects us to sanction an innovation in the form of a Loan Bill without any criticism whatever.
– Why does not the honorable member discuss the Bill?
– I would like the honorable member’s constituents to know how he discusses it.
– Never mind that.
– I do mind it, and they will mind it before it is all over. I will guarantee that the honorable member does not know what is contained in the Bill. He is one of the men who occupy seats in this House and have not the courage to express their opinions. We pointed out on a previous occasion the folly of throwing down a Bill so illadapted as this originally was to meet the objects sought to be achieved. Adopting the suggestion of honorable members, who, unlike the honorable member for Calare, are taking an interest in the legislation of their country, the Government has circulated an amendment which will bring this Bill into something like reasonable form. I compliment the Treasurer on the good sense he has displayed in adopting our suggestion, although the amendment will not wholly give effect to the view which I expressed on a previous occasion. If we intend to establish a sinking fund to liquidate these loans, the money paid into that sinking fund should come, not out of the Consolidated Revenue, but out of the revenue of the Department on whose works the loan money is spent. If loan money is to be expended on conduits for undergrounding telegraph wires or for other postal works, then the sinking fund in respect of the loan should come from the revenue of the Postal Department. Unfortunately, we have not, and never have had, a balance-sheet showing how the money we vote is spent, and with what result.
– Has there been such a balance-sheet during the last three years?
– No. I say that we have never had one, and but for the investigation made by honorable members on this side of the House, we should not have had in the Postal Department any accountant save those who were responsible for the conditions that had existed from the inception of Federation. Owing to the force of our criticism, an accountant was ultimately appointed to prepare a balance-sheet, but, although three years have elapsed, that balance-sheet is not yet forthcoming. The PostmasterGeneral told us a mouth ago that we should have it iu four weeks’ time, and later on lie said that we would have it shortly. Honorable members opposite evidently do not wish to know how we stand financially, and have no interest in the question of whether or not we should have, in respect of the Postal Department, a balance-sheet such as would be demanded from the directors of any business company. In this Parliament, apparently, a national balance-sheet is not required. A Bill is put before us providing for the expenditure of loan moneys, and we are asked to pass it without discussion or amendment. It is imperative that we should closely scrutinize this measure, which will initiate the borrowing system in connexion with the Commonwealth. In this schedule, provision is made for an appropriation of loan money amounting to £1,000,000- for the construction of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Many grave doubts have been expressed as to the wisdom of building that line, and, judging by the data before us, I believe that it will , prove a white elephant. I do not think that it will pay interest on the money borrowed to construct it. The working of the line will show a deficit year after year and decade after decade.
– Do not be so pessimistic.
– We know what to expect. It was said that I was a pessimist when I predicted that there would be little settlement in the Northern Terri tory for many years to come, but my prediction is being verified. Facts are proving the correctness of the view which I took when the Northern Territory Agreement Bill was before us. The schedule to this Bill provides for an appropriation of loan moneys for the construction of a railway from Piue Creek to the Katherine River and southwards. Why, “and southwards?” We know that this money is not designed to carry the railway beyond the Katherine River, so that the words “ and southwards “ have merely been inserted iu the schedule as a sort of sop to the representatives of South Australia - to make them believe that this line is to be carried south of the Katherine when there is no such intention, so far as this Loan Bill is concerned.
– I think that the honorable member is right.
– I am glad to have that admission from the honorable member. The cunning introduction of the words “and southwards,” in the item, is merely designed to capture votes. It is a piece of political clap-trap, which, it is thought, may satisfy certain honorable members who feel that they are expected to see that this line is extended from the north to the south. Fancy borrowing money to construct a -railway of this character! Does any one expect that it will pay interest on the borrowed money expended upon its construction ? I venture to predict that, like the line from Darwin to Pine Creek, it will not pay working expenses. The country cannot be- developed in such a way as to make the railway a paving one. One of the lamentable features of our parliamentary system is that we spend money without first ascertaining whether the work on which the money is to be expended will be revenue-producing. We have not a works committee, or any other responsible body, to investigate proposals to enter upon certain undertakings involving heavy expenditures. No matter requires more careful scrutiny than does a proposal to expend money on railway construction in the Northern Territory. The Government should have refrained from proposing an expenditure of this kind until it had information as to the possibilities of the’ railway being made a payable one. We are asked to vote £400,000 for this one work. What have we to show in the Northern Territory for the money we have already expended there, and what are we going to get? How many people are rushing the farm lands thrown open there, and how many of those who go to the Northern Territory will remain there ? I have, from the beginning, held the opinion that the Northern Territory is little better than a snare. Attempts are being made to coax people into the belief that they can live there in comparative comfort, whereas the conditions prevailing in the worst parts of Australia are superior to those which offer in the Territory. If people will not go there, why build a railway? We are told that we must push on with railway construction in the Territory in order to encourage settlement, but, in every State of which 1 have any knowledge, settlers have paved the way for railway construction. The authorities have required some evidence that a railway will pay before they have been prepared to construct it. Even trunk lines have only been built section after section as evidence of a reasonable return has been forthcoming. The present Government, however, before they know whether the Territory can be settled by white people, or whether the land is of such a quality as to offer an incentive to settlement, propose to spend £400,000 on this railway. No honorable member, having seen the country for himself, and having any knowledge of its climate and the handicaps to be overcome, would think of taking his wife and children to reside in the Territory permanently. Railways will not alter the climate of the country.
Mr.- Kendell. - Surely the honorable member would not advocate abandoning the Northern Territory?
– No; but I ask whether any private individual or company would enter upon an expenditure of £400,000, as the commencement of an expenditure of millions, with the information and guidance that the Government has to-day? This item, in my opinion, ought to be left out of the Loan Bill; but the Government insist upon it, without regard to the criticism of honorable members. Then it is proposed to borrow £60,000 for the construction of a railway from Port Moresby to Astrolabe, and for the construction of wharfs at Port Moresby and Samarai, Papua. Whose guidance have the Government sought in regard to this proposed expenditure ? Who has been to Papua in order to satisfy the Government that they ought to undertake this expenditure, the end of which we cannot see. This work ought not to be started until some responsible person or Persons have, under the authority of Parliament, made a report; and it is not fair to ask honorable members to vote such sums with their eyes shut. To me, it seems madness on tlie part of the Government to rush into enterprises of the kind without sufficient reliable data. I observe that for the first time it is proposed to borrow money to the extent of £170,000 for the purchase of land for post and telegraph purposes. I have read somewhere that the late Government decided to borrow money for the purchase of land for a post-office at Perth; but, if that be so, it is the only case of the kind.
– We passed a Loan Bill for that purpose last session.
– I cannot say that I have any strong objection to borrowing for such a purpose, because land, generally speaking, is an asset that does not depreciate, and may prove of value; and 1 think that the sinking fund of A per cent, will prove sufficient in the ca”se of land for post and telegraph purposes, or for the purchase of land for defence purposes. Tlie next item, however, is one that I do not think any one could justify . It is proposed to borrow £425,000 for the construction of conduits and for laying wires underground. These are works that hitherto have never been carried out with borrowed money ; and the proposal is one upon which every member is entitled to express an opinion. The proposal to set aside 5 per cent, in order to redeem the loans on those perishable works is not quite ‘satisfactory ; because, in my opinion, this repayment ought to come, not out of the Consolidated Revenue, but out of the revenue of the Department on whose behalf the borrowing has taken place. This would enable accounts to be kept, and a proper balance-sheet prepared, showing the liability of the several Departments concerned. Had we let this Bill go through, it would have proved a dangerous pitfall for both the Departments and Parliament; and because we discuss it, and point out anomalies and imperfections, the . Government have practically to ask for a new message in order to meet the circumstances, thus showing that they really did not understand what they required. The Government have not introduced much legislation this session, but what little they have introduced, has been of a very immature character; and even in the case of a small measure like this they have not shown that capacity which the country has a right to expect. They may confuse the finances of the country, and delude the people by their mysterious undertakings, but they will be perfectly satisfied if we will let them pass only this one Bill. The Bill, however, is one of the most important, from a financial standpoint, ever submitted to the House; and yet the Government think we on this side are so forgetful of the trust reposed in us by the people as to neglect to do our duty in the way of criticism. The Government either’ under-estimates the patriotism of members on this side, or they are reckless in regard to the character of the legislation they propose. It is monstrous on the part of the Government to compel us to discuss an intricate measure of this kind at an hour of the night when we are weary, and our minds are not at their clearest; aud I ask leave to continue my speech on a future occasion.
– No; we must do some business.
– Then I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quoruy formed.]
– In view of the charges made by the Treasurer in the statement he read - not the speech he made - and of the debatable matter he introduced, every honorable member on ‘this side would be justified in criticising and opposing the Bill. The innuendoes thi-own out, and the calculations in regard to the borrowing negotiated by the previous Government, provide matter justifying discussion at considerable length. We should have the Treasurer’s speech before us in print, so that in dealing with this measure we might be able to reply to it. We were courteous enough to allow the right honorable gentleman to read that speech, but God knows who wrote it! I should like to know who did write it. The Prime Minister is not dealing .fairly with honorable members in trying to force this Bill through in this way.
– The honorable member should let me alone. Why does he try to bully me?
– Because the honorable gentleman is trying to bludgeon legislation through this Parliament without giving honorable members a reasonable opportunity for criticism. « The fact that practically a new Loan Bill has had to be introduced is due to the slip-shod manner in which the honorable gentleman and his colleagues prepare legislation for this House. All they appear to know is that their policy is to borrow. It does not matter to them how the money is to be used, or the loan to be redeemed, so long as they succeed in borrowing money, .and can hand over the burden, which should be borne by the taxpayers of to-day, to those who are to come after them. I understand that some honorable members have copies of the speech delivered by the Treasurer, and I shall let some other honorable member take up the running in order that I may have the points of that speech typed, so that the Opposition may be able to discuss this measure in a manner which will reflect credit upon them, and be becoming a legislative assembly.
.- I wish on this Bill to discuss a matter which was involved in a motion by a private member that was allowed to pass this afternoon. The honorable member for Dampier submitted a motion asking for the appointment of a committee, without giving the names of the committee proposed to be appointed, and though I considered that irregular, rather than block the motion I allowed it to go without objection.
– The honorable member is not addressing himself to the question before the House.
– I am discussing the * motion to which I refer in connexion with that part of the schedule of the Bill which refers to the construction of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. It is proposed to provide a sum of money for the purchase of sleepers, amongst other things, in connexion with the construction of that line.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing a motion which was the subject of a debate this afternoon.
– I do not propose to discuss the motion, but the constitution of the Committee. I take exception to the Committee that has been appointed.
– Order ! I should like to point out that the honorable member will not bo in order in proceeding on those lines. The matter to which he refers has already been decided by a vote of the House. It is distinctly against the Standing Orders for the honorable member to take exception to what the House has already done.
– I should be the last to disobey your ruling in any shape or form. I should like to know whether I shall be in order in alluding to the constitution of the Committee as affecting the expenditure of the money to be borrowed under this Bill. A Committee has been appointed for tlie purpose of making recommendations with regard to certain expenditure.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in reviewing a decision already arrived at by the House. The House has decided that a certain Committee shall be appointed, and has nominated the members of the Committee The honorable member will not be in order in discussing it.
– Would I be in order in discussing the matter on the adjournment of the House?
– No ; the honorable member cannot, under the Standing Orders, discuss a matter decided by the House in the same session.
– Then I wish to say that 1 object to some of the expenditure to be provided for under this Bill, for various reasons, one of which is that I do not believe that the money will be spent in the best interests of the country, because the purchase of sleepers for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway is to be carried out on the report of a Committee the members of which have already expressed an opinion in the strongest and most biased manner concerning a certain process used in connexion with the sleepers Strong exception was taken only a little time ago to the appointment of a Committee by the Senate, on the ground that a member of the Committee had already prejudged the case it was appointed to inquire into. We have had the strongest expressions of opinion on powellised sleepers by men who have been appointed to determine a matter after hearing evidence on the subject. If we are going to spend £1,400,000 on the construction of the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, it will be admitted that a considerable portion of that expenditure will be required for the purchase of sleepers. If the responsible engineers are not to be accepted as fair judges of tlie kind of sleepers which should be purchased, I should like to know how men influenced by a bias that has already been expressed on the floor of this House can judge evidence on the subject submitted to them independently?
– Does the honorable member call it only a bias?
– They are influenced also by prejudice, arising from a determination to block a fair and honest inquiry in every manner possible. The opinion of men who are not interested in this matter should be taken. A portion of the expenditure provided for under this Bill is to be held up until certain questions are determined by a Committee that has been appointed.
– It cannot be held up. The honorable member knows that contracts for sleepers have been let already.
– Speeches were made here this afternoon urging the Government not to incur the expenditure of another penny on the construction, of this line until certain inquiries have been made and a report on the powellising process submitted.
– It cannot affect the purchase of the sleepers already ordered.
– The honorable member for Grey has expressed his opinion on this subject in the strongest terms possible. He has already prejudged the case he has been appointed to inquire into. The honorable member for Dampier and the honorable member for Franklin have also already strongly condemned a certain process winch they have been appointed to give an unbiased judgment upon after hearing evidence.
– Was not the honorable member in favour of the appointment of the Committee?
– I am still in favour of a Committee of members of this House making an inquiry, but, as I said at the time–
– I must ask the honorable member not to proceed on those lines. He must not discuss the personnel of the Committee referred to. The House has already decided that.
– I am trying to keep off that point, as you have ruled that I cannot discuss it.
– The honorable member assumes that the Committee will not give him a fair deal, although he is a director of the Powellising Company.
– I merely ask that the evidence upon which the Government will be guided in the expenditure of this money shall come from an independent source, and that the inquiry into the process referred to shall be made by unbiased and unprejudiced persons. I am satisfied that .the House would be prepared to support this expenditure, or even a larger sum, on the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, on evidence of that kind. But we shall not be acting wisely if we hold up the expenditure on this work until a report is received from a number of gentlemen who have already prejudged the case they have been appointed to” inquire into.
– They cannot stop contracts entered into for sleepers now.
– I am not interested in that.
– No; the honorable member is interested iu the future. He should have objected when the Government he supports cancelled his contract.
Mr-. BOYD. - The honorable member for Franklin this afternoon urged that not one penny should be spent on sleepers for any of the railways to be provided for out of the money to be borrowed under this Bill until certain inquiries were made. I have no objection to that, but the inquiries should be made by people who are not interested, and who have not already expressed a biased judgment on the matter.
– The honorable member must not proceed on those lines. He is endeavouring to get behind the ruling I have given. The Standing Orders distinctly lay it down that the course on which the honorable member is proceeding is irregular. I ask him to make no further reference to another debate that took place during the afternoon, and not to criticise the personality of the Select Committee.
– I would not have disobeyed your ruling, sir, had I not been drawn into so doing by an interjection. I think I have explained my position perfectly clearly. The inquiry should at least be based on evidence that is unprejudiced and disinterested. That being so, I am perfectly content to allow the item to pass. I hope what I have said will have the necessary effect when the proper time comes.
– A considerable amount of party feeling was displayed by the Treasurer in introducing this Loan Bill, and he endeavoured to make as much capital as he could out of it. I admit that his speech was, in many points, lucid and clear, but in other respects there seemed to be a great desire on his part to make things as obscure as possible. I join with other honorable members in saying that if there is anything on winch the electors should be intelligently informed it is finance. It is absolutely essential that, if we are to win the confidence of the people, and bring them into full appreciation of the various schemes submitted to us from time to time, we should place in the clearest and most distinct fashion all the information before those who have to provide the money. The present Government came into power unexpectedly. It was one of the biggest political surprises Australia’ has ever known. They claim they come here at the behest of the majority of the people - which, of course, many of us question - and the majority of them have adopted a very antagonistic attitude towards many measures passed during the last Parliament. The present “Treasurer claims that he left something on the stocks in relation to banking, and in regard to the Note Issue, which the late Treasurer says he found no trace of. Now, because he did not have the pleasure of introducing those measures, he is, apparently, a little jealous that some other Treasurer, following him, should have done so. He is antagonistic to the Note Issue and the Commonwealth Bank, but there are no two assets that are more valuable in connexion with the flotation of loans than are the Note Issue and the Commonwealth Bank properly made use of. I believe that, in the future, we shall have in the . Commonwealth Bank a splendid aid, .:specially when Parliament, or somebody authorized by Parliament, will have control and management of loans, not only Commonwealth, but State. In these circumstances the bank would be an institution, not only here, but on the other side of the world, that would be a very valuable agency in connexion with the management of loans, not only the flotation of new loans, but also the redemption of old loans.
– If you expect the present institution to be of any use in that way you have great. faith in it.
– It is a pity honorable members on the Ministerial benches have not faith, not only in Australia, but in the Commonwealth Bank. Even ici its infancy it is having considerable influence on the financial world. Recently a loan of £300,000 to the Metropolitan Board of Works was underwritten by the Commonwealth Bank, and that has had a considerable influence on the money-lending institutions in Australia in the direction of bringing down the price of money, and making those people who, a few months earlier, were not inclined to subscribe £300,000 for the Metropolitan Board of Works, except at a rather high rate of interest, and under conditions not acceptable to the Board, tumble over one another in order that the institution might have the use of money at an exceptionally cheap rate to the amount of £50,000. It was a salutary lesson to other banks. When a bank can do that it must have a considerable influence on other institutions; and well supported as it should be by the Treasurer and other people as well, it should become a very valuable influence in the financial world, at any rate, of Australia. Lord George Hamilton, chairman of directors of the Bank of Australasia, speaking in London at a meeting of shareholders, said that the Commonwealth Bank would certainly be a serious competitor with the private banks, and would, no doubt, indulge in underwriting loans, and that, properly managed, it would become in Australia as fine an institution as the Bank of England in the United Kingdom. When a financial magnate, holding such a responsible position, makes a declaration like this in Loudon, the centre of the United Kingdom, which has loaned 3,000 millions sterling to various countries, it is about time we paid some heed to favorable criticism of this kind, and paid a due meed to the Commonwealth Bank; also it ill-becomes pigmies in finance to say anything derogatory of the bank. It is remarkable that there is now about £3,500,000 on deposit in the Savings Bank branch of the bank, though the Governor of the bank is only giving 3 per cent, interest to the depositors, while the State Savings Banks are giving up to 3£ per cent. The State Governments, for Credit Foncier purposes and for land advances, have taken considerable sums from State Savings
Banks, and had Mr. Denison Miller not commenced operations in an exceptionally conservative manner, the chances are that there would have been considerable chaos in those Savings Banks. Mr. Murray, when he was Premier of Victoria, said that it was the working people who put the money into the State Savings Bank. The working people are just as keen at getting a fair rate of interest on their money as others, and if the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank had offered to pay depositors 3£ per cent., in a very short space of time between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 would have been drawn from the Victorian Savings Bank alone, and placed in the Commonwealth Bank. The Argus cannot be said to have ever favoured the Commonwealth Bank, but before the elections - whether it met with the complete approval of the Prime Minister I do not know - it said that the State debts should be consolidated, and that the management of these debts, the redemption of them, and the flotation of new loans, should be done through the Commonwealth Bank in London. It was even made one of the planks of the Liberal party’s platform put before the electors of Victoria. When we find a Conservative journal that advocates the return of Conservatives to Parliament, admitting that the bank would have a good influence in regard to loans in London, we must accept what it says in the spirit in which the advice was tendered.
The Treasurer made use of quite a number of figures. He was quite correct in saying that if the Bill passed, the Government would have the opportunity of making use of £3,080,000 of loan money. If we add that to the sum borrowed by the previous Government from the Trust Funds, namely £2,990,000, it amounts to £6,070,000. But the Treasurer did not stop there. He went on to deal with various items for which the Commonwealth Parliament is responsible, and he totted up great big items, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh says, as if they were part and parcel of a well-known Australian debt. Every one knows that when we took over the Northern Territory, we did take over a big financial responsibility in respect to loans floated by the South Australian Government, for the purpose of the development of the Territory.
In connexion with the Northern Territory and the Oodnadatta railway, we have incurred a loan responsibility amounting to £5,295,948. The Treasurer said that another £10,547,755 must be added to the loan account in connexion with the transferred properties and the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The right honorable gentleman thus makes the Commonwealth debt £21,913,076. I take exception to the way in which the figures have been placed before the public. I do not say that we are not responsible for this sum, but I would point out that we have assets to set against it reaching to nearly one-half the amount. I do not take a pessimistic view of the Northern Territory, though I do not belittle the difficulties that must be faced in its development. We rightly took this burden off the State of South Australia, which, with its limited resources, was unequal to the work of development. But we have in the Territory nearly half a million square miles, some of which may not be very good, though I do not know that we should speak of any of the land in Australia as worthless. Some people ask what has made profitable the Mallee in Victoria, and similar country in South Australia, and say that it is the extension of railways and the providing of water supplies; but I believe that what has helped more than anything else is the discovery of phosphate manures, which supply deficiencies of the soil, and make what we were taught at school was desert land to blossom as the rose. With railway communication and proper administration the Northern Territory will be a valuable asset. We shall have to wait for a number of years to obtain an appreciable return for our expenditure there, but in years to come the generations that are following us will be thankful that the Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth.
As to the liability in respect to the transferred properties, the honorable member for Hindmarsh has shown what an asset we have in the Melbourne General Post Office. What more desirable property than that could there be, situated as it is at the corner of two main streets, and worth thousands of pounds? In every capital in the Commonwealth we possess a similar property. The Commonwealth has also valuable post-offices in the large provincial towns. Indeed, in nearly every town in Australia there is a fine building occupying a central position and of great value. It is a credit to the State Governments that such good sites were re- served for postal purposes. Our postoffices are not only useful for the transaction of postal business; they are becoming the banks of the people. I hope that the State Treasurers will come to their senses, and make an arrangement with the Commonwealth Treasurer, so that there will be no more antagonism between the State Savings Banks and the Commonwealth Savings Bank. If they do that we shall have one strong Savings Bank. I believe that on a very conservative estimate the postal buildings and sites owned by the Commonwealth are worth nearly £10,000,000. Therefore, in the Northern Territory and in the transferred properties we have very good assets to set against our indebtedness. - The right honorable member for Swan is the first Treasurer who has spoken of the transferred properties as a loan liability. Certainly we have good value for the money on which we pay interest. The valuer who made a valuation of the transferred properties did his work well. If anything, he made an under-valuation, and our bargain with the States was a good one.
Speaking of the transfer of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the exPrime Minister in the policy speech that he delivered at Maryborough on the 31st March, spoke of the amount of shipbuilding and dockyard work associated with the Customs Department in connexion with lighthouses, quarantine, and navigation, and with the Department of External Affairs in connexion with the Northern Territory. The Cockatoo Island Dockyard was taken over’ not merely to repair warships, but also to repair the vessels that will be needed’ for the work of the Quarantine and Lighthouse Departments. At the present time the Cockatoo Island Dock is the only place where the Australia can be docked, which makes it all the worse that this Government should have practically stopped the work at the Cockburn Sound Naval Base. Were the Australia cruising on “the western coast of the continent, and were anything to go wrong with her, she would have to be towed right round to Sydney for repairs. I admit that at the present time warships are being built at Cockatoo Island, but the dock is needed also for repairs to the large fleet of other vessels that will be required for the carrying on of various Commonwealth services. These vessels must either be docked and repaired in our own yards or sent to private dockyards, and I think we have learned the advantage of having our own yards and our own staffs and material. Since the ex-Prime Minister spoke, the Commonwealth has made arrangements for taking over Norfolk Island. That will necessitate the establishment of regular communication, as will also the development of Papua and the Northern Territory. ‘ I think that the Cockatoo Island Dock is needed, and will be used to the fullest advantage. I do not wish to discuss the floating of loans and the borrowing of money, without referring to the existing public debt of Australia. I believe that the day is not far distant when there will be only one borrower in Australia. The Commonwealth should take over the debts of the States only on p condition that all future borrowing should be done through it. Unless that is agreed to, what will be gained by taking over the State debts? Money can be saved only by having one borrowing authority and one stock, which, when created, will be one of the best negotiable securities in any market. The public debt of Australia is now £294,000,000, or about £61 7s. per head of population, the annual interest bill being £12,000,000, or £2 10s. per head of population. It means that each family of five persons lias to contribute to the interest burden £12 10s. per year, or 5s. per week. I think that when we are dealing with figures in relation to interest and expenditure we should deal more with breadwinners - at any rate with adults, because it is only in that way that we can arrive at a more accurate conclusion. If we add what has been outlined by the Treasurer, the cost for defence is £1 3s. 6d. per head of the population. For a family of five persons that means a contribution of £5 17s. 6d. per year, or 2s. 5d. per week. Therefore each family of five persons in the Commonwealth has to pay 5s. per week to make up the interest bill on our loans, and 2s. 5d. per week on defence, or, in all,. 7s. 5d., in these times of high cost of living. That is a very serious consideration to poor families. In his Seven Colonies, for 1901-2, Mr. Coghlan, formerly the Statistician for New South Wales, and now its AgentGeneral, has some very pertinent para- graphs in respect to- Australia as a borrower and interest payer -
The most remarkable feature in the general expenditure of the Australian States is the largeness of the amount required to pay interest and charges on the public debt, both in regard to the rate per head and the proportion of revenue thus hypothecated.
In 1901-2 the interest per head was £2 3s. 3d., and in 1912-13 it had risen to £2 10s. per head. New South Wales was the first borrower, as far back as 1842, and it borrowed money at 8 per cent. In succeeding years money was borrowed by that and other States in various sums, for which interest at 5, 6, 7, and 8 per cent, was paid. In another paragraph Mr. Coghlan says -
No feature of Australian finance is so astonishing as the growth of public indebtedness, and this fact has formed the gravamen of many indictments which have been urged against Stales during recent years.
From 1871 to 1901 the total borrowings were £165,821,000; the interest for the. same period was £135,281,000; while the net amount received was £30,540,000.
– Can you tell us the amount borrowed by the Labour Government of New South Wales during that period ?
– I cannot tot up the amount just now.
– It was pretty big, was’ it not?
– I understand that the Labour Government of New South Wales came into office at a time when the demauds from the producers were of such a character that it became- absolutely essential to duplicate the railways for hundreds of miles to bring the produce to the seaboard in the most reasonable way and the most expeditious time.
– That was not the policy on which they got into office.
– I do not say that. I am not here to defend any party who indulge in what I may term extravagant borrowing, who do not treat the public finances in the same way as they would treat their private affairs. I have no time for a man, no matter what party he belongs to, if he will not pay due regard to our financial liabilities as they exist, and the incurring of fresh liabilities. Sometimes it is not the amount of money borrowed, but how it is to be spent, which should be the chief consideration. In Australia, we have only scratched the surface. ^1 do not belong to a nonborrowing party at all. A plank in our platform for years lias been restriction of public borrowing. Goodness only knows, it was absolutely essential to introduce such a plank into the platform of some party in Australia to stop some of the extravagance which was going on. No doubt the honorable member for Wannon and the honorable member for Echuca have read up the history of their State. Surely they must know that to-day we are carrying a heavy burden not bequeathed to us by a Labour party, but by a party constituted somewhat the same as the party on the other side, and including the greatest enemies that Victoria ever had. The honorable member for Echuca remembers that the coalition Governments iu this State - and in most States too - have been the most ruinous Governments that we have ever had.
– Mr. Watt says that we have no public debt in Victoria.
– During the late campaign the Prime Minister did not help the representatives of the State Governments when they went home to borrow money by trying to make out to the people of Australia that the finances of the Commonwealth were in a disgraceful condition. I am not at all surprised that, for that reason . and others, those gentlemen did not get exactly what they went to secure. What has been our policy in regard to borrowing? No effort has been made by the States to reduce the public indebtedness except in the case of Western Australia. I think it was the honorable member for Swan who instituted there a sinking -fund in connexion with loans, and to-day the statistics show Western Australia has made the best effort of all the States to establish a fund of that kind, and that to-day it has a fund of something about half the total of £5,000,000.
To deal with the interjection of the honorable member for Gippsland, what did Mr. Watt do when he went home? For what purpose did he try to raise £4,000,000? For redemption purposes. He went to London to borrow £4,000,000 from Brown to pay off £4,000,000 which he owed to Jones. To change the creditors of Victoria cost £40,000 or £50,000, but its people will have to bear the burden.
I have been quoting a gentleman who, in his Tear-Book, has dealt with loan flotations. I think that the States, in the interest of the taxpayers, should have come together before to-day. On this point Mr. Coghlan says -
No combined action is taken to regulate the raising of loans, each- State acting according to the exigencies of its Government, regardless of the financial condition of its neighbours. The placing of a loan on the London market, especially if it be for a large amount, generally results in an all-round fall in the prices of Australian stocks, and subsequent issues of other States are placed at a disadvantage if the market is approached before it has recovered its tone,- in fact the States have, in this respect, all the evil of disintegration and all the liabilities of Federation, without any of the advantages which Federation would give. The evil effects of this lack of consultation between Australian Treasurers will be seen.
Those remarks, I think, are very pertinent indeed. .In introducing this Bill yesterday, the Treasurer intimated that certain loans made by the previous Government would mature, and that would allow him to have money to handle either in expenditure on public works or for reiuvestment. He said that he would require £5,768,850, but with the loans that would mature prior to the close of this financial year he would only receive - that is, I understand, with the added cash surplus that he found in the Treasury - a sum of £3,945,450. He says, in effect, “That is all the money I shall be able to obtain from the loans effected from the -trust account, and that will leave me a deficiency of £1,823,400 to find.” I should like to know where he is going to get that money. He gave a hint in his Budget statement, and an intimation in his speech on this Bill, that he does not intend to go outside the trust account. I hope that that is so.
– That is the only redeeming feature about the proposal.
– That is so. But I would like to know from the Prime Minister whether the Government intend to go on to the Australian market or the London market to obtain the £1,823,400 which the Treasurer will require over aud above what he can get from the trust account and loans maturing. Is it their intention to borrow money from the Trust Funds only ?
– I do not know: we will get it where we can.
– -There is indefiniteness again. We are asked to take this Bill as a matter of course. The Treasurer himself was indefinite yesterday. He said, “I want £1,823,000, and I must get it somewhere.” I would like to know where he intends to get it. Is the Commonwealth to become a seventh borrower on the London market?
– Is that the only means the honorable member can suggest of getting it?
– No. I do not profess to know how much the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has at his disposal, but I presume that he would be prepared to lend to the Government at a reasonable rate of interest. It would be better to get the money from him than to borrow it in London.
– What permanent funds has he?
– He has millions of pounds at his command - just the same sort of funds as have the Commissioners of the various Savings Banks. I would like more definite information on this matter. I do not care to think that the Government will, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, go upon the London market. If they do so, what kind of a reception will they get? Figuratively speaking, it appears to me that- when the representatives of four State Governments went to England recently, for the purpose of floating loans there, the financiers of the Old Country put them across their knees and gave them a sound spanking. They practically told them to go* home and arrive at some reasonable arrangement between themselves. I dare say that those same financiers, if they were to speak their minds, would declare that it would be far better for Australia to have only one borrower. The honorable member for Riverina has asked where we are to get this money? Yet the Treasurer himself is going to introduce a measure which has for its object the locking up of still more money. Under the Commonwealth Notes Act we are bound to keep a gold reserve of 25 per cent. The Note Issue is absolutely under the control of the Treasury Department, and not under the control of the Commonwealth Bank
– Worse luck for the bank.
– In time to come it may be desirable that the Commonwealth Bank should be the only institution issuing paper money in Australia. In round numbers, there are about £10,000,000 worth of notes out from the Treasury today. Sovereigns have been paid for these notes, and if we kept a gold reserve of only 25 per cent, we should thus have about £7,500,000 available for investment. That sum, if properly handled, could be made to return a considerable revenue.
– The gold reserve has never been down to 25 per cent.
– I am aware of that. It has never been less than 33 per cent., and, at the present time, I believe it is about 40 per cent. I ask the honorable member whether people would turn down a Commonwealth note simply because it had a gold backing of only 25 per cent. ? I say that they would not. The whole of the taxable resources of the Commonwealth stand behind it. Even the greatest opponent of the Note Issue would never dream of saying that there is any danger in that issue. Why, then, should we lock up in the Treasury vault about 1,500,000 more sovereigns than there is any necessity to lock up? Yet, if the Treasurer carries out his intention, he will reduce the available money by at least £500,000. Why?
– Because we require a reserve of 50 per cent.
– That sort of talk might go down if we were dealing with private individuals or private banks. Why do we require a 50 per cent, backing for our notes?
– Those notes are payable in gold on demand.
– At the Treasury.
– What about the history of the Argentine and Rhode Island ?
– Can the Argentine be compared with Australia at any time ? Better financiers than the honorable member and myself are investing considerable money in the Argentine, and are getting good interest on it. The Argentine today is very different from the Argentine of thirty years ago. I well recollect the occasion in the State Parliament, when Mr. Robert Harper, in discussing the banking crisis, said that what was wanted in this country was a central bank backed by the State, adding, “ It is ..not cash that we require, but confidence. If we have confidence in the country, we can do better than we can do even with the cash.” I question whether, about twenty or twenty-five years ago, there was a keener intellect than his in Victoria, and I doubt whether there was an individual who understood banking institutions generally better than he did. Yet that was his opinion. What he suggested we should do twenty years ago is almost identically what we did in the last Parliament. When Sir George Dibbs issued the proclamation in New South Wales that the Government were behind the banks he stopped the rush upon them. It is a pity that we did not have a man of his stamp here.
– He never took a sovereign out of the banks.
– But he was Premier of New South Wales.
– And he guaranteed the bank notes.
– Yes ; and he practically guaranteed the solvency of the banks.
– And received the unqualified opposition of all the Labour members at that time.
– The Prime Minister was a member of the Labour party then.
– I supported Sir George Dibbs, if the honorable member wants to know
– I think it is about time that this foolish claptrap about the backing of our Commonwealth notes was stopped. I am just as much interested in the solvency of this country, and in its good government, as is any honorable member. Being a family man, and having a love for my country, I am very much interested in all its institutions. Members of ‘ the Labour party are not wreckers. A man would be an absolute fool to take a stand of that kind, because in the common ruin he would be overwhelmed. I believe that a 25 per cent, gold reserve is quite sufficient to hold against our note issue.
– The United States has a gold reserve of only . 15 per cent.
– And Mr. Laughton shows how much unbacked paper is on issue in the world. Yet here in one of the best countries under the sun it is urged that our Commonwealth notes have not sufficient backing. I repeat that it is not so much coin we want as confidence.
– Help us to get it back.
– While the present Ministry remain in power, we shall not set it back.
– We shall not get it back, judging by the shrinkage in the bank deposits.
– There has been a fine advance in those deposits, and all being well this year, we are going to have the finest lamb season, that we have ever enjoyed.
– In spite of it all, Mr. Knibbs says that the amount of capital invested in our primary industries is less than it was.
– The Prime Minister has merely to turn up Mr. Knibbs’ bulletin for August to find out that what I say is correct. According to him, in 1910 the area under crop was 10,972,000 acres, in 1910-11 it was 11,893,000 acres, in 1911-12 it was 12,107,000 acres, and in 1912-13 it is 13,036,000 acres.
– That is nothing like the area which should have been under cultivation.
– No doubt that is so, but our advance in recent years has been exceptional. When we have the Prime Minister touring the country and telling the people that there is less land under cultivation than there was a few years ago it is just as well that these figures, which disprove that statement, should be placed on record.
Every family of five persons in Australia is paying 5s. per week to meet the interest bill on our loan accounts and 2s. 5d. per week in connexion with defence. That means that 7s. 5d. per week is being paid out by every family, and the biggest families in Australia are those of the working classes.
– How much is coming in by reason of the expenditure of loan money ?
– The greater number of the loans floated of recent years have been simply for redemption purposes. We have paid £300,000,000 by way of interest on borrowed money, and still owe the principal; but we have some valuable assets to set against our borrowings. We pay by way of interest every year in respect of the national debt £12,000,000, and at this rate, within twenty-six years, we shall have paid inrespect of interest aloneno less than £312,000,000.
– That is a mere abstract statement, of no value by itself.
– Let the honorable member give us some concrete statement.
The public debt of Great Britain at the present time is £716,000,000, a reduction of £82,000,000 having been made during the last ten years. Whereas our public debt cost us £12,000,000 per annum by way of interest, Great Britain’s national debt of £716,000,000 costs the British taxpayers only £24,500,000 per annum, since the Old Country obtains her money at 2½ per cent. The assets placed against the national debt of Great Britain represent £59,000,000 - one of the principal items being the Suez Canal shares, purchased by Disraeli, and which are now valued at £44,000,000. Then there is the Exchequer balance of £11,568,591, and other assets representing £3,289,000. The Suez Canal shares earn £1,289,000 per annum.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should just like to add that large sums in respect of Great Britain’s debt are paid off annually by means of a sinking fund, which is the balance of the annual charge after providing for interest and cost of management.
Motion (by Mr. W. H. Irvine) put -
That the question be now put.
Ayes … … … 26
Noes … … … 14
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative-
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Treasurer may borrow £3,080,000).
Amendment (by Mr. W. H. Irvine) proposed -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that, notwithstanding anything contained in that Act, the sum to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund into the
Trust Fund, under the head of the Stock Redemption Fund, in respect of the items numbered six and seven in the Schedule to this Act, shall be Five pounds per centum per annum on the amount of stock sold for the purposes of those items.”
– Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– It is a dirty, mean, contemptible trick ! Because the Bill involves a new policy the Government are afraid to have it discussed, and there is not a spark of manhood in them !
Question - That the question be now put - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– The question is that the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Do you, sir, consider that the question has been sufficiently discussed ?
– It is no part of my duty to decide that.
– Is it not within your power as presiding officer to say whether a question has been sufficiently discussed or not?
– It is no part of my duty to decide an issue of that kind.
– What is the question?
– The Prime Minister has moved that the question be now put.
– I rose before the Prime Minister.
– It does not matter if the right honorable gentleman did.
-I was not aware that the right honorable member for Wide Bay rose before the Prime Minister. I saw the Prime Minister, and called him.
– I was on my feet, and spoke before the Prime Minister rose.
– On a point of order, I submit that, whether the right honorable gentleman was on his feet or not, I was still in order in moving that the question be now put.
– I rose to speak when the Chairman announced the question, and should have been called.
– I think the Minister in charge of a Bill has priority.
– I rise to a point of order. The matter of order to which I wish to direct attention is the discourteous manner adopted by the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman had not the courtesy to address the Chair in a proper way. He remained sitting, and moved that the question be now put.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– The honorable gentleman is such an adept at telling wilful untruths that he does not know when any one is speaking the truth.
– I require the withdrawal of those words by the ex-Speaker -thatI am an adept at telling wilful untruths.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the Prime Minister is in order in addressing any member of the Committee as “the exSpeaker,” instead of by the name of his constituency ?
– The Prime Minister is out of order in addressing the honorablemember for Kennedy otherwise than by the name of his constituency. I now ask the honorable member for Kennedy to withdraw the language complained of.
– I certainly withdraw it, because it is unparliamentary. I should like to say that, after the speech made by the Prime Minister last night at Oakleigh–
– He reminds me of the man who went down the street and meeting another said. “ Smith, I hear thatyou called me a liar.” Smith said, “I did not.”
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond a withdrawal. He might be expected to assist me in preserving decorum. I return now to the business before the Committee, which is that the question be now put.
Question - That the question be now put-put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the clause as amended stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 (Purposes for which money may be borrowed).
– This clause, although only a machinery one–
– I move-
That the question be now put.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 11
In division - Tellers nominated from among the ‘’ Noes “ having refused to act,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the ruling of the Chairman be disagreed with.
After any question has been proposed, either in the House or in any Committee of the Whole, a motion may be made by any member rising in his place, and, without notice, and whether any Other member is addressing the Chair or not, “ That the question be now put,” and the motion shall be put forthwith.
That the ruling of the Chairman be disagreed with.
That the ruling of the Chairman be disagreed with.
That the ruling of the Chairman be disagreed with.
The Chairman must accept that.
Question - That clause 3 stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the question be now put.
– Order! The honorable member for Wide Bay has an amendment to move.
– I moved, sir, that the question be now put.
– Order !
– I move my amendment to the schedule, and will give my reasons for so doing.
– I move-
That the question be now put.
– You are afraid to have a division. Oh; you bounders! You would use loan money for defence purposes.
– Order !
-Oh, you bounders! Spending loan money on defence.
– I trust that honororable members will try to remember where they are - in the National Parliament.
– I want my amendment to be put, sir.
– The question before the Committee now is, “ That the question be now put.”
– You, sir, called upon me, and I moved an amendment.
– And the Honorary Minister moved, “ That the question be now put,” and I have no alternative but to put that question.
– My amendment was before the Committee, sir. I handed in the amendment, and put it on the list. I submit that you called upon me, and that my amendment is before the Committee.
– That is the question which is about to be put.
– The Attorney- General says that the question is that my amendment be now put.
– Order ! I did not put the amendment to the Committee. I have no alternative ‘but to put the question, “ That the question be now put.” That relates to the original question - that the schedule stand as printed.
– I was wrong.
– I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that my amendment was before the Chair.
– I thought that it had been put.
– So did I. It ought to have been put.
Question - That the question be now put - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the schedule stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedule agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) put -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . … … 11.
Majority … … 11
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedule agreed to.
Question - That the title be the title of the Bill - put. The Committees divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Question - That the Chairman report the Bill with an amendment - put.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to be passed through its remaining stages without delay.
That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering the Schedule.
– I cannot receive two motions at the same time. The right honorable member for Wide Bay was not called.
– I was here.
– But the right honorable member did not receive the call, and I have not yet had an opportunity to state the question. The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– But I have moved an amendment on the report stage.
– The question is not that the report be adopted. The Prime Minister has moved the suspension of the Standing Orders. The motion to which the right honorable member for Wide Bay has referred can be submitted before the third reading is moved.
– Shall I be in order, sir, in speaking now ?
– The honorable member for Ballarat.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly), proposed -
That the question be now put.
– The question is, “ That the question be now put.”
– May I not speak?
– I have no option under the Standing Orders but to put the motion, “ That the question be now put.” The motion cannot be debated.
– May I not speak? Am I to be “ gagged “ ?
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in disregarding the ruling of the Chair.
– They have been “gagging “usall through the piece.
– Order ! I name the honorable member for disregarding the authority of the Chair, and I call on the Prime Minister to take action.
– I am afraid that the honorable member has been asking for this all night.
– The Prime Minister has been fishing for it!
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the honorable member for Ballarat be suspended from the service of the House.
– I am sorry that the necessity has arisen for the motion, but the honorable member left me no alternative other than to call on the Prime Minister to take action. I still give the honorable member an opportunity to apologize before putting the motion.
– I had no intention of showing any disrespect to the Chair by the remarks I have made; but if you, sir, knew what has been going on all night–
– I have no knowledge of what has been going on in Committee.
– The Prime Minister has moved my suspension, and I must say-
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I desire to withdraw my remarks and apologize.
– Then I withdraw the motion.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Standing Orders be suspended - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
An urgent motion, directly concerning the privileges of the House, shall take precedence of other motions, as well as Orders of the Day.
I direct the attention of the honorable member also to standing order 283, which reads -
Any member may rise to speak “ to order,” or upon a matter of privilege suddenly arising.
No question of privilege has arisen in connexion with the appointment of tellers. If the honorable member considered that any question of privilege did arise he should have risen when the tellers were appointed. He is not in order in raising a question of privilege now.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– The Prime Minister is afraid to have the matter considered. Do you, sir, consider this a fair report? I wish to move that the schedule be recommitted.
– I cannot go behind the Standing Orders, which provide that the motion “ That the question be now put “ shall be put without debate.
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the report be now adopted - put.
The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question - That the question be now put - resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Bill read by the Clerk the third time.
Several honorable members interjecting,
Honorable Members. - Nol
– I am stating what I know to have be.?n done. I told the. Clerk then to read the Bill a third time. The Bill was read a third time, as I thought, with the concurrence of the House.
Honorable Members. - No.
– However that may be, it was done, and no exception was taken until after it had been done.
Honorable Members. - No.
– I objected immediately.
– Honorable members are distinctly out of order in flatly contradicting the Speaker in this way.
– You should say what is correct.
– The honorable member is not in order in reflecting on the Chair. I am stating what I believe to be the facts. That is what happened in the confusion that reigned owing to the disorderliness of several honorable members. That is my recollection of what happened, and my statement of the position.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The confusion, so far as I was concerned, was created by two Ministers rising, practically at the same time, one moving “ That the question be now put,” and the other moving the adjournment of the House. You accepted the latter motion, proposed by the Prime Minister, when the Clerk was in communication with you. The House was quite quiet at that time, but immediately the Clerk began to read, I protested, and said that the third reading had not been put.
– I did not know that that was the point of the honorable member. The third reading had been put. I called for order several times. Honorable members would not come to order, and I stated the question to the House. I stated the question distinctly, and called for the “ Ayes,” and for the “ Noes,” and then declared the question carried in the absence of any “ Noes.” That I can say with absolute positiveness.
– It was never done.
– I would remind honorable members again that, when the Speaker is addressing the House, absolute silence should be preserved, and that it is distinctly out of order to reflect on what he has said, or to deny the accuracy of a statement that he has made. Honorable members themselves were so engaged in boisterously interjecting across the Chamber that they would not listen to what was being stated from the Chair.
– You said, just now, that the third reading had not been carried.
– It was the fault of the House that the question was notheard by some honorable members.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The motion, “ That the question be now put,” has been moved. There can be no point of order.
– I beg to give notice that, at a later hour of the day, I shall move that the Speaker’s ruling be disagreed with, the ruling being that the Loan Bill was read a third time.
– That was not a ruling; it was a statement of fact.
– I ask now if the Bill, has been read a third time!
– Can this be done when the motion, “ That the question be now put,” is before the House?
– You override the Standing Orders in everything. If the Speaker is subservient to you, he is accurate ; if he is not, he is -all wrong.
– That is a disgraceful statement to make.
– I cannot accept a motion such as that of which the honorable member for Kennedy has given notice. There is no question of a ruling at all. What I said was a statement of fact. I have no objection to having the question decided again.
– Since I have been in parliamentary life - now some twentythree years-
– What are we getting now ?.
– I am waiting to hear.
– We have never had -such a hopeless leader before. The Prime Minister is seeking to lecture us.
– Will the Prime Minister proceed to state his point!
– I wish to make the suggestion that it has been the invariable rule that the Speaker shall take upon himself to correct any mistake that has been made in procedure.
– More instructions.
– I suggest to you now that it is open to you, Mr. Speaker, to put the motion again if there has been any misunderstanding. That is done invariably.
– That is exactly what I had just proposed to do. There appears to be a misapprehension in the minds of some honorable members; there is none in mine. I know what was done; but, as there has been a misunderstanding, I wish to give the House another opportunity to come to a decision. This decision must be come to, if it is to stand at all, without any of these unseemly interruptions, or disorderly behaviour of any kind.
– I rise to a point of order. It is this: The motion, “That the House do now adjourn,” has been moved, and the Honorary Minister has moved, “ That the question be now put.” I want to know what is to be done with those motions ? I maintain that the question before the Chair at the present time is, “That the question - that the House do now adjourn - be now put.” That question must be put without debate.
– My object was, as a matter of courtesy, to conform to the desire of the House, seeing that doubt had been cast on my statement as to the fact that the third reading had been carried. If honorable members do not wish me to give them an opportunity to again deal with the question, I have no desire to force it on them.
– Is the third reading carried ?
– It is carried.
-You said just now that it was not.
– I did not.
– Well, we will have a look in Hansard before it is altered, to see whether you did.
– I call on the honorable member to withdraw that remark, and to apologize. His remark is a distinct reflection on the Speaker.
– I withdraw it, and apologize, and express the hope that you will let us have a look at Hansard before it is altered.
– The honorable member can look at Hansard without my permission when it is circulated.
– Can we have a slip straight before it goes to you ?
– I cannot promise that.
– That is all that I ask for: that you may give instructions to Hansard.
– Stop your impertinence.
– The Prime Minister is out of order.
– I draw attention to the disorderly interjections of both the Ministers of Home Affairs.
– I have several times called honorable members to order. The proceedings are now of a most unseemly character, which I extremely regret. I have several times had to appeal to honorable members to observe something like decorum in the Chamber. These interchanges are distinctly disorderly, and I hope that they will not be continued. Honorable members should remember that this is a Legislative Chamber, and I hope that they will not make the situation more difficult. The position we have reached is that there is a motion before the Chair for the adjournment of the House, and the further motion has been moved that the question be now put. I now put the question, “ That the question be now put.”
Question - That the question be now put - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 13
Mr. Joseph Cook. - Yes.
– No. That would be contrary to the rules and practice of the House.
– Then, sir, I say that you did say that the third reading of the Bill was not carried. I heard you say so.
-Order!I ask the honorable member to withdraw those words and to apologize.
– I say, sir, that I heard you say that the third reading was not carried.
Mr. SPEAKER__ I have already stated that I did not.
– Well, I heard you.
– You heard me say what ?
– That the third reading was not carried.
– I did not say that the third reading was not carried, but I said that it was carried.
– You upheld the objection.
– May I ask you, sir, for a little light on this question ? Is it not a fact that when the honorable member for Kennedy raised the point of order, that the third reading of the Bill was not carried, you upheld the point of order, and said that the decision of the House must stand ?
– The third reading was carried.
– I ask, sir, if it is not according to the Standing Orders that a division must be taken in silence ?
– How can it be taken in silence if you talk?
– You can tell cowards when they are in a majority.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That this House do now adjourn - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.7 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 October 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131030_reps_5_71/>.