5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to intimate to the House what proposed alteration he intends to make, if any, with regard to absent voting?
– At the present time I am not contemplating any.
– What is the earliest date that the Prime Minister expects the printed roll to be available?
– All I know is that the most difficult State to deal with in this matter is New South Wales, because its roll is the largest.
– The Honorary Minister promised to consult the Minister of Defence as to whether’ it is his intention to authorize the printing and publishing of the findings of those who inquired into the disturbance at the Liverpool Camp in November last.
– I regret that I am not in a position to give my honorable friend any information now, but I shall en-‘ deavour to do so during the day.
– The Hobart Mercury of the 20th May, in its report of the proceedings of this House, published a question asked by me concerning the charges for inspection of produce made by the Government in Western Australia, and the reply of the Minister of Home Affairs. Below that was printed the reply of the Postmaster-General to another question, in such a way as to make it appear that that question had also been put by me, whereas it was put by the honorable member for Denison. As the newspaper circulates largely through the Denison division, I think that I should, in justice to the honorable member, put the matter right.
– The other evening when the Attorney-General was speaking, he is reported to have said - I did not hear him at the time, or I should have mentioned the matter then -
Mr. Hughes argued that it was entirely wrong and false to suppose that the same principles should apply in granting a double dissolution of the House of Representatives and the Senate as would apply toa dissolution of the House of Commons in Great Britain. Mr. Hughes, speaking on the Address-in-Reply, had said - “ As to the position of the Governor-General in this regard, my contention is that, as to a double dissolution, the Governor-General will be guided by exactly the same reasons as in an ordinary dissolution of the Lower House.” Mr. Hughes had forgotten that argument, and had run in with an entirely new one.
The honorable and learned member inaccurately stated the opinion that I expressed when speaking on the AddressinReply. What I then said is to be found on page 125 of the Hansard report for this session -
When this threat of a double dissolution was first heard, we were led to believe that the Governor-General had no option in the matter, that directly the conditions were created, ipso facto, there must be a double dissolution.
It was in the elaboration of that argument that I went on to say -
As to the position of the Governor-General in this regard, my contention is that, as to a double dissolution, the Governor-General will be guided by exactly the same reasons as in an ordinary dissolution in the Lower House.
It was in regard to the circumstances mentioned that the passage quoted had application, and to no other. Subsequently, dealing with the position that had been created I said that the GovernorGeneral had to be satisfied that the conditions of section 57 of the Constitution had been fulfilled. There is, therefore, no conflict between my statement of the position as set forth in the AddressinReply and that on the Preference Prohibition Bill.
– I have no desire whatever to misrepresent the honorable’ member, and, having heard what he has just read, I cannot admit that I was guilty of misrepresentation.
Punishment of Cadets - Bisley Rifle Team - North Fitzroy Area Medical Officer - Infantry Battalions - Senior Cadets
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– Before replying to the question asked by the honorable member, it is considered advisable to briefly state the circumstances. Military Regulations 556 and 557 place the power in the hands of the Commonwealth Council of Rifle Associations to make all arrangements for international competitions. Under this, it became the duty of the Commonwealth Council to select the team to take part this year in the Bisley competitions, and with this in view the Council apportioned the number of men to be selected by each State, alloting two to Queensland. As there are two Rifle Associations in Queensland, instructions were sent in this case that these associations were to jointly nominate two representatives. The associations failed to agree in a joint nomination, and the Commonwealth Council stepped in and made the selection. The answers to the questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister please quote the number and page of regulations or sections of the Act under which eases of “fitness” are referred -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Colonel C. S. Ryan, V.D., Army Medical Corps. 3. (a) Section 138 of the Defence Act provides that exemption may be granted to those who have been reported by the prescribed medical authorities as unfit for any naval or military service, and Universal Training Regulation 19 (Part II., page 54) prescribes that the medical authorities referred to above shall be such officers of the Army Medical Corps as may he appointed for duty to the training area, or (failing this) such other duly qualified medical practitioners as District Commandants may approve.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1,. 55th Infantry, 989 ; 56th Infantry, 889 ; 63rd Infantry, 789 ; 64th Infantry, 739.
Australian Infantry Regiment, on reorganization in 1912, became the - 51st Infantry - Two companies. 60th Infantry - Two companies. 64th Infantry - Head-quarters, M.G. Sec tion and four companies.
The old Sixth Australian Infantry Regiment became - 49th Infantry - Two companies. 56th Infantry - Two companies. 63rd Infantry - Head-quarters, M.G. Sec tion and four companies.
With regard to the funds at the credit of the old 5th and 6th Australian Infantry Regiments instructions were issued that the balance of such funds, after payment of all liabilities incurred prior to 30th June, 1912, were to be distributed pro rata amongst the new units into which these regiments had become merged. Under this the 56th Infantry would benefit proportionately to the same extent as the63rd Infantry. The honorable member had already been informed that the regulations relating to corps contingent allowance prescribe that -
In the case of units having many detachments, or for other reasons specially recommended by the Military Board, such allowance may be increased to a sum not exceeding ten shillings per head, subject to the necessity for such payment being proved to the satisfac tion of the Minister.
It is open to any commanding officer to submit representations for an increased allowance under the regulations.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– There was nothing in the printed programme of the competition referred to in question No. 1 to prevent any one at all from submitting a design. So far as the present competition for the parliamentary buildings is concerned, any architect who has exercised responsibly his profession is qualified to compete, unless he be an architect in the employment of the Department of Home Affairs.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House a list of the temporary clerks employed in the Commonwealth Service?
– Section 40(7) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1913 provides for such a return to be made by the Public Service Commissioner in the month of July in each year, and for the return to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. The return for the present financial year will, therefore, be furnished in due course. I am informed that to prepare the return asked for by the honorable member will cost £30 or £40, and as the annual return will be ready next month there seems to be no reason for incurring that expenditure.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No concessions have been made at all. Any importations made have been dealt with by the departmental officers in accordance with the provisions of Tariff Item 417b (Tariff 1908-1911 ), which reads as follows: - “ Stained glass windows for churches or public institutions, under depart mental laws, ad. val. 20 per cent.”
Windows not delivered under the by-law would be dutiable at 30 per cent., or 25 per cent., under Tariff Item 249.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I am not in a position to make any definite announcement at the present stage.
– On the 4th June the honorable member for Maribyrnong asked these questions -
The following replies have been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner to questions 1, 2, 3, and 4 -
The answer to No. 5 is -
I do not think this would be advisable; but I have no objection whatever to letting the honorable member see them privately at my office.
Debate resumed from the 4th June (vide page 1861), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not propose to offer any objection to the passage of this Bill, but, in my opinion, it will not carry the Government any further. What is the precise effect of the judgment of the Privy Council upon the powers of the Commonwealth to make inquiries by Royal Commission is very difficult to say, but there is grave room for believing that the Royal Commissions Act is now wholly invalid.
– It is.
– If that be the case, we are thrown back, according to the terms of the Privy Council judgment, upon the British practice of giving statutory authority to each Royal Commission in order to compel answers to relevant and proper questions.
– That is what this Bill does.
– No doubt. But I just wish’ to point out what the Privy Council did say in regard to this matter, because, although this is not the occasion for discussing the question at length, the judgment of the Privy Council goes very much further than a mere declaration that the Royal Commissions Act is for all practical purposes invalid. As the AttorneyGeneral himself has pointed out, it seems to go to the very root of the doctrine of our implied powers, and to that extent reduces the ambit of the Federal Parliament to within very narrow and somewhat vague limits. I cannot do better than quote what the AttorneyGeneral said on the 26th March in regard to this matter, because the scope of this proposed inquiry is limited by two things - the terms of the Commission itself and the judgment of the High Court in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s case, as reported in the Argus Law Reports, volume 18, page 29. According to this judgment, the Royal Commission was restrained from requiring answers to questions relating to -
That is the judgment of the High Court. Taken in conjunction with the admission that the effect of the decision of the Privy Council is to make the Royal Commissions Act invalid for all practical purposes, and also taking into consideration the other and still wider effects of the Privy Council judgment, it is interesting to know exactly what the present Commission is expected to do. In my opinion it can do little or nothing.
In order to make clear what farreaching effects the judgment of the Privy Council has, I shall quote what the AttorneyGeneral said on the 26th March, as reported in the Al i of the following day:- lt was not too lm./i co say that in the adoption of what Mr. Willoughby called “ the liberal interpretation of implied powers,” the American Judges accepted a principle which was one of the main causes why the American States were now not mere congeries or aggregations of separate power, and often antagonist interests, but were welded into one nation. It was very largely due to the early adoption of that life-giving principle that the central Government had been endowed not merely with the definite powers granted in the’ expressed terms of the Constitution, but with other necessary powers which enabled it effectively to carry out its purpose. It had enabled the United States, notwithstanding other serious limitations in its Constitution, to become the great and practically united nation that it was to-day. Thc effect of the judgment of the Privy Council was to say that Australia did not possess the same powers in the same sense.
Applying this to the judgment of the High Court in the case already quoted, it would appear that the scope of the present inquiry is limited within such narrow bounds as to practically make it useless for the purpose for which it has been appointed.
The Government have been fortunate in securing for this Commission the services of a Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, a man of high standing in his profession, and of high reputation in the community; but, owing to the decisions of the High Court and the Privy Council, the Commissioner will be unable to ask pertinent and necessary questions, the kind of questions necessary to get any results. As to this Bill, no witness can be compelled, without statutory authority, to answer any question at all. A Royal Commission, in itself, has no such power. In the course of its judgment the Privy Council said -
A Royal Commission has not, by the laws of England, any title to compel answers from witnesses, and such a title is therefore not incidental to the execution of its powers under the common law. And until the Commonwealth Parliament has intrusted a Royal Commission with the statutory duty to inquire into a specific subject legislation as to which has been by the Federal Constitution of Australia assigned to the Commonwealth Parliament, that Parliament cannot confer such powers as the Acts in question contain on the footing that they are incidental to inquiries which it may some day direct.
They go very much further in limiting the scope of the inquiry than does the High Court, because our own Chief Justice says on page 438 of the Argus Law Reports from which I am quoting -
In the United Kingdom the attendance of witnesses before such Commissions has in general been voluntary, but in some cases special Statutes have been passed to compel tlie giving of evidence. usually with a protection, absolute or conditional, against the risk of self-crimination. The collection of information for such purposes may be necessary for the good government of the country, and for the improvement of its laws. It follows that a compulsory law to provide for its collection is “ incidental,” in any sense in which the word can he used, to the execution of the powers of government. This is not indeed disputed. The objection is founded, in the first place, upon the contention that this incidental power of compelling information is limited to matters within the existing area of Federal power. This seems to me to be so self-evident that no argument can make it clearer.
The judgment of the majority of the Court was to the effect that, applying that rule to the particular case, questions could not be asked upon matters other than those which were absolutely vital to the inquiry. Now there is this point - first of all that the Royal Commissions Act having been for all practical purposes discovered to be invalid, we have the present attempt to cure the defect by a Statute directed for the purpose of one inquiry into a matter which we must assume is of vital interest and is urgent. We assume this because the Government at this stage in the life of this Parliament - if it can be said to be still alive - is pressing this measure on the Legislature. It is doing so because the matter is urgent, and inquiry ought to be made at once. What inquiry ought to be made? Not an inquiry info facts that are already perfectly well known. For example we do not wish to know whether it is a fact that on the banks of the Brisbane River a building has been put up by some persons connected in some way or other with the Swift Company of America; we know this already. What we wish to know is something in regard to the internal management of the affairs of the company; we require evidence aS to the methods of the company in this country - whether they are deliberately purchasing stock, have options over stock, and have contracts with stock-owners which amount to a monopoly, or an attempt to monopolize, or is calculated to injure this great industry and the public of Australia. It is, certainly, a singular thing that synchronous with the beginning of actual operations by this company - and I say nothing more - stock was never more scarce than at the present time, and that prices are soaring, and that the sources of supply are being dried up.
– I am afraid the honorable member is inviting a general discussion.
– All I say is that we know certain things. I am not going to say that the position may not be due to the seasons, or to a cause that is worldwide ; but if we are going to ask these people any questions, these are the questions we have to ask. We require to know whether it is a fact that they have a working agreement with other companies - whether, in short, they have got a hold of the canning and exporting of beef in this country ?
– Hear, hear. We agree with that.
– And these are the questions which the Swift Company need not answer. I say deliberately that the company need not answer embarrassing questions, and it is absurd to suppose for a moment that they are likely to do so. We all know that the last thing a witness does when his interests are at stake, is to answer questions which may involve him or his company in troublesome litigation; and he is quite right from his stand-point.
A word on another point. The late Government passed the Royal Commissions Act in order to compel witnesses to answer, and we were overwhelmed with criticism because of the penalties we included. But there is no suggestion now that any one of these penalties are too severe; on the other hand, it is proposed to apply the Act as it stands, with every penalty, including that of imprisonment, to this particular inquiry. I shall, and do, welcome the Bill, recognising, as it does, that the Labour Government did the right thing. But what is the good of creating this machine which, at the very outset, is doomed to be fruitless in its operations, by reason of the fact that it cannot compel answers to the very questions which it is absolutelynecessary should be answered, and there is another point of not less importance. Supposing that the inquiry is fruitful and we get some answers from this company, on which we can take future action, does the Minister in charge say for one moment that action can be taken under the Australian Industries Preservation Act as it stands? A man would have to be an incurable optimist tobelieve that.
– The honorable member is raising a debate on the whole question of constitutionality.
– Not at all; but I do not propose to make myself a party to a farce or a sham. I am perfectly prepared to give this power to the Government and to the Commission, because that is merely to do what could have been done by the Commission in the ordinary way without the Bill had it not been for the amazing judgment of the Privy Council, the effects of which have not been thoroughly realized by honorable members, although they have been pointed out in the strongest possible terms by the AttorneyGeneral. The electors, however, ought not to believe for one moment that this Commission will have any effect. The action of the Government is like that of a doctor who being out of the drugs necessary for the disease from which the patient is suffering, gives him a little coloured water in a bright and clean bottle, with a nice new label and a nice new cork, and sends him home in a state of perfect, though temporary, contentment. This Bill will serve no earthly purpose ; no questions will be answered that will embarrassshe operations of this company, which is, perhaps, the greatest in the world, and which has now got a hold of the Australian stock raisers. We do not require evidence from Mr. Cook, the man in control of the business in Australia, whose interests, let us assume, are coincident with those of the stock raisers of this country; he, or any other man who handles beef in large quantities, will tell us that there is some influence at work which is freezing them more and more out of the market. What we do require is an Act to get evidence from Swift and Company that will incriminate them ; and that evidence cannot be obtained in the present state of the law, or the present state of the Constitution. Until the Constitution is amended so as to give us power to inquire into matters which are not now specifically assigned to this Parliament, we cannot make the inquiries necessary and proper in the circumstances. My objections are not to the measure itself, but to the futility of it, because it is hampered by the decisions of the Privy Council and the High Court. For that reason, the inquiry must prove fruitless, and, on the reassembling of the next Parliament, we can only be faced with the fact that this Commission, which consists of a highlytrained jurist, in whom the country - or, at any rate, those who know him - have absolute confidence, will be, and must be, abortive, and tend to hold commissions of public inquiry up to ridicule. Yet, indeed, the matter is not only urgent, but in the last degree, important. Great public interests are at stake. I do not speak merely of the consumer. The vital interests of stock raisingin this country are jeopardized by the existence and manipulations of this company, and we ought to be able to compel answers to our inquiries. I have had an opportunity of looking through the Australian Industries Preservation Bill which the Government intended to have gone on with, presumably to remedy some of the disclosed effects of the Act as it stands. But neither by that means, nor by any other, will they be able to effectively check the operations of this company, until there is such amodificationof the Constitution as will give the Federal Parliament specific control over matters which are now outside its ambit.
– I do not intend to speak for more than a few minutes for my object in rising is more to deprecate discussion. It is quite true that this Bill legitimately raises the questions on which the honorable member for West Sydney has invited discussion, and if honorable members desire a debate it will raise all the points connected with the existence or non-existence of the Beef Trust, and with the extent of our constitutional powers. I do not blame the honorable member for West Sydney for saying what he has said in this connexion, but it must be perfectly apparent to honorable members on both sides that for two reasons we cannot enter into such a discussion now. First of all, at this stage of the session, it would be impossible for honorable members to do themselves justice. There is, however, a more cogent reason. The Prime Minister pointed out that one of the conditions on which the Government obtained a dissolution from the GovernorGeneral was that we should not introduce contentious or party matter during this Parliament.
– I have not treated the matter in that way.
– The honorable member said some things that tempt me very much to reply, though I am not going to do so. With a good deal of what the honorable member said I agree entirely, but with some of what he said I do not agree. With regard to the effect of the recent decision of the Privy Council in giving us and the people of Australia ground for reviewing our whole constitutional position, in certain aspects, I do not wish to withdraw one word of what I said, and what has been quoted by the honorable member. It is, however, necessary to say a word or two in answer to his remarks as to the futility of this inquiry. He has pointed out that the inquiry will be obstructed in the most important part of its functions, because the learned judge will not have the power to compel the Beef Trust or a company, or anybody connected with it, to give an account of their operations in the freezing and canning of meat. This is a vital part of the matter, and I admit that such questions would probably be very important in the inquiry. In the position I hold, I do not think I ought to pronounce a strong opinion one way or the other as to whether such questions can be compelled to be answered. That would be anticipating a determination which the learned judge would have to decide in the first place, and which might have to go further. I must not be taken for one moment, however, as admitting that the honorable member is right in saying that such questions cannot be compelled to be answered. This Commission is appointed “ to inquire into and report as to the operations of any person, combination, or trust, tending to create any restraint of trade or monopoly in connexion with the export of meat from Australia.” Without expressing one way or the other any definite opinion, I ask the honorable member to reconsider the question whether this very wide power will not give the Commission the right to compel answers to questions as to the production, arrangement, and preparation of meat in various forms in which it becomes part of our export trade. I refer the honorable member to a number of American decisions, quoted in the text books on commerce. It is not desirable that I should enter into these questions, but I repeat that I must not be taken for one moment as admitting the position put forward by the honorable member on this point. The honorable member has contended that we, on this side, have adopted in this Bill the very drastic provisions of the Royal Commissions Act to which we formerly took strong exception. I would remind the honorable member that all those on our side of the House who took exception to these powers being given to Royal Commissions generally, pointed out that the position would be different if they were to be given to a Court, or to a Judge, hut that it was proposed to give them to Commissions which are usually composed of laymen. The present Prime Minister, in fact, took up very definitely the position that his criticism would lose much of its effect if Parliament desired to give these powers to a Justice of the Supreme Court. I hope that honorable members will allow this Bill to pass practically without discussion. I have been much tempted by the action of the honorable member for West Sydney in opening up these two points to discuss them at length, but if every one gave way to such a temptation it would be quite impossible to carry the Bill. We disagree as to the extent of the utility of the Bill, but we are all agreed that it is necessary to pass it in order that the Commission may do something. I appeal, therefore, to honorable members opposite to be content with what has been said by the honorable member for West Sydney, and to allow the measure to pass without further discussion.
– I am prepared to compliment the Government on the step they are now taking in view of their oft-repeated statement last year that there was no trust to contend with in Australia.
– Who said that?
– The Attorney-General amongst others.
– Is this fair ? You will compel us to reply.
– I am not going to be cross-examined by the Attorney-General. I am thoroughly favorable to this Bill, although it is but a very small step in the direction I desire to see followed. I wish to place on record my opinion that if the Commission is to inquire only into the effect of the American Beef Trust on the export meat trade, it will cover but a very small portion of its operations. The trust deals with many things in addition to beef and mutton. It runs ranches in the United States of America, and it has also purchased stations in Australia, and is going to run them. It is going to raise stock in this country, as well as to take part in the export trade. If it secures a firm footing here it will dominate the local supplies, which would be a greater evil even than would be its control of the meat export trade. Besides beef and mutton, it deals in the following articles: - Live poultry, dressed poultry, butter, eggs, cheese, lard, apples, potatoes, cabbages, tomatoes, turnips, onions, cranberries and other berries, oranges, lemons, beans, electric light, refrigerator cars (for sale or rent), street railroads, wheat, white grease, yellow grease, other greases, sausage, sausage casing, tallow, canned corned beef, canned roast beef, canned tongue, canned pork and beans; canned soups, veal loaf, table delicacies, bristles, glue, sand-paper, camel-hair brushes, other brushes, hair, hides, leather, oats, corn, rye, barley, mess pork, beef extract, bank credits, butchers’ credits, butterine, pepsin, pepsin tablets, fancy goods, toilet soap, laundry soap, hotel soap, washing powder, and fertilizers. That is only a small list. At least sixty articles, which have to do with every home and factory in America, are controlled by the Beef Trust., and yet the Government propose to in- quire into its operations only so far as they affect the export trade. I am glad, however, to have this admission on the part of the Government that they believe legislation is necessary to deal with trusts; but the only effective way of dealing with the Meat Trust, or any other trust, is to pass the referenda proposals submitted by the Fisher Government at the last election.
.- I shall support this Bill, but I view it only as a concession to popular prejudice. There have been many assertions by honorable members opposite to the effect that a Beef Trust is in existence in Australia, and that it is doing much harm. They do not seem to realize that in making such a statement they are really blaming themselves. The remedy is in their own hands. All the men in the meat works in Queensland are unionists, working under union rules, so that if it is believed that an evil exists in connexion with them, these unionists can close them down tomorrow. In these circumstances, I hope we shall hear no more of the cant and humbug in which members of the Labour party have indulged regarding the operations of the Beef Trust. If they really believed that the trust existed here, they could take action, and, through the unions, shut up its works to-morrow. The honorable member for Oxley, who has paid a great deal of attention to this question, must know that any increase in the price of stock is of the greatest benefit to a pastoral country like Australia. We have 12,000,000 cattle, so that if the trust raises the price of stock £5 per head, it adds £60,000,000 to the capital of Australia, without any effort on the part of its inhabitants. Yet the honorable member has been asserting that the increase in prices is a distinct injury to the community.
– An increase of 5s. per head in the price of sheep means the addition of £25,000,000 to the capital of Australia, and thus a great increase in the national wealth is brought about. Such an increase must be of the greatest benefit to the whole of the community, and especially to the workers. The Labour party at the present time, however, seem to Iia ve determined to take sides with the three or four trusts that have not been giving the producers of Australia fair value for their products. Now that outside competition has come in and has caused those trusts to pay more for the stock they purchase than they did before, honorable members of the Labour party immediately stand up for the local trusts. They are really the advocates of trusts, and are trying to prevent the introduction of capital to compete with combinations now existing here.
– Poor old capital !
– If the Labour party were able to give effect to their declared intentions they would prevent the enormous growth that is now going on in the value of the natural productions of Australia. There are 435,000 rural workers who are deeply interested in the question of high prices for our stock and produce generally. They cannot hope for a big increase in wages unless the prices of produce are increased. The Labour party do not see that the effect of their own policy will be to eventually reduce the wages of agricultural workers throughout Australia by lowering values, and this in time must lead to diminished wages on the part of city employes. Representatives of cities, if they understand this question, will see that an increase in the value of our productions is an unmixed blessing. Competition from abroad is increasing the prices of our stock.
– The Beef Trust ruined stock-owners in America.
– How can it be said that they have been ruined, seeing that they are getting 7d. per lb. for beef on the hoof. Is that a ruinous price ? This competition will stimulate the whole of the pastoral and agricultural productions of Australia. With increased prices we shall be able to afford to hand-feed sheep and cattle in times of drought, and in the good seasons will make preparations to enable us to do so.
– Who are the “We”!
– I am referring to the agricultural and pastoral workers of Australia. It is on their behalf I am speaking. If the honorable member rightly understood the best interests of the citizens whom he represents he would recognise that unless there is prosperity in the country there can be no prosperity in the town. The prosperity of Australia is largely dependent upon increased prices for our natural products, and a party which seeks to interfere with the introduction of capital to develop our great natural industries must do much harm. Honorable members opposite are leading the people astray. We wish an inquiry to be made so that the truth of these matters can come out. The Labour party, however, are opposing the Bill They do not want the truth.
– There is no one opposing the Bill but the honorable member himself.
– The Labour party are leading the people to believe that by meddlesome legislation of any sort the wealth of Australia can be increased. Even if they wish to alter the distribution of capital they should not attempt to hinder its production. Do not hinder the provision of capital, which is so necessary to us all. I hope the Bill will be passed, that we will have no interference on the part of honorable members, and that, at least, they will try to persuade the public that it is riot by legislation of any sort interfering with capital, or by going before the public with popular election cries, that Parliament can do any good. I say frankly that both sides are striving to take advantage of an illusory idea that seems to have sprung up that the price of stock has actually been increased by trusts, when the fact is that there is a shortage of stock all the world over. If trusts can increase the prices of primary products, what a benefit it will be to the workers if such advances in prices enable the workers to have an increase in wages; and there can be no increase in the wages of the agricultural and pastoral labourers unless there is an increase in the price of the natural products. Just as in this country of primary production I would welcome an increase in the price of wheat, so I welcome an increase in the prices of those other primary products, beef and mutton. I have given my reasons why we should not lead the public to think that this increase is an unmixed evil, and that it is doing them injury. I say, unquestionably, that though it does mean in some cases a good deal higher price to the consumer, yet that increase, if we come to consider the result, must be of benefit to the people of Australia as a whole.
– A deliberate attack has been made on this side of the House, and the honorable member for Werriwa has made a charge that members of the Opposition would not allow this Bill to go through. The only person “ stone- walling “ the Bill was the honorable member himself.
– The Attorney-General did not make that charge.
– I take it that the honorable member for Werriwa is laying down the policy of the Liberal party, and I am glad that he has indicated that honorable members on his side are in favour of the trust.
– That is not so.
-There is a full moon now, and does the Minister say that the honorable member is not responsible for what he says?
– He spoke his own views.
– And those views were cheered by honorable members on the Government cross-benches. I am glad that we now know exactly where we are, and that we know that honorable members on the Government side are in favour of trusts, and of combines, robbing the consumer to the fullest possible extent.
– The honorable member knows that is not so.
– That is untrue.
– I accept the statement of the honorable member that he is prepared to allow the public to be robbed to the fullest possible extent by trusts.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has accused me of being willing to rob the public.
– I did not say that.
– I ask that the honorable member shall withdraw that statement.
– I did not make it.
– The honorable member knows that the statement he made is not true. I wish to prevent the plunder of the public.
– If the honorable member for Kennedy made the statement alleged by the honorable member for Werriwa, I ask him to withdraw it.
– If I had made such a statement, I would willingly withdraw it. What I said was that the honorable member is in favour of trusts to the fullest possible extent.
– That, also, is untrue.
– The honorable member said that we should welcome the trust coming here. Why? Because of the consequent rise in the prices of this, that, and the other. The only deduction to be drawn from that statement was that the public are going to be robbed in that way. The honorable member rises and makes these silly, stupid assertions, and when he is tackled about them he becomes indignant. The honorable member has given the whole show away. He has practically admitted that the Liberal party are in favour of trusts coming here and exploiting the public to the fullest possible extent. On behalf of honorable members on this side, I invite the honorable member to send us copies of his speech, and I guarantee that it will be circulated all over the country.
– I have a few words to say with regard to the unionists of Australia, particularly those engaged in the pastoral industry. The honorable member for Werriwa has said that the unions have the means in their own hands to deal with trusts and combines. Does the honorable member know that there are thousands of people dependent on the men engaged in the pastoral industries, and if they came out in opposition to the trusts and combines, is he one of those who would support their wives and families? What the honorable member for Kennedy said was quite right. The honorable member for Werriwa blathered away, but did not know what he was saying. He said that this Bill was introduced in response to popular clamour. I agree with the honorable member for Kennedy that if the honorable member for Werriwa will give us a few thousand copies of his speech, we should see that they are circulated from one end of the Commonwealth to the other.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Commissioner appointed by the Governor-General by Letters Patent in the name of the King, to inquire into and report as to the operations of any person, combination, or trust tending to create any restraint of trade or monopoly in connexion with the export of meat from Australia, shall have all the powers, rights, and privileges which are contained in the Royal Commissions Act 1902-1912, and that Act shall have effect in relation to the said Commission as if it were herein re-enacted and in terms made applicable to the said Commission.
– The clause gives the Commissioner power to inquire into the circumstances “ in connexion with the export of meat from Australia.” Why limit the inquiry to exports? There are preliminary operations that must precede export, and those, too, should be inquired into. Under the authority given in this clause how can the Commissioner inquire into such a thing as buying up local interests preparatory to export. I do not think the wording of the clause covers that subject. The clause should be wider in its scope, so that inquiry might be made into the meat industry generally.
– As I said before, I think that this power will include, not merely inquiry into the act of export, but into all those preliminary acts which are necessarily antecedent to export. As to whether it will include the purchases of stock which have been referred to, I do not desire to anticipate the decision of His Honour the Judge in regard to any of such matters. I think it would be improper for me to do so. I ask the Committee to give us as wide a power as is contained in the terms of the Commission.
– You could amend the scope of the Commission.
– We are limited in the scope of the Commission by being able to deal only with trade and commerce.
– The learned judge might want to know something relating to the steps preceding export.
– I admit that, and I think the honorable member is quite right in pointing out the fact that if there have been purchases of stock not yet in existence, with a view to the creation of a monopoly, that would be very relevant to this inquiry. But I do not want to anticipate the decision of the judge.
– I am told that the trust has bought up a number of butchers’ shops, and that would affect, not the export, but the local trade.
– That matter may, or may not, be within the scope of this clause. Inquiry into some of these things is not within our constitutional power. We all admit the limitations of the Constitution.
– Can you not add something to the clause?
– We cannot. We have included everything in the Commission that the Constitution enables us to include, and we are asking the Committee to give compulsory powers in regard to everything in the Commission.
– You could amend the Commission.
– But we cannot amend the Constitution.
– Do I understand that you admit that you cannot deal with anything in regard to the internal trade of Australia ?
– I do not make the admission in such general terms, because, according to the decision of the American Courts, the operations of internal trade are often connected with the operations of external trade. The honorable member is asking me to give an opinion in regard to a mattter of detail which the facts show must be dependent on the circumstances of each particular case. The statement has been made that this alleged trust is engaged in buying up the progeny of stock for some years in advance. If the trust are doing that as part of the general operation of freezing and exporting, I think such action will come directly within this inquiry, but whether it does or not will depend on those circumstances into which the Commissioner will inquire. I understand the honorable member for Grey to say that the trust is buying up butchers’ shops in Australia. Shops that are to be used merely for the disposal of meat within Australia do not come within the province of the Bill, nor of the Commission, nor within our constitutional powers of interference; but if the trust has a general trade within Australia, buying stock and preparing it for sale to consumers, and that trade is not confined to one State, but is conducted in several States, there may be power to interfere. If the trust buys stock in Victoria to sell within this State, we Have no power to interfere, but if it buys stock in Victoria to sell in another State, it is highly probable that we have power to control any operation from the beginning of the transaction, regarding everything that takes place from the buying to the selling of the stock as one trade transaction. Honorable members have asked a number of difficult questions, each of which must be dealt with on its merits, and it is to enable them to be dealt with that the proposed inquiry is to be held. Were there no limitations imposed on our powers by the Constitution, the Judge would have wider powers of inquiry than he has, or than we can give him; but in issuing the Commission we have granted the widest powers that we think can be granted, and we ask Parliament to provide for the exercise of the widest powers possible. We cannot do more than that. I simply state the plain facts of the case, which, of course, honorable members can use here or elsewhere as they think fit. I appeal to the Committee, however, not to enter upon a general constitutional discussion now.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Bill if he will agree to insert after the word “ the “ in line 6, the words, “ with the sale or purchase of stock or”. If that amendment be agreed to, the clause will read -
The Commissioner appointed … to inquire into and report as to the operations of any person, combination, or trust, tending to create any restraint of trade or monopoly in connexion with the sale or purchase of stock or export of meat from Australia.
– All sales or purchases in connexion with the export of meat, whether preliminary to or part of the exporting transaction, are already covered.
– I do not think that what I wish to cover by my amendment is covered. The Commissioner desiring information about the export trade might ask a witness whether he had bought such and such a station, or whether he had an option on the cattle on a certain station, and might be told to mind his own business.
– That cannot be prevented unless it can be shown that the purchase of the station or stock in question was connected with the export trade.
– We are informed that it is the practice of the trust in other countries, and in Australia, to buy stations right out, and also to make contracts for the supplying of cattle over a series of years at so much per lb., or so much per head. As to whether those arrangements are good or bad, I shall not express an opinion. A stock raiser would not consider it a bad thing to get good prices for his cattle. But if the Bill passes without an amendment such as I suggest the Commissioner will not be able to insist upon answers to certain questions necessary to enable him to obtain full information regarding the export trade. It could not be proved that the. getting of an option or the buying of stock has anything to do with the export trade. Generally, a man sells where he can get most money. If the London price suits him best, he will export; otherwise he will sell for local consumption. I shall not press the amendment against the wish of the Minister, but the scope of the inquiry, which has been narrowed by the decision of the Privy Council and of the High Court, ought not to be further narrowed by the terms of the Commission, or by anything in the Bill. Of course, there would be nothing to prevent the issue of a new Commission if that were thought necessary to enlarge the Commissioner’s powers. Does the AttorneyGeneral say positively that no question can be put as to the sale and purchase of stock because the sale and purchase of stock are conditions precedent to the export of meat by any company or person except the actual stock raiser? It is not the practice in this country for any but a few persons in a very big way to export their own meat.
– Any number of persons export in small lots.
– Sheep, but not cattle. The cattle raiser sells to a company which cans or exports frozen carcasses. The Commissioner may ask a witness, “ Where did you get that meat?” and he may reply, “ What has that to do with you? You may ask whether I intend to export it, and where I am going to send it, because such questions are within your power to put.” I ask, if the sale and purchase of stock is not incidental to this inquiry, what is ? As Australians, we are mainly concerned with the effects of the trust on two classes of the community, those who raise stock, and those who buy it and eat it.
– I think that the honorable member for West Sydney is right in not pressing the amendment. He has told us that he thinks that the clause as it stands is not sufficient, and all I can say is that the Commissioner will not have as much power as could be given if the powers of this Parliament were not limited by the Constitution, but that he will have as much power as we are able to give him.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– I cannot expect the honorable member to do so, but I will tell him the ground of my opinion. There are certain transactions preliminary to and forming part of the act of transportation which come under the Commerce power; but there are other transactions, such as the purchase of stock, which might, after purchase, be put to any use that the purchaser thought fit, which do not. The trust, if it exists, or any one else, might buy stock, but might not export it.
– The trust might have an option on all calves, but all those calves might not be exported.
-Yes. The trust might set up butchers’ shops to sell meat to the community. We, have power to deal only with exportation, and can deal only with purchases which we can connect directly with the act of exportation. If we were able to show that it was the invariable practice to buy certain stock, slaughter it, freeze it, and put it on board ship, we might connect all the transactions as part of the act of transportation, but ordinarily that could not be done.
– Unless the operations of the trust are so limited as to be almost negligible, they must extend over more than one State, and if they do, the words that I wish to insert would, if inserted, have a meaning.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs and myself spent some hours in considering this matter, and came to the conclusion that we had given the widest powers that the Constitution permits. The considerations that the honorable member has brought before the Committee were present in our minds, and we take responsibility for the measure as it is. The honorable member warns us that, in his opinion, we can, and should, go further. He has the right to criticise, but we are prepared to take the responsibility, and I would like the Committee to pass the clause as it stands.
.- I wish to point out that Queensland, for instance, has already power to make laws orable member for West Sydney has referred, and so has every other State. Each State has absolute power to deal with the trade within its borders. If anything more is sought, it must be powers which could be handed to the Commonwealth only by the States themselves. At the present time the grower gets about 3d. per lb. for sheep, mutton being sold retail at prices ranging from 6d. to 9d. per lb. The increase in the retail prices is due mainly to the increase in the wages of those connected with slaughtering establishments and the distribution of meat. The power that the honorable member seeks to give would interfere with the wages of employes in the meat business. Surely he does not desire that. It is not necessary that this Parliament should possess powers to deal with matters with which the States can deal.
– Why raise that question now?
– Because the members of the Labour party have made statements which will appear in Hansard, and will be repeated all through the country, and I think that they should be answered. I protest against the attempt to mislead the public into thinking that we are not giving the fullest possible powers to the Commissioner. If the grower gets about 3d., and the local company is charging 7d., 8d., or 9d., it is a charge against the Labour party of New South Wales that they do not attend to the matter. Such a charge is untrue. The honorable member knows that the Labour party in New South Wales recognises that the rise in the price of stock in Australia is incidental to the increased price of stock the world over. For instance, the price of meat in Western Australia is considerably higher because there is not the quantity of stock in that State.
– The increase in Western Australia is due to the fact that the stock has to be brought down to the metropolis by boat.
– Honorable members opposite make these assertions about the high price of stock as if the Liberal party were responsible for it, whereas the higher cost of meat is universal. They are deluding the public when they say that action on the part of the Labour party will bring about a reduction in the value of stock throughout Australia. Even if they could take effective action in this direction, it would mean the lowering of wages to every workman engaged in the industry, and would prevent any increase of wages being given to agricultural and pastoral labourers. There can be no escape from that.
.- We have had two important admissions; firstly, that we have no powers under the Constitution to deal with any combine in connexion with the meat industry if its operations are particularly confinedto any one State, and secondly, that we have no power to inquire into the origin of their supply - that is, into their purchases, such as buying cows before they calve, as is alleged has been done, because we have no assurance that the stock so purchased is for export. As a matter of fact, these people can decline to answer questions on the ground that we cannot prove that they are going to export the stock.
– I would not go so far as to say that, but suppose that it is true, how can we help it ? We cannot amend the Constitution by this Bill.
– It only points to the one thing, that whatever party isin power in the near future, we must have an amendment of the Constitution before we can deal with these trusts and combines.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended and Bill read a third time.
Telephone Construction Branch - Voting Facilities - Trusts and Combines - Liberal and Labour Government’s Financing - Protection.
In Committee of Supply:
Consideration resumed from 11th June (vide page 2081), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That a sum not exceeding Three million and sixty thousand and twenty-six pounds be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1915.
.- In the absence of the Postmaster-General I wish to direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to a matter in connexion with an award which has been made by the Arbitration Court dealing with linemen in the Telephone Construction Branch. I understand that there has been a change made in regulation 64 since the making of that award. There was an arrangement by which the men had working districts, and this regulation provided that men directed to go outside their districts were allowed pay for the time of travelling. The President of the Arbitration Court, in making his award, declined, for obvious reasons, to include any regulations, but he specifically mentioned several that ought to stand, and regulation 64 was one of those that he approved of. I am now informed that a new regulation has been made, presumably by the Public Service Commissioner, which abolishes the privileges given by regulation 64. I do not think the Government would be a party to that step, and I ask that the Attorney- General will look into the matter.
– I have not heard of this regulation, but I shall have inquiries made, and let the honorable member know the result of them at the next day of sitting.
– The forthcoming elections will be held at the busiest time of the pastoral industry, and as many thousands of men employed in that industry will be away from their regular places of residence, there will be more absent votes cast than usual, therefore I strongly urge that there should be increased facilities given in this direction. At the last election the electoral officers did not have a sufficient supply of absent voting papers, and many men were denied the opportunity of voting, and when I brought a great many cases under the notice of the Chief Electoral Officer, his answer was that the Department could not foretell the number that would be required in certain booths. I know one presiding officer who sent a man 10 miles to secure extra papers. The Department should not be stingy in the matter. It only means a little extra in the cost of printing. There should be an ample supply of these absent voting papers in districts where such a large number of people will be away from their homes. Also there should be a number of new polling places established. Practically every big shearing station should be a polling place. I have brought one or two under notice, where shearing will be in full swing at the time and the
Electoral Department can ascertain where the necessity will arise in other places. The establishment of these polling booths will prevent men having to travel many miles and lose time. The employers do not wish the men to lose time unnecessarily. Further, the establishment of these polling booths at these stations will relieve the stress of work that would otherwise be too centralized at particular polling places. I think the Prime Minister will agree with me. He has already mentioned that efforts will be made to avoid congestion. This can be done by increasing the number of polling places and by seeing that there are sufficient opportunities for meeting the demand for absent voting papers. There is one matter that needs explanation before Supply goes through. In another Chamber the representative of the Government has given a reply that is not the same as that given by the Prime Minister this morning. We were informed that a certain regulation, which we believe would prove unworkable, was to be framed with regard to applying for permits to vote in absence from the division. According to the answer given in another place, the Government have declared that they are not going to adopt that regulation, without first laying it before Parliament, but this morning the Prime Minister said that he had no present intention of making the regulation.
– My exact language was that I had no such regulation in contemplation.
– We can,of course, rest satisfied with an assurance of that kind. The success of the new absent voting provision was very great, and, no doubt, accounted largely for the increase in the polling; and I may say that, presenting, as it does, even greater safeguards than the ordinary vote, it has been adopted by at least one State with satisfactory results. There is some gratification, however small, to be obtained from the fact that the Government have at last sent out a prospecting expedition to ascertain whether there really are any dangerous monopolies growing up in Australia; and the honorable member for Oxley, and others, are to be congratulated on the success of their efforts in this connexion. To many of us in this House the Government’s apparent denial that there is any evidence of trusts is very surprising, particularly in view of the report of the Inter-State Commission, showing that there is an unmistakable combine in the printing trade. However, we hear of no proposal on the part of the Government to take any action against this combine; and I may point out that the chairman of the Inter-State Commission, who is an able lawyer and an admitted constitutional authority, clearly indicated the other day that no action can be taken under the Constitution as it stands. The matter must be left to the States; and as the Government seem to depend so much on the State authorities, I think they ought to have sent some official intimation to the Victorian Government, calling attention to the combine in the printing trade, and suggesting legislation. If the Government persistently oppose any amendment of the Constitution, we cannot be blamed for charging them with being a party to the evils created by trusts. However, as I said, their policy is to leave such matters to the States.
– The Victorian Government are introducing an Anti-Trust Bill.
– In any case, that great economic genius, the honorable member for Werriwa, has discovered a very simple method of wiping out trusts, his suggestion being that, in order to bring about this desirable end, the only thing necessary is for the employes of a trust to go on strike. I do not know whether the honorable member, in making this suggestion, is speaking for his party, but I think we may fairly take him as doing so, in view of the fact that any statement made by a Labour man, however peculiar it may be to himself, is always taken as representing the views of the party.
– The honorable member for Werriwa said he was speaking only for himself.
– He was forced to say that; but I do think that when he is declaring for Free Trade he is speaking for a large section of his party. At the same time, some good things have been done by strikes, as witness the universal strike in Finland. The honorable member overlooks the fact that trusts, being very wealthy, can afford to pay such handsome wages as to make a strike highly improbable. In the United States of America we know that sometimes the employers and the employed combine to share the enormous profits that are wrung out of the public.
– Nearly every trust in the United States of America is run on those lines.
– That only shows the folly of the suggestion of the honorable member for Werriwa. The method of the trust is at first to pay big prices for what it requires, and, as soon as it has sufficient grip, to just pay enough to justify producers in bringing their goods and stock to market. At Chicago, with the control of the railways, the trusts can offer a certain price, and, if it is declined, take care that the producer shall have to pay enormous freight to take his cattle home again. In a great crash in America, twenty-two banks broke, seven bank managers suicided, andthousands of farmers were driven insolvent, owing to the crushing low prices paid by the trusts; and the whole scheme is to keep the wholesale price down and the retail price up. The benefit to the producer by the presence of trusts is only a temporary one, and it would be wicked to leave the producers of Australia ignorant of the dangers by which they are faced. The Government, and their supporters, cannot complain if they are suspected of being friendly to trusts, in view of their attitude whenever any criticism is uttered from this side on the operations of such combinations. The gravity of the position is shown by the fact that the present President, and the ex-President, of the United States are making this the great issue.
– Why did the Labour Government, during their three years of office, with a majority in both Houses, not deal with the trusts?
– No one can honestly say that the Fisher Government did not do a great deal of work, and pass much legislation, whereas the present Government have done nothing but spend money. A prospecting expedition for trusts having been organized, I suggest that there should be another to find out what has become of the “ honest, sound, and economical “ administration that was promised by the present Government. There is something humorous in the fact that the Prime Minister should, as a proof of sound financing, point out that the present Government began with a surplus of £2,600,000, and hope to finish the year with nearly £1,000,000 in the Treasury.
– After paying £4,000,000 on commitments left by the Labour Government.
– What should we say of a business man who, beginning with £2,600,000 of borrowed money, considered that he was doing well if he finished the year with £1,000,000? That is the position which the Prime Minister takes up. He and his Government have spent £1,800,000 in excess of the revenue for the year, and they think that they are doing very well.
– After paying off £4,000,000 of the Labour Government’s commitments.
– That is all very well, but the Government are not pursuing a policy of sound finance. The Prime Minister does not seem to see that.
– I can never see the honorable member’s setting of finance.
– I am familiar with business methods, and I certainly do not think that it can be said that a man is getting on when he is getting further into debt. That, however, is a characteristic of the Liberal party. The Fusion party, after being in power for eleven months, fell behind to the tune of £1,000,000. In the short time which the Labour Government was inpower it was able to accumulate a substantial surplus. A large proportion of this the present Government have spent, and now they are boasting about it. They seem to take a special delight in getting into debt. But the people of the Commonwealth, I believe, will serve them as they did when, on a former occasion, they spent the surplus which they inherited, and fell into debt to the extent of about £1,000,000. The Government have proved themselves, from the beginning to the end, to be failures. To use an expression much favoured by the honorable member for Werriwa when he is denouncing the Labour party, they were “ absolutely certain “ that our party knew nothing of business management, or of political economy, and so they took office with the fixed idea that under the Labour régime everything had gone wrong. They thought, to begin with, that there had been something “crooked” about the conduct of the general elections, but an exhaustive inquiry proved that there was absolutely no foundation for that belief. One Labour man was able to run the Department of Home Affairs, which controls the principal activities of the Commonwealth, but it takes three Liberal Ministers to do so. We have three Liberal Ministers administering different branches of that Department, and every one of them has made a muddle of it. The Prime Minister himself made a muddle of it by rushing in to cancel what the honorable member for Parkes has described as the excellent contract made with the Government of Western Australia for the supply of sleepers. The Western Australian Government had had to contend with wet weather, which made it difficult to work in the timber country, but it still kept up an ample supply of sleepers. In like circumstances, a private firm would have been granted an extension of time, but the Prime Minister cancelled the contract, and has since had to enter into another which is by no means as good. Then his understudy, as Minister of Home Affairs, the honorable member for Wentworth, was going to show Labour men how business ought to “be conducted. According to him, we were a lot of ignoramuses, but he made a bigger muddle in the Department than the Prime Minister himself had done. He let a contract which will not bear inspection, and which has been denounced by every member of his own party. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is the third Minister who has been placed in charge of a branch of the Department of Home Affairs, and he, too, has made a muddle of it. All three have been guilty of bungling.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Towards the close of his remarks, the honorable member who has just resumed his seat directed his attention to the financial situation. The question crops up time and again, and I think it is very proper that it should be considered at this stage, since it is likely to be the most important submitted to the people at the approaching campaign. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday became somewhat excited when referring to criticism which he said had been levelled, at the last general election, at his management of the finances. The right honorable gentleman went so far as to say that there were sitting behind the Government to-day gentlemen - he described them as “gentlemen” - who, during that campaign, wilfully and deliberately lied, and misstated the facts concerning the Fisher Government’s administration of the finances of the Commonwealth. Such a charge is a very serious one. The right honorable gentleman was promptly called to order, but he evaded his responsibility under the Standing Orders by saying that he was referring to statements made by men who at the time were seeking election, and who were not then members of Parliament. The charge which he made, in such general terms, against honorable members on this side of the House was wholly unwarranted. If he desired to single out any individual member, he should have done so; but, in fairness to the others, he ought to have refrained from making such a general statement. It is not fair to level a charge of that nature against honorable members indiscriminately, and, when called to order for making it, to seek shelter behind the position that those referred to were not then members of the House. There are two methods of lying or misrepresentation, and both are equally objectionable. There is, first of all, the system of deliberately misrepresenting the facts, and then there is the method of stating a case and concealing material facts so as to induce the people who are listening to the statement of that case to arrive at a conclusion entirely different from that at which they would arrive if the whole of the facts were presented. The Leader of the Opposition himself, when he went to the constituencies - at all events, when he went into mine - did not represent the facts relating to the financial position as fairly as they should have been to the electors. He stated that his Government, on taking office, found that there was a deficit of some £450,000, and that they had managed the finances of the country so well that, in all human probability, the close of the financial year ending 30th June, 1913, would find them with a surplus of £2,000,000 or more. “ Compare our administration of the finances,” said he, “with the administration of our predecessors. They left us a deficit of £450,000, whereas we shall close our three years of service with a surplus of £2,000,000 or more.” I was asked by many electors what I had to say to that statement. The explanation was that the right honorable member had been very careful not to make a complete statement of the facts, rf e was careful not to tell the people that his revenue was from £19,000,000 to £20,000,000 in excess of that which any other Government had received during a corresponding period. He did not tell them that, during that three years’ period, he had received, owing to the expiration of the Braddon section, £15,000,000 more than any other Government had done from the ordinary sources of income; nor did he tell them that he had received an additional £4,000,000 by way of the Federal land tax.
– He made a strong point of that on every platform.
– Not in my electorate.
– I mean that the right honorable member made a strong point of the revenue he had received from the land tax.
– The honorable member now modifies his first statement to the extent of £15,000,000. In my electorate, the right honorable member for Wide Bay did not make a strong point of the fact that he had obtained £4,000,000 from the land tax, nor did he state that, compared with his predecessors, he had received an extra £15,000,000 from the ordinary sources of revenue.
– How is it that the present Government is obtaining all this extra revenue, and yet cannot make ends meet?
– If the honorable member will possess his soul in patience for a moment or two I shall come to that point. The right honorable member for Wide Bay, Mr. Fisher, has 3aid to the present Government, “ I left you a surplus of £2,600,000, and of that sum you have expended £1,600,000, leaving what you call a surplus of £1,000,000,” Let us see what the right honorable member himself was going to do in the last year of his financial administration. According to the Estimates of the Labour Government for the year 1912-13, the revenue was estimated to be £20,422,000, and the expenditure £22,683,541. In other words, the then Government proposed to expend £2,261,541 more than their revenue during their last year of office. Therefore, what have they to cry out about if the present Government did expend the whole of the surplus that was made available? How did the last Government manage to secure that surplus? Instead of the whole of that revenue, which included a large sum carried forward, being expended, they spent £2,653,000 short of the receipts. That was accounted for in this way : There was a surplus of revenue of £1,477,413, which means that the right honorable member for Wide Bay, who is such a great authority on finance, was nearly £1,500,000 out in his estimate of revenue, whilst he over-estimated his expenditure by £1,175,67S. It was those miscalculations in the Estimates which accounted for the surplus. While that is the general position of the finances to-day, I cannot see that the position, as a whole, can be regarded as satisfactory. When we look at. the very large expenditure that has been, is being, and has to be, incurred, the position seems to me to be very serious indeed. It is a great pity that the present Government have not been able to make some other considerable reductions than those shown by the Treasurer to have been made. If this expenditure is to continue, it necessarily means that there must be further direct taxation. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he would impose direct taxation for the purpose of paying for important defence works, and his admission to that effect yesterday was pro ably the first admission that has been made by him on that question.
– Was that noi more of an alternative proposal ?
– The Leader of the Opposition was asked if he would impose direct taxation for that purpose, and he replied that he was prepared to pay for ships and other requirements out of revenue, but for the Naval Bases and other great permanent defence works he would impose further direct taxation. As the future expenditure in that direction must be considerable, the people of Australia may fairly assume that if the party opposite get into power we shall have further direct taxation. If the Leader of the Opposition were in the chamber I would ask him to say definitely whether, in the event of his being returned to power, he would impose any more direct taxation. Assuming that the financial position continues, as it seems likely to continue, with our expenditure increasing and our revenue, apparently, falling, it seems to me that there will be no other course open than further direct taxation, unless there is retrenchment in some direction. I ask honorable members opposite if they would not impose a Federal income tax, and also a Federal property tax ?
– Most unlikely.
– I take it that the honorable member will have to submit to the views of his party when they get into Caucus; and when they are obliged to impose direct taxation in order to pay for defence and other works, I wonder in what direction they will turn. These are matters of serious moment to this country, and I certainly hoped that some great saving would have been made in connexion with defence expenditure.Whilst I strongly advocate the general principles of our defence system, I think that this saving of £160,000 in war material is a saving in the wrong direction ; whilst, in connexion with the bigger items of defence expenditure, the Government might well endeavour to make very considerable savings. The defence scheme will require to be looked into carefully, in order that the country may be saved from the enormous expenditure which, in a few years, if we do not use the pruning knife, will amount to £10,000,000 per annum. There are other directions in which, I think, we may fairly look for increased expenditure. We all know that the cost of living is increasing in every direction, and, some years ago, when the old-age and invalid pensions were provided for, they were based on the then cost of living. Any Government in office should take into consideration the altered conditions. Our old and infirm people are not nearly so well off with their 10s. per week as they were when the pension was fixed at that amount, and I think that this or any other Government, might well, in making provision for the next financial year, take into consideration some measure that will put our aged and infirm on a better footing in relation to their pensions.
– Raise the pensions ?
– So far as I can see, there is no other way. The pension of 10s. fixed when the system was established has decreased in purchasing power to not more than 8s. at the present time. I do not consider that the old-age and invalid pensioners should suffer in that direction ; they should be the first to be provided for in any emergency. The cost of living is going up ail round. The honorable member for Werriwa talks about trusts and combines, and Free Trade, in that wild, whirling way of his, and I wish he would select some other place than my seat in this Chamber to speak from, because I assure him that I am not in sympathy with his Free Trade leanings, at any rate. The honorable member is, fortunately, expressing his own views, but he practically said that the policy of Protection was responsible for the increased cost of living, and for the trusts and combines. Would the honorable member for a moment say, assuming that there is a Beef Trust in Australia, that the presence of the trust is due to the policy of Protection in Australia? I venture to say that he would not. Yet he has charged the policy of Protection with being responsible for trusts and combines. One would think that there were no trusts in a Free Trade country. Are there not trusts and combines in Great Britain ? Of course there are. The honorable member would make it appear that the policy he opposes is responsible for all the evils of the community.
– I never said so.
– The honorable member said that the policy of Protection was responsible for the increased cost of living.
– In a very large part, it is.
– I am glad to know that, although the honorable member belongs to the same party as myself, he does not express my views on the question of Protection and Free Trade. A good deal has been said during the last week or two in regard to this matter, and I may say that during the session I have not had the opportunity I would have desired of expressing my views on the subject. When the present Government took office last year I, amongst others, looked forward with confidence to a policy of efficient Protection being given effect to. With the exception of the honorable member for Werriwa, and one or two honorable members like him, we are all agreed that the accepted policy of this country is Protection, and the only question we have to decide is what is efficient Protection. Notwithstanding what the honorable member has said, I believe there is a huge majority in this House in favour of efficient Protection.
– I am in favour of protection for the worker.
– When the Government took office, it was stated in their policy manifesto -
The inter-State Commission lias already been appointed, and, in addition to fulfilling its constitutional duties, it will supervise and report to Parliament with respect to industrial production and commercial exchange. It will also inquire into the working of the Tariff and its operation anil effect upon the investment of capital and the employment of labour in Australian industries, lt will make recommendations from time to time for the adjustment and revision of the Tariff, due regard being had to the interests of all sections of the community. In the meantime any anomalies discovered in the existing Tariff will be dealt with.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– While I was quite in favour of the submission of the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission for scientific investigation and report, I wish it to be distinctly understood that, as Protection is the policy of Australia, Parliament must approach Hie findings of the Commission strictly from the Protectionist point of view. I do not know what the fiscal opinions of the Inter-State Commission are, though I hope they are Protectionist, and that they will deal with the matters presented to them from the Protectionist stand-point. But Parliament has the final voice in the framing of the Tariff, and it will be for us to determine, though guided by the advice of the Inter-State Commission in matters of detail, what duties shall be adopted. We trust that the Inter-State Commission will push on with its work. As a supporter of the Government, I had hoped that there would be a rectification of anomalies last session, it having been stated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, after the reference of the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission had been spoken of, that “ in the meantime any anomalies discovered in the existing Tariff will be dealt with.” Last night the honorable member for Melbourne admitted that the Labour party, after being in power for three years, had failed to deal satisfactorily with the Tariff. I promised that, so far as it lay in my power, Tariff anomalies would be dealt with during the first session of this Parliament. But, because of the temper of the House, and for other reasons, that was not possible. Now, before we go to the country, I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to let us know exactly what the position is. Beyond doubt there- are anomalies, and I wish to be informed what is being done in regard to them. Australia is importing largely, and the importation is throwing many persons out of employment, so that the rectification of anomalies and the revision of the Tariff are matters of considerable urgency. Is the rectification of anomalies under consideration; and, if so, when may we reasonably expect that Parliament will have before it proposals for getting rid of them?
– When the Inter-State Commission has reported.
– I hope that the consideration of anomalies will not be delayed so long. We shall have to await the Commission’s report in regard to the general body of the Tariff, but we should have some assurance that the rectification of anomalies will be undertaken without delay.
– Apart from the general revision of the Tariff.
– Yes. I recognise that the Government has had great difficulty in transacting the business of the country in Parliament. Its Electoral Bill was met with a “ stone-wall,” and any proposal likely to result in benefit to the country was promptly blocked by the Opposition. Although the Leader of the Opposition recommended the Governor-General to send for the honorable member for Parramatta to form an Administration, he launched a motion of want of confidence against the new Government immediately it met Parliament, basing his attack on the statement that the interests of the country were not being protected, although he himself had been in office for three years, and had done nothing for the revision of the Tariff.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not wish to discuss the motion generally, but I have one or two words to say in reply to the honorable member for Indi. The policy of this party, as announced previous to the last election, was to maintain the Protective policy of the Commonwealth Tariff as determined bv the electors, and that is still our policy. We announced that the Inter-State Commis- sion would be appointed to investigate and report on Tariff matters, and one of the first acts of the Government was to appoint the Commission to enable it to inquire fully into Tariff matters. The appointment of the Commission was announced to Parliament, and it was stated that the Tariff would be inquired into, but that “ in the meantime any anomalies discovered in the existing Tariff will be dealt with.” As Minister of Trade and Customs, I sent to the Commission, immediately on its appointment, a letter asking it to deal as soon as practicable with urgent Tariff matters. That indicated the mind of the Government with regard to the Tariff. The Commission commenced its investigations, and is sitting, on the average, during five days a week, inquiring exhaustively into the questions submitted to it. Evidence has been taken in Victoria regarding many items. The Commissioners spent a week in Tasmania, and they are now taking evidence in New South “Wales. As regards Tariff anomalies, the position is this : When the Deakin Government took office in 1909, the honorable member for Kooyong, then Minister of Trade and Customs, had had prepared a list of anomalies for rectification. These anomalies were dealt with by Parliament on two occasions, at the instance of his successor. There is a standing instruction in the Department that anomalies discovered by the officers shall be noted, and, immediately I took office, I instructed that a new list of anomalies ‘should be prepared, which should be made as full and complete as possible. Investigation then became necessary in respect of all the matters which had been noted by officers affecting all parts of the Tariff schedule. Our Tariff covers everything that can be grown, produced, or manufactured, and new* materials, new processes of manufacture, new discoveries, new inventions, new patents, are coming forward every day, the activity in the commercial world being remarkable. Thus anomalies are constantly being brought to light, and the officers of the Department are always examining the Tariff with a view to the rectification of as many of them as possible. I hoped, and had reason to believe, had the session lasted much longer, that we should have been in a position to submit to Parliament a measure dealing with anomalies.
– Does the Minister say that the investigation of the anomalies could not have been completed earlier?
– The anomalies could not be got ready for submission to Parliament by the present time; but, in any event, as the honorable member pointed out, the reception of the Electoral Bill and other measures did not afford much hope of successful Tariff legislation in this Parliament. By reason of the action that I have taken, whatever Government may be in power next Parliament will be able to submit early in the session a measure to deal with anomalies, with official reports upon them. I hope that Parliament will in the same session be able to deal with matters referred to in progress reports of the Inter-State Commission, but it is to be distinctly understood that the consideration of the Commission’s reports as to the general Tariff is a matter altogether independent of the consideration of anomalies, and that the rectification of anomalies will not be delayed pending the reception of reports from the Commission upon the general Tariff. Whoever may be in charge of the Customs Department when the next Parliament assembles, should be able, early in the first session, to submit a proposal for dealing with anomalies. The Government have never at any time intimated, as has been suggested, that they are not going to take any action in connexion with Tariff matters until every application made to the Inter-State Commission has been investigated and reported on. Any such suggestion is absolutely incorrect.
– Your leader has said it.
– He has said nothing of the sort.
– I can quote from Hansard to prove it.
– The Prime Minister has never indicated that it was the policy of the Government to do this. It is obvious that such could not be the case. The Inter-State Commission is a permanent body, which will last longer than this or any other Government that will he in existence, and to which people from time to time may apply for assistance. My own view is that the InterState Commission, as soon as a subject is completely dealt with in all its various aspects and ready for submission to the
Minister, will present reports concerning Tariff items.
– But you definitely commit the Government to deal with anomalies in the meantime.
– Certainly. The Government have not departed one iota from the promise to have these matters dealt with as soon as they were ready for submission to Parliament, and early next session, which is likely to be in October, if I happen to be in my present position, I shall be able to submit a Bill dealing with Tariff anomalies. If I am not here, I hope that my successor will be able to do it with the material that will be at his disposal.
.- For brazen effrontery, the statement of the honorable member for Indi, that in consequence of the action of the Opposition there was no chance to introduce a Bill dealing with Tariff anomalies last session, excels anything I have heard for a long time. The longest sitting last session lasted sixteen hours. In the previous session, when the party with which the honorable member was associated was in Opposition, honorable members held up the House on one occasion for fifty-three hours. That is what I call opposition. The honorable member has not yet seen opposition. I wish to give the Government my blessing before I leave, in case I do not come back after the election. They have the congratulations of the Argus upon their wonderful surplus. If the Argus and the Government can derive any consolation from the surplus, they are easily satisfied. Fusion Governments have been particularly unfortunate. The Fusionists that followed the first. Fisher Administration had a nest-egg of £600,000, but at the end of their ten months there was a deficit of £450,000, so that they went to the bad to the extent of £115,000 every month. The next Fusion Government, that at present in power, came in with a nestegg of £2,600,000, and at the end of twelve months it is found that they have used up £1,800,000 of that surplus. Thus they have only £800,000, which they are pleased to call a surplus, remaining out of the £2,600,000 left to them by their predecessors.
Colonel Ryrie. - Give us something fresh.
– The truth will always stand repetition. They console themselves with the fact that the first Fisher Government had extra money as the result of the per capita arrangement made with the States. The present Government have not only had the advantage of that same arrangement, but also they have starved the public works. They have not spent a farthing in the electorate I represent, except the money spent on the railway, and that work was arranged for before they came into power. The officers of the Post and Telegraph Department recommended the construction of duplicate lines from Port Lincoln to Streaky Bay and Port Lincoln to Cowell, 200 miles in the one case and 100 miles in the other, and the money having been provided for on the Estimates, in due course tenders were called for the material. But the present Government have suspended operations, and have used the material in other districts. If ever there was a “spoils to the victors” policy, it has been adopted by the present Government. My constituency needs more postal and telephonic facilities than almost any other district, yet I have not had a farthing spent there by the present Government. Why ? Because I am a member of the Opposition.
– It is not fair to say that. Each case is dealt with on its merits.
– Can Ministers justify stopping these works which were passed by a previous Parliament? This particular duplication was rendered necessary on account of the congestion on the wires used for telegraph purposes, and because it was necessary to give greater facilities to the farmers on both sides of the peninsula. Last March, when I was at Streaky Bay, there were inquiries about the work not having been put in hand, and I telegraphed to the Deputy Postmaster-General in Adelaide, who replied that tenders had been called, and that the work was to be started in June. The next thing I heard when the present Government came into power was that the work had been cancelled. Subsequently, I submitted a few questions in the House, and I got a reply from Mr. Oxenham to the effect that the work had not been cancelled, but had been postponed. Why has the work been postponed ? Not one extension applied for in my district has been granted since the present Government have been in power.
That is the way in which Ministers have effected this saving on the expenditure provided for on the last Estimates. What would they have done if the Fisher Government had not left a surplus? They would he £1,800,000 behind. And what would they have done had not the Fisher Government imposed the land tax, which they fought against for all they were worth, and which would not have been on the statute-book if they had had the power ? They would not have received land tax to the extent of £1,300,000, and if we put these two amounts together they would have been to the bad to the extent of slightly over £3,000,000.
– Bo you mean to say that the Government have been building up their surplus by starving works?
– Undoubtedly. ‘ We have only to look at what they have done in Western Australia in connexion with the Naval Base at Cockburn Sound. That was work in a Labour man’s district. I do not know that there has been any cessation of work on the Naval Base at Flinders, in the constituency of the Attorney-General. Have the Government announced any financial policy? They certainly did not announce one at the last election; and, according to the Attorney-General, as reported in a Nhill newspaper, Parliament was called together early with a view to a dissolution, so that they would not have to make any statement to the House in this connexion.
– The Attorney-General did not say that. I was at the meeting.
– The newspaper, with the report in it, has been produced; and, moreover, one of the honorable gentleman’s supporters congratulated him on being the coming leader of the present Government.
– The Attorney-General has never spoken at Nhill since he took office.
– The report was pub- .lished in a Nhill newspaper.
– As a matter of fact, the Attorney-General never spoke at Nhill.
– The AttorneyGeneral explained to a meeting of Liberals that Parliament was called together to get the decision on the two Test Bills, and, under the circumstances, the Government would not have to bring down a financial policy.
– Absolutely incorrect.
– Does the honorable member think that the AttorneyGeneral would be foolish enough to make such a statement?
– According to the Nhill newspaper, he did so. The previous financial policy of the Government and their supporters was a borrowing policy; and it is interesting to conjecture what would be their position to-day but for the surplus left by the Labour Government, and the gain in connexion with thenote issue. The Liberals, when last in office, passed the Naval Loan Act, by means of which it was proposed to borrow £3,500,000, notwithstanding the fact thatthey were to receive extra money from the States. But for the intervention of the electors, our Loan Bill in connexion with defence would now amount to probably £10,000,000. What is to bethe policy of the Government in the future? Do they intend to increase the land tax ? If they were consistent they would have rescinded that land tax; but while they used its existence for political purposes, they are very glad of the revenue of £1,300,000, and also of the surplus left by the late Government. On the basis of last year’s expenditure, the Government could have carried on for six months more with the aid of the surplus of £2,600,000, but, after that, it looks as though, like Micawber, they were going to wait for “something to turn up.” The appeal to the people is a conspiracy to prevent any financial announcement, which the Government fear may damage them in’ the eyes of the people. We have heard a great deal about electoral frauds, but there never were bigger frauds than are going on just now in connexion with the rolls. In South Australia some 200 men are employed by the Electoral Department togo from house to house and send in the lists of all those who have left, with a view to their being struck off, and instructions have been received from Melbourne that they are not to give a claim card to any one who is entitled to vote and who is not now on the rolls. What is that but a conspiracy to keep people off the rolls? Not one solitary case of fraud at the last election has been discovered, and, in my opinion, there never was, and never will be, a cleaner contest.
A Committee of Inquiry was appointed, but at Ballarat and in West Australia, South Australia, and other places, where the newspapers were filled with stories of corruption by the Labour party, not one of the charges was substantiated. Every case of duplication that I have investigated has proved to be an error on the part of the poll clerks; and honorable members opposite know this to be the fact. To-day there is a deliberate conspiracy on the part of the Government to put as many men as possible off the rolls.
– I think the honorable member is going too far when he accuses the Government of” conspiracy.”
– There is a deliberate attempt, in what they call “ purifying the rolls,” to leave out as many names as possible of people who are eligible. Why should these 200 men in South Australia not be empowered to furnish claim cards to eligible citizens? The fact is that they are instructed not to carry the claim cards with them, but only “ to cleanse the rolls.” This means that they are to remove as many names as possible, the Liberal party knowing that the Labour party has the support of that class of people whose employment causes them to frequently change their addresses. By this means thousands of electors would be disfranchised, and if the present rate of progress continues, I prophesy that 20,000 people in South Australia will be deprived of their votes.
– Does the honorable member say that the Government are wilfully doing this?
– I say that the instructions came from Melbourne.
– The people are probably on the rolls for somewhere else.
– In all probability they will never hear that their names have been removed. Letters which are not claimed at the last address of a man are sent to the Dead Letter Office.
– Special instructions have been given that where a person, on leaving a district, acquaints the postmaster with his new address, letters shall be posted on. If people will not take the trouble to do this, it is impossible to forward the letters.
– Why cannot the officials carry claim cards with them? In New South Wales the police are em ployed in similar work by the Government, and they are instructed not to enroll men. What construction can we place on this except that it is a conspiracy to rob people of their votes.
– I think the word “ conspiracy “ is out of order.
– I withdraw the word, and say that it is a policy that will deprive thousands of people of their votes. The object of forcing on the election is to get all the shearers away in the shearing sheds, where there is no provision for them to vote. The Government even wish to tamper with the absent vote, and have intimated that application must be made the day before. Just imagine a man 50 or 100 miles away from a polling booth having to make a personal application for an absent vote ! If the Government are sincere they will establish polling places wherever a reasonable number of men are gathered on the polling day. That is the only way to give the shearers the vote.
– And at the rail-head construction works.
– As to the transcontinental railway, with the exception of the unfortunate blunder that has caused the Government more anxiety than the rank and file realise, there is no attempt to hold up the work. The Treasurer is too wise to allow this railway to be hung up longer than can be helped ; but the Teesdale Smith trouble has brought the Government practically to a dead-end, and they have had to shift the men about in order to give them something to do. Although time was the essence of the Teesdale Smith contract, it will be another month or five weeks before it is finished. The Government will no doubt try to impose penalties, but they will not be able to claim them, for the simple reason that deviations were made after the contract was let. Mr. Teesdale Smith will be able to show that the terms have not been observed by the Government. I hope that the Senate Select Committee will clear up one point in connexion with the contract. We have never had before us a proper statement showing the relative cost under the contract and the cost of similar work on the MinippaStreaky Bay railway, constructed by the South Australian Government. Ithas been stated that the 4s. 6d. per cubic yard for cutting, and 2s. 6d. per cubic yard for removing the soil from the cutting to the bank, is the same as the price paid in connexion with the State railway; but the papers that have been produced show that the 2s. 6d. per yard paid by the State Government was for the side cutting to the bank, which is different altogether from 2s. 6d. for removing soil from the cutting. Mr. Teesdale Smith is first paid 4s. 6d. for the cutting, and then 2s. 6d. for removing the soil over a certain distance from the cutting mouth.
– Does the honorable member really believe that ?
– It is an absolute fact, and the Minister has admitted it. The Minister will not deny the accuracy of my statement. As a matter of fact, he has admitted it.
– But he gave us the conditions.
– I have recited the actual conditions. The contractor is paid 2s. 6d. a yard for all the spoil that he has to remove for more than a chain and a half. I ask the Prime Minister whether that is not correct?
– The contractor is paid for forming up the line.
– I have put a straight question.
– And I have given a straight-out answer. The honorable member is creating a false impression. Let him put the matter right.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– I shall withdraw it, and say that the honorable member is creating an absolute mis-impression.
– I am stating the facts.
– Not all the facts.
– I am ; and I hope that the Select Committee will go into this matter.
– Hear, hear !
– One point has not been cleared up. The Minister has said that, under the South Australian Government contract, which, he tells us, is comparable with the Teesdale Smith contract
– I do say that.
– The honorable gentleman was never in the district, and knows nothing about the work. But, as suming that the work to be done under both contracts is the same, the Minister says that the South Australian Government are paying 2s. 6d. per yard to the contractor for removing the spoil from the cutting to the bank. That is not correct.
– It is. I say that the contractor gets 2s. 6d. per yard for forming the line - not for merely tipping up the dirt.
– The honorable gentleman keeps shifting from the point.
– I do not.
– My contention is that the terms of the South Australian Government contract are not the same in this respect as those of the Teesdale Smith contract. Under the latter we are paying 4s. 6d. a yard in the cuttings, and an extra 2s. 6d. a yard for any spoil taken from the cutting to the bank, if it is moved a chain and a-half. The Honorary Minister will not deny that statement.
– Our price, or arrangement, is the same as that under the South Australian Government contract upon the particular section of the Minippa to Streaky Bay line referred to, with the one exception that certain work on the embankments is done free for us, but is not done free of charge under the South Australian Government contract.
– Ministers keep on shifting their ground. They will not find that, under the South Australian contract, 2s. 6d. per yard is being paid for removing the spoil from the cutting.
– Then all I can say is that it is a case of the honorable member’s word against that of our present Engineer-in-Chief.
– No; it is a question of the interpretation of a docket. I pointed out the facts to the honorable gentleman himself on one occasion while we were in the lobby. In the schedule which the Department received from the South Australian Government officer, it is set forth that 4s. 6d. per yard is paid for cutting, and 2s. 6d. per yard “from side-cutting to bank,” which is a wholly different proposition. I speak as one who has worked on the railways, and who has been paid for side-cutting as well as for other classes of work. It has always been the practice to fix a certain price in respect of “ from side-cutting to bank “ ; but the Government will not find in any contract other than their own a provision that the contractor shall be paid for spoil from the cutting, in addition to the price paid for taking it out, unless such spoil is carted a greater distance than 40 chains. The contractor in this case has no more to do than is required in respect of similar undertakings. He simply has to cart the stuff out of the cutting and tip it on the bank. For that he gets 2s. 6d. per yard; but under other contracts nothing is paid for it. The soil must he placed somewhere.
– Does the honorable member think we should have done better without a contract - that we should have done better had we accepted Mr. Teesdale Smith’s offer to do this work according to the prices paid on the South Australian line?
– I have not gone into that matter; but I think that we should have saved something.
– No, the honorable member has not gone into that matter; he goes only into those things which he thinks he can distort, and out of which he can make political capital.
– Nothing of the sort. I have been perfectly straight and candid over this matter.
– I arn not complaining.
– These things require to be cleared up.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry that I have not more time to deal with the subject.
.- I wish to ascertain the actual financial position of the Commonwealth in order that I shall be able to state it correctly when we are on the hustings. I do not desire to misrepresent the Government. I heard both the Prime Minister and the ex-Prime Minister debate the question yesterday, and the confusion to which the discussion gave rise, in my mind, was intensified when I read in the A rgus this morning that the Government claimed that at the end of the financial year they would show a surplus of £1,000,000. The point that I wish to have cleared up is whether in calculating that surplus they have taken into account the surplus which they inherited from the Fisher Government.
– Yes, they admit that.
– Of the surplus of £2,600,000 which they inherited from the Fisher Government they have expended £1,800,000, so that the actual position is that on the year’s transactions they show a deficiency of £1,800,000.
– Yes, on the twelve months’ operations.
– If that is not correct I should like the PostmasterGeneral to put me right. The position is that during their twelve months of office the Government have spent £1,800,000 in excess of the revenue received by them. They would be in debt to that extent but for the economy practised by the Fisher Government, which left to them a substantial surplus. At the last general election the Fisher Government were charged with extravagance. That was the cry in the Wannon electorate, which adjoins my own, and I know that it had great influence with many people. Because of it many votes were cast for the present representative of that constituency.
– Who made these charges of extravagance ?
– The present Prime Minister, for one. He constantly charged the late Government with extravagance, but since he has been in power he has not been able to point to one specific case of extravagance on their part. In view of the fact that the financial statement made yesterday by the Treasurer shows that the present Government have spent during the last twelve months £2,000,000 more than the Fisher Government spent in their last year of office, I do not think we shall hear any more of these charges of extravagance against the Labour party. I wish now to refer to the remarks made by the Treasurer in regard to the maternity allowance. I certainly was surprised to learn of the right honorable gentleman’s hostility to it. The honorable member for Bourke said last night that the Treasurer should be the last to oppose the maternity allowance or pensions of any kind, seeing that he himself was in receipt of a pension from the Imperial Government. I find, however, that the pension drawn by the Treasurer is paid by the Government of
Western Australia. Under the Western Australian Constitution Act of 1889 special provision was made for the right honorable gentleman. Schedule D to that Act sets forth that ‘ ‘ John Forrest, C.M.G., Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands,” shall receive a pension of £500 a year. We have been told in this House that the right honorable gentleman does not draw that pension. On looking through the Western Australian Estimates for 1911, however, I found, on page 16, that from 29th April, 1910, to 30th June, 1911. Sir John Forrest had drawn no less than £587 by way of pension.
– Has the honorable member looked at the later Estimates?
– I understand that it is said that the Treasurer does not draw a pension at the present time.
– What has this got to do with the honorable member?
– It is of much interest to the people of Australia, seeing that the Treasurer is bitterly opposed to the payment of pensions.
– I am not. I am not drawing the pension now.
– That is owing to the fact that, inasmuch as the Treasurer is in office - since he is holding an office of profit under the Crown - he is expressly precluded by the Act from drawing it.
– But this pension was provided for long before I came into office.
– The right honorable member was Colonial Secretary of Western Australia at the time.
– I was Commissioner of Lands.
– Quite so, and the right honorable member has been drawing the pension.
– The honorable member would draw it if he had a chance. What is more, if I drew it I earned it.
– I am informed by a representative of Western Australia that when the Act in question was passed responsible government was not enjoyed by that State. The Act under which the right honorable gentleman was granted this pension was passed in 1889, and it was not until 1890 that responsible government was granted. Notwithstanding that he has been drawing this pension, the Treasurer has remained silent while his colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, has been charging the Labour party with supporting the policy of “ spoils to the victors.”
– Does not the honorable member think that the Treasurer was entitled to the pension?
– No; I think that he was paid for his services to the State.
– Why tackle me?
– Because of the right honorable member’s remarks regarding the maternity allowance.
– I am not opposed to the poor receiving it, but I object to rich people drawing it.
– The Treasurer said yesterday that the women of Australia would have to be pauperized before the maternity allowance was made payable to them. I am bitterly opposed to anything of the kind, and it ill-becomes the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, who has been drawing a pension of £500 a year from the State of Western Australia, to put forward such a proposition. No more beneficial legislation has been placed upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth than that providing for the maternity allowance. It was introduced by the Fisher Government, and no party will receive a mandate from the people to interfere with that legislation unless it be to increase the allowance. I desire to say a word or two about the reasons for a double dissolution, particularly the reasons why the memorandum which the Prime Minister presented to the Governor-General has not been read to this House. I heard the AttorneyGeneral state that the correspondence was of a confidential and secret character. From what I have read of similar cases, such memoranda have been given to the people. The Elmslie Government only recently presented a memorandum to the Governor of Victoria asking for a dissolution. His Excellency refused the request, and the Government immediately presented the memorandum to the people of Australia through the press. I cannot understand the reasons for any secrecy in this matter. I remember that when in 1908 the Governor of Victoria granted a dissolution of the State Parliament, he was tendered false advice.
– You do not think this Government would do that?
– I do not accuse them of tendering false advice, but I am judging them by their previous acts. In 1908 it was proved, after the dissolution had been granted, and the election had taken place, that the then Premier had falsely told the Governor that he had sufficient Supply to carry him over the elections. It was afterwards shown that the Treasurer had illegally paid ?108,000 out of trust funds to meet the debts that were becoming due, and as soon as the new Parliament assembled, it was moved -
That a respectful Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor praying that he will cause to be placed before this House the whole of the correspondence between His Excellency and the Government, and all other papers relating to the dissolution of the twenty-first Parliament; also praying that he will communicate to the House the reasons that may have influenced him in granting such dissolution.
Mr. Murray, who was the newly.elected Premier, in speaking to that resolution, said -
I have had several communications from His Excellency the Governor, and also conversations, on this subject. Not merely has His Excellency no objection to the production of the papers, but he desires that the House should have all the information in connexion with this matter. I may say that, as far as documentary evidence goes, there is very little, most of the business having been transacted by the medium of the telephone or by personal interviews between His Excellency and Sir Thomas Bent.
In that case the Governor had no hesitation in giving Parliament the fullest information, and we claim in connexion with the present dissolution that we have a right to see the memorandum which was presented to His Excellency, and to know the reasons given by the Ministry to the Governor-General when asking for a dissolution. It is true that this Chamber cannot present an address to the GovernorGeneral, but I think that another place should certainly do so. They have the Victorian precedent of 1908 to go upon, and I feel satisfied that if they do present an address to His Excellency the papers will be supplied. There is an even better precedent. Not long ago, in connexion with the Parliamentary Veto Bill in Great Britain, Mr. Asquith said that the King had told him Certain things. Later on, when Parliament met, he was challenged by certain members of the Opposition to say what the King had told him. Those questions were repeated at every sitting, until one day Mr. Asquith came to the House, and said that the King had commanded him to tell exactly what had occurred. There was nothing to hide then, and there should be nothing to hide in connexion with thepresent dissolution. If I had my way we would take a little time over this Supply Bill until we did get the memorandum.
– Why do you not?
– Because, on the other hand, I feel that the time is opportune to go to the country, and I am anxious to go. I have an idea what the verdict of the country is going to be. Now that a double dissolution has been granted, although I believe that injury has been done to the Senate, I, personally, am pleased that both the Senate and the House of Representatives are going to the country together.From the point of view of our party, I think that will be beneficial to us. However much I may disagree with the decision of His Excellency in granting the double dissolution, I say that, now the thing has been done, we do not want too much talk; let us appeal to the people.
– You would not have a Governor-General who would not follow the advice of his Ministers?
– It is most remarkable to hear the honorable member for Henty talking in that way. At the time when the trouble I have alluded to occurred in the State Parliament of Victoria, Mr. Murray, Mr. Watt, and the present member for Henty, a very able trio, were in the forefront, and the honorable member for Henty would have been in the new Ministry had he succeeded in winning the Melbourne seat. Unfortunately for him, the electors of Melbourne decided otherwise. Mr. Watt, during the last few days, has expressed marked disapproval of the speeches made by the honorable members for Melbourne Ports, Barrier, and Ballarat, and he said we had no right to criticise His Excellency, and that we had not taken his decision as sportsmen ought to take it. I was in the Victorian Parliament in 1908, and when we defeated the BentMinistry a dissolution was the last thing which we ever imagined would occur. I fondly hoped that Mr. Prendergast would be sent for, and the honorable member for Henty hoped that Mr. Murray would be asked to form a Government; but, to our surprise, His Excellency sent for neither, but granted the request of Sir Thomas Bent for a dissolution of Parliament. In doing that, His Excellency hurt Mr. Watt and the honorable member for Henty, and they were angry, and Mr. Watt, who to-day is condemning members on this side for criticising the action of the GovernorGeneral, said on that occasion, as reported in the Agc of 15th December, 190b-
The Governor in granting a dissolution had not realized tlie true position or magnitude of his responsibility. These were serious words to use against the King’s representative, but if dissolutions were to be permitted as they had been in recent days, the pistol was pointed at the forehead of representative government in a way that would cause serious students of the problem to feel a great anxiety for the future. The inevitable effect for the future would be that men might be threatened by the man who held the power with the terrors of a dissolution, and if they were weak-kneed would refrain from casting a vote in the interests of freedom and material prosperity.
This would be one of the great and important constitutional issues that would have to be fought immediately the new Parliament met.
I think I can leave the question of dissolution, and, repeating the concluding * words of Mr. Watt, say that one of the first questions the new Parliament will be required to tackle will be the decision to dissolve the two Houses of Parliament on the paltry Bill that was rejected in another place.
– The Governor-General will have to pack his portmanteau.
– I have been assailed in the press for having quoted what the Tories of this country did many years ago. When Sir Charles Darling was Governor of Victoria, he would not grant a dissolution when asked to do so by the Tories. The Protectionists were in power at the time, and because His Excellency refused to dissolve Parliament at the instigation of the Tories twenty-two Executive Councillors signed a petition to the Home Office demanding the withdrawal of Sir Charles Darling from the position of Governor of Victoria. Ultimately that request led to his being recalled. For weeks there appeared in the Melbourne Argus an advertisement headed “ Wanted a Governor.” Those are the people who to-day bitterly assail us if we dare to say one word in criticism of the action of the King’s representative. Yet when the State Governor, in those days, refused to do the bidding of the Tory class, they demanded his recall. I do not desire to advocate any recall of the GovernorGeneral. I desire to see the memorandum. His Excellency may have been misled. If the Prime Minister is telling the truth in saying that everything which is in the memorandum has been told to this Chamber, what harm can be done by submitting the whole of the memorandum to us?
– Only that in its nature it is secret.
– Have I not shown that in other cases these papers have been submitted to the people? These things ought not to be secret; they are the concern of the people. One of our institutions has been assailed, and we want to know the reasons given to the GovernorGeneral which led him to accede to the request of the Prime Minister. I see nothing unfair in that- demand. I desire to say a word or two now in regard to the putting of names off the rolls.
– You are pretty good at putting them on.
– I have hard work to do so when the honorable member’s party are continually putting names off the roll. An honorable member interjects, “What about Broken Hill?” Let me clear up the misapprehension about Broken Hill. At the last election, only thirty-three votes were cast for me at Broken Hill, although one reading the daily newspapers might imagine that some thousands were cast for me there. This Government, through the AttorneyGeneral, has violated the electoral law by permitting objections to be lodged unaccompanied with the fee of 5s. which the Act requires. Mr. Brazener, giving evidence before the Electoral Commission at Ballarat, said that he had furnished 4,180 names as objected to for various reasons. I do not deny that a good manY names have been struck off, and we are having a hard time in getting them put back. But no fee was paid by Mr. Brazener in respect of any one of the objections lodged, and I declare that he did not get 500 names struck off. An immense amount of work has been put upon the Electoral Registrars, who, for the most part, are postal officials, and receive paltry sums for their electoral work. What time has a postmaster for inquiring into the facts connected with over 4,000 objections? It is impossible to make the necessary inquiries in every case. I would allow any person to lodge an objection without paying a fee, but I would make the penalty for objecting to the name of an elector properly entitled to be enrolled, not a fine, but imprisonment for six months for each objection.
– In that case Mr. Brazener would be liable to 2,000 years’ imprisonment.
– That would only be his deserts. The Labour party is taking advantage of the Attorney-General’s instructions, and through its organizers has lodged objections which have resulted in 800 names being removed from the roll. In every case the name objected to was that of a person who had removed, not from a Ballarat subdivision, but from the Ballarat division. But as the law stands, an agent could object to every name on the roll, and if registrars were careless, only half of the electors entitled to enrolment for a division might find their names on the roll. Charges of corruption and personation in Ballarat were made repeatedly. The Government sent detectives there, and appointed a Royal Commission, which made an inquiry on the spot. It was said that dead persons voted, that is, that persons voted in the names of others who were dead but still enrolled, but not one case of the kind has been discovered, nor has any case of duplicate voting or personation been proved. An opportunity was given to those who had made charges of irregularity to substantiate them, but, although two of those who made charges appeared before the Commission, no statement was proved. The Prime Minister should apologize to the people of Ballarat, and so should the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who has been very free with his charges of corruption and personation.
– He is in charge of the Electoral Department now.
– Yes, but not for long, I trust. I firmly believe that after the next election the Labour party will occupy the Government benches.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Grey has made an attack upon me because of inaction in regard to requests for telephone construction between Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay and Port Lincoln and Cowell. I sent for the papers, and have looked through them, I believe for the first time. I find among them a letter by the honorable member to my predecessor, complaining that money required for the duplication of the line from Port Lincoln to Streaky Bay had not been put on the Estimates. The honorable member seems to have pressed his case very hard, but I knew nothing of it until he spoke to me the other day. Money was put on the Estimates for works that might be required, but it has been my policy in dealing with telephone construction to give communication to districts which had none, before duplicating lines. At the same time, I have tried to do even-handed justice, and have not made the slightest distinction between the requests of honorable members of the Opposition and those of Government supporters. From Port Lincoln to Streaky Bay there is already a line of 200 miles in length.
– It is nearly always in use for telegraph purposes.
– It is well used, and were there money to spare, it would be duplicated, but the Department has had to parcel out its funds for the construction of new lines, making the money go as far as it could. This year money has been put on the Estimates for the duplication of these and other lines. I have taken the same attitude inregard to requests for post-offices as I have taken in regard to requests for telephone communication. Where an office is doing the work that it is called upon to do, I have provided for new centres before providing new postoffices in old-established towns. Naturally, when a town grows, its people think that they should have a more attractive post-office.
– Tenders were called for the construction of these telephone lines.
– Tenders were called only for part of the material; for 1,000 poles, which was about two-thirds of the required number. Where there was a good post-office, capable of doing good work, I felt it my duty not to build a fresh one until all those places without post-offices had them. I followed the same practice in connexion with telephone and telegraph lines, and I followed it without fear or favour. No honorable member on the Ministerial side can say that I have given him more consideration than I have extended to any honorable member of the Opposition. There is only a certain amount of money to go round, and if the lines referred to by the honorable member for Grey were not pressed on with, other lines were in exactly the same position. The honorable member seems to feel that his district was the only one that has been dealt with in this fashion. Lines in the districts of other honorable members have been postponed for exactly the same reason as the Port Lincoln lines.
– Have tenders been called for those other lines?
– In the case of the Port Lincoln lines, there were no tenders called for construction. Tenders were certainly called for poles, but, once ordered, poles can be used anywhere, and they are always good things to have in stock. I cut out several lines in the constituency of the honorable member for Corangamite, and that honorable member felt rather hurt about it. A line in the district of the honorable member for Maranoa was postponed. Several lines in Gippsland were postponed. There was no favoritism. I did not know until the honorable member for Grey spoke to me the other day, and I had made inquiries, that these two lines from Port Lincoln had been dealt with. It is only to-day that I have seen the papers. I had asked the Department to send the honorable member the particulars, and I find that he was duly informed that the work had been postponed.
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Adelaide told me that the work had been cancelled.
– Apparently he made a mistake. The papers show that the work was not cancelled. The honorable member for Ballarat has referred to postmasters in various places acting as Electoral Registrars. I agree with the honorable member that in many cases these men do a great deal of work for which they have not been too well paid. I consider that the better plan would be for the Electoral Department to do its own work instead of asking these postal officers to work overtime, unless they are recompensed by time allowance, or by payment in proportion to the work they do.
– The present scheme will bring no relief to those postmasters.
– I agree that they should receive consideration. I have always said so.
– Was any instruction given in the Department to keep down the expenditure as much as possible?
– Some time ago a request was received from the Treasury by all Departments to see what reductions could be made, and what money could be saved. This was done. There are postal works that could be dealt with to the extent of three or four millions, but, as it is impossible to get that money out of revenue, some arrangement will have to be made of financing the Postal Department by itself. My own view is that the money will have to be borrowed and repaid by a special charge on the Post Office, with a sinking fund for a term of years. I do not think that any Ministry will be able to carry out the great works required in the Postal Department out of revenue, or without making some other financial arrangement. In order to carry out the works that are required, it will be necessary to do this, or else starve the Department.
– Has the surplus been made up by starving the Postal Department to the extent of £3,000,000 ?
– It is nonsense to talk of starving the Department to the extent of £3,000,000. I say that there are works that should be constructed in the next three or four years which will cost something like £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, and that as these works cannot be built out of revenue, some better provision will have to be made for financing the Department.
– Therefore, at present the Department must be starved to the extent of £1,000,000 per year.
– I do not say that. Parliament has been generous to the Postal Department in the matter of funds. I do not think my predecessor had any complaints as to the generosity of Parliament. What I say is that the
PostalDapartment is a big concern that must he financed as a business proposition, and not as a parliamentary one.
. -The matter I have to deal with is of the greatest importance to honorable members who are faced with a dissolution, probably a double dissolution. I wish to know what provision is being made by the Government for an effective roll. Nothing that has emanated from Ministers has been satisfactory as to what they purposB doing. They seem to have the whole game in their hand, and they are playing it to themselves, while the Opposition have to subscribe to the object they have in view. That is most unfair. Before the House dissolves the Ministry should at least say what they purpose doing. If they are controlling the elections Ministers should act fairly, and honorable members of the Opposition should have some reasonable consideration. It is . to be supposed that Ministers will utilize all the opportunities they possess for their own advantage, and honorable members of the Opposition will sit at their feet and beg and pray. As reasonable and honorable gentlemen the Government should at least say precisely what their purpose is. I now come to the memorandum which contains a proposition for the dissolution of Parliament, and I ask myself why the Ministry are afraid of plaeing clearly and definitely before the House the terms that they addressed to the Governor-General. However, the dissolution is not yet an accomplished fact, because the Government have not got Supply; and I have heard of some private conversations - I shall not say where - in which honorable members on the other side observed, “If we refuse Supply, we have them “dished.’ “ As I said before, the Government have not yet got Supply, and may not get it.
– Surely the honorable member . would not hold up Supply. What would the country say?
– You try me! I would hold up Supply for a month, for another month, and a third month, if necessary. I do not understand why the Ministry, particularly the Prime Minister and his boss, the Attorney-General, cannot place us in possession of the statement they presented to the Governor-General. What is there in the situation to warrant or com pel them to withhold information to which we are reasonably entitled, relating, as it does, to a great constitutional issue ?
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. -The famous “ test” Bill, on which the Governor-General consented to grant a double dissolution, is now out of the yay and I should like to know whether it i»the intention of the Government, in view’ of the fact that they have proceeded with other business, to tender the GovernorGeneral further advice on the subject?
Questionresolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140612_reps_5_74/>.