7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3. p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CORBOY made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral Division of Swan.
– I desire to ask the Acting Minister for the Navy a question arising out of the following published statement: -
Mr. Harmon, managing director of the Shipping and Trading Agency, is reported to have expressed the opinion that the Handa Isle had struck one of the floating mines which was recently seen off the const, andwhich were apparently stillsource of danger.
Is the Minister of the opinion that the wreckage reported to have been discovered is that of the Handa Isle? Has any evidence been produced that would suggest that the barquentine in question was wrecked as the result of strikinga mine, and will he make a statement to the House with reference to Mr. Harrison’s reported remarks, which will, no doubt, be viewed with alarm ‘by the travelling public?
Mr.POYNTON.- The discovery of certain wreckage has been reported to me, but so far there has been_no official intimation as to its identification. I have no knowledge of the reason upon which the statement quoted by the honorable member, and published in this morning’s newspapers, is baaed. As to the vessel being wrecked as the result of striking a mine-
– It is only guesswork.
– It is. For some time we have had trawlers scouring our coastal waters in various localities. The work was discontinued only last week, when itwas reported to me that the Naval authorities were satisfied that all necessary action had been taken, and that to the best of their belief the sea wasnow free from mines.
– In connexion with the reported decision to reduce the furlough of returning Anzacs from sixty days to twenty-eight days, will the Assistant Minister for Defence ask his colleague, the Minister for Defence, in view of the great services which these men have rendered to Australia and humanity, to reconsider the question, and to permit the full furlough of sixty days?
– I will.
-I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether it isa fact that those soldiers who have been in camp for six months will receive a silver Imperial Service Badge, and that the remainder will receive only discharge certificates as a war record ? If this is so, will the Minister take steps to remove this invidious distinction, and to see that all those soldiers who have entered camp will receive a badge that will clearly indicate that they enlisted in their country’s service?
– I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Defence.
– When news of the armistice came through, Lt.-Colonel Scott, officer commanding a camp of Citizen. . Forces in training at Bendigo, is reported to have refused a request on the part of the menfor a holiday. It is further reported that serious trouble ensued, and that numbers of returned officers tendered their resignations.Will the Minister have an inquiry and see that we do not lose the services of these officers?
– I shall have an inquiry made.
– In view of the contract made with the Imperial Government for the supply of butter and the very much reduced rates ruling for butter for consumption in Australia, as well as the fact that the output is rapidly diminish- . ing, will the Minister for Price Fixing review the question of local prices, with the object of giving the butter-producers the benefit of the natural market?
– I shall be glad to give the matter consideration, and will advise the honorable member of the result.
Demobilization : Lack of Clothing
– Has the Minister representing, the Minister for Defence read a statement in the press to the effect that upon the demobilization of the men in Liverpool Camp some of the troops had to leave in their pyjamas, no clothing having been provided for them ?
– I have, read the paragraph, and shall have inquiries made.
– In view of a statement appearing in the’ press that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is endeavouring to sell 1,000,000 tons of wheat to the Imperial Government, I desire to bring under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister a telegram that I have received from the general secretary of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, urging that in view of the shipping exigencies and the increased demand for wheat in Europe, the Government should protect the interests of the farmers and if possible not sell wheat in the pool at less than 6s. per bushel. Will the honorable gentleman take this matter into consideration?
– The Government cannot be guided by the secretary of the Farmers and Settlers Association in such important matters as those’ relating to the position of foodstuffs in Europe, or as to the possible release of shipping. The Government, rightly or wrongly, are of opinion that they know a little more about the matter than the gentleman referred to. We are guided largely in our views of the position by the Australian Wheat Board, and, as I announced in the press this morning, we have sent a cablegram on the recommendation of the Board to the Prime Minister, asking him to effect a 1,000,000 tons sale at the minimum price of 4s. 9d.
Representation of Farmers
– In view of the negotiations now proceeding between the Central Wheat Board and the Imperial Government in regard to the sale of wheat, and in view of the fact that the Central Wheat Board is not adequately representative of the wheat-growers of Australia, and, further, in view of the fact that the State Governments have failed to appoint local representatives, will the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) take the matter into his own hands, and at once appoint representative farmers so that they may negotiate on matters affecting the sale of wheat?
– I was under the impression that the view of the farmers generally was that the Commonwealth Government have taken too much into their own hands, and that that was why they desired representatives appointed’ from amongst the farmers.
– So we do.
– I made, in due course, at the suggestion of the Central Wheat Board, a proposal to the four States concerned that they should take steps to see that a representative farmer was sent from each State.
– They have done nothing.
– Send real farmers, not men of the bogus class.
– I did not knowthat there weredifferent classes of farmers, but I am now told there ‘are by an honorable member who is an expert and a fanner.
– Exactly; I see you. understand the position !
– I do not think it would effect a cure if I were towithdraw the offer I have made and made appointments myself. I fancy there would be considerable grumbling if the central national authority selected one man from each of the States on its own initiative.
– Give the States limited time to appoint representatives.
– I thought the honorable member imagined that I had given too much time. I shall, however, ask the States to either accept or refuse the invitation, and, if it is refused, I shall have to sketch out another course for the Government.
– I desire to know whether the London ‘Selling and Delivery Board will receive commission on sales of the 1917-18 wheat crop, respecting which the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. ‘Watt) has cabled to Mr. Hughes ; and, if so, will the co-operative companies handling wheat under the Wheat Pool, who have been promised favorable consideration as to representatives in London, participate in such commission?
– I cannot say, but I shall inquire from the Minister in charge of the Wheat Board.
– In view of the statements that have been cabled informing us that the disease known as Spanish influenza has’ proved more deadly to the American soldiers than the dangers of war, has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) consulted the Cabinet, and, if not, will he do so, in order that the Government may invite all medical men to volunteer their services so that we may be organized to meet this dread disease, that is at present only checked by our quarantine regulations?
– I think the steps already taken with aview to anorganization of -the characterthe honorable member suggests will prove effective if the disease does brealk ‘through the quarantine barriers. We have every reason to congratulate ourselves that so far quarantine has : proved effective, and that the disease is being cleaned up in the quarantine area. I can assure the honorable member that the matter is having the closest possible attention of the Government, and nothing we can do will be left undone to combat the disease if it should break through quarantine.
– In view of the fact that peace has practically been achieved by the armistice will the Governmentgive immediate attention to the subject of Tariff revision, with the view to an early introduction of an amended Tariff?
– I know and appreciate the interest which the honorable member has displayed in this subject for so many’ years. It is not, however, quite right to say that peace has practically arrived. I can imagine, after a study of the speeches of -President Wilson and his celebrated fourteen points that questions of Tariff revision will be considered at the Peace Conference. Until then it may not be prudent for Australia to act. In the meantime the Government are fully alive to the position, and are watching it carefully.
– Are we to understand from the answer given by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that it is quite possible that this Parliament and the people of Australia are likely to lose some of their self-governing power by the decision of the Peace Conference?
– The Acting Prime Minister never said so.
– I am putting the question to the Acting Prime Minister, and not to the honorable member.
– Of course, strictly speaking, this is a question arising out of an answer to another question, but as the
Leader- of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) desires . information, I tell him that nothing I. have said, should lead him to understand what he has suggested. hookworm.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) say, whether the Government contemplate taking, any action in. the direction of co-operating with the Queensland Government in combating the hook worm disease now so prevalent. in Northern Queensland? Has the Government contributed in any way towards the researches made by Dr. Waite into the ravages caused by this disease?.
– My colleague, the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) has, I understand, been for some time in close contact with Dr. Waite, and those concerned in these investigations, and I believe that he has arranged, for a demonstration, as one may call it, on the hook worm subject. So far as, I know, we have not yet contributed anything;’ but the question is how far we may cooperate, with and help the States to tackle this subject, and I think the Minister is considering- that question.
– With the permis sion of the HouseI desire to. make a personal explanation. When, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.. Watt.), was- answering a question of mine yesterday the honorable member for Perth (Mr: Fowler) made a remark to me in connexion with the subject. In my reply to. the: honorable member forPerth, I said that what had been stated was false, and I unfortunately spoke so. loudly as- to be heard by the Acting Prime Minister and others. I wish the: House to understand that I had not the slightest desire or inclination to offend the Acting. Prime Minster. I quite realize the position of the honorable gentleman when he was answering the question I had submitted, and. I very much regret having spoken so loudly. I wish to make it, as I say, quite clear that I had not the slightest intention to offend the honorable gentleman, and I sincerely regret it if I did so..
– May. I, with the. permission of the House, say one word. Of course the incident to which the honorable member -refers, was. very unpleasant to myself, as, well as to him.. But immediately the incident, closed the. honorable member was good enough to inform me by letter that which he has now stated to the House, and I at once apprised him that I accepted his: explanation in the spirit in which it was tendered.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is yet in a position to inform the House as to the scheme, if any, proposed by the Government to protect the new’ industries which have grown up . in Australia during war time against outside competition after the war is over?
– I think, sir, that you have, ruled on many occasions that Government policy ought not to be elicited by questions without notice from honorable members. I am not. at the present time, prepared to respond to the invitation. of the honorable member.
– In view of a. suggestion mentioned in, the House last week,. I ask the. Acting- Prime Minister whether the Central Wheat Board have considered the possibility of making a further advance,. and, if so, what: determination they have cometo ?
-I informed honorable members yesterday, in answer to a: question, that the Central. Wheat Board had met yesterday, but I have received no word yet as to whether they have any recommendation to make to the Government on the matter referred to by the honorable member.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence if he will give consideration to the request made, by Mr. Featherston, the inventor of certain medicine, and will permit that gentleman to give a demonstration of the value of his medicine?
– I shall submit the matter to the Minister for Defence.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he can inform the House and the public as to the steps being taken to remove the fear arising from the mismanagement of those controlling the Quarantine Station at North Head, Sydney ?
– As I promised the honorable member on the adjournment last night, I asked the Minister in charge of quarantine to communicate with the Director of Quarantine in the matter straightway. I understand that he has received two reports from the Director, which I have no doubt he will lay before the House.
– The following reports have been handed to me by the Director of Quarantine, and I submit them for the information of honorable members : -
With reference to complaints in the daily press amongst the passengers on the steamer Atua, concerning conditions at the Quarantine Station, Sydney, the following facts have been ascertained on inquiry: -
This course of detaining the passengers on the steamer was adopted in all the other vessels, giving sufficient time to have the quarters cleaned; but, in the case of the Atua, the disease was so virulent, and spreading so rapidly, that it was imperative to land the patients and all contacts at the earliest possible moment. The risk of retaining them on the ship was greater than the inconvenience caused by occupying rooms not superficially clean. 3.Some difficulty has been experienced during lastweek in Sydney, owing in the first place to the very great difficulty in getting reliable medical staff on account of the shortage of doctors, and on account of the jubilations in Sydney, it was impossible to get temporary assistance of other kinds. The infection risk and the fear of contracting the disease was also a material factor in contributing to this difficulty.
At the time of the steward’s removal, the landing was in progress, and the confusion arose owing to passengers seizing the best rooms, and a re-allotment having to be forcibly instituted in order to provide the best accommodation for ladies and families.
Director of Quarantine. 19th November, 1918.
It will also be of interest in connexion with Mr. West’s statements to state the following:
Fourteen ships . have been dealt with in quarantine in Sydney, with a total personnel of approximately 3,500 within the last fortnight.
The staff at Sydney has necessarily been working at high pressure, and should be given full credit for the fact that all infection has been kept under control, and the entry of the disease into Australia so far absolutely prevented.
Director of Quarantine. 20th November, 1918.
– In view of the fact that, during the visit of French parliamentary delegates to Edinburgh, it was pointed out that the French Parliament passed an Act naturalizing any Scots”man going to” France, and making him capable of bearing any honour, inheriting any lands, and enjoying any offices and dignities in that country, and that similarly and reciprocally the Scotch Parliament passed an Act making French subjects coming to Scotland ‘ ‘ in all times to come naturalized subjects of this realm, with the same privileges and faculties,” I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he does not consider the present a fitting time for Australia to extend a similar courtesy to subjects of our brave Ally visiting this country ?
– My honorable friend possesses a mass of information. My attention has not previously been directed to the statement that the French people had decided to naturalize Scotchmen automatically. The statement, however, strikes me as an illustration of the wonderful sagacity of the French people.
– And their courage.
– As to whether the Australian Parliament should naturalize Frenchmen coming to this country, that is a matter which we have not “considered. Being three-fourths Scotch myself, I shall see that the Cabinet immediately considers it.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Queensland Government has declared the 29th and 30th of this month as public holidays, and that so far the Commonwealth public servants in that State have not been included amongst those who will be able to take advantage of the holidays. Will the honorable gentleman make inquiries into the matter, and endeavour to give the same holidays to the Commonwealth public servants in Queensland as are to be given to the public generally there?
– I was not aware that the two holidays referred to had been de clared in Queensland. I am aware, however, that in many parts of Australia municipal and other authorities consider that they are entitled to proclaim holidays to celebrate the armistice. The Commonwealth Government are not in favour of that. They hope to complete a scheme for the proper celebration of peace, if, and when it arrives, but they will not declare two days’ holidays at the suggestion of any Government.
– I ask the Minister in Charge of Price Fixing if, in view of the fact that cornsacks are being sold in the country districts at 9s.6d. per dozen, it is possible to reduce the price of those sold by the Government from 10s. 6d., the present price, to 9s. 6d. per dozen.
– I shall consult with my colleague (Senator Russell), and see whether what the honorable member suggests is practicable.
– In the report of the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration, the following paragraph appears : -
Instances have been furnished to us where Ministers have incurred- great expenseeither without reference to, or in opposition to, the Naval Board, and with unsatisfactory results to the Commonwealth.
Will the Acting Prime Minister ask the Royal Commission whether this statement has special reference to the starting of the work at the Henderson Naval Base?
– I have already answered that question at the request, I think, of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). Through the proper channelI communicated with the Royal Commission, and asked them to state the circumstances surrounding the work alluded to, and the Ministers concerned. At an earlier date I furnished the House with full information on the point.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is in a position to tell the House whether the methods adopted for dealing with weevil in wheat stacks have been efficacious, as if he is able to answeraffirmatively, the information may tend to prevent the jerky nature of the market? Is the honorable gentleman aware of the effect which such information would possibly haveon the sale of our wheat abroad, in view of the fact that people abroad have beenunable to secure wheaten bread for four years?
– I appreciate the fact that if we can conquer the weevil we shall makethe storage of wheat a much simpler matter than it is at present, and it will relieve us of a good deal of anxiety regardingthe sale of stored wheat. I am unable, unfortunately, to saywhat the final results are, according to the scientists, in the case of the wheat tested. I shall inquire into the matter, and furnish the honorable member with the information I receive.
– I ask the Minister forWorks and Railways; if the. difficulty in connexion with the housing of workmen at Lithgow between the Government and the Lithgow Municipal Council Has been removed? If so, will the honorable gentleman have the matter submitted to the House at the earliest possible moment ?
– We telegraphed last week, and also wrote, to the Lithgow Municipal Council in connexion with the matter. It was to be discussed at their meeting on. Monday I. have not yet received a reply, butI do not anticipate any difficulty in coming to a decision which will be satisfactory.
– Has the Treasurer any power to prevent the insurance societies in Sydney from imposing fines on women, including the wives of returned soldiers, whose payments on insurance policies are in arrears? This has been done, to my own knowledge, and apparently the people have no protection.
– I would not like to say without consultation with the Acting Attorney-General whether we have any power in the matter or not, but last week I promised an honorable member - I think, it, was the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) - to confer with the leading insurance companies with regard to the extra war rate insurances levied upon those who enlisted for service overseas. I have gone a certain distance with the negotiations, andI hope soon to be able to make an announcement.
Prime Minister’s Statements in England.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The cabled reports of statements made in Great Britain by Mr. Hughes regarding the position of Australia in connexion with certain questions arising out of the war.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places.
.-Many membersof this House, in common with many persons outside Parliament, have for some time viewed with considerable concern the utterances of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in Great Britain regarding mattersarising out of the war, and some of us hoped that, with the passing of the resolution submitted to the House last week, there would have been an end to this state of things. It is,, therefore, most disconcerting and unfortunate that since we dealt with that motion the Prime Minister should have been going from bad to worse in his utterances. Indeed, the position has now become so acute that; I submit, sir, it is absolutely impossible for this Government and this Parliament any longer to ignore it. We cannot afford to do so, in view of the obvious intention of the Prime Minister to make it appear that our affairs are in grave danger of being dealt with by persons who are absolutely unfriendly to us. Time and again he has created, or endeavoured to create the impression that unless he is in the inner counsels of the Allies, Australian interests (are bound to sufferin common with someof the larger interests of the British Empire. At present ithere is no doubtwhateverabout the necessity for approaching these matters with the utmost discretion, and it is very unfortunate indeed that the utterances of our leading representative in Great Britain should tend to make the work of the Allied statesmen more difficult than it would be in other circumstances. It is a matter of surprise that Mr. Hughes could have the hardihood to make the statements that are attributed to him in the cabled reports which reach this country. Such statements, for instance, as that the terms of peace do not safeguard Australia, but, on the contrary, take away what rights Australia had prior to the war. Surely that assertion has not the slightest justification, and surely this Parliament is prepared absolutely to repudiate it. In fact, it is the duty of this Parliament to do so.
Then again, he wishes us to understand that there is a great danger of the German colonies being returned to Germany, and that unless be is present at the final settlement of these international affairs, Australian interests will suffer. We have had an emphatic declaration from the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Lloyd George, from Mr. Balfour, from Mr. Bonar Law, from Mr. Walter Long, and other responsible members of the British Ministry, to the effect that there is no intention whatever of returning the captured German colonies to the German nation, but, in spite of this, our Prime minister demands guarantees. Guarantees from whom ? I am ata loss to understand why he suggests in this way that the eminent British statesmen to whom I have referred are not to be trusted. But in taking up this attitude he is not, I am sure, voicing the opinion either of the Parliament or the people of Australia.
The Prime Minister is also credited with having suggested that under present circumstances the principle of a White Australia is in danger though in what way he does not make at all clear. He knows very well, however, that no suggestion is more likely to arouse a feelingof antagonism in Australia ‘than a statement of this kind, but I think it will : be agreedthatthe principle is no more in danger at the present time than ever it was. As a matterof fact, it is probably in less danger to-day than it has been for many years past. At any rate, the Prime Minister has not had the slightest indication in the attitude of the British Government that this important issue so vital to Australia is likely to be lost sight of by them in the negotiations that will shortly take place.
– I can recollect nothing in the press cables that justify that impression with regard to a White Australia, and I have all the papers here.
-I have not the reference before me at the present moment, but will lay it before the Acting Prime Minister directly. Here is another statement, made so recently as Saturday last, . and, of course, since the resolution to which I have referred was passed by this House, which I commend to the serious notice of “the Acting Prime Minister. Mr. Hughes is reported as saying -
Belgium and France would get what they wanted, but Australia will get nothing for her sacrifices.
Inthe first place, it was not in the very best taste that Mr. Hughes should endeavour to put Australia onall fours with such countries as Belgium and France. That Australia has made sacrifices is undoubted, but that me have made sacrificesat all approaching those of Belgium or France it is out of the question to suggest. Mr. Hughes has singled out the two countries which have perhaps made the greatest sacrifices, and puts Australia alongside them as evidently entitled to equal consideration.
– There is nothing about equal consideration in what he said.
– Yes; Mr. Hughes said that Belgium and France would get what they wantedy but Australia would get nothing for her sacrifices.
– That is not a statement of equality.
– If that is not asking for equality, it is very near it. Isthe honorable member prepared to indorse the statement that Australia is to get nothing for her sacrifices? I do not think that even the most ardent admirer of Mr. Hughes can support a proposition of that kind. On the face of it, it is one which it is our duty as a Parliament absolutely to repudiate.
– You do not know what the context is.
-I am speaking of what I am informed by the cables; and my motion makes that perfectly clear.
– If itis not true, it should be contradicted.
– It is quite possible that a mistake was made, perhaps ‘once or twice, but the whole tenor of the cables is to the same purport, and, therefore, the conclusion is irresistible.
– Does he not send out his own cables?
– I have no doubt he knows a good deal about them. I think it can be taken for granted that substantially those cables are correct, and that it is our duty to ignore them no longer.
We have been assured that the Dominionswill have a voice in the settlement of the terms of peace. We have been told that by the highest authority in Great Britain, the Prime Minister himself. Of course, Mr. Hughes’ objection to a statement of that kind is that the particular gentleman who will have charge of the affairs of the Dominions is not specified. We may conclude that the only person who can possibly represent them, in Mr. Hughes’ opinion, is Mr. Hughes himself. It is obvious that in the representation of the Dominions in the councils of the Allies on the question of the settlement of the terms of peace serious difficulties arise at the very threshold. It is impossible that each Dominion should have separate representation at these consultations. The question then arises : How are they to decide? Will Australia be satisfied with a South African, or even a Canadian, representative in the councils ofthe Allies? I say, without hesitation, that the interests of Australia diverge so Radically from those of some of the other .
Dominions that, rather than have them looked after there by a representative from a remote part of the Empire unacquaintedwith our conditions, I would prefer that we should be represented only by British statesmen. The interests of Great Britain and those of Australia in the final settlement of the question of the German colonies in the Pacific are absolutely identical. In that connexion, therefore, we should be perfectly safe in the hands of British statesmen.
– We did not . think that when they gave Germany a lump of New Guinea.
– Unlike the honorable member, British statesmen have advanced intellectually to some extent from the days in which those matters were dealt with.
– It might happen again.
– Or it might not; but, if it is going to happen, I am doubtful whether Mr. Hughes can stop it. In view of the fact that it is to the interest of Great Britain that the enemy should . not be replanted where he will be able to work so much damage to British, as . well as Australian interests, I feel sure that these matters will not be overlooked by the Empire’s representatives in the terms of settlement.
The whole trouble with regard to Mr. Hughes arises from the fact that he has not been allowed to push into the front row in connexion with these negotiations. As he remains in the background, he is determined to kick up a row, at any rate. That might be tolerable under ordinary conditions, but, at a time like the present, when delicate and weighty negotiations are pending among the Allies, it is in the highest degree unfortunate, in Australia’s interests, that the Prime Minister should take up such an” attitude. When we find Mr. Hughes, as he looks round for grievances and is unable to discover any of moment, inventing them, I take it that we cannot remain silent. We must be prepared to indicate to the statesmen of the Allies, and particularly to the Government of Great Britain, that Mr. Hughes, in making the utterances as reported by cable, is undoubtedly misrepresenting the Government, the Parliament, and the people of Australia.
– I very much regret that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) has seen fit to submit this motion, not because he is not entitled to his opinion, or merely, because that opinion differs very substantially from my own, but because the honorable member is committing the same fault as he alleges against the Prime Minister. I have naturally read very carefully all the cables- and comments that have appeared in the Australian press relating to the Prime Minister’s utterances! I think I know -them as well as the honorable member himself does, and I hold that it is quite unfair to judge the Prime Minister’s utterances by cables hastily thrown out over the wire and torn from their context. If the honorable member will look up the cables that appeared on 14th November in the morning and evening newspapers of Australia that have different cable -services, he will see that the very speech on which he has laid so much stress, containing the statement that “Australia will get nothing at all for her sacrifices,” is differently reported in different newspapers.
– Not substantially. .
– Like other messages that come over the different cable services, they differ widely in their phraseology and interpretation. The honorable member is really judging the Prime Minister’s utterances by what has appeared in the cable and news columns of the daily papers. That I am not prepared to do. I admit with him at once that his comments, and the speeches of the Prime Minister, raise extremely important and delicate questions- They may from some aspects be said to affect the attitude of Great Britain towards the Dominions, and may affect, to some extent, the sentiment and bond of Empire, if improperly handled here or there. Our wisest course is to find out exactly what has occurred, and the causes of the occurrences before we judge them: I am not going by one word or one in flection of voice to comment upon the Prime Minister’s utterances. I am, and have been, for almost a week in cable communication with him with the object of endeavouring to ascertain for the information of the Government all that has taken place in Great Britain in order that the views of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy, who is next in seniority, as well as their colleagues remaining in Australia, may be coordinated. It is impossible to do this in a few days, and I deprecate any rash endeavour to stir up the House or the country before the position is truly understood. At the proper time - when the Government consider that they are in possession of full information as to the circumstances - they will tell the House what they think of the conditions in the Mother Country. And they will do so, I trust, with true regard to the magnitude and variety of the interests affected. But while the honorable member as an individual member of this House is entirely free to express hisopinions concerning a man he has never liked–
– I have no personal antagonism to the Prime Minister.
– It is hard to believe’ that. While the honorable member, as a free lance in this House, shall I say, feels at perfect liberty to pronounce upon the utterances of the Prime Minister as cabled, the Government are not in that position, and we, for the time being, are the custodians of the highest interests of Australia. I shall go no further except to say that my honorable friend (Mr. Fowler) may believe in his conscience that he is unbiased - and I know what a Scotchman’s conscience is-
– Most elastic?
– No. It is the most inelastic of consciences. While the honorable member for Perth thoroughly believes that he is quite free to discuss in an impersonal way the utterances of the Prime Minister, I do not believe that he is. In my opinion, the honorable member’s mind is so rigidly and inflexibly bent upon criticism of the Prime Minister,’ that he cannot be fair to him.
– I do not know why it is.
– I have no cause to be unfair to him.
– I do not know why I say. it.; and. I do not know why the honorable member is there-
– The honorable- gentleman is quite wrong- and unfair. I have no personal antagonism against the PrimeMinister.
– Why not deal with the question?
– I am making my own speech, and’ it is not evolved from a twisted mind like that of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony).
– It is a pity that the honorable gentleman’s mind is not twisted in the same way:
– Heaven forbid.. I am interpreting the position as I understand it, and beg leave to give expression to my own views concerning the honorable member for Perth, who, in addition to being a supporter of the Government, is a personal’ friend of my own.
I have made this statement regarding bis attitude towards the Prime Minister because, since 1 have been privileged to sit in this House, I have heard him on four or five occasions indulge in the most eloquent, telling and scathing- criticism of my right honorable leader. He committed himself when the Prime Minister was here, and when he was on the way to the Old Country; to the most trenchant criticism of him- criticism more trenchant than any other man in this country has attempted.
– Criticism of him as a public man, yes.
– That may be; but I cannot, at this stage regard my honorable friend as an unimpassioned and unbiased critic of the Prime Minister in London. This after all, is a mere exchange of courtesies as between the honorable member and myself. It will not leave bad blood between us, because we understand one another.
I repeat that the House should not jump in, at the invitation of a private member, tocomment on situations that are not only as wide as the Empire itself, but are likely also to affect considerations involving international positions and relationships. The Government are holding their hands,, being anxious to learn what has happened, and the reason, for it. When we have the full, information and can. pass a considered judgment upon it, if the House desires to know what that judgment is, we will frankly tell it.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Another disinterested critic.
– If I felt as the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) says the honorable member for Perth. (Mr. Fowler) feels towards the Prime Minister - that I was discussing a man I never liked- my answer to the honorable gentleman would be that if that man laid himself open to strong criticism I ought to avail myself of the opportunity to criticise him.
– Why should we not take 75 per cent, discount off the honorable member’s criticism because of his prejudice?
– The honorable member for Perth, when the Acting Prime Minister professed to be a personal friend of his, might reasonably have replied -
Perhaps it was. right to dissemble yourlove;
But why diet you Kick me downstairs?
– His reply was a very poor argument in opposition to my. statement.
– It was no argument at all. The Acting Prime Minister says that the honorable member does not like the Prime Minister, and because of that dislike should not criticise him. But what is the position of the Acting Prime Minister himself? He says, “I will not criticise Mr. Hughes.” He knows very well that the moment he proceeded to adversely criticise the Prime Ministerhe would have to retire from his present position.
– Does the honorable member really believe that?
– I am sure of it, and my opinion will be indorsed by “the country. The honorable gentleman says that the Government, taking into consideration the national interests of Australia!, are; not prepared to come to any rash conelusion with respect to these cabled utterances by the Prime Minister. They are going to wait until the matter blows, over.
– They are not.
– I hope not. . It is all verywell for the honorable gentleman to say that these newspaper cable messages must be accepted with a grain of salt. I take the view that he will findthat the statement issued by the BritishGovernment, through their official press bureau, and cabled to Australia, is absolutely correct. In this statement the British Government set out that-
The whole question of a general peace settlementwasexhaustively discussed by the Imperial WarCabinet last year, at which Australia, for domestic reasons, was not represented. The conclusions of the Cabinet were communicated to Australia, and were again reviewed by the -Imperial War Cabinet this year at a Conference inwhich Australian representatives participated.
The Prime Minister, speaking of this statement onthe part of gentlemen whose guest bewas, said in his most elegant manner -
This rigmarole is entirely beside the point. True,there were discussions on peace in general at the Imperial War Cabinet, but not on details. The fourteen points were not agreed to. Theywere never even discussed.
In the Melbourne Herald of 16th instant, there appeared a cablegram from Capetown, stating ghat Mr.H. Burton, K.C., Minister for Railways and Harbors and of Finance, South Africa,who jwas the guest of honour at a banquet given by the. Lord Mayor to mark his return from the Imperial Conference in London, said -
The last matter upon which the Dominions were fully consulted and regarding which they would be ‘consulted tothe very end was the matter of the peace terms.
– How is it that the honorable member comes here this afternoon so well prepared to deal with this important question?
– It is my duty as a member of Parliament to be prepared for any eventuality in this House. This statement by Mr. Burton was greeted with cheers. He went on to say -
There have been the fullest consultations with the Dominions’ representatives, and nothing could be more unfortunate than the creation of an impression that this vital prin- ciple had been departed from. He wasperfectly certain it had mot been departedfrom by one jot or tittle.
Wemustall agree that nothing could be more unfortunate than the expressions used by the Prime Minister at the present time, land following immediately upon the Conference at Versailles. The right honorable gentleman does not seem to realize . the responsibilities of British statesmen. He does not appear to realize that they have to control a vast Empire, in some portions of which - in India per- haps - there are persons ready to seize upon any statement on the part of a Dominions’ representative in regard to “ cutting the painter.” No other construction could be placed upon the speech made by the Prime Minister inwhich he. said, “Nothing but force majeure will compel us to give up our rights.”
I agree with the honorable member for Perth. If the Prime Minister had been called to theConference at Versailles, or had he known that he was to occupy a place at the Peace table, he would have been prepared to accept any peace terms. It is because he was not allowed to attend that Conference that he speaks as he does. The people of the Old Country have his measure, as may be- gathered from a perusal of the British newspapers.
– I am also prepared to take 75 per . cent, off that statement.
-The honorable member dare not take any other view. If he did, he would have to resign.
– I should not mind doing that.
– I suppose not. The position of Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer is not all “beer and skittles.”
– It is neither.
– No doubt that is so. The Acting Prime Minister’s position is being made more onerous, more trying and difficult by these wild expressions and epithets on the part of the Prime Minister while in the Old Country. I sympathize with the honorable gentleman.
– Please do not give -me sympathy. The position is hard enough without that.
Mr.HIGGS. - The honorable gentleman has told the House that thepress cable messages cannot be ‘relied upon, but nearly every cablegram supports theview that has been expressed to-day. Take, for instance, acablegram which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of 16th instant, under the heading of “ Consulting the Dominions. - Secret reasons suggested by Mr. Hughes.” .The Prime Minister succeeded with his “ secret reasons “ in throwing dust in the eyes of our party, and in the same way he threw dust in the eyes of his present party. He is now trying to bluff the British Government.
– Tell us why , your party sent him home.
– We did not send him Home. He went Home. In this cable message the Prime Minister is -reported to have said - . ‘
It was an unquestionable fact that the Dominions were not being consulted by the Imperial Government in regard to foreign affairs as they expected, and had the right to expect.
That is a sentiment to which expression has been given in this House, but while a private member may, if he chooses, talk in this way, the wisdom of such utterances on the part of the Prime Minister is seriously open to question. To my amazement, and no doubt to the amazement of Ministerial supporters, we find the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) also taking exception to the manner of the British Government’s explanation. He is reported to have said that it was merely a statement in the press; that it was unsigned, and he concluded by saying that “ the Allies seemed in a great hurry to bind themselves to the greatest of all our enemies.” The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy must have come together again. This cable is dated 16th November, whereas the article in the newspaper is dated the 1st October, or about six weeks before. It is interesting to find, on the authority of one who, I understand, is a most able journalist-
– Who is he?
– The representative of the Age in ‘London.
– What is his name ?
– The words of the Age correspondent’ are as follow: -
Mr. Hughes, and his Cabinet colleague Sir Joseph Cook, have been in London three months, but during this time they have never met. .Sir Joseph Cook is quartered at the Savoy Hotel, as the guest of the British Government, and Mr. Hughes lives’ 3 miles away in a private house at Chalk Farm, which has. been provided for his use by the British Go vernment. Sir Joseph Cook is most anxious to meet Mr.’ Hughes, but so far has not been successful. He has repeatedly written to Mr. Hughes, but has received no reply. Some of the letters have been decidedly indignant, and have indicated to Mr. Hughes that something unpleasant will happen .to him when he returns to Australia; but still Mr. Hughes proserves a stern silence, and keeps himself to himself. All matters affecting the relations between the British Government and the Commonwealth Government are settled, by Mr. Hughes and British Ministers, without Sir Joseph Cook being consulted. All matters referred to Mr. Hughes by his Cabinetcolleagues in Australia are decided by Mr. Hughes, without consulting his Cabinetcolleague in London. -
That is a most serious statement, and the editor of the Age, when he published it must have realized the fact. The Acf> ing Prime Minister could find out whether there is any truth in the allegation that up to 1st October the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) had not been consulted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) regarding matters of public importance.
– The Age has often published statements about me without consideration ?
– And once, I believe, the Age had to pay you £1,000.
– That is so, and all costs.
– But because the Age , made that statement, and because the honorable gentleman made the newspaper pay for having made it, is he prepared to say that the statement I have read is untrue in any or all particulars ?
– I am prepared to say that frequent cable communication between the Prime Minister and myself leads me to believe that it is a falsehood.
– Well, the honorable gentleman could soon find out. It is, as I say, a. most serious statement; but, at the same time, it is quite in accord with what we all know of the habits and customs of the Prime Minister. He will consult nobody; and if the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) were in London now, he would probably find himself in a position similar to that of the Minister for the Navy, only I think there would have been a bigger row.
A very great deal depends on the conduct of the Prime Minister in the Old Country. The Acting Prime Minister in his Ministerial statement led us to believe that the Prime ‘ Minister and the Minister for the Navy were in the closest consultation and co-operation. That statement was published on the 18th September, covering the period mentioned by the newspaper correspondent.
– It was- based on my information.
– The Acting Prime Minister in that Ministerial statement said -
The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy are still in Britain. Their work at the War Cabinet and the Empire Conference has been of the utmost consequence to the future of the Commonwealth. They are at present endeavouring £6’ remove the great and increasing difficulties surrounding the sale and shipment of our products, upon which so much depends for the preservation of our prosperity.
At the time those words were used the two gentlemen were not meeting. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) believed they were; but I venture to say that the Aye correspondent, if put on oath, would be able to swear truthfully that the description he gives of the relations between the two Ministers, in the period covered, is absolutely correct.
– I do .not think it will be suggested against myself- that, in my few remarks I am actuated in the remotest degree by ill-feeling towards .the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). That honorable gentleman is the Leader of the Nationalist party, and he is a man for whom I have great regard and very cordial feeling. At the same time I reserve the right to differ if I think proper, from anything he may say or do, and to-day I intend to protest against certain methods adopted by him. I hope that this attitude is characteristic, at all events, of members of the party. on this side-that they feel at the fullest liberty in this connexion.
I admit the difficulty of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) under all the circumstances. I do-not see how it would - have been possible for him to give any other reply than that he has given. The honorable gentleman said, from his stand-point, that we have a right to have the full context of the speeches referred to before we can fairly judge. That, of course, is a sound principle to “ follow ; but the statements are of a most substantive character; they have been repeated on several occasions, and some have been replied to by British Ministers. If I understand these statements at all, they amount to a deliberate charge against British Ministers of be-, traying Australian interests; and I. for one, am not prepared to think that such a thing is possible. British Ministers in their replies have said that, so far, they have, practically, fixed only the military and naval conditions for the cess’ation of hostilities. In consultation with the leaders of the Army and the Navy they have fixed the terms of the armistice; in other words, they have, no doubt, accepted the advice of those leaders. That is a matter in which the representatives of the British Empire, as an Empire,- consulted with its Allies; and the terms were ultimately fixed. Then it is said that at the Versailles Conference the fourteen points of President Wilson were discussed, and the answer by British Ministers to that is that nothing that was done at that Conference was inconsistent with what was understood and agreed to by the Imperial War Cabinet, of which the Prime Miniser (Mr. Hughes) - was a “ member. Further, ( British Ministers give us the broad general assurance that Australian interests were protected at the Imperial War Cabinet, and that those interests have not sin;ce been prejudiced by the understanding arrived at at Versailles. I cannot overlook the fact - and neither should the House overlook it - that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is singular in the attitude he has taken up.. Were Dominion interests to be prejudiced in the slightest degree by what has been done by British Ministers, there would be a universal public protest on the part of the Dominion representatives; but, on the contrary, as we heard from the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who quoted from a speech by a representative of the South African ‘Government.- That gentleman, speaking with -knowledge and responsibility, gives a firm and definite assurance that Dominion interests are fully and completely conserved. ‘
We have never had any reason to doubt that the British Government win conserve our interests. We have never had reason to suspect at any moment that those privilegesof self-governmentand fiscal independence which weenjoyed prior to the war are going to besacrificed after what Australia has done in the war; there has never been any reason to express the remotest fear in this connexion. The British Government and the British press have never hesitated to frankly acknowledge their indebtedness to Australia; and the sacrifices we have made will only stimulate the British Government to greater anxiety to see that our interests are completely protected.
I was talking a moment ago about representatives of other Dominions. So far as theGerman colonies are concerned, we have a definite statement, repeated times out of number, by , Mr. Massey . and Sir Joseph Ward, as representing New Zealand, that under no circumstances would they be parties to their return toGermany.Those gentlemen have registered their fixed determination in this regard. Would they remain silent if New Zealand interests were imperilled’? I am sure they would not. They clearly must have satisfactory assurances from theBritish Government. Moreover, we have the public utterances of leading members of the Imperial Government, Mr. Walter long and Mr. Balfour, who have assured us that these colonies shall not be returned, to Germany.
– And so has Mr. Bonar Law.
– And I thinkI am justified in adding even the Imperial Prime Minister. It has been suggested by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the fourteenpoints of President Wilson, which were considered at the Versailles, Conference, will prejudice us in regard to these colonies. If that really is the honorable gentleman’s suggestion or definite statement, I am not prepared to accept it. Unfortunately, I have not the fourteen points before me; and while I admit at once that I have no great admiration for them - though that is beside the present question - the fact remains that most of them deal with the restoration of territory seized by our enemies. Those fourteen points’ were issued on the 8th January this year, and ‘President Wilson is careful now to say that they are submitted as a basis, together with modifica tions and terms set forth in various other speeches made by him in the meantime. However, for the mostpart, as I say, these fourteen pointsdeal with territory seized from our Allies by the enemy.
When we cometo the two points to which definite exception is taken, I submit that they do not bear the construction which has been placed upon them by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Even within those fourteen points, were they to form a basis for peace discussion the mostelastic powers are given, and particularly is that so with regard to the former Possessions of Germany. It is perfectly clear that not one word of President Wilson’s fourteen points justifies the suggestion that the Allies are boundto return the German colonies to Germany.
As to the other point which has been referred to, it is suggested that, if it is possible - those are the wordswhich occur to my mind - fiscal barriers should be removed and equality of trade established.
-So far as possible.”
– Yes; those are the words used, and thispoint, I think, had some reference to the Paris Conference resolutions. But the words of this point are in no way -capable of preventing America from putting on what protective duties she cares to impose, or of interfering in the remotest degree with the fiscal independence of Australia. This point is really a mere pious abstract statement of an ideal that should be aimed at, and there is nothing in it which can be suggested as likely to prejudice the interests of Australia. ‘ A pamphlet containing the fourteen points has just been handed to me, andI am therefore able to quote. The point referred to reads -
Theremoval, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions amongall nations consenting to the ‘Peace, and associating themselves for its maintenance.
– That was altered atthe Versailles Council before the armistice.
– Yes, it was qualified at that Council.
– It was qualified by the insertion again, in the second part, of the words, “ so far as possible.”
– That bears out my contention that there is, not theslightest justification for the charge made that Australia’s interests have been betrayed by British statesmen.
President Wilson’s fifth point reads -
The free, open.-minded, and absolutely impartial, adjustment’ of all colonial claims based’ upon a. strict, observance of the principle that in determining, all such questions- of. Sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the Government whose title is to be determined.
– Would the honorable member mind saying exactly what that means?
– I would say that it is elastic and wide enough to give us a firm and definite assurance that our interests in the Pacific Islands captured from Germany cannot, and. will not, be prejudiced by it. It is wide enough, to enable us to completely protect our interests in the Pacific.
I have the most cordial feelings towards the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but,, whilst I am in sympathy with his objectives, I most strongly protest against his methods. Ithink those methods are calculated to prejudice: Australian interests. If it were necessary to do anything at all in this regard, Mr. Hughes has established himself in such a position of influence that his representations privately to British Ministers, or in conference with British M’inisterSj wouldi have secured the most firm and definite assurances in connexion with those matters in regard tor which he felt: the remotest degree of uncertainty.
. - Ourlikes or dislikes, so far as the Prime Minister is concerned, have little or nothing to do with the question under consideration. Personally I rather like the honorable gentleman but as the leader of our party he proved himself a. political vanda’. He handed our party over to the capitalistic Huns of Australia. I should’ like to see him dragged down from the position, which he occupies to-day, and any effort I can make to beat him. will, bemade with; pleasure. It is useless for honorable mem bers to try to get away from the facts before us. The Argus has to-day taken the Prime Minister to task, because it- isdisappointed that one of its. great Free Trade advocates should have gone over to Protection. It is horrified, because Mr.. Hughes is reported to. have said, “ Ausr tralia got nothing out of the war.” The Argus says that Australia did not go- into the war with. a. view to- getting anything out. of it, and the Prime Minister must in some way be chastised because of his. remark. As. a matter of; fact, I believe that the honorable gentleman isquite correct in stating that those with whom he is. associated politically expected, to get something out of the war.
– No; they did not.
– I think that the Prime- Minister was quite correct in that statement.
– Whom does the honorable membar mean by “ those with whom he is associated politically “ ?
– I mean those with whom he is associated politically inside and outside of this House. They expected to get commercial, industrial, and financial benefits out of the war.
– That is bunkum.
– Of course, honorable members opposite say that it is bunkum. butthey carried a motion in this House last week which bears out the statement of the Prime Minister. They are trying to collar the. islands of the Pacific.
– The honorable member had not the courage to vote against that motion.
– I spoke against it, and said that I would vote- against it, but I was not present when it was . decided. I made my position on the motion quite . clear. I inquired: before I left, and came to the conclusion, that no vote would- be taken on the motion, and no vote was taken on it.. What does that motionmean, if it does- not tell the British Government exactly what the Prime Minister has been telling them - that Australia wants something out of this- war-? Why was that motion carried? Was it not to let the people of Great Britain and our Allies know that we expected to secure those islands in the Pacific captured from the Germans?
– We did not say anything of the kind.
– It means that we want something out of the war.
– The motion does not say so.
– We want to secure our protection.
– Very well; the Prime Minister is reported to have said that our honorable friends opposite will get nothing out of the war. When reference is made to what has been said by the representatives of South Africa and of Canada, we find that the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes) is a far more astute gentleman than is either of those representatives. He knows the position abroad as well as does either of them. He was the leader of our party, and I say that there is no man on either side in this House who doubts his astuteness. Every honorable member recognises the fact that Mr. Hughes could hold his own in a meeting of the brainiest men in the world. If he has. made the statement attributed to him, then I believe it. I believe that we shall be handed over to the tender mercies of the Peace Conference, to be done with as they will. I do believe that our domestic rights will be attacked at ‘the Peace Conference. The Prime Minister has discovered this, and is at present doing his duty to Australia in the matter. Unfortunately, he is one of the latest converts to industrial Protection, and that is the trouble with the party opposite. He was previously the high priest of Free Trade in the Labour movement of Australia.
– Honorable members opposite did not expel him for that.
– Decidedly not ; but that is beside the question. When Mr. Hughes visited Great Britain in 1916 he suddenly became converted to Protection. He has conceived the idea. that it is essential in the interests of the British Empire that there shall be some form of Protection adopted as an Imperial policy.
– Why did he not give us a dose of it here in Australia?
– Why did not honorable members opposite make him do so when they had the power ?
– He was a pretty difficult horse to drive.
– A question on the subject of the Tariff was put to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to-day, and, though he afterwards said that his reply could not be taken in that way, in my opinion, reading between the lines, his statement was that the Parliament of Australia dare not at this stage interfere with the Tariff.
– Who said that?
Mr.MATHEWS. - The honorable gentleman has said that he did not say it, but, reading between the lines, that was his answer to the question put to him on the subject.
– Reading between the lies it might be, but not reading between the lines.
– The honorable gentleman may put it in that way if he pleases. If the Prime Minister of Australia had been a Protectionist, his utterances on that question would have been accepted in Australia. If he had not been discredited as he has been in the minds of a great section of the community, his opinion would have been indorsed by a great many. There is nothing new in the view he has expressed: It is, however strange that if I had made the same statement and the Prime Minister were in Australia at the time, he would have had me up before a court, under the War Precautions Act.
– Does the honorable member say that he has been prosecuted for telling the truth?
– Has the honorable member repeated the offence?
– Often! I am very pleased that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) should have brought this mattes under the notice of honorable members in the form he has adopted. It is useless putting questions to the Acting Prime Minister. I, of course, recognise the peculiar position in which the honorable gentleman is placed. He must be loyal to the Prime Minister, and, no doubt, apart from bis loyalty to bis leader, believes that what bas been done can be justified. But there is something behind the whole matter. It is quite remarkable that the industries of Australia and their protection should now be in the hands of Mr. Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook, the two most pronounced Free Traders that Australia has ever produced. We learn from the cable news that, although the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) has not been in communication with the Prime Minister in England, he also is fearful of the position that Australia will be placed in. If the Prime Minister and his lieutenant do not see that Australia gets something’ out of the war, I am quite positive that the commercial and financial interests of this country will indeed think that we have fought the war for nothing.
– That is a most unfair reflection on the men who have so greatly helped us in our war loan operations.
– What has taken place in Australia during the war ? Men have amassed fortunes. The Acting Prime Minister knows that as well as I do.
– I have heard that some of them have.
– They have made fortunes by robbing the people through the medium of increased prices.
– That is not a fair thing to say.
– Honorable members opposite know it is a fact. Why does the Prime Minister say that Australia will get nothing out of the war? Because Britain is getting much out of the war.
– Getting what?
– What is she getting?
– By the opening of the Bosphorus, she will have a free course through the Mediterranean and Persia to India. This information has been disclosed by the publication of the secret treaties.
– Why not stick to the subject. Tell us what Britain will get out of the war.
– She will havea clear passage through Persia into India, and free intercourse in the Mediter ranean. The publication of the secret treaties has given the whole show away.
– You are an Oriental prophet.
– I am not a prophet. This information is given in the secret treaties.
– There will be no secret treaties in the terms of this peace, none whatever. That’ is the first condition of President Wilson’s fourteen points.
– Of course, the treaties are no longer secret when they have been published and carried into effect. We all know that France will get Alsace-Lorraine, and interests on the Rhine, and in Asia Minor ; that Italy will get the Trentino and other territorial possessions, as well as compensation in Asia Minor.
– Not by secret treaties.
– These were secret treaties until the Bolshevik Government published them to the world.
– If it had not been for Britain, we would not now be in our present position.
– I agree with the honorable member. But I would point out that the Prime Minister is really giving the people of Australia some information which, perhaps, is not palatable to those who are associated with him politically. All the same, it is what they were after.
– Why does the Acting Prime Minister refer to the remarks of a statesman as nonsense ?
– Because what he is saying is not true.
– I make no pretence at being a statesman. I am merely a bread and butter politician. At all events, the honorable member for Hume must havebeen behind the door when statesmen’s brains were being served out.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, are my brains the subject before the Chair?
– Do I understand that the honorable member for Hume takes exception to some reference made concerning him by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports ?
– No, I rose merely to ask if any part of my anatomy was the subject before the Chair.
– Order ! I hope honorable members will not. interrupt an honorable, member in the course of his speech, and especially, when each member’s time is limited, that they will not raise frivolous points of order.
– I ask. you, Mr. Speaker, to request the honorable member for Hume to withdraw a calumny against me. He called me a. statesman. That belies my character.
– But. nobody believes him, so it’s all. right.
– Order ! I again remind the House that the time at the disposal of honorable members in regard to this motion is limited. Honorable members are entitled to the fullest use of the time available, and I hope, therefore, that there will be no further’ interjections.
– I shall not detain the House much longer, but I say again that the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy, who are now in Great Britain, have far more knowledge of the subject of this motion than we have. I believe what they have said. I remind honorable members, also, that the Prime Minister of Australia is as astute a statesman as the world has produced. He can see as far through a brick wall as the. representative of any other country, and, therefore, when they are quoted against him I think we may assume he is not very far wrong.
– I venture to suggest that the first essential to a debate upon the subject submitted by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) is more information as to the facts, than is available, at the present time. I feel, with the Acting Prime Minister that we arenot in- a position to form a considered judgment upon the actions and utterances of the Prime Minister in- England ; but there are some features of this debate to which, I think, a reply should be made. . There is the suggestion that the Acting Prime Minister has taken certain action because he is afraid he will lose bis job.. But not many honorable members of this House will think that that would weigh verv much with theActingPrime Minister. I have some sympathy for the Acting Prime Minister in the heavy . work he. is. called uponto undertake, and.I have sympathy also for the Prime Minister in the still heavier burden that rests upon him in these critical times, and I think that those who wish to see Australia get the best opportunity for the practice of Democracy should refrain just at present from unnecessary criticism of the Prime Minister or the Minister for the Navy.
We are asked to place our trust in. British Ministers. I have as much respect for the gentlemen who have borne the heat and burden of this war in Great. Britain as, perhaps, any other member in this House, but I do notf orget that, not once, or twice, but. right along the line in the development of British Colonial Possessions, Imperial statesmen have Blundered. I do not forget that had it not been for their blunders, the war would not have been fought so successfully by Germany for so long. I. do not forget that if British statesmen had not given Heligoland to Germany the history of the war would have been different. I do not forget, also, that if they had not repudiated the action of an Australian statesman when he took possession of New Guinea, the question of handing German New Guinea back to Germany would not now have arisen. And so, while I have the utmost respect for the present leaders of the British people, I ask that the same confidence be. reposed in those who are representing Australia in England, at all events until we have something more definite than that which the honorable member for Perth has placed before the. House.
There is a lack of sincerity in a good deal of the criticism. The picture of the honorable member for Capricorniai (Mr. Higgs) accepting as gospel an, article from the Melbourne Age is one to inspire our sympathy. But I point out. to the honorable member a very telling fact in connexion with the allegation in the Age. The honorable member for Perth carer fully excluded. Sir Joseph Cook from, his censure in regard to the Prime Minister’s utterances in England; but Sir Joseph Gook. is just as emphatic as the- Prime Minister in stating, that the British Government have not kept their promises. He selects different language, but. the allegation is the- same.. And if, as the honorable member, for Capricornia would have us believe, Sir Joseph Cook and the Prime Minister were not getting on too well together in England, and that they had not had opportunities of seeing each other, the fact that Sir Joseph Cook is taking action in support of the Prime Minister’s remarks is the strongest proof we could have that there is something more than the cables have told us behind the attitude of the Prime Minister. I should say also to those -who suggest that the Prime Minister is merely taking up this attitude because of some personal advantage which might accrue to him, that his path to honours and distinctions would probably lie more in the direction of agreeing, ‘than in disagreeing, with the Government of Great “Britain at the present time. From the purely personal point of view, he would escape very much hard work. :and much of the mud that is thrown about in .political conflicts, if he simply acquiesced in what the British Government have done, instead of .defending Australia -at a time when, perhaps., Australia needs defending. For this reason, also, I am inclined to think that the Prime Minister has not entered upon .this course of action without very good reason. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) suggests that he could have gained what he is asking for by a private conference.
– We do not want that sort of thing.
– I think the Prime Minister could be depended upon to exhaust all the opportunities afforded by private conferences before he ‘came out in public to make his quarrel with the British Government.
– As far as I understand the cables, he said the matters had not been discussed.
– That statement referred to the Imperial War Cabinet, but the honorable member for Kooyong suggested that the Prime Minister could- get what he wanted bv a private conference with the Imperial Government. Anybody who knows Mr. Hughes can hardly assume that he did not use that method before he resorted to the more public one of expressing publicly, his disapproval of the action that has been taken. The position he has adopted in England is not the easiest for himself. He has to fight, as Australia will have to fight at the Peace table.- I have never had any illusions in regard to the difficult position of Australia after thewar. When honorable members opposite prevented the Prime Minister from being in England at a most critical time to assist in the solution -of problems that most affect us, I maintained, ‘as I still maintain, that Australia has a special interest in the peace settlement which is not -common to the other Dominions, or to Great Britain herself, and that for that reason we have -the ‘greater :need of effective representation and persistent and unflagging presentation of our claims. -The fact that we have in England at the present time two of the leading members of the Ministry is one on which Australia should be congratulated. Our attitude towards the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy should be to support them, -until we have the fullest evidence that we should do otherwise, in their efforts to secure a fair deal for Australia. The honorable member for “Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) talked about our getting something out of the war. Did we go into the war without expecting to get something out of it? We went into it, as did all the nations on our side, in order that the world might be made safe for Democracy ; and in doing what he is doing in England at the present ‘time the Prime Minister is trying to secure for the Democracy of this country the fullest rights of selfgovernment, no matter whether the future may bring them into collision with one or other of the Allied Powers, or whether they are so placed as to be removed from that contingency. The lesson of the war is that every nation must so arrange its affairs as to be -as far. as possible independent of every other nation in its domestic policy.
– But Australia must not magnify its position as being superior to the greater issues affecting the Mother Country and her Allies.
– It is not a question of Australian versus Imperial interests, but of whether the British Government are so seized of the importance to Australia of -certain features of .the peace negotiations that they can be relied upon to represent our views fully at the Peace Conference. “The people of Western America stand in exactly the same relation to their central Government as we do with regard to the British Government. In one great recent crisis, in America the difficulty which California had in impressing its views on the central Government was exactly the difficulty which Australia has to-day in impressing upon the British Government the need for provisions here that are not necessary in the Old Country.
– California was proved to be wrong in the position it took up in that case.
– Even if that is so, -it :3 merely a historical accident.
– I do not think it is so. In fact, the matter is not sufficiently developed yet for a final judgment to be pronounced. We went into the war to get something out of it - security for our. people in the times to come from the horrors of a similar war. We have given of our best in order that we may be able to pursue our peaceful avocations in this country uninterrupted by such another intrusion as we have suffered during the past four- years. It is necessary that the militant Democrats of this country should set aside any personal objections they may have to this or that politician, and cease to be actuated by personal animus against the man who by the force of circumstances has been intrusted with the leadership of the Australian people. When it is a question of our country, as to-day it is a question of the right of the Australian Democracy, to the free government of their own country, the voice of personal animosity should cease, and we should be a united people trying to strengthen the hands of those who are doing their best for. us.
– Cannot we differ without personal animosity?
– We can-. I differ from the honorable member on many things without personal animosity, but it is significant that in this matter not only the politicians who are asking that the Prime Minister should be whipped, but the newspapers which are egging- them on, are the very ones thatthroughout his whole political career have been trying to “destroy .him.
– Order! . The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I personally commend the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) for bringing this matter forward. As I have fought Mr. Hughes for over twelve years, honorable members may think that I shall allow personal animosities to tinge my remarks, but I intend to let the past rest. All I shall do in that regard is to challenge any honorable member opposite to go through Hansard and disprove any statement of mine reported there. Attention should be drawn to the matters which the honorable member for Perth has brought forward, and I thank the newspapers for drawing attention to them, because the two great questions of Tariff Protection and the payment of an indemnity have been left in abeyance by Mr. Hughes. Some time ago I showed the Cabinet, as I showed him, that Japan could not possibly object to our passing a Tariff if we copied the Japanese Tariff. Imitation, it is said, is the sincerest form of flattery, and Japan, which has done its duty as an Ally, would not object to our imitating its example. Our manufactures, which have been saved by the protection afforded by the difficulty of sending ships here, will die if they are not properly protected. America, with its tremendous facilities for building vessels, will soon remove that natural protection, and ships will shortly be steaming towards our ports in hundreds. I maintain, therefore, that the Government have shown that they lack prescience in not taking action to pass a Tariff long ago. If they are afraid of offending a country that has been a splendid ally to us, then let them adopt the Japanese Tariff.
I asked Mr. Hughes time and time again, and I also asked him through other honorable members, to face the question of an indemnity by Germany, over two and a half years ago. Finally, I so resented his attitude of continual indifference on the subject that I placed on the notice-paper a motion which has been there from month to month since 1916. The question of an indemnity must be considered, and it is of no use for Mr. Hughes to say that he was not aware of its importance. The following letter was sent to him by a member of the legal profession, whom the Bulletin regards as possessing one of the best legal minds in Australia - 34 Queen-street, Melbourne, 28th March, 1918.
Dear Mr. Hughes,
Yours truly, (Signed) j. Woolf.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister in charge of Recruiting, upon notice -
What is the cost, approximately, of the voluntary ballot recruiting scheme?
– Eleven thousand seven hundred and ten pounds ten shillings.
Prosecution of W. Anderson
asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– I am obtaining the papers in this case, and shall have the matter inquired’ into.
Mr.GREGORY asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the armistice and probable early peace, and also the serious trade losses that will probably follow the determination of the Wool Board, that appraisements are not to be continued at Geraldton, Western Australia, after this season, the Go-: vernment will review this decision and permit the town referred to to retain the trade which its geographical position, its large expenditure on stores, &c. and its shipping and railway facilities warrant, more particularly taking into account the successful management of past appraisements?
– The matter has been referred to the Central Wool Committee for full consideration.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are-
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers are-
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers are-
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Now that the armistice has been signed, will the Minister arrange for the adjudication of the designs sent in in ‘Competition for the Federal Parliament House at Canberra?
– The invitation to. submit competitive designs for the Parliament House at Canberra havingbeen withdrawn, it is not proposed to adjudicate on such as were sent in. The subject of renewing the invitation willbe considered shortly.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Tor direct supplies?
– The answers are-
Consultation of Dominions - Commonwealth’s Representatives in London.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers.to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am at present in communication with the Prime Minister, with a view “to ascertaining the exact circumstances surrounding the present position, and until I receive fuller particulars I am not prepared to give any information on the subject.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether the Minister can give the House the following information:-
The quantity of coastal shipping released for overseas war purposes?
The chief reasons for the retention of those vessels on the coastal trade and the class of special freight carried by them having immediate relation to war effort?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The effect of withdrawing the balance’ of the coastal shipping would be: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
If, inview of the many disloyal utterances alleged to have been made by Dr. Mannix throughout the period of the war, the Government will consider the inappropriateness of asking him to participate in public peace rejoicings inaugurated by the Government?
– The Government has not yet had time or opportunity to consider the mode of peace celebrations which it will recommend Australia to adopt, nor the question of what invitations, if any, are to be issued in connexion therewith.
Mr.FENTON (for Mr.Finlayson) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In what capacity’ were the following persons employed in connexion with the Seventh War Loan in Queensland, and what amount did each receive for his services: - Messrs. G. M. Bash, W. J. Smout, H. E. Saunders, H. E. Moore, John Adamson, A. C. Elphinstone, W. Maxwell, Pte. Markowiez, Sergt.-Major Aidan Furay, Sergt. A. H. Robinson, Hon. H. C. Jones, Corporal Eric Raff?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished when available.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Yes. 4. (a) £128,465 3s.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Is the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner also Engineer-in-Chief ; and, if so, what proportion of his salary is paid as Commissioner of Railways and Engineer-in-Chief respectively?
– The duties which pertained to the position of EngineerinChief are now performed under the direction of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and the formal position of Engineer-in-Chief was accordingly abolished.
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– I hope to be in a position tofurnish this information at the end of the week.
asked the Assistant Min ister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Preferenceto Returned Soldiers
– With, reference to the question asked me in the House recently by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. John Thomson) relative to preference to returned soldiers in connexion with mail contracts, I am in receipt of the following reply from the Comptroller of the Department of Repatriation: -
I have to advise that, following upon the determination of the Commonwealth Government to give preference of employment to returned soldiers, the Postmaster-General’s Department issued instructions that, in calling for tenders for mail ‘contracts, a returned soldier holding a good discharge should be allowed to indicate the fact that he was a returned soldier by indorsing it upon’ his application. It was the practice, however, that where the amount of a tender submitted by a retiring contractor was not more than 5 per cent, higher than that of the lowest tender, arenewal of the contract should be approved. The Postmaster-General’s Department has now intimated that this 5 per cent, preference does not operate against a returned soldier, and that only the actual tender prices are taken into consideration.
– On the 14th day of November, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question: -
Now that the war is ended, will the Defence Department remit the terrible; punishments, inflicted on the Italians who are in our midst, and who are the only race amongst those fights ing with the Allies which has been singled out for such treatment?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Instructions have been issued that all action in connexion with the repatriation of Italians, resident in Australia is tocease, and Italians, at present in Camp or detention awaiting embarkation are to be released and returned to their homes or the place at which they were arrested. Thestatement that terrible punishments have been inflicted on any Italian is incorrect.
– That is not true.
– That remark is very objectionable. It is practically what was complained about yesterday - giving the lie direct to a Government statement.
– I apologize to the honorable member. Iwas not accusing him of uttering an untruth ; but I happen to know that Italians have been treated brutally by their Consul.
– On the 19th November, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) asked the following question : -
Following on a question I asked recently With regard to a proposal to -decorate the members of the British Forces who took part in the Gallipoli campaign with a special Gallipoli Star, I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether it is correct, asreported, that the proposal is to be withdrawn in favour of one for a general decoration -which will also include the men who took part in the New Guinea expedition?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
With reference to the inquiry of the honorable member for Brisbane on the subject of the proposed Gallipoli Star, and for the information of the House, . I have to state that serious difficulties, which are fully appreciated by the Commonwealth Government, have been presented in connexion with the issue of a decoration of such a special character. Objection has also been taken, notably by many of the proposed recipients, to the anomalies which would be created with regard to other troops who would not receive the suggested distribution. What is now proposed will take the more Imperial character of a grant of a 1914-15 Star to troops from all parts of the King’s Dominions, who served in any theatre of war prior to 31st December, 1915, but are ineligible for the 1914 Star issued to troops who served in France in that year. This will include Australian Naval and Military troops who took part in operations, in the , Bismarck Archipelago. I may add that it is understood that it is the intention to’ provide a special clasp on the. war medal for Gallipoli.
– On the 19th November, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question : -
Will the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) make inquiries as to thetreatment of the spinal cases at the Military Hospital,. Melbourne ? These cases are very painful,, and very lingering, and the men ought to have the’ brightest surroundings; but I understand that they are to be moved into wards from which there is a poor view, and which are not of that cheerful character desirable.I hope that the Minister will draw the attention of the Commanding Officer to the circumstances’, and see if something cannot be done.
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
I am informed that several spinal cases have been moved from a central ward to an end ward, fromwhich the view is better, and there is more fresh air.
The following paper was presented : -
Papua - Infirm and Destitute Natives- Account - Statement of the Transactions of the Trustees, 1917-18.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments. Ordered -
That the Senate’s message be considered in . Committee of the whole forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– For the convenience of the Committee, I might ex plain the general purport of- the amendments made by the Senate. . Many of them are consequential on others. The first amendment entitles members of our Forces,, within the meaning of the Electoral (War-time) Act, to be enrolled- and vote irrespective of age. It had been my. intention to amend the Electoral (Wartime) Act for this purpose, but when the Electoral Bill was under consideration’ in this Chamber, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) submitted an amendment with the same object in view. I accepted it, but told the honorable member that it would need re-drafting, because the question of age was unaffected in his proposal. The provision has been re-drafted and inserted in another place. Amendment No. 3 is a re-draft of clause 82, without altering the substance of the provision.
Clause 85 deals with postal voting, arid when the Bill left this House, it. provided that a man must be 15 miles from a polling, booth on election day in order to be qualified to vote by post. The Senate has reduced that distance, to 10 miles.
– Why was that done?
– Because it was thought that the 15 -mile minimum would make the provision inoperative, as very few people would be that distance from a polling, booth. A reduction of the distance to 7 miles- was suggested- by some honorable members, and 10’ miles was inserted as a sort of balance of opinion.
Clause 92,. which deals with- the method of postal voting, has been rearrangedWhen a person desires to vote by post, he submits his application to the Returning Officer, who sends out to him a ballotpaper with an envelope addressed to himself. On that envelope is a postal certificate. The clause, as agreed to by this Committee, provided that the voter should exhibit his ballot-paper “ in blank “ toan authorized witness. The Senate has substituted for “ in blank “ the word “ unmarked,” because of the new provision in regard to preferential voting. The other amendment is an alteration of the sequence of the subclauses. As the clause left this Committee the elector marked the ballot-paper, and then handed it to the authorized witness, after which he and the authorized witness must sign the certificate. There may be some delay in doing that in some cases, and, possibly, in that way knowledge of the voting might come to the authorized witness. We, therefore, thought it better to alter the sequence of the sub-clauses so as to provide that, after the authorized witness has signed the certificate, the elector shall mark his vote on the ballot-paper, and hand it folded to the. authorized witness.
The next amendment of importance is the deletion of clause H3, which makes provision for voting before a Registrar by any man who is likely to be 10 miles from a polling booth on the day of election. As. the law stands at present, the voting before a Registrar is limited to those who would not be in a Commonwealth electoral division on polling da,v, and that practically confined the privilege to those who would be out of the Commonwealth on that day. The clause provided that any man who was likely to be 10 miles distant from a polling booth on election day could, vote before a Registrar, but as postal voting has been adopted., this clause would mean & duplication of the facilities at a great expense. In 1914, only 1,040 persons voted before Registrars, and the greatest number of such votes was 4,000, in connexion with one of the referendums. At that time, postal voting was not in force. Having adopted postal voting this provision is superfluous. It would entail a, good deal of trouble. Various forms and’ instructions must be sent throughout the Commonwealth, and the convenience that would be afforded would be very small. We thought it better in the interests of simplicity and economy to strike out the clause. All the other amendments are consequent on the excision of. clause 113.
Senate”^ amendments to clauses 39 and 82 agreed to.
Clause 85 (Application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper) -
Senate’s Amendment - Strike out “ fifteen,” insert “ ten.”
.- This amendment, as I have already explained, reduces from 15 miles to 10 miles the minimum distance which a person must be from a polling booth on election day in order to qualify for a postal vote. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- The’ shorter we make the distance the greater will be the opportunity for the manipulation of postal votes. The greater the distance, the less chance there will be of improper practices.
– Because the postal votes would then be too expensive to encourage manipulation.
– I hope the Minister will retain ‘ the 15-miles minimum. The reduction of the distance is a very good thing for the metropolitan constituencies ‘, but we are legislating for the whole Commonwealth.
– The alteration is better for the country constituencies, because it gives more facilities for voting.
– I do not desire that easy facilities should be provided for postal yoting. If a vote is not worth going for, it is not worth having. In my constituency I have known men to walk 70 miles to vote, and others rode 100 miles to a polling booth in the early days of Federation. I ask the Minister not to press the acceptance of this amendment. Before the Bill was introduced into this House, the officials of the Department must have thoroughly considered the matter, and if 10 miles would have been better than 15 miles, they would have told the Minister so.
– The officials prefer the shorter distance. They desire the- postalvoting system carried out as efficaciously as possible.
– I know that the Minister desires to give to the electors the best possible facilities for recording their votes, in order that we may get a complete expression of the will of the people. But my experience is that the easier. the facilities -for voting by post, the greater is the risk of corruption. .
. -I am glad that the Minister proposes to accept the amendment. I am in accordance with the honorable member for Maranoa in endeavouring to prevent corruption in connexion with postal voting, and if he desires to increase the penalties for such offences, I will support him.
– ‘The Minister has safeguarded the system as far as he can.
– That is so; and the object of the reduction of the minimum distance from 15 miles to 10 miles is to increase the facilities for voting. The honorable member has referred to men in his electorate who have travelled long distances in order to record their votes. I would that there were more people with such enthusiasm ; but the fact is that there are many people who are not prepared -to go even 10 miles to vote.
Mr.Fenton. - Should we cater for them ?
– No; but there are many persons who are genuinely unable to get to a polling booth, and we should offer improved facilities for them to exercise the franchise. Having regard to the rigid safeguards which are provided, I hope the amendment will be accepted.
– The Bill, as.it left this Chamber, made ample provision for those who w.ere unable to vote on account of illness. This amendment will make it easier than is necessary for able-bodied people to record their votes without going to a polling booth. The Minister would be wise if he were to adhere to the 15 miles minimum. I quite agree with the view which has beenexpressed by the honorable member for Maranoa. Of course, we all recognise that “we have never had presiding over our Electoral Department a Minister possessed of a greater desire to deal justly with all political parties than is the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn). But it is necessary for us to clip the wings of the smart people who are anxious to take advantage of the provision which we are now considering. The request we are making to the Minister to adhere to the distance originally set out in this clause is absolutely a reasonable one. We have already provided that, the inmates of our hospitals shall be free from the attentions of political canvassers, and in view of the fact that provision has already been made under which sick and infirm persons will be able to record their votes, why should we pro-, vide facilities for able-bodied electors to vote by post? Provision has also been made in this Bill for absent voting. But that vote has to be recordedin the pre sence of a deputy returning officer and his poll clerk, and, consequently, it is surrounded with reasonable safeguards. As electors are at liberty to vote outside the subdivision for which they are enrolled, why should we further encourage the system of postal voting, especially in view of the abuses which have been associated with it in the past?
– The electors in our cities have much greater facilities for voting than have country electors.
– But if an elector be absent on polling day from his own subdivision he is entitled to vote as ‘an absent voter.
– Hemay be 150 miles away from his own division.
– That is so. Yet it is now proposed that if an elector be more than 10 miles distant from a polling booth on polling day he shall have the right to vote by post. I ask the Minister to disagree with the Senate’s amendment.
– Voting before an Electoral Registrar having been abolished, it seems only fairthat we should shorten the distance.
– Upon a ticklish matter like this, 15 miles represents a very fair compromise. No argument has been advanced why the Committee should alter the decision at which it previously arrived.
.- I can well understand the honorable member for Maribyrnong arguing as he did, because the postal voting provisions of this Bill will not affect a single elector in his constituency. But I was very much surprised at the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Maranoa. I represent a’ country electorate, just as does that honorable member, and I can recollect at least one general election being held when harvesting operations were in full swing. I do not think it is right that our farmers should be compelled to suspend their labours and practically to down tools in order that they may attend a . polling booth for the purpose of recording their votes. They can vote by post equally well. In his report upon postal voting, Mr. Oldham, our Chief Electoral Officer, says that up to 1910 there have been only ten minor convictionsfor offences against that portion of the Act. The maximum fine which can be inflicted for any breach, in this connexion is £50, but the highest fine imposed has been only £2.
– Why should we allow an employer to influence his employee’s vote ?
– I do not think that the employees are so easily influenced as the honorable member represents.
– They are not now, but they used to be. The. honorable member’s party would act in the same way again to-morrow if it had the chance.
– The honorable member talks about one of his electors walking 70 miles to record his vote.
– When did he start - three weeks before polling day?
– I fail to see: why any man should be obliged to sacrifice two or three days of his valuable time in order to record’ his vote. The honorable member, for Maranoa (Mr. Page) ought to stand- up for the amendment which has been made^ in this chouse, by. the Senate. Honorable members, upon this side of the chamber represent the workers of Australia just as much as do the- honorable members opposite;
– We know!:
– There are a good many oldl-age pensioners in my electorate; and if they are unable to get to a polling booth on polling day they ought to be provided, with facilities to enable them to exercise the franchise.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat sought to justify this amendment on the ground that we ought to provide country electors with greater facilities to record their votes. But while the honorable member professes to be anxious to do that, in reality he seeks to deprive them of such facilities, inasmuch as they are to be prevented from recording their votes before an electoral registrar prior to polling day.
– Then, the Minister is anxious to defeat his own Bill.
– The measure which we are now considering provides that sick and infirm electors shall be entitled to vote by post. But the distance from a polling booth set out ins clause does not apply to their cases. It applies only to electors who are physically well. Now, the distance, prescribed, in the clause by this Committee was. 15 miles, and. the Senate has now reduced, it to 10 miles. I am satisfied that, a reduction, by one third will offer, greater opportunities for corruption than would otherwise obtain Instead of increasing the facilities for voting in the case of country electors, we shall, if we accept the amendment of the Senate, be restricting, those facilities. If we wish to restore postal voting in order to allow the sick and infirm to vote, why should we frame a provision which will cover other classes of electors? The Minister will be acting wisely if he declines to agree to the amendment.
.- I am very- sorry that the other branch of the Legislature has not seen fit to reduce the distance specified inthis clause to . 5 or 7 miles. In our principal Electoral Act it was originally provided that any elector who had’ reason to believe that lie would be. more than 5 miles distant from a polling booth on polling day should be entitled to vote by post. If we fix that distance at 15 miles we shall impose a very serious handicap upon many persons who already experience, a difficulty in getting, to the. poll. Why should not all electors vote by post so long as the election, can be honestly conducted under that system? If the exercise of the postal vote can be adequately safeguarded - as I think it can - no objection can be urged to it. There has never been any evidence forthcoming in support of the accusation that wholesale misconduct has occurred in connexion with postal voting.
– What happened in Queensland?
– An Electoral Commission has investigated this matter since the time of which the honorable member speaks, and it utterly failed to discover anything, very serious in the way of the misuse of the postal vote. I repeat, that I am sorry the. Senate has not seen fit, to reduce the distance prescribed by this clause to 5 or 7 miles. Had. it not been for the particular way in which the clause was dealt- with, I should have moved’ an amendment.
– Move one now.
– There might be some point in doing so if there were a chance of getting it ‘carried, hut as things are, I can only express my regret that the provision inserted by the Senate will become -law. I hope ‘that before the general election we may have an opportunity to . fix a more reasonable limitthan 10 miles.
– I oppose the adoption of the Senate’s amendment, and I hope that the Committee may reject’ it. The postal vote was intended primarily for the use of the sick and infirm. That was virtually admitted by the Minister in introducing the Bill. We know how greatly the postal voting system has been abused in the past, but we have consented to re-establish it so that the sick and infirm may not be disfranchised, and we shall be unwise if we reduce the limit of distance from 15 to 10 miles. When the postal vote was in operation before, I did not hesitate, when business persons and others told me that they were likely to be unable to go to the polling booth on election day, to urge -them to record their votes by post. But I see no reason why this privilege should be given to any but those who are sick. We cannot blink the fact . that undoubtedly any privileges that the law gives will be used, and those who use them will not be blameable for doing so. This system will give an advantageto members of the opposite party . in the securing of votes. A very intelligent American once told me that he did not care what the electoral law was so long as he had the counting of the votes. This provision -gives opportunity for the counting of . votes. The other day, when the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) spoke of his Government as Democrats, I said that they did not understand the meaning of the word, and the Bill shows that they do not. The postal voting system was repealed because of the abuses under it. Men would say to candidates, “ If you do not get me a postal vote, I will not vote for you.” Under a proper electoral law, every voter who can possibly do so is required to go to the polling booth,and there cast his vote under such conditions as make it a true record of his electoral opinion. The number of those who will use the postal vote willbe greatly increased if we reduce the limitation of distance from 15 to 10 miles, and this will create great confusion in the conduct of elections. The true Democrats are those who sit on this side - -we are Democrats at heart, and in mindand body - and are not in f avour of the proposal for reduction of the distance, though, if the proposal were a pood one, we should support it. Those who vote for us have not the means to travel long distances. I hope that the Minister, who, I am sure, desires to go down to posterity as a Democrat of liberal principles, will not insist on agreeing to the Senate’s amendment.
– Does the honorable member consider it democratic to curtail voters’ privileges?
– It is not democratic to allow persons whowill not take, the trouble to go to the ballot-box to use discreditable methods of voting.
– I recognise that after the trouble the Government have had with the Bill in the Senate it is not likely to allow further alterations, but the remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), who is an ornament of a brilliant profession; staggered me. If he will look at the reports of Moloney v. McEacham and Chanter v. Blackburn, he will see how postal voting has been abused.The High Court declared a Melbourne election null and void because of ‘the misuse of postal voting.
– But this is another system of postal voting.
– It is not actually the same system, but it is a similarone. I ask the honorable member to consider that, in that little portion of Melbourne bounded by Bourke, Spring, Victoria, and Elizabeth streets, where voters could not have been more than one-third of a mile away from a polling booth, there were more votes by post than in the whole of Western Australia,also in Queensland-, and, on two occasions, in the whole of Tasmania. It is of no use, therefore, for the honorable member to persist in bis attitude that there is nothing to-be alleged against postal voting. The honorable, member stated that the Electoral Commission had found nothing serious in the operation of postal voting. I, will quote one reference, which was indorsed unanimously by members of that Commission. We felt that the position was serious enough for us to place the following words on record as a recommendation to the Government : -
The electoral law should not be forged as a party weapon, but should aim at making it possible for every elector to record his vote. Apparently, about 77,000 electors were unable to vote at the election in consequence of the abolition of postal-voting facilities, many of whom would be the .mothers of our people, . fulfilling the noblest duties of life, and would have a keener personal interest in -the government’ of the country than many who recorded votes. We, therefore, suggest the amendment of the Act to provide for postal voting prior to the day of election, with Sufficient statutory safeguards.
I do not think that the evils of which I have spoken will be so strongly marked under the present measure. I am confident that the electoral officers will do their duty, and will not permit any injustice if they have the power to stop it; but the limit of 15 miles is little enough. I have trudged thigh deep in mud to give ray vote at a certain election, and I occupied seven hours in walking 11 miles.
– The honorable member could not expect women to do that.
– Certainly not. But there are few people resident 15 miles from a polling booth who could not secure a lift in a vehicle on election day.
.- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott), in asking that the limit should be 10 miles instead of 15, furnished a Strong argument why the clause should remain as it was originally. He. said that there were men engaged in harvesting,, and he asked whether employers should be put to trouble and inconvenience through those men leaving their work to go into a township to vote, when they could, vote by post if it were provided that the limit be 10 miles. I know something about influence having been brought to bear on employees by employers. The honorable member for Calare said that such things - if they ever happened - oc curred years ago, and would not be repeated now. But they do occur now, and at every opportunity. I urge the Minister (Mr. Glynn) to leave the Bill as he introduced- it. There is a byelection pending; and if, in the light of experience, it is found that the law requires amendment with respect to postal voting, it will be easy for the Government to make the limit 10 miles instead of 15. But I again ask why there should be all this haste with regard to this Electoral Bill? I think an answer is to be found in the fact that we happened to shoot a “ swan.” In Queensland, there have been occurrences which might well be described as political atrocities. Influence was brought to bear upon employees by employers. I may say that, ever since I have had a vote in Australia, I have done as I wished, whether my boss liked it or not.
– Probably your boss did as you wished.
– That was not so. I was always prepared to give a fair thing to my boss. I would never undertake day work where I could get piece-work. There is no employer for whom I have ever worked who would not take me back now, provided 1 was of the same age and capabilities as when he employed me. If a man on a station has a wife and four or five children, there are more than” fifty ways by which an employer could tell that man how and for whom he should record his vote; and, often enough, in order to keep a roof over the heads of his family, a man would practically sell his vote. To-day, however, the boot is on the other foot. We do not do what the boss tells us. in Queensland. He does what we tell him. . iSo far as the merits of 10 miles as against 15 miles are concerned, I would be satisfied to do away with all limitations. Then all parties would be able to Start from scratch; and, if it comes to manipulating voting at an election, I would be prepared to give any man all he wanted. What we desire is a square go. I have never yet gone into an election fight except to win, whether for myself or for anybody else for whom my services were being given.
– But there are some things you would not do.
– There are . a lot, no doubt; but, as for voting, I would say, Vote as early and as often as the electoral officer will allow.”
– I do not believe that of the honorable member.
– That is what I am saying, anyhow. I suggest that the Bill remain as the Minister introduced it, and if experience proves that an amendment of postal voting is required, I shall not oppose it. The Bill before the Committee is the cleanest and best electoral measure we have known since Federation.
– You might include in that commendation the Minister in charge of the Bill.
– That goes without saying. Every honorable member knows what Mr. Glynn’s political and personal character is. For straightness he stands alone; and I would ask him, if he could do so, without going back on his supporters
– This is a reasonable compromise.
– . What compromise does the Minister want? In his original Bill he inserted 15 miles, and that was agreed to by this Committee. The Minister has made a personal study of electoral matters ever since he has been in the Federal Legislature, He must have known, when he inserted this provision, that it was all right, or he would not have, put it there. What has come over the Minister in the interval between that moment when the Bill left this House and the time of its return in its amended form? I urge the Minister to stick to his Bill.
.- The history of this Bill is peculiar. It was placed upon the notice-paper, and debate on its second reading took some time.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the Bill.
– I know that I shall be kept close to the point of discussion, so far as you are concerned, Mr. Chairman.
– The honorable member should be respectful to the Chair.
– I shall be as respectful to the Chair as the Chair is to me.
– It is pretty cold outside.
– I know what it is like outside. I am not afraid of being threatened with being put outside. I have experienced that before. Under this clause postal voting in its worst features is reenacted.
– The honorable member will not be in order in . discussing the clause.
– I propose only to point out the effect of the Senate’s amendment. The action of the Government in inserting in this clause, while the Bill was in another place, an amendment under which it will be possible for every elector, who has reason to believe . that he will not be within 10 miles of a polling booth on election day, to apply for a postal vote certificate and postal ballotpaper, will have the effect of aggravating the abuses formerly associated with the system. The clause originally provided for a distance of 15 miles. Why has the reduction to 10 miles been made? The Bill, as introduced into this House, had . been carefully considered by the Minister, and he had Cabinet approval for every clause in it. Supporters of the Ministry declared that thelimitof 15 miles was too wide, and that it should be reduced ; but the Minister, disregarding their protests, stood by his Bill. What influence has been at work since the Bill left this House?
– Thisamendment could not have been made at the time referred to by the honorable member, since a previous amendment had been put in such a way as to make it impossible for me to submit it.
– -The honorable member refers to the amendment which I moved on behalf of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton).
– If the Minister had thought of making this amendment at that time, he would have moved it before I took action.
– It was the way in which the amendment was put from the Chair that blocked me from taking action.
– Not one amendment has been made in “this Bill without the approval of the Minister. We were unable, when the Bill was before us,to securethe passing of one amendment unless the Ministerial party were favorable to it.
– The Minister accepted one which J moved.
– And I assured honorable members at the time that this amendment reducing the distance from the 15 miles to10 miles would be made in another place.
– I did not hear that assurance given. I certainly object to the reduction. It may be said that . as I represent a ‘Small ‘electorate, the question does not affect me, but I would remind honorable members that, since the provision that absent voters shall beentitled to vote before Registrars has been removed, constituents . of mine who were away from my electorateon polling day would not be able to vote unless they did so by post. Nevertheless, I think “the principle involved is wrong. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has pointed out that, on the occasion of a general election, more postal votes were cast in respect of a subdivision running from Spring-street to Elizabethstreet; and from Bourke-street to Victoriastreet than were polled in the whole of Western Australia. I know that the postal voting system has been abused.
– Supporters of the honorable member’s own party were unable to show the ElectoralCommission that it had been abused before.
– The honorable member for Melbourne denies that -statement.
– Then why did he sign our report?
– He has pointedout that it is mentioned in the report of the Commission that the number of postal votes recorded in respect of a smallsubdivision of the electorate of Melbourne was equal to the total postal votes cast for Western Australia, and that, on the occasion of two different elections, there were more postal votes inrelation to that one subdivision than were cast for the whole State of Tasmania. Again, in the electorate of Kooyong, the postal votes recorded wereeight timesas many as those recorded for the neighbouring electorate of Yarra. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mir.: Foster) says that no abuse of the postal voting system was brought under : the notice of the Electoral Commission. Is it not well known that when the system was previously in force, domestic servants were practically compelled to vote by post, so that their employers might know how they were voting?
– Statements to that effect were made, but every witness before the Electoral Commission said that he did not know of onespecific case of the kind.
– It cannot be said that the difference between the postal votes recorded in these two electorates is to be accounted for by the fact that a great number of the women electors of Kooyong were prevented from going to the polling booth because they were performing the highest function of womanhood. The birth rate for Kooyong is far below that of Richmond, which is in my electorate.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Mr.TUDOR. -I regard this amendment as a retrograde step which places us exactly where we were formerly. The desire was, by means . of this Bill, to make impossible the abuses which were met with when postal voting was previously the law.
– It isnot a question of distance, but a question of safeguards.
– The Government decided that 15.miles should be the distance, unless there ‘were conditions imposed by ill-health or travelling. We can easily imagine, if or instance, that -a person on the East- West railway would be unable to record his vote, and no doubt we shall always have people who are compelled to travel on polling day. Under such circumstances no one objects to postal voting under proper safeguards; but, as I say, this shortening of the distance is astep in the wrong direction.
Question - That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to - put.The Committeedivided.
Ayes … … … 29
Noes … … … 14
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the. affirmative.
Senate’s amendment agreed-, to.
Senate’s amendment in clause90 agreed to.
Clause 92 -
The following directions, for regulating vot- . ing by means of” postal ballot-papers are to be substantially observed : -
The- elector shall exhibit his postal ballot-paper (in blank) and his postal vote certificate to am authorized witness.
The elector shall then and there, in the presence of the authorized witness, but 80 that the. authorized witness cannot see the vote,’ mark his. vote on the ballot-paper in the prescribed manner, and shall fold the ballot-paper so that the vote cannot be seen. (c)If the elector’s sight is so impaired that he cannot vote without assistance, the. authorized witness, if so requested by the elector, shall mark the elector’s vote on the ballotpaper in the presence of. a witness, and shall then and there fold the ballot-paper so that thevote cannot be seen.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out “ (in blank)-‘, paragraph a, and insert (unmarked).”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The words “(in blank)” were in the principal Act when postal voting was previously the rule. The names were written in by the voter, whereas now they are to be written in by the Returning Officer, and hence the amendment.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out paragraphs b and c.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The object of this amendment is’ to alter the sequence in which the work is done between the actual voting and the signature1 of the certificate. At present, when the ballot-paper is shown to the authorized witness, the voter opens the paper and exhibits it unmarked to him. Then the elector votes under the Act as it stood before this’ proposed amendment, and hands the paper- folded up to the authorized, witness..
– Why hand it to the witness ?
– Previously he handed it to the witness, who had to post it, but now the ballot-paper is. handed back to the voter. However, as I say, this amendment alters the sequence of things. The certificate on the envelope will be signed by the voter and the authorized witness, and after that the voter will, fill up the paper and hand it folded up to the witness.
– The authorized witness will put it into the envelope ?
– Yes, and then the witness will close the envelope and hand it back to the voter, who will postit to the Returning Officer: The object of the amendment is to afford greater precaution in the way of secrecy.
.- I see that the Senate proposes to strike out these paragraphs b and c and to insert two new paragraphs ee andff.
– They are really the same, only they are placed lower down in the clause.
– I do not think they are the same. I think that the paragraphs in this clause require re-lettering; and, in anycase, I do not see that the proposed amendments carry us any further forward. The only object of’ having an authorized witness is to see that a person is entitled to vote. Previously there wasno provision that the voter had to hand his paper to the authorized witness.
– Oh, yes, there was.
– I do not observe any such provision, and I can see no necessity for the suggested alteration. The voter -will make sure that his ballot-paper is in the envelope, and why, then, should he have to hand it back to the authorized witness?
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s amendment to insert the following new paragraphagreed to - (ee) The elector shall then and there, in the presence of the authorized witness, but . so that the authorized witness cannot see the vote, mark his vote on the ‘ballot-paper in the prescribed manner, and shall fold the ballot-paper so that the vote cannot be seen, and hand it so folded to the authorized witness.
Senate’s amendment. - Insert the following new paragraph: - (ff) If the elector’s sight is so impaired that he cannot vote without assistance, the authorized witness, if so requested by the electors, shall mark the elector’s vote on the ballotpaper in the presence of a witness, and shall then and there fold the ballot-paper so that the vote cannot be seen, and deal with it in the manner provided in the last preceding paragraph.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- After the vote of a blind person is recorded in the way prescribed, what is he to do to see that it is sent to the Returning Officer?
– After the vote is recorded, it is to be dealt with “ in the manner provided in the last preceding paragraph.”
– How is a blind voter to see that that is done?
– He can hand the envelopeto some one to post.
Mr.PAGE. - I am satisfied, so long as some means are provided to secure that the vote of a blind person reaches the Returning Officer.
– That is provided for.
.- From the time the first Electoral Bill was introduced into this House, I have always taken a deep interest in voting by blind people, or people whose sight is so impaired that they require assistancein voting. There is a provision insome of the State Acts enabling a blind elector to take some other- person with him into the polling booth to mark his paper for him, but some Returning Officers have objected to that. The Senate’s amendment provides that the authorized witness may mark the blind elector’s ballot-paper “ in the presence of a witness.” I should like it made perfectly clear that the witness referred to shall be a witness selected by the elector, and I suggest to the Minister that the Senate’s amendment should be amended by inserting after the word “ witness “ the second time occurring, the words “ selected by the elector.” It should be remembered that we are dealing with postal-voting provisions, and these votes will not be recorded in a polling’ booth under the supervision’ of skilled officials.
– The authorized witness is subject to certain penalties if he does not do right, and so is the witness if he does anything wrong.
– I am aware of that; but, for the protection of the blind elector, I think it should be made perfectly clear that the witness shall be a witness selected by him.
– I have never known any question raised on this point.
– This is a new system.
– No; it is not!
– I think it would be wise if the Minister were agreeable to insert after the word “witness” the words “ selected by the elector.” I know that we cannot hope to have the amendment made unless the Minister agrees to accept it.
– I do not think that the suggested amendment is necessary, though I quite appreciate what the honorable gentleman has said. I have never heard of any interference by a witness in these cases, although a similar provision has been in operation under two Acts. The authorized witness is bound by express directions to do certain things, and is subject to. penalties if he does wrong, and any witness who interferes or discloses what he sees is subject also to a penalty. I cannot see what danger could arise from the acceptance of the Senate’s amendment as it stands.
.- Take the case of a blind elector in a blind institution or in hospital. As provided for under the Bill, the doctor of the institution might be the authorized witness, but how is the blind elector to know how the doctor has marked his ballot-paper unless he has some witness present to see what the doctor does ? It must be remembered that the blind elector cannot question the vote, and there is security in having a third person present when the vote of a blind person is recorded. The Minister, as a lawyer, will know that if three persons are charged with a crime, there is a chance that one of the three may “ blow the gaff.” I am sure that the honorable gentleman desires to safeguard the in-‘ terests of the blind elector, and to provide that the witness shall be a witness selected by the elector would overcome every difficulty- This is not a party question. It does not matter whether the blind elector votes for Labour or “ Boodle,” though I do not think many blind people would vote for “Boodle.” It has been my rule through life to look after the interests of the under-dog, because I believe that “ Boodle “ can always look after himself, or can get others to look after him, as witness what occurred iu connexion with the discussion on the Land Tax Bill. I appeal to the Minister to insert the words suggested by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor).
– I am afraid it would put a limitation upon the elector which might not be agreeable to him.
– The blind elector might call his wife as a witness. Surely he should have the right to say who is to witness the marking of his ballot-paper by the authorized witness.
– I think the Senate’s amendment is all right as it is.
– What is the use of thinking when, by the acceptance of the suggestion of. the honorable member for
Yarra, the Minister might be absolutely sure that the interests of the blind elector would be safeguarded?
– 1 hope that the Minister will accede to the very modest request of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor). Blind persons usually go to a polling booth accompanied by a relative or intimate friend, and I think that when voting by post they should have the right to select the’ persons who are to witness the marking of their postal ballot-papers by the authorized witnesses.
– The blind elector will already have selected the authorized witness. Honorable members wish to give him a- second security. He will already have selected the best man he can find in the authorized witness.
– The authorized witness may be any one of the persons provided for in this Bill. I can scarcely conceive that any’ one would be so evilminded as to cheat a blind person out of his vote, but the witness called upon to witness the marking of the blind elector’s ballot-paper, under this provision, might be a political opponent of the elector. I think that the blind elector should have the right to select the person who is to witness the marking of his ballot-paper for him. As there are not so many blind people in the Commonwealth, surely it is not too much to ask that they be allowed to choose their own witnesses. No doubt, for the most part, blind persons are accompanied by their friends to the polling booth, and it is ‘a .fair -thing that their friends should be their witnesses.
.- The request made by honorable members who have preceded me is a reasonable one, because one can readily conceive that it might be objectionable to a blind person to be obliged to go to a polling booth accompanied by some one he does not know. It would be much more satisfactory if a blind voter were allowed to choose his own witness. As the “honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has pointed out, a blind person may be accompanied to the polling booth by a relative, and if he desires that a relative should be his witness, the request should be acceded to. I do not suggest that persons who accompany blind voters might not be trustworthy, but there might be- a suspicion in the mind of a blind voter that his. vote is not being recorded in the way intended. This suspicion would be removed if the blind voter had the right to choose his. own witness. In order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That the. Senate’s amendment be amended by inserting after the word “ witness,.” line 6, the words “ chosen by the voter.”’
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the Senate’s amendment negatived.
Senate’s amendment agreed to.
Clause 113 (Voting before polling day by. electors who will be 10 miles from a polling booth).
Senate’s amendment - Leave out clause.
– I move -
That the amendment be- agreed to.
The clause which it is proposed to leave out. deals with voting before registrars. That -provision only applied to. persons who would be outside a. division on the day of polling, but it was extended to include those who, would not. be within 10 miles of the polling, place on the day of polling. As the postal-voting provisions cover all. these cases, and the administration of the voting under clause 113wouldcost a lot of money, it has been deemed advisable to strike out. the clause .
.- I anticipated that the Minister would seek to. justify the elimination of the clause by his references, to the postal-voting provisions; During the. discussion, oro this measure it was pointed out that it. was advisable to provide all facilities possible for elections.; and, while some of us have been opposed to postal voting because of the manner in which it hasbeen abused in the past, we tried to mate provision, so far- as possible, for all persons to record their votes; The. elimination of clause 113 will undoubtedly curtail these facilities. The postal-voting sections of our electoral law were not so . extensive in their application as was this provision, which met the convenience of those persons; especially business people, who might be called away suddenly from the division in which they resided. Certain electors might to-night anticipate that they would be in their homes next week; but they might suddenly get a telegram demanding their presence in some- other part of the State, and as they’ would not have time to make application for the postal vote - assuming an election to be in progress - they could under this clause, go before a registrar and record their votes before going away. If this clause is struck out, these persons will have to depend upon postal voting. Hundreds of persons are called away at a moment’s notice almost every day in the week, so it is possible that, by the elimination of this provision, they will be denied facilities for voting on any polling day. Now that we have decided to have postal voting, I donot see why this clause should not remainin the Bill.
– Very few have voted under thissystem.
– I think very many have. done so, because, in the special circumstances I have mentioned, it was the only opportunity they had of exercising the franchise, and I am sure that a large number will be in the same position in the future. Our object is to make the facilities for voting as wide as possible, so long as votes are recorded properly. If that is the aim of the Government, why does the Minister want the clause left out?
– It wasnot in before when we had postal voting.
– That is no argument for leaving it out now. When it was before this Chamber we did not take the view that the Minister is mow putting. Then, when the Bill went to the Senate, it was discovered that the clause was not in the amending Act of 1911, and so it was argued that it should be eliminated from this Bill. The amendment will curtail the voting opportunities of persons who are not likely to be in their electorates on polling days. Honorable members opposite, “ who urge that every facility should be given for voting, especially in country districts, should support me. The honorable member for Galare (Mr. Pigott) argued this evening that the reduction of the distance from 15 miles to 10 miles would give greater voting facilities. This clause gives facilities still greater. The Minister says ‘that not many will avail themselves of it; but, in New South Wales, at the last referendum poll, 1,400 votes were cast under it. There would be a proportionate number in other States.
– At the last election only 1,600 votes were cast under it throughout the Commonwealth.
-Why deprive 1,600 electors of the right to vote? That number may decide a number of elections throughout the Commonwealth. At the last election, several members were returned with majorities of only a few votes, and the result in those eases may have been affected by the votescast under this provision. I appeal to the Minister to consider again the question ofretaining the clause in the Bill.
Senate’s amendment agreed to.
Senate’s remaining amendments agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
.- We have now, I presume, arrived at the last stage of one of the blackest pages of parliamentary history. No Bill ever brought before this Parliament has been put through in a more shameless manner in the interests of one party. The whole of the forms of both Houses have been made use of for the purpose of rushing this Bill through; its supporters flattering themselves that it will be to their party advantage at the Corangamite byelection. If the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy) had not been returned on a minority vote, there would not have been this extreme anxiety on the part of Ministerialists to rush it through. Directly the result of the Swan election became known they saw that we had, for one of the few times in the history of this Parliament, obtained a seat on a minority vote, whereas of the forty-four members who have been returned to this House on minorityvotes, no fewer than thirty-five belong to the anti-Labour party. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) is one of the minority members, and there are others scattered all over the benches. I was one of them originally, and was told that I was a political accident in the first Parliament, and that I would be put out.
– You nearly missed a pre-selection.
– To show how little the honorable member knows about it, I have never had a pre-selection for Yarra, except in 1901, when five others stood.. The honorable member is speaking out of the wealth of his ignorance. He is repeating a tale which some one appears to have told him.
– But you very nearly had one ; you had to come to heel.
– Every member of a party has a right to nominate if he so desires. Apparently, the honorable member has found out that some one was nearly going to nominate against me for selection.
A number of members on the other side who have voted on this occasion for preferential voting will be the first to be sorry for it. I will do my best to put any one of them out, as they, will do their best to put me out.
– We would never think of opposing you seriously.
– 1 wish the National party would oppose me seriously, and send 50 or 100 motor cars into my electorate, as they did into Corio. That would help our Senate candidates, because it would get people to the poll. One of the reasons why I want compulsory voting put in this Bill is that the more people go to the poll the better. Not only was the Bill rushed through here, but in another place, in order, as they thought, to penalize the party that have a right to criticise their measures, the Government said, “ We will make you sit up all night, and will not allow the sitting to be suspended for supper, or even for breakfast “ - a thing that has never been done in this Chamber. The Government with their majority were determined to use the Standing Orders to put a Bill of 220 clauses through Committee at one sitting for the purpose of obtaining a miserable party advantage. Nothing like it has ever been seen in the history of this Parliament before. It will rank with the Ready incident, where a’ man was induced to walk out of Parliament allegedly sick. The rules and procedure of Parliament have been prostituted for the purpose of obtaining a’ party advantage ; the guillotine was used to fix a time in which the Bill must pass, and all the forms of Parliament were employed to prevent members from expressing their opinions on it. All this was done to put through a measure that should be above party.
Many honorable members opposite have admitted that the Bill has been passed simply for the purpose of the Corangamite election. What, is the reason of that? It is because one gentleman who intended to nominate gave notice to the National party that he would stand whether he was pre-selected or not. He is standing now. That is the man who was defeated by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) at the last election.
– I am glad to see him out of the. way.
– He will not get in for Corangamite. He and the others who are opposed to us will, I am sure,,be among the “ also-rans. I am going to do my best to secure the return of the candidate who is running in the interests of our party. With all their faking of the Electoral Act, and all their arranging of the electoral provisions, I believe the Government will not succeed at the coming byelection. The Ministerial party voted tonight against the provision allowing a blind voter to select his own witness in connexion with the postal vote, although when he goes into a polling booth, where there is less danger of him being defrauded of his vote, his interests are safeguarded. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) moved that the> words “ chosen by the voter “ should be’ inserted after the word “witness,” but the Ministry opposed the amendment.
– The honorable member knows the reason.
– It is because the Go- . vernment want the blind man to be at the mercy of the authorized witness, if the authorized witness so desires.
– The honorable member wants both witnesses to be selected by the voter.
– Why is the Leader of the Opposition making a party measure of this Bill?
– Honorable members have shown that they are not agreeable to blind men or blind women who ‘ are unable to vote without assistance being given the right to choose their own witnesses. The Minister -(Mr. Glynn) waa apparently agreeable to our proposal, but he was afraid to accept it and run the risk of sending the measure once more to run the gauntlet of another place. Never in the history of this Parliament has such a record been put up by any party. Honorable members opposite seek to use the electoral machinery in order to gain a party advantage, but the result of their efforts will not prove to be of advantage to those who have sought to rush this measure through.
.- I am sorry that the Minister (Mr. Glynn) could not see his way clear to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). There is no person who suffers a greater affliction than does the one who, having had his sight, has been deprived of it. My practical sympathy always goes put to him. The Minister claims that the blind person will have the choice of two witnesses, but he knows well that this will not be the case, because the Act specifies a list of persons who are authorized witnesses. I know that, although the votes of honorable members supporting the Government may have been against us tonight, their hearts and sympathy are with us.
– Of what use is th at ?
– It shows that they are party men. One Minister asks why this Bill has been made a party measure. Who has made it such? No one but the Government and its supporters. The refusal to permit a blind person to say who shall be his witness is one of the most shameful things that has ever been perpetrated in this House. In the case of postal votes, the only person that the voter can secure as a witness is the authorized witness who comes to him for the purpose.
– Who selects the authorized witness ?
– The Government do so. They are specified in the Act. Does the Minister say that the voter selects the authorized witness?
– It is a stretch of imagination on the Minister’s part to say it. The honorable member’s mind is limited to this great State of Victoria, which is only about the size of a good cattle station in the Cape York Peninsula. Have voters in that peninsula the opportunity to select authorized witnesses ? No. They must take the first one who conies along. In many parts of my electorate the only authorized witness who can be secured to record postal votes is the policeman who patrols the stations once a month, and if the voter happens to miss him he loses his opportunity of voting. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has dealt with the way in which this Bill has been, rushed through. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) pooh-poohed the assertion. This Bill contains 220 clauses.
– They were not all under consideration.
– I admit that it is a consolidating measure, but when a Bill is brought before Parliament every clause in it is open for consideration. Otherwise the whole of our procedure is a sham, a delusion, and a snare. Is this the way in which the Government propose to get their business through?
– The honorable member will see that the voter can .choose his own witness.
– He cannot do so. When the Minister was sitting at the table I asked him to include the few words which we desire to have inserted, and he said he thought that the provision was all right without them. I asked him to be sure on the point.
– No case of any offence under the provision which has already been in force has come under my notice.
– The Minister will permit us to point out what we deem to be a defect in the measure. If the insertion of a few words will make the provision perfect, why should it not be done? Blind people should have independent witnesses to their ballot-papers. I am told that they have, but I say they have not. I shall give- a case in point. In the Herbert electorate at the second Federal election, a political agent went _ round gathering postal votes. He took a justice of the peace with him to witness signatures. As soon as a signature was witnessed the political agent took possession of the vote.
– A political agent will not be able to do that now.
– Political agents can go round collecting blind voters’ certificates, and be at hand to be called as second witnesses by authorized witnesses.
– What is to prevent a blind man insisting on having his own witness?
– It is useless for honorable members to ask why thisor that cannot be done. With the inclusion of the few words we sought to- have inserted, it would be imperative for the voter to say, ” Yes, he will do as a witness,” but. now it is to be left to chance. If there are three candidates’ and a blind person says that he wants a certain name inserted on his postal ballot-paper, what check will there be, once the ballot-paper is enclosed in the envelope, that his wishes have been carried out?’ Every honorable member on the Government side by bis -vote has protected a system by which votes of blind persons may be manipulated. However, honorable members’ masters and mistresses will soon deal with them. If ever there was a party going to pieces it is the crowd opposite. God help them when, Billy Hughes comes back. Let them eat, drink and be merry to-day, for to-morrow they die! I am sorry for them. They are building up a record second to none for their own destruction. Last night we had a spectacle of the great fight that they could put up for the poor capitalists who own £8,000 worth of land, but these valiant soldiers of “boodle”’ who claim that we must not touch the sacred rights, of property say to the blind man, “Itdoes not matter. We shall provide for you, and if we cannot, we will let you provide for yourself.”
This Bill is calculated to stink in the nostrils of the people, if ever a piece of legislation was.
– The honorable member said’ a little while ago that this was the best Electoral Bill ever introduced.
– I say so now. I am condemning the method by which it is being forced through Parliament. Honorable members opposite may smile and feel overjoyed. Many a. condemned person has areal good sleep and a hearty feed before he goes to the gallows in the morning. TheNational party may have their “ drunk “ to-night, but God help them in the morning. The day is not far distant when the guillotine which they have so readily used on this occasion will fall upon those who so cheerfully used it in connexion with this Bill. I was under the impression that when the guillotine was introduced we should have no more all-night sittings, and for that reason I thought it the best standing order ever introduced. But the Government not only introduced the guillotine, they poisoned us before cutting off our heads.
– Why did the honorable member object to the guillotine when it was being proposed ?
– I am like the Irishman who, having to choose the- sort of death he would meet, chose- to be hanged on a gooseberry bush.
It will stand to the eternal disgrace of the honorable members supporting the Government that, in connexion with this measure, they refused blind men and women the right of choosing their own witnesses in respect of the postal vote.
– Can the honorable member point to any clause which says that a blind person should not have that right ?
– I hope that when this Bill has become law, and the States are able to see in it the opinion of the majority of Government supporters, they will agree: to co-operate with the Commonwealth in electoral matters, have one Department and one roll and save to the. taxpayers over £100.000 per annum. If the other States will follow Tasmania’s lead, then, bad as have been the tactics of the Government in forcing the Bill through Parliament, there will be some hope for them.
We should not have heard anything of the Bill at this stage but for the byelections for Swan and Corangamite.
– The Bill was introduced before the Swan election took place.
– If the Bill was urgent. why was it not proceeded with when it was first introduced? Had that been done all this indecent haste would have been avoided. The. Government’s action in connexion with the. Bill . shows the straits to which thev are put in seeking to get the people’s indorsement of their war policy. But for the fact that the Government wish to avoid in the Corangamite election what happened in the Swan electorate there would have been no hustling and no all-night sittings to get the Bill passed. We- have been told by some honorable members that if we agree to preferential voting we shall do away with party pre-selection. Is there any evidence that that will be the effect? The Nationalists in the Corangamite electorate are like a lot of Kilkenny cats; several of them are bursting to serve their bleeding country. Instead of the National party sitting in Melbourne and dictating who shall be the party candidates in future, its organization will require to follow the lead of the Labour party and do propaganda work between elections in order to sustain whatever reputation the Nationalists had in the past. The Government had in this House fiftythree supporters and the Opposition only twenty-twoj but because the Labour party shot one little swanthe Nationalists axe using their majority in this Parliament to rush the Bill into law in order that it may govern the Corangamite byelection. Whatwill be the position of the Government if the Labour party should happen to win the contest ? How many times were we told in the old days that the Labour party wasa negligible quantity? But the Labour party attained to the Treasury Bench in this Parliament and did very good work. Having regard to the taxation increases which the Government have proposed’, their tinkering with the electoral laws, and their other misdeeds, I have every hope that the Labour party will again come into its own at a very early date.
.The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) should have accepted the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). An honorable member on the Government side interjected a few moments ago that blind persons will be able to choose their own witnesses in connexion with postal voting.
– Of course they will.
– In my electorate there is a large institution for the blind, and, rightly or wrongly, some of the inmates have no confidence in the superintendent. Probablyhe will bethe individual who will be authorized to take charge of the postal votes of persons under his control. But these people may not have confidence in him, and in such’ circumstances, why should not they have the right to call in a third person to witness their votes? I ask the Minister to recommit the Bill to enable an amendment to that effect to be made in it, thus giving blind electors the right to nominate their own witnesses to their postal votes. Will the Minister agree to the adoption of that course?
– The honorable member had better give notice of the question.
– The Minister will lose his reputation for fairness if he persists in thatattitude. I admit that there was a good deal of force in the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), to which the Minister was quite unable to reply. If the honorable gentleman wishes to avoid placing his party in an awkward situation he will agree to recommit the Bill. I am sure that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) regrets the vote which he registered upon this matter, and desires an opportunity to reverse it.
.- I wish to stress the reasonableness of the suggestion that has been made by the honorable member for South Sydney. If there is one section of thecommunity more than another towards which we must feel sympathetic it is the blind section. To my mind, blindness is the greatest of human afflictions. Quite a large number of our returned soldiers are afflicted with blindness. I have in my mind one bright young Australian who enlisted for service overseas, and who recently returned stone-blind. Yet the Minister (Mr. Glynn) is riot prepared to extend to him the right to nominate his own witness in order that he may be perfectly sure that his vote will be recorded in the way that he desires it to be recorded.
– And notwithstanding that the Minister himself obtained a big number of returned soldiers’ votes at the last election.
– That is so: Every elector has a right to know that his vote is recorded in theway that he wishes it to be recorded. Consequently the blind elector should be at liberty to nominate his own witness.
– That is trash.
– Of course it is. It is not “trash” for the honorable member to barrack for the big landed proprietors of Australia. It is only trash when we demand that justice shall be done to certain afflicted members of bur community. The whole history of this Bill is a disgrace to the Government. They bludgeoned it through this Chamber by means of the guillotine, and yet to-night the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) gave clear evidence that he is not familiar with its provisions by declaring that a blind elector has a right to nominate the authorized witness to his vote. It is monstrous that the blind electors in Australia, who have the sympathy of every rational man and woman, should be subjected to a disability in the matter of voting. Yet the Minister sits at the table grimly silent.
– The honorable member willnot allow him to speak.
– He can stop me in a second. All he has to do is to intimate that he will agree to the Bill being recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering the provision to which I have been directing attention. The honorable gentleman ought to study his own reputation as a fair-minded man’, and if he does so, I am satisfied that he will favorably consider the request which has been made to him.
– I am perfectly satisfied that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) thinks that the statement which he made this evening is quite correct. I am sure that he does not desire to prejudice the minds of those persons who read the Hansard reports of our debates here.
– I do not wish to misrepresent anybody.
– I am quite sure of that. The honorable member was quite sincere in the suggestion which he made as to the necessity for amending the clause in the Bill relating to the nomination of authorized witnesses in connexion with the postal voting system. One’s first impression might well be that it would be better to allow the blind elector who wanted to vote to select his own witness; but there is another side to the matter. In all these cases we have to decide according to the balance of convenience. The Bill creates a class of persons, to be chosen for their good standing in the community, to act as authorized witnesses. They will be officials, with the imprimatur of Government appointment, justices of the peace, wardens of mining fields, and others who can be relied on to see that effect is given to the voting provisions of the Bill. Such persons may not be as abundant in the Maranoa division as in large centres of population, but some persons of the class will be available there for every’ blind person who wishes to vote. The blind elector may select of this class -the man . in whose honesty he believes. The honorable member for Maranoa desires that another person should be selected as a check on the authorized witness; that, although the blind elector can make his choice among the class of persons selected as authorized witnesses because they hold positions for which honesty is a necessary qualification, he must be compelled to select another man as well to watch the person in whose honesty he believes. We have provided that some one must watch the authorized witness to see that the law is complied with.
– And he can be the blind man’s witness.
– Yes. The point has been taken by members of the Opposition that there is no obligation on the Administration to see that the person appointed to watch the authorized witness is selected by the blind man.
– But the blind man can select him.
– Yes. The measure has been drafted in accordance with the balance of consideration.
– Members’ opposite allege that the Minister is trying to deprive the blind man of a witness.
– Surely it is impossible to reply to all the innuendoes contained in the statements made in. this House, and perhaps all of us are gifted in regards the making of them to an extent of which we are not conscious. Honorable members opposite have said that the clause is inconsistent with clause 121, but that is not so.
– Clause 121 gives the right to select a witness.
– Clause 121 says that the person to mark for the illiterate or incapacitated voter shall be the presiding officer in the’ presence of such scrutineer asmay be there. The marking must primarily be an official marking. If there are no scrutineers, which will rarely happen, the option is given to the voter to select a poll clerk or such other witnesses as he may desire, to watch the marking.
– Why not do the same in regard to postal voting?
– The provision in regard to postal voting is more efficient than that in the clause to which reference has been made.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has stated what he says are the reasons for pushing the Bill through. As a matter of fact, I had a Bill drafted to provide for preferential voting, and it had been approved by the Government and by the party, before the Flinders election, and it would have been possible to make it apply to that and to the Swan election.
– Was Parliament sitting at the time of the Flinders election?
– Yes. I delayed the introduction of that Bill in order that we might provide for uniformity, preferential voting, and postal voting. Had our only object been to enforce preferential voting, a Bill to do so. could have been introduced nine months ago. We have preferred, however, to risk seats by the splitting of votes at by-elections in order to make our electoral measure as perfect as possible. The desire has been expressed that as many of the provisions of this measure as can be applied to the Corangamite election shall be applied to it. I promised that if postal voting could be brought into force there it should be done. Practically all the provisions of the Bill will apply to the election. Of course, some, such as that requiring more declarations of qualifications in connexion with the nominations, cannot be made to apply; but every provision that can be made to apply will apply. The proclamation will not confine the operation of the Bill to preferential voting, but will cover, also, postal voting, so far as it can be brought into force.
Question - That the report be adopted - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19 th November (vide page 8090), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- One portion of this short Bill with which I am particularly pleased is clause 3, which reads as follows: -
The amendment of. the principal Act made by this Act shall apply to assessments made for the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and eighteen, and all subsequent years.
I am. glad that it is proposed, that this tax shall not come up for review year after year, but that this provision shall apply to “ all subsequent years.” Thus, we shall not have inflicted upon us by the Ministerial Bolsheviks-, cries such as we heard last night in objection “to the payment by them of their fair share of taxation. Their attitude was, “Tax any- “one except us.” Honorable members who spoke upon this measure last . evening quoted a number of figures regarding the incidence of the land tax. They insisted that it would ruin the coun-. try, and would compel residents of the country to come into the towns. One honorable member referred to inhabitants of the city as parasites. They are no more parasites than country residents. Such a remark is on a par with that made by the honorable” member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), who spoke of persons living in the country as vagabonds who had to go from place to place to sell their labour. I will say for the honorable member for Hindmarsh, however, that he was the only honorable member on the other side who spoke in support of the Government in their proposal that the provisions of this Bill should apply to all years subsequent to the present financial term. Practically all -other honorable members opposite admitted that, although they objected to the measure, they would vote for it,- but that it would have to be remembered that . they did so only in view of the extraordinary circumstances. I have a greater admiration for the six honorable members on the Ministerial side who voted .against the Bill, conscientiously believing that they were doing the best for their constituents, than I have for those who opposed it and yet voted for it.
According to Knibbs, there are, among the 5,000,000 residents of Australia, only 718,000 land-holders. Those figures, upon analysis, show that persons owning less than £200 worth of land represent one-twelfth of the total population, and they hold only onefifteenth of the land of Australia. At the other end of the scale there are about 78,000 holders of land or estates ranging in value between £1,000 and £3,000, and between £3,000 and £5,000, and from £5,000 upwards. Those 78,000 persons’ hold three-fourths of the value of the land in Australia, amounting to more than £320,000,000. There are 12,182 persons each holding £5,000 worth of land.
– This is not really a land tax, but a tax on some of the land in Australia, excluding the major portion.
– If the honorable member desires to reduce the exemption from £5,000, he will, no doubt, be given an opportunity, and the effect of his .action will be to increase the area of taxation. I- .shall have pleasure in voting with the Government upon rtb is .Bill, and I -am glad that it is to apply, not only “to 1918, but to call subsequent years.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) -said last night that that was not so.
– I am glad, at any rate, that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is anxious that the exemption should be reduced below .£5,000.
– I said no such thing.
– I thought -the honorable member’s interjection a few- minutes ago. certainly indicated that.
– I am not a land-taxer.
– The honorable member now is trying to amend his earlier statement. Does the honorable member agree with that other honorable member who last night opposed the Bill and said, in effect, “ For Heaven’s sake, do not tax us; take it out of the kiddies who go to the picture shows”? Honorable members opposite prate about economy. At the same time they take good care that we are not -furnished with an opportunity to discuss the Budget.
It was promised that this would be a financial session,, but we have not yet had a chance to discuss the Budget. Instead- of that procedure being adopted, the Government prefer to bring .down taxation- measures piecemeal. First, there is the- entertainments tax, then the postage, tax, then the income tax, which was agreed to unanimously, and now there is the land tax. But there is no debate: upon the Budget. It would be useless for honorable members to discuss the Budget.
– I am quite with the honorable member on that.
– The trouble with the honorable member for Wakefield is that his sentiments are one way, but his votes go the other:
– I cannot share in the delight expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that the Bill is to become an enactment of a permanent character. I admit that clause 3’ sets it out specifically, but I intend to move for the deletion of those four words, “ and all. subsequent years.” I shall support the Bill, with that amendment, on the ground that it is a war measure, and that it is of a very temporary nature. I call attention to the fact that in his Budget statement the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) dealt with this particular question under the heading “ Bridging the Gap.” The Treasurer set forth the items of -taxation, and ‘pointed out how exceedingly difficult it would be to secure sufficient funds to meet all demands. Hecontinued that in order to adjust matters - or to bridge the gap- it would be neces- sary to introduce certain temporary measures ; and of those, this Bill is one. That situation was brought under the notice of the Treasurer last night, and he remarked that he had never viewed this as any other than a temporary provision to meet a. difficulty: I need not remind those who have been in the House for some time that I h’ave been an uncompromising opponent of Federal land taxation from its inception.
– Of course, the honorable member opposes it.
– My objection, to it is not due to any desire on my part to relieve land-holders of their pcopes responsibilities.. I would remind the honorable member that, according to a. statement submitted, last week by. the Treasurer, many of the land-owners upon, whom this impost: will, rest’ are taxed to the extent of about one-half their total income.
– Some one said the other day’ that the taxation of land-owners amounted to about 20s.. in the £1.
– I advise the honorable member to read in Kansard the statement submitted by the Treasurer, in which he compares taxation, in Australia with that operating in Great Britain. If he does, he will find that our taxation is exceedingly heavy and particularly severe upon land-owners.
My opposition to this form of taxation from the very beginning has been on the. ground that the area of land taxation should be left absolutely to the States. At the first Federal Convention, which gave us our Constitution, there was’ a lengthy and very able discussion on the question of land taxation as a Federal instrument, and the provision that the Commonwealth Parliament should . have power to impose such, taxation was carried by only a. narrow margin. The burden- of the debate was that, it was necessary to provide for it in the Constitution, so that it might be available to meet any unseen contingency, such as- an outbreak of war, or- some financial calamity. . The members of the Federal Convention- went further, and said that the day was. very far distant when the Federal- authorities would be likely to impose an income tax, let alone a land tax.
– I would remind the honorable member that since then we have been engaged in a great war.
– But, long before there was any thought of war, the party to which my honorable friend belongs introduced, for the first time, a Federal land tax. At that time, the Labour Government was embarrassed with revenue. The Federal land, tax was not only instituted by them- when it was not needed, but they squandered the revenue in all directions. We are labouring to-day under financial difficulties, due to the orgy introduced in 1910 by the party to which the honorable: member belongs. They have never pulled up since then.
– We have not to pay.
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) will recollect that, when an amendment was moved to apply the Federal land tax to leaseholds, and particularly to pastoral leases, I strenuously opposed it. It was also opposed by the honorable member, as well as by several other honorable members of the Labour party, and, but for the fact that two or three. Labour representatives from Queensland and New South Wales were unavoidably absent, that amendment would not have been carried.
Much of the outside lands of Australia should never have been subjected to this taxation. The taxation of pastoral leaseholds in outside country was the worst policy for the wage-earners that could have been introduced. Since then, we have had, on the whole, fairly good times ; but had it not been for the recent high prices, the condition of these outside lands, bad as it is to-day, would have been infinitely worse. There need only come a testing time, such as many of us have experienced on a number of occasions, and existing settlement on this outside country will be driven off. Once it is driven off, it will be many a year before there will be any return of it. When this measure was under discussion a day or two ago, a Ministerial supporter saidj by way of interjection, that there was no sign of depression in respect of pastoral leaseholds, and declared in support of his statement that pastoral leases had been selling at good prices. Despite the abnormally high prices ruling for wool and carcass meat, these pastoral estates, with one or two very favorable exceptions, have been sold for the bare price of the stock on. the runs. Beyond the market value of the stock on the runs, nothing has been given for improvements or for the leases themselves. That is the position in regard to the outside country.
– It does not apply to Queensland.
-I am not referring to the rich areas of Queensland, but my remarks will apply to a very considerable portion of that State. Whilst in South Australia, and some other parts of the Commonwealth, we have long-continued droughts, Queensland also suffers just as frequently from droughts, but they are not of such long duration. We should give every inducement to people to settle in the drier areas. Instead of imposing taxation on land in such areas, we should rather give a bonus to the man who will settle there and continue the production of wool and meat, for which there is going to be a better outlet in the way of export than we have ever known.
– Will not this better outlet improve the value of such country?
– It will; but we have men settled on areas far removed from civilization who, for two or three years, make a big thing out of their enterprise, and then, with the coming of a drought, lose everything. With conditions such as those to be contended with, we should place- no obstacles in the way of development. Those who know anything about the outside country will agree with me that, because of the threat of taxation of this kind, very little has been done there in the way of improvements of a permanent character.
– If leaseholders in- the outside country make a profit, we reach them through the income tax.
– The land to which the honorable member refers cannot be subdivided for cultivation purposes.
-Nor can it be subdivided even for grazing purposes, . since it must be worked in large areas.
– Under section 61 such leaseholders get a remission.
– That is so, and I say again that since the Federal Government began to tax the iands of this country nobody wants them.
We have built a railway to Western Australia at a cost of about £7,000,000; and we have fairy tales told in the Railway Commissioner’s first report, as we have had similar stories told before about the great prospect of development on the Nullabor Plains. But’ there is infinitely better country than those plains, and on that country there are no cattle to-day, although it is supposed to have been occupied for forty or fifty years.
– That is sheep country.
– And there are no sheep on it.
– It is the water difficulty.
– It is the water difficulty both below and above; we cannot get water by boring, and there is. no rain.
– Why is not water obtained by boring?
– The South Australian Government was boring for water there thirty years ago, and -got only salt water.
– They did . not go deep enough.
– The boring went on until granite was reached, and the honorable member, as a Queenslander, knows that there boring must stop. I am speaking generally, and not merely of outside country; and I say again, that in common honesty we ought not to intrude again and again on the preserves of the State Governments. If the Commonwealth is in financial difficulties, so are the States; and we have a big area of taxation as compared with a very narrow one enjoyed by them. Under the circumstances we have no right to infringe on. the taxation areas of the States.
If this Bill were to be permanentI should vote against it. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) in his Budget statement told us that this measure is merely to bridge a gap, and that he regards it as a temporary expedient. If the Government does uot take action, I intend in Committee to” move for the excision of these last four words, so as to confine the Bill to the current financial year.
.- Having made my protest on the previous motion, I do not propose to seek a division at every stage of ‘the Bill’. Some of us who belive that this is not the best means of raising revenue - not an equitable means at the present time for raising war revenue - have spoken and voted against the proposal; and all I wish to do now is to point out that the lands of Australia, from the point of view of taxa tion, may be classified in three divisions. There are first the city and the metropolitan aneas, which will pay the tax, but in which there is a chance of passing it on to the community; and this is what will be seen by those honorable members opposite who are supporting this measure. This can only mean an increase of the burden on the great mass of the people who live in the city, whether in the shape of rent, or the increased cost ef living in other directions.
– Is that not the case with all taxation?
-No ; not on broad acres.
– A land values tax is the only tax that cannot be passed on.
– The honorable membercannot surely have followed my words, for I am showing that that is not so.
– I would sooner follow Henry George than follow you.
– The honorable member has probably followed Henry George into the blind alley in which this measure puts us.
– Another Daniel come to judgment!
-Please be quiet, cock sparrow !
– I must ask honorable members to . cease interjections, especially those of a personal nature. . One interjection leads to another, and while exception is not often taken to an occasional’ remark. I must insist on silence if disorder results.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) is probably a theorist of the single tax school. It is remarkable that the great theorists who seek to impose land taxes are men who do not pay them.
– I pay them.
– I must ask the honorable member to observe my ruling with regard to interjections.
– The theorists to whom I refer seem to have a special delight in seeing the burden of taxation fall on the shoulders of others. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) is admittedly a land taxer, whereas I am not, because I do not believe in taxing capital or wealth. Before there was a Federal land tax. I was an advocate of meeting the requirements of the country by a tax on incomes. Accordingly as people enjoy the privileges of the community they get income, and on that income they should be taxed.
The other two classes of land-tax payers are the leaseholders and the freeholders.’ It has been very well argued, and, amongst others, most ably by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), that, in taxing leaseholders, we are taxing people who have no direct beneficial interest in the land; we are taxing a State instrumentality in the shape of property specially reserved to the Crown. Surely it can be little satisfaction to a member of this Parliament to impose a tax on a State instrumentality, particularly when the tenure of the land is insecure, and it is in the back-blocks where the conditions of life are very disagreeable.
I come now tq another class of payers of land tax, and they are the owners of freehold land of a greater unimproved value than £5,000. The effect of economic conditions, especially in ‘States like Victoria, that are highly developed, has been that all the rich lands have already been closely settled. If we follow the incidence of this taxation, <we shall find that it does not apply to rich lands which are now mostly held in small areas under conditions of close settlement. It required no Act of Parliament to. settle the Tower Hill country, which is the most closely settled country in Australia, from the rural point of view! Economic conditions, such as the richness of the soil, the climate, accessibility to markets, and all such conditions, weighed in the case of that country, as they do to a greater or less degree in every part of the Commonwealth. There is with land a parity of value that finds its own level This land tax in its incidence affects mainly large holdings that are not accessible to railways or close to good markets, and are in districts which do not afford facilities for settlement in small areas. There are some exceptions; but, for the most .part, the tax is applied to cheap land held in large holdings mainly for pastoral purposes, and which, with Australia’s population to-day, cannot readily be nit to ‘fi higher use.
I am in sympathy with any natural law, supported, if necessary, by State assistance, that has the effect of bringing all land suitable . for agriculture under the plough. Out flocks and herds are -rested on natural conditions.. I agree that in the past this system has been responsible for great wastage; but this is due to the fact that Australia is a broad continent;’ we have comparatively cheap” land, and a small population. We rest our flocks and herds almost entirely upon natural conditions; but in America the stock of the country is chiefly sustained by agricultural effort. We are not so far advanced.
– The climatic conditions of America are different.
– Admitting that,. the climate is not’ alone the governing factor in America, where everything possible is done to make the rural life the most attractive life in the country.
– It is the strength of every nation:
– I am aware that it is; but no one will say that the efforts of the people of Australia are mainly directed to making the lot of the people on the land a” happy and contented one. I am not one to- raise the question of country versus city, because I know that there must be a well-balanced community, and that the cities and large towns must reflect the prosperity of the country.
We have mortgaged the “future to a great extent in this country, and our main dependence is upon out primary assets. Primarily it is the maintenance of our flocks and herds, and our agricultural effort upon which we must rely to” meet our financial obligations. We have piled up a huge debt, and we must build up corresponding national assets. Our -secondary industries can afford us much help by reducing the necessity for importations to meet the needs of ‘the people; but the great balance of trade against u3 On the other side of the world can only be met by the quantity of natural primary produce that we can export from Australia. This is not the time to heap up land taxation. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) rightly said that if it were the design of the Government merely to raise more revenue by this land taxation, its imposition would be inequitable, and could not be defended, because, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) proved, it throws upon from 12,000 to 13,000 people, who own certain wealth locked up in land, the obligation of making a levy for the benefit of the revenue, while exempting from any similar imposition the trusts, combines, and monopolies about which our honorable friends opposite have often been so eloquent. . Have not the great trading companies capital and resources? Do we not know that shipping companies during the period of the war have made profits in excess of those made by any other companies.
– The honorable member is also against the war-time profits tax.
-I hope that the honorable gentleman will not introduce too many questions for discussion at the same time. If time permitted, I could show, that the war-time profits tax has been responsible for making the people of this country pay higher prices for goods than they ever did before.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable mem: ber seems to be a fair judge of that commodity. . As the honorable member for Flindershas pointed out, if the Government were taxing land merely for revenue purposes, their action would be unfair and inequitable, and that would be so whether it were in” operation for one year or for- a greater number of years. When looking for revenue to discharge our war obligations, we should impose taxation upon the people in proportion to the extent to which they have enjoyed the privileges of the community, particularly during the war period, and we should not permit those who have benefited to a much greater extent than the land-owners of the country to escape taxation if we impose it upon the land-owners. Honorable members opposite have found some consolation in the imposition of land taxation for policy purposes; but it is not the time, in the middle of a war, for any policy purpose, to impose taxation upon n particular section of the people.
I was pleasedto have the announcement of the Treasurer that that is not the object of this impost.
I wish to say that I do not believe there is one land-holder in the Commonwealth, and certainly I do not know one, who objects , to bear a fair share of the burden of the country. But no man can contend that the capital of the land-owner owes a greater obligation to the country than does the capital of the shipowner. I conclude by saying that I regret that this measure was introduced. I offer my arguments to-nigh’t, as I did last night, not with any idea of hostility to the Government, but simply to maintain the principles upon which I won my seat in this chamber.
. -One might have expected such a speech as has fallen from the lips of the honorable member for Wannon* (Mr. Rodgers) from a man who has derided Henry George, because the works of Henry George sounded the knell of the people whom the honorable member so continuously represents in this chamber. The welfare of a country does not depend on land being held in large areas, but on land being held in small estates. This is proved by the fact that in France, Austria, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark, in all of which countries I have been, where there is tike small estate there is . the greatest degree of happiness. When I visited England and Scotland, and subsequently France, and saw that in the latter country even the fishermen owned small . allotments of land, I had what was practically my first lesson in regard to the settlement of people’ on the land.
The argument used by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) reminds me of the reputed interview between Moses and the gentleman with the hoofs. Moses asked his opinion about the Commandments, and Satan is reputed to have said that they would be all right if he were allowed to alter one word. When Moses asked him what that word was, he said he would like to alter the Commandments by taking out the little word “not.” Of course the honorable mem- “ ber for Wannon agrees that throughout the length and breadth of Australia there is not a land-owner who does not want to pay his just share of taxation; but I take it that a large number want this taxation to be placed on the people in the manner indicated by the honorable member. Those acquainted with the operation of land laws in other parts of the world realize that the wealth 6f the community does not come necessarily from large estates. All the special pleading, therefore, is so much camouflage. As a matter of fact, no man who owns land to the amount of , £5,000 unimproved value will come under this tax, and if he spends £20,000 or £50,000 on improvements he will not be called upon to pay one penny. The honorable member’ also spoke lightly of and sneered at the’ doctrine enunciated by Henry George. Possibly I was one of the first public men in Australia to speak on behalf of that great land reformer.
– I never sneered at Henry George. I merely said that our opinions do not follow his teaching.
– I understood the honorable member to scoff at Henry George, or I would not have suggested that he was -another Daniel come to judgment.
– But your land-tax doctrine is miles away from that of Henry George.
– I had the honour to take the chair for Henry George in the Melbourne Town Hall at a time when other politicians were afraid to do so. But the influence of that great man is growing, and will continue to grow. The future of Australia is not in the hands of those who hold large estates.
– There is more in Thorold Rogers’ works than in those of Henry George.
– I always understood Thorold Rogers to be more of a political economist than a land reformer. I believe, however, that he has done excellent work, and perhaps I am as great an admirer of him as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald). On this question of taxation I feel sure that if honorable members had really considered the position thev would not have changed the incidence of taxation when another small Bill came before fhe House recently.
Under that measure there is now an imposition of 33 per cent, on a 3d. picture theatre ticket, bought by the poorer people of the community, whereas on 10s. worth of tickets for any other theatre the taxation represents only 8½ per cent. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) evidently recognised that the incidence was unfair, and I think it is possible that within a year he will seek to have it altered. That is one reason why I did’ not oontinue my criticism of that measure. As I understand the Government desire to pass this Bill . without further delay, I merely want to say that I fully concur with it, and shall vote against the amendment foreshadowed.
– I intend to be brief, because I know theTreasurer (Mr. Watt) wants to get the Bill through, but I desire to explain my position on this important measure. Last night, unfortunately, I was absent, and 1 had no knowledge that a division was to be taken on the motion for leave to introduce the Bill. I had occasion to go into the country to speak at a gathering to celebrate the return of men who have served us so well at the Fronts and did not get back in time to record my vote. Had I been here I would have voted with the- majority, because I have always been in favour of just taxation. From the commencement of the war I said I would do my utmost to make every one bear his fair share of any taxation’ that might be necessary to carry ‘ on the conflict. Many men made great sacrifices by allowing their sons to leave the land or city occupations in which they were engaged. They should not now be taxed. Those who remained behind should bear this burden, because they have been served so well by all of those brave men.
On the question of land value taxation, I may say that it is the only tax that cannot be passed on. The owner of land always gets the highest rent possible. A9 a rule, he lets his land by tender, and. when the lease has expired, if the land will stand a greater rental, . he puts up the price and gets the value given to it, not by himself, but by the community. Although I do not pay the Commonwealth tax, I am paying the unimproved land value taxation in Tasmania, because I purchased land long before I came into this House, but have not done very much with it. As a result of the action of the Tasmanian Government in utilizing the latent power of the great lakes, my land has increased 50 per cent, in value,- and so I am quite properly called upon to pay additional taxation.
– But this is a revenue tax.
– Why should it not be used for revenue? All wealth comes “from the land. . The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) was most illogical. At one moment he was complaining that the city man would pay, because the tax would be passed on to him, and the next moment he was saying that it was the man on the land who would have to pay.
I am delighted to support this measure, because we were told when we came on to this side of the House that we had lost all sympathy with the. worker, and would sink our principles. This Bill demonstrates that we have still the same ideas and retain our principles. Australia is the only Dominion in the British Empire where the worker has not been called on to pay for this war by means of indirect Customs taxation. Tea stands in the same position in the Customs Tariff as it did when the war started. In Canada, I believe, the duty is 9d. a lb. ; in Great Britain it is still higher, and in New Zealand a great deal of revenue is derived from indirect taxation, the worker paying all along the line. That was the old principle in Australia, when money was borrowed, and the interest raised by revenue duties on tea, sugar, cotton goods and other articles used by the worker. I point out to honorable members opposite, who were so bitter the other day when we put a tax on picture show tickets, which practically meant on a form, of luxury, that, what with the income tax and land tax, there are men in Australia paying 68 per cent, of their income into the revenue. This is the only country in the world where such a system of taxation exists, and where the worker has been relieved to such a degree. Let us be fair and just, and tell the workers exactly how things are, leaving it to their intelligence to judge whether they are being fairly treated. The honorable member for
Maranoa (Mr. Page) said to-night that “ our time was coming.” Will it come when we can go on the platform and tell the workers that to-day in Australia a man owning land of an unimproved value of £327,000, and having a taxable income of £04,229, will pay in taxation, State and Federal, the sum of £43,686, or 68 per cent, of his income? Is there anything unfair to the workers about that? Let our friends opposite cease trying to fool them any longer. When they know how things are, they will be fair, because no one is more just than they are. When they know the facts they will not treat us as the honorable member says we will be treated. We are half-way. through our parliamentary term, and that, is why I am delighted to see the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), coming from whence he sprang, politically speaking,, sitting with us on this side of the House, and’ enunciating these principles, notwithstanding the strong pressure that might be brought to bear on him by honorable members on this side if they desired to be unjust. They are not unjust. They are speaking their minds here, but they do not apply any acid. They have not put any undue pressure on’ the Acting Prime Minister, who has the courage ‘to enunciate in this House the principles that we stand or. fall by. Australia has come out of the war, after helping to bring about a great and glorious victory, and is is paying her fair share of the expense of the war. It is not only the workers of Australia who are paying it. The land-owners and other wealthy people are paying their share, and the workers are paying by way of taxation on luxuries and pleasures.
– You are stating an untruth. You are a liar!
– Order ! I have several times asked honorable members not to- interject. The honorable member for East Sydney has made a very offensive, personal interjection. I now ask him to withdraw and apologize.
– I withdraw and apologize. I shall take an opportunity to answer the honorable member afterwards.
– I should support this tax if I represented a country constituency, because 1 find, wherever I mingle with the people in town or country, that Australians are fair-minded and kind. There are men in all sections who will do dishonorable things, but the majority in all walks of life are fair, honorable, and jus. They desire to do justice, to the people as a whole, and hence they do not wish to evade paying fair and just taxation to meet the cost of this dreadful war.
.-The speech -to which we have just listened is about the most amusing I have ever heard in this House.
– A very fine speech!
– It was a real gem, to the honorable member’s tune. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has the courage and effrontery to say he will tell working men and women from the platform’ what the moneyed people have done for this country by way of taxation. “What is the good of the honorable member telling the workers of Tasmania that the joker who owns. £327,000 worth of land has to pay a big tax, when, perhaps, the man he is talking to is not getting £3 a week, and has a wife’ and k;ds to keep. What satisfaction is it to him to know that a wealthy man has to pay 68 per cent, of his income in taxation? It is poor satisfaction for working men and women, who have all their troubles cut out in their everyday life, to hear that sort of tale when the honorable member opens the flood-gates of his oratory. No one knows better than the -honorable member himself what a struggle it is, and has been, for the workers to exist. - He is comparatively a young man, and has not gone through what many of us in this House have.
– How do you know?
– I judge by the honorable member’s own observations.
– He is a good man.
– I reckon that he has “whips” of courage. I have tons of cheek, yet I would hot be game enough to do what he has said he will do, that is, to tell the workers of Tasmania that the man owning £327,000 worth of land has to pay 68 per cent. It staggers me!’
– Why did not the honorable member assist me to increase the tax when it first come forward ?
– I do not propose to answer the honorable member’s interjection. He would not answer mine when he was speaking. The honorable member has been” a consistent land-taxer, but it is strange that men such as he always advocate putting the tax on the other fellow.
– No, I pay the tax.
– I bet you that you do not pay a “ fiver “ a year.
– I bet you that I do.
– Order ! This is not a betting chamber.
– I would not have spoken on this Bill had it not been for the airy way in which the honorable member was talking about this man who owns £327;000 worth of land. Where is he? I want to meet him.
– What about Brother Jowett ?
– No. The honorable mem: ber for Grampians may own 327,000 sheep, but he does not own land worth £327,000.- The majority of his holdings in Queensland are leaseholds.
– That is why the honorable member objects to .the taxation of leaseholds.
– I do object to the taxation of leaseholds. Every five years in Queensland leasehold land is re-assessed by the Land Board. The holder does not own the land, he merely occupies it for the length of his lease. Every leaseholder in Queensland is entitled to pay to the Crown what his lease is worth; but I do object to the Federal land taxation being extended to leaseholds. It is very unfair. When the Land Board re-assesses a leasehold, the lessee has to produce the whole of his transactions to the Board, and the rent for the next five years is fixed accordingly. The Crown sees that it gets every penny of value out of the land. Very often a man may have suffered a loss, but owing to the fact that at the time of the re-assessment he is possessed of a certain number of stock, he is called upon to pay an increased rental. I have not known of a single case in which the rent of a leasehold has been reduced.
As I was saying, I am staggered at the prospect of a man who holds £327,000 worth of land having to pay only 68 per’ cent, in land tax. When the honorable member for Denison tells the workers of Tasmania about this man, they will say, “You are right, Mr. Smith. That man has paid quite enough, and should not be called upon to pay more. The Government should increase the taxes, either direct or indirect, on us.” At any rate, that is what that honorable member’s speech amounted to. With all due respect to the preachings of great economists - many of them are merely theorists - when their theories are put into practice we find something wrong somewhere. We do not know where it is, but a proposition which looks all right on paper, in actual practice is found to be rotten. I hope that the Bill will go through.
– Hear, hear! That is a very fine sentiment.
– I ampleased to hear that some one at last is taking an interest in the man on the land. Some very near and dear friends of mine have recently been lost in. a bush fire at Barcaldine, where I spent my boyhood. They are small graziers, but circumstances which arose during the war put a few pounds in their way. Many men in that district are. in the same position, but at first they were struggling carriers and station hands, who had saved a little money, and with assistance from the pastoralists managed to stock their holdings. Those are the men whose interests I seek to serve. They are the men who have pioneered our back country, and made it possible for us to move about in an easy manner, and the big establishments in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne to carry on their operations.
I do not wish to pit the city against the country. There is something in the bush that has for me a charm that no city ever had, and as long as I live my thoughts will revert, to the happy days I have spent in the back country. When one has lived in the bush, the town has very little attraction for him. On many occasions, I have gone to Brisbane, intending to spend a month’s holiday there, but after four or five days I have packed up my swag and returned to the country.
Of course Australia must have manufactures, and I. hope some day to see the Commonwealth self-contained. But, as many honorable members on the Government side have said, the one thing we must not do is to frighten capital away from the country. Capital is very shy, and soon baulks. We never hear nowadays the old cry of the Conservatives about driving capital out of the country, because the whole world is being turned upside down. The primary industries, more than any others, require nursing.
Mr.Rodgers. - And while so many countries are competing for the capital, make the rural proposition attractive.
– If the primary industries are made attractive, they draw people with small capital, who become the backbone of a Commonwealth. I remind honorable members of what has happened in the leasehold, country in . Western Queensland. When I first came to Australia in 1884, Saltern Creek Station shore 72,000 sheep. That country has been cut up into smaller blocks, and has been worked by a number of small men, who went there with their capital and energy, and braved the dangers. Most of those people, including the Cudmores, came from South Australia. In the early eighties, artesian water was discovered, and to-day the area which was formerly comprised in Saltern Creek Station, carries over 250,000 sheep. In the face of these practical results, what becomes of the political economists and theorists?
– The theories of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) must have been put into practice there.
– His theories are not bad. He has made a success of anything he has taken in hand in connexion with land settlement and repatriation.
– He is a good man.
– He is although he and I do not always see eye to eye.
No matter on which side of the House we sit, we are all imbued with the idea of doing the best we can for Australia. I urge the Government to be careful of what they do to the primary industries. It “will not be long before price fixing and all the coddling and spoon feeding will cease, and our primary” products will have to compete in the markets of the world. Australian exports,, whether of minerals, meat, grain, butter, or flour, compare more than favorably with those from other countries. “ As long as we give the man on the land a fair show, I am satisfied that he will come out on top. No men on the face of God’s earth have to put upwith more inconveniences than have the men who are developing the rural areas..
In conclusion I wish to relate to honorable members the misfortune of a friend of mine. One night, he retired to bed a wealthy man. The next day, he was as poor as on the day when he first settled in the district. A bush fire had devastated his land, killed his stock, and caused the death of one of his sons. How do honorable members propose to get over these hard facts by their theories? Actual experiences are what honorable members must study. Instead of talking about what they intend to do for the man on the land, let them do something. It is my ambition to see a good yeomanry established in Australia. They are the backbone of “every country; they have been so in England, and they arc already so in Australia. Do not smother them with taxation and bad laws. Surely Australia is ‘big enough? for all of us to live in. I invite the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) to come with” me to Queensland after Parliament adjourns, and I will show him where Henry George’s theories fail and the practical farmer succeeds.
.- Nearly every honorable member who has spoken on the Government side to-night has had a lot to say about the unfortunate man on the land. But the probate statistics prove that no pastoralist or farmer dies without leaving a very large sum of money behind him. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) referred to. some wealthy man having paid 68 per cent. of his income in war-time taxation. I interjected that he was an absolute liar, and I was called to order and compelled to apologize.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement. The fact that he previously withdrew an unparliamentary expression does not justify him in repeating it. The honorable member must not make references of that kind.
– The statement was true; but, of course, I know I must withdraw it. I have always contended that the Government have failed to tax the wealth of this country for war purposes in the way that they should have taxed it. Australia’s share in the terrible struggle which has been waged in Europe has been paid for out of loan funds. Only the other evening the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) pointed out that our system of taxation is wrong, and that at the present time we are raising insufficient, revenue to meet our expenditure by at least £7,000,000 annually. To-night the honorable member for -Denison endeavoured to show that the rich men of the community are bearing the greater portion of the taxation to which our people are being subiected. Doubtless his idea was to get his statements circulated through the medium of Hansard for propaganda purposes. In reply to him, I need only point out that in 1915-16 the amount contributed in land tax to the State of New South Wales amounted onlyto £3,100: the amount contributed by Victoria was £352 052 ; that of Queensland was £247,044: that of South Australia, £154,483; that of Western Australia, £47.715; anrt that of Tasmania, £82,436. Yet the honorable member had the temerity to suggest that these landholders are bearing their proper share of taxation. We have also to remember that there are persons who own land in the city with a frontage,- say, of 100 feet and a depth of 150 feet, and upon which a building of, perhaps, thirteen stories has been erected. By no stretch of imagination can they further improve their property, and these persons are obliged to pay the Federal unimproved land value tax. This is unfortunately due to the fact that no differentiation can be made -between city .and country lands. I hope on a future occasion to be afforded an opportunity of dealing with some of “the statements which have been made here to-night for the express purpose of creating dissension between the people of the city and those of the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The amendment of the principal Act made by this Act shall apply to assessments made for the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and eighteen, and all subsequent years. ‘
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the words “ and all subsequent years “ be left out.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) told us that the object of the Bill was to raise money to cover war expenditure, and now it is proposed to limit the operation of the “ measure to the present financial year. If that is done, the tax will not be pf much assistance in reducing our war debt.
– The object of the amend- ‘ ment is to bring this measure into conformity with the income tax measure which we have recently passed.
– It is a sad thing that the Treasurer cannot withstand the pressure of representatives of the landed interests. The tax of 33^ per cent, on children’s entertainment “admission tickets is not fixed for one year only, nor does such a limitation apply to the increased taxes on tobacco, spirits, and beer. It has been contended that land taxation cannot be passed on; but the only tax that cannot be passed on is the book makers’ tax on their tickets, which is most inequitable. The bookmaker who goes on the fiat and deals with the numerous small bets on Cup day has to pay £50, while the gentleman who bets in thousands has not to pay more than 30s.
– That matter is not affected by the amendment.
– I have already said that, in my opinion, those who are dealing with our financial affairs are muddlers. The representative of Flinders (Mr. Bruce), though a new member, has begun to see the dangerous pass towards which our finances are drifting.
In my opinion, the operation of this Bill should not be limited in the” way proposed; and had it been known to members of the Opposition that the amendment was to be moved, there would have been more support to my request for an adjournment of the second-reading debate at the late hour of the night.
The press is adversely criticising our expenditure; but when our soldiers return-, and demobilization begins, we must find employment for them, and we must prepare’ for the changes ahead. We shall require anenormous amount of taxation to meet all our liabilities. The Treasurer has not told us why he has altered his views., We can only come’ to the conclusion that, owing to pressure brought to bear on him, he has let the country down in the interests of those people who would have to .’ pay under the provisions of the Bill. I admit that the opportunity furnished just now is. the last available to those who have taken advantage of the war to wring wealth out of the people. It is scarcely comprehensible that the -Government could have been so weak as to be forced by those interests to climb down from their original attitude. My sense of responsibility as <a representative of the people demands that I should insist on knowing from the Treasurer why he has altered his point of view. I am determined to try to bring before the people of Australia a realization of the loose methods of the Government in regard to finance. Why do they not take a pattern from the record of the British Parliament? Surely we should.be able to do something to place our finances on a more solid basis. No doubt great pressure has been brought to bear upon the Treasurer by members of Ms party who represent the pastoral interests. Those interests almost have the Government “ in the bag.” During the war, a number of the wealthiest pastoralists of Australia were placed on the Wool Committee. I recognise” that the Treasurer has displayed a good deal of courage in standing up against such pressure to the extent that he has done. I ‘hope that he will have still more courage, and will decline to deal with taxation measures in this loose way. Why should this increase be confined . to only one year ? This action has been taken by the honorable gentleman as the result of the protests of those who represent wealthy interests. Either he has something running through his mind that he has not divulged, or he is losing courage. If time permitted I could quote figures showing that the people to whom this tax applies do not bear any great burden, although representatives of country districts are constantly pleading the cause of the “ poor country land-owner.” I went through the Riverina recently, and saw a lot of magnificent country, and one may travel by train through miles of that country without seeing a habitation. If population is drifting from the rural districts into our large cities, the fault rests with the land owners. They do not attempt to make country life attractive, or to find more employment for workers there. In the sugar districts of Queensland a man would be able to make a living on 5 or 6 acres if proper encouragement were extended to him, and he had the assistance of casual employment in the cane-fields.
We did not think that the Treasurer would come forward with this amendment at the eleventh hour. We were prepared to give him the Bill, but he has caused this amendment to be submitted without giving the Opposition any notice of his intention. I do not think he appreciates the seriousness of his proposal. If the clause remains as introduced, landowners will know exactly where they stand in the matter of this increase, but with the carrying of the amendment uncertainty will exist. I enter my protest against the action of the Government, and trust that the Committee will not consent to be treated with contempt in this way. The Government should not play fast and loose with the national finances. The finances of Australia should be handled by a man who understands the subject, and who has the courage to propose additional taxation when more taxation is necessary to place them on a sound basis. I shall vote against the amendment.
– I do not presume to take upon myself the mantle of the leader of my party (Mr. Tudor), but I would put it to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that when my leader left the House a little while ago he had no idea that this amendment was to be introduced.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) said, in the presence of the Leader of the Opposition, that he intended to move such an amendment.
– I would remind the Acting Prime Minister that this Bill has not been held up by the Opposition.
– I do not suggest that it has.
– If the debate has been protracted it has been because of the feelings of Ministerial supporters. When the majority of our party left the House a little while ago it was anticipated that the Bill would go through Committee as introduced, and I and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) volunteered to remain to see it through.
This amendment, it is said, is designed to bring the Bill into accord with the Income Tax Act. The honorable member for East Sydney is quite correct when he says that no parallel can be drawn between income taxation and land taxation. The income tax rises and falls according to the needs’ of the country.’ Since the Opposition have not held up the Bill, I think the Acting Prime Minister should agree to report progress. I can assure honorable members that when the Leader of the Opposition spoke to me before he went home he knew nothing about this amendment.
– The honorable member for Wakefield stated his intention to move an amendment.
– But the Acting Prime Minister gave no indication that he would accept it. If I were in a responsible position, I should fight -a question of this sort’ on its merits. The Acting Prime Minister should keep faith with us, even if we are a very small minority.
– That isimproper. A man who suggests that there has been a breach of. faith is an arranthumbug. I should stay here, and everybody should stay here, untilthe business is done.
– I ask honorable members opposite if they will say that the Leader of the Opposition know that this amendment was to be moved?
– The Leader of theOpposition was in the House when the honorable member for Wakefield stated his intention.
– Butthe Government did not say they would accept the amendment.
– I am not responsible for any man who goes away from the House when it is. sitting.
– That is really a condemnation of the Leader of the Oppoisitiou because he is not here.
– I do not say it as a condemnation, but as a reply to yourcom- ment.
– I am satisfied that, if the party on this side had known it was intended by the Government to accept this amendment, they would have used all the rules of debate to defeat it. Honorable- members on this side have not protracted the debate, because we are fully in accord with the measure. However, the Government have a majority, and I am not going to attempt to- putup a foolish fight. I always understood that, although parties in a Legislature might differ politically, communications as to intentions were courteously passed between them. That practice, however, has not been observed on the present occasion.
Question- That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment. Report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill reada third time.
House adjourned at 12 midnight.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181120_reps_7_87/>.